Posts Tagged: capitalism

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Court Lets Cisco Systems Off the Hook for Helping China Detain, Torture Religious Minorities

Chinese citizens who suffered forced detention, torture, and a panoply of brutal human rights abuses at the hands of the Chinese government have been engaged in a high profile court case against Silicon Valley mainstay Cisco Systems for many years. Those Chinese citizens suffered yet another indignity in a California court a couple of weeks ago: a district judge dismissed the case against Cisco without even giving them the chance to gather evidence on the key point where the court found them wanting. The court noted that even though Cisco may have designed and developed the Golden Shield system for the purpose of tracking, identifying and facilitating the capture of Chinese religious minorities, Cisco would not be held liable because it didn’t do enough in the U.S. to facilitate human rights abuses. EFF attempted to file an amicus brief in the case after oral argument, but it was rejected.

The case seems high techit’s about Cisco’s Golden Shield, a set of sophisticated technologies that include specific purpose-built parts for persecution of the Falun Gong.  But it’s actually fairly simple:  at what point does a company that intentionally builds tools that are specially designed for governmental human rights abuses become liable for the use of those tools for their intended (and known) purposes? …

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C4SS Feed 44 presents Roderick Long's “Poison as Food, Poison as Antidote” read and edited by Nick Ford.

But it is an all-too-common mistake – and this tendency to underestimate the chasm between free markets and corporatism is enormously beneficial to the state, enabling a slick bait-and-switch. When free markets and government grants of privilege to business are conflated, those who are attracted to free markets are easily duped into supporting plutocracy, thus swelling the ranks of statism’s right wing – while those who are turned off by plutocracy are likewise easily duped into opposing free markets, thereby swelling the ranks of statism’s left wing. (These are the two tendencies that Kevin Carson calls “vulgar libertarianism” and “vulgar liberalism,” respectively.)

As one of the villains in The Fountainhead explains in a moment of frankness, talking about the choice Europe was then facing between communism and fascism:

“If you’re sick of one version, we push you in the other. We’ve fixed the coin. Heads – collectivism. Tails – collectivism. Give up your soul to a council – or give it up to a leader. But give it up, give it up, give it up. Offer poison as food and poison as antidote. Go fancy on the trimmings, but hang on to the main objective.”

Feed 44:

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Three provocative libertarian perspectives on the liberation, corporation, and the Big C.Charles Davis writes that libertarians are very confused about capitalism, and that a radical re-appraisal of the debate shows that libertarian principles should go a lot further than mainstream libertarians have been willing to take them. David S. D’Amato argues, against business reformists, that inclusive capitalism is a contradiction in terms. And while many more libertarians are beginning to wake up to the structural problems in the corporate economy,Kevin Carson points out it’s the capitalism, not the cronyism that’s at the root of the problem.

“Let’s start over. The wealthy elite are too tainted by the current system of state capitalism for us to rely on a “good” and “bad” distinction when it comes enormous wealth. No one worth more than $10 million is able to get that much money without systemic state violence. There is no reason they should get a head start in Liberty Land… . no matter what one replaces it with, dismantling an unjust system requires addressing the injustices that system created. If you don’t, then your idea of “freedom” will be attacked as the freedom to be exploited by the same people running the world today. And with good reason.” — Charles Davis.

“The political-economic reality in this country, confirmed by recent studies as well as well-nigh everything we can observe about the political process, is that big capital keeps American policy­makers comfortably and securely in its pockets. And, sad to say, an ‘in­clusive’ kind of capitalism — oxymoron that it is — is not and never has been the order of the day… . In conditions of economic freedom — mean­ing circumstances in which land and opportunities are no co­erc­iv­e­ly monopolized — labor would simply enjoy far more bar­gain­ing pow­er, able to maintain self-sufficiency apart from the Big Business economy. In­deed, the way to fabricate a system wherein the vast majority of indiv­id­u­als are inclined to work for a pittance of a wage at huge, face­less org­an­iz­a­t­ion is to use the power of legal and regulatory authority to fore­close other options… .” — David S. D’Amato.

“Conservatives & rightwing libertarians drastically under­est­i­mate the extent to which state intervention has been struct­ur­al­ly central to capit­al­ism as a historical system since its very beginnings. The en­clos­ure of open fields for sheep pasture in late medieval and early modern times, the Parliamentary Enclosures of common woods, waste and past­ure in the 18th century, the colonial enclosure of land in the Third World and eviction of native cultivators, the engrossment of Third World mines and mineral resources, the enslavement of nonwhite populations – no­thing remotely resembling the contemporary concentration of economic pow­er and wealth, or the model of corporate capitalism most people think of as ‘normal’ …” — Kevin Carson.

“Libertarians Are Very Confused About Capitalism” was written by Charles Davis and published in November 2013 by the online magazine Salon.com. Charles Davis is a radical columnist, producer and researcher in Los Angeles, California. His work regularly appears in publications such as VICE, Salon, AlterNet, and Al Jazeera English. He keeps a website at charliedavis.blogspot.com.

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""Privatizations" in Brazil did not involve any transference or pulverization of power and economic control; they were effectively corporate restructurings that changed very little the distribution of economic control and altered their legal regimes only as little as necessary to make them economically viable again."

