Dale Carrico’s critique of libertarianism

Dale Carrico (excerpts):

“Libertarianism in this idiosyncratic, “anarcho-capitalist” denotation tends to have three primary characteristics:

First, these curious market-fundamentalist libertarians take an appealing commonsense Millian (or, I suppose, even more broadly, “Golden-Rulian”) commitment to a general Non-Initiation of Force as if it represented a kind of axiom, and then treat that axiom as the foundation from which one might then exhaustively characterize a just, stable, and prosperous social order.

Because the non-initiation principle delineates an essentially negative concept of liberty, I routinely describe these figures as “negative libertarians.” One could usefully distinguish, for example, purely negative libertarians from civil libertarians for whom a “positive” conception of liberty is necessary to affirm what is valuable in a human rights culture, or in the support of civic institutions like a separation of church and state, an independent press, vibrant and widely accessible education and so on. (My use of the terms “negative” and “positive” here is derived from the canonical formulation by Isaiah Berlin.)

Second, negative libertarians will thereupon tend to reduce all conceivable political and public relations to contractual relations (as against acts of force or fraud which they will identify as criminal and so anti-political, or acts of love, familial obligation, or generosity which they will tend to privatize and domesticate as intimate or charitable and “hence” pre-political, or simply not-political).

Third, negative libertarians will tend to identify the outcome of whatever they apprehend as a proper market exchange as always both the most optimally efficient and optimally fair or just, or at any rate the most practical and defensible, outcome on offer. Of course, what actually counts in the world as a “market” outcome is in fact profoundly contingent historically and territorially, and depends on a context of agreements, protocols, implicit and explicit norms, and so on. But technophiliac market libertarians very widely seem to conceive of market orders as spontaneous and universal upwellings out of what is deeply and immutably calculating and acquisitive in human nature as they conceive of it, or as if emerging from the sloppily sloshing tidal forces of supply and demand treated as deeply and immutably analogous to physical principles like the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Because of their stubbornly provincial misreading of contingent generalizations from the market conditions that prevail in their own neighborhoods as if they delineated eternal principles, I will sometimes describe these negative libertarians likewise as “market naturalists.” It is among the many ironies of the apparently irresistible allure of market naturalism among negative libertarian technophiles, that many of these ideologues otherwise cultivate a profound suspicion of deployments of the idea of “nature” to justify customs, institutions, or norms — especially whenever the deployment of such customary putatively “natural” intuitions would inhibit an embrace of or access to emerging technologies.

Now, against the purported spontaneity and inevitability of “market” relations, so-called, market libertarians typically array what they take to be the countervailing and always-only coercive machineries of national states. All governance, and all the conduct of government representatives, is reduced to its “essence” as an expression of Weberian state coercion and so the market libertarians tend to discern in governing nothing but monotonously reiterated acts of violence and repression. From there, they then declare, practically as a matter of fiat, that “market outcomes” (and typically market behavior will be treated as synechdochic with corporate conduct) are always-only non-coercive.

Never mind that extraordinarily many real-world corporations, of course, routinely use physical threats and engage in exploitation and deliver harm in the effort to improve their bottom lines. And never mind that legitimate governments, of course, whatever their flaws, routinely enagage in social administration that is the farthest imaginable thing from physical threat. Once one puts the negative libertarian blinders on every nice social worker and dedicated public servant suddenly becomes a jack-booted thug and every corporate titan, even if he is little better than a mafia don, suddenly becomes a Randian Archetype of boundless dynamism and benevolent creative energy.

Minarchists and neo-classical liberals will for the most part affirm all three of these three planks as their own worldview, but for whatever reasons, will compromise their applications in certain key areas, usually on utilitarian or strategic political grounds. Typically these compromises are experienced as exceptions that prove the rule rather than deep challenges to the overall correctness of the negative libertarian viewpoint.

