Posts tagged Ron Paul

Burn Corporate Liberalism

AlterNet’s recent article, Why Atheist Libertarians are Part of America’s 1 Percent Problem is mostly remarkably only in how utterly, thoughtlessly awful it is. Of course many political libertarians are conservative tools, and this includes those who are anti-religious. But the bulk of this article is a series of undirected polemical jabs and cheap partisan talking-points attacking Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, Penn Jillette and Michael Shermer in the most formulaic and uncharitable possible terms; in general the article might be a candidate for the Ridiculous Strawman Watch, but mostly it is just a demonstration, as Nathan Goodman says, that the author couldn’t pass an ideological Turing test. I do want to mention the following, though — because the pull-quote manages to take just about everything I despise in American liberalism and wrap it up into one tight little package:

. . . Atheists who embrace libertarianism often do so because they believe a governing body represents the same kind of constructed authority they’ve escaped from in regards to religion. This makes sense if one is talking about a totalitarian regime, but our Jeffersonian democracy, despite its quirky flaws, is government by the people for the people, and it was the federal government that essentially built the great American middle-class, the envy of the world. . . .

— CJ Werleman, Why Atheist Libertarians Are Part of America’s 1 Percent Problem
AlterNet, December 3, 2013.

Yes, indeed. Here is a completely mythical, wildly unrealistic civics-textbook Disney cartoon[1] of how American government works. It has a few kinks here and there in the real world application, but it’s vouched for by the idealistic fantasies of a prestigious racist, expansionist slave-owning Democratic President. You know that it works great because through a stupendous effort of subsidy and social regimentation it has created the most privileged bourgeoisie the world has ever known. America, fuck yeah!

This is what happens when you take corporate liberalism and expose it to gamma radiation. In all seriousness, it is absolutely true that the construction of the white American middle class was one of the biggest and most effective projects of the United States government over the past 80 years. And in every aspect — the world-empire militarization; the cartelized, permanent warfare economy; the border controls; the internal segregation; the subsidized white flight, car culture and Urban Renewal; the Junior-G-man ethos and the law-and-orderist socioeconomic policing; the stock-market bail-outs and the logic of Too Big To Fail; the institutionalization of everyday life and the full-spectrum pan-institutional promotion of patriarchal family, bourgeois respectability and bureaucratic meritocracy — the political manufacture of the white American middle class has been one of the most reactionary, destructive, dysfunctional, patriarchal and racist campaigns that American government has ever waged against human liberty, and the basic justification of every one of its most grievous assaults on the oppressed, exploited and socially marginalized.

Of course the federal government created the great [white] American middle class. To the eternal shame of both.

  1. [1] Actually, John Sutherland Productions. Sutherland spent three years as a director for Disney before he went on to produce propaganda films for the D.O.D. and then for Harding College (on a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation).

In which market anarchists are sent out to catch the wild 22

Here’s Juan Cole, Informed Comment 2011-08-12: Paul, Santorum and the Sixth War (on Iran):[1]

A significant stream within [Right-wing] libertarianism theorizes war as the ultimate in this racket, whereby some companies use government to throw enormous sums to themselves by waging wars abroad and invoking patriotic themes. This analysis is remarkably similar to that of Left anarchists such as Noam Chomsky.

The difference is that for anarcho-syndicalists like Chomsky, the good guys of history are the workers and ordinary folk, whereas for Libertarians, it is entrepreneurs. Both theories depend on a naive reading of social interest. Right anarchists seem not to be able to perceive that without government, corporations would reduce us all to living in company towns on bad wages and would constantly be purveying to us bad banking, tainted food, dangerous drugs, etc. I mean, they behave that way when they can get away with it even when there is supposed government oversight, usually by capturing the government oversight agency that should be regulating them and then defanging it (e.g. BP and the Minerals Management Service). On the environment, private companies would never ever curb emissions without government intervention because of the problem of the commons. (Tellingly, Ron Paul calls global climate change a “hoax.”)

And, what makes the Libertarians think that if there were no governments or only weak governments, the corporations would not just wage the wars themselves? The East India Companies of Britain and the Netherlands behaved that way. India was not conquered by the British government, but by the East India Company. Likewise what is now Indonesia was a project of the Dutch East India Company. Libertarians have difficulty imagining warmongering corporations who pursue war all on their own without any government involvement.

And below, in comments on the post:

The theory that big corporations exist only because of government, and that monopoly capitalism is a result of government, is wrong. In fact, it is so obviously wrong and ahistorical (the biggest corporations and the strongest monopolies have occurred in the most laissez-faire societies) that it bewilders me how intelligent people ever came to believe it.

Well, you know, when left-libertarians get into arguments with progressives about this sort of thing, and we point out that, historically speaking, American-style capitalism did not really arise in anything resembling a free market — that there never has been anything resembling a free market — and when we point to the actual history of regulatory capture, legal monopoly, state subsidy, government dependence, etc. that historically lies behind commercial empires like the East India Companies (government-chartered and government-protected monopolies), British Petroleum (until recently a wholly owned subsidiary of the United Kingdom), Standard Oil and its descendents, Ma Bell and its descendents, General Electric, J.P Morgan-Chase, Bank of America, General Motors, etc. etc. etc. — and which created and sustained the family fortuens of the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Morgans, Goulds, ibn-Sauds, et al. — the response to this discussion of the historical sources of actually-existing capitalism is always met by a purely hypothetical alternative history, in which, it is alleged, such titanic concentrations of wealth, even though they actually arose in a system of privilege that had nothing to do with free markets, would still have arisen and maintained themselves just as well under purely hypothetical conditions of laissez-faire, even without all the concentrating, insulating, and subsidizing efforts that the manorial and corporate states have so energetically made on their behalf. If this claim is argued for at all, it is not argued for historically, since, of course, there are no historical examples of it ever having happened. It is instead argued for apriori, based on well, why wouldn’t they sorts of appeals to the nastiness of businessmen[2], and the occasional reference to ahistorical hypotheticals or game-theoretic models, like Garret Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons[3] Then left-libertarians are accused of being naive.

