Posts filed under Fellow Workers

Rad Geek, to-day:

Planet Money #381: When Business Loves Regulation

Shared Article from

Episode 381: When Business Loves Regulation

One in three American jobs require a license. Today on the show, why those licensing rules hurt the U.S. economy.

Jacob Goldstein @

The problem is not freed markets; the problem is what Molinari described as owned markets. Owned not because the owners bought them, or won them in competition; but rather through the proprietors’ exploitation of the political process of state regulation.

Sartwell, the Principle of Hierarchical Coincidence and Actually-Existing Socialism

Crispin Sartwell has a great new article recently at Splice, on “The Newnew Left and the Principle of Hierarchical Coincidence.” Quoth he:

The classical socialism of people like Corbyn and Sanders had been developed, in detail, by the middle of the 19th century. It was designed as a response to the rise of rapacious industrial capitalism, and it specifically proposed to rein in capital by vast expansions of state power, or the annexation of more and more resources, powers, segments of the culture by government.. . . The concrete proposals amount to increased state control of many or even all segments of human life, from cradle to grave.

I think you’re going to need some new ideas, because there’s one breathtaking theoretical and practical problem with classical socialism. It proceeds in massive unawareness of a fundamental principle in political theory and political reality, which I call the principle of hierarchical coincidence (PHC): the idea that, in more or less every case and in the long run, political and economic hierarchies tend to coincide. Economic power leads to political power; political power leads to economic power.

. . . For this reason, and for the most part and in the long run, ever-increasing state power as recommended in socialism will tend to increase rather than ameliorate economic inequality. And though governments do sometimes and to some extent reduce economic inequality, they do so in a situation in which the seemingly intractable political/economic structure is largely produced, held in place, and enforced by these governments themselves. The structure of economic inequality rests to a large extent on political and police power, and certainly couldn’t be maintained without it.

This is the incoherence at the heart of classical socialism: that intensifying political power, at least of a certain kind, will in the long run reduce economic inequality. But if you start nationalizing or socializing various segments of the economy—that is, if you give these powers to the state–you don’t move toward an egalitarian paradise, you simply create a new ascendant class. . . .

–Crispin Sartwell, The Newnew Left and the Principle of Hierarchical Coincidence
SpliceToday, 13 June 2017.

Read the whole thing.

Shared Article from SpliceToday

The Newnew Left and the Principle of Hierarchical Coincidence

There’s one breathtaking theoretical and practical problem with classical socialism.

Crispin Sartwell @

What I want to add here some responses to the pat rejoinders that I think are most likely to get thrown out quickly in response to the problem Sartwell raises, but which are really idle as objections to Sartwell’s point.

First, it is entirely idle to point out that state socialism is intended to combat hierarchical coincidence, and if only it could be properly politically implemented, it would tend to reduce inequality more and more and hence more and more make the problem evaporate rather than stabilizing or spiraling out of control. Whatever its theoretical intent, the effect in actually-existing state socialism is entirely different.

If there were some way to implement state socialist programs exactly to the ideological socialist’s specification, without serious political complication, bureaucratic redirection and mission creep, or unintended consequences, then sure, we’d have to hash out whether the total effects of the system tend to reinforce or to weaken the problem of hierarchical coincidence, on net, over short-term and long-term time spans. But there is no such way.[1]

Second, there’s a lesson which many socialists today might take from a point like Sartwell’s, which does represent some progress, but which really goes a lot less far than they might think. In particular, it’s really easy to look at Sartwell’s discussion of the problems posed by increased state economic control, and conclude that the easy solution to the problem is to become an anarchistic socialist, instead of a state socialist. No state, no state power to back up economic power. And of course I’d hardly want to ward anyone off of anarchistic socialism — since that is, after all, what I believe in some forms.

But if you think of the structure of a socialistic anarchy as combating inequality with more or less the same sorts of socialization and collectivization proposed by state socialists — just in the hands of grassroots collectives, administered locally and democratically without state power by the same people who work in them — then I would argue that you have not eliminated the problem of hierarchical coincidence by eliminating the state police power, or by moving from electoral power to social capital as your means of administering the distribution of economic resources. Because, of course, there are such things as hierarchies of social power and prestige, even outside of state structures. Substituting social capital for political power brings some obvious benefits, because political power involves greater institutionalization, more formalized excuses for legitimacy, literally lethal repertoires of force to exert, etc. But the ability to wield social power within collectivized economic institutions, and so to continuously reinforce economic and social power, does not easily disappear even with the removal of the state. It becomes easier to combat; and maybe an easier fight is the best we can realistically hope for. But maybe, on the other hand, the goal should be to make sure that realistic alternatives to existing collective entities, dissent, exit, open competition, and other routes for centrifugal economic and social forces to dynamically express themselves, are firmly incorporated into our economic activities and our socio-economic institutions.

