Home / General / Elizabeth Anderson needs a blog

Elizabeth Anderson needs a blog

Comments
/
/
/
234 Views

Elizabeth Anderson’s post this morning at bleeding heart libertarians serves as a nice reminder of how naturally she takes to the genre. (Her posts were easily the best thing come out of David Velleman’s now defunct “left2right” group blog).  The occasion of the post is a symposium on John Tomasi’s new book, Free Market Fairness. I haven’t read the book, the BHL crowd has been pretty excited about it for a while.  Initial descriptions of the book have left me pretty skeptical, but I thought Tomasi’s first book was quite good, so I’m willing to give it a look at some point.

Assuming Anderson’s characterization is a fair one, though, my skepticism has increased today:

Tomasi reserves special opprobrium for labor regulations, as of maximum hours and minimum wages, and disparages workplace democracy.  Regulations of labor contracts, he claims, are forms of paternalistic domination.  They deny individuals’ rights to “personally negotiate” the terms and conditions of their employment, and deny their personal “independence” as self-authoring economic agents. He concedes that in the industrial age such regulations were warranted for vulnerable factory workers, but claims they are obsolete in today’s “personalized” capitalism, which offers work options tailor-made to each individual’s preferences.

It’s difficult to know where to start, but the obvious point, which Anderson makes well, is that this image of contemporary capitalism fails rather spectacularly to capture the employment experiences of most workers today.

But Anderson’t point about the way libertarians think about government is perhaps the most theoretically incisive part of the post:

Tomasi’s map of social possibilities confuses government with the state and the capitalist economy with the market.  A more illuminating map would identify government with any organization in which some people systematically issue authoritative commands, backed up by penalties, to others.  It would then distinguish liberal democratic from authoritarian governments, and public governments (states) from private governments such as firms.

Thinking about the state in terms of what makes it special and unique is an indispensable part of contemporary political theorizing, but so to is thinking about the state in more prosaic terms with a focus on what is not special/unique about it. Libertarians often attempt–incompletely and clumsily–to do just that when it comes to moral claims regarding the state, offering heightened scrutiny to the claim that is is morally permissible for the state to do X when no other actor could plausibly claim to do so. But they very rarely think about the state’s unspecialness in sociological terms, thus missing relevant similarities between, say, the state and the firm.

One of Tomasi’s arguments in the book is apparently that economic liberties ought to be constitutionalized:

Tomasi argues that rights to economic liberty should be constitutionalized, with economic regulations subject to a high level of judicial scrutiny.  Considerations of social justice may sometimes override economic freedom—but only if judges approve.

Anderson rightly observes “lack the expertise to assess economic regulations designed to stop such abuses.” I think there’s more to say here, though. I don’t know what, exactly, Tomasi’s hypothetical constitutional amendment(s) on economic liberty would look like, but I imagine, like most constitutionalized rights, they’d need to remain quite vague, thus leaving judges a great deal of latitude over their substance. Perhaps moreso than other kinds of rights, the conceptions of ‘economic liberty’ favored by the wealthy and those favored by the poor (and middle class more generally) are likely to look quite different indeed (even if they’re both potentially reconcilable with the vague constitutional language). Judges’ removal from any sort of popular/electoral pressure (not to mention their likely class identity) is creates conditions where they’re more likely to side with elite interpretations.

One common way to think about the question “Should this right be constitutionalized?” in a regime constitutional judicial review is to ask “Is this right fundamental and basic?”  and say if the answer is yes, then it should be. A better way, I think, is to ask “Is this the kind of right that’s likely to be better protected and advanced via constitutional judicial review based on what we’ve come to know about how constitutional courts generally function?” Even a well crafted statement of economic liberty not designed to tilt the scales toward the currently wealthy would fail the latter test, I’m afraid.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Bill Murray

    but claims they are obsolete in today’s “personalized” capitalism, which offers work options tailor-made to each individual’s preferences.

    I suppose in an infinite multiverse, there is a version where this is true, but sadly this does not represent the multiverse in which I live.

