Posts tagged Libertarianism

Re: A Quick Note on “Borders”

“It comes down to a question of whether property owners have a right to deny access to their land to others, arbitrarily . . .”

No, it does not come down to that at all. I am quite happy to welcome undocumented immigrants onto my property; so what it comes down to is a question of whether or not other people, who do not own my property, have a right to deny access to my land to others, arbitrarily. Of course they do not. They have no right to do anything but keep their preferences, and their borders, on their own property, not on mine.

“This may well be true; but if so it actually renders all argument irrelevant since their right to have any policy- including open borders- unsupportable. For instance, an illegitimate state operating an open borders policy is enacting unjust domain over the properties of its citizens-”

Horsefeathers, sir. This is absurd.

Of course you are right that in my view, no nation-state can legitimately have any policy at all, because no nation-state can legitimately exist. But the mistake here is in trying to treat political demands for amnesty or open borders as if they were demands for an active policy in the first place. They are not demands for government action; they are specifically demands for a structured sort of in-action, and they cannot reasonably be described as “actions of an illegitimate State against its oppressed citizens.” They are not impositions of “unjust domain over the properties of its citizens” because the property rights of a states’ citizens don’t include the right to force immigrants off of other people’s property in the neighborhood. Nothing is being imposed upon them, any more than the absence of war is somehow the political imposition of “peace” on unwilling civilians; or, at least, if you are going to claim that a state without border restrictions “is enacting unjust domain over the properties of its citizens” in virtue of its lack of border restrictions, then you will have to tell me whose property rights are being restricted by the open borders, and how they are being restricted by government’s simple refusal to harass or detain international migrants.

Re: The Central Committe Has Handed Down Its Denunciation

Bill: If it’s “oppression”, then the voluntary arrangement fundamentally implies an injustice, a victimization, and, yes, an aggression …

“Hey, if I re-interpret your statements about oppressive social relationships according my definition of ‘oppression’ in terms of aggression, which you just explicitly rejected, then you end up with an inconsistent position.” Well, yes … yes, I guess you would.

Bill: If it’s okay to engage in directing social opprobrium at people engaged in voluntary behavior you find objectionable, why would it be wrong to impose a tax on them? …

Because “social opprobrium” is a voluntary process involving non-violent social relationships, without the use of legal sanction or physical force against your person or your property. Taxes, fines and jail obviously are not.

Social reputation, social tolerance and social approval are the products of other people’s opinions and choices; but while you own your possessions, and your body, you don’t own other people’s opinions of you. if they choose to cast opprobrium on you for non-violent but oppressive behavior, then they are within their rights on most any minimally libertarian theory.

Of course, it might be that in a particular instance they are acting wrongly, even if they are not acting aggressively — people can use social opprobrium to harass and to bully and to dominate and to exploit the vulnerable even though they are not violating anyone’s rights to person and property. Certainly anyone who advocates the particular “thick” conception of libertarianism that I am defending would agree with you there. But then in order for you to help yourself to the claim that there is something wrong with this kind of misdirected social opprobrium, you must accept the claim that people can act oppressively towards each other without acting aggressively. Which is precisely the claim you were trying to deny.

(My own view, on the contrary, allows for a fairly simple understanding of what’s going on: social opprobrium is not force; it is a social process which can be used either rightly or wrongly; but when social opprobrium is used abusively, oppressively, or in some other way wrongly, then the way to deal with that is to respond to it in kind — with solidarity and social activism of your own, but used rightly and supportively. The reason you shouldn’t use taxes, fines or jail is because physical force is only justified by defense of person and property, and what you’re combating here, while abusive, is not a violation of your rights to person or property.)

Re: The Central Committee Has Handed Down Its Denunciation

Of course I agree with you that left-libertarianism (of the sort defended in those essays) is not the only possible thick conception of libertarianism.(*) I think that it is the correct thick conception to adopt, and that the others generally are not, and I have my arguments for that conclusion, but I think that in order for the arguments to be properly understood, the underlying conceptual issue (about what having a “thick” conception does, or does not, mean) has to be brought out.

(* The first article I linked actually nods towards this at the end, and it has a longer “director’s cut” that discusses the issue in more depth; the second article is an explicit play on the point, in making use of some of Rothbard’s socially conservative writing in order to make a point on behalf of left-libertarianism. Some of the most notable advocates of thick conceptions of libertarianism in clude radical libertarian feminists, traditionalist paleolibertarians, and orthodox Objectivists, a strange set of bedfellows if ever there was one.)

