The Instigator
Con (against)
9 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
10 Points

Thett3 Tournament: Labor Unions are a net benefit to humanity

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/15/2013 Category: Economics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,349 times Debate No: 28858
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (10)
Votes (3)




net benefit to humantiy- the well being of all humans
labor union - an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members' interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions

debate rules:

1. No semantics.
2. First Round for acceptance, and rule and definition clearification only.
3. No new arguments in the last round.
4. Text-only debate.
5. All source material must be easily accessable

This debate will be based on whether labor unions itself are good or bad, not individual policies or laws that can be used to encourage or discourage labor unions. For example, stating that the process of banning labor unions would not be possible is not a valid argument.

The BOP of proof is equal. I have to prove that labor unions are a net harm to humanity, while PRO has to prove that labor unions are a net benefit to humanity.

The final round will be for concluding remarks and will have a 4500 charcter limit.


Thanks to darkkermit for posting the challenge. We have PM'd each other on many clarifying points. One of them is that this debate will encompass both public and private sector workers.

Also, as mentioned, the fifth round will be for concluding remarks and will be limited to 4500 characters maximum for each side.

Another point of note, my opponent, the instigator is CON and will be arguing that labor unions are a net harm to humanity while I, PRO will be arguing that labor unions are a net benefit. Clarification is useful since readers don't often notice when the instigator is CON.

I look forward to a fun challenge.
Debate Round No. 1



First one must ask: What increases the real wealth of nation? It is done through increasing its’ worker’s productivity and capital. If we imagine a situation in which all the machines, tools, and infrastructure was removed, then people’s wages would go down because not enough stuff would be produced. No amount of unionization will increase the wages of workers, because there simply are not enough stuff that can be produced.

Here are a few institutions necessary to increase economic growth:

a) Businesses must be rewarded for increasing productivity.

Since productivity improves economic growth, businesses must be rewarded for it. This means businesses must obtain a profit for increasing productivity.

b) People must have strong incentives to start a new business.

The more businesses that form the more ideas that can be tried. It is the process of “tinkering” that creates new ideas that create wealth. This means that people must be incentivized to start a new business through obtaining a profit and knowing that one can improve his or her life through starting a business.

c) Government must be free from corruption.

This is self-evident, but will be explained more later.

d) Investments in capital must occur

In order for investments in capital to occur, investors must be ensured he/she will obtain a return on investment.

I will explain how unions harm these institutions.

Intuitively, one understands why cartels are bad. They raise prices and harm the consumer. The US government has established anti-trust legislation which makes price-fixing between businesses illegal. However, this same logic is applied to unions, which create a monopoly on labor and price-fix labor. They raise prices of labor and harm businesses.

The value of one’s wage is based on supply and demand of labor. Therefore, unions can only increase the value of their labor through decreasing the supply or increasing the demand of their labor. I will demonstrate how each one of these situations is bad.

a) Decreasing supply of labor

One way laborers make sure that they can maintain high wages is to restrict supply through barriers to entry. This can be done through a seniority, rather than a merit system. Or the employer might be prohibited from hiring non-unionized workers. The simple act of increasing the wage reduces supply. If for example, laborers state that their wage should be “$20” instead of the market rate of $15, then a business cannot hire more of these workers, who want to work at a $15 wage. These workers either become unemployed or have to work at a job that offers less benefits or less play which is obviously harmful. The amount of wealth lost from this can be quantified as “deadweight loss” as this supply and demand diagram shows.

b) Increasing the demand for labor

Another solution is that the laborers can artificially increase the demand for laborer. This can be done through a contract requiring a certain amount of people to do a job. While a worker’s marginally productivity might not be worth their marginal cost, he/she is hired because the worker-employer contract requires it. Because the worker is not increasing the marginal productivity of the firm, he/she is taking away profits from the company.

There are two main problems with this arrangement. First taking away the profits from the company is bad because as outlined earlier, profits are a necessary incentive to drive economic growth. Why start a business, invest, or increase productivity if the profits will simply be taken through the unions.

The second problem with this arrangement is that the employer-worker contract will make it so that it will be difficult to increase productivity, since contracts make it difficult to restructure and rearrange labor to make them more productive.

However, there is another, alternative mechanism that a labor union can increase demand, and that is through using government to obtain special privileges. Government can reduce competition, and provide federal handouts to ensure that the companies the workers work at remain profitable enough for workers to remain employed at artificially high wages. This is obviously bad, since as I demonstrated before that competition is good and profitability needs to be a reward for productivity, not for unproductive activity that distorts the functions of profits.

Public labor unions are especially bad

I will also stress that public labor unions are especially bad. As progressive Franklin D. Roosevelt stated:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.

While in the private sector, union power and wages are limited by how much profit a company can make, the same does not hold true for the government. The government can simply overtax citizens, inflate the currency (if federal government), or run deficit spending. None of these three policies are good.

The government also has legitimate roles that improve economic development and well-being of a nation. They provide education, science funding, roads, water treatment, regulation and providing rule of law. Unions harm development and improvements of these institutions in the same way that private-sector unions harm business. Also, since unionization makes termination of an employee especially difficult, public employees can more likely get away with corrupt actions.

Since government has a near monopoly on coercion and force, there are little alternatives then to use government services. Governments have a long track record of corrupt which have caused devasting economic effects, like in Africa, so it especially important that government remain corrupt-free and work properly.

Empirical Evidence:

Pro might believe that without unions that employers will exploit workers. However, this is false. Since businesses compete with one another, they will compete for labor as well. A business cannot offer wages lower than other businesses, otherwise they’d work for other businesses and not for him or her. This competition allows labor to be worth their productivity. Despite declining union rates, real hourly compensation is still around equal to productivity[1].

