Posts tagged Austro-Athenian Empire

On Big Charity

I’ve talked here a couple times before about the notion of mass education and targeted persuasion and how important it is to what I take myself to be doing in writing a crazy-ass blog about all my crazy-ass positions like I do. (The basic notion here is that one way to advance crazy-ass radical views — views which you’re not likely to convince many people of, just as they are, outside of a relatively small, somewhat self-selected target audience — you can still move the conversation forward in really important ways just by taking the time to put the position on people’s intellectual radar — by explaining the view, and why some people might hold it, clearly enough that you thereby push out people’s horizons of intelligible dissent. Most folks still won’t accept your position, but if you do it right, you will get them to where they’ll consider it as a position that’s open for discussion. And just doing that much has a big damn effect on where discussions can go.)

Anyway, the point of mentioning all this is to bring up a really fine post that Roderick put up last month, entitled Wild Cards, which I think does some really important work towards just that kind of dialectical project. After some excellent introductory material which introduces several of the same notions, in other terms, Roderick comes around to this really quite excellent effort to distill the left-libertarian position down to six key points:

Our vital task, then, is to get the word out that there is a position out there that includes the following theses:

  1. Big business and big government are (for the most part) natural allies.

  2. Although conservative politicians pretend to hate big government, and liberal politicians pretend to hate big business, most mainstream policies – both liberal and conservative – involve (slightly different versions of) massive intervention on behalf of the big-business/big-government elite at the expense of ordinary people.

  3. Liberal politicians cloak their intervention on behalf of the strong in the rhetoric of intervention on behalf of the weak; conservative politicians cloak their intervention on behalf of the strong in the rhetoric of non-intervention and free markets – but in both cases the rhetoric is belied by the reality.

  4. A genuine policy of intervention on behalf of the weak, if liberals actually tried it, wouldn’t work either, since the nature of government power would automatically warp it toward the interests of the elite.

  5. A genuine policy of non-intervention and free markets, if conservatives actually tried it, would work, since free competition would empower ordinary people at the expense of the elite.

  6. Since conservative policies, despite their associated free-market rhetoric, are mostly the diametrical opposite of free-market policies, the failures of conservative policies do not constitute an objection to (but rather, if anything, a vindication of) free-market policies.

Of course we should be prepared to defend these theses through economic reasoning and historical evidence, but the main goal at this point, I think, should be not so much to defend them as simply to advertise their existence. We need to make our red spades and black hearts a sufficiently familiar feature of the intellectual landscape that people will be able to see them for what they are rather than misclassifying them – at which point we’ll be in a better position to defend them.

— Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire (2009-09-10): Wild Cards

Read the whole thing.

Now, part of the point of this kind of thing is to provoke discussion. And here’s Stephan Kinsella’s reply to principle (1) in particular:

As I noted there, Do you mean big business as it exists in today’s world, or big business per se? If the former, you have a point (and from my quick read I don’t disagree with any of your other points). But to argue for the latter interpretation would imply that there could be no big business in a free society.

It seems that the bigger a company is, in today’s world, the more they have to play ball to prosper. I’m not sure, though, why this observation is limited to big business, or even business in general. Even individuals drive on public roads, and are incentivized or coerced into using public schools, say. And what about Big Medicine, Big Education, Big Research, and so on? (And let’s not forget Big Labor!)

Come to think of it—most larger charities I’m aware of continually seek state partnerships and funding, and encourage state redistribution schemes. Down with charity!

— Stephan Kinsella, The LRC Blog (2009-09-15): Big Charity

Sometimes with Stephan, it’s hard to tell whether he intends this kind of but-what-about, doesn’t-everybody move as just some further observations riffing on the general theme or whether he really intends for it to be taken as support (by means of a reductio) for some specific objection. But if this is intended as part of an objection to (the per-se interpretation of) Roderick’s claims about the alliance between Big Business and the interventionist State, then what exactly is the objection here supposed to be?

Let’s set aside Stephan’s mentions of individuals driving on government roads, or sending children to government schools. Sure they do; but this doesn’t strike me as even remotely compelling, if you pause for even a second to consider matters of degree, and it’s hard to see what purpose mentioning it really serves except as a way to just sort of scatter critique as broadly as possible. Last year, the Department of the Treasury sent me a $600 check, allegedly for the purpose of economic stimulus — just like how they also cut AIG a $170,000,000,000 check last year, also allegedly for the purpose of economic stimulus. But, well, so what? I’d say it’s still pretty accurate to see AIG as having a much closer relationship with bail-out statism than I do.

So let’s set aside the doesn’t-everybody move, and stick to the comments on other Bigs — large-scale, formalized institutions in which control is concentrated in a professionalized hierarchy and an administrative bureaucracy — whether it’s Big Medicine, Big Education, Big Research, Big Labor, or Big Charity. Kinsella points out that the other big institutions are, in general, tangled up with the interventionist state, just as big business is. If left-libertarians are going to lay down some heavy critique on Big Business, shouldn’t they be doing the same on the other Bigs?

