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Is advocating workplace safety regulation not in the self-interest of workers? Are they better off dying in industrial accidents?

No it isn't in their self-interest, for the same reason that preying on others in not in your self-interest. Preying on others is an act of violence and so is forcing another human being (in this case a businessman) to do this or that against his will.

Well okay then. If you believe that workers are better of dying in industrial accidents than asking for regulation I don't know what else to ask.

Anyone else want to have a go at this question?

Edited by mustang19
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Okay, but we need to add a bit more context to this question to have an intelligible answer. First of all, in a truly emergency situation, one can be justified in violating property rights. For inst

Well yeah. Absolute does not mean without limit, for nothing in reality is limitless. And it doesn't mean "property rights are intrinsically good," for that would mean "good apart from human life." Ab

It is indeed not a literal contradiction to sacrifice others while refusing to sacrifice yourself, and that is not the correct reasoning to support the notion that we should not sacrifice others. The

You are all evading the question by pretending to not know what I meant. Is advocating workplace safety regulation not in the self-interest of workers? Are they better off dying in industrial accidents?

Okay, well let's establish one thing first: employers don't put their employees at risk just for the heck of it. Even if your hypothetical employer is a heartless bastard who literally cares nothing for the welfare of his employees, it's well established that riskier jobs pay higher wages, other things equal; in general, employers have to pay their employees a premium for taking on risk. So let's say there's a very low-cost change that an employer can make to his factory that significantly reduces risk. Do we need to regulate him to get him to do it? Obviously not; there's a number of reasons that an employer would do that voluntarily, from the risk wage premium to employee moral. Employers in the absence of regulation are already looking to reduce risk; however, they're also balancing that against the cost of reducing risk.

So what will change when safety regulations are passed? Obviously these regulations will target the more expensive changes that employers wouldn't do without the regulation, so employers complying with the regulations will undergo significant costs. Often when these sorts of things are passed, many small businesses in the industry simply go out of business (in fact, it's well documented that large corporations often use these types of regulations to eliminate competition, but let's pretend for the moment that regulators are only interested in the task of making workplaces safer, and their regulations can't be influenced in this way). Obviously the employees there aren't better off; they could have accomplished the same level of safety by simply not going to work in the first place. Larger firms have to incur significant costs, which usually means laying off workers and temporarily cutting back production. So what have the regulations done? They've made some workers safer at the cost of the jobs of other workers.

Of course, regulations are rarely ever eliminated, only built upon, which means an ever-increasing amount of red-tape and extra cost for employers, which comes at the expense of both employers and employees. So we've gone from a situation where employees were consciously deciding to accept risky jobs and being compensated accordingly, and employers were gradually making the workplace safer in a cost-effective manner, to a situation where neither party has control of what happens; an outside bureaucracy does.

In short, the image of regulations costlessly solving problems in the market is an immense oversimplification that inevitably ignores the unintended consequences of said regulation. Market actors have incentives to balance benefits against costs; bureaucracies have no such incentives, and we've all seen what happens when the people in charge of an industry don't have to pay the costs.

Edited by Dante
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In short, the image of regulations costlessly solving problems in the market is an immense oversimplification that inevitably ignores the unintended consequences of said regulation. Market actors have incentives to balance benefits against costs; bureaucracies have no such incentives, and we've all seen what happens when the people in charge of an industry don't have to pay the costs.

These arguments are still theoretical, and not particularly convincing. Even in theory the market only maximizes a mathematical abstraction called "consumer surplus" or the difference between price paid for a good and the willingness to pay, not human well being. Dying on the job doesn't fully factor into the equation; wages are only treated as incentives. Now I'd really be impressed if someone proved that 1) there was an increase in prices or fall in wages or employment (or some other cost) occuring after the implementation of safety regulations, and 2) this was worse than 20,000 people dying every year.

Obviously the employees there aren't better off; they could have accomplished the same level of safety by simply not going to work in the first place.

But then they wouldn't get paid.

