This video irritates me. Already commented a bunch on its comment thread, but will post the rest of my thoughts here in my own sandbox.
Now 23 minutes in, and I gotta say, while I do appreciate Stefan’s critique of the State, his love of capitalism is blinding him to the truth about corporate power. Politicians are heavily influenced by big industries, especially those companies that financially contribute to their campaigns or who employ them once their terms end. To state that it is politicians responsible for what’s going on and though plenty of businesses benefit and deliberately influence politicians to sway them more in their favor, corporations deserve no real blame because they are only behaving as any of us would — that logic is fucking me up. Politicians are behaving in their own greedy interests and corporate swindlers behave in the financial interests of themselves and the corporations they belong to, yet one is a travesty and the other is deemed perfectly rational and to be expected. Huh.
Well, here on the ground it looks an awful lot like the same damn thing. That’s how it winds up affecting people anyway. Are we then to assume if no corporations were there to buy politicians’ favors that politicians would then behave more cooperatively and cater more to their constituents’ interests? What has history shown us? The answer is “not likely” or at least not for long. The problem here ultimately doesn’t boil down to the government or corporations but rather to power. POWER. It corrupts, and it’s centralizing all over the place. Meaning average people are losing it and those already claiming a great deal of power are consolidating it and grabbing for more. It doesn’t make much of a difference whether those individuals are directly paid by the government or some mammoth organization hobnobbing with major players within the government — the results wind up sucking.
What gets me about Stefan’s argument is that he seems to think corporations will play by some fairer guidelines if the government were removed from the equation. I’ve listened to him talk in other videos about how instead of courts, people and corporations they do business with could settle disputes through some sort of arbiter or mediator. Okay, now tell me how that differs tremendously from what law enforcement and the courts are supposed to be responsible for already, then explain how we think:
- the people will be able to maintain equal power in such an arbitration scenario, especially if the people lack money and arbitration services are provided by the very corporation involved in the dispute (because otherwise it would have to come from some outside entity with binding power to enforce the ruling, which again sounds an awful lot like government — if it were perhaps some sort of non-profit or committee what would keep it too from being influenced and swayed by corporations just as they currently are manipulating politicians?);
- any rulings against the corporation in question might be enforced if sanctions are no longer possible (thanks to doing away with the State) and forceful rebuts are disallowed;
- people will be able to stop corporations from purchasing up countless other companies and forming oligopolies that undermine and destroy free market values;
- people will be able to stop corporations from forming alliances and purchasing what essentially amounts to private security forces that may prove violent in protecting and upholding the interests of major corporations (presumably only a small faction of the general population would be able to buy in for such protection themselves, leaving many without protection—that’s what privatizing these services will amount to—and who or what could stop them?).
If corporations wind up being the only game in town, I imagine the situation will remain just as corrupt as it is already, if not more so. To admit that big-dog businessmen tend to be scoundrels and to acknowledge they are employed within amoral organizations driven mostly by relatively short-term profit motives, and to ALSO note that some of these corporations have grown to mammoth scale and gone global to where they no longer are shackled to what any one populace wants or needs (nor do they have an incentive to provide real value or quality, only what will sell), how the hell do we think that setup by itself will amount to anything better than our defunct government has managed?
Why would we choose to put on blinders when it comes to corporations and the active rise of the Corporate State? If government was out of the picture that would mean complete deregulation for them and virtually no protections in place for the rest of us. I just don’t see how that isn’t the 2.0 version of what’s wrong already. We’ll be at their mercy even more than we are already, especially in a society where ALL forms of violence is disallowed (however that would be enforced). Do people really think they wouldn’t hire out security to protect their businesses from protestors? And do you really think those people will follow the non-aggression principle in doing so? Yeah right. That doesn’t sound like any human society we’ve ever witnessed. Ever.
