anarchism

Limited Government Socialism

In a recent Vox post, Will Wilkinson argues that welfare states allow economic freedom. He makes the point that Scandinavian countries and Canada had more economic freedom than United States according to several rankingsdespite having a somewhat robust welfare state. For years in American politics mainly Republicans but often some neoliberal Democrats and even the most corporatist wing of the Libertarian Party have argued for trickle down economics in which they cut social programs while cutting taxes for the rich. Since Reagan, these have been portrayed as some sort of free market solution. Since the rich already receive generous handouts in the form of corporate welfare these policies are hardly libertarian.

What Wilkinson is proposing is some sort of limited government liberalism in line of liberaltarian ideas. He argues that a state should provide a basic safety net and social services but allow a truly free market. Even some right-leaning libertarians like Ron Paul have expressed surprise about how often Republicans want to cut social programs but enlarge the military budget (Wilkinson is also a critic of militarism and said if we want cut spending it should be military spending).

Wilkinson is right, he understands that undermining social programs and the safety net allow the rise of populists like Trump, who if victorious would make the economic problems of the country bigger. But I don’t think there is constituency for what Wilkinson is arguing (at least among average liberals), most of centrists in American and global politics are neoliberals not libertarians they would like to continue with corporatism in a disguise of being in favor of the free market.

What happened in Scandinavia is curious because social democratic governments recognize the failure of central planning and allow some economic liberalization that promoted economic growth and generate a prosperous society. But they are hardly libertarians. That the Scandinavian model is successful because these countries are ethnically homogenous is a very racist argument. Yes, the Scandinavian countries have large white majority, but they had accepted large amount of humanitarian refugees from Africa and Middle East, so they are more diverse than Poland or Hungary, both countries with serious economic problems despite being more homogenous. The big reason the Scandinavian model can’t be put in place in other countries is that they are still small countries that are easier to manage. I can’t imagine a Scandinavian model working in larger states like United States, China or India.

But there is still something that could work. I’m a left-libertarian closer to anarchism that to minarchism but I would like present a minimal program who could require being involve in electoral politics. My proposal is limited government socialism. I know the term sounds funny but it was inspired when I listen Ralph Nader in an interview at the Cato Institute saying he was willing to cut 50 percent of Washington spending, you never hear that from a DLC type Democrat.

I think it shouldn’t be a surprise the American left is broader than just liberals, for example the New Left was widely decentralist and to some extend their influence continues even today. John O. Norquist, the former mayor of Milwaukee who described himself as a fiscally conservative socialist is one example. I think this model is better than the Big Government Libertarianism proposed by Wilkinson. My difference with Norquist was that his expertise was urban planning. I support something close to the Carl Oglesby style of libertarianism. Oglesby the former president of the SDS knew that among liberalism there is an imperialist strain that talks in language of the left: human rights and democracy. But he knew that good intentions could end up in mass murder. On the other hand Oglesby used to think that his particular style of populist libertarianism (not to mistake with libertarian populism) could appeal to both left and right. On the left there was a call to decentralization and on the right the concept of a truly limited government.

So in doing that, the state should be reduced to a few public services like education, healthcare, security and infrastructure while offering a Universal Basic Income. Stop privatizing things and allow a truly free market arrive. The state shouldn’t have public companies but enforce a strong property rights protection against pollution could be good for the ecology. The state shouldn’t recognize patents because they are government granted privilege and that would lower the cost of medicines and software. End the War on Drugs. Erase zoning codes. Eliminate mandatory occupational licenses. Repeal the Patriot Act. Close the military bases abroad.

Someone could ask what about the social issues. As someone could guess I and the majority of socialists are pro-choice, pro-gay rights, anti-discrimination and in favor of a more free immigration system. Though I don’t think that an adherent of limited government socialism makes you a SJW — quite the contrary, Karl Hess of all people used to argue that radical left should seek an alliance with religious conservatives because if they honest about their beliefs their main allegiance is to God not the state. Women’s rights are the reason some believe the left-right libertarian alliance of the 60s fell apart, but I think the respect of different opinions should be fundamental.  On gay rights, I think respecting religious liberty should be fundamental. If communities do not want to accept immigrants they shouldn’t be forced to do, in the case of America it should try avoid get into conflicts that generate refugees. On discrimination, I think affirmative action is a lame government response to the problems affecting minority communities, my belief is that less intrusive welfare programs could generate an economic boom in these communities and as result social transformation, then I think affirmative action would no longer be needed.

