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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, July 10, 2008

Revised Chapter Fourteen Draft--Decentralized Production Technology

Here's what I've been promising a lot of people for a long time: a new version of
Chapter Fourteen: Decentralized Production Technology.
Introduction: Basic Goals and Values
A. Multiple Purpose Production Technology
B. The Transition to Decentralized Manufacturing
C. Desktop Manufacturing Technology
D. Polytechnic
E. Eotechnic, Paleotechnic, and Neotechnic
F. Decentralized Agriculture
G. A Soft Development Path

It's been something over a year since I put the last version of this chapter online, making it by far the most out of date of all my online chapter drafts. This version is about 50% longer than the old one, and the new material includes--among other things--a nice little section on desktop manufacturing technology.


Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

At one point you reference me (fame!), making that footnote 71. But at the foot of the page there is nothing against footnote 71.

July 11, 2008 10:55 PM  
Anonymous mark said...

I think multi-purpose machinery needs a meme-neologism to sex it up a bit. ;-)

I offer Transformer Technology.

Today's young children who probably consider the Transformers movie as their Star Wars might get infected more readily with the concept and spread it as they enter their productive years.

July 12, 2008 2:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Generally speaking, I can concede that markets are amoral not immoral.

It is ideological nonsense to equate a 'voluntary exchange' resulting in both parties being better off as anything but a bland amoral fact. It would be a terrible mistake to believe that due to such an exchange we have a more just, moral or humane world. I mean to a certain extent efficiency is preferable to inefficiency but this doesn't go to matters of justice.

In a world that permits the use of violence against Y by X, both parties are better off when Y buys off X's "right" to kill or maim Y. This is an efficient result but hardly a moral one. Here let me stop to emphazie where I depart from most libertarians: I not only reject the violence & injustice that has created the dominant economic set-up but also certain economic arrangements that come about without "rights" violations. In other words I think that some choices people should not have to make regardless of whether these option sets were a result of coercion or natural causes.

This latter point is most effectively illustrated. Suppose that due to a terrible accident an individual suffers she has no better choice but to prostitute herself. Is this really that hard to imagine? In such a case, she is better off, relatively speaking, prostitution being better than death, (I guess), but should she even have to make such a choice at all? In a society that is sufficiently wealthy to provide for her should she have to make a choice like that? This regardless of whether the accident was due to human blameworthiness or mere accident.


July 12, 2008 1:43 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Thanks, PML. I'll fix it in the next version.

Mark: Maybe a live action series along the lines of Power Rangers, with an anthropomorphic stamping press shouting out product lines and then changing over its dies, in some sort of animated sequence?

"In a world that permits the use of violence against Y by X, both parties are better off when Y buys off X's "right" to kill or maim Y. This is an efficient result but hardly a moral one."

This was precisely the subject of Chapter Eleven, on privilege. Your example is not voluntary exchange, and both parties are not better off compared to their situation ex ante. What you describe is, in fact, a textbook example of privilege, which I argued in Chapter Eleven is the opposite of free market exchange.

July 14, 2008 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree. It is "voluntary" insofar as choices are made here. Whether such a trade is legitimate turns on the "right" X has to kill or maim Y. This is however a separate issue from the 'voluntary exchange'. Likewise, both parties being better off turns on the "right" X has to kill or maim Y.

My point was simply to show that the market is amoral. It is as moral as the background conditions that make it up. Suppose that Y has a terrible accident that puts her in such a position that she is at the mercy of X. Here X did not cause the accident to Y he was merely nearby. Kind of like that scene in a scanner darkly maybe X hoped that Y would have an such an accident. Anyway, X makes an offer to save Y in consideration for her slavery, say. Time is critical & there is no other immediate options, Y would arguably be better off by accepting such a trade.

As I understand neoclassical economics, everyone has a "right" to do anything to everyone. The upshot is that rape is prohibited because setting the entitlement on the victim reduces the transaction costs in a trade that would result in the rapist being bought off by the victim.

This approach leaves the morals to the philosophers. My understanding is that economists accept having a limited range of answers to social questions. I can live with that without complaint. I don't like when people sneak normative views in otherwise valid descriptive economic discourse.

