Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Herbert Spencer on Labor's Predicament

In their [workers'] social relations, too, there has been an entailed retrogression rather than a progression. The wage-earning factory-hand does, indeed, exemplify entirely free labour, in so far that, making contracts at will and able to break them after short notice, he is free to engage with whomsoever he pleases and where he pleases. But this liberty amounts in practice to little more than the ability to exchange one slavery for another; since, fit only for his particular occupation, he has rarely an opportunity of doing anything more than decide in what mill he will pass the greater part of his dreary days. The coercion of circumstances often bears more hardly on him than the coercion of a master does on one in bondage.

From Chapter IX of Principles of Sociology. The mainstream critics of Spencer, ignorant as they are of what the man actually wrote (see this New York Times article), would be surprised by this passage.

Spencer does not appear to attribute the workers' predicament to government intervention, but rather treats it as something inherent in the nature of things. At the end of the chapter he write, "...there appears to be no remedy."

2 comments:

Roderick T. Long said...

Actually he seems cautiously optimistic about this remedy.

tim said...

i've noted elsewhere that Roderick Long has playfully raised the flag for the formation of a "Herbert Spencer Anti-Defamation League".

The main goal of the HSADL was seen as defending HS from absurd, poorly researched complaints from leftists and liberals that he advocated state enforced eugenics.

Obviously the HSADL needs to branch out into labour relations as well.

As it happens I have come across a potential high profile recruit for the HSADL. Will Durant.

In his chapter on HS in his "The Story of Philosophy" he has a chapter on Spencer with an unusually sympathetic conclusion. Durant noted that interest in Spencer had more or less dried up by the time he went to press (1926). Yet WD predicts that interest in HS deserved to and would ultimately revive.