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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, October 27, 2006

Neoconservative Ideology: A Compendium of Posts

Neocon "Democracy" in Iraq
Tell Us What You Really Think, Tim
Sympathy for the Devil
Another Manufactured Revolution
On People Power, Real and Imagined
A (Partial) Neoconservative Lexicon
Happy Flag Day
Fake Constitutionalism
Neoconservatism as a Fake Ideology
Neoconservatism as a Fake Ideology, Part 2
Real Patriotism
Identify That Quote
Patriotic Quotes for the Fourth
Ownership Societies, Fake and Real

Primitive Accumulation

Vulgar Libertarianism Watch, Part I
Vulgar Libertarianism Watch, Part 8: Intellectual Whoring for the Planter Aristocracy
Glenn Reynolds' Upside-Down Version of History
Lindy Davies on Economic Growth
Venezuelan Oligarchy's War Against Land Reform: Death Squads Target Peasant Organizers
Vulgar Libertarianism Watch, Part 13
Modern Day Enclosures by "Workers' State"
Inequality and Work Hours
Written in Footnotes of Fire and Blood
Rothbard on the Myth of Social Efficiency
Stromberg: Writing in Letters of Blood and Fire
Work For Me or Die
Privatization is Theft
More on Enclosures and Primitive Accumulation
South Central Farmers Revisited: Or, Ralph Horowitz is a Pig

Thursday, October 26, 2006

In the Crossfire

Occupying as I do a neither-fish-nor fowl position on the fringes of both the free market libertarian and the libertarian socialist movements, I'm used to dealing with the idiocy of the more clueless or intolerant elements in the mainstream of both. In the classical liberal/free market community, I'm accusomed to grudging acceptance of my free market credentials, despite my non-capitalist anarchism--provided I stick to associating with only "respectable" libertarians, and make it clear I have no truck with those anarcho-commies. On the left, the mirror-image reaction is something like "well, I guess it's OK for you to advocate free markets--if you really have to--so long as you draw the line at associating with anarcho-caps, and make it clear you don't recognize them as anarchists in any sense of the word. And then there are the less tolerant reactions: summary dismissal as a "Marxist" by one cranio-rectally impacted individual of the right, and an anonymous hate-email from a likewise historically illiterate Infoshop reader who called me a "goose-stepping, Rand-worshipping, racist" for advocating free markets of any kind.

This week, unfortunately, I've learned of unpleasantness from the usual gangs of idiots, both right and left.

On the right, Shawn Wilbur informs me, the ongoing Wiki wars on anarcho-capitalism (editing disputes involving the articles on anarchism, anarcho-capitalism, and mutualism, etc.) produced this gem:

Value is subjective. There is no objectively correct price of anything, and therefore the mutualist (and Marxist) theory of exploitation/profit is pure fantasy. Tucker and Proudhon maybe had an excuse since economics was in a primitive state back then. But Kevin Carson is simply a lunatic.

Ah, simple as that, is it? Well, except for the matter that none of the advocates of the labor theory of value or any other cost-of-production theory ever said there was an "objectively correct price of anything," or anything remotely like it. This commenter knows as little about what Bohm-Bawerk had to say, as he does about what Marx and Ricardo said, about the issues in contention. He simply appeals to the subjective theory of value as received dogma, without really even understanding what it is--kind of like the attitude that Bohm-Bawerk criticized among advocates of the labor theory of value: "quotations from authorities," and "protesting and dogmatising phrases," rather than a reasoned explanation. The smug reference to the "primitive state" of economics "back then" is a dead giveaway. It's clear we're dealing with an economic subspecies of Nietzsche's Last Man: "Formerly, everyone was mad. We have invented economic truth," says the Last Man, and blinks. Reminds me of James Taggart's bland assurances that "all the best minds are agreed..."

As for the idiocy of the left, Nigel Meek of the Libertarian Alliance informs me of his negative experiences at the Anarchist Bookfair. He referred me to this message board, on which one commenter ("Refused") included among the "highlights" of the Anarchist Bookfair:
....Lazlo_Woodbine harassing the capitalist Libertarian Alliance folks until they ran away.