While the coterie of technology enthusiasts who espouse market fundamentalism in an undiluted form remains in fact a vanishingly small one (though unbelievably noisy for its scale), it is key to recognize the extent to which the more “mainstream” neo-liberal and neo-conservative practical and institutional universe, with its incessant drumbeat for deregulation without end, its lust for “market discipline” for the poor and military-industrial welfare entitlements for the rich remains importantly (and unfortunately) continuous in its assumptions, in its sense of the problems at hand, and in many of its aims with an extreme “market fundamentalist” negative libertarian world-view this mainstream would presumably and properly explicitly disdain in practice.

Of course, quite a few people will affirm the appeal of a non-aggression pact in some form or other, but I think few would go on to affirm its adequacy as a self-evident axiom on the basis of which one might erect an adequate social order. “Non-initiation of force” is a purely negative conception that will rely for its intelligibility and force on all sorts of implicit (some of them likely disavowed) positive conceptions of what constitutes initiation in the first place, what counts as force, what is and isn’t violation, and a whole host of assumptions about what all of this is good for. Hence, for many people, defenses of individual autonomy and deep suspicions of authoritarian concentrations of power will be complemented by equally foundational defenses of a need for fairness, say.

Most people are likewise sensitive to the ways in which many so-called “market-exchange” outcomes in particular will often seem profoundly improper in fact, that they can occur under conditions of duress that the beneficiaries of an exchange can readily rationalize away while the losers have relatively little room to protest the outcome. And in any case, few would claim it is even possible to characterize actual contract-making and contract-adhering behavior exclusively in contractual terms, let alone adequately capture all of the complex, unpredictable, often unconscious political relations in which they are enmeshed through the figure of explicit contractual agreement.

If it really is true that the debate between markets and central planning was concluded in the twentieth century, it seems to me that something uninspiring like “regulated markets” were the verdict of that debate. And since there has never been, nor could there ever be a “pure” market against which one properly arrays an alien and antithetical force of regulation, it seems the time has come to describe the principle of market regulation itself as the norm rather than always as a compromise of a market ideal that does not exist and hence cannot function as a norm.

The modern “liberal” state, whatever its deficiencies and whatever occasional pretensions to the contrary are voiced by those it most empowers, is simply not a straightforward sovereign state in that its powers are not exercised unilaterally. Regulation is always already multilateral in the modern state, contested through a rough-and-tumble separation of powers at the state level and further diffused through the competing demands of diverse civic, cultural, media, business, and consumer interests. To a significant extent broadly liberal, imperfectly democratic hegemony seems to recuperate and so tolerate resistances. Given these complexities, the market libertarians seem to me to be enraptured by models of power, authority, consent, autonomy, and exchange that were already hopelessly simplistic by the nineteenth century, let alone the twenty-first. No doubt this accounts for an important measure of their allure.

We can all easily agree that coercion is wrong. We can all agree that many of the sources of coercion and exploitation inhere in human nature, such as it is, and probably we can agree that conspicuous asymmetries will invite exploitation and abuse. The liberal state seeks to diffuse the ineradicable violence and risk of coercive governance through competing state apparatuses and the multilateral institutions of civic society. Negative libertarians simply define coercion out of existence by declaring “market” outcomes as non-coercive by fiat. Liberals recognize the abuses of our system as is, but seek to ameliorate coercion through reform, while market naturalists seem stubbornly wedded to their word-magic and pie-charts.

To what can we attribute the ongoing allure of the sadly sociopathic libertarian imaginary, especially to American technophiles? Perhaps it is a matter of technical-minded people who prefer the clarity of reproducible results to the ongoing and unpredictable reconciliation of contending ends among the multiple stakeholders to social problems. Perhaps it is a matter of the elitism of the highly educated or the early adopters, or the more straightforward elitism of people who believe that they are innately superior and hence will always be among the winners in any outcome where there are winners and losers. Perhaps it is simply the commonplace disavowal by the privileged of the extent to which individual accomplishment inevitably depends on the maintenance of social norms, enforced laws and material infrastructure beyond itself.