So I can accept that pure free market approach to, say, children's healthcare, might be maximally efficient. However, efficiency is merely one value to weigh, and not necessarily a weighty one in my view. I think it entirely reasonable to sacrifice some efficiency to promote other values, like human rights.

I don't know if I am effectively making my point. I'm not an economist. My understanding of economics is largely based on a limited reading of legal economics. I might recommend Richard Posner as a more effective teacher of a neoclassical economic viewpoint.

July 16, 2008 1:07 AM  
Anonymous Víctor L. said...

Really excellent!

I have a cuestion to you about cooperativism, Kevin. A tradicional criticism to cooperative firm is that It couldn’t support the discipline and the internal organization will be a chaos. If a worker don’t works, or works less, What can they make her companions to “force” him to work?


July 17, 2008 7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the risk of beating a dead horse, it seems to me that I am not effectively making my points clear.

You talk about the "free market exchange" as if it had a determinate meaning. What is "free" in regards to market exchanges is a highly controversial matter. Suppose, following Coase, we have a railroad that emits sparks on a field of wheat owned by a farmer with land adjoining the railroad track. Does the railroad have the right to emit the sparks or does the farmer have the right to a spark-free wheat field. Each is a cause of the harm of the other. In the absence of transaction costs, so it is argued, it doesn't matter who starts off w/ the right b/c it will wind up in the hands of whichever party values it most.

The "right" or "natural" conditions that make up a "free" market are not in the least obvious or uncontroversial.

July 19, 2008 5:54 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Anon: What you say of amoral markets is true of the value-free neoclassical understanding of markets, if "markets" simply refers to the market-clearing price system regardless of what property rules you start with.

But when principled libertarians (like left-Rothbardians, Georgists, individualists, etc.) talk about markets, they mean something entirely different. The genuinely free market, for such people, presupposes a nonaggression principle by which some sorts of action are objectively wrong. To take the Coase example, most people in these radical free market traditions would consider it fairly obvious that if the farmer was there first, and the railroad was built subsequently, his right to enjoy his farm without tortious action by the railroad has an absolute moral basis. On the other hand, if the railroad was there first and the farmer subsequently homesteaded next to it, he would be assuming the risk and have no right to interfere with an ongoing activity.

Victor L.: Cooperatives are generally pretty good at "voting people off the island" when they don't pull their own weight. In Ch. 15, on Cooperatives (which I haven't posted yet) I quote stats showing that cooperatives frequently require a quarter or less of the number of front line supervisors required in a capitalist firm, because of the reduced agency problems. When people fully appropriate the fruits of their own labor, rather than receiving a fixed wage for creating money for some boss, they take a dim view of sharing it with somebody who's screwing the pooch.

July 19, 2008 8:22 PM  
Anonymous mark s said...

"an anthropomorphic stamping press shouting out product lines and then changing over its dies..."

Ha! Surely you tease. But be sure very soon anthro-insectoid robots will be trolling our croplands scanning for fungal infections and injecting corn silks with Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium-infected vegetable oil in order to control corn earworm.

I see a future How It's Made episode devoted to bioplastic mold injection production of it's skeleton, it's electromatic furnace production of it's silicon brain and the online operation of it's programming and agronomic statistics collection. All done or originated from a location within 100 miles of it's home field (advantage).

Home field advantage. Oh, that's a meme to work with aint it? 21st century version of comparative advantage? Micro-location values economics, here we come. ;-)

July 20, 2008 12:28 AM  
Anonymous mark s said...

Btw, great discussion so far in this thread.

I've always found "libertarianism" best advocated when it's separated from the (for me) '80s brand of right-wing Reaganite Black Iron Prison gladiator Manifest Destiny we-won so drive around with my gas cap off to annoy the environmentalist brand of capitalism.

July 20, 2008 12:34 AM  
Anonymous Víctor L. said...

Thank you for the response, Kevin. It has been enlightening. I will wait for the post in which this subject will be explained!

July 20, 2008 5:55 AM  
Anonymous Víctor L. said...

"Defending the devil", I think the critics of the cooperative will argue that It will not expel the workers who do not works because of his reciprocal sentimental ties, friendship, etc.

