Paul, Santorum and the Sixth War (on Iran)

One of the places foreign policy emerged in the GOP Iowa debate last night was an exchange between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum on Iran, as right wing analyst Thomas R. Eddlem has explained in detail.

Chris Wallace of Fox News asked libertarian Rep. Ron Paul why he was soft on Iran and opposed economic sanctions on Tehran. Paul replied that Iran is small potatoes as a threat, compared to what we went through with the Soviet Union, and that anyway it would be perfectly natural for Iran to want a nuclear deterrent, given that it is surrounded by nuclear-armed powers, including Russia, Pakistan, Israel, etc.:

“Just think of what we went through in the Cold War when I was in the Air Force, after I was drafted into the Air Force, all through the Sixties. We were standing up against the Soviets. They had like 30,000 nuclear weapons with intercontinental missiles. Just think of the agitation and the worry about a country that might get a nuclear weapon some day.”

… That makes it much worse. Why would that be so strange if the Soviets and the Chinese had nuclear weapons, we tolerated the Soviets. We didn’t attack them. And they were a much greater danger. They were the greatest danger to us in our whole history. But you don’t go to war with them.”

…. Just think of how many nuclear weapons surround Iran. The Chinese are there. The Indians are there. The Pakistanis are there. The Israelis are there. The United States is there. All these countries … why wouldn’t it be natural if they might want a weapon? Internationally, they might be given more respect. Why should we write people off? In the Fifties, we at least talked to them. At least our leaders and Reagan talked to the Soviets. What’s so terribly bad about this? And countries you put sanctions on you are more likely to fight them. I say a policy of peace is free trade, stay out of their internal business, don’t get involved in these wars and just bring our troops home.”

Ron Paul was representing the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party. It is not exactly isolationist (note the desire for international trade), but opposes the military-industrial complex. As Right anarchists, they want the least government possible, and see government as a distraction for businesses, who succumb to the temptation to use the government to distort the eufunctional free market. In essence, government is a scam whereby some companies are seduced by the possibility of manacling the invisible hand that ought to be magically rewarding enterprise and innovation. A significant stream within libertarianism theorizes war as the ultimate in this racket, whereby some companies use government to throw enormous sums to themselves by waging wars abroad and invoking patriotic themes. This analysis is remarkably similar to that of Left anarchists such as Noam Chomsky.

The difference is that for anarcho-syndicalists like Chomsky, the good guys of history are the workers and ordinary folk, whereas for Libertarians, it is entrepreneurs. Both theories depend on a naive reading of social interest. Right anarchists seem not to be able to perceive that without government, corporations would reduce us all to living in company towns on bad wages and would constantly be purveying to us bad banking, tainted food, dangerous drugs, etc. I mean, they behave that way when they can get away with it even when there is supposed government oversight, usually by capturing the government oversight agency that should be regulating them and then defanging it (e.g. BP and the Minerals Management Service). On the environment, private companies would never ever curb emissions without government intervention because of the problem of the commons. (Tellingly, Ron Paul calls global climate change a “hoax.”)

And, what makes the Libertarians think that if there were no governments or only weak governments, the corporations would not just wage the wars themselves? The East India Companies of Britain and the Netherlands behaved that way. India was not conquered by the British government, but by the East India Company. Likewise what is now Indonesia was a project of the Dutch East India Company. Libertarians have difficulty imagining warmongering corporations who pursue war all on their own without any government involvement. But governments have often been more timid than corporate men on the spot. In late 18th century Britain, the civil government was very nervous about the EIC conquests in India and worried about corporate corruption, which is one reason Warren Hastings ended up being tried.

Likewise, the anarcho-syndicalist tradition makes workers unions more saintly and disinterested than they typically actually are, though since they are looking out for the interests of the majority (workers), they typically have more equitable positions than the narrower business elites idolized by Libertarians.

Paul’s Libertarian-pro-peace approach to the Middle East (he not only wants an end to the US confrontation with Iran but also a complete US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan) evoked a sharp response from Neoconservative Rick Santorum:

“Iran is not Iceland, Ron. Iran is a country that has been at war with us since 1979. Iran is a country that has killed more American men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan than the Iraqis and the Afghans have. The Iranians are the existential threat to the state of Israel.”

Santorum has long had a fixation on Iran, and his statement here is typical of the lies he tells about that country. He knows very well that the United States is not at war with Iran, that the conflict between the two countries has been nothing like the Afghanistan or Iraq Wars. In the past, Santorum has said that the US is at war with a radical Islam, at the center of which Is Iran. Santorum does not know that Iran is a Shiite power, whereas most Muslim radicals like the Taliban are, let us say, committed Sunnis and have bad relations with Iran. His last statement, that Iran is an “existential threat” to Israel, telegraphs his motivation in this war propaganda, which is to attract campaign contributions from the Israel lobbies.

When Paul replied,

” The senator is wrong on his history. We’ve been at war in Iran for a lot longer than ’79. We started it in 1953 when we sent in a coup, installed the Shah, and the reaction — the blowback — came in 1979. It’s been going on and on because we just don’t mind our own business. That’s our problem.”

Santorum responded by defending the CIA coup against the elected government of Iran in 1953, and asserted that the oppressive dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was an era of liberty for the Iranian people!

Ron Paul concluded:

“You’ve heard the war propaganda that is liable to lead us into the sixth war and I worry about that position. Iran is a threat because they have some militants there, but believe me, they’re all around the world and they’re not a whole lot different than others. Iran does not have an air force that can come here. They can’t even make enough gasoline for themselves.”

Ron Paul’s “peace through trade” approach to geopolitics and skepticism of overbearing imperialism does not have a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming the foreign policy of the United States. He represents small-town entrepreneurs who see the wars and their expense as a burden and a block to trade opportunities. They are a significant segment of the Republican Party, but I’d put them at 15% at most.