    • Holden Pattern

      I think that statement will make sense in a sort of Randian-Nietzschian ontology, where a human animal is only an “individual” if they’re an ubermenschist Galtian, and therefore their work options are tailor-made for themselves and quite reasonably imposed on those human animals who owe them fealty.

      This assumes that all non-Galtian human animals are not “individuals”, but merely physically separated members of the moocher / parasite collectivist herd.

      • Heron

        Nietzsche never said his “over-man” ought to rule everyone else, or even that they were superior in any hierarchical or moral way and thus deserving of better treatment. His ubermenschen argument, where he made it in Zarathustra, was 1) more a parable than anything else, probably not meant to be taken totally seriously, and certainly not as a political argument and 2) about the primacy of “creation” to the human experience, not concepts of superiority.

        Basically, Nietzsche’s argument boiled down to something like this: “Morality as we are taught it is not essentially moral, but merely called this because it benefits the powerful. What makes humanity great and special is that we can create, and this makes humans something unique; ends which are constantly creating themselves, though never reaching completion (something both tragic and heroic). As our lives are the only things we can say unequivocally are ours to dispense with, the greatest creation of any human life is that life itself. As humans are naturally ‘ends’, the reduction of one human by another to a ‘means’ is the most despicable and deplorable act imaginable. That very act of reduction, however, is also the foundation of all hierarchy, which is why society is corrupt and ‘conventional morality’ monstrous. As such the fundamental starting place of a free, philosophically ‘better’, human existence is the conscious realization of this, followed by a conscious choice of what rules one will abide by, and the acceptance of those consequences -social, physical, and financial- which naturally follow such behavior.”

        • Corey Robin made the same mistake in his Reactionary Mind book.

        • jeer9

          Because of Nietzsche’s reactionary politics, it’s pretty standard fare to associate him with the worst excesses of conservatism regardless of whether they fit with his psychological/philosophical views or not. He used to be lumped in with the Nazis as well, though his writing harshly attacks and ridicules anti-semitic thought.

          • I don’t think that “reactionary” is a terribly good description of his politics, or that his views on politics are all that clear. Anti-modernist and anti-convention perhaps, but the idea of a strong, traditional and nationalistic state seems hardly consistent with his ideas.

            • Heron

              To understand Nietzsche’s political opinions accurately, we need to consider both the dominant political trends of his day, and what the pragmatic results of those trends were. I’m just going to sort of sketch out the issue in the paragraphs below, so it certainly won’t be complete or completely accurate to his thinking or the period, but I hope to at least give a sense of what we need to consider.

              Nietzsche was born into a world of multi-ethnic, multi-confessional, parliamentarian aristocratic agglomerated states wherein families such as the Hapsburgs, the Savoy, and the Saxe-Colburg-Gotha-Sallfeld provided what amounted to political CEOs for various far-flung polities. In the course of his life, this “cosmopolitan” Europe was brought to an end by the advent of nationalist democratic movements that were quite often militant, communitarian, deeply chauvinistic, and, as a result, necessarily hostile to different cultures and to facts.

              Nietzsche was a multi-lingual, border-hoping prodigy of philology, a discipline that would become our modern linguistics and classical studies. In other words, he was the quintessential “cosmopolitan” European of the Metternich era, for whom things like ethnicity and religion were at best irrelevant and at worst socially corrosive. For him, the nationalist trends of the democrats was deeply personal; not only did he not consider himself a “German” in the political sense they used the term, the field of philology during his day was filled by attempts to justify, provide, and validate various nationalist and racial myths via blatantly dishonest and misleading scholarship. His personal resistance to that trend -his insistence on sticking to his project of investigating the intersection of morality, theater, and philosophy through language- was something he felt caused much of the employment difficulties he encountered in his life. For a person who lived in academia -who regularly interacted with Germans, Poles, French, Czechs, Greeks, and Jews from all of these Central and Eastern European polities- to follow the growing ethnic and religious strife in the papers must have been deeply troubling.

