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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, August 24, 2006

Weekly Digest

Police State

*Jacob Hornberger assures us it already has happened here (via Arthur Silber):

"Well, then, where are the mass round-ups, and where are the concentration camps?"

Again, people who ask that type of question are missing the point. The point is not whether Bush is exercising his omnipotent, dictatorial power to the maximum extent. It’s whether he now possesses omnipotent, dictatorial power, power that can be exercised whenever circumstances dictate it — for example, during another major terrorist attack on American soil, when Americans become overly frightened again.

"...Within the Shell of the Old"

*Our Word is Our Weapon on the Millennium Villages Project. "Bottoms Up: The Millennium Village Project." "Millennium Villages." "More on the Millennium Villages Project."

*Brad Spangler suggests a left-right money crankery fusion, between hippy-dippy LETS systems and the paranoid right's hard money movement.

*Via Ron Bailey at Reason Hit&Run. Rickard Falkvinge of Sweden's Pirate Party (in the contest of the Relakks untraceable internet service, or "darknet") on the non-viability of copyright fascism without the surveillance state:
The only way to enforce today's unbalanced copyright laws is to monitor all private communications over the Internet. Today's copyright regime cannot coexist with an open society that guarantees the right to private communication.

*Tim Kitchens, at Steal This Brand:

The core mutual marketing idea is to design organisations in response to multiple stakeholder interests, and then devise and support processes that can fulfil those complex desires.

Balanced organisations, win:win organisations, sustainable organisations...call them what you will...all the exciting new business models today depend upon restructuring value-chains in more empowering ways to be stakeholder responsive, from the outset.

Mutual Marketers would start an HR strategy by asking ‘what do our ideal employees we want to target want from their career? Now let’s create an organisation to fulfil that aspiration…’

*Kitchens also posts the central principles of mutual marketing. My favorite:

Companies, owned by shareholders seeking short-term profit and delegating authority to self-serving managers, will never act in the interests of their customers. Legally, and morally, they cannot.

The only viable buyer-centric organisational form is the mutual – the buying co-operative, directly owned by its members….

Here, my campaign banner is Mutualism – the particular form of socialist libertarian anarchy esposed by Proudhon.

*Alexander Kjerulf lists the benefits of "low rent living," among which my favorites are:

1: Freedom to leave a bad job
When a job doesn’t make me happy, I can quit without worrying about the money....

5: Freedom to work less hours...

7: Peace of mind
I spend almost zero time and energy worrying about money - it’s just not an issue.

*Thomas Greco reports on a Vermont conference organized by the Schumacher society, Complementary Currencies: Money for Local Living Economies.

Land Stuff.

*A paper on land rights in Africa, via Our Word is Our Weapon.

*Via Flagrancy to Reason. Title reform in Phnom Penh worked just like De Soto said it would. Newly titled land in urban squatter settlements is selling for up to $ a square meter--a potential gold mine for the destitute folks living there, right? Except for one thing--twenty-odd thousand of the squatters were burned out or otherwise evicted, and resettled elsewhere, and the newly titled prime real estate wound up in the hands of plutocrats.

*"Let Them Have Tractors: New Steps in Bolivia’s Agrarian Reform. Evo Morales Administration Hands Over Land and Equipment to Thousands of Peasant Farmers as the Landowning Right Wing Arms for Battle."

Corporate Welfare

*"Who Killed the Electric Car?" GM and the EV1.

*Reason Hit&Run recently announced a debate, pitting the worthy Tim Carney against someone from the AEI, on whether big business is friend or foe of big government.

*Adem Kupi provides a left-libertarianish quote from Bastiat on the tendency of business, when it participates in government, to conspire against the public. Conversely,

[Competition] is the basis of true communism, of true socialism, and of that equality of wealth and position so much desired in our day...

*And as Kupi also points out, we only wish society was a pyramid.

The difference in effective wealth between a DuPont or Rockefeller and a successful trial lawyer is greater than the difference between that trial lawyer and a homeless bum. Far greater. The power curve looks like a capital J. I feel safe in saying that no one reading this is on the vertical part, or even on the curvy part, most likely. (which starts when you're dealing with multi-millions, I think)

We're almost all proletarians, here. Fighting the upper middle class as a class enemy is pointless.

*While we're on the "we're almost all proletarians" theme, Chris Dillow of Stumbling and Mumbling explains his existential definition of working class:

There's a simple test of whether you're working class or not. It hangs on two questions. Could you lose your job because of a decision by a single person (or small group)? Are you worried by this? If you answer "yes" to both, you're working class - because you're dependent upon your work for a living, and because you lack control over your attachment to work.

A commenter there produced this great quote from E.P. Thompson:

Sociologists who have stopped the time-machine and, with a good deal of huffing and puffing, have gone down to the engine-room to look, tell us that nowhere at all have they been able to locate and classify a class ... Of course they are right, since class is not this or that part of the machine, but the way the machine works once it is set in motion.