Economist and historian Thomas Woods shows that real wages in the 19th century rose despite low union participation rate, and that American workers had higher salaries then more unionized European workers [2].

Research and empirical evidence also conclude the negative effect of unions. It concludes that “Unionzed companies invest significantly less in both R&D and physical capital then nonunion firms”.[3]

One can also see how labor unions try to gain political favors from the government. Barack Obama received campaign funds from autoworkers and bailed out the unionized GM. In the restructuring of GM, unions received their pensions and benefits while secured bondholders, who are given first-preference, did not have their money returned [4]. Unions are listed as the top lobbyists, spending millions for campaigns [5].

One can also see how unionized workers create large wage gaps. A direct comparison can be made between public teachers and private teachers. The wage gap is a $13,540 differential[7]. These unionized workers obtain higher pay at the expense of nonunionized workers.

Public teacher unions are also an example of how unions harm productivity. Anybody who has been to an American high school realizes how inefficient the system is. Programs like merit pay and voucher systems have been met with teacher union opposition. Firing bad teachers become a difficult process with only one out of every 1000 teacher is fired, which creates a situation in which students fall behind in their education, and hate school. [8]




Thanks Darkkermit. I haven't fully finished my research (and deadline is approaching) so I will be posting more sources in the next round and probably post more comments on Con's sources as well.


The most appropriate way to define “humanity” would be to define it is all the people in the world. However, due to ease of data collection in the United States and the difficulty of collecting and compiling data from other countries, I will assume “humanity” to be the people in the United States; where data is provided for the US. If Labor Unions benefit the majority of people in the US, then we can say that they are beneficial overall to humanity.

C1) Income inequality is an obstacle to the well-being of humanity

a) Exclusive focus on overall economic growth without regard to income inequality does not accurately represent what is beneficial to humanity. Compare two hypothetical economies:

People in the Economy

Economy A

Economy B

Total GDP

$ 100 Billion

$ 75 Billion

Top 10% of people

90% of wealth

30% of wealth

Middle 45% of people

8% of wealth

40% of wealth

Bottom 45% of people

2% of wealth

30% of wealth

Economy B is more beneficial to the humans in that economy because despite the lower overall GDP, the vast majority of humans have greater wealth and resources. In other words the median is greater.

Con bases his arguments off of the incomplete premise that increasing the overall wealth of the nation is a beneficial to humanity. However, a growth in GDP could increase the wealth of the top 1-10% of people without helping the remaining people or perhaps even by making them poorer on average. To truly benefit humanity, we must increase the wealth of all or most humans in the economy. The gross GDP of a country is not directly indicative of whether the bottom and median earners earn and is therefore an incomplete measure of overall human development. Higher GDP is good but higher median per-capita income is a better measure.

b) Income inequality affects the overall GDP as well. More on this later.

C2) Unions reduce Income Inequality and provide other benefits

a) I've established that income inequalities are bad and undesirable. One of the ways humanity addresses the problem of income inequalities is through the establishment of labor unions. Labor Unions are how humans will organize themselves to gain the equality in bargaining power and reduce inequality of income.

b) Labor Unions provide higher pay and benefits, safe working conditions and job security. While Con might argue that the businesses cannot offer wages lower than other businesses, businesses still offer low enough wages for it to be an overall detrimental effect on humanity.

Regarding the example of public vs private school teachers, the teachers in private schools have the choice to quit and join a public school instead. They also have the option to unionize in private schools.

c) Union threat effect: Unions raise wages for people not in Unions as well. While it is a well-known fact that Union workers earn more, the existence of a union causes wages for non-union employees to rise [4]. This is known as the Union Threat Effect.

C3) Top down economics doesn't work

Con has outlined 4 institutions which he says increase the overall GDP including rewarding businesses for increasing productivity, incentivizing people to start businesses, and investment of capital. Con doesn't say exactly how the businesses will be rewarded but I am assuming that he is saying that they should receive some form of monetary gain. Con then assumes that the businesses will use this gain to create more jobs. However, this usually isn't the case.

Consider the Bush Tax cuts for businesses and the TARP bailouts. Businesses haven't used money from the Bush tax cuts and the TARP bailouts to create jobs. Instead, they saved it, sent it out to stockholders as dividends, repurchased their own stocks, or invested overseas [1]. Con's premises are based on the argument that monetary incentives to businesses will be used to create jobs which isn't the case. Businesses will use incentives and rewards however they see fit. To truly help the working class, businesses must be required to provide minimum pay and benefits.

Despite an economic recovery, the number of Americans in poverty increased 15% between 2000-2006. During 2000-2006, average wages remained flat despite an increase of worker productivity of 15%, while corporate profits increased 13% per year [2].

Con further elaborates by saying that if a labor unions demands wages of $20 an hour instead of the $15 that the business would have otherwise have paid, businesses will employ less workers. However, this doesn't take into account the point about income inequality that I mentioned. The executives and management at large businesses are paid thousands of times what the laborers are paid. Cutting wages and bonuses will release a lot of excess cash that the businesses can then use to hire the required number of workers at the minimum wage required by the union. Con's arguments only hold valid if the businesses stubbornly insist on keeping the pay of its management constant while reducing the number of laborers. Such businesses will fail due to poor planning.

