I know I said I wouldn’t be posting for a week, but Kevin Carson finally updated his blog and I found it sufficiently interesting that I decided to go back on my word. Most of my readers are unlikely to read his blog without my pointing it out (they’re pretty much all heartless capitalists, except for that one heartless Stalinist) so it’s not a superfluous post.
Those of you have heard of Naomi Klein’s book likely find it laughable. M. Traven said of its movie “It’s composed of equal parts self-righteousness and cheap emotional appeals, and drowns whatever valid things it is trying to say in questionable sludge. It’s this sort of thing that has driven Mencius Moldbug to the dark side” in a post filed under his “annoying leftists” category. I certainly haven’t had kind things to say about it. To put it simply, Klein is a buffoon. She completely overlooks the clampdowns on markets on the part of the state documented by Robert Higgs in “Crisis and Leviathan”, with a most notable example being the Great Depression leading to the New Deal. She throws around the word “shock” to mix CIA torture techniques with the successful post-Soviet transitions of countries like Poland and Estonia that originally bore the term “shock therapy” (Daniel A. Nagy has criticized this paper on the subject but I’ll link to it again anyway because I found it informative). Her chief villain is Milton Friedman, despite his opposition to the Iraq war and primarily because she greatly overstates his role in Chile (as her fellow-traveler Alexander Cockburn points out she also overstates his role in neo-liberalism and the necessity of disaster in third world neoliberal reforms). What she advocates is more of the state.
To Carson and Sheldon Richman (who is a normal-enough libertarian to edit the Freeman publication Ronald Reagan claimed to love) there is merit in the Rebel Seller. Why? She’s upset by Iraq, Katrina and other Bush bungles. Such people are hardly a tiny enough minority to excuse the nonsense they spill onto the page. I found it especially saddening to see Carson muse about Austrian economists that had fled (I guess for no reason) to America returning to propagandize for a victorious Nazi Germany. I can just see Mises dismissing their burning of his writings while they overlook the minor problem of him being a jew. He does have a point about an Objectivist (they’ve gotten crazier since Rand died) by the name of George Reisman who says some pretty deranged stuff, but to lump all “Misoids” together as apologists for authoritarian (or really any when you come to think of it) states seems to gel poorly with what anyone can see at the Mises blog. Praising Klein while defaming the Mises Institute is like demonizing Kerensky in favor of Trotsky because you hate Stalin.
Carson has engaged in the following equivocation before: “In my opinion, New Deal liberalism and the Reagan-Thatcher model of neoliberalism are like two farmers. The first farmer thinks he can get more work out of his livestock, in the long run, if he feeds them well and gives them comfortable shelter and sufficient rest. The second farmer thinks he can get more work out of them if he works them to death and then replaces them. There’s no question that both “farmers” view us as “livestock,” and that their prime concern is with their own profit. But I know which farm I’d rather live on”, but now he adds another simile to defend the Chavista reaction to the “Washington Consensus”: “Quite frankly, if my only choices are corporate liberalism and social democracy, and a banana republic on the neoliberal model, I’ll take the former any day. If I get to choose between the paternalism of Brave New World and the jackboot in my face of 1984, it won’t take me long to decide”. Sometimes I think it might have been better if Orwell had never written 1984 so people wouldn’t use it to attack regimes (or sometimes just websites that keep track of visits or stores with cameras) that for all their faults are laughably far from both the ones he invented and used as a basis. I notice that Carson has not fled the United $tate$ of Amerikkka like those Austrians did so whimsically. I notice that people from outside keep moving in, including not only the boat people of the Worker’s Paradise of Cuba but inhabitants of relatively social democratic places like Canada. I also notice that even if Bush is as fond as Chavez of subsidies, he has not enacted any Mugabe-esque price controls complete with denunciation of “hoarders”, which even a “free-market anti-capitalist” would be expected to consider a step below neoliberalism, nor has he boasted about how much longer he expects to stay in power and tried to get rid of term limits (I would breathe a sigh of relief about Bush leaving and Cheney not running except that Giuliani is) nor has he changed to Constitution to make his word law (which would actually be more useful if the legislature was controlled by the opposition rather as opposed to full of your supporters) nor has he shut down opposition television stations. Though I don’t know them to be fans of markets, the folks at Three Way Fight seem to have a better grasp of Chavez. Chavez has authority in his country Bush only wishes he could. If Kevin Carson was taking a Keith Preston line of ignoring all faults of the enemy of his enemy because one of them is near/broad and the other far/bounded (which has a certain amount of sensibility to it) I wouldn’t say anything, but he doesn’t do that and has never given off the “pragmatism forever, moralizing never” vibe of the againstpolitics.com people (who I wish I had discovered earlier).
UPDATE: Perhaps enough time has passed that this should be a separate post, but I didn’t feel like doing that to point out some further Klein-bashing. Also, againstpolitics.com is down and can be found at my mirror-site teageegeepea.tripod.com/AgainstPolitics.
UPDATE 2: Jon Chait criticizes the book here. Also, I’ve removed Against Politics, as it’s now hosted at Depressed Metabolism.