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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

Monday, November 08, 2010

Carson Interview at EcoClub


Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

In that interview, you stated:-

"And when it comes to warring city-states and the like, economic decentralization will be a mitigating factor. The economy will be so dispersed that there won't be any targets lucrative enough to justify the cost of conquest. And in general, I think technology is favoring the defensive so heavily over the offensive that the cost of bothering other people and making trouble will just be prohibitive compared to minding your own business and trading peacefully with them."

Actually, that's not how it usually worked. Rather, raiding made economic sense - particularly for people like the Vikings and later European colonialists such as the Dutch in the East Indies, who used it as an option in a mixed strategy of "raid and trade", using whichever was most convenient. Once attrition had worked enough, incremental conquests, settlement or even being invited to form a buffer became cheap, e.g. for the Vikings in northern England and Normandy, the Ottoman Turks, and the Spanish Reconquista.

The Mises site recently covered Franz Oppenheimer's insights into conquest and state formation, many of which are largely sound (but see also the qualifying material I bring out in my comments there). With all that, conquest remains quite realistic for at least some cases, even with the values of the parameters you have in mind.

"We've probably already passed Peak Oil several years ago, and are within a decade of Peak Coal, which means we're probably very close to Peak Fossil Fuel".

Actually, projections show that peak natural gas is still decades off, and peak coal is on the order of centuries off.

"Resource waste and pollution are the result of state privileges and subsidies to extracting industries, to artificially cheap transportation, etc."

While those make things worse, this is one area in which harmful externalities arise naturally as well as being artificially created like that (as against which, there are some positive externalities, mostly network externalities, so it is quite possible for the interventions to be deliberately or inadvertently helpful - depending on circumstances).

"f you look at the voluntary welfare state of worker mutuals in the nineteenth century, as described by E.P. Thompson and Pyotr Kropotkin, it was an amazing piece of work. If the workers participating in it hadn't been robbed by the Enclosures and other land thefts, subjected to totalitarian controls on their powers to organize by the Combination Acts and Laws of Settlement, etc., imagine what they could have done without the state!"

That makes it sound as though the constraints were applied after the mutual attempts, and possibly in response to them. In fact, most (not all) of the mutual attempts came later.

I'd have posted at the interview site, but I don't like registering for such places. Feel free to repost this there or link to this from there.

November 08, 2010 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Roderick T. Long said...

In general, if subsidies to centralized, high-capacity, long-distance transportation networks are removed, I would expect the overall cost of transportation to rise, and the amount consumed to fall.

In the case of international travel, though, we need to consider not only subsidies but added costs, including everything from TSA security to passports/visas/customs; those costs would fall. And even if overall costs might rise, it doesn't follow that amount consumed would fall, since real incomes would rise in a freed market as well. (Certainly whenever my own real income increases, not just the amount but the proportion I spend on international travel increases.)

November 09, 2010 9:18 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

PML: Thanks for the material re conquest.

Re Peak Coal, I've seen evidence it's a lot closer than that. In countries where coal reserves have been reestimated since the 1990s, there's been a radical downward revision. I think it's pretty likely we're a few years away from the maximum rate of extraction.

Re the mutual welfare state, the implication that it came into existence before the state started interfering was the furthest thing from my mind. What I meant to say is that it would have been even more effective if it had been free to develop with a full range of resources, instead of having to develop simultaneously with state-backed capitalist exploitation.

Roderick: There would probably be some shift, but there's so much low-hanging fruit to be eliminated if it were funded on a cost basis (e.g. especially replacing most business travel with teleconferencing, a much higher rate of telecommuting, etc.) that I doubt individual travel would compensate for it.

November 10, 2010 4:19 PM  

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