The Republican Party is a coalition of seven or eight distinct groups in American society. These include Evangelicals, the majority of whom are typically imperialist in their foreign policy emphases, Wall Street (which includes both hawkish concerns like Boeing and dovish groups like the bankers), Midwestern farmers, suburban and exurban professionals, and the 15% or so of Jewish Americans on the political Right (who, however, account for nearly 200 of our 400 billionaires and whose prominent position in retail business gives them both a reason to be deeply involved in politics and the wherewithal to contribute to campaigns). The preponderance of the party will be with the Santorums and the Bachmanns on a militaristic foreign policy.

Journalism often reports the views of politicians and stops there, and concentrates on personal clashes and personalities. But social historians see politicians as representatives of large social groups, and politics as the victory of some interests over others. Neither Paul nor Santorum will likely ever be president, but the groups they appeal to will have to be won over by the ultimately successful candidate. Unfortunately, the Republican Party’s various constituents add up to a party of Islamophobia and warmongering (munitions corporations, Big Oil and Gas, right wing Evangelicals, Right wing Zionists, white nationalists). The anarcho-syndicalist theory that capitalism naturally produces wars and imperialism is too broad, but certainly some groups within capitalist society will plump for those opportunities. Paul is likely right about the sixth war looming.

72 Responses

  1. As someone who mostly falls into the libertarian camp, let me address the issue of corporations. Libertarianism is really diverse, so let me qualify and say that most of what I say would be “left-libertarianism.” First, libertarians are not anarchists and I think your post does a poor job of distinguishing between the two. You are probably right that libertarians prize entrepreneurs above all else and you have the corporatism/crony capitalism critique pretty much exactly right. However, that does not mean libertarians love big business. Libertarians generally want a society that prizes small-to-medium sized entrepreneurs and believe that big corporations exist almost entirely as a result of government action through regulation, subsidies, or otherwise.

    Therefore, if a corporation would be so powerful as to wage war, libertarians will generally say the state should step in. Libertarians aren’t necessarily against monopolies/oligopolies, but by in large see them as a socially negative and existing because of regulation/manipulation by corporations of government. That said, the course to take when monopolies exist is highly debated amongst libertarians. I tend to think there’s no hard and fast rule. Some monopolies/near monopolies are evil, some are really good. Most monopolies I don’t think can exist in a market for more than a few decades. And often they can be good. Even Standard Oil had the benefit of reducing oil prices substantially and making it more widely available, thus paving the way for the Industrial Revolution. Without Standard Oil introducing substantially more efficient mechanisms for refining oil and making it cheaper, I’m not so sure the US would have industrialized as fast as it did. Microsoft had a virtual monopoly in the 90s, but now faces stiff competition from Apple. Microsoft’s monopoly power to create standards for computers I think greatly facilitated computers integration into daily life and that might not have happened if there was forced competition of smaller companies. Plus, in some industries, economies of scale benefit people overall, even if that ends up meaning there are only a few large corporations.

    • “Therefore, if a corporation would be so powerful as to wage war”

      Mike, what do you mean by your statement cited above? When, since the demise of the British East India Company, has a corporation “waged war”? Did you mean it figuratively or metaphorically? If so, please elaborate.

      • I meant that literally in reference to Professor Cole’s comments since apparently it needs to be clarified that libertarians would be critical of a society in which its government was so weak that corporations could then wage war.

    • “Libertarians generally … believe that big corporations exist almost entirely as a result of government action through regulation, subsidies, or otherwise.”

      Mr Libertarians, meet economies of scale. Economies of scale, meet Mr Libertarian. Have fun.

      • I’m well-aware of the concept of economies of scale, thank you very much. My qualifications of “generally” and “almost” were purposeful, with economies of scale in mind. I have nothing to offer in terms of sweeping generalizations regarding economies of scale and the rise of corporations. For the analysis of the role of “big” corporations, their relation to government, and positive/negative effects on society, I think we’d have to go industry by industry where economies of scale exist (which first requires determining of they exist in that industry). I will say that we probably benefit in some industries of only having a few major players where economies of scale exist (think: cars).

  2. The theory that big corporations exist only because of government, and that monopoly capitalism is a result of government, is wrong. In fact, it is so obviously wrong and ahistorical (the biggest corporations and the strongest monopolies have occurred in the most laissez-faire societies) that it bewilders me how intelligent people ever came to believe it.

    • Come on, Juan. Sorry, you are the one who is wrong. Read a bit more.

    • Libertarians are every bit as much true believers as Radical Islamists. Dealing with true believers is always ‘entertaining.’

      • That comment gives you about the same understanding of libertarianism as Fox News has of Islam…

      • KFritz, glib but absurd. We put forth our case with theory, history, and logic. Refute it if you can, but your remark is a groundless cheap shot.

    • As to whether I fall under the heading of “intelligent people,” I’m probably not the best judge. But I came to believe it through extensive historical reading.

      The claim that the Gilded Age was some sort of proxy for a laissez-faire society is a cliche often repeated in the comment threads at Daily Kos, but I confess I’m a bit more surprised to see it from the keyboard of a college professor.

      The “most laissez-faire societies” were not very laissez-faire at all. Historical capitalism has had very little to do with actual free markets.

      I think Immanuel Wallerstein and Christopher Hill, who stressed the continuities of capitalism with late feudalism, had it right. Early capitalism preserved — and built on, through Enclosures and other nullifications of customary peasant land tenure rights — the monopolies of the feudal period. Contrary to the myth of abstemious master craftsmen funding industrialization out of their own savings, most of them had Whig landed oligarchs or mercantilist plutocrats as their silent partners.

      The early industrial revolution occurred in a police state atmosphere with the Laws of Settlement functioning as an internal passport system, and Poor Law commissioners auctioning off the destitute surplus population from London to work in the industrial mill towns. The Combination Laws, laws against friendly societies, and Riot Act made free association by workers a crime. The Combination Laws were enforced by administrative tribuinals unlimited by ordinary common law standards of due process.