A proud moment. I can imagine an SA thug expressing similar satisfaction in the Biergarten after a day's work. Well done!

In response, "rkn" wrote:

Shame TotalLiberty didnt go with them.

This is especially puzzling. Total Liberty, as Jonathan Simcock has pointed out to me, is not even a specifically market anarchist publication, non-capitalist or otherwise--although a disproportionate number of its contributors are individualist anarchists. Probably something to do with the fact that Nigel operated out of the Total Liberty stall in years past. So even associating with the dreaded capitalists calls one's ideological purity into question--even when, as in this case, the capitalist libertarian guest distributed mainly pamphlets by non-capitalists like yours truly and Joe Peacott. So we're back in the world of junior high school: "Suzi isn't my friend, and if you talk to her you're not my friend either." This petty bullshit reminds me of nothing so much as the jockying for space at the Cool Kids' table in the cafeteria.

The real irony is that rkn, earlier in the thread, expressed these sentiments:

For the negative note - its sad that the bookfair attracts so many anti-socials who hang around in the entrance/outside drinking themselves into oblivion and smoking. I really dont think this does anything for the bookfair....

Because as the bookfair is largely a image promotion kind of event i think it does nothing for it (especially considering its relationship with venues) for people to behave in any sort of way which could be considered anti-social by joe public who actiing on stereotypes are hyper-sensitive to these kind of things.

But having a bunch of punks in Circle-A (TM) t-shirts (do they sell those things at Abercrombie & Fitch) run off anyone who doesn't meet their high standards of ideological purity--well, that's just fine for the Bookfair's public image. Having a range of anarchist opinion that runs the entire spectrum from A to B is just hunky-dory. I don't guess "joe public" is at all "sensitive" to a bunch of self-proclaimed lovers of freedom acting like brownshirts.

And by the way, there was only one representative of the Libertarian Alliance--Nigel Meek--and he walked away, not ran. So whatever Woodbine may have been crowing over his pint, he wasn't exactly covered in martial glory.

What's especially shameful is the contrast between the intolerance of these yobs, and the kindness of the Libertarian Alliance, in their respective attitudes toward heterodox opinions. The LA, which I don't think it an overgeneralization to call a pro-capitalist organization, has printed a wide range of pamphlets by avowed anti-capitalists like me and Joe Peacott, and has been kind enough to promote them at their own LA Conferences as well as events like the Anarchist Bookfair. Sean Gabb and the late Chris Tame repeatedly solicited me to write pamphlets on various topics I'd discussed, knowing ahead of time I'd be writing from an anti-capitalist perspective. Nigel Meek put considerable labor into editing and formatting my manuscripts, and contributed his time in distributing them at recent Anarchist Bookfairs. Ken MacLeod, a science fiction writer whose future history scenarios reflect a unique blend of free market libertarian and post-Trot politics, is still (I think it's fair to say) far from being what you'd call pro-capitalist. But even back in his days of comparatively unmixed leftishness, he likewise met with nothing but patience and kindness from his first meetings with Libertarian Alliance members in the Alternative Bookshop, along with an openness to exploring their areas of agreement and disagreement. The contrast between their civilized behavior and that of this Woodbine wretch speaks for itself.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Case of Misdirected Fear: Meekins vs. the LETS Menace

Thanks to Roy F. Moore on the Distributism list, I came across this unique perspective on the world: "Communitarian Fools and Their Money Soon Parted," by Frederick Meekins.

In the mind of Mr. Meekins, a voluntary local alternative currency or LETS system is a sign of impending totalitarianism. But corporations--subsidized by the state, cartelized by the state, and protected against market competition by state-granted privileges like patents and copyrights--are just part of "the market."

Likewise, in Mr. Meekins' bizarro world, the individual's making a decision for himself to use a voluntary local currency signals that "the era of the individual making their own decisions for themselves is coming to an end."

Indeed, Mr. Meekins displays no small paranoia that local alternative currencies will be "made mandatory for the rest of us." Well, I tend toward paranoia myself. And I consider it a lot more plausible that participating in the corporate-state economy with its official monetary system will be made mandatory for all of us. The dominant forces in our political and economic system are far more likely to see LETS systems as threatening their interests than as serving them.

