Economics/Class Relations

Oren Cass calls out Libertarian who thinks Harvard shouldn’t pay food workers

An example of how the conventional Libertarian ideological framework (the Mises-Hayek-Friedman-Rand-Rothbard axis) fails, just as the statism of “progressives” fails, whatever the value of Libertarian and/or Socialist analysis on many levels. Modern universities (particularly the most elite ones like Harvard) are just as much a part of the ruling class as the medieval church was part of the ruling class. Oren Cass is absolutely right in his analysis that the economic shutdown is a government-caused crisis (albeit one generated by natural causes beyond anyone’s control). Tyler Cowen is like a medieval cleric claiming the church, aristocracy, and monarchy should just forget about trying to help the peasants during an outbreak of the plague.

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  1. People like to claim libertarianism fails a lot. Will this stimulus make the alleged one percent better or worse off? Probably better just like the last stimulus. I don’t know if you see what the airlines and some other corporations are getting from this CARE package but its quite absurd. Even libertarianism lite like a Massie or Rand Paul probably thanks to benign neglect has or could do more then an interventionist state. All the arguments which the left uses to make people suspicous of the profit motive apply just as much if not more to the “liberal” “democratic” state which is just another profit seeking corporation (washcorp or macroninc or Xiprc). At the end of this interview there was a throw away line which derails the whole argument. Getting money into the hands of people who need it sounds nice but as you can see with things like the world bank or the imf or the clinton foundation it tends just to go to the elites or middle management. As far as paying workers is concerned its true that government workers continue to get paid without providing any services and on top of that they will get a stimulus check. Many aspects of the middle class should cheer this pandemic thanks to the free-paid holiday with bonus. If you want to buy into the labor theory of value which most marxists and adam smithian style capatilists like to claim then if no one is working eventually the economy will collapse. Peter HItchens has a great column and one of his points was that “the government” paying for things is really just “us.” At some point the money will be simply worthless or it will be effectively deflated so that people only notice somewhat. This just turns the US into latin america. This will solve the immigration crisis faster then Bernie sanders or Trump ever could do.

    • I agree with just about everything you said. The “stimulus” is functioning pretty much the way the welfare state generally functions with loads of corporate welfare, a little something for those in the middle, and peanuts for those on the bottom.

      Although a disagreement I have with orthodox libertarians is similar to a disagreement I have with Marxists. I consider the state to be more than just the political government proper (elected officials, appointed bureaucrats, state security forces, etc) and I consider the ruling class (Marx) or power elite (C. Wright Mills) to be more than just those who control the means of production. Elite theory, as well as studies of power dynamics generally, offer a more complete picture I think.

      Where orthodox libertarians and I would probably disagree on the present crisis is that while I agree that the “stimulus” is really just a ruling class looting spree, it’s also true that at present we have a state-imposed medical martial law which has generated a government-induced depression. I don’t think the pandemic is the government’s fault and, state or no state, quarantines may be necessary during pandemics, even in a world of nothing but Fourierist utopian colonies or Rothbardian private communities. But the bottom line is that the state still created and maintained the systemic framework of state-capitalism (or inherited it from past regimes) and the crisis has escalated the suffering caused by the system.

      Therefore, class-based reparations are legitimate and warranted. Not just forty acres and a mule, but the whole damn plantation.

