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Davis, California

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Response to ‘On monopolies’

As if writing from a dusty pre-1970s economic textbook, the author [Tristan de Liège] acts as if Occupy never happened and as if Ayn Rand’s ideology has never been challenged. His lack of perspective and curiosity about conflicts within economic theory is truly disappointing, especially in a student paper.

Restricting his discussion of monopolies to discredited and abstract theory about non-existent laissez-faire capitalism, de Liège misses the point that most corporations are recipients of massive government subsidy and protection, not including the free and cheap research they receive through public universities like UC Davis.

People mistrust massive profits because they are grounded in relentless corruption and fraudulent financialization; epic crimes which result in wrist slap fines, no jail terms and promotions to the next job, government or academic position. People mistrust corporations because without environmental and labor regulations there is no limit to the violence and exploitation they will enact (and deny), and no limit to the legal and extra-legal government influence that they will purchase in pursuit of ever maximizing wealth, wealth disparity and environmental degradation. And what is the capitalist position on war, torture and slavery? Profit, profit, profit.

Keith Hennessy
Ph.D. Candidate, performance studies


  1. Mr. Hennessy,

    Thanks for your interesting criticism. I’m sorry you are disappointed with my lack of perspective and curiosity in economics; I too wish I had more time to study economics, but I nonetheless believed I might still have something worthwhile to say on this specific topic from my limited knowledge. I actually did use a pre-1970s economics textbook as the basis for some of my claims. But I don’t think the passage of time alone is sufficient to render arguments unsound. Also, although I think it is beyond the scope of my article, if you have any criticisms of Objectivism that you’d like to offer, I’d be glad to hear them.

    I think, unfortunately, that I must have indeed not made my points very clear, since I agree that corporations are the recipients of massive subsidies and protections in our society, as you say – and I am opposed to these kinds of monopolistic practices.

    Of course, my column isn’t about the Occupy movement, so I can’t go into detail about those issues, but I did deliberately mention that:

    “There are surely many factors involved. And to the extent that distrust of businesses is due to some businesses having improper political ties, this is justified. ”

    I suppose where we diverge is that I think there’s more to be said in explaining the mistrust in “massive profits” that people have. Specifically, I think the moral views of our culture are playing a role. Because of this, I think the distinction between illegitimate corporate corruption and justified pursuit of profits is often blurred. I think the solution to this is the separation of state and economics, i.e. laissez-faire capitalism. In such a society, it is not possible to “purchase government influence” as you say, since the government’s sole function is the protection of individual rights.

    You asked for the capitalist positions on war, torture, and slavery. In no particular order:
    I think the second (torture) might be controversial because of different ways in which torture might be defined, although from what I understand it isn’t generally effective anyway. Therefore, I personally would be opposed to it.
    The capitalist position on slavery should by now be obvious, at least on my view. Capitalism the system that protects individual rights, including life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Slavery is a blatant violation of these.
    The capitalist position on war can be inferred from the role of the government. If the sole purpose of the government is to protect individual rights, the sole justification of war is similarly the protection of individual rights: the rights of the citizens to which the government is responsible. This rules out imperialist wars over territory or resources, and it rules out foreign wars whose sole purpose is to “liberate” people from ideologies such as communism.

    Of course, a lot more can be said here, especially about war and torture, and I think these positions are highly contextual insofar as individual rights can sometimes be threatened by groups advocating a certain ideology, etc., but the key point is that the protection of individual rights is the primary concern.

    I hope this clarifies my position for you.

    Tristan de Liège


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