              If we look at it like this, I think we can see that the binary division between “reactionary” and “democrat” which we conventionally use when discussing the era runs into some problems when we try to apply it to Nietzsche. Unquestionably, he had more sympathy for the Imperials and their aristocratic system than he did for the democrats and the radicals, but why was that? We think of Reactionaries as being chauvinistic and oppressive, but Nietzsche opposed nationalist democracy because he felt it stifled debate and spread disdain for other, equally valid, cultures (his writings against antisemitism are a good example of this). We think of Reactionaries as people who twist history to justify their personal enrichment, but Nietzsche opposed the national democrats because he, as a classics scholar, knew for a fact that the historical arguments they favored were bunk. We think of Reactionaries as people who honor and support the status quo, but Nietzsche, beyond being perhaps the 19th century’s most vigorous and powerful critic of the Abrahamic tradition, wrote aphorisms challenging the ways in which male-centric society objectified and “othered” women so as to demean and control them. Hell, he practically invented Deconstructionism, secular existentialism, and critical analysis; three of the most important intellectual tools in the 20th century fight against authority and convention.

              The politics of Nietzsche’s time were complex. While the shift to national democracies lead in many ways to greater freedom and a greater say for Europe’s people, it also held within it the kernels of WWI and the Nazi horror which followed it. The simple “democrat vs. reactionary” dichotomy we all grew up with simply does not do it justice, and as Nietzsche would have no doubt pointed out, to even consider it in that matter is to discuss the era according to the victors’ terms.

              • Yes, that.

                His sister did a lot of damage to his historical reputation by aligning his public persona with anti-semitic nationalists, which is why the temptation to plot 20th century political views on him — even in opposition to the error — is particularly strong.

              • jeer9

                Completely agree about his intellectual importance for the modern and postmodern world, though I seem to recall quite a few aphorisms in which he himself engages in the objectification and ridicule of women (in the same way that Conrad perpetuates the Victorian “angel in the house” stereotype that is present in Heart of Darkness.

              • “We think of Reactionaries as people who honor and support the status quo…” That’s the problem with this whole thread re Nietzsche. A lot of people do think that’s what reactionaries are and do, but as I try to show in The Reactionary Mind, that rests upon a complete misapprehension of what reactionaries are all about. Once we get clear about what reactionaries are all about — and I take Burke as a paradigmatic example — you begin to see that Nietzsche actually is very much within that tradition.

    • Pith Helmet

      Why, just the other day, I was marveling at a potential hire as a cook at the local chain restaurant was able to negotiate flex-time, a car allowance, and five weeks paid vacation a year!

      I wonder if the local box retail crew members are likewise exercising their personal options?

      • +10

      • Bill Murray

        I understand from reading some Chicago economics professor — Casey Mulligan, I think — that many US workers decided to take more/all of their possible work hours as leisure again exercising their personal option to not have any money. Weirdly, millions decided this all at about the same time.

        • LMAO.

          They all went Galt, dontchano.

          • pete

            Yup, and by withdrawing their unique skills, they ruined the economy, just like the Blessed Ayn predicted.

      • j_h_r

        what, no cadillac health insurance plan?

        clearly a moocher in disguise

  • I can imagine a world where the sort of regulations Tomasi opposes are redundant at best and bad most of the time- a world where capital is widely dispersed rather than concentrated, where a basic minimum necessary to meet one’s needs with dignity is guaranteed to all, where there is fair equality of opportunity in education and training, and where heavy inheritance taxes help prevent the concentration of wealth over generations and encourage social mobility. In such circumstances a minimum wage would likely (but not necessarily- I don’t claim to know this) be unnecessary, and “bad” options- dangerous or dirty work- would require a premium and be taken by those who had a taste for such things, if they were taken at all. The idea that we are close to this world, though, is absurd. Furthermore, it’s pretty well established that, if we are not in an ideal situation, trying to apply rules that would be best in the ideal situation won’t necessarily get you closer to the ideal- probably the opposite. (Joseph Heath, in his book, _Economics without Illusions_, has a great discussion of this “General Theory of Second Best”.) This seems like a clear example.

