Should libertarians be anti-capitalist today? « Cork Irish

 by David Webb

Should libertarians be anti-capitalist today?

Filed under: conservative politics — admin @ 9:37 pm

I am a convinced supporter of Dr Sean Gabb’s Libertarian Alliance, and will remain so. But I am not sure he is right to argue that libertarians should reposition themselves as opponents of capitalism, in particular, opposing limited liability companies, and the preferential advantages the limited company format gives to big business. It strikes me as a wheeze, an attempt to strike a left-wing pose, or what would be seen as one, in a context where many libertarian views are seen as either right-wing, or a cover for those who are right-wing.

Firstly, the UK in particular does well out of large companies. BP would have been a good example a while ago, but appears likely to fall foul of the US administration’s interpretation of US laws in such a way that BP, a limited liability company, is unable to pay what had appeared to be the maximum of US$75m in liability for oil companies beset by an oil spill. The City of London and large pharmaceutical, financial services and defence companies form the mainstay of British Big Business–to a large extent, we are still living off our former imperial glory (sadly one with Nineveh and Tyre these days), and the advent of a era of cottage industry small businesses would be profoundly negative for the medium-term outlook of the UK economy. Second, I would react with alarm to the idea that I should be held personally responsible for losses of a company I held shares in–another related point that Dr Gabb has encouraged discussion on. The joint-stock company format has allowed millions of small private investors to piggyback on the growth of the larger companies and make provision for their futures, and I think libertarians should see that as positive. The alternative is dependence on state pensions financed out of taxation.

Part of what Sean Gabb seems to be getting at is that the joint-stock corporation means that bourgeois capitalism is no longer with us. This fact complicates a lot of arguments that libertarians make: for example, where libertarians support freedom of association and therefore the right of a business to refuse the custom of anyone, for any reason (including race, sexual orientation, etc), what if the managers of the business do not personally own the business? What right is it of them to pursue these kinds of agenda when they do not even own the business concerned? If we supported freedom of association only where a business was owner-managed, as with a corner shop or a bed-and-breakfast guesthouse, we could end up supporting freedom only in certain circumstances, only at the margins of society.

I was impressed by the arguments of the late Sam Francis in the US, that a new managerial elite had effectively replaced the former bourgeoisie. In a development not anticipated by Karl Marx, the progression from feudalism to capitalism has been succeeded, not by a progression from capitalism to communism, but from capitalism to managerialism, obviating much of the Marxian doctrines. As corporations grew larger, owner management became rarer, and in fact impossible. Even where a business remains in the hands of the original family founders, they require personnel directors and many other similar managers to run the business for them. The joint-stock company further diluted the control of the original entrepreneurs, who in most cases sold up, to the extent that individual entrepreneurs no longer control significant parts of the economy today. There are no capitalists left.

With ownership so diffuse, managers control the economy today. This answers the essential question that Lenin asked of political economy, “Who, Whom?” The key point of political analysis is to work out who the elite is and who the governed are. The capitalist-style analyses of the socialist left are simply wrong, in that they give the wrong answer to “Who, Whom?” as there are no capitalists. What there are are managers in a technocratic economy-state. Sam Francis pointed out that all institutions are run by the same people today. A civil servant can leave for the private sector and take up a managerial job, and then move on to a managerial job in the church, and then move on to a similar job in the defence industry, and then into politics. The public sector, the private sector, the churches, the charities–these are run by a mobile elite flitting between them. Church finance directors are not deeply religious people who do the job out of faith, but rather finance directors who have had a number of posts elsewhere and demand six-figure salaries for running the finances of a church. Personnel directors of charities are not people who are seeking to work with the disadvantaged, but personnel directors who have worked elsewhere and demand large salaries and pensions, to be paid directly from sums raised ostensibly for charitable deeds. The same type of people are doing everything.