LETS systems and other alternative currencies are an instrument of individual freedom, a tool for economic independence from the unholy alliance of the centralized state and the centralized corporate economy.

Things like LETS systems, barter, the household and gift economies, etc. (all falling under the category of the "informal economy"), enable participating individuals to transform their skills and labor-power directly into consumption, without being dependent on the vicissitudes of the national boom-and-bust cycle or the authoritarian whims of an employer. Take the example of a small organic truck farmer who lives next door to a plumber or other skilled tradesman. If the farmer barters produce for the plumber's services, it's still true that neither the farmer nor the plumber has a market for his entire output. But each has a reliable and stable outlet for the portion of his product consumed by the other; and the two together can be pretty secure in the knowledge that they can meet all their needs for vegetables and plumbing without any worries about fluctuations in the greater money economy. The more trades and occupations that are brought into such a barter system, the larger the proportion of each person's output will have a reliable and secure market within the system.

Such local currencies were used in the past with great success as local responses to economic depression. By putting local producers in direct contact with each other, they enabled them to translate their skills into consuming power without the need to acquire money from the outside economy. In effect, the local economy was transformed into a peaceful harbor in the midst of a violent economic storm. The greater the size of the market, and the more distant producer and consumer are from one another, the greater the danger that economic dislocations will create both great stocks of unsold goods and masses of unemployed laborers. Local, informal economies create stable ties between individual producers and consumers that can be preserved without fear of macroeconomic disruption.

The slogan Mr. Meekins finds so objectionable on the local currency notes ("In each other we trust") is certainly an unfortunate choice, being understandably open to interpretation as a gratuitous slap at religious believers. But I believe the intended reference was to the mutual, voluntary dependence of producers as opposed to dependence on the large corporation and the government that serves it, not independence from God--unless Greenspan and Bernanke are God's viceroys on Earth.

Even so, Mr. Meekins' reaction to the unfortunate slogan is more revealing than the slogan itself: "So instead of looking to God to get us through the trials and travails of life, we are suppose[d] to rely on the drunken wife beater down the street or around the corner." Apparently Mr. Meekins has a much higher opinion of the average character of the managerialists, technocrats, and corporate welfare parasites who run the national economy than he does of the people living in his own neighborhood. The greatest criminals in history have sat behind desks, and robbed and murdered millions from their tastefully-appointed offices. But Albert Speer and Bob McNamara, apparently, had the advantage (in Mr. Meekins' mind) of not living in Mr. Meekins' neighborhood.

Another benefit of the informal economy: the greater the proportion of each household's needs that are met through home production or local barter systems, the less dependent it is on wage labor. The ability to meet one's own needs through subsistence production or production for direct exchange with one's neighbors is a source of economic independence, and greatly increases the bargaining power of labor.

Indeed, some of the greatest acts of government robbery in history--the enclosures of Europe, and the abrogation of traditional land tenure rights by colonial governments in the Third World--were motivated by the plutocratic classes' understanding that people would work hard for low wages only when they were robbed of all other means of supporting themselves. When workers are no longer desperate to hold onto a job at any cost, and have the ability to walk away and support themselves independently if need be, the relative bargaining power of labor and capital becomes a lot different. Apologists for Third World sweatshops and for McJobs in this country like to say that they're the "best available alternative" for those who choose them. Well, the large corporations and their government have a great deal of vested interest in making sure that they stay the "best available alternative."

Most of what we consume that's currently produced in giant factories hundreds or thousands of miles away, could be produced far more efficiently by small factories close to the point of consumption. The reason they're not: government subsidies to the inefficiency costs of large-scale production and long-distance distribution, which enable the giant corporations to externalize part of their costs on the taxpayer rather than in the retail price of their goods.

It's interesting that Mr. Meekins equates local currencies to some kind of corporate scrip. The state's banking laws, in fact, are set up to guarantee that the official currency is corporate scrip.

Licensing and capitalization requirements, and other state-created market entry barriers, artificially reduce the number of banks competing to provide credit, and enable them to charge a usurious monopoly price for the service. Without such artificial, state-imposed scarcity, voluntary banking cooperatives could issue share-currency against their members' assets for an "interest rate" sufficient to cover administrative cost. Competition from such mutual banks would reduce the real rate of interest on secured loans to zero.