Lately, I have begun to suspect that at the temperamental core of the strange enthusiasm of many technophiles for so-called “anarcho-capitalist” dreams of re-inventing the social order, is not finally so much a craving for liberty but for a fantasy, quite to the contrary, of total exhaustive control.

This helps account for the fact that negative libertarian technophiles seem less interested in discussing the proximate problems of nanoscale manufacturing and the finite and problematic benefits they will likely confer, but prefer to barrel ahead to paeans to the “total control over matter.”

They salivate over the title of the book From Chance to Choice (in fact, a fine and nuanced bioethical accounting of benefits and quandaries of genetic medicine), as if biotechnology is about to eliminate chance from our lives and substitute the full determination of morphology — when it is much more likely that genetic interventions will expand the chances we take along with the choices we make.

Behind all their talk of efficiency and non-violence there lurks this weird micromanagerial fantasy of sitting down and actually contracting explicitly the terms of every public interaction in the hopes of controlling it, getting it right, dictating the details. As if the public life of freedom can be compassed in a prenuptual agreement, as if communication would proceed more ideally were we first to re-invent language ab initio (ask these liber-techians how they feel about Esperanto or Loglan and you will see that this analogy, often enough, is not idle).

But with true freedom one has to accept an ineradicable vulnerability and a real measure of uncertainty. We live in societies with peers, boys. Give up the dreams of total invulnerability, total control, total specification. Take a chance, live a little. Fairness is actually possible. Justice is in our reach. Radical technological development regulated to ensure that costs, risks, and benefits are all fairly shared can emancipate the world. Liberty is so much less than freedom.”

12 Comments Dale Carrico’s critique of libertarianism

  1. Kevin CarsonKevin Carson

    Speaking just for myself, I consider myself a market libertarian. But I’m quite enthusiastic about the potential for Kropotkinian institutions for mutual aid, risk-sharing, income-pooling, etc., as part of a social order based on voluntary association.

    And there are plenty of market libertarians who view large corporations as creatures of the state, if not actually branches of it.

  2. AvatarMarcel

    I don’t find this critique very powerful, inasmuch as the libertarian movement is already past the point where positions such as the ones disparaged above are held. For instance, I don’t think most libertarians actually think social workers are jack-booted thugs. I would not see them as entirely inoffensive though. The author doesn’t understand because he doesn’t have to face them and deal with their bullshit. Social workers are in reality public money agents. They pressure people into getting back to work, any work, even against what people actually want to do. If you’re not a charge for the public money, they won’t do a thing for you. Nice and dedicated, and also, full of all the assumptions you can expect from statists about what’s a ‘proper’ job and a ‘proper’ life. Those guys hold the strings of your benefits. So yeah, they’re not jack-booted thugs, they’re smiley-tyrants who just want to ‘help’ you get back on your feet. By finding you a boss.

  3. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    Hi Kevin,

    there seems to be a divide between those that see the state as creatures of corporations, and focus on the latter as the enemy force, and anti-statism. It iseems to me, your brand of anticapitalist free-market libertarianism, sits on the border between the two, and unlike ‘royal libertarians’, never justifies corporate repression and power.

  4. AvatarDale Carrico

    Thanks Michel for posting material from both parts of Trouble in Libertopia, you dug deep within the archives for that one!

    The unifying thread between the two parts is a critique of the metaphor of “spontaneous order” which figures so prominently in the arguments of so many techno-centric commentators to this day, from both the right (which, contra many of its proponents, is where I properly locate the politics of market libertarian ideology) and the left, enabling in endless variations what amount to superficially anti-political arguments most of which typically function to support elite-incumbent politics in substance. Although the re-posted piece is a rather old one, it seems to me that a lazy recourse to such spontaneist and anarchist figurations has gotten no better in recent years, and fatally suffuses quite a lot of otherwise indispensable work on p2p-networks, activism, net neutrality (so-called), and more general discourse on online sociality, creative expressivity, organization.

