How Not to Respond to Charges of Hyprocrisy

by Kevin Carson

How Not to Respond to Charges of Hyprocrisy

More than a decade ago, neoconservative bloggers coined the term “Fisking” for the polemical device (originally demonstrated against left-leaning journalist Robert Fisk) of taking apart a commentary, sentence by sentence, analytically ripping each part to shreds. Although the neocon positions in this debate range from misguided to repugnant, the technique itself is a good one. And President Obama’s recent remarks on the Crimean crisis, in his March 26 address to European youth, are admirably suited to such deconstruction. Let’s take a look at the relevant remarks, point by point, and compare them to reality.

Moreover, Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. Now, it is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate not just around the world, but in the United States as well. I participated in that debate and I opposed our military intervention there. But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system.

The so-called “international system” Obama idealistically refers to was created by the United States after World War II, with Britain and France as junior partners, and was designed primarily to maintain the role of the United States as “the hegemonic power in a system of world order.” Note: That last quote comes not from Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn or some random academic Leftist, but from Samuel Huntington — an active participant in and enthusiastic supporter of that “system of world order.”

The international system set up at Bretton Woods (the World Bank and IMF), with the UN Security Council and US armed forces as its ultimate enforcers, was designed to guarantee that regional attempts at economic secession like Germany’s Fortress Europe or Japan’s Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere would never again threaten to withdraw a major portion of the world’s natural resources or markets from the control of theglobal corporate order. The main function of American strategic activity these past seventy years has been to ensure that development of the global South takes place within the framework of this system of world order — to the point of using military coups, death squads and terrorism when necessary in response to local challenges to the system.

We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain.

Quite true. The United States government did not formally annex any Iraqi territory or seize its resources in its own name. It just helped a lot of global corporations loot the economy of defeated Iraq, under the supervision of U.S. military authorities. The Coalition Provisional Authority, under Paul Bremer, auctioned off the entire Iraqi state sector with the help of the same neoliberal policy wonks from Heritage and AEI who had overseen the corporate looting of Chile and Russia under Pinochet and Yeltsin. It violently invaded, robbed and suppressed the headquarters of the Iraq trade union federation. And it rubber-stamped Iraq’s accession to global “intellectual property” treaties giving the record and movie industries, Microsoft, Merck, Pfizer and Monsanto perpetual rights to extract rent from the sweat and blood of the Iraqi people.

Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.

Indeed. The U.S. left Iraq with a rubber-stamp constitution written by Paul Bremer & Co., with the results of the previous corporate looting grandfathered in as permanent fundamental law, and with amendment provisions requiring majorities in so many provinces as to make it virtually impossible to change. So it’s true, the U.S. government gave up on direct annexation of territory (Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the like) a long time ago. It was smart enough to realize it’s cheaper to outsource the job of enforcing its corporate interests to nominally independent sham democracies, reserving direct use of force for occasions when those sham democracies get out of line.

“Idealistic” Kennedy liberalism, like the process for making sausage, doesn’t bear much looking into. In reality, behind all the talk of promoting the “ideals of the Enlightenment” and “global community” and “human rights,” the state does one main job: Serving the interests of the economic ruling class that controls it.

flattr this!

27 responses to “How Not to Respond to Charges of Hyprocrisy

  1. As normal Kevin is in error, American “corporations” did not “loot” Iraq of natural resources (oil and gas) after 2003.

    Indeed the British Conservative Peter Hitchens opposed the Iraq war (unlike his left wing brother Christopher – who supported the Iraq war) partly because he (quite correctly) predicted there would be no economic benefit from it.

    There was no real political gain either (Peter Hitchens also predicted there would be no political gain), The United States did not put Iraq under Imperial rule (Christopher Hitchens and so on opposed Empires – they demanded democracy), the majority in Iraq is Shia, so Iraq ended up with a Shia (i.e. basically pro IRANIAN) government. Although the Kurdish area in the north is different.

    The fate of (most of) Iraq should have been obvious to everyone from the start – it was obvious to Peter Hitchens.