      The allowance of a market-clearing price mechanism within the interstices of a system DEFINED by state-enforced monopoly was nowhere even remotely “laissez-faire.”

      As for the Second Industrial Revolution, the emergence of the American mass-production economy depended on things like the railroad land grants to artificially lower the cost of distribution, artificially increase typical firm size and market area, and unify the American economy into a single market.

      That central, massive subsidy was the foundation for everything described by Alfred Chandler. It probably tipped the balance toward a mass-production economy of expensive, product-specific machinery using large batch production, and push distribution techniques and other forms of social control to guarantee full utilization of capacity. The alternative would have been the industrial district model of integrating electrical power into craft production with general-purpose machinery, operating on a demand-pull basis and frequently switching between small runs of different products. Without the alliance between the state and the paleotechnic model of industry, America would probably have industrialized as a hundred Emilia-Romagnas.

      Patents — and particularly the pooling or exchange of patents — were the primary means for cartelizing industry.

      And as for the real effect of twentieth century big government on reinforcing the power of big business — as opposed to the goo-goo Arthur Schlesinger version — I leave you to Gabriel Kolko, G. William Domhoff and Thomas Ferguson. I suppose they qualify as intelligent people?

    • Agha Cyrus, the IRI’s “elections” go way beyond the issue of “fraud”; they are a complete and utter sham, in the tradition of “elections” in the USSR, North Korea, Cuba (presumably, those elections too are without evidence of “fraud”?).

      First of all, the Leader of the country and by far the most powerful man in the country can NOT in any circumstance be elected by the “people of Iran” (and I say a “man”, because the Leader can only be a Shia male cleric, thereby disqualifying over 99% of the population that are not clerics; the so-called IRI president also can only be a male, thereby disqualifying the female half of the population) . Rather, the Leader was chosen by a majority of 86 Shia male “experts” 22 years ago and is the Leader for Life for all intents and purposes.

      Furthermore, the candidates for the IRI “presidency” along with the pseudo-parliament, the Majles, are vetted by the by the Guardian Council (a group of 12 MEN of religion — again excluding the bulk of the Iranian population right off the bat), which is half picked by the Leader and half picked by the same Majles, which in turn is vetted by the same Guardian Council.

      Moreover, there is one and only one line of political thinking permitted in the IRI: Khomeinism. There are different Khomeinist trends, just are there were different Leninist trends in the USSR, but no non-Khomeinist political groupings (let alone non-Islamist ones) are allowed to hold any political office of any sort in the IRI. The basic foundations of a democracy, e.g. freedom of speech, press, assembly, and freedom of and from religion, are non-existent in the IRI. So much for the IRI’s elections!

      And before you retort with the tried-and-true propaganda line of West-residing IRI enthusiasts, that 85% supposedly vote in IRI “elections”, bear in mind that both Cuba and North Korea claim over 95% “voter turnout” in their sham “elections” as well.

      • Nevertheless over 80% of the Iranians participated in the last elections, and on average just less than 70% participate on a regular basis. so the claim that the elections in Iran are fundamentally illegitimate is simply not shared by the people in Iran, and indeed there is no evidence of election fraud in Ahmadinejads election in 2009.

        • By that line of “reasoning”, then the “elections” in North Korea and Cuba are even more “legitimate” than IRI “elections”, since those regimes claim over 95% turnout in their own sham “elections”. And by way of contrast, elections in Western Europe and North America are less “legitimate”, since their voter turnouts tend to be lower. And not to mention the fact that the Leader of the country, who has the last word on all important matters, can NOT under any circumstance be popularly elected. Nice try though, Agha “Cyrus”, defending the Islamist regime.

        • How typical of the embittered exile crowd, Amir, to accuse people of being ‘regime supporters’ just because the facts don’t correspond to your wishful thinking. FYI no one in Iran is forced to vote unlike in NK.
          FACT:
          Presidential election turnouts in Iran since 1989:

          1989 56%

          1993 51%

          1997 80%

          2001 67%

          2005 63% (Runoff 60%)

          2009 84%

          “Voting is regular and turnout often substantial, with participation rates responsive to rules of the arena, the scale of vetting, and corresponding perceptions of choice.”

          SOURCE:

          Electoral Politics in Iran: Rules of the Arena, Popular Participation, and the Limits of Elastic in the Islamic Republic

          By Nigel Parsons

          The Middle East Institute Policy Brief No. 30 November 2010

        • How “typical’ of a West-residing IRI propagandist to accuse anyone who offers factual criticisms of the Islamist regime (facts which you are obviously incapable of addressing) of being “an embittered exile” blah, blah, blah. No one in Cuba is “forced” to vote either, Agha “Cyrus” (nor for that matter in Syria or the USSR). The IRI’s “elections” are not free, fair or democratic regardless of what percentage may or may not vote in them — any more than Cuba’s, with higher claimed rates of “voter turnout”, are. And I like how you keep ducking the issue of the Leader for Life (Leader? Who?), who was chosen 22 years ago by a group of 86 Shia male “experts”, and all the other undemocratic features of the IRI which render its sham “elections” even more farcical. Ignoring such facts apparently isn’t “wishful thinking” (LOOLLL!!!). And actually, I didn’t call you a “regime supporter”. But now that you mention it: sure, you’re not a West-residing “regime supporter”. Whatever gets you through the night, Agha “Cyrus”.

  3. Libertarians —

    A catch phrase or two describes what they “believe” in but their “default” belief puts them in the conservative rightwing camp. Somehow the military-prison complex is more palatable than the social- welfare complex.

    • You have not met enough libertarians. You describe only a small segment of them.

