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America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Friday, March 28, 2008

RFK Jr., Left Libertarian?

You show me a polluter and I'll show you a subsidy. I'll show you a fat cat using political clout to escape the discipline of the market and load his production costs onto the backs of the public. Tax-payers give away $65 billion every year in subsidies to big oil, and more than $35 billion a year in subsidies to western welfare cowboys. Those subsidies helped create the billionaires who financed the right-wing revolution on Capitol Hill and put Bush in the White House. While communism is the control of business by government, fascism is the control of government by business. True free-markets, in which businesses pay all the costs of bringing their products to market, is the most efficient and democratic way of distributing the goods of the land – and the surest way to eliminate pollution. Free markets, when allowed to function, value raw materials and encourage producers to eliminate waste by reduc-ing, reusing, and recycling. I don't think of myself as an environmentalist anymore; I consider myself a free-marketeer.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. seems to know something that too many libertarians don't know.

Hat tip: Kevin Carson.


Brandybuck said...

Who are those libertarians who don't know about the free market? Are you referring to those Orange Line "cosmotarians" who think Obama is the Great White Hope of the movement?

Sheldon Richman said...

I mean the variety of libertarians who jump to the defense of today's corporations in the name of the "free market."

By the way, Obama is the least bad of the three.

Anonymous said...


When the fascists took the name of liberal to describe their philosophy, classical liberals adopted "libertarian". Now that so many, for a lack of a better decription, free-market warmongers have taken over the libertarian label, what, if anything, do you suggest we do.

Sheldon Richman said...

Voluntarist or free-market anarchist, perhaps.

Sheldon Richman said...

Re Obama, see, in the box labeled "Sheldon's Shared Items," "Barack Obama: Hamiltonian," an excellent post by Kevin Carson.

Joel Schlosberg said...

I'm a bit surprised that you didn't know about RFK2; he's been making similar statements for years now, to audiences like the Sierra Club and The Progressive (in the November 2006 issue in which the linked article appears, they chose the "show me a polluter" line to appear on the front flap!), and if I'd realized you hadn't seen them I'd have sent them to you long ago. In particular he has advocated using a market/tort law approach to pollution, or as he puts it, getting "the youth of America to exercise their free-market rights to sue the pants off polluters so they don’t steal what’s left of the planet". And here's a typical statement where he contrasts free markets and corporate crony capitalism, from BuzzFlash:

"I think my concern regarding the increasing control of government by large corporations should be a central issue to all Americans. I was raised in a milieu where I was taught that communism leads to dictatorship and capitalism leads to democracy. But it’s not that simple. Free-market capitalism definitely democratizes a country. But corporate crony capitalism is as antithetical to democracy in America as it is in Nigeria. And corporate control of government is fascism. The definition of communism is the control of business by government. The definition of fascism is the control of government by business.

A farmer sent me a copy of the American Heritage Dictionary’s definition of fascism the other day, and the definition is roughly that the control of government by large corporations with right-wing ideologies, driven by bellicose nationalism. That has a familiar ring these days.

Democracy is fragile. It needs to be nurtured. It needs to be stewarded. And the free market has to be protected through government regulation. As I say, capitalists do not want free markets. They want profits. And the best way to capture profits -- to capture a reliable profit stream -- is to get control of government and use government to crush your competition.

And that’s what’s happening in this country -- the free market is being eliminated. And in many of the major sectors, the free market has already disappeared. There is no free market left in agriculture. A farmer can’t raise a pig and get it slaughtered, and bring it to a stockyard and sell it. The stockyards are gone. The farmers are out of business, and hog production and meat production and chicken production in this country is now controlled by giant agri-businesses, as is grain production. The same is true in the energy sector, and in the media -- you’ve got 17,000 news outlets in this country that are now controlled by 11 corporations. And it’s even happening on Main Street, where Wal-Mart is coming and knocking out the Main Street merchants, the small entrepreneurs. They’re really making American democracy viable. And it’s a frightening thing for our country. But we need a free market.

I heard him Jim Hightower the free market is a great thing. We should try it sometime. We’re losing it in America. And when we lose the free market -- the free market democracy, the democracy of the marketplace -- political democracy will fall soon after. And that’s something all of us should be afraid of."

Another author who has a similar approach (and who is even closer to classical liberalism) is Peter Barnes, see his book Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons (which has been blurbed by RFK2).

Sheldon Richman said...

Thanks. I'm sorry these statements by RFK Jr. didn't come my way sooner. I'd take issue with his definition of fascism, however, although it ruins the symmetry. Mussolini's system consisted of his and his party's control of everything. It's not accurate to say his government was controlled by big business. He ruled over all, invoking a pernicious collectivist philosophy in which the state was everything.

Mupetblast said...

True, Fascism had alot more to do with belligerent collectivist nationalism than Big Business per se, but RELATIVELY speaking Fascism created a more preferable environment for business dealings than Communism.

The main problem for me with that phrase about fascism vs. communism is that leaves a naive onlooker with an awful set of options.

Brandybuck said...

Obama may be the least bad of "the three", but there are more than those three running for president. Why in the name of all that is blessed would a libertarian choose to support Obama over any of the libertarians seeking the Libertarian Party nomination? Or even, Boaz forbid, Ron Paul?

A choice between a socialist and two fascists isn't much of a choice!

Jimi G said...

"A choice between a socialist and two fascists isn't much of a choice!"

There should be no choices. Don't vote.


Brandybuck said...

Vote for a libertarian, or for a strict minarchist, or for a radical anarchist, or write in Mickey Mouse or Krazy Kat, or simply, as Jimi says, do not vote at all. But for God's sake, do not call yourself a libertarian and then vote for Barack Obama!

Obama is the "least bad of the three" in the same way a dead cat is better than a giant turd or a douche sandwich.

Sam said...

Sorry Brandybuck, but I cannot in good conscience fail to vote for the least bad candidate and thus do nothing to prevent the most bad candidate from being elected. The elections of 2000 and 2004 make your idealistic argument ring hollow to me.