All posts by Joel Schlosberg

Freedom Isn’t Just Another Word For a Job Left to Lose

 

The editors of the Queens Chronicle admit that it “shouldn’t be surprising when” those who “seem determined to drive businesses out of” New York City “bill themselves as Democratic Socialists, but it still is” (“Another anti-biz bill to nix,” December 1).

Their shock evidently isn’t at socialists being anti-business.  The editorial posits that employers being “allowed to hire and fire whom they choose” makes “the free market better respected,” unrestricted not only by legislation — such as a proposal from the New York City Council’s Tiffany Cabán to require “just cause or a legitimate economic reason” for terminations — but organized labor negotiation.  “Unions aren’t always appropriate,” since they can keep “rubber-room teachers or excessive-force cops” on the payroll.

What should be startling is that the assumptions that workers have it better than they would in a freer market, and that their bargaining power is bad for business, have lasted so long.

The Wall Street Journal has lauded the socialist mayors of Milwaukee who “implemented a range of new programs, but paid for them largely through gains in efficiency rather than tax increases.” Other socialists went beyond such “an entrepreneurial approach to government, improving systems, cutting waste” to entrepreneurialism in the private sector. Some even did so in New York, before its markets became synonymous with the hard-charging capitalism of Wall Street and The Apprentice.

The town that elected Mike Bloomberg leader of its business nearly made free-trade populist Henry George mayor in 1886 on the United Labor Party ticket.  Brentwood, Long Island hometown of hip-hop duo EPMD of Strictly Business fame, was where Josiah Warren’s ideals of Equitable Commerce were put into practice by voluntary trading of “labor for labor.” The dominance of bookstore chains over independents once seemed so inevitable that You’ve Got Mail needed Tom Hanks’s likability to make it palatable. A decade before the first Barnes & Noble, New Yorkers had laissez-faire socialist Benjamin Tucker’s Unique Book-Shop, which boasted the “Largest Stock in the World Of Advanced Literature in English, French, German, and Italian” … all at the “Lowest Prices in the United States.”

Tucker’s little shop shouldn’t have remained an anomaly. He proposed that a free market in credit would “secure the greatest possible production of wealth and its most equitable distribution.” And dismantling the interlocking monopolies he identified would spur producers by the promise of getting well paid for serving consumers rather than the sheer dread of hearing “you’re fired!”

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

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

  1. “Freedom isn’t Just Another Word For a Job Left to Lose” by Joel Schlosberg, CounterPunch, December 6, 2022

Think Universally, Act Neighborly

Carl Sagan saw a perspective inclusive of other worlds as a key to fixing our own. Public domain.

After Halloween, it’s still a mad and Demon-Haunted World.

On November 1, Kathleen Parker invoked the universalist humanism of Carl Sagan’s 1995 book by that name on the op-ed page of the Washington Post (“Time to abandon Twitter, people”) in contrast to “today’s increasingly vile and violent partisanship.”  It’s not just the midterm elections that horrify Parker, but the stoking of divisiveness on social media, particularly on a Twitter now owned by Elon Musk.

Parker amends Sagan’s insistence that “if a human disagrees with you, let him live” to a suggestion that if Musk’s Twitter becomes overrun by reactionaries, we should  “let them live — among themselves.”

Musk’s “free speech absolutist” approach to Twitter may terrify Parker, but Sagan feared that free speech would be restricted to prevent “foreign authors” from “spouting alien ideologies” or atrophy “when no one contradicts the government.” If anything, Sagan was too sanguine that hot-button issues would be dealt with by “shav[ing] a little freedom off the Bill of Rights” rather than a lot.

Rather than calling for top-down oversight of the emerging information superhighway, Sagan welcomed “inexpensive computer self-publishing” as a means to avoid “a very narrow range of attitudes, memories and opinions.”  Noting how quickly “the apparatus for generating indignation” had whipped up support for a war against Saddam Hussein, “someone almost no American had heard of” before 1990 (and of whom he was “not myself an admirer”), Sagan doubted that such expansive “power to drive and determine public opinion will always reside in responsible hands.”

