Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How Big Or Small Would Firms Be In Ancapistan?

Since this issue is being argued back and forth by libertarians (see here, here, and here), I figured I'd throw my own opinion out there.

As any regular reader of my blog knows, I think most "left-libertarian" predictions are pretty asinine. In left-libertarian la-la land, laissez faire will result in all of us working in small, luddite, sorry-ass co-ops with a bunch of peasants. Nobody is to become too big or successful (or happy) because those things are "scary." So we work in these dinky, shitty little co-ops that have no electricity or plumbing, and we feel guilty about whatever success we have.

In "right-libertarian" land, things are the reverse. Corporations will all be huge snarling monsters (beasts, even) that will stomp the living crap out of the working class and the environment without undue delay. They will all be huge and powerful and manly and hierarchical and unforgiving, because huge corporations kick mighty ass. (Cue right-libertarians high-fiving each other next to the beer keg.)

Which viewpoint is more right? My answer: Who knows and who cares?

Who cares how big or small businesses will be? There are no "businesses," anyway. In the end, there are only *individuals* buying and selling goods and services as they see fit. There are no "corporations," just people trading things. "Businesses" are an illusion, so worrying about their "size," or demanding that they be big or small, is nonsensical.

The entire world could be considered one really "big" business. Or, it could be considered billions of really, really small businesses--with every individual being his own "business" with his own skills for hire.

So the whole debate is pretty silly once you deconstruct it.


Mike Gogulski said...

A fine point.

One of the things that consistently bugs me about the leftist critique of the modern corporation is this notion that the bad ones are "too big" in some fashion. That's silly. "Too big" doesn't necessarily mean "rights-violating". If it did, there would have to be some point along the timeline of growth from a small group of founders toward monstrosity where the addition of the next employee will tip the organization's mode d'etre from acceptable to unacceptable. Where is that point? I ask, and they fall silent.

Cork said...

Heh, I know the answer to that one: one employee is when the point comes. And he is then completely justified in "expropriating" the "means of production," according to these goofballs.

Mike Gogulski said...

Well, I have seen that tendency among Marxists and left-anarchists, certainly, but that's not really what I'm talking about. It seems to be more simply just a projection of a "small is beautiful" aesthetic onto organizational forms, and then mistaking the aesthetic for a normative prescription.

Cork said...

For some of them, that's certainly the case.

A lot of them, in my experience, want only worker cooperatives, without any "employment." They find them aesthetically pleasing because it allows them to dream of an economy that is both "socialistic," and free market.

This allows them have a foot in the "hip" leftie crowd, while still being free market libertarians. That's why I think mutualism has so much appeal.

(Although many of the leading mutualists didn't actually demand worker co-ops or oppose employment, they think it's the official mutualist position because that's what they read in "An Anarchist FAQ.")

So, as you pointed out, since they're in the "pro-coop" state of mind, and want all the stuff to be real, they slide into extremely dubious prescriptions of how everything would look that way in laissez-faire.