Sunday, August 21, 2005

Some random thoughts on statist vs. free markets

The following entry is simply about me throwing a few things out there for people to ingest, particularly those who are interested in figuring out what the "libertarian left" represents as opposed to more mainstream libertarians, as well as those who have been suspicious of free market libertarians due to the common perception that ther terms free markets and capitalism are synonymous. Nothing too deep here, just random stuff that I felt like using here that I've sort of thrown together.

What first got my attention was a comment left at this Mises Blog post written by Fred Foldvary. Here's what he wrote:
"Capitalism" is a Marxist propaganda deliberately used by anti-market advocates to confuse the statist status quo with true free markets. The greatest triumph of Marxists was to get pro-market advocates to use the term. It implies to the world that a free market benefits the owners of capital rather than also workers, consumers, and everyone else.

I've been aware for some time now that the term capitalism comes from the Marxist left. This is one of the many reasons why the term does not apply to a free market libertarian such as myself. What further led me to chime in on the subject was a series of posts that I was reminded of while reading Sunni Maravillosa's interesting interview with Chris Sciabarra. Early in the interview, he mentions a couple of blog posts that he wrote earlier in the year called "Capitalism": The Known Reality and "Capitalism" And Other Isms, where he discusses the problems associated with libetarians who promote capitalism without regard for certain historical and cultural realities (the former post is also the only place in the blogosphere where you'll ever encounter my first and last names - freeman is my middle name). While some of these libertarians may often harbor some rather vulgar ideas, others make a more conscious effort to distinguish what they call economic capitalism from state or political capitalism.

That definition of political capitalism that I just linked to desribes the system that is associated with capitalism in general, like it or not. That is why Foldvary seemingly objects to using the term, and I certainly sympathize. I am opposed to such a system just as much as anyone on the left, and I'd like to distance myself and my promotion of free markets from such a system as much as possible. Part of what led me to embrace libertarianism and genuine free enterprise was coming to the realization that big business and big government are essentially fraternal twins joined at the hip through the unnatural force of coerced privledge (fraternal conjoined twins are not natural). Big Business made our current big government statism possible and couldn't exist without it. This unnatural beast really began coming to life during the days of Lincoln, a man whose deeds were mostly done in service of moneyed interests, thus setting a bad precedent for so many future administrations, especially the current Bush administration.

The people whose blogs are aligning to form the Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left not only realize such things, but also have different ideas about what free enterprise represents. Grant Gould is not one of these people, although I've also recently remembered a statement he made awhile back in a comment he made following a cross-posted version of one of Sciabarra's posts. At the end of the comment, he wrote:
I favor liberty and free markets, and their child prosperity. I oppose capitalism and socialism, and their bizarre hybrid, fascism.
What I like about this statement is that it separates those two isms from both liberty and free markets due to the fact that most peoples' knowledge of both systems involves the statist versions of them. But that doesn't mean that neither capitalistic nor socialistic institutions would not exist in a free market. In fact, both types of institutions would likely exist. One of the ways in which agorists distinguish themselves from free market capitalists is as follows (from bk Marcus):
Where anarcho-capitalists see no distinction between capitalism and the free market, agorists make the following 3-part distinction:

innovator, risk-taker, producer -- the strength of a free market
non-statist capitalist:
holders of capital, not necessarily ideologically aware
"relatively drone-like non-innovators"
pro-statist capitalist:
"the main Evil in the political realm"

Then there are the mutualists who advocate a form of free enterprise that could be labeled as "free market socialism", as opposed to state socialism.

The key to a free market is that people would be free to engage in whatever voluntary associations and transactions that they please, whether it be capitalistic or socialistic or something in between. I find that to be one of the beauties of such an environment, and the fact that a growing number of libertarians are leading the way in showing the different alternatives that could exist in a free market while disassociating themselves from the vulgar and the establishement crowds will only help to make libertarian alternatives to the statist insanity seem more appealing.

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Blogger Wally Conger said...

Terrific post, Freeman. You've done a great job "putting things in order" (if that should be said of an anarchist) re: Left Libertarianism.

12:15 PM  

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