Lew Rockwell’s recent
interviewof Naomi Wolf for his podcast — the scare quotes are there because it quickly turns into a very two-sided conversation, and works very differently from a conventional interview — is really remarkable, and a paradigm for the kind of engagement that could build a vibrant libertarian Left. Naomi Wolf is not my favorite feminist, and Lew Rockwell is certainly not my favorite libertarian, but this is great stuff. Naomi Wolf now says she thinks she’s
been a secret libertarian for many years in many, many waysand mentions that she’s feeling increasingly sympathetic toward radical libertarianism; she insists on the importance of challenging both Democratic- and Republican-sponsored power grabs, and expresses sympathy for the libertarian case for abolishing federal control over schooling. Rockwell does a tolerable job of explaining the libertarian case against the Fed as a instrument of class warfare, does a good job of cautioning against premature jumps into statist political action, and comes out that the conservative movement has been an
engine of fascismfor the past 50 years. Also, Wolf has some great material at about 23:45 in the interview about the way in which media producers deliberately encourage false-alternative shouting matches and instruct their guests that serious deliberation is not
Socialist Alexander Cockburn writes a libertarian article for the Buchananite newsjournal The American Conservative, discussing the ongoing bipartisan assault on civil liberties, in which he points out the continuity between Clinton’s and Bush’s anti-terrorism and drug war rackets, decrying Social Security Numbers and the Kelo decision, while praising the defense of the individualist reading of the Second Amendment in Heller.
There’s been a lot more discussion of Roderick’s Corporations Versus the Market piece on Cato Unbound. Roderick’s Keeping Libertarian, Keeping Left replies to the initial responses from the Danny Bonaduce of the Blogosphere, Steven Horwitz, and Dean Baker. Roderick’s Owning Ideas Means Owning People makes the case for libertarian radicalism against Intellectual Protectionism (indeed, for a position even more radical than those advocated by Cato minimal-statist Tim Lee and by anti-IP, but pro-governmental Leftist Dean Baker).
Yglesias, in reply to Roderick and Steven Horwitz, says he is a bit puzzled by pragmatic arguments for left-libertarianism, based on the claim that markets do more for human flourishing than government programs, writing:
If this means that the absence of governance à la Joseph Stalin is a more important determinant of our well-being than is, say, the existence of unemployment insurance then, yes, of course this is true. But the question facing government programs is not whether they are more or less beneficial than the existence of a market economy, the question is whether the programs are more beneficial than would be the absence of programs.Roderick does a great job of responding to Yglesias (as well as to some another reply by Dean Baker) here. Let me just add a bit more about the fundamental problem with Yglesias’s proposed methods for assessing whether or not a given government program is warranted.
The problem here is that Yglesias seems to be treating this as a ceteris paribus comparison: as if the right question to ask is whether people would be better off with the government program in place or in a situation which is exactly identical, but without the government program.
There are two problems with this. First, unless there is some strong reason to believe that ceteris will stay paribus in the absence of a government program, the real alternative is between a government program and market alternatives to that program. So, for example, Yglesias mentions ex ante environmental regulations. But he rigs the match by apparently comparing outcomes with ex ante environmental regulations to outcomes from a market situation which is basically the same as the present, but in which corporate polluters are free to go on polluting with impunity. An un-rigged comparison would be one between ex ante environmental regulations and free market means of addressing pollution that the ex ante regulations have either directly suppressed or crowded out — like the use of pollution nuisance suits or a more robust use of free market grassroots activism, through boycotts,
sustainabilitycertification, social investing, and so on. Maybe these kind of tactics would not be as effective as ex ante regulation, or maybe they would be more effective; but in either case, this is the comparison that actually needs to be made, and as far as I can tell Yglesias hasn’t given any argument to support a claim that market methods would do worse. Indeed, there’s some good reasons to think that they might do better. Since freed-market methods are by their nature decentralized, and not dependent on political lobbying or electioneering, they are also not subject to the same problems of regulatory capture by those who can put
a lot of money and political influence behindtheir interests.