But with the state's enforcement of special monopoly privileges for the provision of credit, capital becomes artificially scarce and expensive for working people. Instead of being able to organize their own credit on the free market, they become dependant on a state-privileged class of capitalists to provide them with wage-labor.

It's also interesting that Mr. Meekins sees private automobile use as mainly the victim, rather than the beneficiary, of government policy. For most of the past century, the state-subsidized highway-automobile complex has been the greatest welfare client in history. We've lived through a massive, top-down government experiment in social engineering, imposed on us over the past several decades, to render us completely dependent on the automobile. Local governments encourage sprawl with zoning laws that prohibit mixed-use development, and with subsidized utility and road infrastructure for the real estate developers' new housing additions. Tax- and rate-payers in existing neighborhoods subsidize the land values of real estate barons. And FHA redlining subsidizes home mortgages in new suburban neighborhoods at the expense of already-built homes in the older part of town. Without all this corporate welfare for land barons, the incentives of the free market would result in most people living a lot closer to where they worked and shopped.

If the government imposes travel restrictions and sets up checkpoints for internal passports, which is indeed quite likely if Fatherland Security gets its way, the population will be far more vulnerable to such police controls thanks to government promotion of the automobile. And Mr. Meekins can rest assured that those citizens classified as loyal to the corporate state will be let through the checkpoints. But with decentralized local economies, the rest of us might be a lot less dependent on the good pleasure of the Gestapo manning those checkpoints.

Finally, it's interesting that Mr. Meekins sees alleged criticism of his choice to shop at Wal-Mart and patronize private schools as an implied call for coercive sanction. Regarding a response to one of his letters to the editor several years ago, he writes:

From the tone of the indignant epistle, one might conclude that the author believed I should have had my freedom of speech and other civil protections abridged for not prostrating myself before the radical whims of the neighborhood.

Well, Mr. Meekins' interlocutors would have to go some to beat the tone of his indignant epistle. Is it fair to infer that he favors government suppression of LETS systems?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Importance of Competitive CEO Salaries

Apologists for high executive salaries typically argue that they're necessary to "attract the best talent out there."

Indeed. Higher pay is absolutely necessary to attract the cream of the crop, those whose resumes have the longest and most impressive lists of organizations that they have mismanaged and run into the ground. If corporations paid lower CEO salaries, they might have to promote their senior management from below, maybe even from (gasp) the ranks of production workers, rather than trying to attract resume carpetbaggers with a history of milking one organization after another and then moving on. Instead of clueless pointy-haired bosses with MBA Disease, who rely on "industry trends" to identify "best practices" on which to base their policies (i.e., who base their understanding of "what works" mainly on the perspectives of equally clueless idiots at the tops of other organizations), they might start making policy based on feedback from below, from the productive workers of their own organizations--the people who actually know something about how to make things more efficient. But then you might have to make it worth their while to improve the process, by changing the downhill flow of the shit river and rewarding them for their contributions. You might have to seriously think about (gasp) higher pay for production workers instead of for desk-bound parasites.

Heaven forfend.

Addendum. In the comments, Presto links to a NYT article on executive compensation consultants. As Presto comments,

People defending these "consultants" as giving any kind of objective advice rearding executive pay... are deluding themselves. They are simply paid to give the people who hired them justification to pay the exorbitant compensation that they want.

In the comments to an earlier thread, Jon Husband of Wirearchy, a former compensation consultant, confirms that view.

I get the impression that the Famous Artists School would be more likely to turn you down for your poor skill at drawing that pirate on the matchbook, than an "executive compensation consultant" would be to recommend against higher CEO pay.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

When Do Co-ops Work? When They're Allowed To

At Stumbling and Mumbling, Chris Dillow asks "(When) Do Co-ops Work?" The answer:

The great merit of worker co-ops is that they can solve the problem of how to motivate workers. In businesses where workers can't be monitored closely, giving them a share of profits can inspire them to work hard, and to encourage their colleagues to do so....

There are (at least) three drawbacks to co-ops.

