Thursday, December 30, 2010

Michael Johnson on RAW's politics

My Tuesday blog post on RAW and libertarianism inspired an interesting comment from Michael Johnson in the comments on RAW politics, which I'll reprint here:

RAW once said he thought Rand turned around and invented Objectivism as an atheistic religion to compete with the atheistic religion that killed her family members.

For sombunall of what RAW thought of Austrian economics, see the New Libertarian interview from Sept 5, 1976.

RAW seems more radical in general that any of the acknowledged-by-the-likes-of New York mag's "libertarians." Chomsky has often accepted the term "libertarian socialist." RAW's politics seem much closer to Chomsky's (who is almost totally marginalized in mainstream US media, but NOT in the rest of the world); the right-libertarians had ideas that RAW thought needed more of a hearing in the mass marketplace of ideas in the US; however, he thought the right-libertarians could care less about the poor, and that their ideas about regulations protecting the commons and the poor and disenfranchised had been shown to be demonstrably wrong...RAW was so radical he thought land/rent/banks/money were questionable ideas. I don't see much of that in Rand/Rothbard/Hayek/Mises/Friedman...which is why comsumers of mainstream media get to read about THEM as "libertarians," I suspect.

I'm hoping to make the point that if you don't read the comments for this blog, you're missing a lot. If you go back to my Tuesday post, you can see some back and forth between Michael and I after I mention a point where I differ a bit from RAW's politics.

But to follow on Michael's original point: When I got involved with the Internet years ago, I found that it became much easier to read articles by other libertarians, and interact with them. More recently, it has made it easier to see that there are quite a few leftist libertarians and libertarian leftists out there — in addition to the people Michael mentions, I would suggest Glenn Greenwald (see Justin Raimondo's remarks), R.U. Sirius, Arthur Hlavaty (who, it should be said, doesn't self identify as a libertarian anymore), Jim Henley, and Will Wilkinson.

I feel closest ideologically to Wilkinson. I support a national health insurance program and an individual mandate (although I'd include the ability to opt into medical savings accounts) and a cash transfer social safety net, e.g. a negative income tax, expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit or something of that sort. On many other issues, I'm a conventional libertarian: I like free trade, a peaceful foreign policy, an end to import barriers and farm subsidies, immigration that's as free as politically possible, no government picking and choosing of winners and losers in the marketplace, an end to the war on drugs, etc. etc. This puts me in the position of being too "leftist" for the average libertarian, and too libertarian for everyone else.

Incidentally, Douglas Rushkoff has continued to work on many of the economic and political ideas that RAW was interested in.


michael said...

I just checked and couldn't find the interview from New Libertarian Sept 5, 1976 I cited earlier, which is egregious. Hey Gathers: we need to get that in there!

"In my experience, I might add, virtually all adherents of the Austrian economic theories are academics who have never had any dealings with Capitalist corporations. The rosy view the Austrians have of these matters, I think, would collapse in two weeks if thy had to deal with the damned corporate pirates as an ordinary worker does." - from RAW(1976)interview, "Illuminating Discord: An Interview With Robert Anton Wilson."

I basically agree with you, Jackson, on particular libertarian ideas, but the big problem is that it's sorta academic to be in "favor" of an idea like a peaceful foreign policy when you note the early Ntl Security memoranda, c.1947. The US must always be at WAR, in order to keep the ruling class's capitalism afloat. How else do you explain $800 billion a year (for "defense") when there is no USSR anymore? There will be no peaceful foreign policy until things change drastically...and, to quote a poet out of context, that makes "all the difference."

For an overview of State-Capitalism in the US and overthrowing of democracies, installing military dictatorships, mass slaughter of peasants wanting land reforms, CIA-trained gestapo-like secret police in many countries, interference with elections, killing "key guys" (CIA memo) in order to influence politics in far-flung areas of the world, the mass media's virtual blackout of all this in the US, etc, etc, etc: I won't even send the reader to Chomsky or Zinn. Just check out and thumb through for 90 mins _Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, by Wm Blum. For relatively well-educated and comfortable writers and intellectuals, it's a goddamned Reality Sandwich, and I think, renders ideas about national health and farm subsidies in a whole new light. But that's just my perspective as of this date.

BTW: I second Rushkoff as a thinker within the RAW-welt of thinking of economy, values, and politics. See his _Life, Inc_, so far a scandalously underrated book.

michael said...

I forgot to mention a thanks to Tom Jackson for turning me on to Will Wilkinson. I can get lost in my reality labyrinth and not find people like this, were it not for T-Jack, and his wealth of connections and ideas.

I was talking tonight to friends about this blog, and mentioned the Shiner interview, so maybe someone new will chime in here. The very idea of a RAWbook on Pearl Harbor! That has really made me wonder over the last few days.

I think RAW would've used his readings of Harry Elmer Barnes, Charles Beard and a few other GREAT sociologist-historians from the 1940s-50s who have conveniently gone down the Memory Hole, and written a book that would've been both accessible and controversial (for those who cared to follow the argument and not just label RAW a "conspiracy theorist" or - my favorite - "irresponsible").

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I like many of Michael's points, but I respectfully big to differ with him on one issue: I still think it is perfectly possible to have a "capitalist" (or free market) society without being perpetually at war.

Here are some current examples of countries that have chosen not to "always be at WAR" but who nonetheless have prosperous capitalist systems: Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Finland and Norway.

Some would argue that Japan has done well for itself since it became a peaceful country.

michael said...

RAW admired the Scandinavian countries and their mixed economies. ("Capitalist" shd be seen in an extensionalized view, as Korzybski wd point out.)

The role the US plays is to police the rest of the world for the countries you named, and many others. The southern hemisphere is ripe for policing...

Rationalistically I must agree with the idea that it's possible to have "capitalism" w/o permanent war. But it's not what the US is locked into, has been locked into since 1947.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Nothing to disagree with here.

Does it seem funny to anyone else what when we are discussing politics, I take the Hagbard Celine role (i.e., the "libertarian") and Michael sounds like Simon Moon?

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