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Justice to Antiquity

In a book review of Larry Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual (which I confess I haven’t read), Roger McKinney — evidently following Siedentop — trots out the hackneyed claim that individualism is a product solely of the West, and specifically of the post-pagan West.

In response to the first claim, I’ll simply point to the many anticipations of libertarian ideas that are to be found in ancient China, particularly among the early Confucians. Ideas of liberty, equality, universal justice, and the value of commercial activity — all of which McKinney rightly associates with individualism — can also be found in ancient India and the medieval Islamic world.

But for present purposes I want to focus on what McKinney says about ancient Greece and Rome. To deny the Greeks and Romans a conception of individualism seems startling, since many of the most individualistic features of modern law have their roots in Greco-Roman traditions, and because most Greek and Roman philosophers made the pursuit of one’s own happiness and self-realisation the core of their ethical outlook. (Of course Greco-Roman individualism was not atomistic or antisocial; but that’s surely a feature, not a bug.) So what does McKinney have in mind?

To start with, he writes:

[In Morocco] cheating others is not considered unethical at all but a sign of an astute businessman. … Moroccan business ethics might be appalling to westerners, but ancient Greeks and Romans would have understood and applauded them ….

I’m not sure how appalling such conduct is to my business ethics students, many of whom readily agree with Albert Carr’s defense of relaxed ethical standards for business life as opposed to family life. In any case, the applause from ancient Greeks and Romans would hardly have been universal. One of Rome’s leading thinkers, Marcus Tullius Cicero, wrote a whole book, De Officiis (usually translated either asOn Offices or as On Duties), which is essentially a treatise on business ethics. In it he records some of the leading debates among Greek and Roman thinkers as to what sort of conduct is and is not permissible in commercial transactions. While a variety of views are canvassed, none of them fits McKinney’s description; and Cicero himself insists firmly that justice and fair dealing are owed to all human beings. (Cicero also argues in the same work that each of us has a responsibility to fulfill the demands not just of universal human nature but of our individualised nature, which certainly seems like a kind of individualism.)

Like Moroccans, ancient Greeks and Romans cared little for non-family members. Those “… outside the family circle were not deemed to share any attributes with those within. No common humanity was acknowledged, an attitude confirmed by the practice of enslavement.”

The attitude described here certainly existed (and continues to exist today; indeed it fairly describes u.s. foreign policy), but the suggestion that this view was all-pervasive and unchallenged in Greco-Roman antiquity is a mistake. The Cynics and Stoics defended a vision of all humanity as a single community, a cosmopolis; and even the less cosmopolitan Aristotle, who defended slavery on the basis of bullshit theories of racial inferiority, insisted that foreign races that were not inferior (and he granted that there were some) could not justly be conquered or enslaved. On this basis Aristotle condemned societies with aggressive foreign policies. Aristotle also insisted (NE 1108a9-28, 1126b19-1127a2, 1155a16-31) that we have duties of friendship toward strangers and foreigners. The legitimacy of slavery was also challenged by thinkers from Alkidamas to Zeno of Citium.

For the ancient Romans and Greeks society consisted of a collection of extended families. The heads of the families, including family-based clans and tribes, held all the power and made all of the decisions. Only the heads of families could become citizens in the polis.

Sure, for the most part – though again hardly confined to antiquity, since even the supposedly egalitarian John Rawls in the first version of his 1971 Theory of Justice had “heads of families” as the contracting parties behind the Veil of Ignorance. But likewise again, this perspective was not exactly unchallenged; Plato famously advocated an independent political role for women in his Republic, as well as the abolition of the family; and similar views were defended by the Cynics and early Stoics (and arguably Xenophon to some extent).

Antiquity had no notion of the powers of the government being limited by the rights of individuals, even for family heads.

The entire Athenian legal system was a vast contrivance to limit governmental power. Ancient constitutional thought focused heavily on the idea of structuring the balance of power between different classes so as to prevent any one class from being in a position to impose injustice unchecked on another. And the idea that individuals have claims of justice that states are bound to respect was defended by nearly every ancient political theorist, including Aristotle and Cicero. (For Aristotle, see Fred Miller’s book Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle’s Politics; for Cicero, see his discussion of natural law in De Republica and De Legibus.)

Consider also Pericles’ funeral oration, as recorded or invented (or some of each) by Thucydides, in which tolerance and respect for individual choice are lauded: “in our private business we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes.” Of course Athens did not live up consistently to this ideal (nor do modern so-called liberal societies live up to it today), but the ideal was clearly recognised and formulated.

The ancients had no concept of the equality of man, either. Even for Plato and Aristotle, a natural hierarchy of humanity existed, much like the caste system of India. Some were born to rule, others to serve or fight.

Certainly Plato and Aristotle believed in political hierarchies based on allegedly natural inequalities. But they were not the only political thinkers of Greco-Roman antiquity. The Cynics and early Stoics (such as Zeno of Citium) defended a vision of society in which all hierarchical distinctions of rulers and subjects, masters and slaves, males and females would be abolished. Some Epicureans (like Diogenes of Oenoanda) held similar views. (And turning our gaze momentarily eastward: the caste system in India had its early critics as well, notably among Buddhists.)

Politics and war became the noblest occupations while commerce was held in contempt.

Held in contempt by whom? Successful merchants enjoyed enormous social prestige in Greece and Rome; and Hesiod’s praise of industry and commercial competition is justly famous. As for the philosophers, Plato and Aristotle did disparage commerce (though Aristotle disparaged warfare as well – as did the Epicureans), but again, they were not the only philosophers in classical antiquity. The Stoics in particular were vigorous defenders of commerce, as was Xenophon; and then of course there’s Cicero, whose book on business ethics I’ve previously mentioned. I challenge anyone to read Cicero and come away with an impression of a thinker who is valorising warfare and downgrading commerce. Individualism may not have reigned supreme in antiquity (nor does it today), but its basic concepts were formulated and defended by a good many influential thinkers.

For more on classical Greek and Roman individualism, see my various discussions here.

English Language Media Coordinator’s Report, March 2015

Dear C4SS supporters,

Welcome to my final media coordinator report. Not THE last media coordinator report, just MY last media coordinator report. After not quite five years in this position, I’ve decided it’s time to move on (amicably — I remain a senior fellow at the Center and an advisor at our parent organization, the Molinari Institute). It’s been a pleasure working with all of my comrades at the Center and for all of you who support our efforts. Thank you for a wonderful and rewarding experience!

And, of course, congratulations to my successor in the position, Trevor Hultner, who has spent most of this last month getting up to speed on the various tasks involved. When the C4SS phone rings now, it’s Trevor who answers it. He’s been handling final editing/proofing of our op-eds for a couple of weeks and took over submissions yesterday. I know you’ll treat him as well as you’ve treated me.

Because of the overlap involved in a change of this kind, and because I messed up a text file I’ve maintained, this month’s figures are a little fragmented.

For example, I know that I’ve made 35,529 submissions of Center op-eds to 2,578 publications worldwide this month — but that figure is low because Trevor has made and/or will today make, several thousand more. The real total for March will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 submissions.

I also know that I identified and logged AT LEAST 50 pickups of C4SS material and three mentions/quotes/cites of C4SS material this month.

I can’t blame Trevor or the changeover for the vagueness of that number. I apparently forgot to hit “save” the other day on the text file I use as a counting tool. I know this because the three mentions/quotes/cites I found aren’t there, even though I typed them in. There may be some missing pickups as well, but 50 is the number showing and the number I’m certain of.

The reason I have always kept a running log of pickups/mentions is that tracking this stuff is a sort of “rolling” thing. A piece that gets published and submitted on February 25th might well not be picked up until February 28th and might not show up in the search engines and get noticed and logged into the press room page by me or my successor until March 8th. So I can’t just go back to the press room and grab a number for a given month. The pickups are all logged there with publication date, not the date they were found. Sorry about that.

Anyway — around 40k submissions this month, and more than 50 pickups/mentions this month. Not bad! As always, I hope and expect that number to increase over time … but as of the moment I hit “publish” on this report, that’s out of my hands and in the (capable) hands of others. Once again, it has been a privilege to work with and for all of you.

Yours in liberty,
Tom Knapp
Senior Fellow
Center for a Stateless Society

Call for Abstracts on Police and Anarchism

Call for Abstracts

for the Molinari Society’s next Eastern Symposium, to be held in conjunction with the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division meeting, January 6-9, 2016, in Washington DC. (Note that this meeting is the week after New Year’s, rather than, as in past years, just before New Year’s. This later time is expected to be the new normal for the Eastern APA henceforth.)

Symposium Topic:
Police Abuse: Solutions Beyond the State

Submission Deadline:
18 May 2015

Abuses of power by police officers, especially abuses motivated by racial bias, are at last beginning to receive increased public scrutiny. Anarchists have long regarded police misconduct as a deep-rooted and systemic problem, one requiring radical rather than reformist solutions, but have not always agreed about what a radical solution should look like. Some anarchists have advocated a system of private security firms held in check by market competition; others have looked to volunteer and mutual-aid watch groups responsible to the communities they patrol; still others have rejected both models as insufficiently different from the government police system they’re supposed to replace.

