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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, January 29, 2010

At C4SS: Howard Zinn, RIP

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hitler Orders DMCA Takedown

I seldom watch YouTube videos when I'm at home on my dialup connection, because they take too damn long to load. But this is great:

Addendum. Here's the script for a "Downfall" parody centering on the post-scarcity economy, by Paul Fernhout of the Open Manufacturing Google Group:

Dialog of alternatively a military officer and Hitler:
"It looks like there are now local digital fabrication facilities here,
here, and here."
"But we still have the rockets we need to take them out?"
"The rockets have all been used to launch seed automated machine shops for
self-replicating space habitats for more living space in space."
"What about the nuclear bombs?"
"All turned into battery-style nuclear power plants for island cities in the
"What about the tanks?"
"The diesel engines have been remade to run biodiesel and are powering the
internet hubs supplying technical education to the rest of the world."
"I can't believe this. What about the weaponized plagues?"
"The gene engineers turned them into antidotes for most major diseases like
malaria, tuberculosis, cancer, and river blindness."
"Well, send in the Daleks."
"The Daleks have been re-outfitted to terraform Mars. There all gone with
the rockets."
"Well, use the 3D printers to print out some more grenades."
"We tried that, but they only are printing toys, food, clothes, shelters,
solar panels, and more 3D printers, for some reason."
"But what about the Samsung automated machine guns?"
"They were all reprogrammed into automated bird watching platforms. The guns
were taken out and melted down into parts for agricultural robots."
"I just can't believe this. We've developed the most amazing technology the
world has ever known in order to create artificial scarcity so we could rule
the world through managing scarcity. Where is the scarcity?"
"Gone, Mein Fuhrer, all gone. All the technologies we developed for weapons
to enforce scarcity have all been used to make abundance."
"How can we rule without scarcity? Where did it all go so wrong? ...
Everyone with an engineering degree leave the room ... now!"
[Cue long tirade on the general incompetence of engineers. :-) Then cue long
tirade on how could engineers seriously wanted to help the German workers to
not have to work so hard when the whole Nazi party platform was based on
providing full employment using fiat dollars. Then cue long tirade on how
could engineers have taken the socialism part seriously and shared the
wealth of nature and technology with everyone globally.]
"So how are the common people paying for all this?"
"Much is free, and there is a basic income given to everyone for the rest.
There is so much to go around with the robots and 3D printers and solar
panels and so on, that most of the old work no longer needs to be done."
"You mean people get money without working at jobs? But nobody would work?"
"Everyone does what they love. And they are producing so much just as gifts."
"Oh, so you mean people are producing so much for free that the economic
system has failed?"
"Yes, the old pyramid scheme one, anyway. There is a new post-scarcity
economy, where between automation and a a gift economy the
income-through-jobs link is almost completely broken. Everyone also gets
income as a right of citizenship as a share of all our resources for the few
things that still need to be rationed. Even you."
"Really? How much is this basic income?"
"Two thousand a month."
"Two thousand a month? Just for being me?"
"Well, with a basic income like that, maybe I can finally have the time and
resources to get back to my painting..."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Little Help for Arthur Silber?

Arthur Silber does some excellent left-libertarian writing on foreign policy and the national security state, as well as on "thick" libertarian analysis of cultural authoritarianism (the latter including an amazing body of work applying the ideas of Alice Miller to authoritarianism within the family). What's more, he does most of it in the face of medical problems that would cause most people to assume the fetal position, give up, and just wait to die.

And then there are the bad times. If you value Arthur's writing and have the means to help, you can chip in at PayPal.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

At C4SS: Finally--A Government Agency That's Actually Doing Its Job

Friday, January 22, 2010

At C4SS: Society versus the State

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Homebrew Industrial Revolution--Manuscript Updated

In particular Chapter Six includes a couple of new subsections:

C. Resilience, Primary Social Units, and Libertarian Values

Based on conversations with Gary Chartier and Keith Taylor on the decoupling of the social safety net from both the state and employment, and into the informal/household sector; and on localism's possible threat to libertarian cultural values.

E. Community Bootstrapping (stub)

Based on conversations with Keith Taylor, and on the Open Manufacturing list at Google Groups, about micromanufacturing in the context of economic development in depressed areas like the Rust Belt and the Arkansas Delta.