Often when these sorts of things are passed, many small businesses in the industry simply go out of business (in fact, it's well documented that large corporations often use these types of regulations to eliminate competition, but let's pretend for the moment that regulators are only interested in the task of making workplaces safer, and their regulations can't be influenced in this way).

Can you prove that this happened in any significant way?

So we've gone from a situation where employees were consciously deciding to accept risky jobs and being compensated accordingly, and employers were gradually making the workplace safer in a cost-effective manner, to a situation where neither party has control of what happens; an outside bureaucracy does.

The factory was never the worker's property in the first place. Also, can you prove that wages fell after safety regulation and provide a specific example?

Edited by mustang19
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Is advocating workplace safety regulation not in the self-interest of workers? Are they better off dying in industrial accidents?
Here is a counter-question: suppose the following:

  • given your current driving pattern -- the probability that you will die in a car accident is x%
  • you can reduce this risk in all sorts of ways
  • one such way is to buy a gadget that cost $Y
  • buying that gadget will reduce the probability of you dying in an accident from x% to z%

Given these facts, is it in your self-interest to buy the device?

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mustang: WRT unintended consequences - I suggest that you only think the argument is unconvincing because you haven't actually dealt with such regulations.

Suggest you research the cost of implementing Sarbanes-Oxley. I have first hand experience as to the cost vs. benefit. Meeting the requirements set forth are quite cumbersome - and rarely add any real value. Instead, now, to fully comply, I need to get written (email) approval from management in order to correct a spelling typo in a production system and every other minor issue that comes along. My boss has a backlog of email a week long.

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So to the 20,000 people who died in industrial accidents in the US every year before the introduction of workplace safety regulation, you'd say that the system was working in their self interest?

Is government regulation the only way to implement workplace safety procedures?

Edited by Eiuol
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Actually if they're killed in a workplace accident they very well might... well I mean, their estate...

No, they will not get paid, they will be dead. We are not talking about estates. The individual is responsible for the hazards they choose to endure to make money. Businesses who can no longer get employees to work for them because the job is not sufficiently safe must elect to make the job safer OR risk going out of business.

Edited by RationalBiker
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These arguments are still theoretical, and not particularly convincing. Even in theory the market only maximizes a mathematical abstraction called "consumer surplus" or the difference between price paid for a good and the willingness to pay, not human well being. Dying on the job doesn't fully factor into the equation; wages are only treated as incentives. Now I'd really be impressed if someone proved that 1) there was an increase in prices or fall in wages or employment (or some other cost) occuring after the implementation of safety regulations, and 2) this was worse than 20,000 people dying every year.

What possible case could there be for one or the other being "worse" in some way. Worse for whom? I'm not saying that the market always magically maximizes welfare or something, but that "the market" is an abstraction which simply means allowing each market actor to act on his own judgment. When you paralyze that, you're not doing anyone any favors.

But then they wouldn't get paid.

They don't get paid when they lose their jobs, either. That was my point. If that's what they really wanted, to forgoe their wage in order to not be put in risky situations, they could have just not gone to work. Obviously they preferred working to not having a job at all.

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What possible case could there be for one or the other being "worse" in some way. Worse for whom? I'm not saying that the market always magically maximizes welfare or something, but that "the market" is an abstraction which simply means allowing each market actor to act on his own judgment. When you paralyze that, you're not doing anyone any favors.

If you can "paralyze" the market in a way that makes you less likely to get killed while keeping the same job with the same wages I'd say you're doing yourself a favor. This is really an empirical debate and if you want to make a point you need to provide data.

They don't get paid when they lose their jobs, either. That was my point. If that's what they really wanted, to forgoe their wage in order to not be put in risky situations, they could have just not gone to work. Obviously they preferred working to not having a job at all.

Then we're down the empirical question as to whether there was any significant job loss after the regulations. And I haven't seen proof of that.

