Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘left-libertarianism’

The Two Lefts

In Austrian Economics, Big Brother, Guantanamo, Immigration, Iraq War, Libertarian, Nanny State, Politics, Torture, War on September 11, 2009 at 6:50 am

I have some running thoughts that I’d like to share on the nature of the left-wing.  This post shan’t be well-formulated, I must warn the reader.  It will not constitute good writing.  It won’t even be well-argued, since my intention is not to prove that I am right, but rather merely to quickly and effortlessly convey the thoughts swimming through my head at the moment.  Let us begin.

We learn from Rothbard in 1965 that libertarians and classical liberals are members of the true, radical left.  Richman, in 2007, makes the point that “[o]ne could say that the Left itself had left and right wings, with the laissez-fairists on the left-left and the state socialists on the right-left.”

McElroy, in 1982, points out that libertarianism has grown thanks to the introduction of Austrian economic thought, particularly the introduction of the subjective theory of value.  It’s essentially the same libertarianism that existed in the nineteenth century, and it’s just as individualistic today as it’s ever been, but it now has a better foundation in understanding the nature of value.

I often make the point, particularly when I’m speaking to conservatives, that there are two rights and two lefts, an anti-establishment right exemplified by the likes of Ron Paul and a pro-establishment right exemplified by the likes of G. W. Bush.  On the left, I would say there is an anti-establishment left exemplified by the likes of Mike Gravel and a pro-establishment left exemplified by the likes of Barack Obama.

But really I’m being disingenuous.  Ron Paul and Mike Gravel both occupy the same place on the spectrum: the left.  Neither are on the absolute left, where I am and where Rothbard, McElroy, and Richman more or less are, but they are both certainly on the left.  Likewise, both Bush and Obama occupy the same place on the spectrum: the right.  Neither are as far right as Mussolini or Mao, but both are certainly on the right.

So we find ourselves with two lefts, an anti-establishment left (the libertarians) and a pro-establishment “left” (the pseudo-“liberals”).

Enter John Markley, who recently wrote on his blog: “I expected most of the American Left to lose interest in the war issue once Obama was in office, and especially once Obama started to escalate American military efforts in Afghanistan.  Similarly, I expected them to start finding torture, attacks on civil liberties, and unrestrained executive power much less bothersome once they were wielding those weapons themselves.  Perhaps above all else, I expected their whole ‘dissent is patriotic’ shtick to fade away as well.  However, I really didn’t expect the change to be quite so abrupt.  It’s a demonstration of an important lesson libertarians need to keep in mind—neither liberals nor conservatives are actually very good on the issues they’re supposedly on the right side of.”

Liberals, with whom do you want to associate?  The establishment “left” that tells us we must “respect the office of the presidency”?  The pro-war “liberals”?  The so-called “left” that want you to believe it is unpatriotic to question the government or to yell at politicians (whether at townhall meetings or elsewhere)?  The so-called “liberals” who are only outraged at oppressive government when the red team is at the helm, not also when it is the blue team at the helm?

Or would you rather associate with us radicals, we who fail to see the difference between Obama’s statism and Bush’s statism, we who still believe that dissent is patriotic, we who mourn the deaths in Afghanistan, we who demand that Guantánamo be shut down this week instead of a year from now, we who refuse to support a man who voted in favour of illegal wiretapping and renewing the USA PATRIOT Act, we who believe that this administration doesn’t care about homosexuals?  Sure, by siding with us, you will be siding with people who reject Obamacare, but at least we don’t reject it for the same reasons as the right.  We don’t reject it out of some irrational fear of immigrants being treated as equals in our society, we oppose it because we reject the underlying tenets of imperialism and statism.  We reject it because we are consistent.

Liberals, you have every reason to join us libertarians on the radical left.  After all, unlike the establishment “left,” we’ll never ask you to pledge your loyalty and servitude to the president, regardless of to which party she belonged.  All we ask is that you never initiate force or fraud against your fellow human, that you never hire some gang to initiate force or fraud against your fellow human, and that you never ask a government to initiate force or fraud against your fellow human.

Hopefully you will join us because—that other “left”?—they are looking more and more like the right every day.

—Alexander S. Peak

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Wal-Mart Embraces Fascism

In Corruption, Economics, Health, Media, Personal Responsibility, US Government on July 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Wal-Mart embraces fascism.

Is this claim too extreme?  Am I guilty of hyperbole?  In this case, I think not.

