.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

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

My Photo
Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Goo-Goo Historical Mythology

Via Karmalized, via The Sideshow, via Cup o' Joe.

A by-the-numbers critique of libertarianism by Delicate Monster at Daily Kos (and more of the same by Joe Vecchio of Cup o' Joe). There's pretty much the sort of thing you'd expect. We get the Art Schlesinger party line that the regulatory-welfare state was created to restrain big business and remedy the problems of "laissez-faire" capitalism. Then a long list of "liberal accomplishments," all of them essentially either socialization of corporate operating costs (the interstate highway system and federal higher education funding), or cartelization of safety and quality standards through the regulatory state (e.g. the Pure Food and Drug Act). Yeah, big business really put up a fight over that: "Please, Brer Fox, don't fling me in that briar patch!"

Joe Vecchio claims that liberalism

was a direct result of the failures of the unregulated market: the reason government had to step in in 1932 is because a few people got together to rig the system for their own benefit....

Of course, anyone who's read Gabriel Kolko or G. William Domhoff knows that the leading figures in formulating the Progressive and New Deal agendas were representatives of big business. It really makes you wonder what kind of "party of the common man" has GE's Gerard Swope in the role of Hjalmar Schacht, or routinely has cabinets made up of investment bankers and corporation lawyers. Shit, the next Democratic president-elect ought to just have the treasury seat in his cabinet endowed, and call his appointee the Goldman-Sachs Secretary of the Treasury. What was that about the plutes rigging the system for their own benefit, again? And Vecchio accuses libertarians of "[k]nowing nothing about history"!

Delicate Monster thinks that the Bush II, Reagan, and McKinley administrations are (better sit down!) the closest we've ever come to a libertarian government, and identifies the Robber Baron era with laissez-faire. Let's see... railroad subsidies, federalization of corporate law, massive tariffs, and massive cartelization through patent exchanges. Oh, that Robber Baron era. Yeah, sounds like laissez-faire to me! And DM should read some friggin' Noam Chomsky on the levels of protectionism and state subsidy under Reagan's "free market reform." Or read this post: "The Neoliberal Myth of 'Small Government'"

And of course, when Delicate Monster talks about "libertarians" he (she?) clearly means the vulgar kind:

But what I suspect they really want is for a particular market construct that favors a radical vision of property rights of a specific kind--shareholder rights over stakeholder rights to serve in perpetuity. Again, there's nothing natural about this--it's quite indefensible and arbitrary. Once those rules are fixed, if you already have lots of money and property, libertarianism makes sense from a purely selfish point of view. If you don't, you'll be really sorry you supported it....

DM mentions Rothbard only as an extreme example of the property rights absolutist. The same Rothbard who wrote that "our corporate state uses the coercive taxing power either to accumulate corporate capital or to lower corporate costs." The same Rothbard who wrote the stuff on property rights I quoted extensively in these two posts. Yeah, that Rothbard. Just pining away for the McKinley administration. Shee-it.

Yeah, there are all too many "libertarians" whose idea of the free market smacks of "What's good for General Motors...," and whose "libertarianism" is just warmed-over Reaganism-Thatcherism. I tear into those pot-smoking Republicans regularly in this blog. But there are plenty who don't fit that stereotype.

In my own treatments of 20th century corporate liberalism, I've focused on big government liberalism's service to corporate interests, and on demolishing the Art Schlesinger/NPR liberal/goo-goo fantasies about its "progressive" nature. (As Roy Childs said, liberal intellectuals have been the running dogs for big business.)

One aspect of it that I've paid too little attention to is the extent to which it built on the grand American tradition of racializing class issues. Diane Warth of Karmalized focuses on the issue like a laser beam, citing a NYTRB review of Ira Katznelson's When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America.

The New Deal policies that worsened the situation of blacks were not overtly discriminatory. The primary device used by Southern white supremacists was to exclude agricultural laborers and domestic servants from coverage under the Social Security Act and National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Since these were the occupations of most Southern blacks and of much smaller proportions of Southern whites, such exclusions meant that most blacks were being left out of the new welfare state and denied the same chance to escape from poverty that was available to many relatively poor whites. In the South, therefore, the New Deal actually had the effect of strengthening the economic basis of white privilege. It is true that at the height of the Depression African-Americans received some help from the WPA and other emergency measures to provide relief and work, but since Southern white supremacists locally administered these programs, racial discrimination continued....

