Samuel Edward Konkin III
What do Rollerball and Network, the Seven Sisters and Rupert Murdoch, Ayn Rand, Robert LeFevre, Sy Leon and Libertarian Connection have in common? All are indicators of a malaise in the present libertarian movement which could very well save the State.
Five years ago, at the tail end of the old Rothbardianism, the libertarian movement was overwhelmed by anti-corporation revisionism. Gabriel Kolko, for his Triumph of Conservatism, became as recommended as Rand, Rothbard and Mises to newcomers. Rothbard urged us to read G. Wiliam Domhoff’s The Higher Circles to study how the rich ran the State for their own corporate—as opposed to free market—interests: plutocracy!
By the summer of 1972, the New Left was dead (Murray said so), McGovern was a bigger threat than Nixon (Murray spake again), and the Radical Libertarian Alliance, which had thundered against the plutocrats and vigilantly sought out any taint of collaboration by libertarians with “State Capitalists”, had been transformed into “Young Republicans for Proxmire” and the “Citizens for a Restructured Republic”.
As usual, Reason, five years behind the rest of the Movement, is only now dealing with revisionist history. But this time, it may indeed be time to revive the anti-corporate crusade among libertarians, if for only two reasons: the position is correct, and the time is right. Let me back up both points.
Until last fall, I assumed that the corporation’s relationship to the State was well understood by most libertarians. Then I heard a talk at the Libertarian Supper Club of Los Angeles by James Carbone, a scientist and neo-Galambosian, now on the First Libertarian Church’s board of directors. Carbone’s altitude toward corporations, in which he was hip-deep as a scientific research director, was naive but honestly inquiring. What did the rest of us libertarians think of corporations?
To my utter surprise and dismay, Robert LeFevre and Seymour Leon, two West Coast big guns of hard-core libertarianism, actually defended the corporate concept. When Neil Schulman and I offered the beginnings of the Old Rothbardian (or Radical Libertarian) analysis, we met incredulity and resistance from the majority of the audience—an audience of mostly jaded, “heard-it-all” Movement types.
The thing we could finally agree on as a starting point is that the incorporation and limited liability should not be enforced by law—but LeFevre, Leon and others actually believe that the fiction of “corporate responsibility” replacing individual responsibility would be voluntarily accepted in a free market. (I can’t wait until we tackle the “fractional reserve” question for banks!)
Corporations are not a creation of the marketplace. Corporations are not joint-stock companies. Corporations are not dodges around State regulations. The only truth in all these myths is that many otherwise free market businessmen accept incorporation rather than counter-economic techniques—collaboration rather than resistance.
A joint-stock company (which is a perfectly free market institution) becomes a corporation only through the agency of the State. First of all, the State declares (against the plain truth to everyone’s eves) that a scrap of paper (charter) has created a new individual where none was born of woman (or man). But this individual is not only without flesh, it is limited in responsibility—it is privileged (that is what the word means)—as in a grant from a king. And, of course, charters from kings were the means by which corporations first came about.
The corporate shield absorbs all responsibilities—like pollution damage to crops, nonpayment of debts, or defaults, and so on—right up to disintegration (bankruptcy). And still, the real human beings behind the fiction are scot-free!
So much for theory—how has it worked out in practice? Well. I’ll be damned if I’m going to repeat Kolko, Domhoff, C. Wright Mills, et al again. So read the originals, or dig through your back numbers of libertarian magazines to read the reviews. And take a look at James J. Martin, a libertarian of impeccable credentials (for example, Revisionist Viewpoints), and acid Carl Oglesby’s latest masterpiece, The Yankee and Cowboy War.
The United States’ central State is controlled by a small group of men and women—the Higher Circles, the Power Elite, the “conspiracy”—who intermarry in a social strata, attend the same social functions and belong to the same clubs, constitute the membership of the major policy-making organizations: Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Committee for Economic Development, Bilderbergers, etc.
Want names? David Rockefeller and his academic friends Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski (yes, “and”), Prince Bernhard (until recently) of the Netherlands and of Royal Dutch Shell, Robert Anderson of ARCO, the Lazard Freres and other Rothschild interest controllers, the major names of the J.P. Morgan interests, the Kennedys, the DuPonts, Mellons, Pews, Sulzbergers, Sehifts, the other Rockefellers, Vances, Helms, Sorensons, and so on. (See New Libertarian Notes #28. “Introduction to Libertarian Ruling Class Theory” by this author.)
