The Precipice of State Interventionism: Why the Mag

We are resolute in our position that only liberty grounded in private property rights can bring us forward to more prosperous and civilized ages.

The Precipice of State Interventionism: Why the Mag

We sit at the precipice of the failure of state interventionism. Contrary to the rhetorical flare with which the two factions of the mainstream hurl at each other, we live neither in a free market world, nor a socialist one. Ours is the age of interventionism— not only economically, but socially and militarily as well.

Capitalism, the 21st century sought to teach us, is decent, but it must be remade in the state’s image. In the words of Mises, we are told that the state plans for freedom, but planning is its role. But as Mises showed, planning has no out come but abject failure.

But what comes next? If interventionist statism, and the culture that flows from it, are on a trajectory of disaster then are the “ideas” —such as they are— of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to replace the old? Is true socialism the inevitable future that will be born at the death of capitalism? While Marx held that socialism was the true and determined successor to capitalism, we Misesians understand that history is a product of human action. And humans act under the influence of the ideas they hold.

Thus, our battle is over ideas and it is not yet lost, but it has still to be won. We operate under what Rothbard refers to as the “eternal struggle between power and market.” Socialism seeks to replace the power structure of corporatist interventionism with a power structure that is distinct, and yet a deviation from private property and markets all the same.

The premier socialist publication Jacobin Magazine recently indicated in their end of 2018 email that “it’s the best time to be a socialist in the United States since the 1970s.” Why is this? Because interventionism is failing, and the social ramifications of this are as important as the economic ones. As Mises once observed, socialists— true socialists, not left interventionists a la Elizabeth Warren— also oppose economic interventionism; they know it cannot “work.” And thus, at the precipice, the socialist sees opportunity.

This isn’t Bernie Sanders crackpot socialism.

The Austro-Libertarian edifice is the true antidote to both the devastation of interventionism and the terrors of socialism. We recognize that the state has failed to “manage capitalism,” to “plan for freedom.” And yet, we are resolute in our position that only liberty grounded in private property rights can bring us forward to more prosperous and civilized ages.

We therefore envision, as part of our site moving forward, a quarterly printed publication that covers a broad range of subjects as can be overviewed here— economic theory, political and legal theory, social frameworks, history, and so much more. Our economics, which we hold as a value-free science, are Austrian; or more specifically, Mengerian, Böhm-Bawerkian, and Misesian. Our political theory is rights-based; Libertarian in the Rothbardian, Hoppean, anarcho-capitalist strain. We are adherents to a system of thought, rigorous and precise.

This magazine exists, in its own small and audacious way, to contribute to the Cause. Capitalism has bestowed upon the west a certain standard of living that would regress magnificently under socialism and it is up to us to fight for the return of freedom. We wage our battle in the realm of ideas, working to win the hearts and minds of those who seek to understand the profound contributions of liberty.

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And yet, isn’t print dead? Why the audacious and backward format? This is a good question, and yet we think it had more of a bite, in fact, during the 2011-2012 years in which Jacobin Mag was getting off the ground. Print did seem to be on its deathbed with the rise of the Kindle, the marketable pdf, and the easy-to-create blog. But there are several responses to this question.

First, we are not just a print magazine— there will of course be a digital offering, which comes free with the print subscription but is also available on its own. So we don’t reject the digital, not at all. Though interestingly, out of the initial 93 subscribers, only about 22 are digital-only subscribers.

Second, we believe that market conditions have shifted once again and, ironically, it was Bhaskar Sunkara, the young and entrepreneurial creator of Jacobin, who anticipated these market conditions. They have gone from a few hundred subscribers 8 years ago to 40,000 print subscribers today. How is this possible in the age of the internet? Perhaps Sunkara has his own understanding of things, but here is what I believe:

  • People are overwhelmed but the flood of content that drowns their dulling eyes day by day, hour by hour. There are services that people pay for to help undermine electronic platform addiction. There are apps that help consumers regulate their digital activity. In a word, people are tired and are ready to rest their brains, to tune out of the online world– not forever, but in spurts. Print book sales are even outperforming digital book sales for this among other reasons.
  • We can apply the following idea to content consumption: in a world where everyone is shouting, sometimes a whisper is louder. Everyone has a blog. Do you know how hard it is to promote a blog these days, especially in the arena of political theory and political commentary? Forget about it. A physical print magazine has the possibility of failure— but if done in a way that appeals to its audience, it also as the possibility of success. Which brings us to the audience.
  • As Jacobin firmly announced: print is not dead. At least, it wasn’t dead for the very specific target audience they were going for; the non-academic (they have Catalyst Journal for the academic, and we have the Quarterly Journal of AE), and yet intellectually curious; those who have a certain emotional appeal to images of old libraries, large fireplaces, cozy window reading arrangements, tuning out from the dastardly political world and embracing the reflective environment. If these things are not you, I suspect you wouldn’t pay $25 for a print magazine— if they are you, I suspect that if the magazine had a minimalist, simplistic, rich, and luxurious feel to it, it would at least pique your interest.
  • There are three market trends that are also key in 2018-2019. Consumers are into: 1, the minimalistic (they hate crowded and clunky ads, distractions, and clutter); 2, the nostalgic; and 3) the premium. People pay more for fast shipping, they pay additional for quality of material over quantity of goods (which goes hand in hand with our generation’s budding minimalist aesthetic), they pay a premium to be a member of things that they really care about. Print, therefore, is back! As a complement, not a replacement, of the digital.

I believe that Sunkara was right when he pronounced in 2011 at the birth of Jacobin that “there still is an audience for critical commentary.” He also observed in the same post that “Substantive engagement does not preclude entertainment. Discarding stale phrases and ideas does not necessitate avoiding thought itself. Voicing discontent with the trappings of late capitalism does not mean we can’t grapple with culture at both aesthetic and political levels.”

Critical commentary, substantive yet entertaining engagement, the embracing of thought, voicing discontent (though not over alleged capitalism, but against the state and its magnificent injustices). Sunkara had quite a vision— he really is an entrepreneur, proving of course that the market system does not depend on the actor understanding how it works in order to be successful.

We are hopeful that interventionism is on its deathbed, but we recognize that AOC, despite her pure thoughtlessness in so many ways, and her ilk are looking to take up the mantle of power. Jacobin exists as the intellectual justification for her antics. And Jacobin doesn’t have a quality, intentionally Misesian print peer. When I hold my copy of Jacobin in my hand, it feels good, rich, luxurious, and thoughtful. While I do not operate under illusions of immediate or ultimate success, this is why I am engaging this project.

CJay Engel

Creator and Editor of Austro Libertarian. Lives in Northern CA, runs several businesses, spends time with his family, and reads as much economics and political theory as possible.