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New Libertarians: New Promoters of a Welfare State

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It bears pointing out that corporate welfare, in the form of direct subsidies to corporations, is not the main form of crony capitalism.  Most crony capitalism takes the form of more subtle influence of government regulation, in an attempt to put one's competitors at a disadvantage.

 

Take the Dodd-Frank legislation as an example.  The idea that a new massive government regulation, over 2000 pages in length, is actually going to help the "Too Big to Fail" problem by making companies smaller is laughable.  Regardless of what the regulations say, the fact that there are 2000 pages of them with no legal precedent on how any of it will be interpreted by the executive branch or by the courts, makes it nearly impossible for small financial firms to comply with them.  This gives large firms, with the resources to fund huge legal departments whose sole purpose is understanding and complying with the regulations, an advantage no matter what the content of the regulations are.  This simple fact obviously doesn't escape the huge financial firms, and in fact much of the content of this bill was likely lobbied for by these very firms.  The same is undoubtedly true of environmental regulation and every other form of government influence.  

 

This regulatory capture is the main negative impact of crony capitalism, far more important than direct government subsidies.  Subsidies themselves are easy to count and easy for voters to understand, and are therefore easy targets for political opponents (observe the numerous uses of Solyndra as a cudgel on the Obama administration during the last election).  The effects of influence on government regulation is much harder to quantify and therefore much more useful for corporations looking to benefit using the government.  This type of influence constantly pervades every single proposed bill in any government, whether national, state or local.  Crony capitalism of this type is a huge, huge problem.

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Point taken, Dante, thanks.

 

The primary controversy of this thread is whether or not Libertarian leadership can provide an alternative to Republicans and/or Democrats, given that the primary problem is political economics as a national policy. If one were to make a thorough study, I have little doubt the results would reveal culpability for the current welfare-state on both major parties. I have no sympathies for anyone who wishes to hold public office, but obviously someone has to do it. Gary Johnson was governor of New Mexico. His record was acceptable, as far as I know. (I have never been to New Mexico.) What are the qualifications to hold public office? From what I've seen of the highest offices, it's all a matter of keeping relatively scandal-free, marketing, how much money you have to run your marketing campaign, and how much of a miserable record the incumbent/opponent holds.

The point I'd like to belabor is that the vast majority of Americans view political power as an "us or them" state of affairs. To some degree, this will always be true. But we the people do empower these so-called servants of the people. Some would argue that the Republicans are our best hope for positive change. This may have been the case many years ago, but need I remind some of you who believe this that Ayn Rand herself dismissed Ronald Reagan as a statist as he inched closer to the White House? If it's all about "winning," or all about "takin' care of business," we will continue the present course: spiraling deficits and an expanding welfare-state. Are the Libertarians a viable alternative? I'm not certain. I am not a determinist, but only time will tell. Libertarians, Democrats, and Republicans are merely collectives, political parties with the potential to wield great power, or redirect our trajectory toward a command economy. Political parties can change, but I expect the Republicans and the Democrats will not change for the benefit of anyone but themselves and their special friends. The United States lacks an ideology suitable for its potential for greatness. Objectivism provides the philosophical explanation of the proper and necessary role of government. I've abandoned supporting any political party; I'm arguing for Objectivism.

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Let me see if I have this straight: our elected officials are serving us best by "being in office, to ensure one or the other party is the problem." And then, "they are the solution and that works because the majority of the voting public decide on that premise." Based on what evidence do you contend that "that works"? What is it that works? Government? 

To be certain, politicians will not change our national cultural or philosophical norms. And if Libertarian leaders cannot stay true to a laissez-faire capitalist agenda, there is no reason to openly support them. I would defend their attempts to direct the national discourse toward a more capitalist system. But how can you defend the Republican or Democrats? Merely because they have "figured out the best way at being in office"?

My point is that I think the entrenched two party system serves career politicians well. Libertarian candidates as a whole may be more ideologically motivated, but I do not share their 'ideology'. I agree with certain ideas that 'they ' seem to hold, but I do not think there is an integrated philosophy behind the various ideas touted as 'libertarian'.

Edited by tadmjones
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It bears pointing out that corporate welfare, in the form of direct subsidies to corporations, is not the main form of crony capitalism.

... ...

All true.

 

In some businesses it is impossible to quantify how much the government hurts or helps because the nature of the business would be so different without decades of government regulation. Banking is clearly one such case. The large banks base their model on the FDIC, the Fed's rules for safety/reserves, and on fiat money. "Regulated monopolies" like utilities and cable are another set where the structure might have been radically different. 

 

Nevertheless, I don't like the term "crony capitalism". It is too easy to view "regulatory capture" as analogous to someone bribing or otherwise corrupting a legitimate police force. The term can imply that we have Capitalism, and its legitimate mechanisms have been captured by cronyism. This gives primacy to cronyism as the evil force.

