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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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Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Step in the Right Direction

In the comments to my last post, Stefan remarked:

Your "solidarity" sounds suspicious. In a free-market workers can be fired at any time, or can quit anytime. You derisively refer to the CPE as a "free market reform", but that's exactly what it is: A tiny free-market reform in a sea of statism. That you express support, however muted, for these masses of statist student protesters is very telling.

Well, I guess it's "telling" in the sense that it tells Stefan whatever he was looking to be told. But when you start with a sea of state capitalism, and you let the state capitalist ruling class decide on the basis of their own strategic priorities what tiny areas of free market reform to introduce, guess what you get? A state capitalist system that selectively harnesses more free market elements, the more effectively to serve state capitalist interests (see Chris Tame's view of Thatcherism, in a post below, as a more efficient form of corporatism):

Where others saw a rolling back of the state, he saw in privatisation only a more rational - and thus a more efficient - type of statist control. "These new markets are never free," he once said, "and they are always dominated by the ruling class."

Brad Spangler got a similar objection on the comment thread to his original post. Julius Blumfield wrote:

“but representative of perhaps the worst possible choice of priorities”

What do priorities have to do with it? I don’t understand why libertarians would oppose an increase in liberty. Very odd. Please explain!

In response, Brad referred him to my post. Blumfield didn't find it convincing:

I don’t see that he answers the objection at all. If the reform is a step in the right direction (which it plainly is) it is perverse for libertarians to oppose it. Would you oppose a liberalisation of drug laws (such as for example the recent partial decriminalisation of cannabis possession in the UK) because it takes place within an overall statist framework? Surely not. So why is this any different? I can’t help but suspect that your opposition is grounded more in some misplaced sense of solidarity with leftists, than on principle.

I agree with him that I didn't do an adequate job of making my objections explicit. I was implicitly assuming the principle Brad states in another comment:

By begging the state to establish your liberty for you piece-meal, it brings liberty into disrepute as the state inevitably does so in such a manner as to benefit state allies.

Now, I'm not opposed to "reformism," in the sense of a gradualist strategy of rolling back and abolishing the state. But the decision of what aspects of statism to dismantle first should be guided by an overall strategy of dismantling state capitalism as a system. That means we go first after the central structural supports of privilege, that enable the corporate-state ruling class to derive profit by political means, and go last after palliative measures that make such corporatist exploitation humanly tolerable for the non-privileged. As Thomas L. Knapp said, that means dismantling welfare from the top down and cutting taxes from the bottom up. If we allow the state capitalist ruling class and their pet "free market" think tanks to set the priorities of what to go after first, and welcome every incremental reduction as a "step in the right direction," we're allowing the free market to be adopted in a way that only makes statist exploitation more efficient. The best comparison I can think of is the Romans welcoming the withdrawal of the Punic center at Cannae as "a step in the right direction."

As Marshall said in Gibbon v. Ogden, the state's decision of what not to regulate or tax is just as important as its decision of what to regulate or tax. The two go together in a single strategic framework. The state capitalists adopt whatever combination of statism and markets best promotes their (statist) objectives.

In other words, priorities have everything to do with it.

Addendum. As freeman mentioned in the comments, Roderick Long also got into the fray by explaining (in the thread on Brad's petition at Wally Conger's blog) why priorities do matter.

Whether something counts as a reduction of restrictions on liberty depends on the context. Remember when Reagan "deregulated" the Savings & Loans -- such deregulation could be a good thing under many circumstances, but given that he didn't remove federal deposit insurance, "deregulation" amounted in that context to an increase of aggression against the taxpayers, licensing the S&Ls to takes greater risks with taxpayers' money.

So in this case: when government passes laws giving group A unjust privileges over group B, and then passes another law giving B some protection against A, then repealing the second law without repealing the first amounts to increasing A's unjust privilege over B. Of course a free society would have neither the first nor the second law, but repealing them in the wrong order can actually decrease rather than increase liberty.

He elaborated on the theme in an entry at Liberty & Power:

Of course in a free market there would be no legal restrictions (except those contractually agreed to) on an employer’s right to fire an employee. But from the fact that there would be no X in a free society, it doesn’t follow that absolutely any situation will be moved in the direction of freedom simply by removing X. (Compare: from the fact that a healthy person wouldn’t have a pacemaker, it doesn’t follow that the health of anyone who has a pacemaker would be improved by its removal.)...

