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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

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Organization Theory Update

I've received several kind inquires, by email and in comments to previous posts, as to whether I'm still alive and all right.

The blog has been inactive lately because I've got about seven chapter drafts in the works--the whole of Part III--along with three or four book reviews. Most of them should probably appear in the next few weeks.

Chapter Five. Information and Knowledge Problems in the Large Organization
Chapter Six. Agency and Incentive Problems in the Large Organization
Chapter Seven. The Austrian Calculation Argument Applied to the "Private" Corporation
Chapter Eight. Special Agency Problems of Labor
Chapter Nine. Managerialism, Irrationality and Authoritarianism
Chapter Ten. Internal Crisis Tendencies of the Large Organization (on labor struggle as asymmetric warfare)
Chapter Eleven. Attempts to Reform the Corporation from Within (on management fads)


Blogger Presto said...

Cool! I look forward to reading your latest work.

October 16, 2007 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin I think your work if excellent and you have a breadth of interest and knowledge that you'll find in few other broadly libertarian commentators.

I do have a few criticisms.

First I think you make too many allowances for American style libertarians and incorporate too many of their viewpoints while ignoring a little too much of libertarian socialism.

Secondly I think you put too much stock in marginalist schools of economics like Neoclassical and Austrian economics. To me these schools are extremely flawed.

See Steven Keen debunking economics site and book, it is excellent.


The real way to go in economics is heterodox schools like Institutional/evolutionary, post-keynesian, Marxian, radical etc

October 16, 2007 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be looking forward to reading more of the new book.

I'm about one third of the way through "Studies" and I have to say I'm really enjoying it. I had forgotten how good it was -- and it makes a big difference reading it on paper.

Although I would agree with the above poster, you really spend too much time (and are far too generous) to the right-"libertarians" -- but, then, I would say that.

I'll start working on my review when I've finished it, but that is on hold as I get the revised version of section G of AFAQ done. The section on individualist anarchism is now about 2.7 times longer -- hopefully the quality is improved by an even larger multiple!

An Anarchist FAQ

October 17, 2007 7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is someone from the Sedition collective, which runs Sedition Books down in Houston.

I'm looking into buying Studies in Mutualist Political Economy for the infoshop's lending library, but would like to buy it direct from you rather than dealing w/ amazon.com

Let me know how to set that up.

Also, have you written any pamphlets?

Know of any good individualist anarchist pamphlets/zines that do not take a tolerant or apologist tone towards capitalism or hierarchical organization in general (sorry if that seems redundant or insulting)?

Let me know. Thanks!


October 17, 2007 10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Second commentator again.

I should say Iain that American style libertarians and ancaps are not althogether worthless in all fields like almost all libertarians and decentralists.

Even Austrian economics has its good points, the knowledge problem etc

I think conversely that the Anarchist faq is a little too harsh on them(and Marx.).

October 18, 2007 2:30 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Thanks to all for the kind comments.

Anon and Iain,

I'm in kind of an awkward position because, like Tucker, I'm on the fringe of both the classical liberal and libertarian socialist movements. So the mainstream of both movements think I give too much credibility to the mainstream of either side, while I tend to think of much of the mainstream of both movements as erring brethren.

Although Rothbard himself could fairly be called a right-libertarian (he had primarily right-wing sympathies even during his overtures with the New Left), and likewise arguably Bryan Caplan and David Friedman, I'm not so sure that's true of many of Rothbard's followers. If Rothbard himself was right-wing, his principles if consistently worked out to their logical conclusion would be quite destructive of the corporate system; and the Konkinites and other left-Rothbardians have consciously worked out these implications in an anti-corporate direction.

I paid so much attention to the marginalists in Mutualist Political Economy because the first part was a defense of the labor theory of value against the marginalist claims to have "disproved" it. Unfortunately, I focused almost entirely on the Austrians because they write in understandable language and I'd have to learn calc to follow the neoclassicals.

I do agree that I paid insufficient attention to heterodox economics. I rely more heavily on new institutionalists and other heterodox schools in the org theory project.

And when I get around to a second edition of MPE, I hope to remedy the gaps in 20th century economics. For one thing, I've got to learn enough higher math to study the neoclassicals, so I can make sense of the post-Keynesians et al.

Glad you're enjoying MPE, Iain. I look forward to your review. As I recall, you reviewed it for anarchy list when it first came out, and you made quite a few useful suggestions.

To the commenter from Sedition Books, thanks for your interest. You can email me at
if you want, and I'll try to work out some arrangement.


I incorporated your comments on user-friendly technology into the chapter on decentralized production technology.