  1. [1]You might say, “but the lack of immaculate conception is a problem for any duty proposing serious changes to the political system — including libertarianism, including market anarchism, including everything.” And you’d be right. It’s a really serious problem for any form of reformist libertarianism, and a major explanation for why it often degrades into standard right-wing business regulation politics. Anarchism doesn’t eliminate the problem; but it ameliorates it, precisely to the extent that the anarchist deliberately breaks from political strategies that open up the largest opportunities for political complication, bureaucratic redirection and mission creep, or unintended consequences. But if solving the problem were easy, revolution would be easy, and it’s no surprise that it isn’t.

What We Talk About When We Talk About (White) Class

To-day, I’m reading: Yet Another Magazine Think-Piece on What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class.. This one is from Joan C. Williams. It’s better than some,[1] much the same as others. Or at times a bit worse worse: The I do not defend police who kill citizens for selling cigarettes. But maneuver of cultivating sympathy by dodging blame is stronger in this than in the average hand-wringing piece. In any case, The Atlantic publishes this article regularly about once every 9-18 months; of course the rate ticks up in an election year.

Shared Article from Harvard Business Review

What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class

The reasons for Trump’s win are obvious, if you know where to look.

But what I want to look at here is where this article is in the Definitional Chairs game for White Working Class. What’s interesting about it is that it’s relatively overt about what talk about class — or, more precisely, white class — seems to be increasingly employed to do, which is not actually to talk about class in the sense of income, wealth, or economic status — let alone something as wonky as relationship to the means of production. If it’s intended to mark socio-economic status, working class here leans very heavily on the socio and not on the economic. So, for example, we find out that William’s subject is not mainly the white working poor (except when it’s convenient to expatiate on their problems); it’s mainly white people making around $64,000 a years:

The terminology here can be confusing. When progressives talk about the working class, typically they mean the poor. But the poor, in the bottom 30% of American families, are very different from Americans who are literally in the middle: the middle 50% of families whose median income was $64,000 in 2008. That is the true middle class, and they call themselves either middle class or working class.

Overtly, constantly throughout the entire piece, the metric that Williams uses for white class is white educational attainment. And the analysis based on data about white educational class is drawn entirely from data, or from stereotypes, about the distinctive white subcultures marked out by spending time in, or avoiding, the culture of four-year colleges and universities.[2]

This definitional move becomes the most thoroughgoing when Williams’ writing simply makes it implicit. For example, her claim that:

But women don’t stand together: WWC [White Working Class] women voted for Trump over Clinton by a whopping 28-point margin — 62% to 34%. If they’d split 50-50, she would have won. (Williams)

… is sourced to a New Yorker election postmortem article by John Cassidy. The passage from the New Yorker article that Williams is closely paraphrasing doesn’t say anything about working-class; what it says is white women without college degrees, which Williams has simply read and re-written as working class:

White women without college degrees, who make up about seventeen per cent of the voting-age population, voted for Trump over Clinton by a whopping twenty-eight-point margin, sixty-two per cent to thirty-four per cent. If the members of this group had split their votes fifty-fifty, say, they would have delivered a victory to Clinton. But, to a large extent, they voted with their male peers. (Cassidy)

I don’t think Williams is an exceptional case here. I think what she is doing is in fact pretty typical. It’s not the only thing we do when talking about class or, more circumspectly, about class divides among American white folks. But it’s one of the things that people do a lot. The class divides or class conflict in an awful lot of recent think-piece writing putatively about socioeconomic class isn’t between employees and owners but rather something consistently spelled out in terms of statistics about the economic, social and cultural gaps between white people who don’t have four-year college degrees and professional-class white people who do. This is a divide that has obvious economic implications (how long you went to school and what you did there affects what kind of jobs you get) but it’s not primarily an economic division. It is a sociological division. If you want to know why people talking about class or especially speculating about white class divides say what they say, — from just about any political standpoint, left or right — then the first thing to do is to keep in mind that they are talking about something that is as much produced by subculture and institutional cultures within American schools and jobs as it is by any measure of income or wealth. If you want to know why the latest magazine think-piece about Class In America says what it says, the first thing to ask is almost certainly not much of anything to do with the means of production; it’s what the author is thinking and saying, first, about race; and second, about college.

  1. [1]Because among other things it doesn’t spend too much time on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men poverty-porn gawking (although it briefly refers to that: … a wave of despair deaths in the form of the opioid epidemic), and because despite the usual difficulties, it is relatively up-front in the fact that it’s stipulating a definition of working class which is not the same as what Progressives might go into it expecting, etc.
  2. [2]For example:

    Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report that “professional people were generally suspect” and that managers are college kids “who don’t know shit about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job,” said Alfred Lubrano in Limbo.

