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Interview with Roderick Long

News ArchiveSo what are the dominant strands of left-libertarianism?

Well, there’ve been a lot of different things that have been called that. Some would use the term left-libertarian to mean something equivalent to socialist anarchist. Then there are other people who used the term to mean a certain group of sort of semi-Georgist thinkers who favour some kind of material equality or equality of land or something like that - and those aren’t really the strands that I’m interested in. In the 1970s a guy named Samuel Konkin created something he called the Movement of the Libertarian Left - and though what I’m talking about is broader than that, a lot of what I’m talking about comes out of that movement. Interview with Roderick Long

wrzesień 5th, 2007 — kuskowski

Liberalis
http://liberalis.pl/about/wywiad-rl-eng/

Hello, professor Long. Welcome to Poland. Is this Your first time here?

It Is.

So how’s it been as of yet?

Oh, it’s been great. I’ve been walking around Poland, we went up to the castle today. Yesterday I had my session at the conference. I’ve been just walking around on the streets. It’s really beautiful.

And about the paper. It was on Spooner, right?

Yes, Lysander Spooner, on his theory of natural law and legal interpretation.

You’re known as one of the major exponents of left-libertarianism around the world. So, could You give me a brief description of what left-libertarianism is and how it relates to other tenets of libertarian thought.

Okay, well I guess it represents an integration, or I’d argue, a reintegration of libertarianism with concerns that are traditionally thought of as being concerns of the left. That includes concerns for worker empowerment, worry about plutocracy, concerns about feminism and various kinds of social equality - that kind of thing. And it goes back to - in the nineteenth century, a lot of people like Benjamin Tucker and so on - the individualist anarchists were very much a part of things like the feminist movement, the labour movement, the anti-racist movement - but approached these from a pure free market position and not advocating any kind of State control as a solution - in fact they saw State control as a problem, as something that helped to reinforce these other forms of oppression or was justified by the same kind of (mistakes?) as the other forms of oppression.

So what are the dominant strands of left-libertarianism?

Well, there’ve been a lot of different things that have been called that. Some would use the term left-libertarian to mean something equivalent to socialist anarchist. Then there are other people who used the term to mean a certain group of sort of semi-Georgist thinkers who favour some kind of material equality or equality of land or something like that - and those aren’t really the strands that I’m interested in. In the 1970s a guy named Samuel Konkin created something he called the Movement of the Libertarian Left - and though what I’m talking about is broader than that, a lot of what I’m talking about comes out of that movement. He was someone who was concerned with continuing the Rothbard strategy of alliance with the Left after Rothbard had given up on it. He was also an anti-political thinker - meaning he was against electoral politics - and in favour of a passive revolution from below, that is building alternate institutions and education and so forth - (…) for things that way rather than electoral politics. And although I’m not as severely against electoral politics as he is - You know, I don’t think I’d be destroying my soul by voting, nevertheless I agree that electoral politics is not gonna be the primary strategy - if it turns out to be part of the strategy, fine - but not any more. So that’s one of the strands that goes on. And then there are the mutualists, of whom Kevin Carson is one of the best known exponents today. They’re followers of Benjamin Tucker and they argue that free markets would reduce the interest rate to nearly zero and would replace the present-day capitalist firm structure with workers’ coops and independent contractors They also think that there is no such thing as legitimate absentee ownership of land - you can only own such land as you can personally occupy - and that’s not a view that I share, but certainly I would agree with people like Kevin Carson that the existing distribution of land in society is the result of heavy government intrusion into society on behalf of various kinds of corporate interests and that in a free society things would look pretty different, even though I disagree with them on some of the details.

What would You say is the reception of left-libertarian ideas among people on the left and people in the libertarian movement?

Well, mixed as You’d expect. Both libertarians and leftists - some of them are going to be suspicious of it and regard it as an attempt to merge what they love with what they hate - it’s like, you know, pouring (…) oil all over your ice cream - but on the other hand, we’ve gotten a lot of sympathetic reception too - a lot of leftists have told me that they were always very suspicious of libertarianism until they came across the writings of people like Kevin Carson and Charles Johnson and myself. They came to see that libertarianism didn’t have to be all about looking (out for #1), benefit to the rich and so forth, a certain kind of stereotype they had. And I know some libertarians also, who have moven to the left in this respect. And I was asked to be on the board of the corporate aspect of MDS, which is connected to the old SDS, the old 1960s leftist student movement that Rothbard was allied with for a while. So they were willing to elect me to the board - because I’m not sure how many of them knew about my background; some of them did and the ones I talked to were happy with it - they want to get a broad coalition of people going against imperialism and plutocracy.

You mentioned that mutualists argue that state intervention benefits certain people at the expense of other people and that You agree with that. What do You have in mind exactly?

Well, the way things are set up in terms of– Or let’s just start with the simplest things to begin with. You have things like taxes and regulations and licencing fees and zoning regulations and various things that make it easy– the richer you are, the easier it is for you to start up a business because you can afford the lawyers to pay and the fees to jump through all these hoops and so forth. I mean, for example, there are a lot of places where a licence to operate a taxi cab costs $100′000, which the average poor person doesn’t have lying around. I mean, a taxi service would be an excellent service for someone to start out with if they don’t have a lot of money because it doesn’t require a lot of capital up front. All you need is a car and a cell phone to start off with if you want a small taxi company - things like that. So that’s an example. Then of course there are massive subsidies, ways in which taxes are redistributing resources from the less affluent to the more affluent - though corporate welfare and so forth. You have things like — one thing that Kevin Carson has pointed out is that a lot of things like transportation subsidies and funds for roads and highways help enable big corporations to externalise the costs of transportation - and a lot of the goods that they transport; and also things like eminent domain, where a company starts up and the government just sort of seizes private property and gives it to them on the grounds that having them have the property would be more economically beneficial. So these are just some of the examples of the ways in which they do this.

