Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Corporate Capitalism Doesn’t Belong to Us

. @dsdamato. #anarchism. #libertarianism. #antistatism. #capitalism. #statism.

In a new article for Rolling Stone, “Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire,” Tim Dickinson attempts to present the frequently demonized brothers Koch as essentially hardline libertarians, whose radical free market ideology is thoroughly mixed into their business philosophy and practices. We’ve all seen this article before. Liberal media outlets have made a whole industry of attempting to discredit libertarianism as the exploitative ethic of rich, white people, and have presented the Kochs as the representatives of this ethic.

Mr. Dickinson regrettably takes it as a given that libertarianism is merely a thin ideological vindication of big business, with all its abuses and ruination of the natural environment. Such a flagrant misunderstanding is rather embarrassing considering both the breadth of libertarianism’s ideas and its history, and the fact that Dickinson took the time to write a lengthy article that is in part a denunciation of libertarianism. We might’ve expected a more careful and knowledgeable treatment of the subject if this kind of hit piece weren’t so commonplace among mainstream liberal outfits.

Had Dickinson committed himself to digging just a bit deeper into libertarianism and, for example, its opposition to economic regulations, he likely would have noticed a trend among actual libertarians as opposed to the straw men and caricatures set up by boring, monotonous smears. In and of itself libertarianism — including its individualistic and free market varieties — holds no brief for rich elites and has always incorporated forceful critiques of big business and entrenched economic ruling classes. Only the desperately and chronically unimaginative and uninformed could seriously mistake existing capitalism in any of its historical stages for a free market. Early nineteenth century radical liberals such as Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer established a thoroughgoing theory of class and class conflict, a philosophy they called Industrialisme which challenged the State’s system of intervention on behalf of elites. Comte and Dunoyer understood that genuine freedom of competition and exchange, without government involvement, would actually effect a great change in favor of productive, working people. In their day, there was none of Dickinson’s delusion that the government apparatus is some kind of populist charitable institution; they knew their history and it all demonstrated, as it still does, that government force and aggression are almost always used to line the pockets of the politically connected. Comte wrote of the “subordination that subjected the laboring men to the idle and devouring men, and which gave to the latter the means of existing without producing anything, or of living nobly.” None of this subordination had anything to do with mutually beneficial exchange, which these radical liberals regarded as the proper basis for a free and fair society.

All of this is to say nothing of later free market libertarians such as Benjamin Tucker who went so far as to identify their completely unregulated, stateless free market with socialism. These radicals saw that the State’s regulations, laws, licenses, and permits in fact acted to consolidate power in the hands of great, monopolistic trusts. The dominance and market power of these large entities, combined with the government’s theft of the land and preclusion of self-sufficiency, allowed the “captains of industry” to acquire wage labor at an extortionate reduced price. It will no doubt come as a surprise to Dickinson that a committed socialist and class warrior like Benjamin Tucker would agree wholeheartedly with Charles Koch’s claim that supporters of regulation are being “hoodwinked.” But Dickinson might not be so surprised should he decide to consider the historical relationship between the interests and prerogatives of capital and those of the State more closely. Like Comte and Dunoyer, Tucker would have treated as laughably absurd the notion that our political overlords would want to hobble the rich. Attacking the “band of licensed robbers called capitalists,” Benjamin Tucker nevertheless advocated consistent free market competition of just the kind that so worries Dickinson.

Still, we might forgive Dickinson for being confused. After all, there is all the difference in the world between the kind of free market defended by Comte, Dunoyer, and Tucker, and the corporate capitalism that has made Koch Industries a multibillion dollar company. The great capitalists of today are themselves rather confused when it comes to the economic ideas to which they subscribe. When it suits them, they conflate today’s system of multinational corporatism, the deeply statist successor of feudalism and mercantilism, with the real free market system outlined by radical libertarians, but never yet observed in reality. Tucker and others thus frequently called attention to “the bourgeoisie’s appeal to liberty and its infidelity thereto.” Insofar as we give credence to the ridiculous myth that these two irreconcilable systems are one and the same, we can agree to some extent with Dickinson’s philosophically muddled piece. Dickinson begins to hit rather closer to the mark near the close of his article, where he writes that “in the real world, Koch Industries has used its political might to beat back … market-based mechanisms.” “In fact,” Dickinson observes, “it appears the very essence of the Koch business model is to exploit breakdowns in the free market.” So which is it? Are the Koch brothers attempting to skirt the requirements of a free market in order to get away with environmental and economic murder? Or are they creatures of the free market, their billions its proximate result?

To speak to the beliefs which men hold within their hearts is neither practicable nor especially useful in considering questions of political economy. Armchair psychology aside, however, it is a great deal easier to judge global corporate capitalism against the standards clearly delineated again and again by real life libertarians such as we have considered here. Those standards as our rubric, it is clear beyond dispute that in fact global corporate capitalism is a system instituted by the total state, riddled with anticompetitive privileges and profoundly hostile to poor and working people and to the environment. A free market means, among other things, carrying your own costs and thus paying for the destruction you bring to the natural world. Where that kind of free market is in effect, no additional or ancillary regulations are necessary. Where such a system is not actually in effect, no additional or ancillary regulations will be sufficient, and will more likely act as cost barriers to foreclose just the kind of competition we need to rein back the economically powerful. Mainstream liberals ought to reconsider libertarianism in the light of its left-wing roots. They might just be surprised by what they find, walking away disillusioned with politics and the State as the routes to fairness, justice and equality.

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Buy ClubOfINFO on eBay UK

. @eBay_UK. #eBay. #books. #bargains. #fiction. #collections.

ClubOfINFO's fiction publisher, Maquis Books, is now selling a broad selection of popular book titles through the popular online retail website eBay.

