Double Standard

A picture like this could of course be made for libertarians too – showing libertarians with tax-funded educations walking on tax-funded streets, contacting each other via government postal monopoly, paying for their lunches with federally issued currency, etc.

Libertarians understand why that would be a silly argument against anti-government protestors. They really should understand why the parallel argument against anti-corporate protestors is equally silly.

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64 Responses to Double Standard

  1. Geoffrey Allan Plauché October 7, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

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    A picture like this could of course be made for libertarians too

    Actually, a picture like that was already made by leftist critics of Tea Party protesters. This picture is likely a response to that one and as such is well-deserved.

    Libertarians understand why that would be a silly argument against anti-government protestors. They really should understand why the parallel argument against anti-corporate protestors is equally silly.

    Actually, no, libertarians won’t understand why it would be equally silly. Quite frankly, I’m surprised you don’t see why it isn’t equally silly.

    On the one hand, we have the state, which is inherently evil and illegitimate, with libertarians who have coherent, principled reasons to oppose it. On the other hand, we have corporations, which are not inherently evil and illegitimate, and a gaggle of what appears to be mostly confused, leftist anti-corporate types demanding an end to “corporate greed” and that the “rich 1%” who “use and abuse” them be regulated more and forced to pay their “fair share” in order to give the 99% more welfare benefits. In reality, the users and abusers number far more than 1% and include quite a few of the 99%. From what I can tell, many of these so-called 99% want to use and abuse me!

    Sure, many big corporations use the state to benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else to varying degrees, but that’s not all of them and it doesn’t put them on the same level as the state or necessarily make them a part of it. With the state, we don’t have real voluntary choices. Even with the diminished choices, thanks to the state, in the market we still have real voluntary choices. Don’t fall into the left-libertarian mistake of treating all big corporations as necessarily a part of the state.

    Those protesters should be Occupy(ing) DC, not Wall Street. As far as I can tell, they haven’t properly identified the ultimate source of their problems. They still think of the state as the solution, not the problem — of politicians as merely junior partners, corrupted puppets of their corporate masters (a naive view at best). They’re pissed off at the elites of both parties, but they still think that if they can just get the right people into power they can return the state to its inherently benevolent nature and bring corporations and the wealthy into line or eradicate them entirely. If they have their way, they’ll probably end up destroying the very thing that makes possible all of the things they’re taking for granted in that picture. But we libertarians realize that the state isn’t necessary to provide law, security, and the like.

    So, no, it’s not equally silly. I found the picture rather amusing myself. But I do realize that it doesn’t qualify as standalone argument.

    • Roderick October 7, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

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      Actually, a picture like that was already made by leftist critics of Tea Party protesters. This picture is likely a response to that one and as such is well-deserved.

      Two bad arguments don’t add up to one good argument.

      On the other hand, we have corporations, which are not inherently evil and illegitimate

      If something is in fact evil and illegitimate, does it matter that much whether it is inherently so?

      Sure, many big corporations use the state to benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else to varying degrees, but that’s not all of them

      No, but it’s most of them. And they all benefit from the corporatist state structure whether they actively petition for favours or not.

      and it doesn’t put them on the same level as the state or necessarily make them a part of it.

      But it’s still a two-way street. Corporate power depends on the state, but the state desperately needs the big corporations too: for campaign contributions, for propaganda funding, and for hierarchical workplaces that reinforce habits of docility in the populace.

      With the state, we don’t have real voluntary choices. Even with the diminished choices, thanks to the state, in the market we still have real voluntary choices.

      Well, depends what that means. We’re often in a position to choose among various state services. Of course we have no choice about the coercion-driven structural framework within which those choices happen. But exactly the same point applies to the corporate marketplace, no?

      Don’t fall into the left-libertarian mistake of treating all big corporations as necessarily a part of the state.

      Why is it a mistake?

      Is the post office part of the state? It’s not (directly) tax-funded. Are state universities part of the state? They’re not a (direct) monopoly, and they’re not (solely) tax-funded. Can you state a criterion that will have state universities and the post office turn out to be part of the state, and Walmart not?

      Those protesters should be Occupy(ing) DC, not Wall Street.

      I’d say they should be occupying both. (Which is a point that left-libertarians have been making.)

      As far as I can tell, they haven’t properly identified the ultimate source of their problems. They still think of the state as the solution, not the problem

      Well, “they” is a bit of a collectivist abstraction, inasmuch as there are lots of different protesters in the movement, with lots of different views (including some libertarians). But sure, most of them probably see only the plutocracy and not the statocracy as the problem. But that just makes them the mirror image of right-libertarians, who see only the statocracy and not the plutocracy as the problem. And that symmetry was the point of my post.

      of politicians as merely junior partners, corrupted puppets of their corporate masters (a naive view at best).

      Sure, but the reverse view — of plutocrats as merely junior partners, corrupted puppets of their political masters — is just as naive, right? (Given the revolving-door phenomenon, in many cases they’re the same people!)

      • Roderick October 7, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

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        P.S. – a nice piece about the diversity of the Occupy Wall Street movement. (CHT Gary.)

      • Gene Callahan October 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

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        Roderick FTW.

      • Geoffrey Allan Plauché October 8, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

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        Actually, a picture like that was already made by leftist critics of Tea Party protesters. This picture is likely a response to that one and as such is well-deserved.

        Two bad arguments don’t add up to one good argument.

        I don’t see why you’re doing math here. It’s not like the same side made two bad arguments that they somehow thought could add up to a good one. These are two different groups we’re talking about. And, as I said, it’s not like the pictures constitute standalone, knockout arguments. They’re also not equally bad.

        On the other hand, we have corporations, which are not inherently evil and illegitimate

        If something is in fact evil and illegitimate, does it matter that much whether it is inherently so?

        Of course. We want to abolish the state because it is inherently evil and illegitimate. Why should we want to abolish corporations if they are not inherently evil and illegitimate? Though I gather some of the protesters might want to.

        But your question also seems to imply that corporations today are evil and illegitimate though they might not be in a truly free market. This is a strong empirical position to take and I don’t think it is true of corporations in general today.

        Sure, many big corporations use the state to benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else to varying degrees, but that’s not all of them

        No, but it’s most of them. And they all benefit from the corporatist state structure whether they actively petition for favours or not.

        Most of them actively petition for favors for themselves and for regulations and legislation that will harm their competitors? That’s quite an empirical claim.

        On the other hand, many if not most of the protesters seem to be actively petitioning for the same. So where does that leave us?

        As for passively benefiting, well I guess we’re all guilty then. Some protesters better occupy my apartment and your house.

        for hierarchical workplaces that reinforce habits of docility in the populace.

        If you’re going to run with the hardline left-libertarian opposition to all forms of hierarchy as your standard, you’re on shaky ground. There’s some truth to your point regarding certain big corporations, but I don’t think hierarchical workplaces would disappear in a free market and there are other institutions in society that are and will remain somewhat hierarchical as well. It seems a rather weak point, no? Do you think the corporate hierarchical workplace is more insidious than public education? Would you seek to destroy the corporation before abolishing public education?

        With the state, we don’t have real voluntary choices. Even with the diminished choices, thanks to the state, in the market we still have real voluntary choices.

        Well, depends what that means. We’re often in a position to choose among various state services. Of course we have no choice about the coercion-driven structural framework within which those choices happen. But exactly the same point applies to the corporate marketplace, no?

        No. I really can’t see how you can seriously equate the two. I guess it’s because you see most corporations as being part of the state? That’s the only thing I can think of right now.

        But even if you do see most corporations as being part of the state, is the solution to smash corporations? Or to smash the state?

        Or do you say smash both? That strikes me as rather nihilistic and Pyrrhic. Is it not enough to smash the state and put an end to corporatism, then let the market eat those corporations alive that can’t compete without state help?

        Don’t fall into the left-libertarian mistake of treating all big corporations as necessarily a part of the state.

        Why is it a mistake?

        Seriously?

        Is the post office part of the state? It’s not (directly) tax-funded. Are state universities part of the state? They’re not a (direct) monopoly, and they’re not (solely) tax-funded.

        Once again, seriously? I should think this is pretty obvious. They’re quite literally and officially government-created agencies and part of their respective states, however they are funded. Look at the statutes and charters and whatnot.

        Can you state a criterion that will have state universities and the post office turn out to be part of the state, and Walmart not?

        It’s ironic that you ask me that when Stephan has been asking left-libertarians for years to provide such a criterion for determining that or which corporations are part of the state. I don’t think any left-libertarians have ever given him one. Is it fair for you now to turn that question back on me? I rather think the burden of proof is on you. In any case, I think I provided you one.

        Let me ask you a question: do you seriously think Walmart is part of the state? Either way, what are your reasons for thinking this? I’ll be quite shocked if you answer yes. In which case, I wonder why you posed this question to me, because a yes answer would imply you have some rough heuristics for divying up clear cases on either side, even if there are hard cases that fall into a grey area in between.

        Those protesters should be Occupy(ing) DC, not Wall Street.

        I’d say they should be occupying both. (Which is a point that left-libertarians have been making.)

        Okay, I was making a rhetorical point, though your bringing up left-libertarians here is something of a red herring. I didn’t claim they weren’t. I was talking about the OWS protesters themselves.

        Seems to me you can protest the corporate state without actually occupying Wall Street, by occupying DC, but it doesn’t work so well the other way round.

        Still, I’d be happy if the protesters were occupying both.

        Unfortunately, their ire seems to be primarily focused on Wall Street, and many of them look to DC for a remedy even though they’re pissed off at both parties.

        I’d be even happier if I didn’t still detect a common leftist general anti-corporate sentiment. I’m opposed to corporatism, but I don’t think that implies being opposed to corporations as such. And yes, corporations won’t be the same in a free market, but that doesn’t mean they’ll cease to exist (though I know some left-libertarians are convinced otherwise).

        As far as I can tell, they haven’t properly identified the ultimate source of their problems. They still think of the state as the solution, not the problem

        Well, “they” is a bit of a collectivist abstraction, inasmuch as there are lots of different protesters in the movement, with lots of different views (including some libertarians).