Would/should there be police, or something like police, in an anarchist society? If so, how might they be restrained from abuses? If not, what institutions or practices might secure protection from invasive behaviour instead?

Abstracts should be submitted for the 2016 Eastern Symposium by 18 May, 2015. Submissions from any point of view (anarchist or otherwise) are welcome. Please submit an abstract only if you expect to be able to present the paper in person at the Symposium. (Final papers should be of appropriate scope and length to be presented within 15-30 minutes.) Submitting authors will be notified of the acceptance or rejection of their papers by 31 May, 2015.

Submit abstracts as e-mail attachments, in Word .doc or .docx format, PDF, or ODT, to longrob@auburn.edu.

For any questions or information, contact Roderick T. Long at the above email address.


(In other news, the Molinari Symposium originally scheduled for this year’s Pacific APA in Vancouver has been postponed to next year in San Francisco; details to follow in due course.)

Support AK Press!

The worker-run independent publisher and radical book distributor AK Press recently had a major setback because of a nearby warehouse fire. Happily, no one in the warehouse that AK resides in was harmed and everyone got out safely. But unfortunately several units (including AK’s) took water and smoke damage. In addition the City of Oakland has red-tagged their building which means they cannot do their usual business.

To recover from this mess and to help support other nearby organizations that were affected by this disaster AK Press are looking for some support on their GoFundMe campaign.

AK Press says on their website that,

We’re anarchists, which is reflected both in the books we provide and in the way we organize our business. Decisions at AK Press are made collectively, from what we publish, to what we distribute and how we structure our labor. All the work, from sweeping floors to answering phones, is shared. When the telemarketers call and ask, “who’s in charge?” The answer is: everyone.

And:

“Our goal isn’t profit (although we do have to pay the rent),” the site continues. “Our goal is supplying radical words and images to as many people as possible. The books and other media we distribute are published by independent presses, not the corporate giants. We make them widely available to help you make positive (or, hell, revolutionary) changes in the world.”

AK Press already has over 30,000 of their 150,000 goal, please support radical publishing and distribution!

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist Review 75

Uri Avnery discusses what the Israeli left should do.

D. Brady Nelson discusses government regulation as a hidden tax.

Sheldon Richman discusses rethinking the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

Justin Raimondo discusses Bibi as George Wallace.

Kevin Carson discusses Thomas Piketty’s book on capital.

Robert VerBruggen discusses a book on gun control in Nazi Germany.

Bruce Fein discusses counter-terrorism policy and stupidity.

Tom Switzer discusses myths about the Iraq War.

Patrick Cockburn discusses Tony Blair and the Middle East.

Rebecca Gordon discusses the War on Drugs in Afghanistan and Mexico.

Chris Rufer discusses corporate welfare.

William Smith discusses food freedom and community.

Lawrence Davidson discusses the recent Israeli vote for the right.

Christopher Burg discusses why he won’t get involved in politics again.

Laurence M. Vance discusses Hilary Clinton as a conservative Republican.

Dave Lindorff discusses making enemies via drones in Yemen.

Binoy Kampmark discusses Australia in Afghanistan.

Dan Sanchez discusses why Ron Paul is right about Ukraine.

Bionic Mosquito discusses prelude to war.

Bionic Mosquito discusses famine under Stalin.

Adam Hudson discusses torture in American history.

David Swanson discusses why Bill Maher is not our best weapon against ISIS.

Richard M. Ebeling discusses a world without the welfare state.

Sheldon Richman discusses why mandatory voting is a bad idea.

Mikayla Novak discusses household production from a libertarian feminist perspective.

Todd E. Pierce discusses fascism and neocons.

Laurence M. Vance discusses dress codes, employment, and religion.

Sheldon Richman discusses how many rights we have.

Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker discusses why ISIS exists.

Paul Craig Roberts discusses how the regime became murder inc.

How Many Rights?

So, libertarians, how many rights do people have? One (say, the right to life, albeit with countless applications)? Three (life, liberty, and property)? Or an unlimited number (the right to do this, that, and the other, ad infinitum)?

Because part of any strategy to achieve a fully free society presumably includes persuading nonlibertarians to be libertarians, formulating a clear answer to my question seems worthwhile. The simpler the answer the better (other things equal), because getting people to think about moral and political philosophy, especially when we appear to be challenging the reigning view, is tough enough without needlessly making it tougher.

For that reason, I would like it to be the case that we have only one right — a right that could account for what at first glance appear to be other distinct rights. The challenge is to make that case. Fortunately for me, Roderick Long does this in “Why Libertarians Believe There Is Only One Right.”

Long begins by noting that the libertarian philosophy strikes some nonlibertarians, particularly advocates of the welfare state, as “weird.” He cites one critic who complains that libertarians see rights violations all around while denying the existence of welfare rights. Long comments:

The unspoken subtext is: why on earth would anyone believe this? To the nonlibertarian, libertarianism seems simply weird in its insistence that people have, on the one hand, no welfare rights at all — and on the other hand, property rights so robust that nearly every law on the books stands in violation of them. Libertarianism, in its apparent stark and fanatical focus on negative rights above all else, irresistibly reminds nonlibertarians of the contending schools of Presocratic philosophy, intemperately insisting that everything was water, or fire, or motion, or rest.

But appearances can be misleading — and are in this case, Long writes. Libertarianism “derives not from an alien set of values, but rather from a quite ordinary set of values coupled with a recognition of the logical implications of those values.” (Long emphasizes that his intention in this paper is not to demonstrate the truth of libertarianism but only to show that libertarianism isn’t “especially puzzling or mysterious” — certainly an effort worth making.)

Mainstream libertarians, Long writes, “believe that there is, fundamentally, only one right: the right not to be aggressed against.  All further rights are simply applications of, rather than supplements to, this basic right.” (I state what I see as the basis of the nonaggression obligation here.) Long sets out a positive and a negative thesis.

Positive Thesis: “we have a right not to be aggressed against.” (He uses “aggression” in the nonnormative sense to mean simply initiatory force.)

Negative Thesis: “we have no other rights.”

Thus we have only one right. Long acknowledges that while not everyone accepts the Positive Thesis, nevertheless “it is attractive and … there is nothing mysterious about embracing it.” The Negative Thesis, however, is apt to provoke outrage.

First we need to be clear on what we mean by a right.

To have a right [Long writes] is to have a moral claim against another person or persons; but not every such moral claim is a right. My having a right to be treated in a certain manner involves, at least, other people having an obligation so to treat me; but it must involve more than this, for not every such obligation has a right as its correlate. I have an obligation to be polite to my associates and grateful to my benefactors, but they have no right (except metaphorically) to my politeness or my gratitude….

The obligations that are correlated with rights differ from other obligations in being legitimately enforceable…. Only if a moral claim is a right may you use force as a means of securing my compliance.

Teasing out the implications, Long says a right has two parts. The first is the obligation that other people have to treat the right-holder in a particular way. The second part is the right-holder’s legitimate authority to compel others to act that way. (Long calls this the “permissibility component.”)

We perhaps are not surprised to learn that the positive and negative theses are intimately related: “The Positive Thesis turns out to entail the Negative Thesis (at least with the help of some truistic auxiliary premises).” Thus it makes no sense for someone to embrace the Positive Thesis without also embracing the Negative Thesis, although may nonlibertarians think they can do so.

How is the Negative Thesis entailed by the Positive Thesis? Long: “The possibility of accepting the Positive Thesis while rejecting the Negative Thesis is precluded by the logical structure of the concepts involved. If people have a right not to be aggressed against, then people have a right not to be subjected to any initiatory use of force.” This is a tautology of great consequence.

If people had rights in addition to the right to be free from aggression, that would indicate that they had enforceable claims against others whose alleged rights violation did not entail the use of aggressive force. (If it did entail the use of aggressive force, we would be back to the Positive Thesis and would not be talking about an additional right.) That would in turn indicate that the one whose alleged other right is violated could legitimately use force to compel others to act in a certain way. (Remember, that’s an important part of what it means to have a right.) But since by stipulation those others had not used aggressive force, the force used against them in defense of the alleged other right would itself entail aggression.

In other words, Smith’s right to be free from aggression would clash with Jones’s proposed other right. That is incoherent, unless we dump the right not to be aggressed against — which would open up a horrendous can of worms. Long explains:

If an activity involves no use of force, then there can be no right to suppress it by force, since such a use of force would be aggression, and so would violate the obligation component of the right not to be aggressed against. And if an activity involves a non-initiatory use of force, then once again there can be no right to suppress it by force, since such a use of force would violate the permissibility component of the right not to be aggressed against. Hence the only activity whose forcible suppression is consistent with the right not to be aggressed against, is aggression itself…. Thus if aggression is the only activity whose forcible suppression is permissible, then refraining from aggression is the only activity whose performance may legitimately be compelled. It follows that by recognizing a right not to be aggressed against, we have thereby ipso facto ruled out the existence of any other right.

