Where Right-Libertarianism Goes WrongSubmitted by Allegory on Thu, 04/10/2014 - 09:25
Andrew Kerr | August 21st, 2013
Center for a Stateless Society
Libertarianism is, in theory, no defender of the rich and powerful who must always be subject to market competition. As a libertarian who has engaged in countless classroom and online debates, I’ve often asked myself why other people cannot see that. However, I’ve come to understand the reasoning behind the intuitive criticism from the Left that libertarianism is about maintaining current power structures. Libertarianism should not be an apologia for the rich and the status quo – but, on reflection, I have to concede that it is. The issue is not with the theory and ideology of a free market, but problems arise when we deem current economic structures to be reflective of a genuine free-market (and therefore legitimate) when in reality our market economy is rigged by the state on many levels. This is what Roderick Long refers to as ‘conflationism.’ Libertarianism is based upon solid intellectual and theoretical foundations of how a free-market society should operate, but when these free-market arguments are applied to defend the corrupt, cronyist, corporate state rigged market capitalism we have at present, the effect is not to support a free market, it is merely to excuse rent-seeking corporations that are beholden to state power.
Amazon (for example) has been accused, here in the UK, of (legal) tax avoidance to a chorus of libertarian approval; “Hurrah! Starve the beast!” we jubilantly cry. Yet the costs that Amazon places upon the tax-payer are scarcely mentioned – in addition to taxpayer subsidised warehouses, Amazon deliveries are sent on roads paid for by taxation, its staff attended government schools and the NHS will treat their workers when they are sick. This is not an argument in favour of taxing Amazon to pay for these things, merely a suggestion that we dial-down the triumphalism over their tax avoidance and instead focus attention on the costs their rent-seeking imposes on others.
Many libertarians (myself included) have fallen victim to the false dichotomy that whatever is not ‘the state’ is the free-market.