        I’m aware the protest is quite diverse. However, most of the ones I read about, see on YouTube or on tv, run into online, etc., seem to fit the description I gave. I’m not aware of libertarians making up a large proportion of the protesters.

        But sure, most of them probably see only the plutocracy and not the statocracy as the problem. But that just makes them the mirror image of right-libertarians, who see only the statocracy and not the plutocracy as the problem. And that symmetry was the point of my post.

        Okay, so you agree with my assessment of the protesters then. Good.

        But I think left-libertarians tend to exaggerate the degree to which and the number of right-libertarians who make this asymmetrical mistake. It may be more true of the Tea Party, but much of the Tea Party is hardly libertarian. I think the point of your post is a symptom of this tendency toward exaggeration. The two pictures are not equally silly or equally bad.

        of politicians as merely junior partners, corrupted puppets of their corporate masters (a naive view at best).

        Sure, but the reverse view — of plutocrats as merely junior partners, corrupted puppets of their political masters — is just as naive, right? (Given the revolving-door phenomenon, in many cases they’re the same people!)

        Sure, but pointing out that it is the state that needs to go, not corporations as such, is not the reverse view. Pointing out that the state is the ultimate source of the problem, not the solution (as most of these protesters seem to think, is not the reverse view. Pointing out that higher taxes, more spending, more regulations, more welfare, etc., which many if not most of these protesters seem to want, is not the solution, is not the reverse view. (That sentence was a bit awkward.)

        I don’t think ending corporate personhood is going to accomplish what these protesters seem to think it will. It will probably be a boon to corporations in the longterm. Isn’t this state legal fiction the rationale behind the corporate income tax?

        I don’t think these protesters know what limited liability is and, in any case, I don’t see why it couldn’t arise contractually in a free market.

        • Geoffrey Allan Plauché October 9, 2011 at 1:26 am #

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          Let me ask you a question: do you seriously think Walmart is part of the state? Either way, what are your reasons for thinking this? I’ll be quite shocked if you answer yes. In which case, I wonder why you posed this question to me, because a yes answer would imply you have some rough heuristics for divying up clear cases on either side, even if there are hard cases that fall into a grey area in between.

          Oops, I mean “because a no answer” would imply you have some rough heuristics…

          Heck, even saying “most corporations are part of the state” requires some criterion for determining which are and which aren’t. So what are the left-libertarian criteria for determining which few corporations aren’t?

      • Geoffrey Allan Plauché October 9, 2011 at 12:38 am #

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        the state desperately needs the big corporations too: for campaign contributions, for propaganda funding,

        Not necessarily, and they haven’t always.

        The state also gets a lot of this from labor unions nowadays (uh oh) as well as countless other groups and individuals.

        Of course, individuals as individuals are little influence and some special interest groups have more influence than others.

  2. anarchyvenderblog October 7, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

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    Dr Long,

    If something is in fact evil and illegitimate, does it matter that much whether it is inherently so?

    I think the point is that the state thrives primarily through violence and the threat of violence where as corporations, to some extent, do still rely on voluntary exchange for their continued existence.

    No, but it’s most of them. And they all benefit from the corporatist state structure whether they actively petition for favours or not.

    But isn’t opposing corporations on principle, even if they themselves oppose the corporatist-state structure, similar to blaming libertarians for accepting government healthcare in a single payer system?

    There is no alternative. The main focus should be corporations that actively lobby for state benefits, don’t you think?

    • Rad Geek October 7, 2011 at 11:35 pm #

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      anarchyvenderblog:

      … do still rely on voluntary exchange for their continued existence.

      Some do and some don’t. Lockheed-Martin and General Dynamics and Halliburton, for example, don’t. They rely largely on tax-funded government contracts. Time-Warner, to take a different example, largely does not, either: they rely largely on payments extorted through copyright law. Of course, you could say, “Well, but you don’t have to listen to the music or watch the movies that Time-Warner controls.” But that seems a lot like saying “Well, you see the sales tax is voluntary, because if you don’t like it, you can avoid it by not buying anything.”

      But isn’t opposing corporations on principle, even if they themselves oppose the corporatist-state structure,

      Which corporations would those be?

      … similar to blaming libertarians for accepting government healthcare in a single payer system? There is no alternative….

      Well of course there is an alternative. Nobody is morally or prudentially obliged to try to run a Fortune 500 company.

      It’s one thing to say, “Look, I don’t like this, but I still have to get healthcare somehow or another if I intend to stay alive.” It’s quite another thing, ethically, to say, “Look, I don’t like this, but I still have to get massive amounts of free land and international trade subsidies somehow or another if I intend to keep my company’s profits above of $16,000,000,000 this year.” Of course, you might point out that a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who did not take that attitude would probably not stay the CEO of that Fortune 500 company for very long. And you’d be right about that. But of course there is a smidge of a difference between the consequence “Well, I cannot get adequate healthcare for love or money, so I will die of a preventable disease” and the consequence, “Well, I guess I may have to look for work in some field other than being one of the most economically privileged people in the world.”

      The main focus should be corporations that actively lobby for state benefits, don’t you think?

      Maybe that should be the main focus; I don’t know. But I don’t see why it should be the exclusive focus. When corporations profit from state privileges — even if they did not lobby for them — I think it’s worth remarking that those business models are a creature of the political regime forced upon us, not an example of voluntary social relationships. Whoever is or is not to blame for the forcing, force it remains.

      Be that as it may, what makes you think that isn’t the main focus, anyway? If the claim is that companies like Alcoa (!), Sony (!!), and Dow (!!@$#!) don’t actively lobby for state benefits, then that claim is false. And obviously so.

  3. Rad Geek October 7, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

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    You know, it strikes me that if your aim is to use visual rhetoric to lodge a criticism of the people at Occupy Wall Street, then an image whose upshot is, roughly, “the activities of giant corporations inescapably pervade absolutely every aspect of your everyday life” … may not actually be as effective a criticism as you think it is.

  4. Cal October 8, 2011 at 2:56 am #

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    As Plauché correctly indicated, Rod, the two are not comparable given anti-state protestors necessarily did not voluntarily purchase any of the state goods or services. Conversely, absolutely everything in the WallSt photo (other than the city road sign) was voluntarily purchased by those individuals who had many immediate alternatives to those purchases, almost always including versions of the same item not made by big evil nasty corporationy corporations (generally higher price or lower quality, of course… which indeed could change on average to some significant degree in a freer market a la Machinery of Freedom, but that’s clearly not the point).

    To obscure this empirical distinction and equate businesses operating in a mixed-economy statist market with the state itself is to reduce anti-state libertarianism to unworkable nonsense. Such obscurantism seems to constitute the entire intellectual contribution of “left-libertarianism,” however, and is thus not particularly surprising. It’s merely discouraging.

    • Roderick October 8, 2011 at 11:59 am #

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      I already answered that point; see above. I gave an argument there, which you haven’t addressed.

      • Cal October 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

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        If something is in fact evil and illegitimate, does it matter that much whether it is inherently so?

        Yes, in this case, it clearly does because to obscure the empirical distinction between the State and businesses operating in mixed economy is to conflate necessary and sufficient cause with unnecessary and partial effects.

        And calling corporations as they exist today “in fact evil” would be question-begging anyway. Is everything affected by the state “evil?” Is everyone who receives “benefits” from the state “evil?” By such moralizing standards, we are all “evil”… unions, college professors, car drivers, and dorky TV show producers no more excluded from the moralizer’s chopping block than Apple, J.Crew, Canon, Wells Fargo, Dupont.

        Corporate power depends on the state, but the state desperately needs the big corporations too: for campaign contributions, for propaganda funding, and for hierarchical workplaces that reinforce habits of docility in the populace.

        That “corporate power” as such depends on the state is question-begging here and even if it were true, that wouldn’t mean it makes sense to conflate cause with effect and then moralize based on this conflation. As Anthony de Jasay and others have pointed out, the state as an emergent system has its own interests (including self-perpetuation) and is not operationally reducible to some conspiratorial instrument of “capitalists” or “the 1%” or “Obama” or Bush” or “right-wingers” or “left-wingers” or “the ruling class” or anything other than the state. The problem is the State, which is a creature of the masses.

        The claim that “the state desperately needs the big corporations” is unambiguously false on its face. There have many many many states contemporary and throughout history that have existed, persisted, and been extremely destructive without big private corporations. State-regimented “education,” state propaganda, and public ideology seems empirically quite sufficient to maintain extreme state power (including docile populations, which are clearly much more prevalent in ideologically “leftist” states like North Korea, Maoist China, Cuba, etc).

        If anything, private multinational corporations are an apparently robust check on state power and may very well prove to be more effective at withering away the state via corporate arbitrage than libertarian ideology ( Martin van Creveld et al.). Viva la MNC.

        We’re often in a position to choose among various state services. Of course we have no choice about the coercion-driven structural framework within which those choices happen. But exactly the same point applies to the corporate marketplace, no?

        No, “exactly the same point” does not apply at all. We are not in a position to individually choose whether we fund state services at all and furthermore many such services are geographic monopolies by direct state decree, making them impossible to avoid in use (like roads). Contrariwise, we are in a position to individually choose whether we purchase corporation-sold item; and for any given item, there are non-corporationy versions we can choose instead without having to geographically relocate our lives. Private corporations depend to varying but as a rule crucial degree on such individually voluntary consumer actions. The State does not.

        Can you state a criterion that will have state universities and the post office turn out to be part of the state, and Walmart not?

        Um yes. Walmart is a private corporation operating in a statist market whereas the post office and state universities are state agencies. To the degree they are actually privatized and thus depend on individually voluntary actions, the latter become comparable to private corporations (regardless of “structural” arguments that apply to everyone). Indeed, attacking “the post office” or “U of Alabama” as such as would be to some significant but lesser degree just as wrongheaded as attacking “the private corporations.”

        I’d say they should be occupying both [DC and WallSt]. (Which is a point that left-libertarians have been making.)

