Unlike many excellent articles approved for postings at progressive Web sites, Julian Edney’s “The Libertarian Threat”, OpEdNews.com (June 27, 2006) is an example of how anyone can claim to be a progressive, libertarian, conservative, liberal, or any other political label. Obviously, progressives do not have a monopoly on brilliant political analyses. Hopefully, Julian Edney will write a sequel “The Progressive Threat”.
In 1944, George Orwell wrote a book review of Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and of K. Zilliacus’ The Mirror of the Past. Orwell noted that the important lesson to be learned from these authors from opposite ends of the political spectrum is that there is more than one road to slavery. Orwell, who fought for the communists in the Spanish Civil War, wrote Homage to Catalonia to explain how different political groups used lies in their pursuit of totalitarian power. Orwell left communist groups and regarded himself as a democratic socialist. However, Orwell understood that totalitarians can join and take over democratic socialist parties, too.
Professor Paul Sheldon Foote
California State University, Fullerton
July 2, 2006
The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek The Mirror of the Past by K. Zilliacus
Taken together, these two books give grounds for dismay. The first of them is an eloquent defence of laissez-faire capitalism, the other is an even more vehement denunciation of it. They cover to some extent the same ground, they frequently quote the same authorities, and they even start out with the same premise, since each of them assumes that Western civilization depends on the sanctity of the individual. Yet each writer is convinced that the other’s policy leads directly to slavery, and the alarming thing is that they may both be right….
Between them these two books sum up our present predicament. Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war. There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics.
Both of these writers are aware of this, more or less; but since they can show no practicable way of bringing it about the combined effect of their books is a depressing one.
Observer, 9 April 1944
While Julian Edney noted briefly that true libertarians do not support neo-conservatives (neo-Trotskyites) or objectivists, his article created the impression that libertarians are a threat. Does the threat include the libertarian left? Edney failed to name or to cite even one true libertarian. Edney failed to praise those on the libertarian right who have exposed and have opposed the totalitarian objectives of the neo-conservatives (neo-Trotskyites).
The neo-conservatives (neo-Trotskyites) are not capitalists. They are supporters of Trotsky who aided President Reagan to seek to cause the collapse of the communist leaders who inherited the totalitarian state from Stalin. Irving Kristol did write Two Cheers for Capitalism. However, many of the neo-conservatives support the totalitarian takeover of countries, including of Iran by the Iranian Communist MEK (Rajavi Cult or Pol Pot of Iran). Apparently, the neo-conservatives are only anti-Stalin, not anti-communist or anti-totalitarian.
The neo-conservatives are not religious, unless you count worshiping at the altar of Machiavelli. See Michael Ledeen’s book, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli’s Iron Rules are as Timely and Important Today as Five Centuries Ago. Of course, the chickenhawk neoconservative cowards have no objections to evangelical Christian soldiers marching off to war to achieve their ungodly goals.
Professor Claes Ryn, in his book America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire, classified the neoconservatives as similar to the Jacobins of the French Revolution (and counter to the values of the American Revolution). On page 145, Ryn noted the usage of “democratic capitalism” to have a meaning very different from capitalism. Does Julian Edney regard Communist China’s totalitarian model with some free market elements as communist or as capitalist?
Paul A. Lindahl has claimed to be both a neoconservative and a capitalist. However, he has rejected any suggestion that neoconservatives are Social Darwinists. http://www-tech.mit.edu/V105/N10/lindah.10o.html
Edney needs to support his Social Darwinism claim.
Edney noted correctly that the objectivists are not true libertarians. Ayn Rand was a philosopher, not an economist, whose vague writings can be used to support even totalitarians. For details of the philosophy of objectivism, see The Ayn Rand Institute’s Web site: http://www.aynrand.org/
Claiming to be a capitalist does not make one a capitalist: http://www.capitalism.org/ . How does capitalism lead by extension to “Israel is Moral”? http://www.israelismoral.com/
A good researcher would have found the writings of Murray Rothbard about the neo-conservatives (neo-Trotskyites) and about the objectivists. Justin Raimondo’s book, An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard, would be a good starting point for Edney’s future research. He could continue by reviewing the large number of excellent articles by Justin Raimondo on the neo-conservatives (neo-Trotskyites) and on the Iranian Communist MEK (Rajavi Cult or Pol Pot of Iran) posted at http://www.antiwar.com/justin . Justin Raimondo is a former Libertarian Party and Republican Party candidate for public offices. Can anyone name even one progressive who has done more than Justin Raimondo to oppose the neo-conservatives (neo-Trotskyites), the Iranian Communist MEK (Rajavi Cult or Pol Pot of Iran), and war?