Since Con and I have an equal burden of proof, consider the flip side. Businesses are paying the minimum union wage to workers and it expires or is no longer applicable. Would the businesses reduce the wage and hire more workers? Or reduce the wages and keep the difference for themselves and the top management? Empirical evidence suggests the latter. In a study in New Jersey of fast food restaurants before and after an increase in minimum wage, there was no difference in the number of workers; rather the increased costs were passed onto the consumers [3].

C4) Public Labor Unions

Con states that the unions prevent the government from improving economic development such as education, science funding and roads etc. These can be easily solved by increasing taxes on the wealthy. Con seems to think that it is a bad thing but it isn't because higher taxes on the wealthy combined with a higher minimum wage for union workers reduces economic ineqaulity which is ultimately good for humanity overall.

Con further argues that the government has a near monopoly on coercion and force. However, this makes it even more imperative that government workers unionize in order to protect themselves from being taken advantage of by the government. The "coercion and force" is far more likely to come from top brass in the government rather than bottom level government workers who are the ones who would most benefit from unionization.

Unions do not protect employees from lawful termination, only from unjust termination. The difficulty in termination is justified considering the difficulty of the employee in finding a job compared to the difficulty of a corporation in hiring a new employee. Furthermore, Con's source about teachers has several flaws: he assumes that the poor graduation rates are all because of teachers as opposed to poor facities offered by schools, gang violence, poor homes which make it imperative for students to skkip school to work and a number of other factors. Teachers alone cannot be blamed for low graduation rates. Doing so creates an unrealistically high number of teachers that Con's source says "must" be fired and compares them to the low number odf teachers that are fired. Further, if teachers really are incompetent, they can be fired before they are offered tenure. It only makes sense for it to be easier for employees to quit their job than it is for corporations to terminate their employment. Humanity organizes itself into these arrangements to benefit the majority of humans.

Debate Round No. 2


I had two charts cut off in the last round, they are posted below.

Income Inequality:

PRO states that increasing the wealth is bad if the wealth only goes towards the very wealthy.

However, this view that economic growth only goes towards the very wealthy is misguided. This process of economic growth benefits everyone, the poor included. Businesses can only generate wealth for people. They cannot take wealth from them.

A business is unable able to raise profits beyond other competitors unless its goods are of better quality or made more efficiently than competitors. The volunteer nature of trade ensures that a business cannot steal a consumer’s wealth, but must obtain it voluntarily. A business can only obtain it through increasing the wealth of the consumer, otherwise trade does not occur.

Theoretically, a business can create an efficient process, and sell the good at its same price, thus capturing all the wealth generated. However, in practice this does not occur. If a business can produce a good or service more efficiently, then the company can produce enough of it so that the quantity of that good or service will increase significantly. As the quantity of good increases, based on the law of demand, the price must decrease. This makes all consumers, even of poor class, better off due to cheaper goods and services.

Rockefeller was considered one of the richest people in human history. However, he also created loads of wealth for everyone. Before Standard Oil, the most common source of oil was from whales. However, whales were becoming scarcer and there was a worry about shortages. Rockefeller figured out to use kerosene oil, and make it cheaper to produce then whale oil. Prices became three times cheaper under him.[1]

But it gets even better. Efficient ideas spread. Once patents expire, and businesses learn how to copy other models, the real prices of goods have to lower even more and the quality has to increase due to more competitors or potential competitors. This real reduction in prices increases people’s real income and makes poor people better off.

When the Wright Brothers created the airplane, they weren’t the only ones in the airplane business. Instead many companies starting making airplanes. Air flight has improved and made the world better thanks to innovation combined with competition. Now air flight is so cheap that people from working class and middle class background can afford them.

The benefits of economic growth cannot be overstated either. Small changes in economic growth create large long-term benefits. An economy with 3% continuous growth will be 20 times larger in 100 years, while an economy with 2% continuous growth will only be 7.4 times larger. As a form of alleviating poverty, economic growth does much more to help the poor then labor unions could ever.

Not only have that, but economic indicators like GDP underestimated present prosperity. Not even Rockefeller could use lifesaving drugs, benefit from modern medicine or use the internet for instant text and video communication. This is because these goods and services did not exist. Even poor countries have greater life expectancy then 50 years ago. Thus everyone benefits.[2]

Pro believes that unions can resolve problems of economic equality. However, more efficient polices can be made to help the poor. Welfare programs and a progressive tax system can alleviate problems of poverty. These solutions are better for the following reasons:

a) Unions do not seek to reduce income inequality. Thus there’s no reason to assume they will, since they only seek to increase their own member’s income. As stated earlier, this often occurs at the expense of non-union workers.

b) They do not harm the institutions necessary for economic growth as outlined above, while unions do.

Con also asserts that workers are paid too low, without justification. My theoretical and empirical evidence counters this. In a competitive market, workers are paid based on their productivity.

Top-down Economics

Pro seems to believe I believe the rich are job-creators. Solving problems of unemployment are beyond the scope of this debate. These can be explained based on reduction in aggregate demand, and be resolved using monetary or fiscal policy. Some TARP money was needed to avoid a Great Depression. Regardless, this is all a red-herring. The institutions I outlined previously are about creating long-term economic growth.

PRO seems to agree with my initial statements that profits are needed to reward businesses for innovation and capital development. However, I never stated that the profits would be used to create jobs.

This is akin to stating that “grades are needed so that students will be rewarded for studying and demonstrating that they understand the material.” If a student gets an “A” for doing nothing, and does not do well, this does not demonstrate that grades should not exist. Just like an “A” itself makes one know the material, profit does not itself make the nation rich. The profits have to be earned through increasing capital or innovation, not through government subsidizing profits. This is what grows the economy.