Separately, which is your opinion about the Danish cooperativism or the Mondragon Cooperative? About Mondragon I read commentaries of market socialists (marxists) as David Schweickart.

July 20, 2008 6:15 AM  
Anonymous mark s said...

Kevin and Anonymous,

per Coase, the answer is live with it until you can't. That's your cost and his/her/it's cost. Finders keepers actually isn't the moral answer. George never said it was for a permanent good.

Unless you want something like "the law" that is. And good luck with that (again.)

July 20, 2008 7:03 AM  
Anonymous mark said...

Sorry everybody, I see Anonymous actually calls himself Martin.

Martin, logic is used to create stuff. It can also be used to destroy stuff.

Stuff is bad is what I have figured out. Cereal.

July 20, 2008 7:30 AM  
Anonymous mark said...

I almost forgot:

Don't kill anyone. That's the idea. And it doesn't involve collecting shit.

July 20, 2008 7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fair enough. Why should we prefer Austrian economic theory to neoclassical economic theory? In other words, how is Austrian economic theory superior, on balance, to neoclassical economic theory?

I'm afraid I don't follow your argument. Please explain.

July 22, 2008 7:47 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


I can't say that I do accept Austrianism whole-cloth in preference to neoclassicism. I certainly don't buy into all the Austrian dogmas--and just about any stated position in Bohm-Bawerk or Mises seems to turn into a dogma, in practice. The one area in which I do think they excel is in conceptual clarity, deriving a theory of human action from a priori axioms. But their more vulgar spokesmen treat these axioms as if they've never heard the term "ceteris paribus."

July 23, 2008 11:11 AM  
Anonymous mark said...

Martin, I'm prone to internets AI street-rap. Kinda supposed to read oddly.

All conceptions of right and wrong, victim and trespasser, are merely attempts to internally model (and communicate externally to empathetic beings) what happens in the outside world.

Symbols are not the thing they symbolize. We can never know what is really right or really wrong. We can only know what is logical within our current systems of understanding. This "feels" like truth.

Anarchists not only should shun government, but also "law" as well as "philosophies." Not saying these things aren't useful; just don't be blinded by their "truthiness."

That said, don't kill each other, as that's as good a signal that something has gone "wrong."

ps The farmer only owns the labor in the fences he built and crops he planted, and actually endangers everybody at risk of wildfire by farming near a logical right-of-movement (right-of-way, ROW) commons the railroad barons (and everbody which benefits from the railroad such as the farmer) use. He doesn't "own" the abutting ROW nor the right-to-externalize (over-the-fence) that goes along with the "rightful" use of the ROW.

July 23, 2008 11:08 PM  
Anonymous mark said...


Capitalism (natural) = Symbiotism. Synergy.

Helping others by helping yourself. (freely to their unwanted externalities.)

Others can not be helped by you unless you exist to your fullest and can express your true identity. If you benefit at the painful expense of others it aint symbiotic. If you suffer for the benefit of others it aint symbiotic. That's parasitism. "Bad Capitalism." It's like fire.

July 24, 2008 5:43 AM  
Anonymous mark said...

Been jumping around the internets. Found this from Marc Emery:

"My point is, political parties and advocacy groups don't deliver liberty. There is little evidence to show for that. What frees people is principled defiance of tyranny. Despite the oft-repeated myth that democracy operates with the consent of the governed, the reality is that all law represents civil war against the people. If there was truly consent of the governed, no laws would be necessary. But, in fact, there is no consent, hence the inherent compulsion involved in any act of the legislature."


WOW, I bet he's glad we're all philosophilizing about rightness. ;-)

For some reason I found myself reading up on Bahá’u’lláh.


July 24, 2008 2:07 PM  
Anonymous mark said...

Geeze, even Rand knew it was about seeing the Hero in Others.


OK, last AI internet-rap. ;-)

July 24, 2008 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for bearing with me, I have a lot of respect for what you do here. I have no doubt that the Austrians are an important strain of economic thought. I understand that many of their insights have laid the foundation for mainstream economics. My sense of Austrian/Libertarian economic theory is that it tends toward rigid formalism. You seem to acknowledge as much & yet admire the clarity (certainty?) that comes with it. I view the Legal Realists & the Critical Legal Studies camps as offering important criticisms of formalism. Anyway thanks for your thoughtful replies to my various propositions.