Re: The Central Committee Has Handed Down Its Denunciation

Bill: That means that they view these voluntary choices of others as oppression.

That’s correct, the thick conception of libertarianism they (I) defend includes an explicit claim that voluntary social interactions can be oppressive without ceasing to be voluntary. I don’t see this as a problem for the view. I see it as the point of the view.

Bill: Unless they assume some massive amount of masochism on the part of those they’re claiming are oppressed, they’ve given themselves veto power over legitimacy of the voluntary interactions of those who don’t adopt similar attitudes …

I don’t know what kind of “veto power” you have in mind. If you think that a position against non-aggressive forms of oppression involves some tendency to individually disapprove of, or, say, to non-violently socially stigmatize, at least some behaviors, interactions or relationships which are admittedly voluntary (in the sense of being acted out through strictly non-aggressive means), then of course you are right about that. But is that “veto power” in any meaningful sense of the term? Certainly not in any meaning of the term that involves an exercise of aggressive power. Again, the point of the view, as stated by those who advance it, is to provide some considerations in favor of addressing non-violent social problems through non-violent social means. (Rather than, say, holding that there just are no non-violent social problems, by definition.) If, on the other hand, you think that calling X “oppressive” means assuming “veto power” over X in the sense of legitimating the use of political force to repress X, then, again, that is what the people in question (me included) explicitly deny, and have denied all along. (See for example this discussion of “the authoritarian theory of politics.”)

Given that we have explicitly called for the use of non-violent social activism and cultural change instead of any use of political force to address the oppressive-but-non-aggressive dynamics that we’ve discussed, any charge that what we’re proposing must ultimately logically lead to criminalizing those dynamics seems to be completely unfounded in what we’ve argued. Of course, you might hold that social stigma, cultural politics, etc. can all be problems even if they are not leading into political force — you might hold that the attitudes we take are, say, narrow-minded, or intolerant, or busybodying. And I don’t agree that they are, but you might have an argument for that. (Certainly I don’t think that “social stigma,” say, is something harmless when misused, even though it may be non-aggressive.) But then of course you too are advocating a thick conception of libertarianism — just one which connects libertarianism, say, with a very broad norm of social tolerance, and which exercises a great deal of skepticism towards any sort of social pressure or conscious non-violent activism, rather than with the sort of anti-oppression activism that I have tended to promote. And the argument is not going to be an argument about whether libertarianism should be conceived thinly (as a demand strictly independent of other social or individual norms) or thickly (as integrated with other, interlocking commitments) — it will just be an argument about what other commitments a thick conception of libertarianism ought to be integrated with.

Re: The Myth That Libertarianism is a Step Child of Conservatism

Jason Bessey: Rothbard of course did a lot to popularize the term “libertarianism” in the US, and to spread the idea that American libertarianism was a body of ideas and a political identity radically distinct from the emerging political conservatism of Buckley, Kirk, et al. But he was not at all the first person to use the term in the US. Here’s Benjamin Tucker using it in passing in the 1880s, for example: http://fair-use.org/benjamin-tucker/instead-of-a-book/liberty-and-the-george-theory, http://fair-use.org/benjamin-tucker/instead-of-a-book/a-libertarians-pet-despotisms (he also used it to translate the term “libertaire” in French Anarchist writing, e.g. here: http://fair-use.org/benjamin-tucker/instead-of-a-book/state-socialism-and-anarchism). Charles Sprading’s LIBERTY AND THE GREAT LIBERTARIANS (first published 1913, http://archive.org/details/libertygreatlibe00spra) was published before Murray Rothbard was born, but it was later circulated pretty widely in laissez-faire circles in the 1950s and seems to have contributed to the uptake on the term by Rothbard and a number of others in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Daniel Baber: I agree that “Intellectual Property” is a government-sanctioned monopoly, and that it ought to be abolished. But Rothbard did not. He opposed patents, but he specifically defended copyrights as a “prosecution of implicit theft.” (He also thought that in a market of total liberty (as he understands it) “Part of the patent protection now obtained by an inventor could be achieved on the free market by a type of ‘copyright’ protection.” See Man, Economy, and State, here: http://mises.org/rothbard/mes/chap10e.asp#7._Patents_Copyrights.

I am glad that contemporary Rothbardians have more or less unanimously come out against “Intellectual Property” restrictions, and have come to see that these are in fact government privileges, not protections of any legitimate property right. They’re right to believe that. But this is a new development, and in fact a reversal of position that has happened pretty suddenly and dramatically (over the course of the past 15 years or so). There’s no basis as far as I can tell for projecting the belief back onto Rothbard himself.

