Surprise: Sanders Catches Flak From His Left Flank

The People Who Think Bernie’s Too Moderate

Bernie Sanders and other senators
Senator Bernie Sanders (right) in the halls of power. Also in the photo senators Angus King (speaking) Sheldon Whitehouse, Barbara Boxer, and Jeff Merkley. Photo credit:  Senate.gov
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Paul Street has issues with Bernie Sanders. He is not sure he could vote for the Vermont senator in November were he to win the  Democratic nomination.

But it’s not what you think. It’s not that Street finds Sanders too far left.

Au contraire. It’s that the Vermont senator is not far enough to the left.

It just goes to show that the hoary saying is always true: You can’t please everyone.

***

Senator Sanders has been treated by the media as a polarizing candidate, one that even many on the left see as too extreme to support. But that is not the problem for Paul Street, the author of They Rule: The 1% vs. Democracy.

As someone who describes himself as a “radical socialist,” Street worries that Bernie is far too close to the entrenched power structure.

“I support some of the reforms that he’s for,” Street told WhoWhatWhy. “But he’s not talking about socialism at all, which is public ownership of the means of production, distribution, and finance.”

“From a Marxist perspective, no one that’s just kind of a liberal is going to do enough to get capitalism under control.”

Red-Blooded Socialism

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Coverage of Bernie Sanders’ campaign has often focused on his self-applied socialist label. Though the word has long evoked fear in American culture—a recent Gallup survey found that 50% of Americans wouldn’t be willing to vote for a socialist—it has been making real moves into the mainstream, coinciding with the unexpected support of the Sanders candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

“Socialism” was the most looked-up word in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary for the year 2015, which the site’s editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski said was sparked shortly after Sanders’ rise in the polls in July.

But there are of course people for whom “socialist” is not a word just of 2015: people who identified strongly with the ideology long before Sanders’ ascendancy. And for these die-hards, wanting to burn down the capitalist system is a goal not necessarily compatible with“feeling the Bern.”

At a February 27 Bernie Sanders rally in New York City, above the heads of the people chanting, holding banners, and signing up for phone-bank shifts, a red and black flag — two tessellating triangles — waved proudly in the crisp city air.

“This flag is for libertarian socialism,” said the person waving it, a 24-year-old man who requested to be referred to only by the pseudonym “Paul Astral” — even anarchists have to worry about capitalist concerns, like a day job. “It’s an alternative to capitalism and the socialism of the Soviet Union.”

Anarchist Flag

Anarchist Flag  Photo credit: Kazuki Koikeda / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Astral did not come to the rally in support of Bernie Sanders’ candidacy or his message. “I’m here to introduce people interested in socialism to true socialism,” he said. “I would like to talk to people. Yes, Bernie Sanders is good, but there are alternatives.”

Astral was not alone in using the Sanders rally as a jumping off point for a discussion of true revolutionary ideology. Tom Trottier, an editor for the Socialist Appeal newsletter, attended the rally in Union Square in hopes of bringing new activists into the socialist movement.

“We support the campaign of Bernie Sanders to raise the idea of socialism and raise the idea of revolution against the billionaire class. We like that,” he told WhoWhatWhy. He took issue with Sanders’ movement into the Democratic party, a political force he views as resistant to change and contrary to socialist ideals.

But he nevertheless said that he would vote Democratic when it comes to Bernie, hoping that this might be the beginning of a tide of change. That is a huge shift for someone like Trottier — he said he had not voted for a mainstream candidate in any of the recent election cycles.

“What we’re in right now — worldwide and in the United States — is a crisis of capitalism,” continued Trottier. “The crisis is not getting better. This is going to open a lot of minds for people looking for an alternative to capitalism.”

“It’s a question of building something for the future.” Voting for Sanders as the “Lesser Evil”.

Paul Street shares this view of the Sanders candidacy, as a possible jumping off point for a new socialist movement among the youth. “It certainly creates an opportunity,” he told WhoWhatWhy. But that doesn’t mean he will vote for the man.

