Hmmm…No, Sir. I Don’t Like It.

April 21, 2010

What some left-”libertarians” oppose is the economic order most standard libertarians favor and expect to accompany an advanced free society–whatever word you slap on it. Thus they go on about mutual aid, wildcat strikes, the workers, localism, self-sufficiency, they condemn the division of labor, mass production, factories, employment, firms, corporations, “hierarchy,” international trade, not to mention “distant” ownership, landlordism, “alienation,” industrialism, and the like. Their agenda is not required by libertarianism–most of it is not even compatible with it, I’d say, so is unlibertarian. But this is a debate we can have–it’s on substance. I think this is a large motivation for their hostility to the word “capitalism”–they mean capitalism like we do, and dislike it. I don’t mean crony capitalism–but actual libertarian-compatible laissez-faire capitalism. They want libertarians to stop saying capitalism because they want us to adopt their substantive unlibertarian, Marxian agenda. Yet they pretend it’s just for strategical or lexical concerns–which it’s not. This is yet another reason I think we should dig our heels in and not give in: they will then count it as a substantive victory for unlibertarian, leftist ideas.

-Stephan Kinsella, quoted by Juan Fernando Carpio

Stephan Kinsella is right about one thing: the reason I’m a free-market anti-capitalist is because I have substantive differences with him and other “standard libertarians.” To the extent that my friends on the libertarian-left are making linguistic and strategic arguments against the word ‘capitalism’ (and I’m not convinced that all of them are or that none of their arguments have a substantive element), I don’t have much of a dog in that fight.

But if Kinsella thinks this is a gotcha, a deep insight into our hidden agenda, then let me be clear: I mean capitalism like you do, and dislike it. As I said, there is no pretending it’s only “strategical or lexical” here.

Where I disagree with Kinsella is about who, exactly, is being “unlibertarian and Marxian.” Well, ‘Marxian’ is a bit unfair but capitalism and Marxism share in a fundamental myth that I reject, so in that sense, I’m further from Marxism than Stephan.

OK, that’s a cheap shot. But it is a debate we can and should have.  I’m not going to start it here because I’ve already talked about it elsewhere and I just wanted to use this space to make my position clear. In the meantime, calling all haters of “anarcho”-capitalism

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5 Responses to “Hmmm…No, Sir. I Don’t Like It.”

  1. brainpolice Says:

    Down with Skinsella dogmatism!


  2. To be honest I don’t think i’ve ever encountered two libertarians with the same set of opinions so i’m not sure who these “standard libertarians” we’re supposed to be disagreeing with are but i’m in!

    I’ve been playing with the LTP, inalienability etc. stuff for ages now and i’m *that close* to agreeing but I still can’t shake the objection that working for a boss is the same as working for a customer. I know you don’t wanna debate it here if you ever feel like joining my discussion with David Ellerman himself then it would be appreciated :)
    (http://www.blog.ellerman.org/2010/03/inalienable-rights-part-iii-a-litmus-test-for-liberalism/#comments)

    On a similar note I have a response to a related comment by Kinsella here

    http://0welcometo1984.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/challenge-accepted/

  3. Neverfox Says:

    First, I think your struggle is actually a helpful example. It demonstrates the point I’m trying to make by showing just how “in the weeds” you can get over things like property theory and contract theory without anyone reasonably saying that someone in the deabte is “disrespecting” the concept of property. They might be wrong but intentions matter. No one can claim that David Ellerman doesn’t believe in a private property economy. Yes, there are logical constraints on libertarianism. You can’t just make it anything, but make a few different determinations in legal theory or ethics and you can end up in very different places, all the while still fitting, and deserving, the “meta” description of libertarian.

    I will check out the discussion you are having with David. I’m familiar with that type of concern and have thought of some ways to tease out that distinction so that it matters. Here’s a hint in the form of a question: how can you tell when someone is part of an organization or conspiracy, and does it matter for certain types of questions regarding legal responsibility? Surely we do this everyday. When I walk into an office, I know there is something clearly different about this group of people as a group that isn’t true about the customer and producer taken as a group. Why is that? Why has common law consistently drawn a distinction between ICs and employees? Why isn’t everyone I come in contact with that affects the ups and downs of my business, part of my company? Is reducing everything to sets of one-on-one interactions being overly elimitavist about organizations as significant units for analysis?


  4. […] 22, 2010 I was asked by a few interested people to expand on my last post. There was also some discussion that took place on Facebook around Stephan Kinsella’s reply. […]


  5. […] Kinsella: What some left-”libertarians” oppose is the economic order most standard libertarians favor and expect to accompany an advanced free society… I think this is a large motivation for their hostility to the word “capitalism”–they mean capitalism like we do, and dislike it. […]


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