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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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Monday, March 10, 2008

Libertarian Self-Marginalization

Blogging at The Art of the Possible today: "Libertarian Self-Marginalization."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of good points but I would suggest two major flaws:

1. Economic power does exist, even in a free market. A mutualist, i.e., non-capitalist, market may reduce it significantly, but it will exist and its accumulative effects may be detrimental to liberty.

2. The reason why vulgar "libertarianism" is, in effect, mainstream right-"libertarian" ideology is because Austrian economics was developed to defend capitalism against all forms of socialism, including Proudhon's and Bakunin's libertarian socialism.

While I admire your willingness to point out the obvious to the right, I feel sometimes that it is a fruitless task... But, then, I try and explain basic socialist principles to Leninists a lot, so who am I to judge!

An Anarchist FAQ

March 10, 2008 7:59 AM  
Blogger Mupetblast said...

"...Austrian economics was developed to defend capitalism against all forms of socialism, including Proudhon's and Bakunin's libertarian socialism."

Really? And here I thought that these Austrians were practitioners of the science of economics, taking into account the increasingly popular theory of marginalism, and if anything responding primarily to the German Historical School - the conservative school of thought in economics - not the Proudhons and Bakunins of the world.

March 10, 2008 7:19 PM  
Blogger FSK said...


If Kevin Carson wants me to follow his posts here, *ENABLE FULL RSS FEEDS*.

Alternatively, you could repost the articles on your own blog, where you do offer full RSS feeds.

March 10, 2008 7:38 PM  
Blogger Soviet Onion said...

Damn you Mupetblast, stop spoiling Ian's silly tirade with actual history!

March 10, 2008 10:43 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

On the political motivation of Austrianism, I lean toward Iain's position, although the picture is complicated by additional factors that Dain mentions (the Methodenstreit with the Historical school).

Generally, I think the early marginalists saw what they were doing to a large extent in political terms, as providing a way to abandon the Ricardian paradigm which had been put to such radical use by the socialists. Jevons certainly saw his relationship to Ricardo in this light, and I've quoted material in Ch. 1 of Mutualist Political Economy indicating Menger also put an anti-socialist political spin on the significance of his work. And Bohm-Bawerk put a major part of his total effort into direct rebuttal of Marx and other versions of the LTV.

But Austrianism (or more broadly, marginalism) shouldn't be dismissed on those grounds. Many of their theoretical innovations are valuable in their own right, even if they don't have the political significance the Austrians claimed for them. Marginalism can actually be incorporated into classical political economy as a methodological refinement, a more sophisticated mechanism for explaining the generalizations the classical political economists made about distribution and the law of value.

March 11, 2008 12:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

On the question of economic power in a free market, the issue is complicated by some forms of natural rent that would exist even w/o legally-enforced prvilege: e.g., genuine differential rent on land even when no political appropriation takes place, and the rent accruing to someone of superior innate skill who can sell his product for the average price despite doing less work. But I agree with Tucker that the quantitative signifcance is negligible compared to rents resulting from privilege, and that it should be tolerated on the ground that the cure is worse than the disease.

March 11, 2008 12:31 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

"It should be tolerated on the ground that the cure is worse than the disease".

Why should it be considered as a disease?

March 11, 2008 10:11 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

For "thick libertarian" reasons: because it violates norms of reciprocity that lie at the foundation of legitimate perceptions of "fairness" and "unfairness," even when they do not involve injustice (coercion) per se.

This is a major theme of my upcoming chapter on privilege.

March 11, 2008 11:52 AM  
Blogger quasibill said...

I'm proof (though certainly not the only proof) that Kevin's efforts aren't fruitless.

March 12, 2008 6:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Thanks, quasibill. But in fairness, I think Reisman deserves at least half the credit.

March 14, 2008 10:47 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

I'll certainly be interested to read about this "thick libertarian" thesis. The problem I raise is of course tangential to the main subject here and I'll probably go to the original post on "the Art of the possible" blog to comment on this.

In the meantime and before reading the full scale argument in your future book, I'd like to know if I'm right here in my interpretation: given your wording, you seem to say that the simple fact that there could be inequal rents due to innate differences is "unfair".

I also wonder if any difference of revenue due to any difference in skills (surely something that would stay usual in a free market society) could pass the "fairness" test. In other words, would the "norms of reciprocity" be strictly egalitarian?

March 14, 2008 11:16 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


I believe unearned income differentials from skill and site location can be "unfair" without being "unjust" or "coervice" (for reasons I elaborated in response to your comment at the AOTP post). It's also discussed in much greater depth in the "Thick Libertarian" appendix to Ch. 11.

March 14, 2008 11:45 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Kevin, I had in mind the distinction between fairness and justice when I posted my comment. Anyway, I'll read your writings on the subject with interest, as usual.

March 14, 2008 6:26 PM  

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