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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, November 12, 2009

At C4SS--On General Labor and Socially Created Value


Anonymous Anonymous said...

kevin have you come across any low cost sheet metal press and die designs? Capacity to form automotive exterion panels like doors and so on.I thought you might know as you do a lot of decentralised manufacturing reading.

November 13, 2009 9:09 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

I'm afraid I haven't the foggiest. If you're familiar with the Open Manufacturing email list, the people on there are probably your best bet.


November 13, 2009 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

neva knew dat group thanks a lot carson :-) nd a brilliant website btw however I have seen that you have never adressed the infant industry argument, could you please do it? That happens to be my gripe about markets they do not account for innovation nd every kind of innovation has always been statist, protectionist. I would also like what you feel about trade deficits nd underselling third wolrd farmers.

November 13, 2009 9:31 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Thanks, Anon2. It seems to me that the infant industry argument assumes a particular economic model, with extremely high capital outlays and subsidized long-distance shipping. And those conditions themselves were both creations of the state. It would make more sense to remove state subsidies to long-distance trade and to capital-intensiveness. And we've reached the point IMO where the small garage manufacturer scaled to the local market, with low-cost capital equipment, will have a comparative advantage over the high-overhead producer who has to ship product from thousands of miles away. Indeed, machine production by such small craft producers probably had the competitive advantage 120 years ago, if the state hadn't tipped the balance.

November 15, 2009 11:22 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Anon1: The more I think about your question, the more I suspect the answer is no. Based on what I've read by Eric Hunting on modular industrial design, one of the main causes for modular design for platforms is the high cost of developing entire products when those products are expensive. So the cost of product design is spread out over many small producers sharing a platform, with each small producer producing multiple-purpose components that can be customized to the platform design in many ways.

And it strikes me that the high cost of a stamping press and product-specific dies, or of facilities for large-scale plastic injection-molding of extremely large objects, is a classic example of the kind of expenses that modular design manages to get around.

So I expect that open-source, distributed manufacture of (say) cars in multiple small shops would rely on the kind of modular design that would get around the need for molded aluminum, etc. This would mean body designs that could be put together entirely from parts within the capabilities of subtractive machinery (i.e., all surfaces cut from flat sheet metal, attached to a frame of cut or bent steel).

November 15, 2009 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon1 here thanks a lot carson I had the same doubts yah they would be way too expensive for small scale anyways thanks for your help. If this kind of technology could be decentralised that would be a real kick in the ass for established manufacturers.Can I suggest something?? Could you compile a list of the various decentralized technologies available industry or application wise? That would be extremely useful for open source manufacturing.

November 15, 2009 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey carson anon 2 here yes but isn't that the very kind of economic model that exists presently and so protectionism would greatly help a nation come out of poverty become a manufacturing nation and so on.If a country actively institutes industrial policy trade regulation etc you create local high value jobs and so on.In the short term free trade might work as goods may be cheaper but in the long term protectionism beats the pants out of free trade.In free trade customer always loses as the worst customer is an unemployed customer. Free trade might work in perfect model that rests on fixed capital. But if capital is mobile it devastates communities and entire nations.Capital will keep moving to cheapest labour cost region.If there is perfect mobility of labour there is less to worry about but still unilaterally opening up to cheap imports would turn a highly developed nation into a banana republic (India a case in point). If India had protected its cotton industry rather than being undersold by british cotton it would not look the way it does now. By protectionism I only mean import tariffs not patents etc.Would like to hear your reply to this.

November 15, 2009 12:13 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Anon 1: I'm not an engineer or a shoppie, so any list I come up with off the top of my head is going to be pretty incomplete. But the major things I recall reading about in recent years are cheap open-source 3-in-1 mill/lathe/mill machines (e.g. the multimachine), XYZ-axis cutting tables/routers, and 3-D printers (e.g. RepRap). In the near future I expect circuit printers to become a lot cheaper, and a much larger role for recycling and reprogramming microprocessors and microcontrollers with chip toasters.

Anon 2: I don't believe that economic model is sustainable. Between Peak Oil and the fiscal crisis of the state, corporate capitalism is hitting a wall beyond which the state no longer has the resources to subsidize and protect it. I expect to see a radical shortening of supply and distribution chains, and I expect existing small job-shop producers in Asia currently serving American corporate overlords to start ignoring the corporate trademarks and IP and reorient production to their own local markets (while the container ships rust in port). And the fact that the capital outlays needed for small-scale garage factories are falling so precipitiously means that it doesn't really matter any more where the big capitalists want to invest.

November 19, 2009 9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 1 here thanks a lot for ur comments they are much appreciated :-). I also luv te way u shred misoids randroids and libertoids to dust. Keep up the excellent work as they are a treasure trove of informtion :-). Also do check out this site you may like it ;-) http://classicliberal.tripod.com/

November 20, 2009 1:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 2 here I hope you are right in which case I would definitely support you. I totally agree with the ends but I am just skeptical about the means. I like to call myself and industrial policy mutualist :-P .Transportation subsidies really change the way the world works. I love your website carson and you do a marvelous job. BTW have you read any books by Erik reinert or a Ha joon chang? I will give you erik's url where he has list of working papers which I think you will find very interesting http://www.othercanon.org/ .

November 20, 2009 2:04 AM  
Anonymous James said...

Anon 2,

There's a few arguments i'd like to add for free trade.
In a free market production will naturally thrive where output per unit of input is highest. All a tariff does is divert resources into areas with a lower output/input ratio and away from more productive areas. If resources are devoted to expanding inefficient projects then more efficient ones will shrink because of it. This reduces both your nation's output and the output of other nations meaning they can demand less of your nation's products. As Carson points out in the article under free competition the benefits of higher productivity are socialised so this will be a net loss for everyone (except those protected).

Contrary to your argument that free trade could only work with fixed capital I think it's central to our argument that capital is free to move to wherever it would be most efficient. Also contrary to your argument about tariffs creating local high value jobs the only effect they can have is to destroy high value jobs elsewhere, domestic and abroad, by reducing productivity. You claim that under free trade capital will move to where labor costs are lowest but that protectionism could help a poor country move out of poverty, which is it?

As for the infant industries argument. Funding projects that will make short term losses but long term profits is perfectly viable in a free market. However the chances of them appearing profitable depends on the cost of fulfilling short term desires and the amount of resources that can saved for investments. Considering the lower prices and higher output under free trade I can't think of a better argument for it than infant industries.

As Carson also mentions subsidised transportation, forcing open foreign markets etc. could easily be causing the problems your concerned about, for many of the same reasons tariffs do, but the answer isn't to add more interventions it's to remove the existing ones. Otherwise decisions about production are taken further and further away from the market's feedback so will no longer be based on what can best satisfy the consumers.

However even if protectionist concerns were legitimate their policies still wouldn't make sense because protectionism is privilege to one set of producers and they would be the ones who benefit, not the whole country. Also people's actions will change in the face of an intervention and try to reassert their desires, less efficiently, so the result won't be previous conditions plus an intervention but rather a new set of conditions. In other words the protectionist means do not match the protectionist ends.

November 22, 2009 4:27 AM  
Anonymous James said...

Oh and great article. Stuff like open source seems like a modern version of the world Tucker was describing.
I think this is a point that needs mentioning more when discussing state granted privilege. As well as the direct privilege of one producer over other producers there's the whole population's opportunity cost of giving up all these socialised benefits in order to sustain these privileges. In this way i guess it could be argued that any intervention that diverts resources to somewhere less efficient could be an indirect form privilege as no doubt one of these socialised benefits would be more lower costs to starting a new business.

November 22, 2009 4:56 AM  

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