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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

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Libertarian Forum: A Resource for UnCapitalists?

[Note--This post originally appeared July 25, 2005 at Uncapitalist Journal. Since that blog seems to be defunct (hat tip to Matt Jenny for drawing it to my attention), I'm reproducing it here.]

Thanks to Mises.Org, The Libertarian Forum's archives are now mostly online through 1984 (hat tip to Wally Conger). That journal was started by Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess in 1969, at the time of their split with the YAF and attempted alliance with the New Left, and chronicled libertarian movement politics into the 1980s.

Although Rothbard and Hess have some claim to being called the anarcho-capitalists, there's a lot in their work that's relevant to anti-capitalists. During the late 1960s, Murray Rothbard attempted a strategic alliance between the "isolationist," small government Old Right and the New Left. That alliance culminated in a walkout of the radical libertarian/anarchist caucus from the 1969 YAF convention in St. Louis, and a meeting with similar libertarian dissidents from the SDS. The high point (or low, depending on your point of view) of the event was Hess addressing a combined audience of YAF-SDS insurgents in combat fatigues and a Wobbly pin.

Rothbard's attempted coalition with the New Left produced, among other things: his writing for Ramparts; his own periodical Left and Right; his collaboration with New Leftist Ron Radosh (now, alas, one of David Horowitz's neocon crumb-bums) in editing A New History of Leviathan (a critique of 20th century corporate liberalism); and his contributions to the James Weinstein/William Appleman Williams project Studies on the Left. Even after Rothbard's break with the New Left, it continued well into the Seventies with Hess' hippy-dippy phase: his book Community Technology, his Neighborhood Government (coauthored with David Morris), and his "Plowboy Interview" in Mother Earth News.

It also resulted in some great writing by Rothbard and Hess in the first couple years of Libertarian Forum. For example, these 1969 passages by Karl Hess Hess should give pause to vulgar libertarians who identify "free market" principles with pro-corporate apologetics, as well as those on the left who dismiss all libertarians as "pot-smoking Republicans":

The truth, of course, is that libertarianism wants to advance principles of property but that it in no way wishes to defend, willy nilly, all property which now is called private.

Much of that property is stolen. Much is of dubious title. All of it is deeply intertwined with an immoral, coercive state system which has condoned, built on, and profited from slavery; has expanded through and exploited a brutal and aggressive imperial and colonial foreign policy, and continues to hold the people in a roughly serf-master relationship to political-economic power concentrations.

Libertarians are concerned, first and foremost, with that most valuable of properties, the life of each individual. That is the property most brutally and constantly abused by state systems whether they are of the right or left. Property rights pertahing to material objects are seen by libextarlans as stemming from and as importantly secondary to rfie right to own, direct, and enjoy one's own life and those appurtenances thereto which may be acquired without coercion....

This is a far cry from sharing common ground with those who want to create a society in which super-capitalists are free to amass vast holdings and who say that that is ultimately the most important purpose of freedom. This is proto-heroic nonsense.

Libertarianism is a people's movement and a liberation movement. It seeks the sort of open, non-coercive society in which the people, the living, free, distinct people may voluntarily associate, dis-associate, and, as they see fit, participate in the decisions affecting their lives. This means a truly free market in everything from ideas to idiosyncrasies. It means people free collectively to organize the resources of their immediate community or individualistically to organize them; it means the freedom to have a community-based and supported judiciary where wanted, none where not, or private arbitration services where that is seen as most desirable. The same with police. The same with schools, hospitals, factories, farms, laboratories, parks, and pensions. Liberty means the right to shape your own institutions. It opposes the right of those institutions to shape you simply because of accreted power or gerontological status.

As examples of the concerns of such a "people's libertarianism," Hess proposed a series of questions for the libertarian movement to address, of special interest to the poor and powerless:

Libertarians could and should propose specific revolutionary tactics and goals which would have specific meaning to poor people and to all people; to analyze in depth and to demonstrate in example the meaning of liberty, revolutionary liberty to them.

I, for one, earnestly beseech such thinking from my comrades.

The proposals should take into account the revolutionary treatment of stolen 'private' and 'public' property in libertarian, radical, and revolutionary terms; the factors which have oppressed people so far, and so forth....

Let me propose just a few examples of the sort of specific, revolutionary and radical questions to which members of our Movement might well address themselves.

