A diamond in the turdpile

Looking at TPM Cafe, stumbled across a discussion involving Eric Alterman, Brink Lindsay, & two other people.  Brink’s comment about modern liberalism losing its moorings via embrace of centralization as a virtue — an analysis I mostly agree with, save for the inaccurate labeling of this as “socialism” when it was managerialist corporatism with a drawn on smiley face — prompted a response from Eric including this thoroughly beaten dead horse:

I share the libertarian concern with the growth of bureaucracy and as Brink was kind enough to mention, also locate the core of liberal thought in the experiences and insights of the Enlightenment–and focus on their implications for the rights of the individual. But as John Dewey argued, “liberty” should be imagined not as an abstract principle merely to be admired but as “the effective power to do specific things”–things that could not be done by people enjoying only the theoretical ability to act on their freedoms. No longer could the slogan of political liberals be “Let the government keep its hands off industry and commerce,” as the government became necessary to protect the individual’s freedom from the growing power of just those forces. “There is no such thing as the liberty or effective power of an individual, group, or class,” Dewey explained, “except in relation to the liberties, the effective powers, of other individuals, groups or classes.”

I feel that libertarianism, as I understand it, is overly concerned with theoretical liberty at the expense of its actual practice. The freedom to starve, to see one’s labor unfairly exploited, to drink polluted water or breath polluted air, are not freedoms I strongly value. And to battle these and others like them, society requires collective institutional action and in many cases, government (or labor union) protection. I’m no fan of “big government” per se–and neither was Dewey. It’s merely that powerful forces like global corporations require powerful forces to balance them. (emphasis mine)

The next book Eric reads should be this one.

Libertarians who’re intellectually honest with themselves don’t support “the freedom to starve” any more than mainstream liberals do, they just differ on how to deal with it, tending to point out that much of the power corporations hold is state-based in and of itself, and thus expecting the State to seriously deal with it is ridiculous.  Also, no libertarian with any sense about them opposes labor organizing any further than to the degree that it is now government regulated, which has resulted in its neutering.  We know that big business never seriously wants the free-for-all their egomaniacal CEOs tend to fantasize about, that what they really mean is a market where capital is pampered and fluffed behind the scenes like now, only the more visible crutches handed out from the national leg-breakers are removed — while leg-breaking still goes on undeterred.  In short, to the following quote from Syvanen in the comments for Brink, we’d say “damn right!”:

One of big issues of disagreement is clearly on the efficacy of the free market. I think the issue is moot however, since free markets seem to be non-existent. If we had a free market in financial services there would be blood all over wall street, instead billions in federal money is going into bail outs.

Eric wrote a book called “what liberal media?” awhile back.  Some left-libertarian needs to write one called “what free market?”, pointing this kind of contradictory bullshit out.


About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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