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Liberty Without Corporations
by   Richard   Rieben
Written 12 March 2003. Previously published as a pamplet by BPI.
People seem to be very surprised that the USA has "suddenly" become an overt, rabid fascist state – more Hitlerian than Hitler ever dreamed of – but this is what happens when you destroy political liberty in the context of corporate economic structures. In the case of Americans, we have stumbled into this situation as the result of a profound, but silly, misperception.

Both sides in the American debate have mistakenly identified the corporation as a private enterprise, with the result that the Conservatives, based upon the principles of liberty, have given the corporation defense, protection and succor (they thought they were defending freedom), and the Liberals, based upon the evidence of corporate behavior, have continually sought to regulate and destroy private industry and private enterprise (they thought they were defending freedom, too).

Both efforts are mistargeted on the shifting, floating identity of the corporation; and both efforts have brought actual liberty to its knees, while multiplying corruption throughout the governmental, the "private," and the public (moral) sectors. The political base of liberty has not "eroded," it has been attacked and destroyed by all parties, making everyone in this country complicit in the destruction of liberty (by either the "defense" of the corporation or the "attack" on private enterprise – which amount to the same thing and are identical in their effect).

Oddly, this is the same scenario that Ayn Rand recounted in her article, "Notes on the History of American Free Enterprise" [1946]: while private entrepreneur J.J. Hill built his Great Northern as a clean, honest free enterprise, without any government favors, permissions or subsidies – the Big Four built their Central Pacific as a corporate enterprise, a coercive government monopoly, funded by federal subsidies, protected from competition, and guilty of every abuse ever mentioned in regard to building and running those "evil railroad empires." With the result that the people, never very bright to begin with, rose up against the evils of the "railroads" and destroyed them. That is, they destroyed free enterprise, while doing nothing to challenge (or even recognize) the role of the corporation in the mix.

Corporations are not creations of a free market or of political liberty. Many of the conglomerate corporations of the present began life as private enterprises. Once these private enterprises morphed into corporations, however, they are no longer private enterprises – the cleanliness, honesty, vigor, integrity or respectability of their origins does not magically linger on in their new condition.

Few people challenge the perception that corporations are private enterprises, or that they are integral to a free market economy (and political liberty). This is a blurring that is common to most Conservatives, Neocons, Libertarians and Objectivists, and it is intentionally fostered by corporations (and the think-tanks that they fund), whereby the corporations co-opt the energies devoted to defending the free market (and liberty) – into a defense of the corporation itself, such that the actual possibility of a free market is eclipsed ... and such that political liberty is steadily chipped away by people who presume to be struggling to save it.

Whereas this is typical of most media lies, it is not a mainstream lie, but a lie that is promulgated as a hidden truth. American defenders of liberty are coached into defending its destroyers (the corporations) on the misrepresentation that these destroyers are actually the fount of America's economic greatness and true representatives of the success of political liberty, and that they are beleaguered victims of statism, collectivism, altruism, and so forth. Duped patriots rush to the defense of the corporations – and wonder why that only seems to hurry the demise of liberty.

The blurring is also fostered on the other side of the political fence: the Liberals, Progressives, Greens and Populists also view the corporation as representative of private enterprise, with the result that, to curb its abuses and injustices, they throw ever-more crippling legislation at private enterprise, which has very little affect on the corporations, except to further their agenda of destroying the restraints of the free market and the limitations of political liberty (upon domination).

In Paul Weaver's book, "The Suicidal Corporation," [1988] he recounts, briefly, the history of the corporation in the United States, commenting that, in the mid-nineteenth century (the period of the rise of corporations), "What the large majority of Americans believed in – individualism, limited government, free markets – the corporation often scorned and worked against. What the corporations wanted – subsidies, industrial policy, protection from competition, governmentally sanctioned monopoly – most Americans hated."

From their inception in this country, corporations have stood adamantly against competition, free enterprise and free markets. Yet, in defending corporations, Americans think they are defending these things. Due to the rapacity of corporations, other Americans think that free enterprise needs to be regulated (which is what the corporations want). Both parties are being played for fools, but it is not a funny game.

In her defense of free enterprise, novelist Ayn Rand was a devoted supporter of the corporation. In her advocacy of political liberty, she championed an economic system she called "capitalism," which, to her, was synonymous with political liberty.

I have always thought that she did this in contradistinction to the appellation of "communism" used to describe the Soviet tyranny from which she emigrated, however the use of economic terms to describe a political system can be a very misleading construction. Although Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, makes it clear that she is an advocate of political liberty, her defense of corporations, as presumed representatives of the free enterprise that has made America into a great country in consequence of its political liberty, indicates that she doesn't really know what she is talking about.

The Reciprocian advocacy of a non-corporate free market – not called "capitalism" nor any other "ism" – refers to an economic system existing integrally with, and in consequence of, political liberty. This "non-corporate" qualification is a stumbling block for several people on a variety of misapprehensions of the real world. Notably those who, like Rand, consider themselves free market advocates and stand in defense of the corporation (one of the most anti-liberty economic arrangements ever devised).

