Julian Assange Interview at Antiwar Radio

I haven’t seen this promoted in the libertarian blogosphere: Julian Assange’s recent interview at Antiwar Radio. It actually follows an interview with Daniel Ellsberg, who is a fairly frequent guest.

Up to now, Assange has been a fairly cryptic regarding his political views; but that is starting to change. Assange, in his public role, has subtly shifted from enigmatic hacker to activist and advocate. It is obvious now that he holds strong antiwar views. In addition to the obvious crypto-libertarian sentiment that frames the WikiLeaks mission statement, it’s probably safe to conjecture that Assange holds more general anarchist views. WikiLeaks has begun to bill itself as a global but stateless news media organization that employs an infrastructural redundancy so that no government can shut it down. Suffice to say, the United States is not part of this network infrastructure. It looks to be primarily spread out among various European jurisdictions that have fairly robust privacy laws. In this sense, the rise of the Pirate Party in Sweden, which at one time was viewed as nothing more than a novel oddity, begins to take on real significance.

In the antiwar radio interview, Assange confirms that Wikileaks does have video of the 2009 Granai airstrike, which killed a number of Afghan civilians, and will release it upon completion of the complex task of editing it in conjunction with the apparently large number of field reports that they also posses that document the operation.

Assange further gives some clarification about the recent stories that hit press that rumored he was concerned about being the target of CIA black bag operation. Assange says he was never worried about the CIA being after him. However, he was contacted by Seymour Hersh and other non-journalistic sources in the US government who were concerned about the private rhetoric being expressed by some within the government. Emmanuel Goldstein, editor of 2600(the famous hacker mag) which sponsors the Hope hacker conference that Assange was scheduled to speak at, has publicly stated that the Feds were waiting for Assange if he had shown up.

Assange indicates that the private rhetoric within the government, which I gather to mean the private sentiment being expressed within the intelligence agencies, has cooled down. However, the rhetoric of the politicians hasn’t cooled down, particularly in the congress. I’ve heard idiots, from both the Democratic and Republican side, babble about how he should be tried for treason. Apparently the crime of treason against the United States is no longer tied to citizenship. I’m sure some of those fucks would love to pass that law, but I imagine they probably just get off by hearing the word said out loud. In any event, don’t expect Julian Assange to be setting foot in the “land of the free” anytime soon.

The Decline of the Randian Influence on American Libertarianism?

Mises.org, yesterday, had two interesting articles featured. One, by Stephan Kinsella, makes the case that the Randian position on IP is in it’s death throes within the libertarian movement. Another, by Wendy McElroy, is a republication of her account of how copyright/IP fitted into the Tuckerite 4 monopoly criticism of political economy, and the degree to which it was contentious within the first American libertarian movement.

Kinsella is one that from time to time likes to take pot shots at “left libertarianism, ” but left libertarianism is really just a revival of the ideas of the original libertarian movement, primarily articulated by one Benjamin Tucker. Up until recently, Tucker and the history of the first american libertarian movement was buried in obscure historical archives, largely unavailable to the general layman. It’s only been recently, with the modern internet underlying a publishing revolution, that these idea have become popularly accessible. So these ideas are gaining new momentum, particularly class theory, monopolies of the political economy, and, yes, even anti-capitalist sentiment(although by anti-capitalist sentiment, at least in terms of individualist anarchism, we are not talking about anti private property, but rather a debate over rent and interest in a free market).

In the wake of the Obama Administration, there has been a big upshot in the sales Rand’s fictional work. In a case of fortuitous timing, two academics, who had access to Rand’s archives, published separate biographical accounts that generated some big press. I haven’t read the books by either Heller or Burns, but by their numerous press and think tank appearances, I got a pretty good gist of what each was recounting. By far, from a libertarian perspective, Burns’ book was more interesting because she made it a thesis point that Rand’s influence kept a self-identified libertarian movement that emerged in the 60s from being a left-wing movement under the influence of a Rothbard or a Hess. It was Rand’s overwhelming influence that kept it as a right-wing movement. In fact, Burns maintains that Rothbard was only a marginal influence. I would quibble with that latter assertion, because although there is no denying the major influence Rand’s fictional work had on modern libertarianism(to bring up the cliche, “it all begins with Rand,” which in my case, is true. But then again, I can say when you read her nonfiction work, it ends pretty quickly and you move on), I would say that a self-identified movement that was in significant part anarchist had moved on beyond Rand. And, I don’t it’s defensible to claim that Rothbard was only a marginal influence. This before my time, and there might be those who can set me straight on the history here form a personal account, but it would seem problematic to explain Rand’s negative opinion of libertarianism, because she quite properly understood it to be anarchism. Or how Burns would explain the Dallas Accord in the Libertarian Party. This was the peace treaty between the anarchists and the Randian minarchists.

