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Perry for Kerry
August 12, 2004 8:46 PM   Subscribe

A Libertarian for Kerry. John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the EFF and a former campaign manager for Dick Cheney, is taking his libertarianism into the Democratic camp. "...we need something -- and I think it’s governmental -- to reregulate the market and make it free, because the multinationals have taken it away." (More inside).
posted by liam (34 comments total)

 
From the interview:

I’ve gone back and forth with politics. I’ve been a Republican county chairman. I was one of Dick Cheney’s campaign managers when he first ran for Congress. But generally speaking, I felt to engage in the political process was to sully oneself to such a degree that whatever came out wasn’t worth the trouble put in. I thought it was better to focus on changing yourself and people around you, to not question authority so much as bypass it whenever possible.

But by virtue of our abdication, a very authoritarian, assertive form of government has taken over. And oddly enough, it is doing so in the guise of libertarianism to a certain extent. Most of the people in the think tanks behind the Bush administration’s current policies are libertarians, or certainly free marketeers. We’ve got two distinct strains of libertarianism, and the hippie-mystic strain is not engaging in politics, and the Ayn Rand strain is basically dismantling government in a way that is giving complete open field running to multinational corporatism.

posted by liam at 8:49 PM on August 12, 2004




Here's a This American Life piece featuring Barlow. It's tangential to this discussion, but I feel that I have to bring it up, because it's one of the best things I've heard on the radio, ever.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:13 PM on August 12, 2004


"we need something -- and I think it’s governmental -- to reregulate the market and make it free"

Isn't this just about the most anti-libertarian thing you could ever say? I don't think libertarianism is at all sensible, myself, but I always thought it basically meant being against government involvement in anything at all. It makes sense to be against multinationals having power, but to be in favour of government regulation...?
posted by reklaw at 10:28 PM on August 12, 2004


I think he meant to say "we need something -- and I think it's governmental -- to re-re-re-de-un-supra-mega-post-ante-apres-regulate the market and make it free".

That's really the only way to be a Libertarian and still use the roads and sidewalks and firemen, after all.
posted by interrobang at 10:48 PM on August 12, 2004


Barlow states, in regards to security agents inspecting bags at airports: "The Constitution doesn’t say anything about national security."

Um...bullshit. OK, perhaps technically, since it's only in the Preamble, and not in the ACTUAL text of the Constitution:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

And Barlow's view of Kerry, who he claims to support: "I think he’s been in the U.S. Senate long enough to have his backbone dissolved." Nice. Hey, with supporters like these...

I think that Barlow has inhaled a few too many times. Let this be a lesson for all of you toke-loving MeFites -- someday, when you're a prominent pseudo-libertarian who once supported Republicans and now endorses spineless Democrats and wrote some drug-induced songs for a hippie band, you may be ridiculed and mocked in an internet thread.
posted by davidmsc at 11:26 PM on August 12, 2004


What he meant is that the Constitution doesn’t say anything about national security being an excuse to limit your rights provided for in that Constitution. If anything, the mention of "the common defense" in the preamble shows that the founding fathers already considered the national security implications of the document, and would not appreciate the use of some phantom national security threat as an excuse for limiting freedoms.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
posted by bashos_frog at 12:13 AM on August 13, 2004


Isn't this just about the most anti-libertarian thing you could ever say?

Anti-(extreme)-libertarian maybe. I was thinking someone was going to claim that regulated free markets were a logical impossibility.

It isn't. Any market needs a minimum of what I'll call "policing" in order to function. The whole idea that markets are efficient rests upon an assumption that the agents in the market are unable to use explicit or implicit force to their advantage. However, self-interested parties will naturally attempt to get around any such policing. This is why an efficient, functioning market is almost always going to involve an ongoing conflict between regulators and agents. Note that the self-interested agents will inevitably try to claim that the regulators are hurting the efficiency of the market with their regulation. Note also that even the smartest and well-meaning regulators will often damage the efficiency of the market. But it's not in their interest to do so; while, in contrast, it is very much in the interest of agents in the market to subvert the market functioning to their own advantage.

As to how this relates to libertarianism...well, the relationship between libertarianism and market economics depends upon the underlying ideology of the particular version of libertarianism. Some libertarians are such because they believe in natural rights. In this view, the efficiency of a market is not necessarily primary—individual "natural" rights are. On the other hand, a libertarianism that is based in pragmatism will mesh quite easily with the pragmatic defense of market economics (that they're efficient). In that case, the efficiency of the market is primary.

So whether "regulated markets" is antiethetical to liberatarianism or not, is whether the libertarianism we're talking about is a natural rights based variety or something else. And the latter does exist. There's one prominent net libertarian that I've corresponded with a great deal who makes this case.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:00 AM on August 13, 2004


> It makes sense to be against multinationals having power, but to be in
> favour of government regulation...?

It's sad, is what it is, if you're if a libertarian (or indeed any kind of free-market) bent. It's a recognition that there are now other enormous powers that step in if government steps out (and attempt to coopt and often corrupt government if it doesn't.)

