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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, December 19, 2005


A good post by Eugene Plawiuk on the WTO's promotion of agribusiness at the expense of village agriculture.

The village farming cooperatives are a real market alternative to rapacious capitalism and its agribusiness operations, but these folks are forgotten at the WTO. They have neither local representatives nor state representatives. Nor has the Libertarian movement taken up their cause with few exceptions such as those of us on the Libertarian Left; Kevin Carson, Larry Gambone, and the Knappster, voices in the wilderness on this issue.

Think of the power that these small villages would have if rich American Libertarians who have oodles of cash were to champion their cause. But it won't happen because they aren't really Libertarians, just Republican hanger ons, more interested in privatizing public services than supporting real free markets in the real world. Because these markets are run by cooperatives and collectives, which runs counter to their individualist consumerist ideology.

By way of disclaimer, I don't believe Reason deserves such a blanket dismissal ("rich American Libertarians" hyperlinks to its URL). I can't keep track of who's taken Kochtipus money and who hasn't, but like many libertarian publications, Reason is a mixed bag ideologically. At least one of their writers, Jesse Walker, regularly writes on leftish stuff like squatter communities and worker takeovers in Argentina.


Blogger Sheldon Richman said...

Kevin--As the editor of The Freeman, I would welcome a well-documented article on how the WTO interferes with any kind of voluntary, grass-roots self-help efforts in the developing world. We have published articles critical of so-called free-trade agreements in the past and will do so again.

December 20, 2005 4:04 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Thanks for the invite, Sheldon. I'll keep my eyes open for relevant material.

December 20, 2005 10:03 AM  
Blogger EUGENE PLAWIUK said...

Thanks for the cross posting Kevin, I guess I should have actually added the link to the Von Mises site rather than Reason. But Reason tended to fit the pro republican liberaltarianism I was refering too, while the Von Mises are rich rich rich for the rich.
And Sheldon I will see what I can do too. See my latest WTO article on my blog. As well as the one I have done on Water privatization and the WTO. Oh shameless plugs

December 20, 2005 12:33 PM  
Blogger Joel Schlosberg said...

Mises has triple-plutocracy-bashing and egalitarian
Roderick T. Long, who's as redeemingly leftist and anti-vulgar libertarian as Jesse is for Reason.

There's other good stuff at Mises, too: First of all, there's all the archived stuff about Rothbard's collaboration with the New Left, such as the runs of Left & Right and some of the stuff in Libertarian Forum. They've benefitted the libertarian movement enormously by making this stuff available, which shows libertarianism's historical connections with the left. Passing to modern stuff, they'll sometimes apply the New Left "corporate liberal" critique of big business as benefitting from and instigating regulation, such as Lew's critique of Wal-Mart. (Lew's willingness to speak to antiwar lefties has also freaked out neocons.) On Mises's sister site LRC Richard Wall has written sympathetically about leftists like Ivan Illich, Noam Chomsky, Bertrand Russell, and Paul Goodman.

Notwithstanding there is indeed some pretty bad stuff on Mises. One that's appropriate for this time of year is a piece called "In Defense of Scrooge":

"So let's look without preconceptions at Scrooge's allegedly underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit. The fact is, if Cratchit's skills were worth more to anyone than the fifteen shillings Scrooge pays him weekly, there would be someone glad to offer it to him. Since no one has, and since Cratchit's profit-maximizing boss is hardly a man to pay for nothing, Cratchit must be worth exactly his present wages."

Glad to see you're moving off of picking on Reason anyway, eugene. Some of Jesse Walker's stuff is among the most nuanced writing out there, and he's often far more genuinely leftist that the "leftists" he critiques. His stuff on various forms of alternative media is always good, and especially how it's inherently liberating whether the content is "left-wing" or "right-wing". Reason also published (back in 1971) one of the classics of anti-big business libertarianism, and one of the best refutations of the idea that big business was a natural outgrowth of the free market, Roy Childs's
"Big Business and the Rise of American Statism".

December 20, 2005 4:36 PM  
Blogger freeman said...

Reason has Jesse Walker, Mises has Long and all the great archives of stuff by Rothbard and other goodies mentioned by Joel. It seems to me that the one self-styled libertarian publication/think tank that most consistently disappoints is Cato.

December 20, 2005 7:59 PM  
Blogger EUGENE PLAWIUK said...