There is no doubt, that over time, particularly with the famous Rothbard-Koch split, and the emergence of Cato, that libertarianism moved away from anarchism and toward the right. Burns’ insinuation is that the continued book sales and influence of Rand will keep libertarianism on the right. I would disagree with that assessment, however. I don’t care how many books Rand sells. Intellectually, the libertarian movement is moving to the left. Rand will continue to have a significant cultural influence in terms of the ethic of individualism, but from an institutional standpoint(that is, from a point of view that examines liberty in terms of an institutional analysis ), her influence is waning.

No Political Gods

Some brief comments concerning Doug Bandow’s post, A Liberal God at the Daily Caller. I find many typically make the mistake of associating Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” with “The Wealth of Nations,” and not with the actual work, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” where Smith actually introduced his famous metaphorical term. Smith was not interested in rooting morality in the supernatural or any god. Rather he was interested in rooting it in sociology, and his theory of moral sentiments attempts to explain sympathy/empathy(i.e., humans as “other-regarding”) as emergent properties of self-regarding(i.e., egoist) agent interaction. This is “the invisible hand.”

Theologians, or evangelicals, or whatever type of religious creatures like Jim Wallis, when they mutter such things as:

Emphasizing individual rights at the expense of others violates the common good.

They are not liberals. They are not even remotely left wing or of the left. Rather they are the descendants of a long line of priestly authoritarians who root morality in the authority of a Church-State ruling class.

Recently, Cato Unbound had a topic on Darwin and Liberalism. The whole thing, to me, was a conflation of “the Invisible Hand” with Neoclassical Perfect Competition. No, Darwin, or evolutionary psychology, or whatever, does not provide any scientific basis for the notion that spontaneous order obviates the need for dispute resolution(perfect competition equilibrium implies no firms, and hence, the absence of dispute resolution) or collective action. However, the Darwin model provides a considerable scientific paradigm that backs up Smith’s original work on moral sentiments. Morality can be rooted in liberty, and not in political or religious authority. This is liberalism. And this was a topic I discussed in a previous post, Markets and Fairness, at Freedom Democrats.

I also understand that at the recent FreedomFest, Doug Casey debated Dinesh D’Souza over the positive role of religion from a liberal or libertarian perspective. Apparently, the debate audience overwhelmingly sided with D’Souza, which, I suppose, indicates the conservative tilt of FreedomFest.

Bandow’s case was against a “liberal god” condemnation of the “Tea Party.” Well, that’s an easy enough case to make. I would just add, however, that the bigger issue is likely the specter of a right-wing Jesus leading the movement.

I don’t have much good to say about either left-wing or right-wing Christianity. Fuck Jim Wallis and Fuck Michele Bachmann and fuck their political Jesuses. Heaven is for the politicos; hell is for those of us who have to bear the burden of the outcomes…

Wikileaks: The Afghanistan Files

Afghanistan war logs: Massive leak of secret files exposes truth of occupation

White House Response:

“We strongly condemn the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organisations, which puts the lives of the US and partner service members at risk and threatens our national security”

Additional paraphrased White House response: “Btw, all that bad stuff, that happened under Bush.”


If you ascribe to the Free Market, you are truly “Left Wing” now

This post is an addendum to my previous post, The Ruling Class. In that post, I alluded to David Brook’s “progressive corporatism” characterization. “Progressive corporatism” means oligarchy + technocratic class. Brooks championed this two years ago in a column piece, The Establishment Lives!. In the piece, he reveled in the supplantation of politics with a new establishment, technocratic center. Brooks forecasted the end of ideology and the dawn of a new progressive era. This new progressive era would “save” capitalism and restore institutional trust and confidence.

