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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Libertarians are Mostly Useless....Again

Reason Magazine, the Libertarian movement's Pravda, published a book review about the United Fruit Company.  The only reason I read it is because the description included this:
It usefully reminds us of some of the wonderful things about capitalism, and some of the dangers, too.
That instantly piqued my interest because you will hear very little about "the dangers of Capitalism" from your average Libertarian. Most of the time, they embrace capitalism uncritically with an almost religious fervor. "There is no God but free markets." That kind of thing.

So I was curious to hear how they would interpret "the dangers of Capitalism" through the lens of the United Fruit Company, a notorious outfit that not only killed people but gave us the term Banana Republic. But do you think the review even mentions any of that? (I'm sure the book being reviewed does...) Nope.

We get a list of all the "pros," in order: Upward mobility, efficiency, bias-free marketing creativity, egalitarianism (defined as making products cheap, which, um, is not "egalitarianism"), technological innovation, decentralization, and philanthropy.

No joke, the "bias-free marketing creativity" refers to how the United Fruit Company handed out free bananas to immigrants at Ellis Island.

Oh, the creativity!

The cons merit a single paragraph that doesn't mention the worker abuse or the union-busting massacres. Nope, it harps on the old Libertarian "government bad" grunt.
And the United Fruit story also reminds us of some of the hazards when capitalism becomes cronyism. The book recounts all the Washington insiders hired by Zemurray as lobbyists, including Tommy “the Cork” Corcoran. A business that lives by Washington is finally at its mercy, as United Fruit learned when the antitrust cops came after it.
Yes, it's true, United Fruit corrupted (or attempted to anyway) every government they came into contact with, but don't chalk that up to their greed, their virtuous selfishness. Nope, it's the government's fault.

The truth is the United Fruit Company and how it operated is a perfect example of the "unfettered capitalism" Libertarians hold as the ideal economic system. This is why they talk about free bananas for immigrants, but don't mention that time the army machine-gunned workers protesting their exploitation. Libertarians believe, although they won't admit it so explicitly, that workers benefit from their exploitation, so I can see how this isn't their concern. But drop a Libertarian into a banana plantation in Columbia, he might change his mind.

Or maybe he'd stick with his principles with that machine gun in his face, say something like, "Oh, you're giving out free bananas in New York? Why didn't you say so? Here I thought I was living like a slave so you can live like Charles Foster Kane, but free bananas? Makes it all worth it."

What a joke.

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