Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Block and Huebert's Horrid Article On Long

I don't agree with everything Roderick Long wrote in his Cato Unbound article, but Block and Huebert's response to it is just plain awful.

They begin the article by claiming "There is no such thing as corporate power." Ain't that a relief?

Long writes that "Corporate power depends crucially on government intervention in the marketplace."

But what does he mean by "corporate power"? A corporation is merely a group of individuals who have entered into a particular type of business relationship. The corporate form allows them to be known collectively by their business's name instead of their own names. And it allows them to enter into contracts under which they limit their own liability – something which is perfectly legitimate under libertarianism. (Objectivist historian Robert Hessen has made this point well in his book, In Defense of the Corporation, and see our article, "Defending Corporations," forthcoming in the Cumberland Law Review.)

The corporation, therefore, has no power to speak of.

Instead, only the state has power.

Any idiot can tell you "corporate power" means. In a nutshell, it's the ability of corporations to make people accept shitty jobs and products.

Yes, only the state has (coercive) power. But it is that power that leads to corporations having power. That's all that Long was pointing out, so they seem to be admitting he's right.

There is nothing special or different about government privileges for corporations – so why does Long single them out?

Yes, there's nothing at all especially significant about the about Blackwater, Halliburton, the corporatist Fed, etc. Move along, folks! Nothing to see here. Oh, and try not to wince while taking it up the ass.

They deny that there's anything at all suspicious about Wal-Mart getting huge tax breaks that other companies don't get.

It might be otherwise if corporations avoided taxes while actively urging the government to tax its competitors – but Long doesn't mention that.

Of course not! For they would never, ever lobby for that kind of thing.


At the outset, we will concede that Wal-Mart has been guilty of some serious wrongdoing over the course of its existence. For example, it sometimes has used eminent domain to take land for its stores, which is inexcusable. Also, it for a time favored the minimum wage law. See here Lew Rockwell’s incisive critique of Wal-Mart’s fall from grace in this regard.

Yes, Wal-Mart has indeed been responsible for "some" serious wrongdoing. They receive an obscene amount of subsidies, steal other people's land, and have a thing for slave labor. An April 2005 Strike-the-Root article chronicled some of Wal-Mart's lust for statism, concluding:

...it seems Wal-Mart, with its blatant government coercion, pork, and bribes, has little or nothing to do with the free market, but could be the poster child for state capitalism.

What is so funny is that Block and Huebert link to Rockwell's article on how Wal-Mart supported a minimum wage increase to wipe out smaller competitors through state violence. But not long before this, they implied Wal-Mart would be unlikely to "[urge] the government to tax its competitors."

Now, it's undeniable that most of the people who hate Wal-Mart are a bunch of whiners who hate success, and that it definitely took a large degree of skill for it to get the point it's at now. And when I need a bunch of cheap crap, it's the first place I'll stop. But to cherish it as some heroic exemplar of the "free market" is worse than a joke.

Look, when (some) left-libertarians make asinine predictions or embrace Luddism (consciously or not), there's nothing wrong with pointing it out. I do it all the time, often just to see if any of them will respond in an entertaining fashion. But this article goes overboard and confirms a lot of the worst stereotypes about "right-libertarians."


Rorshak (1313) said...

Yeah, Block is really bad on the issue of corporations. He seems to have a knee jerk reaction against criticisms of them.

David Z said...

My principal objection to the corporate form is the idea of "limited liability." Some libertarians seem to think this is perfectly acceptable. I fail to understand how such a nebulous concept could persist in a free market.

I was at the Mises University seminar in 2006, it didn't take me long to realize that Walter Block was a schill, thereafter, I shunned his sessions like the plague.