Even a right-wing populist libertarian like Ron Paul says the word capitalism shouldn’t be defended, that the goal libertarians should be promote free markets along the board. I agree, I’m a socialist not because I’m a fan of the Che Guevara or Fidel Castro but because I’m a fan Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas. I think early American socialists were right about what American foreign policy would do to America: make it less free. To be fair, I consider myself a libertarian in the Karl Hess way, so libertarianism, anarchism and socialism are synonyms for a decentralist kind of politics, but like Hess I admit there are conservative elements in my own politics, that’s why I admire people like Bill Kauffman.

My plan is far from perfect but I think it’s better than what social democrats and even some left-wing revolutionary parties do when they reach power. That is: to get along with the oligarchy and enact a few reforms while not promoting true social change. Just to be clear, I think limited government socialism will still be part of libertarianism because I think it is still compatible with the ideal of creating a free society. I would even add that it’s not incompatible with the non-aggression principle, even if I know that anarchists would disagree. On anarchism, despite of my personal sympathies for the Zapatistas and the Kurds, I don’t think that the majority of nation states are moving in that direction but if I’m wrong I would be happy, this model is just one model inspired by my peculiar politics that are in the middle of Ron Paul and Ralph Nader.

Civil War 2.0 Will Be Livestreamed

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

The events of this summer are a taste of what’s to come in the fall, and even more so, November 9, 2016.

Someone is going to win the Presidential election, and regardless of whether it’s Trump or Clinton, the loser’s supporters are going to feel existential angst about America, and their place in it, far beyond the usual.

Pat Buchanan advises us to take a Chill Pill; “For when a real powder keg blew in the ’60s, I was there. And this is not it.” And yet…in “The ’60s” (and the early ’70s, which is when some of the worst SHTF) we had the evening TV news and the papers. The crazy spread slower then. This time, any and every incident is going to be magnified and extremely accelerated. (more…)

The X-Files, Anarchy on TV

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The X-Files is one of the most iconic shows of the 1990s, conspiracy theories and aliens would seem an odd idea for TV but it became a hit. David Duchovny, who plays Fox Mulder, once said that when he shot the pilot he never feel sure that they would be on TV, but they were for nine seasons. The X-Files will be back in January of next year for a small season of six episodes.

The show developed an intense fan base, it was one of the first shows that hit in the age of the internet, so since the beginning there have been a lot of online forums developed to the series. The geek culture was shaped by a show where the heroes were almost geeks themselves. It was a success both in America and overseas.

But it wasn’t just another Hollywood show. Libertarian academic Paul Cantor argues that X-Files wasn’t left or right but posed the question of the legitimacy of nation-state — after all, a key premise was that the government was part of a conspiracy involving aliens to conquer the world. After the Cold War, a show like The X-Files had the license to be anti-government. The FBI is portrayed like a bureau institution which is against the interests of the citizens. A curious thing is the strange conservativism of the show, in several episodes foreigners weren’t treated with sympathy, the strange traditions of some groups of immigrants were feared by the local population. It also seemed to have some sympathy for militias. However, some episodes had more left-wing themes, like suspicion of corporate culture or planned residential communities. The logo of the show “Trust No One” could be interpreted as a libertarian mantra.

The funny thing about a series that insinuate that the government is involved in a big conspiracy is that both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have confessed in press conferences that some fans had told them they joined the FBI, CIA or other government agencies because of them. It doesn’t like the most logical step, but a hunger for answers exerts a powerful pull on young people. If one can fathom why a libertarian like Edward Snowden could decide to work for the government, he might have taken a similar path to Fox Mulder.

Another interesting element was The Lone Gunmen, three hackers who were friends of Mulder and Scully, these computer geniuses mixed some ideas from geek culture, conspiracy paranoia and a vague concept of achieving social justice with technology. The Lone Gunmen were some kind of precursor of Anonymus, though in the last season they were portrayed as patriotic, unlike Anonymus which is mostly described as anarchist.

There were particular aspects that made a show like The X-Files a success in America and abroad, among them the sentiment found basically anywhere in the world, that their politicians are corrupt.