        No, they should be occupying state capitols and central banks, not Wall St… any more than they should be occupying your house because you (as a car driver, professor, etc.) have benefited from the state and use state services. Necessary and sufficient cause vs. arguable, contingent, partial effect. The “leftist” factions among the Occupy doofies are all (predictably) so far explicitly calling for drastically more statism anyway, so this rather a moot point. This is in stark contrast to your “right-wing” “tea party” protesters who for the most part only agreed on explicitly calling for state shrinkage.

        Sure, but the reverse view — of plutocrats as merely junior partners, corrupted puppets of their political masters — is just as naive, right?

        No, again, necessary and sufficient cause vs. partial and unnecessary effect. And the “effect” here is not morally or consequentialistically equivalent between state agencies and private businesses: private corporations in a statist market are preferable to state agencies. South Korea =/= North Korea. Private corporations =/= the State. Whip conflation now.

        • Rad Geek October 8, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

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          Plauche:

          Don’t fall into the left-libertarian mistake of treating all big corporations as necessarily a part of the state.

          Long:

          Can you state a criterion that will have state universities and the post office turn out to be part of the state, and Walmart not?

          Cal:

          Um yes. Walmart is a private corporation operating in a statist market whereas the post office and state universities are state agencies.

          Well, you know, that’s stating (or re-stating) the conclusion that you’re supposed to be proving. It’s not stating the criterion by which you can prove it.

          Cal:

          … the empirical distinction between …

          You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

          If your case rests on repeatedly recurring to the definition of the state per se, and the definition of the corporation per se, and how one of them is in-principle compatible with the norms of a freed market (which do not actually exist as an object of experience, although they can be imagined counterfactually); and the other is not (as it necessarily involves the legitimation of centralized force etc. etc.), then what you’ve got here — for good or for ill — looks a lot more like a conceptual distinction than something empirical. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

          Or if I’ve misunderstood what you meant to say when you called this distinction an “empirical distinction,” then what work did you mean the term “empirical” to be doing?

        • Cal October 8, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

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          Well, you know, that’s stating (or re-stating) the conclusion that you’re supposed to be proving

          Uh no it’s not. It’s positing a legal, historical, and current operational difference, expanded in the following sentences of that paragraph. I’m not trying to “prove” anything.

          If your case rests on repeatedly recurring to the definition of the state per se, and the definition of the corporation per se, and how one of them is in-principle compatible with the norms of a freed market (which do not actually exist as an object of experience, although they can be imagined counterfactually); and the other is not (as it necessarily involves the legitimation of centralized force etc. etc.), then what you’ve got here — for good or for ill — looks a lot more like a conceptual distinction than something empirical. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

          No, that’s the empirical definition of the state, meaning it’s the one arrived at by anthropologists, archaeologists, and social scientists (See Claessen, Skalnik, Yoffee, Weber, etc.) who study state formation and state power empirically and make admittedly theory-laden definitions of the state subject to empirical scrutiny, as opposed to the moral or armchair philosophy about the nature of the state characterized by some theorists like Yoram Barzel and Hegelians and a whole host of libertarian and especially “left-libertarian” reductionistic moralizers: the state is just force, the state is just hierarchy, the state is just authority, the state is just society, the state is just the limitation of choice, the state is just a large private property claim, the state is an instrument of the bourgeoise or the capitalists, etc. etc.

          An important conceptual clarity does indeed follow from this empirical work, and that’s the point.

        • Rad Geek October 8, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

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          Cal:

          It’s positing a legal, historical, and current operational difference, expanded in the following sentences of that paragraph. I’m not trying to “prove” anything.

          Thanks for clarifying. I agree that you have “posited” this, and I agree that it doesn’t “prove” anything. But you know if your interlocutor asks you to describe the criteria that make it reasonable for institution A to be considered, from an analytical and critical standpoint, as part of the state, while unreasonable for institution B to be so considered — and then the answer you give your interlocutor is “Well, obviously, you can tell that they are different, because I posit that institution A is part of the state, and institution B is not,” then your “posit” is under-argued.

          In fact it’s not argued at all. Or even so much as adequately characterized. You can insist on this “posit” all you like, but if you intended it as an answer to Roderick’s question, then it’s not just that you haven’t offered anything that would motivate Roderick to accept that there is an important difference. You haven’t even described what that difference would be. You’ve just re-stated the claim that there is one. It is exactly as if he asked “Well, what’s the difference between taxation and theft?” and you answered by “positing:” “Well, one of them is theft. And the other is taxation.”

          No, that’s the empirical definition of the state, meaning it’s the one arrived at by … social scientists … who study state formation and state power empirically and make admittedly theory-laden definitions of the state subject to empirical scrutiny, as opposed to the moral or armchair philosophy about the nature of the state …

          Man, it sounds like you’ve got a whole argument in your head ready to go about social philosophy and the (apparently unsavory?) practice of “moralizing.” But I didn’t ask you a question about social philosophy or about moralizing; I asked you in what sense your argument was supposed to be an empirical one when it seemed to be based entirely on definitional appeals. Maybe you think the definitions you appeal to are importantly rooted in a background empirical research. OK; if they are, great, but it seems to me that when Roderick points out all the actually-existing, empirically-observed linkages between the business model of some real-world giant corporation (Dow or Sony, for instance) and the real-world practice of state power, and your response is to start talking about the extent to which this entanglement is or is not a matter of “necessary and sufficient cause” or “unnecessary and partial effects,” etc. then it seems to me that Roderick is the one offering an empirically-rooted argument, and you are the one responding with an attempt at making and insisting on apriori reasoning from a set of conceptual distinctions.

          (Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making or insisting on apriori reasoning from a set of conceptual distinctions. But if you’re going to do it, you ought to be out and proud about that, not pretending that it really is an empirical argument after all.)

          … the state is just force, the state is just hierarchy, the state is just authority, the state is just society, the state is just the limitation of choice, the state is just a large private property claim, the state is an instrument of the bourgeoise or the capitalists, etc. etc.

          I have literally no idea what or who you mean to talk about here. You seem to be confusing particular substantive claims that some people have made about the state (e.g. that it “is an instrument of the bourgeoisie or the capitalists”) and the definitions of the state that they give (nobody in the world has ever tried to define the state as “an instrument of the bourgoisie or the capitalists”); and you also seem to have mixed in a number of claims that aren’t actually about the state, but rather about anarchism (e.g. that anarchism is opposed to all hierarchies, all authority or all use of force in social relations, not merely to political power, coercively-entrenched authority or territorial monopolies on the use of legal force). In any case, I’d like to hear a concrete example of a left-libertarian who defines the state in any of the “is just…” terms that you list here.

        • Cal October 9, 2011 at 12:31 am #

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          Charles, please consider just letting Long reply if he wants and has the time since I replied in response to him, not you, and your long-winded and selective misunderstandings here were time-consuming and intellectually unrewarding. I can’t imagine you don’t have better things to do.

          Keep in mind the disagreement is with this notion that protesting statism while driving on state roads, etc. and protesting “private greed, profit>people corporations” while wearing J.Crew hats, etc. are equivalent or equally hypocritical. I’m saying they’re not because private corporations are not the state and empirically can’t do what the state can do.

          You haven’t even described what that difference would be.

          Yes, I did… not by pointing out that we merely use different words for them (state vs. corporation) because they’re different concepts, but by pointing out that walmart historically operates as a private business in a mixed economy, directly relies crucially on individually voluntary consumer choices to buy what it sells for its continued profitability, and most importantly is not capable of mass ideologically legitimated mass proactive coercion (what state agencies can do). Walmart is not the state and cannot do what state agencies do. Walmart is not causally responsible for the statism in the market in which it exists: the state is and thus the masses are by one remove. To attack walmart b/c it’s a partial net beneficiary (or more vertically organized hierarchical organizational result or whatever) of the state is to attack partial, arguable effect rather than cause. The difference is cause vs. effect.

          None of this applies to parts of the state as such. To the degree state agencies are actually privatized, however, they cease to be state agencies and thus a semi-privatized post office and universities are like private corporations (still on a statist market) to the degree they are actually privatized (which is significantly > 0 in both post office and universities, so, as said, they would be similarly but somewhat less wrongheaded targets for the cause of problems. So Rod’s question was a bit misguided given nothing depends the current post office or universities being things that libertarians need to oppose in their entirety–a more appropriate question would be “what distinguishes the IRS from walmart” or more straightforward “what distinguishes the state from walmart”).

          apriori reasoning from a set of conceptual distinctions

          Um if the concepts are empirically-informed a posteriori ones, it’s not “a priori”… all reasoning necessarily is from a “set of conceptual distinctions.” You’re confused.

          My definition of the state is empirically informed and from that, a substantive distinction between state and corporations follows (even pure “left-libertarian” version of corporations as current-day corporations being almost entirely effects of statism).

          States are, simplistically, creatures of bottom-up mass ideology legitimating top-down mass coercion over a territory. Corporations are creatures of individually voluntary human interaction and statism, to arguable comparative degrees (same goes for roads and professors and most everything else.

          Attacking the latter is attacking partial effect rather than cause. Doesn’t make sense, especially given that MNCs are likely checks on state power and states have been historically been most destructive sans help from mixed-economy private corporations (USSR, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, etc.). It’s akin to the notion the problem is caused by “private greed” rather than by the state.

          Rod’s attempt to make corporations causal agents here by claiming that states need corporations for campaign contributions, propaganda, and docile worker populations fails and seems quite evidently just false. States have done worse by doing it themselves. If someone wants to disagree substantively with me, this is the point on which they should do it.

          In any case, I’d like to hear a concrete example of a left-libertarian who defines the state in any of the “is just…” terms that you list here.