  2. I guess I am one of those nutbag orthodox libertarians but I just see this stimulus (as well as reparations) as kind of absurd. Its probably going to take 3 months to get the checks out and if you owe things like child support or haven’t filed taxes in previous years you probably won’t get them. The main thing it seems to do is to reprop up the stock market. Which is great for people holding money in the stock market but I always find it strange when progressives like Kyrstal at the rising have this kind of non cynical wide eyed view when it comes to state intervention considering how cynical view of the profit motive and corporations they have. I am an orthodox libertarian precisely because I see no reason for the state
    to merely regulate the corporations fairly which is something like a Ben Burgess, Sam Seder, Krysal Ball and etc functionally end up suggesting (ie no utopian revolution just kenysian regulated capatilism with a lot of snarky sounding fancy langauge no different then paul krugman or john maynard kenyes who are both firmly in the state capitalist class and will admit to marx himself agrees!). The only way the state helps the peasants is in this very narrow way in which unless we give the peasants crumbs they will storm the Bastille or the winter palace. (which is why i tend to think marx was an accelerationist and correct to do so but my critics will always claim i never read him fairly or clearly just like my christian friends will say i never read genisis or romans fairly or clearly). I guess when it comes to reparations I am a conservative or advocating my class interest. The moaists and third worlders I tend to ironically agree with because I don’t think most developed first world left wingers realize that in all likelihood if you took Marx’s exploitation theory seriously they are net exploiters. When american left wingers like a cornel west or richard wolfers or Bernie supporters watch hunger games they tend not to realize they are living in the capitol city and if they do they don’t think deeply enough about it. Maybe a ghetto in the capitol city but nonetheless they aren’t living in the worst ghetto globally or universally which is the whole point of universal ism as opposed to local-ism or nationalism. Again you can take a primitive style or amish style critique of capitalism/globalism/modernity (living in the mountains or ghettos are good!) but those kinds of critiques also end up destroying most methodology as well as goals of universalist historical materialist Marxism as well. Evangelical Marxism in a way is the epitome of modernity not some primitivist localist philosophy or some means to advocate a Keynesian regulatory state. If you want to do reparations where do they start and where do they end let alone who would do them and who’s interests would they come at the expense of.

    • Once again, I agree with virtually everything you said. The only disagreement would probably be that you seem to hold to the “no particular order” view that many orthodox libertarians hold to, the view that because the state is a negative, there should not necessarily be any kind of priority in terms of what kinds of state functions are abolished first or identified as particular focuses of attack. (Please correct me if I am misinterpreting your views).

      The problem I have with “no particular order” libertarianism is, ironically, one of the same problems I have with the IdPol Left. The Left’s prioritization of IdPol outside of any kind of wider focus on institutional dynamics and power relations (other than nebulous ideas like “white privilege” or “mansplaining” or “heteronormativity”) inevitably leads to the co-option of the cultural left by the ruling class, which is exactly what has been going on since the 1970s, and merely preserves the system with a more multicultural or diverse gloss.

      Libertarianism that merely says “state bad, market good” inevitably leads to the co-option of libertarianism by the right-wing of the ruling class, which grabs the bits of libertarianism they can use to their advantage and discards the rest. Hence, “Libertarians for Trump,” “libertarian neocons,” and other abominations. Even Murray Rothbard ended up endorsing Nixon because the much more authentically anti-imperialist George McGovern was supposedly such a bad guy “socialist.”

      • The problem is government initiating force. The solution is to prohibit it from doing so. I suggest a 28th amendment, “Government shall not initiate force.”

  3. I just see an awful lot of mainstream and even non mainstream sources saying this is why libertarianism fails because it can’t deal with pandemics (I will get to that in a moment). I have always liked your appearances on your own podcast as well as on praise of folly podcast and elsewhere like Tom Woods Show and elsewhere. I like your defense of why I am an anarchist as being an extension or a continuation of classical liberalism as well so I am just surprised you reposted this. I just don’t see the state ever really giving an effective stimulus out so why give any out. Most of the benefits will not at all resemble “reparations” and probably increase inequality. If you really want to hurt the ruling class let the stock market bleed cash/wealth but this to a large extent exposes most democrats who are as much, and I’d argue more, invested in this system than anyone. Paul Krugman might wind up being much more capable defender of the current mixed state capitalist system then any Ayn Rand or Murray Rothbard or David Friedman follower. Paul Krugman and Kyrstal (as well as Sam seder and Ben Burgess et al) are much closer to each other then they would like to think both functionally/practically as well as I’d argue (but less surely) theoretically.
    As far as the pandemic is concerned I don’t really see why this somehow shows libertarian-ism fails or by extension anarchism fails but if anything it vindicates it.

