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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 28, 2005

Making Ourselves Ungovernable, Part II: Governing Ourselves

Not long ago, I posted a link to a great article on decentralized network activism, along with a link to a Rand document indicating how panicked "our" leaders are by the governance problems presented by networked resistance.

But decentralized networks of affinity groups are not only good for bringing down existing centralized hierarchies; they're also good for replacing them as tools for self-governance. Over thirty years ago, Ivan Illich wrote about the potential of decentralized learning networks for replacing the state's top-down schooling machinery. And he envisioned these networks at a time when the only technologies he had to work with were community-owned computer mainframes, telephone trees, and tape-recorded lectures. Karl Hess, in roughly the same period, coauthored the outstanding Neighborhood Power with David Morris. So imagine how the cyber-revolution of the subsequent three decades boosts the potential for such self-managed networks.

Via Dave Pollard, an excellent article by Beth Simone Noveck of the Democracy Design Workshop: "A Democracy of Groups"

With networks and new computer–based tools now ordinary people can become a group even without the benefit of a corporation or organization. They can make decisions, own and sell assets, accomplish tasks by exploiting the technology available. They no longer need to rely on a politician to make decisions. They can exercise meaningful power themselves about national, state and local — indeed global — issues...

This technology is enabling people to engage in complex, socially contextualized activities in ways not possible before. While it used to be that geography determined the boundaries of a group and the possibilities for collective action — I had to be near you to join you — now technology is revolutionizing our capacity for purposive collective action with geographically remote actors.

In light of this, Noveck wants to

structure the law to defer political and legal decision–making downward to decentralized group–based decision–making.

Now, as an individualist anarchist, I view the ultimate goal of this process as decentralizing decision-making power downward to the smallest possible unit: the individual.

Unlike many free market anarchists, I don't consider "democracy" a dirty word. Majority rule is only an accidental feature of democracy. If you look at the thought of Jefferson and other anglo-republicans (or oppositionists, or "eighteenth century commonwealthmen," or whatever) of his day, the central principle of democracy was consent. Government by majority rule was a second-best, a way of approximating as closely as possible to the universal, several consent of individuals when the latter was impossible. And representative democracy was a far-distant third, making meaningful self-government almost impossible (something that for the Hamiltonians was a feature, not a bug). But the principle the radical democrats pursued, as closely as they thought practicable, was always government by the consent of the governed. And there have always been, as Voltairine De Cleyre called them, "unterrified Jeffersonians," willing to push the principle of consent to its logical conclusion. Even in the time of Jefferson and Paine, William Godwin denied the need for any agency with a presumed right to initiate force on behalf of the "general welfare."

All decision-making groups, ultimately, should be voluntary associations govered on the principle of unanimous consent.

The last step, of course, will be to fund all public services on the cost principle, with fees from voluntary associates. When membership and payment become voluntary, the last step will be taken toward what Proudhon called the dissolution of the state in the social body. This last will probably be impossible until we've removed the state-backed monopoly privileges of landlords and usurers, and all the sundry subsidies and protections enjoyed by our present feudal lords the corporations, and allowed the free market some time to iron out the present maldistribution of wealth. Only when the state's barriers to occupancy of vacant land, and the state's barriers to worker self-organization of credit through mutual banks, have been removed, and labor receives its full product, will the producing classes finally have the resources to pay for all the services they consume at cost and contribute to mutual aid associations for the benefit of those unable to work.

In the meantime, the smaller the group, the closer we approach to this ideal. And direct democracy, with neighborhoods, schools, utilities, etc., run by boards of selectmen directly responsible to their clientele, is a huge step toward the ideal of democracy as unanimous consent.

Addendum. Via Ecodema. An excellent article on the devolution of government policy-making to local and neighborhood assemblies in Venezuela.

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Blogger JoeTKelley said...


