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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

Friday, May 12, 2006

Per Bylund: Building the Structure of the New Society Within the Shell of the Old

Or as he titles it, "A Strategy for Forcing the State Back."

This is sort of a follow-up to my previous post on Dmytri Kleiner's venture communism idea, since what they're talking about is so similar once you get past the surface ideological differences.

What I’m proposing is a mix of two somewhat known recipes that are really liberating in two distinctly different ways. The first recipe provides instructions for how to break free vertically through building a decentralized infrastructure for free communities avoiding the State and its centralized "solutions" altogether. The other recipe advocates breaking free horizontally through making use of one’s personal network of friends and colleagues, and doing business out of the State’s reach....

....You cannot win taking the State on mano a mano so why even bother? But it is quite possible to break free small-scale and doing it for yourself. I have no idea why libertarians seem to wish to liberate "the whole nation," instead of doing what’s best for yourself and your kin first....

What [the vertical strategy] means in real terms is to create local or neighborhood networks for self-reliance, where people in the vicinity get together to find ways to produce whatever is necessary for survival and a good life. It means creating local production facilities and markets with no effective State regulations and without the State’s knowledge.

Karl Hess discusses the enormous possibilities of this approach in his excellent but small book Community Technology. In the book, Hess discusses his own experience in creating local networks for creating free and independent neighborhoods through replacing State "services" with community technology and voluntarily partaking in neighborhood activities and projects producing vegetables on rooftops and breeding fish in basements....

....This specific Hessian project was carried out in Washington D.C., which shows it is possible to create a somewhat sovereign and independent community even in very urban areas. A neighborhood not dependent on the State for supplies is a neighborhood not easily subdued. Also, such a community is not as easily punished by the government if its independence is discovered and the threat considered real. A community does not suffer from government refusing to supply its services if it isn’t first wholly dependent on such services.

The point I’m trying to make here is not that we should all go rural, live like cavemen, and grow our own vegetables. I’m saying we should stop thinking in terms of centralization and large-scale production. Hess stresses the fact that most, if not all important technology is equally or better suited for small-scale use on a family or community level. We do not need to rely on global corporations or the nation-state to get our hands on what we treasure in life. Community Technology shows just that.

The other [horizontal] strategy simply means taking part in and actively creating networks and structures for black markets....

What it basically proposes is to trade with people you know and people who are recommended to you. This can all be done at whatever scale one finds appropriate, using available technology such as the Internet and e.g. E-bay for communication and money transactions. A first step could be to hire the children next-door to mow the lawn or baby-sit. It does not have to be very sophisticated at first....

There are probably a few libertarians in every town who are interested in starting a private network for free trade. This network can grow and find other networks to trade with and thus cover a multitude of goods and services and large areas and perhaps whole continents. The beauty of it is that it all comes naturally, it is intuitive for people to exchange favors, goods, and services without first asking the State’s permission.

This strategy was originally proposed by agorist Samuel Edward Konkin III, author of The New Libertarian Manifesto, in which he elaborates the strategy of counter-economics....

Counter-economic networks would grow much stronger if combined with the insight of Karl Hess that people are able to and benefit from taking over the production of essential goods and services locally. Imagine the web of counter-economic actors combined with sovereign communities with production of foodstuffs and technology exceeding their internal demand. That combined counter-State movement for personal benefit and profit would provide a powerful adversary to the State.


Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

I may have found a (cumbersome) workaround for the verification image problem. It appears that the link is using "&" - the code - rather than an actual ampersand in its generated text.

To business. I have been having email problems recently (which is why I'm trying this), but anyway I tried emailing Per Bylund about his stuff. I thought I should post my feedback here too:

The principal difficulty with the approach you describe is that it doesn't allow you to cut free from enough of the costs of the state, such as taxation. Those costs can rise to other forms of intrusion, too.

For an example you might want to look at what is happening to the fundamentalist Mormons in the USA right now.

Anyway, while paying twice it becomes that much harder to attain to any of your own goals since you don't have enough resouyrces left over.

If success were ever achieved on any scale it would lead to the state changing the game on you again - unless you by some chance were able either to displace the state through separate means or to fill a power vacuum if that arose separately.

The former risks you becoming what you resist, and the latter is slow and dependent on historical accident. But it does allow you to maintain small communities to act like spores, to take advantage of any opportunity that does come up.

May 13, 2006 7:00 AM  
Blogger jomama said...

Bylund's plans probably to arise out of necessity as bummint destroys most of the wealth or the means to acquire it.

A good piece of producing land somewhere with some good neighbors exchanging produce. Eating well but having little more than wooden hoes and burlap sackcloth. Couple of efficient solar panels before the lights go out. I will stay far from the cities.

What will the state loot then? Tomatoes?

May 14, 2006 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Stefan said...

The state will loot whatever is there, including tomatoes :)

May 14, 2006 3:32 PM  
Blogger Adem D. Kupi said...

Well, the thing is, yes, the strategy will work until enough people do it that it cuts into the profits of the ruling class enough that they shut you down. But by the time that happens, it will be too late for them, the "virus" will have become an epidemic... if it's done right.

And by done right, I mean that you spread it horizontally as much as possible. As soon as you become fairly successful, you subdivide and split off.
I'd rather be in the middle of the pack of a large network of free trade cells, than the #1 cell in a small network.

Another tactic within this larger strategy is to mask what you are doing as if it were just another small business venture.

In the long run though, it's like Allan Thornton (and Thoreau) said:
Anarchy will come when the people become ungovernable.

May 14, 2006 9:13 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


I agree that the state will likely change the rules of the game whenever it sees a danger of too many people successfully opting out of the system and creating alternatives to wage-slavery. For example, I believe that in some jurisdictions the "public safety" codes reqiure a house to be connected to the power grid--for the "general welfare," of course. And God knows what kinds of "sick chicken" precedents will be invented to bring subsistence farming under regulatory control.

But the state's reach often exceeds its grasp. The answer is suggested in your own reference to spores, which Adem has developed so nicely. When such libertarian praxis is promoted and reproduced horizontally, in lots of very small-scale experiments loosely networked together, the transaction costs of enforcing the law will likely exceed the costs of evading it by several orders of magnitude.

By the time such a movement appears on the state's radar screen as a major and serious threat to the status quo, it's likely (as Adem says) to have metastatized beyond control.

Gary North once added a corollary to the Peter Principle. He said that not only did people tend to be promoted to their level of incompetence, but the flow of information in corporate bureaucracies was so paralyzed that a person was generally promoted two rungs *above* his level of incompetence before senior management noticed it. The state, likewise, is good at not noticing things until it's too late.

May 23, 2006 1:04 PM  

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