Here’s Chris Moody, quoting (with approval) from a post by Doug Mataconis, in his own post entitled
Where the Libertarians and Socialists Agree:
There’s a distinct difference between the free market and the state-aided corporate capitalism that we live with today. …
Many on the right make the mistake of thinking that believing in capitalism means that you’re obligated to defend the actions of the capitalists, but when those actions involve using the state to evade the discipline of the market, you’re no longer defending the market, you’re helping to destroy it.
Right on, I say. Exactly. (Although, as a libertarian socialist, I can’t work up much surprise at finding libertarians and socialists agreeing on something. After all, I agree with myself all the time. Anyway.)
Here’s Chris Moody, in his comments on the pull-quote:
There is a vital difference between a government that acts as a referee to ensure rights are preserved so that everyone can compete, and a gang of bureaucrats who prop up well-connected citizens so that they can unfairly compete with everyone else
… Wait. Hold up.
I mean, yes, certainly there’s a problem with gangs of bureaucrats propping up the well-connected, and the more activist the government gets in promoting some players at the expense of others, the worse. But what’s this about
a government that acts [only] as a referee to ensure that rights are preserved so that everyone can compete? Any government that is a government will always fail to preserve the right to compete in at least one area — since government claims a sovereign right to write, rule on, and enforce the laws, that means that nobody can effectively compete with a government, no matter how
limitedthe government may be, in a very important market — the market for rights-protection. Moreover, since any government will always not only require you to subscribe to their
services,and not anyone else’s — but will also force you to pay for those
servicesat a rate determined by the government, in the form of taxation, that also means that in any politically governed market,
competitionis always skewed by the fact that market agents are not permitted to freely choose what kinds of security to put in for, or how much to put in for security in the first place — meaning that government has every reason to seize more and more wealth away from productive purposes, and to put it towards forms of
securitythat mainly serve government’s own prerogatives, rather than the actual rights of their captive
clients.Government itself is an instance of the exact problem in question — beating out competing uses for individual or common wealth by means of monopoly and brute force.
Government as such can’t fairly referee competition because any government, just as such is a coercive, anti-competitive, market-distorting entity. (If not strictly limited government, what’s the solution? No government, of course: a free market in everything, including a genuine free market for personal defense, the abolition of legal privileges for agents of the state acting under color of law, and an unconditional individual right to bargain down prices for, or simply to exit, any particular arrangement supposedly for her own defense.)
Here’s Chris Moody, a bit further down in his commentary, in which he tries to cash out his earlier talk about the (mythical) notion of a government strictly limited to fairly protecting people’s rights to compete, with a supposed real-world example to guide future political action:
Instead, we should follow the roadmap that was agreed upon more than 200 years ago and strike down laws that allow well-healed citizens the ability to use government force to gain advantages over others through in the marketplace.
Dude, WTF? The United States Constitution? Really?
A paper Constitution which was specifically crafted in order to increase, not decrease, the power of the central government to seize taxes, parcel out land titles, and pass fugitive slave laws, all for the benefit of well-heeled merchants, industrialists, bond-holders, speculators, and plantation masters? And to increase, not to decrease, the central government’s power to take control over what Madison lamented as
the present anarchy of our [sic] commerce,and so to regiment and redirect it towards the forms of commerce (and to the particular commercialists) that Madison favored? That’s your
I mean, sure, given that part of the motivation was to coercively finance the
internal improvementsthat were seen as necessary for the economy of a great nation, I suppose that this particular map did call for a lot of roads. But at whose expense?
If your concern is government suppressing competition and picking favorites, then you’ll find that the only way to get rid of that is to get rid of government entirely. As soon as you slip from the necessity of no government interference to the myth of a government which does not interfere — as soon as you try to bring in a little bit of limited government, you’ll find that it is always going to end up rigging the game. And if you slip from the imaginary notion of an ideal limited government, to appeals to the alleged principles of some romanticized past government — if you try to bring in past constitutions and schemes for government, as the sort of limited government you’re looking for, you’re going to find that they never were all that limited anyway, even to begin with. The whole damned thing was rigged from the start.
It’s not that the power of government has been perverted or abused to suppress competition and favor the well-heeled. The thing itself is the abuse. And the solution ought to be obvious.