[I]n general a removal of restrictions on an entity doesn’t count as a move toward liberty if the entity is still a substantial recipient of government privilege or subsidy. For the more that an entity benefits from government intervention, the closer it comes to being an arm of the State – in which case lifting restrictions on it is, to that extent, lifting restrictions on the State.

(Also: here, from a couple of years ago, is a Roderick Long post on Rothbard's reaction to the French student uprising in 1968.)

Finally, Dain suggested that there might be another twist to the CPE issue: if it is a new law, and not simply the repeal of existing law, does it simply eliminate existing legal guarantees of job security; or does it create a positive right to terminate employees at will, preempting existing contractual obligations to the contrary?

28 Comments:

Blogger freeman said...

Julius Blumfield also left a similar comment behind over at Wally Conger's blog. Roderick Long stepped up and provided another explanation as to why priorities certainly do matter:

"Whether something counts as a reduction of restrictions on liberty depends on the context. Remember when Reagan "deregulated" the Savings & Loans -- such deregulation could be a good thing under many circumstances, but given that he didn't remove federal despoit insurance, "deregulation" amounted in that context to an increase of aggression against the taxpayers, licensing the S&Ls to takes greater risks with taxpayers' money.

So in this case: when government passes laws giving group A unjust privileges over group B, and then passes another law giving B some protection against A, then repealing the second law without repealing the first amounts to increasing A's unjust privilege over B. Of course a free society would have neither the first nor the second law, but repealing them in the wrong order can actually decrease rather than increase liberty."

A lot of this also seems to involve looking at issues such as the French workers issue with class consiousness in mind. Most libertarians instinctively reject such thought and link it to Marxist state socialist apologists, despite the fact that classical liberal class theory predates Marxist class theory. Then, of course, there's also the updated agorist class theory as well that clearly reveals the political class (the class who obviously benefits from the CPE) as being the enemy and obstacle to liberty.

Not only do such "free market reforms" amount to increased privledge for the political class, but it also serves to further vilify markets amongst the statist left. When "free market reforms" always seem to allow state capitalists to further stick it to ordinary workers, it's no wonder that the masses come to distrust market proponents.

March 25, 2006 2:20 PM  
Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

As I stated in my previous comment, although perhaps too obliquely, these rioters are the next generation of the ruling class, not the oppressed masses. These people are looking to use the state to shut the door behind them. They don't deserve an ounce of libertarian sympathy and should be regarded as what they are: upper middle-class and rich kids looking for a state hand-out.

- Josh

March 25, 2006 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Diane Warth said...

I'm not convinced these rioters are looking to use the state to shut the door behind them. I haven't read anything to suggest they've ever protested the hiring of Arab minorities. Correct me please if this is the case. It's the state that's claiming hands have been tied because hiring minorities is "too risky." Bosh. This is racism from the top down but if this law is enacted the racism will come from the bottom with a fury. I suppose I'm not understanding how minorities are better served by finally being hired to do a job they've been qualified to do all along but will only be hired if they agree to less pay, security, (can be fired without reason) etc. and on top of that insult, will have to deal with the blowback from those who lose opportunities to them. Isn't this akin to affirmative action minus an altruistic intent to level the playing field and promote equality? Everyone loses in this game except the state and the industrialists who own it.

March 26, 2006 6:41 AM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

We should support the people whenever they revolt against their masters. Furthermore, France could prove to be - as it was in 68 - the weak point of the capitalist system. Let's hope the revolt spreads and brings the motherf. down...

March 26, 2006 7:20 AM  
Blogger JoeTKelley said...

Kevin,

I'm just jumping in here to link the following:

site

I think it may be relevant to the topic.

March 26, 2006 8:59 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Josh,

Your objection, if valid, would carry more weight than Julius Blumenfield's dispute over priorities. Do you have any evidence that the students protesting the CPE are seeking guaranteed employment for their own class alone, at the expense of others in their age group?

Joe,

Thanks for the link. Are you suggesting that the author's proposal (the people of Taiwan preemptively secede from their own government and organize market anarchy independent of the state) is an agorist model for marginalized people in France?

