Posts tagged Benjamin Tucker

On Being Pretty Much O.K. With That. (Factories, Corporate Secrecy, and Free-Market Anti-Capitalism Edition.)

Here’s a couple of loosely-related conversations from elsewhere on the web. I bring up the less recent one because the more recent one reminded me somewhat of it.

A while back (last May) I was hepped to an odd conversation on left-libertarianism going on over at the Mises Community Forum. I decided to jump in on a terminological point; the thread then became something of a quiz about left-libertarian and free-market anti-capitalist economic beliefs. In reply to some questions posed by Freedom4Me73986, I answered that, in addition to being a free market anti-capitalist, sure, I also call myself a socialist, and yes, I am anti-boss.

Freedom4Me73986:

@Charles Johnson: Do you call yourself a socialist?

Yes, in Tucker’s sense. Some reasons for doing so discussed here, and here, and also here.

And are you anti-boss like many others in the ALL seem to be?

Sure.

I think bossing and conventional employment are both (1) likely to be unstable, and economically unsustainable, in a fully freed market; and (2) kind of shitty ways to treat your fellow human beings.

— Charles Johnson (28 May 2012), re: What’s your beef with Roderick Long and left-libertarianism? at the Mises Community Forum

In reply, Freedom4Me73986 asked:

So how does a bossless factory work if there’s over 100 workers? How can that many people all make decisions w/o a boss? How can 10 people make a decision w/o a boss? Bosses exist for a reason. There way more efficient. Without one nothing would get done.

— Freedom4Me73986 (28 May 2012), re: What’s your beef with Roderick Long and left-libertarianism? at the Mises Community Forum

To which I answered, first, that you might look at existing examples of big factories running without a boss; but that there is also a more important point. Boldface added.

Well, I dunno. I guess if you really want to know the answer to this question, and don’t just intend it as an apriori Gotcha! about what you are already sure must be unworkable, then probably the best thing to do is to ask some of the people who already work in bossless factories with over 100 workers. There are a number of interviews in books like this one. My impression is that it is typically done with a combination of temporary, constantly-rotating responsibilities, a lot of local initiative on the shop floor, and regular big group meetings for making decisions as a group. Maybe this is an inefficient way to do things. On the other hand it seems to be working for the people who are doing it. In any case, I am quite sure that the claim that “Without [a boss] nothing would get done” is empirically falsifiable, and has in fact been falsified. Spontaneous orders are of course possible without central direction.

But in any case suppose that it turned out to be true[1] that on the whole, in a maximally freed market, the complexity and the costs of keeping everyone communicating with everyone else would tend to hobble the workability of big factories without bosses. That might be a reason to think that there will be more bosses in a freed market than I think there will be. But it might just as well be a reason to think: Well, then there will be smaller factories. And if we turn out to have smaller factories, with their activities largely coordinated by trade and contract rather than by bureaucratic management, I don’t see how that would be a problem. Certainly there is no reason apriori why libertarian economics would have to be concerned with figuring out a way to run giant factories with hundreds of workers. If that turns out to be economically and socially sustainable under conditions of free-market competition, then people will do it. But I don’t take it for granted that it will be, and if it isn’t, then people won’t sustain it, and will find other market means of meeting their needs.

In fact I would say there are some strong reasons to think that that kind of business model — at least, nearly every example of that business model that we have available to us for inspection, from General Motors to Lockheed-Martin to GlaxoSmithKline to Foxconn — is not a product of freed market labor agreements, but rather of a pretty heavy-handed structure of government-financed lines of credit, government privileges, government subsidies, and government contracts to the employers, on the one hand, and on the other hand, political impoverishment, political dispossession, and political constraints on the employee’s options for alternative modes of making a living. My reasons for thinking that bossing will be unsustainable in fact have a lot to do with factors that will apply whether or not big factories tend to need bosses (e.g., they have to do with the changes which are more likely, ceteris paribus, to occur within labor markets when people’s fixed costs of living are radically lower, and their options for making a living outside of formalized employment relationships have radically expanded, as discussed briefly e.g. in The Many Monopolies and in Scratching By — all of which are changes that, if they are likely to come about, are likely to come about regardless of the organizational economics of trying to run a large factory.)