The bureaucratisation of the economy is aided by causes such as “anti-racism”, “multi-culturalism”, “health and safety” and “the environment”. These causes are the justification for the employment of technocrats. Even private companies have to employ large phalanxes of people whose jobs are essentially political. (In fact, abolishing limited liability would simply diminish risk-taking, and lead to the development of more technocratic jobs in the area of risk management. Whole departments of functionaries handling risk would be born in every private enterprise.) It seems that a large proportion of the private sector is directly dependent on government policy (not just companies that benefit from government contracts, but the semi-quangoized charities that depend on public handouts, and many other niche technocratic roles–think of the people who produce the Energy Performance Certificates for houses being sold or the people whose jobs depend on the exorbitant fees charged to check the criminal records of teachers and nursery nurses: their roles have been invented as an act of public policy, although performing no useful role).

It is worth asking what we can do about the managerial elite. Opposing limited liability seems to position libertarians as anti-capitalists, without addressing the argument that a new public-private managerial elite has replaced those capitalists. There are big businesses around today, but the problem is not that they are big, or even particularly predatory in behaviour, but that they have been captured by functionaries, technocrats who staff layers of middle and upper management that are strictly unnecessary. Big business needs to survive, because otherwise we would not be able to invest in these companies, and the average person would remain dependent on the state to provide for his long-term future. We need instead to think of anti-technocratic policies to cut down on the bureaucratic behaviour of functionaries in both public and private sectors.

I would like to severely cut down on the numbers going to university, as the universities have largely been remade as factories producing pro-managerial wannabe technocrats. The promotion of cultural agendas such as anti-racism and multi-culturalism should be criminalised–in the private sector as well as the public sector. It should simply be a criminal offence for companies to spend any money on political propaganda on cultural issues to their workers. There should be no public financial support for charities. There should be a clear distinction between the public and private sectors: I would argue that anyone whose livelihood depends on the public purse should not have the right to vote or stand for Parliament. This would severely cut down the pro-managerial electorate, and clarify that people who work in the public sector are our servants, and not the other way round. All consultancy work for the public sector should be banned, as should advertising by public-sector bodies. All public-sector workers should be limited to maximum salary of £50K. While consultants in the NHS and others should earn more–this should be facilitated by the privatisation of the health sector. If headteachers of failing schools hope to earn sixfigure salaries, they should do so in the private sector, where they would have to work to attract pupils. We could reintroduce annual parliaments (the norm in the Middle Ages) and ban political parties from funding candidates’ election campaigns. All policies should be designed with an eye on preventing control by the managerial elite.

The easy part is cutting down the public sector. The difficulty comes with the private sector: once the owner-managers of the bourgeois era have gone, are we condemned to technocratic management for ever? I would argue that many of the technocratic posts in the private sector have been created by government regulation, and by eliminating the regulation and reducing the availability of graduates, we could reverse the quangoization of the private sector. Countries like Japan and China have big businesses and limited liability, but have not seen the cultural trends of the Western countries, such as multi-culturalism, simply because there has been no attempt to delegitimize national identity in those countries–and if we economically disarm ourselves by opposing big business, we will find that the Far Eastern countries end up becoming our new masters. However, given that we have the cultural problem of self-righteousness among the middle class, and the Far Eastern countries do not, something has to be done to try to counteract it. Could we introduce compulsory John Lewis-style workers’ democracy into joint-stock companies, seeing as their managers do not actually own the companies? Maybe managers adopting a technocratic style could be “recalled” by their staff members? Ultimately, a society’s culture is not just a function of the size of its businesses or something like limited liability, but a product of political discussion, the broadcast media, the schools and the churches. It is these that are driving trends in the private business sector today and not the other way round, and so the restoration of our culture can only begin by sorting out the political parties, the media, schools and churches.