 

Technically, what we have is Fascism. Bother Mr. Hitler: he has given that term all sorts of negative and racist connotations that were not always part of the concept. Still, the primary impetus is a collectivist/statist notion that businesses must serve the greater good of the population. Starting from this root (not from a Capitalist principle)  we set up legislators and regulators as decision-makers about the public good.  And, from this, we then get regulatory capture.

 

Even when the ball has rolled for decades, the primary ideological driver remains unchanged:  what's best for the common good? When the government stops Citibank and Goldman from going under, the primary reason is that they see the knock on effects to the broad economy -- to regular voters.

 

That is not to say that there are no Orren Boyle's out there, but most businesses simply take the world as they find it, and are mostly playing defense. I doubt that the people running Goldman would be paupers or thieves in a free-economy. But, even they are that useless type of parasite, they are the end of a chain that began with subduing J.P.Morgan, and with founding the Fed. They are the result of fascism, not cronyism.

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It bears pointing out that corporate welfare, in the form of direct subsidies to corporations, is not the main form of crony capitalism.

Of course. But the focus of this thread is Libertarians, not the state of the US economy.

When they say things like, and I'm going to now go back a page and get and exact quote:

It is better to abandon corporate welfare before abandoning social welfare. Both are evil. But the greater evil is transferring huge amounts of tax moneys to "losing" corporations at the expense of successful corporations and people.

that is a falsehood. Not an innocent error, either, but an obvious, ideological bias driven falsehood. There are no huge amounts of tax money being transferred. There is less than 1% of total spending, given to farms and a few green companies. It's not representative of the average American corporation's relationship with the government. The big, recognizable corporations this statement aims to incriminate are in reality NOT recipients of taxpayer money, they are taxpayers themselves.

And it's not just Repairman who's saying it, it's a lot of populist Libertarians. Whenever a Libertarian is looking for an applause break without having to actually work for it (by challenging the fundamental assumptions of the dominant collectivist culture, and struggling through the inevitable opposition that will stir among their audience), this is their goto bromide. It's an injustice, just as evil as the premise of Marxism (in fact that's the premise they agree with, to establish the common ground with voters that they're looking for), and the people who are saying it should not be considered positive elements in American politics. All they're doing is helping further that evil premise.

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It seems you'd be just as content to have a state-dominated corporations, rather than openly competitive companies.

 

 There are no huge amounts of tax money being transferred. There is less than 1% of total spending, given to farms and a few green companies. It's not representative of the average American corporation's relationship with the government. The big, recognizable corporations this statement aims to incriminate are in reality NOT recipients of taxpayer money, they are taxpayers themselves.
 

You have no idea what my statement aimed to incriminate. As other contributors have pointed out, there is more to the forcible transference of wealth than mere subsidies. There are special deals, which article after article could be pulled down from the Wall Street Journal, not the Huffington Post, supporting the complicity of federal government officials of both Republican and Democrat persuasion, channelling billions of dollars to selected insiders. These are not merely the rantings of frustrated taxpayers, of which I am one. These articles are written by the people actually involved.

So now tell me, Nicky, are the Libertarians really responsible for the alleged federal take over by Marxists, or are you barking mad?

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channelling billions of dollars to selected insiders

The phrase "billions of dollars" can mean anything from 0.03% of US taxes to 100%, making the issue either insignificant or very important.

Yes, getting more and more inexact will keep me from proving you wrong with basic facts. But it will also keep anyone with half a brain from taking you seriously.

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I as an Objectivist, can denounce the cronyism of certain businessmen in corporate America without worrying about supporting the lefties anti-capitalism position, because the best thing I can do for capitalism is to show that cronyism is not, & doesn't have to be, part of capitalism.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Surprising there weren't really any comments on the article in the OP. Well anyway, I think McCaskey misses the mark somewhat. He states that left libertarians, whom he calls "new libertarians," reject the non aggression principle and favor a pragmatic approach to liberty based on social justice. Well, sure, maybe some people do that, I mean, he cites the Cato Institute, not exactly the most strident libertarian organization there. But a blend of libertarianism with leftist views are not exactly "new," (is Prof McCaskey unaware of the classical liberals, or the 19th century American individualist tradition?) And of course, there are plenty of left libertarians that accept the principles of social justice and mutual aid (what you might call "welfare") but do not compromise or whatever still hold to a rigorous interpretation of the non aggression principle. In fact many of the writers on the very blogs he mentions do exactly that. Or what about the leftist strains of Ayn Rand, that support leftist values like individualism, feminism, antiracism, worker solidarity, opposition to economic privilege, opposition to religious authority, pro-choice, etc.? Does this make Ayn Rand a compromising "new libertarian"?

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But a blend of libertarianism with leftist views are not exactly "new," (is Prof McCaskey unaware of the classical liberals, or the 19th century American individualist tradition?)

I was surprised to read what he said about CATO. Yes, from classical liberal to Milton Friedman, there are many who are quite willing to have the government give people welfare. I've never thought of these folk as libertarian. If they're libertarian, I don't see what is common among the various strains of libertarians -- the concept seems meaningless.

