Tag Archives | Left and Right

Who Said This?

While Government is an excellent machine to protect monopoly, has it ever been able to protect us against ill-disposed persons? … In establishing prisons into which multitudes of men, women, and children are thrown for a time in order to come forth infinitely worse than when they went in, does not the State maintain nurseries of vice at the expense of the tax-payers? …

On the other hand, if we analyse all the great advances made in this century – our international traffic, our industrial discoveries, our means of communication – do we find that we owe them to the State or to private enterprise? Look at the network of railways which cover Europe. At Madrid, for example, you take a ticket for St. Petersburg direct. You travel along railroads which have been constructed by millions of workers, set in motion by dozens of companies; your carriage is attached in turn to Spanish, French, Bavarian, and Russian locomotives: you travel without losing twenty minutes anywhere, and the two hundred francs which you paid in Madrid will be divided to a nicety among the companies which have combined to forward you to your destination. This line from Madrid to St. Petersburg has been constructed in small isolated branches which have been gradually connected, and direct trains are the result of an understanding which has been arrived at between twenty different companies. Of course there has been considerable friction at the outset, and at times some companies, influenced by an unenlightened egotism, have been unwilling to come to terms with the others; but, I ask, was it better to put up with this occasional friction, or to wait until some Bismarck, Napoleon, or Zengis Khan should have conquered Europe, traced the lines with a pair of compasses, and regulated the despatch of the trains? If the latter course had been adopted, we should still be in the days of stage-coaches.

The network of railways is the work of the human mind proceeding from the simple to the complex by the spontaneous efforts of the parties interested, and it is thus that all the great enterprises of our age have been undertaken. …

What thousands of examples one could cite in support of this same idea! Take all great enterprises such as the Suez Canal, the lines of Atlantic steamers, the telegraph which connects us with North and South America. Consider also that commercial organisation which enables you on rising in the morning to find bread at the baker’s … and all other things that you want at other shops. Is this the work of the State? …

If we closely scan the development of the human mind in our times we are struck by the number of associations which spring up to meet the varied requirement of the individual of our age – societies for study, for commerce, for pleasure and recreation …. To make a list of the associations which exist in Europe, volumes would be necessary, and it would be seen that there is not a single branch of human activity with which one or other does not concern itself. The State itself appeals to them in the discharge of its most important function – war; it says, “We undertake to slaughter, but we cannot take care of our victims; form a Red Cross Society to gather up the wounded on the battle. field and to take care of them.”

Let others, if they will, advocate industrial barracks, or the monastery of Authoritarian Communism; we declare that the tendency of society is in an opposite direction. We foresee millions and millions of groups freely constituting themselves for the satisfaction of all the varied needs of human beings – some of these groups organised by quarter, street, and house; others extending hands across the walls of cities, over frontiers and oceans.

See the answer.

Left-Libertarians at Libertopia

[cross-posted at C4SS and BHL]

Next month (3-6 May) in San Diego I’ll be speaking at the Libertopia conference, which is back after several years’ hiatus. Here’s my topic and abstract:

Hoppean Libertarianism as Right-Wing Tribalism: A Critique
Roderick T. Long

One of the main conduits by which many libertarians in recent years have been drawn into the orbit of the Alt-Right is the work of Hans-Hermann Hoppe. I argue that Hoppe’s views on such matters as racial difference, immigration, monarchism, and the desirability of culturally homogeneous communities are systematically mistaken, as well as incompatible with a libertarian understanding of human action.

My Molinari Institute / Center for a Stateless Society / Alliance of the Libertarian Left / Bleeding Heart Libertarians colleague Gary Chartier will also be speaking; here’s his topic and abstract:

How to Think About the Constitution
Gary Chartier

Libertarians often defend particular theories of constitutional interpretation. But, at least for those who are skeptical about standard defenses of state authority, there’s a prior question: are we obligated to follow the Constitution? If we’re not, I suggest, then there’s no right answer to questions about the right way to read the Constitution. Instead, we should make constitutional arguments likely to advance liberty.

Other speakers include David Friedman, Scott Horton, Jeff Tucker, Spencer MacCallum, and many more. Check it out!

Class Act

[cross-posted at BHL]

Karl Marx once wrote:

I do not claim to have discovered either the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me, bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this struggle between the classes, as had bourgeois economists their economic anatomy. My own contribution was

1. to show that the existence of classes is merely bound up with certain historical phases in the development of production;

2. that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat;

3. that this dictatorship itself constitutes no more than a transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.

Marx is certainly right that class analysis was a central feature of classical liberalism long before he picked it up. He’s fibbing a bit, though, about (1) and (3); many of his bourgeois predecessors (for example, the Censeur triumvirate of Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer, and Augustin Thierry) most emphatically thought that class society as they understood it was a temporary phenomenon destined to be displaced. Thierry, for example, announces:

Federations will replace states; the loose but indissoluble chains of interest will replace the despotism of men and of laws; the tendency towards government, the first passion of the human race, will cede to the free community. The era of empire is over, the era of association begins.

The main difference between Marx and the liberals was that Marx took the differentiation between ruling and ruled classes to be grounded in differential access to the means of production, whereas the liberals took the differentiation between ruling and ruled classes to be grounded in differential access to predatory power, and in particular to the power of the state. (To be sure, Marx acknowledged and indeed insisted on the important role of the state in maintaining class division when examining the details of history or current events; but the state quickly receded in importance when he turned to abstract theory.)

All this is by way of noting that I just received in the mail my author’s copy of Social Class and State Power: Exploring an Alternative Radical Tradition, an anthology of libertarian and classical liberal writings on class analysis that I co-edited with David Hart, Gary Chartier, and Ross Kenyon.

The volume includes material by a rather heterogeneous collection of authors:

  • from the 17th century, Richard Overton;
  • from the 18th century, Adam Smith, Thomas Paine, Vicesimus Knox, and William Godwin;
  • from the 19th century, Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, Thomas Hodgskin, John Wade, William Leggett, Richard Cobden, John C. Calhoun, Adolphe Blanqui, Frédéric Bastiat, Charles Renouard, Augustin Thierry, Gustave de Molinari, Herbert Spencer, William Graham Sumner, Lysander Spooner, and Benjamin Tucker;
  • and from the 20th century, Franz Oppenheimer, Albert J. Nock, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Roy Childs, Walter Grinder, John Hagel, Hans Hoppe, and your humble correspondent.

I would urge you to go out and buy a copy; but in light of the book’s $100 pricetag, I’ll just urge you to go out and suggest to your local research library that they buy a copy.

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