PRO uses tax-cuts to explain why he thinks I am wrong. Yet, taxes are necessary for the government to raise revenue, and allow businesses to keep a predictable portion of their profits if they innovate. When unions bargains the same cannot be said. I’ve stated that government is necessary, so taxation is necessary. This is comparing apples to oranges.

Pro seems to think that higher union wages can be supported through taking income from higher management. While the CEO of McDonald’s makes millions, he also employees hundreds of thousands. Taking away his income and giving it to the workers would only raise the workers’ wages by a couple dollars a year. The administrators are there to keep the company afloat otherwise they would not be hired in the first place. Take away the good management, and the company loses its profitability. If a company cannot be profitable, the workers cannot bargain anymore, as the bankruptcy of Hostess demonstrated.

Pro’s own source contradicts this as cost was passed off to consumers, not the managers. Passing costs onto the consumer is not necessarily optimal to economic equality. This is because higher prices affect the poor the most. Any increase in wages from the workers, is offset through higher prices.

Public labor unions

PRO seems to believe that government problems can be solved as long as we tax the rich. This is false based on evidence of marginal taxes and the idea that money is the only problem. Taxing the rich more does not generate revenues [3] and US schools have increased funding since the 1960s, but test scores remain the same [4]. Solving government inefficiency requires reforms that unions routinely block.

PRO believes that unionization is needed to protect themselves from the government. But government is an institution filled with many self-interested individuals, not some mystical entity. The people in the government ARE the government. They are the ones that get to practice their monopoly and coercion. It’s absurd to think that workers need to be protected, when government atrocious and inefficiencies been committed against non-government workers. The ones in danger of government control are the public and taxpayers, which as outlined, unions harm.

PRO goes on to state that teachers should be protected from firings due to the difficulty of finding a job. However If incompetent teachers are not fired, then it means that recent college graduates and component teachers are unable to do so. It’s absurd to believe that only “unjust” terminations occur, since the problem of teacher unions are so bad that it’s easier to put bad teachers in a room not to teach then to actually fire them [5].








I apologize if I am brief again. Classes just started.

1) Income Inequality

Con points to the voluntary nature of trade to say that businesses cannot take wealth from people. What Con doesn't mention is effective force. On paper, everything is voluntary, but it may not be so in practice. To give an example, a person who is working a minimum wage job at McDonalds and supporting his family cannot "voluntarily" quit his job unless he has or is expecting to get another job. On paper, the contract will be voluntary enabling the employee to quit anytime he likes. In reality, the employee and his family would likely starve to death if such a decision were made and the employee cannot get a new job quickly. There is a huge imbalance in bargaining power which allows corporations to wield much higher influence on an individual than the individual can wield on a corporation. Labor Unions reduce the effect of this. Since the majority of people are individuals working for a corporation rather than business owners, what is good for individuals is good for humanity.

Cheaper goods and services are beneficial assuming that the wages of the working-class employees remain the same. Con's theory of companies being able to increase wealth by providing cheaper goods and services is negated by the fact that lower wages for the working class will make it more difficult for them to purchase these "cheaper goods and services." Unions help increase the wages of the lowest paid workers so even if the goods are more expensive, the higher wages will enable them to purchase those goods. Con says that Rockefeller figured out to use kerosene oil and that the prices became lower because of that. Unions will certainly not prevent him from coming to the same revelation - only it will be more expensive because Union workers need to be paid more. In this case, the prices are lowered anyways but the lowest paid workers have more money and the highest paid workers have less.

While the primary goal of a Union is to increase the income for its own members, there is always the options for workers to unionize or work in a job where there exists unions. Further Con has not addressed my argument about the Union Threat effect where companies pay more to non-union workers than they otherwise would because of the existence of Unions.

2) Top-down economics doesn't work

Con does indeed seem to believe that businesses would use additional money to hire additional workers. He says "If for example, laborers state that their wage should be $20 instead of the market rate of $15, then a business cannot hire more of these workers, who want to work at a $15 wage. These workers either become unemployed..." This assumes that the businesses would in fact hire more of these workers. Con further uses the potential of these workers being unemployed as an argument against unions. Unemployment isn't outside of the scope of this debate.

Furthermore, less number of unemployed people is a benefit to humanity by itself. Con's focus on what is beneficial to humantity is very narrow. He merely assumes that an increase in GDP is beneficial to humanity while considering all other factors like unemployment irrelavant. But that doesn't really work as I have pointed out in my table and subsequent explanation in round 2. A society where the majority of its population have well-paying jobs is more beneficial to humanity than one where only a select few hold all the wealth regardless of the overall GDP in the economy.

To address the point about costs increasing: If a company increases the price of a product because Unions demand that they pay their working-class employees more, the extra money being paid by consumers is being passed onto the working-class employees and not upper management. This is beneficial since the higher prices are offset by higher wages for the working class but the same wages for upper management which is essentially a wage cut for them since the higher prices makes it more difficult for them to obtain the same product. My source doesn't contradict my argument. It was a separate point. Con says that higher prices affect the poor the most without any justification. However, if profits from higher prices are being passed onto Union workers, the only people who are affected are the rich and upper management.

Con further assumes that I am proposing to cut the wage of a single CEO and distribute it to the lower workers. What I am proposing is a wage decrease on the managers and higher level workers and a wage increase for the lowest level.

3) Public Labor Unions

Con claims that "Taxing the rich does not generate revenues." This statement defies logic. For instance if you have 5 bananas and I take two bananas from you, then I will have two bananas. To say that I won't is illogical. If revenues haven't increased because of increased taxes, then extraneous factors have played into the equation. What Pro shows is a simple corelation which does not take into account, causing agents.

