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Chomsky on American "libertarianism"

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by glynch, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. glynch

    glynch Contributing Member

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    This is the begining of an interesting discusssion of American "libertariansm" which desires in a real world context complete subjugation of individuals to corporations and economic markets. I will be looking to see if I can find a longer discussion of US libertarians by Chomsky.

    MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2008

    Chomsky on libertarianism and Murray Rothbard

    ____________________________

    Man: What's the difference between "libertarian" and "anarchist," exactly?

    Chomsky: There's no difference, really. I think they're the same thing. But you see, "libertarian" has a special meaning in the United States. The United States is off the spectrum of the main tradition in this respect: what's called "libertarianism" here is unbridled capitalism. Now, that's always been opposed in the European libertarian tradition, where every anarchist has been a socialist—because the point is, if you have unbridled capitalism, you have all kinds of authority: you have extreme authority.

    If capital is privately controlled, then people are going to have to rent themselves in order to survive. Now, you can say, "they rent themselves freely, it's a free contract"—but that's a joke. If your choice is, "do what I tell you or starve," that's not a choice—it's in fact what was commonly referred to as wage slavery in more civilized times, like the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for example.

    The American version of "libertarianism" is an aberration, though—nobody really takes it seriously. I mean, everybody knows that a society that worked by American libertarian principles would self-destruct in three seconds. The only reason people pretend to take it seriously is because you can use it as a weapon. Like, when somebody comes out in favor of a tax, you can say: "No, I'm a libertarian, I'm against that tax"—but of course, I'm still in favor of the government building roads, and having schools, and killing Libyans, and all that sort of stuff.

    Now, there are consistent libertarians, people like Murray Rothbard—and if you just read the world that they describe, it's a world so full of hate that no human being would want to live in it. This is a world where you don't have roads because you don't see any reason why you should cooperate in building a road that you're not going to use: if you want a road, you get together with a bunch of other people who are going to use that road and you build it, then you charge people to ride on it. If you don't like the pollution from somebody's automobile, you take them to court and you litigate it. Who would want to live in a world like that? It's a world built on hatred.19

    The whole thing's not even worth talking about, though. First of all, it couldn't function for a second—and if it could, all you'd want to do is get out, or commit suicide or something. But this is a special American aberration, it's not really serious.
     
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  2. aeolus13

    aeolus13 Contributing Member

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    Why does Noam Chomsky hate freedom?
     
  3. larsv8

    larsv8 Contributing Member

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    Freedom is terrifying and I am sure most of you agree, whether you know you do or you don't.

    Truth be told, we are all free. I am certain, most members on this board have the personal means to board a ship/plane and go somewhere in Africa where no laws exists and you are 100% free to do whatever you desire. That is freedom and no one is keeping you from that. None of us do that because we choose to not be free.

    Reality is, we choose to live in a society that is not free, but is, however, "free" from extreme forms of oppression. Are there privacy freedoms we sacrifice for security, yes. Are there monetary freedoms we sacrifice for public good (infrastructure/defense), yes. This was never a "are we free or aren't we", it is "where is the line for what is an acceptable amount of infringement of freedom" to live in this society.

    It is what it is. The word "Freedom" has gotten the stigma of purity and greatness, to be achieved at all costs, but it is fiction. It's like the words "Capitalism" and "Free Market" which are held in high regard, while completely ignoring that free markets obliterate companies/workers/lives with no remorse and the constant need for socialism to bail out it's failures.
     
    #3 larsv8, Jan 11, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2014
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  4. Rashmon

    Rashmon Contributing Member

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    I've posted similar real-world implications of libertarian thought and found that many believers here have not really thought through the true ramifications.

    They're enamored by the social "freedoms" while ignorant of the reality of unfettered capitalism leading to corporate fascism.

    Thanks for posting glynch.
     
  5. Kojirou

    Kojirou Member

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    "Corporate fascism" is an oxymoron.
     
  6. da_juice

    da_juice Member

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    My biggest problem with liberaltarianism is some of their understanding of basic microeconomics.

    Taxes, subsidies, sure those things **** up the free market. BUT, you know what else ****s up the free market?

    Oligopolies, monopolies etc. To ensure the viability of the free market, you need not only to keep the state in check, but also have the state keep firms in check.

    To quote Adam Smith:
    Basically, you need to have regulation and prevent firms from colluding, or else everyone gets screwed over, or you don't have a free market.
     
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  7. Mathloom

    Mathloom Consumption is a waste of time.
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    No such place exists, nor has ever existed as far as our records show.

    Go to that place you're talking about and talk some trash publicly about the leadership and we'll see how much freedom you have.

    I agree, though, that no person seeks absolute freedom because, for example, no one wants murders to be free. There are certain things which 99.9% of humans believe requires restrain and restriction, and those things are not included in the discussion of freedom because they impede the freedom of others.
     
  8. DwightHoward13

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    Monopolies exist everywhere, with or without regulation. Cell phones, game consoles, Internet service providers, software providers, search engines, economies of scale companies (Walmart, Target, Kroger, etc.). You are missing Adam Smith's point. Adam Smith states that an "Invisible Hand" self-regulates the free market, maximizing the total surplus of the market. Monopoly, purely and simply as monopoly, is neither a bad nor a good thing. If someone's the lowest cost producer and can supply total demand then why the heck not leave it as a monopoly? The difficulty comes if someone attempts to exercise those monopoly powers, to gouge consumers in some manner. And for many to most monopolies the exercise of such power leads to competition and the breaking of that monopoly power. In other words, if a firm tries to exploit the company, a new company will enter to challenge that firm. That is just one example among many where a monopoly attempts to overstep its bounds and the market responds.
     