Second, Yglesias also more or less explicitly suggests that, when you’re deliberating over whether to favor government programs or freed-market alternatives, any given government program ought to be assessed in isolation from all the others (on a
case-by-casebasis). But of course libertarian Leftists have repeatedly stressed the importance of seeing particular social or political processes in the context of how many different processes interlock and interact with each other. So, for example, as Roderick has repeatedly stressed, if you want to know about whether to prefer unfettered free markets or regulatory command-and-control in financial markets, it doesn’t make sense to compare a rigged market where finance capital is tightly regulated and can reasonably expect government bail-outs in case of failure to a rigged market where finance capital is loosely regulated but can still reasonably expect government bail-outs in case of failure. Whether the latter or the former turns out to have better results is a question we could debate, but the important point, from a left-libertarian point of view, is that it would be more interesting and fruitful to compare the rigged markets to a free market with neither ex ante regulation nor bail-outs. Similarly, if we are looking at environmental regulations then we have to consider not only market alternatives to ex ante environmental regulation; we also have to consider other government programs which may indirectly contribute to environmentally destructive practices — like subsidizing corporate centralization and capital-intensive production; or stealing land from homeowners and small businesses for large, polluting manufacturing plants, garbage incinerators, and other forced-modernization boondoggles; or subsidizing fossil fuel dependence; or highway-driven suburban sprawl — and whether the absence of those other programs, taken together with the absence of ex ante environmental regulation, would make freed-market alternatives to ex ante environmental regulation even more palatable than they would be when considered in isolation. (For some similar points in the context of health care, see GT 2007-10-25: Radical healthcare reform.)
Meanwhile, Roderick’s article has also prompted a lot of discussion outside of Cato Unbound, most notably interesting but misguided replies from Peter Klein, Will Wilkinson, and an extremely ill-conceived response by Walter Block and J.H. Huebert. I’ve already discussed Block’s and Huebert’s comments, with a focus on their distortion of my own expressed views (cited favorably by Roderick) on radical labor unionism.. There’s a lot of fascinating exchange among Klein, some other right-libertarians and agnostic-libertarians, and a number of libertarian Leftists in the comments thread on Klein’s article; note especially the exchange among Araglin, Klein, P.M. Lawrence and others over the legitimacy and viability of the corporate form, limited liability, etc., under freed markets, and this short comment by Jesse Walker:
It seems clear to me that, at the very least, the “more local and more numerous” claim is correct, if not in every sector than certainly in the economy as a whole. Removing occupational licensing laws alone would unleash such a flood of tiny enterprises — many of them one-man or one-woman shows, sometimes run part-time — that I doubt the elimination of antitrust law and small-business setasides would offset it. Especially when large businesses have proven so adept at using antitrust and setasides for their own purposes. .(Jesse promises a more detailed follow-up at Hit and Run; I look forward to it.)
Meanwhile, as promsied, Roderick has added his own (detailed, excellent) reply on most of the points raised by Klein, Wilkinson, Huebert, and Block back over at Cato Unbound, entitled Free Market Firms: Smaller, Flatter, and More Crowded.
Read the whole damn thread. It’s great.
On the activist front, this past Monday, New Jersey ALLy Darian Worden announced a new series of Alliance of the Libertarian Left outreach flyers and
subversion squaresavailable from the NJ ALL website. Enjoy! (I also think there will be some interesting news in the near future about ALL in Southern California, England, Denver, and some new activities for ALL in Las Vegas. But I’m not going to tip my hand more than that in public, just yet. If you’re curious — and especially if you are in one or more of those geographical areas — drop me a line in private.
the Danny Bonaduce of the Blogosphere
One of the points that I wanted to stress in my recent response to Danny Blogaduce’s recent article on left-libertarianism is that, at least as far as it touches on questions of strategy and practical politics, Blogaduce is more or less right about the kind of thing he calls
libertarianism — that is, the sort of gradualist and reformist pet projects advanced by limited-statist outfits like Cato and the Libertarian Party. (The problem with his article is that he wrongly thinks that what he thinks of as
libertarianism is all there is to libertarianism — an odd stance to take in an article responding to a radical Left, anti-electoralist market anarchist.)