Should libertarians be anti-capitalist today? « Cork Irish


  1. That was very thought provoking. Here are some thoughts:
    * I’ve heard it said – and I tend to agree – that if Limited Liability goes – as it should – it will be replaced by insurance. The great thing about insurers is that they don’t forgive-and-forget in the same way that governments do, IE: reckless/corrupt executives will struggle to get insurance to repeat their mistakes; this might have the practical effect of ‘banning’ the worst of them from holding directorships without the law ever becoming involved, or at least reducing the risk of corporate meltdowns without the shrinkage.
    * What’s a share in a corp if not a non-repayable loan? Can shareholders really be said to own a corporation when much of what constitutes the corporation is its workers? Are they owned? Or are we trading employment contracts? Are these intrinsically valuable if so? Perhaps the joint stock model is part of the problem. I would say that corporate bonds are a rather more honest way to gain finance.
    * Anti-capitalist? Well the advantage of this would be to distance libertarians from objectivists, but if it’s designed to woo the statist left I doubt they’ll be moved by anything short of a declaration of the evil of money. We can perhaps benefit from not using the word ‘capitalist’ to describe ourselves though; capitalist means to the general public what we would call corporatist after all. And anarco-capitalist? We might just as well call ourselves rape-murderers for all the likely appeal of that term.
    * I certainly agree that political parties are a problem, even the memberships now I see as another lobby group disenfranchising the voters from their representatives.

  2. I totaly agree that limited liability should be dropped from companies. I also think that share holders should be responsible for picking up the tab for losses as a sole owner would have to (or make a claim on thier insurance.)
    This would end the rent seeking that the stock market has become (and insurance companies are amongst the largest of the rent seekers/share holders.)

    If BP din’t have protection in the form of regulation in the current US scenario it would have used the best riggers and best rigs available instead of cutting the corners/costs on both.
    (I know I have vastly over simplified the BP situation as more of the problems come from union protectionism from within the system.)

    As for political parties, it’s the power of the state that is the problem. It is this power that allows it financialy worth while for corperations to bankroll parties of all colours (they don’t realy have seperate ideoligies any more, just different coloured rosettes) in return for “favours” from the party who holds the most seats. Without parties their would still be individuals who hold power and it is those who would be targeted by certain groups/individuals for “favours”.

    At the end of the day it is the power of the state and the corruption it brings that is to blame.
    Without looking at the true source of the problem the same situations will just arise time and time again.

  3. I have the feeling the writer is piling regulation on regulation and condition upon condition rather than just deregulating the whole thing.
    If there were not artificial protections (which includes limited liability among all the others) then my perception is the whole mess would sort itself out. Liability risk handled by private insurers seems simple and logical.
    Sure, the existing structure would take a while to sort out and would need to be transitioned. But we need to get away from artificial systems regulated by fallible human wisdom and rather let the natural flow of things, mitigated by mercy and decency, create the order.
    The best we can do is to limit those who would control, dominate and raid.
    I agree with Chris but I would add that the state itself is a creation of the problem, which is human greed seeking unnatural advantage.

  4. I’d insist on eliminating caps on third party liability just as a matter of principle.

    Otherwise, though, I’m increasingly inclined to approach the problem from the opposite direction: simply eliminate the fiction of shareholder ownership, treat the shareholder as what he really is (a contractual claimant with very few genuinely enforceable rights other than a right to pretend to elect what is really a self-perpetuating oligarchy and to get whatever dividend management sees fit to issue), and eliminate management’s protection from liability for decisions taken under the “corporate veil.” To take a recent case, Tony Hayward and his junta should be taken as the de facto owners of BP and subjected (if the assets of the fictional person BP prove insufficient) to seizure of their own personal assets by the courts.

  5. How about letting people go about their business freely and organise themselves as they see fit?

    There seems to be a strange sub culture in Libertarianism of hating limited liability companies and the concept of intellectual property. Frankly it all comes across as being intellectually cranky.

