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A critique of a critique

The Libertarian Alliance has published a new pamphlet by Samizdatista Paul Marks called A Critique of a Critique: An Examination of Kevin Carson’s Contract Feudalism.

He is in splendid and splenic form, I am pleased to say.

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8 comments to A critique of a critique

  • I look forward to Mr Carson giving him a mauling in return…

  • Snide

    Pooter, that is like threatening an English Mastif with your yapping Pomeranian.

  • I am partialy sympathetic to both sides here, however, I would like to comment. Paul Marks notes that many, indeed, most people who are wage workers under our present society would be under an anarchist one. However, whilst this is undoubtably true, should one reglect that monopolistic activity may alter the conditions of employment? Rothbard notes, in Power and Market, that just about all state regulation penalises efficient producers for the benefit of inefficient ones, and grants monopolistic privileges. Given our fairly extensively interventionist government, it seems quite possible that employees in many indsutries or sectors face less competition for their labour than would be the case in a free market.


  • Paul Marks

    In conversation I have accused Murry Rothbard of many things (he is dead, so he can not reply), but I have never accused him of sympathy with the idea of “contract feudalism”. Of course that is not what Richard is saying – he is saying that under a free market (i.e. a market where there was radically less taxation, government spending and regulations) real wages and conditions of work would be a lot better than they are now (I have no problem with that).

    I wrote the article back in November 2006, and I have been too lazy to reread it.

    However, I hope I did not say what percentage of people would not be self employed under anarcho-capitalism. There is no way I could know that – everyone could be (for all I know).

    However, trying to undermine contracts will not benefit people in the long run.

    “In the long run we are all dead” – back to Hell with you Lord Keynes, Satan has a new thing to stick up your…….

  • Of course, Paul is correct that “undermining contracts” could make us all worse off. On the other hand, there is precedent for exactly what types of contracts should be honoured, and those that are less than voluntary are not typically amongst them. Swedish anarcho-capitalist Per Bylund wrote

    I too argue low wages and poor working conditions are not necessarily problematic – in the free market. The wording is the same, but the argument is quite different.

    Those small words, in the free market, are most important because without them, the argument fails and is utterly false. Can it really be “voluntary” to choose only from shitty jobs in a regulated economy where most work options have been made unavailable and a job is necessary to generate monetary income to pay taxes? I say it is not. Even if you make the choices yourself, it cannot be considered a voluntary choice to pick a least bad option from the options remaining within a suffocating framework of coercive measures.

    Whilst Per’s claim that “Free market arguments are simply not applicable to the real world as it is” may be an exageration, he surely has a point. It is easy to misconcieve this argument as saying, as many Marxists and crude exploitation theorists may, that being faced with limited, or unpleasnt alternatives makes the choice we make a coerced one, this is not what is being said. The argument is closer to libertarian moralised coercion – the relationship between the contractor and the contractee may be coerced because the alternatives are unjustly restricted by the state’s rights violating intervention.

    But if this is the case, if an employer (or an employee, for that matter) has a monopolistic privilege, by virtue of state intervention, is it really so simple a matter to respond, “trying to undermine contracts will not benefit people in the long run” to libertarian claims that the relationship is involuntary and the contractee owes no duties by virtue of the contract?

  • Paul Marks

    I quite agree that if taxes (and government spending) were much lower and if the vast web of regulations was removed and if the credit bubble financial system (with all the distortion of the captial structure this means) was not as it is – well then the real incomes of most people would be vastly higher.

    However, this is not really what Mr Carson is about. He is about attacking the “wage system”.

    His supporters are full of comments about how “captial” “commands” “labour”.

    Which how they think – rather than an employer hires the services of an employee (who may also be an employer him or her self).

    They are also full of stuff about how labour does not get “its full product” (and other Ricardian socialist – sub Marxist stuff).

  • Paul,

    I don’t know if Beegee is necessarily representative of Carson’s followers. However, I do think that there is an issue that is at least philosophically important that relates to entirely what extent employers (or employees, or consumers, and other recipients of monopoly privilege) who benefit from monopolistic privilege are entitled to the the rights they hold against other parties as a result of a contract.

  • Paul Marks

    I hold that this is an excuse. Not an excuse for you Mr Garner – but an excuse for Mr Carson and his followers.

    It is as if some union organizing the violent picketing (although all “picketing” is based on intimidation – there do not tend to be philosophical debates on picket lines, whether they are made up of union people or ships or soldiers) of the front gate of a factory said the following:

    “It is O.K. for us to do this because you get a government subsidy in the form of a tax on imports” (or whatever).

    We both know that the union guys would be at the front gate (and Mr Carson and co would be denouncing contract feudalism) regardless of whether there was a government subsidy for the company or not.

    It is an excuse, not a reason.

    Of course this does not mean that the excuses should not be removed.

    As for the line on land:

    I do not hold that God gave the world to mankind in common (in short I hold that Samual Pufendorf, John Locke and others interpreted Genesis incorrectly – or we should not follow Genesis), although I do accept that this idea seems to be very powerful to those who accept it, so that even when they lose their faith in God they somehow, sort of, keep this “world given to mankind as a whole” idea in their minds (Herbert Spencer is my favourate example of this) so they think that private land ownership has to be “justified” and we get stuff like the “Lockian Proviso”.

    To me the world comes into existance open to ownership (not already owned) and occupation over the generations (with the claim by the occupyers that they own the land – someone who pays rent is accepting that he does not) means just ownership.

    “But what if your great, great grandfather stole the land?” – relevant then, but not relevant now.

    Again “the land was stolen” line is an excuse not a reason.

    If the land could be proved to have been passed down (or sold) from the first occupyers (as in Iceland) Mr Carson and co would still find some reason to attack business enterprises over the “wage system”.