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.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Yet More on the Factory Workers

I am happy to report that Kevin Carson at Mutualist Blog isn't letting up. He's got another informative post on enclosure and the willingness, or lack thereof, of people to work long hours in disgusting factories for strange bosses who have the power to ruin their lives on a whim. (Maybe it's me, but it seems like a no-brainer.) Read the post; I can't do it justice. But I will reproduce and comment on some material he passes along from historian David McNally (Against the Market):
Advocates of enclosure thus made much more than a narrowly economic case for enclosure of the commons; their argument was fully social, emphasizing that elimination of the means to economic independence was essential to creating a disciplined labour force. The campaign for enclosure of common lands was presented as a great moral crusade designed to eliminate idleness, intemperance and riotous behaviour, and to render the poor sober and respectable. (Emphasis added.)
As the Poor Law Commissioners of 1834 stated in their Report, "we can do little or nothing to prevent pauperism; the farmers will have it: they prefer that the labourers should be slaves; they object to their having gardens saying, 'The more they work for themselves, the less they work for us.'" (Emphasis added.)
Let that sink in. "The more they work for themselves, the less they work for us." The material Carson presents gives one the sneaking suspicion that there were people in England who wanted to make sure they had an abundant supply of wage laborers, and that the way to do that was to close off all other options. This puts a different spin on the Industrial "Revolution," but not a Marxist spin, because what apparently took place was as unlibertarian as it possibly could have been. We are "brought up" to think that people went to unpleasant factories because that was their best choice under the circumstances. But what if those circumstances were contrived? What if that was their best choice because all the good choices were stolen away by those who wanted them to have only that choice?

Carson's book (chapter 4) points out that those in power went so far as to outlaw home-based textile manufacturing so that the new textile factories would have a ready supply of low-wage labor. (Kirkpatrick Sale: "Gradually, therefore, [cottage-centered textile machines] were eliminated, their manufacturers squeezed by being denied raw materials and financing, their operators suppressed by laws that, on various pretexts, made home-production illegal.") This sort of thing, along with the quotations by contemporaries establishing that enclosure was favored precisely in order to create a desperate wage-labor class, is something every libertarian needs to come to grips with. An immaculate-conception notion of industrialism leaves libertarians open to serious charges, with naivete being the mildest. We have nothing to fear from getting the facts straight. The truth will only strengthen our case for individual liberty and free markets. All we ask is the abolition of privilege and its replacement with freedom and honest, unrigged competition. History looks like a conspiracy against the independent industrious classes.

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