Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Anti-authoritarian musings...

I think I might be a libertarian-socialist.


When did capitalist right-wingers get so trusting, anyway?

Here's libertarian-socialism in a nutshell (at least as I understand it, and if someone can correct me in the comments, PLEASE DO, because I will consider your insight here to be a personal favor).

Libertarians don't want the government controlling their behavior, because having your freedom curtailed by people who are not accountable enough to you SUCKS, and shouldn't happen. Coercion is terrible, and you shouldn't feel coerced by your government. People like myself take this one step further.

I feel that corporations and powerful individuals have too much power to control my life and coerce me, and they're even less accountable to me than the government. At least the government I can vote in or out. Therefore, the answer seems to me that we should be as wary of companies or individuals with power as we are of governments.

We agree that being controlled is bad. But I am willing to point the finger at more entities than the federal or state government, and tell them they're too coercive. More than that, I'm willing to actually stand up and kick them down a notch.

I'm not a socialist because I want the government to control me. I'm a socialist because I'm tired of rich people and the companies they own controlling me, and if I have to use the government to get free, then so be it. I'll use that as long as it's pleasing me, and if the government upsets me, I'll turn that upside-down, too.

Libertarian-socialism (as I understand and practice it) means treating everybody who has power with the same distrust that Libertarians feel toward the government. If you don't want the government rationing your health care, you shouldn't let Blue Cross/Blue Shield do it, either ( so we need health reform). If you don't want the government telling you what you can think or read, you shouldn't let your internet service provider hide parts of the internet from you (so we need net neutrality). If you don't want the government treating you like a servant, you shouldn't let your employer treat you that way either (so we need worker collectivization).

To me this is the only consistent approach. The Libertarian approach, where we eliminate all regulation and accountability except for the right of each individual to spend his or her dollar where he or she pleases, actually curtails personal liberty in a lot of the same ways that state-socialism or state-communism does, because either way you're telling a certain class of people (whether that's a government or a corporation), "You can do whatever you want. We trust you."

Well, guess what. I'm not an obedient person, and I DON'T trust them. I don't trust the government, or my insurance provider, or my ISP. But at least the government has to maintain a pretense of accountability, and at least there is some power to influence it (though it's far more of a grind than it should be, it's more power than I have over Comcast).

Here's a super spiffy real-life example. You know how the state can lay highway through your property using eminent domain? This is something of a necessary evil that can be used right, but that we should always be wary and mistrustful of, and we should always make it a huge pain and potential public relations nightmare to do it. That way we put barriers up to make sure it's not abused.

There was a bill introduced in the Indiana state house which would have let utility companies declare a project a "public good" eligible for eminent domain. Seriously. There is legal precedent for this, and in many states it's legal for utilities to use the same power to use or sieze property that the government has.

Here's my problem with it: Huge energy and utility companies cause more than enough trouble for their ratepayers without the right to straight-up take their property. At least with the government using eminent domain you can hold them accountable and vote them out of office if you don't like the way they're acting. With a utility, you generally don't even have the ability to take your business elsewhere. You can't even stop giving them your money (unless you want to stop having electricity).

This is bad. I think this is bad because it just goes to show how much trust people have in these companies. People who flatly refuse to support the right of the government to chip away at people's property rights will nonetheless completely bend over for a company that wants to do it. CAC killed that bill, and now we're just watching to make sure they don't slip that language into something that they think will get past us.

But seriously. This is what happens when you talk a good line about questioning authority and being free from government control, but turn around and let private businesses do whatever they want. Someone is going to have the right to take your land. Would you rather vote that person into office and out of it, or would you rather it be someone who knows you can't even stop paying them no matter how pissed you are?

Yeah, that's what I thought. The fact that your property rights mean shit at all is because there are laws protecting you. That's right. Laws. Laws mean "government regulation." When you chip away at the government and let private businesses fill the gap, you get crap like power companies with the right to lay pipeline through your land.

I'm not satisfied with that, but then... I'm not a Libertarian-capitalist or a market-anarchist or whatever. I'm not required to be satisfied with it, because I'm not the one who created that situation by arguing that the "invisible hand" of the free market/God/Santa/etc. should be the only control placed on what a business or individual can or can't do. I'm not required to be satisfied by this situation, because I never argued that I would be.

Can't say the same for Libertarians.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

People are stupid.

Dear Indiana ratepayers and taxpayers:

No, I'm not afraid of your power company. No, I'm not afraid of the government. No, I'm not afraid of your employer, or your lawyer, or my own employer, or their lawyers, or anything anybody says. I'm not like you, and that's why I'm going to win.

You can thank me later.

Lots of love, Ashley.