      • What’s your position on ALEC’s tireless crusade to “liberalize” prohibitions on the rental of prison slaves to private corporations for sweatshop labor? ALEC considers itself libertarian, and one-fifth of all state legislators in the United States are members. Yet here it is, with the Southern conservative base, working to bring back the prison-slavery system of the post-Civil War South to avoid having to pay “market” wages.

        Note that with free laborers pushed to starvation wages by this unfair competition, the South remained poor and stagnant for generations until the system was dismantled by the outrage of a public not blinded by right-wing ideology. But the high priests of States’ Rights and limited government did very well by this system.

        • That’s likely not the best reason why the South was poor. Also, you’d need a really, really high incarceration rate in my opinion to start having those types of large effects on the economy (and I feel that would be many times the US’s already high incarceration rate). I’m pretty sure the South’s poor economic performance had a lot to do with racism and unwillingness to deal with integrating its black population into society, but I can only guess since I’ve never studied the post-Civil War economy in the South.

          I’ve never met a libertarian who supports prison slave labor.

    • You forgot to throw in the “pot-smoking Republican” cliche. You might also cite Lawrence O’Donnell on how libertarians like Radley Balko never cover police abuses. If a right-winger made such a stupid over-generalization, you’d be all over it.

      “A catchphrase or two”? That seems to describe your thought as much as anyone else’s.

  4. I never said big corporations exist “only” because of government. I think as a general rule, their frequency is magnified by certain government regulations and subsidies. Big corporations aren’t necessarily bad either. Like any entity that has power, they can be good or bad. Some industries need big corporations because of economies of scale. There are only a handful of major automakers in the world, but I think it’s clear cars would be a lot more expensive if they were made by small companies.

    I’m also not sure what you mean by “big” corporations. I was generally meaning to describe monopoly power and how that effect is magnified by government regulation.

    The far more obvious answer as to why big corporations only exist in the most laissez-faire societies is because laissez-faire societies have significantly more wealth and better rule of law.

    • Corporations are a recent historical institutions who frankly sit closer on the side of bad than good; especially the larger they become. The very simple reason this is true is because the power they wield within the company is authoritative and hierarchical. This is ironic because libertarians are supposed to be against authoritarianism, and hierarchy, but for 40 hours a week, values of freedom of speech, resistance, consciousness, etc, are to be mitigated while one blindly obeys the rules handed down from corporate management to mid level management to worker.

      There’s also the fact that the larger they become the more externalities they generate, whose cost are almost always deferred to society and not to the company at large.

      The larger a company becomes, the less democratic it inherently becomes. If you think sitting on the side of authoritarianism, and less democracy constitutes “not necessarily bad,” I’d suggest a deep meditation on your values.

      • Democracy isn’t the highest among my values. I value personal responsibility and freedom. Democracy, when it’s the only rule, ends up just being the will of the majority, where 51% can decide the fate of the other 49% (and given US politics of late, that’s pretty much where we are). Just because something is voted on does not make the end result “good.” Corporations are not morally objectionable in that no one is forced to work for them. You can quit at any time, and there are laws to protect you if you are coerced by corporations because coercion is illegal…

        You can choose the company you work for. You can’t (practically speaking, unless you are already wealthy), choose the country you live in and thus the laws you live by. I feel fairly confident in saying democratic control over every resource will not lead to sufficient wealth generation to support an advanced society and thus while resources in your view would then be more fairly controlled/distributed, you’d also be back to 16 hour work days to try to feed/clothe your family.

        That said, libertarianism doesn’t actually say anything about corporate structure or organizational theory. I believe Germany has experimented with companies that give more democratic control in large companies and their laws are more pro-union which gives workers a choice. Germany tends to suffer from more inflexible labor markets as a result, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

        Public sector unions are probably some of the most undemocratic institutions in our society today because they take power away from the voters.

    • My wife and I own a small corporation. We spend all our time trying to obtain and execute work in order to make enough money to pay for our home, our health insurance, etc. I don’t know what a big corporation is, but it isn’t us. I suppose I would define it as any company big enough to buy another company. That’s how most corporations get big. Note that in getting big, they inevitably stifle competition—the supposed engine of the supposedly “free” market. I have no doubt that on occasion government regulations stifle activities of the market, though in most cases, it seems to me, they deserve to be stifled. I saw the idiot prince Donald Trump on TV the other night extolling China because they were building a “city” on a man-made island in the ocean. (This sounds like the type of lie about glorious corporate freedom that Trump tells all the time, but I don’t know for sure.) We have plenty of experience with corporations trashing our farmlands, mining-lands, rivers and shorelines to know that an unfettered market is not “free” except to those who can afford to live beyond its effects, as the wealthy mostly do. But people like my wife and I must live in it—I mean in a world where big corporations built on stifling competition fund the election of politicians who ensure that their donors can continue to stifle competition—in the name of the “free market,” of course.

      • Hear hear! Guys like you are just chum for the corporate parasites on Wall Street. Keep up the good work and treat your people right.

  5. It is places with traditions of strong regulatory governance that have acted most vigorously to combat American corporations’ monopolistic practices, as with the European Union. The idea that if the European Union did not exist, and the French and German governments were reduced to 90% of their current size and power, corporations would suddenly stop trying to get the rewards that come from a monopoly position, or would be deprived of the tools to do so, is daft.

  6. The EU certainly doesn’t lack big corporations. Germany definitely has its fair share of large corporations (think cars, chemicals, and engineering). I can’t know whether or not the tools wouldn’t exist without government to have monopolies, but I can say that current monopolies game regulations to enhance their market share.

    I don’t have much specific knowledge of US vs. EU regulations, but having read up on Germany, my impression is that US regulations/subsidies are generally more poorly designed.

  7. I strongly object to Juan’s claim that corporations come into existence in laissez-faire societies. The initial corporations were at direct result of governments allowing the right to have limited liability, which is a truly insane idea. And where are the big corporations before the US Supreme Court in the 1860’s, got that in the 1860’s, ruled that corporations have the same rights as humans?