At the time, I criticized that column with my blog post, The Paulson Plan as a Libertarian Class Theory Morality Play, at Freedom Democrats. Earlier this year, I once again took issue with a Brooks’ column. I criticized Brooks’ characterization of the Tea Party as a Walmart version of the New Left. Not quite. But Brooks was starting to get worried. The original New Left took a generation to blossom after the institutional consolidation of corporate liberalism. Now, however, the shit is starting to hit the fan even before one election cycle. But the “Tea Party,” although originally having some libertarian roots, is now just a partisan movement. Just like the anti-war movement during the Bush years was. Once the Dems began to regain power, the anti-war movement began to fade. I have been saying that if you had a merger of the Tea Party with the anti-war movement, then you would have something. But now, a legitimate popular resistance/protest movement rooted in a coherent class critique continues to be marred by a partisan, communitarian divide.

Now I note Brooks’ latest column, The Technocracy Boom. Brooks’ line now is that this era of progressive corporatism has been enacted without majority popular support. The explosion of the technocratic class and institutional oligarchy is not engendering a restoration of trust and confidence in political institutions, but rather it is precipitating a marked historical decline in such trust and confidence. Brooks is now characterizing his precious establishment rule as a high-stake sociological gamble:

This progressive era amounts to a high-stakes test. If the country remains safe and the health care and financial reforms work, then we will have witnessed a life-altering event. We’ll have received powerful evidence that central regulations can successfully organize fast-moving information-age societies.

If the reforms fail — if they kick off devastating unintended consequences or saddle the country with a maze of sclerotic regulations — then the popular backlash will be ferocious. Large sectors of the population will feel as if they were subjected to a doomed experiment they did not consent to. They will feel as if their country has been hijacked by a self-serving professional class mostly interested in providing for themselves.

If that backlash gains strength, well, what’s the 21st-century version of the guillotine?

Doses anyone in their right mind think that a central planner “can successfully organize fast-moving information-age societies?” No. And, frankly, that’s where the vast internal domestic security apparatus organized under the Department of Fatherland Security comes in. A vast internal, domestic bureaucratic security apparatus is a property of privileged, exploitative political system. We would laugh at the thought that the Soviet or Nazi Internal Security apparati were erected on the pretext of protecting the “freedoms” of the citizens from external threats(although, of course, that was, indeed, propaganda). We should likewise laugh at our own government propaganda. A Police State protects privilege and a privileged order, period. And, frankly, quite a but of this privilege ends being the privilege of the security apparatus itself.

Brooks’ reference to the “21st-century version of the guillotine” invokes America going “French” on the Ruling Class. Well, I think America is going to go French on the ruling class but not in terms of a return of the guillotine but rather in terms of a return of radical politics rooted in class consciousness. Class theory originates out of a liberal critique of the Permanent Napoleon War Economy that built itself over a long-standing corrupt regulatory/administrative tradition inherited from the Ancien Régime. This is where it comes from, and it is what ultimately underlies the Marxist and Socialist class critique of liberalism as well.

For me, the prospect of a thoroughly corrupt liberal institutionalism engaged in permanent war implies a blowback at some point. It could be argued that America, since it’s founding, has been engaged in permanent war one way or another. And radical politics is a flower that periodically blooms to wreak havoc on the mainstream political dynamic.

This new progressive era has resulted in the greatest concentration of financial wealth in American history and the greatest expansion of a technocratic class since FDR. It has also saddled the political economy with a paralytic regime uncertainty not seen since the “Great Depression.” This new progressive era is a systematic assault on the Tucker four monopolies. If you didn’t think so before, there is certainly no denying now that the Central Bank has been elevated to a fourth branch of government. It is now an even more powerful monopoly that is neither accountable to the market or politics. This is not the stuff of a robust political economy. Indeed, we now have what can be called a compliance economy where every nontrivial market transaction has to be duly documented with the State. This lends itself to famous Proudhon rant: “To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished.”