Well, sure.

So what’s the problem?

What makes you think that left-libertarians would have some kind of problem critiquing Big Medicine (2, 3, 4), or Big Research, or Big Education (2, 3, 4), or Big Charity (2, 3), or Big Labor (2, 3, 4)?

Sure, public-private jobbery, state regimented, hypertrophic, centralized institutions, political capture, subsidized featherbedding, and unresponsive professionalized bureaucracies are hardly limited to conventional for-profit corporations. They happen all over the place — in big professionalized charities like United Way or the Starvation Army; in big hospitals and corporate adjuncts of the medical industry (insurance corporations, pharma corporations, etc.); in big administration-heavy multiversities; and in top-down, centralized business unions like the UAW, the Teamsters, or SEIU. Just like the Fortune 500, they’re also major beneficiaries of State regimentation, subsidy, and captive audiences; just like the Fortune 500, they’re also major causes of State regimentation, through their lobbying and political influence. And just like with hypertrophic, centralized, top-down corporate commerce, there’s some solid reasons for thinking that their hypertrophic, centralized, top-down not-for-profit operations would be fundamentally unsustainable in a freed market.

But that’s hardly an objection to the left-libertarian critique of big business; it’s a perfectly acceptable complement to it. Left-libertarians — at least, the sort of left-libertarians that Roderick is an example of — aren’t just conventional libertarians who believe you ought to voluntarily give more to charity. The critique of corporate capitalism is just the most high-profile part of a broad critique of the state’s promotion of credentialism, bureaucracy, and top-down centralized control — which is why folks like us generally promote community mutual aid over professionalized charity; grassroots, rank-and-file unionism over AFL-CIO-style union bosses and collective bargaining; unschooling over bureaucratic-liberal public education; etc., etc., etc.

So, yeah, down with Big Charity. I agree. Where’s the problem?

Updated 2012-03-23. I fixed a typographical error and updated some links to articles from Formulations, whose archives have moved to a newer, more secure web home.

Ridiculous Strawman Watch (Part 2 of ???)

(Via Roderick Long @ Austro-Athenian Empire 2009-05-30.)

For the moment, I’ll set aside the contemptuous mocking that Bruce Bartlett richly deserves for prolonging the life and expanding the scope of the utterly vile portmanteau liberaltarianism. Let’s focus on the content of his article, instead; here’s Bartlett’s advice to libertarians on libertarian priorities

The reason [libertarians don’t typically vote for Democrats] is that most self-described libertarians are primarily motivated by economics. In particular, they don’t like paying taxes. They also tend to have an obsession with gold and a distrust of paper money. As a philosophy, their libertarianism doesn’t extent much beyond not wanting to pay taxes, being paid in gold and being able to keep all the guns they want. Many are survivalists at heart and would be perfectly content to live in complete isolation on a mountain somewhere, neither taking anything from society nor giving anything.

. . . [T]here is a theoretical case to be made for liberals and libertarians at least continuing a dialogue. But for it to go anywhere, libertarians must scale back their almost single-minded focus on economic freedom as the sole determinant of liberty. They must work harder to defend civil liberties and resist expansion of the police state whether it involves suspected terrorists, illegal aliens or those who enjoy smoking marijuana.

Libertarians should also be more outspoken about America’s disastrous foreign policy, which Obama seems to be doing very little to fix. This would seem like an obvious area for cooperation. The main problem seems that neither liberals nor libertarians are up to challenging the loudmouthed bullies on talk radio and Fox News who equate anything less than a 100% commitment to the war on terror as treasonous.

It’s a fair cop: after all, libertarians hardly ever talk about encroachments on civil liberties, the police state, onerous immigration laws, the War on Drugs, or interventionist foreign policy. It’s true: I read it on the Internet.

I mean, look, dude, if your point is just that libertarians need to put more rhetorical and political distance between themselves and the Right, including even supposed small government conservative types, then, hey, I dig. But if your impression of what the modal libertarian is like is something that could be refuted by picking up a couple issues of reason (reason-fer-Christ’s-sake) at your local Barnes & Noble — or, hell, just walking by the newsrack and looking at the cartoons on the damn cover — well, then, sir, you have definitely earned a place in the R.S.W.

P.S. Also, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to pay your taxes.

Wednesday Lazy Linking

Welcome Farkers: I noticed (from the massive surge in impacts on my web server) that this post — in particular, Jourdon Anderson’s letter to his former captor, which I originally found through stuff white people do (2009-04-28) — was recently featured on the front page of Fark.com. I’m flattered; and presumably this also means that for the time being I’ll be getting a lot of readers who are more or less new to the blog. By way of introduction, to who I am, where I’m coming from, and what I care about, you might check out the links at GT 2009-01-29: Welcome, Antiwarriors.