The host and coauthor of Cosmos was updating the view of the host and coauthor of The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling wrote that Playboy magazine’s 1966 interview with American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell was “a public service of infinite value,” since “it is not public exposure that helps these perverters of human dignity” but the “apathy” resulting from its absence.

Writing for Futurism.com on September 26, Sam Sagan and Ann Druyan (who had coauthored the defense of free speech with her husband Carl in The Demon-Haunted World) reiterated that “we can no longer afford to stay in our silos, occasionally lobbing angry invectives at our antagonists. We can’t afford to stop communicating with each other.”

Calls for online communication to become even more siloed — and for a marketplace of ideas closer to the chartered monopolies of the East India Companies than open agoras — are what really scare me.

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

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

  1. “Think Universally, Act Neighborly” by Joel Schlosberg, OpEdNews, November 12, 2022
  2. “Think universally, act neighborly” by Joel Schlosberg, The Times and Democrat [Orangeburg, South Carolina], November 15, 2022
  3. “Free speech, Twitter and a demon-haunted world” by Joel Schlosberg, The Press [Millbury, Ohio], November 18, 2022

The Left Needs to Leave Trump Behind on Trade

Tetris continues to make an enthralling case for removing trade barriers three decades after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Photo by Wolfgang Stief. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

“GOP Needs to Leave Trump Behind on Trade” proclaimed the Wall Street Journal opinion page on October 3.   The Cato Institute’s Jeb Hensarling offered “a refresher course on the dangers of protectionism” to Republicans who have yet to reckon with the economic losses stemming from Trump’s full-throated embrace of tariffs — or to reconcile their abandonment of Reagan’s free-trade rhetoric with talking points about “freedom of speech, free enterprise and the freedom to bear arms.”

I’m not holding my breath. The Bush administration’s foreign policy blunders haven’t impelled the GOP to rediscover the noninterventionism of its earlier Congressional leaders such as Robert Alphonso Taft Sr., Howard Homan Buffett and Mark Hatfield.  (Hensarling cites Adam Smith’s “national-security exceptions to the free-trade rule,” making a concession to current Sinophobia. Hopefully a revived Adam Smith wouldn’t take exception to Tetris, dubbed “glasnost in a computer game” by AMIGA Plus magazine in 1989,  as exemplary of the exchange across the Iron Curtain that thawed the Cold War.)

That conservatives would neglect their traditions worth preserving is at least understandable in the short-memory world of partisan politics.  Far more puzzling is why the trade policies of the Trump Tower landlord live rent-free in the heads of those who purport to despise everything he stands for.

There have been some sharp jabs at Trump’s views on trade: During his first month in office, Vox’s “Zero-sum Trump” took a deep dive into Donald’s deep obliviousness to the gains from trade in markets with more room to grow than NYC’s tightly regulated real estate.  Yet the issue barely registered in the contentious half-decade since.

Perhaps it was simply lost in the noise.  Or the left-of-center may have gotten too used to demonizing Reagan to grasp the magnitude of the shift from “tear down this wall” to “build the wall.” Bernie Sanders told Vox that immigration freedom was “a right-wing proposal” which “would make everybody in America poorer” a month into Trump’s campaign.

Sanders should have taken a page from Noam Chomsky’s 2007 tome What We Say Goes, which observed that “Cuba and Venezuela are doing exactly what we were all taught we’re supposed to do in graduate courses in economics: they’re pursuing their comparative advantage.”  Over a century earlier, Vilfredo Pareto had noted that “the workers of [England] enjoy much greater well-being than the workers of the European continent” due to free trade making food affordable, and Benjamin Tucker made a socialist case against “the tariff monopoly.”

At the end of George W. Bush’s first term, libertarian author James Bovard explained that “the notion of ‘free trade’ — but only with nationalities that American politicians bless — is a charade. This is like proclaiming freedom of the press, and then adding that people can buy books only from publishers specifically approved by the U.S. Congress.”  How many election cycles will it take for American voters to see through the sham?

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

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

  1. “The Left Needs to Leave Trump Behind on Trade” by Joel Schlosberg, OpEdNews, October 15, 2022