Although a bit of an oversimplification, but nonetheless a fairly accurate summary, the historical libertarian solution to the class problem of liberal political economy was to get rid of politics whereas the historical socialist solution to the same problem was to get rid of the market. Each of these viewpoints saw liberalism in an evolutionary framework that would be eclipsed by a social system deemed to be more rational. Progessivism, in a sense, can be thought of as the “third way,” a system which retained both politics and the market, holding out that both market and political institutions could be reformed under the direction of elite technocratic institutional classes(note conservatism is mostly outside the scope of this discussion because it does not inherit from the liberal tradition).

Socialism fails for a myriad of reasons, but most notably because humans have a universally evolved trait to trade and exchange. You can’t get rid of this. Any social/political structure that suppresses this trait is not something that any way could be said to be a liberal order. Here, the Hayek critique applies.

Progressivism can’t overcome the libertarian class critique. It relies on myths and state-funded institutional propaganda to mythologize the triumph of the political and technocratic classes. Frankly, it was the Administrative State to begin with that spawned the liberal class critique against liberalism itself. And wasn’t even the libertarians who debunked the original progressive era in America; it was the New Left, the intellectual outgrowth of the Wisconsin revisionist school, led by the likes of Gabriel Kolko, whose deconstructions in such works as “Railroads and Regulation: 1877-1916,” and “The Triumph of Conservatism” documents that the hailed progressive regulatory reforms were merely instances of political and regulatory capture by Big Business. And now, in our second great progressive era, the obvious failures have reduced progressives to blaming politics and de-legitimizing dissenting points of view. In this, I think Kevin Carson is on target with his most recent paper declaring progressives to be the new reactionaries.

This leaves us with libertarianism. Libertarianism, in a real sense, relies on a de-politicized social order. Yet, it is just as utopian to wish away humans as political creatures as it is to wish them away as market creatures. Humans are political creatures. It’s a universally evolved trait as well. And, frankly, it should be acknowledged that no extended order can exist purely as a function of the market. There is some necessary degree of collective action that must underlie any sophisticated social order. But the question is whether politics, as a method of collective action, can resolve coordination problems without privilege or strategic advantage to any given party. Yes it can, but it’s not a given. Politics exists ubiquitously in informal cultural and social institutions as well. The Monkey Cage is a blog that, playing off Tyler Cowen’s “Markets in Everything”, has the tagline, “Politics in Everything.” Well, maybe, so, but I would add, “Right of Exit in Everything.” Libertarianism has an empirical problem with politics, but not a conceptual problem. Politics can be overcome without having to deny the political nature of humans.

When referring to the term, “Free market,” that term should be understood to mean “markets free of political privilege.” When we libertarians are accused of being market fundamentalists, let us plead guilty to holding to the fundamental principle of markets without privilege. These are in short supply supply these days. We are being criticized by the apologists of oligarchy and the cult of personality. They are the reactionaries, the defenders of the Status quo. Markets without privilege is a left-wing institutional paradigm and really the only plausible left-wing remaining as an inheritor of liberalism. The others, they are busy with their communitarian wars with conservatives.

It is not coincidental, as Kevin Carson points out, that capitalism as a dirty word is leading to a rebranding of “Free Enterprise,” which of course implies the entrepreneur operating without political privilege. The capitalist-anti-capitalist divide that has been brewing in radical libertarianism for a number of years now is spilling into the mainstream. Yes, there is class consciousness afoot, and yes there are those who are ready to expropriate it.

The Ruling Class

Two years ago, at the blog Freedom Democrats, I argued that TARP and the bailouts were going to infuse the popular political dialogue with “class consciousness.” By class consciousness, I didn’t mean the standard tripe of income classification or the color of one’s shirt collar at work, but one rather one rooted in the ruling class vs the ruled class. This was contra to the wisdom being spouted off by much of the mainstream political punditry at the time that viewed the government intervention as signaling a new accepted ascendancy of an elite political class. In other words, a new era of “Progressive Corporatism,” to borrow a phrase from David Brooks.

While in practice we are indeed experiencing a new era of this “progressive corporatism,” it is also true that language of “class theory” has taken firm root in the political critique. And it’s a critique that spans the political spectrum, whether conservative, progressive/liberal, or libertarian. It’s a trivial exercise to reference the growing class critique in libertarianism. Rather I will note two recent class critiques: one from a conservative side, the other from a progressive side.

