June 17, 2011

The Eminently Real Free Market (VIII): The Kevin Carson (Side-)Show (4)

In the Winter 2006 issue of the Journal of Libertarian Studies (JLS), several leading libertarian scholars examined Kevin Carson’s distinctive economic, political, and historical theses and invited him to respond to their criticisms on its pages, which he did. Here is Mr. Ferrara’s tendentious description of this symposium:
Carson’s devastatingly effective critique of “vulgar libertarianism” . . . has provoked a barrage of articles against him the Journal of Libertarian Studies by no fewer than two “Senior Scholars” and two “Adjunct Scholars” of the Mises Institute (Walter Block, Roderick Long, Robert Murphy, and George Reisman). (13-14)
As those gentlemen really are senior and adjunct scholars, Mr. Ferrara’s use of scare quotes here is (once again) uncalled for, but par for his propagandistic course. And since they were not among the Austrians Mr. Ferrara wanted us to “meet” in Chapter 1, we’ve linked their names to pages that provide some evidence of their scholarly productivity.
Professor Long, then-editor of now-defunct JLS (reincarnated as the wholly online Libertarian Papers) introduced the alleged “barrage” of “attacks” in this Editorial:
Individualist anarchist Kevin A. Carson’s recent book Studies in Mutualist Political Economy seeks to revive and defend the mutualist position on these topics, while incorporating some Austro-libertarian concepts along the way. For example, Carson defends the labor theory of value—but in an “Austrianized” version that, unlike its Marxist counterpart, attempts to incorporate both  subjectivism and time-preference; and Carson’s account of the historical role of the corporate power elite draws on the work of radical Austro-libertarians like Murray Rothbard and Joseph Stromberg.
Yet while Carson’s mutualist version of libertarianism has much in common with the Austrian version, Carson—like his mutualist forebears, but unlike most Austrians—indicts as unjust the separation of workers from ownership of the means of production. His brief against “capitalism” (in this sense of the term) is interdisciplinary in character, deploying economic arguments as to the dependence of such separation on state interference with the market, historical arguments as to the process by which this separation actually came about, and philosophical arguments as to the proper principles of justice governing the acquisition and transfer of property rights.
The assessment of Carson’s arguments must likewise be an interdisciplinary enterprise. Carson’s provocative claims deserve a hearing to whatever extent they are right, and require a refutation to whatever extent they are wrong. Accordingly, the present issue of the Journal of Libertarian Studies is devoted to an appraisal of Carson’s book from an Austro-libertarian standpoint (or rather from several Austro-libertarian standpoints). Articles by Robert Murphy, Walter Block, George Reisman, and myself critically examine the various aspects of Carson’s thesis—economic, historical, and philosophical; a reply by Carson follows.
A rather different, calmer impression from the one Mr. Ferrara’s language created. An appraisal, not a "barrage." Let’s sample another of his gratuitous assertions:
It is remarkable that four holders of doctorates, considered “heavyweights” of the “Austrian School,” felt compelled to answer a self-published work by Carson, who describes himself as a “health care worker.” But it is easy to see why: Carson’s rejoinders completely outclassed his professional academic critics in scholarship, critical reasoning, and polemical style. (14)
Ah, yes, polemical style, right up there with scholarship and critical reasoning. In Mr. Ferrara’s world, it is remarkable that scholars would engage serious criticism if it originates from a non-academic source. We think that speaks highly of their integrity.

There’s certainly no danger of TCATL’s attracting such interest. Only the present writer, just another doctorate-less health care worker, feels compelled to expose this product of a small press (between which and “self-publishing” there is scarcely a difference these days) to the thorough criticism, even exposé, it deserves.
As for who “outclassed” whom (“completely,” no less), we will not ask our readers to take our word for it: they are in for a real treat if they examine that issue of the JLS—online, no access fees—for critiques of Mr. Carson’s thought by Walter Block, Roderick Long, Robert Murphy, and George Reisman, followed by Mr. Carson’s rejoinders thereto. We leave it to them to discover whether Mr. Carson “outclassed” those who invited him into their forum or merely held his own.
To Be Continued