The Corporate State and High Liberalism: A Love Story

I have been following the symposium on “free markets and fairness” over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians with some interest. One of the things that has always bothered me about the Left’s despicable tactics concerning liberty is its demagoguery concerning markets. As a former Marxist who has hung out with the right people in the right places, I can assure you that the Left is not so much concerned with the plight of the poor as it is with the plight of the rich.

Once I began to grasp the basic insights of economists (thanks to Ron Paul’s 2008 Presidential campaign) it became increasingly apparent that less regulations and less restrictions are needed in this world in order to help the poor. What I have not understood about my friends on the Left is why they obstinately refuse to acknowledge the facts concerning how markets and the State work. As Deirdre McCloskey has recently pointed out, the narrative of high liberalism is factually mistaken, but this in itself is not enough to convince the True Believers that control over others needs to be abolished.

Two things stand out to me whenever I argue with Leftists: 1) the thin veneer of helping the poor is often used to cover up the base desire for control over others; the high liberal is an authoritarian through-and-through and 2) the Leftist is often unaware of this authoritarianism until you either scratch or cleave him.

Consider the following example.

In the footnotes (#3) of a lengthy but stimulating blogpost attacking economic liberty, a high liberal philosopher by the name of Elizabeth Anderson writes:

It’s worth noting that the dynamics of capitalism are hostile to self-employment, which tends to decline over time as economies get richer.  Ironically, opportunities for self-employment are higher in social democracies such as Denmark, Sweden, and Germany than in the United States, which Tomasi takes to be closest to his favored regime type of market democracy.

Here we see Anderson’s preference for European-style institutions over those found in the United States. Pushing aside the fact that the differences between the two sides of the pond are miniscule when compared to those found elsewhere in the world, I think we can scratch the surface of Anderson’s veneer and find an authoritarian lurking just beneath it.

Now, it must be pointed out that the United States still has military troops in Europe, a product of a war that was started as various strains of fascism became en vogue throughout the region after World War I. The last devastating war on the North American continent ended in 1865 when slavery, protectionist tariffs and the political structure of a large entity were being contested. In Europe, on the other hand, we have seen two devastating wars and a number of smaller ones that have plagued the region for well over a century. Does this have anything to do with the Leftist’s fascination with control?

I think so. In an article on Germany’s economic structure in the Economist a couple of weeks ago I came across this passage (don’t forget, the German/European model is favored over the US model by the high liberals):

The original assembly of the German model also dates to a recessionary crisis following hard on the heels of a unification: a 23-year-long slump starting in 1873, two years after Bismarck finally succeeded in pulling Germany together into a single state. This Gründekrise and its prolonged aftermath forged new ideas about how capital, labour and the state should relate to one another.

An 1884 law created the dual-board system of corporate governance in its current form, with a managing Vorstand answerable to a separate supervisory board. Among the supervisors were bankers, who provided “patient capital”, and scientists, whose expertise was valued as highly. The vocational training system, set up during the 1880s, provided new producers of chemicals and machinery with skilled and loyal workers. Bismarck established the welfare state in part to cater to their needs. The way the health insurance system worked required capital and labour to co-operate, paving the way for works councils and, almost a century later, for mandatory representation for the workers on the supervisory boards of large companies.

The “co-ordinated market economy” has withstood dictatorship, wars, revolutions and globalisation. It prizes trust, relying on the principle that nobody will “make full use of his freedom” by grabbing everything he can, says Werner Abelshauser, an economic historian at the University of Bielefeld. Its elements are “so tightly meshed”, he has written, “that it would be difficult to replace any one of them with an alien component.”

The emphasis is mine. What the ideal high liberal model represents is the corporate state at its most elegant. Once power became sufficiently centralized, new policies were adapted to keep that power in the center, and these policies embody the corporate state as envisioned by Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, and other fascist icons of the 20th century.

The corporate state’s main goal in to ensure that business, labor and government work together, seamlessly, to achieve specified goals.

The corporate state is always nationalist (just think about the immigration problems that Europe has right now), and must rely upon a national myth to ensure its survival.

Rather than withstanding war, the corporate state has contributed to it by purporting to protect the interests of its workers.

The corporate state inevitably leads to dictatorship and depends on centralized power to impose its will.

Incidentally, social democracy, as used by Anderson, is a misleading term. There is no difference between the democracy of the US and the democracies of Europe. Yes, the former relies on a single-member system and the latter a plurality system, but in both states individuals vote (and, yes, I realize that the Left is much stronger in Europe than it is the US; still doesn’t negate my point smartypants).

What Europe has is a legacy of the guild system that it has never been entirely able to shake. In order for states grow in power they had to find ways to incorporate the guilds into the system. Now, the model described in the Economist is not something that is static and never changing. In fact, one of the reasons the article was written is to show how various aspects of the guild system have been affected over the course of the last two centuries.

The high liberal, the liberals of the Left, often pretend as if facts don’t exist, and when they do they are tainted by a libertarian or conservative slant. To the High Liberal, the perfect embodiment of worker’s rights comes in the form of Europe’s once-fascist and now-occupied north: a place where the State works in tandem with capital and labor to produce specified outcomes that satisfy all parties as best they can. This is the ex-socialist Benito Mussolini’s vision for his society.

Some more facts:

  • Denmark’s GDP (PPP) per capita is $37,100
  • Germany’s is $37,900
  • Sweden’s is $40,400
  • In the United States GDP (PPP) per capita is $48,000

These I get from the IMF’s 2011 report via Wikipedia. Not only does the high liberal’s corporate state avoid honesty, but it doesn’t even do its job very well.

Please keep it civil

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