Several weeks ago, Sheldon Richman asked me by private email if I’d read G.E. Mingay’s account of the enclosures (Parliamentary Enclosure in England), which puts them in a considerably more positive light than the Marxists and other radical historians I relied on in writing Chapter Four of Mutualist Political Economy. I had to confess I had not. My readings, besides Dat Ol’ Debbil Karl Marx himself (the material on primitive accumulation in Vol. 1 of Capital), included the Hammonds (The Village Laborer), R. H. Tawney, E.P. Thompson, Maurice Dobb, and Christopher Hill. On the other hand, I read a considerable amount of Rothbard and his radical Lockean followers, whose analysis of the period coincided quite astonishingly wit... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) On the Open Manufacturing Google Group, an email list for people interested in open-source industrial design and commons-based peer production models for physical production, Nathan Cravens raised the question of why peer-production of physical goods has had such a hard time gaining traction as an alternative to the corporate capitalist model:
Open source projects seem to lack the ability to scale, remaining hobbyist or academic. Successful products are “curated” and pounded with marketing, yet, a community focus on making a product intuitive and beautiful, while demoing the product as a lifestyle, because it is worth having, would be ideal?
As Cravens points out, open-source product design is still practically impleme... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) I participate in a lot of Georgist discussion forums, and have quoted quite a few Geolibertarians of various stripes in my blogposts. Generally speaking, I am on quite friendly terms with Georgists, and have a lot of sympathy for their ideas. But I’ve never found their arguments convincing enough to embrace full-blown Georgism.
Of course, the individualist anarchists’ occupancy-and-use ideas on land ownership have a lot in common with Georgism. Both theories are outgrowths of the radical fringe of early classical liberalism. They both, in very Ricardian terms, tend to see landlordism as a form of parasitism, a sinkhole that absorbs the fruits of progress created by human labor and ingenuity. Both theories, as distinguished from... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Schematic designs for a new society seem to be really popular among self-described anarchists of all stripes. On the Right, we have Rothbard’s model for an entire society modeled whole-cloth on a “libertarian law code” deduced from axioms like self-ownership and the non-aggression principle. Within the historic anarchist movement of the Left, we have uniform templates like syndicalism or Kropotkinist communism. And the same tendency can be found among quasi-anarchistic libertarian socialist models like De Leonism and the World Socialist Movement; the latter assumes the creation of a communist society by persuading all the countries in the world to vote in their precise model of social organization through the political pro... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) In a post on the recent New York City transit strike, Jonathan Wilde at Catallarchy wrote:
In democracies, classes don’t fight each other, organized groups do. Concentrated interests, regardless of “class”, have far more incentive to engage in political activism than do dispersed ones.
That prompted Rad Geek to ask, in the comments:
It seems that what you’ve offered here is just a claim that there are more classes than simply a monolithic managerial class and a monolithic working class, and that some classes of workers might seek to benefit at the expense of others?
Or, to put it another way: if you aren’t offering a class analysis of the transit strike, what level of analysis are you offering? ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Well, what a surprise! It turns out that the recent “revolution” in the Kyrgyz Republic was just the latest in the series of manufactured Orange, Inky Finger, and Cedar Revolutions, of the same ilk as most of the other examples of “People Power” over which the neocons have waxed so eloquent these past 20 years. The following is from a December 30 report by Ambassador Stephen M. Young:
Taking into account the interests, of our presence in the region and development of democratic society in Kyrgyzstan, our primary goal —according to the earlier approved plans — is to increase pressure upon Akaev to make him resign ahead of schedule after the parliamentary elections Realizing the plan is of key importan... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) One of my favorite local columnists is Art Hobson, whose think pieces appear regularly in the Northwest Arkansas Times. Like me, Hobson is a strident critic of suburban sprawl.
But he reminds me a little of George Monbiot: while he hates the right things, his understanding of the causes behind them is ass-backward. Like Monbiot, he fails to discern the role of existing government intervention in the market in creating these problems; like Monbiot, he instead proposes further government intervention in the economy to solve the problems created by existing government intervention, rather than first hacking at the root of the problem.
As a solution, he writes favorably of the approach of cities like Portland and Boulder, which
have esta... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) INTRODUCTION
My starting point for this article is a ground-breaking study by Joseph Stromberg. In "The Role of State Monopoly Capitalism in the American Empire," Stromberg provides an insightful Austrian analysis of state capitalist cartelization as the cause of crises of overproduction and surplus capital. In the course of his argument, he makes reference to Progressive/Revisionist and (to a lesser extent) Marxist theories of imperialism, and analyzes their parallels with the Austrian view.