“I would seriously consider making a lesser-evil vote for the Democrats if Sanders was the nominee,” he told WhoWhatWhy. “I say that because I live in a purplish — maybe more blue than red — state [Iowa],” where a Republican candidate, including Trump, has a real shot at winning.

“If I still lived in Chicago, it’d be a no brainer,” he said, meaning that there he could withhold his support for Sanders in good conscience, since deep-blue Illinois has not been heavily contested in a presidential race for years..

They Rule book cover, Paul Street

“They Rule: The 1% vs. Democracy” by Paul Street  Photo credit: Routledge, PaulStreet.org

While Street is bearish on Sanders’ chances for the nomination, much less on winning the presidency, he is bullish on what his running could mean for the future. “I wouldn’t mind being a history professor right now, and having all of these disappointed Bernie kids and being able to say, ‘Okay, you’re disappointed because he lost. But he used this word “socialism” — let’s talk about what that word really means.’”

The question of what the word “socialism” really does mean is on the minds of many people as Sanders’ candidacy has gained traction.

“I’m concerned that it gets diluted,” says Anthony DiMaggio, a professor of sociology at Lincoln Land Community College in Illinois, who recently published an essay entitled “Sanders’ Socialism: Neutering a Radical Tradition” in the radical magazine Counterpunch. “What he’s really promoting is something we’ve already had in American politics,” he said, comparing Sanders’ ideas — healthcare, education, workers’ rights — with those of the Democratic Party of generations past. “That’s all great, but it’s not bottom-up citizen socialism.”

DiMaggio worries that the rise in support for socialism on paper is actually destructive to the true ideological force of the movement.

“I don’t think that it’s productive to have a discussion about socialism if people don’t know what it is.”

“Seizing the Memes of Production”

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There is some evidence of growing support for socialism among young voters. Super Tuesday exit polls showed Sanders doing markedly better than Hillary Clinton among voters aged 18-29, even in states where she beat him overall with Democratic voters.

Of course, if you want to find out what millennials are thinking, check out social media. WhoWhatWhy spoke to the creator of the “Anarchists for Bernie Sanders” Facebook page (who spoke under conditions of anonymity — “even in this ‘free’ age, being pegged an anarchist doesn’t bode well for employment,” he said).

Anarchists for Bernie Sanders has ballooned into a community of more than 14,000 subscribers. The founder believes it to be the largest group on Facebook critiquing Sanders from the left.

Despite its name, the page is far from supportive of the senator. Most of the content consists of memes lampooning his claim of being a socialist or revolutionary — Sanders’s face photoshopped onto the head of a protester clashing with police in riot gear, or quotes from 18th-century French philosophe Denis Diderot, or the French political pamphlet, “The Coming Insurrection” jokingly misattributed to Sanders. The pinned post is a 1986 article bashing Sanders’ election as mayor of Burlington, VT, by the noted socialist writer Murray Bookchin, a fellow Vermont native.

The founder, an Occupy Wall Street activist who had previously organized social media activity against the Keystone XL, says that the page was conceived as “95% a joke.” but he admits that it has become something more than that.

“This page has become a place for radicals skeptical of Bernie’s campaign to congregate,” he told WhoWhatWhy over Facebook. “Bernie supporters who came out of Occupy love the page too. Everyone is bombarded by Bernie on social media all day every day, so people like turning it around.”

“I’m making jokes about how people think Bernie is some sort of radical socialist, when he is obviously not. I make jokes about anarchists, jokes that you would need to be a serious lefty to understand. But mostly this page allows me to take out my frustrations about working with liberals in my organizing. Bernie is not an avatar for anarchism. He is a mass media/social media-created spectacle that anarchists, socialists and communists are attempting to use to spread revolutionary ideas.”

He thinks there is some hope for those ideas to really take hold in the current political climate. “There’s all these polls that say millennials prefer socialism to capitalism, which seems to be pointing in the right direction.”

“If I can make a joke about ‘seizing the memes of production’ and people get it, radical socialism is gaining traction.”

Viva La Revolucion?

To the activists who are fighting for “real” socialism, Sanders’ unexpected success so far may signal a new beginning for their movement.