This exposes a fatal flaw in the theory of positive, or welfare, rights. Moreover, Long adds, it demolishes the “frequent charge that libertarians recognize too few rights.” Since the concept right implies that people must not violate of them, “every time we add a right here, we ipso facto subtract a right there; the total quantity of rights can thus be rearranged, but not increased. Perhaps libertarians recognize the wrong rights; but it makes no sense to complain that they recognize too few.”

Mandatory Voting: A Bad Idea

President Obama thinks that forcing us to vote might be a good idea. That he could favor punishing people for not voting — which means taking their money by force and imprisoning or even shooting them if they resist — is unsurprising. The essence of government is violence — aggressive, not defensive, force. Government is not usually described in such unrefined terms, but consider its most basic power: taxation. If you can’t refuse the tax collector with impunity, you are a victim of robbery. It doesn’t matter that government claims to render “services” if you don’t want them.

Most of us learn young that violence is wrong except in defense of self or other innocent life. To those who say society without government would be problematic, I reply that most of us also learn that even a good end cannot justify a bad means. Besides, most of the ills that government “protects” us from — such as economic distress and terrorism — result from its own policies.

Aside from the violence inherent in the system, mandatory voting has conceptual problems. Enthusiasts of modern government often say that voting is a right — the most sacred right in some people’s eyes. (More sacred than the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?) It’s also said to be a duty. Can it be both?

Having a right means you may freely decide to take — or not take — an action without forcible interference by anyone else, including people in the government. Your right to the car you bought signifies that you are free to use it peacefully — or not. It makes no sense to say that your right to your car obligates you to use it or face punishment. Anyone who talks that way simply does not understand what a right is. A right, then, differs from an enforceable duty.

The story is the same with voting. If one has a right to vote, the idea of making the exercise of that right mandatory is absurd. No matter how many good consequences Obama dubiously foresees from compulsory voting, they can’t change the fact that forcing people to exercise a right makes no sense. It’s a sad commentary that he is not ridiculed widely for his suggestion.

If voting is a right, it can’t be a duty, and if it’s a duty, it can’t a right. Perhaps it’s neither.

I’ve assumed people have a right to vote, but let’s not be too hasty. It’s an odd right, indeed, because it entails participation in the process by which government officials are chosen. But as we’ve already established, government’s essence is aggressive violence. Can you have a right to participate in what would be condemned as a criminal operation if it were run “privately”? Can you have a right to help determine who will govern others against their will?

If for the sake of argument we concede the right to participate in the political system, shouldn’t we have to acknowledge the corollary right not to participate? I don’t mean just the right not to vote, but the right to opt out of government altogether — voting, taxation, war, regulation. Yet government does not let us theoretically free people opt out of individual programs — try opting out of the Mideast wars or Social Security — much less across the board.

In other words, no matter how often we’re told that the government exists by the consent of the governed, it really does not. Were you asked to consent? Please don’t say that remaining in the country counts as consent, for that would assume what is here disputed: that before any specific consent, the government has legitimate jurisdiction over the territory known as the United States of America. In fact, consent is merely presumed, and nothing you can do will ever be taken by the government as legitimate withholding of consent. Yet if that is true, then nothing you can do could logically constitute consent either. To repeat: if nonconsent is impossible, so is consent.

Individual freedom in moral communities requires not an impotent “right” to cast one vote among multitudes, but the right to ignore the state and live peacefully.

Informe del coordinador de medios hispanos, marzo de 2015

Durante el mes de marzo traduje al español mi artículo “Mentiras a diestra y siniestra: La muerte del fiscal Alberto Nisman”, “¡Hey Google, no seas malo!” de Kevin Carson, y “‘Reforma plolítica’, el nuevo término de moda impulsado por el gobierno” de Erick Vasconcelos.

Como de constumbre, aprovecho para invitarte a hacer una donación de US$5 para C4SS. Con ella nos ayudarías a seguir con nuestro esfuerzo por reflexionar seriamente sobre la idea de una sociedad organizada en base a la cooperación voluntaria y cómo hacerla realidad.

¡Salud y Libertad!

Spanish Media Coordinator Report, March 2015

During March I translated into Spanish my own “Lies All the Way Down: The Death of Prosecutor Alberto Nisman”, “Hey, Google — Don’t Be Evil!” by Kevin Carson, and “Political Reform: The New Government Buzzword” by by Erick Vasconcelos.

As always, I’m seizing this opportunity to invite you to donate $5 for C4SS: your contribution is what allows us to keep reflecting upon and promoting the idea of a society based on voluntary cooperation. Please donate $5 today!

¡Salud y libertad!

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist Review 74

Ivan Eland discusses the different responses to terrorism in West Africa and the Middle East.

Ivan Eland discusses why Israel needs tough love.

Charles Pierson discusses drone proliferation.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses conservative blindness on Iran.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses separating charity and state.

Veronique de Rugy discusses the import-export bank, corporate welfare, and the Democrats.

Matt Peppe discusses Israeli aggression couched in defensive rhetoric.

James E. Miller discusses conservatism against rolling back the state.

Michael S. Rozeff discusses Venezuelan sanctions, U.S. dominance, and the power elite.

Conor Friedersdorf discusses ill fated wars and their supporters.

James Peron discusses why there is nothing libertarian about conservatism.

Patrick Cockburn discusses life under ISIS.

Patrick Cockburn discusses the story of a Jihadi who left ISIS.

Patrick Cockburn discusses an ISIS siege.

Linn Washington discusses the U.S. failure to address police brutality and racism.

Touraj Daryaee discusses warmongers who refuse to learn from history.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses a nanny state failure.

David Axe discusses Andrew Cockburn’s book on high value targeting.

Wendy McElroy discusses how America became the world’s policemen.

Belen Fernandez discusses Blackwater and the Iraq War anniversary.

Mitchell Plitnick discusses why the recent victory of the Israeli right is troubling.

Sanford Ikeda discusses trading with the “other”.

Lucy Steigerwald discusses the good and bad of drones.

Bionic Mosquito discusses political mass murder.

Ramzy Baroud discusses the Islamic State as a Western thing.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses whether it matters who is elected president or not.

Joseph R. Stromberg discusses a book on Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke.

Kelly Vlahos discusses America’s warlords in Afghanistan.

Jeffrey St. Clair discusses torture.

Leonard C. Goodman discusses Yemen as an example of the failure of Obama’s drone policy.

Rethinking the U.S.-Israeli Relationship

The Benjamin Netanyahu on display in the days before and after Tuesday’s Israeli election is the same one who has been in power all these years. Right along, he was there for all to see, so no one should have been surprised by his performance. I seriously doubt that anyone really is surprised. Americans who slavishly toe the Israeli and Israel Lobby line may act surprised, but that’s really just their embarrassment at having to answer for the prime minister of the “State of the Jewish People.” (If Israel is indeed the State of the Jewish People, it follows that the lobby may properly be called the Jewish Lobby, though that seems to offend some people. The term need not suggest that every person identifying as Jewish is pro-Israel or pro-Likud. I have known religious Jews who are severely anti-Israel and anti-Zionist.)

Democrats especially are in a bind. They can’t afford to distance themselves from Netanyahu and alienate Jewish sources of campaign donations, yet they are visibly uncomfortable with his so openly racist fear-mongering about Israeli Arab voters — “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.” The Democrats’ defense of that ugly appeal as merely a way to get the vote out is disgraceful. (Imagine something equivalent happening in the United States.)

Democrats are also nervous about Netanyahu’s declaration that no Palestinian state will be established as long as he heads the Israeli government. (His post-election attempt to walk it back somewhat was not well-received.)

Life was so much simpler for people like Hillary Clinton when Netanyahu didn’t say things like that in public. Meanwhile, hawkish Republicans — that’s redundant — are unfazed.

For anyone paying close attention, Netanyahu’s racism and ruthless opportunism are not news at all. A few years ago a candid video from 2001 surfaced in which he cynically described Americans as “easily moved,” i.e., manipulated. The Israelis, he said, can do what they want with the Palestinians because the Americans “won’t get in their way.” These are the same Americans who are forced to send Israel $3 billion a year in military assistance so that it can regularly bomb and embargo Palestinians in the Gaza Strip prison camp and oppress Palestinians in a slightly more subtle manner in the shrinking West Bank and East Jerusalem.

With Netanyahu, you really do know what you get, which arguably makes him a better choice to run Israel than the left-of-center Zionist Union because the Laborites share most of Likud’s beliefs about the Palestinians; they’re just more circumspect and therefore more comforting to so-called Americans “liberals.” Saying you support negotiations toward a Palestinian state is not the same as actually being for a viable Palestinian state. Palestinians have little left of the walled-off West Bank and East Jerusalem because of Jewish-only towns built over the years by the two dominant parties, Likud and Labor. And Gaza is a bombed-out disaster area. (Even for many two-state advocates, justice is not the concern. Rather, demographic circumstances make one state untenable for these pragmatists because out-and-out apartheid, which the world would frown on, would be seen as the only alternative to a genuinely democratic state with a Jewish minority. The one-staters have their own solution to the Palestinian problem, the one used in 1948: transfer.)