  6. Letting people go about their business and organize themselves as they see fit is why I’m against state limits on third-party liability and state grants of “intellectual property” monopoly privileges. Both privileges are restrictions on people’s ability to organize themselves as they see fit. If you’re worried about libertarianism being seen as “cranky” by mainstream society, you might as well give up. Even the folks at Cato and ASI are seen as cranks.

  7. The problem of the LLC is that it is supposed to be a self-owning entity, its managers and shareholders being tied to it only by contractual relationships that limit THEIR liability. The LLC itself is fully liable to the extent of its assets (as any owner is fully liable to the extent of his assets).

    However, the idea that an artificial construction (a corporation) owns itself is preposterous. So, who owns the corporation? Raising capital by issuing dividend-paying shares that are not a source of liability for corporate decisions or actions is not and should not be unlawful. Hiring people to manage one’s property is not and should not be unlawful. But owners should not be permitted to pretend that they are linked to their property by a contractual relation.

    Obviously, the founders of a company are its original owners, regardless of whom they hire to act as its managers or whom they can entice to supply capital in return for a dividend. Yet, they are legally permitted to hide behind the corporate veil as if they too were linked to the corporation only by contractual relations.

    To set the “corporate economy” right the crucial move is to make sure that the founders’ ownership shares remain distinct from the limited-liability shares they issue to raise capital. Sale of ownership rights and sale of limited-liability entitlements to a dividend should not be confused.

    Managers are essentially hired hands. Under a sane system, they would be stewards for known owners. The idea that they should be taken as the de facto owners looks enticing only because de lege the corporation is considered a self-owning entity. However, to replace one legal fiction (“the corporation owns itself”) with another (“the mangers own the corporation”) is not a sound idea.

    Under a sane system, owners, managers and limited-liability shareholders should be clearly distinguished.

    Talk about “insurance” is neither here nor there, if the insurance companies themselves are LLCs.

  8. Protecting Intellectual Property is only a restriction on people organising themselves in the same way that protecting physical property is a restriction on people.

    As for shareholders being able to limit liability when they invest in a company. So what? It’s a perfectly reasonable deal, invest capital in a company and in exchange for risking that capital you get a say in how it is run and a share in any profits.

    This is an imaginary problem.

  9. No, protecting “intellectual property” restricts people organizing themselves in a fundamentally different way from the protection of genuine, tangible property. The enforcement of tangible property follows from possession of the property itself, and my right to to resist dispossession and call my neighbors to my aid. “Intellectual property,” OTOH, necessarilyrequires invading someone else’s property and preventing them from doing with their own tangible property (hard drive, paper and pencil, typewriter, photocopier, etc) what they choose. Genuine property is based on the recognition of the scarcity of material goods. “Intellectual property” creates artificial scarcity where none naturally exists.

    And limiting tort liability to third parties is a “deal” that the third parties haven’t consented to by contract.

  10. You can discern a basic problem in libertarianism here. Individualist principle is hard to apply to artificial persons and collectives.

    The Mondragon cooperatives, owned and managed by the workers, highlight another problem. They produce twice the return on capital of investor-owned businesses. If this had been the pattern from the earliest times, workers would own all the businesses as coops and there wouldn’t be all the problems of finance capitalism; and society would be much wealthier with hundreds of years of 8% compounded return on investment by workers.

    The following text gives examples of flaws in the “rugged individual” paradigm. Food for thought. I don’t agree with all of it, but it does raise many problems in an interesting way.



    “Liberal policies made America the freest, wealthiest, most successful and most powerful nation in human history. Conservatism in power always threatens to undo that national progress, and is almost always frustrated by the innate decency and democratic instincts of the American people…” – Joe Conason

    Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised. All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance – now Joe gets it too.
    He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor. Joe begins his workday. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune. It’s noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression. Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification. He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to. Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: “We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have.”

    If you do not have skin cancer, and have ever stood outside without having a peeling sunburn within moments, thank the ozone layer, thank the ban on CFCs, and thank a liberal.