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"The Fed survey will no doubt disconcert those on both the left and the right who mistakenly regard the United States as “the land of the free,” the home of opportunity where anyone can get ahead with a little hard work. Indeed, the data seem to show a reality very different from that rosy misconception, a reality in which connections between elites in the business and political worlds connive to make sure that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer."

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“Capitalism”: The Known Reality

… If libertarians continue to use the word “capitalism” as some kind of ahistorical ideal, if they refuse to look at the fuller cultural and historical context within which actual market relations function, they will forever be dismissed by the Left as rationalist apologists for a state-capitalist reality. That’s ironic, considering that so many Leftists have been constructivist rationalist apologists for a different kind of statist reality. But it does not obscure a very real problem.

Reaching out to the Left or to any other category of intellectuals requires a translation exercise of sorts. Real communication depends upon a full clarification of terms; if we end up using the same term to mean different things, I fear we’ll be talking over each other’s heads for a long time to come.

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Engagement with the Left on Free Markets

… If the market and the state have coexisted historically, they can be separated logically. The question of whether class differences originally arose from successful competition in the market, and the state was then called in to reinforce the position of the winners; or whether the class differences first arose from state interference, is a vital one. The fact that the state has been intertwined with every “actually existing” market in history is beside the point; social anarchists themselves face a similar challenge–that the state has been intertwined with every society in history. The response, in both cases, is essentially the same–the seeds of a non-exploitative order exist within every system of exploitation. Our goal, not only as anarchists but as free market anarchists, is to supplant the state with voluntary relations. If the absence of something in historical times, in a society based on division of labor, is a damning challenge–well then, they’re damned as well as we are.

The questions of whether state capitalism is an inevitable outgrowth of the free market, of whether decentralized and libertarian forms of industrial production can exist under worker control in a market society, etc., are at least questions on which we can approach the Left with logic and evidence. They are, for the most part, rational and open to persuasion. At the very least, there is room for constructive engagement. And remember, it is not an all-or-nothing matter. It is possible, if nothing else, to reduce the area of disagreement on a case-by-case basis.

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Capitalism versus Capitalism, Continued

… As Long notes in his Rothbard lecture, the word “capitalism” today contains implicit contradictory market and interventionist elements. Much of the world, and perhaps most Americans, think of it as something other than laissez faire. Quoting Long:

Now I think the word “capitalism,” if used with the meaning most people give it, is a package-deal term. By “capitalism” most people mean neither the free market simpliciter nor the prevailing neomercantilist systemsimpliciter. Rather, what most people mean by “capitalism” is this free-market system that currently prevails in the western world. In short, the term “capitalism” as generally used conceals an assumption that the prevailing system is a free market. And since the prevailing system is in fact one of government favoritism toward business, the ordinary use of the term carries with it the assumption that the free market is government favoritism toward business.

Carson doesn’t object to the use of the word in the libertarian sense, as long as it is clearly defined. But he is not wrong to use it in the neomercantilist sense. “Hodgskin was one of the earliest writers to use the term ‘capitalism,’ and may indeed have been the first to coin it,” he writes in his book. We saw above how Hodgskin used it. In his rejoinder Carson adds, “Like Benjamin Tucker in ‘State Socialism and Anarchism,’ I advocate an end to capitalism by means of laissez-faire and free markets.” There is a long history behind the use of “capitalism” in an non-free-market sense.

Language and definitions surely evolve. But it is just as surely not the case that “capitalism” has come to mean laissez faire, no matter how hard Ayn Rand and we libertarians have tried to make that happen. The fact is, “capitalism” means, at best, the privilege-laden mixed economy we see all around us. We will fail to communicate if we ignore that fact.

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Capitalism versus Capitalism

While reading the symposium on Kevin Carson’s book, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, in the latest Journal of Libertarian Studies, I was struck by how upset people can get when someone uses a term differently from how they use it — even if he makes his usage perfectly clear and explicitly draws on legitimate historical precedent. This comes up on at least two occasions in the commentary on Carson. I’ve read Carson’s book, and I had no trouble seeing how he uses the word “capitalism.” Much of the book is devoted to showing that historical capitalism — the real-life mercantilist political-economic system that most people attach that word to — bears only superficial resemblance to the laissez-faire free market, which he favors. Indeed anyone who does not quickly see this in Carson’s work is not paying attention. It is not some obscure point buried under other material. It is the point! Moreover, Carson shows the historical precedent — in the work of Thomas Hodgskin and Benjamin Tucker, for example — for such usage. It shouldn’t be hard to grasp.

Yet two critics can’t or won’t see it. Drs. Walter Block and George Reisman go for Carson’s jugular in retaliation for his alleged confusion of laissez faire with (state) capitalism. Carson handily disposes of the criticism and needs no help from me, but I can’t restrain myself from jumping into the fray. …

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"Vices and individual inadequacy are not the reason people end up without jobs. And the attempt to frame the debate in those terms only diverts us from the real question. Paraphrasing Spooner, the question is not what are people’s shortcomings, but what are their rights?"