          By “is just,” I’m talking about when the defining characteristic of the state, what differentiates it from other human institutions and informs its function, is reduced to “just” those kind of things (things which are do not empirically define what we call states) and therefore those things rather than the state are the problem and should be opposed. I’ve recently had a discussion with a Salt Lake City “mutualist” on my linked tumblr who argued that the state is a power relation and therefore libertarians are hypocrites for not opposing all power relations like traditional parenting and voluntary wage employment and even “bargaining power” disparities. Someone attempted to make an even broader point about the unfalsifiable chimera of “privilege.” Carson, IIRC, has argued that state outcomes are bad because the state is the utmost “power relation” and thus information flow is inhibited or something along those lines (not entirely incorrect, but obscures the distinction between state and non-state by reducing the different to a matter of severity of the vagaries of “power relations”). This seems pretty common among left-libertarians in my experience, but I wasn’t making any argument based on this.

        • Cal October 9, 2011 at 1:37 am #

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          And in talking about “cause and effect” here, I’m taking as a given that currently-existing corporations and particularly the aspects most of us don’t like about them (systemically socializing risk, systemically socializing cost, over-bureaucratization, over-centralization, etc.), are to a significant degree effects of statism as opposed to mere coexisting bads with statism, just like plenty of other things we think are bad and significantly caused by statism… poverty, child malnutrition, war, etc.

          I’m assuming no left-libertarian here disagrees on this empirical point of causation; Rod and Kevin clearly don’t, but one conceivable could. That would require an entirely different discussion.

        • MBH October 9, 2011 at 9:13 am #

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          Cal,

          Rod’s attempt to make corporations causal agents here by claiming that states need corporations for campaign contributions, propaganda, and docile worker populations fails and seems quite evidently just false.

          As I read Roderick, he says that cause and effect are inoperative when considering the relationship between states and corporations. It would be like questioning whether one’s arms are the cause and one’s legs the effect, or vice versa. Your line of questioning ultimately dissolves (whether you’re willing to acknowledge that or not).

          The “leftist” factions among the Occupy doofies are all (predictably) so far explicitly calling for drastically more statism anyway, so this rather a moot point.

          You miss the point. You still assume that cause and effect are operative here. The aim is not to empower the state over corporations, but to dis-coordinate the collusion.

        • Rad Geek October 9, 2011 at 11:09 am #

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          Cal:

          I’m saying they’re not because private corporations are not the state and empirically can’t do what the state can do.

          OK. I know that you are saying that. But the point is that this doesn’t adequately answer the question that you were supposedly saying it to answer. (Which was, remember, “Can you state a criterion that will have state universities and the post office turn out to be part of the state, and Walmart not?”) The U.S. Postal Service “empirically can’t do” what the state as a whole can do, either. Nor are they “causally responsible” (in any global sense) “for the statism in the market in which it exists.” (The USPS is of course “causally responsible,” in part, for the specific statist measures that it lobbies Congress to pass. But then, so is Walmart.) So while you have repeatedly restated your view that Wal-Mart is indeed not part of the state, because it is a private corporation and private corporations are (just as such?) not part of the state, you have not actually given the criterion that you were asked to give.

          Cal:

          Walmart is not causally responsible for the statism in the market in which it exists: the state is and thus the masses are by one remove …

          Oh, well, “the masses.” Well, as you may know, most left-libertarians do not tend to believe in starry-eyed utopian theories about the responsiveness of democratic states to “the masses.” Rather, most of us are of the view that the direction of corporate-statist economic policy has very largely been shaped by the lobbying and policy-crafting efforts of the concentrated interests who most benefit from it. Maybe you dissent, but if so, it might be more useful to give the reasons for your dissent rather than simply insisting on it as if all reasonable people knew that “the masses” and not, say, well-connected lobbies are “causally responsible” for what the state does.

          Cal:

          By “is just,” I’m talking about when the defining characteristic of the state, what differentiates it from other human institutions and informs its function, is reduced to “just” those kind of things …

          Cool beans. So, who’s doing that?

          Keep in mind that making the claim that the state does X; or that doing X is the ethically or politically salient fact about the state from the standpoint of the current discussion is not the same thing as treating X as “the defining characteristic of the state.”

        • Rad Geek October 9, 2011 at 11:27 am #

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          Me:

          … apriori reasoning from a set of conceptual distinctions

          Cal:

          Um if the concepts are empirically-informed a posteriori ones, it’s not “a priori”…

          Well, no; or, at least, you are not using these terms as they are standardly used in philosophy. Perhaps there is another use of them that would make sense of this claim, but if so, you’ll have to explain what it is. According to the standard uses of these terms within the discipline it is of course possible to engage in apriori reasoning using empirical concepts: for example, in the syllogism: “All dogs are mammals; all mammals are warm-blooded; therefore all dogs are warm-blooded.” Here the major and minor premise both employ empirical concepts (“dog,” “mammal,” “warm-blooded”) and are in fact aposteriori judgments (it was only through experience that we found that dogs are mammals, and that all mammals are warm-blooded). But the inference from the major and minor premise to the conclusion is still a matter of apriori, not aposteriori, reasoning. The argument depends on a background of empirical concepts and aposteriori judgments that you need in order to make sense of what the argument says, but that doesn’t make the argument an aposteriori argument, any more than the fact that you need a functioning computer to read the argument as I’ve presented would make it an argument about computer science.

        • Cal October 9, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

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          As I read Roderick, he says that cause and effect are inoperative when considering the relationship between states and corporations. It would be like questioning whether one’s arms are the cause and one’s legs the effect, or vice versa.

          No, Rod’s position is explicitly that currently-existing, deleterious “corporate power” and so forth is “causally dependent” on systemic state intervention.

          The aim is not to empower the state over corporations, but to dis-coordinate the collusion.

          While the stated aims of some Occupy protesters may well be to “get corporations out of government” or whatever statist thing, Rod’s aim is not to merely “discoordinate” two separate bads but to smash the causative one, quite explicitly.

          As I said in the comment to which you are replying, he does indicate an argument to the effect of the state being somewhat causally dependent on corporations, which fails:

          The claim that “the state desperately needs the big corporations” is unambiguously false on its face. There have many many many states contemporary and throughout history that have existed, persisted, and been extremely destructive without big private corporations. State-regimented “education,” state propaganda, and public ideology seems empirically quite sufficient to maintain extreme state power (including docile populations, which are clearly much more prevalent in ideologically “leftist” states like North Korea, Maoist China, Cuba, etc).

          If anything, private multinational corporations are an apparently robust check on state power and may very well prove to be more effective at withering away the state via corporate arbitrage than libertarian ideology (Martin van Creveld et al.). Viva la MNC.

          Rod’s attempt to make corporations causal agents here by claiming that states need corporations for campaign contributions, propaganda, and docile worker populations fails and seems quite evidently just false. States have done worse by doing it themselves. If someone wants to disagree substantively with me, this is the point on which they should do it.

        • Cal October 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

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          Rad geek, I replied to you here: http://aaeblog.com/2011/10/07/double-standard/comment-page-1/#comment-366837 but it’s out of this thread.

        • Anonymous October 10, 2011 at 12:32 am #

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          Anyone that doesn’t think the government (the administrative arm of the state) relies on Wall Street and the banks (the financial arm of the state — headed by the Fed) should read some Murray Rothbard.

        • MBH October 10, 2011 at 6:35 am #

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          No, Rod’s position is explicitly that currently-existing, deleterious “corporate power” and so forth is “causally dependent” on systemic state intervention.

          and

          Rod’s attempt to make corporations causal agents [...]

          Yes: Roderick criticizes Chomsky for saying that the plutocracy causes the statocracy. Roderick also tends to say that the statocracy causes the plutocracy, but other times, that the two are inextricable. For parsimonious purposes: I think it’s most helpful to see how useless causality is as a construct in all but origin stories. You’re welcome to tell me how one causes the other in terms of their origin. But, in terms of practicality: causality only muddles the issue.

          While the stated aims of some Occupy protesters may well be to “get corporations out of government” or whatever statist thing, Rod’s aim is not to merely “discoordinate” two separate bads but to smash the causative one, quite explicitly.

          Mind the context. You’re commenting on blog with a subtitle reading: “Austro” as in Rothbard and Wittgenstein, “Athenian” as in Aristotle and smashing-the-plutocracy.

        • Cal October 10, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

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          For parsimonious purposes: I think it’s most helpful to see how useless causality is as a construct in all but origin stories. You’re welcome to tell me how one causes the other in terms of their origin. But, in terms of practicality: causality only muddles the issue.

          This is not Rod’s and Kevin’s frequently-stated position, which emphasizes the “causal dependence” of current wealth disparities, economic hierarchy, etc. on systemic state intervention. e.g. Kevin’s whole schtick is that “capitalism” is the result of state intervention and therefore smash the state to kill “capitalism.” That is their argument which as I said I’m taking as given (though it’s somewhat in conflict at least in terms of degree and significance with arguments from other prominent libertarians like Peter Klein, Bryan Caplan, David Friedman, Anthony de Jasay, Vernon Smith).

          Indeed, Rod contradicted this causal dependence somewhat by stating that “the state needs the corporations,” which as I’ve argued just simply empirically fails.

          He has also confused his own stated position by obscuring the definition of the state vs. mixed economy market actors. It is not clear that his position against Chomsky would hold if he stuck consistently to this obscurantism.

        • MBH October 10, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

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          [...] Rod contradicted this [...]

          and

          He has also confused [...]

          I don’t buy it. So long as he distinguishes the causal component of state-corporatism’s origin from the inoperability of causality in the state-corporatist structure as it currently stands today, then all apparent contradiction/confusion is really a mere surface tension.

        • Cal October 10, 2011 at 11:35 pm #

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          I don’t buy it. So long as he distinguishes the causal component of state-corporatism’s origin from the inoperability of causality in the state-corporatist structure as it currently stands today, then all apparent contradiction/confusion is really a mere surface tension.

          Well, he’s right here (somewhere) so that can be easily resolved regarding his current position. If you read my recent reply, that’s why I asked if there was a significant difference between utilities of a hypothetical “the private corporations” cet paribus and smashing of “the government” cet paribus. So far as I’ve read, he’s been abundantly clear he thinks corporatism etc. is still “causally dependent” on the state in current operation and that most of its deleterious consequences would die away with the end of statism. It wouldn’t make much sense in the opposite direction and would muddy his “left-libertarian” position beyond recognition.

