True Socialists, as opposed to American and European style left interventionists, are the antithesis, the inverse, of us libertarians when it comes to economic theory, the ethics of private property, and the solutions to our contemporary crises. Interventionists are not really the “inverse” or “antithesis” of us even though they are enemies of freedom and prosperity and the citizens that the state leeches on.
Additionally, the Marxist diagnosis of the current political problems is also the opposite of our own— too much private decision making (their view) as opposed to not nearly enough (our view).
However, despite the fact that they are our opposites, there are some interesting similarities between our approaches to the problem on contemporary political frameworks. Marxists and Libertarians are both against the current interventionist arrangement– but we have completely opposite diagnosis and solutions.
The problem with our current system is systemic, is baked into the cake so to speak; and can therefore not just be made better by voting better people into office. If anything, that keeps the DC machine running!
We both oppose the mixed economy of the technocratic interventionists.
ONE: Both groups believe we live in a world that is propagandized by interventionist statism and are urged to trust in the political “experts” to guide our lives— those in charge are technocrats, well groomed and prepared to manage specific aspects of social and economic life. Both groups speak in terms of us living in a world where the political elite make decisions and hold power at the expense of society.
a. The Marxists want to solve this by rejecting plutocratic oversight of the means of production and shifting to “collective” ownership and democratically deciding the resource employment. They believe that there should be no elite, that egalitarianism is an ideal.
b. We Rothbardian libertarians want to solve this by decentralizing and putting the decision making onus back into the hands of private property owners, who employ the means of production in pursuit of profit. Egalitarianism is not the ideal, but there is a natural elitism that will be leveraged for the good of society via the market and price system as long as private property rights are upheld.
Two: Both groups agree that statist interventionism into the capitalist economy will fail and be disastrous— it will fail to accomplish the ends being sought. This seems like an odd statement to say of marxists– they really oppose economic interventionism? Yes. See Mises here.
a. The Marxists believe that this is due to capitalism and therefore this mixed economy must be dismissed in favor of communism; the abolition of capitalist control of the means of production.
b. On the other hand, Rothbardian Libertarians believe that the problem rests with the interventions, not the capitalism. The abolition of interventionism into the economy is the solution that will remedy the difficulties which result from what Mises called “Middle-of-the-road-policy.”
a. The Marxists (speaking of traditional marxism, not the more modern cultural marxism), identify the classes as rich/capitalistic/property owners VS. the proletariate/workers/non-property owners.
b. The Rothbardian libertarians identify the classes in a legal sense: those who are allowed to operate above the stipulations of “natural” law and those who must be subservient to it— ie., there are tax recipients (government officials) and tax payers, etc. That is, under this understanding, the state and those who live off the state are in one class and those that, by coercive participation, subsidize the state in the other class.
Four: Both groups are system builders— they interpret the world and events via a self-conscious and intentionally developed interpretive framework. This is in contrast to the contemporary rejection of taking things to their logical conclusions and having a body of ideas which are applied to various more specific contexts.
a. The marxist framework relies on materialistic determinism, Labor Theory of Value, his alienation theory.
b. The libertarian framework generally relies on Aristotelian logic, subjective value theory, praxeology, and the fundamental role of private property and deducible law.
Five Both groups believe that working to reform the system via the voting booth and legislative efforts are not to be the primary strategy on the path toward an ideal world. While its possible to use voting and legislation to prevent worse things from developing and as a platform to educate those held captive by the political superstate in the West, true change will ultimately only come via changing minds— the battle is over ideas, not personalities in Washington (or Brussels, etc). And not only is education the primary strategy, it is also the only one that can have lasting impact. Both the socialist and the libertarian capitalist seek to overcome the propaganda of the mainstream narrative as to the nature of the State .
a. The Marxists, however, also give credence to the use of violence in overthrowing established institutions; the workers can legitimately use violence against their bosses when the bosses do not give in to demands. The marxists see violence as a prerequisite to socialism because it is by violence that they are currently not allowed to take the fruits of their labors and therefore it is violence that is the proper response to our current privatized world.
b. The libertarians see violence as only being justified in self-defense, in accordance with the private property ethic. That is, the bosses and current owners of the means of production, are the rightful owners (unless otherwise proven guilty of theft), and therefore violence against them is unjust. Legally speaking, however, violence in self-defense is technically legitimate (property owners telling the government “no”) even if, for practical reasons, it is unwise. Thus, in contrast to the Marxist, the libertarian is predisposed to secession and nullification rather than working to overthrow and takeover current institutions.
