Posted by: Ian | April 17, 2009

Postings from the Libertarian Left

Welcome to the new blog. The simple aim is to counter the common, false dichotomy between libertarian right and statist left.

We reject the slavish devotion to capitalism, corporate greed, the support of the modern opiate of consumerism and the maintenance of the modern empire of the global free market. We also reject that the only alternative to this is an equally oppressive statist culture that denies the essential liberty of the individual, of families and of communities.

We embrace the principles of liberty, common ownership, the right of every person to hold their means of production and keeping everything (education, housing, health, politics) at the most local level possible.

We will be posting comment, campaigns and reflections on politics, economics and, well … just all of life today.

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Responses

  1. I think the ‘libertarian’ right have a dishonest claim to the term ‘libertarian’ in any case…

  2. … and linking to Guido and Dale and continuing the current hegemony…

    Still, I shall add you to my watch list.

  3. This rather interests me.

    “the maintenance of the modern empire of the global free market. ”

    You oppose this.

    “the right of every person to hold their means of production”

    You support this.

    There seems to be something of a contradiction there. If I hold my means of production then I assume that I also get to hold the fruits of my production. To be exchanged with whoever I damn well please on terms that I decide I am happy with.

    Isn’t that what the global free market is? That there are no artificial constraints upon who I may swap the fruits of my production with?

  4. Hi Tim

    I would refer you to doctrines such as Distributism and Subsidiarity a examples of this. At the moment most people do not hold their means of production – they are dependent upon global companies to pay them wages in exchange for labour. If the demand for their labour disappears so does their pay. If they held the means of production, they would be protected to find work based on their skills with the means (e.g. micro-business, tools, land) protected from takeover or repossession. The practical outworking of this would be in cooperatives rather than shareholder-driven economic units, where the profits are owned by the workers and local community rather than large financial corporations.

    The aim of Subsidiarity is to push everything to the lowest level possible, whereas capitalism pushes everything to the highest, with the resulting alienation (and brutalisation) of the individual. Global capitalism is, in the end, anti-libertarian as it needs obedient workers and willing consumers.

  5. The choice to remain purely “local” in our interactions is always available to all of us. But we don’t make that choice because we don’t want the grueling poverty that would obviously result. This is why the only way to create a world of pure local economic linkages would be to enforce it by limiting the freedom of ordinary people far more than it is limited today. They will always vote with their feet for the riches that result from mutually beneficial trade.

    “We perceive that the profit which by mutual trade all the Princes, our neighbours in the West do receive, your Imperial Majesty and those that be subject under your dominion, to their great joy and benefit shall have the same, which consisteth of the transporting outward of such things whereof we have plenty, and bringing in such things as we stand in need of. It cannot otherwise be but that we are bound to aid one another.”

    Elizabeth I in a letter to the Emperor of China (probably Longqing as it was about 1570 I think). Very clever woman.

    I sympathise with some of what you say in this introductory post, but I think you’ve mistakenly launched yourself in a direction that leads away from liberty and towards authoritarianism.

  6. Daniel

    I think you mistake the liberty of the individual and the restriction of the corporate. The individual should have the freedom to sell to whoever they wish, but no one (either individual or corporate) has the right to take away the means of production from the individual, or to act in a way that would restrict the practice of trade of the individual.

    The principle of subsidiarity would suggest that the means of production is at the most local level, but the freedom to trade is at the widest available.

  7. I think you mistakenly assume (you are hardly the first, this is all Marx’s fault) that the “means of production” as a special form of matter that we can objectively recognise, which is subject to different rules to any other form of property. It is not. Material objects have uses that are not intrinsic to their material existence but are a matter of interpretation. “Value” does not exist within an object. It is a function of the use that object might be put to, and that very much depends on the contents of the mind of the person who owns the object. A tea-cosy may be a hat, or vice versa. A tree may be a shelter from the rain. A car may be a penis-substitute. A table may be a source of firewood. A black layer in the rock underground may be an energy source. All these uses have to be invented. The uses of an object are not built into it. They are imposed on the object from the outside.

    Consequently, a given object might be “the means of production” from one person’s perspective, whereas from another person’s perspective it is not. A chair is somewhere to sit, but in some circumstances it might be part of the means of production. This means that by owning a chair, I am potentially denying someone else the means of production. And that situation may change from moment to moment, depending on whether there is someone else in the world who could make better use of the chair than I can.

