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In discussing the politics of crony capitalism — i.e., disagreements over how to deal with the “unholy alliance” of big business and big government — the Cato Institute’s Will Willkinson used the phrase “hard left,” which prompted a bizarre response from Freddie deBoer in the comments:
The political problem is that the hard left is exiled from the status of the serious, due to the many legacies of McCarthyism, before we are even given a chance to enter the debate… . The left — the real left … an actual, internationalist left — could have a lot to say about current economic and political trends.
Blaming “McCarthyism” for the disrepute of the “hard left” is a genuinely perverse act of blame-shifting. More than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, why must the ghost of Tail-Gunner Joe be trotted out to explain the unpopularity of the “internationalist left”?
Of course, this ignores the historical failures of the “internationalist left.” Maybe deBoer didn’t mean to include mass-murderers like Pol Pot, Mao or Stalin in his “we,” but he offers no successful examples of the “hard left,” leaving us to wonder exactly who and what he means by that term.
Furthermore, as M. Stanton Evans documents in Blacklisted by History, Joe McCarthy was right. There were indeed security risks on the payroll of the State Department and other federal agencies, and honest-to-goodness Soviet agents held positions of trust in the administrations of FDR and Truman.
Apart from the stubborn facts of Cold War history, however, the “hard left” was intellectually discredited long before Joe McCarthy was elected to the Senate or had an “-ism” attached to his name. The unworkable nature of non-market economic schemes was explained by Ludwig von Mises in his 1922 book Socialism. To my knowledge, the “hard left” has never produced any effective refutation of Mises’ arguments, despite having had nearly 90 years to do so.
Because they can’t refute arguments for the market economy, the “hard left” prefers to ignore Mises, and because they can’t produce any viable alternative to the market economy, they resort to invoking “McCarthyism” to account for their failures. And yet Freddie deBoer can’t comprehend why they are “exiled from the status of the serious.”
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