But if we respond to this hypothetical speculation by adding on, alongside the history we have already discussed, some more general, apriori economic reasons to believe that stable monopolies and cartels cannot maintain themselves without government privilege, that freed markets would tend to dissipate concentrated fortunes, and that they would systematically contain and undermine, rather than entrenching, monopolies and cartels, then we are accused of utopian theorizing, and told that our view of markets is ahistorical.

Apparently we can’t win. Maybe that’s the point; but I think a rhetorical victory that actually engaged with the historical arguments being offered, or with the apriori arguments being offered, rather than simply waving them off as either nonexistent or obviously beneath the notice of intelligent people, might be a more satisfying achievement.

  1. [1] Cole’s post is, structurally speaking, a post about how Juan Cole agrees with Ron Paul, and disagrees with Rick Santorum’s belligerent idiocy, on Iran. But Juan Cole cannot simply write a post about how he agrees with Ron Paul, just like that. So instead he spends about a third of the post talking about how he thinks that Right-wing libertarianism is a lot of rubbish with a dangerously naive view of corporate power. Which is not in an of itself a problem — right-wing libertarianism is a lot of rubbish with a dangerously naive view of corporate power. And I certainly have nothing against criticizing Chairman Ron’s version of it. But if your criticism of Ron Paul is based on the assertion that he is a Right anarchist — and that what makes him an anarchist is that he [wants] the least government possible then you are about to say something that has probably nothing really to do with, and certainly is not an accurate representation of either Ron Paul or Anarchism. And if you think that Ron Paul is an example of a Right anarchist, and Noam Chomsky is the best example you can think up for a Left anarchist, then I must gently suggest that you are talking outside of your area of expertise.
  2. [2] As if a freed market meant nothing more than that businessmen will act however they please — as if there were no other social forces that could possibly be activated within a freed market.
  3. [3] There is actually quite a lot of good economic literature demonstrating how and why real-world common-pool resources don’t simply get obliterated, as Hardin predicts they must be, in the absence of individualized ownership or top-down legal regulation. See for example the work of the Ostroms.

Re: On the Road to Nowhere With Johnson and Paul

On the Road to Nowhere With Johnson and Paul. Center for a Stateless Society (2011-05-05):

Is it just me, or is the silly season of electoral politics — the presidential election cycle — arriving earlier and earlier in each successive four-year stretch? Last time around, it was nearly Memorial Day of the year preceding the election before pundits started speculating about when the obvious odd...

I have only two real objections. First, it just isn't true that Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work. They've spent decades being the most militant faction in favor of bigger, badder, more violent government. What they actually say is that government doesn't work at helping people, so government ought to be killing and torturing and imprisoning people instead. Lots and lots of people.

My second objection is that ABBA is a marvelous band and if what Gary Johnson and Ron Paul were actually planning to do was just to sit in a car all night listening to ABBA cassettes, I'd think they were pretty cool guys with a remarkably good social agenda.

Wednesday Lazy Linking

Against fiscal conservatism: on inpropriating the expropriators

(Via Lew @ The LRC Blog.)

In which Chairman Ron does his bit to fill the coffers of the U.S. Department of the Treasury:

Like him or hate him, Dr. Ron Paul doesn’t just talk a big game about fiscal conservatism, he lives it. In 2008, his congressional office returned $58,000 to the Treasury. In 2009, his office returned $90,000. Now, according to an official press release, Dr. Ron Paul’s congressional office has just paid back $100,000.

— Ryan Jaroncyk, California Independent Voter Network (2010-03-01): Congressman Ron Paul returns a whopping $100,000 of his office budget to the US Treasury

… And that’s why I’m against fiscal conservatism. Why the fuck would I think it’s a good thing for the U.S. government to get back $100,000 more to spend on bailing out failed bankers or on hurting and killing innocent people? What I’d like most is for that money to get back into the hands of innocent working people (whether under the cover of Congressional featherbedding, or by any other means). But failing that, we’d still all be better off if Ron Paul took the $100,000, piled it up on the National Mall, and set it all on fire, rather than giving it back to the United States Treasury.

At a time when Wall St is running wild, the national debt is $14 trillion, and the federal government is running $1.4 trillion deficits, Dr. Ron Paul’s congressional office is running a surplus and paying back the American people.

No, he isn’t.

He’s paying the American government. The American people, if that means American people like you and me and our neighbors, will get back not one cent of it. Instead, the money will go directly into the operational budget of the government that oppresses and robs us.

Of course, none of this is to say that I like big government spending. But the problem with government spending is not the fact that money goes out of the Treasury; it’s that government spending is financed by expropriation from working people (whether through direct taxation or through the effects of the financial-political complex’s coercive money monopoly). And that government spending goes to fund more expropriation and more violence — in the form of government wars, government borders, government surveillance, forced development schemes and eminent domain seizures, police brutality, prisons, tax-men, hang-men, or the arming, training, and employment of government law-enforcers to inflict their myriad unjust laws on the rest of us without our consent. The problem, in short, is not government spending at all; it’s government violence. But just giving surplus money back to the government, without doing anything to constrain the violence that the state commits — going out of your way to help government balance its budgets and get leaner and meaner in the use of the resources that it has on hand — is as nice an example as you could want of exactly the kind of stupid conservative trap that limited-statism passes off as if it had something to do with freedom.

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