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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

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Weekly (more or less) Link Digest

Good news, everybody! Benjamin Darrington of Beijing informs me I've fallen afoul of the pigs at Animal Farm. Mutualist.Org is blocked in China. Must be doing something right to piss off the bloody-handed, parasitic functionaries of that so-called "workers' state."

An interesting post by Jon Husband of Wirearchy on "The Mass Customization of *Work*." I don't know how real any prospective changes will be outside the information economy; I suspect that, until the corporate walls are finally knocked down by forces outside the control of corporate management, any such "liberatory" changes will translate in practice into "management by stress" with a touchy-feely face. From what I've seen, every "empowering" management fad winds up being new-and-improved Taylorism in practice (how could it not be, when it's implemented by bosses?). But still, it's an interesting angle on what might come about after those walls are knocked down.

Michael J. Smith's article at Counterpunch, wonderfully titled "Intellectual Property is Intellectual Theft ... at Gun Point":

[A broadcast flag] is a flag or tag or attribute, or whatever you want to call it, embedded in a digital audio or video stream, that says "don't copy me without permission." This is the "broadcast flag" in the literal sense.

Which might seem harmless. It's like an electronic version of the copyright notice on a book, or that goofy thing about the FBI that leads off every video you rent. But if the government ever got serious about enforcing it.... that's where the Inquisition would come tiptoeing into your TV room, and maybe right onto your lap, as we will see a little later....

The broadcast-flag initiative now before the Senate resuscitates an attempt by the FCC, back in 2003, to mandate broadcast flag compliance by all digital media devices.... The Flag just sailed through the Senate's commerce committee without a recorded vote, a pretty sure sign of bipartisan ownage by the relevant lobby....

The 2003 FCC rule, written to order for the Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the National Football League and other copyright rentiers, is a thicket of obscure, rebarbative language, vague definitions, cross-references, and cabbalistic terms of art. But if you stare at it for a while, the crux becomes pretty clear: "demodulators" must comply with the broadcast flag. And what is a demodulator? It is any device or component that takes a digital TV or audio signal and turns that signal into a stream of bits that can be written to a CD, or shown on a screen, or downloaded to your iPod....

Obviously, you won't be able to buy a digital TV, or any other digital media device, whose manufacturers haven't certified to the Feds that it honors the Flag. Perhaps they will have to give the Feds the schematics, or the source code for their "firmware" -- the embedded programming that enables the device to operate. And if you want to get around this restriction, and load software onto your laptop that ignores the Flag, then technically, that software is probably contraband and you will have probably committed a federal crime. But will the law be enforced in such cases?

I think, sooner or later, it will....

Intellectual property enforcement, in other words, will lead to a kind of de facto government software regulation. The software police won't entirely succeed in suppressing contraband software -- we'll have an eternal war, a little like the Drug War, which suits the police just fine, of course. But certainly they will succeed to some extent; the prospect of a midnight raid will keep all but the bold and heedless safely inside the sheepfold of approved software, produced by Microsoft or Apple or Sony or some other large corporation.

You know what the next step will be. The approved software manufacturers will be approached, just the way the NSA recently approached the telephone companies. Kiddie porn -- terrorism -- video piracy -- bad things, right? Surely you'll help us defeat terrorism and put child molesters behind bars? Your techies have probably left some back doors into that movie software, right? Tell us more.

Michel Bauwens on "A P2P Theory for Social Change":

The key hypothesis of P2P Theory is this: we witness the emergence of a new form of Communal Shareholding, associated with the peer to peer relational dynamic at work in distributed networks, and giving rise to such processes as peer production, peer governance, and peer property modes. Our preferred hypothesis is that we have a major opportunity to move towards a `Commons-based civilization within a reformed market and a reformed state’. Alternatives are that the present market form incorporates the P2P dynamic, or that our energy-intensive civilization collapses into Authority Ranking once more....

A credible strategy for political and social change... would combine fourfold substrategies:

1) strategies aimed at strengthening the Commons and P2P modes

2) strategies aimed at strengthening personalized gift economies in areas where market exchange is inappropriate or dysfunctional (elderly care in Japan, LETS systems)

3) a reform towards an equitable market which does not externalize environmental and social costs (natural capitalism approach); reform of the scarcity-based monetary system (a la Bernard Lietaer), multiple currencies for localized markets (open money schemes); multistakeholder framing of market exchange (Decaillot)

4) reform of the state form and change of hierarchical modes using multistakeholdership and peer governance

Via Nigel Meek, Libertarian Alliance Forum. Terence Kealey, "The Empress loved mauve: how today's chemical industry was invented":

When governments really want to foster society’s interests, they overrule patents. The Wright brothers, for example, patented the airplane in 1904, and they consequently blocked any further development of aircraft in America. But European aviation flourished. So in 1917, on declaring war, Washington suspended all aviation patents in America — a suspension that was lifted only in 1975 by the Justice Department

Via Meir Israelowitz. "Big Cooperative Push in Venezuela: Incentives are helping to spur the wealth-sharing business model. Some question its viability." The title pretty much says it all.

The hotel is among 100,000 cooperatives formed in Venezuela in the last two years that are the centerpiece of President Hugo Chavez's new socialist model to create jobs and redistribute this oil-rich country's wealth. They now employ 7% of the country's workforce, a number that could grow to 30% in a few years, government officials say.

Chavez is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in oil and tax revenue on the cooperatives. Although there have been allegations of gross inefficiency and graft, cooperatives have become a powerful part of the economy and society....

Skeptics inside and outside Venezuela question whether the cooperatives, heavily dependent as they are on government subsidies, can survive the first serious drop in oil prices....

As I've argued before, the present favortism toward cooperatives is no more statist than the old neoliberal favortism toward big corporations. I certainly disagree with it in principle, but I won't lose any tears over it. The question is whether, after the pro-cooperative statism and the pro-corporate statism have cancelled each other out and Chavismo has come and gone, the cooperative sector will be able to exist on a stable and sustainable basis.

Couple of good ones by Stephen Carson at Mises Blog. "Chords on a Napkin" is on the IP lockdown of guitar tablature. The other one is "Crushing Innovation: The Case of FM Radio":

In short, the FCC and established big businessmen (naming names: David Sarnoff of RCA) kept FM buried for decades and devastated its inventor.


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