      • Geoffrey Allan Plauché October 8, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

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        I already answered that point; see above. I gave an argument there, which you haven’t addressed.

        I don’t think you did, Roderick.

    • Cal October 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

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      while you have repeatedly restated your view that Wal-Mart is indeed not part of the state, because it is a private corporation and private corporations are (just as such?) not part of the state, you have not actually given the criterion that you were asked to give.

      As I indicated already, that question is inapproprate because the post office is semi-privatized and as such libertarians needn’t oppose it in its entirety… and as I said it would be wrongheaded (but less so than “smash walmart”) to protest “USPS” rather than “IRS” or “Fed” or most straightforward “the State.” The relevant criterion distinguishing private corporations and state agencies that I indicated is their legal status and resultant operation.

      E.g. Goldman Sachs, as such, colludes with the state and is somewhat dependent in its currently-existing form on statism; but it is legally not a state agency, is not chartered by state decree, is not run by state officials or state-appointed officials, isn’t operationally defined by a legal monopoly or tax support or taxpayer guarantee, did not historically begin as a “part of the state,” and cannot do what the state can do. If it weren’t Goldman Sachs colluding with the State, it would be some other firm or union, or else the State monopolizing financial services directly (even worse). Goldman Sachs as it currently exists = effect. The State = cause.

      The USPS is “part of the state,” legally, historically, and operationally whereas Walmart and Goldman Sachs are not: the USPS is legally part of the executive branch of the US government. It began as a state agency, has historically been a state agency, and remains a state agency, chartered by the constitution. Its board of governors is appointed by the US president and it’s controlled by the acting Postmaster General. It, like all state agencies, is legally immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution or antitrust liability. The USPS’s role is defined by its legal monopoly on 1st and 3rd class mail, its legal ability to exercise eminent domain and negotiate international mail treaties and so forth. The USPS is historically, explicitly, directly tax-funded and currently somewhat taxpayer-guaranteed (like e.g. GSE’s).

      Walmart has none of these legal, operational characteristics as it is not a state agency. It is not “part of the state.”

      The USPS is not “causally responsible” because it “lobbies the state” but because the state is causally responsible and the USPS is a state agency, legally part of the state. Your obscurantism re: state agencies and private corporations would quickly turn into nonsense if followed consistently… like the Department of Interior doesn’t tax the population or enforce legislation itself, it “lobbies” other branches of the government to do that, so its not “part of the state” or no more a part of the state than unions which also lobby the state? What is your criterion for being “part of the state” that you’re using in favor of legal operation? Lobbying (any, some, muchos?)? Merely being a passive beneficiary of statism? Being affected by statism? This is silliness.

      most left-libertarians do not tend to believe in starry-eyed utopian theories about the responsiveness of democratic states to “the masses.”

      Not what I was talking about. Majoritarian democracy is not particularly effective for accurate collective choice, though empirical studies do show that state policies tend to reflect public opinion [e.g. 1, 2] and change in response to public opinion[e.g. 1, 2]. The central point I’m making here is that mass ideological legitimation (unlike “corporations”) is empirically necessary for the formation and maintenance of the state. The state’s limitations functionally depend inter alia on mass ideology. The state is a creature of the masses, not some conspiratorial elite or “the 1%.” No bank or business could do what the state does because banks and businesses as such don’t have bottom-up mass ideological legitimation of top-down mass coercion.

      • Cal October 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

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        To reiterate my point more clearly: the masses may or may not support some particular politician or policy. Studies show that popular support for a given policy is empirically very significant in terms it being legislated and enforced, which is not a trivial point and not dismissible by pointing to fanciful Millsian theories about the conspiratorial “elite” or whatever.

        However regardless of whether the masses support any particular state policy or politician, they ideologically support the state as an institution through time. And that mass ideological legitimation is what creates, enables, and sustains the state. The state does not need “big private greedy business” and history seems quite clear that states without the check of MNC arbitrage tend to be worse than states with it. The state does need mass ideological legitimation and its limitations are ultimately defined by mass ideology. The state is a creature of the masses.

      • Roderick October 10, 2011 at 12:38 am #

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        As I indicated already, that question is inappropriate because the post office is semi-privatized and as such libertarians needn’t oppose it in its entirety

        Okay, so you grant that being part of the state can be a matter of degree. I’m happy to grant that Walmart is semi-privatised.

        The relevant criterion distinguishing private corporations and state agencies that I indicated is their legal status and resultant operation.

        If by legal status you mean official legal status, i.e. its status according to official governmental pronouncements, I don’t put much weight on that. In the early days of the Roman Empire, there was no such official office as “Emperor.” On paper all power was still held by the Senate and the popular assemblies jointly.

        I am interested in their actual operation, but not just in their “resultant” operation, i.e. the operation that results from the state’s official prononcements. I’m interested in how the power relations actually work.

        E.g. Goldman Sachs, as such, colludes with the state and is somewhat dependent in its currently-existing form on statism; but it is legally not a state agency, is not chartered by state decree,

        Really? Goldman Sachs doesn’t have a government charter? I hope the cops don’t find out.

        No, I don’t think Goldman Sachs’ charter is that big a deal. (As I said, I’m interested in what happens, not in the puff of language surrounding it.) But you can hardly deny that it has one.

        is not run by state officials or state-appointed officials

        Question-begging. I could equally well “prove” that the Mafia isn’t a gangster organisation by asserting that it’s not run by gangsters.

        isn’t operationally defined by a legal monopoly or tax support or taxpayer guarantee

        Neither was Emperor Augustus.

        The USPS is historically, explicitly, directly tax-funded

        How so? I picked it as an example because I took it to be non-tax-funded.

        Your obscurantism re: state agencies and private corporations would quickly turn into nonsense if followed consistently… like the Department of Interior doesn’t tax the population or enforce legislation itself, it “lobbies” other branches of the government to do that, so its not “part of the state” or no more a part of the state than unions which also lobby the state?

        That’s an excellent example, but it seems to support my case more than yours. Indeed “the Department of Interior doesn’t tax the population or enforce legislation itself,” so it doesn’t do what you say only the state can do; so by your what-only-the-state-can-do criterion it wouldn’t count as part of the state. For you it seems to count as part of the state only by the magic-words-on-paper criterion.

        There’s a system in place. I’m interested in how the whole system works. Calling parts of that system “the state” is a useful abstraction, but it’s not really the point. Clearly we can’t limit the application of the term “state” to just those people who actually use aggressive violence on its behalf. Behind this violence there’s a vast network of people interacting ad sustaining it in various ways and to various degrees. Some of them are (so to speak) wearing special badges that say “state” and some aren’t. I’m not much interested in the badges. I’m interested in the question: who is regularly and reliably in a position to get that violence turned in their favour? Sometimes that lines up with who has the badges and sometimes it doesn’t. (The United Fruit Company didn’t have a badge.)

        • Cal October 10, 2011 at 1:39 am #

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          Okay, so you grant that being part of the state can be a matter of degree. I’m happy to grant that Walmart is semi-privatised.

          Why do you seem to use UK spelling? Aren’t you an American who lives in Alabama? Anyway, Wal-Mart is not “semi-privatized” as it was never a state agency that could undergo “privatization.” It is a private corporation in a mixed economy. It is undoubtedly effected in current form by statism and may even be a net beneficiary of statism compared to some counterfactual market anarchist USA. Doesn’t make it equivalent to the state or mean it makes as much sense to protest Wal-Mart as to protest the state… Effect =/= cause and the degree of causation is disputed here anyway.

          If by legal status you mean official legal status, i.e. its status according to official governmental pronouncements, I don’t put much weight on that. In the early days of the Roman Empire, there was no such official office as “Emperor.” On paper all power was still held by the Senate and the popular assemblies jointly.

          I am interested in their actual operation, but not just in their “resultant” operation, i.e. the operation that results from the state’s official prononcements. I’m interested in how the power relations actually work.

          In the actually-existing mixed economy, “official legal status” is rather empirically important for “actual operation” and is not mere “pronouncement.” Lawyer-dominated American business =/= ancient Roman politics.

          There’s that vague “power relations” again. The state is not sensibly reducible to “power relation.” You’re obscuring the real defining characteristics of the state (mass bottom-up ideological legitimation of mass coercive power i.e. legislation, taxation, etc.) by employing such chimerical vagaries.

          No, I don’t think Goldman Sachs’ charter is that big a deal. (As I said, I’m interested in what happens, not in the puff of language surrounding it.) But you can hardly deny that it has one.

          Goldman Sachs’ legal status and resultant operation is pretty fundamentally important, empirically speaking… Okay, say you “smash goldman sachs.” No more private investment bank formerly known as Goldman Sachs. The company ceases to exist. Have you accomplished anything ceteris paribus? Will things get better? Not likely. Say you “smash the state.” No more mass ideological legitimation of legislation, taxation. Have you accomplished anything cet paribus?

          Does this difference indicate anything to you regarding the relative silliness of protesting these two entities as such?

          Question-begging. I could equally well “prove” that the Mafia isn’t a gangster organisation by asserting that it’s not run by gangsters.

          AFAIK, running the mafia makes you a gangster by definition. Does running a corporation make you a state-appointee by definition? I don’t think so…

          You seem to want to reject all designations based on official, legal, common standards. So specifically what standards are you proposing instead and for what purpose? As Geoffrey has noted, this seems to be a sticking point with “left-libertarians.”

          Should the offices of Goldman Sachs and stores of Wal-Mart be looted by left-libertarians in the unlikely event of a market anarchist dawn? Should the employees and shareholders of those firms (and, indeed you’ve indicated most corporate firms) be held liable or have their wealth taken away by left-libertarian social justice-enforcing redistributionists? What’s the point? We know what the leftist Occupy goofs want: they want the state to do more of exactly that.