October 18, 2007 1:31 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

This may be a little off topic, but this (via Lew Rockwell's site) gives some strong indications of what is likely to be involved in "building the new within the shell of the old". It also makes it clear what is likely to happen if it ever shows signs of success on a larger scale (I looked into the history of 19th century Mormonism a while back, just for this; it's instructive to see what happened to the Strangites as well as to the main lot that headed west).

In my view, this approach is usefui as a pilot light, ready to expand as, when and if the main state itself recedes and/or gets distracted from other causes. Think Irish monasteries spreading into the Dark Age north of Europe as secular Rome receded - only to be knocked on the head as the Vikings and religious Romanism came in. Or read Gibbon on how monasticism infiltrated Egypt, copying and taking over the economic/religious position of the temples without challenging Rome itself. Or consider what feudalism was, when it started (read Alfred Duggan's historical novels, and then consolidate that with, e.g., Francois Ganshof's text; I'm not talking about what the 18th century called feudalism, which was actually a state-backed system of privileges that had bought out feudal interests after those had stratified to create haves and have nots out of a specialised military/productive/co-ordinating division of labour, one that is esoterically hidden in the symbolism of the suits of a deck of cards - but I digress).

There's another risk too, of becoming in essentials the thing that you fear; all these groups were into becoming the new big man, and whenever they succeeded it was "new Presbyter is old Priest writ large".

October 19, 2007 5:23 AM  
Anonymous Foreign Mutualist said...


What do you think about european green parties? They seem to be very open to mutualist policies, and no directly tied to old unions, state or big corporations? And they are getting 5, 8 or 10% of votes in many countries.

The green parties also need -very urgently- some kind of criteria on economic policies.

Could we get some kind of link between mutualism and green parties?

October 19, 2007 7:35 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

What, back in hiatus again? I half expected a follow up to my post of 19.10.07 up there.

October 23, 2007 8:07 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


For me, four days is pretty good.

Your examples are all intriguing. The common principle seems to be to avoid direct defiance of the state and to continue overt compliance with the taxation regime and other state priorities, while gradually spreading a form of organization that presents far greater agency problems for the state in *verifying* compliance, so that a society in which such organizations predominate will be less amenable to state control in the event the organizations decide to *cease* cooperating. In the meantime the state, prey to the boiled frog syndrome and increasingly strapped for resources as all the terminal crises of state capitalism make themselves felt, prefers to avoid initiating conflict.

Another example that comes to mind is the Germanic tribes crossing the boundaries of the Empire and accepting Caesar's sovereignty in principle, continuing to collect imperial taxes while functioning as a state within the state. When they no longer saw cooperation as in their interest, their monopoly of the administrative apparatus in their own territories left the Romans with little leverage short of all-out conquest of a de facto foreign realm.

Foreign mutualist,

I'd like to see some sort of coalition and blending of the green, market libertarian and cooperativist movements. One hopeful sign is the tendency of so many greens and left-decentralists toward geolibertarian ideas on taxing externalties and resource consumption, and otherwise using the market mechanism in preference to regulatory bureaucracy in furthering their goals (e.g. Dean Baker, RFK2, even a smidgen of Kucinich). Throw in some influence by groups like the UK Co-op Party, the folks who like Emilia-Romagna, to name two out of many in that general orientation, and you've got a winning combo. I'd call it the Borsodi-Loomis model of libertarianism.

October 23, 2007 9:42 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

KC, I'm not sure you have the straight goods on the barbarian invasions. Maybe you have, but if so you aren't distinguishing between what the tribal groups did themselves once they took over and what was done under their authority and direction. The thing is, the Roman system of about 400 A.D. had a careful separation of duties and responsibilities between the military and the civil services, to minimise the chronic problem of military revolts against the current emperor. The barbarians only directly displaced the Roman military side, and then later the authority of the emperor, but kept the Roman administrative and taxing system - which was staffed by Romans, Greeks, and other educated people from within the empire. So, if you meant that the barbarians themselves started doing that, you were mistaken. About the only place that that didn't work during the first round of invasions was Britain, no doubt because it hadn't been enough of a centre before and the educated people weren't available once the centres were cut off. After later rounds of invasions and Byzantine counter-invasions, things slipped in Gaul and even in Italy and Spain, and the stage was set for feudalism.

Now for something completely different: a post at Brad Delong's site gives a link to a speech by Abraham Lincoln that has a pretty good understanding of the economic underpinnings of personal liberty. In fact, considering that he was aiming at a Wisconsin State Fair audience, he really only omitted something that I included in my own comment there: "What he leaves out is that the transition and accumulation he described was only realistic for so long as there were new entrants and the resources there for them to take up - something that withered away in later generations in the USA and had already happened in older, more mature economies".

