I love Bill Blum’s work, so I was sorely disappointed to find this in his latest anti-Empire report (please read it, since it also has some exquisite tidbits on the imperial mindset that pervades the current crop of jacks-in- office…)
“Libertarians: an eccentric blend of anarchy and runaway capitalism
What is it about libertarians? Their philosophy, in theory and in practice, seems to amount to little more than: “If the government is doing it, it’s oppressive and we’re against it.”
LR: Bill, that seems to be your way of looking at it. No one who has actually read Mises, or Rothbard, or Hayek would see it that way.
BB: Corporations, however, tend to get free passes.
LR: From Murray Rothbard onward, true libertarians have been criticizing corporate boondoggles far more than many liberals I know. And talking about income differentials. Don’t confuse some brands of libertarianism with the whole of it, or I will start tarring all socialists as Stalinists and Maoists, hmmmm?
BB: Perhaps the most prominent libertarian today is Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who ran as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president in 1988 and is running now for the same office as a Republican. He’s against the war in Iraq, in no uncertain terms, but if the war were officially being fought by, for, and in the name of a consortium of Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, Bechtel, and some other giant American corporations, would he have the same attitude?
LR: Oh, right…this is an argument? Suppose, I said the same about the left: If the war was for “the people” — then you would be fine with mounds of dead bodies? Isn’t that putting words in your opponent’s mouth? Where has Ron Paul supported wars for corporations? In fact, right now he opposes the war, because he thinks it was fought for corporations, which use the state as their tool. That is precisely the libertarian position about the corporatocracy and the corporate state.
In fact, the antiwar position is absolutely central to libertarian thinking, because for libertarians, it is the war economy that legitimates the command economy. Anyone who doesn’t know that simply hasn’t read any serious libertarian theorists. Or is confusing the prowar positions of some libertarian writers at magazines like Reason (others at Reason disgreed) with authentic libertarianism. I suppose I could confuse the prowar position of the Washington Post with the left-liberal position too.
Here is Rothbard about the the 1991 Gulf War:
“Bechtel, the Rockefellers, and the Saudi royal family have long had an intimate connection. After the Saudis granted the Rockefeller-dominated Aramco oil consortium the monopoly of oil in Saudi Arabia, the Rockefellers brought their pals at Bechtel in on the construction contracts. The Bechtel Corporation, of course, has also contributed George Shultz and Cap Weinberger to high office in Republican administrations. To complete the circle, KA director Simon’s former boss Suliman Olayan was, in 1988, the largest shareholder in the Chase Manhattan Bank after David Rockefeller himself.
The pattern is clear. An old New Left slogan held that “you don’t need a weatherman to tell you how the wind is blowing.” In the same way, you don’t need to be a “conspiracy theorist” to see what’s going on here. All you have to do is be willing to use your eyes….” (Why the War? Lew Rockwell, 1991).
Here is a piece on Rothbard’s belief that right libertarians were historically, left of the current left (See, Wally Conger, “Why Not Reclaim the Left, Strike the Root, 2002).
Ron Paul has been the one voice of sanity about the Federal Reserve’s reckless creation of credit which is the real reason for the season of mad money lending we’ve just survived and which is now on the verge of tearing apart the economic fabric. That, dear Mr. Blum, is not the fault of “capitalism,” any more than a gold-digging trophy wife is an indictment of marriage as an institution. It is central bank induced financialization by a transnational oligarchy.
Please. Like too many on the left, Mr. Blum’s opinion about what the right thinks or doesn’t think is drawn from hearsay and innuendo, by other leftists.
BB: And one could of course argue that the war is indeed being fought for such a consortium. So is it simply the idea or the image of “a government operation” that bothers him and other libertarians?
LR: Where does Paul say that?
BB: Paul recently said: “The government is too bureaucratic, it spends too much money, they waste the money.”
Does the man think that corporations are not bureaucratic? Do libertarians think that any large institution is not overbearingly bureaucratic? Is it not the nature of the beast? Who amongst us has not had the frustrating experience with a corporation trying to correct an erroneous billing or trying to get a faulty product repaired or replaced? Can not a case be made that corporations spend too much (of our) money? What do libertarians think of the exceedingly obscene salaries paid to corporate executives? Or of two dozen varieties of corporate theft and corruption? Did someone mention Enron?
