Tag Archives | Left-Libertarian

We’re In Ur Computerz, Messing With Ur Anarkeh

Students for Liberty is (are?) offering two upcoming Virtual Reading Groups: one led by Kevin Vallier and myself, on (mostly) Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty, and one led by Charles Johnson, on (mostly) Markets Not Capitalism.

Each meets online every other week for about 90 minutes – the Rothbard one on alternate Tuesdays starting September 8th, and the Markets Not Capitalism one on alternate Mondays starting September 7th. (I’ll miss the first meeting of Kevin’s and my VRG, since I’ll be MANCEPTing in Manchester; but I’ll be back from then on.)

The deadline for applying is August 31st. Join us! More details here.

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The Four Freedoms

This is some good shit I’m smoking here.

In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Ayn Rand writes:

Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion. It does not mean freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide men with automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state – and nothing else.

What Rand seems not to have considered is that the coercive power of the state, by promoting the artificial concentration of capital and land, plays a central role in explaining why so many people are dependent on landlords for their housing and on employers for their income. Indeed, inasmuch as economic progress involves the steady increase in the amount of production that can be achieved without effort, the state, by obstructing this progress, is to a considerable extent preventing the laws of nature from providing us with automatic prosperity too.

The choice Rand offers us is thus an artificial one. The libertarian commitment to freedom from government coercion is ipso facto a commitment to freedom from the landlord, from the employer, and from the kärgliche Ausstattung einer stiefmütterlichen Natur as well.

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Cordial and Sanguine, Part 63: From the Unthinking Depths

[cross-posted at BHL]

Mike Munger maintains that libertarians should stop being “reflexively opposed to government”; should recognise that “in some instances, it is possible that the State is useful for advancing liberty”; and should give “empirical claims about consequences … a central place in the debate.” But he warns that this will require libertarians to “actually … think about stuff,” a requirement that he suggests will be unwelcome to his “Austrian colleagues.”

As one of his unthinking Austrian colleagues, let me offer three points in rebuttal:

1. The state is anti-liberty (and anti-equality) not just in its consequences but also inherently. After all, the state is by definition a violent monopolist. This isn’t some eccentric definition that libertarians came up with; this definition, or some variant thereof, is the standard mainstream sociological account. If the state claims for itself certain rights of action that it forcibly denies to others, then freedom of competition and equality of legal status are already curtailed in virtue of that fact alone, regardless of what further consequences this institution has.

2. As regards the state’s consequences, however, the Austrian tradition has never opposed empirical research. The traditional Austrian position (not universally accepted even among Austrians, however) is that the principles of economics – what Misesians call the province of praxeology – are a priori rather than empirical. (I defend this position here.) But the application of those principles to particular contingent circumstances – what Misesians call the province of thymology – has never been regarded by any Austrians as a priori. Mises and Rothbard are perfectly clear on this, as is Hayek in The Counter-revolution of Science.
Empirical methods are perfectly in order in determining which principles apply to particular situations, and where and how they do so; admittedly the Austrian conception of empirical method, with its debt to the Verstehen tradition, is somewhat broader than, say, the mere use of statistics, but it does include the latter. And in fact, accordingly, Austrians have been doing empirical work all along, as is obvious from the briefest glance at Austrian publications. (See, e.g., the archives of the QJAE and the RAE.) To suggest that Austrians have simply been sitting on their butts intoning “the state is bad, apodictically bad” and offering no evidence, is to fly in the face of … well, empirical evidence.

3. Mike closes by urging libertarians to “attract people who mistrust concentrations of power in any setting, whether corporate or governmental.” On this point I thoroughly agree with him (hence my enthusiastic support for the work of the Center for a Stateless Society and the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, and for writers like Kevin A. Carson); and this is indeed an area where the Austrian tradition is sometimes (not always) lacking. But surely the way for libertarians, Austrian or otherwise, to win over those who mistrust concentrations of power both corporate and governmental is to increase our critical scrutiny of corporate power, not to relax our critical scrutiny of governmental power. After all, empirical research – including Austrian empirical research – has shown that these two forms of power are mutually reinforcing far more than they are mutually antagonistic.

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iRad I.4 in Print, iRad I.3 Online

[cross-posted at BHL]

For various reasons (well, mainly money), the fourth issue of the Molinari Institute’s left-libertarian publication The Industrial Radical has been delayed for nearly a year; but today it is finally at the printer. Issue I.4 features articles by William Anderson, B-psycho, Jason Byas, Kevin Carson, Nathan Goodman, Irfan Khawaja, Tom Knapp, Smári McCarthy, Grant Mincy, Anna Morgenstern, Sheldon Richman, Amir Taaki, Mattheus von Guttenberg, Darian Worden, and your humble correspondent, on topics ranging from the Manning / Snowden whistleblower cases, the protests in Brazil, deference to authority, America’s foreign policy morass, Obama’s war on the environment, and the myth of 19th-century laissez-faire to alternative currencies, identity politics and intersectionality, abortion opponents as rape apologists, the Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman case, the inside scoop on PorcFest, and why anarcho-capitalism cannot be a form of capitalism.

Issue 2.1 will follow soon thereafter, and we’ll be on an accelerated schedule until we’re caught up.

With each new issue published, we post the immediately preceding issue online. Hence a free pdf file of our third issue (Spring 2013) is now available here. (See the first and second issues also.)

Want to write for The Industrial Radical? See our information for authors and copyright policy.

Want to subscribe to The Industrial Radical? Visit our online shop.

Want to give an additional donation to the Molinari Institute? Contribute to our General Fund.

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Faisons à Nouveau la Distorsion Temporelle

Timothy Messer-Kruse’s The Yankee International: Marxism and the American Reform Tradition, 1848-1876 is an interesting book, documenting the history of the freewheeling American branch of the International Workingmen’s Association before the Marxists kicked the feminist, anarchists, and antiracists out. (Stephen Pearl Andrews, Victoria Woodhull, Ezra Heywood, William Greene, J. K. Ingalls, and by some reports Lysander Spooner were members.)

But this passage about the Paris Commune gave me pause:

“Sadly, the Commune was short-lived, and soon a vicious counterrevolution on the part of Napoleon III, aided by Prussian troops, had turned the tide.” (p. 100)

Um. The Commune lasted from March through May of 1871. Napoléon III had been taken prisoner (not a straightforward sense of “aided”) by Prussian troops at the Battle of Sedan in September of the previous year. Upon his release in March 1871 (consequent to the resolution of peace negotiations ending the Franco-Prussian War), he went into exile in England and spent the rest of his life there. Thus he had no role in the French government from September 1870 on. There was indeed a “vicious counterrevolution” in response to the Commune, and I’m sure that, had Napoléon III been in power, he would have happily led it. But he wasn’t and didn’t.

So now I worry, if the book is wrong about so basic a fact of history, what else is it wrong about?

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