July 19, 2014
In other words, Wicked Campers got rid of its slogan because it was unpopular. Yes, some politicians muttered about new laws. But the company didn’t repaint its vans because of repression by the Nanny State but rather because activists mobilised against them. No infringement of free speech took place. On the contrary, large numbers of ordinary people who had previously been silent found their voice – the exact opposite of the Big Brotherish crackdown [Abbott appointed Human Rights Commissioner and IPA hack Tim] Wilson seemed to be describing.When I say, generally immediately following my standard quip that "libertarians" are not interested in liberty so much as in privatising tyranny, that the preferred political system of types like Wilson would be feudalism, so long as they got to be lords, I am not only - although I am that as well - remarking on the mental pathologies of the average arrested-adolescent Randite, but also referring to what's layed out above. Simple souls like myself might imagine that a free society is one where in a practical sense most of the people have the most freedom possible in their lives, where their behaviour is the least possibly constrained; but for Wilson and his ilk freedom is where a minority have the freedom to exercise their power and influence, and everyone else has the freedom to "freely" contract to be a serf. [And, for that matter, is a system where "deregulation", "private enterprise", "the nightwatchman state" &c are code words for state capture (of an as-usual-interventionist state) by a particular class... but I digress.] Too harsh? Perhaps the glibertarians would prefer to see themselves as good Jeffersonians, which they could be instead: staunch defenders of a man's right to live untrammelled by oppressive government, free to grow his crops, manufacture his nails, and administer his slaves.
Why, then, did Mr Freedom make this case a cause célèbre? The answer lies in this line:
Despite the success of the online campaign, Mr Wilson said people who disapproved should protest by not using the business.For Wilson, freedom’s a market relationship, most perfectly expressed when an owner freely chooses to sell a particular commodity and a purchaser freely opts to buy it.
Everyone knows Anatole France’s quip about the law treating the rich and poor equally when it comes to sleeping under bridges – and the same critique can be applied to notions of freedom (for, as they say, free speech is a lot easier when you own a newspaper). But we can make a stronger claim. Because the sale of labour power depends on this double sense of freedom, defending freedom (from a capitalist perspective) means defending disempowerment, since, if workers have other options available to them, the commodity of labour power will not circulate freely.
That’s why, for neoliberal ideologues, any protest or strike represents (in embryo, at least) an attack on freedom, an infringement on the logic of the commodity. From Wilson’s perspective, by campaigning against Wicked Campers, activists are undermining the fundamental relationships of a free (capitalist) society – which is why our commissioner duly leapt into action.
Apropos of which, a' course: I'm currently halfway through Domenico Losurdo's Liberalism: A Counter History and cannot recommend it highly enough.