Battlepanda: Two Flavors of Libertarianism


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Two Flavors of Libertarianism

Those of you who read this blog regularly knows that hatin' on libertarians is a recurrent theme here at the Battlepanda blog. The following is just a sampling:

Hatin' on Jane Galt
Hatin' on Tyler Cowen
Hatin' on Tyler Cowen, again
Hatin' on Will Wilkinson, big time
Hatin' on Mark Steckbeck

So I thought I had made up my mind on libertarians, pretty much. Until I started reading this guy. And this guy. "Free Market anti-Capitalism"? Whoa! It seems like there is a whole 'nother kind of libertarians out there (they even have their own webring). In fact, Kevin Carson refers to the kind of pro-corporate Ayn Rand lovin' libertarians as "vulgar libertarians". His excoriating description of vulgar libertarians is a perfect distillation of everything I thought I hated about libertarians:

This school of libertarianism has inscribed on its banner the reactionary watchword: "Them pore ole bosses need all the help they can get." For every imaginable policy issue, the good guys and bad guys can be predicted with ease, by simply inverting the slogan of Animal Farm: "Two legs good, four legs baaaad." In every case, the good guys, the sacrificial victims of the Progressive State, are the rich and powerful. The bad guys are the consumer and the worker, acting to enrich themselves from the public treasury. As one of the most egregious examples of this tendency, consider Ayn Rand's characterization of big business as an "oppressed minority," and of the Military-Industrial Complex as a "myth or worse."

The ideal "free market" society of such people, it seems, is simply actually existing capitalism, minus the regulatory and welfare state: a hyper-thyroidal version of nineteenth century robber baron capitalism, perhaps; or better yet, a society "reformed" by the likes of Pinochet, the Dionysius to whom Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys played Aristotle.

Exactly...for vulgar libertarians or Ayn Rand libertarians or whatever you want to call them, "the market" has transcended its role as an institution or description of human behavior to become a mystical force that cannot be questioned...a fetishized source of power to be invoked whenever authority is required to push through right-wing economic policies. What makes it so annoying is how panglossian and reactionary it is -- unbrindled capitalism is the best of possible worlds and anyone whose not getting their in America are lazy/stupid/irresponsible. I keep getting the feeling that when the talk approvingly of 'order', they're not just talking about the ability of markets to efficiently allocate resources, but its ability to allocate social order. CEOs earning 531 times the wages of a floor worker? They must be doing a heck of a job, otherwise the market wouldn't be giving them such a high salary, right?