The result has been a wide-ranging call to make this corporate commissioned censorship illegal, much like discrimination based on sex, religion, ethnicity, race, and country of origin are illegal. It’s difficult to see why deeply held religious beliefs are legally protected but deeply held political beliefs aren’t protected. Reactions from libertarians have been as swift as they are predictable. Muh private property! Muh free market!
At first sight these arguments seem persuasive. A closer look reveals these to be quite fallacious, even from a libertarian perspective, and grounded in basic category errors. Consider what private property entails. First, the owner has a right to any benefits derived from the use of the property. Secondly, and just as importantly, the owner is responsible for any liabilities that arise from the use of said property. We ignore the complication of stolen property as it’s irrelevant to the discussion of corporate ownership.
Consider, for example, the case where you’re being attacked by a knife wielding maniac. No libertarian would argue that you can only defend yourself from the knife and not the maniac, since the knife is violating the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). Similarly, no libertarian would argue that the knife is responsible for any medical bills arising from the attack. Indeed, the idea that one’s property is an extension of one’s body is the whole basis for extending the NAP to one’s property. Without this extension theft or destruction of one’s property would no longer be a violation of the NAP.
And yet, corporate law separates corporate ownership, in the form of shareholding, from liabilities arising from harm caused by the corporation. Shareholding has nothing to do with private property in the libertarian meaning of private property. This loss of liability did not arise from any free market mechanism, but rather from government intervention in the free market. Legally, corporations are considered separate entities from shareholders. They are more akin to autonomous golems created by financial wizards than they are to private property. Since they exist by government fiat they can be regulated by government fiat.
One must also keep in mind that historically governments chartered corporations for a limited time and for a specific purpose in the public interest. That’s why they were given such limited liability. With time the charters were extended to indefinite periods of time and for virtually any purpose whatsoever. The result has been a massive concentrate of wealth and power into a comparative few hands; a result which would have never arisen in a true free market.
The free market argument doesn’t fare any better than the private property argument. Where, pray tell, is this mythical free market? Ask your average libertarian if we have a free market and he’ll prattle on for hours discussing subsidies, regulations, licensing requirements, loan guarantees, bailouts, protective tariffs, trade quotas, minimum wage laws, intellectual property laws, government created monopolies, public welfare, nationalized industries, the Federal Reserve, fiat currency, no bid government contracts, immigration laws and how they infringe on the free market. Suggest curtailing the power of corporations and poof, we suddenly have a free market.
I would love it if there was a free market, but there’s no reason to set government policy based on the pretension that there is a free market. This is especially true in regards to social/news media which are deeply intertwined with US government agencies.1-3 Information which is critical for an informed electorate is being withheld from the masses through corporate/government censorship of social media, news media, and the educational establishment. This manipulation of information flow allows the Powers Who Should Not Be to pull the levers of political power and leverage themselves into greater amounts of political power. They happily wield the gun of the state to enrich themselves, the NAP be damned. The positive and negative feedbacks that the market needs to work properly simply don’t exist. The only viable option is government regulation designed to address problems as they arise.