According to the 1 July 2009 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart, the largest “private” employer in the United States, is backing a federal initiative that would require employers to provide health insurance to workers.1

There are many reasons to oppose such a requirement—especially if you are a member of the working class.  As John Stossel writes,

Why on earth would we want mandated insurance from employers?!  Do our employers pay for our food, clothing or shelter?  If they did, why would that be good?  Having my health care tied to my boss invites him to snoop into my private health issues, and if I change jobs I lose coverage.  Employer paid health insurance isn’t free.  It just means we get insurance instead of higher salaries.2

According to Ms. Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, “four in ten Americans change their job every year. ”3  This makes employment-based healthcare all the more problematic for workers.  Moreover, Mr. Neil Trautwein with the National Retail Federation has described the employer mandate as “the single most destructive thing you could do to the health-care system shy of a single-payer system.”4

But the undesirability of employment-based health coverage does not alone make Wal-Mart’s Tuesday announcement a support for fascism.  To understand more clearly why the move is in a fascistic direction, we must first know what fascism is.

Fascism is an ideology that holds the state to be the supreme organisation in and engine or society, outside of which all else and everyone else is unimportant.  Mr. Sheldon Richman defines its economic system as “socialism with a capitalist veneer,” one that seeks to control the means of production “indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners.  …[F]ascism [nationalized property] implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the ‘national interest’—that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it.  (Nevertheless, a few industries were operated by the state.)”5

Perhaps the best description of the fascist economic model comes from John T. Flynn, who described the system in detail in chapter ten of his 1944 classic As We Go Marching.  The first explicitly fascist state, Italy under Mussolini, established corporatives to direct economic activity and production.  Flynn defines fascist system as “(1) a capitalist type of economic organization, (2) in which the government accepts responsibility to make the economic system work at full energy, (3) using the device of state-created purchasing power effected by means of government borrowing and spending, and (4) which organizes the economic life of the people into industrial and professional groups to subject the system to control under the supervision of the state.”6

Does the federal state’s most recent initiative take us fully into fascism?  Probably not, but it is certainly a step in that direction.

So why, then, would a business want to see the central state usurp greater degrees of power?  The state offers to Big Business what it cannot achieve on the free market: the means to keep out competition.  As historian Gabriel Kolko wrote,

The dominant fact of American political life at the beginning of this century was that big business led the struggle for the federal regulation of the economy.

If economic rationalization could not be attained by mergers and voluntary economic methods, a growing number of important businessmen reasoned, perhaps political means might succeed.7

Kolko’s main thesis is that it was big business that spearheaded governmental regulation of business during the Progressive Era.  The same happens today, and can be exemplified in Wal-Mart’s recent decision.

The Wall Street Journal explains Wal-Mart’s motivation in benign-sounding terms:  “Wal-Mart—which provides insurance to employees”—“wants to level the playing field with companies that don’t.”8  This is a sugary way of saying that Wal-Mart wishes to use the aggressive controls of the state to force firms smaller than it to provide what they may or may not have the resources to provide.  Those firms that are unable to continue operating under the state’s new regulations will, of course, be forced to go out of business (unless they’re able to procure bailouts—this is also problematic), thus leaving less firms with whom Wal-Mart will need to compete.  This is bad not only for workers but also for consumers.

We shouldn’t really be surprised by Wal-Mart’s recent move.  As Mr. Lew Rockwell reported in 2005, Wal-Mart called for an increase to the minimum wage so as to impose a higher cost on smaller competitors.  As Rockwell wrote, “if Wal-Mart can successfully lobby the government to abolish lower-wage firms, it has taken a huge step toward running out its competition.”9

That Wal-Mart would again advocate statist interventions that it knows it can overcome but that its competitors will have more difficulty overcoming goes to show what little Wal-Mart has in way of business ethics.

Notes

1 Janet Adamy and Ann Zimmerman, “Wal-Mart Backs Drive to Make Companies Pay for Health Coverage,” The Wall Street Journal CCLIII, no. 152 (Wednesday, July 1, 2009): A1, A4.

2 John Stossel, “Health Insurance Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be: Mandating Medical Coverage May Sound Good, but You’ve Got to Read the Fine Print,” ABC News, October 16, 2006, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/PrescriptionForChange/story?id=2574980&page=1 (accessed July 1, 2009).

3 John Stossel, “Whose Body is it, Anyway?: Sick in America,” 20/20, September 14, 2007.

4 Adamy and Zimmerman, op. cit., A4.

5 Sheldon Richman, “Fascism,” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Fascism.html (accessed July 1, 2009).

6 John T. Flynn, “What is Fascism?” in As We Go Marching (orig. 1944; New York, N.Y.: Free Life Editions, Inc., 1973), pp. 54–55.

7 Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900–1916, (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1963), pp. 57–58.  Butler Shaffer picks up where Kolko leaves off with Butler Shaffer, In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938, (orig. 1997; Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, Inc., 1999).

8 Adamy and Zimmerman, op. cit., A1.

9 Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., “Wal-Mart Warms to the State,” Mises Daily, December 28, 2005, http://mises.org/story/1950 (accessed July 1, 2009).

—Alexander S. Peak

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