On this latter point, the difference is that the marxists seek to attain power and disseminate it fairly and equitably; whereas the libertarian works toward increased layers of decentralization: nations seceding from international government bodies, smaller states seceding from national bodies, counties seceding from states, towns seceding from counties, families/individuals seceding from towns; such that every relationship is based on voluntary consent and for the perceived benefit of the individuals choosing to be in relation with others.
I point all this out because I want to understand the ins and outs of true socialism because I believe socialist propaganda will increase in the coming years and we libertarians need to be ready to interpret it accurately– they often use the language of revolutions and overcoming the elite politicians, language that appeals to Populists and libertarians sometimes.
Consider what is happening in France. All these libertarians are cheering the anti-tax protests– but there is more here than meets the eye. Look at this list of demands by the “yellow vests” as they demonstrate violently.
I have interest in the socialist critique of the current socio-political arrangement, because it is often assumed without understanding the marxists, that everyone to the left of, say, Mitt Romney, is a Marxist. This is not an accurate interpretation.
It is more accurate to divide between free market capitalists, interventionists (of right and left flavor— champions of the “mixed economy”), and the various types of socialists. The 20th century through the present has been the century and a half of staggering and failed interventionism and now we are seeing the budding cries for actual socialism. Whether Alexandria Ocassio-Cortez turns out to be a left-interventionist or a socialist remains to be seen; regardless of the label she adopts for her marketing and branding purposes.
Despite my mentioning of similarities in our approaches to the current political system, I want to be clear: Marxists are enemies of freedom and prosperity. Just because we share a common enemy (interventionists) does not make us friends– in fact, Marxists would consider us libertarians to be under the same capitalist umbrella of the current statist arrangement.
In most ways, true marxism is far worse and more destructive than interventionism. One of the most destructive aspects of the mixed economy is that it operates under the capitalistic label so that socialism can blame the frustrations of the current arrangement on capitalism. This means that true free market capitalist libertarians have an uphill battle.
Especially if the current Fed-induced economic bubble is blamed on the “capitalist recklessness” of Donald Trump— despite his actually being a pretty standard interventionist a la general American political economy.
Let’s end with some Mises:
The characteristic mark of this age of dictators, wars and revolutions is its anti-capitalistic bias. Most governments and political parties are eager to restrict the sphere of private initiative and free enterprise. It is an almost unchallenged dogma that capitalism is done for and that the coming of all-round regimentation of economic activities is both inescapable and highly desirable.
None the less capitalism is still very vigorous in the Western Hemisphere. Capitalist production has made very remarkable progress even in these last years. Methods of production were greatly improved. Consumers have been supplied with better and cheaper goods and with many new articles unheard of a short time ago. Many countries have expanded the size and improved the quality of their manufacturing. In spite of the anti-capitalistic policies of all governments and of almost all political parties, the capitalist mode of production is in many countries still fulfilling its social function in supplying the consumers with more, better and cheaper goods.
History will call our age the age of the dictators and tyrants. We have witnessed in the last years the fall of two of these inflated supermen. But the spirit which raised these knaves to autocratic power survives. It permeates textbooks and periodicals, it speaks through the mouths of teachers and politicians, it manifests itself in party programmes and in plays and novels. As long as this spirit prevails there cannot be any hope of durable peace,… of the preservation of freedom or of a steady improvement in the nation’s economic well-being.