Citizens United — Is the Gas Pedal Stuck?

Published on Center for a Stateless Society C4SS, by Kevin Carson, Nov 9, 2010.

Columnists are supposed to be opinionated. As a matter of convention,  a column on an issue should express some strong opinion about it.  Sorry to disappoint, but all I can do is raise some questions to which I have no satisfactory answer.

Libertarians commonly argue that campaign finance regulations are a restriction on free speech.  Yes, but …

I try to use what Objectivist scholar Chris Sciabarra calls “dialectical libertarianism” as a tool for analyzing issues.  That means a state action should be evaluated, not in terms of its formal statism in static isolation, but in terms of its functional relationship to the larger system of state power.

State interventions can be broken down, for the sake of the present discussion, into 1) primary structural interventions that serve the overall needs of the system of power, and 2) secondary ameliorative interventions that cushion the negative side-effects of primary interventions.

Primary interventions include subsidizing privileged economic actors, protecting them from market competition, and enforcing the artificial property rights and artificial scarcities that enable them to collect monopoly rents.  Secondary interventions include regulatory and welfare state measures that constrain privileged actors from abusing their privilege in ways that would undermine the long-term stability of the system.  Such secondary interventions, among other things, prevent levels of destitution, homelessness and starvation that would destabilize the political system, and otherwise serve to make the system of privilege at least minimally endurable on a human level.

When viewed in this light, we can plausibly see such secondary intervention as a reduction in statism:  i.e., as a limit or qualification on the exercise of a state grant of power.  Eliminating the secondary ameliorative interventions, without addressing the primary structural interventions they are designed to compensate for, amounts to increasing the fundamental statism resulting from the primary grants of privilege.

Now let’s get back to campaign finance.  According to liberal critics, the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision earlier this year enables the corporate plutocracy to buy up the political system.  I’m inclined to agree … //

… What’s the practical implication for us market anarchsts?  What should we do?  Well, remember I mentioned at the outset that this column would mainly raise questions, not answer them.

I really don’t think there’s much we can do, from the standpoint of undoing the decision.  The damage is probably done, and irreversible.  And even given an outside chance, from an anarchist standpoint political action wastes resources that could be far more effectively invested in building a better society.

About all we can do is take this as a sign of the times, another configuration of the stars indicating that the Babylon the Great is on its way down.   We can get out of the way and avoid getting in the way of the crash.  And we can do our best to have a new system in place when the crash happens. (full text).

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