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Author Topic: Libertarian Anticapitalism  (Read 2276 times)
hugolp
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August 19, 2011, 05:17:11 PM
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http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2011/08/libertarian-anticapitalism/

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Libertarian Anticapitalism

For most of the 20th century, American libertarians were mostly seen as — and mostly saw themselves as — defenders of capitalism. Was that an accurate view of 20th century libertarians were about? If accurate, is that a good thing about libertarianism, or a defect that should be amended and avoided?

Well, it depends. Specifically, it depends on what you mean by “capitalism.” Now, I’ve had something to say about this before, and my friend Gary Chartier has broached the subject here at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, but I think the ground might be worth covering again in some more detail. (Partly because it may help as an introduction to where I come from on questions of freed markets, economic privilege, social justice, et cetera; and partly because some of the comments on Gary’s earlier post lead me to believe that a closer approach to the definitional question might help clear up communication.) First, though, let’s take a bit of a detour — to New York City.


About a year ago, the Wall Street Journal‘s Metropolis blog ran an item by Aaron Rutkoff on zoning and advertising in Times Square, called “Good Taste in Times Square? It’s Illegal.” As it turns out, the bright lights and “colorful corporate orgy” of Times Square advertising — as paradigmatic a symbol of American capitalism as you could hope for — is the result, not of unfettered free-market commercialism, but of a detailed set of mandates handed down in New York City’s special zoning ordinance for the “Special Midtown District:”

For those with the stomach to navigate the bureaucratic language, the zoning regulations make for interesting reading. What appears totally haphazard to the untrained tourist’s eye is actually planned down to the last square foot, with copious rules about how much of any surface must be covered in signage.

Own a building on Broadway but detest the flashing lights? Too bad. As the code states:

There shall be a minimum of one #illuminated sign# with a #surface area# of not less than 1,000 square feet for each 50 linear feet, or part thereof, of #street# frontage.

There are instructions for precisely which direction Times Square’s signage must face and extraordinarily detailed diagrams for how the brightness of mandatory illuminated displays shall be measured.

Does your building feature a blinking sign? The rules require that the unlit phase not exceed three seconds. When can the bright lights be switched off? No earlier than 1:00 a.m.

–Adam Rutkoff, “Good Taste in Times Square? It’s Illegal,”
Wall Street Journal Metropolis blog, 12 August 2010

The WSJ decided to sum up their findings by saying:

In a way, the zoning code governing the signs is wonderfully ironic. The bright lights of Times Square, one of the most visible and iconic testaments to the city’s hyper-capitalist verve, are maintained not by Adam Smith’s invisible hand but by little-known government regulations.

–Adam Rutkoff, “Good Taste in Times Square? It’s Illegal,”
Wall Street Journal Metropolis blog, 12 August 2010

Well. Whether or not something comes off as “ironic” depends upon your expectations; and on this point, I guess it may not be surprising that my expectations are not the same as those at the Wall Street Journal. In fact, I would say that a story like that of the Times Square zoning code is not only not especially “ironic;” it’s really paradigmatic — a illustratively typical example of how large-scale, in-your-face commerce typically works in these United States, and how it interacts with the corporate economy throughout the world. That’s why I have often referred to myself (following the example of Kevin Carson) a “free market anticapitalist” — because I believe in a really broad and radical version of property rights and market freedom in economic ownership and exchange, but (unlike, say, the Wall Street Journal) I think that the features conventionally associated with American capitalism — large-scale, top-down firms, the predominance of wage labor, corporate domination of economic and social life, the commercialization of social space etc. — are as often as not the products of state intervention, not of market dynamics. And, further, that a genuinely and consistently freed market would tend to undermine the prevalence and significance of these features in everyday life.

But “free market anticapitalism” is a term that raises eyebrows. Mainly because it doesn’t seem to make any sense. The reason I use it is because of the eyebrows it raises — not because I enjoy confusion or confrontation for its own sake, but because I think that existing ideas about the relationships between markets and capitalism are already confused, and that a superficial overlap in language tends to obscure the confusions that already exist. In particular, the term “capitalism” is used by almost all sides in economic debates as if it were obviously the ideal governing libertarian policy proposals, and is debated over both by nominal pro-”capitalists” and by nominal anti-”capitalists” as if it were perfectly obvious to everyone what it means.