    But it was not obvious to the neocons – who preferred their Woodrow Wilson delusions about world wide democracy, to the hard facts of the savagery of populations in the Middle East.

    I remember trying to explain a few facts about Iraq to some semi official types in the run up to 2003 (technically a continuation of the conflict of 1991 – as there has been no real peace after that conflict). My “Uncle Bill” had actually served in Iraq (before World War II) but anything I said was dismissed as “racism” against the lovely Iraqi people (even the term “Iraqi people” is a error, there are various tribes and so on – but try explaining that to a neocon) – so I gave up in despair.

    By the way Kevin – your friend Thomas has recently accused me of “lying” about a position of yours. So I had better check what your actual position is.

    Do you believe that the major factor in the industrial revolution was the beneficial inventiveness and business skill of the “capitalists” – i.e. the new methods (and economies of scale) of such people as Mr Wedgewood (pottery), and Mr Arkwright (textiles) and so on. Or do you believe that STATE INTERVENTION is what caused the industrial revolution (indeed that the state can take the credit for BOTH the industrial revolution and agricultural revolutions)?

    So which is it Kevin? Which should take the credit? Which REALLY MATTERS?

    The beneficial actions of “the capitalists” (people such as Mr Wedgewood, Mr Arkwright, and so on right to people such as Mr Jon Huntsman [senior] today)? Or state intervention?

    Which REALLY MATTERED – which (the new methods and economics of scale of the “capitalists” – or state intervention) should take the credit for the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution (two of the best things ever to happen in the history of humanity)?

    If you, Kevin, will say that it is the beneficial deeds of the “capitalists” (i.e. the new methods and economics of scale of such people as Mr Wedgewood, Mr Arkwright and so on) that REALLY MATTERED – and that such state interventions as happened did NOT help economic development, that economic development would generally have been better WITHOUT these state interventions. Then I do not think we have a problem.

    If you, Kevin, really are PRO (not ANTI) “capitalist” – if you think it is the beneficial new methods and economies of scale of “the capitalists” that really matters (and that state intervention actually, generally, retards such economic progress) then I have fundamentally misunderstood your position.

    My position is that state intervention generally HELD BACK economic development (made things WORSE not BETTER than they otherwise would have been) in terms of the development of new methods and economies of scale.

    By the way……..

    Under Pinochet corporations “looted Chile” – any evidence for that, absurd, remark?

    As for Robert Fisk – he works (as does the Patrick Cockburn – old Red family there, and other such types) works for the “Independent” newspaper.

  2. American business enterprises (“corporations”) are now some of the most highly taxed and highly regulated in the world.

    American companies can not bring back money from overseas – because if they did so it would be looted by the government. American business people (men and women) can be sent to prison for what would be considered minor clerical errors in normal countries. And, on top of all, American Tort Law has become insane – for example a quarter of all medical procedures in Massachusetts were ordered for legal reasons (to avoid get sued), and it is not just medicine, every productive activity is attacked by the (out of control) American legal system.

    In the face of all this (the absurdly high taxes, the endless regulations, the lunatic tort law system) you, Kevin, should be trying to HELP American business (what you call “the corporations”) before it is destroyed, Instead you spend you time inventing absurd libels against American business – “looted” the oil of Iraq after 2003, “looted” Chile under Pinochet – and on and on.

    In your mind the interests of “big business” (“the rich”) is somehow diametrically opposed to the interests of “the people”. In reality the central insight of both libertarianism and Classical Liberalism is that the long run economic interests of “rich” and “poor”, “big business” and “employees”, “capital” and “labour” is THE SAME.

    The harm done to American business (and to the business enterprises of other nations – such as the United Kingdom) by government interventions (taxes, regulations, perverted tort law) is also harm done to “the people”.

  3. To give a concrete example.

    Would it really be in the interests of “the people” for the State of South Dakota to adopt the “anti rich” and “anti big business” taxes and regulations of next door Minnesota?