--Land ownership and/or usage in a situation of declining state power.... And what about (realistically, not romantically) water and air pollution liability and prevention?

--Worker, share-owner, community roles or rights in productive facilities in terms of libertarian analysis and asspecific proposals in a radical and revolutionary context. What, for instance, might or should happen to General Motors in a liberated society?

Of particular interest, to me at any rate, is focusing libertarian analysis and ingenuity on finishing the great unfinished business of the abolition of slavery. Simply setting slaves free, in a world still owned by their masters, obviously was an historic inequity. (Libertarians hold that the South should have been permitted to secede so that the slaves themselves, along with their Northern friends, could have built a revolutionary liberation movement, overthrown the masters, and thus shaped the reparations of revolution.) Thoughts of reparations today are clouded by concern that it would be taken out against innocent persons who in no way could be connected to former oppression. There is an area where that could be avoided: in the use of government-'owned' lands and facilities as items of exchange in compensating the descendants of slaves and making it possible for them to participate i n the communities of the land, finally, as equals and not wards.

In an article in the same issue ("Confiscation and the Homestead Principle"), Rothbard dealt with Hess' question of what should happen to GM in a liberated society (that's not exactly the sort of question you imagine most self-described "libertarians" asking these days, is it?).

Rothbard started out with the question of what should be done with state property. His answer was quite different from that of today's vulgar libertarians ("Why, sell it to a giant corporation, of course, on terms most advantageous to the corporation!"). According to Rothbard, since state ownership of property is in principle illegitimate, all property currently "owned" by the government is really unowned. And since the rightful owner of any piece of unowned property is, in keeping with radical Lockean principles, the first person to occupy it and mix his or her labor with it, it follows that government property is rightfully the property of whoever is currently occupying and using it. That means, for example, that state universities are the rightful property of either the students or faculties, and should either be turned into student consumer co-ops, or placed under the control of scholars' guilds.

Combine this principle with some recent work by Carlton Hobbs on the commons as a good libertarian form of property, and by Roderick Long on the legitimate role of public (as opposed to state) property in a free market society, and you get all sorts of interesting ideas on the potential for cooperative ownership of currently state-owned utilities, schools, hospitals, and other services. In principle, it sounds an awful lot like Proudhon's project (in General Idea of the Revolution) of "devolving the state into the social body." In practice, it might look something like Larry Gambone's proposals for "mutualizing" social services.

If this wasn't provocative enough, Rothbard tentatively applied the same principle to the (theatrical gasp) private sector! First he raised the question of nominally "private" universities that got most of their funding from the state, like Columbia. Surely it was only a "private" college "in the most ironic sense." And therefore, it deserved "a similar fate of virtuous homesteading confiscation."

Once on the slippery slope, Rothbard couldn't stop:

But if Columbia University, what of General Dynamics? What of the myriad of corporations which are integral parts of the military-industrial complex, which not only get over half or sometimes virtually all their revenue from the government but also participate in mass murder? What are their credentials to "private" property? Surely less than zero. As eager lobbyists for these contracts and subsidies, as co-founders of the garrison stare, they deserve confiscation and reversion of their property to the genuine private sector as rapidly as possible. To say that their "private" property must be respected is to say that the property stolen by the horsethief and the murderer must be "respected."

But how then do we go about destatizing the entire mass of government property, as well as the "private property" of General Dynamics? All this needs detailed thought and inquiry on the part of libertarians. One method would be to turn over ownership to the homesteading workers in the particular plants; another to turn over pro-rata ownership to the individual taxpayers. But we must face the fact that it might prove the most practical route to first nationalize the property as a prelude to redistribution. Thus, how could the ownership of General Dynamics be transferred to the deserving taxpayers without first being nationalized enroute? And, further more, even if the government should decide to nationalize General Dynamics--without compensation, of course-- per se and not as a prelude to redistribution to the taxpayers, this is not immoral or something to be combatted. For it would only mean that one gang of thieves--the government--would be confiscating property from another previously cooperating gang, the corporation that has lived off the government. I do not often agree with John Kenneth Galbraith, but his recent suggestion to nationalize businesses which get more than 75% of their revenue from government, or from the military, has considerable merit. Certainly it does not mean aggression against private property, and, furthermore, we could expect a considerable diminution of zeal from the military-industrial complex if much of the profits were taken out of war and plunder. And besides, it would make the American military machine less efficient, being governmental, and that is surely all to the good. But why stop ar 75%? Fifty per cent seems to be a reasonable cutoff point on whether an organization is largely public or largely private.

