Friday, August 05, 2011

Ralph, you've seen better days

The good news: Ralph Nader predicts that there will be a Democratic challenger to Obama.
The only question, he said, is the stature of that opponent and whether it will be either “an ex-senator or an ex-governor” or “an intellectual leader or an environmental leader.”
Does he have names in mind? He seems to...

Here's where he loses me:
Asked whether the Tea Party movement was responsible for an unsavory resolution to debt ceiling negotiations, Nader responded: “It’s not really a movement. It’s the conservative non-libertarian wing of the Republican Party.”
If the Tea Party is not a movement, what is? From my perspective, it's akin to a bowel movement. But still: A movement.

Second, where does he get this "non-libertarian" crap? All the TP websites I've seen push the gospel according to Ayn Rand. Nader goes on to draw a distinction between the terms "libertarian" and "corporatist." To me, that's like claiming to see a distinction between piss and urine.

Added note: Roseanne Barr says that she is running for President. Does she count as an "intellectual leader"?


Jotman said...

The accumulation of power invariably leads some private interests to have monopoly power in markets and exert influence over the state. That's where we are at today.

Libertarians claim that by making the state smaller, by having no state regulatory bodies, there won't be anything for big companies to capture and control. But then you're left with these private monopolies calling the shots. You get oily beaches but no fish, natural gas but no drinking water, cheap electricity but no air to breath. And none of this is theoretical, it's happening all around us!

Anonymous said...

I disagree that a libertarian is a corporatist. A corporatist doesn't mind government regulations if the regulations are beneficial to certain corporations/businesses, whereas a libertarian doesn't want government intervention at all. Nader has it right. Adam Smith is the ultimate libertarian. In Adam's Smith world, no matter how bad a corporations behaves, he'd say to let the market sort it out and lobbying would get nowhere. A corporatist would lobby to get subsidies and other goodies from government.

Twilight said...

Best bit of news I've seen today!

Why not several challengers - one from each category he mentions?

These come to mind: Feingold, Richardson, Spitzer, Gore.....can't think of an "intellectual leader" though, erm - Chomsky? He's much too old though.

+ Elizabeth Warren as a dark house rank outsider.

Caro said...

The Tea Party is an astroturf campaign bought and paid for by rich right-wing families. It's on the decline as a pretense at a movement.

Carolyn Kay

Joseph Cannon said...

Ah, DM -- I'm always pleased to meet another Adam Smith apostle who has never read Adam Smith.

Don't be embarrassed; you can admit it. For decades, I was just like you -- I thought I knew all about Smith because I had read ABOUT him, especially back in the late 1970s when the right-wing newspaper pundits were promoting Smith as the anti-Marx.

Let's face it -- "The Wealth of Nations" is not the world's most entertaining book. Even "Capital" is more fun, if you follow Uncle Karl's advice and skip the first ten chapters.

But then there was a period when I was stuck in a motel room for a couple of weeks with no internet connection and nothing to read except -- I shit you not! -- an RSV Bible and a paperback edition of "Wealth of Nations." I had already read the Bible, so there was nothing for it. Eh wot?

Bottom line: Smith mistrusted what he called "joint stock corporations," which we modern folk would simply call "corporations." He thought (correctly) that they were anti-competitive and irresponsible. Without competition, the free market has nothing but bad to offer.

Here's a good summary (

"Smith saw the propensities of corporations as central to forming and perpetuating monopolistic conditions, inclined to retain profits rather than invest them in innovation, and maintain monopolies through whatever means possible, including, as he put it, “intimidating the legislature.” He held a gloomy view of the shareholder-controlled corporation, believing that shareholder domination—versus the partnership corporations wherein the owner-manager relationship is continuous and closely interlinked at the operational level—was a recipe for profit-taking at the expense of the greater good. For Smith, the experience of the East India Company exemplified the inevitable anti-social behavior of unchecked corporate monopoly and power.

"In short, it is fair to say that Smith’s view of the role of the shareholder-dominated corporation was unflinching and grim. It is a view that, remarkably, rarely surfaces in the endless debates about the vices and virtues of market capitalism. While Smith’s brilliant insight regarding the invisible hand is accorded virtually divine status, his other equally seminal insights regarding the behaviors and consequences of joint stock corporations remain decidedly underplayed."

What I got out of Smith is that he was describing a bygone world, an agrarian economy. He could only dimly foresee the corporate world, and what he saw he did not like.

He was perfectly willing to have the Crown control the budding corporations of his day. While reading WoN, I found numerous instances in which Smith spoke of the need for gummint intervention. It came as quite a shock!

(I was also shocked that he favored the labor theory of value, which every libertarian presumes to be Marx's underlying technical mistake.)

Incidentally, the Founders of our own country also mistrusted corporations. They came THAT close to including a clause in the Constitution which would allow corporations to be formed only by permission of the government, and only under government control. They feuded over the nature of control, and they were bothered by the precedent of the East India company. So they tabled the matter for another day, and that day never came.

Joseph Cannon said...

I am a Hamiltonian. Unlike (say) Madison and Jefferson, he believed in corporations. He saw America as an industrial power, not an agrarian nation. But he also believed in high tarrifs, strict control of trade, and government policies which would both prop up and regulate corporations.

For a devastating riposte to Smith on international trade, look to Ha-Joon Chang's "Bad Samaritans.'

Libertarians are corporatists because their rhetoric slyly erases the distinction between regulations by democratic government and regulation by totalitarian states. Smith was right: By forbidding democratic control, they grant Power the right to attain ever greater Power, until the corporations ultimately control the government. Smith foresaw that. That's where your "corporate socialism" comes in. It's an inevitable feature of libertarian ideology, howevermuch libertarians deny it.

("No! No! It can't be true! It's against our theory, therefore it CAN'T be true!")

The ultimate outcome of libertarianism is the end of democracy. Smith saw this -- dimly, far off, but he saw it. Most libertarians scream "NO NO NO NO, that's not it at all!" The honest libertarians, like Patri Friedman, admit this.

And yes, I know that there are factions within Libertarian land. Those faction fights may matter to you. Not to me.

gary said...

Most Republicans are libertarian only on economics, if that. They like "free" markets and no regulations, although they also like tax breaks and giveaways to large corporations. Actually they just like money and power.

Caro said...

More recent info on the decline of the Tea Party:

"The numbers suggest the Tea Party is rapidly sliding back into fringe status — yet its disproportionate influence over the political conversation is as strong as ever. It’s yet another way that the Congressional debate is way to the right of public opinion."

Carolyn Kay

moshe said...

The labor theory of value was common sense knowledge among economists from the early days of rudimentary elements of post-mercantilist theory up until when Marx developed it and extended it to all its logical ramifications... then it became clear that to embrace that theory meant to recognize the fact that capitalism has an inherent tendency towards concentration of wealth and, consequently, of power. That's when the alternative perfect-information-utility-maximizing-rational-actor fictions began to be promoted in academic circles and among professional economists, and the rest is History.

Anonymous said...

Joseph, You infer from my comment that I'm an Adam Smith disciple. Nothing could be further from the truth. There's no one position to describe my economic views, but socialism is the closest. I believe that human greed always wins out and that we need regulations and taxation to curb the natural greed. You are right that I'm not a student of Adam Smith, and what I know of his theories is what most students learn in a basic macro economics class. I also understand that the word "corporatist" is another name for fascist as advanced by Italian fascists. Today, most people avoid using fascim to describe a corporatist state. Looking at Paul's voting record and statements, I see him him as a libertarian. But he is not 100% true libertarian. For example, Paul believes in passing laws against abortion.

Bob Harrison said...

What Gary said.