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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 05, 2006

Two New Publications

Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire blogger and editor of Journal of Libertarian Studies, has announced a new publication: Industrial Radical.

Topics to be explored include: radical libertarian alternatives to statism, militarism, and intellectual property; the social and cultural requirements of a free and flourishing society; the structure of work, family, and property relationships in such a society; strategies for getting from here to there; and the possibility of “gains from trade” between the left/socialist and right/capitalist traditions within libertarianism.

The title “Industrial Radical” honors the libertarian and individualist anarchist thinkers and activists of the 19th century, who were “industrial” in the sense of championing what they called the industrial mode of social organization, based on voluntary cooperation and mutual benefit, over the militant mode, based on hierarchy, regimentation, and violence; and who were “radical” in the sense of recognizing that social problems are embedded in sustaining networks of institutions and practices, and so can be addressed only via thoroughgoing social change. Their approach informs our vision.

Check out the planned themes of the forthcoming issues, and I think you'll agree it's something to look forward to.

Just Things: The Fair Trade Journal of Applied Counter-Economics has just put out its first issue. It's edited by Steve Herrick (aka esteban), frequent Mutualist Blog commenter and owner of chlorophyll blog.

The purpose of both the magazine and the site is to explore how the fair-trade model, which is currently focused heavily on coffee, can be extrapolated out to the wider economy. At its core, the fair-trade model isn't about commodities at all, but an equitable, egalitarian and empowering way of dealing with each other as people. Economic transactions are secondary - they deal with mere things. On the other hand, we need things to live, and we have trade them back and forth. The trick is to trade things justly.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

At its core, the fair-trade model isn't about commodities at all, but an equitable, egalitarian and empowering way of dealing with each other as people.

Nah, it's just self-congratulatory liberal do-gooderism, like wearing an AIDS ribbon.

- Josh

May 06, 2006 12:02 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

I don't think that's any more the case than any other form of voluntary mutual aid. Just another kind of revealed preference.

May 06, 2006 11:11 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

I've pointed out before that coffee, even fair trade coffee, reduces the available water and land for subsistence crops (except in special cases like East Timor, where the plantations existed already and only have to be reclaimed from the jungle after a period of chronic warfare).

Anyhow, this means that fair trade is only "fair" to the farmers and is just as bad at marginalising those at the bottom of the heap who don't happen to be able to grow cash crops. This can only change as, when and if they too get new wage earning opportunities and as, when and if the local analogues of the Corn Laws change - i.e. they can buy food from elsewhere with adequate wages.

KC, your latest blog upgrades mean I can no longer post here at all with my usual browswer (the verification image doesn't load any more). I can still use this far slower browser, but in future I may have to email you stuff that you might want to post instead.

For now, I'd just like to let you know that I have posted at SR's Burma thread, and at a few of your own threads. Apart from this one, have a look at the earlier of the recent sweatshop threads, at corporate personhood, and at that analysis of Green stuff in which we covered the risk areas from private stuff behaving like states.

May 07, 2006 5:56 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

PML,

I wasn't aware of any upgrades. I have noticed problems getting the verification image to upload, though. It may just be a glitch with Blogger.

May 07, 2006 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Roderick T. Long said...

Thanks for the plug!

May 07, 2006 11:33 AM  
Anonymous esteban said...

Kevin, thanks for the link!

P.M. Lawrence, in response to "I've pointed out before that coffee, even fair trade coffee, reduces the available water and land for subsistence crops"...

As for land, the amount of land that can grow coffee is fairly limited, given the requirements of soil makeup, altitude, and so on. It's not really crowding out subsistence crops. Moreover, coffee is frequently grown under old-growth (or new-growth) forests and/or on steep inclines, where you wouldn't want to put beans or corn. Property disputes and the landlessness of the poor is a far bigger problem.

As for water, that's not an issue in growing the trees, but rather in the processing the campesinos do before they sells the beans to the middleman. The traditional way of shelling the "cherry" to remove the beans inside uses a staggering amount of water - I can't find the figure right now, but it's on the order of dozens of gallons per pound of coffee. Deep in the hills of northern Nicaragua, I saw a demonstration by a man named Juan Carlos Palma of a very simple design he created that swished the beans around in a tub instead of washing them down a chute, which reduced water use by 90%. This is the embodiment of appropriate technology, and should be adopted by anyone who works with coffee growers. Palma gave the copyright on the design to his organization, CEPAD, which has expressly said it will never enforce it.

May 08, 2006 8:34 AM  
Blogger Nick Manley said...

Kevin,
Industrial Radical looks especially interesting,are you thinking of contributing?

May 08, 2006 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nah, it's just self-congratulatory liberal do-gooderism, like wearing an AIDS ribbon

characterize the motivations however you want, but what it really is, is (roughly) free market capitalism. a market is identified, a commodity is produced, and a price is paid for that good. in this case people are willing to pay more due to the information associated with the commodity, which is easily identified by a certified label on the end product.

people do this all the time when the pay more for brand name items that are no different in content than generics. in the fair trade case you are actually paying extra for tangible differences, rather than just brand identity.

have fun back in vulgar-land.

May 11, 2006 2:17 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Esteban, thanks for clarifying that the main need for water with coffee was the processing. I had heard of that but had for the moment forgotten; the relevance is that you can move the coffee to plentiful water for processing - if it pays.

But when I said that usually coffee (and other cash crops) squeeze out subsistence farming (I did note that exceptions existed), I was actually thinking of the very tendency to create landlessness and so on.

Yes, I know that the immediate problem shows up from peasants not having land, either in their own names or as tenants or whatever. But that in turn comes from the squeezing out.

I hadn't realised that coffee had a smaller tendency to squeeze out - but if it has any at all, that is still making things worse off (unless and until real new opportunities come along and also new food supplies, maybe imports, fill the gap).

As you may have guessed, I spotted the pattern in European history - not just from single examples, either - and then just changed the names of what was done then to match what is happening now. Details of outworking may well vary.

May 13, 2006 7:24 AM  

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