    It is crucial to remember that every norm, custom, pricing convention, institution, subcultural trait, architectural feature, however monolithic, stubborn, inertial it may seem is a product of historical struggle, that things have been otherwise, things could be otherwise, things surely will be otherwise, and at least part of what politics means is the collective contestations and collaborations that yield the vicissitudes in the career of apparently only natural, that is to say, naturalized conventions. If it makes sense to say such a thing, then it follows that there is always a politics in the declaration that some actually-contingent outcome is not political, is beyond contestation, is natural, neutral, technical, autonomous… there is a politics of the de-politicizing gesture, the taking off from the table that which could be otherwise.

    For one thing: That this is a gesture that will tend to the benefit of incumbency — the acceptance as natural, inevitable that which is given in the status quo, deserves special note.

    For another thing: Also deserving such note is that technoscience has no politics (in making this point I leave to the side the ethnography of political strife in lab settings, funding battles, publication histories, figuration of paradigm shifts, marketing appropriations, and so on), that is to say that the warranted descriptions arising from consensus science have no inevitable politics but are nonetheless always only deployed in the world according to the different politics of those who take them up. This makes technodevelopmental questions particularly susceptible to facile determinisms, autonomisms, reductionisms, technocratic elitisms premised on such de-politicizing naturalizations of the play of their changes in history.

    I am personally very interested in what I describe as p2p-democratization, the taking up of p2p-formations within the normative, legal, institutional context of reasonably representative democratic-identified societies by those who would educate, agitate, and organize for more equitable, consensual, diverse, convivial political outcomes and culture.

    It is crucial to grasp that these efforts do not in my view express an underlying ethos of p2p-interaction or e2e network architecture, but represent historically specific, politically opportunistic, ethically mandated efforts that should be documented, facilitated, celebrated (just because my own politics are of the democratic consensualist left, devoted to equity-in-diversity), but which are far from inevitable, natural, more structurally “apt” to the forces at hand than antithetical elite-incumbent or authoritarian deployments also afoot in this changing landscape.

    Crucial to ensuring that democratizing and consensualizing deployments of p2p-formations prevail is an awareness, in my view, not only of the actual contingency and artificiality of democracy and the scene of consent, but a better understanding of what is conceptually unique to the spheres of the ethical and the political in which these struggles and outcomes make their way and make their home. That is why I am very pleased that Michel has also re-posted here several texts in which I take up these issues very specifically, among them recently Peer to Peer Democracy and the State and older pieces like Defining Left and Right and Democratizing the State Rather Than Smashing It.

    Given that the democratic state is rightly imagined to be a space facilitating the non-violent adjudication of inevitable disputes (including fraught disputes about what should count as violence and non-violence), a space in which the diversity of peers who share the world can come together despite their differences, and none get left behind for good, it is important to grasp how different such a role and such a space is in its legitimacy from “optimal outcomes” presumably yielded by comparative advantage, positional advantage, competitive advantage and the other mechanisms that figure so prominently in so many non-political (technocratic and determinist) and anti-political (spontaneist and libertopian) delineations of the organizational terrain of p2p-formations.

    Needless to say, actually-existing democracies relentlessly fail to live up to their guiding ideals, but there is all the difference in the world between those who respond to this failure by relinquishing the ideal of civitas altogether and those who are spurred to reform what actually-exists in the direction of those ideas (reforms in which p2p-democratization figures centrally, hopefully, in this moment, in my view). But worse than resignation to inertial pull of incumbency and authoritarianism and the cynical or interested relinquishment of democratization and consensualization in my view, is the widespread ignorance of the distinctive substance and promise of democracy and consent as political phenomena and hence the blindness to and heedless loss of both among good-intentioned people who should know better but simply don’t because we are so abysmally uninformed and misinformed about political matters on which our worldly lives nonetheless depend for our survival and flourishing.