KC, you might want to comment there yourself, since someone has already chimed in with the usual suspect, "ah, but personal autonomy means personal autarky and thus no economies of scale or division of labour" - despite Lincoln himself covering that in passing.

October 25, 2007 9:46 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


You're right--I didn't have the straight goods. I think the example would still apply, though, even with your amendments. If the barbarians were allowed to develop what amounted to a de facto monopoly of military "protection" of a given territory (purely in service to the Emperor, of course), the result would still be that the civil functions would only be able to operate in that territory with the consent of the barbarians.

October 29, 2007 8:35 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Two things. First, I'm an active Green (which means I don't get to call myself a practicing anarchist). In our discussions, there has been an emerging recognition that we are the party of the libertarian left. In that sense, we've already come a long way towards a coalition of mutualist, cooperativists, Greens, and other like-minded folks, in theory, if not in practice.

Second, I'm looking forward to your next book, Kevin, but I anticipate that like the first, it will written at a very high reading level. As a friend of mine (no dim bulb) put it, it's "like getting whapped upside the head with an econ book." Have you found -- or considered writing -- a briefer, more accessible intro to mutualism, maybe something like the "For Beginners" series?

Steve, formerly of Just Things

October 30, 2007 10:45 AM  
Blogger FSK said...

If you want a simpler introduction, you can try looking at my blog: http://fskrealityguide.blogspot.com/

I frequently write about Kevin Carson's topics, but in simpler language. I'm more interested in "agorism" than "mutualism", but they're really variants on the same core idea.

I focus on defects in the monetary system and taxation system more than Kevin Carson. The root of all evils, IMHO, is the Federal Reserve and the income tax. Those two evils enable all the other evils of the state.

The key idea is that government was a bad invention and needs to be eliminated. By trading on their own and ignoring the government, people can set up a new economic and political system as the old system collapses under its own incompetence. By avoiding taxation and government regulation, your productivity will be raised by 50%-95% or more.

October 31, 2007 3:26 PM  
Anonymous quasibill said...

I'm not sure it's possible to make MPE that much more accessible without detracting from its precision. Sometimes, jargon is unfortunately necessary in order to make precise points.

That said, i agree that it can be a tough read, especially if you don't a have a background in certain concepts. Perhaps the best way to address this problem is for someone (ha! like the responsiblity shirking?) to set-up a sort of "study guide blog" for it, where those who are reading it can ask pointed questions and receive answers from those who claim to be knowledgable on the subject. In a perfect world, Kevin would be around to clear up any inaccuracies, but I don't know how much free time he has to devote to a new project (you know, since he's apparently dead, or seriously ill, or something, 'cause anyone who doesn't obsessively post new blogs must be... :))

I would volunteer to help such a project, but seeing as I'm not a full blown mutualist, I'm not sure I should be in a position of authority for such a project. So instead, I'll just throw out my opinions while sitting on my duff!

November 01, 2007 8:52 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


Unfortunately, the nature of the subject matter dictated the form of the first part, the most heavily economical part of the book. It was intended as a response to Misoid types who smugly assert that "Bohm-Bawerk demolished the LTV a hundred years ago." Since their claim that "utility determines value" is technically true, but the meaning in the qualified technical sense of the language in which it is true doesn't correspond to anything like the ordinary understanding of that phrase, I had to go into what it technically meant and how it was actually just restating what Ricardo and the classicals said.

There are some good general introductions to mutualism out there that are far better than I could write--Clarence Swartz's out of print book is great.

But I might try writing a short pamphlet, "Was the Labor Theory of Value Really Disproved?", or something like that, based on one of my blog posts on the subject.


I don't agree that central banking is the key to everything, although it intensified and accelerated a lot of preexisting trends and certainly encouraged over-accumulation. And it's something I should have paid more attention to in the "state capitalism" chapter of MPE. I intend to include more about it in Ch. 3 of the org theory book.


That does sound like a good idea. Maybe just starting out, a blog with open threads for reader-contrbuted Q and A.

BTW, I'm probably a week or two from posting the first new chapter drafts, altogether six of them in the pipeline nearly complete enough for online rought drafts. Before I get done posting them, you may wish I was dead or sick.

November 01, 2007 11:31 AM  
Blogger FSK said...

If you have any questions that Kevin Carson is too busy to answer, I can try answering them. I think I understand Kevin Carson's ideas pretty well.

Based on my analysis, central banking, income taxes, and excessive government regulations are the three pillars that enslave everyone. If you ignore the effect of central banking and income taxes, you really aren't understanding how badly screwed up the current system is.

November 01, 2007 8:05 PM  

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