Unions are direct and substantial beneficiaries of labour law, which is fine.   The FMF, though, has no self-interest in the outcome of the case.   Contrary to union rhetoric, most “capitalists” want to have collective bargaining.   The issue is whether their deals should be imposed on competitors and the unemployed.   Smart unions concerned about declining membership, low wages and the unemployed should support the FMF’s application because more employment will mean more members for them and a “seller’s market” for their labour.   Of absolutely no help to the unemployed are the antimarket fundamentalists who offer no employment themselves and vilify people who do.

Leon Louw in his article Vilified for trying to give the jobless a choice, first published in Business Day yesterday, responds to some of the criticism directed at the Free Market Foundation for challenging the constitutionality of certain labour laws.

Earlier relevant posts

Extracts from the article

WHERE in the world do partners in government call an application to one of its courts a “brutal attack” and “nothing less than war”?   Where do partners in government “vehemently resist” court proceedings and place their members on “high and militant alert” for battles to be “fought on the streets” threatening that “blood will flow” if the courts do not rule in their favour?   Where do professors of law make pronouncements on cases they know nothing about?   Where are people who provide jobs denounced by those who do not?   And where are people who want jobs for the unemployed vilified as enemies of the poor?   In despotic dictatorships such as North Korea or Iran?   In backward banana republics?   No, in South Africa.

These are examples of histrionic responses from critics of the Free Market Foundation’s (FMF’s) court application for what most people would regard as a benign proposal — that private parties should not make laws in the form of contracts that govern their competitors.   Knee-jerk assumptions about the FMF’s case, launched last week, reveal less about the FMF than its critics.   They assume, for instance, that the FMF opposes collective bargaining and workers’ rights, whereas it has never done or said anything to that effect.

A cursory glance at the court papers, media statements and dozens of publications on its website entail three simple principles:

  • parties should be free to enter collective agreements;
  • such private contracts should not govern nonconsenting outsiders; and
  • destitute people should have the right to work.

. . . .

The tenor of responses is instructive.

Let’s start with esteemed constitutional law professor Pierre de Vos.   He wrote his critique — twice the length of this column — without having familiarised himself with the case.

“I have been unable to get access to their court papers,” he admits, despite the fact that court papers are public documents and were prominently displayed on the FMF’s website.   He is “sceptical of ideologically driven claims by people whose business it is to exploit others and make as large a profit as possible” — yet the FMF is an impecunious public-benefit organisation.

When journalists quizzed the FMF about the “exploitation” of unprotected workers, we responded.

  • First, exploiters do more for them than self-righteous non-exploiters.
  • Second, people denied employment by anti employment labour law deserve the right to decide for themselves.
  • Third, the best thing the government can do for victims of “exploitation” and unemployment is to adopt free-market policies that maximise competition for labour.