They Came At Us In The Same Old Way ….
I noticed a link to The Liberty Papers from a blog that I hadn’t seen in a quite a while, Le Revue Gauche. Eugene, for those who’ve never been to his blog, is “an unabashed libertarian communist”. For those faithful readers who find this combination of words a bit suprising, it’s important to understand that there are really two separate and distinct anarchist movements. One on the Left of the economic spectrum and the other on the right of the spectrum. Both, naturally, are all at the extreme individualism end of the spectrum dealing with state authority. Libertarian communism, aka anarcho-syndicalism or, simply, anarchy, is descended from the socialism and romanticism of the 19th century. If you stop by Eugene’s blog you will notice references to Karl Marx, Pyotr Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin, rather than Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand or Robert Heinlein. It turns out that Eugene wrote an entry about Free Trade and used Hong Kong and Somalia as examples.
Specifically, Eugene linked to my article on Monopolies, Markets and Microsoft and said the following (note the words in bold are where the link is contained).
And the capitalist state is not just any kind of government, it is a specific kind of government that regulates the market in favour of stability for the creation of monopolies. As the history of Hong Kong and of course British and American capitalism shows. This is the history that the right wing of course has always revised, whether it is the Heritage Foudation or the Von Mises Institute.
I thought this was curious, since my article flies in the face of the normally accepted position among libertarians. I finally decided that Eugene had not really read my article in context, nor the discussion that followed. That, in fact, I happen to believe that government promotion of corporatism is a major problem and the anti-thesis of capitalism. More importantly, he betrays an idea that is part of the Left’s meme war. This particular idea has been so effective that many on the Left don’t even recognize just how false it is, perhaps even Eugene doesn’t. The idea that has been promoted since the the mid-19th century is:
Corporatism = Capitalism
Anyone that has read Adam Smith and then looks at how supposedly capitalist economies work would recognize that the USA and UK are not capitalist in any sense of the word. The purpose of government, from a capitalist perspective, is to provide a neutral framework for the market to work within. It should not favor producer, retailer nor consumer, nor should it favor management or labor. By continuously aligning the idea that a scenario where government favors management over labor in the employment market and favors centralized corporations over small businesses and consumers in the broader market, the Left has successfully created the idea that this is Capitalism. Of course, I’m glossing over a lot of the progressive theory of the Left, which would argue that the corporatism of the the 1870’s through today represents the progression from feudalism to mercantilism to capitalism to corporatism and is the means by which class struggle is played out (heh, I can use those terms, even when they just make me want to chuckle).
Eugene (and many others on the Left) is using the Von Mises Institute’s discussion of Somalia to show that anarcho-capitalism perpetuates the “class struggle”. Indeed, the Left points to the issues of drought and starvation in Somalia to show that warlords, strongmen and feudalism will arise in an anarcho-capitalist system, completely ignoring the punch-line from the Mises article:
A democratic government has every power to exert dominion over people. To fend off the possibility of being dominated, each clan tries to capture the power of that government before it can become a threat. Those clans that didn’t share in the spoils of political power would realize their chances of becoming part of the ruling alliance were nil.
What everyone ignores is the bull in the china shop, the UN. It is the UN and the Western states that are trying to create a democratic government in Somalia. Which is a significant contributing factor to the warlords having power. Even disregarding all of that, what Eugene ignores is that Somalia is better off than their neighbors in the Horn of Africa. You know, those neighboring countries that have governments and written laws instead of clans, warlords and customary law.
I don’t particularly think Somalia is a good example of the outcome of anarcho-capitalism since it isn’t anarcho-capitalism. It is completely distorted by the intervention and meddling of a wide variety of governmental organizations. And, even so, with the almost non-existent national government they are managing to do better than their neighbors. That, by itself, should tell us something.
More importantly, if you want to tackle capitalism, I’m game for the debate. But, the Left continues to try and equate corporatism and proto-fascism with capitalism. They come at us in the same old way, time after time.