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=8&ved=0CEwQFjAH&url=http%3A%2F%2Fir.uiowa.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1030%26context%3Dpolisci_pubs&rct=j&q=effect%20of%20mine%20safety%20regulation&ei=DnjDTbnLAYi4tgefh_WbBA&usg=AFQjCNGYuN6NUrgSwrZ-0dJLzlIenyRqWg&sig2=p-sUAbmmnCmTMGD4SK5nwQ&cad=rja

Anyway for anyone curious here's a study on how mine safety regulation reduced workplace fatalities.

Although I do agree that OSHA didn't really do anything major. Also, that CATO paper actually notes that state worker's comp programs improve worker's safety.

Edited by mustang19
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Well okay then. If you believe that workers are better of dying in industrial accidents than asking for regulation I don't know what else to ask.

You don't know what to ask because you keep thinking in terms of the false dichotomy you've created. There are more alternatives that you are evading that involve people actually taking responsibility for their own lives and choices, and not bending other men to their will by force of government. You argue in favor of the predator versus the RATiONALLY self-interested individual.

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You don't know what to ask because you keep thinking in terms of the false dichotomy you've created. There are more alternatives that you are evading that involve people actually taking responsibility for their own lives and choices, and not bending other men to their will by force of government. You argue in favor of the predator versus the RATiONALLY self-interested individual.

There are certainly any number of alternatives. My particular question though was, are ever workers better off pushing for safety regulation. This is a realistic concern for someone who must accept whatever job they can find to feed their family.

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My particular question though was, are ever workers better off pushing for safety regulation.

"Ever"... sure

"Always" ... no

In one particular post, you had asked:

You are all evading the question by pretending to not know what I meant. Is advocating workplace safety regulation not in the self-interest of workers? Are they better off dying in industrial accidents?
I see no "ever" there, it is framed as asking about an absolute, which is why I replied showing that one really needs to have more information before one can answer a question like that.

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"Ever"... sure

"Always" ... no

In one particular post, you had asked: I see no "ever" there, it is framed as asking about an absolute, which is why I replied showing that one really needs to have more information before one can answer a question like that.

Alright. Well I'm interested in the answers to both questions; I don't think that the whole progessive/liberal workers rights movement sprang up for no reason. It has to be in the self-interest of someone if it isn't just random self-destruction.

So in cases where workers benefit from regulation, should they act against their self interest and work to prevent this legislation from passing?

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So in cases where workers benefit from regulation, should they act against their self interest and work to prevent this legislation from passing?

When it comes right down to it, there is no such single entity as "workers". I might be willing to pay for something, while another worker might not. It is not right for me to force a particular type of employment contract on anyone: not on employers, nor on other workers. The people who lose the most from any type of wage and industrial regulation are would-be workers and workers who wanted a different type of contract. Can a worker gain some concrete thing by using force against other workers and employers? Yes, for a while -- sometimes even for a long while. However, I'm betting some criminals get away with crime too. That does not make it practical in principle, even if it works for a while for some.

However, neither does not mean that workers should simply accept conditions. It is false to assume that any current practice is settled optimally already because the market has settled it there. Markets are never, ever rational if this is what people mean by rationality. When I go to buy a car and the salesman quotes his opening price, it would silly of me to accept it on the theory that the market is optimal. Workers have to understand what they really want in a job, including all the various trade-offs involved. Then, they have to pursue the types of jobs that suit their values more than they pursue other jobs. Once they have a job, they have to make managers aware of things they want changed. They might even have to complain and make a noise at times. In modern economies, most managements listen to workers a whole lot. Finally, workers have to actively consider alternatives to their current job and switch when appropriate.

All this might seem highly inefficient to some third-party who wants to tell people what their real values ought to be, and tell them that they must act on their values, else holding them is meaningless. Such third-parties are welcome to help educate both workers and management. However, when they go from educating and advocacy to the use of force, they have crossed the line into imposing their will in an illegitimate manner.

To clarify, none of this means that the law may not address areas related to work-safety. it just means that the law has to approach it from a standpoint of contract, and by asking what the parties reasonably expected. I'm quite open to the idea that there are many dangers in which one may not legitimately place another person without having warned them appropriately.