    By way of conclusion, I am interested that though Mr. Carson affirms that he differs from my assessment of market libertarian ideology (as I already happen to know many scores of people obviously do), he actually doesn’t say much as to why he does or respond to any of the points I made in the piece at hand, which leaves me bereft of his reasoning from which I am sure I and others would benefit enormously. I am also intrigued by the spectacle in which Marcel assures me how very facile and wrong and behind-the-latest-libertopian-times I am to impute to market libertarians the attitude that even apparently nice public servants are little better than jack-booted thugs and yet with the passage of scarcely a sentence is driven by his market libertarian logic to assert, with what I would propose is perfectly predictable robotic behavioral inevitability, “they’re not jack-booted thugs, they’re smiley-tyrants who just want to ‘help’ you get back on your feet. By finding you a boss.”

  5. AvatarMarcel

    Well, aren’t you talkative. Inevitability? I’m talking about real-life experience. That’s what I have to go through as a person without resources. And I do resent it a whole fucking lot that I keep telling the guy that I don’t want a job such as the one he keeps pushing me into, yet he will still ignore it and say that it’s for the best. And if I don’t do the things he tells me to do, then he’ll just say I’m not complying with my duties as a job-seeker, take me off the list and cut my benefits. Now you still don’t see that as tyranny, fine. As I said, I think you don’t realize because you just don’t have to deal with it on a personal level.

  6. AvatarMarcel

    Needless to say, actually-existing democracies relentlessly fail to live up to their guiding ideals, but there is all the difference in the world between those who respond to this failure by relinquishing the ideal of civitas altogether and those who are spurred to reform what actually-exists in the direction of those ideas.

    Actually-existing democracies are based on the principle that everyone within a territory must obey a given legislation. It is obvious that on any area of land, you will find people who irremediably disagree on very important points. Hence the failure to yield consensus, under actually-existing democracies, is not an accident, it is necessary.

    Rather than grounding government on territory and majority rule, then, anarchists have rule based on the consent of those concerned. The civitas altogether that you pretend we relinquish, is actually what we destroy the State for. I see it as preferable that there would be several real altogether’s rather than a giant fake one based on territory.

  7. AvatarMarcel

    One comment on optimal outcomes. I think it must be stressed that by putting individual consent in the equation, market libertarians refer to a different ‘optimal’ outcome than what one would think of, from a bureaucratic point of view with bourgeois standards. Optimal, as each and every individual sees it for him or herself. That is what the free market yields, it says nothing as to what standards people will have. For instance, I’ve done some dumpster-diving when I was in Britain. And I was fine with it, cause the food I found was in pretty good condition. And I could work it to be edible. So that’s something I could do, yet most people would be horrified at the practice, and stop me from doing it.

    But here’s something strange: I was happy finding free food that was edible, and no one was hurt from me finding and eating it. I only hurt the feelings of those who hold bourgeois standards as a law to be obeyed by everyone. I think you see now that the optimal outcome is not when a given optimum outcome has been reached by everyone, but when everyone has reached his own optimum outcome, defined by him or herself.

    This is why you do not trust the free market would ‘work,’ and this is why I do not care much about that doubt.

  8. AvatarDale Carrico

    Of course, Consent figures centrally in the formulations above, to which Marcel is presumably responding. Where “consent” arises from misinformation or duress it is in my view vacuous, a rationale for exploitation and abuse. The scene of consent is rendered substantial by formal legal-citizenship-status, equal recourse to the law, access to collective bargaining, access to education and reliable information, access to social services, healthcare, housing, income. Declaring market outcomes “consensual” by fiat, whatever the terms of misinformation and inequity duress them, as market libertarians tend to do, scarcely does justice to the notion of consent in my view.

    The planetary precariat — illegal immigrants, temporary and informal workers, insecure indebted citizens in neoliberal post-welfare states, dwellers in peri-urban slums and refugee camps are profoundly limited in their capacity to engage in acts of consent.

    The struggles for democratization (ensuring that ever more people have ever more of a say in the public decisions that affect them) and for consensualization (ensuring that the scene of consent is ever more informed and nonduressed) together drive the interminable struggle for equity-in-diversity on which the figure of the peer, the planetary successor to the nation-state’s citizen-subject in my view.