I happen to know that Kevin Carson also advocates workers’ coops and argues that government intervention in the market causes, sort of, centralisation of capital in a limited number of hands and causes hierarchy in firms and businesses to arise. What could we do to counterbalance this effect?

Well, in a way this goes back to an argument that Rothbard made when Rothbard pointed out an implication of Mises’ calculation argument, which is that given that — it becomes impossible to rationally allocate resources — it becomes increasingly impossible the more insulated you are from the price signals of the market. And so this is true not just for a centralised government, but also, insofar as a firm becomes bigger and more centralised - there’s some benefits obviously to the forming of a firm - the reasons to do it - but there are costs to do it, too. And people talk about economies of scale - which there are - but there are also diseconomies of scale. But as firms get larger, it’s harder and harder for them to know how to allocate their resources within the firm and make decisions about things within the firm because they’re insulated from market signals. But, various ways in which the government helps to subsidise and prop up these big corporations means they’ve been able to externalise a lot of these costs, so they’re able to reap the benefits for themselves of the economies of scale, but he costs involved with the diseconomies of scale they get to stick on to the rest of the world. And so that’s why we get these centralised, hierarchical things which are in many ways bad for the market and bad for the workers in them. So, obviously one thing we need to do is get rid of these government — ways in which government props up this system. And also, encourage workers to organise - it’s an old line, and of course a lot of the ways in which workers have organised themselves have been pushing for various kinds of government favours and so forth which ends up actually making the system worse because the labour unions and so forth just get coopted into the whole system - and so the people who run the labour unions benefit a lot more than the average people do. But, having independent unions on the one hand and scaling back the power of government on the other - that’s the way in which you can really empower workers.

Could You expand on the “independent union” thing? ‘Cause You know - libertarianism and unions - it’s not exactly a very loving relationship and many libertarians are very sceptical of unions, so what would You say to them, basically?

Okay, well for a long time, libertarians and union supporters have been at odds and have seen each other as the Enemy. The unions in the early XXth century made their peace with Big Government and government in effect decided - I know more about the history of this in the US than in other countries but I imagine at lot of this applies to other countries as well - the alliance of Big Government and Big Business in effect decided to buy off the unions rather than fighting them decided to incorporate them into the system and so, as a result, unions receive various kinds of special government privileges but also various kinds of restrictions - restrictions on when you can strike and for what reason and the government can order people back to work and various kinds of things. And so, certainly unions as we know them have not been a very pro-liberty force. In the XIXth century it was different - there was more of a cooperation - you know, there were problems then too - but there was more of a cooperation between the labour movement and libertarians and the idea is that if you think of unions simply something for collective bargaining, a way in which - just as there are reasons to form firms, so there are reasons to form unions - it’s simply a way of, you avoid transaction costs, as you do in forming a firm, you organise together and you can see unions as simply one form of many kinds of associations for mutual aid, which were common in the XIXth and early XXth centuries. For example, the way that most of the working poor got their health insurance in the early XXth century was through mutual aid societies, fraternal societies, friendly societies and they basically got either regulated out or crowded out or both by the rise of the welfare state. So various kinds of mutual aid systems are — they’re alternative — when people think about how can the poor be helped they usually think either the poor help themselves, get a job - or you help them through private charity or you help them though government charity. But there is such a thing as mutual organisation for mutual self-help, which the government has made harder and harder to do - but that really is a promising way of going about it.

Earlier You mentioned that left-libertarianism shares certain concerns with the movements on the left. That includes feminism. So again, feminism and libertariansim haven’t been exactly buddies in history, so can this marriage be saved?

(laughs) Where have I heard that line before? Yeah, that’s a reference to an article that Charles Johnson and I wrote called: Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved? In the XIXth century, libertarianism and feminism were much more closely allied. The major libertarian thinkers like Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner, Herbert Spencer, Voltairine de Cleyre and so forth were very much — they tended to see patriarchy and government as part of an interlocking system, each one helping to support the other and each one deriving from similar kind of mistaken attitudes. Nowadays, by and large, many feminists - not all - but many feminists have looked to the state and state control as a means of achieving their goals but this often turns out to be frustrating for them because the state continues to be run mostly by men and often they find that the way laws get written or applied are not exactly what they wanted but they still keep going to “Daddy State” because they don’t see any alternative - they think that — they’ve come to think of the market as something that will produce systematic discrimination and that they have to intervene. Many libertarians think that the market penalises discrimination and therefore — or at least penalises discrimination when it’s irrational because if you deliberately hire the less qualified man over the more qualified woman because you’re a sexist then your bottom line will suffer and so forth. So if the market penalises irrational discrimination, any discrimination that survives on the market must be rational and therefore if women are being discriminated against it must be for some good reason, they must really be less efficient and so forth and therefore a lot of libertarians think that there can’t really be a problem here. But I think there are two mistakes there. First, I think it is a mistake to think that there couldn’t be any discrimination on a free market, because pervasive social and cultural attitudes can — you know, they don’t automatically go away. Markets give you economic incentives - there are costs to these things - but people assume there’s no one willing to pay those costs, and if enough people pay them, systems like that can survive, so in addition — that’s not an argument for using non-market means like government to solve the problem, especially since if you’ve got pervasive discrimination, probably people in government are going to have the problem too. But it’s an argument for various kinds of organised associations - voluntary - but organised associations to fight against this sort of thing. But, second, it’s worth remembering that we don’t have a free market and everything that cuts down competition makes it easier for companies to engage in discrimination, because it socialises the costs. Also, by encouraging the large-scale growth of these corporations, making them internally less rational but preventing them from being punished by the market for that, it means that it’s harder for people to tell whether they’re making rational decisions with their employees - and so it’s harder for the costs of discrimination to actually be felt. So, the way to fight discrimination is first, to have freer markets, and second, to do sort of education and consciousness raising and organisation for women’s interests.

