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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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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Follow-Up: Goo-Goo Historical Mythology

Joe Vecchio, in a somewhat less abrasive post, concedes he might have made some hasty generalizations about libertarians. Still, he questions the relevance of Diane Warth's and my comments on the New Deal. Well, since Joe held up the New Deal and the corporate abuses it was allegedly formulated in response to as examples of libertarians' historical illiteracy, the relevance of contesting his interpretation of history would seem obvious.

In any case, since Joe's in a conciliatory mood, I'll take some steps in that direction myself. I'm quite willing to concede that the New Deal produced some benefits for working people, as a side-effect of its service to corporate interests. As I see it, welfare statism is well illustrated by the human farmer in Tolstoy's Parable. Corporate liberals are like a farmer who's smart enough to figure out that he'll get more work out of his animals in the long run if he takes good care of them; Banana Republicans, on the other hand, figure they'll come out ahead by working the animals to death and then replacing them. If I had to choose between systems of class exploitation, I guess I'd prefer to be smothered with paternalism in the Brave New World of social democracy than to get a jackboot in my face in the Orwellian world the neoliberals have planned for us.

I don't want to have to make that choice, though. I prefer a world where we keep our full labor-product in the first place, instead of having a fraction of our stolen surplus labor doled back to us to keep us docile; and in which ordinary people control the circumstances of our daily lives, through cooperative production and mutual aid associations, instead of being managed by big government and big business overlords. To get there, we have to roll back the state.

But since the state's intervention, directly or indirectly, has been in the interests of the plutocracy, it matters a great deal which functions of the state should be axed first. The first to go should be those forms of intervention in the market that subsidize economic centralization and the concentration of wealth, reduce the bargaining power of labor, and ensure monopoly returns to the owners of land and capital. The last to go should be those government functions that make the system of class exploitation marginally bearable for labor. In the words of Thomas Knapp of the Democratic Freedom Caucus, that means cutting welfare from the top down, and taxes from the bottom up.

In the comments to Joe's original post, by the way, I tried to point out how mistaken it was to take pot-smoking Republicans of the ASI and Catoid variety as representative of the entire movement. I mentioned all the non-vulgar libertarians (Geolibs, left-Rothbardians, individualist anarchists, etc.) there were whose intepretation of free market principles was fundamentally anti-corporate, and anti-privilege.

Joe responded with a flip allusion to the Judean People's Front and People's Front of Judea in Life of Brian. Here's my response to that, from the comments:

My point was that there are libertarians who support free markets in principle, and see big business as the enemy of free markets; and there are fake "libertarians" who just want to bend "free market" principles to suit the interests of big business.

The difference between principled defenders of free markets, and pot-smoking Republicans, strikes me as a lot more fundamental than that between the PJF and the JPF.

The classical liberalism of Smith and Ricardo was a genuinely revolutionary movement, against the entrenched power of mercantilist elites and the landed aristocracy. Too much of it was coopted in the late 19th century by the new plutocracy, and turned to an apologetic for the giant corporation, the modern-day equivalent of the feudal landlord. But that original revolutionary and anti-privilege spirit survives in a good many strands of libertarianism, as I tried to point out above.

You accused Diane Warth, in her comment thread, of alienating her potential allies. Pot, meet kettle. There are lots of libertarians out there who oppose corporate power and the rule of the plutocracy, and want to break the unholy alliance of big government and big business. We are your potential allies. By dismissing all of us as pot-smoking Republicans, or as mindless apologists for concentrated wealth, you are doing yourself a disservice.

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7 Comments:

Blogger freeman said...

Thanks for posting a link to Tolstoy's Parable. I don't recall you ever doing so before, and I enjoyed reading it. I didn't realize that it was simply called Parable, or else I would have simply Googled it.

November 10, 2005 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...

The classical liberalism of Smith and Ricardo was a genuinely revolutionary movement, against the entrenched power of mercantilist elites and the landed aristocracy. Too much of it was coopted in the late 19th century by the new plutocracy, and turned to an apologetic for the giant corporation, the modern-day equivalent of the feudal landlord. But that original revolutionary and anti-privilege spirit survives in a good many strands of libertarianism.

And any whisper of it is trounced by the progressive movement afoot today - a term that is little more than a colloquialism for disillusioned Democrats in need of a facelift - the equivalent to one airing opinions under the banner of The White Rose Society yet somehow ignorant of terms that define anarchists.

Sadder still, resistant to exploring history fearfull they might find something that upsets long held beliefs, ideas put there by the system that's convinced them they are weak without it.

November 10, 2005 8:04 PM  
Blogger colorless green ideas said...

There you go again, disparaging the whole progressive movement with the same alacrity that you accuse progressives of doing to libertarians. yes, there are many progressives who do that, but there are also many who actually embrace a softer libertarianism, and only reject the infantile randoids, one note anti-tax zealots, nra-nuts and corporate boot-lickers.

so why do you choose to be the kind of libertarian that writes off the whole progressive movement, rather than just the unconsolable big-government loving babies? why be what you detest in others?

November 11, 2005 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...

colorless - Is your reply aimed in my direction? If so, you're off the mark. If you'd read the post of mine Kevin cited you might have noticed links to more than a few progressive individuals, orgs. and publications on my blog, the Sam Smith, Phyllis Bennis, Howard Zinn variety, as they're willing to criticise when it's due despite party affiliation (some more than others but even a bit is better than not at all) and they don't cry foul or shut your mouth when challenged.

I wasn't talking about them when I referred to the "progressive movement afoot" which seems fairly obvious since it's a reply to a post that's all about Joe and the folks regurgitating in his comment section.

November 11, 2005 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...

Octavia Butler was a guest today on Democracy NOW! and quoted from her book Parable of the Talents. She wrote this passage after hearing "someone answer a political question with a political slogan."

"Beware, all too often we say what we hear others say. We think what we are told that we think. We see what we are permitted to see. Worse, we see what we are told that we see. Repetition and pride are the keys to this. To hear and to see even an obvious lie again and again and again, maybe to say it almost by reflex, and then to defend it because we have said it, and at last to embrace it because we've defended it."

I've certainly been guilty of doing this, but not so far in this conversation.

November 11, 2005 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's so ignorant about proclaiming the White rose without having an anarchist connection? After all, both Yorkists and Jacobites came first, and each in their day claimed it as an emblem.

November 13, 2005 12:23 AM  
Anonymous Diane said...

The website that hosts Joe's radio show is called The White Rose Society. It links to The White Rose Society and claims to be fighting the rise of the new fascism as their namesake did in Nazi Germany.

Some might argue that White Rose Society members weren't anarchists and I'd agree on some points. But many of the statements they published defy all other descriptives, in my opinion.

This is from their first leaflett:

If a state prevents the development of the capacities which reside in man, if it interferes with the progress of the human spirit, then it is reprehensible and injurious, no matter how excellently devised, how perfect in its own way. Its very permanence in that case amounts more to a reproach than to a basis for fame; it becomes a prolonged evil, and the longer it endures, the more harmful it is...

That's what The New Deal did for African Americans, but to speak of it in anything but glowing terms is to cause egregious harm to some greater cause...define "new rising fascism."

November 13, 2005 4:35 PM  

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