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Reading, Thinking, Polling



This morning, between scribbling ideas for our farmhouse and stretching in the morning sunshine, I've bounced between the libertarianism forum, an article I found on the The People-Centered Development Forum called "ASSAULT OF THE CORPORATE LIBERTARIANS", and a chapter about commerce and capital in the book The Tao of Abundance: Eight Ancient Principles for Abundant Living by Laurence G. Boldt.

Here's a quote from each:

emagill wrote, "This is kind of the sticking point for libertarianism. Does a free market introduce an inherent entropy in society? It's hard to answer that question without getting into the objectivists p.o.v., but I will say that, if there are "negative" elements in society, bringing them out isn't really worse than keeping them locked away."

To clarify my interest in this quote, I'll paraphrase it as follows, "By letting the mechanisms and agenda of the dominant corporate players in the so-called "global free market" shape our societies will we be "advancing" in the direction of a globally homogenized, lowest-common-denominator, strip-mall sprawl of a culture that sacrifices genuine quality of life for largely meaningless abstract indicators of economic prosperity?"

From Attack of the Corporate Libertarians:
The moral philosophers of market liberalism perpetrate a serious distortion by neglecting the distinction between the rights of property and the rights of people. Indeed, they equate the freedom and rights of individuals with market freedom and property rights. The freedom of the market is the freedom of those with money. When rights are a function of property rather than personhood, only those with property have rights.


Link: http://www.pcdf.org/corprule/assault.htm

From The Tao of Abundance:
Laws established at the behest of the privileged class both authorize and enforce the system of modern tribute payments. Interest, rents, and profits are all forms of tribute because they accrue to one solely because he possess property, i.e., money, land, and capital.


I took statements from both the Corporate Libertarians essay and The Tao of Abundance and used them to create a poll that I posted to libertarianism.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
tragemorph
Oct. 15th, 2003 11:25 am (UTC)
That's a very interesting post.

I couldn't answer the poll though, because I had to keep clicking "5"- because my thought was, "that depends." I guess that's the problem with distributive statements.

>"The moral philosophers of market liberalism perpetrate a serious distortion by neglecting the distinction between the rights of property and the rights of people. Indeed, they equate the freedom and rights of individuals with market freedom and property rights. The freedom of the market is the freedom of those with money. When rights are a function of property rather than personhood, only those with property have rights."

Ironically, this statement seems to do the very thing it criticizes these "moral philosophers" of doing. I think when most Americans think of "rights," they think of Bill of Rights-type of rights. Only the most high-in-the-sky liberal would think of such things as free health care for all as being "rights;" they would be much better off thinking of that as an "acheivable goal," much as Americans landing on the moon was an "acheivable goal" that was seen through.

Nonetheless, the wealthy power elite will indeed always have a lot of power. Who's going to counterbalance that? I'd fall back on good ol' Bob and say the idea people have the power to counterbalance that. But if the idea people simply rest on their laurels- or, worse yet, wallow in ressentiment- they're out of luck.
kmo
Oct. 16th, 2003 06:55 am (UTC)
Good old Bob
But if the idea people simply rest on their laurels- or, worse yet, wallow in ressentiment- they're out of luck.

I agree. Both the "progressive" left and the Libertarian "right" need to lighten up and take a break from the constant feeding of their indignation buzz. It just makes them sound shrill.

When I notice that I've drifted into shrill territory, my new strategy is to go and move a truck-load of rocks from my uncle's property to my property. It helps to get me out of abstract ideological space and back into the world of muscles in motion and solidly tangible entities like rocks.

Did you read David Brin's great address to a LP national conference calling for "Cheerful Libertarianism?" It's a keeper.

http://www.davidbrin.com/libertarianarticle1.html




The shock of discovering that most of the power in the world is held by ignorant and greedy people can really bum you out at first; but after you've lived with it a few decades, it becomes, like cancer and other plagues, just another problem that we will solve eventually if we keep working at it.

-Robert Anton Wilson
prester_scott
Oct. 15th, 2003 11:34 am (UTC)
thoughts
1. By "rights" a libertarian almost always means "negative rights" (you have the freedom to do such-and-such without hindrance) as opposed to "positive rights" (you are entitled to such-and-such benefits from "society").

2. Negative rights are "natural," whereas positive rights require the exercise of aggressive force to carry out. The rightful role of government in a libertarian system is to protect/enforce negative rights only.

2. Corporations are entities created and sustained by the positive action of government. Corporations enjoy two benefits that are not "natural" to a free market: limited liability and artificial personhood. Without State endorsement, these would only be mere limited partnerships (or else, criminal gangs).

3. Couldn't it then be said that corporations (and therefore "corporatism"), by definition, are anti-market and un-libertarian?
kmo
Oct. 16th, 2003 07:12 am (UTC)
Re: thoughts
1. By "rights" a libertarian almost always means "negative rights" (you have the freedom to do such-and-such without hindrance) as opposed to "positive rights" (you are entitled to such-and-such benefits from "society").

