(Delivered at the Libertarian Party Mises Caucus Take Human Action Bash, May 15, 2021)
By Michael Rectenwald
The most pressing matter facing advocates of liberty today is the prospect of the political and economic establishment completing the institution of a totalitarian state. There is no other way to read the multipronged approach and the political maneuverings that political operatives are taking to rule under “Biden.” I put “Biden” in quotation marks here because the current president of the United States is not a singular person named Joe Biden. It is a politburo consisting of party rulers and advisers, ruling by executive fiat, plus, as I’ll discuss, corporate-state apparatuses. Make no mistake, the power grab that is underway poses the most grievous threat to liberty in recent history.
The signals could not be any clearer. In addition to the swath of executive orders, clearly composed by politburo members and aimed at extending federal power, the political establishment has initiated a growing body of laws which would, if passed, consolidate uniparty rule for the foreseeable future.
These include especially H.R. 1, or the For the People’s Act, passed by the House. Should it pass the Senate (with the eradication of the filibuster, which of itself would mean uniparty rule), H.R.-1 would grossly favor Democratic candidates in federal elections. Most importantly, it would further centralize federal election oversight and, according to the Institute for Free Speech, “[e]xpand the universe of regulated online political speech (by Americans) beyond paid advertising to include, apparently, communications on groups’ or individuals’ own websites and e-mail messages.” And Biden just revoked an Executive Order preventing online censorship. If you think that libertarians won’t be affected, think again, as libertarians have been mentioned as among those dangerous political elements to be targeted for their dangerous speech.
The legislative maneuverings include the ‘‘Judiciary Act of 2021,’’ which would simply expand the Supreme Court to twelve members plus the chief justice. This move would essentially effect a legislative takeover of the Supreme Court, as the Supreme Court would increasingly “legislate from the bench” and likewise expand the power of the legislative and executive branches beyond official perimeters. The odds of its passage, as is, are slim, but the overture is indicative of an attempted power grab not seen since FDR.
But the most imperiling sign of the nearing consolidation of totalitarian government is the effective merger of corporate and state functionaries, with corporations and other organizations acting as political appendages of the government and enforcing corporate-state desiderata. The indications of this merger are so many and sundry that any exhaustive recounting of them would entail a book-length treatment—a book-length treatment that I may endeavor to write.
The most conspicuous example of a corporate-state merger is the extension of governmental power to corporations and other organizations with the covid crisis response measures, which may now exceed lockdowns and masking to include the issuance of vaccine passports that corporations and other organizations may require. (The prospects for vaccine passports actually may have been increased by the announcement of the new “rule” issued by Biden after the CDC’s advice that mask mandates be lifted for those who’ve taken the “vaccine.” Already the covid authoritarians are suggesting that without vaccine passports, there will be no way to tell who should and who need not wear a mask. Although the vaccinated will be “allowed” to go without masks, many have indicated that they will continue to wear them so as not to lose the opportunity of signaling their virtue, their compliance, and their authoritarian druthers, while marking the unmasked as deviationists.)
The old saw that such corporations are private companies and that libertarians must support their right to do whatever they want does not hold water, because clearly these corporate bodies have been enrolled as state apparatuses. Operation Warp Speed was rolled out by the federal government under Trump and has enlisted private organizations—first and foremost Big Pharma—to execute it. The state has enabled Big Pharma to profit enormously by instituting a state-of-emergency regime which in the US makes non-FDA-approved vaccines legal. At the same time, Big Pharma—along with the WHO, the CDC, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—legitimizes the state-of-emergency regime, which in turn augments state power.
The enrollment of corporations and other organizations in the scheme to vaccinate the population and to require such vaccinations for social participation should not be considered in terms of the prerogatives of private organizations but as part of the infiltration of the state into private industry, and vice versa. What we are witnessing, and should be resisting, is a merger into a corporate-government state complex, wherein government can bypass the legislative branch and enforce unpopular mandates by colluding with corporations and other organizations to make “policy.” The state exceeds the reaches of the government per se. It includes these corporate apparatuses. Furthermore, those who deploy masks and enforce their use may be considered state agents in their own right. Like major corporations, these individuals have been effectively deputized by the state to enforce state sanctions.