The prime minister is a sophist extraordinaire; he says whatever he needs to say to gain his objective of the moment. When he ruled out a Palestinian state before the election, in a bid to shore up his right-wing base, he was interpreted as reversing a commitment he made in 2009, after he had returned to power, the same year that Barack Obama took office. The campaign reversal put Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in a most uncomfortable position, since they had made the fraudulent “peace process” a top priority, until talks broke down last spring, a failure they pinned at least in part on Netanyahu. Once the election was over and some reconciliation with the U.S. government was required, Netanyahu “clarified” his remarks, saying his 2009 position had not really changed; only the environment has.

I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change. I was talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable. To make it achievable, then you have to have real negotiations with people who are committed to peace.

I never changed my speech in Bar Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarised Palestinian state that recognises the Jewish state. What has changed is the reality.

What has changed? Netanyahu probably has a few things in mind. The Palestinians reject a new demand that they formally recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people (everywhere). Decades ago the Palestinian leadership accepted Israel’s existence within the pre-1967-war borders — that is, it relinquished claim to 78 percent of pre-1948 Palestine. (Even Hamas has said it was willing to defer to the secular Fatah and the Palestinian Authority). But in a goalpost-moving action, Netanyahu recently added the new demand, something he knows the Palestinian leadership cannot accept if it is to maintain legitimacy (or whatever legitimacy it still has). Such a concession would be prejudicial to Israel’s non-Jewish Arab citizens and would favor Jews who have never set foot in the country over native-born Palestinian Arabs who were driven out of their ancestral home and who are forbidden to return.

In other words, Netanyahu knowingly placed an impossible precondition on the negotiations. But it is he who has insisted there be no preconditions whatever. When the Palestinians demanded that Israel stop seizing Palestinian-owned land on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem to make room for Jewish-only neighborhoods, Netanyahu refused on the grounds that this was a precondition. (The Palestinians relented and gave talks a chance, no doubt under American pressure.) But it was not so much a precondition as a recognition that the land being seized was precisely the subject of the negotiation. In what universe is it reasonable for two parties to negotiate over territory while one is busy annexing it and building permanent settlements?

It is this sort of thing that exposes Netanyahu’s (and most Israelis’) bad faith regarding the Palestinians. He sabotages the “peace process,” then blames the Palestinians for failing to be an earnest partner for peace. (Now he’s trying to sabotage multilateral talks with Iran. See a pattern?)

Netanyahu may also be saying the timing is wrong for a Palestinian state — which would be a rump state completely at the Israeli government’s mercy — because ISIS is creating turmoil in nearby Iraq and Syria, and Iran is expanding its influence in the region. The sophistry here is that much trouble in the Middle East can be traced to Israel’s injustice against the Palestinians and belligerence toward its neighbors, especially the repeated devastating invasions of southern Lebanon. Ethnic-cleansing, massacres perpetrated by Zionist militias at the time of independence, unrelenting occupation of the West Bank since 1967, the repression and impoverishment of the Gazans, and the routine humiliation of Israel’s Arab second-class citizens have created deep grievances that are only made worse by Netanyahu and those who support him.

This of course has spilled over onto the United States, since Democratic and Republican regimes stand by Israel no matter what and no matter how many times its government humiliates American rulers. When former Gen. David Petraeus told a Senate Armed Services Committee in 2010 that the U.S.-Israeli relationship “foments anti-American sentiment,” he was merely repeating what many other officials had acknowledged before. “Meanwhile,” Petraeus added, “al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas….” The attacks of 9/11 were in part motivated by anger over America’s relationship with Israel. Osama bin Laden’s 1996 declaration of war makes clear that this relationship was at the heart of his hostility toward the United States. Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, joined the cause after Israel’s 1996 assault on Lebanon, James Bamford writes in The Shadow Factory. (Open discussion of these facts is discouraged by spurious charges of anti-Semitism against anyone who raises it.)

So, again, Netanyahu cites reasons for not making peace that he himself helped create or is now perpetuating. That he is taken seriously in American politics is a testament to the power of the Lobby.

Netanyahu’s apparent reelection and the egregious circumstances under which it was accomplished should prompt a reconsideration of the special relationship. Although it should have happened long ago, now would be a good time for the U.S. government to end the relationship and start seeing Israel as a rogue and aggressor nuclear power. (Of course the United States is hardly one to talk.) No more excuses. The Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust. Let’s have one moral standard for all.

Not that I think it has a chance of happening, but the U.S. government should cease all taxpayer aid to the Israeli government, stop vetoing UN Security Council resolutions that condemn Israel for its daily violations of human rights, and stop impeding Palestinian efforts to set up an independent country (with membership in the International Criminal Court, etc.). The United States should withdraw from the Middle East and enter into a detente with Iran (which is not developing a nuclear weapon). This would have an immediate dividend: we would not be driven to war with Iran by Netanyahu, the Lobby, and its neoconservative Republican and Democratic stooges in Congress.

Maybe Israeli politicians will act more responsibly if they don’t have the American people to fall back on. Probably not. But we know the Palestinians will get no justice under the status quo. Meanwhile, U.S. policy puts Americans at risk. This must stop.

Worshipping the Boss

In an anti-libertarian rant titled “You’re Not the Boss of Me! Why Libertarianism Is a Childish Sham,” David Masciotra charges that libertarianism amounts to the petulant selfishness of a child who resents all restrictions on his or her behavior.

Masciotra conveniently focuses on libertarians’ saying “you have no right to impose stuff on us,” while ignoring its corollaries “we have no right to impose stuff on you” and “you have no right to impose stuff on them.” But then it’s a bit harder to spin the latter two as childish selfishness.

Judging from what he writes and where he writes it, I reckon Masciotra fancies himself a man of the left. There was a time when “Dump the Bosses Off Your Back” was a popular leftist slogan. But the idea of a society without bosses seems to carry no charm for Masciotra.

It’s also telling that Masciotra sees libertarian opposition to being bossed as in tension with “bonds of empathy and ties of solidarity.” Apparently, for Masciotra empathy and solidarity are impossible among equals, and can exist only between benevolent shepherds and their docile, subservient flocks. Libertarians, by contrast, see empathy and solidarity as realized in their fullest and healthiest form between free and equal persons in voluntary, uncoerced, unbossed association.

It seems a safe bet that anyone who ridicules resentment against bosses either is a boss, or aims to be a boss, or wants to curry favour with the bosses. But here at C4SS, our attitude toward bosses — be they politicians and bureaucrats, or corporate beneficiaries of state privilege — is: dump ‘em. In a truly libertarian world, no one will be the boss of anyone else.

The Weekly Leftist Libertarian Chess Review 73

Andrew Bacevich discusses the national insecurity state.

Melvin A. Goodman discusses the CIA’s double standard.

Ahmad Barqawi discusses Libya, ISIS, and the luxury of hindsight.

Roger Annis discusses Ukraine’s extreme right.

Logan Albright discusses private enterprise vs free enterprise.

Laurence M. Vance discusses what conservatives get wrong about healthcare.

A. Barton Hinkle discusses ISIS, communism, and the lure of utopianism.

Lucy Steigerwald discusses for profit prisons and the War on Drugs.

Heather Gray discusses the militarization of American police forces and foreign policy.

Jim Lobe discusses the message behind the Senate GOP letter to Iran.

Jeff Mackler discusses Obama’s new “War on Terrorism”.

Sheldon Richman discusses the lust for war with Iran.

Andrew Cockburn discusses why Obama’s strategy against the Islamic State will fail.

Arun Gupta discusses how ISIS became the face of evil.

Kevin Carson discusses treason.

Sheldon Richman discusses a critique of libertarianism.

Glenn Greenwald discusses whether Obama’s sanctions on Venezuela are really motivated by human rights or not.

Justin Raimondo discusses whether Venezuela is a threat to U.S. national security.

Ryan McMaken discusses taxation and the draft.

Michael S. Rozeff discusses whether Russian aggression in the Ukraine occurred.

David Gordon discusses a book on Lincoln.

Richard M. Ebeling discusses business and corruption.

Peter Maass discusses atrocities committed by U.S. trained Iraqi forces.

Steve Horowitz discusses using constitutional protections for liberty friendly purposes.

Thomas L. Knapp discusses a potential war with Iran.

Daniel Larison discusses the case for an unnecessary war with Iran.

Conor Friedersdorf discusses the lack of conservative outrage over Ferguson.

Josh Harkinson discusses right-wing Israeli settlers and U.S. subsidies.

Scott Shackford discusses how Terry Pratchett made him a libertarian.

William Pfaff discusses the Ukraine as a foreign policy disaster

Another Would-Be Critic of Libertarianism Takes on a Straw Man

We must face the fact that criticism of the libertarian philosophy in the mass media will most likely misrepresent its target, making the commentary essentially worthless. That’s painfully clear from what critics publish almost weekly on self-styled left-wing and progressive websites. How refreshing it would be for someone to set forth the strongest case for libertarianism before attempting to eviscerate it. Is the failure to do so a sign of fear that the philosophy is potentially appealing to a great many people?

The latest cheap shot is David Masciotra’s piece at Alternet, “‘You’re Not The Boss of Me!’ Why Libertarianism Is a Childish Sham.” As the title indicates, the upshot of the piece is that only a child would wish not to be subject to the arbitrary will of others. Thus Masciotra has disguised a brief for authoritarianism as a plea for communitarianism.