.........
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August 19, 2011, 06:14:32 PM
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If you are anti-capitalist, what are you actually for?  I mean this as a friendly question - not a critique of the WSJ tears over Times Square regulation.

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August 19, 2011, 06:39:28 PM
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Right from the first paragraph the writer attempts to pigeonhole Libertarian Ideals and wrap them up in Capitalism.  How about he just talks about Capitalism and leave the Libertarian stuff to people who know what it means.

Individual liberty, especially freedom of expression and action.

"For most of the 20th century, American libertarians were mostly seen as — and mostly saw themselves as — defenders of capitalism. Was that an accurate view of 20th century libertarians were about? If accurate, is that a good thing about libertarianism, or a defect that should be amended and avoided?"

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August 19, 2011, 07:28:50 PM
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If you are anti-capitalist, what are you actually for?  I mean this as a friendly question - not a critique of the WSJ tears over Times Square regulation.

Im a free market anti-capitalist.

Quote
Right from the first paragraph the writer attempts to pigeonhole Libertarian Ideals and wrap them up in Capitalism.  How about he just talks about Capitalism and leave the Libertarian stuff to people who know what it means.

Individual liberty, especially freedom of expression and action.

"For most of the 20th century, American libertarians were mostly seen as — and mostly saw themselves as — defenders of capitalism. Was that an accurate view of 20th century libertarians were about? If accurate, is that a good thing about libertarianism, or a defect that should be amended and avoided?"

The author is a libertarian. Give the article a chance, youll like it.
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August 19, 2011, 07:34:57 PM
 #5

If you are anti-capitalist, what are you actually for?  I mean this as a friendly question - not a critique of the WSJ tears over Times Square regulation.

Im a free market anti-capitalist.

...snip...

So if you are opposed to capitalism, do you have some other economic model in mind that you are for?


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August 19, 2011, 07:37:13 PM
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Im a free market anti-capitalist.

So you're against private ownership of capital?
hugolp
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August 19, 2011, 08:39:33 PM
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So you're against private ownership of capital?

Depends of what you mean by private ownership. I dont support the idea of strong property rights as anarcho-capitalist do. I have a less absolute and more utilitarian view. I think ownership or exclusive use rights is something that emerges in a society because its the most efficient economic structure. F.e. anarcho-capitalist say that once a property has been homesteaded it belongs to that person forever unless he decides to trade it. To me it seems unreasonable and since property is a social structure, once a property has been unused for a long period of time it can be considered unowned and homesteaded again.

Also, capitalism implies more than private property of capital. Contrary to what some people think, the word "capitalists" was used before Marx. Previous to Marx, clasical liberals (libertarians) and individualist anarchists used the word capitalists in a demeaning way to describe the people who was using the system of government control over the market to unjustly adquire wealth. Capitalism implies government control over the market. I oppose that and support a free market.

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So if you are opposed to capitalism, do you have some other economic model in mind that you are for?

A free market.
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August 19, 2011, 08:53:36 PM
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I think ownership or exclusive use rights is something that emerges in a society because its the most efficient economic structure.

If I take unoccupied land, clear it, plow it and plant a crop. Then I have a better claim to that land because everyone else is a latecomer compared to me. If you want to claim that, as a latecomer, you have a better claim compared to me then another person even later than you can make the same argument. To have ownership at all, you have to recognize the prior-later distinction.

anarcho-capitalist say that once a property has been homesteaded it belongs to that person forever unless he decides to trade it

That's nonsense. If a property owner removes his or her interest from it, isn't trying to sell it, do anything with it, etc, it can eventually be considered abandoned and can be homesteaded again.

Capitalism implies government control over the market. I oppose that and support a free market.

Words obtain meaning based on their usage. Few people use that word that way. They usually just mean private ownership of capital. If you want to mean something else, then use a different word or say exactly what you mean. You're just making things ambiguous by arguing against a definition that few people currently use. I call government control of private property, fascism.