In the U.S. and most other developed countries, industrial safety standards are mostly above those that most workers would want. With millions working in the US, there are about 5,000 fatalities in private industry. The interesting thing is that about 20% of these are people who are self-employed. Think about that when asking yourself if employers are imposing weaker standards on their employees when compared to people who are self-employed. (This harkens back to my example of an auto-safety device.)

Further, of the 5000 or so, about 25% are transportation accidents. People die in transportation accidents all the time, even when they're on vacation. It would surprising if they also didn't die when driving on work-related stuff. In most years, the second largest category is "Homicides and Suicides". Industrial fatalities are so low in the U.S. that it should be a point of pride to the extent that this is level that people were choosing freely. Contrast this to an estimated 30,000 people dying of flu each year!

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So in cases where workers benefit from regulation, should they act against their self interest and work to prevent this legislation from passing?

As I was trying to point out before, government regulation (force) is not the best answer. "Workers rights" certainly did not spring from nowhere, advocating for safety is usually a good thing. Like what was mentioned before about why being a dictator as a bad thing, violating rights helps no one in the long-run. The best answer, as Dante was getting at, is to let people make their own choices. If a factory owner has terrible safety conditions, workers don't have to work there. If workers want better safety, they should persuade the factory owner to do provide it rather than use force. It is actually in the self-interest of everyone to prevent legislation that does not deal with initiation of force, the same way it is in everyone's self-interest to promote capitalism.

Edited by Eiuol
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Who in the hell are you to tell them "this is in your self-interest" and hammer it down onto them whether they like it or not? Who the hell are you to prescribe the details of production and outlaw all deviations? Maybe they prefer higher wages and are willing to take more risks to increase their material well-being. Maybe they prefer lower wages and more safety regulations and procedures. The point is that "standards of safety" and acceptable levels of risk and reward vary from person to person. It is for them to choose, not for you to dictate.

The workers and employers decide their own interests according to their own values, goals, preferences. A loss is imposed on both workers and employers if they lose their freedom to contract, usually in the interests of protecting some competitor against competition from different production methods. But no conflict of interests emerges on the unhampered market. Everyone is free to choose to work as employee and employer under those conditions he prefers. If they don't like the working conditions as they prevail, is it in their self-interest to agitate for improvements? Of course. Consumer sovereignty reigns even in cases of workplace safety procedures. No one will accept employment with someone whose demands are not justified in the eyes of the workers. Those who do not listen will pay an economic (and probably social) premium for their disobedience. In the labor market, the preferences of mass majority of the workers direct the standards of safety, and those on the margins who are eager to earn more by accepting higher levels of risk are not prevented from doing so. But it is a non sequitur to say "only passing some law will create the procedures we want" is it not? It is a myth that business exists to do nothing but kill off all of the workers and consumers, especially when you can be sued for negligence from any injuries or deaths resulting from the applicable situations.

Edited by 2046
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But no conflict of interests emerges on the unhampered market. Everyone is free to choose to work as employee and employer under those conditions he prefers.

Support the assertion that "no conflict of interests emerges on the unhampered market". Employees want the highest possible wage and managers want to pay the lowest. This can lead to conflict of interest.

Neither employee or employer has complete control over their employment settings and neither necessarily works under conditions they prefer, only conditions that other people voluntarily offer.

Who in the hell are you to tell them "this is in your self-interest" and hammer it down onto them whether they like it or not? Who the hell are you to prescribe the details of production and outlaw all deviations?

I'm not the one; it's up for individuals to chose whether or not to oppose particular legislation. Why should someone oppose legislation that gives them better safety or higher pay with minimal other tradeoffs?

But it is a non sequitur to say "only passing some law will create the procedures we want" is it not? It is a myth that business exists to do nothing but kill off all of the workers and consumers, especially when you can be sued for negligence from any injuries or deaths resulting from the applicable situations.