    . . . WWC men aren’t interested in working at McDonald’s for $15 per hour instead of $9.50. What they want is what my father-in-law had: steady, stable, full-time jobs that deliver a solid middle-class life to the 75% of Americans who don’t have a college degree. Trump promises that. I doubt he’ll deliver, but at least he understands what they need.

    . . . Massive funding is needed for community college programs linked with local businesses to train workers for well-paying new economy jobs.

    . . . National debates about policing are fueling class tensions today in precisely the same way they did in the 1970s, when college kids derided policemen as “pigs.” This is a recipe for class conflict. Being in the police is one of the few good jobs open to Americans without a college education. [See what I said about the excuse-making? –RG]

Interview: Left-wing Market Anarchism

From Non Serviam Media:

Exploring Anarchism with Charles Johnson; Left Wing Market Anarchism

Published on Sep 18, 2016

We sat down with Charles Johnson to pick his brain on left market anarchism at Exploring Anarchism, a conference organized by Students For Liberty and Students for a Stateless Society in Norman Oklahoma in 2015.

Holman Prison Strike and Shutdown

Here is a note that I received through the IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee about the prisoners’ strike at Holman Prison in Alabama, as well as (probably) a number of other prisons in the Southeast and across the U.S. For some context on the ongoing struggle over prison conditions and prison labor in Holman, see also GT 2016-04-10: Alabama Corrections and GT 2016-03-13: Prisoner Uprising in the Slaughterhouse. Anyway, here’s a reprint of the press release I received via e-mail from the IWOC yesterday evening at 10:36PM:

PRESS RELEASE Monday Sept 12th, 2016

Contact: Azzurra Crispino Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) Media Co-Chair

Prisoner Strikes and Supporter Protests Sweep the Nation

ATMORE, AL – Over the weekend more than 50 protests erupted across the country and around the world in solidarity with the September 9th nation-wide prisoner work stoppage and protest. Mothers and Families, the outside support organization for the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) rallied with drums and noisemakers outside of Holman Prison while workers kicked off their strike inside. “Officers are performing all tasks” a prisoner texted outside supporters indicating the prisoner work stoppage was successful.

Although the full extent of facilities participating in the strike will not be known for another two weeks, we have received early reports of work stoppage and resistance from Holmes, Gulf and Mayo units in FL, Fluvanna prison in Troy VA, and unnamed units in North Carolina and South Carolina. Central California Women’s Facility, Oregon State Penitentiary and St Cloud Correctional Facility in Minnesota were on lockdown in response to organizing on Friday. Hundreds of prisoners started fires, attacked surveillance cameras and damaged the facilities at Kinross Correctional in Northern Michigan and Holmes Correctional in Florida. No one was seriously injured and prisoners are refusing to work.

There are confirmed hunger strikes underway in Wisconsin, Ohio, California and Guantanamo Bay. At Merced County Jail in Central California family of inmates have reported that the hunger strikers were threatened with shotguns and dogs. In Ohio there are at least two prisons, Lucasville and Ohio State Penitentiary, where prisoners went on hunger strike beginning September 9th. Prisoners at both Ohio prisons have reported being threatened with being stripped of their contact visits in retaliation for going on strike. We stand in solidarity with prominent US Army whistle blower Chelsea Manning, who initiated a hunger strike on September 9th to protest lack of adequate medical care for trans prisoners.

In Greece and across the US, protests occurred outside of jail, prison and immigrant detention centers. Three large banners were held up facing the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville Ohio, the site of a massive and deadly prisoner uprising in 1993. The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons rallied outside Buckeye State Prison in Arizona, one of many prisons where pollution and contaminated water harm prisoners.

US Embassy protests occurred in England, Australia, Sweden and Germany. From Oregon to Florida and in between, companies profiting off prison were targeted by outside protesters, including Bank of America, McDonalds, Aramark, AT&T and Starbucks. In Lansing Michigan protesters blocked a downtown intersection for hours with a large UHaul truck. In New York City and Durham North Carolina they blocked freeways. In Portland OR protesters disrupted an AT&T and McDonalds, both corporations which use prison labor, as well as held a noise demonstration outside a local jail, then they shut down traffic. There were arrests in: Oakland, CA; Milwaukee Wisconsin; Nashville, Tennessee; and Atlanta, Georgia. Most were quickly released, but at least three protesters in GA are facing multiple felonies.

Additional Information

Up-to-date list of institutions striking and solidarity actions here:

Organizations Endorsing the Strike here:

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Prisoners, formerly incarcerated workers, family members, and local activists are available for interviews with local and national media.

See also.