    No it would not be in the interests of “the people” (“the poor”, “the workers” – whatever form of words you wish to use Kevin) for South Dakota to copy next door Minnesota – it would be actively AGAINST the interests of “the people”.

  4. It was no different in Britain during the industrial revolution.

    During some years (not other years) taxes and government spending were high (due to the wars with Revolutionary France) and a few business enterprises benefitted from that – but most business enterprises (including most large business enterprises) were HURT by this.

    It would have been BETTER (not WORSE) for economic development (for the industrial revolution) had the state been SMALLER all the time.

    Big government is not GENERALLY good for business (big or small), it is GENERALLY bad for business (big or small) – especially over the longer term.

    This is what you fail to understand Kevin.

  5. In reality the central insight of both libertarianism and Classical Liberalism is that the long run economic interests of “rich” and “poor”, “big business” and “employees”, “capital” and “labour” is THE SAME.

    Sadly, the chance of Kevin ever grasping this basic and essential insight is round about nil.

    It’s a major problem. If there is a fundamental to Libertarianism, it is the rejection of the Marxian class struggle model of society. If a person doesn’t get that, they won’t get anything else about liberty.

    Kind of tangentially, I sometimes spend a futile while trying to get anti-feminist types to grasp that the antithesis of feminism isn’t some kind of masculism, but the similar rejection of the “gender class struggle”. It usually ends up much like an argument with Carson and Knapp; futile, frustrating, and a worn out keyboard.

    Keep buggering on, and all that.

  6. I fear you are correct Ian.

  7. “If there is a fundamental to Libertarianism, it is the rejection of the Marxian class struggle model of society.”

    Actually, class struggle was one of the early innovations of libertarian ideology via Comte and Dunoyer. Marx stole it and re-purposed it.

  8. “American ‘corporations’ did not ‘loot’ Iraq of natural resources (oil and gas) after 2003.”

    You got the year wrong.

    From 2003 to 2009, US oil companies made bank on Iraqi oil under the aegis of the US occupation and largely via guaranteed US sales arranged through their proxies in the US government.

    In 2009, the new Iraqi government took control, imposed onerous restrictions and auctioned off oil access. The American companies took their profits and left, letting Russian and Chinese companies take over the now less profitable business.

    It wasn’t so much normal “capitalism” for US corporations in this case — more just a quick smash and grab.

    You are very right about the political results — and I made precisely the same prediction in the run-up to the war. Given Iraq’s Shiite majority and the pro-Iranian sentiments of that majority, the main effect of the US invasion was to create a new Iranian ally (and eventually possibly even part of a “Greater Iran).

  9. Thomas, I think you’re going to have to grasp that nobody else gives a fuck what somebody might have thought 200 years ago under a definition of “libertarianism” that is no longer used, any more than we care that “gay” just meant being jolly 100 years ago. It’s what it means now, what the philosophy is now, and what liberty actually consists of in this day and age that matters.

    And, reality, that too. The class struggle model of society is simple false, so we need pay no more attention to it than the phologistion theory of combustion, Platonic Essentialism, or any other incorrect theory.

    • I am unaware of any school of libertarian theory which DOESN’T include a healthy element of “class struggle.” It’s certainly there in Mises, Rand, et. al.

      If you don’t give a fuck about what libertarianism is, that’s just fine by me … but why spend so much time arguing about it?

      • I do care about libertarianism. It’s just that I only have a limited amount of time to spend considering the Bizarro Universe you seem to inhabit, Thomas. The one where Libertarianism is a hard-left anti-capitalist anti-modernist collectivist ideology, that one.

        You are welcome to keep telling us all how A is Not A, and white is black, and up is down, and all your other enjoyable opinions, but do bear in midn that we’re primarily interested in the Libertarianism of the Prime Universe (the one we inhabit) where it’s individualist and free market and based on Austrian economics. That kind of thing.

        • Not sure where you vomited up the idea that I consider libertarianism “collectivist” from. Your imagination, perhaps?

          Most libertarians, myself included, are methodological individualists.