    First of all we do have the actual creation of the virus in itself. There are two competing “conspiracy” theories which suggest that either a Chinese or American military lab created it and I don’t think they should be discounted. Of course all “normies” want to discount this kind of thing with ochams razor fallacy but again its worth pointing out Vietnam was basically started as a farce and probably the Iraq war. Another fallacy is that you don’t need a big cause to have a big event.

    Second, If you accept that it originated in a wet market in Wuhan then its worth pointing out it only got bigger because the CCCP, which many people praise for its one child policy and authoritarianism, stopped allowing info out. It went after various doctors who were first stating that there is this virus which has bad symptoms. So its not clear that Chinese style authoritarianism or authoritarianism in general was a solution. If this originated in Norway or the US maybe it could have been found out earlier? It’s a counterfactual but its not clear.

    Third as far as social distancing is concerned its worth pointing out that some epidemiologists don’t think it works very much. It actually intuitively makes sense. There are by definition elephant sized holes in the policy so of course it will spread. Going after people with draconian fines, prison sentences, and curfews in the name of public safety seems problematic to begin with especially if the actual effect of social distancing is questionable. There is a report from Denmark that its now a crime to question the state official policy on things like corona and social distancing so one doctor/ epidemiologist decided to back out. If you just want to make a public advisory against large gatherings and not enforce it what effect would it have. It may actually have most of the effect without growing the police state. Again not all “experts” agree on the effectiveness of social distancing. Sweden has adapted a very mild form of social distancing and some places went full draconian.

    Fourth as far as ventilators, masks, and hospital beds are concerned this I think is an ethical/economic/philosophical problem which is a hundred miles deep and hundred miles wide. Its worth pointing out those who get the virus and need ventilators half of them die anyway.
    The road to recovery for those patients is not easy.
    I think a general discussion on having the right to die or the right not to get invasive treatments is worthwhile and again its worth pointing out most Americans are probably overdiagnosed (great book by its name). Moving heaven and earth through defense acts to produce ventilators seems problematic if 2/3 of them are going to die anyway. If you want to wear a mask go ahead but its funny awhile ago in places like Britain around surveillance cameras it might be a crime to wear them but now suddenly the policy is reversed. I could care less and people are welcome to wear them but again requiring them to wear them is problematic. People do touch there face more often with them on which may cancel out all the benefits.
    As far as philosophy is concerned this is where I will get into what I call the pleasure vs hospital bed problem. Michel Foucault interesting is well aware of this problem as well as Hayek. Jacobin magazine wrote a hit piece on Foucault for his sympathy toward various market thinking .

    Producing things like ventilators or hospital beds, even if they work, is time consuming. One might live longer if you had 1 ICU unit for every 5 people but that’s rather expensive. Maybe in a richer society that’s possible but at what cost is this worth it. I don’t want to spend all my labor theory of value hours producing ventilators or other treatments even if I might end up needing them. Even Ben Burgess/Michael brooks in one of their streams admitted that even in a perfect democratic socialist’s economy (which is probably impossible due to the calculation problem) there might be shortages of ventilators. If you ran a high tech Jesuit commune what percentage of resources would go to the production of ventilators or the production of pleasure (music or good food). It’s not entirely clear. In that system there would be winners and losers as well. Most conservative Christians (including Jesuits in this regard) view living forever or trying to do so as a kind of borderline sin anyways. As an agnostic person I think drastic treatments that don’t improve ones quality life are vastly overrated and to a large extent I view this whole “pandemic” as a rather drastic treatment which the corrupt state is all too willing to dish out and the only people who seem skeptical are libertarians or the Ron Paul/rothbard/Friedman style ones.

    Thanks again for responding and keep up the great work Keith.

  4. It’s not libertarian to tell other people what to do beyond any contractual agreements. A fundamental tenet of libertarianism is “mind your own business”. Unless he’s involved in running the university Cowen’s opinion is completely meaningless.

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