          That’s an excellent example, but it seems to support my case more than yours. Indeed “the Department of Interior doesn’t tax the population or enforce legislation itself,” so it doesn’t do what you say only the state can do; so by your what-only-the-state-can-do criterion it wouldn’t count as part of the state. For you it seems to count as part of the state only by the magic-words-on-paper criterion.

          Law is not mere “words-on-paper” in the actually-existing world… I can’t believe you’re making such a silly argument here. The Dept of Interior is legally part of the state. Ok… so congress doesn’t actually collect taxes or enforce legislation itself. I guess it being “part of the state” is mere “words-on-paper.” After all, the IRS and law enforcement agencies only take orders from congress according to some magical parchment. Phooey! I care about their actual operation, not their meaningless legal status!

          I’m interested in the question: who is regularly and reliably in a position to get that violence turned in their favour?

          Why the hell would you care about such an unanswerable and inherently divisive question? Yes, let’s play Who’s The Bigger Victim and Who Can We Demonize rather than talk about the mutual beneficence of freedom contrasted with statism and prospects for less statist societies. I know right where we can start this demonizing game: complicit state university professors voluntarily collecting fat salaries on the bloody backs of the proletariat. VIva la class war.

  5. Todd S. October 8, 2011 at 7:36 am #

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    To obscure this empirical distinction and equate businesses operating in a mixed-economy statist market with the state itself is to reduce anti-state libertarianism to unworkable nonsense.

    I don’t know that it needed much help in that aspect.

  6. verita October 8, 2011 at 8:10 am #

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    Both corporate and government power is a reality. It doesn’t really matter much whose products we use at this current system. The only way we can escape them is by being a hermit.

  7. verita October 8, 2011 at 8:22 am #

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    They are really tied together in strings of clusterfucks, that it’s nearly impossible to make distinction between non-statist Corporation and statist-Corporation. Not mentioning that the historical Corporation was NEVER a creature of the market.

  8. verita October 8, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Opera 11.51 Windows 7

    Corporations, in historical reality are just creations of the State that are begging to take over the role of their creators.

  9. dennis October 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    Firefox 7.0.1 Windows XP

    If it’s unfair to blame libertarians for driving on roads and it’s unfair to blame protestors for using products produced by corporations, isn’t it equally unfair to blame corporations for engaging in the corporatist economy? If the choice is not starting a business or trying to grow it because doing so in the world as it is is incompatible with a pure free market, how is that any different from not driving on roads, or refusing to buy anything created by a corporation? There are malign corporations, but it’s unfair to argue that because they all benefit somehow from statism, that it’s okay to constantly point out that without ag subsidies or IP or occupational licensing or whatever, such and such business model wouldn’t work. If a company lobbies for such things, or are defense contractors or whatever, rake them over the coals, if not, they are just as much trapped in the structure as our road using libertarian or Ipad owning anti-corporationist.

    • Roderick October 8, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

      Safari MacIntosh

      Well, it depends on the details. Companies that sue IP violators, for example, aren’t just benefiting from rights-violations, they’re committing them.

      Moreover, one of our arguments is that state laws create an environment that encourages immoral behaviour (e.g. hierarchical workplaces where bosses micromanage employees and push them around). Even if a company is neither violating rights not lobbying for rights-violating laws, if it takes advantage of laws encouraging immoral behaviour — i.e., if it goes ahead and commits the immoral behaviour — the argument “we’d make less profit if we didn’t do this!” rings a bit hollow. The fact that refraining from immoral behaviour is costly can’t by itself be a defeater.

      • dennis October 8, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

        Firefox 7.0.1 Windows XP

        I could just be dense here, but it seems to me that unless a company is actively complicit in the system or a clear rights violator, they do deserve a lot of the kudos they get from libertarians. A lot, maybe most, companies are no more a part of the system than the protestors or the road using libertarians. We all have dirty hands if the standard is one of absolute market purity. The degree of blame one deserves should be based on their attempts to perpetuate the non-market aspects of our system or to thwart moves toward real laissez faire. I’m not trying to be obstinate, but I think it’s unfair to criticize someone who starts an ice cream shop and expands to a number of locations because she benefits (maybe) from a system which subsidizes particular agricultural models.

        • Rad Geek October 8, 2011 at 10:37 pm #

          Firefox 7.0.1 Linux

          dennis,

          We all have dirty hands if the standard is one of absolute market purity….

          This seems like it’s completely missing the point. The Facebook-using anti-corporate protesters and the government-roads-using libertarians are being accused of a particular vice — hypocrisy. And you’re quite right to question whether “dirty hands” is really the appropriate standard here, i.e., whether “clean hands” are really necessary to avoid the charge of hypocrisy.

          But state-capitalist CEOs are not being accused of hypocrisy in the first place. They are being accused of exploitation. The charge against them (most of them, at least) has nothing to do with a claim that they benefit from a system they claim to protest; it has to do (more or less) with them unethically taking advantage of other people’s material desperation. This is not a matter of whose hands are clean or dirty; it’s a matter of who’s in a social position to do that, and who is not.

          dennis,

          The degree of blame one deserves should be based on their attempts to perpetuate the non-market aspects of our system or to thwart moves toward real laissez faire …

          I’m not convinced that that’s true. (Certainly, doing those things is blameworthy in a distinctive way — it involves direct violations of rights, or direct efforts to get rights violated by third parties. But violating somebody’s rights is not the only way that you can wrong them.)

          But let’s bracket that for the moment and pretend that the only thing we should care about, ethically speaking, is how actively the corporations try to maintain the privileges that they profit from. Well, OK. So what’s the claim here? If the claim is that Sony, Alcoa, and Dow don’t actively attempt to perpetuate the non-market aspects of our system or thwart moves towards real laissez-faire, then that claim is obviously false. If the claim is that somebody, somewhere just wanted to open an ice cream stand and took some money from the local development agency to do it, well, maybe that is importantly different and maybe it is not. But in any case it doesn’t seem to me like that kind of business is the primary target of the Occupy Wall Street protests (or of the typical left-libertarian critique). The much more likely targets are folks like the Fortune 500, who certainly are doing a hell of a lot more than that when it comes to lobbying and suing and otherwise actively striving to entrench or expand their political privileges.

  10. Kevin Carson October 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    Firefox 3.6.23 MacIntosh

    Way to rip them a new one! It reminds me of the typical goo-goo “argument”: “But how would be get our roooaaads?!!” To look at the technological products which arose within a corporate-state economy, and to argue that anyone who uses those products is a hypocrite to criticize corporate statism, is about as ass-brainedly stupid as Elizabeth Warren arguing for some sort of “social contract” where everyone’s obligated to pay “their fair share” because they rely on taxpayer-funded roads or police.

    The folks at LRC have at least paid lip-service to opposing corporate collusion with the state. So I guess any of them who flies in a jumbo jet, uses the Internet or Windows software, etc., must be a hypocrite.

    Worst of all is treating it as some sort of original or witty observation, when it’s already been dragged out by everyone including a third-rate hack reporter at CNN.

    Gene: I’m still behind the times enough to read “FTW” as “Fuck the World.”

    Cal:

    many immediate alternatives to those purchases, almost always including versions of the same item not made by big evil nasty corporationy corporations (generally higher price or lower quality, of course… which indeed could change on average to some significant degree in a freer market a la Machinery of Freedom, but that’s clearly not the point).

    That clearly is the point. If the big corporationy stuff is superior, and that’s the result of stuff like patent monopolies crowding out small p2p efforts to develop proprietary designs in more libertarian or user-friendly formats, then that’s clearly an example of the field of choice being narrowed by the state in the interests of the big players.

    There’s nothing whatsoever hypocritical about making the best choice available from the limited range of alternatives available, despite in the process paying rents to the companies in whose interest the range of alternatives has been restricted, and simultaneously criticizing the injustice of the companies that are hooked into this system of state-enforced monopoly. It is exactly the same in kind as using state roads or post offices as the best alternative given one’s limited choices, and still criticizing the state — even if the limitation of range of choices is different in degree.

    • Cal October 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

      Chrome 14.0.835.202 MacIntosh

      It is exactly the same in kind as using state roads or post offices as the best alternative given one’s limited choices, and still criticizing the state — even if the limitation of range of choices is different in degree.

      No, it’s not. The empirically defining characteristic of the state is not “limitation of choice” as such. Your range of choosable options is always limited, including by other people in voluntary circumstances. The state empirically is defined by bottom-up mass ideological legitimation of a centralized body’s capacity to engage in top-down, proactive, physical, mass coercion (see Weber, Claessen, Skalnik, etc.) Private corporations are not merely different “in degree,” they are empirically different in kind. And this is case regardless of how much they, like everything else, are affected in current form by state interventionism (which is a matter of degree and is arguable as such; AFAIK no LRC Austrians accept the extreme degree to which you ascribe current economic organization to state interventionism anyway, but that’s beside the point here).

      • Watoosh October 10, 2011 at 10:51 am #

        Firefox 6.0.2 Windows XP

        Please stop using the word “empirical” when it is either a trivial or a false qualifier and adds absolutely nothing substantial to your phrases. (Other than “Ooh, look at me, trying to sound all serious and sciency!”)

        Anyway, I still do not think you understand the argument made.

        There is a system in place, and it is centered around a monopoly on the initiation of force. Some get to use that power (police, Blackwater etc.), others get fucked by it. Some people get to directly or indirectly decide how that power is used (politicians, judges, private lobbyists etc.). Some benefit from that power(DEA, NLRB-approved unions, Caterpillar, Walmart etc.), others suffer because of it. Some gain a substantial market share or a monopoly because of it (USPS, Microsoft etc.), others are driven out of the marketplace because of it.

        It adds nothing to the analysis to draw a line in the sand that says “Inside this circle is the state”. What we have is a complicated web of institutions with various movers and shakers with different tasks and privileges, and we want to get rid of it, regardless of what we call it. Disney’s lawyers have more say over the use of copyright law than some cop in Lincoln, Nebraska, whose power is limited to beating pot smokers and harassing minorities. All this power is immoral, so what difference does it make that some who wield it are nominally private and the others are not?

