All posts by Joel Schlosberg

More Reasons of State, More Troubles

Publications associated with the CNT and FAI
Ideas on liberty in CNT-FAI publications during the Spanish Civil War. Public domain.

Linguist Noam Chomsky is known for mincing no words about the corruptions of political power. Yet when asked whether “government of the people, by the people, for the people is just a sham” at the end of an interview by John Rachel for CounterPunch (August 27), Chomsky insists that it is only “if we let it be,” and that Americans could instead “choose to exercise” their ability to turn their nation into a “cooperative commonwealth.”

This is at odds with Chomsky’s preceding replies, which detail how the United States wages war in ways that not only contradict popular opinion but violate its own laws. Chomsky’s 1973 book For Reasons of State took its title from a passage by Mikhail Bakunin about how “the State is the organized authority, domination, and power of the possessing classes over the masses.”

Chomsky holding out hope in 2021 that the people can and should “take the reins of government into their own hands” likewise ignores Bakunin’s observation that the state’s use of force necessarily “shatters the universal solidarity of all men on the earth, and brings some of them into association only for the purpose of destroying, conquering, and enslaving all the rest.”

Chomsky himself documented in Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship how the “organs of power and administration remained separate from the central Republican government” in the social movements fighting the fascist seizure of power during the Spanish Civil War, yet he reinforces what Larry Gambone calls “the myth of socialism as statism,” the very conflation of popular and political power for which Chomsky famously took mainstream historians to task.

Modern-day popular movements seeking an end to social warfare could do well to rediscover the forms of voluntary socialist organization noted by Chomsky and Gambone. They should also revive Bakunin’s vigilance against the “bold plunder” and “shabby betrayal that [is] daily being perpetrated by the representatives of the states.”

Correction: In the original version of this op-ed, John Rachel was misidentified as John Roberts.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a contributing editor at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

  1. “More Reasons of State, More Troubles” by Joel Schlosberg, OpEdNews, September 3, 2021
  2. “More reasons of state, more troubles” by Joel Schlosberg, Lake Havasu City, AZ News, September 3, 2021
  3. “Sham Government?” by Joel Schlosberg, Salt Lake City Weekly, September 8, 2021 (both online and print)
  4. “More reasons of state, more trouble” by Thomas L. Knapp [sic], Madill, Oklahoma Record, September 9, 2021
  5. “More reasons of state, more trouble” by Joel Schlosberg, Sidney [Montana] Herald, September 11, 2021
  6. “More Reasons Of State, More Troubles” by Joel Schlosberg, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, September 12, 2021
  7. “More Reasons of State, More Troubles” by by Joel Schlosberg, Roundup Record-Tribune & Winnett Times [Montana], September 15, 2021

The Money Monopoly Itself is The Abuse

The Joshua of our silly senate in his great act of trying to make the sun stand still, by Charles Jay Taylor. Public Domain.
The Joshua of our silly senate in his great act of trying to make the sun stand still, by Charles Jay Taylor. Public Domain.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler might seem one of the least likely people in the world to praise Bitcoin as an example of “how technology can expand access to finance and contribute to economic growth” — while noting its founder Satoshi Nakamoto’s intentions “to create a private form of money with no central intermediary, such as a central bank or commercial banks” (“Remarks Before the Aspen Security Forum,” August 3).

Yet while Gensler praises the technological breakthroughs of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, he evaluates them from the existing framework of money issued by governments, contending that “we already live in an age of digital public monies — the dollar, euro, sterling, yen, yuan” since they circulate in forms less tangible than printed bills.  With exchanges between different forms of cryptocurrencies at present largely relying on “stable value coins … pegged or linked to the value of fiat currencies,” it seems natural to Gensler to bring them under the SEC’s established regulatory structure.

Yet as Benjamin R. Tucker noted in 1887, allowing only forms of banking that “observe the prescribed conditions” of “law-created and law-protected monopolies” prevents them from becoming a true alternative.

One such experiment, Ralph Borsodi’s Constant, was stalled in 1974 by the prospect of the same SEC securities regulation proposed by Gensler for current private currencies. The Constant secured against the inflation which steadily diminishes the purchasing power of state currencies by being based directly on the real supply and demand values for a representative sample of common goods. Borsodi had correctly presumed that even though the Constant had achieved his aim, since it “takes money creation completely out of the government’s hands,” it was “not likely to make governments very happy.”