The 90s were a particular time, now with a popular politician like Ron Paul it’s not difficult to imagine that today the series could have made an issue of the spying, drones and growth of the Military-Industrial Complex, positions that were before at the fringe and now have become relatively mainstream. It would not be a surprise if the new X-Files episodes retain their anti-statism. The lesson of the X-Files is that people may distrust their leaders, but they still like heroes. It doesn’t matter if their name is Fox Mulder or Edward Snowden, sometimes the anarchist is the real patriot.

What’s the matter with left-libertarianism?

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Left-libertarianism is a peculiar variant of libertarianism. It has some elements in common with the left, but it also supports positions that are at odds with the left in a general sense. I had previously written about its history, and while doing that I found that left-libertarianism is far from a united theory, but a relatively broad realm of ideas about about free markets and achieving and social justice. Karl Hess, Robert Anton Wilson and Samuel Edward Konkin III are big names in libertarianism on their own and also left-libertarians. Today the Center for a Stateless Society and the Alliance of the Libertarian Left are the new faces of left-libertarianism, most of its writers and members are young activists who despite claiming to be following the paths of the left-libertarians of the past, also raise their own issues.

Left-libertarianism is still unknown to the public. The mainstream media has portrayed libertarianism as something of the right, with an spokesperson like Ron Paul who is pro-life and against open borders, or figures like the Koch Brothers, which are donors to Republican campaigns and the bête noire of a lot of liberals, so isn’t very easy to associate libertarianism with the left. Yet a lot of Ron Paul supporters and those who identify themselves as libertarians are pro-choice, and skeptical of Republican Party. J. Arthur Bloom some time ago argued reflecting on a poll that suggests that young Americans prefer socialism over capitalism but at the same time support a free market system over a government managed economy, my initial reaction was that young Americans could find left-libertarianism interesting, but I wasn’t sure at that moment of the limits of my reflection.

The libertarian movement had been in large part financed by the Koch brothers though institutions like the Cato Institute, Reason, FreedomWorks and Students for Liberty to only mention a few. With the Ron Paul campaign the age-old paleo-cosmopolitan intra-libertarian dispute was reborn. The Ron Paul campaign was closer to the Rothbardians than the Friedmanites and it generated radicals rather than reformers. Despite that some cosmopolitans express his doubts about Ron Paul and the Koch brothers didn’t support or endorse him, I think the Koch brothers were intelligent enough to know that Ron Paul was bringing a lot of young people to libertarianism, something that could be useful to them. That’s why despite the disagreements, Ron Paul has been a main speaker at events organized by Koch-affiliated organizations, they know he energizes the base. Ron Paul and the Koch brothers are capitalist and for different reasons they had a long relation with the GOP. On the left-libertarian side there isn’t much famous politicians or bigger donors. Left-libertarians rely mostly on making new converts at libertarian events, but most libertarians consider themselves capitalists and I don’t think that will change any time soon. There is a solid left-libertarian tradition that young people could find interesting, however, especially in their critic of the corporate capitalism.

I think that it’s better to present my own philosophy before continuing exploring the limits of left-libertarianism. I’m a socialist, not a social democrat whose model is Scandinavia but rather a libertarian socialist whose model are Zapatistas in Mexico or the Kurds in the Middle East. Elections are not the only thing that matters, but I think electoral politics could radicalize the public and also move the left in a more libertarian direction. As far as I know, most left-libertarians come from the libertarian right and the anarchist left, so it’s easy to suppose that few of them ever would be sympathetic to electoral left-wing politics, but history tells us radical libertarians like Karl Hess and Murray Bookchin were involved in third party politics. So to be involved in electoral politics seems more an opportunity than a problem.

The Ron Paul campaign was a better tool for promoting libertarianism than the millions of dollars spent by the Kochs in think-tanks. Sometimes when left-libertarians said: “the dominant left-libertarian aim is to fuse Murray Rothbard with David Graeber,” I think a more interesting goal would be to fuse Ron Paul with Karl Hess. There are limits to the electoral politics, for example most leftists support the minimum wage (there are some left-libertarians that agree but most disagree). Other long time objectives of the left are universal health care (this policy was supported by Libertarian Party presidential candidate Mike Gravel but not for most left-libertarians). But compromise in the search of peace, liberty and justice seems to me a mature political move, along the lines of the one Murray Rothbard hoped for, broad on the left and right.