    If you have not died in a heat wave, drought, hurricane, flood, wildfire, or other climate change disaster, and like the idea of your children and grandchildren not living in desert wastelands, thank a liberal.

    If you have ever breathed clean air or drank clean water, thank a liberal.

    If no woman you know has died or been maimed in a back-alley Abortion, thank a liberal.

    If you have never been lynched, or had your children firebombed in a church, thank a liberal.

    If you are glad we don’t live in a right-wing dictatorship along the lines of what conservatives overtly and covertly created in Iran, Guatamala, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, the Congo, Chile, Brazil, El Salvador, the Phillipines, Indonesia and many others, thank a liberal.

    If you have ever used Medicare, thank a liberal.

    If you have not gotten cancer from radiation, thank the Nuclear test ban and thank a liberal.

    If you have ever sat on a public seat, drank from a drinking fountain, stood on a bus, or done anything in public without worrying about being beaten up for being in the wrong section for your skin color, thank a liberal.

    If you’ve ever driven on an interstate highway, thank a liberal.

    If you grew up in a family of less than 12 kids, like the idea of being able to choose if you have 12 kids or not, if you don’t live in an overpopulated third world slum, or just think birth control is a good idea, thank a liberal.

    If your family benefited from the GI Bill of Rights, FHA Mortgages, and so forth, thank a liberal.

    If you have ever bought anything from Europe, and are glad the Marshall plan kept it from remained a bombed-out shell or falling to communism or neo-fascism, thank a liberal.

    If you are glad that the Nazis don’t control half the world (conservatives opposed joining World War 2 until it was forced on them) thank a liberal.

    If you have ever eaten food (agricultural subsidies), flicked on a light switch (rural electrification) or benefited from the Tennessee Valley Authority, thank a liberal.

    If you ever drank a beer or a glass of wine without being thrown in jail, thank a liberal.

    If you are not a land-owning white male, but have voted, thank a liberal.

    If you have not died from tainted meat, been prescribed something useless or poisonous by a quack doctor, have not given your children cough syrup which turned out to have heroin as its secret ingredient, thank a liberal. (and Nixon)

    If your workplace is safe and you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a 40-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights without being lynched, thank a liberal.

    If you’ve ever seen a national park, and it hadn’t been strip mined and clearcut into a desert wasteland, thank a liberal.
    If you have never suffered from an economy of massive deflation, and have never even heard of an economic phenomenon called a “panic”, thank a liberal.

    If your children go to school instead of working in coal mines, thank a liberal.

    If you’re a Native American and have not been killed or died in a concentration camp, or if you live near Native Americans and are not at war with them, thank a liberal.

    If you have an industrial or high-tech job – or really, any job other than those available in a slave-powered cash crop economy (ie, a third world economy) thank a liberal.

    If you’re not a slave or “indentured servant” (white slave), don’t think protection of slavery belongs in the constitution, if you’ve never been chained to a boat where half the passengers die, been whipped, had your family split up, been forced to “breed” with another slave you’ve never met, been raped by your boss, or killed for not being profitable, thank a liberal.

    If you oppose political parties starting massive wars to destroy America, just because they lost the election, and killing hundreds of thousands of Americans in process – if you just don’t have that much fanatical hatred of Lincoln’s policy of to restricting slavery to states where it already existed, thank a liberal.

    If you’re part-Irish, Catholic, Jewish, or for that matter anything not Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and are allowed to live in America, and are not harassed and attacked for failing to be born Anglo-Saxon Protestant, or if you’ve ever bought or used anything built by a non-ASP American, thank a liberal.

    If you kind of like freedom of speech, and don’t want the state government to be able to censor you – (you think the 14th amendment is a good idea) – thank a liberal.

    If you have ever bought or sold anything transported by the transcontinental railroad, or eaten food from a farm created by the railroad, thank a liberal.

    If you think the US constitution is pretty cool, and have ever traveled too or done business with a country whose democracy was inspired by the American revolution, thank a liberal.

