A couple weeks back my anarchist and free market credentials were (once again) called into question by a visitor because I thought the television writer’s strike was ridiculous. I promised a follow up on how I can be both for a free market and anti-union. Well, as often happens, someone else did it better than I could, so I’ll just point you to them for now. First, some specifics on the “poor” conditions these writers are “forced” to work in from Andrew S. Fischer at LewRockwell.com–
[W]orking industry writers, on average, earn over $200,000 a year, receive high-quality health benefits, and are among the few employees in the world who get an additional annuity in the form of residual payments.
[A]ccording to the WGA schedule of minimums, the writer currently gets a minimum of $25,599 to write a “treatment” (detailed synopsis), then $22,249 more for a first draft, etc. This is called “scale” (the guild minimum).
Yep, sounds exactly like the reason unions were formed in the first place – to stop companies from forcing six year olds to risk their lives in dangerous jobs for pennies a week. Anyone who claims to support both the free market and trade unions needs to do some thinking about business performance management and take a hard look at the real world. Continuing to use the writer’s strike and the Lew Rockwell article as an example-
It may work nicely for members of the cartel, but an unknown writer, without an agent (i.e., mandatory double-talking middleman), will be conveniently excluded from this arrangement. Thus the WGA protects its members and their livelihood from outsiders, just like any cartel. This way a few lucky people (often friends and relatives of industry insiders) are able to earn a nice, easy living, while other, perhaps more talented people are prevented from earning a single dollar. (By the way, if you have an agent and/or manager protecting your interests, why do you also need a guild?)
Note that once you sell a script, you must join the WGA immediately, or the sale will be canceled. If you decide to be a “scab” and sell something during a writers’ strike, after it’s over you will be denied membership in the WGA and, for all intents and purposes, any potential future sales (unless, if memory serves, you pay back what you earned plus an extra 10% – to the WGA, not the producer).
In a free marketplace, of course, none of this would exist. Folks would register their scripts (more cheaply than the $20 the WGA charges, since there would be competition) and send them to producers, who would simply make monetary offers to their creators.
In the open market, a great screenplay by an unknown talent might command a lot more money than it does now, while all the inane junk would command far less than current scale. As in any free market, equilibrium would automatically settle in, and the goods in question – in this case written words – would fetch what the market deems they are worth, and not the arbitrary minimums that are demanded by the WGA cartel. Whenever a market is freed, these always emerge: more, better and cheaper.
Trade Unions are only one small step short of the evils of governments. The only thing keeping them that small step away is the fact that you’re free to work in another industry to avoid them, whereas there is no escaping government.