Thursday, 3 May 2007

Guido the Vulgar Libertarian?

by Charles Pooter

I read Guido Fawkes' blog every day. I love his lack of respect for politicians and I love the fact that he has probably helped, at least somewhat, to damage the Blair regime. It came as no surprise to me to discover that he is a libertarian, who has in the past written pamphlets for my favourite English think tank: The Libertarian Alliance. He occasionally makes his core beliefs explicit, as with this post today. However, certain things he has said in the past encouraged me to make this cheeky comment on his blog:

“…I class myself as a libertarian, and love the way Guide sticks it to politicians, but I suspect him of being one of those libertarians that thinks that total free-market anarchy would be capitalism on speed. If so, he is wrong. True freedom won't be socialist, but it won't be capitalist either (in any meaningful sense). In a total free market there will be no state to enforce corporate patents, put down unions, recognise corporate copyrights, protect the vast swathes of land ’owned‚ by absentee landlords, regulate markets in favour of large corporations, drive subsistence farmers off land into capitalist-owned sweatshops, create limited liability laws, etc, etc.

Capitalism is not the free market.

For more along these lines see: (especially the ‘Vulgar Libertarianism’ posts).

Guido: Libertarianism only takes you so far philosophically. Mutualism is the logical next step to total freedom. Join us!”
Guido responded:

Actually Guido (when he had UK bank accounts) banked with the Co-op. Cobdenites don't do patents or corporate welfare. We do out-compete subsistence farmers and own sweat shops etc.

But you wouldn't stop us doing that and we wouldn't stop you running co-ops.

My humour may be vulgar, but my libertarianism is not.”
I didn't want to invade the private property of his blog with any more irreverent/irrelevant comment, so I thought I would reply to his reply here:

It is great that he doesn't “do” patents or corporate welfare. That makes him more enlightened than most conservatives and a lot of libertarians, but his claim that in a free society capitalists would “out-compete subsistence farmers” is non-nonsensical. How would he “out-compete” self-sufficient communities free to live off their traditionally owned lands or commons? He also claims that sweat shops could exist in a free society, but where would he find labour freely willing to work in his sweat shop? I don't wish to put words into his mouth, but he seems to be saying something similar to Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute when he said:
“One person’s exploitation is another’s opportunity. Multinationals pay lower wages in developing countries than in rich ones: that’s why they go there. But their pay and conditions are reportedly better than those available elsewhere in poor countries, and so represent economic advancement. There are usually waiting lists to work for them.”
But as Kevin Carson said:
“But golly, the transnationals sure do seem to gravitate toward banana republics where the death squads torture and ‘disappear’‚ labor organizers and peasant co-op leaders, or toward ‘workers' paradises’ like China, where attempting to organize an independent union can get you a stint in a mental hospital. Wonder why that is? And the foreign policy of the U.S. government sure does seem to devote an awful lot of effort to making sure such anti-labor regimes stay in power. For example, the Suharto regime (which was put in power by a U.S.-sponsored coup, followed by the mass-murder of several hundred thousand leftists) treated independent labor organizing as a serious criminal offense. Even today, in the neoliberal Indonesian ‘democracy’TM, they're barely legal. And Indonesia is a favorite haven for sweatshops. Again, wonder why that is?

A man who hands over his wallet to a mugger does so because he prefers it to the ‘next-best alternative.’ So what? As Benjamin Tucker pointed out over a century ago, the capitalists systematically manipulate the state to create a buyers' market for wages and limit the conditions under which workers can sell their labor, and then blithely answer all criticisms with the response that the workers ‘voluntarily agreed’ to work on those terms.

‘Now, to solemnly tell these men who are thus prevented by law from getting the wages which their labor would command in a free market that they have a right to reject any price that may be offered for their labor is undoubtedly to speak a formal truth, but it is also to utter a commonplace and a cruel impertinence.’
- ‘The Lesson of Homestead’, Instead of a Book.”
As I have said before, a true world free market would be unrecognisably different from capitalism as it exists today. I don't mind that prospect, even if it is possible that it will mean fewer disposable electronic toys. What about you?


Guido Fawkes Esq. said...

It might be different as you say, the point is I have no objection to you organising your life as you see fit, just let me do the same.

freeman said...

It might be different as you say, the point is I have no objection to you organising your life as you see fit, just let me do the same.

That's fine.

If you wish to open up sweatshops in a free society, I wouldn't seek to stop you. However, I doubt you'd find many people eager to work in them.

What libertarians like myself object to, however, is defending actually existing sweatshops on free market grounds. Sweatshops as they exist today are not a product of free enterprise, but rather are products of state capitalism.