1. They don't work in physical capital-intensive firms where worker effort can be monitored. Here, the key to success is getting machinery to run well, rather than getting workers to do well. Car plants, for example, are better run by capitalists, not workers.
This depends, arguably, more on the size of the enterprise or the work unit than on capital-intensiveness as such. For one thing, capital-intensiveness itself is not a given: the production of a given commodity is artificially skewed toward more capital-intensive forms of production by state intervention.

For another, the very reference to work-effort being monitored suggests that especially capital-intensive forms of production reflect strategic priorities of management (namely work-discipline) rather than the inherent needs of production. The Fordist assembly line was adopted precisely as a way to reduce the element of discretion in human labor, use machines to pace and organize work, and thus overcome the problem of opportunism--which suggests that manufacturing might be organized along different lines if its strategic priorities were set by self-managed workers.

And as Barry Stein argued in Size, Efficiency and Community Enterprise, the best way to make machinery run well is for the workers engaged in the process to be directly empowered to alter the production process and to internalize the benefits from improvement. Incremental process improvements raise productivity more than big generational changes in productive technology. And workers possess the distributed knowledge that such improvements depend on.

So cooperative ownership, seemingly, has the potential to cut through several of these concerns simultaneously like a Gordian knot.
2. Co-ops have less incentive to expand, because the profits from expansion are spread more thinly. It's probably no coincidence that the Co-op (a consumer, not worker co-op) has lost market share....
As I argued in the comment thread: Much of the expansion that currently takes place among conventional enterprises involves growing beyond optimal economy of scale. If it weren't for the possibility of externalizing the diseconomies of large scale on the taxpayer, and the effect of regulatory cartelization and other forms of legal privilege in reducing the competitive disadvantage of inefficiency, there would probably be a lot more, and smaller, firms. Besides, if most production were small-scale and for local markets, the size of the local market would set a built-in limit to firm size except in those cases where economies of scale absolutely required larger market areas.

3. Co-ops' often lack access to capital with which to expand, even if they want to. This is because they work best in human capital intensive businesses. But such businesses find it hard to post collateral and so get bank loans.

Like smaller size, differential access to capital is less a disadvantage of cooperatives than a structural disability built into the system.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Vulgar Liberalism: Big Business and Its Useful Idiots

Logan Ferree, in "The Role of the State in the Rise of the Corporation," links to a debate he's engaged in on that topic. Markos Moulitsas, in a widely read post proposing a libertarian-Democratic alliance, suggested that the power of large corporations had arisen from the free market, and that the twentieth century regulatory state had been imposed on big business to restrain it against its will.

In his own post at Daily Kos, Ferree linked to this challenge at Catallarchy blog:

Persuade me that corporate (coercive) power, to the extent that it exists, does not rest on governmental power at its foundation.

Ferree comments on liberals' failure
to offer up a response to [the libertarian] critique of the assumption that government protects us from corporations, instead of enabling them....

...If you can't defeat libertarianism on this issue, perhaps it's time to switch sides.

The worst historical idiocy in response, hands down, was this comment by massive not passive:

The only time Government empowers corporations at the expense of the people is when it allows them to avoid compliance of the laws put into place to protect us from the corporations. Also when the governments provide financial favors to certain companies. Only by ignoring the laws do governments aid the corps.

The truth - only under conservative governments are laws created to benefit corps - under an integrty-based progressive administration, laws will help people from the overreach of corporate power. If you want it done right, elect Democrats.

When corporations threatened our safety at work, government stepped in to create worker safety provisions, rights to collectively bargain and the ability to receive overtime pay after 40 hours of labor.

Government knew that the free market would not offer these protections.

When corporations sold unsafe products, such as meat (read Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" for details), government intervened to assure that corporations could not fool the consumer with lies to push unhealthy and possibly toxic consumables.

Once again, the free market was little help here.

When corporations threatened the cleanliness of our air and water, government stepped in to preserve the integrity of our natural resources. Because the free market was not going to do so.

Governments, largely under conservative administrations, have been manipulated into providing favors for certain corporations, via tax abatements, or the "look the other way" approach in regards to disobeying safety/pollution/labor laws. But the reality is a removal of government oversight from corporations would leave this country in far worse shape than the current state.

