In Noam Chomsky’s famous speech of 1970 on the various future possibilities for the US government, he cited the possibility of achieving a libertarian socialist society in the United States of America. This, he said, could be achieved only by a popular revolutionary movement, rooted in the wide strata of the population and committed to the elimination of repressive and authoritarian institutions, state and private (Chomsky, 1970).
Noam termed the USA’s state capitalism as a ‘contemporary barbarism’, based on the fact that the state claims to run the politics and economy of the country, while in reality, this is done not necessarily by the elected representatives of the people, but by the corporate elites who are neither elected nor affected by public interests and opinions (Chomsky, 1970). Their decisions are meant to serve, protect and advance their private interests or those of the corporations that they represent, and these interests at the expense of the state’s population. Furthermore, this ‘elite ruling class’ cannot be removed from power as their presence is not determined by the electorate but is rather dictated by the private interests which they serve so loyally.
A capitalist state’s political system is thus practically non-existent as it is functionally impaired and its powers have been usurped by the corporate executives who dominate the economic system. Although, such a state hides behind the veil of democracy, it is obvious that lack of socialism eliminates such possibilities by far. The country is thus owned by the large enterprises, under the shelter of the ‘people’s government.’ This paper examines the basic matrix for a political economy, the current political compass, and whether the US government system can possibly shift to libertarian socialism from its current status as a capital state.
This philosophy is based on two major arguments. One is that a man’s critical attribute is his freedom. This is an argument pursued by Goldberg (2007), when he stated that, querying and to formulating is the axis around which all individuals quest more or less directly gyrate. In this statement, he implies that man needs to have the freedom to voluntarily choose to use his creativity and inquisitiveness in any situation. He takes it that labor should be for consumption or profit, as predetermined by choice and not state requirements or wage mechanisms. This argument, therefore, propagates the sanctity of individual rights while shunning the rights of groups such as employers or industrial estate owners. It advocates for equality of all individuals before the law regardless of social or financial status.
The other argument is that the state is anti human to the core. It is run by humans, but they are, according to E.K Hunt egoistic, coldly calculating, essentially inert and atomistic’. This philosophy assumes that the actions of the state are not oriented towards the full development of the individual citizen. Classical liberalism thus advocates for minimal state intervention whether in the personal life or the social life of its citizens, and appreciates maximum civil liberties and political freedoms.
The philosophy further develops on the ideology that man is motivated by pain and pleasure, while if in a higher rank he is motivated by ambition. This means that man will always work hard to avoid pain, or achieve pleasure, but, if neither is a factor then the motivation will stem from his ambitions. The idea of free markets is supported in classical liberalism. Allowing economic activities without any form of state interference is justified by Goldberg (2007) who says that people in the quest of their own personal gains without state direction serve the general good.
This philosophy fails to recognize the role of the state in maintaining harmonious co-existence between individuals from different interest groups. While the state, as an institution of power may be hijacked and used by the powerful members of society to alienate and oppress the less powerful, it may also serve the purpose of protecting the less privileged from the social tyranny of ambition and wealth. Thus, the philosophy despite looking out for the common good of the society, fails to identify the significance of a powerful institution to protect the less powerful citizens.
Libertarian socialism operates without bureaucracies and hierarchies. It is founded on a system of direct democracy where the liberty and freedom of individuals is maximized as the concentration of power is discouraged and consequently eliminated. This ideology emphasizes on a democratic distribution of power at the grassroots level and more so amongst workers to enable them to make choices regarding their work. This is in tune with the requirement that those engaging in labor should do so of their own free will (Amity, 2007).
This philosophy is primarily anti-capitalist and opposes private ownership of industries and the wage slavery exercised by either the state or the private industrial owners. Being worker-oriented, libertarian socialism is anti-capitalist system which advocates for a democratic organization of the industrial society with the direct control of an institution being given to its members and not to an elite ruling class. Libertarian socialism basically advocates for a free society where a man can freely make the choices regarding his/her life. Labor is an option, undertaken at free will without necessitation. It is a society in which man has the space to grow without being restricted or controlled by the state, whether directly or indirectly (Bartlett, 2008).
In the modern society, we have seen that companies in which workers are allowed to make decisions concerning their work tend to post better performance results. This is because the decisions are better informed, being made by people in the best position to know exactly what is required. This means that rather than the ‘elite’ of the society making decisions that will affect the working class, it is they (the workers) who know what needs to be done on their end of the bargain. It is thus they who should be responsible for making all the decisions about their work.
