Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Free Market Anti-Capitalism

Libertarianism, it seems, has taken a beating lately. Of course, that is only if you take terms like 'libertarianism' and 'free market' to means something they don't - in this case the presently exiting state capitalist plutocracy.

Some folks are genuinely confused when they find out I am not just an anarchist, but a 'free market' anarchist.

If you really want to understand the left-libertarian, free market anti-capitalist mindset, I cannot think of two better examples than these two posts by Auburn Professor Roderick T Long at Art of the Possible.


From Regulation: The Cause, Not the Cure, of the Financial Crisis :
"The bailout is just diverting resources from the productive poor and middle-class to the failed rich, which doesn’t seem like a very good idea one either ethical or economic grounds. The only good effect such a bailout could possibly have (at least if you prefer costly boondoggles without piles of dead bodies to costly boondoggles with them) is if it convinced the warmongers that they just can’t afford a global war on terror right now"
From History of an Idea :
But what if friendly politicians rig the game so that favoured companies can reap the benefits associated with economies of scale while socialising the costs associated with diseconomies of scale? Then we might just possibly end up with an economy dominated by those bloated, bureaucratic, hierarchical corporate behemoths we all know and love.

All too many libertarians still rush to defend giant corporations like Microsoft and Wal-Mart (two firms whose whole business model in fact depends heavily on government intervention – via, e.g., IP protectionism for Microsoft, eminent domain plus socialised transportation costs for Wal-Mart, and general suppression of competition from the less affluent for both) as though such a defense were part and parcel of a commitment to markets. As libertarians we can hardly complain when we’re accused of being apologists for corporate plutocracy, so long as we’re actually contributing to that perception ourselves by allowing ourselves to lose track of the basic facts about the price system that we of all people should remember.

Check out the links in both pieces and the links to Roderick, Brad Spangler and Kevin Carson in my sidebar.

Anyone that says they are libertarian and supports the bailout or government intervention of any kind is a liar.

The words 'free market' are not dirty words and libertarians are not Ayn Rand-loving apologists for the rich and powerful. Those are the 'vulgar libertarians' and are not libertarians at all.


Stefan Molyneux cuts through the guff and lays it out, plain as day. Please try to tell me after watching this insightful explanation that the current economic problems are caused by the 'free market' rather than regulations and government action. Think about it.

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At 3:29 PM, Blogger Ron said...

GREAT post, Mike but you and I gotta have a talk about Ms Rand someday. I have a phone plan so I can prattle with ya for hours at no increased cost to either of us, so let's do it.

You know me: I'm no type of corporatist, and I'm a solid market anarchist--but there is at least one major thing that *only* Objectivism got right.

That aside, I'll echo a comment I made over at RustyIdols: "[W]hat you are going to see now is both left and right *interventionists* blaming the other guy's meddling in the hope they will be able to retain their own style of meddling"

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Mike said...

LOL, yes Ron a little dig at Rand. I've tried reading "Anthem" but I'm not really a fan of her style. My whole issue is with the idea that "big business is most persecuted minority" nonsense guys like George Riesman like to spout.

I am more than open to discussing what Rand may have got right, my big issue is the cult of personality that some seem to have around her. I once mentioned on the LL2 list that I didn't think Rand was a good righter because I didn't like her style and Jeff Riggenbach went off on me for a few days. I like JR but wow...

Feel free to post what you think is the one thing Objectiovism got right...

BTW , thanks for that back up over at Cliff's.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Ron said...

I'll leave the "one thing right" till later when I'm not at work and can be clearer about it, but for now: I actually really liked Ayn Rand's writing style in Fountainhead and Shrugged--but taste is taste. For a hint as to why I liked her pedantic flow, maybe look at the cartoon on this page. I'm the guy in the glasses ;-)

As to the the cult of personality, I once heard this and it makes sense: don't judge Christ by the Christians. Now, I'm an atheist but *that* still makes sense to me :-). True Believer Objectivists make me cringe.

At 7:24 AM, Blogger Mike said...

For the record my line "Ayn Rand-loving apologists for the rich and powerful." is a play on the perceptions of most people (I guess I should have put it in quotes). I think it is entirely possible to like Rand, be a free market, anti-capitalist libertarian, and still have heavy criticism for Rand's work and some of her philosophy.

On and as for judging Christ by Christians - the inability of Christians to understand what Christ is alleged to have said and to live by those tenets was one of the things that set me on the road to atheism. I still shake my head at them about it today.


At 10:05 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Okay, so I've done a whole bunch of reading on the "real" libertarianism that you espouse and I'll take your word that's the real thing.

I liked Fountainhead for its differentiation between those who do and those who do "second-hand". I didn't care for the straw-man socialists that Rand constructed. That seemed extraordinarily childish.

My question is still this. In your version of libertarianism, would you still have a public (socialized) education system? A socialized health system? Both seem, to me, to be too dangerous to leave to the profit motive.

At 9:07 AM, Blogger Mike said...

"In your version of libertarianism, would you still have a public (socialized) education system? A socialized health system?"

Short answer:

Probably, but that depends on the free choices people make.

Long answer:

I think it depends on what you mean by "public" and "socialized". If you mean run by some agency that people have no choice but to support, no way to opt out of and no control over, than no.

If you mean cooperative medicine and education, run on a not-for-profit basis to provided service to all who subscribe, then yes, of course that would exist. As would for-profit versions (as they do today).

Even without a (coercive) government or state to create and run it, people will still want to share and reduce risk. People will still want education for their children. It is possible and likely that large segments of the population will fund these without resorting to paying large corporations.

It is in everyone's economic and social self-interest to have a healthy, educated society.

Remember to think more than just linearly...without a state, individuals will have more money (no taxes), prices will be different (no regulations that distort, more competition to bring down prices) and companies will likely be smaller (no artificial "personhood" for corporations). Roles will change.

So while there will be private hospitals, clinics, doctors and health insurance for those who choose them, there will also be not-for-profit versions - indeed not-for-profit version would have all of the advantages of our public system, while still remaining efficient because of competition form other not-for-profits and the for-profit versions.

Rather than the state, health care and education could and likely would be the benefits of union or other professional association membership.

The advantage is that you will have choice as to whom to see, where your kids get educations and can change if you feel it is needed. Tried to change your doctor lately? Tried to send your kids to a school outside your catchment area?

I believe that given free choice, most people pick the best one. (See our current abortion law as an example - we don't have one, yet even without this kind of state interference, abortions past 12 weeks are rare and abortions past 20 weeks are non-existent except when the life of the mother is in danger. Doctors will not perform them otherwise. Without any kind of law or interference, what emerged form the individual choices was a model that is agreeable to nearly everyone).

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Mike said...


I would recommend Kieth Preston's essay as well.

At 2:12 AM, Blogger Ron said...

Mr Preston's article was well worth the read, Mike.


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