LR: I did. (here’s a piece I did on Enron: “Malcolm Gladwell Checks in at the Hotel Kenneth Lay-a” — the leftist magazine I first sent it to didn’t publish it — would ruin their monopoly of the moral outrage factor, maybe?).
Murray Rothbard never stopped talking about corporate bail outs. I differ from him on some of his positions, quite strongly, but nowhere does he support the use of fraud, force or war in support of enterprise.
Neither do most genuine ethical libertarians.
But no corporation can raise a standing army or tax citizens or enjoy the legitimacy of a state. And some of us (a good number of right libertarians) think that corporations would not reach the size they do, without the state granting licences and privileges.
Gabriel Kolko argues for that as well.
BB: Ron Paul and other libertarians are against social security. Do they believe that it’s better for elderly people to live in a homeless shelter than to be dependent on government “handouts”? That’s exactly what it would come down to with many senior citizens if not for their social security.
LR: Typical false alternative. The alternative to social security is not homeless shelters. Look what a low opinion of people the left really has. According to them, people are blind, deaf and dumb; they can’t save, they can’t plan…they can’t do anything without the commissariat of soviets to do it for them. Bollocks. Without government interference, people could sit down and figure out what they really needed, instead of being forced to pay for a bunch of boondoggles. Half the waste would disappear; costs of insurances would decline sharply; variety and flexibility would increase; all the various leeches and parasites on the system (many of them middle and upper class….don’t let that tired class rhetoric about the aged poor scare you) would fade away. Scaled back and scaled down, we would get back to the scale of the human.
Most libertarians I’m sure are not racists, but Paul certainly sounds like one. Here are a couple of comments from his newsletter:
“Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty and the end of welfare and affirmative action.”
“Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the ‘criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”
LR: Paul had an opinion based on some mistaken statistics being circulated then. It was a misguided opinion. A dumb over generalization. It wasn’t fundamentally racist but crude and insensitive. And he made a sweeping statement about the opinions he thought black people hold about economics. Asians make such generalizations all the time too, about whites and blacks. ..and other Asians (or to be fair, I should say browns or yellows or yellow-browns, maybe). Bill Blum just made one about libertarians that was all wrong. So do all groups — whether they are prepared to say so in public is another thing. Nor do I want to live in a society which demonizes people for saying such things. Let him apologize and move on.
By the way, some of the most racist attitudes I encountered in this country were not from the right. But from the left – which continues to feel that its model is the only one that serves minorities and people from the third world, in general. And demonizes anyone who falls out of step. (Not, mind you, that paternalism or even feelings of superiority expressed by other groups bothers me much….if an ideas strikes me as right, I will take it, regardless of who holds it and whatever their attitude to me might be. Racism is secondary to mass murder and does not necessarily lead to it, either, contrary to what some people seem to think).
BB: Author Ellen Willis has written that “the fundamental fallacy of right libertarianism is that the state is the only source of coercive power.” They don’t recognize “that the corporations that control most economic resources, and therefore most people’s access to the necessities of life, have far more power than government to dictate our behavior and the day-to-day terms of our existence.”
And there are no socialists who are not unreconstructed Maoists? But does that make me confuse democratic socialists in the US with the Great Leap Forward? Please.
We expect better from our socialist friends.
There ARE many libertarians who fail to apply their critical skills to corporations and fail to see that they don’t embody free enterprise. They should start to do it in no uncertain terms.
But they should do it in libertarian terms and not in the tired, dead-end rhetoric of socialism and the left-right divide.
Libertarians should attack corporations for what they criticise governments for — bureaucracy and anti-individualism. And the left should start reigning in their knee-jerk thought-police for the very thing they attack the right for — intolerance.
Like it or not, the revolution in thinking is from the right, this time.
It has been for some time. Only it got high-jacked by a bunch of neoconservatives — who were actually ex-leftists in drag.
But the real right is awake at last.
So now, move over, Trotsky.
(PS – I wrote this in a tearing hurry before breakfast — and am going to be getting back to it to update and add links and BEG my libertarian friends out there to send me links to as many libertarian writers (and Ron Paul too) that can lay these canards to rest).
Defend your honor, as they say, or people will think you have none…