There has been a very interesting trend lately of small government, pro-business conservatives complaining that their first amendment right to free speech is being infringed. This is especially gratifying for those on the center and left who delight in pointing out hypocrisy. Of course, it’s contradictory to support the right of a business to refuse service to gay people and then cry out that a requirement to wear a mask in a place of business is “discrimination”. No, Josh Hawley, losing a book deal is not a direct assault on your constitutional rights. L̶i̶b̶ Conservative owned.
Even though I don’t like a lot of the claims these people make and even consider some of them dangerous, I think this take is really missing the point. Recently, a conservative libertarian friend of mine admitted that the power wielded by major tech companies to censor people and control the narrative had him questioning his faith in the free market’s ability to maximize freedom. This is the exact path I took to becoming left libertarian: starting off with a faith in human beings to make decisions about their own lives, then recognizing that government is not the only entity that suppresses human freedom and flourishing. The idea that large corporations hold immense power over people’s lives is one that many on the right are arriving to independently, even if it’s for reasons we don’t like.
The most recent example of this is the controversy over Gina Carano. Carano posted a nuclear bad take comparing the hatred modern conservatives face to Jews during the Holocaust, and Lucasfilm decided to fire her from the Mandalorian for this along with a number of other transphobic and anti-mask posts. Basically, she was a public relations nightmare and the firm was sick of it. There are of course a number of juicy hypocrisies involved and a lot of ink has been spilled arguing whether or not she should have been fired. Of course, none of this ink matters, because we don’t get to decide whether or not she was fired. Lucasfilm does. Gina Carano was fired because Lucasfilm decided that she was toxic to their bottom line and they’d be more profitable without her. That’s how Capitalism works.
Socialism means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To me, it means that economic decisions should be made democratically and we shouldn’t leave it up to a few powerful people to control some of the most important aspects of our lives. This does necessarily not mean the end of markets: what it means is that ownership of the creative capabilities of those markets is spread out among the people rather than a few wealthy Capitalists. This most common example of this in practice is the Mondragon Corporation in Spain, a federation of worker cooperatives and the largest business group in the Basque region. The Basque Region, coincidentally, is the most productive in Spain.
What a lot of people like about Capitalism is the idea that power is distributed: if a corporation is bad, people can endorse its competitor or if they’re especially enterprising they can start their own business. However, as money and power is concentrated into a shrinking number of hands, this system breaks down. Only a few major organizations actually have the ability to make meaningful economic decisions, with the rest of us effectively at their mercy.
Poor and marginalized people have experienced this for years, which is why liberated people accepted slave-like conditions after the Civil War and why LGBTQ people still feel they have to keep their sexuality under wraps at work. Gina Carano is incredibly privileged to receive a job offer from Ben Shapiro immediately after being “cancelled”. For people with less power than her, losing a job can be devastating and even life threatening. On some level, all workers surrender their freedoms for a certain period, sometimes extending outside of work hours. My friend working in a call center in Egypt suspends his freedom of speech entirely for over 40 hours a week. If he doesn’t, if he decides to stand up for himself against the clients who treat him like human garbage, he gets fired. People being cancelled isn’t anything new. It’s a function of Capitalism.
Socialism does not mean an end to discrimination, nor does it entail an end to all tyranny. People will always be people, and in a market socialist model, business groups will still have to pay attention to their bottom line. What it does mean is that people have more of a say in what happens to them during perhaps the largest single component of their lives. An association of workers is not going to vote to export their own jobs overseas, nor will they allow themselves to be bullied and harassed day in and day out by their customers. Inherently, they have more of a say in whether or not they get fired, and since all of their jobs are on the line together, they’re less likely to see someone as a disposable tool to get social media pressure off of their backs.
We can talk all we want about whether or not whose who or so and so should have been fired. It doesn’t matter, because we have no say in it. Why do we spend so much time on these discussions, while continually glossing over the fact that it all boils down to the feelings of few extremely powerful people? Clearly people feel like they should have a voice in these decisions, otherwise they wouldn’t start petitions over them. There are a number of solutions people have come up with to deal with this problem. Maybe we should discuss them.