This sort of ties in to another point. I think it’s Charles Johnson that promoted the concept of “thick” and “thin” libertarianism. So what is thick and thin libertarianism exactly?

Okay, thick libertarianism is the idea that libertarian goals should be integrated with other sorts of goals or that libertarianism should regard itself as being part of movement for more that just negative liberty, whereas thin libertarianism is the idea that libertarianism should just be focused all on libertarian rights per se and nothing broader. But exactly what thick libertarianism means — there are different ways of talking about thick libertarianism. For example, you could say that there are — you might think there are certain cultural values such that a libertarian society is unlikely to survive unless those values are widespread. If most people in society have become acculturated to Nazi values - you could spread Nazi values though purely non-coercive means, you know, spreading your Nazi pamphlets around in a free society - but if enough people become convinced of it, it’s not going to remain a libertarian society for long. So, one way in which libertarianism is bound up with other values is that the promotion of those other values may be part of promoting the free conditions for the survival of a free society. Another example would be — there are ways in which some of the reasons for being a libertarian are also reasons for supporting these other values - so that although there is no necessary connection between the two. It would be odd, for example, to think that people matter so much that we shouldn’t be allowed to violate their rights, but they don’t matter at all beyond that so it doesn’t matter whether they’re starving in the gutter in front of you and you just step over them. Again, there’s no logical inconsistency, it’s just that the reasons for being a libertarian are also reasons for concern with wider values like independence and autonomy and mutual aid. And — well, those are two, there are more ways to pick - those are the two ones that we talked most about. So the idea is that libertarianism — reasons for being a libertarian are also reasons for supporting these other values and that libertarianism would work better if you had people broadly committed to things like mutual aid and so on. Think of it just that way - if people don’t have values of mutual aid then there’s gonna be a lot of suffering in a free society and people are going to say: oh, it’s a problem with libertarianism and then we’d all go back to statism. I mean, it’s a simplified answer, but an example.

Who’d You point out as a thin libertarian, because as I see this, there’s mostly thick libertarians around, I mean left-libertarians are thick libertarians, Rothbard was thickish, Ayn Rand was thick as a brick and don’t even get me started on Hoppe. So, who’s thin?

Well, Walter Block may be the paradigm case of a thin libertarian. Not that he doesn’t have other values but he’s always insisting that as long as it meets the criterion of libertarian rights then, from a libertarian standpoint, nothing else about it matters. In fact, he has an article that will be forthcoming in the Journal of Libertarian Studies, but I think there’s a version of it on the mises website already, where he criticises both me and Hoppe for running off in our various directions - mine leftward and Hoppe’s rightward. It’s on the grounds that this will weaken the libertarian movement because we’ll start fighting each other - you know, like libertarians aren’t fighting each other already - we’ll start fighting each other instead of fighting the Romans, as it were. But just in terms of that strategic worry, it doesn’t seem to be the case - I don’t just work with left-libertarians, I work with libertarians of many different flavours. Soon they’re all attacking each other but I’ve managed to get along with most of them most of the time. I guess thin and thick are a matter of degree, not everyone is as purely, ideally thin as Walter - I’m sure he’ll appreciate that compliment.

So, what about, for instance, neolibertarians. Randy Barnett recently came out of the closet with his pro-war views. Are they a valid strain of libertarianism?

Well, it depends on what you mean by a valid strain of libertarianism. In one sense, the only valid strain of libertarianism is whatever agrees entirely with me - you know, there is only one true libertarian and I am he. But if you mean - am I going to purge Randy Barnett out of the movement, well A: I don’t have the power and B: no - Randy has done a lot of good stuff. If you look on his website you have great articles about anarchy and about legal theory and so on. I think that he’s deeply, totally wrong about the war. People sometimes say: well look, either you have to regard this as a minor deviation, something that’s not too important or else you have to say that it’s really major and therefore he doesn’t count as a libertarian any more. But I don’t think these are the only two options. I think someone can have a really, really major deviation and still count as libertarian - an inconsistent libertarian. But people like Randy Barnett have contributed so much to the libertarian movement that I’m not going to rule them out and say they’re not libertarians - it’s just they’ve gone sadly astray on the war issue. Well, you know, Benjamin Tucker supported World War I, supported the Allies. Everyone’s allowed one deviation, Rothbard used to say. (laughs)

Did Rothbard have a deviation?

Oh, he had many. (laughs) Walter would say - I don’t know if Walter would say this but I can imagine Walter saying that Rothbard’s one deviation was saying that you’re allowed one deviation. (laughs)

Okay, so - the vanilla question. Ron Paul. Chance or no chance? Vote? Don’t vote? What do You think?