Sigh. There you have it. Just about every single cliche from the Art Schlesinger historical mythology, condensed into one short passage for your convenience.

Ahem. The problem is not unequal enforcement of the laws. The problem is unequal laws. The goo-goo myth that government regulation is idealistically motivated, in order to protect us from the big bad corporations, is the work of court historians; and the people who repeat those myths are useful idiots for big business. The fucking laws were written by big corporations. Hell, if you look at the interlocking elites that have run the state and the large corporations since the large corporation first came into existence, the large corporations are the government, in the same way the big landowners were the government under feudalism. The state is, as libertarians say, the ruling class; but conversely, the ruling class is the state.

It's telling that massive not passive cites the Meat Inspection Act. In fact the big meat-packers were the main lobbyists for the Meat Inspection Act. The large packers had already been regulated for years under an earlier piece of regulatory legislation which applied only to those engaged in the export industry. They had, as a matter of fact, backed that earlier legislation as a way of putting a government seal of approval on U.S. meats and thereby overcoming perceptions in the European export market that it was tainted and unsafe. The problem with the earlier legislation was that it didn't apply to the little guys, who produced only for the domestic market. The purpose of the 1906 legislation under Roosevelt was to expand the inspection regime to cover the little guys, as well, so as to equalize costs across the industry and increase the competitive advantage of the big guys. In short, the large meat-packers acted through the government to create a state-enforced cartel for determining quality standards; it was exactly the same kind of cartel an industry would have created for itself privately by establishing a code of "voluntary standards," except that the inability to defect removed the prisoner's dilemma problem of individual firms undercutting the long-term interests of the cartel for short-term advantage.

That was, essentially, the same objective behind the entire "Progressive" regulatory agenda: to achieve the goals of the failed private sector trust movement by creating the trusts under government auspices. The final brick was laid with the Clayton Antitrust Act, whose provisions against "unfair competition" effectively outlawed price wars and thus made oligopoly control of markets stable for the first time in history. Read the New Left historian Gabriel Kolko's treatment of the legislation in The Triumph of Conservatism.

The same general principle, big business acting through government to create the kinds of trusts they couldn't establish through private action, applies in spades to FDR's National Industrial Recovery Act. The Act created an industrial cartel administered by big business itself, to set output quotas and enable them to charge high enough prices to guarantee profits through cost-plus markup, even when there wasn't sufficient demand to operate at full capacity. That's what the private trusts had attempted, and failed, to do under Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan: allow monopolists to set levels of output and use administered prices to guarantee profit, without price competition upsetting the apple cart. Anyone who believes the New Deal's economic legislation was motivated by an idealistic desire to restrain big business should do some looking into the figures involved in designing that legislation: specifically, Gerard Swope and the Business Advisory Council.

How can anyone take such a jaundiced view of the way his sausages are made, and yet be so blythely accepting of the official mythology of where the laws come from? The publik skools certainly did their job in this case.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Link Digest

**At Oligopoly Watch, "Price Fixing for Executive Salaries" attempts to explain "the circular way in which CEO salaries are set" by arguing that "there has been created an artificially small supply of CEO candidates."

**At Positive Sharing, Alex Kjerulf declares war on homework:

There is not one single study that shows that homework helps kids learn. At the same time kids have less and less time to just be kids - time spent on homework has gone up 50% since 1981.

In the comments, Chris Corrigan writes:

Schools already steal six hours or more a day from a child’s life. If they can’t do what they need to do in six hours, it is not my child’s responsibility to gives them more time. Homework is not for kids to learn, it’s for schools to shift the responsibility. Teachers don’t get marked on how useful classroom time is, but kids get marked on whether they did their homework or not. THat means a lot of classroom stuff that isn’t working is allowed to congtinue as long as kids do their homework....

Homework robs children of the time they need to develop real skills and passions. When I was in school for example, I taught myself music theory and theology during my grade 11 year. I wasn’t taking either of these subjects at school, and I set aside a lot of homework to learn them. I failed several exams in Christmas 1985 because instead of studying, I was writing four part harmony arrangments of Queen songs and reading Martin Buber. Both of those experiences have stayed with me long after I can even remember what classes I took at school that year.