Chapter Three also contains several pages of new material on the tendency of innovation to destroy monetized economic value.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

At C4SS: Lawyers Guns and Money

Saturday, January 16, 2010

At C4SS: Put Not Your Faith in Revolutions

Friday, January 15, 2010

At C4SS: Steal This Textbook

Thursday, January 14, 2010

C4SS Bleg

I hate to sound like a PBS pledge drive on this, but if you've been paying any attention to the C4SS Chipin widget in my sidebar you'll have noticed that the fundraiser has stalled out at $500 for a long time--that's $500 out of some $2945 Brad is trying to raise for this quarter.

What that really means is that right now, as of the end of this week, we'll all essentially be working for free.

I'll probably keep churning out my three columns a week and write a quarterly research paper. Tom, Alex and Darian will probably keep creating new material every week as well, and Brad and Mike will probably continue their efforts to handle the administrative duties of running C4SS and maintaining the website. We'll keep doing this stuff for free, because we believe in the work we're doing at C4SS.

The question is, do you?

Update. Since I posted this a couple of hours ago, somebody contributed $300, almost doubling our total.

Damn! I didn't know I was that good.

Seriously, whoever did that, thanks a lot!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

At C4SS: The People Making "The Rules" are Dumber Than You

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low Overhead Manifesto

This will be my third book, based on the series of papers on industrial history I did at Center for a Stateless Society. The current manuscript, which is far from finished, is available as an ebook at my new Wordpress blog dedicated to the project.

From the Preface (itself still decidedly unfinished):

In researching and writing my last book Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, I was probably more engaged and enthusiastic about working on material related to micromanufacturing, the microenterprise, the informal economy, and the singularity resulting from them, than on just about any other part of the book. When the book went to press, I didn't feel that I was done writing about those things. As I completed that book, I was focused on several themes that, while they recurred throughout the book, were imperfectly tied together and developed.

In my first paper as research associate at Center for a Stateless Society, I attempted to tie these themes together and develop them in greater detail in the form of a short monograph. I soon found that it wasn't going to stop there, as I elaborated on the same theme in a series of C4SS papers on industrial history. And as I wrote those papers, I began to see them as the building blocks for a stand-alone book.

One of the implicit themes which I have attempted to develop since Organization Theory, and which is central to this book, is the central role of fixed costs—initial capital outlays and other overhead—in economics. The higher the fixed costs of an enterprise, the larger the income stream required to service them. That's as true for the household microenterprise, and for the “enterprise” of the household itself, as for more conventional businesses. Regulations that impose artificial capitalization and other overhead costs, the purchase of unnecessarily expensive equipment of a sort that requires large batch production to amortize, the use of stand-alone buildings, etc., increase the size of the minimum revenue stream required to stay in business, and effectively rule out part-time or intermittent self-employment. When such restrictions impose artificially high fixed costs on the means of basic subsistence (housing and feeding oneself, etc.), their effect is to make cheap and comfortable subsistence impossible, and to mandate ongoing external sources of income just to survive. As Charles Johnson argued,

If it is true (as Kevin has argued, and as I argued in Scratching By) that, absent the state, most ordinary workers would experience a dramatic decline in the fixed costs of living, including (among other things) considerably better access to individual ownership of small plots of land, no income or property tax to pay, and no zoning, licensing, or other government restraints on small-scale neighborhood home-based crafts, cottage industry, or light farming/heavy gardening, I think you’d see a lot more people in a position to begin edging out or to drop out of low-income wage labor entirely—in favor of making a modest living in the informal sector, by growing their own food, or both...

On the other hand, innovation in the technologies of small-scale production and of daily living reduce the worker's need for a continuing income stream. It enables the microenterprise to function intermittently and to enter the market incrementally, with no overhead to be serviced when business is slow. The result is enterprises that are lean and agile, and can survive long periods of slow business, at virtually no cost; likewise, such increased efficiencies, by minimizing the ongoing income stream required for comfortable subsistence, have the same liberating effect on ordinary people that access to land on the common did for their ancestors three hundred years ago.

The more I thought about it, the more central the concept of overhead became to my analysis of the two competing economies. Along with setup time, fixed costs and overhead are central to the difference between agility and its lack. Hence the subtitle of this book: “A Low Overhead Manifesto.”