    If you have not been drafted and used as cannon-fodder in some war caused by some petty insult between nobles, clan leaders, or other various overfed dictators, or suffered rape or looting in one of those countless wars, thank a liberal.

    If you have not been tortured to death in a religious inquisition, thank a liberal.

    If you don’t have to walk though ankle-deep sewage in the streets (because sewers are big gummint), thank a liberal.

    If you have ever done anything that is a religious or superstitious taboo (ie, done anything at all) without being stoned to death or cast out as a heretic, thank a liberal.

    If you have never been raped, and then had the rapist escape punishment on the grounds that he marry you, thank a liberal.

    If you are not a slave toiling to build a pyramid for some lazy dictator who’s so spoiled he thinks he’s god, and won’t even see it until he’s dead, thank a liberal.

    If you have not been killed as a human sacrifice in the name of some god, thank a liberal.

    In short, if you’ve ever enjoyed anything of the post-stone-age world, thank a liberal.

    …And if not, become a conservative.


  11. Everyone likes unlimited liability except for themselves. Similarly, no one is truly libertarian. Everyone is totalitarian by nature and competition for power accidentally results in the various degrees of equity found in our societies. People are libertarian because they can do well under those circumstances, but given the opportunity to do better, they will quickly or in some cases slowly (depending on the level of their emotional conditioning) adopt another ideology.

    The prevailing distribution of power and its social byproduct are educated into the minds of the masses as representative of justice. Once conditioned to existing values, people are slow to question them, and in most cases are unable to improve their share of relative power within the distribution matrix. Thus, they adopt an ideology that maximizes their wealth and/or reputations amongst their peers or “chosen audiances” they seek to impress.

    Man is completely totalitarian in that every thought and action is for maximum ego gratification, including everything he does on behalf of others, his held opinions, etc. He’ll even relinguish power if his ego is better served.

    By his very nature, he is not the least libertarian. He is against bankruptcy and limited liability because he sees others gaining at his expense. He preaches for equality under law because that will “improve” his circumstances.

    Just as market efficiency is the spontaneous byproduct of people competing to maximize their profits and minimize losses, or what could be considered totalitarian economic objectives, the same holds for the rules of society upon which competition is based.

    Thus this website and all similar ‘ideological’ sites are disengenious, yet they serve a useful purpose by contributing to the social competitive evolutionary process, without understanding why.

  12. Oi vey, Mandeville, I do believe we have arrived at original sin and man’s selfish nature which can only be truly overcome by the force of the Lord Jesus in his life.
    We are indeed selfish beings which is why the free-est competition in relationships that can be arrived at is probably the best.
    We are too corrupt to organise our own affairs in any comprehensive (totalitarian) way.
    So throw it open to free competition, tempered by mercy.

  13. I started my adult life as a ‘capitalist’, but the recent financial crisis and the sheer power of corporations has changed my mind.

    Perhaps corporations have too much power because the Monopolies and Mergers Commission as been defanged. But then, how could it not be with the onset of the vagaries of globalism?

    Corporations are now more powerful than governments and we have allowed that to happen. If we want our freedoms back, we have to ensure that there is no entity which has so much power that it has the ability to purchase our freedoms from greedy politicians.

  14. Faustie, I think one must assume you have tongue in cheek?
    Corporatism is not capitalism. And capitalism was an insult coined by Karl Marx to denigrate those who promoted freedom and free enterprise.
    Corporatists, kings, cardinals, trades unions, guilds, chieftans, statists, mercantilists, have been squashing freedom to raid wealth ever since . . .
    Free enterprise, with no artificial protections enforced by collectivist (state or other) power, is the best one can do, and if there is freedom, true liberalism, my perception is that tremendous creativity and productivity is possible.
    The mess we are in now has nothing to do with freedom.
    You cannot ensure freedom by a system. You can only facilitate it by refusing coercion and restriction.
    It is not a system to be made. It is the natural state of things absent human manipulation and coercion.
    One does not have to make freedom, just desist from restriction.
    There was a song from (in this case) a Christian singer: Don’t try to drive the darkness out, you just switch on the light.

