Anti-Libertarian Criticism

Keeping libertarians in check and exposing it as a bankrupt ideology

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em


Some libertarians attempt to respond to the problems associated with capitalism by suggesting that meager individuals should become entrepreneurs themselves to compete against large corporations and governments.

I think this runs into two basic problems. One problem is that there is little reason to believe that such small-scale entrepreneurship can realistically out-compete big corporations on its own, due to issues having to do with scale and interdependency. At some point it has to rub up against the realities of large-scale infrastructure, and it will lose if it doesn’t more or less become the next large-scale infrastructure. But perhaps the more fundamental problem is that this is to basically suggest beating capitalism by becoming the capitalists; a regime change. Even if we assume that it did win the competition, it is engaging in conventional market dynamics. It is a replication of capitalism at a smaller scale that keeps intact the milking of the cash cow and the culture of consumerism.

To a certain extent, there already is somewhat of an existence of a hipster culture of small-scale self-employed capitalists, and my impression of some of those people that I’ve met in personal life is that they’re people who sell trendy bullshit and put on superficial events. They have avoided the necessity of conventional wage labor and may pride themselves on being relatively self-sufficient, but they whore themselves out to commerce in different ways. The last thing I need is more people who want me to buy their product. These people are often shameless self-promoters by necessity, and I have even detected in certain people a kind of self-conscious snark in which it’s all openly a joke and simultaneously shamelessly milked. A commercial circus act, sometimes involving a good deal of desperation, in which people test the limits of what they can do within capitalism.

This might be a way for some people to survive and it’s not the end of the world, but one has to be kidding if one wants to claim it as something revolutionary. Aside from it not likely being a practical option for too many people, it is not something that changes the nature of the game. At most,  it’s something that shifts the players and the scale of the game, for a time at least and likely in a marginal way. This does not address the preconditions for social freedom or anything fundamentally systemic. The effects of complex ingrained economic powers and the institutions of the state don’t dissipate just because some people start small businesses, work for themselves, or get into stuff like 3rd printing and various self-sufficiency ideas. What this kind of thing does do is create some niche markets, while appealing most to people with the vested interest and opportunity for DIY lifestyles.

A different but related idea is Agorism, which basically amounts to much the same thing in the context of black and grey markets. Agorism is about becoming capitalists in those areas that are illegal or borderline illegal. As an attempt at a theory of revolution, it embraces a fantasy of an underground economy growing to the point of collapsing the state and becoming the new defacto economy in the shell of the old economy. By the nature of it there is more practical trouble than even the conventional idea of entrepreneurship as out-competing capitalism, because there is increased risk. Either way, the same basic thing plays out in the case of Agorism too, except what used to be the black market has now become the defacto white market. Even if we hypothesize it winning, we are left with exploitative systems of commerce based around competition as the basis for the social order.

A better start toward revolutionizing society would be to take steps toward making both markets and states unnecessary to the provision of social need. That is admittedly no easy task. It may be that capitalism plays itself out towards destructive ends for humanity before the conditions of a meaningful social revolution are possible. I hope not. But libertarians are not helping the matter when they suggest fighting capitalism on its own terms.

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