Ok and my point is that in the heap o bad that these guys have there are real libertarians, who should be pushing for think tanks,certainly not CATO, more left to accept the need for market cooperatives. And they have $$$ and pull. I think its a campaign we could launch as an awareness issue and see who signs up, eventually putting out policy papers on the matter.

December 22, 2005 12:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KC, I'll see if I can get an email off to you over Christmas with some material for the Freeman. And there's some other stuff like that that's been building up in my pending tray to get off to you as well. We'll see...

December 22, 2005 5:37 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

I appreciate it, PML.

On libertarian organizations, most have some wheat mixed in with the chaff. The closest any comes to irredeemability is the Adam Smith Institute, which has ikons of Reagan and Thatcher in its little prayer corner.

Mises is a place of extremes, with some of the best, as well as some of the most vulgar libertarians.

December 22, 2005 7:42 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

The Scrooge thing, BTW, was just awful. Note the standard vulgar libertarian pose of defending existing wealth, on the assumption that this is a free market: "If Cratchet was worth more than 15s, somebody else would offer it." Now, mind, the setting is an England where the Combination Laws and Laws of Settlement are still fairly recent, and large-scale waves of enclosures are still a living memory for many. What next--a "free market" defense of wage rates in the Warsaw Ghetto?

December 22, 2005 7:48 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Interestingly enough, Lew Rockwell himself is one of the more "pure" libertarians at Mises. (though I would hesitate to call him "left" due to his cultural affinities)

Certainly articles like "The Rise of Red State Fascism" tell it like it is.

I think the thing is that they still have hangers on from their connection to paleoconservatism.
Also, they have the Hoppean contingent.

Also interestingly, there's an essay where Roderick Long attacks Scrooge from a real free market standpoint. It's in formulations somewhere...

December 22, 2005 8:48 AM  
Blogger Joel Schlosberg said...

For unqualified irredeemability there's always the Ayn Rand Institute. Although they don't call themselves "libertarian" and probably share Rand's contempt for libertarians as "hippies of the right", they get lumped in with libertarians simply for their use of terms like "laissez faire" to describe themselves and advocacy of a "free market" (for instance by a friend who watched a recent appearance of ARI's Andrew Bernstein on Book TV—I actually checked his site pretty carefully for any mention of the offending L-word).

Adem: Good characterization of Lew and LRC, and the paleocon/Hoppean stuff there. The thing is, that unlike most "free market" gurus who get mainstream attention, Lew is genuinely committed to free market principles and willing to critique the status quo when it conflicts with them.

Roderick's article is Who's the Scrooge? Libertarians and Compassion. The Formulations archive has a lot of good stuff, by Roderick and others. One of my favorites is his follow-up piece Beyond the Boss on "the egalitarian, compassionate, "bleeding-heart" libertarianism that characterized the libertarian movement through most of its history".

The thing with libertarian organizations like Mises that go between extremes, is that people who want to dismiss them will simply take the worst examples out of context. I actually saw the Scrooge piece on the Critiques of Libertarianism page; the handful of Mises articles they link to are, as one would expect, the most vulgar and crankiest ones.

December 22, 2005 9:37 AM  
Blogger freeman said...

Cultural affinities is definitely something that keeps many from the LRC/Mises crowd from embracing a more leftward shift. Roderick Long recently wrote a blog post where he criticized the phenomenon of "knee-jerk anti-leftism" of many libertarians who hold cultural conservatism dear to them. Aside from the example he provides, Wal-Mart apology and the scoffing of "green" values are examples that come to my mind. I'm also not holding my breath to find criticism of genetically-modified foods, even from a strictly anti-corporatist standpoint, anytime soon.

Stuff like that aside though, Mises is a great resource for ideas and material.

December 22, 2005 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting to note Long's distinction between the roles of compassion/generosity and rights. It's an insight that has occurred in ethical thinking quite frequently, even in the Bible, though not always brought out as explicitly as in the 38th article of the thirty-nine articles of the Church of England:

"XXXVIII. Of Christian men's goods which are not common. THE riches and goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same, as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast; notwithstanding every man ought of such things as he possesseth liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability."

The names change, in the sense that jargon changes and the particular expressions of social forces change, but the same story continues; anabaptists correspond to socialists of the Rosa Luxemburg sort here (the anabaptists did a commune of sorts in Munster, and their only lasting achievement was to validate the repression that befell.)

December 24, 2005 3:15 AM  

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