As I figured, you're just redefining words so you can raise controversy when we agree on the ideas but differ on language choice. Those are the most pointless and uninteresting debates imaginable. Let's just agree that private property should be controlled by its rightful owner and leave it at that. Call yourself anti-capitalistic if you want but you're just causing confusion.

"How many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one."
hugolp
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August 19, 2011, 09:07:03 PM
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If I take unoccupied land, clear it, plow it and plant a crop. Then I have a better claim to that land because everyone else is a latecomer compared to me. If you want to claim that, as a latecomer you have a better claim compared to me then another person even later than you can make the same argument. To have ownership at all you have to recognize the prior-later distinction.

Yes, if you read what I wrote I never claimed that as long as you are using a property it can be taken from you.

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That's nonsense. If a property owner removes his or her interest from it, isn't trying to sell it, do anything with it, etc, it can eventually be considered abandoned and can be homesteaded again.

Well, I agree (thats the point I was trying to make), but anarcho-capitalists (at least the "offical" doctrine) dont agree with this.

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Words obtain meaning based on their usage. Few people use that word that way. They usually just mean, private ownership of capital. If you want to mean something else, then use a different word or say exactly what you mean. You're just making thing ambiguous by arguing against a definition that few people currently use.

I dont think the most common use of the word capitalism is private control of property. What is commonly understood is that the system we have now is capitalism. I dont think there is much discussion about it. If you go to the street and start asking what word would they use to define the present system, capitalism would win and by a big distance.

I oppose the present system, a system of government control over the market, therefore and according to your own words, I oppose capitalism.

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I call government control of private property, fascism.

Well, there are degrees of control. Usually its only called fascism at the later stages of the process.

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As I figured you're just redefining words so you can raise controversy when we agree on the ideas but differ on language choice. Those are the most pointless and uninteresting debates imaginable. Let's just agree that private property should be controlled by its rightful owner and leave it at that. Call yourself anti-capitalistic if you want but you're just causing confusion.

"How many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one."

But its not really a matter of definitions. Usually left-libertarians, while defending individualism, also are more positive about the role of cooperatives in a free market, while anarcho-capitalists usually consider them inefficient. In general, left-libertarians are more concern against hierarchical structures and consider the present system very different of what a free market would produce, whereas anarcho-capitalist consider it more similar (even when they correctly point that its not a free market and some things would be different).
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August 19, 2011, 09:29:59 PM
 #10

Well, I agree (thats the point I was trying to make), but anarcho-capitalists (at least the "offical" doctrine) dont agree with this.

No, if you remove your interest from it, you are implicitly declaring your intention to abandon it. (Note: I'm not saying the property is simply disused) I've never read anyone argue that once owned, property can never be abandoned. You simply just inquire if anyone is still using some property and if nobody comes forward in a reasonable amount of time, it can be considered abandoned. If someone says, yes, here's my title, I still want it. Then even if it's not in use, you can't have it.

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What is commonly understood is that the system we have now is capitalism.

That's not because they think capitalism equals government control of the market but rather because they don't believe that the government does control the market. Ask that question in the streets and see what response you get.
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August 19, 2011, 10:33:18 PM
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You say you are for a "free market" and against "capitalism."  I use quotation marks as your have your own definitions of  "free market" and "capitalism."

Why don't you define what you mean by "free market" and by "capitalism" so we know what you are on about?


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August 20, 2011, 08:59:15 AM
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No, if you remove your interest from it, you are implicitly declaring your intention to abandon it. (Note: I'm not saying the property is simply disused) I've never read anyone argue that once owned, property can never be abandoned. You simply just inquire if anyone is still using some property and if nobody comes forward in a reasonable amount of time, it can be considered abandoned. If someone says, yes, here's my title, I still want it. Then even if it's not in use, you can't have it.

Well, in my view its not enough that someone comes after 15 years and says: "hey! Im still interested" and then goes away again. In my opinion in that case that property would be unowned. But I can tell you that I have discussed this with anarcho-capitalists and they consider that "no use" is not cause enough to declare a property unowned.

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That's not because they think capitalism equals government control of the market but rather because they don't believe that the government does control the market. Ask that question in the streets and see what response you get.