“There’s real prospects for change there,” Anthony DiMaggio told WhoWhatWhy. “We’ve seen what I think would be the beginnings of the activism that needs to happen in recent years with Occupy Wall Street, and service worker protests, and the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s really just the beginning though, of where we need to go.”

Paul Street agrees that larger forces are at work. “I think that [socialism became acceptable] before Sanders came on the stage as a presidential candidate. I remember polls in 2011 when the Occupy movement was happening, when according to Gallup, young people were responding more to the word socialism than to capitalism.”

“It’s just how badly twenty-first century capitalism has been performing.”

The feeling that the problems of the modern American capitalist system could lead to a rise in revolutionary tendencies among the populace was shared by several of the socialists reached by WhoWhatWhy. They pointed to Syriza — the radical socialist party that won control of the Greek parliament in 2014 in the midst of a debt crisis, as an example of how quickly a system can turn around in the wake of populist revolt.

The founder of the “Anarchists for Bernie Sanders” page sees this moment as an important one for the history of the country and its politics, though he is worried the results will go the wrong way.

“When things get bad, social democracy/liberalism fails. And it can happen very quickly,” he told WhoWhatWhy. He quoted the 20th-century philosopher Walter Benjamin: “Every rise of fascism is witness to a failed revolution.”

“So if we fail to create a radical movement that can win, Trump is only the beginning.”


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Bernie Sanders (Michael Vadon / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0)

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19 responses to “Surprise: Sanders Catches Flak From His Left Flank”

  1. editorsteve says:

    Interesting comments. I’d try even more humility.

    What Bernie wants is what I enjoyed in the 1950s while still in grade school — free medical care from Massachusetts for polio, when private health insurance would not cover it. Great public-school education in Boston. College scholarship, as first in my family to go to college. Medicare to help my grandmother, while I was still in high school. Voting rights act. Civil rights act.

    Since then, colleges and health care costs have absorbed every spare dollar and more in state budgets — and outside of Medicare, have been inefficient. The military gets every spare dollar and more in the federal budget. Tuition goes up every time federal aid goes up. (Ask Bernie’s wife… she runs a college, badly.)

    So, Communist or Capitalist? I’ve seen (first-hand, working in 85 countries) some small, homogeneous countries do well with government ownership of key services — Sweden, Denmark, and so forth. I’ve seen no large country with enough consensus to pull it off, all or most of the population wanting the same goals. I worked in India when it had a simple economy, 450 million people and mainly agricultural. It got into big trouble as the Congress Party tried to keep top-down central planning in place as the economy modernized. China went from crony Communism to crony quasi-Capitalism.

    Things have to change in the USA, to a more level and caring society. One obvious thing to do is to “socialize” things capitalism finds difficult to do efficiently or fairly. Roads, public schools, public health are obvious targets. But it isn’t easy! Living mainly in Boston and somewhat in NYC, I see immediately that “more socialist” NYC spends just over twice as much per capita to attempt delivery of the same services Boston delivers — and Boston’s services are of vastly higher quality. I see NYC workers feeding off the poor, harassing the poor. I see a “liberal” NYC mayor using what he considers spare dollars to provide city workers with new (and worthy) family leave benefits, while a private-sector worker making $10 an hour pays more than 10% of his wages in subway fares. Raise his wage, and they’ll raise fares, which have gone up 11-fold since 1970 — twice as fast as wages and prices .

    Society can only spend money once, no matter what its philosophy of government. Even the Pharaohs figured it out and stopped building pyramids. Capitalism muddles through, barely . Socialism often screws it up. Government caused Flint’s problem, remember. And police shooting unarmed black kids. And a new, bizarre reading of the Second Amendment.

  2. Kevin says:

    I’m really interested to know how many people who read whowhatwhy would consider themselves socialists. Also how many think capitalism is evil. And how many are like myself who feel that we are pro-capitalism but feel we absolutely do not have capitalism in today’s USA.

  3. (Comment by reader ‏@JohnParksBrown) I am very grateful for an election cycle that pushes Bernie left :) Keep it up. True journalism is appreciated

  4. punkyboy says:

    We have to start somewhere – Bernie is a good foundation. Capitalism isn’t going to be dismantled in a day or maybe even in a decade – unless, of course, the whole rotten corpse goes up in flames, which is quite possible. Then all bets are off.