Although the state capitalism of the twentieth century (as opposed to the earlier misnamed "laissez faire" variant, in which the statist character of the system was largely disguised as a "neutral" legal framework) had its roots in the mid-ninet... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) A couple of commenters on yesterday’s Wal-Mart post, Adam Ricketson and quasibill, raised valid questions about the moral culpability of big business in taking advantage of available externalities. There’s a difference, they rightly said, between taking advantage of a situation that exists anyway (hey, I go to the Post Office, after all), and collusion in creating the situation. The distinction is entirely correct.
Now, obviously, Wal-Mart couldn’t have had a role in the initial creation of the Interstate Highway System, since it didn’t exist until the early sixties. (I know from personal experience that they play a much more active role, at least at the local level, in lobbying for highway and airport pork).
But s... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Here’s the Brad DeLong commentary I mentioned in the last post. Thanks to Adam, in an earlier comment thread, for bringing it to my attention.
There are, broadly speaking, three interpretations of what went on:
The first is the interpretation of a whole bunch of finance economists starting from Adolf Berle and Gardiner Means.... It is that a whole bunch of changes in corporate law and financial practice in the early twentieth century culminating in the New Deal shifted a great deal of practical power away from “owners” and to “managers.”.... [M]ost of the time managers did what they wanted, chose their own successors, and set corporate policy with not that much attention to maximizing company stock prices... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Bk Marcus has a good post on Bastiat’s broken window fallacy at lowercase liberty.
What-is-seen-and-what-is-unseen is a powerful way to introduce someone to the concept of opportunity costs, but in the case of the broken baker’s window in Bastiat’s original essay (and in the cases of World War II, the World Trade Center, typhoon-ravaged coastal cities, and now New Orleans), what should be seen is the whole and functional window as part of the wealth in the world and the destroyed window as part of the destruction of wealth.
Before the little vandal, the baker had a window and some savings. After the vandal, the baker has a new window and less savings. That means less wealth. What exactly is unseen?
What is seen, unf... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Alan Avans has an interesting post up at Ecodema, provocatively entitled “The Social Economy and Social Credit: Two Wings of One Bird?”
The post was inspired by a recent commenter’s question:
Why do the greater part of cooperatives behave in much the same way as other firms in terms of management and in terms of the links they develop, or don’t develop, in their communities?
The answer, according to Avans:
I’ve concluded that the essense of the challenge activists for economic democracy face is that we can never negotiate a cooperative commonwealth based on orthodox economic terms.
The prairie populists of Canada and USAmerica once had a unique opportunity for a breakthrough past the restraints... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) A bon mot from Lenin’s Tomb (via Freiheit und Wissen):
The illusion of a free and equal contract between employee and employer is one that exerts considerable hold, particularly given the paucity of industrial conflict over the last fifteen years. The thought that the situation might be rigged in advance, by virtue of the capitalists control of the means of production, is so obvious that it eludes many people who otherwise place themselves on the Left.
In part, this is because people are prepared from an early age to expect and accept this state of affairs. In high school Business Studies class, I was shown along with my class mates a video sponsored by some bank which purported to demonstrate how the division of labor came abou... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Bill, over at Reasons to be Impossible, has an interesting response to my Contract Feudalism post.
The gist of it is that the forces of market competition under mutualism would lead to worker-owned firms engaging in behavior much like that of present-day capitalist firms: a drive to accumulate, accumulate, accumulate! In other words,
you can have a capitalism without capitalists. You can have all the profit seeking behaviors, without the personal gains for any real sensuous human being.
One thing Bill mentions is economic rents from superior location, access to superior services, etc. Regarding the latter, it’s important to remember that a great deal of existing economic rent is an externality resulting from the state&rsquo... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Larry Gambone recently wrote on Any Time Now Discussion:
...Latin Americans are well aware that Castro-the-dictator is as much a US production as a self-creation. US policy has always been what they can’t overthrow from outside, they destroy from inside by driving a progressive government in as authoritarian direction as possible.
