Engagement with the anagorist(s?) on free markets

This is my take on Kevin Carson’s Engagement With the Left on Free Markets recently re-posted at C4SS.

The left-styled libertarians seem to see themselves as the best of two worlds; those being “statist leftists” and “libertarian rightists,” which can also be referred to as “vulgar socialists or liberals” or “vulgar libertarians.” The implication often seems to be that either of these ideologies, minus vulgarity, equals left libertarianism. Thus, if they are effective enough with both vulgarities in their message that “you’re really one of us,” they can form a coalition of three quarters of the Political Compass™. I wish them well with that. I really do.

I’m neither a statist leftist nor a libertarian rightist. The most concise description of what I am, in plain English, is probably that which is represented by “PE>$” in the Geek Code: “Distrust both government and business.”

Carson opens with a reference to a comment by Anthony Gregory on The Market Shall Set You Free… in the NY Times? at George Mason University’s “History News Network” website:

If libertarians can explain that the right actually opposes free markets, but instead embraces corporatism and state capitalism, the battle to win them over will be half-won. One reason they don’t like markets is because people like Bush pretend to like them, but I think the left is catching on.

It’s true that one reason I don’t like markets is because people like [George W.] Bush pretend to like them, but another reason I dislike markets is because people like Bryan Caplan like them. Too many of the actually-principled right libertarians who (to their credit) actually define free-market as synonymous with voluntary, also have disgustingly elitist attitudes, such as believing that IQ is real, or that poverty is a symptom of lack of conscientiousness, or that businesspeople are more valuable members of society than intellectuals, or that American conservatives (in public opinion, not necessarily in political careers) are more commonsensical than American liberals. Would it absolutely kill left-styled libertarians and libertarians-without-adjectives to publicly distance themselves from people who brazenly declare “inequality of results” (which I believe to be a straw-man, anyway) to be a feature rather than a bug?

Mention is also made to jeanine_ring’s comment:

And there’s a *cultural* side to this too: what many leftists oppose in their antagonism to corporations into just mercantilist exploration but the heirarchical, conformist structure and “Dilbert” culture of corporate modernity.

I was never much into Dilbert, but one thing about that comic strip spoke to me quite directly—the character Catbert, the evil HR director. The idea that there’s something evil about human resources resonates very strongly with me. I am offended by the idea that competition (making the sale; HR is the most visible symbol of that) is a prerequisite for work…which in turn is a prerequisite for independence, and then solvency, de-facto political freedom, and on down the line. This appears to me to be a consequence not of “a world where corporations aren’t the specially priviledged [sic],” but of a world that recognizes the moral authority of negative liberty. The former is in inevitable, almost axiomatic, consequence of the latter. Perhaps inclusivity and freedom really are a “pick one” proposition. Perhaps I, if push comes to shove, will prioritize inclusivity over freedom. Or perhaps I’ll sacrifice myself in the name of freedom, demonstrating the fatal flaw in Objectivism.

Mention is made in Carson’s post of Robert Anton Wilson. Robert Anton Wilson managed to direct my attention to a number of subjects I usually avoid. Wilson had a sense of humor, and one of those would probably be the single most important strategic asset to those libertarians seeking engagement with non-libertarians in general.

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2 Responses to Engagement with the anagorist(s?) on free markets

  1. Todd S says:

    I used to consider myself a libertarian quite some time ago. But my thoughts on that matter eventually changed as I found more and more to be disgusted with in the overall libertarian milieu. One of my pet peeves was how libertarian writers always seemed to talk down to their audience when attempting to persuade. I think I finally realized that it wasn’t necessarily the speaker/writer so much as the subject matter. There was really no way to explain the benevolence of markets without insulting the audience’s intelligence and denying their own everyday experiences. Once I started to dig deeper in that subject matter, I came to realize that markets don’t exist in the absence of states (regulations) and that the struggle isn’t people versus state; or business versus state; or people versus business and state, but people versus institutions. And as long as institutions are held inviolate while the people they supposedly exist at the behest of are treated as little more than fuel for them, there will be no end to the cycle.

    • Josh Walker says:

      Interesting take. I came around to anarchism from the statist-left (well I was originally a right-wing Evangelical who turned statist-left) myself, so I had a natural distrust of the market form initially. As of late, I’ve become far more open to the idea of markets as a facet of an anarchist society. What it was for me was getting past the “either/or” mindset. As left-wing market anarchists define it, the “freed market” includes interactions and exchanges both on and off the market and/or cash nexus. A more individualistic conception of exchange within a cash nexus can coincide with a more communal conception of shared land, resources, etc. These two things are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Plus, even for those whose philosophy is far more individualistic, their robust idea of competition seems to preclude many of the things social anarchists are wary of (reemergence of capitalism, etc). To them, without the state the large-scale corporations of modern capitalism would not be able to exist due to the state’s current subsidization of their diseconomies of scale. Anyhow, that’s just my two-cents.

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