I don’t think his chances are very good. I think that - you know, it’s interesting to see how much he’s managed to stand out from the pack. He’s done better than I expected. But in the end, I don’t think that the Republicans are gong to go for him. He might end up with higher percentage points than anyone expected, but I would be shocked and awed if we won the nomination. In terms of: should you vote for him? For people, who are US citizens - well, that’s up to you. I’m pleased to see him doing well, I’m not really a supporter of him in the sense that I disagree with him on a number of issues that I regard as pretty important - immigration, abortion, equality for gays, that kind of thing. But I’m pleased to see him doing well. As for whether I’d vote for him - given how little a vote matters, I’m not sure it matters. I doubt I’ll have an opportunity to vote for him. I’m not going to switch my registration to Republican and vote for him in the primary - it’s just too icky. And he’s not gonna win the nomination so the issue of whether to vote for him in the presidential election is not probably going to come up. But I wish him well. I have various problems with him but I certainly wish him well. So, there’s my icky, wishy-washy vanilla answer.

You mentioned abortion. I take it, You are pro-choice, right? So, are You pro-choice on the grounds that Murray Rothbard was pro-choice or something else?

Yeah, it’s sort of broadly Rothbardian. I mean, there are two questions: one is when does the foetus become a person and the other is does its being a person mean that it’s wrong to abort it. So I would say: first of all, although I can’t pinpoint the precise point I would say that it needs to have some kind of minimal mental capacities to be a person. So I would say it’s not a person at conception. I think it is a person before birth - but I’m not prepared to say when - given the rest of my view, it doesn’t matter that much, because I do think that the right to life does not include the right to live in someone else’s body and so the mother has the right to eject it by any means necessary, if she decides she doesn’t want it there. So, I guess it’s broadly along Rothbard’s lines.

What’s the best strategy for achieving libertarianism? You mentioned that You don’t like electoral politics and You probably agree with the, sort of, Koninite-agorist/agorist –

I say agorist ’cause when you say Anarchy! Agora! Action! the accent is the same place each time.

So You agree with the agorist position?

Yes, broadly, as I said before, I’m not dead set against electoral politics. I don’t think electoral politics inherently sanctions the State, although that moral concern is something more than the volutaryists said and that the agorists said - the agorists have more of a strategic worry, which is they think that we should be trying to win people away from the State and encourage withdrawal from participation in it and therefore it’s counterproductive to engage in electoral politics. I mean I’m broadly in agreement with that but I think that You have to use marginal value analysis here as anywhere else and decide whether there may be some cases — especially with referenda, perhaps less with voting for people, but with referenda there are occasions where you may be able to prevent something awful from happening by voting against it. And I also think that, come the Revolution, it will be nice to have some of our people on the inside to make the State not react too violently as it starts to wither away, and so it would be good to have some people in there. But on the whole, I think that the way to view this is not to — you know, it’s not primarily about seizing political power, it’s primarily about creating alternative institutions and educating people such that at some point people just ignore the State. Because the wonderful thing with the State is, unlike other evils in the world, like tornadoes and hurricanes and so forth, if you ignore the State, it will go away. Now if just one person ignores it it won’t go away, but if enough of us ignore it, it will go away - ’cause it’s just a bunch of guys giving orders. It’s only if people start obeying those orders that they really are a State. Otherwise they’re just a bunch of guys in suits. So what we really need to do is to create the kind of culture and alternative institutions and so forth that people just no longer take the State seriously, just like — there used to be a guy in XIXth century America who called himself Emperor Norton - Charles Johnson likes to use his example - he went around and called himself the Emperor of America and wore fancy robes and people either played along or not as they liked. I would have no trouble with a government that were like that - you could go and it’d be like going to Disneyland and they could call themselves President or Prime Minister or whatever they were and you could play along or you could say ‘oh, this is boring’ and you could leave.

What is Your opinion on cooperating with more pro-freedom conservative types, right-wingers, Birchers, people like that?

I’m pretty open to who I’ll cooperate with. I think that different libertarians with different talents and inclinations probably will do better at cooperating with some people than with others. I probably would get into arguments too often with Birchers and so forth for me to be the ideal person to cooperate with them, but I’m certainly not against cooperating with them, I think that as you cooperate with them you actually try to seduce them towards your position as well and so I I’m pretty open to cooperation but I’m specialising more in the particular alliances I’m interested in building because those are the ones where I have the best feel of how to communicate with the people and what the shared issues are and (…)

Lew Rockwell has this theory that left-libertarianism is gaining popularity right now, but only because it’s right-wingers and Bushites and people like that who are in power and when the roles switch and when the Democrats will get in it will be back to the old days of paleolibertarianism and more right-wing oriented libertarianism. What do You think about that?

Well, I think it’s certainly true for some libertarians. Some libertarians have moved left because Bush has been a great recruiter for left-libertarianism. But, I certainly don’t think it can be true of everyone. I certainly know a lot of people, including myself, who were left-libertarians under Clinton - not that we didn’t hate Clinton too, we were good libertarians and hated Clinton, there was plenty to dislike - but, the Summer Soldier and the Sunshine Patriot will leave us once the Democrats get in power - which I think they’re pretty likely to do - but there’s a core of left-libertarians for whom neither the Republicans nor the Democrats will ever be palatable again.

Okay, so let’s shift emphasis from the right to the left. Have You in the past cooperated with any person on the left? Some kind of Noam Chomsky person or something like that?

Well, as I’ve said I’m part of this outfit — right now it’scalled Foundation for a Democratic Society, before that it was called Movement for a Democratic Society Incorporated. It’s a long, ugly story about various name changes and too crazy to get into it. One thing that libertarians and leftists have in common is that we’re just crazy in terms of our infighting. But anyway, so I was involved with that, I was at the meeting in New York City in January or February and I’m on the listserv so I’ve been involved with that. Back in the 90s I was involved with some leftis in anti-war activities in North Carolina at that time.

What do You think libertarians could learn from leftists, and vice-versa?