The American Spectator:
America’s Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution

Salon(Glenn Greewald):
The Real U.S. Government

Let’s examine the American Spectator version. The author, Angelo M. Codevilla, correctly notes that the passage of TARP gave prominence to the language of the “political class,” and the ad hoc bailouts lent prominence to the language of the “ruling class”(which is the nexus of political and corporate interests). Codevilla correctly observes that both Republicans and Democrats “show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.” I’m somewhat in agreement with Codevilla’s critique of the meritocracy of the political class. However, Codevilla’s critique of meritocracy is a hardly a conservative insight. I list a progressive blog, Stop Me before I Vote Again, that makes a living mocking the meritocracy class of corporate liberalism.

But Codevilla’s analysis soon begins to go astray when he nonetheless begins casting class conflict in terms of communitarian politics. I should remind Codevilla that progressivism originally arose out the Republican Party and to cast the class conflict as being between the Democratic Party and the “Country Class” is nonsense for many reasons. From communitarian politics, it should be noted that yes, the Democratic Party has entrenched identity elite politics, but all the elitists go to church and prayer breakfasts and revere the military. The government has waged continual war on Drugs, pornography, and even video games. Many of the underclasses of the Democratic identity groups are in jail or at risk of being imprisoned. The Republican underclasses, the so-called country class, hasn’t had to bear the same burden of elite rule. In other words, it can be argued the Dem Party screws over it’s own constituencies much worse than the so-called “country class.”

In many ways the Karl Rove strategy for permanent GOP rule was dependent on maximizing turnout of this “country class.” When the reign of Bush discredited the GOP, many conservatives, with the election of Obama, feared that the brunt of elite rule would begin to fall on this very “country class.” Thus, I think this essay, which attempts to expound on class theory, in the end, fails, and can be labeled as reactionary.

At Freedom Democrats I argued that in order to have a resurgence of radical politics, a radicalism based on “class consciousness,” we would need a transcendence of communitarian politics. The likes of Codevilla trying to cast class politics into those who stand proud at the playing of The Star Spangled Banner versus those who wince is Exhibit A of the point I was trying to make.

Let’s turn to Glenn Greenwald’s recent essay. Greenwald is a former lawyer who made a name for himself criticizing the civil libertarian abuses of the Bush Administration. However, when it became clear that the Obama Admin was more or less the third term of Bush, or worse, the second term of Dick Cheney, Greenwald’s rhetoric began to take on the more radical tone of class theory. Thusly, unlike the likes of Kos, Greenwald’s concern with civil liberties was not a partisan wedge issue, but, in fact, genuine. Unlike Kos’ phony “libertarian Democrat” manifesto, Greenwald’s interactions with libertarian outlets, such as Antiwar.com, or the now defunct blog, The Art of the Possible, were genuine. Although there are progressive and liberals at the margin who are critics of Obama and the Democrats, it’s safe to say that Greenwald’s writings, particularly as they have shifted to a rhetoric of class theory, have had a major impact on the progressive crack-up.

Greenwald’s latest piece, commenting on the Washington Post’s series on the “sprawling, unaccountable, inexorably growing secret U.S. Government” under the National Security State is a gem of a radical writing. Before Bush, I was a typical Cato-type libertarian with a strong civil libertarian streak. It was the Patriot Act, even more than the Iraq War, that turned me into a radical libertarian and an anarchist. The establishment of a formal stasi internal security bureaucracy that enwraps domestic law enforcement isn’t going to end well. Any idiot should be able to see this. You are going from mere “Public Choice” to outright radical class theory. In the end, what is the function of a vast internal security apparatus? It is to protect power; it is to enforce obedience to power by fear.

TARP and the Bailouts should have given some clues. The fact is under Bush and Obama, the US Government is in the process of consolidating the 4 monopolies described by Benjamin Tucker. And now there is a vast internal security bureaucratic apparatus to enforce it. Get a clue, people. You can’t reform this.

In a sense, then, I agree with the conclusion of Codevilla at the end of his essay, although for different reasons. You can’t reform the ruling class. It would take a dictator, and, in such a case, the cure would be worse than the disease. It requires a revolution without imposition; that is, a revolution at the bottom; that is, an evolution. That is to say, an evolution of new institutions out the failure of political institutions. But put away the battle hymns, the flags and the salutes. The evolution is of a “free class,” not of a “country class.”