    • Heron

      I can’t think of any world where Tomasi’s argument would hold. Fundamentally, as Anderson points out, he is arguing in favor of petty tyranny. He is attacking fair wage laws, sexual harassment criminalization, and the essential agency of workers as human beings in defense of letting all employers everywhere be tinpot kings behind the cheap particle board walls of their cubicle-castles. Democracy, and especially something as essentially democratic as Inalienable, Constitutional Rights, mean absolutely nothing if citizens are reduced, effectively, to slaves when they pass through their employer’s door.

      If your employer is not barred from punishing you for your political beliefs, for your religious practices, for your exhibitions of autonomy; if your employer is not prohibited from blackmailing extra work, or even sex acts, from you through the threat of unemployment; if you employer is not legally prevented from structuring your wages in such a way as to reduce you to a dependent debt-peon, reliant on his largesse for your survival, then it doesn’t matter how many rights some hoary piece of paper under glass grants you. The only sort of freedom that fits its definition is the practical variety; legal and theoretical freedom bereft of substance by governmental deference to personal dominion is nothing but pretty window dressing.

      • Yup.

      • Linnaeus

        I believe the term for the arrangement you describe is “neofeudalism”.

        • j_h_r

          “neo”?

          • Holden Pattern

            Feudalism at least had some nominal paternalist sense that the lord was responsible for the protection and welfare of the peasants.

            Neofeudalism, not so much.

            • Hogan

              All the noblesse with none of the oblige.

              • Holden Pattern

                Yes, my past words exactly.

            • Linnaeus

              The “neo” part, for me, is necessary because the institutions in which the “new” feudalism* is rooted are different; the lords don’t come from a hereditary military class, rather a corporate capitalist one.

              *My medievalist friends would probably castigate me for using the term “feudalism” casually like this, but I think it works for political discussions.

      • UserGoogol

        People have all sorts of relationships with other people, and there’s not much of a push to regulate these. If someone stops being friends with someone because of their political views, that might be unfortunate, but it’s not really viewed as oppressive in the same way as firing someone.

        The problem is that the employment relationship is a special kind of relationship which allows for “blackmail” in ways which friendship rarely does. (Although friendships can be abusive too of course if the relationship is particularly codependent or something.) But the only defining attribute of employment is that one person gives money and the other person does stuff, which isn’t in of itself exploitative. If people could happily walk away from the money and still live a comfortable life, then employment wouldn’t be particularly coercive. But under our society, people need money, and a job is the most realistic way for most people to get money. And that is where the relationship starts to become exploitative.

        Of course, a world where people don’t need to work in order to live is a very different world from the one we live in. And that’s the problem.

  • scott

    I agree and just have a huge problem with these guys screaming “liberty!” any time anyone wants to tax them to fund anything. I’ve been listening to their incredibly abstract and theoretical attempts to justify this behavior for 25+ years, and it always seems to boil down to an “I’ve got mine, you go get yours” narrowness that rejects any community attempt to solve a collective problem.

    • Pith Helmet

      it always seems to boil down to an “I’ve got mine, you go get yours fuck you” narrowness that rejects any community attempt to solve a collective problem.

      I believe that is the correct terminology.

      • You have to admire their creativity in the number of variations they have in expressing ‘fuck you’ to the non-privileged without actually ever uttering or writing the exact phrase.

    • Lee

      I believe that most libertarians would deny that there is such a thing as a collective problem. I’d further argue that most would deny the existence of community. This is why most libertarians are white men with good salaries but little in the way of familial or community bonds. Its the illusion of self-reliance that drives the libertarian thought process.

    • djw

      Harcourt is excellent.