Reading the article, I find it it hard to believe that Masciotra consulted anything more than an essay or two by a high-school senior or perhaps a college freshman with no grasp whatever of the long, rich liberal tradition from which the modern libertarian philosophy is derived. In other words, our author makes no attempt to take on the strongest case for libertarianism. Instead, he does what so many of his allies do: take the easy way out, counting on his readers’ confirmation bias to immunize him against skepticism. Masciotra quotes not one libertarian, though he gets in is the obligatory slam at the standard caricature of Ayn Rand — “the rebel queen of their icy kingdom, villifying [sic] empathy and solidarity” — as though she were the first and last word on libertarianism. He seems unaware that substantial libertarian critiques of Rand abound, not to mention that Rand’s thought is more complex than he indicates. (And no, Mr. Masciotra, Scott Walker and Gordon Gekko are not libertarians; their views have no relevance to this political philosophy.)

So what does Masciotra have to say? Let’s sample his “critique”:

  • Libertarians believe they are real rebels, because they’ve politicized the protest of children who scream through tears, “You’re not the boss of me.” The rejection of all rules and regulations, and the belief that everyone should have the ability to do whatever they want, is not rebellion or dissent. It is infantile naïveté.

This is a typical misrepresentation: libertarians reject all rules and regulations; they demand the freedom to do “whatever they want.” I wonder if Masciotra’s failure to qualify “rules and regulations” with the word government is an innocent oversight. Or is he trying to sneak something by his uninitiated readers? Obviously, libertarians believe that each person’s life, liberty, and justly acquired property should be respected as essentially inviolable. (Emergencies may create exceptions with respect to property.) Libertarians also advocate freedom of contract. All of that amounts to a web of rules and regulations that constrain the individual’s conduct. When libertarians say the equivalent of “You’re not the boss of me,” they are saying that no one may properly threaten or use physical force to compel them do anything they have a demonstrable right to not do or compel them not to do anything that they have a demonstrable right to do.

  • Opposition to any conception of the public interest and common good, and the consistent rejection of any opportunity to organize communities in the interest of solidarity, is not only a vicious form of anti-politics, it is affirmation of America’s most dominant and harmful dogmas.

If Masciotra had bothered to explore the multidisciplinary libertarian literature, he would have quickly learned how ridiculous this is. He seems ignorant of such luminaries in the history of (classical) liberalism as Adam Smith, Frédéric Bastiat, Thomas Hodgskin, Carl Menger, Herbert Spencer, Benjamin R. Tucker, Ludwig von Mises, and F. A. Hayek — not to mention contemporary left-libertarians such as Gary Chartier, Roderick Long, Kevin Carson, and Charles Johnson — because to read these thinkers is to realize that for serious liberals and libertarians, community and solidarity are indispensable to human flourishing. To conflate methodological and ethical individualism (specifically, eudaimonism) with atomistic individualism is to confess an unfamiliarity with the libertarianism. (For details, see my “Tackling Straw Men Is Easier than Critiquing Libertarianism.”)

Radical libertarianism, especially its left-market-anarchist variety, is not anti-politics, broadly speaking. As Long writes in “Market Anarchism as Constitutionalism” (PDF):

Anarchy thus represents the extension, not the negation, of constitutionalism. Instead of thinking of anarchy as a situation in which government has been squeezed down to nothingness, it might be more helpful – at least for minarchists – to think of anarchy as a situation in which government has been extended to include everybody. This is what Gustave de Molinari, the founder of market anarchism, meant when he wrote, in 1884: “The future thus belongs neither to the absorption of society by the State, as the communists and collectivists suppose, nor to the suppression of the State, as the [non-market] anarchists and nihilists dream, but to the diffusion of the State within society.”

…anarchy is the completion, not the negation, of the rule of law. Anarchy “comes not to destroy but to fulfil the law.”

Libertarians favor an environment in which the widest variety of communities may freely be organized — but they believe that only voluntary communities are legitimate communities.

Back to Masciotra:

  • The disasters of reducing life, the governance of affairs, and the distribution of resources to such a shallow standard [viz., “how much money will it bring in?”] leaves wreckage where among the debris one can find human bodies.

I and the libertarians I know would agree. It’s another gross caricature to hold that libertarians reduce all of life to money. Certainly the libertarians influenced by the Austrian school of economics would laugh at this notion. Money is desired only because it facilitates the achievement of one’s objectives in life under conditions of scarcity, objectives that are necessarily embedded in social existence. That is, money is not an end but a means. It makes mutually beneficial exchange easier that it would be, and exchange is an important and desirable form of social cooperation.

Moreover, libertarians, and anyone else who appreciates how markets unimpeded by privilege work, understand that profit is a sign that producers have transformed scarce resources from a less useful form to a more useful form in the eyes of consumers. In other words, in freed markets, money returns signify and reward services rendered to others. (See my “Bastiat on the Socialization of Wealth” and “Monopoly and Aggression.”) To the extent this is not true, we find corporatist privileges dispensed by the state.

  • Competitive individualism, and the perversion of personal responsibility to mean social irresponsibility, is what allows for America to limp behind the rest of the developed world in providing for the poor and creating social services for the general population.

People are harmed not by free competition, which benefits workers and consumers, but by competition-suppressing privileges bestowed on the ruling elite by the state. These include so-called intellectual property (patents and copyright), myriad burdens to self-employment and small-scale worker-owned enterprises (licensing, permitting, zoning, etc.), and more. Freed markets — void of all privilege — align personal and social responsibility though the libertarian nonaggression obligation. One would not be free to foul the air or water, for example, because other people’s rights would be violated. As for providing for the poor, not only would there be fewer poor in a world without ruling-classes and state impediments to personal advancement, but short-run difficulties could be overcome through mutual-aid societies and labor organizations unencumbered by special-interest regulation and red tape. Government welfare programs are at best efforts to ameliorate ills the government itself causes. (For how freed markets achieve what state socialists say they want, see my “Free-Market Socialism.”)

  • Who then are the libertarians rebelling against? The most powerful sector of the society is corporate America, and it profits and benefits most from the deregulatory and anti-tax measures libertarians champion. That sector of society also happens to own the federal government.

I can’t disagree. But note that deregulation and (targeted) tax cutting are not the same as wholesale repeal of corporate privileges. Quite the contrary, deregulation often amounts to expanding previously granted privileges. The remedy here is not to maintain or increase regulation, but rather to eliminate the privileges. It is odd that this is lost on so-called progressives. Their reforms empower bureaucrats (further), when they should be liberating individuals. That’s another kind of trickle-down process to be rejected.

  • Libertarians proclaim an anti-government position, but they are only opposing the last measures of protection that remain in place to prevent the government from full mutation into an aristocracy. By advocating for the removal of all social programs, libertarians are not rebelling, as much as they are reinforcing the prevailing ethos of “bootstrap” capitalism. The poor are responsible for their plight, and therefore deserve no sympathy or assistance.

The author’s ignorance, again, is glaring. Had he taken on the strongest case made by libertarians (in my view, that’s the left-libertarian case grounded in eudaimonism), he would know that 1) they oppose all aristocratic measures no matter how well established, 2) demand repeal of corporate privileges and subsidies before the repeal of programs for the least well-off, and 3) do not believe that poor people are generally responsible for their own plight. The least well-off deserve sympathy for being victims of the ruling class, but more than that, they deserve freedom from the ruling class and its executive committee, the state.

  • When children yell “you’re not the boss of me” they believe they are launching a rebellion against the household establishment, but they are conforming to the codes of behavior visible among all children. Libertarians are attempting to practice the same political voodoo – transforming conformity into rebellion – without realizing that their cries for freedom coalesce with their childlike culture.

The essential matter is not conformity versus rebellion, but freedom versus aggression. If Masciotra sees the demand for freedom as childish, that says more about him than about libertarianism. Meek acceptance of authoritarianism is not a sign of maturity.

  • [Philosopher Charles] Taylor complicates the picture [of self-actualization in The Ethics of Authenticity] by adding the elemental truth of individuality and community that personal freedom is empty and meaningless without connections to “horizons of significance.” That beautiful phrase captures the essentiality of developing bonds of empathy and ties of solidarity with people outside of one’s own individual pursuits, and within a larger social context. Neighborhoods, religious institutions, political parties, advocacy organizations, charities, and social justice groups all qualify as “horizons of significance”, and the connections that arise out of those horizons inevitably producs [sic] politics of communal ethics and public responsibility, in addition to private liberty.

The libertarians I have been citing would agree, except as anarchists we’d strike political parties off the list. Masciotra is still stuck on his caricature.

  • Defending and championing selfish indifference to collective interest and need conforms not only to the mainstream American practice of social neglect, but also to the most basic and brutish impulse of humanity’s mammalian origins. The rebel searches for higher ground. The conformist crawls through the shallow end of the swamp.

By now, the reader can anticipate what I want to say, so I’ll leave it at this: if Masciotra is concerned about the American practice of social neglect, he might ask why the corporatist Leviathan discharges social responsibility so deplorably, and how in its absence such responsibility would to fall on us directly as members of communities. In other words, government crowds out mutual aid and social cooperation — and does a rotten job to boot.