    What I am stressing is that the political legitimacy of the democratic state — that is to say, the normative-institutional order that justifies its existence by reference to the standard of equity-in-diversity, by providing nonviolent alternatives for the adjudication of disputes (including, recall, crucially, disputes as to what qualifies as violence) and by providing for a legible scene of reliably informed, nonduressed consent (by means of a suite of legal and welfare administration) — derives from a profoundly different set of standards than the ones that are typically discussed by p2p-new media theorists.

    I regard as indispensable, say, Clay Shirky’s discussion of the way digital networks have flooded subcultures with suboptimal but satisfactory free content and so undermined the gatekeeper-credentializing role through which capital has rationalized hitherto its role as censor, or his discussion of the way digital networks have flooded organizations with amateur innovation and so undermined the investment in professionalism through which capital has rationalized hitherto its central-hierarchical control of institutions. However, I disapprove the way in which such insights are taken up and glibly misapplied via spontaneist-anarchist-market libertarian figurations to political phenomena.

    But subculture is a moral concept (moral, from mores, yields an identification that depends on dis-identification with a constitutive outside for sense, the “they” excluded from the moral “we”), whereas culture is an ethical concept (ethics, from ethos, yields a formal-universality that solicits identification putatively indifferent to differences, substantiated against the grain of moral intuitions, via strategic recourse to, say, posterity, the good opinion of mankind, government of laws and not men, the principle of nonviolence, universal declarations of human rights, and the like), and hence the emancipatory undermining of gatekeeper-censors standing between people and their subcultural enjoyments and parasitically skimming rents for the privilege is a desirable state of affairs, but cannot scale from subculture to culture to provide a route through which to “smash the state” maintaining a democratically accountable rule of law or administering the services on which a legible scene of consent depends. It is usually only a prior investment in the false and facile figure of spontaneous order that provokes such misreadings in the first place.

    Similarly, the maintenance of the legal order and administration of services on which the scene of consent depends in democratically-identified societies is legitimated by recourse to equity-in-diversity and not simply to profitability, and hence the emancipatory undermining of investor-professionals limiting consumers in their affordable enjoyments in order to profitably maintain the unwieldy organizations through which such goods are provided is a desirable state of affairs, but cannot extend to those governmental organization tasked with establishing justice, ensuring domestic tranquility, providing for common defense, and promoting general welfare not competitively but for all, not in order to return a profit but by the consent of the governed. Given the vulnerability to abuse that obviously inheres in the investment of any parochial worldly actors or institutions with ethical mandates, endlessly many institutional experiments have been devised to ameliorate these risks, from horizontal separation of powers and vertical subsidiarity, to jury trials, to declarations of inviolable rights, to extensions of the franchise, to extensions of welfare entitlements, to subsidization of citizen participation in government. I regard the p2p-democratization of broadcast-media, of political parties and of organized labor as extraordinary and encouraging developments, but it is important not to misread these developments as providing a route through which eventually “to smash the state” rather than democratize participation in that state and render the state more accountable to the consent of the governed. If the rights of minorities can be denied by the vote of a majority, there are no rights, if individuals can consent to violation or enslavement there is no consent, if functionaries can lie or mislead with impunity there is no possibility of contract, promise, or forgiveness. Education, agitation, and organization facilitated by p2p-formations are efforts to reform and better administer the apparatus of the democratic state, not intimations of “spontaneous order” except for those who have a prior investment in such figures.

    I propose these formulations to encourage a more useful discussion in this moment, one that does not re-enact the usual joyless ritual of arguments with market libertarians who believe it is wholesome to let “markets decide” outcomes despite the fact that markets are artifacts whose historical forms are determined by human decisions, not transhistorical tidal forces of supply and demand which, alas, radically underdetermine the contingent legal structure of commerce and production from polity to polity, from epoch to epoch, not primordial predilections for barter elevated to the neglect of no less primordial predilections to mutual-aid, fair-dealing, and sharing. While I would be the last one to denigrate the personal distress to which Marcel testifies, I must protest that it is not a denial of “real world” realities for me to question the assumptions, aspirations, conceits, figurations, narrativizations through which he proposes to make sense of these “real world” realities. He is not the only one who suffers, and for all those who do suffer, I propose that finding our way to a better understanding of the civitas without which we can find no justice or experience true freedom, as well as the possibilities inhering in emerging p2p-formations for the facilitation and frustration of that civitas is a useful thing for at least some of us to be doing right about now, especially those of us whose temperament and training lends itself to this sort of thing.

