Home > Uncategorized > The cart, or the horse? A ‘bleeding-heart’ libertarian (who missed Block) blames the Left for Crony Capitalism

The cart, or the horse? A ‘bleeding-heart’ libertarian (who missed Block) blames the Left for Crony Capitalism

I recently ran across a blog post Jason Brennan entitled: Dear Left: Corporatism Is Your Fault, at the “Bleeding Heart Libertarians” blog. The blog hosts the writings of various “Left Libertarians”, such as Roderick Long and Gary Chartier, who “believe that addressing the needs of the economically vulnerable by remedying injustice, engaging in benevolence, fostering mutual aid, and encouraging the flourishing of free markets is both practically and morally important.”

The post is worth a read; no doubt quite a few of you will like it. I didn’t, and left my comments at the bottom:

Brennan is Assistant Professor of Business and Philosophy at Georgetown University. He is the author of The Ethics of Voting (Princeton University Press, 2011), and co-author of A Brief History of Liberty (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).  He earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Arizona.

I excerpt liberally from the original post (emphasis added):

1.  Dear Left: Corporatism Is Your Fault

… Dear members of the moderate left,

America is suffering from rampant, run-away corporatism and crony capitalism. We are increasingly a plutocracy in which government serves the interests of elite financiers and CEOs at the expense of everyone else.

You know this and you complain loudly about it. But the problem is your fault. You caused this state of affairs. Stop it.

Unlike we libertarianish people, you people actually hold and have been holding significant political power in the US over the past 50 years. [ What have you done with this power? You’ve greased the corporatist machine every chance you’ve gotten. You’ve made things worse, not better. Our current problems are your fault. You need to stop. …

You complain, rightly, that regulatory agencies are controlled by the very corporations they are supposed to constrain. Well, yeah, we told you that would happen. When you create power—and you people love to create power—the unscrupulous seek to capture that power for their personal benefit. Time and time again, they succeed. We told you that would happen, and we gave you an accurate account of how it would happen.

You complain, perhaps rightly, that corporations are just too big. Well, yeah, we told you that would happen. When you create complicated tax codes, complicated regulatory regimes, and complicated licensing rules, these regulations naturally select for larger and larger corporations. We told you that would happen. Of course, these increasingly large corporations then capture these rules, codes, and regulations to disadvantage their competitors and exploit the rest of us. We told you that would happen.

It’s not rocket science. It’s public choice economics. You recognized, rightly, that public choice economics was a threat to your ideology. So, you didn’t listen, because you didn’t want to be wrong. Public choice predicted that the government programs you created with the goal of fixing problems would often instead exacerbate those problems. Well, the evidence is in. You were wrong and public choice theory was right. If you have any decency, it is time to admit you were wrong and change. Stop making things worse.

You spent the past fifty years empowering corporations and the most unscrupulous of the rich. You created rampant moral hazard in the financial sector. You created the system that socializes risks but privatizes profit. You created the system that creates a revolving door between Obama’s staff and Goldman Sachs.

You balk: Isn’t the problem the regressive pro-market post-Reagan politics? Please, people. Let’s be serious a moment. Reagan used a bunch of pro-market, pro-liberty, anti-big government rhetoric, but the man was no libertarian, and he did little to make the country more libertarian. Reagan spent and spent, and thus ran up the debt. He doubled the number of imports with trade restrictions. He pursued militaristic foreign policy. He increased rather than decreased the size, scope, and power of government. Reagan ramped up the war on Americans civil liberties drugs. He wasn’t even a big deregulator—that was Carter. Look past rhetoric to reality. Reagan was in practice just a more militaristic version of one of you.

Unlike we libertarianish people, you members of the moderate left will continue to hold and exercise power. So, learn some public choice, and use what you learn in practice.

2.  My comments:

Jason, your position is understandable, but unfortunately your history of corporatism is myopic and thus deeply flawed and your unwillingness to attack both the Right and the crony capitalists themselves is regrettable.

The regulatory state is a result of citizens demanding that their governments “Do Something!” about corporate abuses that arose proximately from the bestowal of favors on wealthy capitalists by states, through the creation of limited liability corporations. The limited liability served to shift risks of loss for damages to public victims and away from owners, thus creating institutionalized moral hazard, agent-principal problems and growing risk externalization.

“The Left” wrongly believes that more government is the answer to the problems created by corporatism, but you can hardly blame the Left for the creation of our corporate Frankenstein monsters in the first place.

More thoughts here:



3.   As for Walter Block, see this short post regarding his views on the rise of environmentalism.

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