Here at The Mitrailleuse, there has been some polemic about left-libertarianism. James E. Miller argue that left-libertarianism is closer to left-liberalism than libertarianism, I disagree with that, I think that the fact that some left-libertarians had un-libertarian positions don’t mean left-libertarianism as a whole is doomed. For other part I recognize that the argument that sometimes C4SS sounds like Salon is true, far from joking some time ago I consider seriously writing a response Kevin D. Williamson argument that the Baltimore riots should be blame on the Democratic Party which historically has governed Baltimore, my response was going to be that the riots should be blame on the Republican Party crackdown on the Black Panthers because since then the Afro-American communities lacked radical organizing. When I was thinking where to publish the article, I thought C4SS and Salon. J. Arthur Bloom makes the case that it’s difficult for left-libertarians to gain support in the broad left, I agree a lot anarchists are closer to the Democratic Party.

There is something that should be said — Karl Hess, probably the most radical left-libertarian, was still a man of the Old Right, even when he joined Students for a Democratic Society and Industrial Workers of the World. He was deeply patriotic and inspired from the American history, he was not a cosmopolitan libertarian but a rather a man of a community. The Neighborhood Power of which the New Left speaks was an idea that had on board both the Black Panthers and radical Christians; a self-governing community was a real policy for left-libertarians. Since the New Left era, the idea of liberal identity politics was present and affected the movement. The black power, feminist and LGBT struggles were co-opted by the Democratic Party which, though movements that at some point were anti-statist, become functionally supportive of growing state power.

I don’t think that left-libertarians are going to win that argument by sounding like left-liberals, but by actually accepting that a free society would not be constructed if some day everybody started to think the same, but when one can reach broad agreement about letting communities be free. For example when it comes to immigration, most left-libertarians tend to support Open Borders, and I also do, but I understand that probably cosmopolitan communities like Williamsburg or Echo Park are more willing to receive immigrants than communities in rural Alabama, and a real immigration policy should respect that the communities could have different positions on whether or not receive immigrants. When Karl Hess spoke about education he also had the same argument, he said that there isn’t a problem if a black community decided to teach Swahili to their kids, I think that the same arguments should go for a religious community teaching their kids their values. Radical decentralization really means that abolishing the state or not, the communities at least would be freer to choose their own policies based on their everyday life rather than waiting for a bureaucrat in Washington.

Left-libertarians had an interesting history, in the present they are growing and their future is still unknown. Trying to recruit new members at libertarian events had it limits. With the exception of agorists, most left-libertarians weren’t organized in the past in any specific group but they were in a lot of ways closer to more average New Left radical, not only because of the left was more decentralist back then, but also they more willing to engage in a debate with the radical left. Most left-libertarians are great fans of the Marxist historian Gabriel Kolko, but I listen to very few about the reflections of other socialists. For example, Carl Oglesby the former leader of SDS is considered by the people of C4SS and ALL as a left-libertarian, though he wasn’t an anarchist and supported the minimum wage. Left-libertarians tend to criticize liberalterians saying that they are not radicals because they aren’t anarchist and also supported some state policies, so why do left-libertarians claim Carl Oglesby as one their own, when he probably should be called a proto-liberalterian? I think that a really thoughtful reflection of that would tell us a lot of left-libertarians claim to be radicals, yet still prefer the comfort zone of libertarian conferences rather than, say, going to the Left Forum to speak about free markets and property rights. If they want a revolution they should reject the liberal identity politics of us versus them, the real struggle is between the political elite and the grassroots rebellion.

Anarchy in Athens

anarchyinathens

Greece had been in the news since its financial crisis began, then it return to news when the far left party Syriza won the elections. Syriza provoked mixed feelings, some American conservatives were supporters and some Greek anarchists were enemies. The government of Alexis Tsipras put Yanis Varoufakis in the key position of Minister of Finance. Varoufakis is a self-described libertarian Marxist and a Professor of Economics in the University of Athens. His works on game theory had made him known in the international academic community.

The mandate of Tsipras was twofold because it implied maintaining membership in European Union without implementing austerity measures. Both Tsipras and Varoufakis have tried to deal with the pressure from the Troika but there were some differences. After the referendum that was a victory for SYRIZA, Tsipras call that a victory for democracy but Varoufakis resigned. There were several speculations over what was the real reason for Varoufakis to resign, the most interesting is that the libertarian-Marxist had developed an emergency strategy that will use bitcoin as the Greek currency, which sound more an anarcho-capitalist idea to deal with the crisis. The SYRIZA government had generated discontent among its members because under the pressure of Germany and the Eurozone, it announced the austerity measures. Obviously, anarchists are telling I told you so.

