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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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Friday, August 14, 2009

This Week at C$SS: Breaking Eggs to Make 'Libertarian' Omelets


Anonymous rj said...

Good article.

However, it highlights what I believe is the major weakness of mutualism - the implication that had we had a mutualist system for the past 300 years or so, we would not have benefited from the level of technological development and the corresponding improvement in living standards that we have done. I don't have the book to hand at the moment but didn't you write that without government support that the microchip industry wouldn't have developed? I remember thinking "well thank God for corporate capitalism then!". Similarly if we were to go mutualist now, what other technologies would we miss out on?

While I am no fan of the Rand cult I can understand why they idolise certain aspects of modern capitalism.

August 14, 2009 4:37 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

rj: I think your argument proves too much. You yourself admit that your reaction was to my admission that state intervention might have been necessary for microchips. So in thanking God for corporate capitalism, you're rejecting not only mutualism but free markets in general. In fact, however, some participants on the Open Manufacturing list who know more about the history of the computer industry than I do, have argued that digital computers could have been developed much more cheaply from alternative technologies available at the time:





August 14, 2009 11:15 PM  
Anonymous rj said...

Thing is I find myself in the strange position of wanting to see a transition to a mutualist society while at the same time being relieved that the current system has existed so that we have the benefit of things like microchips, the internet etc. OK there might be other technologies that don't get developed because of mutualism but because I'm content with what exists at the moment (and have no idea what might be invented) I can't say I'm as fussed.

August 15, 2009 3:56 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

KC, I think you're overstating the case about the Open Manufacturing list. Certainly I for one wasn't arguing "that digital computers could have been developed much more cheaply from alternative technologies available at the time", but rather that there was still a way forward to having computers at all even without state involvement (which is what was in doubt), one that might not have been quicker for that one line of technology (computers) but might (or might not) have led to transistors, integrated circuits (chips), etc. anyway. As against being possibly slower without a state, there would have been correspondingly less burden on other valuable things - and, depending on when you started the clock on alternatives, the hypothetical base might have led to earlier cheap computers. I was also focussing on the kind of technological base most suited to reprap or small production, which is rather different than those that make integrated circuits cheap.

RJ, your relief is partly (as I think you realise) because you yourself are a product of this world, with a familiarity with and taste for its particular things. Taken all in all, the odds are that you would have been better off had things been viably state free for the past few generations, not only because there would be more "stuff" now but also because that other you would have correspondingly different tastes. (We have to be careful not to get into too much moral relativism with that though - and I have serious reservations about viability, which space doesn't allow me to go into.)

But the big deal is that you are better off because of past state intervention and distortion etc. - but this is survivor bias and a later perspective, and it still doesn't mean it was worth it. The Enclosures of the Commons and the Highland Clearances etc. did make today's generation better off - but our experience isn't including the sufferings of those now gone, and furthermore we have been selected from among the gainers of those things. It wasn't a good deal for those facing it, in each of nearly all such cases.

August 16, 2009 12:57 AM  
Anonymous Mig said...


Social networks, social capital, trustful and distrustful communities, IQ et al. Robert Putnam struggling again with himself in order to expose some "inconvenient truths". Very interesting.


August 19, 2009 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin Carson you an excellent blog which is very informative and illuminating. I would like to hear on what you have to say on the infant industry argument. Another question is about unilateral elimination of all tariffs and subsidies. Like in the documentary "Life and Debt" it shows the plight of jamaican farmers. If a nation removes all barriers other nations can dump their excess on to the market. Consumer might gain but only for a very short time as only producers can be consumers. The worst consumer is an unemployed person. So why should not domestic industries not be protected? You yourself acknowledge that all currently developed countries rose to prominence through protectionism. Even if it was a mutualist economy imagine if Haiti was a mutualist economy which is predominantly pastoral why should not they errect barriers to protect their newly emerging manufacturing sector which would be eliminated by foreign competition? What do you think of fair trade and have read about Ha-Joon Chang and Erik Reinert. I also thought you would be interested in this website ied.info . Keep up your great work.

August 21, 2009 9:41 PM  
Anonymous pettter said...


I have read your blog for quite a while now, and it is often a refreshing and interesting read. However, there are some questions which I have not really found a satisfactory answer to.

The most obvious of these is the question of violence, warfare and mafias. How is a mutualist society to respond to an organised and immediate threat of force? Such as an emerging city-state with a well-equipped, well-trained militia. I find it hard to come up with any way a mutualist world would not degenerate into statism and renewed oppression within a few decades, but I would be most happy if you could convince me otherwise.

As for staying on topic, I agree wholeheartedly that the world doesn't owe anyone a living. As a member of the Pirate Party of Sweden, I am trying to work within the state system to at least minimise the damage of copyright and patents, but especially the big four music labels seem to have this idea of a business model being a constant thing.

Keep up the good work!

August 22, 2009 3:56 AM  

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