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We Will: The Radical Possibilities of Freed-Market Social Activism

One of the Five Pillars of left-wing market anarchism that Gary Chartier and I identify in the Introduction to Markets Not Capitalism is a commitment to the radical possibilities of market social activism:

. . . [M]arket anarchists also see freed markets as a space not only for profit-driven commerce, but also as spaces for social experimentation and hard-driving grassroots activism. They envision “market forces” as including not only the pursuit of narrowly financial gain or maximizing returns to investors, but also the appeal of solidarity, mutuality and sustainability. “Market processes” can — and ought to — include conscious, coordinated efforts to raise consciousness, change economic behavior, and address issues of economic equality and social justice through nonviolent direct action.

— Introduction. 3.
Markets Not Capitalism (Autonomedia/Minor Compositions, 2011).

Here’s some more on that, thanks to the kind efforts of DFW Alliance of the Libertarian Left. This is some broad orientation on what it means and why it matters. The specifics I’ve talked about for quite a while here; it was also the topic of my recent talk at Libertopia. More on that soon, I hope. But for now: This clip is excerpted from a much longer interview with Jason Lee Byas and Grayson English at Liberty Minded / Speaking on Liberty. (Thanks, y’ALL!)

Transcript included below for folks with screen readers, et cetera.

Grayson English: I think it’s all very interesting, all this about thicker commitments, and different things that libertarians tend to ignore, and some of the more ethical concerns that go into these social issues. But I think there’s been a pretty devastating critique on Facebook about how left-libertarianism has nothing to say about ethics, and it’s basically just saying that whatever the market does, is good. I don’t know, I just think that seems somewhat problematic for this philosophy of thicker commitments, and indirect coercion. What do you think of that?

Jason Lee Byas: . . . The great agora that is Facebook, for philosophical symposiums in every thread, yeah …

R.G.: Yeah, I’ve definitely talked with some folks about this, on Facebook and elsewhere. I fear that Facebook is actually, like, systematically the worst possible medium for having involved discussions about this kind of stuff, for various reasons.

But, broadly what I’d say is this: left-libertarianism involves a claim that without state coercion, and without various forms of legal privilege, there are a bunch of forms of social and economic inequality, and social and economic privilege, that would tend to be systematically undermined — that would be much weaker than they are in society as it is. It doesn’t involve a claim that just freeing the market, and seeing whatever will happen, without your intervention, when markets are free, — is what either free-market anticapitalism in particular or what left-libertarianism is all about. That’s not the end of the day for either of those views.

And, so I think it is true, that if you get rid of — and it’s really important not to forget this; this is the reason we stress so much the importance of state monopoly in upholding capitalist privilege, for example — is not to suggest that, in a society freed of government intervention and regulation, that the freed market would automatically solve every social problem, every form of inequality, cancer, tooth decay, and that the seas would become the temperature and flavor of lemonade.

The specific claim is that there’s a bunch of stuff that would tend to sort of systematically get better just in virtue of kicking out the supports from institutions that are actively making it crappier. So there are a lot of forms of privilege that would tend to sort of sink and falter under their own weight, without the ongoing efforts of the state to subsidize them and to burn out competitors. But — whatever forms of social inequality, and whatever social evils — and there’s plenty that would remain, even if in a weaker form — are things that libertarians ought to take a direct hand in organizing nonviolent social confrontation against. Where these things don’t fall under their own weight, we have a responsibility to get together and push them over. And that means a serious commitment to grassroots community organizing and to social activism within the context of this freed market that we’re imagining.

That’s something I’ve always tried to emphasize in my work as very important — if you’re wondering who will stop the rich from running everything in a free society, part of the answer has to be that we will. And there are straightforward ways in which it’s connected with this commitment to the radical possibilities of freed market social activism. That is closely connected with seeing that being in favor of market relationships, is not the same thing as just kicking back and saying, Well, I don’t have to lift a finger because the market is going to take care of all my problems for me. . . . —

Jason Lee Byas: Market take the wheel!

R.G.: — I mean market forces just are us; they’re people acting rationally in the world. We shouldn’t just be consumers of social conditions, but entrepreneurs of social conditions. That’s going to mean things like mutual aid associations forming up, fighting unions, neighborhood associations. It’s going to mean feminist activism, culture jamming, consciousness-raising, — all kinds of zaps and activism and building counter-institutions that are in the hands of ordinary folks, rather than in the hands of a socially or economically privileged bureaucracy. Any conception that takes market relationships *fully seriously,* is going to have to include social activism as an essential component of a flourishing free society. Not something that we’re bringing market relationships in instead of, because we don’t want to get our hands dirty with that stuff. It’s stuff that can, and should, and almost certainly will be happening in a free market society. And if you don’t see it happening, the solution is to be the change — to be the one that makes it happen.

Discussion from DFW ALL here. Full interview here. Speaking on Liberty interview series here.

Also.

