The latest round of dialogue on my anti-corporatism piece is up on Cato Unbound.
SUMMARY: In his response to Roderick Long, Matthew Yglesias argues that although corporations naturally seek to win special privileges from the state, libertarianism is far from the obvious solution to the problem. Instead, he reiterates the charge that libertarians often act as corporate apologists and suggests that the net effect of any “free market” advocacy will tend strongly toward corporate power. Liberals may have much to learn from libertarians on certain issues and in some policy areas, but the laissez-faire solution to corporate political influence is unworkable.
SUMMARY: Steven Horwitz offers several examples of so-called “de-regulation” that only served to benefit corporations, while leaving the government, and therefore the taxpayers, to shoulder the risks of the market. He argues that market competition is a form of regulation, albeit a kind worth wanting, as it forces corporations to respond to consumer demand and punishes them when they fail to meet it. He takes issue with Roderick Long’s lead essay by arguing that “playing defense,” that is, defending today’s corporations when they act consonantly with a fully freed market, is a valuable part of libertarian advocacy; one must nonetheless take issue with these same corporations when they violate the principles of laissez faire, and distinguish carefully between these cases.
SUMMARY: In his response essay, Dean Baker declines to tally up a “score” of how well libertarians, or other groups, have defended a truly impartial, laissez faire economy. Instead, he suggests intellectual property as an obvious area where libertarians must challenge corporate power to distort the market. Patents that make health care more expensive and copyrights that artificially restrict whole areas of our culture are obviously concessions to corporatism, and the “extraordinary abuses” undertaken to enforce these privileges should be vigorously challenged. Although libertarianism has been skeptical of both patents and copyrights, Baker suggests that this is an area deserving still further attention, and one in which liberals could perhaps become solid allies.
Randal O’Toole’s, Jerry Taylor’s, and Timothy Lee’s responses to the respondents:
SUMMARY: The discussion this month has focused to a greater than usual degree on the activities of certain Cato Institute policy scholars. The editors thought it appropriate to solicit responses, and we present them here in their entirety.
My own response to the respondents:
TITLE: Keeping Libertarian, Keeping Left
Dean Baker’s response to me and to Timothy Lee:
TITLE: On State Funding and Innovation
My response to Timothy Lee and to Dean Baker:
TITLE: Owning Ideas Means Owning People
(This last isn’t posted yet but should be up shortly.)
And you even managed to slip in a name drop and link for the Alliance of the Libertarian Left. You rock, Roderick!
My response on IP is now up (though a footnote on the law merchant and on Amsterdam merchants seems to have gone missing — hopefully that will be fixed soon).
Roderick, could you please expand a bit on what you mean with this:
How could an organized system of voluntary boycotts guarantee payment for the labor of intellectual innovators? What is the mechanism here?
The footnote is back, but the link to Tom Bell’s article is messed up. I await developments.
I say a bit more about it here.
That’s at least sorta kinda like the copy-left agreement under the Creative Commons license, right? Only Creative Commons doesn’t have any voluntary court, but an author/artist who finds his work being pirated could at least spread the word that so-and-so violated the voluntary agreement implicit in acquiring the work in the first place. This would allow the general public to act as a sort of court and render a decision and action (i.e., a boycott) in regards to the pirater.
Clarification: By “pirater”, I mean the person who’s marketing and selling your work without your permission and not giving you a cut of the profits.
The link is now fixed. Steve Horwitz’s article should be going up shortly.
You’re big time now Roderick – your article is featured on Crossfit!
I’m simply dumbstruck by the responses your article has generated at the Reason blog. For those of us who grew up on Rothbard and revisionist business history, you certainly haven’t said anything outrageous. No wonder libertarianism is held in such low regard if our “friends” are of the type attacking you there. We are deeper in the wilderness than I ever expected. Maybe its time for all of us to simply throw in the towel and become Proudhonians – we can still talk about the virtues of contracts and voluntary association without all the baggage of the vulgar.