  5. VoxFox says:

    Remember: Nazi was shorthand for National Socialism, following the Leader (or Fuehrer).
    The Dumpf seems to want to play that role in the USA today; so let’s start calling him “The Leader of the Fascists” – truth in advertising?

    • Richie Lomas says:

      Remember, DPRK is short for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Democracy therefore leads to a North Korea style dictatorship…

      Socialism was a popular term at the time, the Nazis were branding themselves for appeal. The name is even an oxymoron. Socialism is internationalist; it rejects division based on ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality in favor of solidarity among all workers. “National Socialism” is essentially meaningless. If anything, its a confusing turn on the national syndicalist current that merged with fascism in the 20s and 30s, which involved the use of labor unions as a corporatist organizing tool.

    • VoxFox says:

      Historical comparisons are analogies not identities.
      I was drawing attention to the similarities in appeal, techniques between Adolph and the Dumpf. Marxist definitions of socialism are not relevant in the USA.

  6. Kevin says:

    Is the point of this article to extol socialism? How many more millions of people need to be democided before we can give up that failed approach?

    It’s easy to say “capitalism doesn’t work” but we do not have capitalism in today’s America. For example, bailouts, government healthcare, the Federal Reserve controlling interest rates, etc are absolutely not capitalism.

    Does WhoWhatWhy have the courage to discuss the other side of the story (this article from a pro-capitalism perspective) or is this website just going to conveniently leave that out? How about equivalent space on this website given to Ron Paul, Peter Schiff, Tom Woods or Lew Rockwell?

    I love whowhatwhy when it sticks to what it does best – Russ’ forensic journalism (and I’ve donated several times because if that). However when it comes to many other things, whowhatwhy is pretty terrible. Some examples:

    -Klaus Marre pushing for “common sense” limits on gun control like if you’re on a government watch list (as if that can’t be abused – search “political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union”

    -Jeff Schectman interviewing people in the power elite (I think it was the heir to Oscar Mayer) for solutions.

    -Dan Mika’s recent interview about the underground fire that might hit radioactive waste. It was a great story but my issue is that one of the discussed solutions was for government to pay people fair market value for their homes (presumably to “make it up to them”). Why was there zero discussion about the fairness of a system that throws everything on the taxpayer, who had absolutely nothing to do with causing the problem? It is called “moral hazard”. Even if whowhatwhy believes in that, at least state it in the article so people can get the full picture.

    • Richie Lomas says:

      Believe it or not, non-libertarian opinions exist. You’ll just have to get used to that. I’m a radical socialist, but I don’t feel like a news source needs to only present Marxist analysis to be any good.

      Also, if the metric for a failed system is that a lot of people died under its tenure, then capitalism should have been dropped a good century before socialism was even a twinkle in Saint-Simon’s eye.

      If your defense is that things like the Atlantic Slave trade, global imperialism, right wing genocides in Indonesia and Latin America supported by the US, and various conservative dictatorships, despite all having been justified by ensuring free markets, opening free trade, securing property rights, or defending capitalism, aren’t “true” capitalism or result from a deviation from a proper liberal capitalist model, well then, welcome to the Trotskyist and libertarian socialist explanation for what happened in the Soviet Union and China.

    • Ned Jones says:

      Right. Read about Marxist theory before you criticise Marxism, otherwise you’re just giving a badly informed opinion. It’s annoying how many people do that.

    • gustave courbet says:

      Hi Ned, I believe Richie was simply stating that he was not ideologically myopic in his choice of news, and that competent reportage could come from multiple different viewpoints. He wasn’t critiquing Marxism (perhaps your comment was intended for Kevin?).

    • Ned Jones says:

      Yes, it was intended for Kevin.

    • Ned Jones says:

      Reading Kevin’s next point though, I think I was being unfair. While he doesn’t know much about Marxism or what Marxists actually think of the state, he isn’t being an a*****e.