For me, it's time to state flatly that any organization over a certain size becomes, essentially, a government body, and needs restrictions on its power just as there need to be restrictions on government power. There need to be constitutional limits, not just legal limits, on what Dow Chemical or Royal Dutch Shell can do. But I haven't the faintest idea how to achieve that for multinationals, or what sort of force to place in opposition to them. Don't want single-state governments to have more power (and don't think single-state governments can deal with multinationals anyway); certainly don't want world government. Can't imagine what other mechanism to put in place.
posted by jfuller at 3:26 AM on August 13, 2004


Jesus, davidmsc, grow up a little for god's sake, and try and read what barlow wrote without trying to find reasons to dismiss it having to do with weed.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:57 AM on August 13, 2004


Let this be a lesson for all of you toke-loving MeFites -- someday, when you're a prominent pseudo-libertarian who once supported Republicans and now endorses spineless Democrats and wrote some drug-induced songs for a hippie band, you may be ridiculed and mocked in an internet thread.
posted by davidmsc at 11:26 PM PST on August 12


And wear the "ridicule" of davidsmc as a badge of honor. When a nut job like that ridicules you, you MUST be doing something correctly.
[/ridiculing davidsmc]

Perhaps the problem here is making a distinction between "free trade" and "fair trade?" Trade must be regulated in order to be fair. That provides a balance of power that prevents the abuse of raw power. Free trade implies that anything goes and as such both monopolies and slavery (as examples) are allowed, so long as the market will bear it. That's not good. There are NO free markets, that is a pipe dream. When the environmental and societal costs are factored into each and every transaction, then we can consider the concept of a "free market" but until then let's make the markets fair. I think that is what Mr. Barlow is trying to elucidate. Well, that and legalize marijuana, like any good libertarian.
posted by nofundy at 5:22 AM on August 13, 2004


I ridicule and mock davidmsc in my head, where it counts.
posted by substrate at 5:31 AM on August 13, 2004


(I second Mr. Roboto's endorsement of Barlow's interview on This American Life. It has haunted me since I first heard it years ago. If you've never heard it, go NOW!)
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:58 AM on August 13, 2004


Hey, for Barlow, this isn't about libertarianism or the election. It's personal. He got busted for pot. Now he's the libertarian version of the proverbial "liberal who got mugged." Barlow got mugged by Bush's internal security apparatus, and now he's pissed at the man, and has constructed a whole spaced-out ideology to support his personal pique. But he can't escape the fact that he knew the law, he broke the law, and now he has to pay the penalty. No one put a gun to his head and forced him to carry that pot. What a baby.
posted by Faze at 6:03 AM on August 13, 2004


and I think it’s governmental -- to reregulate the market

No, you can do it w/o the 'government'.

But you'd need to be willing to change the nature of the corporation.

1) You'd have to make the staff of the company have 'unlimited libality' - such that if they did something damaging they could be sued.
2) You'd have to place the stockholders at risk also.

If the workers and stockholders were worried about having their money taken, do you think Ken Lay and the Enron crew had gotten away with the fraud? The workers would have been concerned about Bhopal - thus making sure the plant worked?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:15 AM on August 13, 2004


Substrate - that was funny :)
posted by hank_14 at 6:27 AM on August 13, 2004


1) You'd have to make the staff of the company have 'unlimited libality' - such that if they did something damaging they could be sued.
2) You'd have to place the stockholders at risk also.


And how would you achieve this without regulation exactly?
posted by biffa at 6:32 AM on August 13, 2004


No one put a gun to his head and forced him to carry that pot.

No, the fascists put a gun to his head and forced him not to carry it. Who claimed otherwise?
posted by sudama at 7:00 AM on August 13, 2004


sudama--My point is that the guy was okay with Bush and his national security state until it got in the way of what he seems to consider is his private right to disobey the law. Well, tough for him.
In any case, his seems to be a life that is whipsawed from extreme to extreme. Apparently he made his fortune in one of the least environmentally friendly industries on earth, cattle raising (we won't get into the mass killing aspects), then he got involved with what was, for almost 30 years, the worst band in the world, then he got involved in a kind bullshitty way with the greatest technological event in human history -- the development of the internet -- and got all sorts of mixed up opinions about it, then he actually knew and spoke with Douglas Adams, one of the three greatest authors of his generation, and Adams promptly dropped dead on him the next day, then he met what appears to be a sensational woman, and she dropped dead on him, at the same time, he was becoming part of the only sensible political movement in America today, libertarianism, but as a major-league stoner, however, he somehow got it mixed up with the Republican party, and the minute the Republican party demonstrated that it is no more freedom-loving than libertarians say it is, he goes boo-hoo-hoo, and runs over to John Kerry, whom he claims is a Dead head, which is enough to disqualify him from office in any sensible person's book.
Barlow has had a whip-saw existence. As he says himself, "I've gone back and forth in politics." That must be his fate, and I imagine he'll be whipsawing till the day he dies.
posted by Faze at 7:58 AM on August 13, 2004


you'd need to be willing to change the nature of the corporation.