Vulgar Libertarianism

*A couple of good anti-vulgar libertarian rants by Lady Aster. First:

A great number of libertarians think of liberty as an ideology for red-blooded natural aristocrats and have an unstated belief that women and non-whites are not inclined to value freedom by nature. I think it's more like women and people of colour are repulsed by the clueless and callous attitude radiated by established libertarian culture. What does it say, gentlemen, when African Americans and women got up and fought two respective social revolutions in the last century and yet don't see any reason to join yours?

If the main message libertarians have for people of colour is 'your situation is the result of natural inequality and white people aren't responsible', then don't be surprised if they tell you to fuck off. You idiots. Why don't you just join welfare statism's central recruiting office?


Support plans for non-state community actions such as (in passim) those of the Los Angeles South Central farmers. Stop acting like anyone who cares deeply about social injustice is about to summon a socialist bogeyman and learn, dammit, to care yourself. Don't sneer down your nose at the culture, experiences, or values of the poor. Listen to them, and assume they will be right about at least some things they know more about than you do. And don't you dare blame them for using a welfare
system to stay alive.

Poor people deal with hateful, indifferent, and manipulative bureaucrats every week. They don't have to be told what the welfare state is like- but Republcans and Democrats alike tell them their choice is between the welfare state and being thrown to the wolves. Show them the market isn't a den of wolves


Anonymous Anonymous said...

5: Freedom to work less hours...

So that's kind of like Shrugging, right? E.g. withdrawing your material support from the institutionalize parasitic class? Who knew Kevin Carson had some real estate in Galt's Gulch after all... :)

August 25, 2006 12:38 PM  
Blogger Ricketson said...

What does it mean to be in a non-enforced police state? Could Bush really get away with it? Would the courts resist? It seems that they would place limits on Bush. Would Congress resist? If the Democrats win in November, and maybe even the Republicans would resist. After that, the rubber meets the road. Would the people resist? Would the military mutiny? Possibly. I think that if the courts or the Congress or the opposition party really objected to something that Bush did, they could raise a real resistance to his rule.

August 25, 2006 5:56 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


Yes. I just hope the lying, thieving mutualists don't take it from me.


Depending on the situation, any of the above might well exist. The problem is that Bush has all the administrative and legal infrastructure he needs on paper, and is likely to assert them by deed when he sees the correlation of forces in his favor--e.e., immediately after the beginning of some national security "crisis," real or manufactured, when the Congress and people rally around their "commander-in-chief." I recall being absolutely horrified in the aftermath of 9-11, when we needed an active and firm opposition perhaps more than ever, and seeing Daschle proclaim the absence of "daylight" between him and Bush, and make rubber-stamping USA PATRIOT a party loyalty vote.

Despite the minimal levels of spine the Democratic "opposition" are belatedly showing, now that they think it's politically safe, you can expect them to fall back in utter route if (say) Bush begins bombing of Iran in October. Which makes it a considerable possibility that Bush *will* begin bombing in October.

August 25, 2006 7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of good anti-vulgar libertarian rants by Lady Aster.

But "Lady" Aster is some sort of prostitute, right? Why should we take her seriously?

August 26, 2006 9:46 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

One might ask the same question about an anonymous commenter.

Lady Aster's ideas either stand, or fall, on their own merits. I quoted the statements above because I think they're a good statement of how libertarians come across to people who are not white and middle class.

And if you're a libertarian, you respect the right of others to make their own moral choices without coercive interference. There are an awful lot of libertarians willing to take seriously the "free market" ideas of business people who make their profits through a state-rigged economy. Unlike them, Lady Aster engages only in voluntary transactions with willing parties, and her practice and preaching are perfectly consistent with each other.

August 26, 2006 11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While she might be more consistent, I can imagine a few white, middle-class entrepreneurs and businessmen who have probably benefited society more.

Further, she says the libertarian movement needs more "minority and lower-class" members if it is to finally succeed. However, they are just as likely as white businessmen to call for state-subsidized monies and privileges. If the libertarian movement isn't diverse, that's too bad. But bringing on board a bunch of welfare statists, environmental nazis and economic illiterates isn't going to further the cause of liberty either.

August 27, 2006 2:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Lady Aster's comments

1. They were pretty tangential, implying racism and sexism to libertarians as a whole. I really can't disagree strongly enough with her tone and reaction. The better response to the strain of idiots she is railing against, staying on the topic of the post she responded to, was to ask two questions. First, what is race? Especially from a biological standpoint? Second, what does IQ measure? The utter confusion of the answers to these questions reveals the lack of support for the positions espoused by those caricatures that Lady Aster rails against. Very few serious libertarians agree with those idiots, but they get lots of exposure, and self-identify as libertarians, when they are anything but (see, e.g., Glenn Reynolds).

2. As for why African Americans and women don't subscribe to libertarianism (I'd dispute the women part, personally) when they supported state sanctioned (at the federal level) social revolutions in the past, well, duh. Libertarians aren't for state sanctioned social revolutions. When people see themselves as net beneficiaries of the state, they are very unlikely to have an open mind about libertarianism. It has nothing to do with race or sex (except to the point that the state uses these distinctions to create social and political conflict), and everything to do with current conditions.

