Agora! Dialexis! Ia Ia Cthulhu fhtagn!

I’ve been looking for a label for my particular political orientation.

“Left-libertarian,” “left-Austrian,” and so forth are fine, and I happily use them, but each of them really designates a genus more than a species.

Chris Sciabarra and Sam Konkin horribly merged together by a tragic transporter accidentAgorist” is a bit more specific, but without a qualifier it seems both too narrow (suggesting a stricter adherence to orthodox Konkinism than I can really boast) and too broad (inasmuch as it doesn’t capture my particular quirk of seeking an integration of libertarianism with traditional lefty struggles against racism, patriarchy, and the like).

So, thought I, maybe Agorism plus a qualifier. But what? One possibility is “Left-Agorism,” but that doesn’t really specify what’s more lefty about it. Another possibility is “Dialectical Agorism,” which does suggest (at least for readers of Sciabarra) an integration of Agorism with broader concerns – but it doesn’t specify lefty concerns (even though “dialectical” does have a lefty flavour). Combining them would yield “Dialectical Left-Agorism” – admirably specific on the one hand, butt-ugly on the other.

Maybe I’ll split the difference by alternating between them. Okay, let it be so. Henceforth I am a Dialectical Agorist. That’s right, I said a Dialectical Left-Agorist.

The Doors of Perception

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Hmm, I see that former Congressman Bob Barr has been appointed to the Libertarian Party’s National Committee.

Now I’ll readily grant that Barr was one of the more libertarian-minded Republicans on the Hill; and maybe the LP should be congratulated for landing such a high-profile member.

Still, as I recall Barr was very strongly in favour of the war on drugs, and I’ve seen no mention of his having changed his mind on that issue. Does his “star power” really outweigh the downside of having a drug warrior on the LNC?

Combination Platter

Here’s a famous libertarian defending the right of workers to form unions and to strike:

Solidarity I do not understand … how one can say that a strike is criminal. If one man has the right to say to another: “I don’t want to work under such and such conditions,” two or three thousand men have the same right; they have the right to quit. This is a natural right, which should also be a legal right. … Does a man not have the right to refuse to sell his labor at a rate that does not suit him? … [A]n action that is innocent in itself is not criminal because it is multiplied by a certain number of men …. [My opponent] says: “The strike is harmful to the employer, since the absence of one or of several workers is troublesome for him. A strike has an adverse effect on his production, so that the strikers violate the freedom of the employer ….” … [Y]ou say that it is I who infringe on the employer’s freedom, because my refusal to work on his terms has an adverse effect on his production! Note that what you proclaim is nothing else than slavery. For what is a slave, if not a man forced by law to work under conditions that he rejects? … You ask that the law intervene because I violate the property rights of the employer; do you not see that, on the contrary, it is the employer who violates mine? If he has the law intervene to impose his will on me, where is freedom, where is equality?

Guess who said it.

And now here’s a different famous libertarian defending the right of businesses to combine to form trusts and cartels. So guess who said this:

[T]he right to cooperate is as unquestionable as the right to compete … [A]ny man or institution attempting to prohibit or restrict either, by legislative enactment or by any form of invasive force, is … an enemy of liberty …. [T]he trust, then, like every other industrial combination endeavoring to do collectively nothing but what each member of the combination rightfully may endeavor to do individually, is per se, an unimpeachable institution. To assail or control or deny this form of co-operation on the ground that it is itself a denial of competition is an absurdity. … The trust is a denial of competition in no other sense than that in which competition itself is a denial of competition. The trust denies competition only by producing and selling more cheaply than those outside of the trust can produce and sell; but in that sense every successful individual competitor also denies competition. … All of us, whether out of a trust or in it, have a right to deny competition by competing, but none of us, whether in a trust or out of it, have a right to deny competition by arbitrary decree, by interference with voluntary effort, by forcible suppression of initiative.

Notice that both passages employ essentially the same argument; that is, both appeal to the freedom to associate or not to associate, as well as to the principle that what people have a right to do singly they also have a right to do in combination.

But one author employs these arguments on behalf of the rights of labour, while the other author employs them on behalf of the rights of business. So which left-wing libertarian wrote the first passage, and which right-wing libertarian wrote the second?

Okay, guessing’s over; you can peek.

Here’s the defender of unions.

And here’s the defender of trusts.

I leave the moral as an exercise for the reader.

An Observation

The first rule of Fight Club violates the first rule of Fight Club.

I’m just sayin’.

G. I. Justice

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

The government gives us our rights.

Or so many Americans have been taught to believe.

Alexander Hamilton Now the authors of the U. S. Constitution were far from perfect – to put it mildly. But they would never have dreamed of claiming that they were giving people rights. Alexander Hamilton, for example, wrote that

natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race, and that civil liberty is founded in that; and cannot be wrested from any people, without the most manifest violation of justice. Civil liberty, is only natural liberty, modified and secured by the sanctions of civil society. It is not a thing, in its own nature, precarious and dependent on human will and caprice; but is conformable to the constitution of man ….

The other framers expressed similar sentiments. But nowadays it’s common to hear that the Constitution “gives us” such rights as freedom of the press, the right to a jury trial, and so forth.

Not only does this doctrine promote the deification of the state as something beyond the bounds of ordinary morality, but it also helps to inculcate the idea that – since our rights are government issue rather than rights of humanity – those beyond our borders don’t have the same rights we do.

Which helps to explain this incident, in which U.S. troops in Iraq crush a taxi by driving a tank over it, in order to punish its driver for “looting wood.” There’s nary a sign in sight of any legal proceedings to determine what counts as looting wood, whether the driver was in fact guilty of this terrible offence, or whether destroying his only means of livelihood was an appropriate response. Nor is there any sign that he was allowed counsel on his behalf. Instead, the soldiers acted as legislators, prosecutors, judges, juries, and executioners, unprofessionally laughing and grinning as they indulged in wanton destruction.

Wouldn’t any one of those soldiers have been outraged if, back in the States, he had been accused of, say, shoplifting and, without any trial, some cops had simply settled things by torching his car?

Ah, but our rights come from the Bill of Rights, that magic piece of paper in Washington, and don’t apply to Iraqis (even though the alleged purpose of U.S. presence in Iraq is precisely to bring “democracy” and “freedom” to the Iraqis).

“But wait,” I may be told, “this is war. You can’t expect the application of legal niceties in wartime.”

But even leaving aside the awfully convenient doctrine that we can escape the burden of respecting people’s human rights simply by going to war against them – isn’t such a response an admission that U.S. troops are, indeed, at war with the Iraqi people? That admission seems to undercut the official story that the U.S. is a friend to the Iraqi people, that it has helped them establish a democratic government, and that it’s just there to help the new government keep the peace.

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