30 Responses to Now All Is Clear

  1. Brainpolice April 29, 2009 at 4:44 pm #

    While I do have some venom for Rand (from an anarchist perspective), I’ve often found a lot of the criticism of her (particularly by the mainstream political “left”) to be either superficial or based on misunderstandings about her philosophy. I think part of the problem is that people have the cliche definition of egoism (as being inherently negative and refering to externally dominating other people) drilled into them, which makes them misunderstand her ethical egoism. Of course, I think that there are some serious problems with her particular version of ethical egoism, but unfortunately a good deal of the criticism of it is based on a lack of understanding of what ethical egoism actually means and implies.

  2. Anon73 April 29, 2009 at 5:15 pm #

    Don’t forget the diabolical, insane madmen Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, and Alan Greenspan.

    My favorite leftoid at the moment is Naomi Klein. She literally cannot discuss Milton Friedman in public without mentioning Augusto Pinochet in the next breath!

    • Roderick April 29, 2009 at 9:31 pm #

      I was at a “Historians Against the War” event where Naomi Klein was the featured speaker. She really seems to embody the best and the worst of the left all wrapped in one package: she kept oscillating between “we need to make people more suspicious of government” and “we need to promote a bigger role for government.”

      Here’s Kevin Carson mostly defending Klein, and here’s Kevin a bit more annoyed at her.

      • Briggs April 30, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

        I concur, every time I have seen her on Bill Maher’s show I end up with a headache trying to figure out what she is advocating. As you mentioned, in one breath she is fostering some anti-governmental ideology and in the next she is holding the gov up as a panacea.

        In order to alleviate my perpetual confusion, I have formed the belief that she is one of those people that believes that government is not the problem but rather its how gov is run. Something similar to Obama’s statements about his theory of government. They both seem to fail to recognize that it is the nature of the entity that is the problem not the figurehead. I could be way off base here but it is the best explanation I have been able to devise to date.

        • Roderick April 30, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

          Likewise for Noam Chomsky (despite his anarchism).

        • Brandon April 30, 2009 at 6:02 pm #

          Chomsky’s deal is his strict separation of the normative from the pragmatic. When he talks about what can be done right now to help alleviate suffering, he’ll say raise taxes, regulate this that and the other thing, whathaveyou.
          When he talks about what he’d ultimately like to see far in the future, he becomes an anarchist. The State is an illegitimate power system etc.
          Chomsky would oppose Rothbard’s view that everything the State does must be opposed except when it acts to destroy itself.

        • Roderick April 30, 2009 at 6:50 pm #

          Right, but he also has screwy views about what’s pragmatic. He thinks government is dangerous just because it’s a tool of corporate interests — and if we just restructure the government to make it responsive to the people it’ll be fine and dandy. Whereas it seems to me that the more consistent anarchist position would be a) it’s not possible to make the government responsive to the people — if it’s a monopoly it’s inevitably going to be captured by special interests (if not plutocrats outside the structure then statocrats within it); plus b) even if you could make it responsive to the people collectively that’s no cure for majority tyranny.

        • Brandon April 30, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

          Oh, I’m not saying I think his position is consistent.
          I don’t think he’d disagree with your evaluation of the State either.
          I think what he’d say is that the State is here to stay and that’s not going to change any time soon, so it might as well be used for his idea of “good” if it’s going to be used at all.
          I think the inconsistency is that he thinks it can ever do good if it’s illegitimate, and if he’s a real anarchist.

        • Kregus May 1, 2009 at 5:56 am #

          “Likewise for Noam Chomsky (despite his anarchism).”

          Noam Chomsky is a marxist, not an anarchist.

          The Problem With Noam Chomsky

          He advocates statism (social democracy) under the mask of anarchism. It is clear.

