Sunday, 16 July 2017

Libertarians of right and of left - and the actually existing system

Are you confused about all the labels being thrown around?
Futures Forum: Young people and the free market
Center for a Stateless Society » Who’s Confused About Capitalism?

As for one very misused label, 'Libertarianism' is generally thought to be about 'the free market', 'small government' and maximum individual liberty:
Libertarianism - Wikipedia

However, "the modern liberty movement seems much more interested in falling in line with the strictly paleoconservative brand of libertarianism promulgated by the Paul family" (Senator Rand Paul is the son of Ron, "intellectual godfather" of the Tea Party movement.).
Left Libertarianism is Real: Why Liberals Are Our Intellectual Bedfellows

An alternative view would be:

Libertarian isn’t a middle ground between left and right, nor is it transcending left and right. It’s the search for meaning in the light of an ideological vacuum that has stagnated political discourse despite ever-changing political realities. If we don’t have a state that looks out for our own interests then we need to begin doing that ourselves. The political vacuum bent on furthering the whims of political donors has failed to provide for our future or fundamental human rights, so we must do this ourselves; and thus the noblest preachment is libertarianism.
Freedom Philosophy: The Death of The Left/Right Divide - Being Libertarian

"Vulgar libertarianism"
Kevin Carson coined the pejorative term "vulgar libertarianism" to describe the use of free market rhetoric in defense of corporate capitalism and economic inequality. According to Carson, the term is derived from the phrase "vulgar political economy," which Karl Marx described as an economic order that "deliberately becomes increasingly apologetic and makes strenuous attempts to talk out of existence the ideas which contain the contradictions [existing in economic life]."
Carson writes that
Vulgar libertarian apologists for capitalism use the term "free market" in an equivocal sense: they seem to have trouble remembering, from one moment to the next, whether they’re defending actually existing capitalism or free market principles. So we get the standard boilerplate article in The Freeman arguing that the rich can’t get rich at the expense of the poor, because "that’s not how the free market works"—implicitly assuming that this is a free market. When prodded, they’ll grudgingly admit that the present system is not a free market, and that it includes a lot of state intervention on behalf of the rich. But as soon as they think they can get away with it, they go right back to defending the wealth of existing corporations on the basis of "free market principles." 
Kevin Carson - Wikipedia
Center for a Stateless Society » Kevin Carson

Certainly, the old chestnuts are being challenged
- whether 'social democracy':
Futures Forum: “The politics of austerity have been shown to be a huge failure. The principal victims of that failure are the citizens, but another victim is social democracy, which has lost its traditional political space.”

- or the 'free market':
Futures Forum: Free Market Economics and Crony Capitalism

Here are a couple of pieces which don't mince their words in challenging much of this lazy language - all of which is relevant to the two debates dominating UK politics - namely what kind of Brexit do we want and what kind of 'sharing society' we want:

On Lemon “Free Trade”

Kevin Carson January 18th, 2017

There’s a lot of disagreement in American politics — from Berniecrats, to the centrist neoliberal establishment, to right-libertarians, to nationalist reactionaries like Trump and his followers — on TPP and other trade agreements. But there’s one thing they all agree on: calling it “free trade.” And they’re all wrong.

At Reason (“The Neoliberal Era is Over,” Jan. 4), Matt Welch equates neoliberalism and trade pacts like TPP to “free trade,” and contrasts all of those things to the “mercantilism” of Trump’s US Trade Representative nominee — which should be the howler of the century for anyone aware of the mercantilist essence of neoliberal trade agreements. Right-wing nationalists (aka “fascists”) like Trump and Pence regularly claim that “free trade” and “free markets” have destroyed American manufacturing jobs. And center-left wonk Max Ehrenfreund at the Washington Post (“Trump is bringing in the big guns to roll back free trade,” Jan. 4) likewise describes Trump’s USTR pick as “rolling back free trade.”

Bull hockey.

Let’s get something straight: The capitalist state’s primary function is to serve the long-term interests of the economic ruling class. No capitalist state has ever promoted free trade, and no capitalist state will ever do so. At any given time, the capitalist state adopts a package of intervention and non-intervention that optimally serves the interests of capital. Trump is simply replacing one form of mercantilism with another.

TPP, NAFTA, the Uruguay Round of GATT, and all those other “Free Trade Agreements” don’t reduce protectionism or make trade freer at all. They simply shift state protectionist intervention away from forms that no longer serve the dominant capitalist interests, toward forms that better serve them.

What capitalist governing elites call “free market reform” or “trade liberalisation” is really just the counterpart to what was called “lemon socialism” — i.e., state policies like nationalizing industries that were vital to the functioning of the capitalist system as a whole, but that private capital no longer found sufficiently profitable to operate on their own nickel. Examples included nationalizing centrally important infrastructural industries like railroads, telegraphs, and coal. Socializing the input costs of capitalism — vocational/technical education, R&D, interstate highways, airports, supporting the surplus population rendered obsolete by capitalism, etc. — is, as James O’Connor pointed out (The Fiscal Crisis of the State) a basic function of the capitalist state.

Lemon “free market reform” or “free trade” does just the opposite. The state ceases to perform a function that no longer serves the interests of big business.

