Thank you for your reply, and I do think I should perhaps make one thing clear: *most* of my objections here are not directed at libertarians per se, but at the specific paleolibertarianism of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and other products of the late Rothbard-Rockwell collaboration. The precise nature of the paleolibertarian viewpoint is that of situating libertarianism withotu a conservative socail framework, speficially an American Old Right nationalism. As a radical pro-sex feminist whose own roots are partially in continental philosophy and who considers herself a resident alien of the Republic of Letters, I am not at all sympathetic to groups like the von Mises Institute. I admit they have done some good work, and I persoanlly have benefitted from David Gordon's research into the Aristotelian toots of Austrian economics (and, incidentally, existential philsophy), but their general purpose is not one I appreciate... and some ugly slurs on transgeners aren't much appreciated personally either.
But little of this applies to libertarianism as such. I agree down the line with libertarian politics, though I do take atypically leftish positions on debated issues such as children's rights, intellectual property rights, and corporate personhood. Still, my politics- *as libertarians define the term* - is well within the libertarian range; I'm undecided on the whole anarchism/minarchism issue.
But what does set me apart from libertarians is that I define poltiics in a broader manner than libertarians do. To me, the primary question of poltics is not the functions of the state but the character of a polity or culture. I am first and foremost a defender of *cultural* freedom, in the sense that I believe that the human spirit should pursue its own desires without doubt or fear, and that a proper society is not based on the 'civilized' repression of an untrustworthy nature but rather the education and complexification of human desire. I therefore oppose social structures which are based on the principle of dualizing 'I want' from 'I ought', whether or not they are state instruments or not. A private school, for example, or draft-free military academy, or a church which drills into its charges the idea that they must repress their desires because it's 'justy right' or because 'civilization depends on it' is repressive, though it may not be coercive. Similarly, when a socicety assigns expected behaviour based on gender, or natioanlity, or whatver, so that one is constantly judged as worth dealing with by adherence to irrational steroetypes, that is too extremely destructive of the human spirit.
Now, state repression is certainly an extremely obvious example of such repression, and that's why I'm a camp follower of libertarianism more than any other political philsophy. And I agree with libertarian conclusions. But I have decided that I really come from a different perspective, for the reason that libertarians declare questions of sexual or cultural politics off the table, where I see them very much on the table, and as pressing concerns as fighting state coercion. I do not advocate sacrificing either goal to another, but I also believe that a statement of valueis implcit in every politics, and take a firm cultural left stance on social issues (though not politcal ones, and I am not much a democrat)
Here on the West Coast, most libertrians I know do implcitly practice a form of life that I would say is the poltical soul of a liberal polity, but most don't think of it as political terms. The problem is that where I come from back East, most libertarians implicitly assume conservative values... and see a natural connection between the view that society shouldn;t be coercively changed with a principled distrust of social change in itself. This I cannot accept. The changes wrought by the sexual revolution and feminism created a world in which I can live enjoy and authenticity, and has changed the culture in ways that libertarianism does not promise. True, I'd like to see political liberty as well, and feminists have no common views when it comes to questions of political freedom. But I think fundamentally, freedom is first a state of mind, then a set of cultural practices, and only lastly a formal question of laws. In my own trade, the laws aren't much better in SF than they would be elsewhere, but thwe culture is free enough that a vast segement of the culture flagrantly violates them. I believe the lesson here is that cultural liberation and political liberty need to be seen as symbiotic.
Which is why organizations like the von Mises Institute disturb me so greatly. According to Mises, it's either a liberated, colorful culture *or* a political order of liberty. You can't take patrarchy, or corporate conformity, seriously in this view without being opposed to libertarianism. This view, which does reflect the view of the late Rothabrd, it one that puts the concrete stuggles of the oppressed and the marginalized at the throat of the abstract desire for human liberty. This is exactly what Dworkin and MacKinnon want. Think about it: most of the left one on one isn't turned on by authoritarianism, but they constantly see capitalism equated with a repressive socail order and the acceptance of traditional social structure, natioanlism, and the standard patriotic narratives. When I was in college, I passed _the Fountainhead_ aroung my Amensty International group and everyone loved it; they didn't think of it as a "capitalist" novel, but a novel about artisitc integrity and a romantic drive to realize fire in life at any price.
