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Ben Hogan set up a golf club company in 1954. Before it had barely produced and sold a single set of clubs a union organizer came to the Ben Hogan Company plant.

When the workers called an organization meeting, Hogan spoke first:

I understand that all of you fellows want to organize my business here and join a union. Well, that is certainly your privilege. If you’d like to pay a nice portion of your salaries to a union, be my guest. You obviously think that by organizing you’re going to make a lot more money, and, in effect, tell me, the boss, what you’re going to do. Before you vote, let me tell you just one thing: I’ve already started over once, and I can and will do so again, if necessary. So far, neither I nor my investors have made one damned cent. When we do make some money, I’ll see to it that you make some too. Until that happens, you’re not going to make one damn cent more than I can afford to pay you. And if any of you don’t like those terms, you can go straight to the pay window and draw your severance pay, because in thirty minutes this plant will begin operating full-blast again. Period!

The workers did not join the union.

This is the sort of thing the current card check supporters deem intimidating and wish to outlaw. There are two things I’d like to draw attention to from this passage, that I am certain generalize, both have to deal with the concept of worker exploitation that is (mythically) at the heart of much of the anti-capitalist sentiment out there.

  1. Note that workers generally are paid when they complete their work. They get paid regardless of the outcome of the company. In other words, so long as the company is operational, the workers get paid – and they get paid long before the exploiting owners ever see a dime. I am not as well versed on Marxian and anti-Marxian history as I’d like to be, but I think Bohm-Bawerk illustrated this in more technical terms to refute the notion of wage earner exploitation (i.e. there are timing differences between sales of output and payment of inputs that make the issue of “exploitation of surplus” a wee-bit more complicated than Mssr. Marx and his followers made it seem. To put this in a more modern context – the U of R pays me each and every month – and long before they know whether students are learning anything, will remain in school, become dedicated alumni, or attract new students.
  2. The company started making clubs in 1954. Therefore, golf-club making jobs in Fort Worth, TX did not exist in 1953, or 1952 or 1951. How is it that these workers could be exploited now that they have an additional employment option than they had prior to Mr. Hogan’s idea?

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