Management does not need Labor Unions. In arguing that Labor Unions are benefical, I am making a clear distinction between the working class employees and upper management while arguing that the interests of the working class should be represented. Pro claims that the workers "are" the government and not some "mystical entity." This supposed "mystical entity" is nothing other than the higher management in the government. Workers need to be protected from the management because of the tremendous difference in bargaining power and Unions further this end by representing the interests of these workers.

Con says that test scores remained the same despite increased funding. Firstly, his source takes me to a dead link so I'd appreciate it if he reposts his source 4. Once I get the source, we can discuss whether funding was used to increase test scores in particular because most of the time, funding is done to increase the overall student experience such as laboratories, field trips, better facilities, better chairs etc and may not be directed towards test scores. Also, I'd like to know what test scores Con is talking about in particular i.e. standardized tests?

I didn't argue that teachers should be "protected" from firings. I argued that the difficulty in firing a teacher should corelate to the difficulty a teacher has in order to find a new job. This balances the scales and puts the individual and the corporation on a level playing field. Con has also not responded to the fact that teachers can be fired before they are offered tenure. If only competent teachers are given tenure, this eliminates the problem of incompetent teachers having tenure. The responsibility to ensure this lies with the corporation and not the Unions.
Debate Round No. 3



PRO has introduced the new concept that labor unions are for workers while the money should be taken from management. However this ignores a few problems:

a) The difference between management and workers is vague and ill-defined. A supervisor or manager can engage in labor work as well, and still be considered management. Is graphic design considered management or labor? What if it is a graphic design company?

b) Management does not necessarily make more money than “labor”. Actors, musicians, and athletes would constitute labor yet make more money than their managers. Since PRO wants, income equality, their unionization would not bring about income equality, especially since actors already are unionized[1]. Receptions are considered management but obtain low wages.

c) Management serves a purpose of organizing labor, R&D, marketing and so forth that generates revenue. These are necessary and are not waste.

d) As stated previously from my McDonald’s example, there simply is not enough management pay to increase the pay of low-level workers which make of the majority of workers.


In my first round, I made arguments in favor of trade unions. PRO has not directly responded to them. I am not sure if PRO conceded these points or has just forgotten to respond, so I will list them just briefly.

I listed four institutions that promote economically growth:

a) Businesses rewarded for increasing productivity, b) people having a strong incentive to start a business, c) A government free from corruption, d) Investments in capital occurring.

I noted that everyone considers monopolies on production to be bad, yet labor unions create a monopoly on labor, which would also be bad.

Workers are paid based on productivity, since businesses compete for workers and the amount of wealth is scarce. Labor unions can only increases wages through decreasing supply or increasing demand. Decreasing supply causes unemployment and/or for non-unionized workers to find areas of work that decrease their standard of living. Trying to increase demand through taking profits undermines the profit motive businesses need. Labor contracts also make it difficult to restructure labor to make them more productive. Unions can also achieve these higher wages through corrupting governments to support their businesses.

As a final note, the more people who can achieve a better lifestyle if they can join the workforce instead of starting their own business, will undermine the institute of “strong incentives to start a business” that promotes economic growth.

My full argument is again in Round 1. I have also provided strong empirical evidence for these claims.

1) Income Inequality

I noted that there were more efficient institutions that could be used to solve the problems of income inequality that PRO does not dispute.

While PRO agrees that labor unions goals are not to increase income inequality, but for its own member he states people can join a union for higher wages. Yet under the condition that unions increase wages through decreasing supply of workers, this is incorrect.

I do not respond to “union threat” because it’s the same argument as “unionization”, so any argument against unionization also goes for the union threat.

It is incorrect to assume that lower prices correspond to lower salaries. This is operating under the zero-game fallacy. Productivity, by definition, increases the total wealth.

To use an example, using a sewing machine instead of hand sewing increases productivity without causing workers to be paid less and prices come down as well. When Henry Ford invented the T-model which was the first car affordable to the middle class, he was able to increase productivity, increase pay, and reduced hours all at once[2]. None of his workers were unionized.

In addressing the argument of unequal bargaining power, this is not as unequal as PRO thinks since there are unemployment benefits, charity, welfare, and family and friends support. There’s no real threat of starvation which can be used as bargaining power. Unemployment arises because of the failure of wages to decrease.

An employer bargaining for a low wage because the employee is desperate is an easy way to obtain a high turnover rate. After all, there’s nothing stopping the employee for searching for higher paying salaries once he or she has a job. Turnovers are bad since employers have to worry about higher training costs. This was the reason why Henry Ford increased salaries, because it was cheaper then the costs of turnovers. This was also a time where social safety nets were weak.

Top-down Economics

I do not assume that profits will be used to create jobs. I do assume however, that the lower the wages, the more a firm will hire. This is because workers are paid based on their productivity, and if a worker is less productive then his/her wage, he/she won’t be hired. However, productivity and profits are not the same.

Yes, labor unions can contribute to unemployment, but not for the reasons that PRO thinks. A tax cut with low job growth does not demonstrate that my principle is incorrect, because I do not subscribe to this view.

PRO does not demonstrate how labor unions reduce unemployment, while I demonstrate they can, so PRO’s arguments on the benefits of low employment are points in my favor.

The effects of cost-push inflation only work if the demand for a good is inelastic, meaning that consumers are still likely to pay for it, even if prices increase. Fast food is an inelastic good. Using a website like would be an example of an elastic good, since if started charging users for debates, the number of debaters would dramatically decrease.