I think the left has it right on what needs to change in this society, while I think libertarians shoudl write the rules. As for conservative's most of them aren't good for anything in my book, but I think conservatives, unfortuantely, have in right about history. But I'm no optimist.
That said, let me asnswer some specific questions.
Mike: The issue is force. You are suggesting that the seller of labor is
better at determining the value than the buyer. How does anyone know
that? The marketplace is the only way to evaluate whether labor is over
or under valued. The seller of labor tends to believe that they are
undervalued. They buyer tends to think the labor is over-valued. This is
just human nature.
As an aside, I actually think this is less "human nature" than the product of a society which
refies scarcity into a metaphyscial principle... actually, Murray Rothbard would quite agree
with me herre, as he chastised Adam Smith for reading parsimonial Calvinist theology into
his theory of economic value, and recommended instead that the true roots of libertarian
economics were in the Catholic Renassiance Aristotelians of the period, something wholly
But anyway, I don't think the marketplace is the only way to know the value of something (say, a Van Gogh painting during the artist's life), though I think the market does performaaticely determine some aspects of the total equation of an entity's value. But no, I don't think workers are always right about what their va;ues are worth. But please consider that even if "the market decides", part of the broad libertarian conception of the market is the implication that strikes, boycotts, and collective action are themselves market forces. If this is the case, it is actually constricting themarket's ability to function ratioanlity if workers do less than therycan mange to ge the best price for labor. So it doesn;t follow from a concept of a free market that workers should go on the "labor market" rather than organize against employers. It's a trick of language that leads libertarians to think of *particular* approaches to economic action typically thought of as market-oriented because we use the same term"market" to describe the sum of all noncoercive action.
Libertarians reject the use of force to achieve their political goals.
An individual may chose to leave a job and even a group of individuals
can refuse to work. When workers leave jobs because they've found work
that suits them better, even if they are organized, that's fine. When
workers strike, they usually (not always as Mr. DiLorenzo states in his
article) they usually organize in a way designed to inflict the highest
possible toll on the business, their other employees and/or customers.
At this point, unions cease to be Libertarian in nature. As Mr.
DiLorenzo says, this is unfortunately the norm though not universal.
I don't see what's unlibertarian about "inflicting the highest possible toll on the business", so long as coercion is employed. One doesn't have to use coercion to be willing to call it war and play every card you can get. I know this might seem a no-duh, but my point is that radical labor dissatisfaction isn't unlibertarian. If you are familiar with Gabriel Kolko's _Triumph of Conservatism_, the historical case is that labor unions were a lot cleaner than businesses at bringing in the state. Of course, that says nothing infavor of today's established labor unions.
I don't worship unions, but I respect the idea of one. I do think that libertarians often miss the good aspect of voluntary solidaity in shared pursuits that unions have at least as much claim to as professional associations (and what's the big dif', anyway?).
You said: "...was talking about how many clubs employ unspoken racial
quotas against minorities*,
Mike: Sort of like those used by the California University System or the
San Francisco School District? Both those organizations are completely
dominated by unions yet there are expressed racial quotas in the system.
What proof is there that unions would or could actually solve this
problem? Just asking.
It would depend upon the union. I have no love for the Poltical Correctness nazis, believe me... especially the *Y#@*!! matriarchy / ]o , with their hatred of prostitutes, transgenders, bisexuals, kinksters, femmes, submissives (and, oh, yeah, libertarians) ... lets just say we wouldn't share an apartment very well.