— Charles Johnson (28 May 2012), re: What’s your beef with Roderick Long and left-libertarianism? at the Mises Community Forum

I’m reminded of the conversation back in May because of a different thread in Stephan Kinsella’s recent AmA on Reddit. Kinsella highlighted his opposition to patents and copyrights in the pitch for his AmA, and a lot of the conversation focused on the topic of IP. When asked, Kinsella added that in addition to patent and copyright, he also favored the abolition of trademark and trade secret laws, saying:

I am totally against patent, copyright, and also tradmeark and trade secret. Trademark law should be replaced with fraud law only. Trade secret should just be a private contract. Easy.

— N. Stpehan Kinsella (23 January 2013), re: I am Stephan Kinsella … AMA at /r/IAmA

Redditor /u/probablyreasonable asked, in response:

Trade secret entirely replaced as a private contract? You’re joking right? What of the litany of examples where exiting employees do not sign their nondisclosure? What of the litany of examples where the disclosing party was not in privity with the TS owner?

Please elaborate.

— /u/probablyreasonable (23 January 2013), re: I am Stephan Kinsella … AMA at /r/IAmA

I answered with a charitable clarification of Stephan’s position (as far as I understand it), and then some commentary of my own on the argument, in which I am speaking only for myself. If government doesn’t enforce corporate secrecy, then corporations may have more trouble keeping their secrets. Well, then there may be fewer companies keeping secrets. I’m pretty much OK with that.

Stephan’s view is that if they didn’t sign the contract, then their actions should not be prosecutable. The reason they should not be prosecutable is because they didn’t violate any rights that they were bound to respect. This means that only people who have agreed to keep a secret can be bound to keep it; if that arrangement causes a problem for companies being able to police their own secrets, then we may well end up with fewer businesses whose business models depend on keeping information secret. Well, OK. It’s not obvious, to me at least, that this is a bad outcome.

— Charles Johnson (23 January 2013), re: I am Stephan Kinsella … AMA at /r/IAmA

probablyreasonable replied with what seems to me a bizarre non sequitur, about utopianism and corporate espionage.

Corporate espionage unpunished and will encourage the behavior to increase profitability and competitiveness.

Again, all of Stephan’s arguments presuppose that everyone in our society is healthy, co-operative, and not driven to criminal behavior. This is not the case.

— /u/probablyreasonable (23 January 2013), re: I am Stephan Kinsella … AMA at /r/IAmA

Again, speaking only for myself and not all of Stephan’s arguments, I replied:

That’s a problem if you think that corporate espionage is a problem. I think that corporate business models that are heavily dependent on secrecy and institutional opacity are the problem, and that corporate espionage is a predictable reaction, and a symptom of a broken business model. If companies can adequately keep their secrets by means of contractual agreements and simple property rights (e.g., controlling who has access to sensitive locations or documents in their possession) then they will keep their secrets. If they cannot adequately keep their secrets by these means, then they will fail at keeping their secrets. And if their business depends on keeping secrets, they will fail at their business. That doesn’t mean that nobody will go into business; it means that people who go into business will find it to their advantage to adopt alternative business models, which don’t depend so heavily on secrecy. Again, you need to actually give an argument if you want to establish that this is an unjust, or even an undesirable outcome.

— Charles Johnson (23 January 2013), re: I am Stephan Kinsella … AMA at /r/IAmA

There is no reason at all why writers who defend market relationships should feel compelled to rig their theory in such a way that it could somehow justify, explain the value of, or defend the interests of gigantic-scale factory production, or rigidly-enforced institutional opacity and corporate secrecy. Speaking for myself, as a free-market anti-capitalist, I think that one of the great values of open, bottom-up market relations are the radical possibilities they might offer for destabilizing these deeply dysfunctional, monopolistically policed concentrations of commercial and industrial power.

Also.

  1. [1] I’m not committed to this claim, but I don’t reject it out of hand either.

Markets used to be celebrations… .

Like I mentioned yesterday, I’m trying to get some of my accumulated notes, scraps and fragments compiled into the blog. Here’s a beginning of something — it’s the introductory section from my talk, Free Market Anti-Capitalism? Radical Markets, Social Experimentation, and What the Capitalists Left Out, which Gary Chartier very generously arranged for me to give at La Sierra back in February. The middle of the talk pretty heavily cannibalized written material that I’ve presented elsewhere, but the new stuff nicely splits into two or three parts — the introductory stuff here as the setup, and some closing lessons that I’ll be putting up in a separate post.