Well, libertarians can learn from leftists about - well I think that when libertarians and leftists sort of split up in the XIXth century, libertarians began specialising in understanding the benefits of market-oriented, for-profit solutions, while leftists specialised in understanding the benefits of non-profit, cooperative ways of associating. And likewise, libertarians specialised in understanding the evils of State-based forms of oppression, and leftists specialised in understanding the evils of non-State-based, private forms of oppression. So I think what each has to learn from the other is - the leftists have to learn from libertarians good things about the market that the Left doesn’t understand and bad things about the State that the Left doesn’t understand. What libertarians need to understand is bad things about forms of private power, that libertarians tend to think ‘well, if it’s not directly supported by the State then it doesn’t matter from a libertarian point of view’ and also, some of the benefits of forms of voluntary association that aren’t for-profit. So i think those are probably the two main things each side can learn from the other.

What are Your thoughts on the future of left-libertarianism in general and about the cooperation between leftists and libertarians?

Oh, well, I’m optimistic about it. Of course, if you’re a political radical of any kind you have to be optimistic because the alternative is complete despair, but I am optimistic about it, I see more interest growing for the coalition and various people on each side that always looked with suspicion on the other begin to come together. The Internet is a wonderful way in which people can find each other and find out about these perspectives and ideas. So, yeah, I’m pretty hopeful.

So what are You up to? Any new projects? Hideous Dark Secrets Hiding Under the Ground or something?

I can’t tell You my hideous dark secrets, but there’s a book that Tibor Machan and I have edited together, which is an anthology about anarchy and minarchy. He got together a team of minarchists and I got together a team of anarchists and we have each side arguing its position and it’ll be coming out from Ashgate in February, so on my side I have Charles Johnson, John Hasnas, Aeon Skoble and John Narveson. Then I’ve got my book on Wittgenstein and Austrian Economics that is supposed to be coming out from Routledge some day - I look forward to whenever that’s going to appear. I’ve got — what else have I got coming up — I’ve got some articles forthcoming in the Cato Institute’s Encyclopedia of Libertarianism - something on the Stoics and the Epicureans, something on the history of liberty in the Ancient World, something on John Brown and something on Ralph Waldo Emerson - I think those are the things I’m doing. That project has been waiting for many, many years - looks like they might finally be going ahead with it and the thing finally will be coming out.

What are those two books going to be called?

My book on Austrian methodology is called “Wittgenstein, Austrian Economics and the Logic of Action” and the anarchy/minarchy book is called — it’s an odd title, we didn’t pick the title, the publisher did, it’s something like — “Anarchism/Minarchism: Is a Government Part of a Free Country?” As I said, we didn’y pick that subtitle. And the Cato Encyclopedia of Libertarianism is just the Cato Encyclopedia of Libertarianism.

OK, so that basically it. Thanks!

Well, OK, thanks very much.
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Interview with Roderick Long | 29 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, September 15 2007 @ 11:46 AM CDT
I'll have to read this piece later today, but in case anybody's not already clear on it, this guy is an anarcho-capitalist.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: rechelon on Saturday, September 15 2007 @ 12:57 PM CDT
No, he's a Market Anarchist and probably more vehemently opposed to economic exploitation, patriarchy, racism, homophobia, homo/heternormativity etc than the majority of people on this site. He's also subverting the crap out of Anarcho-Capitalism and is probably our best hope in that war.

Jesus Christ people, could we not be dicks for like five seconds? I'm just asking.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Al Ligator on Saturday, September 15 2007 @ 10:31 PM CDT
Not "to be a dick" but I really don't know anyone,
right-wing, left-wing, or anarchist who take anarcho-capitalists seriously anyway.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: rechelon on Monday, September 17 2007 @ 03:12 PM CDT
Again. He's not an Anarcho-Capitalist. He's a Market Anarchist.

Huge fucking difference. Market Anarchism is a very broad umbrella that includes Mutualists, Individualist Anarchists, Agorists, Geoists and even a few Anarcho-Capitalists. But they ain't the same thing. And Roderick Long has spent years attacking the Anarcho-Capitalists for ignoring vital criticisms from the Left.

But, oh, noes it'd be too hard to read the fucking article.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Maik on Saturday, September 15 2007 @ 07:05 PM CDT
Well, the interview could use some more context. It's written for an audience familiar with right-libertarianism but not with libertarian socialism. Left-libertarianism refers to the common ground of mutualism (generally considered libertarian socialist), agorism (sometimes considered ancap), and the Georgist-geoist-physiocratic models.

I think anarchists should study markets more, as well as propose non-market alternatives/auxiliaries, e.g. democratic community-run businesses, e.g. communism, for an anarchism without adjectives. Perhaps a series on mutualism and/or agorism for commies and one on communism for muties would help?
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, September 15 2007 @ 07:52 PM CDT
This guy has got the stench of anarcho-capitalism and the Libertarian Party all over him. Check out his web site, and his "About Me" section, as well as various references in this article. Tibor Machan, Murray Rothbard, Ludwig Von Mises, Ayn Rand (whom he refers to as one of his "classic liberal" influences), the Cato Institute: all the usual suspects. And I ought to know, since I was involved with the Libertarian Party, and identified myself as an anarcho-capitalist, back in the early '80s. They are the most confused bunch of people one could ever hope to meet, with their fantasies about a "free market", which of course, would have to be based on property rights and contract law, and would therefore require a legal system and enforcement mechanism. They're nothing but cannon fodder for the Republican Party.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: anarcho on Sunday, September 16 2007 @ 03:41 PM CDT
"Well, Walter Block may be the paradigm case of a thin libertarian."

