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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Conflating the Imaginary with the Real

Roderick Long offers these definitions of conflationism:

"Left-conflationism is the error of treating the evils of existing corporatist capitalism as though they constituted an objection to a freed market. Right-conflationism is the error of treating the virtues of a freed market as though they constituted a justification of the evils of existing corporatist capitalism. "

Let us modify this to be more realistic:
"Left-conflationism is the error of treating the reality of existing corporatist capitalism as though it had anything to do with the purely imaginary 'totally freed market' that anarcho-capitalists have in their minds. Right-conflationism is the error of acting as if the imagined virtues of the imaginary freed market constitute a justification for the reality of existing corporatist capitalism."

Power long pre-existed the State. The State is, in fact, an attempt to control and channel power. It doesn't always work; sometimes it works very badly indeed. But thinking that getting rid of the State will eliminate power relationships is like thinking that getting rid of hospitals will (mostly) eliminate dying, since hospitals are where most dying takes place!

11 comments:

  1. And let's not stop there! Since "right-conflationism" seems to be an attempt to cover "conservatives" rather than right-libertarians, I would say that libertarian-conflationism is the error of treating the evils of existing corporatist capitalism as if it had anything to do with the managed capitalism or democratic capitalism.

    Your concluding paragraph, of course, also highlights the challenges of even talking about a free market that you rightly call "imaginary".

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  2. the purely imaginary 'totally freed market' that anarcho-capitalists have in their minds

    Given that the quote comes from Roderick Long, why do you mention anarcho-capitalists?

    But thinking that getting rid of the State will eliminate power relationships is like thinking that getting rid of hospitals will (mostly) eliminate dying, since hospitals are where most dying takes place!

    Are you asserting that this is a claim that Long makes? I would argue that he would not say that getting rid of the state will eliminate power relationships (in this quote or elsewhere). I imagine he would say that the freed market "is, in fact, an attempt to control and channel power. It doesn't always work; sometimes it works very badly indeed," but expresses the unity of virtues better than a statist approach and that such justice leads to better consequences.

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  3. "Given that the quote comes from Roderick Long, why do you mention anarcho-capitalists?"

    Oy. I suppose I'm going to get a lecture here on the fact that Roderick is really a "left market anarchist" or a "market anarch-leftist" instead of an "anarcho-capitalist."

    And I'm from the "People's Front of Judea," and CERTAINLY NOT one of those "Judean People's Front" nutters.

    "I would argue that he would not say that getting rid of the state will eliminate power relationships..."

    Well, it's very good to see an "an-whatever-you-are" admit that the market is NOT the realm of "purely voluntary" transactions.

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  4. I guess this qualifies as violence-conflationism.

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  5. If you want to cast it as merely a semantic difference when it is not, expect to be corrected.

    Well, it's very good to see an "an-whatever-you-are" admit that the market is NOT the realm of "purely voluntary" transactions.

    I admitted no such thing. I simply said that your assertion that left-libertarians like Long believe that "getting rid of the State will eliminate power relationships" doesn't follow from the quotes you critiqued. In fact, it explicitly contradicts a good deal of his writings.

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  6. The State is, in fact, an attempt to control and channel power. It doesn't always work...

    When does it work?

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  7. Well, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Singapore, 17th-century Holland, Athens in the early 5th-century, America in the early 19th century, Venice for many centuries from maybe 1100-1500, and... I'm surei could find more examples... will if u want me to.

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  8. In fact, Bob, let me so bold as to say this.... almost every state whatsoever works really well when compared to stateless periods in the same era and country. Charles I may have been a tyrant, but give the country a short period with no government, and it was quite ready to accept a worse tyrant in Cromwell. Czar Nicholas II may have been bad, but give the people a taste of anarchy, and they're quite happy with Lenin.

    I'd say the historical evidence is pretty much overwhelming here -- states may be bad, but they beat anarchy like 162 - 0.

    (I know, folks, I know... the anarchy in your mind is nothing like Civil War England. Please forgive me for using actual periods of anarchy instead of imaginary ones.)

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  9. "If you want to cast it as merely a semantic difference when it is not, expect to be corrected."

    I didn't say it was merely a semantic difference. What I am saying is that it is a difference only you, Roderick, Stephan Kinsella, and a couple of dozen other people in the entire world care about.

    I'm not one of them.

    "I admitted no such thing."

    You sure as s&*t did! Of course, once you realized what you had admitted, you immediately wanted "backsies."

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  10. I didn't say it was merely a semantic difference.

    You sure as shit did, when you compared it to someone saying, "And I'm from the "People's Front of Judea," and CERTAINLY NOT one of those "Judean People's Front" nutters." Of course, once you realized that what you had stated was wrong, you immediately wanted "backsies."

    You sure as s&*t did! Of course, once you realized what you had admitted, you immediately wanted "backsies."

    That would imply that my second post contained a request to revise my first post. It contains no such request, clearly.

    You are trying to claim that by saying:

    a) "the freed market 'is, in fact, an attempt to control and channel power. It doesn't always work; sometimes it works very badly indeed,' but expresses the unity of virtues better than a statist approach and that such justice leads to better consequences,"

    I'm also really saying,

    b) "the freed market is NOT the realm of 'purely voluntary' transactions."

    Yet b doesn't follow from a. To say that freed markets are the sum of all voluntary exchanges is simply to define the standard by which something is or isn't within the domain of a freed market. It's an entirely separate claim that all voluntary transactions are free of power relationships.

    Now if you want to offer reasons as to why I should thing that now transactions that involve power can ever truly be voluntary, then offer them. But that certainly isn't my view.

    Few if any anarchists have ever claimed that people must be angels for it to work. In fact, it's precisely because they aren't that they propose anarchism. So to claim that anarchists are "thinking that getting rid of the State will eliminate power relationships" is a silly straw man.

    If you want backsies, I'll gladly give them.

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  11. 'You sure as shit did, when you compared it to someone saying, "And I'm from the "People's Front of Judea," and CERTAINLY NOT one of those "Judean People's Front" nutters."'

    Wrong. There is no implication in the Life of Brian that these are merely verbal distinctions. The trope is, in fact, "minor distinctions multiplied beyond their true importance."

    "Now if you want to offer reasons as to why I should thing that now transactions that involve power can ever truly be voluntary, then offer them."

    I take that to be obvious. If I have the power to get my view of property rights accepted, and you have to just go along, then a transaction in which you, say, pay to use "my land" to farm so that you can live is not "purely" voluntary.

    What in the world would a power relationship MEAN if it is also purely voluntary?

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