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Markets used to be celebrations. In classical Athens, the open market, or agora, was famous as a place for conversation, company, and positive human interaction. In medieval Europe, the market fair was a festive occasion, which drew people together from throughout the country. Markets were seen not just as places to meet the needs of the day; they were places to meet people, places to interact with each other on a positive and mutual footing, and places that were central to the best and happiest experiences of social life, and the most distinctive local institutions, entertainment and culture. Socrates’ life work was not speaking to people in the assembly, or the temple, or the academy, but in the marketplace.

But when we speak of “markets” today it’s hard to get the same sense of conviviality. A “marketplace,” as we use the word today, is a place for company, alright – BP, for example, or Ford Motor – but this not the sort of company most of us would care to keep if we had the choice. The “marketplace” today, and “unregulated” or “free” markets most of all, are very widely seen not as spaces of sociality or positive interactions, but as sites of alienation, exploitation, immiseration or cut-throat competition. When you hear “unregulated markets,” what examples do you think of? For most people, the answer is probably something out of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle – crushing labor, starvation wages, and disgusting conditions. In the regulated marketplace that we have here, most people’s experience with the market is one of constraint and grim necessity at best. You have to work to eat, so we have a “labor market” where you deal with your boss, and a “rental market” where you deal with your landlord, and a “stock market” where a handful of insiders make bank while the rest of us can pray that our retirement isn’t crushed beneath the next big collapse. There’s a credit market where folks measure out their lives in a perpetual state of debt and a mass-market media where entertainment exists to sell viewers to commercials.

When the relationships that “markets” make people think of are the “relationships” you have with bosses, landlords, ad-men and collection agents, the last thing we are inclined to think about are mutuality, equality, or positive human interaction – let alone celebration or joy. To talk about freeing markets in this context often strikes people as grotesque – what would free markets mean but free reign for powerful people’s short-sighted greed, unchecked by solidarity or decency?

Even those who are inclined to defend what they call “free enterprise” or “the market economy” hardly ever do so in anything but negative terms – if not for markets we’d probably starve, and in any case we wouldn’t have iPads or jumbo jets. But that’s not to say that they much like the idea of market values, corporate capitalism, or commercialization working its way throughout social life. We are told to reconcile ourselves to vast inequalities of wealth, bureaucratic office culture, hypercommercial mass culture, and the daily grind of debt, rent, and labor as an unpleasant but necessary feature of freedom and prosperity.

Well, I certainly have not come here to defend inequalities of wealth, bureaucracy, corporate capitalism or hypercommercialism. Far from it: I would like to bury capitalism, not to praise it. But the debate over political economy has far too often been constrained by the pervasive notion that it must be seen as a debate between freedom on the one hand and equality on the other, as if the only choice is, which one politicians ought to sacrifice for the sake of the other. Speaking as a libertarian and an individualist Anarchist, I do not intend to intervene in that political debate. When I defend market freedom as not only materially beneficial but socially liberating, what I intend to advocate is not a defense of business as usual, existing concentrations of wealth, or apologetics for “growth” at any costs.

There are three points of difficulty here that need to be unpacked. First, the underlying notion the defense of freed markets is the province of the political Right, or that it involves uncritical apologetics for commercial culture and socio-economic hierarchy. I will argue instead that radical libertarianism – properly understood – is really a doctrine of the radical Left, in favor of achieving social and economic equality by means of unfettered social and economic freedom. The second difficulty is the question of whether business-as-usual in our current capitalist system represents the character or dynamics of a free market, in any meaningful sense. The third difficulty is a failure to make a critical distinction – to recognize an ambiguity in the meaning of “market” itself.

Libertarian defenses of free markets are often characterized as doctrines of the far Right. “Free markets” are seen as a byword for “small-government” conservatism and “pro-business politics;” a libertarian, in particular, is typically seen as someone who carries pro-business politics to its logical extreme, and is ready to shill for any and every thing that a Wal-Mart or a General Motors might do in the interest of protecting their bottom line. Since World War II, many American libertarians have done little to challenge this view of their economic theory. From Frank Chodorov, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard down to the Libertarian Party and the Cato Institute, many American libertarians have repeatedly positioned themselves primarily as defenders of “capitalism,” and as ideological opponents of “egalitarianism,” “socialism,” unions, environmentalism and other movements of the Left. Although some, such as Rothbard, occasionally bristled at the identification with the Right and with business interests, others – such as Rand – embraced it, insisting that libertarianism meant, for example, a full-tilt rhetorical and philosophical defense of what she rather implausibly called “America’s Most Persecuted Minority: Big Business.”

