Friday, 2 November 2007

Carson on Klein

by Charles Pooter

From Smith to Ricardo and Mill, classical liberalism was a revolutionary doctrine that attacked the privileges of the great landlords and the mercantile interests. Today, we see vulgar libertarians perverting “free market" rhetoric to defend the contemporary institution that most closely resembles, in terms of power and privilege, the landed oligarchies and mercantilists of the Old Regime: the giant corporation. When the “free market” is perverted to defend such odious interests, it's not hard to see why sane people view it with the same apprehension they normally reserve for the bubonic plague. Make no mistake: I hate such commentary, and the agenda behind it, with every fiber of my being. But it's not the free market.

If Germany had won the war, there would probably be a mushroom proliferation of Nazi “free market” think tanks (not inconceivably staffed by a considerable portion of the Austrian diaspora returned from America) defending the profits of Krupp and I.G. Farben in terms of “free market principles,” along with the Nazi equivalent of Nike sweatshops in Eastern Europe and black Africa. All decent people would hate such intellectual vermin and their monstrous version of the “free market.” The version of the “free market" defended by neoliberals and vulgar libertarians in our own world is only better in degree, and even that probably not by much.

Klein uses the term “disaster capitalism” to refer to the neoliberal modus operandi of “waiting for a major crisis, then selling off pieces of the state to private players while citizens [are] still reeling from the shock, then quickly making the ‘reforms’ permanent.”

It's a very real phenomenon. As an account of the process of neoliberal “reform” as it occurred in country after country, and a chronicle of the corrupt collusion between government and corporate interests in formulating the “reforms,” it is an outstanding reference work. The endnotes alone are immensely valuable.
This long quote is taken from Kevin Carson's latest post. Go and read the whole thing. It starts as a review of Naomi Klien's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, but becomes a mutualist tour de force. I think I am still too much of a vulgar libertarian to attempt to read Klein myself though, as some part of me still thinks the “neoliberals” that she and Carson damn to hell are better than the social democrats or state-socialists they replaced. Call it cognitive dissonance.


August said...

I don't like corporatism either, but it's silly to suggest Nazis would defend their practices in such terms. They were, after all, National Socialists, which meant they were quite happy being socialist. They did not like the free market at all, because they believed in conspiracy theories about Jews secretly running the world's financial markets.

Kevin Carson said...

Thanks for the link, Charles!