Re: *Boinks Ayn Rand*

Derek Wittorff via Alex Strekal

April 10 at 3:32pm

Boinks Ayn Rand

http://anti-libertarian-libertarianism.blogspot.com/2012/04/rand-as-philosophical-fascist.html?spref=bl

Charles W. Johnson

There are many different ways to respond to Ayn Rand and her legacy. I’m not sure necrophilia is the best.

April 10 at 3:32pm

Nick Ford

“I’m not sure necrophilia is the best.”

What?

April 10 at 3:33pm

Derek Wittorff

lol

April 10 at 3:33pm

Charles W. Johnson

“Boinks” is sometimes used as if it means the same thing as “Bonks.”

It doesn’t.

April 10 at 3:33pm

Daniel Patrick Ⓐ

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=boink

April 10 at 3:34pm

Nick Ford

Oh yeah, right I knew that but I’ve used it in the Strekelian sense so long I’d forgot about the other connotations.

April 10 at 3:35pm

Derek Wittorff

Its a great analysis.

April 10 at 3:41pm

Charles W. Johnson

I can’t say I agree. Most of the things that Alex finds troubling or flat wrong in Rand are also things that I find deeply troubling or flat wrong, but as far as the article goes, there’s not at lot of analysis there; mostly polemic. Some mention of conclusion, none of arguments, not even any quotes. If anything, what it reads most like is one of Rand’s own sweeping rhetorical assaults on, say, Kant or Plato. Those may or may not be correct on any given point, but they are certainly not the place to go to learn very much what Kant or Plato is about.

April 10 at 3:53pm

Daniel Patrick Ⓐ

It’s true. I have trouble being open to Kant due to exposure to Rand’s ideas at an impressionable age.

April 10 at 3:56pm

Charles W. Johnson

Utah had a story about alternative health in northern California around Nevada City: “You gotta be open to these things. If you don’t they’ll pry ya open.” Which is about how I felt about Kant after the second half of my 18th Century Philosophy course.

April 10 at 4:01pm

Derek Wittorff

‎”I can’t say I agree. Most of the things that Alex finds troubling or flat wrong in Rand are also things that I find deeply troubling or flat wrong, but as far as the article goes, there’s not at lot of analysis there; mostly polemic. Some mention of conclusion, none of arguments, not even any quotes. If anything, what it reads most like is one of Rand’s own sweeping rhetorical assaults on, say, Kant or Plato. Those may or may not be correct on any given point, but they are certainly not the place to go to learn very much what Kant or Plato is about.”

I can agree there, but it is a paper about Rand, not Kant or Plato.

April 10 at 4:09pm

Derek Wittorff

A little explanation could help, but it’s more than easy to get off track when you’re engaging in philosophical discourse.

April 10 at 4:12pm

Charles W. Johnson

This is an example of what I would take to count as an analysis of Rand and her philosophy (sometimes a good analysis, sometimes not as good, but always an analysis): http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/rand.htm. The article here is not an analysis or a philosophical discourse; it’s a denunciation. Which may very well be merited, but which is something different.

Why I’m not an objectivist
home.sprynet.com

‎(2) One should always follow reason and never think or act contrary to reason. (I take this to be the meaning of “Reason is absolute.”)

April 10 at 4:12pm

Charles W. Johnson

‎Derek Wittorff: “it is a paper about Rand, not Kant or Plato.”

O.K., I’m not sure what you mean here. Is this a joke about slipping antecedents? Or do you mean to suggest there’s something about Rand that makes this kind of treatment of her more useful or less of an injustice than a similar treatment of Kant or Plato (e.g. that the latter are better or more sophisticated philosophers or something like that)? Or something else?

April 10 at 4:16pm

Derek Wittorff

I see, you think the analysis part is lacking, not the paper itself. I wouldn’t know where to start if I was gonna critique her whole philosophy.

April 10 at 4:27pm

Charles W. Johnson

I’m not sure I’m being clear. My view is that setting out to critique her whole philosophy is almost certainly the wrong goal. I think that if Rand is worth an analysis at all (and I happily leave that as an open question), then everyone involved would benefit more from a focused discussion of a single argument, from premises to conclusion, than from some kind of broadside against the totality of her thought.