Poorer people tend to buy stuff from people that make lower wages. Wealthy people go to a fine-dining area with a well-trained chief, while poor people will go for fast food. Therefore, increasing costs on minimum wage jobs leads to higher prices on people who work minimum wage. It’s self-evident that higher prices harm the poor since higher prices means less disposable income.

Finally, while in the short-run, there might not be labor cuts, this does not mean that it will not happen in the long-run. Since fixed expenses like the building, cooking supplies, and so forth have already occurred, it would still be worth it to utilize it. However, once these materials start depreciating, it would not be worth it to maintain it, thus workers have to be laid off.

Public Labor Unions

The idea of taxing the rich not generating enough revenue does not defy logic. First, there simply are not enough people with high incomes. Second if you tax people too much then people will have less incentive to work. Third, as tax rises, one can hire a tax accountant for deductibles and loopholes. Finally, the rich can hide money overseas.

PRO thinks that teachers need protection due to the difficulty of finding a new job. However the difficulty in finding a job corresponds to the difficulty of firing a teacher. This is based on the logical analysis that the more teachers are fired, the more openings there are for new teachers. The idea that a building is needed to keep employed teachers from teaching demonstrates the absurdity of the teacher termination system.

Furthermore, as stated previously, the taxpayers and the public are in danger of government, not public officials as history has shown. PRO does not respond to this. Public workers exercise the power of government monopoly. Thus public workers who are difficult to fire are just as much danger to the public as politicians.

Also extend argument that public unions block reform which PRO has not disputed.

My link on spending vs. test results is shown below:





C1) Income Inequality is a detriment to humanity

With the existence of income inequality, the vast majority of humans are at a disadvantage. Having the majority of wealth and resources concentrated in the hands of a few will leave the majority controlling a very small amount of wealth and resources. To determine what is beneficial for humanity, we must determine what is beneficial to the majority of the humans in an economy. Con has contested none of these basic points.

Con outlines 4 institutions that he says are necessary for economic growth. I have not picked apart each individual institution because I have refuted the premise on which they are all based. They are all directed at increasing overall gross GDP. I have shown that gross GDP is not a measure of human happiness and benefits. I have shown using my table of two economies how an unequal distribution of wealthj is detrimental despite a higher growth GDP. This makes the argument about Con's institutions irrelevant.

Con argues that welfare and progressive tax systems also reduce poverty. I have not argued against poverty but rather against income inequality. Welfare programs do not provide income - they provide free money to the extremely poor and help them fulfill very basic needs. A progressive tax system is great but it is a small step towards reducing income inequality - it is not enough. Con also argues that Unions do not seek to reduce income equality without justification. That is indeed what they do. They help whoever they can help i.e. people in the Unions. A single Union cannot help the entire country but the concept of a Labor Union is to provide fair wages and working conditions for the people in that particular Union.

Con claims that workers are based on their "productivity." The problem is the way productivity is defined. Businesses define what "productivity" ought to be paid what wage. Con's source does indeed show that wages have increased with "productivity." However, the goal of Labor Unions is redefine productivity. Labor Unions argue that the "productivity" of the worker is more than what businesses define it as and workers are being underpaid. This benefits humanity because it leads to higher wages for the working class.

Union threat effect: Extend arguments here. Con argues that Unions only increase wages for workers in that Union. The Union threat effect shows that the wages of workers outside the Union also increase due to the mere presence of Unions. Pro has ignored this point but continues advocating that Labor unions only increase wages for people in the union while I have showed this competing evidence.

C2) Public Labor Unions

Con claims that taxing the rich is pointless because the rich can hide money overseas. This misses the point I am advocating for. Just because loopholes exist doesn't mean the concept is refuted. The simple solution is to not let the rich hide money overseas. Tighten the law to not allow deductables and loopholes so that all of that money is taxed.

A higher tax does not reduce incentive to work as long as it is done under a progressive tax system where part of the income is taxed at a lower rate and only the highest part of the income is taxed at a maximum rate. The assertion that there aren't enough rich people is irrelevant as the rich people that do exist hold a tremendous percentage of existing wealth. The top 5% earn over 30% of the nations gross income [1][2].

The distinction between management and laborers is very clear. There are various levels of management and businesses often a very clearly defined heirarchy. Pro's argument about actors and musicians fails to take into account that most actors and musicians are poor and must support their acting career with other jobs. Pro is only talking about the top few people in the industry.

C3) Top down Economics doesn't work

Pro assumes that firms will hire more the lower the wages. This is the same thing as assuming that excess cash on hand will be used to hire additional workers but that isn't necessarily the case. To assume so is to trust a corporation in good faith that they will hire more people when they get more money. This is an inefficient and naive method to increase employment.

Regarding increase in prices, I am running out of time but I will point out that Pro has not contested that if a company increases the price of a product because Unions demand that they pay their working-class employees more, the extra money being paid by consumers is being passed onto the working-class employees and not upper management.


Debate Round No. 4



I thank PRO for this debate. As discussed previously, this round is only 4500 characters long.

Institutions for growth

Throughout this debate, I have demonstrated how labor unions hamper economic growth, using theoretical and empirical evidence. PRO has not criticized that this is true, only critiquing growth itself. There is no doubting that wealth is the greater good. It has increased life expectancy, general well being, created modern medicine and other technologies. This debate would not have occurred without the technologies that exist based on wealth generation. Yet, despite the decline in labor unions society is better off than where it was previously. Due to exponential growth factors, small changes in growth create large differences in standard of livings in the long run. A difference between 2% growth and 3% growth is an economy tripling its size in a hundred years. This wealth benefits the poor and welfare programs cannot even expand without increasing the wealth.

