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Anarchism, libertarianism, and the way forward

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Don Smith     Permalink
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As long as we have corporations, we need the state to regulate the corporations and prevent them from exploiting their power.

And to get rid of corporations, as anarchists propose, and prevent their gaining power, we presumably need government to stop them, at least in the beginning.

A libertarian would defend corporations this way:  nobody forces you to buy a product from a private company -- unless the government grants the company exclusive rights.  Corporations acting in concert with government power are harmful, but corporations by themselves don't have the power to harm you -- according to libertarians.

I disagree with libertarians on this. If a corporation or a small group of corporations gains monopoly power over a market sector (especially for essential products and services such as medicine, health care, food, or water), then they can do evil even -- nay, especially -- in the absence of government.   Also, corporations often harm people by polluting the environment. In both cases (monopoly and pollution) we need governments and laws to regulate corporations.  We also need government to protect the people from exploitation by deceptive or dishonest business practices (e.g., mortgage fraud).   Most people aren't knowledgeable enough to make these decisions themselves and need government specialists to regulate the market (e.g., state insurance commissioners).

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Government's constructive functions

Aside from government's many regulatory functions, it also provides many useful services:   education, public transportation, public health, research, conservation efforts, parks, and Social Security, to name just a few.  For more explanations of why we need government see Without government, we'd be hunter-gatherers and Bring on the Reagan Counterrevolution, Countering anti-govt propaganda, The Forgotten Achievements of Government, and Government is like a computer operating system.

We're the government and we built all these by Don Smith

I note, by the way, that the US government invented the Internet, and much of the foundations of software were produced by universities, with government funding.

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Both libertarians and anarchists seem to ignore the productive, beneficial effects of governments.

Obamacare is far from perfect, but it does provide health care for more Americans, and the Republicans hate it and fear it. Do anarchists like government health care?  Single-payer healthcare would be a big win, covering more people more cheaply and more justly.

Let's get practical: addressing David Fryett's points

First let me acknowledge Fryett was correct that the government was brutal in its suppression of Occupy, and I should have pointed that out in my earlier article. On the other hand, there is no denying that Occupy movements nationwide had lots of infighting and wasteful blathering. Nathan Schnieder makes this point in several of his articles on Occupy.     Without leaders and hierarchy it's hard to be effective.  Not impossible (open source) but hard.

By the way, I don't think that open source software is completely horizontal. Many people provide input, but there are probably a few smart people who have final veto power. (Anyone know this for sure?)

I also want to acknowledge the eloquence of Fryett's essay.

Fryett addresses my claim that we can thank the government for many social goods, such as seat belts, civil rights laws, pollution controls, Medicare, Social Security, laws, constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion and press, public transportation, public schools, disaster relief, the Internet, and medical research. Fryett says that the People had to force the government to grant these social goods. Both state and capital oppressed the people.

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We have constitutional rights, but the only real threat to these is the state, the same state which ever so condescendingly grants them to us. We would not need the guarantee if not for the existence of the government as it is the only thing which can (and frequently does) deprive us of these rights.

This is simply wrong, in my opinion. Trust busters such as Teddy Roosevelt and FDR directly confronted the power of moneyed interests that had power independently of the state. Without the state, what's to stop people from forming corporations backed up by private militias?

To me, government -- when it works -- IS the people, or at least a proxy for the people. Government is (ideally) the power of the people: We the People.

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DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See http://WALiberals.org and http://TruthSite.org for my writing, my (more...)

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