Many of these people quibble about "good" vs. "bad" corporations, or various corporate arrangements, without really understanding the history of corporations in this country or, previously, in Europe. It is the constant history of government collusion with economic undertakings, and of business collusion with public policy.

Rand's proposed remedy was an amendment to the U.S. Constitution separating government and business, in the same manner and for the same reason as the separation of church and state. Were it not for the nature of corporations – for the mere existence of corporations – this might be a good solution. The Reciprocian proposed remedy is to revoke the power to charter and incorporate (anything).

The free-market, private enterprise that flourished for a time in America – and which had little use for business incorporation for nearly a century – was eventually conquered, politically, by the infiltration of corporation into the American economy toward the latter half of the 19th century. The American system of "capitalism" was the bastard result of this "union" – which, economically, continued to flourish on the strength of the native free market of liberty, while losing its responsibility, justness, flexibility and vigor over the next 100 years (as it compromised the free market and destroyed political liberty).

Corporations are, without exception, inherently corrupt and corrupting, regardless of the individual men who operate them (most of whom are undoubtedly quite decent), and regardless of the level of relationship they have with government. It is the structure itself, the symbiotic relationship of government and business, that pollutes and corrupts both business and government. To the benefit of tyranny. To the demise of liberty.

People who advocate that corporations should be free from government regulation (or that government should be free from corporate influence) are simply Luddites – they are advocating a "return" to some fairy land that cannot be reassembled. No amount or kind of legislation can ever come into existence (or go out of existence) that could return us to a pre-corrupt form of corporate capitalism – which, in fact, never existed in the first place.

In truth, what they are premising their advocacy upon is the private enterprise, free-market system that exists in consequence of political liberty. But this system opposes the corporation, as much as corporations oppose (in whole) such a system. The premise mistakenly includes corporations in a free-market system – which, in every way, shape and form (except most people's brainwashed perception), is ludicrous.

Corporations are not part of the American tradition; are opposed to the American tradition. At least, this is true to whatever extent you regard political liberty as "the American tradition." As a nation of largely European emigrants, our actual allegiance is more often toward European, mercantile, corporate, theocratic, socialistic, and fascist forms than toward the uniquely American approach of individualism, limited government, and free markets (which is, philosophically, a slap in the face to all European traditions – and to all of our individual cultural heritages as emigrants).

Political liberty applies only to individuals, not to groups ... and not to corporations or other fabrications. The economic system under liberty is not "capitalism" nor any other, separate kind of thing. It is, descriptively, a completely free market-place without any additional regulation beyond the rights of individual human beings (to see how this works, I refer you to the constitution in Reciprocia).

The important point of this economic system is that it derives from and only exists in the context of individual liberty. Without individual liberty, and a political system to secure individual liberty, it is not possible. Until we have a system of political liberty, there is NO economic system to rally to, NO practitioners of the ideals of a free market, NO examples extant ... and nothing to defend.

The free market-place of liberty is a consequence of liberty. It does not work the other way around. Fighting for a "free market" or an "open market" or "capitalism" or any other kind of economic system will not get anyone liberty.

So much for misdirected – if well-intended – efforts and energies. But it is only "well-intended" in the sense of being idealistic, naive, unthinking dupes. This applies, as well, to those on the Populist side of the fence.

To get a free and fair market, you must first achieve liberty.

That is an unavoidable reality.

How that can be accomplished, under tyranny, is a predicament that has been brought about by the concerted efforts of both the Conservatives and the Liberals to destroy liberty due to a misperception of the corporation.

The Reciprocian political philosophy is not an advocacy of capitalism, of a free market, of free enterprise, nor of any particular economic system or design. It advocates a political system of individual liberty. Only.

This contains all that is necessary and all that is sufficient. It pertains to all the activities possible to individual human beings, including worship, including trade, including education – freely, upon the responsibility of any individual to pursue any activity he is able to support, limited only by the freedom of other individuals to do likewise, freely, with their own lives.

Forget economics. All of it. In the real world, it's a lost game already. In the world of advocacy, it is both irrelevant and pointlessly divisive. Tinkering with economic systems while Rome burns is not just a waste of energy, it adds fuel to funeral pyre of liberty.

At this stage of the game (end-game, nearly), every economic platform, and every political agenda based on an economic platform, is anti-liberty in their actual effect. They not only miss the point, give priority to nonessentials, and divert precious human energy, they are either defending the wrong thing (the corporation) or attacking the wrong thing (private enterprise).

[The corporation is not an "economic factor." It is a sociopolitical phenomenon designed to destroy free enterprise, free markets, individual political liberty – and humanity.]

The advocacy of economic ideals, programs, or systems is beside the point – and, by shunting us off into academic side-shows on economics, it is detrimental. Without individual political liberty, economics has no human context.

And neither do you.

If you want to know the model from which Star Trek's "Borg"-collective was created, this is it: the corporation. Forget the cartoonish corporate background of Robocop; that wasn't even serious. The motto of the Borg and the corporation is: "Resistance is futile."

Wanna bet?


copyright © 2006 by Richard G. Rieben