Wednesday Lazy Linking

    <ul>
<li><p><a href="http://reason.com/blog/2010/10/11/whats-wrong-with-woodrow-wilso">What&#39;s Wrong With Woodrow Wilson? <cite>Radley Balko: Reason Magazine articles and blog posts.</cite> (2010-10-11)</a>. A: He was a fucking fascist, that's what's wrong. <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Monday 2010-10-11.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&amp;friendId=38511064&amp;blogId=539662894">Modesto Police Shoot Francisco Moran and Rita Elias. <cite>Modesto Anarcho!&#39;s MySpace Blog</cite> (2010-10-04)</a>. <q>On Friday night, Rita Elias, 31, died after off-duty sheriff's detective Kari Abbey, shot and killed her after an hour long argument. Kari Abbey, a 6 year veteran to the force, and a detective of four...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Monday 2010-10-11.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/c4ss/~3/NvhxfFEUEWg/4022">Under Surveillance America. Darian Worden, <cite>Center for a Stateless Society</cite> (2010-09-16)</a>. <q>Federal Bureau of Investigation files indicate that Ernest Withers, prominent photographer of 1960s Civil Rights activism, was also a federal informant. According to the Washington Post, he provided photographs, scheduling information and biographical sketches on Civil Rights leaders to the FBI. Whether Withers was trying to cash in on information...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-10-12.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/thesuperfluousman/~3/9hVIPLqKQ7o/nothing-new-under-sun.html">Nothing new under the sun. John Markley, <cite>The Superfluous Man</cite> (2010-10-06)</a>. <q>Contemporary American politics makes a great deal more sense in light of the realization that Barack Obama's most devoted fans and fiercest critics are united by a shared delusion: the belief that Obama is really, really interesting.How this manifests among his supporters is apparent enough in the starry-eyed adulation he...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-10-12.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://reason.com/blog/2010/10/12/homesteading-in-haiti-very-adv">Homesteading in Haiti: Very Adverse Possession. Jesse Walker, <cite>Jesse Walker: Reason Magazine articles and blog posts.</cite> (2010-10-12)</a>. <q>Emily Troutman reports from the hills near Port-au-Prince: Six months ago, this land was nothing but crickets in the grass. Now, it&#39;s Haiti&#39;s new frontier, a landscape of squatters whose greatest hope is a home of their own. Gray and blue shacks and shanties extend for miles. Small gardens and...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-10-12.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://dallas.libertarianleft.org/blog/2010/09/event-the-prospects-and-ethics-of-political-reform">Event: The Prospects and Ethics of Political Reform. justino, <cite>DFW Alliance of the Libertarian Left</cite> (2010-09-27)</a>. <q>What: As we near election time, candidates for office will inevitably present themselves as an alternative to the status quo that plagues us. But what types of reform in practice, if any, are consistent with a libertarian political philosophy? The first article we will study is Ron Paul’s “My Plan...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-10-12.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://dallas.libertarianleft.org/blog/2010/09/event-for-the-bible-tells-me-so-movie">Event: ‘For the Bible Tells Me So’ Movie. justino, <cite>DFW Alliance of the Libertarian Left</cite> (2010-09-22)</a>. <q>What: 1919 Hemphill, a local DIY collective, is hosting a screening of the documentary For the Bible Tells Me So (2007) as part of its long-time movie series Conscientious Projector. A recipient of numerous international awards, the film documents the turmoil Christian families with a gay child face and “sometimes...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-10-12.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://dallas.libertarianleft.org/blog/2010/09/grieving-student-suspected-of-using-marijuana-reinstated">Grieving Student Suspected of Using Marijuana Reinstated. <cite>DFW Alliance of the Libertarian Left</cite> (2010-10-12)</a>. Narco-Statism Vs. Compassion and Human Decency (Cont'd) <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-10-12.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/c4ss/~3/F44pcFHc-3c/4099">Getting Away With Murder. <cite>Center for a Stateless Society</cite> (2010-10-12)</a>. Cops are here to keep us safe. (Cont'd) <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-10-12.)</em></p></li>