I’ve long taken a favorable view of Hannah Arendt’s observation, in On Revolution, that virtually every revolution has significant decentralizing elements: attempts at worker self-management, local organs of direct democracy, etc. A classic example is the soviets and the workers committees in Russia, before Lenin either liquidated or coopted them. And outside pressure on a revolutionary... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) I just happened on Chomsky’s new blog. His old one, Turning the Tide, had been defunct for over a year, and I didn’t know he’d relocated. From the Chomsky blog at Znet:
The rules of the game were more or less formalized in the Uruguay round that set up the WTO, in NAFTA, and other such mislabeled “free trade agreements.” They are a mixture of liberalization and protectionism, designed—not surprisingly—in the interests of the designers: mainly MNCs, financial institutions, the investor/lender class generally, the powerful states that cater to their interests, etc. The rights and interests of people are incidental. The extreme protectionism of the WTO and NAFTA goes far beyond earlier forms of pr... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Too bad the Nazis didn’t post that over the gates at Auschwitz. Everybody would have been so much more positive on the way to the gas chambers, without all those “change resisters” complaining and bringing everybody else down. You may not be able to do anything about that jackboot stamping on your face, but you can stop being such a Gloomy Gus about it. Keep an eye out for the next touchy-feely motivational book: You Will Be Assimilated. Resistance is Futile.
Remember when the catchphrase was “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore”? Seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? Now there’s an entire behavioral-engineering industry geared toward seeing how much more we can be &ldquo... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Great article by Claire Wolfe in the Loompanics catalog. Wolfe starts by riffing off of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s hit “Sixteen tons” (actually a cover of a 1946 song by Merle Travis, which had got him branded a commie fellow-traveler by the U.S. government).
Although Travis was a patriotic Kentucky boy, the U.S. government thought any song complaining about hard work and hopeless debt was subversive. The song got Travis branded a “communist sympathizer” (a dangerous label in those days). A Capitol record exec who was a Chicago DJ in the late 40s remembers an FBI agent coming to the station and advising him not to play “Sixteen Tons.”
She goes on, quite eloquently (if less lyrically than Travi... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Claire Wolfe’s got a new book out: How to Kill the Job Culture Before it Kills You. I haven’t read it yet, but it went to my Top 10 must-reads the minute I first saw a reference to it. Apparently it develops the themes she touched on in these earlier articles: “How to Avoid Work,” “How to Avoid Work, Part II,” and “Dark Satanic Cubicles.”
Meanwhile, here’s a brief promotional article she wrote about it in the Loompanics catalog: “Insanity, the Job Culture, and Freedom”
The traditional case against jobs and the Job Culture comes from the left, which warns us of exploited workers, mindless consumerism, and environmental destruction. Meanwhile, the right cheers what it mis... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Via Ross Heckmann on the Distributism yahoogroup. A quote from the Agrarian Wendell Berry’s book What Are People For?
Women have complained, justly, about the behavior of “macho” men. But despite their he-man pretensions and their captivation by masculine heroes of sports, war, and the Old West, most men are now entirely accustomed to obeying and currying the favor of their bosses. Because of this, of course, they hate their jobs--they mutter, “Thank God it’s Friday” and “Pretty Good for Monday”--but they do as they are told. They are more compliant than most housewives have been. Their characters combine feudal submissiveness with modern helplessness. They have accepted almost without pr... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Bill Kauffman has an article at the paleocon American Conservative magazine on the Vermont independence movement.
Grennon points out that three members of the Second Vermont Republic are Georgists, one is a founding member of the E.F. Schumacher Society, and the founder of the SVR is a distributist. Now, you might think that such ideas span the whole political spectrum from A to B. But the values they have in common are probably shared, to some extent, by a majority of Americans currently divided between the two major parties. And it’s an aspect of popular political culture that’s almost entirely ignored by the respective party establishments. Instead, we get the fake anti-government populism of Karl Rove and talk radio, when M... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Larry Gambone already mentioned, on the VCM’s discussion list, an NLRB ruling that permitted employers to prohibit employes from hanging out off the job. Here, from Confined Space, is the gist of it from a Harold Meyerson piece at the Washington Post:
On June 7 the three Republican appointees on the five-member board that regulates employer-employee relations in the United States handed down a remarkable ruling that expands the rights of employers to muck around in their workers’ lives when they’re off the job. They upheld the legality of a regulation for uniformed employes at Guardsmark, a security guard company, that reads, “[Y]ou must NOT ... fraternize on duty or off duty, date or become overly friendly with... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) That’s not my term, but Elizabeth Anderson’s at Left2Right. It covers a wide range of events that have been in the news lately. One is described by Anderson in her blog post. According to the New York Times, Howard Weyers, president of Michigan-based Weyco, has forbidden his workers to smoke--“not just at work but anywhere else.” The policy, taken in response to rising cost of health coverage, requires workers to submit to nicotine tests.
