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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, March 20, 2008

P2P Governance Visualization

At P2P Blog, a conceptual map on peer-to-peer governance: P2P Governance Visualization. I'm not usually the kind of person who's very good at making sense out of visual aids like this, but this is a good one.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Kenneth R. Gregg, RIP

David Beito links to Jesse Walker's obit at Reason. Both Beito and Walker restate what seems to be everyone's impression of Ken (including mine): that he was a thoroughly decent fellow. Beito bears this out with an anecdote about Ken's "characteristic modesty." He was invited to join the Liberty and Power group blog because of the knowledge of libertarian history he demonstrated in his comments there.

Ken was initially reluctant. With characteristic modesty, he wondered whether he would be out of his element on an academically-oriented blog. Fortunately, he relented. It was very much our gain.

His modesty, as becoming as it was, was utterly unwarranted. As I mentioned in the comments to Beito's post, I joined Samuel Edward Konkin III's old LeftLibertarian list (Ken was an associate of SEK2 since the early days of the Agorist movement) in 2001, and was immediately struck by Ken's wealth of knowlege on the early history of classical liberalism, and comparatively obscure sidelines and offshoots of the libertarian movement that most libertarians had never heard of. I got my first introduction to Thomas Hodgkin, which influenced me so heavily, from Ken's promotion of his works online.

More generally, if you search the archives of the original LeftLibertarian list for the name of any intellectual figure in 19th century liberalism, or in the many strands of 20th century geolibertarianism, you'll probably come up with a post ending in the familiar "Just Ken" byline.

He belonged, with Shawn Wilbur, Roderick Long and George H. Smith, to what amounted to a standing informal seminar on libertarianism's historical roots.

The only full online version of Stephen Pearl Andrews' Science of Society (including Part Two), that I'm aware of at least, is also available at CLASSical Liberalism thanks to Ken. You really should check out his blog to see for yourself the breadth of his interests--it's really too much for me to put across in a short post.

What I remember is, first, his knowledge and his enjoyment of sharing his interests with others; and second, his character. I don't think he ever displayed a malicious attitude or made an unkind remark about anyone in the hundreds of his messages and blog posts I read. That's not something many people can say about themselves--I certainly can't.

All I knew about Ken until a couple of years ago involved his intellectual life. But like everyone else, he had a life in meatspace, and the events of his last years pretty well sucked the enjoyment out of his historical interests and left him with little energy for pursuing them. Two of his three children, James and Elizabeth, were killed by drunk drivers--in completely unrelated incidents, four years apart. The second death, Elizabeth's, happened in October 2006. The depression from that took its toll, as you might expect, and he eventually went into hospice for end-stage congestive heart failure. His friend Pam Maltzman says that he died peacefully in his sleep, with his wife Debbie nearby.

At his son James' funeral, he read this passage from Paine's Age of Reason:

We have not in all cases the same form, nor in any case the same matter that composed our bodies twenty or thirty years ago; and yet we are conscious of being the same persons. Even legs and arms, which make up almost half the human frame, are not necessary to the consciousness of existence. These may be lost or taken away, and the full consciousness of existence remain; and were their place supplied by wings, or other appendages, we cannot conceive that it would alter our consciousness of existence.

In short, we know not how much, or rather how little, of our composition it is, and how exquisitely fine that little is, that creates in us this consciousness of existence; and all beyond that is like the pulp of a peach, distinct and separate from the vegetative speck in the kernel.

Who can say by what exceedingly fine action of fine matter it is that a thought is produced in what we call the mind? And yet that thought when produced, as I now produce the thought I am writing, is capable of becoming immortal, and is the only production of man that has that capacity.

Statues of marble or brass will perish; and statues made in imitation of them are not the same statues, nor the same workmanship, any more than the copy of a picture is the same picture. But print and reprint a thought a thousand times over, and that with materials of any kind – carve it into wood or engrave it in stone, the thought is eternally and identically the same thought in every case. It has a capacity of unimpaired existence, unaffected by change of matter, and is essentially distinct and of a nature different from everything else that we know or can conceive.

If, then, the thing produced has in itself a capacity of being immortal, it is more than a token that the power that produced it, which is the selfsame thing as consciousness of existence, can be immortal also; and that as independently of the matter it was first connected with, as the thought is of the printing or writing it first appeared in. The one idea is not more difficult to believe than the other, and we can see that one is true.

I'm an agnostic on such matters, but I hope Ken's doing some catching up now with two of his kids. In any case, the thoughts he produced will be with us for a long time.

