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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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Sunday, July 16, 2006

"J.S. Mill, Market Socialist"

That's Chris Dillow's description at Stumbling and Mumbling. Consider this quote from Book IV, Ch. 7 of Principles of Political Economy:

The relation of masters and work-people will be gradually superseded by partnership, in one of two forms: in some cases, association of the labourers with the capitalist; in others, and perhaps finally in all, association of labourers among themselves....The form of association...which if mankind continue to improve, must be expected in the end to predominate, is not that which can exist between a capitalist as chief, and workpeople without a voice in the management, but the association of the labourers themselves on terms of equality, collectively owning the capital with which they carry on their operations, and working under managers elected and removable by themselves.

Dillow comments:

Mill's vision here is not that of state-owned enterprises. Government management, he said, is "proverbially jobbing, careless, and ineffective.". Instead, it's a vision of worker co-ops. And what's more, of co-ops that compete against each other....

Interestingly, Mill's market socialist aspect was the basis of the official ideology of a 21st century superpower in Ken MacLeod's novel, Cosmonaut Keep. The Communist Party of the European Union was inspired less by Marx than by Mill's vision of the "steady state economy":

"But the Party!" she said. "How can you stand that? I mean, nobody believes in Communism any more, not even the commies."

"Oh yes they do," I said. "They just don't call it that. They call it 'the sustainable society.' What economists used to call the stationary state. And they think they're getting us there, and that everybody will get there in the end, even the Americans."

"Never!" Camilla said. "Maybe the East Coast liberals might go for that, but not the rest of us."

I sighed. "It's got nothing to do with what anybody believes in. The falling rate of profit will get you in the end. You can evade it for a while by exporting capital, and follow that falling rate like a star sinking on the horizon..., but all that gets you is a fully capitalist--and fully capitalized--world, with low profit rates everywhere, and then there's nowhere else to go but the steady state, an economy just quietly ticking over rather than expanding. In the steady state it's easy for workers to end up employing capital--socialism, as near as makes no difference.

She shot me a suspicious look.

"This is Marx, right?"

"Wrong," I said. "It's John Stuart Mill."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure that this was one of the many reasons why von Mises dismissed Mill as a "socialist" in his book "Liberalism" (the same one in which he praised Fascism).

An Anarchist FAQ has a few kind words about Mill in section A.4:

"Like Proudhon, Mill was a forerunner of modern-day market socialism and a firm supporter of decentralisation and social participation."


July 19, 2006 12:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...the same one in which he praised Fascism..."

I'm somewhat ambivalent about Mises's "Liberalism," but this is grossly unfair to him. Mises credits Fascism as temporarily rescuing Europe from Communist destruction, but he also says:

"That [Fascism's] foreign policy, based as it is on the avowed principle of force in international relations, cannot fail to give rise to an endless series of wars that must destroy all of modern civilation requires no further discussion."

When Mises wrote this in 1927, it is not hard to understand why he would find Fascim preferable to Bolshevism, and he certainly had no delusions that Fascism was a desirable social system.

July 19, 2006 10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To quote Mises, it "cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilisation. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live eternally in history."

Well, "live eternally in history" did not quite pan out...

Also, Fascism in Italy had destroyed the anarchist and syndicalist movements, along with all trade unions, co-operatives and socialist/communist parties. Bolshevism was not the issue for Fascism, it was just a handy phrase to justify crushing the whole socialist and labour movement (including the anarchists).

I'm not really a big fan of those who happily supported the repression and murder of comrades. I'm sure if the anarchist movement grew in size in American (like the Italian one did in 1920), his modern day followers will, like him, support fascism in the name of "freedom" (while, of course, having "no delusions that Fascism was a desirable social system").

July 21, 2006 2:54 AM  

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