    The basic idea of incorporating is the you supposedly can accumulate lots of money (from issuing stock), and avoid personal responsibility. It is governments that created that nonsense.

    Unions. The basis motivation to form a union is to assume you need to be in a group, and let the group determine your work future. Since that is an avoidance of personal responsibility, soon the leaders of the unions become more interested in maintaining their lot, than the work experience of the union members. Further, all union contracts lead to more and more regulated work environments. Which over time makes it impossible for the workers to experience being productive, skilled, creative and contributing to their clients; which are the experiences that result in one feeling one’s work is worthwhile.

    • Mr. Metzler;

      Governments simply gave private property the right to organize the way it pleased, which as Adam Smith pointed out is to form combinations. Are you calling John D. Rockefeller anti-capitalist?

      No one should be calling himself a libertarian if he doesn’t understand the most basic concepts of markets:

      Many buyers / few sellers = overwhelming power for sellers

      Many sellers / few buyers = overwhelming power for buyers

      The inherent unfairness in capitalism starts with the fact that both labor markets and consumer markets exist, and both are biased on the side of the fewest actors – the employers. Millions of laborers/consumers are being played off against each other by stable oligopolies that naturally form as the most ruthless titans get the backing of the most established banks and gobble up their competitors.

      All unions do, sir, is reduce the number of actors on one side of the labor market transaction, so that the companies are the ones played off against each other instead of those for whom immediate wages are a matter of life and death. Without unions, the oligopolies will drive wages down in the normal course of their competition with each other. Sure that means that the workers – as consumers – will go broke; that’s why laissez faire America (1865-1929) suffered a series of generally worsening crashes in every decade. In the 1920s workers received little improvement in wages compared to the massive profits created by getting them to buy new products; thus they had to go into debt, new forms of debt like installment payments designed to move durable goods. When this had gone too far, a crash was inevitable. However, those massive profits led to the assumption that growth was perpetual, so stocks were overvalued and set up for their own crash.

      America had no stock market crashes from the Great Depression until 1987. Wages and Wall Street moved up together at a deliberate pace until 1980, when the two diverged for good. Employers have had the leverage since then, squeezing us harder and harder such that we must get further into debt in order to buy enough goods to prop up growth.

      It is not a coincidence that this happened when unionized jobs in America were being eliminated industry by industry.

      So where are your happy, fulfilled workers? Wal-Mart?

      • I don’t understand your logic. The government didn’t give us property rights. The citizens of this country voted in the Constitution by which the government is instructed how to operate.

        I have never called myself a Libertarian, and disagree with most of their points, so I don’t know why you label me as such.

        I come from the position that God designed humans to have quality sensations (each one a moment of pleasure) in everything they do: activities done, work activities, social interactions, and religious activities. And that each human has the free will to pursuing how to discovering how to do his activities, so he regularly experiences those quality sensations. All such people either become self-employed, or work in a cooperative. No one is forced to work for an employer.

        If you want to believe you can understand economic crashes with economic theories, we will have to agree to disagree. From my view every economic theory has major flaws.

        I have known many people who worked in a union shop. And every single one of them felt it was confining.

  8. “Big corporations aren’t necessarily bad either. Like any entity that has power, they can be good or bad. ”

    Quoting Juan, this is “daft.” What makes them bad is that unlike “any institution” they are an inherently authoritarian institution. They are not democratic. Power is isolated at the top, in a hierarchical structure, where the decisions made by those in power have external ramifications; whose cost is often picked up by the citizen body who is isolated from the decision making process: think every oil spill ever.

    An institution can cover a broad range between authoritarian and democratic. The modern corporation embodies the former to a staggering degree. All those rights people fight and die for are quickly forgotten 40 hours a week, where freedom to voice ones honest opinion is held in check by the “freedom” to be fired. The ramifications of being fired are all to obvious, poverty, inability to feed, clothe, maintain a roof over ones head etc.

    If you think growing institution of authoritarian rule, without democratic check are “neutral” or “not bad,” you need to SERIOUSLY reflect on your values.

    • No one is forced to be part of a corporation. Hierarchies make sense in certain organizational structures. Do you want the military run democratically, where all battle decisions have to be voted on first by everybody? Sounds like a quick way to lose a war to me…I doubt we’d want to live in a society where there was democratic control of all resources. Have fun working 16 hours a day just to provide food for your family. If that’s your idea of the ideal society, you need to have your values checked.

      • Well, they’re down to 35 hours a week in France and Germany, and those are the ones who did better than us in the crash.

  9. Not a bad article, although if you’re going to take on anarchism, i think you need to give it more thought than one paragraph.

    I’d like to see a similar breakdown of the democratic party, with a special emphasis on the humanitarian intervention left, the sleeping giant of imperialist war.

    I think that would be a nice place for self reflection Juan.

    link to mrzine.monthlyreview.org

  10. “Right anarchists seem not to be able to perceive that without government, corporations would reduce us all to living in company towns on bad wages and would constantly be purveying to us bad banking, tainted food, dangerous drugs, etc.”

    “On the environment, private companies would never ever curb emissions without government intervention because of the problem of the commons.”

    Conveniently Professor Cole leaves out the libertarian view on rule of law, property rights, and contracts.

    “The key to sound environmental policy is respect for private property rights. The strict enforcement of property rights corrects environmental wrongs while increasing the cost of polluting.”

    “In a free market, no one is allowed to pollute his neighbor’s land, air, or water. If your property is being damaged, you have every right to sue the polluter, and government should protect that right. After paying damages, the polluter’s production and sale costs rise, making it unprofitable to continue doing business the same way.”

    link to ronpaulforcongress.com

    • And the vast resources of a company in the “free market” will not, of course, influence the courts or other government officials in any way. It must be very comforting to live in that fantasy world of yours.