When will such critics finally understand that serious libertarians want to abolish aggression — especially the systemic aggression that defines the state — precisely so that we all may flourish by living fully human lives in fully human communities? (As for the argument that all political philosophies, libertarianism included, entail the use of aggression, see this.) This libertarianism is about self-actualization, peaceful social cooperation, mutual aid, and respect. If critics want to debunk libertarianism, they will have to debunk that.

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist Review 72

Robert Parry discusses risking nuclear war for the sake of Ukraine.

Thomas Harrington discusses the aftermath of the Kosovo intervention.

Eric Margolis discusses the Hitler path.

Ajamu Nangwaya discusses the struggle for liberation in Haiti.

Ron Jacobs discusses an assassination carried out by Pinochet’s forces.

Andrew Levine discusses Obama and potential war with Russia.

Gene Healy discusses a book on the national security state.

Patrick Cockburn discusses the coming attack on Mosul.

Dan Sanchez discusses war, terror, and the ethics of execution.

Gilbert Mercier discusses the U.S.military and NATO sustained empire.

Anthony Gregory reviews a libertarian book on the Civil War.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses U.S. policy towards Venezuela.

Medea Benjamin discusses 10 reasons to cheer AIPAC’S demise.

Ivan Eland discusses how the U.S. government makes the problem of terrorism worse.

Tom Engelhardt discusses his war on terror.

Laurence M. Vance discusses Heritage Foundation conservative proposals.

Sheldon Richman discusses Netanyahu’s potential war on Iran.

Brian Wilson discusses the fallacy of limited government.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses the drug war and a bigger police state.

Sheldon Richman discusses the War of 1812 and statism.

Uri Avnery discusses Bibi’s speech to Congress.

Connor Kilpatrick interviews Marie Gottschalk on the prison state.

Andrew Cockburn discusses a drone strike that murdered innocent civilians.

Wendy McElroy discusses rights, morality, and the state.

Gareth Porter discusses the alleged Iranian threat to Israel.

Arnold Oliver discusses the U.S. backed 1950’s coup in Iran.

Jack Perry discusses the logic behind U.S. wars.

Stanton Peele discusses drug addiction and its causes.

Lucy Steigerwald discusses ISIS, art, and barbarism.

Nelson Hultberg discusses Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard.

How (and Why) to Be a Free Market Radical Leftist

Center for a Stateless Society Senior Fellow and Molinari Institute President Roderick T. Long recently gave a presentation on Left Libertarianism for the Center of Ethics and Public Policy in Duluth, Minnesota.

You can follow along with Roderick T. Long and his PowerPoint slides (download): http://praxeology.net/radical-leftist-REV.pptx

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist Review 71

Sharon Presley discusses modern mutual aid.

David S. D’Amato discusses free love, Angela Heywood, and Ezra Heywood.

Jesse Walker discusses the politics of American Sniper.

Thomas L. Knapp discusses Rudy Giuliani and loving America.

Patrick Barron discusses political and economic freedom.

George H. Smith discusses how treason and heresy are related.

Jonathan Woodrow Martin discusses atrocities committed by the Iraqi government.

Paul Street discusses Hollywood’s service to empire.

Richard M. Ebeling discusses the sovereignty of consumers.

Laurence M. Vance discusses sniper theology.

Laurence M. Vance discusses the internet solution to solicitation.

Jeffrey Tucker discusses the new libertarian movement.

Gary Chartier discusses forced vaccination.

Dan Sanchez discusses how war is the birth of the state.

Binoy Kampmark discusses wet dreams about Winston Churchill.

Joseph Margulies discusses another week in the War on Terror.

Ivan Eland discusses the president’s excessive war power.

Nick Gillespie discusses ending the Department of Homeland Security.

Sheldon Richman discusses how domestic fear is the price of empire.

Ramzy Baroud discusses why the U.S. take on Middle East violence must change.

W. T. Whitney Jr. discusses U.S. interventionism in Colombia.

Margaret Kimberly discusses media silence on Libya.

Dylan Delikta discusses ideologies and idols.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses ISIS and the national security state scam.

George H. Smith discusses free thought and Christian persecution of so called heretics.

John Pilger discusses the modern day rise of fascism.

Horace G. Campbell discusses the situation in Libya.

Robert Fantina discusses terrorism, Palestine, and the U.S.

Lucy Steigerwald discusses the black site in Chicago used by police.

English Language Media Coordinator Update, February 2015

Dear C4SS Supporters,

It’s been a great month at the Center!

In February, I made 37,311 submissions of op-eds by our authors to 2,588 media outlets worldwide. That’s a little off my current goal of 40,000 submissions, but not for lack of content. It’s just that most of our op-eds were “US-centric” rather than of global interest. I’ll be encouraging our authors to cast a wider net across those imaginary lines that politicians draw on the ground to look for commentary topics.

My usual goal (for the last year or so) for pickups and mentions is 50. Last month we hit 60. This month, 70!

Of those, 68 were pickups of our material by “mainstream” or popular political media. The other two were mentions on Bloomberg — per Alexa, the 345th most popular web site in the world and ranked 135th most popular in the US — by David Weigel, who covered the 2015 International Students for Liberty Conference: “Edward Snowden and Ron Paul Kick Off Libertarian Student Conference With a Little Kerfuffle About Russia,” and “Bow Ties and Slam Poetry: This Is Libertarianism in 2015.”

Of course there’s been some controversy about the presence and actions of people associated (and in some cases not associated) with C4SS at that conference. If you haven’t read all about it yet and want to, Google is your friend.

I tend to focus my activities at C4SS on audiences outside the movement, so I’m not going to opine here on the details of the intra-movement arguments about this. But what strikes me about the whole thing is the old saying attributed to Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

We just got name-checked in major media as libertarian thought leaders, at least among the student activist crowd, and the follow-up ruckus hasn’t been humorous. So to the extent that left market anarchism is competing with other schools of thought for mindshare both within the libertarian movement and outside it, it looks like we’re at the “fight” stage.  And to the extent that that second article reflects the views and interests of younger libertarians,  it looks like we’re winning the fight for the minds of the movement’s next generation (who will be the ones taking libertarian ideas out into the world at large for the next 50 years or so).

So, like I said, great month. With your support, we are shifting the debate both inside and outside the movement. And with your support, we’ll continue to do so.

Yours in liberty,
Tom Knapp
Media Coordinator
Center for a Stateless Society

Free Market Reforms and the Reduction of Statism

Objectivist scholar Chris Sciabarra, in his brilliant book Total Freedom, called for a “dialectical libertarianism.” By dialectical analysis, Sciabarra means to “grasp the nature of a part by viewing it systemically — that is, as an extension of the system within which it is embedded.” Individual parts receive their character from the whole of which they are a part, and from their function within that whole.

This means it is a mistake to consider any particular form of state intervention in isolation, without regard to the role it plays in the overall system. (See Sciabarra’s “Dialectics and Liberty, The Freeman, September 2005.)

Another libertarian, blogger Arthur Silber, contrasts dialectical libertarianism with what he calls “atomistic libertarianism,” whose approach is to “focus on the basic principles involved, but with scant (or no) attention paid to the overall context in which the principles are being analyzed. In this manner, this approach treats principles like Plato’s Forms. . . .” Atomistic libertarians argue “as if the society in which one lives is completely irrelevant to an analysis of any problem at all.”

To determine the function a particular form of state intervention serves in the structure of state power, we must first ask what has been the historical objective of the state. This is where libertarian class analysis comes in.

The single greatest work I’m aware of on libertarian class theory is Roderick Long’s article, “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Class” (Social Philosophy & Policy, Summer 1998). Long categorizes ruling-class theories as either “statocratic” or “plutocratic,” based on the respective emphasis they place on the state apparatus and the plutocracy (the wealthy “private-sector” beneficiaries of government intervention) as components of the ruling class.

The default tendency in mainstream libertarianism is a high degree of statocracy, to the point not only of (quite properly) emphasizing the necessary role of state coercion in enabling “legal plunder” (Frédéric Bastiat’s term) by the plutocracy, but of downplaying the significance of the plutocracy even as beneficiaries of statism. This means treating the class interests associated with the state as ad hoc and fortuitous. Although statocratic theory treats the state (in Franz Oppenheimer’s phrase) as the organized political means to wealth, it still tends to view government as merely serving the exploitative interests of whatever assortment of political factions happens to control it at any given time. This picture of how the state works does not require any organic relation between the various interest groups controlling it at any time, or between them and the state. It might be controlled by a disparate array of interest groups, including licensed professionals, rent-seeking corporations, farmers, regulated utilities, and big labor; the only thing they have in common is that they happen to be currently the best at latching onto the state.

Murray Rothbard’s position was far different. Rothbard, Long argues, saw the state as controlled by “a primary group that has achieved a position of structural hegemony, a group central to class consolidation and crisis in contemporary political economy. Rothbard’s approach to this problem is, in fact, highly dialectical in its comprehension of the historical, political, economic, and social dynamics of class.”