By this standard, I would argue, just about any large corporation in an oligopoly market deserves to be seized by its workers. As I argued in Chapter Six of Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, virtually the entire large corporate sector of the economy is a branch of the state. It has externalized a large part of its operating costs on the taxpayer, through direct and indirect government subsidy. It has been cartelized and protected from competition, through government regulation.

Rothbard himself suggested as much himself at times: "[O]ur corporate state uses the coercive taxing power either to accumulate corporate capital or to lower corporate costs."

And certainly some of Rothbard's heirs have developed a very radical analysis of state capitalism. For example, Walter Grinder and John Hagel proposed a libertarian class theory in which the ruling class clusters around the central banks and the large corporations affiliated with them. And Joseph Stromberg has put a Misean spin on left-wing theories of monopoly capital and imperialism (in "The Role of State Monopoly Capitalism in the American Empire").

As Brad Spangler argued, the nominally "private sector" corporate beneficiaries of state capitalism are just as much a part of the statist ruling class as those officially drawing a government salary:

...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.

So, it seems to me, we have (in the work of Rothbard and Hess in their leftish phase) the working basis for a revolutionary coalition of free market libertarians and libertarian socialists:

*Syndicalist seizure of large enterprises (the Fortune 500 might be a useful proxy) by radical industrial unions.

*The devolution of government services, as quickly as possible, to local, cooperative ownership.

*The elimination of all corporate welfare and government subsidies, and the provision of roads and utilities on a cost-basis to those who use them (which would of course mean a radical decentralization of the economy, an end to suburban sprawl, and the growth of small-scale production for local markets).

*The nullification of all property titles based on government grants of large tracts of land, never actually appropriated by the grantee's direct occupancy and use; and the homesteading of all such unowned land on the basis of "the land to the tiller."

*The elimination of all legal barriers to the formation of mutual banks, by which working people can mobilize their own low-interest credit for cooperative enterprises, self-employment, etc.

*The elimination of all patent laws, which enable large corporations to cartelize their industries by controlling modern production technology among themselves.

*The treatment of scarce resources like aquifers, fisheries, mines, and old-growth forests as a socially-owned commons, with access regulated by the local community.

*The replacement of environmental and other regulatory laws with cost-based fees for access to natural resources, and common law tort damages for pollution and other impositions of cost.

*A totally free and unregulated market between the worker-controlled large enterprises, consumer and producer co-ops, social service mutuals, family farms and small businesses, and the self-employed.

The final goal would be a society in which (in Benjamin Tucker's words) "the natural wage of labor in a free market is its product," and all transactions--whether trade or gift--are voluntary exchanges of labor-product between producers.


wrote: I have been reading some Rothbard's stuff recently. His "Confessions of a Right Wing Liberal" is quick snippet of his ideas. Of particular interest these days is a 'graph in that essay:

"On the domestic front, virtually the only conservative interests are to suppress Negroes ("shoot looters," "crush those riots"), to call for more power for the police so as not to "shield the criminal" (i.e., not to protect his libertarian rights), to enforce prayer in the public schools, to put Reds and other subversives and "seditionists" in jail and to carry on the crusade for war abroad.

"The right wing, once in determined opposition to Big Government, has now become the conservative wing of the American corporate state and its foreign policy of expansionist imperialism."

-- M Rothbard, Ramparts, VI, 4, June 15, 1968

presto wrote: Well said, Kevin. Definitely worth further study. Seems to be a good basis for a fair transition to an UnCapitalist economy.


Blogger Mupetblast said...

"As I argued in Chapter Six of Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, virtually the entire large corporate sector of the economy is a branch of the state. It has externalized a large part of its operating costs on the taxpayer, through direct and indirect government subsidy. It has been cartelized and protected from competition, through government regulation."

