Tag: Occupy Wall Street

Rothbard in the New Yorker

Here’s something you don’t see every day: A discussion of Murray Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalism in the New Yorker, in a broader review of books on “anarchism” emerging from the Occupy movement. Author Kelefa Sanneh writes:

In fact, there is one anarchist who could be considered influential in Washington, but he wasn’t among the activists who participated in the Occupy movement—he died nearly twenty years ago. His name is Murray Rothbard, and, among small-government Republicans, he is something of a cult hero. He was Ron Paul’s intellectual mentor, which makes him the godfather of the godfather of the Tea Party. Justin Amash, a young Republican congressman from Michigan and a rising star in the Party, hangs a framed portrait of him on his office wall.

Rothbard was an anarchist, but also a capitalist. “True anarchism will be capitalism, and true capitalism will be anarchism,” he once said, and he sometimes referred to himself by means of a seven-syllable honorific: “anarcho-capitalist.” Graeber thinks that governments treat their citizens “like children,” and that, when governments disappear, people will behave differently. Anarcho-capitalists, on the contrary, believe that, without government, people will behave more or less the same: we will be just as creative or greedy or competent as we are now, only freer. Instead of imagining a world without drastic inequality, anarcho-capitalists imagine a world where people and their property are secured by private defense agencies, which are paid to keep the peace. Graeber doesn’t consider anarcho-capitalists to be true anarchists; no doubt the feeling is mutual.

“Cult hero … among small-government Republicans” seems a real stretch. But maybe among Ron Paul and Justin Amash, which is more congressional fans than most economist-philosophers have. Author Sanneh no doubt learned about Rothbard when he wrote a long and fairly sympathetic profile of Ron Paul on the campaign trail.

At Libertarianism.org Aaron Powell examines the New Yorker’s examination of anarchism, both capitalist and anti-capitalist. Also at Libertarianism.org find out more about Murray Rothbard, including some exclusive videos.

The Ethos of Universal Coverage

Associated Press photojournalist Noah Berger captured this thousand-word image near the Occupy Oakland demonstrations last month.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Many Cato @ Liberty readers will get it immediately. They can stop reading now.

For everyone else, this image perfectly illustrates the ethos of what I call the Church of Universal Coverage.

Like everyone who supports a government guarantee of access to medical care, the genius who left this graffiti on Kaiser Permanente’s offices probably thought he was signaling how important other human beings are to him. He wants them to get health care after all. He was willing to expend resources to transmit that signal: a few dollars for a can of spray paint (assuming he didn’t steal it) plus his time. He probably even felt good about himself afterward.

Unfortunately, the money and time this genius spent vandalizing other people’s property are resources that could have gone toward, say, buying him health insurance. Or providing a flu shot to a senior citizen. This genius has also forced Kaiser Permanente to divert resources away from healing the sick. Kaiser now has to spend money on a pressure washer and whatever else one uses to remove graffiti from those surfaces (e.g., water, labor).

The broader Church of Universal Coverage spends resources campaigning for a government guarantee of access to medical care. Those resources likewise could have been used to purchase medical care for, say, the poor. The Church’s efforts impel opponents of such a guarantee to spend resources fighting it. For the most part, though, they encourage interest groups to expend resources to bend that guarantee toward their own selfish ends. The taxes required to effectuate that (warped) guarantee reduce economic productivity both among those whose taxes enable, and those who receive, the resulting government transfers.

In the end, that very government guarantee ends up leaving people with less purchasing power and undermining the market’s ability to discover cost-saving innovations that bring better health care within the reach of the needy. That’s to say nothing of the rights that the Church of Universal Coverage tramples along the way: yours, mine, Kaiser Permanente’s, the Catholic Church’s

I see no moral distinction between the Church of Universal Coverage and this genius. Both spend time and money to undermine other people’s rights as well as their own stated goal of “health care for everybody.”

Of course, it is always possible that, as with their foot soldier in Oakland, the Church’s efforts are as much about making a statement and feeling better about themselves as anything else.

By George, I Think They’ve Got It: ‘Far Too Many Laws’

Occupy protesters come to Washington and finally notice what the problem is:

Timothy Evans, a D.C. taxicab inspector, …  notices too many inside a taxi jerking slowly up Fifth Street NW — not the seven or eight passengers he sometimes sees sardine-stuffed into the Crown Victorias and Town Cars that make up the bulk of the city fleet, but still too many.

He pops on his car’s flashing lights. The cab stops, and out they come, six of them.

While Evans goes to chat with the driver, his partner, Carl Martin, calmly absorbs invective — not from the driver but from the riders, a group of activists from California who are in town for the Occupy Congress protest.

Nadine Hayes, 59, of Camarillo, is none too happy her driver ended up with $50 worth of tickets — $25 for overloading, $25 for an improper manifest. “He was doing us a service and taking us to where we wanted to go,” she said. “I think we’ve got far too many laws. I think the American people are being so oppressed.”

“Liberalism’s Problem in One Graph”

That’s the title of Ezra Klein’s blogpost last night. Americans are increasingly distrustful of Big Government, it seems (64% in 2011, up from 35% in 1965), as opposed to Big Business (26% versus 29%) and Big Labor (8% versus 17%). Here’s the graph:

Of course, given that Big Labor these days is mostly in the public sector, you can really add its total to that of Big Government. And given corporate subsidies, part of Big Business can be thrown in there too. In any event, sobering news for the Occupy Wall Street crowd, and surely an electorate for political candidates who want to shrink the size of government.

Tea Party, Meet Occupy Wall Street. OWS, Tea Party.

Broad political movements are going to have none of the coherence that we demand of ourselves in ideological movements like libertarianism. The Tea Party has some people with views that libertarians reject and many that we embrace. Occupy Wall Street has a lot of people with views that libertarians reject and some that libertarians embrace—freedom from police abuse being one. (Such a favor the NYPD officer who pepper-sprayed female protesters did to OWS by driving attention and sympathy its way.)

That’s all caveat to sharing an image created by James Sinclair that’s making waves on the Facebook. It makes a hopeful statement, I think, about the Occupy Wall Street movement and its potential or actual kinship with Tea Partyism. There’s something wrong in the country, and this image suggests that there might be consensus on the framing of what’s wrong: the unity of government and corporate power against people’s freedom and prosperity.

There are plenty of reasons to reject the possibility of alliance between Tea Partyism and OWS, but not necessarily good ones. The easiest out is to pour this new wine into old bottles and characterize OWS as dirty hippies using retrograde protest tactics. Many are kinda like that. But that stuff was a couple of decades ago. No, wait—four decades ago. These kids have no direct knowledge or experience of, say, Kent State, and older observers might be too prone to fitting them into a pattern that doesn’t exist for them.

To the extent the substance of their grievance is, or can be turned to, corporations’ use of government power to win unjust power and profits for themselves, that’s a grievance I can sit in a drum circle for.