As Anderson reminds us, one of the benefits that the worker traditionally received in return for his submission to the bosses’ authority on the job was sovereignty over the rest of his life in the “real world” outside of work. Under the terms of this Taylorist bar... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) There He Ges Again!
Well, George Reisman (or should I say Herr Doktor Doktor Reisman) is on a roll with what appears to be an anti-Carson theme, so it looks like I’ll be getting some more free publicity.
I should mention that after seeing so many of Reisman’s almost comically bowdlerized misreadings of my work (and worse, his continuing reassetions of them in the face of my corrections), I begin to wonder whether his obtuseness is just a pose: whether he’s not instead following a deliberate strategy of counting on the far greater readership of his venues, and knowingly repeating arguments that have been shown to be erroneous, in the confidence that most of his readers will be familiar only with his own assertions and n... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) At Chlorophyll, Esteban has some interesting comments on co-ops as an educational tool for developing an empowered society. He notes the radical disconnect between the kind of “democracy” we learn about in the publik skools’ civics classes, and our experience in the economic world:
Our mental model is that there are those “above” us, who hand down dictates that may or may not make sense, and the most we can hope for is to stay on their good side. If we live this medieval model all day every day, is it any surprise that a lot of folks aren’t inspired to break with it to vote? They don’t think they could — or maybe even should — have an influence over the wider world.
History shows t... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) From Corporate Europe Observatory, July 2005: “Covert industry funding fuels the expansion of radical rightwing EU think tanks” Be forwarned: the article takes the neoliberal use of “free market” and “laissez-faire” pretty much at face value, resulting in some real howlers. If you can set that aside, though, there’s a lot of good information on corporate funding of think tanks to promote phony, ASI-style “privatization” and “deregulation” (corporatism with a free market face).
Over the last few years, the EU capital Brussels has experienced a huge growth in the number of new think tanks seeking to influence the EU’s political debate. A large number of these new pla... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) A provocative article by Mike Hoy at Loompanics.
Libertarianism is a philosophy based on individual rights.
But what happens if groups of people, i.e., collectivist entities, form together for the purpose of getting the government to grant unearned special privileges to them? How will this affect the marketplace? Well, this has actually happened in America, and the result is that these collectivist entities with their government-bestowed privileges have taken over our economy, in some particular cases to the benefit of some particular individuals, but to the overall detriment to individuals in general. These collectivist entities are known as “corporations,” and it is initially puzzling as to why they are lionized by &ldqu... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Noam Chomsky is one of the latest on the Left to fall under David Horowitz’s guns. Horowitz’s “The Sick Mind of Noam Chomsky” appeared last fall, in two parts, in FrontPage Magazine. In a lot of ways, Chomsky deserves it. He has plenty of weaknesses and failings that Horowitz could have exploited mercilessly, had he so wished.
For one thing, he has a tendency to play fast and loose with his sources. He often seems to be making it as hard as possible to look up his source for some assertion. In the past, I have read a paragraph in Deterring Democracy or the like, containing several statements about, say, U.S. ties to death squads in Central America. But instead of providing a separate citation for each item of fact, ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Radley Balko goes after the Cruncy Cons, but just winds up making himself look bad:
One last little irony in this whole crunchy con business: There are a few billion people on this planet still in danger of starving to death. They’re in desperate need of modernity, technology, and all those crass, crude, unsightly accouterments of emerging markets (see environmental pollution, “sweatshop” labor, etc.). Dreher can lament the Internet age, access to world markets, our abundance of choice, and mass globalization all he likes. Unfortunately, most of the rest of humanity hasn’t yet made it to the “lamenting our prosperity” stage of economic development. Dreher pooh-poohs the tools the very poor need to ge... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Until the late 1980s, Cuba’s agricultural economy was a Soviet wannabe, based on heavy mechanization and use of chemicals; the Soviet state-socialist model of agriculture, at least ideally, was as if Cargill or ADM had turned the farms of an entire country into one giant agribusiness plantation, and then the state had expropriated the corporation and put it under a state ministry. But with the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989 and of the USSR itself in 1991, and the cutoff of their “fraternal assistance,” the Cuban economy was deprived of the inputs necessary for a Soviet-style agricultural model. There were drastic cutbacks in electric power and transportation, in the fuel and spare parts for those big gee-whizzy combin... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)