Sure, there are many alternatives, but I'm looking for an argument that safety law will always and every time be against worker self interest. In particular cases creating a law is the most effective way to improve safety because the employer is effectively forced to agree to a contract unconditionally.

@ softwareNerd :

That does not make it practical in principle, even if it works for a while for some.

Apply this assertion to a practical case that proves it is always true. I gave the example of mine safety reducing fatalities while having minimal effect on wages. Most individual miners were better off. But as I mention below I understand if you're not going to contest this point...

In the U.S. and most other developed countries, industrial safety standards are mostly above those that most workers would want

Sure. I'm not arguing that standards in the US are lax. I'm just wondering if the extreme generalization that state intervention is never in anyone's interest is defensible. We don't have to talk about the US- we can talk about any country. I gave a study on mine safety regulation reducing fatalities a few pages back. Although I don't think you contested this point; in which case, it's been a good and informative chat and I'll take away from this discussion that Objectivists (or at least you) admit that sometimes it is in one's self interest to advocate socialist type policies.

I see no "ever" there, it is framed as asking about an absolute, which is why I replied showing that one really needs to have more information before one can answer a question like that.

Sorry about that. I'm curious, how often do you think state intervention serves the self-interest of those who advocate it? Barely ever? And when it is in someone's self interest to advocate state intervention, would you try to convince them to act against their self-interest in this case, and what would you say to them?

And then there's the whole issue that hasn't been addressed regarding what I've been calling "liberal politicians". How are politicians acting against their self-interest by voting for statist policies in order to get re-elected?

Edited by mustang19
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Support the assertion that "no conflict of interests emerges on the unhampered market". Employees want the highest possible wage and managers want to pay the lowest. This can lead to conflict of interest.

Neither employee or employer has complete control over their employment settings and neither necessarily works under conditions they prefer, only conditions that other people voluntarily offer.

The support was "Everyone is free to choose to work as employee and employer under those conditions he prefers." This means one supports his self-interest by production and exchange with others. You don't own others, and so to "desire" the lives and property of others to be at your "complete control" is to desire every other person be your slave. Rational self-interest does not mean having "complete control" because no one has complete control over everything. To desire all "conditions" be under your "complete control" is to desire to be a god. In an exchange, your control extends over your life, thinking, body, and property. To prefer something means to desire A over B, and a rational desire is over that which is in your control, and does not demand the unearned, meaning only conditions which are possible, which are offered, and which are under consideration. Desires apart from that which is possible, which is offered, and which is under consideration are desires devoid of rational context, and are not a valid criterion for your rational self-interest.

All voluntary exchanges are to mutual benefit because there is a reverse valuation of the things being exchanged in order for the exchange to take place. I value that which I am getting over that which I am giving up, or else I would not make the exchange.

So for an example of this, if I have a broken leg, it makes no sense to say "I really prefer not having broken my leg in the first place, therefore this doctor is exploiting me." But I have no control now over whether I have a broken leg or not, what's done is done. (It would be great if everyone could foresee all the conditions which might cause him illness, then there would be no need of doctors in the first place, but this is not to be.) Now all I have control over is whether the doctor cures it, or I go without medical assistance. In making an exchange with the doctor I demonstrate that I prefer having him cure my leg over the money, the desire of not having broken my leg in the first place is irrelevant to this exchange. If it were otherwise, I would not consult the doctor.

Even a man who sells at a loss is still better off than he would be if he could not sell at all, or only at a still-lower price, even though he would have preferred to not make a loss at all, but he knows this is out of his control.

Thus we can conclude, there are in the market economy no conflicts between the interests of the buyers and sellers, this includes buyers and sellers of labor services. Economic values are not intrinsic, but are determined on the context of supply and demand, which means by the voluntary choices of people acting in the market process. The employer pursues his self-interest in asking for the lowest wages he can pay, the employee pursues his self-interest in asking for the highest wages he can find. Workers don't want less, employer doesn't want to pay more than the market value. The law of supply and demand settles the question, and where their self-interests meet, they make a deal and are both better off. So long as no man demands the unearned, there is no conflict.