    • This is rather hilarious. A “right” is irrelevant if, in practice, one can’t exercise it. If my polluting neighbor is G.E., of course I have the right to sue; but I don’t have the money: I would be bankrupted by the effort, while G.E. would simply expense their high-priced lawyers. Libertarians, much as I admire their logic, insist on living in a fantasy world—or better, an abstract world that bears little relation to the one inhabited by the dwindling middle class and the poor.

  11. Paul is wrong about Iran’s gasoline situation, they have for a little while now been a net exporter of products–the reform of subsidies has been in that respect a success.

    If you mean to say that you think that we are on the brink of war with Iran, are you willing to make a bet? I warn you I’ve been winning this bet for a few years now with various takers, but are you willing? We could make it interesting: how about the price of a barrel of oil–lets say WTI? If you’re right, the price of oil will skyrocket at the time war starts, if you’re wrong you have some chance that the price will be lower now than the end date of the bet.

    The timeline could be up to you. I’m willing to bet a year’s time from now. We’d have to clarify what’s meant by war I guess, but are you willing to put your money where your mouth is?

    (That is if you’re predicting war with Iran–maybe that’s not quite what you are suggesting.)

    • I read Juan’s piece as suggesting that we’ll be on the brink of war with Iran only if a Republican wins the presidential election.

  12. I find the term “right anarchist” unhelpful, and prefer to call them “libertarians”, as indeed they call themselves.

    As in, “the difference between anarchists and libertarians is that anarchists want to get rid of government because it’s one of the ways people stomp on each other, while libertarians want to get rid of government so the rich can stomp on the poor more efficiently.”

    But libertarians DO want government to guarantee property rights. Boy, do they want that! It’s those riches themselves that are instrumental to the stomping fantasy. So it’s a mistake to accept their word for it that they would like to get rid of government. I know it’s shocking, but they are simply not telling the truth. And they are not anarchists of any chirality.
    .

  13. The three most influential politicos closest to “white nationalism” of the past few decades are and were David Duke, Pat Buchanan and his mentor Sam Francis.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    All are/were antiwar, not hawkish in the least. All opposed and oppose all the wars the US fought in from Clinton’s attack on Serbia thru the Iraq Wars and Afghan wars.

    All are and were protectionists also, not free traders, admittedly a flaw in Ron Paul’s otherwise laudable platform.

  14. The problem with political philosophies is that people start to believe them. Libertarianism, the idea that less or no government is better than too much government, has some merit, but only some. Democratic Socialism, the idea that the people will elect wise leaders and they will manage a government that tends to the needs of the people has some merit, probably more than complete laissez-faire capitalism only because it supposedly expresses the will of the people rather than the will of the factory owners.

    None of these philosophies work; the best they can do is to provide a framework for understanding a current political situation and expressing a coherent near term strategy.

    Two great myths need to be confronted. The first is that laissez-faire capitalism will make everybody wealthy. Everybody does not have the capacity to become wealthy, and this myth serves only to placate and subdue the laborers who shine shoes, as if by being part of the same team, they are somehow as worthy as the few billionaires. (Really Professor Cole, 200 of 400 are Jewish? Geez!) What really happens is that the vast majority of us become like Mayan peasants waiting for the priest to cut the heart from a prisoner to bring more rain. It’s a lousy idea, it doesn’t work, and we are fooled. Well, not me, but you.

    The second great myth is that socialism is evil. Socialism is where people decide to let a non-profit, called the government, run the retirement system, the health car system, schools, transportation, etc. We still get to develop our own businesses, but not at the expense of the environment, our health, our minds or our freedoms. It is strange, and evil, that the main adversaries to “socialism” when we try to protect our environment are the coal and oil companies, when we try to protect out health are the for-profit health care businesses, our minds the for profit schools and religious nut christian brainwash factories such as Oral Roberts Law School, and our freedoms the private armies and prison, all of which themselves benefit from socialized infrastructure, tax breaks and government contracts.

    So, the actual enemy of these privateers is socialism, because they are socialism at its worst, but healthy democratic socialism. It is typical of these demagogues to demonize a healthy idea by portraying it as the very thing they are doing.

    There is a wild card in this deck. Unlike decades and centuries past when evil people could escape into the woodwork, we now have electronic storage where every single culprit can be identified and located. They literally have no place to run and nowhere to hide. right now, the vast electronic machine is used to spy on us, but like in Syria where there is no opposition leader because everyone now hates Assad, the surveillance of the people is rather pointless. Too much information but not enough focus. ’tis easier for us to keep track of them.

    Pitchforks anyone?

  15. Where do all these wars come from? Where is the evidence that the people of the USA, 4% of the world’s population, are smarter and harder working than everyone else to the extent that we deserve to appropriate 25% of the world’s resources? And are 400 families of that 4% so much smarter and harder working that they deserve to control an amount of wealth equal to that of 155 million of us?

    Is there no underlying broad economic pressure for companies to steal oil, minerals, water from wherever they can? To get what is not theirs, do these companies not exert political and ideological pressure on governments? How much propaganda from these companies and their government must be swallowed to persuade me to send my sons and daughters into war’s meatgrinder to get me cheap gasoline? Are there not 1000-plus U.S. military bases throughout the world to ensure that the corporations get what they want by hook, or crook, or drone? Is it a coincidence that those military bases are concentrated in oil-rich regions? When Jimmy Carter stated, “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America,” what justification did he have for excluding the U.S. as an outside force?

    Is it not the case that the Tea Party mentality is a raw, unexpurgated version of what the U.S. empire, under Republican and Democratic-led governments, has done around the world for over a hundred years? Where do all these wars come from?

  16. “which is one reason Warren Hastings ended up being tried AND ACQUITTED.”