Edney explained poorly also the divisions within the Libertarian Party. There is a big difference between libertarians (left and right) and Libertarian Party factions: http://www.lp.org/ Some members of the Libertarian Party believe that the only way to win elections is to copy the big tent approaches of the Democratic and Republican parties. Other members of the Libertarian Party believe the way to win elections is to be a party of principles.
Edney can attempt to explain how it is possible for both Carol Moore and Neal Boortz to attend Libertarian Party conventions together.
Carol Moore has been a tireless campaigner for peace. Her Web groups include those who are attempting to stop a war with Iran. She has demonstrated against the Iranian Communist MEK (Rajavi Cult or Pol Pot of Iran) terrorists. http://www.carolmoore.net/
By contrast, Edney can research the positions of Neal Boortz on the Iraq War and on other issues. http://boortz.com/
In March 2006, I attended a stop war on Iran presentation in Los Angeles by Ardeshir Ommani, a Workers World Party activist (http://www.workers.org). Ommani quoted favorably only one member of Congress: Ron Paul, a libertarian Republican (and former Libertarian Party candidate for President). Ommani opposed the neo-conservatives (neo-Trotskyites) and the Iranian Communist MEK (Rajavi Cult or Pol Pot of Iran). While many who claim to be progressives support Democrats, who else on the left has been honest enough to admit that libertarian Republican Congressman Ron Paul is one of the very few members of Congress worth re-electing?
The more than 6,000 signers of the Stop War on Iran Statement include:
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Detroit Archdiocese*, Founding President, Pax Christi*
The Most Rev. Filipe C Teixeira, OFSJC, Diocesan Bishop, Diocese of Saint Francis of Assisi, CCA
Michael Parenti, author
Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General
Howard Zinn, author, historian
George Galloway, MP, Britain
Tony Benn, MP, Britain
Denis J. Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary-General
Harold Pinter, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature
Margarita Papandreou, former First Lady of Greece
Ardeshir Ommani, co-founder of American-Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC)
Ervand Abrahamian, Prof. ME History, Author, Between Two Revolutions
David N. Rahni, Professor and scholar, NY
David Sole, President UAW, Local 2334*, Detroit
Steve Gillis, President, USWA Local 8751*
Fellowship of Reconciliation, Nyack, NY
Thomas Koppel and Annisette, of the Scandinavian Popular Music Band Savage Rose
Paul Foote, Professor, California State University, Fullerton*, Fullerton, CA [Republican Party]
Carol Moore, webmaster, Stopthewarnow.org*, Washington, DC [Libertarian Party]
… and many progressive organizations.
Why is Julian Edney’s name missing from this list?
For an example of a progressive Web site, Edney needs to study:
American-Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC)
By contrast, one of the leading supporters of the totalitarian takeover of Iran by the Iranian Communist MEK (Rajavi Cult or Pol Pot of Iran) is Bob Filner, the son of a Communist Party candidate for Congress, a Democrat, and a member of the Progressive Caucus in Congress. Where are the real progressives condemning Bob Filner and the other false progressives?
Julian Edney is correct that John Perkins wrote an important book, The Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. However, Edney is wrong about claiming that the greedy thieves are capitalists. Why did greedy Wall Street and European thieves give $5 million to Lenin to return to Russian and start a communist revolution? There are more detailed books by authors across the political spectrum on how the greedy thieves operate, such as:
1. Mark Hulbert’s Interlock: The untold story of American banks, oil interests, the Shah’s money, debts, and the astounding connections between them
2. James Perloff’s The Shadows of Power
3. Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope
4. Anthony C. Sutton’s Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution
5. Anthony C. Sutton’s Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler
Sixty years after the writings of George Orwell, it is unfortunate that so much ignorance and dishonesty remains in political discourse. Orwell was correct that there is more than one road to slavery. Some examples of failures across the political spectrum of persons to understand and to oppose totalitarians are:
1. How could many Republicans and Democrats be duped by the neo-conservatives (neo-Trotskyites)?
2. Which real progressives have done as much as Lew Rockwell, on the libertarian right, (http://www.LewRockwell.com) in opposing totalitarians, including exposing the Iranian Communist MEK (Rajavi Cult or Pol Pot of Iran) and the neo-conservatives (neo-Trotskyites) who support them?