I'm not the one; it's up for individuals to chose whether or not to oppose particular legislation.

But if you are support the kind of legislation in question, you are the one. So the question remains, who are you, and all those who agree with you, to dictate your values onto others by force?

Why should someone oppose legislation that gives them better safety or higher pay with minimal other tradeoffs?

Already explained this in the previous post, so I see no reason it needs to be repeated.

Sure, there are many alternatives, but I'm looking for an argument that safety law will always and every time be against worker self interest. In particular cases creating a law is the most effective way to improve safety because the employer is effectively forced to agree to a contract unconditionally.

Again, see previous post. Who the hell are you to mandate to someone what their interest is at gunpoint? Who the hell are you to force someone to accept your values unconditionally? Actually, I think my values are better, and so I want to force you to "agree" unconditionally to my "contract." What now? Is this wrong of me?

By the way, you might be interested in reading The Virtue of Selfishness, esp. chapter 4 "The 'Conflicts' of Men's Interests," which starts off by considering someone applying for a job.

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One proper role for government is to protect rights by defining (or judging) what are the bounds of rights. Deeds to land and patents and copyrights are the obvious government services that define and defend rights, but the legal standard of negligence in both criminal law and in civil suits is also a form of defending rights. Historically there have been two methods used to address the problem of 'workers rights' that have not been well founded in a theory of individual rights, but rather originate in collectivist thinking. These are government regulation and unions.

Government imposed regulations create problems:

- they impose costs that may be disproportional to the benefit created

- the regulation and regulatory mechanism can be 'captured' by one party, so that it is no longer a compromise balancing diverse interests

- regulations often have no basis in individual rights theory to justify or enable them

Unions create problems:

- the 'right to strike' was created ad hoc as short-cut to some form of fairness in management vs. worker negotiations but it is just a form of legalized extortion

- unions typically misuse their unrightful power to strike to strangle a business (and in recent decades state and local governments) with unrealistic compensation and benefit obligations

- unions have no basis in individual rights theory to justify or enable them

A better way to fight employer negligence that creates safety hazards on the job could be the class action lawsuit. Getting the employees recognized as a legal class with standing to sue has only been done in conventional liability cases so far, not 'pre-emptively' but there is no reason why it could not be done that way. Some statuatory laws may be necessary to prepare the ground for recognizing employees as a persistent legal class in a way that eliminates the need to strike and the temptation to retaliate by firing. There would be no need to strike while such class action suit was being contested, and no point in the employer firing his employees if anyone doing the work was automatically entered into the class because of that relationship.

That there is a general legal duty of care between employer and employee is a principle of common law. The standard of care employed should be a professional standard, for example the best practice in mine operations.

From the Wikipedia standard of care article:

In balancing risks to establish a reasonable person's standard of ordinary care, the rule has been established that the probability of the harm potentially caused (P) must be balanced along with the gravity of the harm which could result (G), against the burden of conforming to a new and less dangerous course of action (
B)
along with the utility of maintaining the same course of action as it was (U). This is sometimes noted in shorthand as P+G v. B+U, deriving from a formulation expressed by Judge Learned Hand. (United States v. Carroll Towing Co., 159 F.2d 169 (1947).)

Advantages:

- individual cases are judged individually, so established large companies are less able to capture an industry by regulating small entrants out of the market

- uses the government mechanism established to arbitrate civil disputes, making unions as we know them superfluous

- is based on and protects the individual rights of all participants

The precedent for this idea is "... the suggestion of Harry Kalven, Jr. and Maurice Rosenfeld in 1941 that class action litigation by individual shareholders on behalf of all shareholders of a company could effectively supplement direct government regulation of securities markets and other similar markets" from Wikipedia, which cites a textbook (history book?) by Stephen C. Yeazell, From Medieval Group Litigation to the Modern Class Action (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987).

