@ The Free Liberal BLOG
Posted by Norm Singleton on November 28, 2006 09:52 PM |
Free liberals and others wishing to build a left-libertarian movement will be interested in Roderick Long's criticisms of libertarians for dismissing the concerns of the working class instead of working to build a movement that is pro-liberty, pro-union, anti-state, and pro-worker. I am not sure I agree with everything but, like most things Roderick writes, it is well written and reasoned and provides ample food for thought. Roderick ends with a challenge to both leftists and libertarians that free liberals may want to take up:
"First: eliminate state intervention, which predictably works to benefit the politically-connected, not the poor. As I like to say, libertarianism is the proletarian revolution. Without all the taxes, fees, licenses, and regulations that disproportionately burden the poor, it would be much easier for them to start their own businesses rather than working for others. As for those who do still work for others, in the dynamically expanding economy that a rollback of state violence would bring, employers would have to compete much more vigorously for workers, thus making it much harder for employers to treat workers like crap. Economic growth would also make much higher wages possible, while competition would make those higher wages necessary. There would be other benefits as well; for example, Ehrenreich complains about the transportation costs borne by the working poor as a result of suburbanisation and economic segregation, but she never wonders whether zoning laws, highway subsidies, and other such government policies have anything to do with those problems. [emphasis added]
Second: build worker solidarity. On the one hand, this means formal organisation, including unionisation – but I'm not talking about the prevailing model of "business unions," conspiring to exclude lower-wage workers and jockeying for partnership with the corporate/government elite, but real unions, the old-fashioned kind, committed to the working class and not just union members, and interested in worker autonomy, not government patronage. (See Paul Buhle's Taking Care of Business for a history of how pseudo-unions crowded out real ones, with government help.) On the other hand, it means helping to build a broader culture of workers standing up for one another and refusing to submit to humiliating treatment.
These two solutions are of course complementary; an expanded economy, greater competition among employers, and fewer legal restrictions on workers makes building solidarity easier, while at the same time increased solidarity can and should be part of a political movement fighting the state.
That's the left-libertarian movement I'd like to see. And people keep telling me it doesn't exist. Good lord! I know it doesn't exist; why else would I be urging that it be brought into existence?
Of course I'm also told that it can't exist. Libertarians tell me it won't work because leftists don't care enough about liberty; leftists tell me it won't work because libertarians don't care enough about the poor and oppressed. In short, each side insists that it's the other side that won't play along.
Now the answer to this is that some will (and have) and some won't – but that we should do what we can to increase the number who will. So here's a general challenge.
If you're a libertarian who thinks leftists don't care about liberty, why not become a leftist who cares about liberty? That way there'll be one more. Or if you're a leftist who thinks libertarians don't care about the poor and oppressed, why don't you become a libertarian who cares about the poor and oppressed? Once again, that way there'll be one more. And in both cases there'll also be one fewer libertarian of the kind that alienates leftists by dismissing their concerns, and likewise one fewer leftist of the kind that alienates libertarians by dismissing their concerns."