          “Our survey also casts doubt on the position of “anarchist” social-democrat Noam Chomsky, who is notorious for his distinction between “visions” and “goals.” His long-term vision is a decentralized society of self-governing communities and workplaces, loosely federated together–the traditional anarchist vision. His immediate goal, however, is to strengthen the regulatory state in order to break up “private concentrations of power,” before anarchism can be achieved. But if , as we have seen, capitalism is dependent on the state to guarantee it survival, it follows that it is sufficient to eliminate the statist props to capitalism. In a letter of 4 September 1867, Engels aptly summed up the difference between anarchists and state socialists: “They say ‘abolish the state and capital will go to the devil.’ We propose the reverse.” Exactly.”

          Kevin A. Carson. The Iron Fist Behind The Invisible Hand

        • Roderick May 1, 2009 at 3:21 pm #

          See my post here about Chomsky’s “give me anarchy, but not yet” approach.

    • Malcolm Dark May 1, 2009 at 8:14 pm #

      “My favorite leftoid at the moment is Naomi Klein. She literally cannot discuss Milton Friedman in public without mentioning Augusto Pinochet in the next breath!”

      I’d still hit it.

      • Roderick May 1, 2009 at 8:32 pm #

        I’m sure that’s a great weight off her mind.

        • Anon73 May 2, 2009 at 11:10 am #

          According to Rothbard, after you demolish the argument you can go on to attack the person. In this case Malcolm has it inverted: After you demolish their argument you ask them out to dinner and a movie.

  3. Mike D April 29, 2009 at 6:26 pm #

    “My favorite leftoid at the moment is Naomi Klein. She literally cannot discuss Milton Friedman in public without mentioning Augusto Pinochet in the next breath!”

    That’s a pretty fair criticism, IMO.

    • Roderick April 29, 2009 at 10:32 pm #

      In Friedman’s defense, his actual involvement with Pinochet was pretty minimal.

      On the other hand, Friedman expressed praise for and essentially endorsed Chile’s supposed “free-market” reforms. That’s not direct complicity, maybe, but it’s nothing to brag about.

      Anyway, the whole idea of reforming a dictatorship from the top down with free-market tweaks seems to me pretty hopeless — and to the extent that it achieves anything, it just makes the kleptocracy more efficient.

  4. Lester Hunt April 29, 2009 at 6:42 pm #

    Wow, that Hartman guy is something else. He describes laissez-faire “playing the game without rules.” To quote another leftist, he is “a poor ignoramus.”

  5. Anon73 April 30, 2009 at 2:16 am #

    It just seems a bit of an ad hominem to constantly harp on Pinochet because Friedman endorsed some economic aspects of the regime. I notice Klein never criticizes Chomsky for endorsing the Khmer Rouge before their atrocities were fully known, or Russell for any positive remarks he made about the Bolsheviks, etc.

  6. Neil Parille April 30, 2009 at 4:45 am #

    I believe that Friedman went to Communist China and encouraged their leaders to have free market policies. Why doesn’t anyone accuse him of being a commie?

    -Neil Parille

    • Roderick April 30, 2009 at 11:02 am #

      Walter Block has accused Friedman of being a commie — but not for that reason.

  7. Nick Manley April 30, 2009 at 9:44 am #

    Deirdre McCloskey wrote a nice article on Milton titled Milton…


  8. Anon73 April 30, 2009 at 11:32 am #

    Why do Roderick’s comments keep appearing between other comments with later time stamps?

    • Jac April 30, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

      He’s replying to specific comments, so the software nests his reply below what he’s replying to. They’re also indented a bit.

  9. Anon73 April 30, 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    Ah – threads within threads. I thought I’d seen the last of that when I quit reading slashdot every day.

  10. TC Bell April 30, 2009 at 6:25 pm #

    I used to like Milton; then I discovered Murray Rothbard.

  11. Dennis April 30, 2009 at 11:11 pm #

    I think we are being a bit too soft on Klein and her ilk. A “conservative” who embodied both the best and worst of the right to the same degree that Klein embodies those aspects of the left would be taken behind the blog-shed for a paddlin’. Her attacks on Friedman are either based on laziness (she didn’t bother to actually research anything) or outright dishonesty (which seems more likely to me.) While Friedman was far from perfect, I think she is doing to him what that scumbag whose name eludes me did to Spencer with his “Origins of Social Darwinism in America” slop fest. Saying a few anti-power things here and there doesn’t dilute the rottenness of what Klein generally believes.