  • arbitrista

    I don’t know if Anderson’s post is a blog or a drive-by shooting, but it’s certainly fun to read. I have serious reservations about some of Anderson’s work (particularly her “threshold” conception of distributive justice, for example in education), but she’s always a compelling read.

  • MikeJake

    This is all Lochner-era thinking.

    We’ve already been down this path.

    • John

      That’s what I was going to say. We already went through a long period when “economic liberties” were constitutionalized – and it was terrible.

      • Shredder

        Took the words right out of my mouth, too. But it’s important to be explicit here because there is a big push on the right to bring back Lochner, or some modern version. And we need to keep a sharp eye on the Roberts Court. After Citizens United, it is clear the right wing of the court will go way out of their way to serve up the corporate agenda.

        Need to push back in a big way. I’d begin with the simple frame that economic libertarianism is morally repugnant. Do we really want to make child labor laws unconstitutional?

  • Linnaeus

    I hope I’m not the only one who thought of Rollo Tomasi.

    • Tehanu

      Nope, you’re not alone, it was my very first thought! And let us not forget who Rollo was; he was the bad guy who got away with it … much like Jamie Dimon et al.

  • rea

    There is no such thing as a “free market”. Markets are formed by regulation. You can’t trade a pound of corn meal for 6 herring without enforceable rules defining “corn meal,” “pound,” “herring,” and “six.”

    • bradp

      You can’t trade a pound of corn meal for 6 herring without enforceable rules defining “corn meal,” “pound,” “herring,” and “six.”

      Didn’t realize nobody traded before the state came along and told everybody what “corn” and units of measurement were.

      • djw

        You should read James Scott on measurement and the state. (in SE Asia, were deliberately incomprehensible, in an effort to thwart state-building, but also sometimes trade)

        • elm

          I feel like we’ve had this conversation with Brad before. You recommended Scott to him and I recommended Spruyt’s the “Nation-State and its alternatives.”

          Yet, here he is one year later (at least), making the same unenlightened argument. Sigh.

          • bradp

            I have not read Scott, but I have read some literature that reference some of his ideas.

            I was under the impression that the state didn’t create units of measurement and commodities, but standardized the vast array of local ones to provide legibility and enable large-scale production and taxation.

            This is a quote from a quote, but Scott writes:

            In agriculture, as in manufacturing, the mere efficiency of a form of production is not sufficient to ensure the
            appropriation of taxes or profits. Independent smallholder agriculture may, as we have noted, be the most
            efficient way to grow many crops. But such forms of agriculture, although they may present possibilities for
            taxation and profit when their products are bulked, processed, and sold, are relatively illegible and hard to
            control. As is the case with autonomous artisans and petit-bourgeois shopkeepers, monitoring the
            commercial fortunes of small-fry farms is an administrative nightmare. The possibilities for evasion and
            resistance are numerous, and the cost of procuring accurate, annual data is high, if not prohibitive.

            The state standardization of units of measurement itself is an example of government helping itself and those that have a good amount of capital.

            • djw

              Yes, but the undstandardized pre-state status quo thwarted both would-be statebuilders and traders. (See Dr. Dick below…)

      • DrDick

        While there was some trade prior to the emergence of the state, it was almost exclusively with other groups and it constituted only a small amount of all exchanges. Most routine exchanges were within the society and were dealt with as reciprocal gifts. It was not organized along market principles, but mostly in terms of reciprocal social exchanges between formal trading partners (often a hereditary relationship between families) and as competitive redistribution between groups (as in the Northwest Coast tribe in the US). Values were customary and stable over long periods, responding only slowly to changes in supply and demand and mostly only when there was a dramatic change.

        Actual markets only emerge with the state, because they entail routine exchanges with strangers with whom you have no enduring social ties. This is because only states have the power to enforce binding regulations against fraud and cheating. It is the presence of this state regulation which provides the basis for the trust necessary for exchanges to occur.

        • bradp

          It is the presence of this state regulation which provides the basis for the trust necessary for exchanges of the size and the degree states and elites desired to occur.

          FTFY.