  15. Ah well, they were both German at least. Never could get along without a sub.
    As for that screed about all the gifts to modern life from so-called liberals (controllists in liberal clothing).
    There may be some truth there but the situation exists because of controls in the first place. It assumes the whole controlled way of life as a natural given instead of the unnatural imposition that it is.
    Private enterprise could have taken things in a different direction so that the world we now take for granted would be regarded as a disastrous dinosaur.
    We only need those regulatory brakes because of the absence of natural ones.
    You are saying freedom would have given us a world of snake oil salesmen?
    I guess you don’t really approve of freedom?

  16. Tony,

    The problem is that your comments are frequently longer than the original posting. The content is neither here nor there. And what I don’t like about the relative lengths is that your great slabs of text might kill an interesting debate.

  17. Sean:

    > The problem is that your comments are frequently longer than the original posting.

    I’m unsure as to what you’re referring to.

    Do you mean the posting which starts the thread off, or the subsequent responses, or what?


  18. John B:

    I approve of freedom. I want us to have more — as much more as may be feasible.

    However, I prefer market gardens to states of nature.

    There have always been leaders and led. I don’t think we have a fine future in our past. Maybe “Outlaw Areas” would be an option for some.


  19. Tony,
    To feed people market gardens are obviously better than untamed woodland, heath or jungle.
    But that’s not the issue.
    It is how those pieces of land are allocated and what people are allowed to grow in them, that is more relevant to libertarianism or not.
    We do not need regulation in order to produce good food.
    The people that grow the best stuff will prosper and those that grow rubbish will go bankrupt.
    If it comes around to someone growing poison then that would be a matter for criminal action.
    You say:
    “Maybe “Outlaw Areas” would be an option for some.”
    Just because one rejects one scenario doesn’t mean another one (possibly the complete opposite) is necessary.

  20. John B:

    You say:

    “But that’s not the issue.
    It is how those pieces of land are allocated and what people are allowed to grow in them, that is more relevant to libertarianism or not.
    We do not need regulation in order to produce good food.
    The people that grow the best stuff will prosper and those that grow rubbish will go bankrupt.”

    The issue you don’t address is the ongoing nature of the terrain, and the ways of life available to those who live there. That’s what I was focussing on.


  21. I wouldn’t necessarily mind limited liability as long as shareholders like me, trying desperately to make money for my retirement, were protected in some way. You could kill investment by going overboard on the anticapital agenda. Concentrated on anti-managerial policies.

  22. I agree with Kevin Carson that the Directors should be regarded as the owners of a corporation – but I also think the shareholders should not be wholly regarded as creditors. When the means of the directors are insufficient, and when the shareholders ought reasonably to have know about the corporation’s tort, then the shareholders also should be judged jointly and separately liable for tort. I can imagine a refinement of the rule to cover very new shareholders, and also shareholders who sold out with suspicious forethought.

    This rule would certainly increase the circulation of the business newspapers!

  23. Sean,

    Maybe it should also be a matter of transparency between shareholder and Director. If the Directors withhold information, then the Directors are responsible. If Directors want to limit liability, they must, therefore, need to inform shareholders and shareholders then can take the relevant action (including divesting).

    It is not reasonable to hold shareholders liable for the actions of Directors who withhold information.

    How to balance? Well, that is what Directors are paid to know, surely?

  24. Yes, an excellent thought
    The directors would not be limiting their liability by disclosure but spreading it on to shareholders once the shareholders were informed.
    It would be rather hard to expect uninformed (deceived) shareholders to carry the can for actions taken by directors, of which they were unaware.
    I suppose one could also say: “tough.”
    Caveat emptor.
    People should watch out what they are buying into?