Now even Bernie Sanders is talking about Greece and Ron Paul too. The radical left, the populist right and hardcore libertarians agree that the large international organizations like IMF or the World Bank that supposedly promote “free markets,” actually promote crony capitalism which is why the benefits of a corporate global hegemony mostly go to the rich and well connected. One could accuse these institutions of the problems in Greece but the question remains of what to do. As someone who studied philosophy as a major, I remember hearing a lot that the origin of democracy was in Greece. It was a land of great philosophers, writers, artists and athletes which bring democracy to Western Civilization. But one have to wonder by the realities of the present, when we say “democracy”, if we are speaking of the same Greeks.

Left-libertarian philosopher Roderick Long had a wonderful text about it called Libertarian Athens in which he argued that democracy in the Greek sense was a form of direct democracy closer to what the New Left called participatory democracy than to elections which is what most people thinks when we talk about democracy. The reason is that Athenian democracy wasn’t based in majority rule (electoral democracy) or minority rule (oligarchy) but in debate between free men of Athens. Direct democracy sometimes is called anarchism. In the anti-globalization protests in Seattle in 1999, when there were people chanting “This what is what democracy looks like”, they were right. Democracy isn’t the oligarchy by the corporate and political elite that we see today.

aBack to Greece, when a lot people speak about the country going in an anarchist direction they confuse the chaos and the masked protesters with I think a much deeper concept of anarchy. Bitcoin despite not becoming the official Greek currency is popular in Greece, generally crypto-currencies are associated with anarchism and to a large extent, they are right this is some form of anarcho-capitalism. For another thing, there are now worker-controlled TV stations now, which is some form anarcho-communism. I wouldn’t be surprised if some workers of the collectivized TV use bitcoin because in the end, anarchism is more than capitalism or communism.

I’m not predicting an end of the Greek state, but I think in the long run not only Greece but several countries around the world where governments push authoritarian practices against is citizens will face a backlash. Crypto-currencies are one way, but also black markets, which for example are very popular in Latin America. Anarchism seem to me as a noble idea that could well represented by a teenage girl in High School in West Virginia protesting against the American foreign policy or a scholar in political science from Yale fighting his social democratic colleagues. If we think that the limits for a state in the concept of Aristotle should be the city, one have to wonder where is the legitimacy of the modern Greece. Maybe Greek anarchists need to start reading their own history with other eyes, maybe us too.

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A review of Peter Leeson’s ‘Anarchy Unbound’

Anarchy Unbound by Peter Leeson is the newest addition to the academic anarcho-capitalist literature, books and articles that attempt to engage mainstream academia on the topic of anarchism. He begins by setting an admittedly low bar, why anarchism works better than you think. Then he takes you on historical examples to show how self-governance can produce better outcomes than governments.

I strongly recommend this book. It is the clearest exposition of the George Mason approach to anarchism. That being said, reading it, I can more clearly identify a growing gap between popular anarchism, exemplified by attendees of Porcfest, and academic anarchism.

Popular anarchism is a social program, an argument that a stateless society today can lead to better outcomes than most countries. Snapping ones fingers and replacing the state with Friedmanesque, non-territorial, dispute resolution agencies would improve social outcomes. Transitioning is, or course, tricky, but can be ignored for the current discussion.

The primary critique of anarchism is that it is unstable. If a state is inevitable, than anarchism as a social program is, at best, an unachievable ideal. Unfortunately, Leeson never investigates the inevitability of states. As such, I do not think his book has much value for those interested in the possibility of actually enacting of a modern stateless society.

The most recent research suggests the state emerges whenever there is a surplus of wealth that can be expropriated. Raul Sanchez de la Sierra studies villages in Congo, a country whose central government can barely project power outside the capital. He finds pseudo-states emerge in these villages when the price of cobalt rises. On the other hand, nothing of the sort happens when the price of gold rises, as gold is easy to conceal.

This suggests a different research path for those interested in the possibility of a modern anarchist society than Leeson has followed. Rather than investigating stateless societies, anarchists should examine the emergence and growth of states. Under what condition are states inevitable? Do those conditions still exist? Responsible advocacy of anarchism requires answers to these questions. Unfortunately, few are currently considering them.