March 26, 2006 10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though I have no solid proof, and perhaps Josh is searching for some now, I think having to prove that these protesting, largely white French college students are protecting their class interests - cushy civil servant jobs in the future - is like having to prove that old, relatively wealthy white people are the biggest fans of PBS.
Do these students wish the brown, Muslim, poor class any ill will? No, but neither do the PBS viewers, even though many of their viewpoints have negative consequences for other, more impoverished parts of society (think gun control).
Diane's idea that it's racism that keeps immigrants from being hired, and not rigid labor laws, seems unlikely. France is at worst no more or less racist than the US, and probably the latter, yet immigrants, poor or not, have an easier time finding work in the US than in France, and the EU in general.
It isn't racism, it's the labor laws and state supported unions in all areas of the economy that prevent immigrants in France gaining a foothold. This may for all intents and purposes be a racist policy, but I don't think it's intended as such.

-Dain

March 26, 2006 11:36 AM  
Blogger JoeTKelley said...

Kevin,

No

March 26, 2006 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Diane Warth said...

Even if they are rich white snots, and I haven't been convinced of it, what privilege has ever been legislated in their favour that has prevented employers from hiring minorities? None. The colour of their skin has opened doors but that can only be attributed to the blatant prejudice of the people doing the hiring.

Doug Ireland [ www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20051128&s=ireland ] and others wrote in detail of the endemic racism that fueled the riots last November. Many protesters were interviewed by various news sources but all told the same story, students having the right credentials but the wrong name so cover letters are rejected, daily harassment and abuse by the police, physical and verbal, and no recourse. France does not recognise discrimination complaints and they have no representation in the National Assembly - "Not a single member is of Arab or African descent."

From Ireland's article:

The ghettos where festering resentment has now burst into flames were created as a matter of industrial policy by the French state. Why is France's population of immigrant origin--mostly Arab, some black--today so large (more than 10 percent of the total population)? Because during the post-World War II boom years of reconstruction and economic expansion, which the French call les trentes glorieuses, the thirty glorious years, it was policy to recruit from France's colonies laborers and factory and menial workers. These immigrant workers, primarily from North Africa, were desperately needed to allow the French economy to expand, by overcoming the shortage of manpower caused by the two world wars that had killed many Frenchmen and slashed the native French birthrates. Moreover, these immigrant workers were favored by industrial employers as passive and unlikely to join unions and strike.

This government-and-industry-sponsored influx of Arab workers was reinforced following Algerian independence by the arrival of the Harkis, native Algerians who fought for and worked with France during the anticolonial struggle for independence--and were horribly treated by France. Some 100,000 Harkis were killed by the Algerian National Liberation Front after the French shamelessly abandoned them to a lethal fate when the occupying army evacuated itself and French colonists from Algeria. Moreover, those Harki families who were saved (often at the initiative of individual military commanders who refused to obey orders not to evacuate them) were parked in filthy, crowded concentration camps in France for many long years and never benefited from any government aid--a nice reward for their sacrifices for France, of which they were, after all, legally citizens. Their ghettoized children and grandchildren, naturally, harbor certain resentments.


CPE benefits no one but globalisation supporters who were dealt a costly, troublesome set-back when the EU constitution was put-down by people like those who will be protesting tomorrow in France and the UK. Once again, they've seriously underestimated the opposition.

March 27, 2006 7:41 AM  
Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

I've never said that the demonstrators are explicitly racist or explicitly against coloured French people. They don't have to be. Combine a pervasive, though not aggressive, societal racism with a system that shuts many poor people out of entry-level jobs. The result is a system where the Frenchmen of colour end up out of work and on the dole, and white people end up with extremely secure jobs.

Perhaps these students are too dumb to make this connection. But since these are the students of France's élite universities - the future administrators and ministers of l'état français - I find that very hard to believe. That means they either don't mind or don't care that these laws are shutting people out of the job market. Although that doesn't make them racist, it does mean they don't get any libertarian sympathy.

Again, these are the scions of the ruling class. They're all going to get jobs - cushy, state-protected jobs. These are not the people being shut out.

- Josh

March 27, 2006 10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't so much say that the protesters are "rich", but middle class and comfortable, hardly the oppressed masses, and in fact as Wild Pegasus points out, tomorrow's beauracrats. But again, I don't support the CPE, nor European political integration.

Restrictive labor laws, prohibition, and outrageous red tape in forming businesses, co-ops and other self help mechanisms (potentially a way to revolutionize life inside the ghettoes) are what make racism easier to enforce. Just as minimum wage laws in the US made it economically sensible to not hire blacks from the south - and indeed this was the goal of certain elements in the NRA of the New Deal - French restrictions on the market have a similar effect. Today, minimum wage laws mostly benefit middle class kids who work at Subway, and not the homeless and other riskier employees. (Then again I wonder if rampant inflation makes MW meaningless anyway.)

