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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Crunchy Con Talk

Radley Balko goes after the Cruncy Cons, but just winds up making himself look bad:

One last little irony in this whole crunchy con business: There are a few billion people on this planet still in danger of starving to death. They're in desperate need of modernity, technology, and all those crass, crude, unsightly accoutrements of emerging markets (see environmental pollution, "sweatshop" labor, etc.). Dreher can lament the Internet age, access to world markets, our abundance of choice, and mass globalization all he likes. Unfortunately, most of the rest of humanity hasn't yet made it to the "lamenting our prosperity" stage of economic development. Dreher pooh-poohs the tools the very poor need to get to where we are (globalization and world markets, technology, GMOs)) because he, Rod Dreher, yearns for a simpler lifestyle.

No, here's your "little irony": Balko and Dreher are mirror-imaging. Despite the fact that one uses "free market" as a god-term and the other as a devil-term, both apparently understand it to be pretty much the same thing. For example: Dreher, at CrunchyCon blog, quotes the food chapter from his book:

We are told that small-scale farming is inefficient — this is true — and that because our factory farms feed the masses, and do so cheaply, we should be satisfied.... I understand the free-market reasons why Americans do this. But I don't understand why it is called conservative.

Ironically, this comes immediately after another statement by the same author:

...At first I thought of this small-scale organic farming as a sort of boutique thing — pleasant to have, liek artisanal microbrewed beers, but only that. Then I started looking into how the government regulates the meat industry. It was shocking to see how agribusiness had gamed the system to keep small meat producers marginalized. Our regulatory system is designed to favor industrialized meat production....

Not that all Crunchy Cons are this clueless. Mitch Muncy, a Crunchista who apparently has a tad more critical thinking ability than either Balko or Dreher, writes:

What some Crunchy Cons identify as the free market run amok looks to me more like factions using the government to pervert the free market. I wonder if Crunchy Conservatism wouldn’t flourish under a market even freer than the one we have.

Caleb Stegall, in the same vein, adds:

...it is “big government” in all its guises that makes most of what Rod complains about possible in the first place. The cult of corporate centralization, universalization, and efficiency depends on big government for its existence. Why do you think our government keeps getting bigger and more intrusive? It ain’t all (or even primarily) the fault of the bleeding heart lefties.

Although Balko dismisses the Crunchy Cons as "pretty darned self-indulgent," he's one to talk. It's hard to imagine anything more self-indulgent than the Stosselite womb he's encased himself in, which bears so little relation to factual reality it might as well be in its own self-contained space-time continuum.

A lot of those starving people in the Third World want, not to "get where we are," but where they were: namely, back on their own land that was stolen from them by authoritarian governments in cahoots with landed oligarchies and Western agribusiness interests. I've written before on just how little Third World starvation has to do with any alleged crying need for GMOs ("The So-Called Green Revolution") or sweatshops ("Vulgar Libertarianism Watch, Part I"). As a matter of fact, as I said in the Green Revolution post, those GMOs are specifically geared to be most efficient in the kind of state-subsidized, high-input production model the landed oligarchs engage in on their stolen land, with lots of irrigation water and chemicals. GMOs and other Green Revolution seeds are vulnerable to drought, and otherwise far less efficient than locally improved varieties, when it comes the kind of soil- and labor-intensive production that peasant subsistence farmers would use to feed themselves.

It is a myth that Third World hunger results mainly from primitive farming techniques, or that the solution is a technocratic fix. Hunger results from the fact that land once used to grow staple foods for the people working it is now used to grow cash crops for urban elites or for the export markets, while the former peasant proprietors are without a livelihood.

What's more, those GMOs wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell in a free market, if it weren't for government R&D money, government patents, government food libel laws, government labelling restrictions that violate the right to commercial free speech, and Monsanto thugs hauling farmers into court for being downwind of their GM pollen.

Finally, the sweatshop laborers in the Third World, like the workers in the Dark Satanic Mills of our own industrial era, had to be driven off their land by force before they'd willingly work under such conditions. To the extent that sweatshops offer the "best available alternative" to landless peasants, it's a case of breaking someone's leg and then offering him a crutch.

No matter how much he wraps it up in "free market" rhetoric, Balko's polemic is just an apology for the boot stamping on a human face. The Birkenstocked Burkeans' opposition can't possibly do real free market principles any more harm than the Pot-Smoking Republican's defense.