Gensler warns that cryptocurrencies are “rife with fraud, scams, and abuse in certain applications.” Mutualists like Tucker and Borsodi saw how political influence over the currency, implemented via seemingly neutral rules, inevitably consolidated economic clout by stealthily rigging the whole economy to favor the powerful. A free market in money itself, not just in what can be traded for money, would keep its providers honest and its value fair.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a contributing editor at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

  1. “The Money Monopoly Itself Is The Abuse” by Joel Schlosberg, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, August 8, 2021
  2. “The Money Monopoly Itself Is the Abuse” by Joel Schlosberg, OpEdNews, August 11, 2021
  3. “The Money Monopoly Itself Is the Abuse” by Joel Schlosberg, Roundup, MT Record Tribune & Winnett Times, August 11, 2021
  4. “The money monopoly itself is the abuse” by Joel Schlosberg, Claremont, NH Eagle Times, August 12, 2021
  5. “Do the regulators view Bitcoin as a real alternative?” by Joel Schlosberg, The Press [Millbury, Ohio], August 23, 2021
  6. “The money monopoly itself is the abuse” by Joel Schlosberg, Elko, Nevada Daily Free Press, August 27, 2021

Gravel Can Still Make a Mountain

Mike Gravel was to Bob Barr's left in more ways than one at the Libertarian National Convention in 2008. Photo released by Bob Barr under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Mike Gravel was to Bob Barr’s left in more ways than one at the Libertarian National Convention in 2008. Photo released by Bob Barr under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The passing of former United States Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK) on June 26 was largely overshadowed by that of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld three days later. The same need not be true of their political legacies.

Fifty years to the month before, while Rumsfeld was Counselor to President Richard Nixon, Gravel “didn’t really know what the legal consequences would be” of “resting on the speech and debate clause of the Constitution” to make public the top secret Pentagon Papers that turned popular opinion against the Vietnam War.

In 2008, Gravel was one of the few presidential candidates offering a break from Rumsfeld’s renewed militarism in the Middle East, as term limits prevented George W. Bush’s re-election but not the continuation of his wars. Those wars remained ongoing as Gravel ran again in 2020, by which time he would have entered the Oval Office as a nonagenarian.

Mike’s antiwar “Gravelanche” paralleled the scene in Jim Henson’s fantasy film Labyrinth where a motley group of underdogs use an ability to “call the rocks” to summon enough boulders to drive back an army.  If Gravel’s message had far less impact on the engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq than in Vietnam, it may not be simply because Americans have, like Dana Carvey’s Saturday Night Live impersonation of George Bush (senior), failed to generalize the example of Vietnam beyond Vietnam.

To some degree, Gravel was simply less heeded in the twenty-first century. At the height of his influence, he admitted to The New York Times that he could only “chip away, bit by bit, for what I want” if he built enough grassroots support that “they will have to listen to me in the Senate.” Even so, it’s hard to tell how many assumed that the battle against war was too far uphill for them to have an effect.  A renewed peace movement might find itself garnering wins as seemingly unattainable as what Howard Zinn called “the impossible victory” of ending the war in Vietnam.

Gravel’s 2008 announcement that “I’m joining the Libertarian Party because it is a party that combines a commitment to freedom and peace” pointed to an alliance which never quite materialized.  Yet successful efforts to expose government malfeasance and decriminalize personal choice pioneered by marginalized mavericks like Mike Gravel and Jesse Ventura could be expanded to more areas, and perhaps even all, of social life.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a contributing editor at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

  1. “Gravel Can Still Make a Mountain” by Joel Schlosberg, Anchorage, Alaska Press, July 5, 2021
  2. “(Mike) Gravel Can Still Make a Mountain” by Joel Schlosberg, AntiWar.com Blog, July 5, 2021
  3. “Gravel Can Still Make a Mountain” by Joel Schlosberg, OpEdNews, July 6, 2021
  4. “Gravel can still make a mountain” by Joel Schlosberg, Intrepid Report, July 7, 2021
  5. “Gravel Can Still Make a Mountain” by Joel Schlosberg, CounterPunch, July 7, 2021
  6. “Registering political views” by Thomas L. Knapp [sic],  Madill, Oklahoma Record, July 7, 2021
  7. “Gravel can still make a mountain” by Joel Schlosberg, The Millbury, Ohio Press, July 9, 2021