Well, I would say supporting slave contracts and thinking sexual abuse in work is not coercive are two sure signs that someone is a thick "libertarian" (i.e., some stupid ideologue who does not know what libertarian means). So Block sits up there with Hoppe and Rothbard as being really not libertarians at all, imho.

I'm really not convinced about left-(right-)"libertarianism". It seems to me that it accepts all the right-wing baggage and analysis but tries really hard to avoid coming to its logical conclusions.

And I hate to think that in Eastern Europe "libertarian" means the same as what it means in mainstream America! Still, goes to show you the impact of money in politics I suppose.

Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Admin on Sunday, September 16 2007 @ 03:50 PM CDT
Hey folks. How about we try to discuss the *ideas* expressed in these articles and interviews instead of spending so much time arguing about somebody's anarchist credentials or lack thereof.

Chuck
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, September 16 2007 @ 06:09 PM CDT
Well, ChuckO, the main idea expressed in this article is the "free market", which is absolutely absurd. For Libertarians and anarcho-capitalists, it's all about the State, and they seem to have zero understanding of just how much capitalism and the State support each other. or how the very existence of market relations, property rights, work, and employer/employee hierarchies are a threat to our true freedom as individuals.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Admin on Monday, September 17 2007 @ 12:04 AM CDT
You don't need to address your comments to me. I'm just the editor and moderator here, in other words, the messenger. Infoshop News publishes news, ideas and opinion from a variety of viewpoints. The articles posted here do no necessarily represent my views or the views of the collective.

It would be good to see less discussions on Infoshop News that revolve around whether or not somebody is an anarchist or not. That's boring. It would be preferable to see more discussion about the ideas found in the material posted here.

Chuck
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Maik on Sunday, September 16 2007 @ 11:43 PM CDT
Well, that's why I think this needs more context. Makhno's concerns aren't exactly unique. Probably more people assume that free markets would create inequalities of wealth than assume that they would even them out. Marxist economics argue that markets create inequalities; classical and mutualist economics argue that markets even inequalities out; Austrian economics aren't well-suited to such large-scale predictions. Most mainstream economics takes the current inequalities for granted. Market forms of left-libertarianism pretty much depend on the thesis that markets can even out the present inequalities. There's a lot of work on that debate - going back to Proudhon's Philosophy of Misery.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: anarcho on Monday, September 17 2007 @ 04:59 AM CDT
So, Chuck, do you think that supporting slave contracts (as Walter Block does) does not put into question your anarchist credentials?

Or arguing that a boss asking his workers for sex in order to retain their jobs is not coercive (as Block does) really okay by libertarian standards? Does that not put their anarchist credentials into question?

So I should stress I'm noting that certain "libertarian" positions are deeply anti-libertarian -- I'm not actually talking about Long's position, beyond indicating that left-"libertarianism" (i.e., the leftwing of right-wing Libertarianism) seems to have far too much capitalist baggage to be really that libertarian.

Maybe if they realised that "anarcho"-capitalism has very little worth keeping, then maybe they will stop sticking pictures of Murray Rothbard next to Proudhon and rediscover the genuine individualist anarchist tradition. Wishful thinking, maybe, but some of them do seem to be recognising the issues at hand -- which is encouraging.

Oh, and I would agree with the comments on free markets tending to increase inequalities rather than reduce them. That the capitalist class uses the state to increase its position and power does not automatically mean that a free market would not produce such inequalities to some degree.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Admin on Monday, September 17 2007 @ 10:16 AM CDT
My name is not Roderick. Address your criticisms to him, not one of the editors.

My anarchist credentials are not at issue here.

Chuck
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: JW on Monday, September 17 2007 @ 07:33 PM CDT
<i>My name is not Roderick. Address your criticisms to him, not one of the editors.</i>

Similarly, Roderick Long's name is not "Walter Block."
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: anarcho on Wednesday, September 19 2007 @ 03:11 AM CDT
Well, what can i say! I was making the point that Walter Block is not a libertarian. As I noted, I made no comment on Long -- although his judgement seems a tad askew if he considers Block a libertarian.

I do get the impression people just do not bother to read what people write.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: radgeek on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 12:32 PM CDT

So I should stress I'm noting that certain "libertarian" positions are deeply anti-libertarian ...

Block is wrong about contracts for selling yourself into slavery. But his position is unusual amongst libertarians, or "libertarians," or whatever you care to call them. Murray Rothbard, who is a paradigmatic anarcho-capitalist if anyone is, explicitly rejected the position. Roderick Long, who is not an anarcho-capitalist but sometimes deigns to speak or work with people who do identify as anarcho-capitalists, also explicitly rejects the position. Describing Block's position on this point as representative of "'libertarian' positions" is misleading, at best. In any case, I don't see what any of this has to do with the ideas expressed by Long (not by Walter Block) in the interview.

I'm not actually talking about Long's position, beyond indicating that left-"libertarianism" (i.e., the leftwing of right-wing Libertarianism) seems to have far too much capitalist baggage to be really that libertarian.

As far as I can see, the only evidence you've presented of how much or how little "capitalist baggage" Long's position has, is that Long mentions Block at some point, in order to highlight some of his differences from Block, and Block has some rotten ideas. How in the world this would tell you anything about how much "capitalist baggage" left-libertarianism (as understood by Long) does or does not have, I don't know. Of course, if you don't want to talk about Long's ideas, but would rather talk about something else (e.g. whether or not Walter Block should be considered "libertarian") there's no reason why you shouldn't, but then why have the conversation in a section supposedly devoted to replies to an article about Long's ideas?

