In my exchange with Roderick Long on government and the corporation I made two basic points. First, the corporate form of organization is indeed imperfect, as “left-libertarians” point out, but so are all forms of organization, including networks of independent contractors, worker-owned cooperatives, household production, and so on. Each has benefits and costs which vary according to circumstances. Second, all organizational types, large and small, hierarchical and flat, corporate and “agorist,” receive particular benefits from state intervention, and some harm as well; it is impossible to say which types would tend to proliferate on the purely free market.
I happened to come across a passage from Rothbard’s critique of Samuel Konkin’s New Libertarian Manifesto that makes the first point far more succinctly than I did:
Organizations of course create problems, and it is really pointless to go on about them. If more than three or four people wish to engage in a joint task, then some people will override the wishes of others (e.g. should we paint the office blue or beige?), and there are bound to be power struggles, faction fights, and all the rest. Even corporations, which have to meet a continuing profit test, have these problems, and the difficulties are bound to increase in nonprofit organizations, where there is no instant profit-and-loss feedback.
So organizations create problems; so what? So does life itself, or friendships, romantic relationships, or whatever. Most people think the drawbacks are worth it, and are more than compensated by the benefits of working for and achieving joint goals. But if not, they can always drop out and not belong to an organization; in a free society, they have that privilege. And of course, we are talking here about voluntary organizations.
I suspect Mr. Konkin and his colleagues don’t like to join organizations. So be it. But those of us who wish to accomplish various goals will continue to do so. And it seems to me we are at least entitled to the acknowledgement that there is nothing in the slightest unlibertarian about organization, hierarchy, leaders and followers, etc., so long as these are done voluntarily. If the Konkinians fail to acknowledge this primordial libertarian point, then their libertarian bona fides would come into serious question.