Perhaps the most egregious element of this corporate-state stranglehold on the population is the participation of what I call Big Digital, the major media and social media platforms, along with the primary information control and search organization, Google. I have called this set of digital giants the Google Archipelago. Big Digital conglomerates eliminate media outlets and voices that challenge official narratives and disappear dissidents. The official narratives include the covid narrative about lockdowns, masking, and vaccinations, although the official narrative has not only changed willy-nilly but also has been proven factually wrong, as well as socially devastating to the vast majority. Big Digital and the media serve the state in general and in particular Big Pharma, by eliminating oppositional views regarding the lockdowns, masks, and vaccines, and by pushing fear-inducing propaganda about the virus and its ever-proliferating variants.
As I have written in Google Archipelago, Big Digital must be considered an agent of an authoritarian state—as a “governmentality” or state apparatus functioning on behalf and as part of the state itself. “Governmentality” is a term that should become well known in the coming weeks and months. Michel Foucault introduced the term “governmentality” to refer to the distribution of state power to the population, or the transmission of governance to the governed. Foucault referred to the means by which the populace comes to govern itself as it adopts and personalizes the imperatives of the state, or how the governed adopt the mentality desired by the government—govern-mentality. One might point to masking and social distancing as instances of what Foucault meant by his notion of governmentality. I adopted the term governmentality and have emended it to refer to corporations and other officially non-governmental actors who actively undertake state functions, including the individual on the street.
As Jeff Deist has suggested to me by email, Big Digital Tech companies “demonstrate the idea of ‘nothing outside the state,’ which means nothing is truly private…. To me,” writes Jeff, “the ‘civil’ in civil society means wholly private—the part of society which is totally outside and apart from the state. That’s what we need to expand. Our civil rights precede the state, and thus lie outside its political control. The state’s only (dubious) justification is to help secure those rights. So, is Google part of civil society? Absolutely not.” As political agents, Big Digital corporations are state agents.
Similarly, other major corporations now perform state-sanctioned roles by echoing and enforcing state-approved ideologies, policies, and politics: indoctrinating employees with Critical Race Theory, issuing woke advertisements, policing the opinions of workers, firing dissidents, and soon, possibly demanding vaccine passports from employees and customers.
The overall tendency, then, has been toward the corporate-state monopolization over all aspects of life, with increasing control by approved principals over information and opinion, economic production, and the political sphere. If the consolidation accelerates, the broad state, which includes the corporate appendages, will require the elimination of noncompliant, disaffected, and “untrustworthy” economic and political actors, using, in part environmental, social, and governance scores to direct resources to approved producers and distributors. And, with the elimination of political opposition, the tendency is toward uniparty rule, and with it, the merging of party and state into a singular organ.
Some refer to this configuration as fascism, and on the economic level it is fascism, at least at the top. But it is coupled by Marxian socialist rhetoric and ideology on the ground, replete with totalitarian social control vis-à-vis high-tech surveillance under the pretense of medical necessity. I call it corporate socialism, with a corporate-state ruling elite tending toward monopoly on top, and “actually existing socialism” for everyone else. (Actually existing socialism is a pejorative term used mostly by dissidents in socialist countries to refer to what life was really like under socialism, rather than in the perfidious books of Marx and his epigones.) Corporate socialism is not merely government bailouts for corporations. It is a two-tiered system of ‘actually-existing socialism’ on the ground, paralleled by a set of corporate monopolies on top.
If you’re at all familiar with the corporate and billionaire funding sources behind Black Lives Matter and Antifa and the socialist commitments of these groups and their leaders, you’ve probably wondered why the “capitalist class” would support a movement whose doctrine is apparently antithetical to their own interests. Aren’t these funders capitalists after all, and don’t capitalists naturally oppose socialism? The answer is that monopolists are more than happy to spread socialist ideology amongst the masses, because in doing so, they prepare the population for this corporate socialist regime. They thereby help to eliminate competition and likewise consolidate their monopolistic grip on the economy.