The comment about the poor, on the other hand, I can agree with, to a point. The point is that if you believe you can't criticize them for lobbying for and receiving state handouts because they need to, then you can't criticize big business, because in the current state capitalist economy we have, they need to be corporate welfare recipients to stay in business.

Everyone has a choice. You can mitigate the wrongness of the decision by reference to the circumstances, but it doesn't change the fact that the act is actually wrong.

August 28, 2006 7:22 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

On the issue of welfare statism for the underclass vs. corporations, I summed up my general view of the issue in an earlier post:

"Liberal welfare-statism is a pretty natural--if misguided--reaction to a society in which the state, through privilege, creates great disparities in income. Privilege creates massive distortions, made cumulative through the process of feedback, that must be dealt with somehow. One way of dealing with the consequences is through a Rube Goldberg device like redistributive welfare policy, another layer of policy to counteract the first layer, to prevent underconsumption from becoming too destabilizing and the underclass from becoming too radicalized. The other way is to eliminate the privilege itself--a lot simpler.

"But make no mistake. If the privilege remains, statist 'corrective' action will be the inevitable result. That's why I don't get too bent out of shape about the statism of the minimum wage or overtime laws--in my list of statist evils, the guys who are breaking legs rank considerably higher than the ones handing out government crutches. All too many libertarians could care less about the statism that causes the problems of income disparity, but go ballistic over the statism intended to alleviate it. It's another example of the general rule that statism that helps the rich is kinda sorta bad, maybe, I guess, but statism that helps the poor is flaming red ruin on wheels."

On the relative culpability of big business and the underclass, I'd point out that there's a historic structural connection between corporation and state in creating the special privileges in the first place. Welfare for the underclass, on the other hand, was created mainly on the initiative of the same corporate ruling class to minimize the mess and instability attending their own privilege.

Referring to the civil rights and feminist revolutions as "state-sanctioned" is begging the question. Some aspects of them were primarily state-sanctioned, but then part of those revolutions concerned establishing equal treatment by the state's laws. On the other hand, much of the social aspect of the revolutions was achieved in the realm of civil society by protest, publicity, and other voluntary action, and the state only stepped in to take credit for it after the fact.

On Lady Aster's generalization of libertarians, it may well be too broad, as quasibill says. But it didn't apply to the libertarian movement as a whole. I would consider quasibill's assessment, on the other hand, to be an understatement. If a minority of libertarians share those cultural attitudes, it's probably a very large minority, not a tiny one. In the overall libertarian movement, it's left-Rothbardians and others of the left like Tuckerites and Georgists who are on the margin; vulgar libertarian sympathizers of existing wealth are the mainstream.


If the businesspeople are state-privileged, it's impossible to assess whether they've benefited society more, because nobody knows what the real market value of their services are. The manufacturers of refrigerators and TVs in the old Soviet Union no doubt created tangible use-value. But its real exchange-value is unknown, because they operated in an environment of calculational chaos.

And Lady Aster's point was precisely that libertarians should be reaching out to those "economic illiterates" by showing that their problems result mainly from state action on behalf of the privileged, and that a true free market is not the servant of privilege. As I tried to argue in the quote at the head of this comment, such "economic illiteracy" is pretty understandable, given the fact that the ruling class justifies its own wealth in terms of the "free market." The idea is to take back the term "free market" from the crony capitalists.

Far less blame attaches to "economic illiterates" who have been honestly misled by corporate welfare bums' misappropriation of the term "free market," than to self-serving hypocrites who use "free market" rhetoric to justify their own statist privilege.

August 29, 2006 10:55 AM  
Blogger quasibill said...


You know I agree on "the relative culpability" issue, but I think it is still important to note that giving more power to the state is not only counter-productive, but it is wrong ethically, as well. You can't surrender this point. Again, I agreed with L. Aster regarding the reaching out and listening - and actually I agree for more than just political reasons - you need to do it to be a complete human being. But it must always be at the forefront that the state, and those who intentionally use it, are the problem.

Once again, I find it counterproductive to overgeneralize and stereotype broad swaths of disparate people. Some "ole bosses" are ignorant of economics, too, and honestly believe they're doing the right thing, just like most poor people don't know any better (and yes, the change in magnitude was intentional). But you have to identify them as wrong, regardless, even if they are not in the class of manipulators.

I guess I just see less intention to the maze of statism - most people just try to harness the lightning not knowing any better. Some do, surely. And clearly those that established the current mercantile system I think knew exactly what they were doing. But to classify broad swaths of people based solely on a single characteristic - well, I guess I don't see much difference between Aster and those she criticizes, in that respect.

As far as "state sanctioned" social revolutions, I think we'll have to agree to disagree. It wasn't civil society that federalized the national guard, nor was it civil society that decided Brown v. Bd. of Ed., and engaged in massive play to enforce it. I can't see how one can classify those two major events as "taking credit after the fact".

The civil rights movement put the stake in the heart of the state's rights movement. They succeeded in linking the idea to discrimination and oppression. In fact, that simple linkage in cultural memory might be the single biggest centralizing force of the late 20th century in the U.S. Hard to believe that elements of the federal government didn't realize the implications at the time...

August 29, 2006 4:38 PM  

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