          By the way, I would guess that even if prices aren’t involved in a gift economy, there is at least a substitute accounting between individuals that causes “reciprocal gifts” to be very much the same as “exchanges”.

          • DrDick

            No you didn’t “fix it”. What happens with the emergence of the state is a complex division of labor that increasingly requires people to purchase much of what they need to live, rather than producing it themselves. They also begin to engage in routine exchanges with strangers for staples. The latter cannot happen without some mechanism to limit cheating and state regulation provides that. It has nothing to do with elite desires per se.

            You seem to confuse “exchange” with market exchange (buying and selling) and they are not the same at all. There are many forms of exchange, of which market exchange is simply one. Gift giving is an exchange, but it is not governed by market principles. In non-market exchanges, social factors are more important than economics. Gift economies are fundamentally about creating and maintaining social ties, much as in our own systems of gift giving.

            As to the “accounting” issue, sometimes there is and in others there is not. Under what is called direct or balanced reciprocity, there is a loose accounting and if one party consistently fails to return something of comparable value, the other ultimately ceases to give anything. This is how our system of Christmas and birthday gifts works. In both cases, it is the social bonds rather than the economic value which is important and “values” of goods are generally customary and symbolic rather than economic.

            Another form of reciprocity is generalized reciprocity and there is no accounting at all. These are essentially systems of mandatory sharing. This is quite common in societies which rely on hunting for meat. If a man kills an animal, he is expected to share the meat with others outside his household. There are numerous other examples. Here, stinginess (the failure to share) is the ultimate sin and leads to public ridicule and ostracism. In these systems, successful individuals and families routinely give away far more than they ever get back. What they do get is prestige and respect.

            In tribal and chiefly economies redistribution (like the Northwest Coast Potlatch) is important. This is a system of competitive generosity and men compete to see who can give away the most. Those who do so gain respect and admiration. While there is a clear accounting, and you are expected to try to outdo your rivals, the goal is to shame them by giving more than they can repay.

            • bradp

              What happens with the emergence of the state is a complex division of labor that increasingly requires people to purchase much of what they need to live, rather than producing it themselves. They also begin to engage in routine exchanges with strangers for staples. The latter cannot happen without some mechanism to limit cheating and state regulation provides that. It has nothing to do with elite desires per se.

              Its hard for me to fathom how you don’t have the relationship backwards. At the very least, a complex division of labor, markets, and the state is a “chicken and the egg” where the two developed mutualistically.

              My thinking goes like this: How does the state exist prior to the division of labor necessary to support chieftains, administrators, and police forces? How do systems of currency and standardized measurements come along before the trade and markets exist that seem to demand them?

              And I’m not railing against standardized units of measurement, or even denying the benefits of a forceful standardizing. But the idea that only through the state are markets and trade possible strikes me as far-fetched.

              As for the rest, it is appreciated. You are a smart fellow, and much more interesting when you tone down the snark and libertarian hate.

              I do recognize the problem I have with conflating the “free market” with any voluntary economic system. My opinions on the issue put me in a tough predicament there, as I believe under a free market, friendly societies will dominate at the local/community level. Adding on to that, I don’t believe these societies will long exist without some sort of accounting system to reward contributers and punish moochers, and when you have that, your economic model starts to look very much like a system of self-interested exchange.

              And again, thanks. I’ll take a discussion like this over topical political ones any day.

              • DrDick

                Please note that I did not say that the state “causes” markets, but that markets emerge with the state. They actually co-evolve and each is necessary for the other. The same is true of the complex division of labor. All three are essentially linked to oen another.

                Also, while all human societies have a division of labor (minimally based on age and gender), essential exchanges are mostly based on sharing, not purchase. Indeed, trade within social groups is rare prior to the emergence of chiefdoms and not common there. Prior to the emergence of the state (which is a process, not a point in time), most people are largely self supporting, producing most of what they consume. There are few occupational specialists and most of those are ritual specialists (including healers). Mostly the payments for these services is based on a customary flat fee and not market principles. It is also conceptually structured as a kind of reciprocity.