    His prosecutors, Edmund Burke, Charles Fox & Richard Sheridan, were however successful in bankrupting Hastings, All three of them were a) Whigs (conservatives), b) Irish and c) supporters the American Revolution.

  17. Professor:

    I’ve argued here on several occasions that the Republican Party contains several strains of foreign policy perspective, not all in harmony. Last night’s debate only confirmed what’s already “old hat” to many observers.

    I would like to identify a third perspective, inchoate, but emerging among some Tea Party conservatives: a neo-isolationism based mostly on financial considerations, not Washington’s Farewell Address.

    The bottom line is, frankly, the bottom line–many of the post WWII foreign policy excursions are no longer affordable. Here, I’m not only including wars but also foreign subventions, and plenty of them.

    If you think this is La-La, I would remind you to look at the Super Committee’s default if no agreement is reached on budget cuts: it will include somewhere between $800-$900 billion of DoD reductions. (And given both party’s appointees, a betting person would wager against any agreement.) Remember that Obama, Reid, McConnell, Pelosi, and Boehner–with the support of many Tea Party MCs, agreed to this default.

    To the discomfit of many, if foreign policy adventurism ends for this reason, it also will be the end of domestic policy adventurism–everything from tax breaks to rich people (including, I might add, tax subsidies to 501c3s–perhaps your favorite universities and foundations) as well as no-longer-affordable programs like ObamaCare, home mortgage deductions, and the like.

    If you want see what the future really looks like on this score, read Simpson-Bowles. They booed it a year ago, but very soon, and with no end of kicking and screaming, it will emerge as the law of the land. Social theory is nice, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the bond market.

  18. In the libertarian fantasy world, money does not = power. Therefore it is communistic to observe that a guy with a billion bucks will buy the power to get two billion, whether by buying politicians, or by getting rid of the government and ruling with armed goons a la KKK Mississippi.

    In fact, the libertarian version of history refusing to accept that any crimes whatsoever have ever been committed by private wealth is so convoluted that it resembles the Catholic church’s attempts to square telescopic observations of planetary motion with Aristotlean cosmology. East India Company? Government monopoly. Slavery? Woulda been replaced by industrialization, really, if not for that tyrant Lincoln (the slaveowners were actually preparing to put slaves in factories, a concept that Albert Speer later proved was feasible). Pollution? Oh, the public will boycott the polluting companies into betraying their shareholders, because any layman can read an EPA analysis and figure out which factories spilled what and which conglomerates own which factory.

    It goes on and on, because all of this is an evasion of the real agenda. The point is the total concentration of all power (denials aside) in the hands of the Master Race of total greedballs. If we just get greedy enough, we can develop enough tech to generate enough money to bribe each other into becoming whores who have no archaic concepts like values and conscience and justice. And then we’ll all be as happy as crack whores.

    But in fact, the post-Reconstruction Southern ruling elite still had tons of cash and access to Northern banks. It chose to keep the masses poor and backwards. The ruling families who hired death squads in El Salvador? The East India Company? The coal barons who rule West Virginia?

    In fact, every aristocracy, caste system, apartheid system and slavery system started out as a meritocracy. What was merit in the ruins of the Roman Empire? Being good at cutting off people’s heads from horseback. Once I’ve used this obvious merit to get me some land, and I’m slowly using comparative advantage to turn all the local farmers into my debt serfs (oh, that doesn’t exist under free markets, sure), why shouldn’t I use my wealth to guarantee my offspring every unfair advantage, even if they’re entirely worthless scumbags? Feudalism is nothing more than private wealthholders arranging a monopoly on government offices for their families on the grounds that they provide the most to the common defense. Nothing to stop it from happening again if enough whorehouses like the Cato Institute can find a way to make it sound like we’ll get a tax cut out of it.

    That is human nature. Inequality becomes gross inequality. Every private property system that has ever existed either became polarized and fell to revolution, or fell to invasion, or fell to some new system of exploitation and inequality.

    At least, until democracy. The crusade to emasculate democracy has no other purpose but to bring back the conditions that preceded it.

  19. Just considering the Ron Paul’s quotes presented here, I’d say he makes a lot more sense to me than any other national politician. That Ron Paul can state positions on Iran that are so contrary to those of his party, most “moderate” Democrats, and our right of center President, yet retain such strong loyalty from his base, and a tangible level of national respect, should tell us something.

    When liberals say the same thing as Paul, they are completely ignored, except by other liberals. Maybe a liberal/libertarian coalition going against the national security state, and it’s diet of war without end, could make some headway. And maybe when these parties are in the back room they’ll find a significant confluence of their humanity.

  20. Representing the anarcho-syndicalists, as a former member of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Wobblies, I’d like to add:

    It is just flat-out untrue that “the anarcho-syndicalist tradition makes workers [sic] unions more saintly and disinterested than they typically actually are,” as the most cursory page-through of the Wob newspaper, which regularly attacks the “business unions” and urges workers to fight for greater democracy in their unions, will demonstrate. And, as unfortunately (in my view) anemic as the Wobs are, they do represent the most significant organized anarcho-syndicalist group in the United States.

    I’ll let the pro-capitalist libertarians defend themselves from Dr. Cole’s calumnies.

    • “the most significant organized anarcho-syndicalist group in the United States”

      Very admirable…and also a rounding error on an estimate of the labor movement.

      • I was specifically addressing Dr. Cole’s assertions about anarcho-syndicalism, not the labor movement in general. In fact, I specifically referred to the IWW as “anemic.” Unless you are going to argue that the rest of the labor movement is anarcho-syndicalist in any meaningful form, I fail to see that you have a point.