And yet this scheme will all somehow magically be maintained by the very people who’ve dropped the ball at this sort of shit all up through history: us. Ha! Yeah, right. Most people today don’t even care to vote, yet we think we’ll all come around and take our responsibilities seriously and carry out our civic duties and become wiser consumers and work with banks and corporations to create a truly equitable situation? Sounds like a pipe dream to me. Rather, as keeps happening, people will get lazy and will seek out shortcuts and conveniences, and corporations will offer them, and we’ll collectively wind up sucked into something stupid to the point of being tragic in short order.
First off, what ground do we common people think we have to stand on? We don’t produce nearly anything for ourselves anymore. We’re completely dependent on corporate goods and services, without which our lives would look very different and most would scream in horror and beg for a return to comfortable living. That genie’s out of the bottle, folks. And even if we wished to return to more productive lifestyles where we grow much of our own food and utilize the land to provide for our own needs as individuals, families, and small communities, how would people go about it when most of the land is owned by banks or corporations? We average people don’t own much, not outright, no we don’t.
So it looks like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Dissolve the government and this will likely only yield a longer leash to major corporations. Try placing corporations back under charters and they’ll likely high-tail it overseas, leaving millions job-less. People won’t settle for that. The truth is we depend an incredible amount of these major corporations, whether we want to or not, yet it’s been proving nearly impossible to restrict them through the use of government regulations since corporate cronies have infiltrated the government. Take away the government and you’ve just made it easier on major corporations (probably a mixed blessing for smaller corporations though). We haven’t exercised our power as consumers so far in a way that’s reined in corporate power and bent it to our will, and that trend doesn’t appear to be changing much. They provide and we buy what’s available. To live in modern times, we must. Look at our lifestyles, look around our own homes and take note of the countless corporations involved in creating our environments. It’s what we’ve grown up with and it’s all we know. We have become domesticated, spoiled on air-conditioning, fast food, and any number of conveniences.
This is where we stand, whether we like it or not. Call me a pessimist, but I’m not convinced anything short of a return to smaller communities that largely provide for themselves and are able to claim ownership of their land and property and defend it as they need to will result in real progress. All else appears to be an avenue to bullshit 2.0. And yet I acknowledge my own dream remains a pipe dream too.
But positions like that taken by Stefan are what has turned me off to what’s calling itself libertarianism these days. They might not realize it, but they’re catering to neoconservative ideology, because that’s who they’re plowing the way for primarily. They’re following nearly the same gameplan: to deregulate corporations, to privatize everything under the sun, and to paint for the public this illusion that such actions will open us up to some capitalistic, “free market” paradise.
Don’t buy into illusions, examine the realities. Read back on capitalism in its earliest stages and observe how incredibly human-unfriendly the system was. Improvements came about through what? That’s right, government intervention. To learn more about the enormous power corporations can and do wield in our nation and most especially in less powerful nations, read Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. It’s a very informative book that’s very carefully sourced (further info available on her website) for those interested in doing further research.
I’m not here to defend our government, ’cause lord knows it’s become a giant mess that needs to be overhauled in a serious way (beginning with impeaching at least 75% of Congress, IMHO), but I’m also not here to pretend corporations offer a better way, certainly not as they stand now. No, I’m critical of both ends in this equation and can’t bring myself to feel chummy with either one. Because both are about centralizing power, concentrated in their hands and not ours. The truth seems to be that neither give much of a damn about most of us — the government is supposed to give a shit and oftentimes doesn’t, but corporations are expressly in the business of giving a shit only when and where they stand to profit, period. Giving either side full rein is a mistake, and letting them fuse together to reign in an increasingly fascistic manner is a bad idea too. Looks like we’re faced with two crappy scenarios, and one is pretty much guaranteed to win out.
And perhaps after people are crushed under this next phase in the history of civilization we’ll snap out of it and realize where our docility and love of comfortable living is allowing us to be led once again. Or maybe not. My gut says probably not.
[Edited for typos 11/10/2013]