                Standard units of measure emerge from taxation, not markets. Taxation, to pay for public works and support to the indigent, emerges with complex chiefdoms and prior to markets.

                Again, trade and markets are not synonymous. In pre-state societies, trade mostly occurs with members of other groups and not internally. You also can have reciprocal trade (gift exchanges)without markets. Much or most non-state trade is organized on the basis of formal trade partnerships between individuals in different social groups. These are important social relationships (often hereditary), with connotations of ritual kinship, and are sometimes cemented by intermarriage between the families. Exchanges are generally conceptualized in terms of gift exchange. While there is some negotiation, the values of the goods exchanged is largely customary (not based on actual supply and demand as in market systems) and tend to remain stable over long periods.

                Markets only emerge when people no longer largely self-sufficient and routinely have to exchange for the basics in life. The state regulation necessary for the operation is not limited to standardized weights and measures. It also includes things like standardized currency (which only exists in states), property law, contract law, tort law, and criminal law. These last three are perhaps the most important, as they deter cheating. What is significant is that there are formal rules governing transactions that are enforceable by an impartial third party. While you see the emergence of institutional enforcement of at lest some areas of law in chiefdoms, you only see this
                applied to economic transactions in states. Prior to the emergence of chiefdoms (which seems to have occurred first about 20,000 years ago), it is the individuals or families who are responsible to enforcement of law (and law as such does not exist in all societies, though there are informal norms or rules of behavior).

                As to markets producing egalitarian and open societies, you are simply wrong. Any system based on private property and limited access to the means of production promotes inequality and the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few. Indeed property rights primarily benefit the wealthy and powerful, who are thus able to control access to the means of production. Indeed, the emergence of notions of private property, and the enforcement of property rights, is a causal factor in the emergence of the state.

                The societies which actually operate like you describe have little private property (mostly your tools and clothing) and place little value on property. There is open and free access to the means of production for everybody and people are mostly self-sufficient, with little need for exchanges outside of the household. These societies are based on enforced (through praise and shaming) generosity and sharing. They are the antithesis of libertarianism.

                • bradp

                  Any system based on private property and limited access to the means of production promotes inequality and the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few.

                  Outside of the state subsidizing law enforcement and property protection, which is entirely recoverable, I don’t see how private property necessarily promotes inequality or discourages the same sort of voluntary combinations that you are describing.

                  As you point out, the growth of the economy and a complex division of labor is a product of people who need to trade to maintain their lifestyle. That reliance on others to provide for one’s own well-being creates an interdependence which encourages respectful treatment. And private property, on its own, does not free one from the slings and arrows of shaming and shunning.

                  Yes, when there comes extensive wealth divides, then negotiation equity unravels, and those more innate social enforcers lose their teeth and motivation. But it seems you have laid the state out as enabler of broad divides, and indeed, modern liberalism specializes in destroying and replacing those innate social checks.

                  So, where you would say that those societies are the antithesis of libertarianism, I would posit that they are the antithesis of modern liberalism (broadly defined, that is).

                  And I don’t think we are too far off, as I don’t deny the facilitation the state has provided to markets, but I still consider the state and its forced standardizations not a necessary factor, but more of an accelarant. And an accelerant typically employed on behalf of those who would be king.

                • DrDick

                  Private property means differential access to the means of production. That in turn means that some people have more than others and control access to the means of production. This makes other people dependent on them for the means to make a living. In any system of hereditary property rights, property inevitably concentrates in the hands of a few.

                  In market systems, you exchange not merely to “maintain your standard of living”, but to survive. Those who control property control the market. You are also making exchanges with strangers, who are not really subject to shaming or praise. Those only work effectively within the context of a close face to face community with ongoing social interaction. It relies on the community as a whole being aware of the issue and enforcing the standards. When you deal with strangers (people outside your routine face to face social interactions), that does not happen.