For reference, I’ve also written many other articles on the topic of slavery, and on the ways in which we talk about, or don’t talk about, the history of slavery. See particularly: GT 2005-01-03: Robert E. Lee owned slaves and defended slavery, GT 2008-04-18: Just shut the fuck up, GT 2006-03-21: The humane slave-driver, GT 2006-03-04: Republican virtue (or: the Man who would be King).

  • Quote for the Day: After the end of the Civil War, many former slavers tried to contact the black men and women they had once enslaved — even those who had escaped during the war and headed north — to try to convince them to return to the plantation and work the land as hands or tenant farmers. One of those freedmen, Jourdon Anderson, wrote a letter back to his former captor, explaining the terms on which would return. This may be my favorite thing that I read all week. Emphasis is added.

    Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

    To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson
    Big Spring, Tennessee

    Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

    I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane and Grundy, go to school and are learning well; the teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we overhear others saying, Them colored people were slaves down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now, if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

    As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost Marshal General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and kindly–and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future.

    I served you faithfully for thirty-two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay day for the Negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

    In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve–and die if it comes to that–than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

    Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

    From your old servant,

    Jourdon Anderson

    The letter was reprinted by Lydia Maria Child in her anthology, The Freedmen’s Book. Jourdon Anderson’s body now rests in the Woodland Cemetary, in Dayton, Ohio, so it seems that his old captor never accepted his offer. For reference, the back wages he demanded — $11,680 in 1865, before adding interest — would be worth about $162,452 in 2008 dollars.

    Discovered thanks to stuff white people do (2009-04-28)

  • The invasion begins tomorrow: SubRosa community space (2009-05-02): First Ever Santa Cruz Anarchist Convergence! May 7-11. The Santa Cruz Anarchist Convergence is coming to town! Yes, here, between the forest and the ocean, among the students and the yuppies, where Santa Cruz anarchists have fostered a close-knit community dedicated to destruction of this world and the creation of another. Santa Cruz is a hub of anarchist culture and resistance, with a long history of radical struggle and active anarchist projects spanning decades. Santa Cruz is proud to host the Santa Cruz Anarchist Convergence, a four-day anarchist event for building community and resistance and sharing radical ideas.

  • More one-way mirror transparency (+): Jesse Walker, Hit & Run (2009-04-23): In Bailouts End Responsibilities.

  • On crony-statism, state capitalism, and living in a bubble: Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom (2009-05-01): Of, by, and for the elite

  • Libertarianism or Barrbarism? Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire (2009-05-04): More Crap from the Libertarian Party (with a hat tip to Soviet Onion in the comments back here). In which the Libertarian Party sends out a press release urging the United States government to control the border, escalate the use of police-state checkpoints against immigrants, and consider all would-be immigrants diseased until proven healthy.

    I’d be pissed if I weren’t beyond caring about anything the LP says or does. Individual party members are often perfectly good people, and well worth talking to, and well worth inviting to something new and better; but the party, as an organization, is worth taking notice of only as an enemy, to be shoved out of the way along with the rest of the belligerent busybody Know-Nothing creeps.

  • He’s wasn’t using it, anyway: Mike Gogulski (2009-05-03): Steal this number: 595-12-5274

  • More on decentalism and localism: A couple of comments from Darian Worden following up on the recent monster thread here: DarianWorden.com (2009-04-27): Individualist International and DarianWorden.com (2009-04-30): Stick It To Your Kind. Whether or not I agree with Darian about multiculturalism depends on what the word’s being used to mean (there’s a lot of different things called multiculturalism, some of them descriptive theories about American history; some of them normative theories; some of them overtly relativistic; others universalistic; etc.). Otherwise, twinkles.

  • On the production of knowledge in a peer-to-peer society: Michel Bauwens, P2P Foundation (2009-04-27): Ryan Lanham: dissolving universities?. I think that the discussion underestimates the importance of architecture and physical space in creating scholarly community; I think it also underestimates what I think would be the most noticeable effect of less businesslike, more mutualistic universities, without the distorting effects of state funding and state-imposed accreditation systems — that they would be smaller, more numerous, and less oriented towards churning out professional degrees in subjects that would be better taught completely outside of the university setting, if not for the political-economic distortions that shove them into institutional structures where they don’t belong. I also protest the notion that there’s something wrong with esoteric subject-matters or that best-selling authors, just as such, somehow have a better grip on what’s relevant than scholars working intensely on a tightly-focused subject. (Surely they have a better grip on what’s relevant to people outside the University. But that’s not necessarily the kind of relevance that a University ought to be concerned with.) But I agree that Universities are set for a radical change, in an increasingly peer-to-peer world, and that the change will involve less institutional aping of business, a more mutualistic orientation, and hopefully less credentialism. It’s an important discussion and this is a good start.

  • I’ll never finish the Internet: Dare Obasanjo, (2009-05-05): RSS readers modeled after email clients are fundamentally broken. Actually, I’m inclined to say that presently-existing e-mail clients are also fundamentally broken, although they call for a different sort of fix.

  • Shameless Self-Promotion opportunities: Jeremy Trombley is now running a regular What Are You Up To? Wednesday feature.