I think people understand that we dont have a free market. Some (so called) "economists" like to say stupid things to blame the free market, but thats it.

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You say you are for a "free market" and against "capitalism."  I use quotation marks as your have your own definitions of  "free market" and "capitalism."

Why don't you define what you mean by "free market" and by "capitalism" so we know what you are on about?

I already have, no?
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August 20, 2011, 09:55:35 AM
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No you haven't defined them.  Your posts are meaningless without defining what you mean by "free market" and "capitalism" and let us see what you actually support.

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August 20, 2011, 11:00:43 AM
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No you haven't defined them.  Your posts are meaningless without defining what you mean by "free market" and "capitalism" and let us see what you actually support.

Ive said:

Quote from: hugolp
Also, capitalism implies more than private property of capital. Contrary to what some people think, the word "capitalists" was used before Marx. Previous to Marx, clasical liberals (libertarians) and individualist anarchists used the word capitalists in a demeaning way to describe the people who was using the system of government control over the market to unjustly adquire wealth. Capitalism implies government control over the market. I oppose that and support a free market.

Quote from: hugolp
I dont think the most common use of the word capitalism is private control of property. What is commonly understood is that the system we have now is capitalism. I dont think there is much discussion about it. If you go to the street and start asking what word would they use to define the present system, capitalism would win and by a big distance.

I oppose the present system, a system of government control over the market, therefore and according to your own words, I oppose capitalism.

And my view on private property:

Quote from: hugolp
Depends of what you mean by private ownership. I dont support the idea of strong property rights as anarcho-capitalist do. I have a less absolute and more utilitarian view. I think ownership or exclusive use rights is something that emerges in a society because its the most efficient economic structure. F.e. anarcho-capitalist say that once a property has been homesteaded it belongs to that person forever unless he decides to trade it. To me it seems unreasonable and since property is a social structure, once a property has been unused for a long period of time it can be considered unowned and homesteaded again.

and

Quote from: hugolp
Well, in my view its not enough that someone comes after 15 years and says: "hey! Im still interested" and then goes away again. In my opinion in that case that property would be unowned. But I can tell you that I have discussed this with anarcho-capitalists and they consider that "no use" is not cause enough to declare a property unowned.

It is true that I have not defined free market. Im an anarchist so I see a free market completelly free of any government interference.
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August 20, 2011, 01:29:56 PM
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So getting rid of all those pesky food safety regulations and like?


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August 20, 2011, 02:19:56 PM
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So getting rid of all those pesky food safety regulations and like?


yes any drug-laws, income taxes, trading regulations, governement inforced embargos.
that kind of stuff.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts." -Bertrand Russell
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August 20, 2011, 02:20:59 PM
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So getting rid of all those pesky food safety regulations and like?

And reducing taxes so people can self-organize saftey consumer associations, yes. But honestly, there are other more pressing matters than those.
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August 20, 2011, 02:49:01 PM
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So getting rid of all those pesky food safety regulations and like?

And reducing taxes so people can self-organize saftey consumer associations, yes. But honestly, there are other more pressing matters than those.


So you're only anti capitalism in the way in which you define capitalism.  You're very much pro capitalism in the way in the rest of the modern world understands capitalism.

Gotta keep those definitions on the move so that people will hopefully take your words at face value, while you actually mean another thing entirely.

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August 20, 2011, 03:08:36 PM
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So getting rid of all those pesky food safety regulations and like?

And reducing taxes so people can self-organize saftey consumer associations, yes. But honestly, there are other more pressing matters than those.

In the real world, that means you are happy to see people die of food poisoning. 

Can't see the benefit myself.  Even with lower taxes, being poisoned is never fun.

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August 20, 2011, 03:29:12 PM
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In the real world, that means you are happy to see people die of food poisoning. 

Can't see the benefit myself.  Even with lower taxes, being poisoned is never fun.

Are you trying to keep the debate honest?  Roll Eyes

I guess that what happened last month here in the EU with the people poisoned by food did not happened since we have the government taking care of safety. Or should I say that since you support those agencies you are guilty of what happened?

You can try to play all the rethoric tricks you want. You have said nothing.
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