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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, July 25, 2005

More Corporate Looting in Iraq

I've written before about the looting of Iraq, cloaked behind phony "free market" principles, under Bremer's puppet legal regime (which is still the law of the land in Iraq, until a new constitution is put in place). Now Charles N. Todd writes at UnCapitalist Journal about the impending sale of eleven Iraqi oil fields. It will be an orgy of ASI-style phony "privatization" (known to those not criminally insane simply as "looting"), with eleven oil fields sold to "international investors."

Here's how the long-term cycle of IMF-World Bank lending, neoliberal "reform," and privatization works, in Sean Corrigan's words:

Does he [Treasury Secretary O'Neill] not know that the whole IMF-US Treasury carpet-bagging strategy of full-spectrum dominance is based on promoting unproductive government-led indebtedness abroad, at increasingly usurious rates of interest, and then--either before or, more often these days, after, the point of default--bailing out the Western banks who have been the agents provocateurs of this financial Operation Overlord, with newly-minted dollars, to the detriment of the citizenry at home?

Is he not aware that, subsequent to the collapse, these latter-day Reconstructionists must be allowed to swoop and to buy controlling ownership stakes in resources and productive capital made ludicrously cheap by devaluation, or outright monetary collapse?

Does he not understand that he must simultaneously coerce the target nation into sweating its people to churn out export goods in order to service the newly refinanced debt, in addition to piling up excess dollar reserves as a supposed bulwark against future speculative attacks (usually financed by the same Western banks’ lending to their Special Forces colleagues at the macro hedge funds) - thus ensuring the reverse mercantilism of Rubinomics is maintained?

Joseph Stromberg has argued for a very different method of "privatizing" the oil industry. He takes Rothbard's and Hoppe's proposal for privatizing industry in post-communist societies, and applies it to the state-owned oil industry in Iraq:

In the case of capital goods created by the communist states out of confiscated resources, the quickest and least bad solution was the "syndicalist" one of handing over the oil refineries to, say, the oil refinery workers and managers, since in a rough analogy with the homesteading of unowned resources, those workers and managers had mixed their labor with the goods in question.

It wasn't perfect, but it beat funny auctions, that amounted to new expropriations by domestic and foreign investors and, even worse, rested on an assumption of ultimate state title, which pushed aside the whole question of just ownership.[9]

Proposals to auction off Iraqi properties, with the state acting as effective owner, would likely lead, if implemented, to a massive alienation of resources into the hands of select foreign interests.

That's exactly what's happening now: a funny auction, in practice the expropriation of Iraq's natural resources by politically connected foreign investors.


Blogger Unknown said...

Bush's so-called privatization schemes are theft, pure and simple. The only difference between these people and bank robbers is that the bank robbers don't think on a big enough scale.

The syndicalist idea seems the best idea to me. Like the homesteaders, they truly did mix their labor with the land. It's not a perfect solution, but it least gives individual Iraqi citizens the chance to stand up on their own two feet.

They may need an Iraqi version of 'The Take '. I have no problem with the Iraqi people taking back what was wrongly taken from them through corruption.

July 25, 2005 12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It still seems a bit simplistic to me. After all, by that reckoning, the oil belongs to whoever first slant drilled it C.Montgomery Burns style - which is what annoyed Saddam Hussein about Kuwaiti behaviour. Alternatively, no matter whether it was lying around, it had no value until a use was found - in Iraq's case, as bunker fuel for the British Navy (which explains why BP was formed and what Calouste Gulbenkian really did for his 10%). It's all more complicated than it looks.

July 26, 2005 2:05 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


I'm not real hot on the Rothbardians' Lockean take on scarce resources like oil, minerals, etc., either (although it's a lot better than the statist land-grabbism the Randroids and other vulgar libertarians advocate). I prefer treating it as a common, one Georgist exception to my usual Tuckerite sensibilites.

Thanks for the Monty Burns reference. "I'm not really Wavy Gravy--and all this time I've been smoking harmless tobacco!"

July 27, 2005 9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you determine what natural resources ought to be owned in common and which ought to be owned privately? How large is the common? Iraq hardly counts as a common, and the whole of humanity is too unwieldly to be manageable, even if the whole of humanity had a just claim (and they don't).

- Josh

July 28, 2005 12:35 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Whether the whole of humanity has a just claim is too deep a philosophical issue for me to touch, although I will say that even the Lockeans recognize at least some residual common claim to land (reflected in the proviso). The mutualist theory of land tenure treats the "common patrimony" status of land in a much more residual sense than the Georgists, but more active than the Lockeans, since it extends to prohibiting enforcement of property claims by someone not actually occupying and using land.

Personally, I prefer mutualit occupancy-and-use for most land, but am influenced by the Geoists to the extent of treating especially scarce resources like minerals and aquifers, etc., as commons. But I really don't have any a priori grounds I can argue it from--it's pretty much consequentialist.

July 28, 2005 3:32 PM  

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