  9. YallMean

    YallMean Member

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    I suppose freedom of market is a good thing, but unchecked capitalism is a bad thing. The tricky part is to find the right balance.
     
  10. YallMean

    YallMean Member

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    Interesting, how so?
     
  11. YallMean

    YallMean Member

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    There is no absolute freedom in the social structure of humans. He is just stating what it is. Maybe someone with sociology background can say this better than me.
    I also believe in distributive justice. Humans are not born equal with various levels of talents, access to opportunities, so on and so forth. Humans are greedy. A completely free world would be chaos. You need governments to make sure that certain things are more or less fair. We are more comfortable that way.
     
  12. JeffB

    JeffB Contributing Member
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    Smith did indeed see monopoly as a bad thing. He saw it as a means of distorting the benefits of the market. He criticized the power of monopoly in the same vain as he criticized the mercantile operations of government over colonies, which he saw as granting "useless" or "harmful" trade monopolies (Won, IV.II). Smith was particular concerned about these "combinations", as he referred to monopolies, with respect to their effect on the labor market (WoN, I.8.12
    ).

    A main concern with monopoly is that without the state restricting the power of monopoly, a strong monopoly can eliminate competition as that competition enters the market place. We haven't had an American libertarian utopia because we have a strong federal state. Unbounded monopolies have not been indefinitely allowed to gouge customers and crush competition at will. That is what Chomsky is pointing out. The libertarian utopia has never existed; the state has generally, at some point, stepped in to check monopoly power. Smith criticized the over-concentration of power over the market in both government and private hands.

    We have to remember that this is the same theorist who wrote Theory of Moral Sentiments, which is the first text in which "invisible hand" appears. In that case, he was discussing empathy, sympathy, and why he thought rich people appeared to naturally curb their own avarice.
    It can be argued, that Smith assumes a certain morality in the market he describes in Wealth of Nations. In fact, this is an argument economists, historians, and various academics are having in an attempt to study Smith apart from the political ends for which his words have been appropriated. In WoN, Smith rarely engages the idea that employers would play workers less than a living wage, presumably because of ideas he outlined in ToMS. This was an opening Ricardo used to critique Smith on wage fluctuations and the "natural price" of labor.

    Smith actually engages in a long discussion on the duties of state and where the state can intervene in the market with regulation, intervention, and taxation. Amongst those things were public schools and infrastructure ("public works" among other discussions in WoN, V).
     
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  13. Commodore

    Commodore Contributing Member

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    Libertarianism is essentially the belief that individuals should be free to do whatever they want, short of violence/theft/fraud toward other persons/property. Government uses force (or threat of force) to ensure the former and prohibit the latter.

    Freedom isn't chaos, quite the opposite. It allows for humans to cooperate and organize themselves organically and voluntarily to achieve a greater good.

    <iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/IYO3tOqDISE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
     
    #13 Commodore, Jan 12, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  14. YallMean

    YallMean Member

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    Unbounded freedom is chaos. Without government regulations, rules, checks, human greed would just run wild. To some that may be a good thing, but to most of us we don't like to live in that world.
    OOTO, there has to be some freedom. Stifled freedom like Marx, Lenin or Mao had seen means stifled motivation to create. Again, the tricky party is to find the right balance.
     
  15. larsv8

    larsv8 Contributing Member

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    Sure it does. Western Sahara and parts of Antarctica. Enjoy your freedom!

    And FYI - Just because someone else used their freedom to seize power and terrorize others doesn't mean you aren't free to do what you want there.
     
  16. glynch

    glynch Contributing Member

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    Largely agree. God knows what American "libertarians" support in actual real world policy when they venture outside philosophical musings is not the right balance and leads to a great lack of freedom for the 99%.

    As Chomsky essentially says much of their talk of 'liberty' and"freedom" is just spinning words that focus poll well to advance the wealthy/corporate elite by reducing their taxes and increasing their take of societie's resources. This is why what would otherwise a largely discredited political philosophy theory has such currency.

    I see the market as an organizational technique that should be subordinate to human needs and is sometimes useful and sometimes not. Though not really a Catholic, I believe this is what Pope Francis is saying that has upset conservatives/"libertarians".
     
    #16 glynch, Jan 12, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
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  17. durvasa

    durvasa Contributing Member
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    In principle it sounds great.

    But supposing there is something that should be treated as a shared resource, and it is claimed as "property" by an individual or small group of individuals. Is that not a kind of theft/fraud against the whole?
     
  18. Commodore

    Commodore Contributing Member

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    It's important that property rights are well defined wherever possible. Shared resources create strife when the sharers disagree on how they should be used. In these circumstances, greater numbers win out for control and the minority has to submit.

    In the case of things like air and (often) water, it can be impossible to define property ownership, and we just have to go with majority control via our elected representatives (or really, the unelected ministers at the EPA).
     
  19. glynch

    glynch Contributing Member

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    You don't have the "right" to not have a minimum wage i.e, give workers the ultimatum: work or have miserable existence enough to be able to return to work for me tomorrow or die.

    You don't have the "right" to be a billionaire while others starve.

    Calling such subjugation over others "right" or pretending it is some sort of property right equivalent to owning say your clothes is bs.
     
  20. Commodore

    Commodore Contributing Member

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    You're conflating rights with entitlements.

    A right does not confer a burden on someone else, an entitlement does.

    In a free society, wealth transfer only occurs when value is provided. If I am greedy and want to be a billionaire, I need to provide a billion dollars worth of value to others. There's no other way of obtaining their wealth. How does Mark Zuckerberg earning billions harm you?

    There is a social compact in a free society that in order to obtain wealth, one must provide value to others. When wealth is transferred without value provided, it breeds resentment and incentivizes others to take this path. And the social compact quickly begins to break down.
     

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