There are reasons why 20th century libertarianism so closely associated with the Right, particularly in the geo-ideological context of the Cold War. But it has not always been so. During the 19th century, libertarians like Benjamin Tucker, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Voltairine de Cleyre, and Lysander Spooner came out of, and closely identified themselves with, the reform causes of their day – especially abolitionism, first-wave feminism, the co-op movement, and the labor movement. They saw themselves not as defenders of big business or American economic institutions, but rather as its most consistent and radical critics. Far from calling themselves “capitalists,” they most frequently referred to themselves as “socialists.” But what did “socialism” mean for a radical libertarian like Tucker, who described his economic program as “Absolute Free Trade … laissez-faire the universal rule,” and who proposed “not to strengthen … Authority and thus make monopoly universal, but to utterly uproot Authority and give full sway to … Liberty, by making competition … universal”? Clearly, Tucker’s “Anarchistic socialism” did not mean government ownership of the means of production; what he meant was, instead, opposition to the practices of actually-existing big business, and a belief that workers should free themselves and organize together so as to better control the conditions of their own labor. But isn’t that just a criticism of the results of market processes? Only if big business practices are the natural result of market processes, and only if worker control can only be achieved through political control of economic life. That is what 20th century libertarians – and their political opponents – both tended to assume; but it is precisely what Tucker intended to deny – for reasons that I’ll come back to soon – and precisely what led him to see laissez-faire as the banner of socioeconomic equality.

Which of these two strands will libertarianism follow in the 21st century? Will “free markets” continue the tradition of the right-libertarianism of the 20th century, or revive the tradition of the left-libertarianism of the 19>th? Well, that remains to be seen: it’s early in the century yet. But let’s say a bit more about what the choice amounts to. Those of us who argue in favor of the left-libertarian view have often summed up our differences from both the political Right, and the non-libertarian part of the Left, by saying that a left-libertarian is someone who believes in “Leftist ends and libertarian means.” We see libertarianism as the natural ally, not the opponent, of many causes traditionally associated with the Left: a humane concern with social equality, civil liberties, the emancipation of women, the relief of poverty, decent healthcare and housing, solidarity among the working class, international peace, environmental sustainability. But the question is the means by which to achieve them: will they be voluntary, or coercive? Will they be brought about by voluntary association among free people – brought about by interactions in the space of markets and civil society? Or will they involve laws, government, mandates and prohibitions, brought about in the space of legislation, the courts, and dictates ultimately backed up by police and military force?

There seem to be obvious prima facie reasons to prefer consensual relationships – associations among equals and grassroots organizing – as the means for bringing about these goals, rather than political mandates and legal enforcement. But how likely is it? How would markets – characterized by competition and profit-chasing business even begin to address these social questions? Why does an ideal of freed markets seem so alien – even hostile – to values of solidarity, compassion, or sustainability?

I think that the answer to these questions is wrapped up in a distinction. When we talk about “markets,” and “freed markets” especially, there are really two different definitions we might be working with – one broad, and one narrow. The distinction between the two is crucial, and both advocates and critics of markets have neglected it far too often. What is a market, ultimately? It is a set of human relationships. But the kind of relationships we have in mind varies, depending on what elements of markets we are focusing on – in particular, whether we focus on the aspects of individual choice, negotiated contracts and free competition; or whether we focus on the aspects of quid pro quo exchanges and commercial relationships.

  1. In the first case, we have markets as free exchange. When libertarians talk about markets, or especially about “the market,” we often mean to refer to the sum of all voluntary exchanges – when we set out to discuss freed markets, we mean the discussion to encompass any economic order based – to the extent that it is based – on respect for individual property, consensual exchange, freedom of association, and the freedom to engage in entrepreneurial discovery. So to say that something ought to be left up to the market is simply to say that it should be handled as a matter of choice and freely negotiated agreements among the people concerned – agreements that people can support or withhold their support from, which they can participate in or withdraw from – rather than by laws, government mandates, or prohibitions that are legally imposed on all.

