Written by Dixie Flatline
J. H. Huebert and Walter Block have a wonderful riposte to the most recent response from Roderick Long.
The timeline of this discussion starts with “Corporations versus the Market; or, Whip Conflation Now” a lead essay published on Cato Unbound by Prof. Long. Subsequent responses include Long, Huebert-Block, Peter Klein of LvMI, Stephan Kinsella of LvMI/LRC and Kevin Carson of the Mutualist Blog.
- Corporations versus the Market; or, Whip Conflation Now
- The Corporation and the State
- In Defense of Corporations, Tax Breaks, and Wal-Mart
- Long on the Corporation
- Free Market Firms: Smaller, Flatter, and More Crowded
- More on the Corporation
- The Conflation Conflict
- Left-Libertarians on Corporations “Expropriating the Efforts of Stakeholders”
- Corporations and Limited Liability for Torts
- The Conflation Conflict, Continued
- Response to Long on Corporations, Unions, and Wal-Mart
I’ve included all of the major responses and discussions because some great discussion can be found in the comments at several of the links above.
As I’ve posted a little in the comments on some blog posts mentioned above, I would like to highlight the parts of the response from Huebert and Block that I find most significant and challenging not only to the lead essay but the larger left-libertarian paradigm.
Long’s lead essay, and response to Klein/Huebert-Block he seems to be carrying on the left (and left-libertarian) fallacy of corporation/big business as evil. This is a recurring theme in Kevin Carson’s Mutualist camp as well. What is not addressed by left-libertarians in this debate, is specifically how large firms exclusively benefit, and if all benefiting large firms are corporations.
We asked why Long singles out corporations as opposed to other types of businesses for criticism. He says that corporations are “the primary and disproportionate beneficiaries of government privilege.” Perhaps. But Long muddies the water by referring to “corporations” instead of “big businesses.” After all, while most big businesses may be corporations, most corporations are not big businesses; rather, they are small businesses.
Even if Long used big business, and perhaps Huebert-Block are setting him up again, what is the firm size that Long is protesting? At what size does a firm start to yield a net benefit from the state? It’s never clearly defined. One would think when making such a specific charge, specifically based on size or structure, the size or structure in question would be defined.
In the comments at Mises, I believe some left leaning libertarians were generally surprised to learn that individuals can incorporate, and thus incorporation in and of itself does not bestow obvious state privilege. One commenter mentioned that corporations pre-dated the state recognition of such, and this was also ignored. The left in my opinion, are very effective at compartmentalizing arguments until they are significantly detached from reality and external considerations.
My other major issue with left-libertarianism is their populist class theory based on Marxism.
Huebert and Block conclude that libertarians “should win with their own ideas, on their own terms, and avoid pandering to statists of any stripe.” I entirely agree. But to Huebert and Block it apparently seems that I am violating this advice by embracing ‘the ideas and rhetoric of the left.’
Nonsense! … We pioneered the ideas that today are associated with the left—class conflict, anti-corporatism, and worker empowerment (as well, incidentally, as feminism, antiracism, antimilitarism, and environmentalism).
While we cannot endorse many of the ideas commonly associated with feminism or environmentalism, for now let us consider only one of these ideas for which Long wants to give libertarians credit: class conflict. There is all the world of difference between leftists or Marxists, on the one hand, and libertarians, on the other. For the former, the main class division is between capitalists and laborers. For the latter, it is based on the distinction between those who live from, by, and on the basis of market processes, based on private property, and those who rely on initiatory force or fraud. The history of the matter is relatively unimportant; this philosophical distinction is crucial.
The last phrase from Huebert-Long is critical. What matters is those who believe in a market based on private property ownership, and those who use aggression to compromise said market and property rights.
Populist working class rhetoric is philosophically bankrupt. Mutualists claim to oppose big business and the state because the state cartelizes big business via regulation, and yet labour unions cartelize labour, protecting their members from competition, while propping up wages at the expense of those outside the union, and unions get an enormous pass for this blatantly anti-market behaviour. That’s all besides the historical record of union violence against persons and property.
The double standard of Marxist class theory should be apparent to small children, let alone prominent intellectuals. But then, Roderick Long does claim his insight into corporate culture is influenced by the comic strip Dilbert, so what do these guys really know?
I will say this. There is a conflation conflict. Conflating liberty with the socialist left, is a descent into confusion and hypocrisy. Carson, and now Long (much to my regret), seem to be walking that line downward.
I promise more to come on this.
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