I don't consider indirect subsidies, such as tax exemptions, to be on par with direct subsidies. In the case of the former, the degree of phony success that can be attributed to state power is only guesswork, whereas in the latter case we can just look at the numbers. This is important if we use, for instance, Rothbard's measure of "50%-or-more-state-privelege-created" rendering an enterprise unowned property.
And that's simply the technical problem. The matter of guilt for being the recipient of "indirect subsidies" is another matter. Taking advantage of intellectual property laws - freedom restricting as they are - is not the same as recieving tax monies. Conceivably an IP law may have little to no effect whatsoever, and is not necessarily of the beneficiary's making, whereas taxes involve money most certainly being taken from one and given to another.

February 08, 2007 5:23 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

I understand the distinction in principle between a direct subsidy and a tax exemption, but the practical effects are pretty much the same. It gives the same competitive advantage to those engaged in the favored activity, as if you started out with a tax rate of zero and then imposed a punitive tax rate only on those not engaged in that activity.

I actually think it's *worse* to follow a business model that relies on IP than to take a direct subsidy. A business that accepts a subsidy gets some competitive advantage over its rivals at taxpayer expense. But IP means to forcibly excluding rivals from the market altogether. Taking a subsidy is almost petty compared to the filthy thuggery of the RIAA, MPAA, and other copyright Nazis.

February 08, 2007 7:46 PM  
Blogger freeman said...

The subject of tax exemptions and whatnot reminds me of a study of WalMart's status as a corporate welfare queen that I discovered via Brad Spangler's blog today.

the full study
short summary of the study

Are all of these various tax exemptions and credits also offered to all of WalMart's competitors, including the mom & pop stores that are often threatened by big box behemoths like WalMart? Nope.

These exemptions are used to promote a particular business model, one that is seen as preferable to crooked local governments, at the expense of other models.

It may not be welfare, but it certainly seems to be an example of blatant political privilege that further distorts the market.

February 08, 2007 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KC, the practical effects of a direct (true) subsidy and an indirect one are the same on the subjects of them, but there are huge differences elsewhere.

For one thing, there are no cash flow issues getting in the way of setting up indirect subsidies, so governments can implement more easily. The same even applies if you use the word "subsidy" more loosely than with a true subsidy which requires cash, e.g. saying "Senator Morill [spelling?] subsidised colleges of education with land grants and land-backed issues of certificates".

The lack of looking wider is what leaves out most of the problems (and potential benefits) of subsidies, e.g. with Pigovian subsidies. I have myself suggested these as a transitional way of getting rid of "natural" unemployment, but a true cash subsidy approach would be thoroughly impractical. In fact, there would be a practical difference between my NPT and a GUI (Guaranteed Universal or Basic Income), apart from the fact that it actually needs lower levels. That is that the point of impact is very different, which has large short term (but lasting, if topped up) effects. You may not be able to implement a direct subsidy everywhere an indirect one can go, and vice versa.

February 08, 2007 9:58 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Great article Kevin...I was definitely unaware of ts side of Rothbard. I will certainly save that quote from thebhc - it describes the Republicans in the US and the Conservatives here in Canada perfectly, even 40 years later....

February 09, 2007 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to disagree strongly with Rothbard's suggestion of seizing private businesses, much for the same reason I oppose the death penalty.

I think the death penalty is the just and proper punishment for murder. However, I've seen no system of justice that I trust well enough to implement such a policy without killing innocent men. The recent introduction of DNA evidence into capital cases - and the subsequent freeing of dozens of men - should give a chill to anyone but the biggest right-wing shitheads.

By the same token, it may indeed be just to confiscate the private property of state-backed corporations and to distribute it to its workers. However, I don't trust that such a system could stop at the unjust corporations. Legitimate businesses end up being confiscated, and, in the extreme, you get Stalinism. For the state-backed corporations, the best remedy is, simply, to end the state's systems of privilege. General Dynamics will be at the fire sale on Day One, 9 a.m. EST, of a country without a military-industrial complex.

All power, perhaps the well-intentioned power most of all, is frightening and dangerous. Revolutionary power is no different. A revolutionary force big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away.

(insert standard disagreement about intellectual property)

- Josh

February 10, 2007 9:20 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

"By the same token, it may indeed be just to confiscate the private property of state-backed corporations and to distribute it to its workers. However, I don't trust that such a system could stop at the unjust corporations. Legitimate businesses end up being confiscated, and, in the extreme, you get Stalinism."