But Yglesias is right that minimal-statist reformism, more or less necessarily, depends on an unrealizable and ultimately incoherent notion of State neutrality, and that, strategically, it also inevitable falls into the trap of trying to intervene in government policy debates while taking the basic presuppositions of that debate for granted, on the foolish belief that by doing so we will somehow be able to restrain or undermine the manipulation of that debate and that policy apparatus by the well-organized and well-funded forces that created it and that continue to rig the matches and game the system. There’s a reason why (reformist, minimal-statist) libertarians so often lose track of the subject and smother the revolutionary notion of freed markets and free association with a bunch of tax-subsidized
choice programs, outsourced government monopolies, and other cockamaimey privateering schemes. If you start out by trying to take hold of a system of domination rather than resisting it, and by trying jump into a rigged debate rather than challenging the notion underlying the debate itself–where you’re allowed to file slowly away at only one of the bars of the statist cage, while leaving all the other criss-crossing bars in place, unchallenged or (more commonly) simply unmentioned–then you shouldn’t be surprised when your attempt to intervene in that debate ends up consisting of little more than
No reasonable person is advocating that we are going to stop destroying money! But the American people earned that money. They have the right to decide how it should be destroyed.
When the limits of Beltway consensus policy debate are the limits on what a reasonable person can advocate, what decent people have to do is to start being unreasonable. Anything else, and you’d better just learn to love the money fires. Because that’s all you’re getting, even if you somehow managed to
Like the Holy Roman Empire, this
Friday Random Ten is neither Friday, nor Random, nor Ten. But it is (I think) a good idea;
thanks to Random Thoughts and to Trish Wilson for it. Here’s the idea: you’ve probably all heard of the Friday Random Ten music game. This is sort of like that, except that it’s ten links. The links go to ten worthy posts by webloggers outside of the usual club of folks you link to. Why? Because weblogging, and political weblogging in particular, is interesting and fun and increasingly important but it’s also got a tendency to be inbred and clubby. Most of us are not atop the A-list “dominant link hierarchy,” but we participate in it, and if we don’t try to break up the cartel a bit, who will? The Danny Bonaduce of the blogosphere? I think not. So here’s mine:
When it comes to the hand-wringing and the bloviating over the Left’s attitude towards feminism, abortion, and sexuality, media girl 2005-02-24: Not negotiable puts it better than I could in just three sentences:
What a lot people — mostly men — don’t seem to understand is that women’s control over our own bodies is not negotiable. We are not slaves. We are not breeding machines to be regulated and controlled by the government.
Bitch, Ph.D. 2005-02-22: The Washington Monthly points out that it’s that time of the three months again: Kevin Drum has come down with a nasty case of QMS, and it’s made him impulsive and irrational enough to start spouting off without so much as bothering to so much as search Google for
female political bloggersfirst. Or, as we have it from the good doctor:
Oh look. We have another well-meaning non-sexist liberal non-discriminatory fuckwit around being all concerned about how women just don’t choose to talk about politics. Or maybe it’s that they’re innately less comfortable with the “food fight” nature of political discourse.
How the fuck do men ever manage to succeed in any kind of intellectual endeavor without bothering to find out what the fuck they’re talking about before shooting their mouths off? Oh yeah, right, it’s the magic power of the cock. Jesus.
Bean has a new blog (you may know her from her posts on Alas, A Blog), and in Cool Beans 2005-03-03: The Invisibility of Feminism she points to another one for the
what is seen and what is not seenfile. Here we have one of the countless examples of why men in the media seem able to confidently declare feminism dead once every five years or so, without the least bit of circumspection: because nobody seems to feel obligated to actually, y’know, look up feminist publications before they gather their data and start spouting off.
