Libertarian / OWS Nexus

I continue to be fascinated by the frequent intersection of classical liberals / libertarians and Occupy Wall Street, at least in the diagnosis of what ails us.  This post by Russ Roberts I linked previously is a great example.   Both groups get energized by criticisms of the corporate state and crony government.

Where they diverge, of course, is in solution-making.  The OWS folks see the root cause in the behavior and incentives of private corporations which corrupt government actors with their money, and thus advocate solutions which increase state power over these private entities.  In contrast, libertarians like myself see the problem as too much state power to create winners and losers in the market and shift wealth from one group to another.  Given this power, the financial incentives to harness it in ones favor are overwhelming and will never go away, so the only way to tackle it is to reduce the power to play favorites.


  1. perlhaqr:

    Yeah... it just boggles my mind that anyone can look at the problem of Corporate Money being spent to influence laws, and think that the solution is to give the government more power, with a consequent increase in the incentive to spend Corporate Money to influence the law.

  2. Ray K.:

    Don't they diverge just a little on property rights?

  3. Jess:

    Hmm. What's the line about buying & selling Regulators again?

  4. john mcginnis:

    The ROI on playing the K Street game is too high not to leverage it. Until one disincentives that relationship it will continue.

  5. Gil:

    If you say that the ROI of using force & fraud to get wealthy exceeds the ROI of being honest then Libertarianism would fail to emerge.

  6. mesaeconoguy:

    What you said.


  7. SamWah:

    I'm with you on this. I see it as government soliciting bribes.

  8. jhertzli:

    I've noticed what I think is a common assumption on the Left: The amount of government is approximately constant. As a result, political controversies can never be about the amount of government but only about who gets to be in charge.

    This explains their beliefs that deregulation goes along with fascism, that anarchism goes along with socialism, or that corporations and property rights are necessarily creatures of government. It might even explain their belief (during the Cold War) that Amerikkka was just
    as totalitarian as the Soviets.

  9. mesaeconoguy:

    Gil, your causality, as always, is entirely backwards.

    Return on actual investment depends completely upon the
    performance of the counterparty.

    When third parties (government) interfere with strange rules and regulations, most meant to benefit competitors, private economic actors become very hesitant to act.

    No amount of “mandating” will fix that either, Gil. They will simply shut down and stop doing business.

    It is third party interference, not honesty, Gil, which causes the problem.

    Please, do get some help.

  10. Gil:

    Sure they will, Mr Mesa, sure they will.

  11. Ted Rado:

    The trick is to have a system that minimizes abuse by business while at the same time keeping red tape and interference with business activity (and of course individual liberty) at a minimum. I am astonished that anyone wants to start a business these days, with the plethora of rules and regulations.
    I believe that consumers can better police business practise than can government. If a business is not honest and competent, it will fail. Government action in some cases helps, but the red tape and complexity it creates is often more harmful than the the problem it was supposed to deal with. As pointed out by others, all of the complexity leads to clever ways to take advantage of the system, thus further negating any good it was supposed to do.
    The US worked fine for many years before we were buried by USG crap. All we have done is run up government and business cost out of all proportion to the good it was supposed to do.

  12. Eris Guy:

    OWS is parcel to the Christiania "anarchist" movement, whereby the "anarchists" want a large, powerful state, because only such a state could provide them with a lawless area and supply the dole.

  13. john mcginnis:

    The point of the comment is that there is a better return on hiring 4 lawyers to tread the halls of congress to supress competition than there is to hire 100 engineers and a 1000 tradesman to build a better product to beat the competition.

  14. herdgadfly:

    It is called Corporatism. Politicians and CEO's love the power.