Thanks for your clarification. I agree that right & wrong are difficult, if not impossible, to discern, especially in hard cases. I think that in many respects a situation-specific view of right & wrong is more helpful than a categorical or (deontological?)one. Yet I recognize that a case-by-case view of right & wrong would lead to enormous uncertainty. So I guess the two views exist in tension, each being important.

July 24, 2008 7:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ideological mystifications, as I see it, serve to prop up a undesirable state of affairs & prevent positive change. So if the market is regarded merely as a tool for efficiency than it can be played with, without running afoul of some universal justice. Generally speaking I think that wealth should be significantly redistributed to the poor. I can admit that this might not be efficient but so what? This seems to me especially persuasive in light of the fact that we seem to have a considerable surplus of wealth that separates us from meaningful deprivation. I understand that such a considerable surplus of wealth was in large part due to a (very) relatively unfettered market. Still, I imagine that given our level of technology that significant redistribution (nowhere close to absolute) would not sink us very far down.

Unless we believe that people have an absolute "right" to what they produce, than I don't see how people could reject redistribution. Someone's right to more of whatever hardly stands up against a child interest in living a decent life.

My two cents, for what its worth

July 27, 2008 5:01 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Last anonymous, it's a great deal more complicated than that. It is never right to take someone's property and give it to another, no matter how needy, and in point of fact it often makes yet other things worse too, so there are no pragmatic or utilitarian grounds for it either. The owners' ownership has nothing to do with whether they produced it, necessarily (though that is often a clue or a claim), only with whether it really is theirs. That absolute leaves an apparent loophole that vulgar libertarians try to take advantage of, by claiming that whatever is, is right. However, there are a great many things that were improperly obtained in the first place, or else are currently improperly sustained and maintained. The former can sometimes be restored, and the latter can always be stopped, without violating ownership (though actually doing it presents both physical and psychological difficulties).

As for the genuine needs of the needy, taking their name in vain is a "what about the children" sort of argument. On the one hand, much of that sort of need would melt away, be engineered out, if only the rest were put right as I described at the end of the last paragraph. On the other hand, remaining need - whether continuing or transitional until things came right - is best addressed by personal charity and/or applying resources that are not someone else's property, institutional charity such as monasteries once offered by drawing on the usufruct of their endowments.

The most succinct and helpful description of the dilemma and how best to address it that I have found is in the 38th of the 39 Articles of the Church of England, if you remember to read to the end:-

Of Christian men's goods which are not common.

The riches and goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same, as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast; notwithstanding every man ought of such things as he possesseth liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.

July 28, 2008 6:43 AM  
Anonymous mark said...

"Yet I recognize that a case-by-case view of right & wrong would lead to enormous uncertainty. So I guess the two views exist in tension, each being important."

Hence the path of least resistance generating a lowest common denominator social information (a difference that makes a difference) system:

"Hey, atleast we aint killin' each other. Times be gooood!"

July 30, 2008 1:29 AM  
Anonymous mark said...

"I think that in many respects a situation-specific view of right & wrong is more helpful than a categorical or (deontological?)one.

Martin, you're describing a Means vs. Ends model of The Universe.

Humans are Ends-in-Themselves which emanate their identity via Means-via-Themselves. The Means is the Ends. Keep learning and try not to kill anyone, it's going to be a long trip. That being said, all the sayings and insights you collect along the way will be useful.

ps almost done Kevin. P.M. has a great post too.

July 30, 2008 3:13 AM  
Anonymous mark said...

Last Anonymous,

No such unfettered market has ever existed outside the projective mind of an Anarchist Thinker.

The Market is not a Tool. It is an Environment. Universal Justice?

The poor are an hypothetical creature. They don't really exist. "The Poor" is code word for slobbish/unlucky (but mostly *slobbish) bastards we can scapegoat and/or exploit.

Libertarians are only concerned with Freedom. There are plenty of relatively-less-well-off people whom are relatively-well-off Freedom-wise. We need their help.