          It does not follow from that that like people, places and things cannot be treated as sets for purposes of analysis. I’ve never come across a libertarian who DOESN’T do so.

          • (a) Carson constantly promotes a collectivist, effectively anarcho-communist ideal, in which for instance production is in local co-operatives rather than propertarian businesses.

            (b) Treating things as sets for purposes of analysis can be useful but has to be handled with tongs. The specifically Marxian (and, sadly generalised, these days) approach is more than that though; it “chunks” society into rigid sets with prescribed class interests and concludes from that, erroneously, that these class interests are always antagonistic and thus there is an eternal struggle until one class (originally, the bourgeoisie) is eradicated. Hence, I said “Marxian class analysis”.

            The fundamental error, as elucidated by Paul above, is the assumption of an inherent class struggle e.g. (in Marxism 1.0) between the Bourgeois and the Proletariat. A libertarian recognises that this is an error, and that the bourgeois and proletariat (even if you can accurately define them, which is another problem) synergise to produce.

            Now it’s certainly the case that everyone has a selfish interest. As a seller of rude pictures, my interest would be in producing as little art as possible and charging as much as possible for it. My customer, on the other hand, wants as much art as possible for as little money as possible. A Marxist concludes (the error) that therefore we are enemies and doomed for one of us to destroy the other. Of course, if we do that, we are both ruined; either the customer has nobody to purchase art from, or the artist has nobody to sell it to. So, a libertarian free marketeer understands that our opposed “class interests” are a good thing, not a bad thing. The consumer’s pressure makes me work harder, producing more for less. Across the whole economy, that process is a win-win.

            Class analysis is a highly toxic approach. It can be useful but, as the Marxists demonstrate, the drawing of wrong conclusions from it is abundant.

            Which brings us back to Kevin; being a Marxist, he also presumes that divergent “class interests” are harmful. He would eradicate the capitalist, but interestingly enough also the consumer, by denying that consumer the choice of suppliers by tearing up the roads to eradicate competition. Once I am trapped in Northampton, and Paul in Kettering, with no means to transport our goods to each others’ towns, competition is eradicated and Kevin’s imaginary solitary class of workers’ cooperatives/individual subsistence farmers are freed from competition from rivals. That this results in the consumers not getting access to cheaper, better goods apparently does not matter; but then again, as a Marxist Kevin thinks goods are “commodities” anyway, so one loaf of bread is the same as another (which is, as it goes, another error of the class analysis type).

            And this is Kevin’s real problem, really. He takes sides; he prefers the producer interest (so long as the producer interest is not a capitalist) over the consumer interest. He hates competition. This is an error that was smashed to smithereens two centuries ago by Bastiat. Which is long enough ago for even Kevin to take it into account, surely.

            • “He would eradicate the capitalist, but interestingly enough also the consumer, by denying that consumer the choice of suppliers by tearing up the roads to eradicate competition.”

              Um, no. He wouldn’t tear up the roads. He would just stop having the state build and maintain the roads.

              At the moment, the “consumer” heavily subsidizes the roads on behalf of the “capitalist” via the mechanism of state. In a free market, the “capitalist” would have to pay the full cost of his use of those roads, and that cost would reflect in his prices instead of in the “consumer’s” tax bill.

              Prices are information. State subsidies are a way of lying by allowing costs to be externalized. When I buy a widget at Wal-Mart, the apparent price is X, but the actual price is X plus some portion of the taxes I pay to, among other things, subsidize the Interstate Highway System for Wal-Mart’s use.

  10. And really, this does highlight a basic problem with the (American) style of “left-libertarianism” (or however you choose to label it) typified by Kevin. It’s trapped in the past; some time in the 19th century with Benjamin Tucker, bemoaning the coming of the railroads and industrialisation and department stores, clinging hopelessly to a one man and his mule agrarianism which is not only long gone, but inevitably passes when a society develops industrial production methods.

