Representative government is a system which was elabourated by the middle class to make head against royalty and, at the same time, to maintain and augment their domination of the workers. It is the characteristic form of middle-class rule… By upholding parliamentary rule the middle class have been simply seeking to oppose a dam between themselves and royalty, or between themselves and the territorial aristocracy, without giving liberty to the people. It is moreover plain that, as the people become conscious of their interests, and as the variety of those interests increases, the system becomes unworkable. And this is why the democrats of all countries are seeking for different palliatives or correctives and cannot find them… In a word, they are striving to discover the undiscoverable.
Do it. Every bit helps. Scroll through my blog a few pages and look for the post “What to do about Gaza”. You can do more too, explore the options enumerated there.
No, I’m not against written law, but we should honestly evaluate what written law does and can do, the inflexibility of it and its propensity to value efficiency over authentically dealing with individual circumstances. Written law in this way is innately conservative when it does not allow within its writing for rapid, easy adaptation (think of how badly outdated huge portions of the U.S. constitution are, and how rapidly it got that way in the context of state-sanctioned slavery to emancipation).
The reason law is written and enshrined in the way it is today fundamentally has to do with our idea of justice, which is rather punitive and not really embodying of Justice at all. Again, this goes back to “the law” as being efficient rather than holistic. There is a philosophy of the world that underpins this. If we are honest about that tendency we ought to then look back at the archaeology of how we came to value law and justice as measured by how efficiently and effectively we can be punitive toward other human beings who have been punitive toward us. It has a lot to do with Western concepts of what can be measured, with positivist and empiricist value systems.
You cannot measure real Justice, but you can measure a prison sentence.
It is the whole reason the modern court system is built on an adversarial relationship between what is perceived to be truth and what is not. The innocent must tell the truth, the “criminal” (criminality often being a fabricated construct) must lie, and by that clashing of narratives somehow justice will emerge. But, as another example, how has the War on Drugs given us any justice whatsoever when its battle between what is perceived to be the good guys, that is law enforcement, etc., and the bad guys, predominantly poor people and people of color, has yielded only more oppression of America’s historically most oppressed classes?
As many black men are in jail today as were owned in all of slavery, and a black man is killed by cops or vigilantes every 28 hours. Is this the kind of justice we accept? Because it is exceedingly efficient.
I make these points to say, we must be vigorous in understanding how we got here today. Part of that means deconstructing our ideas of “the law” and justice. It also means taking a close look at the institution of police and evaluating what function it is they serve. Do they serve we the public, or do they serve somebody else? I have made the case time and again that they do not serve us, they serve the moneyed corporate elite and the State, a white supremacist heteropatriarchal capitalist system.
We don’t need them, people can govern themselves… and can do so very well when enormous systems of oppression do not beat them into poverty or social isolation.
Which leads me to your final question: Can we execute the functions needed for daily living without the State? Absolutely. Any honest inquiry into Anarchist societies will answer that question. Governance, aka, navigating the challenges of living in groups with one another, producing things, having economies, etc., is possible without centralized State power. This does not mean nobody has authority; it means we all have equal, vested authority in choosing how we’ll live our lives. We can choose to set up governing bodies if we want, but in doing so we must remember the difference between organizing for our own well-being and relinquishing our agency to some entity which will exercise power over us.
(As a sidenote, shout-outs to my girlfriend for having these conversations with me and helping flesh it out. Always learning with you)
When a self proclaimed ‘realist’ tries to call me an ‘idealist’ they are trying to decouple my claim to legitimacy by marginalizing it as utopian. If this ever happens to you, know this:
What the person you are speaking to is really saying is 'I do not believe people ultimately are capable of being the arbiter of their own lives', which indirectly says about themselves 'I am not capable of being the arbiter of my own life.' Going further, what this says about what it means to call me an idealist is that any substantive deviation from the status quo is utopian, unreachable; thereby we know that to be a realist means to be so hopelessly inured upon the system, they will marginalize all others to protect it.
Such subservience is totalitarian.
Well there is a lot of muddling with where it is you are using the term liberal. The United States, as usual, has adopted the word and thoroughly bastardized it into representing the opposite of what it means. Noam Chomsky breaks down the inability to communicate when the meanings of words are constantly debased and re-appropriated to mean very different things from what they meant in the context of their histories.
Liberal today is capitalist in nature. Wikipedia provides this:
Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas such as free and fair elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free trade, and private property.
Well look at the contradictions there, namely the “ideals of liberty and equality” while advocating so-called “free trade” and “private property,” the bedrocks of capitalism which have given rise to massive inequality and debilitating poverty. So, and I am being brief here — and somewhat too reductionist so I apologize — liberalism, in the economic sense, is merely the cousin of its further rightwing family.
The reason it is perceived as “the Left” is because of the framing of our political system to represent only a tiny spectrum of political discourse.