In advocating for a free society however, this system fails to recognize the importance of the state as an institution that can be fair and just. It condemns the state as a tool that is used by the bourgeois of society to colonize and manipulate the common citizens. The state as an independent organ is quite capable of upholding democracy but only if the economic parade is separated from it. Having the political will of the people running the state will ensure that the economic powerhouses no longer hold the country at ransom.
A free stateless society would have many implications in regard to law and order as the state is mainly responsible for keeping the sanity in society in terms of law and order. Thus, I fault this system based on its assumption that the state is entirely a negative system. However, its advocating for anarchy assures that the consideration of powers that can keep the peace has been made. Thus libertarian socialism is practically the best ideology of co-existence albeit with a little modification in terms of its appreciation for the state (Pestritto, 2005).
The main argument against libertarian socialism is that humans are not necessarily adept to being free. They prefer being ‘happy slaves’ and would much rather have the ruling class making the big decisions on their behalf. If any of these was universally true, there would not be so many civil wars and rebellions all over the world. People would not be sacrificing their comfort, peace, security and even their lives in the pursuit of their freedom. Thus this argument against libertarian socialism is flawed in its core for assuming that all men are glad to be colonized.
State socialism implies a state that prioritizes the welfare of its citizens over the fears of the corporate executives. It emphasizes on the state as a just, reliable and independent system that can easily achieve socialism. While promoting direct corporate ownership and management by the workers, it also emphasizes on state or public ownership by nationalization of corporations. This system thus entails transferring national wealth from industrialization to public treasury rather than private coffers. Thus ensuring public resources are well maintained and the society is catered for by the state.
This would appear as a perfect society. It actually is a perfect ideology, a system that can possibly not be actualized in this world. The reasons are quite obvious. First of all, this ideology in its essence preaches the equality of mankind and the need for a state. A state symbolizes power, and power corrupts mankind (Boaz, 1997). The state in itself as we have seen over the years is not as democratic an institution as it purports itself to be. Those in power tend to place themselves above the law thus making them the oppressors of the citizens. In its bid to become a socialist state, a government usually ends up in capitalism thus leaving its citizens at the mercy of the corporate executives and their lawyers.
Applying this to a democracy, the elected representatives should be responsible for the decisions that affect their electorate. However, this is not even nearly so. The elected representatives are just a bunch of puppets whose existence is majorly a formality in mimicry of democracy. The state spends a lot of taxpayers’ resources painting a picture of democracy while subscribing to authoritarian ideologies and leaving the masses at the mercy of a few corporate executives. A third reason is that socialism in its own way is a threat to the existence of a state. A state requires powers over its citizens, and socialism requires minimal state intervention in the citizens’ social as well as private lives. Thus a socialist state can easily exist in theory, but practically it remains as a smoke screen for the capitalism being propagated behind closed doors.
State capitalism basically implies that the state operates like a large corporation. While the means of production is privately owned at a large scale, the government controls it through regulatory bodies that are supposedly independent and with lots of mandate. The state is however seen to operate like a protector to the interests of the private companies which dominate the market in partnership with the government. In such a system, most if not all corporations are jointly owned with the government and this puts the owners in good positions. A capitalist state basically operates as an economic system. This is because all the decisions are made based on the interests of the economic powerhouses of the country. The political class that consists mainly of elected representatives thus remains as a bunch of ‘croaking frogs’ that have no effect on the elephant that empties their pond (Holms, 2006). They are there to entertain the country with colorful arguments and debates but the main decisions are made in the boardrooms of corporations and pushed on them by the corporate executives, their lawyers and sometimes even professional lobbyists. The political powers are thus usurped by the already very powerful economic system.
State capitalism has numerous discrepancies. First of all, the major decisions affecting the people are made by those who are not directly affected by the decision. The economic class is given the mandate to deliberate on issues that do not affect them in any way. This means that they only look out for themselves and the working class or common citizens are left to struggle for their survival.
This system tends to widen the gap between the poor and the rich, in a bid to prevent the acquisition of wealth that may threaten the status quo. The close ties between corporations and the government in the business sector provide opportunities for corruption and illegitimate deals due to the lack of transparency witnessed, as the government seeks to serve the interests of its business allies. This system centralizes the corridors of power and grants it to the private corporate owners, leaving the government as a symbol of state authority. The legislature in this case lacks authority, the executive is under the control and manipulation of the economic class, and the judiciary has a price tag. That is the state capitalism, even in the United States.