April 10 at 4:34pm

Charles W. Johnson

The reason I linked the Huemer piece is because that’s a thing that he does — although he’s actually covering a fairly broad stretch of territory, at each stop he sets out specific arguments in detail and then tries to see, first, how they work on their own, and then, second, whether there’s something wrong with them and if so what a better alternative would be. That’s what I feel like I can recommend as “analysis” of a philosophical position. It is for good or for ill a different thing from assembling a hodgepodge of summaries of her conclusions, wrapping it up in a package, and denouncing that as destructive or poisonous. I mentioned the bit about Plato and Kant because Rand herself is constantly approaching other thinkers this way, and Objectivists tend to eat this stuff up, but whatever value that kind of thing may have, it’s not as analysis, because there isn’t any serious analysis of the philosopher’s arguments, only a denunciation of the perceived downstream consequences of those arguments. But to the extent that there isn’t any analysis of the philosopher’s arguments, there isn’t any analysis of the philosopher, either. Of course whether analysis is really what’s wanted in the first place, or whether something else is (denunciation, disavowal, parody, scurrilous satirical poetry, a sharp whack upside the head, whatever) is a separate question.

April 10 at 4:46pm

Re: Fuck. Yes.

all-left.net is run by Roderick, not by me.

For what it’s worth, I certainly agree that our essay should not be the only thing cited in a discussion of libertarian feminism.

The “Libertarian Feminism” essay was not written in ignorance of ALF or the work that y’all have done. It would not be too much to say that if it weren’t for ALF I probably never would have become a libertarian — it was specifically a couple of essays by you, Sharon, and some others by Joan Kennedy Taylor, which really opened me up to the possibilities of radical individualism, and taught me my first and most important lessons on libertarian and market anarchist approaches to social justice. (It’s the libertarian part that I needed convincing on. As a man I am come to feminism with a certain distance that women don’t have — but I’m not exactly writing from the outside looking in, either. While I’ve seen my share of ivory towers, I am not a professional academic, and I actually came to libertarian thought by way of years of prior work within local feminist groups, GLBT groups, and anti-rape/anti-battery activism — work which started for some pretty heavy personal as well as political reasons — and which eventually lead to anarcha-feminist organizing efforts, which lead…..)

It is true that men writing critical assessments of women’s work, including (especially?) in the feminist movement, are necessarily in a tricky position, and we are prone to all kinds of dumb moves and bad faith. No doubt in that essay and elsewhere I’ve neglected a lot that oughtn’t have been neglected and said things that are off-kilter or mistaken. But I don’t think it’s fair to infer from a failure to talk about something in the essay that we are oblivious, or don’t think that it’s important; lots of things we wanted to talk about, we didn’t get the chance to. I don’t think we claimed that no 20th/21st century libertarian feminists ever drew a connection between patriarchy and statism, or that Wendy McElroy is the only voice of “libertarian feminism” out there. Certainly the discussion (in section 2) of a number of common libertarian errors about feminism wasn’t intended to suggest that there aren’t any libertarian feminists who have pointed out and corrected those errors. If what we wrote, or what we neglected to write, does suggest that, then that’s absolutely a mistake, and I’ll publicly retract it.

For whatever it’s worth, in the essay we do allude to ALF and discuss an article by Joan Kennedy Taylor which appeared in the ALF News — but unfortunately, the format of the paper being what it is, we spend much more time (including in that section) talking about the points on which we disagree rather than the points where we agree. Similarly, we hardly canvass the whole range (as if we could!) of non-libertarian radical feminist thought (we only deal at length with one major instance — Catharine MacKinnon’s discussion of formal consent under patriarchy — and briefly mention a handful of other figures); and we hardly talk about any concrete examples of antifeminist libertarians by name (Hans Hoppe is in there, I guess). All I can plead is that the essay was presented live and so subject to limitations of time and the audience’s attention, never intended to be a comprehensive overview of anything, only an elucidation of a few conceptual issues that we see as especially important in finding the most promising strands of thought and action — by doing some totally incomplete and regrettably selective engagements on a handful of points that might help bring those conceptual issues out as clearly as possible. It’s certainly not intended either to be the first or the last thing that anyone reads on the subject of libertarian feminism — if it’s of any use at all, it will only be as something read alongside a lot of other broader, deeper, and more comprehensive material (which absolutely includes a lot of the work by Sharon Presley and other women in ALF, and I’m sorry if anything we said or anything we left out ever suggested otherwise). If the essay has been taken as an attempt at a comprehensive statement rather than a brief attempt to engage in a much, much wider conversation, then I can only say that I’m sorry for that, and the bit about pointing back and onward to the foundational works in the feminist tradition is really seriously meant — and work like “Government is Women’s Enemy” is as foundational as anything else I could mention.

