Should Libertarians Support Outsourcing?

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom

Should Libertarians Support Outsourcing?

[Deb Hamm, the editor of Colorado Liberty, the newsletter of the Libertarian Party of Colorado, replied April 6, 2004, to Ari Armstrong's update about Tom Tancredo and outsourcing (a term that describes the hiring of foreign employees by U.S. companies). Following Hamm's comments, Armstrong replies.]

This is where libertarians miss the boat... on the so called "free market" and "outsourcing". While the rhetoric sounds good, if one looks a bit deeper one will find serious problems with the effort to make cheaper products, no matter how it's achieved.

The Prison Industrial Complex is thriving in the U.S., as well as many other countries It uses prison (slave) labor to produce many common products found in the big box stores in which people love to shop till they drop.

Someone told me, why not "use the scum of the earth"? It gives them skills... right? Hardly. Most of the prisoners, in this country, are "pot smokers" (non-violent "criminals"). Mostly, they are people who had decent jobs, lived decent lives, and have (had) families. Until they were "drug off" to prison for smoking weed. Now they are criminals, who lost their job, probably divorced, and a huge loss in income to raise the kids, etc. A destroyed family.

These "criminals" are very important to the Prison Industry. A state run Business, the Prison Industry destroys the free market by using prison slave labor for all manner of products and services. The Federal government (the largest employer, Walmart is second) MUST, by law, use the prison industry for it's needs.

Products made by prisoners range from office furniture, to electronics, to clothes, to Qworst marketing. The Prison Industry competes with "us" for jobs and services that we cannot hope to match! The industry is being privatized (which corporation gets to run them?), which destroys people's ability to find decent paying jobs; who must adhere to federal, state, county and city mandates, regulations, taxation, fees, fines, finance, and foes... not to mention a basic livable wage, outside prison walls!

I caught part of a Cspan Congressional debate about 6 months ago, or so. They were debating a bill that would have eliminated the law that requires the government to buy products from the Prison Industry. I don't know whether this bill went farther than that debate. I wonder if it is the same with state, city and county governments?

Corporations buy from prison industries too. Like Walmart? In a free marketplace, who can compete with free labor, no taxes, no regulations, no business license, no store front, no liability... Prison labor, and/or services provided by foreign markets, like China, or India (just one instance) who's problems have destroyed (flooded) homes, businesses, infrastructure, entire towns, and lives due to the horrific consequences of political/corporate corruption (i.e.: dam building - read: Power Politics by Arundhati Roy). Any bets on what corporations were involved in such horrific consequences, which ultimately benefits another corp., which may also be owned by the same planet corp. surrounded by satellite corporations, created to shield the center hub from liabilities and the same regulations you or I must adhere to?

The non-news propaganda that we are fed is astounding! A perfect example was in the DP rag right after I finished her book, which made it sound as if these corporations were saving their lives! When in fact these people now have absolutely no choice but to take these measly paying jobs, because they have lost everything! One can say that the corp. are saving their lives, but I seriously doubt that the reason behind all this is anything but to create a slave labor force out of hundreds of thousands, millions worldwide, of people who have lost their livilihood! Iraq??

I agree... government meddling in market affairs destroys the free market. But, our government IS controlled -- bought, paid for and dependent upon conglomerate tits! The monopolies are centralized, controlling and fascist. For libs to not even broach this is inexcusable. I don't see the reality behind the rhetoric being discussed by politicos of any persuasion.

Corporate "personhood" was granted ages ago, and it is no wonder why. Treating a corporation like a person is insane! It's time to abolish this insidious monster. The US is controlled by corporations and corruption is rampant. They no longer answer to anyone, as evidenced by the little city battles to keep corporations like Walmart from using their power to "persuade" officials to do their bidding. Paying them to build their businesses off the backs of taxpayers. Outrageous!

Ari Armstrong Replies

Hamm and I agree that many people are wrongly kept prisoner for violating victimless-crime statutes. We also agree that U.S. corporations get all sorts of special protections and perks contrary to the principles of the free market.

However, there's nothing wrong with corporations per se. A corporation in the economic sense is merely a voluntary association of people who agree to share the funding of some particular enterprise. Corporations are essential to an advanced economy, in which particular industries face large economies of scale and require very expensive production equipment. True enough, corporate statutes, regulatory burdens, government-imposed labor costs, etc., inflate the prominence of corporations beyond what the market would foster. The government has created artificial economies of scale by creating a tax and regulatory scheme that large entities can more successfully manage.

The fact that the U.S. imprisons people unjustly has nothing to do with the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to other nations. I don't think it's the case that prison labor within the U.S. contributes significantly to the products we buy, but I don't know what the specific data are. In general, the proceeds of prison labor should not benefit the state, but instead the specific victims of the properly convicted (actual) criminals.

I am not aware of the specifics of how much slave labor is employed in China, though it is an important problem. However, again, this has nothing to do with outsourcing. U.S. companies hire willing people in other countries to perform specific jobs; these U.S. companies do not enslave local populations. (Only under Marxist mythology might a mutually beneficial, voluntary exchange be likened to slavery.) The problem of slave labor, both in the U.S. and in other regions, is an important and difficult one, but not one related to outsourcing.

The only way outsourcing can be stopped is through state force. The fact that the U.S. government has impeded the market and violated individual rights is not a justification for even more government restrictions, it is a reason to roll back existing restrictions.

The Colorado Freedom