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28.9.03

Lenin the Libertarian?

For my Resource Geography class, we have to read a section of V.I. Lenin's book Imperialism. Lenin's principal argument is against monopolization. He laments the end of the earlier free-trading phase of capitalism in the mid 19th century, and the rise of corporations that pursue vertical integration in order to gain total control over necessary resources. If John D. Rockefeller's vision for Standard Oil is representative, the drive for consolidation and monopolization is a result of an aversion to the chaotic nature of real market capitalism.

From a deontological frame that abhors government intervention, libertarians often object to measures that would eliminate this sort of monopolistic behavior. But what is being defended is just those aspects of capitalism that consequentialist libertarians rely on as the basis of the system's merit -- competition and decentralization. Perhaps we can all agree that crony capitalism -- the subversion of market mechanisms for the benefit of certain powerful interests (either the "capitalist class" as a whole, or more often certain elements within it).

It's ironic, then, that the regime that Lenin founded took monopolism to the extreme, erasing any formal barriers between industrial organizations and between them and the state. In theory, economic interdependence brings about peace, because nobody would dare risk losing their trade with a nation by going to war with it. But when countries don't trust each other to see that same logic, they turn to the security of making regions they're dependent on no longer foriegn. He cites as one example that the British and Russians found it necessary to make colonies out of cotton-producing areas (Egypt and Central Asia, respectively) in order to securely bind that production into the national system. Yet one of Lenin's first acts as leader of the Soviet Union was to push for more cotton production in Central Asia, and the imperialist pursuit of cotton self-sufficiency continued with all of his successors.

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