3. Why are real progressives failing to condemn fake progressives and totalitarian Democrats such as Congressman Bob Filner?
The Libertarian threat
by Julian Edney
June 27, 2006
We are losing ground against a rhetorical assault.
The Libertarian star, hurled by the upward burst of American business which occurred in the Reagan era after the fall of the Berlin Wall, has risen. This global expansion over the last two decades is capitalism’s second Big Bang, and it still accelerates. Mercantile missionaries have been flying to remote and backward nations in Indonesia, Latin America and the Middle East to show them liberty, democracy and wealth. The message: business is the solution; as your nation gets richer, it will benefit everybody.
The actual sequence is floridly exposed by writers like John Perkins (1). Ostensibly we send bold venture capitalists traipsing from country to backwater country, nailing freedom into place and unfurling banners of abundance. In practice it takes money to get started. First, corporate reps fly in and propose to arrange gargantuan loans for improvements. The lenders include the World Bank, and the loans may be used partly to bribe local officials, but they come with many rules and conditions that the construction work be done by American contractors. It is big money and it is made clear to local politicians they will get a fabulous rakeoff. The paperwork is set. Next the contractors move in and install concrete ports, iron factories, fences, oil wells, roads, telephones and mines. The factories fill with local workers. The big money loans also come with big interest payments (always in American dollars.) If the loans are not paid off quickly (they never are – these improvements take time) they compound into mountainous obligation. This brings whole sectors of the nation under the control of the foreign lenders. This may be used to extort political changes. Obstructing local leaders may be removed.
The pattern is an old one. On a local scale it used to be called carpetbagging. After the American Civil War northern profiteers traveled south taking advantage of Southern chaos and loss, buying property and plantations from devastated landowners, hiring at starvation wages, getting rich, and leveraging themselves into political office, arguing that the employment they brought benefited all. They were hated as exploiters. A poster from the period shows the KKK threatening to lynch carpetbaggers.
Our international version has brought backward nations in Indonesia, Latin America and the Middle East phones, satellite TV, and clinics, while natural resources are taken under the lender’s rules. This was supposed to lead to local wealth but most of the money goes to pay off the contractors and the lenders.
On this side, reports seep back to American shareholders of indigenous people working twelve-hour shifts for five dollars a day in the new concrete sweatshops surrounded by barbed wire and having no standards and no labor laws; walled hells of exploitation – but cheap labor means bonanza profits. Some mansions appear on the hillside. But not everybody is lifted. Years later, there are acres of slums. Instead of gratitude come street demonstrations against Americans.
But challenge the working conditions and you get corporate table pounding: ‘Five dollars a day is much better than the dollar a day they made herding goats.’ And if you object that it doesn’t look like liberty for the workers – ‘but we saved them from communism.’ Perkins goes on to relate how corporate reps, poolside at shimmering hotels, talk about civilizing the savages, the way the colonial British talked a century ago.
Some very wealthy American politicians are entangled in these corporations. When these politicians are interviewed on talk shows or the evening news, it’s a familiar line: we bring freedom and economic opportunity to oppressed nations (if they sit on oil fields).
The better known of these politicians are called neocons, or new (born again) conservatives. The rhetoric they use is that a rise in corporate wealth – and their wealth – benefits all. They sometimes must struggle to make these small countries see sense, as well as liberal doubters at home. They must explain. This is where ideology comes in.
Neocon business ideology is smudged, a mix of market principles with a subtext of Social Darwinism, and more subtext conveyed in TV images, and that all this is prayed on in church; clumsy. So Libertarian principles are used.
The Libertarian Party was invented in 1971 and it has never won any national elections. Actually, true Libertarians are against expansionism. They do not want foreign wars. They hate wiretapping, domestic spying, police powers, and big government. At the Libertarian center is an anarchist’s desire for as little government as possible. New as it is, the Libertarian movement has a towering advantage: a crisp ideology.
Ultimately, policy is steered by ideas. So while neocons and their lobbyists guide huge money around, they must fall back on quoting an ideology that’s not quite theirs. So Libertarians get outsize respect.