  9. Kevin CarsonKevin Carson

    My main objections are two, Dale.

    First, your overbroad assertions about “market libertarians,” which are belied by the fact that there’s a sizable community of left-wing market libertarians who see the large corporation as a creature of the state, and who see the state’s primary functions as protecting and subsidizing big business.

    Second, your implication that the existence of powerful large corporations in actually-existing capitalism is some sort of indictment of market libertarianism as an ideology, and specifically of its focus on the coercive state as the primary evil.

    Behind this is still another implication, that market libertarianism is primarily a defense of actually existing capitalism using “free market” language. While there are certainly many right-wing libertarians who do follow this pattern — and they may well even constitute a majority of mainstream libertarians — their position is far from uncontested within the market libertarian movement.

    I would contend that the large corporation the currently predominates wouldn’t exist at all without the state to externalize its operating costs and suppress competition.

    I could raise a third point about the role of pre-commercial social mores, conventional rules of the game, etc., as background conditions within which any market operates. But in fact I don’t dispute the existence of such factors — I’d just quibble, on a semantic basis, by saying that I don’t see their existence as at odds with a free market. Generally speaking, I use the term “market” in a broad sense to include all consensual, voluntary arrangements — including voluntary communism, common property, gift economies, and also primary social units governed by non-monetized gift relations (e.g. cohousing projects, extended families, intentional communities, etc.).

  10. AvatarMarcel

    While I would be the last one to denigrate the personal distress to which Marcel testifies, I must protest that it is not a denial of “real world” realities for me to question the assumptions, aspirations, conceits, figurations, narrativizations through which he proposes to make sense of these “real world” realities.

    I was simply saying that someone tries to make me do something, and I don’t really have to do it, in truth. That seems to fit the definition of tyranny. Do you have another one?

    […] hence the emancipatory undermining of investor-professionals limiting consumers in their affordable enjoyments in order to profitably maintain the unwieldy organizations through which such goods are provided is a desirable state of affairs, but cannot extend to those governmental organization tasked with establishing justice, ensuring domestic tranquility, providing for common defense, and promoting general welfare not competitively but for all, not in order to return a profit but by the consent of the governed.

    Actual governmental organizations do not provide any of those things, indeed they most often engage in activities that directly contradict several of them, and most particularly they permanently violate the consent of a substantial part of the governed. Considering that, how is their undermining not desirable?

    There are several other things to which I should reply. But it would take hours. I will simply note that you are taking up vulgar libertarian arguments to which I have never subscribed. And while you pin the error of them on idealist thinking, I think they are true in theory, but wrong in the context of the current world. Those arguments are therefore not idealistic, but rather they simply do not apply. We do not currently have market outcomes. Uninformed consent is not consent. And the context does matter, no matter how formally consent is given.

  11. AvatarDale Carrico

    Kevin Carson: The Trouble in Libertopia article had two parts, one a critique of the spontaneism of right-wing libertopianism, the other of left-wing libertopianism, and Michel generously posted excerpts in two separate posts here. So, you may find that the “sizeable community” I seem to have neglected is actually equally a target of my “overbroad assertions” (Goldilocks personally thinks they are not too broad, not too narrow, but just right) after all.

