The failure to recognize the tyranny of the corporation.
The American War of Independence was fought not solely because of the tyranny of the king, as it is often taught in schools today, but primarily because of the tyranny of the East India Company and the corruption it had brought to the government. As Rusticus wrote of the East India Company:
Their conduct in Asia for some years past, has given ample proofs, how little they regard the laws of nations, the rights, liberties or lives of men. They have levied war, excited rebellions, dethroned Princes and sacrificed millions for the sake of gain. The revenue of mightly kingdoms have entered their coffers. And these not being sufficient to glut their avarice, they have, by the most unparalleled barbarities, extortions and monopolies, stripped the miserable inhabitants of their property and reduced whole Provinces to indignance and ruin. Fifteen hundred thousand, it is said, perished by famine in one year, not because the earth denied its fruits, but this "Company" and its servants engrossed all the necessities of life and set them at so high a rate, that the poor could not purchase them.
And, in The Alarm which circulated the colonies prior to the revolution:
Are we in like Manner to be given up to the Disposal of the East India Company, who have now the Assurance, to step forth in Aid of the Minister, to execute his Plan, of enslaving America? Their Conduct in Asia, for some Years past, has given simple Proof, how little they regard the Laws of Nations, the Rights, Liberties, or Lives of Men. ... Fifteen hundred Thousands, it is said, perished by Famine in one Year, not because the Earth denied its Fruits; but [because] this Company and their Servants engulfed all the Necessaries of Life, and set them at so high a Rate that the poor could not purchase them.
Following the revolution, very strict laws were enacted to prevent corporate power from ever rising to that level again. Corporate charters were short, corporations had extremely limited privileges granted to them and possessed no rights, wealth was heavily taxed to prevent the formation of a new aristocracy, and members of corporations could not interact financially with members of government (which was a crime of bribery). Many of these policies would be repugnant to many so-called libertarians. But the ideas were simple: limit the tyrannies, as Jefferson and others saw them, of the king (government), the church, and the corporation. This would help ensure liberty for the people.
Now, this blindspot is finally being addressed by the some members of the Libertarian Party who are finally either beginning to understand or beginning to acknowledge that corporate interests are rarely beneficial to the citizens of a nation. That was one of the more positive messages from the Badnarik campaign in 2004. From his website:
Although free trade is a blessing, managed bureaucratic trade is not. It is a dangerous misconception to think of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and other international quasi-governmental structures as free trade organizations. They rely on thousands of pages of confusing regulations and corrupt agreements between multinational corporations and oppressive governments. True free trade the kind that fosters peace does not depend on such organizations and rules, but is actually hindered by them. Managed trade the kind that fosters resentment and poverty is all that these organizations have so far delivered.
The managed trade that we see today, where politically connected corporations and favored nations get special deals, is anything but free; it is no more and no less than mercantilism, the same economic system that Adam Smith railed against in The Wealth of Nations, when he saw the inefficiency and aggression of imperial governments endowing special privileges to state-sponsored cartels and forbidding those without power to exchange with each other in peace.
Libertarians want to see free trade between individuals, where people become less dependent upon their governments and the WTO and IMF, where instead they become connected in peaceful commerce, where the power and influence of governments and bureaucratic trade agreements diminish to make way for a world in which there are relationships between people, rather than alliances and arm-twisting between states.
And from his interview on Slashdot:
I don't oppose growth or success. I support unrestricted trade across international borders, and I support companies developing themselves internationally. But the fact is that corporate growth today isn't natural market growth. It's growth encouraged and enhanced by government-dispensed privilege. It's artificial, and it distorts rather than serves the market.
Corporations don't have rights and don't face consequences. People do. Tinkering with that has been disastrous. It's time to get back to full responsibility for individuals instead of government privilege for corporations.
While this is a positive development Badnarik, like most libertarians, is still unclear on how to prevent governments from gaining too much power. Many libertarians think that they will starve the government by keeping taxes low. And yet, if they don't follow the examples laid down by the founders of the United States what are the wealthy going to do with their accumulating money? They are going to use it to control the government (which includes the institutions of domestic and foreign repression), the corporations, and even the churches for the purpose of increasing the size, influence, and power of those institutions over the citizens. How can I be sure this will happen? Because it is what has happened in the United States.
Many criticisms can be made of the founders of the United States, but that is not the scope of this article. I would suggest that it is important to recognize that they were endeavoring to create a stable form of government and prevent the abuses of power that had driven them to revolution in the first place. Therefore, it stands to reason to look upon their experiment and determine which aspects worked to accomplish those goals. The idea of heavily taxing wealth and restricting corporations may be odious to many libertarians but I would argue that in doing so the founders of this country prevented any real accumulation of wealth, and the power and abuses of power that comes with it, for about 100 years. I would further argue that this changed as result of the myth that corporations were granted corporate personhood, leading to the systematic destruction on one of the checks in the system. Once corporations were given free reign in this country the new aristocracy arose, and through their corporate power seized control of the government and the churches leading directly to the tyranny that is now faced today.