Neoliberal libertarianism – yes, it is suicidalism

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By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO*

The “war on workers” and “death to surplus proletarians”, the slogans of suicidalism that reside in the essence of neoliberalism

This note continues another that was published in December 2023 on the website the earth is round, but it was not well noticed. In order to characterize neoliberal extremism, it had originally received a negative title, “no, it is not fascism”. The writing, however, came out with an affirmative title that also proved to be quite fair, “suicidal neoliberal extremism”. Nobody paid any attention, but the issue is important for what is coming in the 21st century with the decline of capitalism.

The article had a message: we must avoid using the label “fascist” to characterize all right-wing extremism. This custom prevents a better understanding of this political practice which, since the 1980s, has sought to support the system based on the capital relationship.

As is well known, this normativity came to the government from the moment the “economy” in central countries, with the fall in the profit rate and the advent of stagflation, went into crisis in the previous decade. For this reason, this ideological programming continued to pursue this objective in the following decades because, if the cyclical crisis, which was expressed through an abrupt drop in GDP in the mid-1970s, was overcome, the tendency towards quasi-stagnation (low rate of profit) cannot be reversed in a sustainable way.

The thesis put forward is that fascism is always characterized by reconstructing the State in the form of a “mythical community”, while neoliberalism tries to limit the State as much as possible as a promoter of an illusory community. Roughly speaking, fascism responds to a crisis of hegemony maintained by liberalism, while neoliberalism becomes a response to the economic crisis – not just a cyclical one.

 Therefore, on the one hand, the State is necessary to maintain the unity of the system, in the form of an ideal community, hiding the class opposition engendered by the capital relationship. And it does this by regulating and managing competition between individuals and companies, preventing it from turning into a suicidal fight of everyone against everyone. It is always possible that, under conditions of competition, the class struggle will intensify.

On the other hand, the State must provide the conditions for capital accumulation, intervening, if necessary, to supplement systemic functioning in overcoming crises and resuming economic growth. It is, therefore, based on this determination of the State that neoliberalism in its insinuating and extremist forms can be understood.

Yes, it is a contradiction: the State puts the community in appearance, the nation, to allow exploitation, expropriation and jurism to prosper as is the essence of the system based on the capital relationship. However, when an intense crisis arises and, even more so when it becomes structural – that is, when the production of surplus value becomes insufficient to remunerate overaccumulated capital – the State has to intervene both in the economy, in civil society, and in yourself.

Here we want to better examine a course within the current of neoliberalism, the one that presents itself as a “libertarian creed”, which calls itself anarcho-capitalism and which is now taking hold in the Argentine government. Where does she come from? Where is its source in the current of economic ideology? Where does she go? When governing, do you spread freedom or unleash dictatorship?

From the outset, it is important not to confuse the Austrian current with the neoclassical current, which encompass different parts of the field of vulgar economics, which is also political. The first, since Alfred Marshall, appears to be objectivist, that is, it presents itself as instrumental knowledge about the functioning of the economic system and, thus, as mere Economy, while the second, since Karl Menger, appears as subjectivism , as knowledge about the supposed essence of human sociability learned from economic life in the generalized commercial economy.

With Ludwig von Mises, in this founding perspective, it saw itself as a praxeology, that is, as a science of human action in general: “In the occurrence of social phenomena regularities prevail to which men have to adjust their actions, if they wish to be well -successful. It is useless to approach social facts with the attitude of a censor who approves or disapproves them according to arbitrary standards and subjective value judgments. (…) The transformation of thought that classical economists had initiated was only taken to its ultimate consequences by modern subjectivist economics, which transformed the theory of market prices into a general theory of human choice”. (Mises, 2010. p. 22-23).