I can see how people might pull anarchists and Objectivists into a wider concept. I can also see how some libertarian intellectuals might advocate some welfare measures as not ideal but better than what we have. However, welfare -- as opposed to charity -- is the use of force. So, I was surprised that someone claiming to be libertarian would advocate it as a good, rather than as a temporary compromise.

Perhaps it is just that I don't follow any output from think tanks of any kind. So, fair enough if McCaskey was pointing out something about CATO that was obvious to you. it was a surprise to me.

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Cato has had quite a reputation for a while for having many fellows that advocate for various interventions, thus earning them the nickname "beltarians" (for being "inside the beltway" willing to wheel and deal and compromise, etc.) To the extent that they advocate initiation of coercion, they aren't libertarian, I mean that pretty much is tautological. But McCaskey's point is that there is some kind of "new libertarian" that draws inspiration from leftist concerns about social justice, and that they all are apparently compromisers, but this just isn't true.

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Coincidently, Lew Rockwell has just (Monday, 5 May) published an article on these "new" libertarians.  In my own opinion they are just collectivists stealing a popular term and pasting it on their collectivism the way they did with the term "liberal". 

 

People who find endless excuses to violate the NAP need to steadily erode the language.  I have read a quote attributed to Lenin, "First, destroy the vocabulary".  I keep Orwell high on my list of great thinkers.

 

Lew's article:

 

http://mises.org/daily/6740/The-Future-of-Libertarianism

Edited by howardofski
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Tad: Conservative thinkers tend to emphasize tradition, conforming to cultural norms, bourgeois morality, and social hierarchy. Liberal thinkers tend to emphasize diversity and independence. Of course there is plenty of crossover, Rand has both left and right strains in her writings.

 

Howard: When Lew is on, I find him to be a very concise and clear writer. Unfortunately, this is not one of those times. I side with Sheldon Richman's point of view in that debate.

 

Libertarianism is about more than rejecting aggression is his response to Rockwell and Block. I don't recognize what you are saying about eroding language and finding excuses to violate NAP, since Richman doesn't favor violating NAP.

 

http://reason.com/archives/2014/05/04/libertarianism-is-still-about-more-than

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2046 said #43

Tad: Conservative thinkers tend to emphasize tradition, conforming to cultural norms, bourgeois morality, and social hierarchy. Liberal thinkers tend to emphasize diversity and independence. Of course there is plenty of crossover, Rand has both left and right strains in her writings.

 

 

 

Ok, thanks for the clarification. I was confused because I use the terms right and left when describing a political spectrum to mean individualism on the 'right' and collectivism on the 'left'.

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2046,

The linguistic erosion I refer to is the word Libertarianism itself, though I see that Sheldon also wants to rename NAP to NAO.

I believe this is the essence of Sheldon Richman's position:

"...the most robust case for the libertarian philosophy entails commitments not only to the Nonaggression Principle—or what I now call the Nonaggression Obligation—but also to other values that don't directly relate to aggression (for example, opposition to even non-rights-violating forms of racism)."

Neither of these linguistic shifts is justified, in my opinion.

1) He seems to be saying that the arguments in favor of the libertarian philosophy will become more "robust" if other issues are packaged along with it. Does more robust mean more true or does it mean more persuasive to more people? It's hard to say what he intends, but adding non-political specifications to the definition of the political philosophy of libertarianism, while advertised by some as a way to enlarge the tent and allow more people in, is instead a way to further limit the potential universality of the message - it shrinks the tent. The longer the list of requirements to be considerd a Libertarian, the shorter the list of individuals that can qualify.

I can think of no example where my racial views have or should have anything to do with whether I am a libertarian or not - UNLESS someone wants to redefine the word to mean what it has not meant. In which case, it will be necessary to find a new political term for those who are committed to the NAP and politically disinterested in any other issues (which describes me).

But why should we all have to change our common word usage? If Sheldon wants a new political philosophy, why not name it Richmanism or something? Why begin redefining well-known terms unless you're trying to use the good old word as a cover for a bad new idea?

2) The NAP is not an "obligation" if we look at the roots of that word. When we make a rule that we are to avoid doing something to others, we are not claiming to "owe" them anything. Like all good law, the NAP is a prohibition, not a mandate (claiming to have an obligation to not do something is oxymoronic). Linguistically "obligation" is a mandate.

This plays into Sheldon's plan to inject into the prohibitive philosophy of Libertarianism, some mandatory (owed) opinions about others. We are not only to leave others in peace, but we are now to hold certain happy opinions about them, the argument being (I guess) that unless we hold the right opinions, we may wander from our commitment to the NAP.

On the contrary, I think that adding prohibited thought crimes to the definition of Libertarianism will itself lead to excuses to violate the NAP in the name of enforcing respect for others. Opinions have no place as subjects of law. Law should be only prohibitive rules, not a laundry list of socially friendly opinions.

Edited by howardofski
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