Anyway, as for whether unions would solve the problem... the answer is that just like businesses run the gamut of virtue, so do unions. My suspicion is that is the standards of the sex industry were set by workers, the stereotypes and profling would not dissapear, but it would diminish, and stop targeting particular ethnic groups and just steroyype everyone moderately. In other words, I think that they would stop being bigoted and would take down the quotas, but ethnic and other stereotypes would only be partly done away with/
So I don't think a union's a panacea. But here even this counterculturalist gives up on any kinf of answer... My own sexual psycholgy may be a lot classier than the standard tired back-pages typology, but's just as sterotyped in principle and off the scale in terms of degree... to a level of extremes that even I have the grace not to print here.
Mike: With all due respect Jeanine, this portrays these women as victims
when they have obviously chosen this line of work voluntarily. Making it
sound like the employers are "pressuring" these girls already working in
these kinds of clubs is like saying an addict is not responsible for the
problems related to their addiction and the drugs are too blame. In a
Libertarian world, prostitutes wouldn't need the protection of Club
Owner pimps who concentrate the girl's activities into these businesses
for the purpose of profiting from a kind of a protection racket of
sorts. I wonder if any union police officers are profiting from the
But actually, the problem is that it's difficult to get an accurate picture of what you
are getting into when you go into a strip cllub, and the management lies, especially because
most of the clubs are quietly run by one company anyway. What if you want to do
exotic dancing, but not prostitution? The whole reason groups like the Exotic Dancers' Alliance
organize is to get management to take an honest policy by having to confront not just one new girl at a time but everyone affected by such dishonesty.
I do agree things would be much better with decriminalization... but I don't think that alone would solve the problem. Socail patterns do their own evil, and they have to be challenged with better ones. Incidentally, I don't think there is anything wrong with pimping per se... I prefer the term 'agent'; I'm freelance, but I would gladly work for the right person who let me control my style of work. Actually, I have the opposite problems from the exotic dancers who don't want to prostitute. I can't dance and can barely massage, and I can't figure out which ones are really the brothels... *that* I have talent for ;o (I'm working on learning).
Mike: Personally, if a business owner want to take the "low road and
mindlessly regurgitate stereotypes" to the point where it's difficult to
hold good employees, I'd be happy to jump in and hire the best people
they have. They will appreciate working here because in my business, we
take the high road with people. If that guy and I are in the same
business, I'll kick his ass eventually. It's Darwinian survival of the
fittest. If one trusts the basic goodness of people as I do, the
(carefully measured) high road is best path to success in the world of
Unfortunately, while I agree that a free market gives the best chance for real quality,
I still don't think it's that much of a chance. I think the Howard Roark scenario is standard,
and that the entire establishsment, scared of independent thought, lines up against the best no matter how rational you are... and most people don;t have Roark's stamina. Most businesses don't care if you do good work nearly so much as whether you conform and act normal,proper, respectable. I can write better philosophy than most college professors, but my chances of getting a job that way are strictly zero.
The thing is, is that while I trust human desire and self-interest a great deal, most people don't live by those standards, preferring to acquire respectability, popularity, power, or prestige. I think "Dilbert" is a fair picture of American capitalism for the most part. That may be better than the state, and there are certainly a few business owners who really do prize abillity over respectability, but it's not the norm.
One reason I like prostituion si that because society wrongly think prostituion doesn't have any skills or standard, nobody demands you accept their codes of 'responsibility' as a condition to work... which means I am free to express myself and live by my best effort... in an industry where there is enough money that I can develop talents according to my own ideals, lose some business for it, and still keep food on the table. Unfortunately, the friends I had in college weren't so lucky, and none of them could find jobs or make ends meet because they were too "different". Most of them gave up eventually. At least one of them,a brilliant aritst named Marissa, just was burnt out from the pain.
You said: " Corporations have plenty of history of employing violence as
Mike: I agree with you completely. That corporations do the same is not
True. An eye for an eye makes the world blind.
Mike: There are many issues here. Libertarians do not condone hate any
more than we condone the use of drugs, tobacco, alcohol or encourage
behavior that is avaricious, slothful or wasteful. We do know that there
is no law that we can make that will prevent people from any of these.