        All this aside, the LRC picture was a stupid strawman to begin with. Just because I use a corporate-made piece of machinery doesn’t mean I’m disqualified from criticizing corporate behavior, and making good products does not justify lobbying for benefits, using sweatshop labor or polluting the environment. (I don’t expect LRC’s PR staff to be up to snuff, though. “Hey, let’s criticize the elites and the status quo, but let’s also make sure nobody will want to support or hang around us!”)

      • Cal October 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

        Chrome 14.0.835.202 MacIntosh

        a monopoly on the initiation of force

        No, this is precisely why a definition of the state (or “the system” or whatever) needs to be empirically-grounded. At the very least, your oversimplified definition needs to expanded to a Weberian “territorial monopoly on legitimate force” to be heading in an accurate direction.

        Making arguments based on reductionistically oversimplified definitions will more likely lead to faulty conclusions; particularly when such definitions are dependent on ethical norms like “initiation” in your definition may. “Monopoly on initiation of force” and “power relations” and so forth are evidently quite useful for popular libertarian message-spreading and are intuitively appealing, but such definitions are not sufficient for the basis of positive arguments, all of which must “draw lines” somewhere to be anything other than vague and useless nonsense.

      • DMajor October 10, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

        Firefox 3.6.10 MacIntosh

        Cal,

        You stated,

        “The state empirically is defined by bottom-up mass ideological legitimation of a centralized body’s capacity to engage in top-down, proactive, physical, mass coercion (see Weber, Claessen, Skalnik, etc.)”

        Wow! did you stop to think about the definition you gave? It really doesn’t say anything, and in fact begs the question.

        Namely, how does this “bottom-up mass ideological legitimation” occur? This definition seems to lean very heavily on a “social contract theory” view of the state and government. Social contract theory glosses over the issue of how one gives one consent to be “governed”, just like your “empirical” definition glosses over what “constitutes bottom-up mass ideological legitimation.”

        You claim your definition is empirical. Nonsense, I say. A brief, thoughtful reading outside the “court jester” standard account histories found in most textbooks and “popular” histories reveals that there are many states that arose through force and manipulation –states both current and past. Heck, the Unites States didn’t even arise in the context of a “bottom-up” (i.e. “grass-roots”) “mass ideological legitimation.” No, the people at the bottom where manipulated, and ultimately forced, into accepting the United States government, particularly the “constitution” and the American “Republic.”

        If one wants to argue that a civilization’s state and government is ultimately determined by said civilization’s overall culture, I would have to agree. That is indeed correct. However, if one wants to extend that argument and claim that this is somehow always “mass legitimation” of the state, I would have to beg to differ. Actively supporting an institution (state, etc) is considerably different than being forced to accept the institution, or passively dealing with it and tolerating it once it is established.

        Essentially what I’m saying is this: There is only one valid form of “mass legitimation”: Everyone (or practically everyone) in the society must have agreed to the institution of the state. There are other ways of confirming legitimacy once the state is established, but I won’t go into that for now. (Suffice to say the are practical issues to consider along Jeffersons line about “light and transient causes.”) In short, your definition is not empirical and begs the question.

        • Cal October 10, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

          Chrome 14.0.835.202 MacIntosh

          how does this “bottom-up mass ideological legitimation” occur?

          That is precisely the empirical question that Claessen and Skalnik and other leading scholars seek to answer in their work on state formation and state power. It’s complex, but the generalizable commonalities include ruler sacralization or the sacralized becoming rulers: i.e. similar to what we today would call “religious cults” or “personality cults” or “hero-worship” or what have you, which initially entailed customary tributary relations and gradually became full-fledged taxation as the ruling institutions got wide and strong enough ideological support for people to accept as legitimate the coercive collection of tribute.

          Recent empirical analysis (e.g. http://ccr.sagepub.com/content/37/1/105.short) has also found that the strengthening of common ownership norms within a growing population is positively correlated with endogenous state formation, probably by organizational necessity as state prohibition is empirically prettymuch the only way to prevent private property delineation in a post-huntergatherer economy with immediately scarce resources and a population well above Dunbar magnitude (~ 150-500 people).

          This definition seems to lean very heavily on a “social contract theory” view of the state and government. Social contract theory glosses over the issue of how one gives one consent to be “governed”

          No, this definition is positivistic, empirical and has nothing whatsoever to do with the ethicist’s normative social contract theories of a morally justified state. It is not seeking to morally justify or condemn the state. It is seeking to give an accurate account of what the state actually is..

          many states that arose through force and manipulation

          That is the conquest theory of state formation which goes back to Engels, Oppenheimer, and famously Carneiro. Unfortunately, this largely debunked theory of state formation is often cited unthinkingly by libertarian academics unfamiliar with the current state of research on the subject.

          I specifically cite Henri Claessen precisely because he is famous for empirically contesting the conquest theory of state formation (though conquest subsequent to formation is indeed important) and putting forward an ideology theory of state formation, sometimes called the complex interaction model, which has much more empirical support.

          No, the people at the bottom where manipulated, and ultimately forced, into accepting the United States government, particularly the “constitution” and the American “Republic.”

          USA was not de novo state formation… it was largely the splitting of a mature state off from another pre-existing mature state: the colonial government splitting off from British government. The ideological legitimacy project by the masses onto their colonial governments didn’t particularly change and enabled the rather smooth continuation of statism.

          Essentially what I’m saying is this: There is only one valid form of “mass legitimation”: Everyone (or practically everyone) in the society must have agreed to the institution of the state.

          You seem to be confusing normative, ethical theories of state legitimacy with positive accounts of state formation. I agree that state power is not morally legitimate (because its coercive and unnecessary as markets, civil society, and common law are more fair and efficient). I’m an anti-statist libertarian. If enough citizens agreed with me, the state likely would cease to be feasibly maintainable. Most do not and these leftist Occupyers loudly do not.

  11. dennis October 9, 2011 at 12:53 am #

    Firefox 7.0.1 Windows XP

    Charles,
    I wasn’t defending any of those corporations, my complaint is with the broader position, that, perhaps mistakenly, I interpret as coming from many left libertarians; which is the idea that any business which in any way profits from something that wouldn’t exist in a truly free market is morally compromised. This is an impossible standard. If I start a business and pay the fees for the business license and other assorted regulatory expenses, I’m profiting at the expense of those who can’t afford to meet those requirements. It doesn’t make me a scoundrel unless I’m calling for more licensing schemes and regulations to keep potential competitors at bay. It also doesn’t make me a ne’er-do-well if I incorporate any more than if I accept a social security check.

    As to the protestors, I don’t doubt that many of their targets are deserving of scorn. But a good number of them, maybe the majority, endorse something far worse than our present corporatist system. ADM and Bank of America and Sony might be bad, but a bigger more powerful state without them would be exponentially worse than them without a state. At the risk of hyperbole, for many of them, protesting corporate power is a bit like a fervent supporter of Leopold II’s actions in the Congo denouncing the admittedly horrid French rule of Madagascar on humanitarian grounds. I probably failed to actually address anything you said, but it’s late and I am weary.

    • Rad Geek October 9, 2011 at 10:32 am #

      Firefox 7.0.1 Linux

      dennis:

      I interpret as coming from many left libertarians; which is the idea that any business which in any way profits from something that wouldn’t exist in a truly free market is morally compromised.

      Well, maybe we just differ in our experiences with, or our interpretations of, what most left-libertarians say.

      My impression is that very few of us care about the issue of assigning moral blame one way or the other for something as broad and general as “participating in the statist economy” or “profiting from political privilege.” I don’t really care whether or not that makes Mike Duke a scoundrel; that is, as far as I’m concerned, between him and his pastor. The questions that get asked at this level of generality are more typically structural questions: whether a particular business practice would or would not be sustainable in a market free of political privilege; whether it would even be possible in a market free of political privilege; whether an organization operating politically ought to be understood as a constrained private actor, or as an effective part of the state, or some third term — e.g. as an autonomous ally of the state or as integrated within a structure of coercive power but distinct from the state as such or…, or…, or…. Of course all of this involves some ethical reasoning and all of it presumably has some important ethical consequences, but I don’t see these questions primarily as ethical questions. They are rather empirical questions about how a given set of real-world social institutions relate to each other and what roles they play in various systems of social power.

      As to the protestors, I don’t doubt that many of their targets are deserving of scorn. But a good number of them, maybe the majority, endorse something far worse than our present corporatist system.

      Maybe. (Although it seems to me like you’re overestimating the uniformity of opinion among the protesters.) But that seems to me like a good reason to criticize the specific shitty things that specific folks suggest as solutions or alternatives. It doesn’t seem like a good reason to criticize them for the mere fact of protesting against the guys that they are protesting against.

  12. dennis October 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    Firefox 7.0.1 Windows XP

    Now that I’m a bit fresher than last night I might be able to muster a better response to your posts, but as I have the technical skills of a high functioning pine marten I won’t be able to quote the necessary passages, I’m sorry.

    In an earlier response you noted that what the protestors and libertarians had been accused of was hypocrisy and that since that wasn’t what corporations had been accused of my analogy was pretty badly missing the point. I disagree. Being trapped in the structure absolves the protestors and libertarians of the hypocrisy charge, but it also absolves most companies for doing nothing more than benefiting from government roads or ag subsidies (but even here it doesn’t absolve companies like ADM which are so heavily entwined with the “ag state”.) It does absolve my ice cream chain owner, or a car dealership owner or something like that.

    Roderick notes that the hierarchical structures encouraged by the system are rife with exploitation and abuse. These are distinctively ethical charges, along with being empirical claims. While I think this is true to a degree, how are we defining abuse and exploitation. Is it simply a boss who’s a jerk? Is it a question of pay and work conditions? Is it the simple existence of structured hierarchy? Are all Western factories in the developing world examples of this? Or do some deserve the defense of “sweat shops” offered by some “free market” economists? Are these the immoral behaviors which aren’t necessarily rights violations to which he refers? I have sympathy with the argument, but I don’t have a good sense of Roderick’s (or your) idea of what constitutes abuse. It might well gel with my own, but I don’t know.