  25. [quote] I suppose one could also say: “tough.”
    Caveat emptor.
    People should watch out what they are buying into? [/quote]

    If you are making a business investment then it would be a fool who handed over his money without researching who or what he was investing in.
    If people wish to buy shares in a company without researching if the directors had a history of asset stripping and running, or witholding information from share holders so that they are not prepared for their share value dropping drasticly then they deserve what they get.

    If they are not prepared for the responsibility of their investment then they shouldn’t invest.

    It’s no different from starting a business and paying someone to run it, you can choose the first fool who comes along or you can spend the time to choose someone with experience and a good track record. It is after all your money and your choice, no different from investing into a companies shares (or at least it should be no different.)

  26. Chris Southern opined “If you are making a business investment then it would be a fool who handed over his money without researching who or what he was investing in.
    If people wish to buy shares in a company without researching if the directors had a history of asset stripping and running, or witholding information from share holders so that they are not prepared for their share value dropping drasticly then they deserve what they get.”

    Chris, I think there is some crossover between conservatism and libertarianism, but the idea of making shareholders responsible for the firms’ behaviour would lead me preferring the existing setup of society to alleged “libertarianism” of that type.

    I am a proud investor in Rockhopper, which has discovered oil in the Falklands, but no amount of research is going to tell me everything about the directors of the company – not unless they are listed as having committed fraud before.

    Actually Chris, you’re a socialist. You’re just jealous of people who make money. I’ll tell you what: let’s not invest for our own pensions, and wait for the State Pension instead. How does that sound?

  27. [quote]I am a proud investor in Rockhopper, which has discovered oil in the Falklands, but no amount of research is going to tell me everything about the directors of the company – not unless they are listed as having committed fraud before.[/quote]

    Previous companies they have worked for would give an indicator, did the comapny get asset stripped and then be put into liquidation?
    Did the company not put any of it’s profits into future investment before the director/s moved on.
    These things can tell you a lot about wether the Directors/s are worth investing in.
    Look at who a company contracts with.

    [quote]Actually Chris, you’re a socialist. You’re just jealous of people who make money. I’ll tell you what: let’s not invest for our own pensions, and wait for the State Pension instead. How does that sound?[/quote]

    As for the state enforced ponzi scheme known as national insurance, don’t make me laugh.
    people would be better investing in physical assets that have a far better chance of retaining their value.

    I’m all for people investing their wealth/knowledge and/or skills and making a profit.
    What I don’t like is how the stock market regarding business is more akin to rent seeking.
    Most types of business are a seperate entity that only exists because of state rules, that entity (usualy) is the bearer of responsiblity which is why many people are not responsible for their own actions in business, the piece of non entity paper is!

    If two people operate as a business without creating a fictional entity to take the blame and one of those people is only investing money whilst the other invests their skills/knowledge then both are liable for any losses through their actions.
    It’s a huge difference.

  28. Big business needs to survive, because otherwise we would not be able to invest in these companies, and the average person would remain dependent on the state to provide for his long-term future.

    Didn’t the old fraternal societies have pension plans? (I thought that point was mentioned in Roderick Long’s article on a related matter, but can’t find it.)

    I would like to severely cut down on the numbers going to university,

    By removing the subsidy, and repealing the child labor laws that destroyed apprenticeship? Or by imposing a numeric cap?

    The promotion of cultural agendas such as anti-racism and multi-culturalism should be criminalised–in the private sector as well as the public sector.

    Because nothing says Freedom like a speech code imposed on private associations. Or by “private sector” do you mean only the limited-liability corporate sector?

    It should simply be a criminal offence for companies to spend any money on political propaganda on cultural issues to their workers.

    This would get very ugly in practice. Someone will be taking bets on how long before the first prosecution for subsidizing ESL classes.

    … ban political parties from funding candidates’ election campaigns.

    Who gets to fund them, then?

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