Again, the US is probably more racist than France, yet dark immigrants from abroad have a relatively easier time finding work, starting businesses, etc.

The French policy, described in the Irish article, of bringing in immigrants when the state wanted to expand, then leave them sitting on their hands when the planned economy stagnated is a huge part of the problem today.

March 27, 2006 1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, that's Dain above.

-Dain

March 27, 2006 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Diane Warth said...

This interview describes the menu of contracts available to employers and why CPE is being rejected not only by students but unions and now minorities. It also disputes the unemployment numbers being tossed about in the press. And it dispels the notion that CPE is some sort of dismantling of lifetime civil service contracts.

Finally, if CPE is enacted, it will do nothing to address the inherent racism of the hiring process. It redefines the terms of dismissal.

Villepin likely spun it as some sort of job initiative for minorities to dissuade them from joining in the protests. It didn't work.

March 27, 2006 6:31 PM  
Anonymous Diane Warth said...

Not sure what I did wrong when I hyperlinked the interview. If this doesn't fix it delete everything before lib.com and it should work.

March 27, 2006 6:57 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

As usual, it's a damn shame that the thoughtfulness and lucidity of the debate taking place on this blog is in no way reflected in the mainstream media's treatment of this issue. For example, an article on the front page of today's New York Times entitled "French Youth at the Barricades, But a Revolution? It Can Wait" states, in typical adherence to the fallacious big-government-vs.-big-business paradigm, that the massive protests in France "...predict nothing less than the inevitable triumph of collective progress over individualism," and that "...the current political crisis seems nothing less than the essential question confronting Europe today: whether its safety net can survive in a more competitive world."

Indeed the demonstrators in France are protesting the elimination of a state privelege, but the elimination of one small state privelege that benefits employees in a great sea of state priveleges that benefit business. If I (the French corporate state) break person A (the French worker)'s legs and then give person A crutches at person B (the French taxpayer)'s expense, it's bullshit to talk about adressing the latter evil while ignoring the former, greater one.

I'm not denying that a great many of the protestors are from comfortable, upper middle class backgrounds and may well be acting out of fear that their future state or state-sponsored jobs in ruling class circles are in danger (although frankly it doesn't seem like those jobs are the ones in question), and certainly many, probably the majority, are under the same delusion as many a "free market" libertarian and the New York Times writer (one Elaine Sciolino) in that they see the new law as an another attempt by the forces of "laissez-faire" [sic] to undermine the big friendly social-democratic state. Indeed, the Times article refers to a survey taken in 22 European countries that found that "France was alone in disagreeing with the premise that the best economic model is 'the free enterprise system and free market economy,'" which suggests that the opponents of the new law have the same flawed and misinformed definition of "the free market" as do the usual votaries of "free market reform."

March 28, 2006 1:06 PM  
Blogger Sheldon Richman said...

Kevin, you write, "But the decision of what aspects of statism to dismantle first should be guided by an overall strategy of dismantling state capitalism as a system." This assumes we will control the agenda for dismantling. But we won't. Rothbard may have supported the French students in 1968, but he also said often that we should take anything we can get when it comes to peeling back state power. Rather than opposing the CPE, the anti-corporativists should use it to emphasize the need to really dismantle the corporate state. If CPE is junked, I don't expect to see attention turned to the overall system; things will just go on as they were. Hard as I try, I don't really see the strategic vision here.

March 28, 2006 4:31 PM  
Blogger Sheldon Richman said...

Another thing: it stands to reason that a law prohibiting the firing of young workers would be a heavier burden on an upstart competitor than on an large incumbent firm. If so, then ending that law would be a relative benefit to the challenger. In other words, the new French law, regardless of intentions, does to a small degree roll back the corporate state by giving new competitors a shot they did not have before.

March 28, 2006 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Robin Green said...

This assumes we will control the agenda for dismantling. But we won't.

How defeatist, and yet how astute.

And therefore logically, there will be no "dismantling of the state" at all. But you anarchists can't seem to make this logical connection. (Anyone who is not anarchist, this post is not directed at you.) Hint: there will be no full dismantling of the state, for the same reason that you anarchists will not control the agenda.

I fully realise the futility of arguing against markets on this blog, but certain services such as for example forensic investigations, prisons and the military, must be kept under democratic control and under state ownerhsip. Anything else inevitably leads to massive conflicts of interest, which you guys (at least the principled amongst you) claim to be against.