I have argued in the past that the corporate economy is so closely bound up with the power of the state, that it makes more sense to think of the corporate ruling class as a component of the state, in the same way that landlords were a component of the state under the Old Regime. Blogger Brad Spangler used the analogy of a gunman and bagman to illustrate the relationship:

Let’s postulate two sorts of robbery scenarios.

In one, a lone robber points a gun at you and takes your cash. All libertarians would recognize this as a micro-example of any kind of government at work, resembling most closely State Socialism.

In the second, depicting State Capitalism, one robber (the literal apparatus of government) keeps you covered with a pistol while the second (representing State allied corporations) just holds the bag that you have to drop your wristwatch, wallet and car keys in. To say that your interaction with the bagman was a “voluntary transaction” is an absurdity. Such nonsense should be condemned by all libertarians. Both gunman and bagman together are the true State.

Given this perspective, it doesn’t make much sense to consider particular proposals for deregulating or cutting taxes without regard to the role the taxes and regulations play in the overall structure of state capitalism. That’s especially true considering that most mainstream proposals for “free market reform” are generated by the very class interests that benefit from the corporate state.

No politico-economic system has ever approximated total statism, in the sense that “everything not forbidden is compulsory.” In every system there is a mixture of compulsory and discretionary behavior. The ruling class allows some amount of voluntary market exchange within the interstices of a system whose overall structure is defined by coercive state intervention. The choice of what areas to leave to voluntary exchange, just as much as of what to subject to compulsory regulation, reflects the overall strategic picture of the ruling class. The total mixture of statism and market activity will be chosen as most likely, in the estimation of the ruling class, to maximize net exploitation by the political means.

Primary and Secondary Interventions

Some forms of state intervention are primary. They involve the privileges, subsidies, and other structural bases of economic exploitation through the political system. This has been the primary purpose of the state: the organized political means to wealth, exercised by and for a particular class of people. Some forms of intervention, however, are secondary. Their purpose is stabilizing, or ameliorative. They include welfare-state measures, Keynesian demand management, and the like, whose purpose is to limit the most destabilizing side-effects of privilege and to secure the long-term survival of the system.

Unfortunately, the typical “free market reform” issuing from corporate interests involves eliminating only the ameliorative or regulatory forms of intervention, while leaving intact the primary structure of privilege and exploitation.

The strategic priorities of principled libertarians should be just the opposite: first to dismantle the fundamental, structural forms of state intervention, whose primary effect is to enable exploitation, and only then to dismantle the secondary, ameliorative forms of intervention that serve to make life bearable for the average person living under a system of state-enabled exploitation. As blogger Jim Henley put it, remove the shackles before the crutches.

To welcome the typical “free market” proposals as “steps in the right direction,” without regard to their effect on the overall functioning of the system, is comparable to the Romans welcoming the withdrawal of the Punic center at Cannae as “a step in the right direction.” Hannibal’s battle formation was not the first step in a general Carthaginian withdrawal from Italy, and you can be sure the piecemeal “privatizations,” “deregulations,” and “tax cuts” proposed are not intended to reduce the amount of wealth extracted by the political means.

Regulations and Increasing Statism

Moreover, regulations that limit and constrain the exercise of privilege do not involve, properly speaking, a net increase in statism at all. They are simply the corporate state’s stabilizing restrictions on its own more fundamental forms of intervention.

Silber illustrated the dialectical nature of such restrictions with reference to the question of whether pharmacists ought to be able to refuse to sell items (such as “morning after” pills) that violate their conscience. The atomistic-libertarian response is, “Of course. The right to sell, or not sell, is a fundamental free-market liberty.” The implicit assumption here, as Silber pointed out, is “that this dispute arises in a society which is essentially free.” But pharmacists are in fact direct beneficiaries of compulsory occupational licensing, a statist racket whose central purpose is to restrict competition and enable them to charge a monopoly price for their services. Silber wrote:

The major point is a very simple one: the pharmacy profession is a state-enforced monopoly. In other words: the consumer and the pharmacist are not equal competitors on the playing field. The state has placed its thumb firmly on the scales — and on one side only. That is the crucial point, from which all further analysis must flow. . . .

. . . [T]he state has created a government-enforced monopoly for licensed pharmacists. Given that central fact, the least the state can do is ensure that everyone has access to the drugs they require — and whether a particular pill is of life and death importance is for the individual who wants it to decide, not the pharmacist and most certainly not the government.

When the state confers a special privilege on an occupation, a business firm, or an industry, and then sets regulatory limits on the use of that privilege, the regulation is not a new intrusion of statism into a free market. It is, rather, the state’s limitation and qualification of its own underlying statism. The secondary regulation is not a net increase, but a net reduction in statism.

On the other hand, repeal of the secondary regulation, without an accompanying repeal of the primary privilege, would be a net increase in statism. Since the beneficiaries of privilege are a de facto branch of the state, the elimination of regulatory constraints on their abuse of privilege has the same practical effect as repealing a constitutional restriction on the state’s exercise of its own powers.

To expand Spangler’s bagman analogy, a great deal of alleged statism amounts to the gunman telling the bagman, after the victim has handed his wallet over at gunpoint, to give the victim back enough money for cab fare so he can get safely back home and keep on earning money to be robbed of.

When the state is controlled by “legal plunderers” and every decision for or against state intervention in a particular circumstance reflects their strategic assessment of the ideal mixture of intervention and non-intervention, it’s a mistake for a genuine anti-state movement to allow the priorities for “free market reform” to be set by the plunderers’ estimation of what forms of intervention no longer serve their purpose. If the corporate representatives in government are proposing a particular “free market reform,” you can bet your bottom dollar it’s because they believe it will increase the net political extraction of wealth.

The corporate ruling class’s approach to “free market reform” is a sort of mirror-image of “lemon socialism.” Under lemon socialism, the political capitalists (acting through the state) choose to nationalize those industries that corporate capital will most benefit from having taken off its hands, and to socialize those functions the cost of which capital would most prefer the state to bear. They shift functions from the private to the state sector when they are perceived as necessary for the functioning of the system, but not sufficiently profitable to justify the bother of running them under “private sector” auspices. Under “lemon market reform,” on the other hand, the political capitalists liquidate interventionist policies after they have squeezed all the benefit out of state action.

A good example: British industrialists felt it was safe to adopt “free trade” in the mid-nineteenth century, after mercantilism had served its purpose. Half the world had been hammered into a unified market by British force of arms and was held together by a British merchant fleet. Britain had stamped out competing industry in the colonial world. It had reenacted the Enclosures on a global scale, stealing enormous amounts of land from native populations and converting it to cash crops for the imperial market. The commanding position of British capital was the direct result of past mercantilism; having established this commanding position, it could afford “free trade.”

The so-called “free trade” movement in the contemporary United States follows the same pattern. A century ago, high tariff barriers served the interests of American political capitalists. Today, when the dominant corporate interests in America are transnational, tariffs are no longer useful to them. They actually impede the transfer of goods and partially finished products between the national subdivisions of a single global corporation.

On the other hand, so-called “intellectual property” today serves exactly the same protectionist function for transnational corporations that tariffs used to serve for the old national corporations a century ago. So the political capitalists promote a version of “free trade” that involves doing away with outmoded tariff barriers while greatly strengthening the new protectionism of “intellectual property” law.

We must remember that the measure of statism inheres in the functioning of the overall system, not in the formal statism of its separate parts. A reduction in the formal statism of some separate parts, chosen in accordance with the strategic priorities of the statists, may actually result in a net increase in the overall level of statism. Our strategic agenda as libertarians, in dismantling the state, must reflect our understanding of the overall nature of the system.

Director’s Report: January and February 2015

The Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) has had a bumpy start to 2015, tragedy in January and controversy (of sorts) in February. But not all of those bumps were bad or stressful, most of them were just our crew, shoulder to the wheel, cranking out thousands of words of content. The past couple of months has been very busy and extremely successful for us — we have already cleared 2,400 commentary pick-ups and are on track to easily break 3,000 by 2016.

To reach these goals and more, we need your help. C4SS has steadily built itself on a micro-donation model. We prefer the sustainability, resiliency and information found in swarms of micro-donations, instead of relying on two or three primary mega-donors or institutions. This keeps us lean, but it keeps us independent and robust. We are in love with these ideas and committed to getting them out to a wider audience and you can participate in this project by sharing, debating, contributing or donating. It all helps and we appreciate the support.

If C4SS, as an organization and an idea, is something you like having around or would like to see do more things (like funding more studies, publishing more books, helping with travel expenses for writers to speak at events, updating the youtube graphics, etc), then, please, donate $5 today.

What will $5 a month get you from C4SS? Well let’s see,

For the month of January, C4SS published:

21 Commentaries,
Features,
Weekly Libertarian Leftist Reviews,
Life, Love and Liberty,
Reviews, and
17 C4SS Media uploads to the C4SS youtube channel.

And, thanks to the dedication of our Media Coordinators and translators, C4SS translated and published:

Italian translations,
Spanish translations,
12 Portuguese translations.