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The support was "Everyone is free to choose to work as employee and employer under those conditions he prefers." This means one supports his self-interest by production and exchange with others. You don't own others, and so to "desire" the lives and property of others to be at your "complete control" is to desire every other person be your slave. Rational self-interest does not mean having "complete control" because no one has complete control over everything.

Okay.

To desire all "conditions" be under your "complete control" is to desire to be a god. In an exchange, your control extends over your life, thinking, body, and property. To prefer something means to desire A over B, and a rational desire is over that which is in your control, and does not demand the unearned, meaning only conditions which are possible, which are offered, and which are under consideration. Desires apart from that which is possible, which is offered, and which is under consideration are desires devoid of rational context, and are not a valid criterion for your rational self-interest.

Slippery slope. I didn't say anyone desired conditions to be under their complete control. I'm talking about whether should advocate state market intervention that serves their self interest.

All voluntary exchanges are to mutual benefit because there is a reverse valuation of the things being exchanged in order for the exchange to take place. I value that which I am getting over that which I am giving up, or else I would not make the exchange.

They're mutually beneficial, but there are ways one party can get even more out of the deal by bypassing the market.

So for an example of this, if I have a broken leg, it makes no sense to say "I really prefer not having broken my leg in the first place, therefore this doctor is exploiting me." But I have no control now over whether I have a broken leg or not, what's done is done. (It would be great if everyone could foresee all the conditions which might cause him illness, then there would be no need of doctors in the first place, but this is not to be.) Now all I have control over is whether the doctor cures it, or I go without medical assistance. In making an exchange with the doctor I demonstrate that I prefer having him cure my leg over the money, the desire of not having broken my leg in the first place is irrelevant to this exchange. If it were otherwise, I would not consult the doctor.

Inappropriate example. The doctor has no control over you breaking your leg. A mine owner, however, has some control over conditions in the mine.

Thus we can conclude, there are in the market economy no conflicts between the interests of the buyers and sellers, this includes buyers and sellers of labor services.

Economic values are not intrinsic, but are determined on the context of supply and demand,which means by the voluntary choices of people acting in the market process.

Intrinsic to what? You mean "subjective"?

The employer pursues his self-interest in asking for the lowest wages he can pay, the employee pursues his self-interest in asking for the highest wages he can find. Workers don't want less, employer doesn't want to pay more than the market value. The law of supply and demand settles the question, and where their self-interests meet, they make a deal and are both better off. So long as no man demands the unearned, there is no conflict.

That doesn't erase the conflict of interest with the employee wanting to take as much profit as he can without putting the employer out of business. The employees want more than market value for a wage and they have ways outside the market of "settling the question", like legislation.

But if you are support the kind of legislation in question, you are the one. So the question remains, who are you, and all those who agree with you, to dictate your values onto others by force?

I'm wondering why someone should act against some legislation that violates free market conditions but promotes their self interest (say, requiring the employer to provide better safety or pay with all else equal) should oppose that legislation.

Again, see previous post. Who the hell are you to mandate to someone what their interest is at gunpoint? Who the hell are you to force someone to accept your values unconditionally? Actually, I think my values are better, and so I want to force you to "agree" unconditionally to my "contract." What now? Is this wrong of me?

You value your self-interest and I value mine. Of course our values are different. Sure, it's wrong of you by a utilitarian standard to do that, but if you only act in your self-interest then you're going to put your self-interest ahead of that of others.

Grames:

A better way to fight employer negligence that creates safety hazards on the job could be the class action lawsuit. Getting the employees recognized as a legal class with standing to sue has only been done in conventional liability cases so far, not 'pre-emptively' but there is no reason why it could not be done that way. Some statuatory laws may be necessary to prepare the ground for recognizing employees as a persistent legal class in a way that eliminates the need to strike and the temptation to retaliate by firing. There would be no need to strike while such class action suit was being contested, and no point in the employer firing his employees if anyone doing the work was automatically entered into the class because of that relationship.

That was tried and didn't work. Look at my mining example. Class action lawsuits didn't improve safety, legislation did.

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