As that old racist and imperialist Winston Churchill once said (and I paraphrase), democracy is a bad form of government, but all the other ones that have been tried are even worse. Unfortunately, even racists and imperialists can be right about some things, and in this case he was right.

March 28, 2006 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Stefan said...

And therefore logically, there will be no "dismantling of the state" at all. But you anarchists can't seem to make this logical connection.

That's because the logical connection you've made is invalid; having "anarchists in charge of the agenda" (!) might not be necessary for anarchist ideas to make progress. The Socialist Party of America never garnered significant support nor held any major office, but nearly the whole of their 1920s platform has been enacted in America (public schooling, for instance). Similarly, ransformation of a whole society to possessing more private property and more freedom may occur without being directed by any particular group.

I fully realise the futility of arguing against markets on this blog

You should try doing it at Catallarchy. :)

but certain services such as for example forensic investigations,

A forensics lab could pretty easily be private, so perhaps you meant police investigations?

prisons and the military, must be kept under democratic control and under state ownerhsip. Anything else inevitably leads to massive conflicts of interest, which you guys (at least the principled amongst you) claim to be against.

Care to elaborate on these conflicts? Can you demonstrate that these same conflicts or worse ones would not occur under democracy?

As that old racist and imperialist Winston Churchill once said (and I paraphrase), democracy is a bad form of government, but all the other ones that have been tried are even worse. Unfortunately, even racists and imperialists can be right about some things, and in this case he was right.

Having a flu epidemic is very bad, but all the other kinds of epidemics have been worse. Sometimes even people who have the flu and want others to get it can be right about some things.

March 28, 2006 10:11 PM  
Blogger Sheldon Richman said...

Stefan wrote: "[H]aving 'anarchists in charge of the agenda' (!) might not be necessary for anarchist ideas to make progress."

Precisely!

March 28, 2006 11:01 PM  
Anonymous Stefan said...

This is beside the point, but is there any validity to that charge of Churchill being a racist?

March 28, 2006 11:36 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Sorry for the delay in responding to the comments. It's been three days of relatively dry soil here, so I thought I'd work with it while I could. As Nathan said, I get a pretty thoughtful run of comments here.

Josh and Dain: I still don't see why the interests of the predominantly middle class student demonstrators would be at odds with those of Arabs or the underclass over the CPE. If at-will employment is currently forbidden for those under 26, it must apply across the board, so that job security is increased for unskilled labor.

It also strikes me that the repeal of CPE might work against the interests of the underclass more than the middle class. If anything, it will result in increased demand for under-26 laborers as a group, since employers will prefer to hire as many at-will employees as they can find before they hire anyone over 26. But the less skilled the labor, the less job-specific training is invested, and the less the transaction cost of replacing an at-will employee. So while skilled laborers should get by almost as well without CPE, the unskilled and minorities should fare far worse.

Responses to other comments to follow later.

March 29, 2006 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

If at-will employment is currently forbidden for those under 26, it must apply across the board, so that job security is increased for unskilled labor.

The unskilled labour doesn't get hired. That's the problem.

- Josh

March 29, 2006 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Stefan said...

Here is an interesting AP report on the crisis. I think the reporter's description of the student reaction is right on:

Unions and students were stunned, and are staging mass protests and strikes in a bid to bury the law. To them, job security is one of democracy's achievements, and infringing on it is a step backward.

They may indeed by deceived as you suggest Kevin, but if so I think they're too far gone into the statist camp for any hope.

March 29, 2006 1:30 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Josh,

The interview linked by Diane above calls the official rationale for the CPE into some doubt. It suggests the rates of unemployment of minority and unskilled labor are exaggerated--and what genuine unemployment exists has persisted in the face of previous attempts at flexible labor contracts. As is the case in discussions of the minimum wage, the issue probably hinges on the elasticity of demand for labor.

March 30, 2006 10:47 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

sheldon,

As I understand it, Brad's effort is not a defense of the CPE state of affairs or a commitment of political capital to seeking its repeal. And I agree with that. It's a useful example of how the kinds of neoliberal "market reform" that corporate interests push through the state are chosen to suit the needs of the state capitalists. As for the CPE itself, the horse is already out of the barn. But when the policy was in the formative process, some market anarchist agitprop would have been useful to contest the neoliberal agenda and divert the main front of the scaling back process to places of our own choosing. And it's a useful object lesson for future policy debates, that we refuse to let the state capitalists set the agenda. That means active, public ridicule of "market reform" efforts by the Thatchers, Reagans, and Pinochets that leave the central framework of state capitalist exploitation intact, while eliminating only those forms of state intervention that make it a little more tolerable for working people. And it means active promotion of local, grassroots alternatives to the state and pressuring the state to withdraw those forms of intervention that interfere with the functioning of such counter-organizations.

