by the Sandwichman
In their Industrial Democracy, Sidney and Beatrice Webb raised an interesting point I'd like to follow up on.
They observed that, "Restriction of output is, in fact, an employer's device, not a workman's..." and went on to cite the "Coalowners' 'Limitation of the Vend'". The Webb's were discussing frequent complaints that trade union policies restricted output. They argued that although some unions did indeed advocate the restriction of output, they had little power to enforce such demands.
Restriction of output is the essence of economists' lumpoflabor fallacy claims. Ironically, the Webbs, in disputing the salience of such claims, are one of the few sources that presented evidence that some unions, at some times, did exhibit lumpoflaborite beliefs.
Now, remember coal was a BIG DEAL in the days of the Industrial Revolution, so restricting its output to boost its price would have been a BIG DEAL in the economic history of Great Britain. Paul Sweezy studied it back in the day. So naturally I wondered how many 20th century economics textbooks even mentioned it. Not just any textbooks but those that made a big deal about lumpsoflabor. I've collected 580 sources from Google Books, over a hundred of them have every appearance of being textbooks (ie., 600-800 pages long with titles like "Principles of Economics"). The answer: 0.
Well, alright... "limitation of the vend" may be a bit narrow and obscure. How about "price fixing", then? Of the 580? Three mentions.
With all their ranting and raving about alleged beliefs of workers, most economics textbook authors managed to mantain a discrete silence about the documented activities of capitalists. This is significant because to the extent workers might have had the views claimed by economists, it is plausible that they acquired them not by invention out of thin air but by observing capitalism in practice.