I have demonstrated in previously rounds that wealth is spread to everyone, not just the rich. The wealth generating effects go to the poor and middle class first, and whatever is left over goes to the rich, in the short run. In the long run companies copy each other ideas and companies can only become wealthy from becoming more innovative then their competition. Everyone wins.

I have also demonstrated that unions have a corrupting effect on government officials as well. I have used the bailouts of the auto-industry which were designed to pamper to the unions at the expense of the rule of law on how normal bankruptcy procedures occur and at the taxpayers’ expense. Unions spend millions campaigning for their candidates so that the government can provide rent-seeking benefits to them.

The evidence that labor unions can reduce income inequality is clumsy at best, since unions only seek to increase the wealth of their own members, and non-unionized workers have to work at lower-wage jobs. Non-unionized teachers that have to work $10,000 less then unionized workers demonstrate this. PRO wants to make the distinction between “upper-management” and “laborers” since he believes upper-management makes more while laborers make less. He says the distinction between the two are obvious, but has not responded to examples where I question the distinction. Are secretaries, that often make less, considered part of upper-management or not? Nor just because PRO believes that there should be a distinction between these two types of unions, does not mean that it will occur in the real world. Instead, collective bargaining occurs where it’s easier for it to happen. As stated before, there’s union for people that make high wages. There were baseball strikers [1] and a union for Hollywood actors, two groups that are clearly well off.

However, the idea that income equality is desirable is also questionable. If both people’s disposable income are increasing, so what if one person’s income is increasing by more. It is not better that the poor remain poorer so long as the rich don’t get richer.

Public labor Unions are especially bad

PRO has been inadequately been able to refute the problem of corrupt unions influence on public officials. It is not just the politicians in charge that are corrupt, but the people carrying out the laws and regulations. Unions stop corrupt government workers from deserved firing. It’s obvious from the rubber room example that teacher’s jobs are overly cushioned. In order to improve government, efficiency is the key, which unions harm as I have demonstrated and PRO does not refute. The workers having to worry about the government is absurd. Rather, the public has to worry about the government as history has demonstrated, in which the government works to benefit special interest groups. The unions are one of them.

Throwing money at the solution and expecting the rich to pay more will not work, since it has not historically worked previously and the problems of government are spending problems, not a revenue problem. The top 1% of earners already pays 40% of taxes [2]. Of course, politicians would love to be able to stop the rich from taking advantage of loopholes and sending money overseas. But it’s difficult to complete these actions. Trying to prevent money from going oversea would require police-state surveillance to do so and require expensive resources.

Top-down economics

This whole argument has been a strawman. Instead of attacking my main institution, PRO has attacked top-down economics. I have shown how these institutions that PRO attacks are different from the institutions I advocate. Giving corporations money will not cause them to hire more, since workers are paid based on their productivity. However, if wages are lowered, corporations would not hire them because they are below their productivity. Thus artificially increasing wages does lead to higher unemployment. PRO’s example of increasing the minimum wage does not work because:

a) One cannot increase prices on products with more elastic demand (like websites)

b) The problems of unemployment and layoffs would occur in the longer run

c) Cost-push inflation is harmful to all.





C1) Income Inequality

Con has addressed none of my points about income inequality. He emphasizes what he calls are his institutions of growth. To see which outweigh, consider what "net benefit to humanity" means. Pro has not contested that in order to truly benefit humanity, we must benefit all or at least the majority of humans in an economy. To do this, we need to reduce Income Inequality. Unions are very effective at reducing this by increasing the income of society's lowest earners.

I have not critiqued economic growth itself. I have shown that there is a higher value to uphold (income inequality) in order to determine whether something is a benefit to humanity.

Con says that standard of living has increased. Scientists and researchers who invent new things are often not at the top of the food chain in a corporation but somewhere the middle. In order to incentivize new discoveries, the people who make these discoveries as well as people who make it possible through their labor should be rewarded. I don't disagree that part of the credit must go to the managers but currently, a disproportionate amount of incentives are given to management. Incentivizing inventors and working class people isn't going to stifle the improvement in standard of living.

Con has now completely ignored the point about the Union Threat effect for several rounds. Unions increase the wages of the working class not only within the Union but outside the Union as well.

Furthermore, the distinction between management and laborers is clear. I have pointed out that most actors are poor. I don't know why Con said I didn't. Con is talking about a select lucky few who make it big. Their wages are far above the Union minimum so Union bargaining is irrelevant to them. Unions do protect people like aspiring musicians from being pushed into signing abusive long term contracts.

Con says that desirability of income inequality is questionable. However, we must note that if the rich are getting rich faster and poor are getting rich slower, the money has to come from somewhere. Inflation must be taken into account where goods become more expensive over time. If the rate at which the money that comes from the poor is not fast enough, they will soon find it difficult to buy products.

C2) Public Labor Unions

The point about corruption merely talks about what is wrong with the government officials. Unions haven't told them to be corrupt. I have not argued that corrupt and incompetent teachers need to be fired. If they truly are corrupt or incompetent, it should be possible to prove it. Unions simply are an obstacle to carte-blanche firing and equalize the negotiating table putting individuals and corporations on a level field. Con doesn't address my point about the relative ease in filling a position compared to the difficulty in finding a new job. Unions nullify that by making it difficult to fire an employee putting both sides on a level playing field.

