Don't take it too personally, it was just me typing without thinking.
Please forgive me. I went way off the deep end.
Doesn't laissez-faire mean 'anything goes'. In other words corporations can do anything they want and there will be
few, if any, laws to slow them down. This is how private enterprise operated in the 18th and 19th centuries and
people were expected to work in unsafe conditions for an absolute pittance.
No, not really. To address the first point, "laissez-faire" means no exceptional treatment. Markets grow fastest and benefit the most people when left to operate independently under the common (non-bureaucratic) laws that govern everyone.
In the real world, not everyone will agree with everything the marketplace does; for instance, a community may find sex-themed businesses absolutely atrocious and unbearable. For this reason, it's conceivable that said community would impose zoning restrictions to prevent the issuance of business licenses to proprietors of such businesses.
These restrictions are based on governmental fiat, not necessarily upon the best-case interaction between voluntary actors in the marketplace. It is assumed that they are acceptable when the community cost of organizing to boycott or otherwise remove the offending establishment in the private sector is too high, but when consent is so overwhelming that there is a net benefit.
In order for this formula to hold such restrictions must be local in nature, and as narrowly-defined as possible. This is why it was necessary to build into the US Constitution a strict hierarchy of local, state, and federal governments, the design we call "federalism". At no level of federalism should decision-making supercede the will of more-local concerns. Exceptions to the rule were supplied by the Founders in Article I Section 8, many of which were ill-advised (federal post, for instance).
With regard to the second part of the quoted material above, the working conditions were poor in the 18th- and 19th-centuries because life was hard. Period! Nobody forced people into factories -- with the exception of young children forced by parents or guardians -- or into coal mines. They were at liberty to pursue other living arrangements at all times.
This is not disingenuous. In the marketplace all transactions are conducted at the voluntary discretion of both parties. When Western companies go to Mexico to pay for cheaper labor they are taking jobs to Mexicans who want them. Lots of people seem to miss that fact. They also seem to miss the fact that federal regulation notwithstanding, private enterprise has always improved living and working standards over time. Compare the working conditions in late 20th-century United States and Great Britain to those in Czechoslovakia and Romania at the same time.
The essential fact here is that life is not fundamentally easy. It gets easier when people organize to increase their efficiency (Adam Smith describes the making of pins to demonstrate this phenomenon), but positive growth and organization only occur when different people make different choices for themselves, based on their own best interests. All people are not the same. You and I have not set the same priorities for our time and for our efforts. Therefore, one of us is richer than the other, one of us has better health care than the other, and one of us is probably happier than the other. I'll bet you win on all three counts, and that would be nobody's business but our own -- for good or for ill.
You think that
corporations will behave equitably when freed of all restrictions?
I still don't know what you mean by restrictions. If you mean the unelected regulatory bodies that make up the vast majority of the federal government, then I say yes, of course. Where injustice occurs there will be legal recourse (tort and contract law). Where there are civil disagreements there is arbitration, and where there are criminals there will be law-abiding people to curb them -- providing they, themselves, are not taught to hate the law because of racist police officers, unfair drug wars, and other governmental abuses in the name of "law and order".
but to say that corporations will somehow
enrich the world when most of the workforce lives in abject poverty due to them not having any protection just
sounds wrong to me
Corporations are economic entities, organizations of people who create wealth. People do not live in abject poverty because of other people who create wealth; they live in poverty because of other people who destroy wealth: waging wars, restraining trade, taxing assets, imprisoning able-bodied men and women, and psychologically crippling the workforce via welfare culture. Can you explain to me how you see corporations encouraging "abject poverty"? It doesn't make any sense to me.
Windows 9x and Microsoft Office
There is ample competition in both markets. Apple continues to thrive in the "monopoly" environment, no? Free UNIXes do so, as well. Competitors in productivity software include AppleWorks, StarOffice, and lots of free projects in the Open Source tradition. If you're going to argue that a vast majority stake means a monopoly, you might as well argue that Intuit has a home-accounting software monopoly (as if anyone cares when Quicken SE sells for $39.99 on sale). If, on the other hand, you want to narrowly define Microsoft's market to something like "x86-based home PC hardware" you might as well argue that Sun has a monopoly on operating systems for SPARC-based computers and that IBM has a monopoly on operating systems for POWER-based mainframes.
Where did the original basis for tort and contract law come from? I'm not just talking about those laws anyway, but
also about pollution and worker's rights legislation as well
The original basis for tort and contract law comes from English Common Law, established by hundreds of years of precedent-setting by English judges, many of whom came out of the clergy to settle private disputes. English Common Law was at odds with the monarchy until the establishment of a Constitutional representative government.
What is "worker's rights legislation"? I don't know what a "worker's right" is if it's something special and different from the rights we all enjoy.
There has been a lot of research -- notably by Coase -- on potential free-market action in pursuit of compensation for pollution and polluting activity. It's all just theory, as long as the market is restricted from finding free and fair resolutions in the face of government fiat. Living alongside other human beings is without doubt a complicated enterprise, but complexity is precisely what free markets handle so much better than government fiat.
Abolition of said private freedoms has led to an unparalleled period of technological and economic growth, as you've
already acknowledged. Why throw it away?
Whooo! That's a disturbing reversal of cause and effect. Draw a timeline of human history and quality of life beginning with 2000BC and leading to 2000AD. Watch what happens to liberty, incomes, upward mobility, and quality of life around... oh, around 1776, for example.
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
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