    • Kevin says:

      So would it be fair to say that you believe that you have the right to essentially put a gun to my head to pay taxes for things that you want me to pay for because they’re in society’s best interest? To me that’s an evil/authoritarian system.

      All the things you listed in the paragraph starting with “if your defense is…” are evil things that I am totally against and I don’t see what they have to do with capitalism. Maybe some evil people justified their evil behavior as “capitalism” but that doesn’t make it so. Free trade is when people make decisions of their own volition. If someone is a slave, it’s not “free trade”, as they’re being forced to do something.

      I believe in voluntary association. Socialism is against that because it says I don’t have the right to opt out and just live my life. Instead I’m required to do things for others (eg pay for healthcare for others) because some governing body says so. My rule of thumb is that centralizing power is dangerous because it creates something that can be corrupted (which obviously entices evil people to do so). In short, I see Socialism as an authoritarian system.

    • VainSaints says:

      Yes Kevin. Most people, the vast majority, believe that there is a distinction between state-violence and private violence. It doesn’t make them right, but there is a difference. Keep in mind that I say this as someone who is sympathetic with libertarianism, but who just doesn’t think it holds water either at the theoretical or practical level.

      First, state violence comes with rules. States are very bad about applying those rules fairly and consistently, but in general, the state will not come to your door and steal everything you have with no pretext whatsoever, applying no rules whatsoever. Private violence is arbitrary. Even corrupt and nearly lawless states have to preserve some order to function. The United States government provides a multitude of examples of arbitrary and unjust force, but in most cases, for most people, it remains mostly true that if you stay on the right side of the law, the state won’t bother you. And most people, if they do end up on the wrong side of the law, will get a hearing.

      Second, state violence is generally implicit, not explicit. The gun to the head is generally the last resort of the state.

      Third, state violence is generally applied, at least in theory, in the name of preserving and protecting commonly held ideals of a good society. Yes, the state often behaves in ways that make this justification difficult to take seriously, but we can *in principle* conceive of a fair, good government, while we cannot, even in principle, conceive of a fair, good Mafia. We can imagine a good state that taxes and then invests in public goods that yield a large return on investment. We can’t even in principle apply this thought to a cartel that lives through private violence.

      Fourth, and this is something that libertarians must understand, private property and common currency is, in large part, the product of the state. While I do admit that there is a natural law to respect personal property, (i.e. no stealing) there is no natural right to indefinite and infinite accumulation of wealth without taxation, not when the currencies in which the money is denominated, the banks in which it is kept, the police that protects it from theft, the infrastructure that allows it to function, and so much else rest upon the power of the state.

      Again, I state this fully aware of the excesses of the state, and I generally would take any reasonable measure to decrease (in a fair way) the burden of the state from our lives, and to increase personal and communal efficacy and responsibility without resorting to state force all the time. All this I am on board with. However, I would say that the familiar anarchist refrain that state violence is no more legitimate than private violence fails to withstand scrutiny.

    • Kevin says:

      First off, I appreciate this conversation. I think it’s important and this is the type of thing that WhoWhatWhy is encouraging (which makes me feel better about the site despite my many disagreements w/ its implicit and explicit op-eds).

      VainSaints – I fully agree that there is a difference between private violence vs state violence but I disagree w/ your point that state violence is preferable. State violence basically means “institutionalized tyranny”, which I think is a lot worse because there’s nobody left to appeal to, meaning a revolution is the only option to redress grievances (which is an obvious “worst case scenario” that every sane person wants to avoid at all costs). I’m pretty sure that’s a big reason (if not the main reason) the founders included the 2nd amendment btw (which is another thing WhoWhatWhy op-eds against).

      Regarding your point that “state violence is generally implicit, not explicit”, do you view this as a good thing? You say that “The gun to the head is generally the last resort of the state”. Yes, that’s probably true but the implied threat of violence leads to a “chilling effect”, where people end up “policing themselves”. That means stuff like people curbing their own speech. In the USA, politicians are starting to discuss making that kind of stuff law now. For example, did you see the article the other day about potentially arresting “climate deniers”? Even if you believe in global warming, how terrible of a precedent would it set to start arresting scientists for disagreeing w/ other scientists? I hope you see the incredible danger in that.

