Wages and the contradiction of economic fundamentalism

Written circa 2003

Economic fundamentalists claim:

  • the market should find its own level.

They campaign against:

  • minimum wage legislation – suggesting that it inhibits employment because it puts too high a price on labour, and
  • decent income support payments – suggesting they inhibit the desire to accept work.

Economic fundamentalists oppose tariffs on the grounds they constitute a barrier against free trade.

They oppose farm subsidies on similar grounds.

They are opposed to unions and arbitration systems on the grounds that employers and employees should individually negotiate agreements.

They argue that the rich need to be encouraged and the poor compelled.

Finally, they claim that if the markets are not interfered with some of the prosperity will eventually trickle down to the waged and even unwaged workers.

Apologists for Capital promote such fundamentalist dictates yet simultaneously support:

  • the use of police and paramilitary forces against strikers,
  • industry research tax brakes / incentives, and
  • governments providing incentives for industries to set up.

If the fundamentalists really want the market to be the final arbiter and are not prepared to oppose the things which assist Capital then logically they should not oppose those things which assist workers in their struggle against Capital.

Fundamentalists are content to let workers negotiate with Capital in the absence of unions, arbitration systems, decent income support systems and minimum wage legislation on the grounds that the market must be the final arbiter.

Even if unions, arbitration systems, decent income support systems and minimum wage legislation are in place the market will still determine whether Capital will offer any worker a job and on what basis.

The real objection, of apologists for Capital who rely upon economic fundamentalist’s prescriptions, is not that the market is determining outcomes between workers and Capital but that the worker’s power is increased and the power of Capital to compel is less absolute.

If the fundamentalists were required to logically present their case then they would have to argue that they are opposed to workers selling their labour at a rate satisfactory to the seller rather than at a rate dictated by the fear of impoverishment. If they were forced to argue rationally their message might have less appeal to the bulk of the population.