That thought crossed my mind when I read it too. Perhaps "confiscation" is too harsh a route (since it requires a 'confiscator'). Perhaps refusing to recognize corporations as legitimate entities will be enough, forcing partnerships and cooperative ownership of these businesses as a result. I think with the state and its assets taken care of, these kinds of corporations may not have much choice - without the the state to enforce their artificial position of power, they will have no choice but to adapt or die. So sections, departments and other parts of the hierarchy simply get taken over by the workers and operate as separate cooperative businesses as part of a larger cooperative organization. Or the workers simply walk away.

I suspect a few would resort to hiring "Pinkertons" style goons to try to enforce their dominion privately, but I suspect that would not last too long in the face of resistance from the people.

Just a thought anyway.

February 12, 2007 6:16 AM  
Blogger Shawn P. Wilbur said...

There is a tradition among individualists of distinguishing between abstract right, individual rights, and what is consistent with equal liberty, which is probably one of our few good guides when it comes to questions like "confiscation." Tucker's "Right and Individual Rights" is part of the earlier conversation. In it, he defends the right of making "bad" contracts, without simply excusing the conditions which may have influenced their "badness." Some of our vulgar libertarian comrades could use some of these nuances when they talk about what constitutes a "voluntary" arrangement.

February 12, 2007 6:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*The treatment of scarce resources like aquifers, fisheries, mines, and old-growth forests as a socially-owned commons, with access regulated by the local community.

*The replacement of environmental and other regulatory laws with cost-based fees for access to natural resources, and common law tort damages for pollution and other impositions of cost."

I have a strong emotional bias towards the localized, decentralized model propounded by Mr. Carter. I have my doubts, though.

I'm just not sure how I understand how these programs would work-especially the latter point. What does "scoially owned commons" mean if it subject to local control only? What if the local control means strip mining a mountainside for coal (or uranium), destroying the regional benefits of habitat preservation or river watershed protection? How about a local community who decides to dam a river, depriving all of the downstream users of any water?

As for pollution-By whom and how will these costs and fees be determined? By what authority? Given the extremely long term and often subtle and insidious realities of environmental impacts (toxins, for example), how would the tort system work? Who would set up a court system to enforce tort decisions on long distance actors?

By no means am I claiming that government regulation is flawless (I should know, working in the "enemy" :) camp), but....

February 13, 2007 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wild Pegasus:

I am not a supporter of death penalty myself, but I don't see killing a murderer by death penalty (the major intention being punishment or not) principly morally different from killing the same murderer in immidiate self defence. As in your case I am critical of death penalty because of the risk of killing innocent men. If one can get away with putting the murderer in jail without imposing oneself to a great risk, which would be the case in a situation where the murderer made up an immidiate threat and had pushed someone up in a corner, i think that the use of death penalty is irrational (on the grounds of "law security").

But unless goverment is to settle if taking the risk of killing an innocent man in any situation is legitimate, should it not be up to the individual by himself or in vouluntary accociation with others to decide if the risk is worth taking or not?

Is it not because of the individuals valuing of different alternatives up against each other in the first place that immidiate self defense against a murderer (even if it necceceraly involves killing him) is generally viewed as acceptable, while death penalty where the disadvantages often seem to outweight the advantages (that there is little to gain from killing the murderer rather than ie. putting him in jail, on the ground on law security and the risk of having to stand responsible for killing an innocent man) is often viewed as unacceptable? To me it seems like it is the valuing or reasoning of the individual (gains contra losses) in the first place that makes it seem desirable to use the least dramatical or unsafe means neccecary to put an end to the threat imposed by another person, or in taking compensation for illegitemate acions (theft, etc).

Taking confiscation for theft/robbery by force, punishing someone for a crime, etc, always involves a risk (you are never 100% sure that you take the right person), but is does not become Stalinism until you begin to take the wrong persons. The risk only asserts (as one of many factors) how likely the act is to involve into Stalinism (or a two-sided Israel-Palestina-like war), it does not constitute Stalinism or illigimacy in itself.

I hope I made my point clear. (this is not my first languege, so exuse the wierd words and expressions)

Norwegian fellow

February 13, 2007 2:39 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


That's a good study. I think Target and Costco and some of the other big box stores do the same thing when their local political weight is sufficient. But it's obviously a big box thing, not something the mom 'n' pop stores can do.