We have our differences of viewpoint. We share more of the same viewpoint than any two individuals I have had the fortune to contact and form mutually agreed upon association (unanimous consent). Where we diverge, in my view, is significant. Our contending viewpoints focus on one of the last obstacles separating global unanimous consent from The State. That obstacle is a common language; the language of trade.
Since you have found the time and energy to help me discover just exactly where our viewpoints contend, and as long as you continue to respond, my time and energy is focused here and now.
You wrote:
“This last will probably be impossible until we've removed the state-backed monopoly privileges of landlords and usurers, and all the sundry subsidies and protections enjoyed by our present feudal lords the corporations, and allowed the free market some time to iron out the present maldistribution of wealth.”
My contention is to point out that removal is not necessary. Replacing the state-backed monoply priviledges of landlords and userers is an integral part of our rapidly developing global communications network. The State is being rendered superfluous because people are finding the means to associate mutually without The State. One remaining obstical, one significant remaning contention between free traders, is the language of comerce – money.
The only property of money required to bypass The State and render The State superfluous is voluntary popularity or common voluntary consent. Right now that common voluntary consent is focused upon the almighty dollar. The dollar is backed by oil and military might. It cannot compete much longer because the supply of oil is declining while the cost of oil is rising. Sooner or later the value of the dollar will no longer be enforcable with oil financed military might. Something will replace the dollar.
Another form of money will become more popularly accepted because the dollar cannot continue to hold value.
For the same reason that the dollar has held value (energy money) the new money will replace the dollar. Military force is energy. Oil is energy. Military force cannot be produced nor maintained without some form of fuel energy. Commerce cannot exist without some form of fuel energy like food or human labor (The labor note).
As the worlds oil supply decreases (while costs increase) and as The States fight over control of this deminishing supply of energy the rest of the world (commerce) will find and use new energy sources backing new money.
The above can be proven. We can argue over the facts supporting or contending with the above observations. We cannot find unanimous consent without proving or disproving the above statements. My contention is that the proof is self-evident and therefore the next obvious qeustion is: what will back the new money and who will control this money?
Suppose, for example, that China begins to invest in Solar power. Chinese individuals begin to purchase and use electric energy creating machines and the Chinese government steps aside (or offers tax breaks) allowing any individual Chinese person to begin generating electric power to be reinvested in generating more electric power to be reinvested in generating hydrogen. No one can contend with this reality. It is fact. Power creates power and reinvesting the new power into creating more power is an exponetial grotwh equation. Suppose, then, that China begins this exponential growth power. Suppose that China models their Solar electric energy growth on the European model. Suppose that Amercia remains mired in Oil Debt (business as usual if you cannot or will not see the link between oil and the dollar).
Now suppose that China does not stop at the electric (use or lose) demand limit and instead – China pushes the limits of Solar electric energy production and uses all excess (non peak hour) electricity to make hydrogen.
The above scenario goes like this:
America goes deeper and deeper in debt relying upon more and more military might that increases debt exponentially.
Europe becomes more and more energy independent having developed Solar/Wind electric energy generating capabilities (exponential growth – new energy is the stuff needed to produce as oil supply dwindles and oil prices skyrocket).
China becomes more and more energy independent having developed Solar/Wind electric energy generating capabilites and they do not cap their electric production potential; China creates new fuel (at an exponential rate). China creates an abundant supply of the stuff needed to produce (they already have cooperative human labor in abundance).
The dollar declines. The Euro stabalizes. The Yaun builds power.
Money is backed by energy.
One more point:
You wrote:
“All decision-making groups, ultimately, should be voluntary associations govered on the principle of unanimous consent.”
Groups don’t make decisions and money is the language common to all. Accurate money (energy money) will govern all decision-making individuals on the principle of unanimous consent.

November 29, 2005 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


you are essentially describing the Second Vermont Republic's mission in creating a cooperative comonwealth by ending state privilege and returning power via direct face to face democracy at the local town level and then confederate up to a Shire republic and then up to the state.

in the catholic distributist world...


November 30, 2005 11:31 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


I don't see any fundamental disagreement between what you're saying here and what I said. If mutual association is rendering the state superfluous and privilege unenforceable, that's an effective removal of privilege.


The only difference I see is that the distributist idea of subsidiarity involves a central authority apportioning local authority according to its own judgment of a proper division of labor.

November 30, 2005 6:09 PM  
Blogger JoeTKelley said...


You may or may not believe anything I write and that is OK by me since your writing remains valuable to me. This is like so many relationships that I have with the people I love (I do not relate to those I do not love if I can manage to avoid them).

While waiting for your replies I have time to think about what my reply will be to what I guess will be your reply. I am becoming more and more patient; it’s like therapy.

Example pre-reply guess (It fits from my viewpoint)
“If all that you get from reading Josiah Warren is anti-matter, then, you miss the point.”

I’m a little freer with my own language when playing internal solitary chess. Anti-matter is like burning a candle at both ends (like Hegalism). Josiah Warren describes clearly “how to” use candles to make more wax.

So…I do see a fundamental disagreement between what you write and what I think. Language aside; I think and you think. Language pretends to find agreement.

If mutual association uses candles to make more wax (instead of burning the candle at both ends), then, rendering the state superfluous is superfluous. The State can go on with whatever privilege they can enforce = no removal of privilege.

