Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Libertarians and Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street has come under fire from some libertarians, on the grounds that it’s relatively silent about the role of big government, and its proposed remedies lean heavily toward increased government intervention.

But it’s quite understandable that many in the Occupy movement position themselves in opposition to the “free market” and in favor of government intervention.  After all, ever since they were born they’ve heard loathsome cretins like Dick Armey, Tom Delay, along with the usual suspects on CNBC and the WSJ editorial staff, defend corporate capitalism as we know it and the unbelievable concentration of wealth and power as the result of “our free market system.”

Every time you look at a debate on economic policy, the liberal is saying the free market can’t be left to itself because the inevitable result is polarization of wealth and corporate tyranny.  And the conservative is saying corporate tyranny and polarization of wealth are good things,  and that government should stay out of it.

All the things the Occupiers are rightfully against, like the plutocratic oligarchy and abusive corporate power, they’ve seen defended — or attacked — in terms of “our free enterprise system.” If I thought the free market meant what Dick Armey said it was, I’d hate it too.

It’s not their fault they’ve never heard a free market critique of corporate power, never heard someone pointing out that big business is the biggest beneficiary of big government, and never heard an argument for why genuine, freed market competition would operate as dynamite at the foundations of corporate power.

Even many libertarians who at least sometimes pay lip-service to condemning corporatism, it seems, are inclined to react defensively when they see what Nixon used to call the Dirty Effing Hippies criticizing big business.

There’s a virally popular graphic making the rounds, a wide-angle photo of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, with objects tagged “Cameras from Canon,” “Phone from Apple,” etc.  This is just the umpteenth iteration of a recurring meme, each time presented with a knowing smirk as if it were some sort of original or witty observation — despite the fact it’s already been dragged out by everyone, including a third-rate hack reporter at CNN.

It’s a right-wing mirror image of the popular liberal “argument”: “But how would we get our roooaaads?!!” To look at the technological products which arose within a corporate-state economy, and to argue that anyone who uses those products is a hypocrite for criticizing corporate statism, is about as wooden-headedly stupid as Elizabeth Warren arguing for some sort of “social contract” where everyone’s obligated to pay “their fair share” because they rely on taxpayer-funded roads or police.

One might as well take a photo from Tiananmen Square or from Moscow in the last days of the Soviet Union, and attach tags like “Bauxite from the Ministry of Non-Ferrous Metallurgy,” “Cameras from Ministry of Consumer Electronics,” etc.

As Charles Johnson, of the advisory board at the Center for a Stateless Society, puts it:  “… if your aim is to use visual rhetoric to lodge a criticism of the people at Occupy Wall Street, then an image whose upshot is, roughly, ‘the activities of giant corporations inescapably pervade absolutely every aspect of your everyday life’ … may not actually be as effective a criticism as you think it is.”

There’s nothing hypocritical about making the best choice available from the limited range of alternatives, despite paying rents in the process to companies in whose interest that range of alternatives was restricted, and simultaneously criticizing the injustice of hooking those companies into this system of state-enforced monopoly.  That’s for the very same reason that there’s no hypocrisy involved in using state roads or post offices as the best alternative given one’s limited choices, while still criticizing the state.

The folks occupying Wall Street are right on the mark when it comes to identifying the central evil in our economic system, regardless of sometimes fuzzy perceptions of the causality at work and wrongheaded proposals for remedying it:  The unholy alliance of big business with the state, and the plutocracy that’s enriched itself beyond human comprehension by extracting rents from the rest of us.

There are libertarians who get mad when they see Dirty Effing Hippies attacking big business, and there are libertarians who get mad when they see “libertarians” defending it.  Whether or not libertarianism is a relevant movement for our time depends on which side wins the battle for its soul.

Kevin Carson is a research associate at the Center for a Stateless Society. his written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online.

More articles by:

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

October 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Middle East, Not Russia, Will Prove Trump’s Downfall
Ipek S. Burnett
The Assault on The New Colossus: Trump’s Threat to Close the U.S.-Mexican Border
Mary Troy Johnston
The War on Terror is the Reign of Terror
Maximilian Werner
The Rhetoric and Reality of Death by Grizzly
David Macaray
Teamsters, Hells Angels, and Self-Determination
Jeffrey Sommers
“No People, Big Problem”: Democracy and Its Discontents In Latvia
Dean Baker
Looking for the Next Crisis: the Not Very Scary World of CLOs
Binoy Kampmark
Leaking for Change: ASIO, Jakarta, and Australia’s Jerusalem Problem
Chris Wright
The Necessity of “Lesser-Evil” Voting
Muhammad Othman
Daunting Challenge for Activists: The Cook Customer “Connection”
Don Fitz
A Debate for Auditor: What the Papers Wouldn’t Say
October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail