A People’s History of Pandora, Part 2

Libertarians are divided on Avatar (which I haven’t seen yet); check out Peter Suderman, Stephan Kinsella, Peter Klein, David Kramer, and Lester Hunt.

Lester writes, inter alia:

What makes the business corporation in this movie so evil? Well, it engages in the following practices: using military force to invade and conquer foreign lands, slaughtering wholesale numbers of the inhabitants and burning their dwellings, all in order to steal their property. … Gee, I thought, I can’t think of a single business corporation that engages in those particular practices. Office Depot doesn’t, and I’m pretty sure Microsoft and Dell Inc don’t either.

So in the comments section I responded:

I can’t think of many businesses that engage in those particular practices all on their own. But I can think of plenty of businesses that have either gotten governments to engage in those practices on their behalf (examples range from the East India Company to the United Fruit/Brands Company) or have themselves engaged in those practices on some government’s behalf (e.g. Blackwater, DynCorp).

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16 Responses to A People’s History of Pandora, Part 2

  1. Roderick December 22, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    On a different note, check out this account of the science in Avatar.

  2. Anon73 December 22, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    Hmm, awfully convenient how they do each other’s dirty work when it’s beneficial…

  3. Stephan Kinsella December 22, 2009 at 5:20 pm #

    Roderick: yep, businesses can be evil, just like individuals can. But just as we would not be “anti-human” or “anti-individual” just because some individuals are murderers, so the existence of some criminal corporations is no grounds for condemning corporations per se.

    I have spoken. Have I not? Do you agree, that I have spoken?

    • Roderick December 22, 2009 at 5:41 pm #

      Well, you’ve typed. Whether you were speaking aloud as you typed I cannot verify.

    • P.M.Lawrence December 22, 2009 at 11:27 pm #

      But just as we would not be “anti-human” or “anti-individual” just because some individuals are murderers, so the existence of some malaria carrying mosquitoes is no grounds for condemning mosquitoes per se.

      However, since mosquitoes aren’t moral persons, it’s not a matter of condemnation but of convenience whether we try to eradicate them all for the harm done by a few. And corporations “have neither a body to kick nor a soul to damn”…

      • Stephan Kinsella December 22, 2009 at 11:39 pm #

        But a corporation is just a convenient legal concept to refer to a determinate set of individuals and certain contractual relations therebetween. Come on. Hessen is right that corporations as a form of business organization would and could exist on the free market, without state assistance.

        • P.M.Lawrence December 23, 2009 at 5:34 pm #

          Neither sentence is correct (we’ve been over this before, elsewhere). Even if any of that were accurate it would be irrelevant to the point at issue – indeed, might support it. That point at issue is, whether it would be constructive overall to deal with any harm that might be done by some corporations by constraining or even eliminating all corporations. I believe that it would be, if the right transitional arrangements were used to avoid losses, precisely because non-corporate arrangements by individuals could replace any incidental or intrinsic benefits corporations offer.

  4. Stephan Kinsella December 22, 2009 at 5:25 pm #

    Roderick, BTW, re your other post on this, http://aaeblog.com/2009/12/15/a-peoples-history-of-pandora/#comments ,

    see this disgusting, pro-imperial army attack on it: Is Avatar the new Olympia? http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-avatar-new-olympia.html

    • Roderick December 22, 2009 at 5:44 pm #

      You’re a Jihadi
      you live in a wadi
      in Passamaquoddy

      • Stephan Kinsella December 22, 2009 at 11:40 pm #

        It is my sad duty to inform you that 5:44 pm is too early to hit the sauce.

  5. Peter G. Klein December 23, 2009 at 12:04 am #

    Rod, as a good Aristotelian, wouldn’t you want to ask whether partnering with the state in evil is an *essential* or an *accidental* feature of the business corporation? Following on Stephan’s point, simply listing a bunch of bad things that business firms have done doesn’t establish that these things are part and parcel of being a business firm, right? E.g., all the firms in your note were established by people who speak English, but it doesn’t follow that organizations of English-speaking people are intrinsically bad. (Help me out here, I’m not a professional philosopher. . . .)

    • Roderick December 23, 2009 at 1:16 am #

      Well, of course; but I never said or (so far as I can see) implied that partnering with the state was essential to a business firm. My comment was simply a reply to Lester’s comment that he couldn’t think of any corporations involved in military invasion and mass slaughter.

  6. Sergio Méndez December 23, 2009 at 11:00 am #


    ¿Divided? They all seem to be against the movie.

    Now, as far I can see, it seems to me that the movie is a cliché. But cliches sometimes are true. Its funny when I see libertarians complaining about how the “real capitalists” would have started peacefully trading with the natives of this allien world, as it was the case in real life…I mean, is like they haven´t read history at all. No wonder Lester can´t remeber any event where coorporations used force (or hard goverment using force for them, too shoot natives, workers etc..), stole natives property, poisoned enviroment, etc…Such a poor or selective memory tells me tons about their understanding of history.

    • Roderick December 23, 2009 at 11:46 am #

      They all seem to be against the movie
      Avatar is great and libertarian” doesn’t seem like a negative comment.

  7. Ndugu December 23, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    I for one disliked Avatar. I found it to be full of cliches and stereotypes that thwarted any appreciation I had for the amazing visuals. There was a cliche for every single character. The Colonel was an overly buff guy with the Southern accent. The corporate guy was the little rich wiseass. Trudy was the sassy rebellious chick. And on and on. I couldn’t help thinking that it should have been named “Pocahantas in Space.” White smart people go and learn about savage culture, with lead guy falling in love with savage princess, then learns their ways and fights against the brutish evil whities he was with. To go with it, the aliens were made to look like Native Americans. They were dressed like them, had rituals like them, a language made to sound like them, a religion like them, etc (I understand I’m stereotyping, but I’m working off of the stereotypes Cameron used). Seeing the blatant connection, it was disrespectful. I know Cameron probably wanted to respect Native Americans with the portrayal, but it doesn’t help perceptions of Native Americans if they are just like those aliens you saw in the movie theater.

    It has a generally good (left)-libertarian message, but other than that, I didn’t like the movie.

  8. Stephan Kinsella December 25, 2009 at 7:27 am #

    Peter, just admit you are an apologist for evil. It’ll feel so much better. Like Eustace Scrubb in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, ripping off his dragon skin.

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