In the immediate postwar period, Katznelson convincingly argues, the GI Bill widened further the economic and social differences between the races. Southern segregation meant that educational opportunities available to whites were withheld from blacks, who were forced to compete for a very limited number of places in all-black institutions. Even in the North many colleges and universities either excluded blacks or admitted only a handful. GI loans for buying houses or financing small businesses were very difficult for blacks to ob-tain because of the discriminatory policies of banks and other lending agencies. Katznelson concludes that most government social policies during the 1930s and 1940s were, in effect, part of a vast affirmative action program for whites that left blacks further behind than they had been at the beginning of the period. He makes a chilling case.

A Marxist might be forgiven for viewing corporate liberalism as a domestic form of imperialism, with the white working class being bribed with super-profits from exploiting the black domestic colonial population.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The very fact that Delicate Monster thinks that the Bush II, Reagan, and McKinley administrations are the closest we've ever come to a libertarian government shows that he knows nothing of libertarianism. I would go with Martin Van Buren, Grover Cleveland, and "Silent Cal" Coolidge as the most libertarian and his list would be put near the bottom of my list.

November 08, 2005 4:01 PM  
Blogger freeman said...

Great post, Kevin!

Logan - I know that many libertarians praise Cleveland as being one of the best US Presidents, but his response to the 1894 Pullman strike was extremely unlibertarian, to say the least.

November 08, 2005 5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrific post, Kevin. But these are the same liberals who would be cheerleading the occupation of Iraq if Kerry was in the WH sending their family members to kill Iraqis. What do they care if their so-called New Deal was the same old shaft to African American citisens.

November 08, 2005 6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS - Diane, yeah, I'm a liberal who voted for Kerry. At night I dream that it was him dropping chemical weapons on Iraqi civilians. **swoon**

Must be why you voted for a man who promised to send more troops by the thousands and really get the job done. What job is that, exactly?

November 09, 2005 4:06 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

You probably have a point, colorless. But I'm only human.

If you look at the original posts, I'm pretty much returning the tone in kind.

Joe Vecchio made a lot of nasty generalizations about libertarians, apparently feeling by no means hindered by the fact that he knew fuck-all about libertarianism beyond the "pot-smoking Republican" stereotypes. And he repeated the Art Schlesinger fantasies about the "progressive" nature of the New Deal and all the "laissez-faire" evils it was intended to cure.

When Diane pointed out that the New Deal wasn't all that progressive, Joe complained that [paraphrase] "That's beside the point--my point was about libertarians, not the New Deal. And anyway, we're natural allies against the right-wing Republican enemy." That despite the fact that

1) one of Vecchio's main criticisms of libertarians concerned our alleged ignorance of the wonderful New Deal;
2) Diane is a libertarian; and
3) Vecchio's post was a crude attack on libertarians essentially arguing that they were THE SAME as the right-wing Republican enemy.

If Diane's criticism is beside the point, then everything Vecchio said in his original post was beside the point of what he really intended to say.

November 09, 2005 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I was reading this and noticed the comments. Are there two libertarian Logans out there that read this blog, or is someone pretending to be me?

November 09, 2005 4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One note, though, in 1998 we didn't know that Saddam didn't have WMDs, in 2002 we did.

Actually, it was known in 1995. It was then that Hussein Kamel told the U.N. inspections team "All weapons-- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear, were destroyed."

The UN might have "hushed up" to "bluff Saddam into disclosing still more." And you may choose to believe that Clinton and the NSA (at least) weren't privy to the truth, but I prefer to live in reality.

As for this liberal/prog activism thing, do you mean the base that jumps whenever American Progress and DailyKos tell them to? John Podesta, Clinton's COS, runs AP - he conspired with Uncle Bill, Barak, Aunt Maddy, Dennis Ross et. al., to smear the Palestinians when their amateur hour, aka Camp David, failed. Some believe that unconscionable PR offensive led to the al-Aqsa Intifada. I agree.

Do these people lie, even when thousands of lives are at stake? Obviously. One of the few people who seem to have remained consistent is Scott Ritter. He was crying foul during the Clinton years, too.

Why not the lib/progs - then or now?

November 09, 2005 6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also interesting is that Ira Katznelson's from NY Review of Books actually makes a pretty strong case for more affirmative-action.

I'd be inclined to call it reparations.

November 09, 2005 6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

colorless - I've read two diaries on DailyKos this year. One was a baseless, ad hominen attack on Justin Raimondo by someone who couldn't have read his book. The other was yet another moronic diatribe on the evil antiwar movement that included a racist attack on some speakers who participated in Sept.'s march on Washington. The writing in both cases was shite.

So you have the skills, no doubt. Why not the motivation?

Kucinich is no firecracker when it comes to foreign policy. UN in US out? I bet he skipped an afternoon nap coming up with that one.

November 10, 2005 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I might have spelt that ad hominem, if I'd paid attention in typing class.

November 10, 2005 9:30 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home