In Democrats & Republicans: A Political Cartel I wrote:
Liberals and conservatives are two factions of the same team (read capitalists); we just perceive them as markedly different because of the degree to which the spectrum of political possibilities has been narrowed. A complex system of normalized indoctrination exists in our lives which ensure radical (read communist and anarchist) solutions are weeded out, or marginalized in one way or another.
The end result is a set of normalized choices manifested in a political cartel, or an association of political parties with the purpose of maintaining concentrated political power and restricting or repressing competition. What is valued as acceptable within this cartel comprising the modern political sphere then is a tiny spectrum which reflects only the range of needs of private corporate power and nothing more.
…Liberals and conservatives wholeheartedly participate in the concentration of power when they take a set of political positions which express the basic ideas of capitalism and then present a range of indoctrination within that framework — so any “solution” only enhances the strength of capitalist institutionalization, ingraining it in our minds as the entire possible spectrum of choice that there is.
This is the purpose of electoral politics, to present from our capitalist masters individuals whose ideas keep the flow of power moving upward; to normalize indoctrination; to, in effect, control the market by maintaining the perceived pedigree of capitalist ideas and restricting competition through the marginalization and repression of ideas new or contradictory.
The central point I am making is this: Liberals are not leftists, they are only perceived to be because we have ruthlessly destroyed real leftist movements in this country.
In another piece — How could a Keynesian capitalist liberal like Obama be called a ‘socialist’? — I go on to explore why Liberals/Democrats would want to be called leftists at all.
Democrats embrace the populism and sentimentality of proletarian emancipation while simultaneously advocating their enslavement to a wage economy (read capitalism), albeit a more equitable — word used loosely — distribution of wealth than the far right alternatives. They legislate from the Keynesian model, accommodated by welfare safety nets. This is why Democrats gladly accept “the Left” epithet.
Conservatives on the other hand use the same label (“the Left”) to disenfranchise would-be Keynesians through associating the failed USSR with real leftist ideology, contradictingly calling liberals “socialist.” The effect, therefore, is that both major American political parties benefit from falsely portraying one capitalist faction as “the Left”, granting it widespread however fallacious legitimacy in the eyes of the American public.
All this is to say that a Liberal/liberal is a capitalist, oftentimes imperialist, rightwinger who happens to be just slightly “left” of their further right cousins, the free market capitalist. Liberals, essentially, are “left” because they advocate trying to humanize an inherently exploitative system.
I suspect the difference between the capital and lowercase iterations has more to do with identifying as a Liberal, synonymous with Democrat, and generally being more liberal (as in open-minded, accepting) of new ideas, change, different people’s and cultures. Still, even with the fore-mentioned attributes, lowercase “liberal” people often fail to address systemic issues like institutional racism, heteropatriarchy. and imperialist foreign policies while claiming to love and care for oppressed peoples.
For real, ancaps are the worst (actually, I put them on par with neo-conservatives and anarcho post-leftists because they overlap a ton when it comes to bigoted views of PoC and the religious). Essentially, ancaps are rightwing libertarians, though there are stark differences between the more anti-State sorts, as much of a contradiction as that already is, and the minimalist sort, those advocating for the smallest government possible (think Tea Party).
The whole suffix anarcho when applied to capitalism is an oxymoron though. It is total appropriation from the word’s socialist roots. Here is a quick history lesson:
"Sadly, it is necessary to explain what we mean by “libertarian” as this term has been appropriated by the free-market capitalist right. Socialist use of libertarian dates from 1858 when it was first used by communist-anarchist Joseph Dejacque as a synonym for anarchist for his paper “La Libertaire, Journal du Mouvement Social.” This usage became more commonplace in the 1850’s and 1895 saw leading anarchists SeBastein Faure and Louise Michel publish La Libertaire in France. By the end of the 19th century libertarian was used as an alternative for anarchist internationally. The right-wing appropriation of the term dates from the 1950’s and, in wider society, from the 1970’s. Given that property is at its root, and, significantly, property always trumps liberty in that ideology, anarchists suggest a far more accurate term would be “propertarian.” We will use the term libertarian in its original, correct, usage as an alternative for anti-state socialist."
— Iain McKay in his anthology of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s Property is Theft
A while back I was asked about labels, and I think they are important to understand when teasing out the differences in the language we use to describe our political beliefs and the archaeology of history that gives those ideologies meaning. Here was the question and answer, I think it will be informative to you:
"I really despise political labels; but you call yourself a libertarian…so, can you show us a country that is governed by libertarian principles?"
