Cato Institute Publishes Leftist Screed!

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Mine, that is. There’ll also be a round of responses and counter-responses over the next week or so (the “Cato Unbound” format).

Cato Institute building with Alliance of the Libertarian Left logo superimposed Here’s Cato’s summary of my essay:

In this month’s lead essay, philosopher and libertarian theorist Roderick Long draws a sharp contrast between corporatism and libertarianism properly understood. He argues that liberals, conservatives, and even libertarians have all been guilty to some degree of obscuring this difference, and that the quality of our political discourse has suffered accordingly. He suggests that libertarians should guard themselves against falling into the trap of “vulgar libertarianism,” in which all things good spring from business, and particularly from business as usual. Corporations, he argues, should be no more free of scrutiny than any other institution in a free society, and often businesses have done more than their share to hamper free economic relations in the industrialized world.

One implication of all of this is that the truly free market is farther away than we imagine. Long suggests several ways in which a freed market might look different from what we see around us today. Notably, nearly all of these differences are to the benefit of the consumer and the small or start-up business. These likely outcomes of laissez faire suggest new grounds for left-liberals and libertarians to revise their thinking on economic issues and on politics more generally.

And here’s Cato’s introduction to the whole exchange:

This issue tackles a grave misconception: the idea that corporations and markets are synonymous, and that what’s good for the one is good for the other.

Astute economists have noted that far too often, corporations act to restrict the free operation of the market. Corporations that have become successful in a free or quasi-free market don’t like to face competition any more than any other entity, and their success gives them the resources, unfortunately, to stifle would-be competitors. In these cases, corporations and governments can often find themselves in an unholy alliance against consumers, other firms, and liberty itself. Corporatism, in other words – a system that seems to value corporations as an end in themselves.

And after that – what’s an advocate of the free market to do?

lying thieving mutualist conquers all In this month’s lead essay, philosopher and libertarian theorist Roderick Long examines the often tangled relationship between governments, corporations, and those who argue both for and against laissez-faire capitalism. Is a truly libertarian politics possible? Or do libertarians always run the risk – despite their best intentions – of sounding like, or acting like, apologists for an alliance between the state and corporations?

In the rest of the issue, we will hear from three authors with different takes on corporatism and its relationship to free-market advocacy. Political analyst Matthew Yglesias has expressed skepticism about libertarian and free-market advocacy in the past, owing to corporate entanglements. Economist Steven Horwitz has argued that many of our current economic troubles owe precisely to corporate entanglements with the state, and has urged liberals and libertarians to recognize the many potential points of agreement they might find on these issues. And economist Dean Baker has criticized what he refers to as the “conservative nanny state,” or the ways in which the wealthy use their resources to harness government power to their own advantage. Be sure to stop by through the week as our contributors debate these very important issues for the future of a free economy.

Needless to say, I’m excited to have such a prominent forum for the promotion of the cause, and I’m particularly happy to express my gratitude to Jason Kuznicki for offering me this opportunity, as well as to my various left-libertarian comrades on whose ideas I have freely drawn in my essay. Our quest for world domination continues ….

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20 Responses to Cato Institute Publishes Leftist Screed!

  1. Bob Kaercher November 10, 2008 at 1:00 pm #

    That’s awesome, Roderick. It’ll be interesting to see the discussion as it develops.

    (And the juxtaposition of Carson’s “Studies in Mutualist Political Economy” with Reisman’s “Capitalism” is truly inspired. I just really hope that Reisman doesn’t have a stroke if he sees that pic.)

  2. Mike November 10, 2008 at 3:06 pm #

    Aye aye aye!!! Great post Roderick.

    Cato publishing leftists screeds? What next, cats and dogs living together.?

    This one is a keeper.

  3. Gary Chartier November 10, 2008 at 3:52 pm #

    This is a very helpful and insightful piece–thanks a lot for summarizing so much of the left-libertarian discussion so efficiently in a way that should be accessible and (relatively) non-threatening to Cato Unbound readers. I’m especially pleased that you’ve given some publicity to Kevin’s first-rate work, and that CU has selected Yglesias, Baker, and Horwitz as commentators. Is it too much to hope that this conversation will help to alert left-liberals to a left-libertarian conversation of which they’ve likely been largely unaware, and so to foster some rapprochement? Great job!

  4. Administrator November 10, 2008 at 4:13 pm #

    P.S — Commentary has erupted at Hit & Run.

  5. Administrator November 10, 2008 at 4:16 pm #

    Thanks all!

  6. Black Bloke November 10, 2008 at 8:15 pm #

    H&R’s still chock full of nuts.

  7. Jeremy November 10, 2008 at 9:33 pm #

    I’m impressed and excited for you and left libertarianism in general. Many heartfelt congratulations! The essay is incisive and sticks it to those that deserve it with just the right amount of force. I’m especially excited to read Baker’s response, as Conservative Nanny State was a favorite read of mine.

  8. Sergio Méndez November 11, 2008 at 12:15 am #

    Well done profesor Long. Let´s see how the debate goes.

  9. JOR November 11, 2008 at 5:32 pm #

    That comments thread on H&R is just… just awful. Now I remember why I stopped reading comments there.

  10. FSPer November 11, 2008 at 10:27 pm #

    That was marvelous. The most thoughtful libertarian writing I have read to date.

    Where can I get a hold of more essays like these?

  11. Joel Schlosberg November 12, 2008 at 1:14 am #

    Sheldon Richman just made the article the subject of the second-ever post on FEE’s new blog! Check it out:

  12. Jeremy November 12, 2008 at 9:22 am #

    Where can I get a hold of more essays like these?

    Free Enterprise: The Antidote to Corporate Plutocracy by Keith Preston.

  13. Administrator November 12, 2008 at 10:03 pm #

    “Where can I get a hold of more essays like these?”

    More by me.

    More by others.

  14. Chris Baker November 14, 2008 at 10:44 am #

    That was a good article on Cato. It’s hard to believe that they would publish something that intelligent.

  15. Sergio Méndez November 15, 2008 at 11:58 am #

    Steven Hortwitz hasn´t responded….:(

  16. b-psycho November 15, 2008 at 9:32 pm #

    Sergio: he has. A glitch on the site has the link not showing in the sidebar.

  17. Black Bloke November 17, 2008 at 12:17 am #

    I can’t wait for Roderick’s replies to their initial replies.

  18. FSPer November 21, 2008 at 6:49 pm #

    Wow, thanks for the links.


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