    Hence, Kevin tries to prove that those industrial production methods, and the railroads, and department stores, branded goods and the Sears Catalogue are all somehow aberrant and can somehow be done away with. Which is futile.

  11. Thomas the main oil contracts in Iraq are not “looting” – and they have not gone to American companies anyway.

    The whole “libertarian” left thing is nonsense.

    The American oil company “looting of Iraq”.

    The “looting” of Chile by American companies under Pinochet.

    The idea that the interests of “the people” are somehow different from the general interests of “business”.

    It is all nonsense.

    As for “methodological individualism” – that is Austrian School economics.

    Ludwig Von Mises (although not all the Austrian School) was a Classical Liberal.

    The central insight of Classical Liberalism (and Libertarianism) is that the long term economic interests of “rich” and “poor”, “employers” and “employees”, “capital” and “labour” are – THE SAME.

    Reject that if you wish – but do not call yourself a libertarian if you do reject it.

  12. I doubt this will help, but I am hopeful. 15 pages couldn’t hurt, could it?

    “Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis”, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1990.

    • JKJ,

      Wow, that IS interesting. I’ve never been very enamored of Hoppe, but that piece not only offers a pretty good summation of “class struggle” but also a pretty good explanation of why I disagree with Kevin on the fate of wage labor in a free market.

      Vis a vis libertarianism, “class struggle” is and always has been an element that libertarians consider important, regardless of school. Comte and Dunoyer described the “productive class” versus the “political class,” and that continues to be the distinction that libertarians make (Marx forked the class distinction, erroneously in my view, into “proletariat” versus “bourgeois,” and his analysis was so faulty it had to be continuously re-forked, e.g. “lumpenproletariat” vs. “industrial proletariat” and so forth).

      The difference between “right libertarians” and “left libertarians” is their analysis of what kinds of actors belong to which class, “productive” or “political.” At both ends of the libertarian right/left spectrum, the analysis tends to admit of mixed claims. Even right libertarians will generally admit to the existence of “crony capitalism,” while holding that most of the employing class is part of the productive class. And left libertarians support markets (productive class activity) even though we hold that existing markets are highly distorted by political class affiliations of the employing class and the attendant state subsidies/privileges.

      With respect to wage labor and “exploitation”:

      Hoppe explains that latter in terms of time preferences — the “capitalist” works on a longer time horizon for greater rewards, the “worker” accepts discounted rewards in order to get them on a shorter time horizon. The only thing I’d add to that is that wage labor shifts RISK as well. The “capitalist” may make bank or go bankrupt over the long term; the wage laborer makes small bank in the short term, so even if the company goes tits up, he’s already reaped real rewards.

      The only real disagreement I have with Hoppe is on whether or not wage labor is “exploitative.” Of course it is — in BOTH directions. The employer exploits the worker for profit, and vice versa. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

      Carson’s view is that in actually existing capitalism’s wage labor milieu, a political employing class uses state power to extract a greater discount from a productive working class than it could extract in a free market, in various ways, including using the state to bar competition and steal property so that some workers are de facto forced into wage labor versus self-employment. I agree. But I think he over-estimates how many people would give up lower risk and short term discounted rewards in favor of higher risk and long term greater rewards.

      I think one precursor cause of Kevin’s position versus mine is that he subscribes to a Labor Theory of Value, and I don’t.

      • I’ve promoted this comment to the front page, and republished the Hoppe essay close to it.

  13. I think one precursor cause of Kevin’s position versus mine is that he subscribes to a Labor Theory of Value

    Which is, by the way, objectively wrong. And thus so is every conclusion drawn from it.

    • I agree that Labor Theories of Value are objectively wrong (the only theory of value that isn’t objectively wrong is Subjective Theory of Value, a la Menger et. al).

      If a conclusion drawn from a Labor Theory of Value is right, it is right in spite of, not because of, the fact that it was drawn from a Labor Theory of Value.

      Of course, Ian would love it if people falsely assumed that all conclusions drawn by Carson, about anything and everything, were drawn from Labor Theory of Value.

