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My Comments on Roderick Blog’s Post about the Alliance of the Libertarian Left

From this post:

Roderick’s avatarRoderick on July 13, 2009 at 6:53 pm

However, there is an extent to which I think that the social anarchists have a legitimate complaint about anarcho-capitalism in terms of historicity

Well, there were forerunners of anarcho-capitalism around in the 19th century (people like Molinari and Donisthorpe, for example — who also influenced Rothbard, incidentally), and Tucker was willing to call them anarchists; so I don’t think it’s quite true that it just pops up out of nowhere in the 1960s. And even if it had — I’m not sure that historical connection to paradigm cases is essential to defining something as anarchism. Certainly most anarchists are happy enough to identify someone like Bao Jingyan as an anarchist despite an ever greater lack of historical connection.

And when I see Kinsella conflating the libertarian left (and all libertarian socialists) with Marxists

Well, when Kinsella does that it’s a little different from when, say, Reisman does it. Kinsella has an in-your-face rhetorical style that tends to exaggerate or overstate what he actually believes. Or so I conclude after a decade or so of arguing with him. When you call him on the more extreme claims he usually backs down (at least if you call him on them in a friendly way; if you call him on them in an unfriendly way he morphs into the Joker and starts throwing his feces).

C’mon, Stephan, if you’re reading this — you can’t deny it. :-)

Stephan Kinsella’s avatarStephan Kinsella on July 13, 2009 at 11:09 pm

You rattled my cage, Sir Roderick?

I am not sure what the question is. You’re not completely right, or wrong. I poke fun; I use colorful examples; I mock things I think mockworthy; and when I detect ambiguity or confusion in a position caused by the person expounding it (and often used disingenuously by them), I sometimes select an interpretation of their cloudy views that he may or may not agree with–how would we know, if they are so murky and conflicted–to challenge them to clarify, deny, expound, etc. It’s a sort of Socratic way of getting people to reveal views that are for some reason kept hidden or unclear.

In addition, sometimes when one makes a narrow point, as I often do, people leap to all sorts of assumptions, because they have difficulty with reading comprehension, or because they are reverse racists or cosmotards.

I have trouble taking the left-libertarian program seriously; it is only because of the very few of them, like you, Roderick, who are serious, formidable, sound thinkers, and not dated caricatures, that I sometimes think it may be worthwhile to try to find common ground, correct misimpressions, etc.

Stephan Kinsella’s avatar

Stephan Kinsella on July 13, 2009 at 11:33 pm

BTW I don’t “conflate” Marxists with left-libertarians; if anything they do this themselves by trying to use the word, um, socialist to refer to libertarianism.

In my own view this whole debate is almost as confused as the one that plagues mainstream thinking about the left-right axis. I have always found that useless and engendering confusion; and I think a similar thing is at work in those who want to insist on the usefulness of the left-right libertarian “axis”; and this is exacerbated or linked in with the confusion surrounding the semantically confused and non-rigorous “thick” arguments, IMHO.

But in my mind, the so-called “left” libertarians, such as Roderick, are just libertarians, and damn good solid ones, with a few different interests, research programs, insights, or emphasis. (And as far as this goes I myself might not inaccurately be called a “left” libertarian by some; if this had much utility.) And then you have others such as mutualist etc., who deviate so much from standard libertarian views that I think it is in many cases doubtful whether the libertarian label should be applied. And it is some of these who do explicitly praise Marx and whose thought is, excuse me, riddled with all sort of leftist-Marxian economic nonsense. One of them told me Mises and Marx are about on an equal plane for him; each had his own weaknesses and insights to draw from. I have not been persuaded that it is bad form to recognize connections to Marxian thought.

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  • Richard Garner July 15, 2009, 12:50 pm

    Personally I think there is very little left in Marx to make him worth spending any time on. It always annoys me that when shown that his account of exploitation fails people assume that you have just said that no workers are exploited by their employers, as though Marx’s was the only theory of exploitation out there, so that if you show it doesn’t stand up you have to conclude that nobody is exploited. I think that taking Rothbard’s conclusion that monopoly and monopsony are impossible in a free market, coupled with an observation that workers can only be exploited where competition for their labour is impossible, and consumers can only be exploited where competition for their business is impossible, coupled with Rothbard’s conclusion that just about every form of regulation of the economy bestows monopolistic privileges, coupled with the observation that our economies are heavily regulated, leads to a conclusion that some workers and consumers probably are exploited, and possibly many of them.

    One problem is, though, that many people like to define socialism by its desired conseqences. So they will tell you that the USSR wasn’t “real” socialism because workers were still exploited and lived in poverty. Conversely, the above conclusions, when added to the belief socialists desire an end to exploitation, would imply that repealing all forms of regulation and having completely free markets would be socialism because it does what socialists want.

    Personally, I would define socialism as some form of joint or collective ownership of resources, with some form of unrestricted access to them, a “to each according to “need,” situation. This is perfectly compatible with libertarianism just so long as people use their own person and property, and that of consenting others, to establish and maintain it. That would be libertarian socialism.

  • TGGP July 16, 2009, 11:39 pm

    Didn’t socialism predate Marx? I thought he went to a lot of effort to distinguish himself from previous, “utopian” socialists. The left-libertarians tend to take after Proudhon and/or Bakunin, who were considered socialists but not Marxists. I don’t see anything of merit in socialism myself, but that doesn’t make it Marxism.

  • Richard Garner July 17, 2009, 7:41 am

    The left libertarians that Stephan is discussing do not take after Proudhon and Bakunin. Anarcho-socialists do, but the Alliance of the Libertarian Left grew out of a fracturing of the Movement of the Libertarian Left after J. Neil Schulman inherited their yahoo list after Samual Edward Konkin died. Konkin was a Rothbardian who developed his libertarianism under Rothbard’s influence in the days where the libertarian movement was reaching out to the New Left in the early 70s, and people talked about ruling classes that definitely included big business, and revolutionary struggle, etc. The “mainstreaming” of libertarianism in the late 70s and 80s, with the development of think tanks like Cato and the LP was thought to be a regression, a co-option of libertarianism by the ruling class to water it down.

    These days renewed interest in Individualist Anarchism, like Benjamin Tucker, has lead people sympathetic to those views, like Kevin Carson, to blend with the Left Libertarians.

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