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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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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Vulgar Libertarianism Watch, Part 2

(Via Our Word is Our Weapon) More neoliberal paint-by-numbers from the Adam Smith Institute.

Dr. Madsen Pirie, in surveying the "Scorecard of Ideas," attempts to debunk critics of corporate globalization (which we know, of course, is equivalent to "free trade" in ASI-speak). Our Word has already given his efforts a good fisking in the post linked above, but I'd like to comment on a couple of items myself.

One anti-globalist assertion supposedly debunked by Dr. Pirie is that "The rich world is getting richer, the poor poorer." To disprove this claim, he refers to national income statistics. Unfortunately, such statistics are profoundly misleading. The monetization of activities formerly carried out in a traditional subsistence and barter economy results in skyrocketing nominal GDPs, even though such monetization usually results from the expropriation of formerly self-employed peasants and the use of the poll tax to coerce them into the wage labor market (as in British East Africa). For that matter, when the English rural labor force was dispossessed by the enclosure of commons and the abrogation of copyhold rights to the land, the "national income" no doubt went up considerably.

But best of all, in response to the claim that "Multinationals exploit people in poor countries," Dr. Pirie dusts off the "best available alternative" chestnut debunked in our post yesterday.

One person’s exploitation is another’s opportunity. Multinationals pay lower wages in developing countries than in rich ones: that’s why they go there. But their pay and conditions are reportedly better than those available elsewhere in poor countries, and so represent economic advancement. There are usually waiting lists to work for them.

But golly, the transnationals sure do seem to gravitate toward banana republics where the death squads torture and "disappear" labor organizers and peasant co-op leaders, or toward "workers' paradises" like China, where attempting to organize an independent union can get you a stint in a mental hospital. Wonder why that is? And the foreign policy of the U.S. government sure does seem to devote an awful lot of effort to making sure such anti-labor regimes stay in power. For example, the Suharto regime (which was put in power by a U.S.-sponsored coup, followed by the mass-murder of several hundred thousand leftists) treated independent labor organizing as a serious criminal offense. Even today, in the neoliberal Indonesian "democracy"(TM), they're barely legal. And Indonesia is a favorite haven for sweatshops. Again, wonder why that is?

A man who hands over his wallet to a mugger does so because he prefers it to the "next-best alternative." So what? As Benjamin Tucker pointed out over a century ago, the capitalists systematically manipulate the state to create a buyers' market for wages and limit the conditions under which workers can sell their labor, and then blithely answer all criticisms with the response that the workers "voluntarily agreed" to work on those terms.

Now, to solemnly tell these men who are thus prevented by law from getting the wages which their labor would command in a free market that they have a right to reject any price that may be offered for their labor is undoubtedly to speak a formal truth, but it is also to utter a commonplace and a cruel impertinence. "The Lesson of Homestead," Instead of a Book.

Note--I don't know how long the trackback to the ASI post will hold up, since they're notorious for sabotaging links from sites that disagree with them and deleting critical comments from their blog (as Ian Bertram of Pancromatica has found). Thin-skinned buggers, eh?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A supposed free market economy means no subsidies. The vulgar libertarians are hypocritically supporting subsidy when they apologize for low-wage (and I might add environmentally challenged) countries. How is it these countries have low wages and lousy working conditions etc? Because they have a police state or state-dominated phony trade unions to keep the wages down. Add to this child labor, prison and slave labor - all enforced by the state. Do people really think the Chinese freely choose to work 70 hours a week for peanuts? They have no choice with the weight of the state apparatus. All of this should be seen as a form of subsidy and attacked as such - if these "libertarians" were honest, that is. I think it really boils down to this - free trade can really only exist between democracies. Good idea about doing the blog, by the way, Larry Gambone

January 12, 2005 7:08 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Welcome, Larry, and thanks for stopping by!

Good points.

I forgot to mention, in the first Vulgar Libertarianism post, the utter shamelessness of Carden's reference to the crippling effects of "decades of statism" in Central America. What "statism," pray, could he be referring to? The statism of Somoza? The statism of D'Aubisson? The decades of statism by one murdering Guatemalan military dictator after another after Arbenz was overthrown by GUESS WHO?

The United States and its paramilitary clients have done more than anybody to forcibly deprive those people of the opportunity for advancement.

January 12, 2005 7:27 PM  

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