The Truly Capitalist Belief of Julian Assange

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know about Wikileaks recent publishing of American government secret communications. You may also know about Julian Assange’s interview with Fobes where he prophesied an early 2011 Wikileaks broadside barrage aimed at the banking sector as a whole and one specific US Bank in particular. The transcript is here:

What you may have missed is why Assange, as head of Wikileaks, is doing this. In the interview Assange shows his strong belief in a free market — calling himself a market libertarian (Adam Smith-Milton Friedman kind of economics one would suspect) — and the virtue, especially humility and honesty to the market, necessary for entrepreneurial capitalism.

While reading the interview, I found that this simply reinforced the analysis and critique of Franz Hinkelammert’s “The Economic Roots of Idolatry: Entrepreneurial Metaphysics” in The Idols of Death and the God of Life: A Theology, edited by edited by Pablo Richard.

On page 7 of Andy Greenberg’s blog at Forbes, in the post titled “WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Wants To Spill Your Corporate Secrets,” Greenberg sums up Assange well:

He also wants to clear up a misunderstanding. Despite his revolutionary reputation, he’s not antibusiness. He bristles at the media’s focus on his teenage years as a computer hacker who broke into dozens of systems, from the Department of Defense to Nortel, and was eventually convicted on 25 charges of computer fraud and fined thousands of dollars.

Instead, he prefers to think of himself as an entrepreneur. He tells the story of a free-speech-focused Internet service provider he cofounded in 1993, known as Suburbia. It was, to hear him tell it, the blueprint for WikiLeaks—in one instance, when the Church of Scientology demanded to know who had posted antichurch information on one site, he refused to help. (“He has titanium balls,” says David Gerard, that site’s creator.) “I saw it early on, without realizing it: potentiating people to reveal their information, creating a conduit,” Assange says. “Without having any other robust publisher in the market, people came to us.”

Leaks merely lubricate the free market, he says, settling into the couch and clearly enjoying giving me a lecture on economics. (Later, as a 45-minute interview pushes into two hours, he ignores his handler, who keeps urging him to leave for his next appointment.) He cites the example of the Chinese Sanlu Group, whose milk powder contained toxic melamine in 2008. While poisoning its customers, Sanlu also gained an advantage over competitors and might have forced more of them to taint their products, too, or go bankrupt—if Sanlu hadn’t been exposed in the Chinese press. “In the struggle between open and honest companies and dishonest and closed companies, we’re creating a tremendous reputational tax on the unethical companies,” he says.


5 thoughts on “The Truly Capitalist Belief of Julian Assange

    • Sorry Myles, I meant to reply earlier, but I’ve been quite busy. I’m still busy, but I’ve found a good quote to help situate what I was talking about:

      The basic orientation of true individualism consists of humility with respect to the procedures [of buying and selling].’ This concept of devotion, not surprisingly, aligns its virtues with the great idea of compensation. It leads from repentance to amendment and, finally, the great compensation. In this pseudo-mystical world, the supreme expression of compensation is the ‘economic miracle.’ It is considered to be a result of this key humility, which is the gateway to freedom.

      Bourgeois freedom is the counterpart of bourgeois humility, which accepts the domination of commerce above all else–a domination primarily viewed as freedom of prices. Human beings act freely (in the shadow of their humility) insofar as they free price curbs, businesses, and markets, and are subject to their indices.

      In fact, entrepreneurial virtue in bourgeois thought is nothing but subjection to market fluctuations, and hence it can be very closely associated with humility. Bourgeois thought perceives this type of conduct as ‘natural’ or, according to Marx Weber, ‘rational.’ The human being is free so long as the dollar is free. This is ‘nature’ to the bourgeois mind.

      Pages 166-167.

      Hinkelammert also talks later in the chapter about repentance, amends, and compensation demanded by and given from the market.

  1. Pingback: Weekend Poll: Julian Assange | Political Jesus

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