Re: Should We Let People Die If Unrelated Government Policies Tend To Drive Up The Costs Of Health Care?

dsatyglesias writes: “If you oppose universal health care, you by definition support letting people who can’t afford health care die.”

Maybe so. (Certainly, there are plenty of conservatives who are all too comfortable with — or even enthusiastic about — a lot of needless suffering in the world.)

But I hope that you realize that not everyone who supports universal healthcare supports government healthcare, and not everyone who opposes government healthcare opposes universal healthcare. The one might follow from the other if the only way to get universal coverage were by means of a political guarantee of coverage. But that’s not so: there are folks who oppose government healthcare because they think corporate healthcare is awesome and they don’t mind if people die; but there are also folks who oppose government healthcare because they support non-governmental, non-corporate universal coverage through grassroots social organization and community mutual aid. (See for example http://radgeek.com/gt/2007/10/25/radical_healthcare/ or the closing sections of http://www.thefreemanonline.org/headline/health-care-debate-meaningful/ .)

Of course, that leaves open the question of whether they (we — I’m one of ’em) are right about the best means for getting universal coverage. Maybe social means are inadequate; or maybe there is some reason, which has yet to be mentioned, why governmental control is preferable, as a means for getting it, to voluntary associations for mutual aid. But whether the position is right or wrong, it’s certainly not one that can be answered simply by defining it out of existence, as you do when you pretend that the only alternatives available are (1) corporate coverage of only those who can afford it; or else (2) universal coverage by means of government mandates; as if there were no (3) universal coverage by non-governmental means.

Re: Thought Experiment: Solving “National Debt” by dismantling the State

Dan,

It’s not clear to me what level the question is supposed to be asked on. If it’s a question about moral ideals — what really ought to be done — then I think the obvious answer is complete and permanent repudiation — government debts …cannot be repaid except through government revenues, and government revenues are always extracted by force from unwilling third parties (viz., us). Those of us from whom they are extracted never consented to the debt at all, and have a perfect right to refuse to pay one damned dime. Of course, if those who did contract the debt (viz., governors at various levels) want to pay out of their own pockets, or to pass the plate and ask for donations, they should be free to do so. But I personally don’t give much of a damn whether or not U.S. or Chinese banks or petrocrat “sovereign wealth funds” ever get “their” money back. I’d be just as happy if they all starved.

If it’s supposed to be asked on a level that’s constrained in some sense by practical political possibilities, then I think the answer is still repudiation, but for a different reason. Not only are none of the possible “solutions” to the structural problem (massive spending cuts and/or tax increases to gain tax-surpluses, selling government “property” out to big buyers, etc.) even minimally just; they aren’t minimally likely, either. Nobody in government is going to do the things that they would practically need to do in order to reduce deficits or pay down government debts because they make decisions on a political, not a fiscal, basis, and face structural incentives that make permanent, sky-high-and-growing government debts not only unavoidable, but actually quite attractive. The structural constraints are such that they are almost surely never going to stop running up debts until their capacity to continue running them up breaks down completely and irreparably (either due to diminishing returns from tax increases, or due to diminishing returns from inflation, or from a complete crack-up bust of the financial system); at which point they will partially or entirely repudiate anyway. (The hope is that they will repudiate entirely because they will collapse and not get up again. But whether they do or not, I have no expectation that any politician would or could ever do anything to pay off the government’s debts, ever.)

Re: Marxism: Not such a nice idea after all

Mike P.:

Of course any individual can strike on their own. But for a labor union to do so every individual would have to voluntarily agree to be a member of that union and every single other person on earth would have to voluntarily agree to not cross the picket line and work for the company at union busting rates.

Come on; this is silly. In a shopfloor strike, labor unions do not need universal participation to get the job done; they just need enough participation that it is more costly for the boss to replace all the striking workers and try to carry on with business (in spite of pickets, boycotts, etc.) than it is to come to terms with the union. Now, it may be the case that everyone in a shopfloor does agree to join the union (there’s no reason why this would be impossible; organizations of tens or hundreds of members can be formed voluntarily). But if not you don’t need everyone. You just need enough to make it costly and difficult on the margin for the boss to keep on going as before.

Perhaps you think that the transaction costs of replacing a striking shop are neglible, but I don’t think history bears you out on this. (See, for example, the victory in the Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912, which was won more than 20 years before the NLRB existed; the Delano grape strike in 1965, which the UFW won without NLRB assistance, as farmworkers aren’t eligible for NLRB recognition; and a lot of much less famous, much smaller-scale actions.)