      You also wrote “state violence is generally applied, at least in theory, in the name of preserving and protecting commonly held ideals of a good society”. The more power the state gets, the greater the tyranny grows. In the USA we’ve seen the power grow to shocking levels in recent years. Have you seen the NDAA (which Obama signed on New Year’s eve – “nothing shady there”), which allows for indefinite detention and even murdering people (including American citizens) without due process. In other words, no trial. If the President says you’re evil then he has the power to kill you. The rationale given for this was to combat terrorism so you’re correct that “in theory” it is for a good concept (as we know terrorism is evil). But I hope I don’t need to explain how evil this is.

      As far as taxes helping “invest in public good”, it all sounds nice except that we know much of it ends up feeding evil stuff like military interventions around the world.

      As to your point that “there is no natural right to indefinite and infinite accumulation of wealth without taxation”, I will first say that property rights are a complicated subject that I won’t pretend to have fully resolved in my own mind. However, I will also say that the wealth disparity in this country became a lot more pronounced after the bailouts (which is not capitalism). Also, I strongly encourage you to check out a YouTube speech by Peter Schiff about how the Fed and government brought us into the housing crisis (search YouTube for “Peter Schiff Mortgage Bankers Speech Nov/13/06 ” as I’m not allowed to post links). The things that led us into this are not capitalism.

      Also, I can’t recommend highly enough reading Bill Black’s interview about his book “The Best Way To Rob A Bank Is To Own One”. The FBI warned in 2004 “that there was an epidemic of mortgage fraud” – their words – and they predicted that it would cause a financial crisis, ‘crisis’ being their word”. It’s stuff like this that makes the so-called conspiracy theorists feel like capitalism is being engineered to fail (so it can be blamed and replaced with some authoritarian system).

      I have to stop here to leave for work but this is a good continuation of our discussion. Hope to hear back from you and, again, thanks for discussing.

    • VainSaints says:

      Thanks for the response.

      One thing I sense amongst the voluntarist capitalists is that they have an acute awareness of the deficiencies and failures of government, which are very real, and again, I must say that I tend to believe that government should be smaller, more localized, less complex, and less controlling. However, the deficiencies of government are like broken windows, they are more obvious and visible than the positive effects of government, which are easy to take for granted.

      In real, human experience, the only alternative we have seen to government, in any semi-complex society and economy, is gangsterism.

      Historically, governments have achieved their pre-eminence over local gangsters largely by being the biggest and baddest gangster, and hence being able to exact tribute from other gangsters, and from the public at large. This is true of primitive government, but historically, what often happens at this point is an Axial Moment in societies where forces within the ruling class come to redefine their mandate, from plundering and pillaging, to administering to something which begins to be understood as a *public*. This happened during the Axial Age in several empires, from Persia, to Athens, to Rome, to India, to China. The principle figures at the helm of these movements are known to us: Solon, Socrates, Siddhartha Buddha, Confucius. This tends to happen at the maturity of the State. Of course, what tends then to happen is that classes of people, whether they be conquered, enslaved, or disenfranchised, who constitute an exploited class that pays the price for the peace, stability, and prosperity that government brings to its more favored classes. First, Christianity, then Democratic ideology, emerge to combat this problem, and they are still largely at odds on how to do it.

      The problem here is that it remains difficult, if not impossible, to draw general conclusions about ‘government’ per se from any of this. In fact, discussions about government in the abstract are likely to be meaningless, simply because of the multitude of factors that come into play regarding the histories of various governments.

      We do not have an example in history of a complex economy that is not policed in some way by government, generally because organization of the economy tends to bring with it organization of society, which tends to bring with it military organization, which tends to expand and conquer unorganized economies and bring them into its fold. And when governments of complex societies have been brought down, what tends to happen is a radical simplification of material conditions and economic life, followed by the encroachment of rival warlords to fill the vacuum. We have not seen complex economies and societies that outlive their governments.

