Police Work: The Centrality of Labor Repression in American Political History

Police Work: The Centrality of Labor Repression in American Political History

By Alex GourevitchBrown University

The great promise of our capitalist society is that it is organized on the basis of consent, not coercion. When all persons are free to pursue their own interests, they discover that it is to their own benefit to become very good at making something that others need. Each doing what he or she does best, and freely exchanging the results, leads not just to the greatest amount of overall wealth but to a coordination of individual interests without force. As Adam Smith famously said, “It is not from the benevolence Of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”‘ But what happens when, out of “regard for his self-interest,” the butcher goes on strike? What happens, in fact, when there are no more butchers in the first place?