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The Hate Litmus

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06/02/2011

The angrier-than-thou “moral scrupulosity” among some libertarians that Jeffrey Tucker talks about in his excellent recent post seems to be part of something a bit broader. As a commenter on Jonathan Catalan’s blog post seconding Jeffrey’s sentiments said, there can be a tendency for libertarians to be “willful grumps”.

Another case in point is when I once dared refer to our civilization as a capitalist civilization. When a commenter objected, I reminded him that, as Mises wrote, there are only two conceivable systems for the social division of labor: capitalism and socialism. And while socialism is conceivable, it is inherently impossible. Therefore, insofar as we have a social division of labor (and we’d most of us be dead if we did not) we still have a capitalist civilization.

“Socialism” with surrounding markets is not truly socialism. And severely hampered capitalism is still capitalism. Those aspects that hamper capitalism are not part of the system of the social division of labor. See this Mises Daily I wrote on the topic.

Insofar as there is any production coordination whatsoever in the economy, it is because of the capitalism that we still have. And the capitalism we still have is the only thing that merits being called a production “system”. Insofar as you are daily clothed and fed by a production process that rings the globe, stretches across years, and passes through the hands of millions of complete strangers, it is because of capitalism.

This was not enough for a second commenter who insisted that Americans live under socialism, nay, communism!

Implicit in that position is that communism was able to produce the iPad, Pixar movies, Amazon.com, and gamma knife surgery; and that communism maintains a hugely complex division of labor and capital structure that provides food, clothing, shelter, and innumerable comforts to millions of people on a daily basis.

This is the kind of conclusion you get when you let angry rhetoric determine your scientific distinctions.

Jeffrey insightfully wrote,

Murray Rothbard used the phrase “do you hate the state?” to ferret out real from mild libertarians. As a correlative question, we might ask “do you love commerce?” to ferret out real defenders of real markets as versus those who just enjoy standing in moral judgement over the whole world as it really exists.

But I actually think it would be better as a replacement question, rather than a correlative one. I don’t think a movement driven by hate and all-around negativity will accomplish very much. Far better is the approach exemplified by Jeffrey’s invigorating articles on the beauty and bounty of commerce. Of course Jeffrey also writes eloquently about the inherent destructiveness of the state. But it doesn’t prevent him for rejoicing over the (however hampered) extent to which capitalism still exists and still provides us with whatever degree of health, security, and comfort we each can enjoy.

Dan Sanchez is a libertarian freelance writer. He is a contributing editor at Antiwar.com, where he writes a regular column, and an independent journalist at Anti-Media. His work has frequently appeared at such websites as Zero Hedge, the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, and David Stockman's Contra Corner. His writings are collected at DanSanchez.me.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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