Thursday, June 30, 2005

"A working class hero is somethin' to be..."

Over coffee yesterday, a new friend told me government is needed “to prevent exploitation and maintain fairness among people.”

I nearly passed a cup of Sumatra Dark Roast through my nose, then tried to briefly, and perhaps not too successfully, explain libertarian class theory to my friend.

Unfortunately, class theory is often forgotten by anti-statists, who’d rather talk about medical marijuana, lower taxes, and the Patriot Act than about the identity of our oppressors. Or maybe “class theory” smacks too much of Marxism for most libertarians. Brad Spangler addressed this on his blog recently. And thank you, Brad, for pointing me toward Rick Tompkins’ article, “Libertarian Class Theory: How the Political Class Exploits the Economic Class.”

Tompkins’ excellent piece first appeared in the Santa Clara Libertarian in May 1996, when he was a candidate for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. Wrote Tompkins:

“...what is [the libertarian] message? I think the time has come for us to push beyond simply talking about the virtues of free markets and the practical superiority of individual freedom. I think it is time we tell people about the underlying nature of the state.

“A little over 150 years ago, a French writer named Charles Compte had a profound insight. He said the real ‘class struggle’ was not between rich and poor, or capitalists and workers, or nobility and commoners. Compte argued that the real conflict was between the ‘economic class’ and the ‘political class.’

“In his view, the economic class was made up of people who gain wealth through ‘economic means’ — production, work, and trade. By contrast, the political class obtains wealth parasitically, through ‘political means’ — confiscation, taxation, and other forms of coercion.

“Charles Compte argued that these two classes are inevitably in conflict. The political class needs the economic class just as a parasite needs a host. The economic class, however, does not need the political class, and would be better off without it. ...

“Whatever the details, the underlying theory is clear: the political class exploits the economic class through its control of the state.”

The great 19th century German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer defined the State as the “organization of political means.” Murray Rothbard expanded this definition in For a New Liberty (see this blog’s “Essential Agitprop” sidebar for a link to the full text of this book):

“The State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for predation on the property of the producers; it makes certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society.”

Despite my coffee-drinking acquaintance’s belief to the contrary, the State never prevents exploitation. Nor does it ever maintain fairness. Rather, the State is a tool used by political class freeloaders to treat unfairly those of us who obtain wealth through production and voluntary exchange.

As usual, no one explained this process more succinctly than the late Samuel Edward Konkin III. In his “Introduction to Libertarian Ruling Class Theory,” published in New Libertarian Notes #28 (1973), he concluded:

  1. The State is the main means by which people live by plunder; the Market, in contradistinction, is the sum of human action of the productive.
  1. The State, by its existence, divides society into a plundered class and a plundering class.
  1. The State has historically been directed by those who gain most by its existence — the “upper class,” Ruling Class, Higher Circles, or “conspiracy.”
  1. The Higher Circles will fight to keep their privileged status, and have done so, against libertarians seeking their overthrow and the restitution of their plunder to those from whom it was taken.
  1. Politicians operate as “gladiators” in the aptly named Political Arena to settle disputes among the Higher Circles (which are not monolithic).

Like Brad Spangler, I’m anxious to see some tireless libertarian theorists build upon the work of Compte, Oppenheimer, Rothbard, Carl Oglesby, and SEK3 in this area of Libertarian Ruling Class Theory. This is the kind of work that will distinguish us from the political class that now routinely uses freedom rhetoric to further its parasitic plans.

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At 8:37 PM, Blogger freeman said...

I consider this to be one of the most important subjects involving theory in terms of shattering statist illusions (especially of the leftist variety) and making the libertarian alternative look more appealing. If libertarians wish to be persuasive while talking to statists, they need to get rid of their class rhetoric phobia.

At 4:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL! You should have seen the looks on the faces of the Tech-Industry, Seattle Socialists last weekend during some of the things I casually mentioned, in passing, regarding their twisted political views. Those people (and their Neo-Khan counterparts, and their little dogs too) have never once in their entire lives considered for an instant the fact that ALL politicians are parasites. Upon realization they protest that it's a symbiotic relationship. Serious brainwashing at work there. Yeeesh.

BTW, wouldn't the A in apolitical stand for anarchy?

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Vache Folle said...

The plunderers have begun to refer to themselves as the "productive class" and the "job creators" and the "wealth builders". Thus, President George "Not as Bad as Stalin" Bush can argue that taxes on the rich should be lowered more than taxes on the poor so as to avoid punishing "productive" people.

At 10:04 AM, Blogger freeman said...

Vache - that sounds like yet another development of Orwellian doublespeak, kinda like:

war is peace
freedom is slavery
ignorance is strength
mercantilism is free enterprise

At 10:11 PM, Blogger NPMSRP said...

Interesting thoughts, but yet I don't see how you've explained exactly how 'libertarianism', (being a theory that only property rights are valid and that a minimal government should only exist to protect said property rights and serve no other function), would be a boon to the working class and poor who hold no property nor wealth.

I see lots of nice propaganda and jingoisms, but no real explaination as to exactly why a libertarian property holder would be less ruthless and powerfull than any other tyrant or politician.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

Packratt, you need to read a little Mises and Rothbard if you can't understand how the working class is served by voluntary, free exchanges without the interference of the taxing and pillaging State (or its sanctioned corporations). Check the blog's sidebar.


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