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The corporate interests have been divided up along sectional lines, and according to degrees of entrenchment, since the founding of the American State (and even over the founding—see Charles Beard’s Economic Interpretations of the Constitution). The Morgans and Rockefellers fought over whether there should be a World War I and joined together for World War II. Then came the nouveau riche, or should I say nouveaux etatistes, from the West: William Randolph Hearst, Howard Hughes, the movie moguls, the computer entrepreneurs and the aerospace industries, The Cowboy and Yankee war over Korea, Vietnam, Kennedy, Watergate, Nixon . . . here we are today.
But Hearst, Hughes and Getty are dead: surely the Cowboys ride no more. Ah, but look past the American frontier, to western Canada, Alaska . . . and Australia. And sure enough, in rides Rupert Murdoch. The British establishment calls for Anderson of ARCO to save the venerable Observer from the parvenue publisher, but that’s alright, he’s already got half the tabloid market in London. And on to San Antonio, Texas, and then to New York...
Wait a minute, that’s Yankee country, their home! Murdoch buys up the New York Post from ailing Dolly Schiff, and then moves on New York and The Village Voice. The Yankees intellectual sycophants run around like chickens with a lox loose in the henhouse or a college of cardinals who find that a Protestant has just bought the Vatican—but to no avail, NYM Co. falls and another inter-corporate struggle has begun. Who knows what politicians may be assassinated or Watergated this time? (Murdoch supported Carter, so it’s Morgan Yankees and Texas Cowboys plus Murdoch vs Rockefeller Yankees and Sun-Belt Cowboys.)
And then we could talk about the USSR, Inc., the world’s most self-contained corporation, though not the richest or even the biggest. Yet the Soviet Union acts just like a company with a very big plant and facilities (and cheap labor force), and owns huge blocks of shares in many Western European, Asian and even American companies.
Let’s not forget the Seven Sisters: these are the seven oil companies that OPEC must sell to. There are Rothschild’s Royal Dutch Shell; British Petroleum: Texaco; Gulf; and three Rockefeller companies (Standard Oil before the breakup): Exxon, Mobil, and Standard of California. Needless to say, bank transactions of petrodollars go through Chase Manhattan (David Rockefeller) Bank.
Enough. Can no one see this? How do we get the message through to the masses?
Too late—they’ve already got the message. While libertarians have been clinging to Rand’s competent capitalist idol, or following those “hippies of the right” like Libertarian Connection’s Skye D’Aureous and Natalee Hall into grooving on the multi-national companies becoming too much for the national States to handle, and others mentioned earlier don’t even realize the problem, Hollywood has put out two excellent movies portraying the possibility of the Corporation finally absorbing the State whole.
Rollerball in 1975 showed the dystopia starkly, with a hero who resembles liberty and individualism and single-handedly fights the enemy to a standstill.
The year 1976 gave us Network. Besides having excellent satire on television and presenting the best mass-media portrait of a Marxist (black and female, no less) I’ve ever seen, the movie spells out the corporativist philosophy starkly in the mouth of the head of the network’s parent corporation.
The message is “the present forms of government just get in the way.”
It may dawn on you at this point what I’m getting at, and you may indeed flinch. Would any Libertarian Party candidate (or half the non-party libertarians, for that matter) not hail the replacement of the present world States with multi-national corporations, thus making “libertarianism” the co-opt for a New Statism, the way “liberalism” was a century ago?
There is a way out of this mess. Counter-economics cannot be co-opted. Moscow may be ready for Rollerball—but it’s got the world’s biggest black market—and black market mentality in its people (with the possible exception of Burma). What if the corporations could not enforce their monopolies because of smugglers? What if the plutocrats could not regulate because everyone was avoiding, evading or breaking regulations? What if the corporations watched their limited liability, privileged market shrivel up as business moved to an honest, righteous and enthusiastic underground market?
And finally, what if the enforcers—whether UN police, National Guard or Company agents—going out after the culprits, came back with stories of how everyone is counter-economic—or maybe they didn’t come back at all . . .