    If you accept that people have the right to own property (which is implied by “The individual should have the freedom to sell to whoever they wish”), and the right to freely associate with others, then it is unavoidable that companies are able to come into existence, with no need to enslave anyone or steal from anyone, and they would be no different in essence from any of the corporations that exist today. They will form whenever it is beneficial to those forming them, and it can only be so if it is also beneficial to customers as well. There’s no law against new companies being formed; this is the reason the present set of companies exist, but it is also the reason why they are not oppressive – they are not able to be. On the one hand, they have to serve their customers, and on the other hand they have to attract useful employees and somehow keep them loyal. Corporations are held in a bind by two sets of market forces acting simultaneously.

    “but no one (either individual or corporate) has the right to take away the means of production from the individual, or to act in a way that would restrict the practice of trade of the individual.”

    You might benefit from running through a thought experiment. Imagine saving up some money until you have enough to buy a small “means of production” (say, a laptop computer). Did you steal it from anyone else? No. It’s yours to use as you please. Suppose you don’t have the time or skill to use it effectively, but there’s someone who lives next door to you who does. Also they’re short of cash, so they can’t afford to buy it from you. So instead they offer to rent it from you. This is a great result all round – your “means of production” actually gets put to use, your neighbour earns from it, and so do you. No one has stolen from anyone. No one has denied anyone anything. It’s all voluntary free association – people with stuff team up with people with ability, and both people benefit from their association. You are a two-person company. Now imagine this arrangement scaling up to cover hundreds of people. Also, imagine it taking place over long distances, as it has done for thousands of years.

  8. By the way, the principle of subsidiarity is a very important one, and all smart companies follow it. But it has nothing to do with physical locality. It means that the decisions should be taken by those who have the knowledge required to take the decisions. We sometimes speak of people being “at a distance” from the information needed to make decisions, but this is not necessarily about physical distance – although sometimes it is. It’s more a recognition that if there is a central “mastermind” who attempts to make all the decisions, they just become a bottleneck and slow the whole operation down; effectively there is only one mind dealing with every issue one at a time. If all the minds were utilised effectively, the whole organisation would be hundreds or thousands of times smarter.

  9. Welcome. I look forward to the day when the political debate is between the libertarian left and libertarian right rather than, as now, between the statist right and left. New Labour has done liberty a favour by being such a resolute enemy to it. She has made people across the political spectrum aware of their danger. I confess to being curious as to how you reconcile your anti-capitalism with your libertarianism and will follow your posts with interest. So far, apart from that (as to which I wait avidly to be illuminated) you are making sense to me.

  10. TP – Have to say I oppose (corporate) capitalism too but support the free market.

    Corporate capitalism seems to involve corporations and government working together for their own ends often to the detriment of individuals. To quote Schulman

    “Corporations are creatures of the State, created by it and having two privileges that protect them from market pressures. First, corporate liability for damages to others is automatically limited by fiat; and second, responsibility is shifted away from individuals to a fictional entity.”

  11. interesting blog btw. Bookmarked

  12. @pond life – very good point. It’s a terrible irony that the statist left believes that we need more and more restrictive regulation on businesses, to protect us from “the corporations”, when it is that very system of regulations that sustains the corporations. The corporations feed off the regulations, and are protected by them. Regulations make it impossible for small start-up competitors to emerge and threaten the established corporations. Regulations act as state-funded barriers to competition. Businesses have to employ a small army of “human resources” managers just to ensure that the vast swathes of employment law are being complied with. So a good-sized fraction of the activities of any private business are simply a reflection of the requirements imposed by the state, as if the tentacles of the state extend and reach into every business, making the business more like a part of the state, weaving the supposedly “free” market into a single giant rigid system, and imposing hidden costs that drain businesses of their ability to create wealth, actually resulting in them employing fewer people.

    Of course this isn’t the story everywhere, but it is probably increasingly true, and for the simple reason that the cause is almost always misdiagnosed and the suggested remedy – still more regulation – just causes the malady to worsen.

  13. Хочется поведать незабываемыми мнениями от событий недавнего отдыха. Примчался ко мне с сибирской столицы сотрудник побыть в гостях. основное о чем он мне сказал, было представить его с ночной жизнью града. Интим услуги находились в обязательном порядке пунктом. Я отнюдь выказываюсь завсегдатаем в похожих помещениях, отчего спросил у информированных, куда-нибудь нам отправиться. начальный такого рода предложение находился сразу ухваченный на обстановке, и мы мгновенно направились по подтвержденному адресу.http://buxled.com – У избрания услуг разбежались глаза, из за того что индивидуалки находились в том салоне. Поначалу я обычно использовал уличными девками , но нынче постиг, почему лучшие проститутки Москвы обитают особенно в салонах, ну или только в данном помещении, где мы побывали. Обязательно еще посещу сюда.


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