This science is, in fact, a metaphysics, a punctuation that reifies and consecrates as eternal the immediate form of social relationship enshrined in capitalism. The war machine of classical philosophy, as Ruy Fausto says, always uses the position of a primary foundation to impose a worldview. And it is this operation that we see here. Menger, in his Principles of Political Economy, to define thing as good and man as homo economist, employs Aristotle's theory of four causes: (a) final cause: “existence of a human need”; (b) material cause: “the thing has qualities (…) in a causal link with the satisfaction of said need”; (c) formal cause: “recognition, on the part of man, of this causal link”; (d) efficient cause: “man can dispose of this thing” (Menger, 1983, p. 244).

And this type of reasoning also appears, very clearly, in the Libertarian Manifesto (2013) by Murray Rothbard, one of Javier Milei's main gurus. This author makes explicit something that is implicit in Meger's principle mentioned above. Here it starts from an axiom that draws, not from its somewhat paranoid hair, but from the sociability of capital that is institutionalized, as we know, through the imposition of private property. To understand it well, it is necessary to keep in mind that “person” does not mean “humanity”, but “private property of oneself”.

The libertarian creed is based on a central axiom: that no man or group of men can commit aggression against the person or property of any other person. It can be called the “non-aggression axiom”. “Assault” is thus defined as the use or threat of violence against the person or property of any other individual. (Rothbard, 2013, p. 17).

The “free human choice” put first by Mises, therefore, is restricted – “unfree” – to private property, which Rothbard leverages as the first principle. The original aggression of one against another in which private property consists is now prohibited from prospering; From now on, therefore, there can no longer be aggression from one person to another, that is, from non-owners against owners.

From this principle, by deduction, the main theorem of libertarianism follows: “If no man can commit aggression against another; If, in short, everyone has the right to be “free” from aggression, then this directly implies that the libertarian stands firmly on the side (…) of “civil liberties”: the freedom to speak, publish, assemble, and engage in any of the so-called “victimless crimes”, such as pornography, sexual deviance, and prostitution” (idem, p. 37).

If “civil liberties” are a condition of freedom in the commodity form, “victimless crimes” appear there, evidently, as a euphemism for the right of bourgeois man mainly to exploit the proletarians – that is, those who have only themselves as property and therefore has no property at all. Because, as we well know, prostitution reveals in an exemplary way the nature of the money relationship that, for liberals, ennobles capitalism. And this point is important because private property thus appears as a right to dispossess dignity – but also to expropriate, exploit, suck interest – from those who are just others.

Two delusional corollaries follow from this sociological axiomatic. The first of them comes to deny the existence of society: “the individualist” – says Rothbard – “maintains that only individuals exist, think, feel, choose and act; and that “society” is not a living entity, but just a label for the set of individuals who interact” (idem, p. 53). The second comes to crush the State and even the government as a supra-individual agency: “the libertarian sees that throughout history and up to the present day there has been a central, dominant and preponderant aggressor over all rights: the State” (idem, p 38).

This also leaves another corollary that still needs to be proven in practice: behold, for him, it is necessary to abolish the central government, as all public goods (health, education, security, etc.) – and not just the so-called private goods – must be provided by private companies (idem, p. 231). This, then, is the ultimate justification for the privatization compulsion that affects contemporary capitalism.

It can be seen, therefore, that the libertarian, as an ideological figure, seems to believe religiously in the appearance of the economic system of capital: unlike the fascist who wants to portray the illusory community as a mythical community, he wants to abolish the State. He intends to suppress it as a form of the illusory community to institute another form of power and concentrated violence, which could be considered a “strictly private governance system of capitalism”.

Rothbard does not want to abolish, therefore, the corporate function of the State. It is evidently a protopia and therefore has its usefulness. It is, therefore, neither utopia nor dystopia, which are negative notions; This is something that can be stated affirmatively. In any case, what was classical philosophy has now become a political war machine, especially in the sphere of economic policy.

Neoliberal libertarianism appears on the contemporary electoral and political scene as a radical opposition not only to centralist socialism but also to social democracy which, faced with the misfortunes and social conflicts created by capitalism itself, wants to transform the illusory community – to a certain extent – ​​into a real community.