Can anyone explain why we need the legal entity of the corporation? I understand it reduces risk for the business owner, but it seems to cause a lot of problems, i.e. if you mess up a bunch of people's lives, you just dissolve the company and go home.

Shouldn't there always be a person who can be held accountable?
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:26 AM on August 13, 2004


faze, he was using that as an example, not his sole reason.
posted by Hackworth at 8:37 AM on August 13, 2004


Faze: way to condense this guy's whole life down to a few pithy sentences, denigrating his life's work, dogging on his dead friends and lovers and dismissing his political choices as drug-fueled fantasies.

I hope you get the same treatment one day, you raging asshole.
posted by bshort at 8:48 AM on August 13, 2004


> 2) You'd have to place the stockholders at risk also.
>
> And how would you achieve this without regulation exactly?

Remove certain regulation, e.g. repeal the laws that create the limited liability corporation.
posted by jfuller at 9:00 AM on August 13, 2004


The other medium, TV, has a much smaller share of viewers than at any time in the past, but those viewers get all their information there. They get turned into a very uniform belief block. TV in America created the most coherent reality distortion field that I’ve ever seen. Therein is the problem: People who vote watch TV, and they are hallucinating like a sonofabitch. Basically, what we have in this country is government by hallucinating mob.

This is so true. If you source your news all over the internet, you kind of know the real scoop. Then you talk to people that only watch TV news and realize they have no grasp of what is actually happening in the world. Very frightening. Most frighenting part is that it doesn't even seem to matter which station one would watch, all of them repeat the same crap.
posted by jester69 at 10:02 AM on August 13, 2004


faze: You said everything that I was thinking - thanks - very good summation.
posted by davidmsc at 10:21 AM on August 13, 2004


the worst band in the world

he claims is a Dead head, which is enough to disqualify him from office in any sensible person's book.

I think you just stepped over the line.
Who are you?
The fu*cking last word in music criticism?
What do you consider "good" music?
Toby Keith? Pat Boone? Debbie Gibson?
You wouldn't know good music if it bit you on the ass.
posted by nofundy at 11:33 AM on August 13, 2004


Pat Boone actually has quite a nice voice. At least he did when he was younger. "April Love" is my favorite.
posted by Faze at 12:16 PM on August 13, 2004


I don't like the Dead much more than I like Dick Cheney (or bitter wannabe critics), but claiming Douglas Adams as one of the three greatest authors of his generation and the internet as the greatest technological event in human history pretty much invalidates any opinions you may have. In any case, this is really about how much government intervention is required when the freedom of the individual and the freedom of the market conflict. Barlow's position, which seems eminently sensible to me, is that a free market will strive for an efficiency best served by curtailing freedom. In order to restrain this, government is a necessary evil, and we had best put it in the hands of the least evil politicians available, while acknowledging that they too must be restrained.
posted by liam at 1:48 PM on August 13, 2004


This thread rocks.
posted by euphorb at 2:01 PM on August 13, 2004


pretty much invalidates any opinions you may have

ANY opinions. You hear, that Barlow? Any. May have.

Invalid.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:01 PM on August 13, 2004


Barlow's position, which seems eminently sensible to me, is that a free market will strive for an efficiency best served by curtailing freedom. In order to restrain this, government is a necessary evil, and we had best put it in the hands of the least evil politicians available, while acknowledging that they too must be restrained.

Well, duh! It happens to be an utterly sane remark. Find me the man or woman who would disagree with it. Barlow hardly deserves a medal for saying something no person in his or her right mind would disagree with. He, however, seems to be living out an extreme destiny, and so it seems remarkable that he should, briefly, have a thought that actually makes sense. (Here's another great Pat Boone song: "Love Letters in the Sand." Listen to that and you will smack your forehead and declare, "What did I ever see in the Grateful Dead? Especially after Pigpen died."
posted by Faze at 3:36 PM on August 13, 2004


> You wouldn't know good music if it bit you on the ass.

faze, I think you just trod upon somebody's engorged hero-worship lobe. Careful there!
posted by jfuller at 5:23 PM on August 13, 2004


Barlow on Burning Man
posted by homunculus at 8:01 PM on August 13, 2004


1) You'd have to make the staff of the company have 'unlimited lability' - such that if they did something damaging they could be sued.
2) You'd have to place the stockholders at risk also.

And how would you achieve this without regulation exactly?


That limited liability stuff *is* the regulation. Time to get rid of it.

Want to see a libertarian's true stripes? When they gripe about government meddling in the affairs of corporations, ask them to support the elimination of corporate charters. Some do; many don't. So much for "free markets."

I can understand the value and validity of special consensual contracts among investors and individuals acting as a business. But it's bullshit that people can walk away from individual responsibility when they harm others who have made no such consensual agreement.
posted by Ayn Marx at 8:04 PM on August 13, 2004


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