Tag Archives | Left and Right

Red Hood

In “Robin Hood: Why Ayn Rand Got It Wrong,” Charles Burris writes that “[i]n one of the most memorable passages of her novel Atlas Shrugged [Rand] has one of her major characters, Ragnar Danneskjold [sic], condemn Robin Hood in the harshest and most vindictive manner.” But “Rand got it wrong,” says Burris, since in most versions of the legend “Robin and his band are not the proto-Marxist proletarian plunderers of the productive rich and despoilers of private property but are actually defenders of justice in property titles, the rule of law, and the non-aggression principle.”

disneyhood

I suspect that Burris read Ragnar’s speech a bit too hastily, since a careful reading shows that Rand is well aware of the information that Burris thinks she missed. Rand has Ragnar explicitly acknowledge that in the original legend, Robin Hood “fought against the looting rulers and returned the loot to those who had been robbed.” Rand didn’t need Burris to tell her something so obvious. But, says Ragnar, this is nevertheless “not the meaning of the legend which has survived,” since the fact that Robin Hood is always described as a man who “robbed the rich and gave to the poor” shows that, whatever the details, the essence of the Robin Hood legend is his status as “the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights.”

Now I do think Rand is making a mistake here; but the mistake is not a simple one of ignorance about the Robin Hood legend. Rather, Rand’s mistake is one of assuming that most rich people in modern “capitalist” society are rich mainly through production rather than privilege, and so of assuming that resentment against the rich, in a modern context, is ipso facto resentment against productivity.

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Godkin’s Law

godkin

The Nation turns 150 this year. (Specifically in July, but they’re celebrating it this week; see also Jesse Walker’s piece on the topic.)

In the 19th century, The Nation was, broadly, a classical liberal magazine, and a successor to anarchist William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist paper The Liberator. Its founder and editor, E. L. Godkin, was a mixed bag; here he is in Jekyll mode and here he is in Hyde mode.

Godkin’s hysterical condemnation of anarchists in the second piece is rather ironic, given both his magazine’s anarchist origins and his praise, in the first piece, for France’s “select group of orthodox economists that still reverence the principles of Turgot and Say” – a group whose leader at that time was Molinari.

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Worshipping the Boss

[cross-posted at C4SS]

In an anti-libertarian rant titled “You’re Not the Boss of Me! Why Libertarianism Is a Childish Sham,” David Masciotra charges that libertarianism amounts to the petulant selfishness of a child who resents all restrictions on his or her behavior.

Masciotra conveniently focuses on libertarians’ saying “you have no right to impose stuff on us,” while ignoring its corollaries “we have no right to impose stuff on you” and “you have no right to impose stuff on them.” But then it’s a bit harder to spin the latter two as childish selfishness.

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Judging from what he writes and where he writes it, I reckon Masciotra fancies himself a man of the left. There was a time when “Dump the Bosses Off Your Back” was a popular leftist slogan. But the idea of a society without bosses seems to carry no charm for Masciotra.

It’s also telling that Masciotra sees libertarian opposition to being bossed as in tension with “bonds of empathy and ties of solidarity.” Apparently, for Masciotra empathy and solidarity are impossible among equals, and can exist only between benevolent shepherds and their docile, subservient flocks. Libertarians, by contrast, see empathy and solidarity as realized in their fullest and healthiest form between free and equal persons in voluntary, uncoerced, unbossed association.

It seems a safe bet that anyone who ridicules resentment against bosses either is a boss, or aims to be a boss, or wants to curry favour with the bosses. But here at C4SS, our attitude toward bosses — be they politicians and bureaucrats, or corporate beneficiaries of state privilege — is: dump ‘em. In a truly libertarian world, no one will be the boss of anyone else.

 

[Note: for longer discussion of Masciotra’s article, see Sheldon Richman and Kevin Carson.]

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