Even some leftists have come to the same conclusion as I have about the current configuration. The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has acknowledged this pernicious new amalgamation of corporatism and socialism, calling it by the name of “communist capitalism.” Agamben writes (and take his use of the word “capitalism” with the necessary grain of salt, because what he is often referring to is corporatism and not free market economics):
The capitalism that is consolidating on a planetary scale is not capitalism in the form it took in the West: it is, rather, capitalism in its communist variant, which combined an extremely rapid development of production with a totalitarian political regime. This is the historical significance of the leading role that China is assuming not only in the economy in the strict sense, but also, as the political use of the pandemic has eloquently shown, as a paradigm of human governance. That the regimes established in the self-styled communist countries were a particular form of capitalism, especially suited to economically backward countries and therefore classified as state capitalism, was perfectly known to those who can read history; It was quite unexpected that this form of capitalism, which seemed to have exhausted its task and therefore obsolete, was destined to become, in a technologically updated configuration, the dominant principle in the current phase of globalized capitalism. It is possible, in fact, that we are today witnessing a conflict between Western capitalism, which coexisted with the rule of law and bourgeois democracies, and the new communist capitalism, from which the latter seems to emerge victorious. What is certain, however, is that the new regime will unite in itself the most inhuman aspect of capitalism with the most atrocious one of statist communism, combining the extreme alienation of relations between men with unprecedented social control.
Nevertheless, and lest I be the bearer of only bad news, we are beginning to see chinks in the armor of woke-covid, corporate socialist totalitarianism. For example, even the New York Times has reported an actual covid fact—there has not been a single recorded case of outdoor covid transmission. Furthermore, numerous retailers are now lifting their mask mandates. Despite the attempts of the Branch Covidians to seize on the opportunity for the use of vaccine passports, the elements of tyranny are beginning to crumble. Just days ago, even the CDC acknowledged a Salk Institute study that shows that the spike protein, the very protein that the “vaccine” prompts the cells to produce, poses a danger to the epithelium of the vascular system. Other such studies will soon see the light of day. Mainstream propaganda outlets will also be forced to acknowledge the utter uselessness of mask mandates and lockdowns, facts which have been so adeptly and relentlessly demonstrated by Tom Woods. This is not to mention the social and economic devastation that these draconian measures have precipitated. Meanwhile, broader swaths of the population are becoming aware and wary of this regime, as worldwide protests of the lockdowns proliferate.
As Michael Heise has suggested, this attempted and floundering totalitarianism represents an important opportunity for the Libertarian Party, and in particular for the Mises Caucus. As the standard bearers of liberty, the Mises contingent represents a beacon for real resistance. Its very existence and recent growth mean that the totalitarian state is incomplete.
The Mises Caucus has a rare opportunity at this historical juncture, thanks to the political establishment’s declaration of war against liberty, reasoned debate, and economic literacy. How can we exploit this opportunity?
· By consistently standing against covid tyranny, the Mises Caucus can show that there is a principled opposition to lockdowns, masks, and forced vaccinations.
· By offering a principled stance against the collectivist ideologies that infringe individual rights and self-determination, the Mises Caucus can attract those disaffected by the hegemonic ideological environment in which we find ourselves. This involves treating people first and always as individuals, not as members of weaponized identity classes used to achieve political ends, and showing why such individualism is far superior, including for minorities.
· By consistently opposing the endless wars and advocating the non-aggression principle, both politically and personally, we show that the free market can and must be decoupled from imperialism, a decoupling that the Left believes to be impossible.
· By consistently opposing the imprisonment of those charged with victimless crimes, the Mises Caucus proves that it cares for individuals, including those in the worst circumstances.
· By defending property rights, beginning with the property in one’s person, the Mises Caucus demonstrates that property rights are required for individual liberty.
· By representing economic sanity and clearly demonstrating that private property and free exchange are the basis for true economic flourishing, the Mises Caucus debunks the belief that socialism is best for achieving social welfare.
· By consistently opposing statist corporatism and corporate bailouts, the Mises Caucus shows that it favors free markets and not rigged marketing and political entrepreneurship.
· By standing for individual rights and individual liberty under all circumstances, the Mises Caucus can lead the way out of the tyranny that besets us.
As a native Pittsburgher, I am proud to share a birthplace with the great Ron Paul. I am a proud Ron Paul-Lew Rockwell libertarian. But this was not always the case. Those who know something of my biography, either from my memoir Springtime for Snowflakes, or from my appearances on the Tom Woods Show, know that I am a former Marxist. I came to libertarianism, first as a civil libertarian and then as an Austrian School economic libertarian, after I saw the totalitarian character of the contemporary social justice movement and subsequently of socialism. I soon read Mises and relished his demolition of Marxism.
I’m here to say that if someone like me can be converted to libertarianism, then the opportunities for attracting defectors from all across the political spectrum, including soon-to-be former socialists, are endless. I anticipate that more defectors will be joining our ranks as the totalitarianism unfolds and unravels. I urge you to be on the lookout for them and to welcome them into our community. Thank you.