  21. Ron Paul primarily is not a libertarian, he is a strict constitutionalist. Probably the only one left. His views would certainly make him the only congressman today reflecting the original intentions of the authors of the constitution. I’m from the European far left, and even I can recognize his absolute honesty and sincerity, something distinctly lacking in US politics today. Perhaps the straw polls showing him winning debates by far are a reflection of the fact that Americans aren’t quite as stupid as the US establishment thinks they are. We can only hope. With the rest of the current Republican candidates, the world and America has a LOT to worry about.

  22. This post and the majority of comments–except for Mike’s–scares me because of the repeated simplistic, often ridiculous characterizations of Libertarians and Libertarianism. Libertarians are a very diverse group, barely a political party because of the diversity. Libertarians as a group are hard pressed to come up with a united definition of Libertarianism because of the many angles that people are playing at under the term. Even Ron Paul and his son don’t agree on many issues. Unfortunately, when you’ve got such a diverse group, some of the simplistic characterizations people come up with about Libertarians will probably have a few adherents professing themselves Libertarian, and many of those may actually be Anarchists, or worse yet, Republicans (haha). Ron Paul is a Republican because, as he says over and over, he believes in the Republican party as it once was, not as it is today, and that he hopes his influence will help bring the Republicans back to what they are supposed to be about–limited government, non-interventionist foreign policy, and defenders of the Constitution. The impetus for this discussion on Libertarians was Ron Paul, so you might want to listen to the man himself and see how much you actually disagree with:
    link to youtube.com;
    His speech starts at the 5 minute mark. Listen to that speech and you will understand why the man’s support is so infectious, and why he wins all those straw polls.

    As for the topic of the big, bad corporations, I’ll point out that we do not live in a free market capitalist economy. Far from it. We live in a managed economy with artificial interest rates, subsidies, and bailouts. In a free market, bad guys, gamblers, and those who overreach will most often eventually fail. In our managed economy, the monsters don’t fail. They’re “too big to fail.” They’re rewarded, by both Republican and Democratic administrations, and by a semi-secret, quasi-governmental banking cartel (read big, bad corporations) called the Federal Reserve.

  23. Ron Paul makes a mistake. The reason why we spoke to the Soviets is precisely because they did pose a threat to us with their nukes and weapons. And the reason we dont talk to Iran that they dont.

  24. Juan, you’ve overlooked what I call “the most dangerous derivative”: the power that corporations derive from the State, including many features of the corporate form itself (e.g., fictitious personhood). Remove the State, the privileges it bestows, and all its barriers to entry, and business has one method of dealing with people: persuasion in a competitive environment. Goodbye company towns.

    • Look at little bit at the history of the Old West, where government was weak to non-existent, and where company towns flourished.

      • Did the arrival of government help the situation, or enhance business’s power? It takes a government to bestow land grants, patents, banking monopolies, import restrictions, etc.

      • Libertarianism is an “enlightened” political philosophy, meaning you and society as a whole actually have to understand it to make it happen, meaning you have an informed self-respect and mutual respect, meaning you don’t allow yourself to become a serf. One of the hyperbolic catch phrases that some Libertarians throw out is, wage labor is slavery. In a populace that understands personal liberty, there will be a different relationship with employers, no matter the circumstances. Remove the sense of personal liberty and remove the sense that your labor is personal property, then you remove the rudder of the individual and that individual can easily end up as a serf.

    • Starving people can be persuaded to become serfs, sharecroppers, indentured servants, and henchmen. Most humans who have lived in the last several thousand years have had to make this deal with a rich man or were born into it, and many still are.

      Why does no one on the Right recognize that medieval landowners, in fact, were businessmen?

      As the great railway capitalist Jay Gould put it for all time: “I can always hire half the working class to shoot the other half.”

      • “Starving people can be persuaded to become serfs, sharecroppers, indentured servants, and henchmen.”

        Very true. But how did they become starving people in the first place. The earth seems to be a pretty welcoming place.

  25. “And, what makes the Libertarians think that if there were no governments or only weak governments, the corporations would not just wage the wars themselves?”

    Corporations would be less likely to commit acts of war due to the negative publicity it would bring to them. Besides, I don’t know any serious libertarian who doesn’t think that government should restrain people from violent acts against other’s and/or their property. They view that as the main function of government.

    “Ron Paul’s “peace through trade” approach to geopolitics and skepticism of overbearing imperialism does not have a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming the foreign policy of the United States.”

    Again, with all due respect: America is rapidly collapsing, what makes you *so sure* that majorities won’t begin to question the policies that have brought us here? It won’t happen next week, but there are growing signs that this could indeed come to pass.

    Polls confirm a majority of Americans want out of Afghanistan/Iraq, the public also was more skeptical of involvement in Libya than it was in Iraq, and I’ve seen polls showing a plurality of Americans would rather cut military than medicare or social security (Glenn Greenwald posted one but I can’t find it.) Heck, MITT ROMNEY of all people just said in a debate that “we can’t fight other people’s wars of independence.”

  26. Hi. I’m also an anarchist and many years ago, I used to enjoy Juan Cole’s insightful and correcting commentary. I’m a bit sad to see how you misrepresent libertarians and syndicalists, as anarchists first and then as big union defenders second.

    The point has been made already, but those big corporations are state-connected. It is highly unlikely they would have gotten that big without this connection. Should they attempt to commit crimes in order to obtain more power, they would naturally be resisted, by a stronger population. Stronger, because the state would not monopolize all the weapons in order to go to war in other countries. We are quite weak these days, as a people, because the state handles all the defense.

    Syndicalist anarchists oppose aggression and hierarchy as a matter of principle. And equal authority cannot be disproved with the failure of hierarchical bureaucratic unions.

    As far as I’m concerned, I don’t see why it would be fine if the government had done all the work in Iraq, with no subcontracting. It doesn’t matter whether warring and looting come from a corporation or a state. All aggression is wrong. And to expect the state to defend us against looting from big corporations, when the state has been their enabler from day one, is really disappointing from someone like Juan Cole. I was used to read him knowing better than his opponents.

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