2. Negative rights are "natural," whereas positive rights require the exercise of aggressive force to carry out. The rightful role of government in a libertarian system is to protect/enforce negative rights only.


These two thoughts raise the question in my mind, "Should we classify the "right" of those who hold vast capital resources to receive tribute from those who don't a positive or a negative right?"

I imagine that most of the folks who post to libertarianism would consider this a negative right, one that springs from fundamental laws of nature and does not depend on the exercise of government power but which government does violate when highjacked by crusading leftist do-gooders.

I'm inclined to view the right to receive tribute as a positive right which governments enforce with physical violence, threat of same, and thru relentless cognitive conditioning.

2. Corporations are entities created and sustained by the positive action of government. Corporations enjoy two benefits that are not "natural" to a free market: limited liability and artificial personhood. [Don't forget "immortality." That's a pretty big added benefit handed to Corporate America by the Judiciary. -KMO] Without State endorsement, these would only be mere limited partnerships (or else, criminal gangs).

If we were to run that one up the LJ Libertarian flag pole, how many people do you think would salute?

3. Couldn't it then be said that corporations (and therefore "corporatism"), by definition, are anti-market and un-libertarian?

I'm leaning more and more in that direction, but float that boat in the Libertarian moat, and they'll pour hot rhetorical oil down the murder hole.
prester_scott
Oct. 16th, 2003 10:51 am (UTC)
Re: thoughts
"Should we classify the "right" of those who hold vast capital resources to receive tribute from those who don't a positive or a negative right?"

I'm not sure what you're getting at here. If you mean, "Should there be 'corporate welfare'?" then I think the libertarian answer is an unqualified No.

However, if you mean, "Should a corporation that controls the market for a given product be allowed to charge whatever they want for that product?" then I think the libertarian answer is Yes -- but perhaps with the caveat that a corporation that uses force or fraud against people invites the wrath of government justice. This, I believe, is fertile ground for a real discussion.

If we were to run that one up the LJ Libertarian flag pole, how many people do you think would salute?

It's been done before, and reactions were mixed but generally favorable. I fear you may be shooting at a straw man here. The libertarians in the community are not just a bunch of warmed-over conservatives.
kmo
Oct. 17th, 2003 06:25 am (UTC)
Re: thoughts
If you mean, "Should there be 'corporate welfare'?" then I think the libertarian answer is an unqualified No.

However, if you mean, "Should a corporation that controls the market for a given product be allowed to charge whatever they want for that product?" then I think the libertarian answer is Yes...


There may be an interesting discussion down that track, but that's not what I had in mind. I'm concerned with something far more basic; i.e. the difference between acquiring money by creating something of value and acquiring money thru speculation and usury. Most people go the former route (perhaps after a series of failed "get-rich-quick" attempts to win entry into the speculation/usury group), but those in the speculation/usury group can earn a worker's lifetime wages in a very short time without much effort and without creating anything of value. I don't think this would be possible in a genuinely "free market." I think the rite to practice usury and exact tribute from people who actually create something of value amounts to the most egregious of positive rights; one which depends on government power to enforce the legal mechanisms that result in the amassing of nearly unimaginable private fortunes.
prester_scott
Oct. 17th, 2003 08:19 am (UTC)
Re: thoughts
... the difference between acquiring money by creating something of value and acquiring money thru speculation and usury.

Some might argue that "financial service" -- lending your money to someone else, or agreeing to hold it/invest it on someone else's behalf -- is a value-added service that merits payment. Frankly, I can't think of a reason why it wouldn't. That would encompass banking, moneychanging, and the entire stock/bond/commodities market.

There's a side question of what constitutes a fair price for these services, but I expect libertarians would relegate that to market forces.
kmo
Oct. 17th, 2003 06:47 am (UTC)
Warmed over Neo-conservatives?
prester_scott: Corporations are entities created and sustained by the positive action of government. Corporations enjoy two benefits that are not "natural" to a free market: limited liability and artificial personhood. Without State endorsement, these would only be mere limited partnerships (or else, criminal gangs).

kmo: If we were to run that one up the LJ Libertarian flag pole, how many people do you think would salute?

prester_scott: It's been done before, and reactions were mixed but generally favorable. I fear you may be shooting at a straw man here. The libertarians in the community are not just a bunch of warmed-over conservatives.

kmo: There's an easy way to find out. I see that you have a paid account, which means you are allowed to creat polls.

I noticed while examining the results of my recent poll that people completed the poll who do not regularly post to that forum. Sometimes the answers they gave ran counter to the Fox News editorial line, Randian Objectivism and the neo-conservative personalities who present themselves as the official arbiters of Libertarian Philosophy in the libertarianism community.

Neither polls nor the contributions of the loudest voices in that community provide a clear window into the ideological profiles of all of the people who claim membership, but the two methods together make for a better window than either one by itself.

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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