My condolences to his wife Debbie and his surviving daughter, Katherine.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Guest Post at P2P Foundation

I'm guest-posting today at the P2P Foundation blog: "Open-Mouth Sabotage, Networked Resistance, and Asymmetric Warfare on the Job."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Libertarianism and Liberalism: What Went Wrong?

New post at The Art of the Possible:

"Libertarianism and Liberalism: What Went Wrong?"

Draft Chapter Eleven

Another draft chapter from the Organization Theory project:

Chapter Eleven: Structural Changes: The Abolition of Privilege.
(incl. Appendix 11A: Reciprocity and Thick Libertarianism)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

George Washington vs. the Licensing Cartels

Blogging at The Art of the Possible. If you found the discussions stimulating under Angelica's posts "Call Me Street Food Libertarian" and "The Rats of El Toro," you might like this:

"George Washington vs. the Licensing Cartels."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Austin, TX: Mutualism Study Group

If you live in the Austin area, or plan to be there on March 29, you should check out the Mutualism Study Group (click link for details) organized by Donald Jackson of MonkeyWrench Books. They're paying me the immense compliment of using my book, among other things, as study material. Here's part of the blurb from the site:

Mutualism is a school of thought that calls for decentralizing economic and political power through building cooperatives and community financing systems. It is a radical theory that opposes corporate and state power, and instead promotes an economy of small farms, independent business, cooperatives, and self-employed workers.

Why do I get the feeling that genuine free market ideas (as opposed to the kind of corporate apologetics that passes for the "free market" in mainstream politics and journalism) are more likely to get a friendly hearing in the "People's Republic of Austin" than anywhere else in that Red State?

Libertarian Self-Marginalization

Blogging at The Art of the Possible today: "Libertarian Self-Marginalization."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Art of the Possible

I'll be blogging at a new gig, The Art of the Possible. The blog's general theme:

The Bush administration has been extreme enough in its authoritarianism, flagrant law breaking, and flouting of basic human rights norms, to cause fractures in the old GOP coalition. There is now the possibility of new political alliances forming. Speaking broadly, it may be that many of the factions in the Democratic Party, and some of the factions that call themselves “libertarian,” collectively represent a kind of loose anti-authoritarian coalition, or rather, the possibility of one. This site aims to facilitate conversation among those factions.

If you have fond memories of Rothbard's attempted coalition with the New Left, or are currently involved in the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, it's probably a topic to warm your heart.

I'm a long-time reader of two of the writers there: Mona, who blogs with Jim Henley at Unqualified Offerings, and Angelica Oung of Battlepanda. One of my earliest contacts with Angelica was this post of hers: "Two Flavors of Libertarianism." If you look at the comments under that post, most of the left-libertarian blogosphere popped in before the discussion petered out.

I posted my introduction today and should be starting in with substantive posts next week.

Check it out.

Monday, March 03, 2008

On Dissolving the State, and What to Replace It With

You may have noticed the neat little quote I put at the head of this blog:

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.
--P. J. Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution in the XIX Century.
That's a theme I've been writing on since I started blogging, starting with this post: "Building the Structure of the New Society Within the Shell of the Old."

I found some great items on the same general theme in the past week or so:

1. Jim Henley:
To a libertarian, much of what the state does looks like providing crutches or shackles. To an anarchist, I suppose everything the state does looks like that. Crutches are actually important for the injured. If you’re to completely heal, though, you have to give them up at the right time. And some badly injured people are never going to be able to do without them - e.g. my mother with her walker....

So we want to remove most or all crutches and shed most or all shackles, depending on how, for lack of a better term, anarchistic we are. But which shackles and which crutches when? The "liberal" "libertarian" answer is: first take the crutches from those best able to bear their own weight, and remove the shackles from the weak before the strong. So: corporate welfare before Social Security before Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Drug prohibition before marginal income tax rates.

As Jim says, it's a messed-up state that systematically creates poverty through the enforcement of special privilege, and then uses welfare programs to ameliorate a small part of the poverty and inequality caused by its own policies. "But it’s a messed-up libertarianism that looks at that situation and says, 'Man, first thing we gotta do is get rid of that welfare!'" Or as I once put it,

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.

2. Howard Zinn:
Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes-the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth.

But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice....

In 1934, early in the Roosevelt Presidency, strikes broke out all over the country, including a general strike in Minneapolis, a general strike in San Francisco, hundreds of thousands on strike in the textile mills of the South. Unemployed councils formed all over the country. Desperate people were taking action on their own, defying the police to put back the furniture of evicted tenants, and creating self-help organizations with hundreds of thousands of members.

3. The Solidarity Economy Network (the subject of this post) now has its own website: The U.S. Solidarity Economy Network (SEN): Supporting & connecting the emerging U.S. solidarity economy movement.