We will not be in charge of the agenda from inside the state--thank God! I don't want to see "anarchist" politicians inside the government, as part of some sort of popular front, like the anarchist ministers in the government of Catalonia.

But we can set the agenda in the sense of deciding what movements to throw our support behind, in ad hoc coalitions to pressure the state *from outside*.

Robin Green,

The extent to which the state can ultimately be dismantled is one for the distant future. In the meantime, our efforts are focused on scaling it back as much as possible. But in my opinion, the scaling-back effort should follow a definite set of priorities, instead of jumping on the Reaganite/Thatcherite bandwagon. The first things to be dismantled should be the central structural supports of state capitalism, that reduce the bargaining power of labor and prop up the corporate system. The last things to go should be ameliorative measures that soften the impact of state capitalism on those at the bottom.

As for the specific state services you mention, some of them might well be natural monopolies. In the case of law enforcement, for example, depriving local government of its monopoly on coercive force would not necessarily result in its replacement by a bunch of competing "security firms" on the anarcho-cap model. What I'd like to do to local government, school boards, etc., is devolve them to the smallest possible units and place them under direct democratic control, and eventually deprive them of the taxing power to obtain funding from unwilling "customers." The existing government would devolve into a consumer cooperative. Under those circumstances, it would still likely be more feasible to stage a "hostile takeover" by turning out the board of selectmen, than to open up a competing firm providing services on the same scale. So it's likely IMO that the former government would continue to provide law enforcement services to a majority of the local population (willing customers only), while small security firms and neighborhood watch groups served "niche markets," and some individuals chose to take their chances defending their own homes.

But in any case, the coexistence of multiple security providers would probably be in the context of a common body of law, as described by Rothbard and David Friedman. The ability of any agency to invade one's private property would be limited by the invaded party's right to appeal for arbitration to some third party, and the basis of that third party's ruling in some sort of "common law" based on local social consensus.

The fact that a racist and militarist like Churchill had such nice things to say about "democracy" suggests the kind of democracy he had in mind was the spectator variety, where the power of policy elites like him was only nominally controlled by periodic elections. In other words, it's not that democracy is the least bad form of government; it's that it's IMPOSSIBLE over a large territory. Regardless of the nominally democratic machinery that's used, once the representative principle is introduced the government will really be controlled by those who control the actual machinery of government. It's called the Iron Law of Oligarchy.

Anarchy is the ultimate in democracy, since majority rule is only incidental to democracy. For the Jeffersonians, the central principle of democracy was consent of the governed, and the smaller the unit and the closer to unanimity one approach, the closer to ideal democracy. Majority rule is only incidental, a necessary evil for simulating unanimous consent when it can't be achieved in fact. But the fullest development of democracy is government by unanimous consent--in other words, by voluntary association.

Stefan,

I agree with a lot of your ideas on pressuring the state from outside--my only disagreement is that we ought to be a lot more selective in deciding for ourselves what the priorities are.

The most racist Churchill quote I'm familiar with was his advocacy of using ariel bombardment with mustard gas to suppress an Iraqi uprising. He was reported to have asked what it was good for, if it couldn't be used to kill a bunch of niggers.

March 30, 2006 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Stefan said...

Kevin,

you have certainly given me something to think about in that regard. Now that I think about it there is at least one other issue where what seems to be a reduction of government force amounts in practice to an increase in government force, and that is in the case of the welfare state and closed borders. In a libertarian society neither would exist, but I think a reasonable case can be made that opening borders first would in fact increase the amount of rights-violations occuring, at least as measured by government expenditure through the welfare state. So here the logical order to "de-statize" would be to get rid of the welfare state first, then to open the borders. You may well be right that libertarians should think more carefully about the priorities we assign to dismantling different parts of the state.

March 30, 2006 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Julius Blumfeld said...

I disagree. This is a receipe for libertarians getting enmeshed in a web of conditionality and contingency. Free immigration cannot occur until the welfare state is abolished. The welfare state cannot be abolished until there is a free market in employment. There cannot be a free market in employment until .... etc etc. We will get nowhere. Far better to welcome and agitate for increases in liberty wherever and whenever we can get them.

April 11, 2006 3:50 AM  

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