Wednesday Lazy Linking

    <ul>
<li><p><a href="http://feeds.feedblitz.com/~/14216812/1gbb8r/alternet~SWAT-Raids-Gone-Wrong-Paramilitary-Policing-Is-Out-of-Control">SWAT Raids Gone Wrong -- Paramilitary Policing Is Out of Control. Phillip S. Smith, Drug War Chronicle, <cite>AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed</cite> (2010-06-01)</a>. <q>In 1980, 2,884 SWAT deployments were recorded nationwide; the number today is estimated by experts at 50,000 annually or more.</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-06-02.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://c4ss.org/content/2612">C4SS May Fund Drive. Mariana Evica, <cite>Center for a Stateless Society</cite> (2010-05-30)</a>. <q>NEWS Here’s where we are, who’s moving us forward, and what our personnel are doing. Starting June 1st, Thomas L. Knapp will become the C4SS Media Coordinator. His pay will change to $640 monthly for 20 hours weekly labor in that role. He will also retain the title of Senior News...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-06-02.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://feeds.feedblitz.com/~/13528726/1fdoe4/alternet">You Can Get 15 Years in Jail For Recording an On-Duty Cop in Illinois. <cite>AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed</cite> (2010-05-20)</a>. <q>Wow… Last week, an Illinois judge rejected Chicago artist Christopher Drew’s motion to dismiss the Class I felony charge against him. Drew is charged with violating the state’s eavesdropping statute when he recorded his encounter with a police officer last December on the streets of Chicago. A Class I felony...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-06-02.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/nostatecom/~3/coNeIADUj3M/">Freedom Blogs will mirror censored websites. Mike Gogulski - nostate.com, <cite>Anarchoblogs</cite> (2010-05-26)</a>. <q>I am pleased to announce, after reading Global Voices Advocacy’s Guide: Mirroring a Censored WordPress Blog, that I am willing to mirror blogs or other websites at Freedom Blogs which: are worthy, in my view, of being defended against censorship; don’t cause me to lose my paid hosting accounts or...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-06-02.)</em></p></li>

Monday Lazy Linking

    <ul>
<li><a href="http://aaeblog.com/2009/10/11/hugo-mexicano/">Hugo Mexicano. <cite>Austro-Athenian Empire</cite> (2009-10-11)</a>. in which Roderick reviews Juarez -- one of my stronger memories from high-school Spanish. <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Sunday 2009-10-11.)</em></li>
<li><a href="http://libertarian-labyrinth.blogspot.com/2009/10/dyer-lum-on-mutualism-and-note-on.html">Dyer Lum on Mutualism, and a note on Proudhon. Shawn P. Wilbur, <cite>In the Libertarian Labyrinth</cite> (2009-10-02)</a>. <q>I'm working on gathering the pieces for a series of pamphlets documenting the mutualist tradition, and ran across this rather strange, but very interesting piece, but the frequently strange, but always interesting Dyer D. Lum. Tucker's translation of the first volume of The System of Economical Contradictions was published in...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Sunday 2009-10-11.)</em></li>
<li><a href="http://twitter.com/diveintomark/statuses/4701803934">diveintomark: &quot;Dive Into Python&quot; has now earned me over $10,000 in  royalties, despite being Free and online for 8 years. <cite>Twitter / diveintomark</cite> (2009-10-11)</a>. But without Intellectual Protectionism laws, how would anyone ever make a living writing books? <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Sunday 2009-10-11.)</em></li>
<li><a href="http://www.fr33agents.com/1059/keene-the-peaceful-civil-disobedience-apex/">Keene, the Peaceful Civil-Disobedience Apex. James B Schlessinger Jr, <cite>Fr33 Agents</cite> (2009-10-08)</a>. <q>Activists light up a marijuana cigarette in the Keene Police Station James B Schlessinger Jr. October 5th, 2009 Words on paper are not stopping activists and locals from living like free people in Keene, New Hampshire.  Whether it is marijuana consumption on the Commons or a young woman going topless...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Sunday 2009-10-11.)</em></li>
<li><a href="http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/10/11/the-good-old-days-2/">The Good Old Days. Jill, <cite>Feministe</cite> (2009-10-11)</a>. <q>This article will make you lose your lunch. The idea is that sex with children is more taboo today than it was in Roman Polanski’s era — thanks to victims’ rights groups and a family values revival. The evidence? Well, Polanski himself, and this one Woody Allen movie. The article...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Sunday 2009-10-11.)</em></li>
<li><a href="http://www.blagnet.net/2009/10/06/anarchist-elliot-madison-wrongfully-arrested-robbed/">Anarchist Elliot Madison wrongfully arrested, robbed. John, <cite>Blagnet.net</cite> (2009-10-06)</a>. <q>In a continuation of law-enforcement agencies’ general disdain for and dismissal of our civil liberties, Elliot Madison, a self-described anarchist, was arrested for using Twitter and a police scanner to help G20 protesters coordinate their efforts and avoid police officers. The charges on which he was held don’t indicate any...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Monday 2009-10-12.)</em></li>
<li><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/reason/DailyBrickbats/~3/NblNFvl5YTc/136005.html">A Shocking Development. <cite>Daily Brickbats</cite> (2009-09-14)</a>. <q>Two Gwinnett County police sergeants have resigned and Cpl. Gary Miles has been arrested after Miles allegedly used a Taser on a Waffle House waiter as a joke. The sergeants reportedly saw the incident and did not report it. The department is investigating claims a fourth officer pointed a Taser...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Monday 2009-10-12.)</em></li>
<li><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/reason/DailyBrickbats/~3/RVdV_EdGN8w/136118.html">Ending the Cycle. <cite>Daily Brickbats</cite> (2009-10-12)</a>. Green Government in a nutshell. <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Monday 2009-10-12.)</em></li>

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