So-called redistribution (Theft, Slavery) isn't merely "inefficient." It's breaking windows. The only way to even maintain production under a regime of coercion is to enforce the various forms of slavery. And then where are you, you creature of mind that only desired a freed working class?

People do have an absolute right to what they produce. What is debatable is exactly what part of the thing they produced.

Do I own the field, or do I merely own the fence surrounding it?

Do I own the well, or do I only own the pump extracting water from it?

Do I own the right of way, or do I simply own the asphalt paved on top of it?

As P.M. noted, the above are only supported by appeals to authority. ("That absolute leaves an apparent loophole that vulgar libertarians try to take advantage of, by claiming that whatever is, is right.")

Not sure if he will agree with me but it seems a functional explanation of the idea.

Simply put,

leftist terror-mongering is just as bad as W spying on us. We can fix this shit without the "gov" (people forcing shit on other people because of fancy ideas) fucking with the system. The system (existential reality) is bad enough without THAT shit.

* Explain to me how in this day and age there is poverty? We have no lack of production. We have no lack of potential distribution. Yet endless FUCKTARDS WHINE AND BITCH about life being cruel based not on the particulars of physical existance, but rather that they can't organize they're own lives the way they'd like to.

Fuck you.

Milton Freidman's grandson organized a commune of sorts, based on the simple premise that economies of scale are beneficial.

You'd think "poor people" being out of work and such would have lots of time to spend at the local free State Library where they would discover how to organize self-help economics like bulk wholesale buying. I think it was Milton Freidman in fact that suggested that the so-called "under-classes" go on a "revolutionary" (my term) diet of powdered milk and bread, save the difference in their grocery bill, and then use the savings to buy controlling stock in the factories that torture them day in and day out.

But no, the poor are poor not because of money but because of mind. They are indeed stupid. Revolutionaries need to admit this and "ack" the system: they need to wake people up rather than rile them up.


July 30, 2008 4:23 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Anon: If you see the market out of which such disparities of wealth arose as "relatively unfettered"--"very" or not--then our perceptions of reality are almost diametrically opposed. As I see it the disparities of wealth arose almost entirely from state intervention in the market to enforce special privilege, to create artificial scarcity, and to restrict competition. In a genuinely free market, IMO, the threshold of labor necessary for comfortable subsistence would likely be far lower, and the top fortunes (resulting entirely from thrift, hard work, or entrepreneurship rather than rentier incomes or the use of IP to suppress competition) would probably be in the low tens of millions of $$. The level of inequality would range from pebbles to large-grained sand, rather than (as it is now) from boulders to nanoparticles.

I agree with Lincoln's argument against slavery based on an absolute right to what one produces: "To the extent that they are entitled to eat the bread that their hand produces, they are our equals."

If I don't have an absolute right to what I produce, do I have a right to refuse to produce at all? Or does someone have the right to compel me to produce "for the children"?

PML: As some wag at the SPGB commented, the article you quote is probably the one Marx had in mind when he said the C of E would give up 38 of its 39 articles rather than 1/39 of its land.

July 30, 2008 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the lively responses.

I'm unclear as to how I can have an absolute right to what I produce and yet I am taxed a certain percentage of my income. This leads me to suspect that whatever rights I do have derive not from nature but from society. Now you might argue that you would prefer to keep the full product of your labor and that's a fine preference. But how can you argue that this is anything other than a personal taste?

August 20, 2008 12:16 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Anon: You might just as well take the fact that you're held up at gunpoint by a mugger as evidence against your ownership of your labor-product. An Iraqi, by a similar line of reasoning, might take the deaths of his family at the hands of an American solider as proof that they don't have an absolute right to life.

August 22, 2008 12:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the discussion here is too abstract, talking of markets in the mind rather than any reality.

Markets are physical spaces, with real people trading and transacting within them, people are not 'mathematical objects' determened to behave according to some assumed axiom. Sure laws impact on the market, its physical bounderies and they regulate human behaviour.

Who owns the market? Who regulates it?, Do the participants pay rent for use of the market? are there market entry barriers preventing people from trading in the market?

October 21, 2008 2:58 PM  

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