July 5, 2011

The Eminently Real Free Market (XIII): Sketchy Stories (2)

Readers impatient with the pace of this critique must remember that it involves ethical as well as intellectual judgment. We defended the rationale for this strategy in this blog’s first dozen posts. If a writer demonstrates that he plays fast-and-loose with his sources, his critic should not overlook that ethical defect.
That is, if the writer is engaged in propagandistic distortion of his adversaries’ position (e.g., creating an atmosphere of suspicion, or poisoning the well), a critic fails in his duty who merely reproduces the writer’s argument and then test its premises for their truth value and its logical form for validity.
In other words, when the propagandist says, “Look at this!,” we do well to look not only at “this,” but also at him. Then we will see not only that his many argumentative “leaky buckets” do not hold water, either individually or severally, but that we should never have expected them to.
Mr. Ferrara scoffs at such exposure, regarding such retailing of his rhetorical ploys as “niggling criticism,” which only reinforces our cumulative case. We suppose we would be considered “non-niggling” were we to “go to the mat,” immediately and vigorously, over papal encyclicals, usury, the school of Salamanca, the just wage, etc., and stop with all this mamby-pamby fretting over “the ethics of discourse.” Our point, however, is that our alleged “niggling” over his forensic conduct and handling of sources is germane to assessing his claims in those areas.
Our personal experience with him—documented in an exchange of emails this past March that we wish we had his permission to publish in its entirety without comment—has convinced us that it really doesn’t matter what we say in reply to any of his charges: he ignores the rebuttal and repeats another baseless charge that was rebutted in a previous message. But our readers should not rely on our experience: just compare what we have written over the last forty-plus posts with that tantrum he recently threw in The Remnant.
No, we’ll get to the "juicy" stuff on our schedule, not his. In any case, what’s the rush? When this is done, Mr. Ferrara’s book will be still be for sale, and our root-and-branch criticism will be freely and permanently available to those who care to see whether the things he said were so.
Mr. Ferrara’s historical “sketches,”1 eighteen topics that parade before the reader from page 14 to page 39 and enumerated in the previous post, are intrinsically interesting. They all illustrate grave ethical failings of the sort that has always earned the opprobrium of libertarians, but especially those who self-identify as Austro-libertarians, most notably Murray Rothbard. When Kevin Carson, whom Mr. Ferrara cites along the way,2 excoriates capitalists who sought and won political advantages over their market rivals, he is only following in Rothbard’s footsteps. Why would Mr. Ferrara not want to make that clear?3 Our surmise is that doing so would not serve his propagandistic purpose.
Our trip through those twenty-five pages should not take up twenty-five posts, or even eighteen. We will simply take note of each “sketch” of “political capitalism,” remind our readers of Mr. Ferrara’s obfuscation of the meaning of “free markets,” which we outlined in a recent series of posts, cite relevant Austro-libertarian sources when possible, and make any other observations that his sketchy historical vignettes occasion.
As they consider each charge, our readers are encouraged to ask: what on earth has this got to do with any moral case against Austro-libertarianism from any point of view, let alone the Catholic?
To Be Continued

1 “. . . within the constraints of this book,” Mr. Ferrara writes, as we quoted him in the previous post, “the following examples will have to suffice to sketch the immense picture of the history of ‘political capitalism’ and its effects upon both the illusory ‘free’ market and social order at large.” (14)
2 But see also our mini-series of posts subtitled, “The Kevin Carson (Side-)Show,” parts V through IX of the current series “The Eminently Real Free Market.”
3 On page 27, while expounding his sixth point (about government-subsidized railroads), Mr. Ferrara announces, as though revealing something against Austro-libertarian interest, that “Even Rothbard notes that . . . .” In the same paragraph and the next, however, he goes on to quote Mr. Carson several times without alerting the reader to that shift of reference in the main text. Mr. Ferrara thereby creates the impression that he’s quoting only Rothbard. In fact, he’s providing evidence that his favorite libertarian’s condemnation of government subsidies was indistinguishable from that of his least favorite. Mr. Carson may have rejected Rothbard’s interpretation of Benjamin Tucker’s banking philosophy, but his penchant for exposing and condemning all regulatory cartelization is Rothbardian in inspiration and insight.