— Asked by michaellangford
Labels are merely words that we may use to effectively communicate to other people a part of the value system we hold. The trouble with them is when others debase those labels into caricatures of what they are suppose to mean or take our use of them as the totality of what we are. Americans are frequently guilty of this. You said I call myself a libertarian, but you forgot that I said a libertarian socialist (anarcho-socialist). I have to preface my socialism with either the anti-authoritarian words libertarian or anarcho because of the Cold War propaganda campaigns so effectively waged against socialism as a statist institution, when in fact if you read socialism outside Marx (see Joseph-Pierre Proudhon & Peter Kropotkin), and indeed Marx himself, you know socialism is at its core anti-state and therefore anti-authoritarian. In his essay The Soviet Union versus Socialism (1986) Chomsky summarizes both the United States’ debasing and the USSR’s co-opting of the word:
"When the world’s two great propaganda systems agree on some doctrine, it requires some intellectual effort to escape its shackles. One such doctrine is that the society created by Lenin and Trotsky and molded further by Stalin and his successors has some relation to socialism in some meaningful or historically accurate sense of this concept. In fact, if there is a relation, it is the relation of contradiction.
It is clear enough why both major propaganda systems insist upon this fantasy. Since its origins, the Soviet State has attempted to harness the energies of its own population and oppressed people elsewhere in the service of the men who took advantage of the popular ferment in Russia in 1917 to seize State power. One major ideological weapon employed to this end has been the claim that the State managers are leading their own society and the world towards the socialist ideal; an impossibility, as any socialist — surely any serious Marxist — should have understood at once (many did), and a lie of mammoth proportions as history has revealed since the earliest days of the Bolshevik regime. The taskmasters have attempted to gain legitimacy and support by exploiting the aura of socialist ideals and the respect that is rightly accorded them, to conceal their own ritual practice as they destroyed every vestige of socialism.
As for the world’s second major propaganda system, association of socialism with the Soviet Union and its clients serves as a powerful ideological weapon to enforce conformity and obedience to the State capitalist institutions, to ensure that the necessity to rent oneself to the owners and managers of these institutions will be regarded as virtually a natural law, the only alternative to the ‘socialist’ dungeon.
The Soviet leadership thus portrays itself as socialist to protect its right to wield the club, and Western ideologists adopt the same pretense in order to forestall the threat of a more free and just society. This joint attack on socialism has been highly effective in undermining it in the modern period.”
This same tendency is being used today to reinvent the history and substance of the word libertarian, which traditionally has been representative of workers’ self-emancipation. The hijacking of libertarianism by right-wing Tea Party Republicans is a gross Randian perversion of the word. Right-wingers in America claim they want small government yet in reality they are merely calling for a system of neo-feudalism where the state is the arbiter of force for corporate power. For them the state exists to enforce “free trade” and “contract law.” Again, this rewriting of meanings has already been examined in Lance Klafta’s essay Ayn Rand and the Perversion of Libertarianism (1993 ):
"When the Russian Revolution began few people clearly understood the gulf which separated the state socialists from the libertarians. Many dedicated libertarians like Alexander Berkman, rallied to the Bolshevik cause, willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in hopes that seizing state power would only be a transitional stage toward the development of the stateless/classless society.
Many sincere lovers of liberty now flock to the standard of the Libertarian Party, as they did the Bolsheviks, completely ignorant of the history of the last century. As Santayana said: “Those who forget the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.”
What should be done? It should be obvious that government enforcement of private contracts is not libertarian any more than is taking state power to set people free. Libertarianism is and always will mean socialism - the self-emancipation of working people.
Libertarians must stop courting the Republican right and return to their intellectual roots. By standing outside of the political process we deny the state legitimacy, and like the state torturers in Atlas Shrugged, they will come and beg for libertarians to take over.
Remembering the experience of the Spanish libertarians, and heeding the advice of John Galt, libertarians must refuse state power even when begged. The state can never be a tool of liberation. Only its complete and utter collapse will allow for the emergence of non-statist institutions, libertarian co-ops, communes, and free markets, to flourish and displace the political state once and for all.”
So when you say I am a libertarian it needs to be clear that I am not a Tea Party Republican; and when I tell you I am a socialist so too must it be made clear that I am not an authoritarian. Muddling of our language is what has made people hate labels.
So, if I answer your question as to what country is governed by libertarian principles, that is the principles of workers’ self-emancipation, then I can say there have been none I can think of and are likely to be none. To use the term country is to interchangeably use the phrasing nation-state. The nation-state is antithetical to the self-emancipation of workers and therefore until these oppressive governments of scale we call liberal democracies collapse, or those despotic authoritarian autocracies and regimes implode, or are dismantled, I can’t say libertarian socialist ideals are represented, much less governing.
Hope that helps.
The U.S. media coverage of the Israeli occupation and invasion of Gaza is grossly biased against Palestinians. The litmus test should be what would U.S. media coverage look like of a nearly 50 year Palestinian occupation of downtrodden Jews or massive Palestinian military massacres of innocent Jewish men, women and children in homes and hospitals backed by U.S. politicians, money and military technology?
Our moral and political response to the actual Israeli occupation and invasion should be the same as that of a non-existent Palestinian occupation and invasion. Our righteous indignation at the murder of hundreds of Palestinian babies should be the same as that of the murder of Jewish babies. Let us not forget that ugly war crimes of any occupying power always outstrip those of the occupied, yet every human life is precious and resistance to occupation is inevitable.