11 Comments:

Blogger colorless green ideas said...

top notch post. language is such a problem... all these people basically agreeing, but using terms that cause reflexive disagreement.

maybe the term "free market" is too far gone. how about "free exchange", or something?

i saw an incredible documentary about cuba in and after the "special period", most of it was about agriculture post-cheap oil. most of the farmland was privatized (real privatization) and decentralized, and productivity went in order from
1. private land owners
2. cooperatives
3. government farms
(farm size is roughly correlated in that order, too)

agriculture is "labor intensive", until they get it down, that is, and have the farms working themselves through diverse crops, and so on. they call it "lazy farming", and these farmers are well off in cuba. urban havana grows--within the city--most of its own food (85%)!

now if only it weren't a dictatorship.

March 16, 2006 12:21 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Yeah, I was watching that CrunchyCon blog feed before I realized that this was just a blog for left center moderates who find Democrats unfashionable. This quote, however, gives me hope that we can start to transcend the labels and get down to the heart of the problem:

"Why do you think our government keeps getting bigger and more intrusive? It ain’t all (or even primarily) the fault of the bleeding heart lefties."

Taking responsibility is the first step.

March 16, 2006 12:43 PM  
Blogger colorless green ideas said...

well, they aren't really moderates. they are cultural conservatives.

March 16, 2006 2:08 PM  
Anonymous b-psycho said...

"government food libel laws"

...whu?

March 16, 2006 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"....Monsanto thugs hauling farmers into court for being downwind of their GM pollen."

Kevin, by this do you mean Monsanto taking action against farmers who are using their patented GM seeds illegally? Or is it the other way around, with indigenous farmers bringing Monsanto to court to protest GM infiltration of their crops? Sounds like the former. If so, it would coincide with what I'd been reading on many admittedly rather vulgar libertarian websites that promote GM seeds in the third world: farmers smuggling seeds, protesting governments in the effort to end GM illegality, etc.

I'm not so much against the science per se, but I'm convinced that you are right that the seeds are only beneficial given the current state of subsidized, protected agri-business. In the meantime, before a return to a farming system that would be more sensible and just, I support these farmers seeing what they can do with GM seeds to enhance their crops, if they are so inclined. Patents be damned.

-Dain

March 16, 2006 8:56 PM  
Blogger freeman said...

Fantastic post, Kevin! The taking down of two pesky birds with one stone is always nice to see.

Dain - Kevin's remark about Monsanto thugs actually refers to neither scenarios you brought up. To learn what he's really talking about, just do a Google search for "Percy Schmeiser", or just click here.

March 16, 2006 10:40 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Dain,

Freeman beat me to it. Monsanto argues that the presence of their DNA in your crops is evidence of "piracy," even if you're an organic farmer who doesn't want them contaminating your corn.

B-psycho,

Google "Oprah" and "mad cow." Or check out Monsanto's strong-arming of grocers who do nothing more than label milk shelves as non-GM. They're thugs. THUGS.

March 16, 2006 11:09 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Jeremy,

I think they're a loose assortment that includes Catholic Worker/distributist types and folks who still don't eat meat on Fridays, just in case. Just about any kind of "countercultural" association you can think of--homeschooling, organic farming, natural childbirth, etc.--the membership will probably be divided between "back to the land" hippies and religious fundamentalists. So long as they don't argue about religion, they actually get along pretty well.

colorless,

The Cuban situation is really confusing. Since the Cuban revolution had a lot of involvement by anarchists and the libertarian left, and there was a lot of cooperative innovation and petty bourgeois land reform before Castro went whole hog M-L, I suspect a lot of the stuff you describe is just the surviving aspects of the *genuine* revolution that Castro is parasitic upon.

March 16, 2006 11:18 PM  
Blogger alan said...

Kevin, I wonder if you might expand upon your Castro the Parasite theme.

September 04, 2006 5:38 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Not much to expand on, really. Just an observation (largely derived from Hannah Arendt's On Revolution and Bookchin's The Third Revolution) that in most revolutions, the "real revolution" is the one made by the people for themselves from the ground up, by creating their own alternative institutions. In the case of New England, the real revolution had been (as Howard Zinn observed) carried out by local committees of public safety and the Sons of Liberty, and the like. The official "revolution" that started in April 1775 (with the ensuing cult of Washington and all that) was sparked by an attempted counter-revolution, backed by an armed invasion.

September 05, 2006 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello all.

Found a parody of the Monsanto logo being used for protest tee shirts:

http://www.cafepress.com/seeds_of_death

I got one (before they take em off)

October 02, 2007 6:35 PM  

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