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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

James L. Wilson on Left Libertarianism

By being both anti-authoritarian and anti-corporate monopoly, Left Libertarians present a clean break from right-wing coalition of neo-cons, the Religious Right, and Big Business. In opposing the war, in promoting local control (which many Greens do), in fighting state-sanctioned corporate privilege, and in fighting to protect our civil liberties, the Libertarian Left has far more in common with the Left than with the Right as it is presently identified.

What this does not mean is that I prefer Hillary to Congressman Ron Paul. It does not mean outright partisanship in which liberals are my friends and conservatives my enemies. I still feel a sense of common cause with many on the Right, especially strict Constitutionalists. But historically the Right has been the party of the Establishment, of landed privilege. The Left has been opposed. Libertarianism ultimately belongs on the Left.

Among his list of issues distinguishing left-libertarians from the mainstream libertarian right, this is my favorite:

3. a)A utilitarian capitalist ethic which "encourages" arts and inventions through federally-protected patents and copywrights and the government protection of "limited liabiity" in which stockholders are not personally responsible, and therefore indifferent, to the actions of their companies so long as they are profitable;

b) An absolutism in the inviolability of private land ownership, no matter when or how the land was acquired or how large the estate. Even though land is of limited supply and is required by all to live. Hence we have libertarians who advocate "flat taxes" or sales taxes both of which punish human activity, but are offended by the possibility that they pay rent to the community for the privilege of excluding people from their land. Exclusive control of land is a form of monopoly that is endorsed by many libertarians.


Anonymous Adam said...

I suspect we're in agreement that companies are allowed to engage in all sorts of criminal activity without repurcussions for management or their boards, which is a problem.

But if we address that, what's wrong with limited liability for investors?

Isn't there a large good in being able to get capital to build something without the investors needing to be constantly present to protect themselves?

August 22, 2005 9:01 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

No objection to voluntary, contractual limited liability as a matter purely between a firm and its creditors. But there shouldn't be state-limited liability for damages against third parties (pollution, etc.).

August 22, 2005 11:02 AM  
Anonymous Adam said...

Why not? The firm, its officers and board, can perhaps be asked to carry full liability for their actions, but why not allow investors to step back?

If a bank loans a firm money, should it be liable for all the acts of that firm?

If I loan a firm money, should I be liable for the acts of the firm?

If I loan a firm money, and they give me a bundle of rights including a vote for the membership of the board of directors, should I be liable?

I think you can see the continuum I'm drawing. At what point do you think I should be made liable?

August 22, 2005 12:28 PM  
Anonymous bwanadik said...

It's unfair to say right-libertarians advocate flat tax. If there's going to be a tax on income, it's better if it's flatter and lower. If there's going to be taxes, the more 'voluntary' the better. If we can abolish all punishment of human activity, fantastic. Gradualism doesn't conflict with utopian theorising.

The land issue is separate.

August 24, 2005 3:04 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


As it is, bond holders would not be liable, because they're not considered owners. I object to state-granted limited liability precisely because it's granted by the state. Corporations are free to claim any form of limited liability that their creditors will swallow--but they're not entitled to government intervention in the realm of private contract.

August 24, 2005 8:10 PM  

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