You can now find the Maquis Books store under eBay user /maquisbooks. The page there contains everything from collections belonging to the authors whose works are represented at Maquis Books, to a developing inventory of nonfiction and fiction titles at generous prices. While at the moment sales are limited to the UK, effort will soon be invested into considering making the books also available in the US to reach a much wider readership.

Initial emphasis will be placed on finding futurist titles, widely sought works like cult expert Robert Jay Lifton's Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism (1989) - for which we already provide the best available offer - and science fiction titles.

We also recommend you keep a look out for creepy stories and book choices via Maquis Books this Halloween.

In future, the scope of titles and products offered by Maquis Books will extend significantly, covering chick-lit, mystery, romance and children's books. Also, retro video-game titles and other entertainment, particularly from the 1990s, will be considered for listing at the Maquis Books store.

Keep track of everything offered by following Maquis Books at eBay today

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Friday, October 17, 2014

L'Ordre: a Message

. #lordre. @Beliefnet.

I am beginning to re-brand myself as a blogger under the more memorable name L'Ordre, as my work revolves around the L'Ordre blog on Beliefnet and I must take strong steps to boost its influence and popular recognition on the internet.

Already, I have made a post at my primary blog alerting readers to this branding move and explaining everything entailed by it. In addition, you can read my new letter asking for submissions from writers and contact from readers.

As part of this re-branding effort, I have created brand new profile pages using the memorable "lordre" handle at Patreon and About, as well as purchasing the domain name lordre.net to direct people to the main Beliefnet site at the heart of all my blogging.

Everything I have described here is part of an effort to increase the ability of readers to find my primary blog at Beliefnet, as it becomes the center of all my publishing activities and the center of all my efforts to beneficially inform popular political opinions via the internet. 

I have realized that I am now effectively running three online newsletters to influence opinion: ClubOfINFO (you're here), Maquis Books and L'Ordre. I have now chosen to acknowledge this on each site by displaying the brand name of L'Ordre (search #lordre on Twitter), to help readers group all of my work together despite the diversity of channels I may be using.

All readers will still be able to keep track of my activities at the usual locations, and under my traditional byline Harry J. Bentham. The nature and mission of my blogging will not be affected by this re-branding. Keep a lookout for me on the internet as I sign my work as "L'Ordre".

With any luck, this move will make it far easier to share my writing for a much larger global audience under a much more memorable brand name rather than simply "Harry J. Bentham".


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Misplaced Criticism of "Free Trade"

. @KevinCarson1. @JeffMadrick. #imperialism. #neoliberalism. #noTTIP.

If you accept your enemy’s conceptual categories, you’re apt to wind up with a badly framed debate in which both sides are unsatisfactory. Jeff Madrick’s article “Our Misplaced Faith in Free Trade” (New York Times, October 3) clearly demonstrates this. The corporate state and its stooges in both major political parties and the commentariat are heavily invested in passing off neoliberal globalization as “free trade.” Their interest in doing so is understandable. The global corporate economy is a system of power resulting from massive government intervention in the market, and involves the use of force to promote some interests at the expense of others. It’s entirely in the interest of the beneficiaries of this system of power to use language like “free trade” to conceal its origins in force, and grant it ideological legitimacy by passing it off as “free trade.” But by taking their enemies’ terminology at face value, opponents of corporate globalization enter combat with one hand already tied behind their backs.
In the opening paragraphs of his commentary, Madrick identifies “free trade” with “more trade,” international “free trade agreements” and “globalization,” attributing the negative effects of these things to “free trade.” In fact free trade is none of these things. Corporate globalization and so-called “free trade” deals actually involve gross violations of the genuine principles of free trade.

The centerpiece of the neoliberal agenda is not “free trade” — that is, voluntary exchange of goods and services in which all parties operate on their own nickel and nobody has access to coercive power to set the rules in their favor — but the age-old ruling class agenda of “privatization” (enclosure) of the commons as a source of rents. The increased volume of international trade under the neoliberal policy regime results from direct state subsidies to long-distance trade and state intervention to reduce the transaction costs of trade — in both cases socializing the operating costs of transnational corporations.

To the extent that peasants were evicted and transformed into wage laborers working land that was previously there, or western capitalists and white settlers seized mineral resources in the global south over the past few centuries of imperialism and neo-colonialism, neoliberal “protection of private property rights” actually amounts to guaranteeing the thieves continued control of their stolen loot. Globalization guarantees the ill-gotten gains of those who engage in cash crop production on Latin American haciendas and other large-scale capitalist farming operations around the world, and those who extract the mineral wealth of Africa and the oil of Nigeria and Indonesia.

The “intellectual property” regime enforced under assorted “free trade” agreements enables western-owned companies to outsource actual production of goods to Third World countries while maintaining a legal monopoly over disposal of the product. Likewise, “intellectual property” in software, entertainment and biotech enables corporations to make profits not from actually producing anything, but from controlling the circumstances under which others are allowed to produce.

The majority of global “trade” is not, as the term suggests to most people, the free exchange of goods between actual producers. It involves the importation of goods produced under contract to be sold with the Nike or Apple logo, or the movement of raw materials and unfinished goods between local subsidiaries of transnational corporations. It’s about as entitled to the “free trade” label as the movement of materials between state factories in the Soviet planned economy.

By accepting the term “free trade” at face value, Madrick allows protectionist, mercantilist global corporations to appropriate the positive aura attached to genuine free trade, and principled advocates like Richard Cobden. In so doing, he winds up with the unnecessary hurdle of opposing “free trade,” when he could instead be — much more effectively — attacking transnational corporations as beneficiaries of corporate welfare and protectionism.

The global corporations that talk the most about “free trade” are basically arms of the state. Genuine free trade would destroy them. It’s time to call things by their correct names.

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