Jill Walker at misbehaving.net 2005-02-27: The Debian Women Project notes the lack of women in open source development, or at least in Debian development specifically.
Hanna Wallach posted her slides from a talk she gave on Debian Women yesterday. She showed statistics showing that 10-20% of computer science undergrads are women, and that 20-35% of IT professionals are women, and yet there are only 4-8 women among the nearly 1000 developers of the open source Debian "universal" operating system. That’s less than one percent. While Hanna mentions possible reasons briefly, her main concern in the talk is to show what is being done in Debian Women.
It’s good to see that the topic is being addressed, and everyone’s best wishes should be with Debian Women, which seems to be off to a good running start; one can only pray that the boys will keep tabs on the organizing and action that’s going on, instead of treating everyone to a trimonthly outbreak of oblivious
Where are all the female software developers?e-mails on devel mailing lists…
Mouse Words 2005-03-05: 10 things you need to know about men demonstrates once again that shooting fish in a barrel can be damn funny if you have the talent (as Amanda clearly does).
From iVillage and by Richie Sambora. Sambora couldn’t tell you shit about playing guitar, and he’s a guitarist. So why do we assume he knows something about being a man? As usual, we women are presumed pretty clueless when it comes to men. Men, however, know everything they need to know about us.
We want you to be our mothers.
Heather Locklear is a saint. And now I have the unfortunate image of her man calling her Mommy and I’m all upset.
We don’t mind it when you dress us.
If he asks for a sponge bath next, I hope Locklear takes a moment to remember that she is a stunning beauty who has exactly zero reason to fear that she’s headed for spinsterhood if she suddenly gave up playing Airplane in order to get her husband to eat.
Avedon Carol 205-03-05: How you become crazy takes on the pervasive idiot notion that any ideological skew in the media, if it exists, is prima facie evidence that the media is doing something wrong and therefore needs to change:
I have never understood why this should be a criticism of the media, anymore than it makes sense that this is a negative trait of academe; if the people who are best educated and most aware of what is going on are more liberal, maybe that’s because you have to be ignorant to swallow conservatism. What is really suggested by this “criticism” is that the alleged “bias” isn’t bias at all, it’s just a recognition of what is, and that bias is required to lean to the right of this “liberal” position. Indeed, the behavior we’re seeing from the administration is fairly explicit in that we are told that simple facts are “biased”. The news media are not supposed to tell the public the truth about anything because that would bias us against the administration. The real question is not, then, about a bias toward liberalism or conservatism, but rather a belief that “news” should make some attempt to serve the public rather than just the corporate hierarchy.
Those people really do need reminders. They need to be told every single time they spew right-wing bull. They need to be reminded over and over that reality still holds sway for at least half of the population. Most of all, they need to be told that we’re not talking about forgetfulness and errors and “misstatements” from Condi and George and friends, we’re talking about lying, and they should call a spade a spade.
Whether Avedon’s right or not about all that (I think she’s clearly right about the media’s limitless charity for Bush administration fraudsters, probably right about some parts of reporters’ policy skew, and probably mistaken about others), the underlying point is awfully damned important: the demographic arguments that “liberal media” bloviators (and their “corporate media” comrades on the Left) aren’t enough to show anything in particular. The perverse sort of ideological identity politics that the Right especially loves these days needs to be called for what it is: pure bluff.
[Update 2005-03-27: Incidentally, the name is Avedon Carol, not Carol Avedon as I originally wrote. Oy. My bad!]
