The case for democracy

One thing libertarians talk about a lot is coercion. If you really peel back libertarian philosophy that word looms just about as large as “liberty” or “freedom”. Coercion can take a bunch of different shapes. Taxes are coercion. Democracy is coercion. Unions are coercion. Anything that represents the will of the collective over the will of the individual is coercion.

Theoretically, the ideal libertarian society would have no democracy at all. That’s the only way to prevent collective decision making. So in order to actually craft Libertopia, democracy is out. Ideally not even a representative democratic republic would remain.

Michael Lind recently wrote a piece on libertarian hostility to democracy and at the time I felt as though something were missing from the otherwise excellent article. I believe that many libertarians sincerely do believe in liberty. Yet for all that, the antipathy to democracy – which goes well beyond Hayek’s preferred “liberal dictatorship” – reveals the fundamental internal conflict within libertarianism: in order for it to exist as a model for society, democracy must be snuffed out through coercion. Read more

Organized Labor in America

I mentioned this before, but we’re hosting a League Roundtable on the questions facing organized labor in America.

The series was kicked off by Kevin Carson, who wrote about Taft-Hartley and other ways the government has legally restricted the ability of workers to organize.

That was followed up by Mark Thompson, who argued that market anarchy favors labor over management.

Erik Vanderhoff wrote about his own experience in a union.

And today Freddie deBoer laments the lack of pro-labor libertarians and argues that libertarians should be in favor of labor rights, and that a strong labor movement could in fact make government less necessary.

More to come.


Ever since Jane Mayer’s infamous Koch-brothers article last year, one of the quickest ways for progressives to write off libertarians is to say “the Koch-funded Cato institute” or “Koch lackeys at Reason” or some similar dismissal. And while DougJ did indeed include non-libertarian think-tanks in his indictment of Big Money yesterday, the focus has still been on the libertarian think-tanks in particular, using their ties to the Koch brothers as a reason to cast doubt on anyone affiliated with them. This is silly. This is like dismissing a reporter at The New York Times because it is a “liberal rag”. Or dismissing Matt Yglesias out of hand because George Soros indirectly signs his paycheck.

Actually, if you follow this line of reasoning you’ll discover that you can pretty much no longer trust anyone who is writing and getting paid to write in any capacity by anyone with a political bias. All the writers at The American Prospect are suspect now because they are on the payroll of liberal publishers, ditto National Review and so forth. Yes, the money does matter – especially when heads roll at a think tank for no stated reason or you see some concerted effort to toe a party line, but for the most part these institutions operate with stated bias and are funded by people who share this bias. There is nothing nefarious about that. A healthy distrust of media is a good thing; using the Koch brothers or George Soros as a way to write off your opponents is just lazy.

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Corporatism etc.

Jason Kuznicki links approvingly to mistermix’s last post and points readers to this Cato Unbound series on corporatism which he says “may be the most important thing Cato Unbound has ever published.”

I agree, and highly recommend anyone interested in thoughtful libertarian discussion of corporatism to go check it out. Jason also has a really good explanation of his own libertarianism here.

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One more post on foreclosures

“Wouldn’t it be great to have a system that met people trying to do the right thing halfway?” ~ Mike Konczal, putting several bullets through my speculation that a foreclosure slowdown could result in moral hazard on the part of homeowners.

So I’ll just come right out and say it: I was wrong yesterday. I was being combative and got into an argument on a topic which A) I hadn’t put a ton of thought into and which B) I took a lousy position on. I let what I viewed as an unnecessary swipe at libertarians get in the way of my better judgment on the more important topic at hand, the issue of foreclosure fraud. Read more