Libertarian ideology is both powerful and backward-looking. It is expounded by older authorities like Ayn Rand (2) and new, and its principles may be found in a few quite readable books (3-5). It insists on maximizing personal freedom. It uses ancient concepts like natural law, and its goals are a reversion to the ‘natural state’ – simple communities based on the rightness of inequality, and natural selection among humans. It is not democratic. It does not deal with conscience, nor with justice, nor compassion; its single-minded focus is on liberty, and it embraces concepts like survival of the fittest. It claims Adam Smith’s principle of the ‘invisible hand,’ and it promotes concepts like laissez-faire that businessmen want to use.
Libertarianism is not to be confused with populism, because populism is egalitarian and focuses on the good of the common man. Libertarians avoid anything common; they talk about natural nobilities and elites.
Throw in Libertarians’ insistence that the ‘common good’ is a deception, throw in their exaggerated assertions of the total failure of socialism, throw in their insistence that taxation is theft – and businessmen are ready to do battle at high pitch.
No matter how they press us with this, and expect us to see sense, we never will. Adam Smith’s principles are over two hundred years old. Forcing it on global markets is perverse.
And this is my thesis: Libertarian ideology throws us in jeopardy.
First, their foundation is flawed. They present freedom as shining and obvious, a self-evident good. Actually she is an ambiguous woman, surrounded by a logjam of philosophy. Many, many crimes have been committed in her name.
Second, a point on the nature of democracy. The two basic values of democracy are freedom and equality. They are the wings on which this precious bird flies, and for flying they should be equal. But as de Tocqueville originally pointed out, the two values are in conflict. Especially in big societies, the more freedom, the less equality. It’s like water in a U-shaped tube: as freedom increases on one side, equality drops. But as the equality side goes down, so do things that adhere to it: equity, equal treatment, justice.
Water always seeks its own level. If the Libertarians persist in artificially raising one side, nature will eventually reassert. Sensing this, some Libertarians propose a radical method to preserve this arrangement. Hans-Herman Hoppe demands we dismantle democracy – like dismantling the whole U-shaped tube – and reinstall ancient natural nobilities (6). This is an atavistic proposal. Hoppe (called an "international treasure" by Lew Rockwell) actually states the Constitution was an error (7) – and Ayn Rand was not far behind.
Third, a newly discovered hazard of social inequality.
There is new evidence, collected in the health sciences and published in medical journals, showing hierarchy is a killer. Simply: social inequality (aside from poverty) hurts people’s health and shortens their lives. These are based on correlations in states, countries, and cities: wherever there is marked social inequality, violence is up, health is down, infant mortality is up, and life expectancy is shorter – and this affects all levels within the community. These scientific findings, published over the last ten years in both the United States and Britain, are powerful and clear. They show egalitarian societies are simply healthier (8-10).
So the expansion of free markets under Libertarian principles cannot benefit everybody. A few people get exponentially rich, but at the same time we are exporting threats to both health and justice. If there were truth-in-lending packages attached to these foreign loans, they should include photos of our own skid rows, and statistics on American hunger.
Some of America’s political rights are formulated as freedoms – of speech, of assembly. Another is to select who will govern. By derivation, another – through elections, a slow process – is to select the shape of our society. We should protect this if we are to care for our health.
The Libertarians are up to no good.
And I am not proposing a coercive new program, nor a new political machinery, nor an end to business, nor new social engineering.
I am suggesting we let water find its own level.
1. Perkins, J. Confessions of an economic hit man. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler
2. Rand, A. Capitalism: the unknown ideal. New York: Signet Books, 1946.
3. Murray, C. What it means to be a Libertarian. New York: Broadway Books, 1997.
4. Boaz, D. Libertarianism: A primer. New York: The Free Press, 1997.
5. Hoppe, H. H. Democracy, the god that failed. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2004.
6. Hoppe, H.H. "Down with Democracy" retrieved at http://www.lewrockwell.com/hoppe/hoppe12.html
7. Hoppe, H.H. Democracy, the god that failed. p. 279.
8. Wilkinson, R. The impact of inequality: how to make sick societies healthier. New York: The New Press, 2005.
9. Kawachi, I., B.P. Kennedy and R.C.Wilkinson, The society and population health reader. New York: The New Press, 1999.
10. Sapolsky, R. "Sick of poverty." Scientific American, 2005, 293, 92-99.
Author Julian Edney can be contacted from his website.
Author: Julian Edney teaches college in Los Angeles. His book Greed: A treatise expands on these themes. He can be contacted through his website.