      And although he doesn’t use the M-word here, he also loves to pretend that because Carson subscribes to a Labor Theory of Value, Carson is necessarily a “Marxist,” even though Labor Theories of Value precede Marx (Adam Smith, David Ricardo) and even though Carson’s Labor Theory of Value differs in specifics from Marx’s (among other things he attempts — unsuccessfully in my view — to graft a subjective element onto it). Hell, for that matter, Rand’s theory of value in relation to industrial production was an inverted LTV.

      • The problem is, the rest of Kevin’s theory is derived from Marxism as well. That’s why he needs to justify the LTV. Because without it, there is no way to derive the expropriation of surplus value by capitalists.

        • “Because without [Labor Theory of Value], there is no way to derive the expropriation of surplus value by capitalists.”

          My first thought was “well, Ian just announced that all of economics is bullshit.”

          But my second thought is to be kinder and simply to explain that yes, expropriation of surplus value can by capitalists be derived from subjective theory of value by precisely the mechanism Carson describes: State intervention on behalf of “capitalists.”

          In a free market, enterprising combination of capital (“means of production”) and labor produces surplus value. That is, the subjective value of the final product or service is valued more highly by the buyer than either of the two things not enterprisingly combined. And in a free market, employer (“capitalist”) and worker would exploit each other, each attempting to get as much of that surplus value as they could get.

          But capital, including human capital (labor) tends to flow to where it can be most profitably invested. And if the state closes off some of those areas for labor, this artificially decreases the worker’s, and artificially increases the “capitalist’s” bargaining power for that surplus value. The difference between the free market outcome and the state intervention outcome is the expropriation.

          Three examples, one you’ve specifically thrown a fit about and two simple modern service examples:

          – Peasant farmer may not be rich, but still values his lifestyle as a peasant farmer more than he values the higher wage he’d earn working in the “capitalist’s” factory. So the capitalist has the state “enclose” the peasant’s farmland, not just leaving the peasant only one plausible survival option (to work for the “capitalist” instead of farm for himself) but inherently reducing that peasant’s bargaining power for share of surplus produced by the combination of the “capitalist’s” factory machinery and the peasant’s labor.

          – Working guy invests what little capital he has in a car, starts hanging out at the airport offering to drive people where they want to go. “Capitalist” goes to the local city council, decries “dog eat dog competition,” gets a license/medallion system imposed at a price the regular guy can’t afford to pay. If working guy wants to continue driving a taxi, he now has to do so for the “capitalist,” at rates the “capitalist” now has substantial power to set.

          – Working guy buys a case of whiskey and some shot glasses, starts serving drinks on his front porch. “Capitalist” goes to the state and decries “unregulated liquor,” gets a liquor licensing system that working guy can’t afford to buy into. Working guy can tend bar for “capitalist” at rates now has substantial power to set, or working guy can’t tend bar.

          Look, ma, no “labor theory of value” involved.

  14. Thomas – the number of people working in farming in England and Wales peaked in the census of 1851. So the idea that industrial revolution depended on people being forced off the land is wrong.

    By the way “enclosure” was about change in land use (not change in land ownership) and in many counties (including Lancashire – the heart of the industrial revolution) very little land was enclosed by Act of Parliament.

    There is only one county in England or Wales where most land was enclosed by Act of Parliament – I am sitting in it (Northamptonshire).

  15. Assuming no private roads (and why should one assume that?) then people would tend to live near railway stations.

    And that is where the supermarket would be – near the railway station, where the people would be.

    So big retail chains do not need interstate road networks – although (yes) they will use one if it exists.

    So do other people.

  16. Thomas – either you defend the property of others (including people who are much richer than you) or you do not.

    If you do not (if you are big government “anarchist” who supports taking the stuff of other people) then you may call yourself a libertarian – but you are not one.

    As I have often pointed out – these Black Flag “anarchist” people are just big government people by another name. Hence the alliance with “Occupy” movement and the Chicago Teachers Union.

    Calling the collective “the people” does not stop it being a STATE.