PM Lawrence,

If it's true that indirect subsidies don't involve cash flow issues, in a sense they're worse than direct subsidies. They have the same effect on the subsidized and un-subsidized businesses, and yet don't interfere with government's spending power elsewhere. I wonder how much difference there is, though, since tax deductions are (by common terminology) "tax expenditures": they just reduce incoming revenue instead of increase expenditures.


Your caveat about state seizure is well-taken. I think the idea was that nationalization would simply be a brief stage in a rapid process by which the state dismantled the state capitalist framework and then dismantled itself, shortly after the "commanding heights" had been seized by libertarians. But it was probably an outlying position for Rothbard, even during the period when he was consistently in favor of some sort of seizure. I'd prefer to see it done spontaneously from below, by some sort of radical unions.

Interestingly, Tucker commented on something similar himself. Late in life he believed that the four monopolies had been in place so long that simply removing them would not reverse the effects. Corporate capitalism was headed for an unavoidable crisis that would be resolved only by revolutionary violence, and his version of individualist anarchism was something to be preserved in the catacombs until after the catastrophe. He considered some sort of violent "expropriation of the expropriators" to be possibly a valid strategy for the revolutionary upheaval, but largely irrelevant to the end state he desired.


I think they're trying to avoid such nuances--if you'll pardon the Carrollism--with both hands.


You have a point about the practical aspects of local management. I'm trying to balance such concerns with the need to avoid the entity administering common property looking too much like a government. And the larger the area over which it operates, and the more stable the personnel administering it, the closer it gets to that line. But if you start with some sort of geolib theory of property rights in scarce natural resources, I guess any such body can be legitimately described as simply administering things rather than exercising sovereignty over people.

The other side to what you're saying, though, is implied the Norwegian fellow's comment. Even if some association operating over a large area is simply exercising the same powers that would be legitimate in an individual, at some point it becomes government-like as to make no difference. As Nozick observed, it's hard to draw a definite line beyond which a body ceases to exercise individuals' rights in common, and begins to initiate force on behalf of a sovereign community.

Norwegian fellow,

I think Josh's point is that when an individual kills in self-defense, he's a lot less likely to keep on killing based on some vague possibility that lots of people are conceivably a threat. And if he does cross that line, it's a lot easier to stop him without the danger that a majority will be persuaded that he's acting with some kind of unique moral authority.

February 13, 2007 7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think some of the scholarship coming out of the mutualist/libertarian movement is outstanding. I wonder if that is due to the fact that libertarians have carved a niche for themselves in academia and government?

Personally, I come from an earth first! background. The anarchists in our group were either class war or primitivists. Do you include such folks in your def of anarchists? I know that many of these green and class war @'s often have a knee-jerk reaction to libertarians. I think it boils down to a lack of understanding of their part. This was certainly the case with myself. I still don't understand economics very well. I think alot of us just feel very frustrated with life. For better or worse, we connect some of this frustration to society.

I one point I was fiercely anti-capitalist in every sense. Now, however, I dont' see socialism as an antidote. I think it is merely another sympton of greater malady. I really think production/industrialism is the problem. Why would workers go to the factory if they didn't have to? I don't think they would. If they did they would still be obeying the boss in their head. I think Marx's most enlightening passages were in deep tension with industrialism. This was a contradiction that he resolved in favor of industrialism in his most important works. Of course, industrialism/production provides so many benefits, it is difficult to seriously question it. I don't know that I can. That leaves me in a hopeless situation: I despise it (or many of its effects), but I refuse to reject it.

I don't know if this makes sense.
-a fellow traveler

February 14, 2007 9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would suggest that a key problem with Rothbard's position is that it fails to take into account how the capitalists *as a class* have benefited from state intervention (it is a capitalist state, after all). At best he suggests that *some* workers can "homestead" some corporations with significant links to the state (e.g. defence corporations). Yet, *all* capitalists benefit from the various interventions by the state (for example, by maintaining a "natural" rate of unemployment or laws creating corporations). In other words, he sees individual capitalists at fault but not the system as a whole.

As the working class, as a class, has been dispossessed of both the means of life and the product of their labour, an abstract individualistic (dare I say, capitalist?) position like rothbard's cannot comprehend the problem, never mind solve it (you can see that from Rothbard's "Ethics of Liberty"). At least people like Tucker and Yarros saw that it was a *class* system and issue.