Neoliberalism opposes the political program that predominated in the post-war period, alleging that it, through this purpose, corrupts the “immortal” norms of private property; However, what we want is not to prevent corruption within the ruling class, but the transfer of income and wealth supposedly already earned (or to be gained) by the ruling class, to take care of the social fractures created by expropriation, exploitation and sucking of interest that the capitalist mode of production generates and makes prosper.

What is currently happening in Argentina is exemplary in this sense. As you know, the ruling class in that country, from the average Miami-goer to the extravagant bourgeoisie, maintains the habit of storing their financial wealth in dollars or dollarized securities. And this tradition creates a huge problem for maintaining the stability of the Argentine economy.

Maurício Macri, who took office as president at the end of 2015, after twelve years of Peronist rule, governed according to the canons of neoliberalism. He let the exchange rate fluctuate, allowing Argentines to buy foreign currencies more easily and under little control. In 2019, he took out a loan of 50 billion dollars to try to manage the balance of payments deficits that insisted on threatening the functioning of the system. But this contribution ended up financing capital flight as the country's economy was unable to take off with higher accumulation rates. Investment in the capitalist economy, as we know, depends on encouraging and sufficient profitable opportunities and they did not appear in Argentina.

Now, an external loan needs to be repaid in the same currency in which it was taken: it consists, therefore, of temporary relief that possibly brings greater pain after some time. As the time to pay arrived, the additional demand for dollars worsened the exchange rate problem; The imbalance then began to require the constant devaluation of the exchange rate. Now, this drop in the value of the peso against the dollar creates generalized inflation because the costs of imports rise, but also, mainly, because of the informal indexation of prices to the dollar, something that occurs in this capitalist economy addicted to this foreign money.

Faced with this impasse, in the face of ongoing economic ruin, the libertarian government elected in December 2023, instead of taking measures that would coerce the bourgeoisie to maintain their financial wealth in the local currency, forcing dollarized “Argentines” to become heavy Argentines , chose to produce a huge recession in order to achieve a temporary adjustment and, ultimately, obtain the complete dollarization of the Argentine economy.

Instead of attacking the bourgeoisie, he chose to attack workers in general through, obviously, market mechanisms. Libertarianism that waves the flag of freedom, as its essence appears, reveals itself as promoting misery and oppression for the vast majority of the population. Libertarianism emerges as well as suicidalism. And in a very well-founded way!

To show this foundation, it is necessary to mention one more corollary of the libertarian theorem. Self-ownership, as has been known since John Locke, is work: “…every man keeps the property of his own person; (…) The work of his body and the work produced by his hands are his properties” (apud, p. 46). What follows from that? What to do then, with unemployment, with the capacity for work that does not find a role in the labor market?

Therefore, for Rothbard, “a large part of the constant unemployment of the lower class and thus, consequently, of poverty, is a voluntary choice on the part of the unemployed themselves”. In other words, it is a choice freely made by the workers themselves. Therefore, it cannot be demanded that the “hard-working bourgeoisie be coerced into supporting those who (…) are clearly dysfunctional for the survival of society”. If poverty and unemployment result from free decisions, the burden of these opprobriums cannot be passed on to others.

From this course of arguments, the libertarian here comes to a very revealing conclusion: “in short, that the social welfare system be abolished”. (Rothbard, 2013, p. 184). Yes, these are, “war on workers” and “death to surplus proletarians”, the slogans of suicidalism that resides in the essence of neoliberalism.

* Eleutério FS Prado He is a full and senior professor in the Department of Economics at USP. Author, among other books, of Capitalism in the 21st century: sunset through catastrophic events (CEFA Editorial) [https://amzn.to/46s6HjE]

Reference


Menger, Carl – Principles of Political Economy. The Economists Collection: Jevons/Menger. São Paulo: Abril Cultural, 1983.

Mises, Ludwig von – Human action – An economics treatise. São Paulo: Ludwig von Mises Institute Brazil, 2010.

Rothbard, Murray N. – The libertarian manifesto – For a new freedom. São Paulo: Ludwig von Mises Institute Brazil, 2013.


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