On 'Private Tyrannies'

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If
you have ever read much of the political philosophy and commentary
of renowned anarchosyndicalist intellectual Noam Chomsky, then you
are probably familiar with his view that large private business
organizations are "private tyrannies" – oversized
and antidemocratic institutions that function according to that
most hated of organizational principles, the hierarchy! According
to Chomsky,

As state
capitalism developed into the modern era, economic, political
and ideological systems have increasingly been taken over by vast
institutions of private tyranny that are about as close to the
totalitarian ideal as any that humans have so far constructed.

Chomsky goes
on to cite with approval the work of political economist Robert
Brady who states,

Within the
corporation all policies emanate from the control above. In the
union of this power to determine policy with the execution thereof,
all authority necessarily proceeds from the top to the bottom
and all responsibility from the bottom to the top. This is, of
course, the inverse of "democratic" control; it follows
the structural conditions of dictatorial power.

But what are
the "structural conditions" for dictatorial power? And
are corporations really "about as close to the totalitarian
ideal as any [institution] that humans have so far constructed,"
as Chomsky contends? Is Starbucks as close to the totalitarian ideal
as, say, the National Socialist regime of Adolf Hitler? Is Wal-Mart
as totalitarian an institution as the Bolshevik state of Vladimir
Lenin? Even to ask these questions is to see their patent absurdity.
For, while a dictatorship is certainly structured as a hierarchy,
this is most clearly not a sufficient condition. Rather, the most
basic and essential condition for dictatorial power, which stands
out unmistakably in truly totalitarian regimes, is the ability of
the dictator to initiate physical force to compel others to do as
they are told.

Read
the rest of the article

January
26, 2009

Ben
O’Neill [send him mail]
is a PhD student at the Australian National University in Canberra,
Australia. Send him mail. See his article
archives at Mises.org
.

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