Maybe if they realised that "anarcho"-capitalism has very little worth keeping, then maybe they will stop sticking pictures of Murray Rothbard next to Proudhon and rediscover the genuine individualist anarchist tradition. Wishful thinking, maybe, but some of them do seem to be recognising the issues at hand -- which is encouraging.

Oh, and I would agree with the comments on free markets tending to increase inequalities rather than reduce them. That the capitalist class uses the state to increase its position and power does not automatically mean that a free market would not produce such inequalities to some degree.

"The genuine individualist anarchist tradition" squarely disagrees with you on this point. Here, for example, is Benjamin Tucker:

When Warren and Proudhon, in prosecuting their search for justice to labor, came face to face with the obstacle of class monopolies, they saw that these monopolies rested upon Authority, and concluded that the thing to be done was, not to strengthen this Authority and thus make monopoly universal, but to utterly uproot Authority and give full sway to the opposite principle, Liberty, by making competition, the antithesis of monopoly, universal. They saw in competition the great leveler of prices to the labor cost of production. In this they agreed with the political economists. They query then naturally presented itself why all prices do not fall to labor cost; where there is any room for incomes acquired otherwise than by labor; in a word, why the usurer, the receiver of interest, rent, and profit, exists. The answer was found in the present one-sidedness of competition. It was discovered that capital had so manipulated legislation that unlimited competition is allowed in supplying productive labor, thus keeping wages down to the starvation point, or as near it as practicable; that a great deal of competition is allowed in supplying distributive labor, or the labor of the mercantile classes, thus keeping, not the prices of goods, but the merchants

Interview with Roderick Munson
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 17 2007 @ 12:11 PM CDT
TEST
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 17 2007 @ 12:32 PM CDT
Let me try to clarify my concerns about a "free" market for Maik. I am not worried that a market relationship could <i>create</i> inequality; I am asserting that such a relationship is <i>already</i> unequal and alienating. Instead of dealing with each other in their full subjectivity, the parties in an exchange transaction see each other primarily as objects, as a means to an end. Each party is offering either some alienated material object or their alienated labor. Each party seeks to maximize their utility in the transaction - in other words, to extract as much "profit" as possible. Much better for all of us to deal with each other without the medium of the market - giving, taking, and sharing in every unique situation as we see fit.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: rechelon on Monday, September 17 2007 @ 05:42 PM CDT
...Um, that's true enough under Marxist interpretations, but if they're operating under the Austrian's Subjective Theory of Value then such comodification and the like is not inherent to the Market at all. I mean, even some Anarcho-Capitalists like the mises institute harp on and on about the primacy of treating people as ends not means. Consider the old Market Anarchist slogan: "Anarchy is the revolutionary idea that people are not your property."

Gift Economies are prime examples of Freed Markets under the Subjective Theory of Value.

It's a matter of language. And they're not using that language, so they're not trapped by the failures you've written into your chosen definitions of terms.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 17 2007 @ 11:27 PM CDT
Well, I blew the cobwebs off of my old copy of Von Mises' Human Action tonight, and I found absolutely nothing in it to contradict what I said in my previous post. Austrian economics and Marxism spring from the same roots in classical liberalism: for both schools, humans engage with each other in society primarily as a means of achieving their own ends, and there is always a utilitarian calculus at work. If it suits one person's interest to trade and cooperate, he will trade and cooperate; if it suits is purposes to steal or kill, he will do that, instead. Private property and contracts could never be sacrosanct or inviolate in such a society, and would always require a coercive enforcement mechanism to protect them.

Thus, a "free market" is really a contradiction in terms, since the very existence of a market implies legal boundaries, and a market transaction is always one of calculated self-interest, in which the other party's subjectivity is a marginal consideration, at best.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: rechelon on Tuesday, September 18 2007 @ 12:06 AM CDT
If the marketplace--that is to say the realm of human interaction because all interaction even gift-giving is "trade" under the STV--is freed from the presence of coercion then there is no contradiction in terms.

The ideality of a "Free Market" is simply a moral statement. If every non-coercive interaction freely entered into is defined by each person involved benefiting from that interaction (which the Austrians largely see as true) then advocating for the removal of coercion from the Marketplace is simply a moral statement that: People are ends, not means.

...Of course the STV is usually used by the Ancaps to do things like "prove" that labor can't possibly be oppressed by kapital, but then again the Ancaps are universally pretty shitty when it comes to understanding complex externalities in economic situations.

Oh and Mises =/= Rothbard =/= Konkin =/= Long

They get progressively better.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: rechelon on Tuesday, September 18 2007 @ 12:16 AM CDT
whoops I meant to say of "all *voluntary/consensual* human interaction"
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 18 2007 @ 08:48 AM CDT
Based on what I've read in this article, on Roderick Long's web site, and the information I've perused on Samuel Konklin, I see little to recommend either of them over Murray Rothbard or Ludwig von Mises. Aside from his theoretical confusion over the "free market", which is common to all anarcho-capitalists or any variant thereof, Long is ambivalent about involvement in electoral politics (see his comments abut supporting Libertarian Party candidate Ron Paul) and what political groups he would even consider working with (the John Birch Society, for Christ's sake! Why not the Nazi Party?). There is little common ground here with real anarchists.