As for fear of "confiscation" since it requires a "confiscator," I'm surprised to see this here. Surely the "confiscators" will be those who actually work in these establishments? Libertarian social change comes from below (I obviously use the term "libertarian" in the correct sense of libertarian socialist). In other words, there are no "legitimate businesses" unless they are already worker-owned and worker-run.

It is interesting to see a right-"libertarian" state that their's is a people's movement and one of liberation. It had hardly panned out that way, has it? Quite the reverse, it has managed to cosey up quite nicely to corporate capitalism. I would suggest that this is not that surprising, as the whole ideology is based on defence of private property and the social hierarchies it generates. It simply cannot be a people's movement as its roots are in capitalist ideology.

As such, I admire Kevin's attempts to expose vulgar libertarianism but I feel that he is simply showing how incompatible right-"libertarian" ideology is with all types of anarchism. that is, most of "libertarian" ideology is vulgar for good reason -- that is where it comes from...


February 19, 2007 3:45 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

"Yet, *all* capitalists benefit from the various interventions by the state "

True enough. And without the state as its enforcer, no modern corporation as we now know them would survive, as I stated above. They would either be taken over by their workers, as you state, devolve into smaller, decentralized businesses or, if they were already small, become cooperatives or partnerships. In other words, without the state, capitalists as we know it would cease to be.

"As for fear of "confiscation" since it requires a "confiscator," I'm surprised to see this here. Surely the "confiscators" will be those who actually work in these establishments?"

Again, yes, as I have stated, I think it would go that way at any rate. My fear of "confiscators" was directly linked to the Josh's comment above, which was directed at the Rothbard quote, because the language implied a third party (and yes, pun intended) to over see the confiscation and redistribution, rather than the employees simply taking over.

I think we are violently agreeing, in other words.

February 19, 2007 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No modern corporation - but remember, the modern corporation developed from the various East Indies companies (Dutch, French, English...) that provided their own working environments. The only legal protection they ever got was back in their home countries, where the profits were taken. Most of what they did, they didn't get from the state.

February 20, 2007 9:52 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

"Most of what they did, they didn't get from the state."

Except that their very existence, even to the companies you mention and our Hudson's Bay Company here in Canada (which at one point "owned" most of Canada as we know it), is by state decree. They were given monopoly by their charters. In Canada, at least, first the French, then the English garrisons were used to protect this trade from competitors in the present US.

Indeed, one could have considered them extensions of the state, just as privateers were a mere extension of the British Navy for the sake of war with Spain.

I think they would become mutual partnerships, although the idea that a non-human entity owning property would need to be revisited. After all, they only got that privilege by fiat of the state.

February 21, 2007 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

`Except that their very existence, even to the companies you mention and our Hudson's Bay Company here in Canada (which at one point "owned" most of Canada as we now it), is by state decree.'

No. You have bought into precisely the state argument that it doesn't "really" exist unless it has legal recognition, a bit like saying that people aren't "really" married if they only have a religious service.

The companies existed just as much as, say, the Catalan Grand Company did when looting Greece. Legal recognition mattered at home, so they could take their profits - which made Amsterdam a thieves' kitchen for the VOI and so made it viable in the longer term - but most of what it did was just as workable as, say, when Morgan organised the pirates to raid the Spanish Main.

February 21, 2007 10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't reason to exclude Earth First! types, as such, from a definition of anarchism; Ed Abbey belonged to those circles, and considered himself an anarchist, didn't he? I'd probably have problems with a lot of how Earth First! defines "self-defense" and "aggression," though--but there are plenty of subgroups in the anarchist milieu that I regard as similar cause for concern.


I agree that Rothbard failed to consider the benefits of statism to capitalists as a class (for the most part, anyway--he argued that some forms of state intervention had the general effect of increasing the marginal value of capital relative to labor). That ties in with what I regard as his incorrect views on many issues of profit and interest. But (landlordism aside, and even there his radical Lockeanism overlaps considerably in its practical effects with occupancy-and-use) he had no objection to allowing the kinds of institutions Tuckerites believe would destroy the power of capital to derive economic rents. His disagreement was more with the practical effects of such legal changes.

--Kevin Carson

March 13, 2007 11:59 AM  
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March 26, 2007 9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To many "Mutualists" are just Ancaps in disguise. You can identify such poseurs when they start talking about the great many similarities they have with Rothbard who was about 180 degrees from social Anarchism.

July 16, 2011 12:26 AM  

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