Economics/Class Relations

Left, Right and Anarcho-Populist Economics

By Keith Preston, July 3, 2023

A reader writes:

“The way I see the property rights dispute between conservatives and libertarians on the one hand vs. liberals, socialists, and communists, on the other hand, is that: (1) the current allocation of property is a problem; (2) the people who have property impose costs on the rest of us, costs we did not consent to; (3) some reshuffling of the deck is necessary; (4) violent acts of terror and revolution are nearly always counter-productive (meet the new boss same as the old boss); (5) we need to find some middle way to address right-wing fears of bloody terror and left-wing fears of the corporate jackboot. Not an easy task.”

My take on this question amounts to two basic concepts:

1) A populist economic movement with a libertarian slant would be oriented toward stripping away forms of politico-economic privilege that centralize control over wealth, property, and resources at every level. This would mean attacking everything from local zoning and housing laws to state laws of incorporation and “public-private partnerships” to federal corporate welfare, central banking, international trade cartels, and transnational patent and intellectual property rights.

2) The creation of alternative infrastructure and “dual power” like unions, cooperatives, tenants associations, mutuals, credit unions, land trusts, barter and trade networks, consumer federations, benevolence societies, partnerships, intentional communities, communes, and other economic arrangements that are neither corporate controlled nor dependent on the state, and the elimination of laws and government policies that create barriers to these things.

Another objective might be the creation of movements to cancel debt (like with student loan debt right now, but expanded to include medical, credit card, tax, and other forms of debt). Another might be the legal redefinition of property rights along the lines suggested by Paul Craig Roberts: If there are going to be any conventional welfarist measures involved, it might be something like a locally administered UBI or municipal healthcare like in Libby, Montana.

I generally don’t participate in mainstream economics debates because I reject the premises on which the debate takes place. On the one hand, you have conservatives and libertarians who take the “Big Business is the most persecuted minority” or Republican talk-radio “Why do you hate achievers?” line. On the other hand, you have the “Government should be everybody’s sugar daddy” Bernie Sanders line or the “All wealth should be centralized into the hands of the state” socialist/communist line. Right now, the most basic issue is to shift the debate framework away from these false dichotomies.

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