There is a fundamental difference between using candles to make more wax and burning a candle at both ends. There is a fundamental difference between the words “removal of privilege” and “earning energy independence”.

The word “removal” is enforcement like fire fighting fire. The word earning is productive like earning trust (mutual respect).

Forum and blog moderators remove my words from their sites. They first try to do so with insults, character assassination, straw men, transference, threats, lies, deceit, and other words. I ask: If you want me to stop writing on your forum then let me know. I will stop at the slightest hint of unwelcome energy.

December 01, 2005 7:27 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


Sorry, I thought I'd responded to all your posts to date.

I don't disagree with your distinction between burning a candle at both ends and using it to make more wax; I just don't see how an energy backing of currency is essential for that. The productivity is in the terms of the exchange itself--the goods actually exchanged--not in the commodity used to calibrate the medium of exchange.

December 02, 2005 11:03 AM  
Blogger JoeTKelley said...


Your interests and mine converge on many points not the least of which is the cost principle (applied to the cost of all productive energy including but not limited to human labor).

I greatly appreciate reading your expression of concern for keeping the dialog open.

We remain mired in difficulties attributable to inaccurate language.


You write:

“I don’t disagree with your distinction between burning a candle at both ends and using it to make more wax; I just don’t see how an energy backing of currency is essential for that.”

I may or may not be able to find the language that can communicate why my viewpoint does not agree with yours. The world ‘essential’ is probably a key point of contention.

The label used to account for productive exchange is a secondary concern; a non-essential or less essential consideration; therefore my viewpoint does not focus (mainly) upon the label but rather the form used to account for productive exchanges.


A personal check book has a label for the units that account for productive exchanges. A check is an instrument used for accounting productive exchanges. When that instrument accurately accounts for a known amount of labor traded for a known amount of labor equitably (in line with the cost principle), then, that check is synonymous with a labor note. The name “check” is a minor concern and certainly not essential to the process of accounting for productive exchange.

The “check” is less accurate than the labor note because the “check” leaves too much room for funny business (falsehood). The labor note is tied to a mutually agreed upon standard of value. The check is tied to a mutually agreed upon unknowable value (subject to all forms of depreciating taxations).

The “Check” and the “Labor Note” are both adequate (both serve the essential function) while the later is more accurate than the former.

The commodity used to calibrate the “Labor Note” is a mutually agreed upon and known measure of human labor (a standard). The commodity used to calibrate the “Check” is fiat currency (Enforced money inappropriately called “legal value”).

Checks are now traded universally among free traders on this planet at a cost. Currently the cost, for whatever reason, is acceptable. For all intents and purposes the “Check” is a “Labor note” during each equitable exchange minus the tax. It does not really matter what label we use to describe the essential instrument required for the exchange.

The time is rapidly approaching when the inaccuracies of the current calibrating medium (enforcement) will cost too much and free traders will universally adopt a more accurate calibrating medium. Progress in finding a more accurate calibrating medium can be found on your site in many forms. Once a more accurate calibrating medium is found and sufficiently appreciated, then, the competition accelerates rapidly. The more accurate calibrating medium will push out the less accurate medium. Nature will win. The price paid in the competition can be great.

If the people whose interest depends upon inaccurate money have more power than the people whose interest depends upon accurate money, then, the price will be high.

If the people whose interest depends upon accurate money are in command of great power, then, the price to switch over to more accurate money will be low.

It does not matter what label is used to describe the power of money. What matters is the power itself. If the power behind money is falsehood (a mutually acceptable charge placed upon the use of money), then, the power is only as good as the lie.

If the power behind money is energy, then, those who produce energy command the power of money.


Oil is energy. Who produces oil? Who commands the power of money? Is it coincidental that the producers of oil happen to be commanding much of the power of money? Who is the new fed chairman and who hired him?

Creating and maintaining an effective mutually accepted lie is very powerful like calling money anything other than what it really is in fact.

Energy empowers; without either no life exists.

If each individual on the planet invested right now in the exponential growth capabilities of generating their own Solar Energy for personal use and sale, then, in 20 years there would be no threat imposed by a sudden loss of trust imposed by a sudden decrease in the money supply. People could simply trade electricity and hydrogen for the stuff they need much like the friends of liberty used whiskey for money when the friends of order, the moneyed men, took control of money in the years following American Independence Day.

The bottom line is raised by productive energy. It does not matter what label is used so long as the productive energy is generated and traded.

The bottom line drops when less productive energy is produced at which point the label matters to those who have special interests at the expense of those who care less or fail to know enough.

December 02, 2005 1:34 PM  

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