But that's just the point. One of the central functions of schools is to teach kids that only tasks assigned them by teachers or bosses have any real importance; tasks they choose for themselves are trivialized as "hobbies." From pre-K on, kids learn never to do anything without first asking whether it will show up on their resumes or earn them a gold star from an authority figure.

**Via Ender's Review. James L. Wilson's parable about globalism (obviously so far-fetched as to be of no possible relevance to the real world):

Because of the transportation costs, the price of an imported foreign widget in Kleptopia would be about the same as a locally-produced one, even though the production costs in Plutopia were much lower. To the wealthy merchants and bankers of the port cities, importing widgets wasn't worth the expense and risk. Like everyone else in the country, they stuck with domestically-produced widgets.

The King of Kleptopia loved his country and wanted it to be great in the eyes of the world. And he wanted to improve the lives of his people, and bring them greater prosperity. So he resolved to develop the commercial and manufacturing sector. He announced that he would use "public funds" - that is, taxes people like Adam paid - to promote economic growth. He would finance a fleet of merchant ships to encourage trade - and a naval fleet to protect those ships and to make sure overseas markets were "secure." He would also build a network of quality highways - including one that would go right by Adam's town.

The merchants and bankers were delighted. With the government subsidies, they would now build great ships. And the highways built for them meant the entire country became their "market." They could now go across the sea, buy shiploads of widgets, bring them back, sell them in every town in Kleptopia for 25% less than the domestic price had been, and still make a tidy profit.
**At Harold Jarche's blog (a great find in itself). "Small Schools, Loosely Joined."

I propose small schools, loosely joined:

* With access to the Internet a one-room school would have to reach out to the rest of the world and not be wrapped in the confines of the industrial school. Schools would have to seek out partnerships and not be isolated islands.
* Communities of learning online could be developed to link learners in several schools and even in different countries.
* No teacher would be able to “master” the subject matter, so teachers would become facilitators of learning, which is what they profess to do anyway .
* Small schools would be integrated into the community and there would be a sense of ownership by the community, not the education system.
* Most children would be able to walk to school, therefore eliminating busses, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging exercise.
* Children and parents could have more than one school to choose from.
* Sales of industrial school buildings could be used as financial capital for the transition.

**Sheldon Richman writes on "Libertarian Class Analysis" for the Future of Freedom Foundation. His piece includes this interesting quote from John Bright on the Corn Laws:

I doubt that it can have any other character [than that of] ... a war of classes. I believe this to be a movement of the commercial and industrial classes against the Lords and the great proprietors of the soil.

This is a good reminder that the early classical liberals, in denouncing the political classes, viewed the statist ruling class in the same broad sense as Brad Spangler: not just the formally defined members of the state who held the gun, but the nominally "private" plutocracy who filled their bags under cover of the state's gunmen.

**Via Chris Dillow, Hetan Shah's and Jonathan Rutherford's embarrassing effort on the need to replace the "work ethic" with the "care ethic"; it reads like the kind of gushing I'd have produced in seventh grade, in between bouts of bad adolescent poetry. Dillow rips them a new one ("makes me embarrassed to be a leftie"). And in the comments, Rad Geek writes:

It used to be, back in the day, that the Left exhorted working folks to form fighting unions, co-ops, and mutual aid societies in order to help counteract both routine exploitation and the dangers of economic downturns. The idea being that when working folks united, they were more powerful than the bosses and more reliable for each other than the functionaries of the welfare state.

This sort of statist nonsense, endlessly celebrated and agitated for by most of the contemporary Left, poses as ameliorating exploitation within the existing market system. All it actually does is transfer control over more workers' lives to the civil service bureaucracy, and further regiments the economy under the dubious command of the managerial State. All in all it's pretty weak tea compared to the good old end of the industrial republic of labor and the good old means of building a new society within the shell of the old through the economic means of mutual aid and direct action.

**More anarchist classics online thanks to Roderick Long: two essays, both entitled "Why I am an Anarchist," by Benjamin Tucker and Voltairine DeCleyre, respectively; “The War Method of Peace,” by Ezra Heywood; and a great article by Voltairine DeCleyre, “The Philosophy of Selfishness and Metaphysical Ethics,” attempting to transcend the egoist/moralist divide in individualist anarchism.