What Is Past Is Prologue 2005-03-04: How Low Can You Go follows up with this fine look at how the Great Americans at MSNBC ensure that the tough questions get asked in spite of the fiendish plot of the liberal media hegemons:
Then he went on to flagellate that old tired concept that everyone knows is a lie: The Vicious Liberal Media. His commentator? The resentful Ari Fleischer, clearly still smarting from his days as White House Press Secretary
Clancy at CultureCat 2005-03-04: Orphan Works: Tell the Copyright Office Your Stories calls for shedding light on one of the rarely-seen but often-onerous unintended consequences of the intellectual enclosure regime: valuable works are left in limbo when you can’t find their copyright holders. I’m sure that making works completely impossible to reproduce for a good 70 years or so is really incentivizing some creative excellence. Somehow.
Micha Ghertner at Catallarchy 2005-03-06: Small Is Beautiful points out something that you just don’t see in most discussions of prying education out of the hands of the bureaucratic State: the way that government monopolization of schools and politicized pressures constrict schools into multimillion dollar all-things-to-all-people facilities–thus forcing down the number of groups that could reasonably get a school off the ground–thus forcing them into crowded splinding-and-sorting centers for thousands of students:
Would people want to send their kids to small, simple, less expensive schools? Would some parents drop off their kids at an individualized schooling program for a few hours, and then take them to the gym or the community center for a sports league or a friendly pick-up game with other children? Those who are satisfied with the current system of institutionalized babysitting may want to stick with the status quo. Those who would prefer a close-knit atmosphere, where everyone knows each other by name, and where the programs and costs are specially tailored to each individual student’s needs, may conclude that bigger is not always better.
Alina at Totalitarianism Today 2005-03-01: International aid worthy of the title? reminds us of the dirty little secret about government-to-government
foreign aid: when you give money to the government instead of to the people in distress, they just waste it.
Voltairine de Cleyre (1907-04-28): They Who Marry Do Ill argues (under the title of a particularly delightful turn of phrase) that marriage — whether government-sponsored or wildcatted, whether religious or secular — offends against individualist principles:
Some fifteen or eighteen years ago, when I had not been out of the convent long enough to forget its teachings, nor lived and experienced enough to work out my own definitions, I considered that marriage was
a sacrament of the Churchor it was
civil ceremony performed by the State,by which a man and a woman were united for life, or until the divorce court separated them. With all the energy of a neophyte freethinker, I attacked religious marriage as an unwarranted interference on the part of the priest with the affairs of individuals, condemned the
until death do us partpromise as one of the immoralities which made a person a slave through all his future to his present feelings, and urged the miserable vulgarity of both the religious and civil ceremony, by which the intimate personal relations of two individuals are made topic of comment and jest by the public.
By all this I still hold. Nothing is more disgustingly vulgar to me than the so-called sacrament of marriage; outraging of all delicacy in the trumpeting of private matters in the general ear. Need I recall, for example, the unprinted and unprintable floating literature concerning the marriage of Alice Roosevelt, when the so-called
American princesswas targeted by every lewd jester in the country, because, forsooth, the whole world had to be informed of her forthcoming union with Mr. Longworth! But it is neither the religious nor the civil ceremony that I refer to now, when I say that
those who marry do ill.The ceremony is only a form, a ghost, a meatless shell. By marriage I mean the real thing, the permanent relation of a man and a woman, sexual and economical, whereby the present home and family life is maintained. It is of no importance to me whether this is a polygamous, polyandric or monogamous marriage, nor whether it is blessed by a priest, permitted by a magistrate, contracted publicly or privately, or not contracted at all. It is the permanent dependent relationship which, I affirm, is detrimental to the growth of individual character, and to which I am unequivocally opposed. Now my opponents know where to find me.
O.K.; that was eleven, not ten. And the eleventh isn’t exactly a blog link anyway. But I did warn you ahead of time that
Friday Random Ten would be a name here, not a definite description. And if the
dominant link hierarchy in the weblog world is worth breaking up, then I’d have to say that it’s also worth breaking up weblog reading with a bit of material that was written before the turn of the 21st century. Enjoy the subversion!