Let It Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace
The comments are worth reading too.
The post, which was written by Chris Bertram, Corey Robin and Alex Gourevitch breaks down the myth that Libertarianism would result in greater freedom using that which usually undermines the ideology, real world observation.
Libertarianism is a philosophy of individual freedom. Or so its adherents claim. But with their single-minded defense of the rights of property and contract, libertarians cannot come to grips with the systemic denial of freedom in private regimes of power, particularly the workplace.
In my discussions with Libertarians, the often stifling environment of the private sphere, which if unregulated would be even more stifling is usually glossed over. After all, many of us spend 40 hours a week, usually more at a place of employment, where our lives are heavily regulated. Private companies of medium to large size model their internal social environment not on free market Capitalism, but Communism. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" is a more accurate description of the employee, than a market system where the worker is paid for the work they do, where the work is decided upon contract. One an employee is contract to be an employee, they are paid a wage which is coincidentally what is needed to sustain a particular lifestyle, and are tasked with performing tasks the business demands, as the business needs it.
Also of note is this quote by Julian Assange.
It has been frequently noted that many corporations exceed nation states in GDP. It has been less frequently noted that some also exceed them in population (employees).
But it is odd that the comparison hasn’t been taken further. Since so many live in the state of the corporation, let us take the comparison seriously and ask the following question. What kind of states are giant corporations?
In comparing countries, after the easy observations of population size and GDP, it is usual to compare the system of government, the major power groupings and the civic freedoms available to their populations.
The corporation as a nation state has the following properties:
•Suffrage (the right to vote) does not exist except for land holders (“share holders”) and even there voting power is in proportion to land ownership.
•All executive power flows from a central committee. Female representation is almost unknown.
•There is no division of powers. There is no fourth estate. There are no juries and innocence is not presumed.
•Failure to submit to any order can result in instant exile.
•There is no freedom of speech. There is no right of association. Love is forbidden without state approval.
•The economy is centrally planned.
•There is pervasive surveillance of movement and electronic communication.
•The society is heavily regulated and this regulation is enforced, to the degree many employees are told when, where and how many times a day they can goto the toilet.
•There is almost no transparency and something like the FOIA is unimaginable.
•The state has one party. Opposition groups (unions) are banned, surveilled or marginalized whenever and wherever possible.
These large multinationals, despite having a GDP and population comparable to Belgium, Denmark or New Zealand have nothing like their quality of civic freedoms. Internally they mirror the most pernicious aspects of the 1960s Soviet. This even more striking when the civilising laws of region the company operates in are weak (e.g West Pupua or South Korea). There one can see the behavior of these new states clearly, unobscured by their surroundings.
If small business and non-profits are eliminated from the US, then what’s left? Some kind of federation of Communist states.
A United Soviet of America.
How do Libertarians reconcile their assertion of increased freedom, with the observation that large private entities actively work against freedom, and use a model of organisation that more resembles Communist states? By simply asserting that engagement is voluntary, and that people freely enter and leave contracts.
If only the real world was that simple.
However, the most notable statement was a copy/pasted quote from an essay by David Graeber, Turning Modes of Production Inside Out.
(3) One effect of that transfer is ‘social death’, in the sense that the community ties, kinship relations and so forth that shaped the worker are, in principle, supposed to have no relevance in the workplace. This is true in capitalism too, at least in principle: a worker’s ethnic identity, social networks, kin ties and the rest should not have any effect on hiring or how one is treated in the office or shop floor, though of course in reality this isn’t true.
For someone who supports a more Nationalistic mode of social organisation, this quote reveals the conflict between Capitalism and Nationalism. That is not to say the two cannot coexist, but without a restraint, one may subsume the other. Capitalism as a system of economic production (the point of an economy is ultimately to produce, not act as an means of signalling virtue) decouples economic organisation from the nation. Capitalists focus on the rights of the owners to employ who they like, regardless of whether that employment runs contrary to the nations interests (such as hiring visa workers over locals, recent immigrants over native born) or the interests of the welfare of the employees and their community. Only the owners have rights and the right to exercise a duty, only if they wish to exercise one.
Employees are therefore denied moral agency. Despite the fact the wealth, the production is created by employees, the employees have no right, no say, no input into the relationship that the private organisation has with their community. In fact, employees may be working against their own ethnic, cultural or community interests, and face termination if they bring this up, even if they bring this up in their own private time. If the nation relied solely on private organisations to produce its means, this ultimately means that each member of that nation must lead a dual life. One as a member of that nation, with its prerequisite loyalties, duties, connections and one as a detached Homo economicus, with no personal loyalty to nation, family, community, where duty and care towards others is suspended.
In hunter gatherer communities, the act of production was not divorced from society. Production itself was a social act, with a purpose. The beneficiaries of that production were a well defined "we" and production served a purpose greater then production for its own sake. Although this style of production is not workable today, and Communism as a mode of social production has been demonstrated a failure, due to its inability to produce, if we are to use a Capitalist mode of economic organisation, it must also contain a Socialist component.