Time for Leviathan Reduction Action

Mr. T pitied the fools in Reagan’s White House, but the building could still use general inspection from court jesters. Public domain.

Despite taking socialists to task for being leery of the president (Joe Biden) who boasted that he “beat the socialist,” Justin Vassallo may as well be wearing a red suit for the message he’s bringing reds.

After all, according to Vassallo’s “The Left’s Foolish Attack on Bidenomics” (Compact Magazine, December 5), socialists need not bother with nostalgia for Michael Harrington’s The Other America inspiring JFK and LBJ to launch the War on Poverty six decades ago, when they wield considerable influence on the federal economic policy of 2024.

Not only are their reservations about endorsing Joe Biden’s economic policies enough of a threat to his re-election to be worth warning against, but even measures seemingly “a ‘gift’ to capital in the form of various subsidies” have the potential to be “activated through public policy within the framework of market society” through what leftist historian Martin J. Sklar called a “socialist investment component.”

Vassallo finds it “ironic” that “the most militant leftist critiques of industrial policy echo the libertarian right’s complaint that it is but another iteration of ‘crony capitalism’.” Ironically, it was Sklar who helped fellow radical scholars realize that progressive interventions “were always limited to those that would allow corporate capitalism to function more efficiently,” as noted in the editorial comments by Blanche Wiesen Cook, Alice Kessler Harris and Ronald Radosh in their 1973 survey Past Imperfect: Alternative Essays in American History. Sklar was also included in A New History of Leviathan: Essays on the Rise of the American Corporate State, coedited by Radosh with free-market libertarian Murray N. Rothbard.

Rothbard and Radosh’s joint introduction notes that their respective goals of “removing the privileges of the large corporations and returning to laissez-faire” and “a decentralized socialist economy” showed the “major political and philosophical differences between the editors.” Yet they shared an “awareness that the nature of liberalism has been distorted to mask large corporate control over American politics is essential for interpreting our past development, and for understanding how the Leviathan Corporate State operates today.”

Vassallo gets it exactly backward: It was Sklar and comrades like Radosh who helped make libertarians less automatically in favor of big business, and leftists wary of assuming that state support is friendly to labor bargaining power and consumer safety. The “peculiar dissociation from the ideas and strategies that animated Bernie Sanders and European left populists” is, if anything, a sign of how much the current left has forgotten of what the New Left learned.

While deriding “Econ 101 certainties that haven’t determined actually existing capitalism since the Industrial Revolution, if they ever did,” Vassallo is arrogant enough to prescribe “what the American economy should be producing more of — and conversely, what it could use less of.” (A proposed “new synthesis” of John Maynard Keynes and Alexander Hamilton had already long been the norm in American political economy when Hamilton was a trivia question in a Got Milk? ad.) Such compulsory counsel is the equivalent of getting coal for Christmas, plus a bill for the coal.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


This Christmas, Remember That War Is Hell

Sherman's march to the sea, by F.O.C. Darley. Public Domain.
Sherman’s march to the sea, by F.O.C. Darley. Public Domain.

“You people of the South don’t know what you are doing,” William Tecumseh Sherman told David F. Boyd in 1860. “This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing!”

Nine years later, Sherman re-emphasized that sentiment in an address to the Michigan Military Academy’s graduating class of 1879: “You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!”

In between, Sherman became one of the most famous — and, in the south, infamous — fighting generals of The Late Unpleasantness, aka the Civil War. Every time I quote him in a column, I receive an outraged comment or two from fellow southerners. His “March to the Sea,” culminating in his presentation of Savannah, Georgia to US president Abraham Lincoln as a “Christmas gift” 159 years ago this month, remains a sore spot down here.

I’m not going to stop quoting him, though. He’s someone I’d like American soldiers and policymakers to listen to.

When it comes to speaking knowledgeably about war, few can boast the credentials he amassed on the subject — two wars, one as a junior officer and one as a general, rounding out his career with command of the entire US Army.

As for politics: “I hereby state, and mean all I say,” he told Harper’s Weekly in 1871, “that I never have been and never will be a candidate for President; that if nominated by either party I should peremptorily decline; and even if unanimously elected I should decline to serve.” He reaffirmed that in 1884 when approached about seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

These days, most American generals seem to have one foot in the armed forces, one in politics, and both racing toward the revolving door that leads to big lobbying salaries from “defense” contractors.

While “civilian control of the military” strikes me as a good thing, there’s something to be said for emphasizing Sherman in America’s service academies and boot camps. To the extent that they advise politicians, officers should be recommending against, not encouraging, perpetual and deadly foreign military adventurism.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Why I Don’t Want Elizabeth Warren to Make Me a Sandwich

When it comes to bizarre demands for government intervention in trivial matters, US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is the gift that keeps on giving. Try as I may to tear myself away from watchng the slow motion train wrecks of her ideas and cast my gaze on similar weirdness from other politicians, she just tops everyone else on a regular basis and I can’t resist the temptation to talk about her again.

This time, it’s sandwiches.

Yes, really.

And not in the vein of the misogynous “make me a sandwich” meme. In point of fact, she just might be the last person on the planet I’d delegate sandwich-making duty to. Not because I assume she wouldn’t be good at it — she contributed several supposedly Cherokee-related family recipes to a cookbook in the 1990s, after all! — but because I know that no matter what I asked for, I’d end up with whatever Elizabeth Warren thought I should eat.

“We don’t need another private equity deal that could lead to higher food prices for consumers,” Warren tweeted (or whatever) on November 26. “The @FTC is right to investigate whether the purchase of @SUBWAY by the same firm that owns @jimmyjohns and @McAlistersDeli creates a sandwich shop monopoly.”

Such an FTC investigation would presumably take about half a minute to discover the existence of Jersey Mike’s, Firehouse Subs, Quiznos, Blimpie, and a gazillion other sandwich shops of both the chain and small business variety. Not to mention the existence of stores where bread, meat, cheese, etc. can be purchased, and homes with refrigerators, counters, etc. where the ingredients can be stored and assembled at the diner’s leisure.

It’s not so much that Warren seeks solutions to non-problems as that she considers it a problem — or at least an oversight — whenever she happens across something, anything, anywhere, that she’s not been put in charge of supervising.

And it’s not that she’s different from other politicians in that respect. Generally speaking, all politicians have a lot in common with the rest of us — we want to run our own lives, and they want to run our lives too.

But the areas she picks to address make one wonder just what the hell she’s doing to earn her $174,000 US Senate salary. She clearly has plenty of spare time and energy to spend worrying about American sandwich consumption, and no time or energy at all to spend on actually looking into whether that worry is warranted.

There is no “sandwich shop monopoly.” There’s not GOING to be any “sandwich shop monopoly” even if Roark Capital adds Subway to its portfolio.

In fact, the only truly dangerous monopoly in America is the one Elizabeth Warren affiliates herself with: Government.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.