The Political Compass
Just as the name suggests, this compass determines a government’s political orientation by measuring or gauging its political views against two axes, the left side represents a state that runs its economy while the right is an economy that is run by the private community (Boaz, 1997). The top side is an authoritarian system where the authority has to be obeyed and the bottom represents a libertarian system where personal freedoms are nurtured and protected. An upper left orientation thus implies a system whereby the government of the day controls the economy and exercises authoritarian powers; upper right is a privately owned economy with authoritarian power. The bottom left is thus a libertarian system with a government- run economy, and the bottom right is a libertarian society in which the economy is privately run.
An upper left orientation thus implies a capitalist state, in which the government not only runs the economy but also imposes itself authoritatively in the state. In a capitalist state, the government appears to be in control of the economy as it has stakes in all the large corporations in the country. However, it is largely under the influence of the corporate sector which hides away from the public eye such that the government appears to be working on its own. This kind of government is authoritarian simply because the will of the people is not represented in most of the major decisions that affect them.
In this case, the US can be categorized as the upper left orientation as it fits the criteria. An upper right orientation is much similar to the upper left, except for it does not play democracy. It does not pretend to respect the will of the people, nor does it pretend that its decisions are made with their interests at heart. With the private corporate openly in charge of the country’s economy and the government’s authoritarian dispensation the country is literally owned by the economic class (Buchanan, 2007).
China can be well placed in this category despite its persistence of being a people’s republic and exercising democracy. The lower divisions of the compass symbolize a libertarian orientation that is yet to be embraced anywhere in full practice. In the lower left, the government neither interferes in the lives of its citizens nor allows them to interfere in the running of economy. Here, the economy is solely run by the government whereby it controls a good chunk of all means of production in the state. The government leaves the citizens to run their lives while it focuses on equality issues with regard to the law and the economy. The problem with this system is that it also allows the big business enterprises to have a close association with the government thus transitioning into a capitalist state with a libertarian front. It almost always results in the corporate elite governing the state in both its political and economic fronts due to ambitions and the necessity to manipulate the political and economic environments to favor their interests.
According to Buchanan (2007), the lower right, on the other hand, represents a government that leaves the economy to be run by the people. Other than not interfering in their social and private lives, the government also allows the people to make decisions regarding their work and this is a truly libertarian system. This system not only minimizes the effect of the government’s presence, but also encourages reasonable distribution of power in the relevant fronts. It is a true representation of libertarian socialism. And just as expected, it needs a good system of checks and balances thus necessitating the presence of the government as a watchdog to regulate and ensure equal distribution of resources, fairness, justice and peace in the society.
Without these checks and balances, a perfect libertarian socialist society can easily transform into a free system where ‘man eats man’ due to the fact that ambition and power are the destruction of mankind. This society is not only revolutionary but also prosperous and as such, the prospect of wealth begets greed that is bound to destroy the very fabric of this society, equal distribution of wealth and power.
The USA is a capitalist state. In the political campus, its orientation is close to the upper left. The country has a political framework that implies democracy but the electorate is constantly shortchanged by the corporate firms that influence major decisions to protect their interests. The people of the United States have been shouting against so many policies that were adapted anyway, simply because some corporate elite representatives sat somewhere in a boardroom and agreed to lobby for that policy as it served their interests whether directly or indirectly. This is a system of colonization whereby the powerful members of society are the first class citizens and have much more weight in the running of state affairs.
The US has been a capitalist state with a militarized outfit for quite a while. The elected representatives have been puppets of the giant corporations rather than representatives of the public will. The political class has shown little initiative towards becoming a true democracy like a libertarian socialist society. And while the people are lobbying for democracy, their elected and non-elected ‘rulers’ are getting comfortable knowing that a social revolution would not only hurt the entire nation but the entire human civilization seeing the US among the most influential economies of the world. The country is thoroughly militarized with a really high military budget in the pretext of defense from possible powerful enemies like Korea and a rebellion would prove suicidal. But all throughout history, men risked their security, their wealth and their lives for the sake of gaining or retrieving their freedom. Thus the possibility of such a recurrence is there and it could happen on such a large scale that the results will not be negotiable in any forum. This however will require the commitment and dedication of all societal factions so as to ensure uniformity in the demands and thus results.
This bourgeois class is the one that is bound to suffer most if the US transitions into libertarian socialism, as they will be forced to equally compete for the state’s resources with their much less privileged countrymen. This is a class of people that benefit from authoritarian rule as they coalesce with government to oppress the voiceless citizens through laws, policies and regulations that serve their interests at the expense of the common citizens. They use the excessive powers of a capitalist state to create favorable political and market conditions such as hindering competition, and creating supply deficits to drive commodity prices high. All these serve them to gain more profits while the powerless citizens suffer. They conspire with the government to maltreat the masses, and thus the reduced state authority is bound to reduce the magnitude of their influence in both the economy and politics of the nation.