Paul Marks on Libertarians, Left and Right

Paul Marks of the Libertarian Alliance offers these comments in response to my earlier piece, “A Critique of the State of Libertarianism.” :

A bit “inside baseball” – but there is some practical stuff here that interests me.

No – nobody I know regards 19th century Britain or the United States as libertarian. But we do look at the facts – for example the British government (local as well as central) was well under 10% of the economy around 1870 (just about the low point).

And those people who think that economies of scale (i.e. an individual or company employing thousands of people) on “state intervention” are just wrong, flat wrong (they do not know what they are talking about).

As for the United States – slavery can not be ignored and slavery (NOT capitalism) did depend on statism.

As Salmon P. Chase was fond of pointing out – slavery is actually a series of common law offenses (false imprisonment, assault and so on) “legalised” by state statutes and corrupt court judgement.

People in “Bleeding Kansas” (where the killing between the free and slave sides started long before Lincoln was elected President of the United States) knew the two social and legal systems could not live side by side – and that both sides wanted to expand into the West.

This does not mean that Lincoln’s tactics in the Civil War were any good (the North won because it was much bigger and more powerful – not because of his supposedly great leadership) – or that his Henry Clay Whig economic ideas were any good either.

Leaving slavery aside – could America have been a freer society in the 19th century? Of course it could – anything can be improved.

However, government (the Civil War aside) was quite small – to claim that it shaped the economy (as some people do) is nonsense.

By the way I am not even sure what the term “feudal society” is supposed to mean. After all one can have feudalism without serfdom (it had basically died out in both Britain and France by the 1400s) and one can have serfdom without feudalism (for example the Emperor Diocletian bound peasants to the soil – made them serfs).

Feudalism is a legal and political system (whether it is a good or bad one is a debate for another time) it is NOT an economic system – the idea that it is an economic system is an error.

As for the “cultural libertarian left”.

Yes – I do not really see why they feel the need to ape the Frankfurt School Marxists. After all the modern “Critical Theory” (if we are not allowed to say “P.C.” any more) do not really believe their own rubbish. They would not ally with the Islamists (which they have – in many Western countries) if they were actually sincere about all this “rights of women” and “Gay rights” and on and on.

It is just “victim group” tactics – to get people to blame all their problems (real or fantasy problems) on “capitalist society” – “the rich” – “the corporations”. And to make people support a wonderful new society where the state (sorry – not the state “the people”) will control everything.

I find it hard to take the “cultural” stuff seriously – as the people who push it clearly do not believe in it themselves (see above), so back to the economic stuff.

People who really think that, for example, J. Wedgewood was some illegitimate creation of the state in the 18th century, or that Jon Huntsman (senior) or “boo-hiss” “the Koch brothers” are now – are just wrong, and there is an end to it.

If the “libertarian left” are peaceful in their wrongness – i.e. just shout “their land and other property should not be theirs” then they should be treated peacefully (i.e. ignored), if they are violent in their wrongness, try and actually take the land and other property by force, then they should be shot.

There really is nothing else to say to people who think that “inequality is the creation of the state” and so on. There was nothing else to say to Rousseau and his followers in the 1700s – and the fundamental position remains the same.

This does not mean that credit money expansion does not cause artificial inequality – of course it does – but as the “libertarian left” tend to be in favour (not against) “cheap money” credit money expansion (against funding loans solely from REAL SAVINGS) there is no common ground even on this point.

Still with government now about half the entire economy with out of control Welfare States destroying every major Western country, and the financial system being a demented credit bubble, this society will soon pass away anyway.

So, in a way, the “libertarian left” will get their wish – a blank sheet to start again.

Pity about the future starvation and cannibalism though.

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