    • John Markley May 1, 2009 at 1:41 pm #


      You’re thinking of Richard Hofstadter, I think.

      I fully agree with your main point. Searching for potential libertarianism on the left is a worthwile goal, but I think trying to claim Naomi Klein as any sort of potential friend of freedom is clutching at straws. Plenty of Republicans who cheered for aggressive war, torture, and permanent imprisonment without trial will say “We need to make people more suspicious of government” with at least as much vigor as Klein.

      • Roderick May 1, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

        True, I don’t hold out much hope of converting Klein. (Though ya never know ….) But I do hold out hope for converting some of her fans and readers. So that’s at least one reason for presenting our message in a way that isn’t too crudely Klein-bashing.

        I like Kevin’s phrase below about people whose “brain is worn into some conventional groove that directs their train of thought against perceiving the connection.”

  12. Dennis April 30, 2009 at 11:37 pm #

    To get more to the point of what I am trying to say, I think as Carson points out in his more critical piece, Klein knows the difference between a free market and what we have now, which means that her willingness to attack actual free marketers or people who are generally true free marketers (like Friedman, for all of his faults) indicates an attempt to conflate the two. Klein is every bit the totalitarian that Bush / Cheney and co are. In fact, she is probably even worse, she is like Ellsworth Toohey, she understands what she is arguing against, and does so anyway.

  13. Ray Mangum May 1, 2009 at 12:13 am #

    This all goes to show what a dead letter the New Left and its scholarship is in contemporary politics. We need a reiteration of its major themes: that progressivism is essentially conservative, and mainstream liberalism is essentially corporate. Naomi Klein and her ilk are in some respects genuinely anti-authoritarian, yet buy into what Kevin Carson aptly describes as a”goo-goo mythology”, namely that only noble bureaucrats can stop corporations from eating out our national substance.

    And it goes without saying that it hurts us to have proclaimed free-marketers hanging out with dictators and running central banks.

  14. Kevin Carson May 1, 2009 at 12:36 am #

    Dennis: I really think Klein is more incoherent than anything. I wouldn’t assume that because somebody fails to draw the obvious connection between two things they’re saying at almost the same time, they’re disingenuous. It’s just as likely their brain is worn into some conventional groove that directs their train of thought against perceiving the connection.

    Re Chomsky, his belief that the government would be hunky dory if it was made democratically responsive is especially laughable, given his own quotes from Bakunin on the “red bureaucracy” and “the people being beaten with the people’s stick.” And he fails to perceive the logical contradiction between at one point describing all the ways corporate power depends on the state for its very existence, and then turning around and saying “private concentrations of power” would run roughshod over us if there were no state. Engels put the difference between state socialism and anarchism quite well: “They say get rid of the state and capital will go to the devil; we say the reverse.” Chomsky’s on the wrong side of that divide.

    Re Friedman, the most damning thing is–as you say–that he seemed to endorse what he considered the “free market” nature of Pinochet’s “purely economic” policies. And that’s a fairly common view on the right: oh, his police state excesses were regrettable and all that, blah blah woof woof, but his economic liberalization was quite beneficial…

    The problem is, his policies weren’t weren’t very free market. They were what would today be called “neoliberal.” For one thing, he reversed Allende’s land reform; I don’t consider stealing land from its rightful owners to give it to feudal oligarchs very pro-market. For another, if his repression of the labor movement wasn’t “economic,” what would be? If he’d rounded up, tortured, executed and disappeared the owners of ANY OTHER factor of production (land or capital, maybe?) would the folks at Cato be saying “Oh, well, never mind that–his ECONOMIC policies were pretty good”? And let’s see–neoliberal “privatization” (aka looting the taxpayers), “intellectual property,” etc., etc.

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