Glenn Greenwald goes off on the revolving door in the Health Care Reform debacle. He includes a video embed of Bill Moyers ranting that this same shit has been going on since 1905 and that the progressive do-gooders haven’t been able to do a goddamn thing about it. I would only offer that this same shit has been going much longer than that, really since the beginning of liberal institutionalism itself. Class Theory is often mistakenly thought to have originated with the Marxists or the socialists, but, in fact, it originates from the liberals, in specific, the radical French liberal tradition. The line of thought, in terms of a solution, that came out of this analysis, from the radical liberal side, was the supplantation of the Political Economy with “The Industry,” i.e., the Catallaxy, or in more plain terms, “the market.” This is libertarianism. The original libertarians were split over whether “the Market” would be capitalist or anti-capitalist, a divide that can be historically characterized, for example, by the Bastiat-Proudhon debate. When we talk about about a capitalist/anti-capitalist divide in libertarianism, we are talking about the nature of rent and interest in a truly free market.
For the Marxists and the Socialists, who would adopt liberal class theory as an underpinning of their own socio-political theories, the solution was not to get rid of politics, but rather get rid of the market. But politics would have to be subsumed to the necessity of the one party state.
Two years ago, with the collapse of Neo-liberal Financial Institutional Capitalism, which in large part derived it’s theoretical underpinning from the Chicago School, many a progressive writer gleefully proclaimed the “Death of Libertarianism.” With the prospect of large majority control of the legislative branches, control of the executive branch, a discredited Republican party and demographic trends that boded well for long term control, these same writers announced that libertarians no longer served any useful political purpose and discarded them as if they were old laundry. We were on the verge of a glorious FDR 2.0.
In present time, of course, these same progressives are now reduced to sniping about what went wrong. Many are dangerously close, in dissecting the failure of “the Stimulus,” to blaming politics and the two-party state. If there was only a one-party state, specifically a one party that was purged of Blue Dogs like Ben Nelson, well then “the Stimulus” would have been properly enacted and administered. What they are really arguing, of course, is the need of a “Dictator.” The irony is not lost on me that these same people who mocked libertarianism because it is utopian, and that it subverts politics to the market(with the argument that politics is the only way to have accountability) are now engaging in their own utopian rationales about a world without politics, a strange thing for advocates of social democracy to be opining about.
Kevin Carson, at the Center for a Stateless Society, recently wrote a paper about progressives being the new reactionaries. It is an indictment of the failure of progressivism. However, it should be pointed out that progressives under the reign of Obama are not exactly unified. Just as Bush served to divorce and splinter libertarianism from a GOP fusionism, Obama is serving likewise to splinter progressives from the Dems. For those progressives who have not bought into the Obama kool-aid, their rhetoric these days often involves invoking Thoreau, Twain, or the need to construct alternative institutions outside of politics. In other words, it’s going libertarian, whether they realize or not.
To answer Bill Moyers, the US has indeed been under an institutional “progressive reign” for the last 100 years. It has given us permanent war, an IRS that is the collection arm of “private” insurance companies, a criminal justice system that is the envy of racists worldwide, and a corporate consolidation of corporate financial wealth that makes the “Robber Barron” era look like a Marxist egalitarian paradise. I could go on and on. You can blame it on politics, but then, again, social democracy without politics isn’t really social democracy, now is it?
The fact is, without libertarianism, there is no liberalism in America. It dies. Modern Politics has not obviated the historical libertarian critique, not by a long shot…