      • Lee

        Read Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber. It makes a very convincing argument that markets and money originated from the state rather independently of the state. Before money was an actual thing, it was a unit of measurement like a gallon or kilometer. Rather than measuring size or distance, money measured debt. Markets were created as an efficient way to feed soliders.

        • DrDick

          That book has some serious flaws in it, but much of it is pretty much standard issue economic anthropology and many of the insights date back to the 1960s or earlier.

  • bradp

    It’s difficult to know where to start, but the obvious point, which Anderson makes well, is that this image of contemporary capitalism fails rather spectacularly to capture the employment experiences of most workers today.

    Haven’t read Tomasi’s book so I don’t know how he presents this, but it is a bit unfair to take a slender segment of libertarian philosophy and apply to our political capitalism of today. Libertarians often propose very radical eliminations of the privileges afforded to capital and employers.

    As analogy, there is a big difference between these two question:

    1) Is nationalizing of agriculture good?

    2) Was nationalizing of agriculture good in Stalin-era Soviet Union.

    Thinking about the state in terms of what makes it special and unique is an indispensable part of contemporary political theorizing, but so to is thinking about the state in more prosaic terms with a focus on what is not special/unique about it. Libertarians often attempt–incompletely and clumsily–to do just that when it comes to moral claims regarding the state, offering heightened scrutiny to the claim that is is morally permissible for the state to do X when no other actor could plausibly claim to do so. But they very rarely think about the state’s unspecialness in sociological terms, thus missing relevant similarities between, say, the state and the firm.

    What makes the state unique is the use of the moral nuclear option, so to speak. It is defined by legitimized use of agression, and libertarianism is largely defined as opposition to any use of aggression.

    Are there similarities between the state and the firm? Of course, but volumes have been written on what typically state administered institutions would look like under anarchy/libertarian ideal.

    Also, you and Anderson are trying to draw a line between economic rights and civil rights that just don’t exist. Notice that out of her scenarios, moth are either obvious violation of property rights that would not be tolerated under libertarianism, or fraud/false witness that cannot be solely considered economic rights or speech rights.

    And the idea that judges are any less capable of judging on economic issues than congress seems a little bit laughable to me. The idea that issues regarding speech, religion, press, and assembly are less complex than economic issues seems similarly absurd.

    • djw

      but it is a bit unfair to take a slender segment of libertarian philosophy and apply to our political capitalism of today.

      Everything I’ve read about Tomasi’s book suggests that this is precisely his goal; that his ‘market democracy’ is meant to replace both high liberalism and libertarianism that is meant for us.

      • bradp

        I plan on reading the book sometime, but I thought that might be the case.

        When libertarians argue from that sort of perspective, I generally think that they are just as succeptible to most of the critiques they throw at opponents.

        I would also say that your critiques are not off the mark, even if their strength and significance may be debatable.

  • Cody

    I found this article wonderful. Her reference about the argument that conservatives really summed up why a group who is pro “limited government” seems so intent on always creating more power in the governments hands.

    Looking at conservatives as a group of people who just want patriarchal hierarchies explains a lot of the values they suddenly adopted. I had previously thought these things outliers, but now I feel like have a better grasp on it.

  • Elizabeth Anderson is awesome; I’ve been reading her (sporadically) since the left2right days, and she’s probably one of the smartest people I’ve encountered on the Internet.

    • djw

      If you haven’t read her academic work, you should; it’s remarkably accessible. I worry that I’m not being a sufficiently critical reader, though; I pretty much always think she’s right about everything.

      http://www.forum2.org/mellon/lj/anderson.html

  • bradp

    Just playing devil’s advocate here, but it was at least nice to the justice system burning money on putting a scare into a shady rich white guy.

    • bradp

      I don’t know how I posted this in the wrong thread, but there you go.

      We need editting/deleting capabilities on our own comments, pronto.

  • Pingback: Freedom and Work - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Sounds good.Elizabeth really a good thinker. That i see. Because I read her all here, from last 2 days.

It is main inner container footer text