**Via Ender's Review. Matt Taibbi on the tenacious watchdogs of the Fourth Estate:

In a month when Katie Couric redefined the "scoop" as an advance glimpse of celebrity idiot-spawn Suri Cruise, and investigative journalism according to muckracking icon 60 Minutes meant sappy profiles of Howard Stern and Bill Romanowski, it made all the sense in the world that the denouement of a spectacular tale of massive government waste and fraud would go completely unnoticed by virtually the entire journalism community.

(That would be the F-22 Raptor corporate welfare project). It's odd the way infotainment prolefeed seems to coincide with abuses of power. Any time the oligarchy is up to something and wants to distract our attention, it seems some white chick disappears or something. That's why my first reaction to turning on CNN and seeing some crap or other about Anna Nicole Smith was "Bush must have done something really evil."

**Roderick Long applies libertarian class analysis to the question of war:

In weighing the costs of military intervention, a libertarian must include that system of interlocking political, economic, and cultural forces which the 19th-century industrial-radical libertarians called "militancy" and which some Randians today call "neofascism."

According to libertarian class analysis, which traditionally identifies capitalists as the chief enemies of "capitalism," there is a mutually reinforcing dynamic between corporate pressure politics, foreign imperialism, and domestic oppression; the business lobby drives military adventurism, which leads at home to the mobilization and regimentation of society and the erosion of civil liberties, as government assumes emergency powers that are never fully undone after the emergency.

**At Mises Blog, Stephan Kinsella gets into the fray over limited liability in response to these old posts: "Sean Gabb Gives the Corporatists Nine Kinds of Free Market Hell" and "Corporate Personhood." Gabb, in turn, responded with "Thoughts on Limited Liability."

**A great collection of bibliographic resources on left-libertarianism (the Steiner/Vallentyne/Ellerman kind, not the agorist kind) at Stumbling and Mumbling.

**Via Sara Robinson at Orcinus. "President Clinton Jails 938,000 Illegal Enemy Combatants." One of the few upsides to electing Hitlery in 2008 is that the Freepers will start fearing their government again, instead of worshipping it like they do now.

**Shawn Wilbur has a pamphlet online, based on Westrup's interpretation Tucker's interpretation of Greene: "How to Escape the Coin Monopoly" (1895). And Roderick Long continues to put chapters of Francis Tandy's Voluntary Socialism online.

**Arthur Silber writes on the Military Commissions Act:

There is no question that the Military Commissions Act, given the language it now contains, grants -- in principle -- full dictatorial powers to the executive. As I explained in the earlier essay, the executive and certain entities it controls can designate anyone, including any American citizen, as an "unlawful enemy combatant." That person can then be imprisoned for the rest of his life, with no recourse whatsoever. Period.

That is absolute power over every single one of us. Absolute. Consider the word, and what it means. Your life is no longer yours. It is the executive's, to dispose of as he chooses. I must repeat an earlier point: it is most likely that this power will not be exercised to the full extent possible, or anything close to its full extent, any time soon. The exercise of that power will come, if it does, in stages.

He also quotes Jim Henley on the likely mission creep.

**A reader writes to Joe Bageant:

A few days ago, I was reflecting that as I sit in my new $150,000 house with central air conditioning, I am annoyed by imperfections in the wallboard finish, while many people within a mile of me live in far worse housing in need of real repairs. And I had a strong impulse to somehow put together a volunteer effort to improve their housing. And then it hit me: These people are in the construction trades! And they all have satellite dishes outside their houses--a massive loss of both money and time. Whatever is missing that makes their house run-down, it's not something I can give them.

And Bageant replies:

...fear of change, plus a long history of conditioned ignorance, struggle for money (which is why your neighbor sees fixing drywall as something he does for money, not for himself) keeps the working poor stuck.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Draft Manuscript Chapter

Here is a very rough draft of a chapter from my forthcoming book on the anarchist theory of organizational behavior:

Chapter One: A Critical Survey of Orthodox Views on Economy of Scale.