The use of force to end hate is misplaced. When faced with mis-guided
behavior, it's best to avoid allowing that behavior to consume you
rather than decide to turn the same behavior on that person, effectively
reducing yourself to that level. It's better to take the high road and
All this may be true, though I see nothing wrong with the use of drugs of any kind
(I am a light recreational marijuana smoker, use alchohol and tobacco, and caffiene pills
only professionally. I do have a problematic chocolate addiction) provided one is rational
and conscious in one's decision making.
Otherwise, I agree with everything you say...but I would add that it's not letting hatred
consume you to join the Civil Rights movement any more than it's letting statism
consume you to join the Libertarian Party.
You said: " Boycotts and public protests do change corporate
policies without a shred of coercion. "
Mike: That's right...they are a good model.
Mike: I believe you misunderstand those represented by the von Mises
Institute. They are not promoting any social power at all and certainly
don't represent the values of those who hold real power in this country.
They are promoting the power of the marketplace, a place where all
people are equal. It's a place where all people can buy and sell labor
without being shut out because of minimum wage laws and the countless
other barriers to the buying and selling of labor. It's a place where
businesses are not constrained by laws designed to protect the allies of
government from honest competition. I deal with this one every day.
I think the above is a more or less fair description of economic libertarianism,
but it's not a fair description of a forum where Dierdre McClsokey was ridiculed
for being 'confused' about her gender, or where the use of "Ms." was termed a
"perversion of language" since women should have to display themselves for males
as either taken or sexually available. And the cultural nationalism of
paleolibertarianism is anything but harmless. I don't call Justin Raimondo's support
for Pat Buschanan harmeless. Yet Raimondo runs Antiwar.com, affiliated with
vMI. OR consider Hans Hermann Hoppe, who has argues that libertarianism
depends upon the strict enforcement of socail norms. Or again, the late Rothbard,
who situated libertarianismis a speficially bourgeois and Christian social contect and
declared openwar of "modal libertarians" like myself.
Mike: I don't believe that's an accurate way to present the issue. Mr.
DiLorenzo makes it clear that unions are barely on the radar screen in
private corporate business sectors. In my opinion, it is better stated
as "I see no reason why Libertarians should take the side of any labor
organization that relies on government power over the power of the
market." That should pretty clearly define the unions Libertarians can
support and those that it can't.
I compltely agree... but libertarians are constantly fighting for the
*cultural* image of corporations and business in general against the Left.
Why should I support a political movement which clearly says it's support for *my*
right doesn't imply *condoning* my life... but the same supposedly neautral libertarians
have no troubel talking about how great the socail status quo re corporations or familes
or the sex-gender system is. I get constantly called PC because I think patriarchy exists and needs to changte, and no matter how many Pledge cards I sign I am still treated with suspicion for my values. Yet nobody inthe Movement distrusts a middle class family owner anf libertarians show little hesitantcy to sing odes to the American Middle Class.
I wouldn't mind if if libertarians really were culturally neutral... if that is even possible. But the fact is that libertarianism as a movement mtakes cultural stands that I find a little problematic... though again, libertaraisn out here of the West oast are far closer my my own idelas. When libertarianism becomes Rockwell's paleolibertarianism, however, there are very clear sides taken on the culture war, and they are not friendly.
So anyway, that is why I am very ambivalent of identifying as a libertarian, despite scoring 100/100 on the Nolanchart and all that. I highly recommend the works of libertarians Chris Sciabarra and Roderick Long if you want to get a sense of where I am coming from, and also those of the left-libertarian Ellen Willis.
If you want to discuss this more with me personally, please allow me to
take you to lunch. Feel free to call me at any time.
Oh, dear, *Michael!* Please be careful... speaking to a public woman this way might give people the ~wrong~ impression! ;o Call if you like, my number is (415)724-8278... ask for Jeanie.
Jeanie Shiris Ring
Libertarian Party of San Francisco
(415) 986-7677 x123
"If their lives were exotic and strange...
they would likely have gladly exchanged them
for something, a little more plain;
maybe something, a little more sane...
We each pay a fabulous price
for our visions of Paradise
but the Spirit...
of a Vision...
is a Dream..."
- Rush, 'Mission'