Agility and Resilience are at the heart of the alternative economy's differences with its conventional predecessor. Its superiorities are summed up by the cover image; a tiny teenage Viet Cong girl leading an enormous American pilot into captivity. I'm obliged to Jerry Brown (via Reason magazine's Jesse Walker) for the metaphor: guerrillas in black pajamas, starting out with captured Japanese and French arms, with a bicycle-based supply train, kicking the living shit out of the best-trained and highest-technology military force in human history.

But Governor Brown was much more of a fiscal conservative than Governor Reagan, even if he made arguments for austerity that the Republican would never use. (At one point, to get across the idea that a lean organization could outperform a bloated bureaucracy, he offered the example of the Viet Cong.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

C4SS Q1 2010 Fundraiser Continues

You may have noticed, from the C4SS Chipin widget in my sidebar, that the fundraiser for the Center for a Stateless Society has stalled down at $500 for several days now--about 16% of the total needed for this quarter. If you enjoy C4SS commentary, and are able and at all inclined to give, this might be a good time to do so.


The Randroid Worship of Power

Interesting conversation under my latest C4SS column: "Small Government Conservatives Who Love the State." Aster mentioned that mainstream Randroids of the ARI variety are even worse state-worshippers, when it comes to the coercive and punitive "Daddy" arms of the state, than the Republicans at Fox New et al. I commented (some minor cleaning up):

The Randroids IMO are far, far worse than Fox and even most Republican talk radio.

I recall some pieces by Bidinotto saying the U.S. was justified, in “self-defense,” in turning the Gulf region into molten glass if the Islamic countries didn’t obey an American demand that they shut down the Madrasas (aggressive calls for violence, you know), and give the oil fields to private owners (cough Exxon-Mobil cough).

Now consider, first of all, that the ARI’s propaganda might be interpreted by some in the Islamic world as “calls for violence.” And consider also that Ayn Rand rejected Rothbard’s views on state property: she viewed student occupations of state universities, like the Berkeley FSM, as a thuggish violation of property rights that should be suppressed by state violence.

Starting from the perverse definitions of “self-defense” and “aggression” that these Randroid monsters use, it’s possible to threaten “Do what we say or we’ll murder the entire human race,” and define failure to obey as “aggression” and global genocide as “self-defense.” Maybe, using the ARI’s logic, the rest of the world should define the U.S. government’s very act of permitting such calls for violence from the Ayn Rand Institute and The Objectivist Center as itself constituting state sponsorship of terror–and then launch a war of extermination against the U.S. to make the rest of the world safe from American corporatist terror. It would be at least as rational and internally consistent as the Randroid doctrine. In fact, I believe Bin Laden justified the civilian deaths from 9-11, arguing for the moral culpability of the entire population in supporting or acquiescing to government policy, in the very same terms the ARI beasts of prey regularly use.

Most Randroid foreign policy propaganda, behind all the elaborate philosophical justifications, amounts to “Let’s kill all the people we don’t like and take their stuff.” It’s just an animal’s howl of rage, wrapped up in faux Aristotelian rhetoric.

Addendum. In the comments, Robert Bidinotto challenged me to produce a link to any instance of where he'd said such things. I found that I'd conflated his name, in particular, with the content of a number of objectionable ARI pieces which were not written by him which had been posted (mostly by Kevin McFarlane, who regularly posts links to ARI columns, I think) on the Libertarian Alliance Forum. I can find no instance in which Mr. Bidinotto made the madrasa or oil "theft" arguments referenced above. As I told him, before turning a C4SS comment based on my loose recollection of a wide array of objectionable content from the ARI into a blog post in its own right, I should have done better fact checking. For that, I apologize. My reaction to the actual arguments referenced above still stands, but I lack the time or inclination to track them down to the original Objectivist writers responsible for them.

Friday, January 08, 2010

At C4SS: "Small Government" Conservatives Who Worship the State

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

At C4SS: That'll Show 'Em

"So when your system for anticipating attacks upstream is virtually worthless, the 'last mile' becomes monumentally important: having people downstream capable of recognizing and thwarting the attempt, and with the freedom to use their own discretion in stopping it, when it is actually made.

"So what has the TSA done? It has further limited the autonomy and discretion of the passengers, and made it even less likely that they’ll be able to stop a future attempt at onboard terrorism."

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

At C4SS: Only the Guilty Need Fear--But We're All Guilty

Friday, January 01, 2010

At C4SS: Don't Go There, Heritage