Friday, January 23, 2009

O'Neill Takes On Chomsky

..in an excellent article.

One of my favorite quotes from it:

are corporations really "about as close to the totalitarian ideal as any [institution] that humans have so far constructed," as Chomsky contends? Is Starbucks as close to the totalitarian ideal as, say, the National Socialist regime of Adolf Hitler? Is Walmart as totalitarian an institution as the Bolshevik state of Vladimir Lenin? Even to ask these questions is to see their patent absurdity.

Yep, you're 100% right, Ben. But it's exactly what these lunatics believe.

What's extraordinary is the amount of time O'Neill devotes to stressing that state intervention gives many businesses dangerous forms of power and authority. The poor dude thought he had covered all his bases in avoiding a hysterical charge of "vulgar libertarianism."

Surprise, surprise! The obnoxious 'left-libertarians' still found plenty to nit-pick (as they always do). This time, the complaint is that he dared to imply that there may be a single business in ancapistan containing a minuscule trace of "hierarchy." Sigh.

Long writes:
..even forms of power that don’t involve or depend on coercion can still be harmful and worth fighting..

Dude. You and your posse can believe whatever the crap you want about hierarchies. The rest of us are just getting annoyed with the way you guys sculpt your predictions to match those beliefs, and then complain when others don't accept them.

I wish more left-libertarians would just admit that they oppose hierarchies per se, regardless of whether or not they could exist or flourish under a free market economy. If hierarchy is what they want to criticize, then they should criticize it.

However, they have a knack for disguising their criticisms of hierarchy as criticisms of state intervention. I believe they do this so other libertarians will be forced take their arguments seriously. Switching the subject from hierarchy (which libertarians don't oppose) to coercion (which libertarians oppose) means libertarians have to play their little game. Y'see? It's a clever trick, and they've become better and better at it. Practice makes perfect, I suppose.

9 comments:

Neverfox said...

Since when do left-libertarians disguise their thickness or opposition to coercive hierarchy? It's right there in the title. That whole "left-" thing, you know? I think Long, Rad Geek and others have been very clear and forthright on their concept of thickness and the rooting of liberty within equality of authority and solidarity. Disagree with it all you want but to imply that they are being somehow deceptive is unfounded.

Neverfox said...

"regardless of whether or not they could exist or flourish under a free market economy"

So help me understand. Is the important thing what flourishes in a free market or what is not coercive?

What's wrong with, as Chris Sciabarra says, paying "attention to the vast context within which [libertarian principles] might exist, evolve, and thrive"?

Here is a rather long quote from Rad Geek that I think sums up where the left-libertarian movement is coming from (as well as demonstrate that it's not "disguised"):
"Consider the conceptual and strategic reasons that libertarians have to oppose
authoritarianism, not only as enforced by governments but also as expressed in culture, business, the family, and civil society. If libertarianism is rooted in the principle of equality of authority, then there are good reasons to think that not only political structures of coercion, but also the whole system of status and unequal authority deserves libertarian criticism. And it is important to realize that that system includes not only exercises of coercive power, but also a knot of ideas, practices, and institutions based on deference to traditionally constituted authorities. In the political realm, these patterns of deference show up most clearly in the honorary titles, submissive etiquette, and unquestioning obedience extended to heads of state, judges, police, and other visible representatives of government “law and order.” Although these rituals and habits of obedience exist against the backdrop of statist coercion and intimidation, they are also often practiced voluntarily. Similar expectations of deference show up, to greater or lesser degrees, in cultural attitudes towards bosses in the workplace, and parents in the family. Submission to traditionally constituted authorities is reinforced not only through violence and threats, but also through art, humor, sermons, historiography, journalism, childrearing, etc. Although political coercion is the most distinctive expression of inequality of authority, you could—in principle—have an authoritarian social order without the exercise of coercion. Even in an anarchist society,
everyone might voluntarily agree to bow and scrape when speaking before the (mutually agreed-on) town Chief. So long as the expectation of deference was backed up only by means of verbal harangues, social ostracism of “unruly” dissenters, culturally glorifying the authorities, etc., it would violate no-one's individual liberty and could not justifiably be resisted with force.

But while there's nothing logically inconsistent about envisioning these sorts of societies, it is certainly weird. If the underlying reason for committing to libertarian politics is rooted in the equality of political authority, then even strictly voluntary expressions of inequality are hard to reasonably reconcile with libertarianism. Yes, the meek could voluntarily agree to bow and scrape, and the proud could angrily but nonviolently demand obsequious forms of address and immediate obedience to their fiat. But why should they? Libertarian equality delegitimizes the notion of a natural right to rule or dominate other people's affairs; the vision of human beings as rational, independent agents of their own destiny renders deference and unquestioning obedience ridiculous at best, and probably dangerous to liberty in the long run. While no-one should be forced to treat her fellows with the respect due to equals, or cultivate independent self-reliance and contempt for the arrogance of power, libertarians certainly can—and should—criticize those who do not, and exhort our fellows not to rely on authoritarian social institutions, for reasons of both grounds and strategic thickness."

Cork said...

I'm not saying all self-described left-libertarians do this (you certainly don't), but many of them do. Or at least that's what it looks like to me.

For instance, they'll see libertarians defending a hierarchical company of some sort, which pisses them off. Instead of criticizing the company for its hierarchical aspects (which is what they really oppose), they'll look frantically for any trace of state intervention that might have helped the company, and then criticize it on those grounds instead.

Anonymous said...

Well, then wouldn't that mean that they probably oppose coercion as well? Can't they oppose both hierarchy and coercion?

Cork said...

Can't they oppose both hierarchy and coercion?

Sure. I just wish they would concede that ending the latter won't end the former.

Anon2 said...

Sure. I just wish they would concede that ending the latter won't end the former.

Maybe the removal of the state wouldn't end hierarchy, but it would surely eliminate much of it while going a long way to alleviate many of the negative effects of those that remain.

(Plus, there are plenty of reasons to be against hierarchy in the first place.)

Cork said...

Maybe the removal of the state wouldn't end hierarchy, but it would surely eliminate much of it

Not necessarily. It would likely result in some firms being less hierarchical and other firms being more hierarchical. Overall there is good reason to believe that most businesses (even small ones) would remain hierarchical.

while going a long way to alleviate many of the negative effects of those that remain

This I agree with.

Rorshak (1313) said...

Reading O'Neill's article, I really don't understand the problem Long has with it. Seems pretty spot on to me.

DixieFlatline said...

Rorshak, the same problem LLs always seem to have. Vulgars are never libertarian enough for LLs.

If LLs put half the energy into fighting the state that they do in trying to create sects and standards for libertarianism, we might be able to achieve something.