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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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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Nature of the Ruling Class

Discussing faux private interests that are actually part of the State, Brad Spangler puts a new spin on Rothbard's likening of the state to a holdup man. In the case of state capitalism, he writes, the state is just an accomplice to "private" interests:

...one robber (the literal apparatus of government) keeps you covered with a pistol while the second (representing State-allied corporations) just holds the bag that you have to drop your wristwatch, wallet and car keys in. To say that your interaction with the bagman was a “voluntary transaction” is an absurdity. Such nonsense should be condemned by all libertarians. Both gunman and bagman together are the true State.

Brilliant. I've seen too many "libertarian" defenses of big business that attempt to absolve it of any guilt for its role in this partnership. Big business is just the passive victim, so they say, forced to accept corporate welfare and obtain special privileges in self-defense against the forces of the regulatory state. According to this argument, the recipients of differential tax advantages are the good guys, managing to keep a bit more of their own money.* Complete and utter horseshit.

The rotation of personnel between senior corporate management and political appointees in government agencies is such that corporate and government leadership are, for all intents and purposes, a single power elite. Large corporations are not passive victims of the state; they act through the state. It makes about as much sense to separate them from the state, as it would have made to separate the landholding class from the state in Medieval times. The state, by definition, is the instrument of a ruling class. Sometimes the state and the ruling class are one and the same, as under Soviet-style bureaucratic collectivism. But sometimes the state is the instrument of a nominally "private" ruling class, or of a mixed ruling class of state and corporate interests (e.g. Scandinavian "social democracy").

Most of the recipes for "free market reform" I see coming from neoliberal politicians leave the gunman in place, but increase the ratio of nominally-private bagmen to gunmen. The more of the work of robbery can be "privatized" to the bagmen, supposedly, the larger the portion of all activity is nominally private. So isn't that a freer market? Isn't that "a step in the right direction"? To see some of the contemporary agitprop in favor of increased "global trade," it must be.

*Note--To those who say differential tax advantages aren't "corporate welfare," by the way: please remember that the practical effect of such exemptions is exactly the same as if we started with a corporate tax rate of zero, and then imposed a tax penalty on those not engaged in favored forms of enterprise. The effect of rapid depreciation, say, is the same as a punitive tax on those not engaged in capital-intensive forms of production. The fiscal and competitive effects are identical.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brad Spangler's and Kevin Carson's comments about the complicity of the State and the Private Elite are very accurate. Statism and Corpocracy are just two different sides of the same coin of Privilege.

I've thought quite a bit about this issue, and imo, this modern neo-feudalism is worse in many ways than the prior historic form of hereditary elites based on landed aristocracy. At least in the previous era, the people could know precisely who their tormentors were, and how they were being tormented. The titled Peer, the Landlord with the Manse on the Hill, the hireling Factor tasked to grub rents out of the mouths of tenants, the clan Lords enlarging their desmesnes at the expense of the Commons, the Commoners pushed out to marginal lands to be starved into submission during periodic famines, even as the Landlords' better lands exported cash crops were all transparent signs and modes of oppression. In the previous era, people knew against whom to rebel, who should be waylaid on lonely dark highways at night.

Nowadays, our tormentors are largely hidden, disguised, obscured, or unnoticed. We here on this blog may know that corporations, politicians and most wealthy are monopolistic rent takers, but many folks see the "corpocracy" and the "cronyocracy" as net benefactors, employers, ueber-producers,favor deliverers, etc. They don't see the "economic wedges" in the tax codes and commerce regulations, they're too busy being over worked as wage slaves to track how the cronyocracy is constantly auctioning off our rights on the block of political privilege.

Moreover, the nominal two-party system makes it seem like the political class is divided into "good guys and bad guys," some who are fighting for our rights, while others are the evil privilege seekers. This conflict is really more often about who gets the bigger pile of privileges all of which come at the expense of the peoples' common rights, equal liberty. The conflict between parties is often real, but it is a diversion from the ethically just fight for protecting and extending the equal freedom of the people of the non-political class. So, mainstream media coverage becomes monopolized about the struggle between rival mobs for political power and privilege, even as the people's common rights and interests get short shrifted. For the modern media, their focus has become the drama, suspense and conflict between the various rivals, almost as if they were covering a professional sports match or a Broadway Play.

The challenge for reformers and transformers in the Indy Alt-media is how do we refocus attention on the conflict between the Privilege Seekers and the Rights Protectors? How do we reframe all the political issues and attention so that people can easily see who their tormentors are, again? How do we avoid having our common rights to equal freedom being pushed to the margins, from being mostly ignored while the false "anti-theses" of Left and Right privileges and powers monopolize the mainstream political dialogue?

How do we shift the public dialogue to use political labels that have import for protecting equal liberty, instead of for dividing between rival predators the spoils rended from us Commoners?

Chris Toto

May 06, 2005 9:50 AM  
Blogger SleepyTreehugger said...

Hi Kevin,

Greetings from a Kiwi Radical.

Here in New Zealand we also experienced a similar shift in public and political sentiment to the Right during the 1980s, ironically under a "Labour" government as the US did under Reagan and the UK under Thatcher, who justified it by citing the economic turmoil that the country suffered under the previous National (Conservative) government. Turmoil that I now suspect was deliberately provoked.

“The obvious danger in such a regime resides in its potential instability. Some limited loosening is by no means unequivocally undesirable. It can be seen as a rational response to the earlier tendency, which was most manifest in the 1960s, for economic integration to run far ahead of both actual and desired political integration, thereby forcing countries into suboptimal policy choices. A degree of controlled disintegration in the world economy is a legitimate objective for the 1980s and may be the most realistic one for a moderate international economic order. A central normative problem for the international economic order in the years ahead is how to ensure that the dis-integration indeed occurs in a controlled way and does not rather spiral into damaging restrictionism.”
Alternative to Monetary Disorder (Fred Hirsch and Michael Doyle, CFR)

Eminent scholars here have also noted a cosy revolving door scheme for "advisors" and "policy analysts" between government bodies and corporate enterprises.

January 22, 2008 8:09 PM  

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