On a more fundamental level, it is simply false that all human interactions can be equated with market exchanges, which imply a calculated concern with personal gain, and legal boundaries of private property and contract law. It is these latter - real market transactions in the real world - that imply the mutual objectivication of the parties involved. The point I have made repeatedly in this thread, and which has so far not been directly addressed, is that real market exchanges require a legal enforcement mechanism, and various levels of economic and financial administration if we are speaking in macroeconomic terms. Real businessman, real capitalists, have never been reluctant to seek State protection and regulation when it suited their purposes; they would be the first to recognize any talk of a "free" market as a fantasy.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: rechelon on Wednesday, September 19 2007 @ 02:58 AM CDT
"market exchanges, which imply a calculated concern with personal gain, and legal boundaries of private property and contract law"

"Imply"? Your entire argument here is that a phrase has connotations to you. I agree, it usually has those connotations with me. But none of those are included in the "Free Market" talked about by say the Individualist Anarchists that have always been a part of our movement or necessarily included in the "free market" used by the Libertarian Left. So they're using a different language. Tough. It's not legit to brow beat someone with your own form of language and pretend that equates a logical destruction of their position.

I won't bother a long explanation of Rothbard's sharp improvements over Mises, or Konkin's or Long's. But read this rather popular speech of Long's and tell me the guy isn't a hell of a lot further towards us than any other American Libertarians you've run into.
http://www.mises.org/story/2099

"Ever since libertarians and leftists went their separate ways back in the 19th century, libertarians have specialized in understanding governmental forms and mechanisms of oppression, and the benefits of competitive, for-profit forms of voluntary association; while leftists have specialized in understanding non-governmental forms and mechanisms of oppression, and the benefits of cooperative, not-for-profit forms of voluntary association."

...And with regard to terminology:
http://libertarian-labyrinth.blogspot.com/2007/02/voltairine-de-cleyre-two-articles-on.html
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: anarcho on Wednesday, September 19 2007 @ 03:20 AM CDT
"Ever since libertarians and leftists went their separate ways back in the 19th century, libertarians have specialized in understanding governmental forms and mechanisms of oppression, and the benefits of competitive, for-profit forms of voluntary association;"

Hardly, as they systematically ignore how the state enforces specifically capitalist forms of "property." Equally, their "competitive, for profit forms of voluntary association" almost always mean capitalist firms. These are "voluntary" because the state enforces capitalist property rights. So, they have "specialised" in providing ideological justifications for "actually existing capitalism" and the power and property of the boss and landlord class.

And the individualist anarchists recognised this and so rejected all the attempts by capitalists to convince them of the error of their ways -- much to the annoyance of "anarcho"-capitalists today!

"while leftists have specialized in understanding non-governmental forms and mechanisms of oppression, and the benefits of cooperative, not-for-profit forms of voluntary association."

Like, for example, the wage labour and other forms of hierachy which "anarcho"-capitalists think is essential for a modern economy (according to Rothbard).

As I said before, left-right-"libertarianism" seems to me to accept the fundamental basis of right-"libertarian" ideology but try to avoid the logical conclusions. It would be best, I would suggest, for them to just dump Mises and Rothbard and re-discover the real individualist anarchist tradition. If Long is doing that, great, but he still seems to have at least one foot in the capitalist camp.

After all, they tend to dismiss social anarchism as a "foreign import" yet they seem to be happy to accept "Austrian" economics and ignore the actual arguments of American individualist anarchism.

Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: rechelon on Wednesday, September 19 2007 @ 10:40 AM CDT
"Hardly, as they systematically ignore how the state enforces specifically capitalist forms of "property." "

Many do, but many do not.

"Equally, their "competitive, for profit forms of voluntary association" almost always mean capitalist firms."

Many do, but many do not. There are plenty of libertarians opposed to corporations or conventional businesses.

"So, they have "specialised" in providing ideological justifications for "actually existing capitalism" and the power and property of the boss and landlord class."

This is the most annoying and evil strain of Libertarianism, but although it's the loud one that has money behind it and gets in our face most frequently, "thick libertarians" as Long and co. call them are strenuously opposed to such thinking.

"Like, for example, the wage labour and other forms of hierachy which "anarcho"-capitalists think is essential for a modern economy (according to Rothbard)."

K... did you get how Long was saying there that the libertarian tradition should throw out that part of the Ancap/Rothbard tradition and learn from the left? Read the article.
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 19 2007 @ 01:00 PM CDT
I didn't see anything in this article about "throwing out" any particular part of the Rothbard/anarcho-capitalist tradition, for which Long clearly still has a lot of sympathy, but there was the following passage:

What do You think libertarians could learn from leftists, and vice-versa?

Well, libertarians can learn from leftists about - well I think that when libertarians and leftists sort of split up in the XIXth century, libertarians began specialising in understanding the benefits of market-oriented, for-profit solutions, while leftists specialised in understanding the benefits of non-profit, cooperative ways of associating. And likewise, libertarians specialised in understanding the evils of State-based forms of oppression, and leftists specialised in understanding the evils of non-State-based, private forms of oppression. So I think what each has to learn from the other is - the leftists have to learn from libertarians good things about the market that the Left doesn
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 19 2007 @ 01:01 PM CDT
that should have read "simple barter"
Interview with Roderick Long
Authored by: rechelon on Wednesday, September 19 2007 @ 02:21 PM CDT
By read the article that last time I meant the linked article I provided, in which Long claims both traditions have a lot to learn from one another. Certainly the Libs have a lot to learn from us. What we might learn from them with regard to economics is another story. Certainly we have little to learn from old kapital apologists like Mises, but the rest is up in the air.

For instance Long wrote a rather well received article a decade ago detailing how Mutual Aid societies once provided better/cheaper/more efficient Health Care via Free Market principles in the late 1800. The Market Anarchists are the only ones continuing the analyses once kept up by our Individualist Anarchist wing, that, at least, is worth something.