    Thank you for your last response. I have no disagreement with discussing the specific effects of the state generally and particular policies specifically on corporate practices. I think proposing counterfactuals about what a “freed market” would look like is important, even if we can’t know for sure. But, and maybe I’m way off, it does seem like some scorn for actually existing businesses is smuggled in with this, whether these businesses are suing IP “violators” or lobbying for privilege or not.

    I don’t think I was overestimating the uniformity of opinion among the protestors, I tried to avoid doing that. I know that there are people in the crowd who really do understand what’s going on, others who are generally good but who are wrong on some other issues, but, and maybe this is a result of media coverage, a significant number of them seem to be agitating for more centralized power. I won’t turn my nose up in disgust at them unless they prove to be impervious to argument, but as it stands right now, they’re worse than what they’re protesting against. You’re right, though, that in and of itself shouldn’t lead to criticism of them for protesting against corporate malefactors, but for those who are advocates of bigger power for the state, their positions do warrant criticism precisely because they are attempting to at best make the things they oppose worse, or at worst, replace the existing situation with something approaching an Eastern Bloc hellhole. Whether the criticism on display in David “Rockefellers and Rothschilds are under my bed” Kramer is warranted is another story.

  13. Roderick October 9, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    Safari MacIntosh

    Is the Federal Reserve part of the state?

    • Brandon October 9, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

      Chromium 14.0.835.202 Ubuntu 11.10

      That, sir, is an evil and wicked question.

    • Cal October 10, 2011 at 12:08 am #

      Chrome 14.0.835.202 MacIntosh

      Is the Federal Reserve part of the state?

      Hmm, well, let’s see… it was founded by acts of congress defining its function as monopoly co-issuer of legal tender with the US Treasury Dept and as the operational instrument for state monetary policy. The Fed derives its legal authority directly from congress and is run by political appointees confirmed by congress. Is congress part of the state? The Fed does not rely on individually voluntary consumer choices within a mixed economy for its existence: it is an arm of the state that by its existence causes the “mix.”

      Contrast with Wal-Mart…

      If your criterion of distinction between state and non-state doesn’t sufficiently capture such a painfully obvious difference in kind, it’s probably a pretty shitty criterion.

      • Roderick October 10, 2011 at 12:14 am #

        Safari MacIntosh

        Yet count how many times critics of the Fed complain that the problem with it is that it is unaccountable because it is private.

        Are they confused? Sure. But notice what kind of confusion it is.

        As for being founded by act of congress, etc., I’m interested in what the state does, not in what it says it does.

        • Cal October 10, 2011 at 12:46 am #

          Chrome 14.0.835.202 MacIntosh

          I can certainly agree that soundbyte complaints about the Fed being “no more federal than FedEx” etc. are badly misguided and probably due to the limited within-government “independence” of the Fed relative to other branches of US federal government. AFAIK, zero informed critics of the Fed have made this claim. Certainly few LRC Austrians would agree the problem with the Fed is that it’s “too private.”

          Those acts of congress are enforced law… not just say-sos. They define the actual function of the Federal Reserve, at least indicating unambiguously its status as part of the state.

          The point here IIRC was distinguishing state from non-state i.e. Fed from Wal-Mart.

        • Anonymous October 10, 2011 at 12:48 am #

          Chrome 14.0.835.186 Windows XP

          After reading these comments, I’m starting to think that Rothbard was a left-libertarian.

        • Cal October 10, 2011 at 3:58 am #

          Chrome 14.0.835.202 MacIntosh

          After reading these comments, I’m starting to think that Rothbard was a left-libertarian.

          Criticizing crony capitalism is not uniquely “left”-libertarian. Neither is pointing out the historical details of extreme examples of state-corporation collusion (like contemporary Goldman Sachs, Solyndra, etc.) or the revolving door between politically-connected business/unions/interest groups and relevant state agencies. Systemic incentives toward regulatory capture is not a “left-libertarian” argument. Rothbard went through a strategic “leftist” phase to his discredit, but he was no “left-libertarian.” (Anyway David Friedman > Murray Rothbard).

          “Left-libertarians” is a broadly-applied gaga neologism and their only unifying characteristic seems to be that they spend a lot of time smearing other libertarians.

          The apparent matters of dispute with the particular “left-libertarians” here are (a) the empirical definition of the state, (b) the direction and degree of causal dependence between cronyism and the legally defined state, and centrally (c) whether it makes equivalent sense to protest legally private
          “corporations” vs. protest “the government.”

  14. Anthony Gregory October 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Firefox 3.6.23 MacIntosh

    Goldman Sachs is far more evil than the Post Office. Public schools are far more evil than Wal-Mart.

  15. Masebrock October 11, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    Firefox 7.0.1 Windows XP

    It’s hard to take seriously the claim that the only thing corporations are “guilty” of is benefiting from the protection of the state. Sure, the concept of a corporation could hypothetically exist in a free market and there is nothing inherently unjust about a group of people amassing wealth. But it seems like many right-libertarians try to use this theoretical innocence to try to avoid scrutiny of actual existing corporations. In reality modern corporations outsource production to slave labor from other countries, lobby for mandates that you do businesses with them (insurance), create tools of oppression (military), abuse neighbor’s property rights (coal industry), suppress unionization, enforce IP monopolies, lobby for regulation that decreases competition, and on and on and on.

    Besides my first point, isn’t arguing whether modern corporations are part of the state rather a moot point since libertarianism and anarchism are supposedly ideologically deeper than mere anti-statism?

  16. Mr. Thisbody October 12, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    MSIE 8.0 Windows XP

    Mr. Plaunche changed the nature of the argument with his first comment. He called the Occupy Wall Street crowd hypocritical simply because he doesn’t believe their grievances are legitimate. So they must be hypocritical. And by the same measure, wouldn’t libertarians also be considered hypocritical? Prof. Long’s point is valid: how could you walk down the street as an anti-state libertarian without feeling hypocritical?

    The dissent on this page revolves around a negative view of hypocrisy. No one wants to be labeled hypocritical because they think that it would somehow weaken their position. Why?

    The real world does not operate on the philosophical musings I see above me; it operates on force and power. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line: it’s asinine to argue over such small details–I think this was Prof. Long’s point in the first place. What matters is 1)Whether or not the Wall Street protestors will win and 2)Whether or not you want them to. Fight against them if you don’t; cheer for them or join them if you do.

    Who among us is not hypocritical? Does hypocrisy prevent victory? The state and corporations are both hypocritical by their very natures (the state for many obvious reasons; corporations because they attempt to destroy competition in the “free market” in which they operate) and they’ve been at the top of the social game for a long time now.

    Look to the example of Walt Whitman who said: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself! I am large. I contain multitudes.”

    All of this nit-picking only saps power away from real world solutions. The government and the corporations are both inimical to individual freedom. So is everything and everyone who tries to tell someone what to do. Do degrees of coercion really matter in this war against control? Of course not. The formula is simple: if you desire personal freedom (autonomy) kick against everything that takes it away from you.

    If Mr. Plaunche doesn’t think the list of authoritarians includes corporations, let him stand in line waiting to buy their products with a grin. The true iconoclasts will either sit this mess out because they think they won’t gain anything it. Or–if they really believe the protestors could make a difference and increase their personal freedom–they’ll go out there and help, even if they don’t completely agree with the opinion of every protestor (and how could they?. And even if they do have a smart phone.

  17. Tommy January 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Chrome 16.0.912.75 Windows Vista

    This discussion focuses on the distinction between corporations and states. While it is a debate between right-libertarians and left-libertarians it follows the same pattern of mainstream left and right, OWS and Tea Party. I’ll try to offer, not the difference but the similarity of state and corporation.

    The state and the corporation have the same aim and essence. They both seek to centralize wealth/power into the hands of a few to use as their own. The State gathers tax money and sanctioning for their monopoly on violent power into the hands of a few to use as they see fit. The corporation seeks to gather capital from stock owners to be used by the controlling body as they see fit. And to be clear, this gathered capitol is not a loan because it never has to be paid back. It becomes the property of the controlling group of the corporation just as taxes become the property of the state. This is all done under the façade that stock ownership is actual ownership of the corporation. This is a great ruse. The owner of a business has liability for it. The owner of a business also owns the profits. At the periodic (end of year) balancing of the books any profit belongs exclusively to the stock holders. The decision to not pay complete dividends is as much a theft as is taxes. If the corporation has respect for personal property rights in must return the profits to the share-holders. If the corporation wants to reinvest these profits then it must ask he share-holder for the money back under the arrangement of a loan, a contract that will return both principle and interest back to the share-holder.

    Private property rights need to be applied correctly to finance as well. The usury paid for the use of capital belongs exclusively to the individual owner of that capital. The banker is only due a service fee (which should be made clear within the transactions). A banker who invests depositor’s capital and keeps the usury is a thief. Allow me to reiterate that, and really think about the personal property rights couched in this situation: A banker who invests depositor’s capital and keeps the usury is a thief. And shouldn’t we all ask who is the owner of fiat money? And to whom is the usury due?

    The above are two ways that wealth is centralized, i.e. gathered in from the many under a controlling group which goes about using it as if it were their own. This is done by violating the private property rights of individuals. This ethical fact is not ameliorated by fact that these are voluntary exchanges. Choices always come down to the best of the options presented. Those who present the options control the choice. The defense of the personhood of corporations is not the defense of individual liberties nor of “the free market.” Corporations are not based on individual liberties and do not deserve the championing that the right gives them.

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    [...] of these issues were recently debated on the pages of Roderick Long’s blog, in the comments to his post “Double Standard.” Left-libertarians who oppose incorporation, and usually also [...]

  2. Corporate Personhood, Limited Liability, and Double Taxation « Brave New Libertarian World - October 23, 2011

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    [...] of these issues were recently debated on the pages of Roderick Long’s blog, in the commentsto his post “Double Standard.” Left-libertarians who oppose incorporation, and usually also [...]

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