    Like corporations, militaries also are, as you say, “creatures of the state,” and yet most canonical and popular market libertarian discourse inevitably functionally supports them, too. Whenever libertarians declare as the sole proper sphere of government to be police/armies to protect property rights and contracts, for example, this amounts, in the real world in which “defense” and “policing” are vast capital-intensive industrial information-gathering enterprises to a de facto endorsement of a planned economy and welfare state stealthed as that “Defense,” and all to the wildly disproportionate benefit of the already rich and powerful.

    No doubt, as you protest, you can direct our attention to a few photogenic theoretically-pure libertopian specimens (there’s one, a coddled earnest middle-class white kid in his freshman philosophy class, how cute, he has a copy of Atlas Shrugged in his pocket and he’s not yet been kissed, let’s check back on him in three years, shall we?) who really would abolish all armies and corporations together with all those detestable welfare entitlements that make life the least bit worth living for the overwhelming majority of people in modern societies and install some purely Somalian hell in the name of their pure principle, but the fact remains that market libertarian discourse has as its principle life the endless release into the world of ideological utterances deployed by Republicans to justify deregulation, privatization, militarization, corporate spending sprees in the service of elite-incumbent interests. If it weren’t for the hypocritical recourse of Republicans (and corporatist Democrats) to market libertarian/neoliberal pieties they would have no life to speak of at all, at least not in the US (and its European counterparts, especially in the UK).

    The guiding assumptions of those few pure anarcho-capitalists out there who do not indulge in such hyprocrisies are perfectly nonsensical in their own right — that to institute alternatives for the nonviolent adjudication of disputes demands artifacts the legitimacy of which has a different character than that of conventionally exclusive/competitive instruments, a different character that makes them vulnerable to special abuses whose amelioration must be part of the institutions themselves seems to me the starting point of an actually adult conversation of the governmental aspect of the political, and after a wider reading in the literature than most its adherents can boast of I am sad to report that this basic understanding is woefully lacking among even the luminaries of neoliberal and anarcho-capitalist discourse, in my opinion.

    Now, precisely because, as you say, corporations are indeed chartered by the state, I personally think it would be a fine thing to re-introduce into those charters characteristics all of which have already been part of the institutional identity of limited liability associations at various moments in the long life of that legal/financial instrument, for example, strict definitions of a corporation’s purpose which cannot alter without the dissolution of the charter, limits of the term of the association, insistence that since the public takes on certain risks and costs in granting such an association limited liability that it should be required as part of the compact always to act in ways that serve the public interest, and I personally would like to see strict guidelines limiting the income and perqs of the officers at the top of a corporate hierarchy in respect to the income and perqs of workers at the bottom. As I said, all of these elements have been part of the story of the corporation and could be part of the story again. Of course, one needs a state to enforce such stipulations, and one needs a democratically-responsive and accountable state to have any hope of instituting regulations that would benefit majorities rather than armed minorities like these would do, and as you say I quite agree that corporate power predominates in the world’s notional democracies at the moment to the devastation of equity, diversity, consent, sustainability. I believe we must re-mobilize such hard-won still-available legal instruments of our democratic institutions to fight the threats of corporate-militarism, and I believe it is doubly nonsensical to fancy either a blanket dis-invention of the state as such is possible (I personally don’t consider such an aspiration even to be conceptually coherent) or would do anything if it were possible to fight corporate-militarism, such as it is, and hence, I must say, I consider such talk a distraction from good work and derangement of good sense. Obviously, your mileage may vary.

    As for Marcel, forgive me for being blunt, but you need to demonstrate an understanding of and willingness to actually engage with the arguments of mine to which you are presumably responding before I can believe that this is a good-faith exchange of a kind that justifies the time required to pursue it.

  12. AvatarMarcel

    I’ll just remark that flawed theories lead to disaster, and Mr Carrico does not show any sign to engage with the flaws of his theory of representative democracy. Rather, he admits the reality is not as pretty as on the paper, but emits a hope that with p2p tactics we will make the State sufficiently accountable. Representative democracy, though, has an inherent flaw, because it is still a territorial mode of ruling, and that mode dates back to the despotisms of old. Why not shed this nonsense as well, and create truly representative democracies, aka anarchies?

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