In any case, I’m not sure why you think the only tactic available to a voluntarily organized union is a shopfloor strike. I already mentioned the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, for example, a union which operates primarily through mutual aid provision at home and secondary boycotts of retail purchasers. Other folks suggest tactics of direct action, “open mouth sabotage” (basically, airing the dirty laundry and rallying public pressure), work-to-rule and other forms of slow-downs, etc. The IWW is especially interested in “minority unionism,” which involves the use of tactics that don’t depend on having a voting majority or NLRB recognition; see Kevin’s “Ethics of Labor Struggle” for some general discussion of all these issues.

The primary victim of labor unions is other workers, not capitalists.

Look, I think this is false, and we could dick around about why. (*) But suppose I granted that this were true: that labor unions gain what they gain at the expense of non-unionized workers. Well, so what? Do you think that an association of workers needs to feel obliged to go out of its way to improve the wages and conditions of workers who aren’t members of the association? If so, do you also expect Ford to build cars for GM?

I see that you have an advertisement for the IWW on your site.

Well, it’s not an “advertisement.” It’s a union bug. It’s there because I’m a member of the union.

That’s nice. the IWW absolutely does resort to legal threats and threats of force from the state as we can see just by looking at their site.

Some locals do this. Others do not (either because they cannot, or because they considered it and decided not to.) I certainly do not agree with the use of legal threats and NLRB actions in, e.g., the recent Jimmy Johns campaign or the occasional use of it in the Starbucks campaign. I think it sucks, and that it’s contrary to the historical spirit and principles of the union, and I tell my FWs so when it comes up. I’ve also worked for employers that I thought were doing things that were wrong (including accepting state money, state privileges, etc.). As for the union, this is hardly the only way the IWW operates. In fact, it’s pretty rarely how the IWW operates (I know, because as a member of the union I get pretty frequent reports and action alerts). What’s rather more common is to do things like this or that or this.

So the IWW could not exist without threats of force from the state,

This is nonsense. The IWW was founded in 1905. It existed — and enjoyed something like 100 times the membership it currently enjoys — for three decades without any state backing. In fact, it was rather frequently the victim of massive state violence (from the use of “criminal syndicalism” laws in the early 19-aughts, to the assaults on free speech in Spokane and other Western towns during the period of the free speech fights, to the mass “sedition” show trials, the Palmer Raids, and mass deportations during World War I and the Red Scare). Since the IWW existed for more than 20 years without the backing of state force, I conclude that it can exist without threats of force from the state. As for the threat of NLRB action against retaliatory firings, some IWWs try to use it. It mostly doesn’t work. Walk-outs and phone zaps have generally had a higher success rate at getting workers reinstated.

The IWW is pretty much a joke though. Its not really a union, more of a social club for leftist college kids.

The IWW is certainly much smaller than it used to be, and certainly tiled towards leftist activists. You do know that, prior to the Palmer Raids and the Wagner Act, it was one of the largest unions in the United States, yes? (The primary base of support at the time being among Western miners, loggers and migrant farmworkers, with another significant base of support in the Eastern seaboard textile industries.)

I’m not even sure if they have ever successfully organized a single workplace.

Well, Christ, your ignorance on this is not really my problem, is it? Besides deliberately activist worker co-ops (like, say, Red and Black in Portland), which were “unionized” without any struggle because they were founded by people who were already in or favorable towards the union, there are also IWW “job shops” organized in a number of US cities. For examples, check the directory for the San Francisco Bay Area. The Starbucks Workers Union backed off of attempts to win NLRB recognition (a move which I applaud), but they have clear majorities at some individual Starbucks locations and they have enough general membership to have won a number of victories (including getting fired organizers reinstated through walk-outs, winning holiday pay increases for all Starbucks employees, etc.).

Of course, the organizing that is done now is nothing like the organizing that was done at the height of the union in the 1900s-1910s, when, to put it rather mildly, they did succeed in organizing a few shops here and there.

(* For one thing, my view is not that union’s long-term goals should be to strike deals with capitalists so as to increase wages or bennies, but rather that workers’ organizations should be moving towards nonviolently replacing capitalists with worker-controlled mutual aid funds, and worker-directed and worker-owned enterprises. For another, I think that hard bargaining under free market conditions serves an informational purpose, which improves economic calculation and thus benefits a lot more than just the unionized workers. Etc.)