The classic example of “trade liberalism” touted by right-libertarian commentators — the repeal of the Corn Laws in 19th century Britain — is also the classic example of lemon “free trade.” This so-called “free trade” was adopted only after the British state had conquered and colonized a major part of the world and secured a monopoly on most global trade by the British merchant fleet, and the great Whig landed interests had enriched themselves and used their wealth to fund the industrial revolution. These things having been accomplished, protectionist measures like the Corn Laws no longer served their function for a capitalist class in which industrialists had largely replaced Whig agrarian capitalists as the dominant party, and operated on a global scale.

The same is true today of the neoliberal move to lower tariff barriers at national borders. A hundred years ago, the dominant American manufacturing firms supported tariff protectionism because it was in their economic interest. U.S. Steel wanted the U.S. government to restrict imports of foreign steel, protecting its steel monopoly in the domestic market. Today, tariffs no longer serve the interests of global corporations with production facilities all over the world, or with global supply chains. They actually impede the transfer of goods between national subsidiaries of corporations, or of shuffling around outsourced production within corporate supply chains.

“Intellectual property,” on the other hand, is a form of protectionism even more vital to American global corporations today than tariffs were to U.S. manufacturers a century ago. “Intellectual property” is every bit as protectionist as the tariff — it’s just enforced at the corporate boundary instead of the national boundary. It’s IP that enables Western capital no longer to actually manufacture anything, to outsource all actual production to China or Vietnam, but still maintain a legal monopoly on disposal of the product.

So TPP is actually a massive net increase in protectionism in trade barriers. It drastically increases the most economically significant form of protectionism that the dominant corporate interests’ business model most heavily relies on, while partially phasing out an obsolete form of protectionism that global capital doesn’t need any more. TPP and other such “Free Trade Agreements” are the Smoot-Hawley of “intellectual property” protectionism.

Center for a Stateless Society » On Lemon “Free Trade”

Who the Real Looters Are

Kevin Carson September 6th, 2016

If there’s one common theme that unites the economic Right — conservatives, right-libertarians and disciples of Ayn Rand — it’s that looting is bad and extremely prevalent. And they’re all pretty much agreed on who the looters are, besides. The framing has been pretty much the same going back at least to that (possibly Snopesbait) Alexander Tytler quote that appears so frequently in right-wing screeds, about democracy only lasting until “the people discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury.” The looting consists majoritarian democracies that take from the rich and industrious and give to the poor and lazy. But a couple of news items I stumbled across suggest it might be the other way around.

In right-wing propaganda, it’s always the few and the rich — the “job creators” — who enable the rest of us to live through their industry. And we ingrates punish them with new government programs to tax their honest wealth and feed our own sloth. In Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, the great capitalist titans “stopped the motor of the world” by withdrawing the thankless labor that supports us looting ingrates and retreated to the fastness of Galt’s Gulch. Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, beloved of right-libertarians, praised Rand in a 1958 letter: “You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you.”

More recently, right-wing propagandists countered Occupy Wall Street’s attack on the 1% by putting forth the counter-meme of the “53%,” in which middle class people were encouraged to identify with super-rich folks as fellow taxpayers. Mitt Romney pushed a similar “makers vs. takers” line in his 2012 presidential campaign.

And of course all the right-wing critics of Black Lives Matter focuses like a laser beam on the looting in Ferguson, which in their opinion eclipsed all the police wrong-doing in that city.

But as it turns out, all this respectability porn gets it exactly wrong. The biggest looters in America are two groups most beloved of the Right: those wonderful job-creating employers, and (please stand and take off your hats) Law Enforcement Officers. That’s right. In 2012, just the $280 million back pay actually recovered by the Department of Labor — a tiny fraction of total wage theft — exceeded the total amount stolen by ordinary, unrespectable muggers and burglers in the same period. And that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to all the people — most of them low-wage workers in service jobs — who have worked off the clock or been required to clock out during slow periods and sit in the break room waiting to clock in again. I’ve done both myself, as have around a third of American workers.

But in fact this is nothing new. Millions of people who work for a living know that, from the very beginnings of capitalism, the real “motor of the world,” the real “Atlas,” was the working class. And the looters were the landlords, capitalist and licensed monopolists, all acting through their state. The capitalist state nullified customary peasant property rights and enforced land enclosures and evictions, first in the earliest capitalist countries of Europe and then in the colonial world. Besides dispossessing working people of their own access to the means of production, they have restricted free movement and association by labor and enforced capitalist monopolies to prevent us working and producing for each other in the social economy. And having set up these toll-gates, they have extracted countless trillions from us. As the song goes, “We have fed you all for a thousand years.”

The real looters aren’t people in masks, or in work clothes. They’re people with uniforms and badges, people with suits and ties sitting around tables in boardrooms and cabinet offices, of the kind we’re encouraged to look up to and honor by every media outlet and propaganda organ in America. And it’s time for us to shrug them off and stop feeding them — to occupy the vacant land they fence off and hold unused, to stop paying rent on land whose title dates to such enclosure, to occupy factories built with wealth extracted from our labor as monopoly rents, and to disregard all patents and copyrights and other laws that restrict our freedom to produce for ourselves and freely trade and share with one another.

Free your mind.

Center for a Stateless Society » Who the Real Looters Are

Here's a little more on the subject:
Center for a Stateless Society » When is Capitalism Not Capitalism?
When is Capitalism Not Capitalism? | P2P Foundation

And here are some definitions and lists from left-libertarian groups themselves:
Center for a Stateless Society » What is Left-Libertarianism?
What is Left-Libertarianism – The Mutualist
The Political Compass - reading list - libleft
Alliance of the Libertarian Left

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