The rich pay taxes because of the societal benefits they have recieved in order to become rich in the first place. Balking at the idea of increasing taxes for the rich based on how much they are paying now doesn't change the fact that they can still be taxed even more with little effect to them while improving the economy.

C3) Top Down Economics

The entirety of Con's argument rests on the premise that top-down economics works. It is not a strawman. All his institutions are based on the premise that as the rich get richer, their wealth will trickle down and poor will also get rich. I have refuted this multiple time throughout the debate explaining why it doesn't work because of the assumptions it relies on.

As I have pointed out, Con's arguments about "productivity" are based on - nothing. Unions seek the redefine what "productivity" means. Saying that they are paid according to productivity does not address the argument that "productivity" is defined too low and is defined in a way that benefits corporations more than workers. Con does not argue against this - he merely argues that workers are paid according to "productivity" the way he defines it.

Con's argument about Cost-push inflation is a bare assertion and I have already addressed the unemployment issues. Con has not refuted that increased prices are passed on to managers. There is nothing "artificial" about Unions increasing wages. If the majority of humanity decides that their wages are too low based on their standards, they will unionize to solve that problem.
Debate Round No. 5
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 4 years ago
Thanks for voting bench and reading this long debate. Good debate Dark. I'd love to debate you again on an economics related topic some other time. Probably won't be doing another 5 round debate again though.
Posted by imabench 4 years ago
If you need me to expand on my reasoning then I can expand.... I tried to put it as clear as I could :P
Posted by FourTrouble 4 years ago
Hmm, this looks interesting. I'll try to read this and vote on it before time is up.
Posted by ZakYoungTheLibertarian 4 years ago
ok i had to stop reading when pro argued that someone's family would starve to death if they quit their job and had trouble finding a new one.

when was the last time someone starved to death in anglo north america? anyway I won't vote, since I am so biased, but I think Con did an incredible job. A very serious effort! great sourcing, great arguments, well formulated... much better than anything i've ever done. really great work.
Posted by ZakYoungTheLibertarian 4 years ago
Economics is one lesson is an excellent primer on economics. I find it interesting that MouthWash feels the need to dictate to others what they can and cannot post about. Who made you king pal? Unions themselves are unnecessary. A workers wage is equal to his marginal revenue product. Efforts to increase wages above productivity, either through government fiat (minimum wage laws) or the agitation of labour unions, will result in unemployment. Luckily unions are for the most part impotent. Their effect is simply to act as sand in the gears of the economy, slowing things down mostly.

Ironically, the most powerful unions are not the big ones. The most powerful ones are the tiny ones that represent like four guys, because for them to get a wage increase represents such a tiny fraction of the organization in question's revenue that it is very easy to accomplish.

Unions tend to prosper more during booms, when they can point to general improvement in economic conditions and take credit for increasing wages (not pointing out to their gullible members that prices are going up across the board). They tend to suffer during busts when wages must fall and they are powerless to prevent this.

Looks like a solid performance from Pro but I have just touched on the surface of this very strong debate. Will read it all at a later date and cast my vote. Ofc I am not at all objective so I will base my vote simply on rhetorical style, spelling, grammar, empirical evidence supplied etc.
Posted by Heping 4 years ago
There has been a rule about a company that has a union, that is they deserved it. Unions are kept out by treating employees equal if not better than their union counterpart. Companies that move to an anti-union state to get away from a union soon become union again because of the way they treated employees. Thus unions not only help union members, but also help non-union employees.
Social benefits have started from unions; pensions, heath care, disability insurance, ect., another benefit to both union and non-union worker.
The biggest down fall to unions is protecting the inept; this reduces the quality of the employees and brings a bad name to union labor. Take teachers, if the union would take the inept teachers and force them to be retrained, improve or be removed, the quality and reputation of the union would be greatly enhance.
Posted by Maikuru 4 years ago
This is sure to be awesome. It's a shame for me that I'm not interested in topics like this. I would love to see two amazing debaters discussing Obi Wan's role in Anakin's fall to the dark side or whether or not Jacob is the true villain of Lost. A boy can dream...
Posted by darkkermit 4 years ago
fvck my pictures didn't upload. There right here if anyone wants to look:
Posted by MouthWash 4 years ago

Please stop citing a book that consists of strawmen, hypocrisy, and economic illiteracy, which even the most rudimentary economic education should discredit, as some sort of holy book (ironic given your attitude towards religion). I'd post some of the rebuttals from the competent people, but I don't want to do that when there's a debate going on.
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 4 years ago
Labor unions help people in labor unions. Those efforts lead to unemployment and lower wages for the rest of society, causing an economic deadweight loss for "humanity." There are some beneficial elements of labor unions though.

Check out Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson for more on labor unions.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by imabench 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:23 
Reasons for voting decision: A large chunk of this debate was devoted to examining the economic impact of labor unions, which due to the complex relationship between economics and labor unions, made it tough for both sides to prove their case more then the other. I was swayed by neither side about whether or not unions are beneficial or detrimental to the economy, but pro did bring up how labor unions help workers lobby for safe working conditions, which was an argument I think the con didnt even counter...... So since I wasnt swayed by either side that unions are good or bad for the economy, but pro's argument that labor unions help workers push for safer working conditions and other non-economy related issues which the con didnt even address, then I give pro argument points. Labor unions might not do a damn thing to improve the economy, but it certainly is beneficial when it comes down to keeping people safe at work among other things. Sorry I had to be the one who breaks the tie, please dont hate me
Vote Placed by likespeace 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Countering JimLoyd's votebomb.
Vote Placed by jimloyd 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: k vef