      While I lean towards Voluntarism myself, I try to restrict my thinking to a Voluntarism of the Possible, and of a Voluntarism of what is relevant to our concrete, historical moment. The breakdown of current government structures is, in my view, attributable in large part to the breakdown in any unifying concept of a *public* that is occurring simultaneously with an expansion of *government* per se, that represents a mere haggling of factions and interests, and the abandonment of the idea of a unified public and a unified public good. The heinous agitation for racial and sexual factionalism of the Far Left is one end of this pincer, while the abandonment of the ideal of the social in favor of a privatized, contractual idea of the state on the Libertarian side is at the other end. Neither works, and both together are particularly poisonous.

    • Kevin says:

      In a sense I agree that there will be “gangsterism” of one type if we have big government, and of a different type with small or no government. However, I still disagree w/ you – the government gangsterism is preferable. Again, government gangsterism is “institutionalized tyranny”. I can’t imagine anything much worse. And big government leads to controlling political views because the population relies on the government for their jobs. Have you noticed whistleblowers are the ones being punished while the actual criminals stay in power? And people in the FBI, CIA, etc who have a conscience (think Sibel Edmonds, William Binney and Mark Klein) would have to risk everything they have in their lives in order to blow the whistle. Plus the general public is not awake enough for it to mean real change (at least not yet).

      It’s naive to think you can bargain with people who ultimately want to treat you like livestock (and it also brings up the moral question about how our society treats animals btw – and I’m a carnivore so I’m a hypocrite on that but that’s another topic).

      I will again say that centralizing control of things allows some rich, powerful person to try to get control of that power and use it to their own ends. One example -the government’s ability to tax and regulate basically allows them to pick winners and losers in the economy. So rather than a company winning by merit, the key is to “buy influence”. The only way I could possibly see advocating for this is if all the alternatives are worse. I don’t think they are. I think the US started really going downhill when government got more powerful (e.g. the federal reserve, income tax,etc).

    • VainSaints says:

      Government is generally brutal, but all historical evidence suggests that the alternatives are worse.

      You mention that the government is an entity that gets to pick the losers and the winners in the economy. True, in a sense. But at the same time, we have to recall that this concept of an “economy” as a system that is distinct and separate from politics, government, and social structures, and subject to its own laws, irrespective of said structures, is only about 300 years old. The whole idea of “the economy” as used in this sense is an artifact of a specific type of government, namely nation-state corporate capitalism, or the British Imperial Model.

      This system has sold itself to libertarians as ‘natural’, i.e. that which would exist outside the ‘interference of the state picking winners and losers’, but it is anything except that. Capitalism as we understand it todayoriginated alongside the vastest *increases* of state power since Rome became an empire. What we know as ‘capitalism’ is simply the business model of the old British Empire, which was taken over by the United States after the second World War. Capitalism as we know it did not exist before Britain instituted the Bank of England.

      When you claim to support ‘less government’, you are probably envisioning the Antebellum American model of governance, which was relatively minimalist in its government apparatus and built on a system of compromises between the Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian visions. The degree to which the success of this model depended on slave labor is as yet undetermined, though I find the people who claim that it was completely dependent upon the productivity of cheap, slave labor tendentious and unconvincing. I am inclined to believe that the Old American System would have been workable without slavery, and that a return to something like that system (minus, of course, slavery et al.) would be beneficial.

      But this system was emphatically not hostile to government per se. Even Jefferson proposed and passed laws banning primogeniture, and made all sorts of restrictions on ‘free’ economic transactions. Libertarianism of the sort advocated by Robert Nozick and Milton Friedman did not exist as an idea. Free Trade Ideology existed, but it was, then as now, employed selectively in the interest of the largest British corporations.

      The point I am trying to make is that there has never been an autonomously existing ‘economy’ outside of broader social and governmental arrangements, just as there has never existed ‘socialization’ apart from actual societies. All societies have economies (the simple need to live necessitates as much) but the substance of these economies emanates from the various pre-existing social arrangements. The notion of autonomous, pre-social individuals engaging in voluntary, mutually beneficial transactions in the absence of broader political institutions, and doing so until politics somehow gets in their way, is a Lockean fantasy.