For the month of February, C4SS published:

31 Commentaries (10 more than January; more Op-eds than days in the month),
13 Features (7 more than January),
Weekly Libertarian Leftist Reviews,
2 Blog posts,
Reviews (4 more than January), and
18 C4SS Media uploads to the C4SS youtube channel.

And, again, thanks to the dedication of our Media Coordinators and translators, C4SS translated and published:

Italian translations,
Spanish translations,
10 Portuguese translations.

Our totals, so far, for 2015:

52 Commentaries,
19 Features,
10 Reviews, and
35 C4SS Media uploads.
Spanish translations,
22 Portuguese translations.

New Interns for a New Year!

A new year brings new opportunities to challenge and test new writers for a life as an anarchist writing op-eds for mainstream media audiences. This is the primary mission of C4SS: “to explain and defend the idea of vibrant social cooperation without aggression, oppression, or centralized authority” and “enlarge public understanding and transform public perceptions of anarchism”. So far we have identified and cataloged over 2,400 successes. This brings us to our internship program, for C4SS to continue to bare fruit we must tend to our root systems. C4SS would like to introduce you to our two latest rhizomes:

John C. Wilson is a blogger, activist, anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment and feminist with pro-labor leanings. After exploring a wide range of ideologies he has found individualist anarchism to be the philosophy that best combines his dislike of coercive authority with a concern for the well being of marginalized people as well as the desire to see a more prosperous world.

***

Dylan Delikta is a Philosophy major at Eastern Michigan University. He is a mutualist anarchist and involved with many campus organizations such as Students for Liberty, Students for an Ethical and Participatory Education, and Feminists for Change.

Help C4SS Promote Prison Abolition

The Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE) holds a prominent annual interdisciplinary academic conference featuring free-market-oriented research.

C4SS has had a panel at every APEE program since 2010. This year’s meeting will be in Cancún, April 12-14, and C4SS is sending Nathan Goodman (C4SS’s Lysander Spooner Research Scholar in Abolitionist Studies), Jason Lee Byas (C4SS Fellow), and Roderick T. Long (C4SS Senior Fellow) to speak at a C4SS-organised panel on the topic “Prisons: Reform or Abolition?

If you’d like to help us bring the radical libertarian message of prison abolition to the APEE, any contribution would be appreciated; check out our GoFundMe page “Send C4SS to the 2015 APEE.”

The New Brazil

C4SS’s Portuguese Media Coordinator, , reviewed Raúl Zibechi’s The New Brazil: Regional Integration and the New Democracy from AK Press and brought to us, finally, a new history of social and economic development beyond the stale stories from Europe and North America. With access to new stories and the improved sensitivities that comes from the increased number of data points, we are presented with novel opportunities to stress-test our models and discover the technical-debt hidden within our theories. The eventual pay-off of all this work will be better tactics for routing around the social damage know as authority and greater ability to identify and preempt that institutional apex predator know as the state.

The New Brazil is not the only, but it’s certainly one of the most important, recent books that overviews Brazil’s new state capitalism. And in talking about the history of power in the country, Zibechi is certainly much better than most because he sees continuity instead of disruptions. However, despite having the right instincts, and knowing how to identify the key points of contemporary politics in Brazil and in Latin America, doesn’t present a theoretical apparatus capable of challenging the ideological hegemony of corporate capitalism.

The structural weaknesses of the current model can only be challenged by the idea of a radical and descentralized free market. The logical consequence of the horizontalization of our political culture is anarchy.

The Anarchism of Despair

C4SS’s Benjamin R. Tucker Distinguished Research Scholar in Anarchist Economic Theory, , has reviewed Ardent Press’ Anarcho-Pessimism: The Collected Writings of Laurence [sic] Labadie. Labadie’s pessimism helps us deal with some dominate tropes within Leftist (not just the left) notions of action and organization, the preoccupation with mass: mass-movements and mass-meetings. It is certainly true that the goal of freedom is not fully realized until everyone has access to its full expression (a good reason for the mass-movement proposal), and collective decision making — the opportunity to give input or debate — are important counters to and a key experience absent from capitalist life (an important insight of any mass-meeting proposal). But both of these are strategies — means to an end, not the end or a good-enough substitution for the end of anarchism. “Mass” lacks the ability to scale indefinitely and, even within micro- to meso- size examples, restricts or streamlines the number and ways individuals can communicate to each other and to the group. They are in our tool kit, for sure, but if they are all we can expect or hope for from anarchism, then count me, with Labadie, pessimistic.

Anarcho-Pessimism will come as an astounding revelation to anyone interested in an anarchism that, rather than offering another recital of workerist bromides, presents a caustic indictment of modern politics and society. With a contempt and audacity all his own, this one of a kind autodidact savaged the status quo like no one before or since, and in doing so gave us what is one of the last links in the chain that is American individualist anarchism.

The Right Didn’t Steal Our Future — We Gave It Away

Kevin Carson deals some of the mistaken narratives for and against technology. Technology allows for incalculable prosperity, individuation and power distribution; this is why it is, at every turn, bottle-necked, enclosed, outlawed, overpriced or even destroyed — to keep power concentrated and centralized where it is and out of our radical hands.

The implication is that any technology that increases the efficiency of production at the margin, in terms of land-intensiveness or capital-intensiveness (that is, anything that makes more production possible from smaller quantities of land and capital), will reduce the rents on land and capital accruing to incumbent producers with large stockpiles of accumulated land and capital. From this it follows that the profits of rich capitalists depend on things like patent law that criminalize the diffusion of new technologies for cheaper, more efficient production. Technological diffusion is the friend of workers and consumers, and the enemy of capitalists.

The End of Libertarians

Kevin Carson draws parallels between the Gaming Industry and Libertarianism, in his “The End of Libertarianism”. Demographics will shift and change as new groups of people are understandably drawn in and to those technologies and ideologies that promise more agency. Increased agency is good description for liberty — to have more ways to act and more opportunities to act. Interactive media and libertarianism both promise open-ended levels of agency for more and more people. Fighting for greater, meaningful and active access to both should be regarded as clear and glowing evidence that liberty is magnetic and our desire for more of it is wonderfully insatiable. We live in an abundance hidden or broken by artificial scarcity and power bottle-necks, but not for long. We want maximal agency and you can’t stop us.

Stop and think about this for a minute: These are people who actually call themselves libertarians — advocates of human liberty — and who presumably want to spread these ideas in society at large and attract new adherents to them. Hoppe’s prerequisite for a “libertarian society,” if you want to call it that, is for the minority of rich property-owning paterfamiliases who have appropriated all the land in a society to round up all the people with beliefs or lifestyles they disagree with, and forcibly evict them.

Fellows on Patreon

Kevin Carson and Thomas Knapp have both popped up on the creator supporting site: Patreon. Patreon allows individual to directly support their favorite creators, or in this case, left-libertarian writers. You can pledge any amount that fits your budget or enjoyment of their work, and, for certain pledged amounts, they offer bonuses.

Please Support Today!

All of this work is only sustainable through your support. If you think the various political and economic debates around the world are enhanced by the addition of left libertarian market anarchist, freed market anti-capitalist or laissez faire socialist solutions, challenges, provocations or participation, please, donate $5 today. Keep C4SS going and growing.

ALL the best!

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist Review 70

Justin Raimondo discusses the proposed AUMF to wage war on ISIS.

Michael Uhl discusses a documentary on the Vietnam War and Bobby Kennedy.

George H. Smith discusses persecution of freethinkers.

Nick Alexandrov discusses Obama’s legacy in Honduras.

Shane Smith discusses Tom Cotton.

Doug Bandow discusses six allies worth divorcing.

Jan Jarboe Russell discusses five surprises about WW2 internment.

Andy Piascik discusses Vietnam and unpleasant truth.

Gareth Porter discusses U.S. – Iranian negotiations.

Sheldon Richman discusses the humble libertarian.

Matt Peppe discusses Israeli abuse of children from Palestine and U.S. complicity.

Teun van Dongen discusses drone strikes and the sanitization of violence.

Elizabeth R. Beavers discusses curbing Obama’s endless war power.

Richard M. Ebeling discusses whether America is on the road to serfdom.

Marjorie Cohn discusses Obama’s request for a Congressional rubber stamp for his perpetual war on ISIS.

Andrew Bacevich discusses how Congress can use Obama’s AUMF request to debate the premises behind the War on Terror.

Michael Horton discusses setting the stage for a new proxy war in Yemen.

Patrick Cockburn discusses the potential fight for Mosul.

Abby Martin discusses word games.

Ajamu Baraka discusses Obama’s legacy of war and liberal accommodation.

Trevor Timm discusses Obama, the media, and the GOP concurring on war against ISIS.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses conservative blindness to principle.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses whether the U.S. invasion of Iraq brought freedom to Iraqis.

Sheldon Richman discusses healthcare and the economic way of thinking.

Lucy Steigerwald discusses the case for optimism in the realm of foreign policy.

W. James Antle the Third discusses Jeb Bush’s foreign policy.

Michael Welton discusses the propagandists of empire.

Uri Avnery discusses the fallacy of rising anti-semitism.

Luciana Bohne discusses the logic of the imperial security state.