  2. In the second, we have markets as the cash nexus. We often use the term “market” in a different sense – to refer to a particular form of acquiring and exchanging property, and the institutions that go along with it – to refer, specifically, to commerce and for-profit business, typically mediated by currency or by financial instruments that are denominated in units of currency. Whereas free exchange is a matter of the background conditions behind an agreement, the cash nexus is a matter of the terms of the agreement itself – if the people involved are agreeing to conduct matters on a paying basis, in a relatively impersonal quid-pro-quo exchange.

We’ll return to the importance of this distinction later on; for now, let’s keep it in mind by way of a definition of what we might mean when we start talking about “markets.” But in both cases, we need to make sure that we differentiate between markets, on the one hand, and capitalism on the other. I intend to defend markets as form of social interaction; I have no intention of defending capitalism. Of course, some people merely use the term “capitalism,” or “laissez-faire capitalism,” as a synonym for free exchange. But there are other meanings that have traditionally been associated with the word. “Capitalism,” especially when used by writers on the Left, has often referred, not to the condition of market freedom, but to some common features of the unequal markets that we see today – in particular, the predominance of bosses, wage labor, and corporate jobs in the labor market; large inequalities of wealth between employers and workers; the predominance of landlords and mortgage-holders in the housing market; the predominance of corporations and large, centralized firms in economic life; and the predominance of high finance and extensive networks of business and consumer debt.

These are features of the marketplace we encounter every day. But do they need to be a part of a genuinely freed market? When people are free to experiment with any and every peaceful means of making a living – could other, more mutualistic alternatives, with less inequality, more widely distributed forms of ownership, a marketplace full of co-ops or independent contractors rather than wage labor and corporate jobs, arise and take on an increased role in the economy? Or does corporate capitalism represent a natural tendency that all markets are driven to, which would predominate in any market, no matter how open to free experimentation?

To be sure, the capitalistic arrangements dominate now. But that is reason to believe that markets always tend towards social inequality are the result of a free market if what we have nowis a free market. And the greatest mistake that people make in discussing markets today is to talk as if the capitalistic system that we live under is a free market system – in which people make their choices and do their business because that’s what wins out in a competitive marketplace. But this is not a free or competitive marketplace. There is an alphabet soup of government agencies that monitors and constrains it, and a small library of regulations that they enforce. But the most pervasive and the most significant forms of economic intervention are almost never discussed. To get an idea of how pervasive and how damaging government intervention is – who the weight really falls on – we need to look beyond the air-conditioned offices, to the predicaments faced by ordinary working people, the poor, the jobless, the marginalized, and ask how much they are free to participate in mutual economic exchange, or to explore and devise alternatives to the relationships on offer from the companies that now dominate economic life… .

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More to come.

M@MM for July 2011 and August 2011: Vices, Crimes, Corporate Power, Privatization, and mo’ Problems.

tl;dr. Four more beautiful new booklets are now available for ordering from the ALL Distro — July and Augst’s Market Anarchy zines, with articles on corporate power and privatization — and July and August’s Anarchist Classics, including a lost classic on Individualist property theory from the pages of Liberty, and a very popular, but very hard to find classic from Lysander Spooner. You can get one free sample copy of either series (or both) to check out, if you’re considering a monthly subscription for individual copies or monthly packs to distribute in the radical space of your choice. Sound good? Contact me for details.

Scatter tracts, like randrops, over the land….

— William Lloyd Garrison, The Liberator, March 1831.

To-day, I’m happy to announce this month’s two additions to the Alliance of the Libertarian Left Artwork & Agitprop Distro. In fact, to-day’s announcement is a twofer: as I mentioned in my teaser post earlier there are also a couple of important pieces that came out in July, and were shipped on schedule to subscribers; and now, with a cross-country move and some general nonsense with the Distro’s Internet connection all, apparently, behind me, I can also happily put out the full official announcement for those two. So, then, let us welcome No. 21 of the monthly Market Anarchy Zine Series, the talk that Benjamin Tucker gave before the assembled academics, industrialists, and bigwigs at the Conference on Trusts of the Chicago Civic Federation, on the trust problem, corporate power, and market freedom; No. 22 of the monthly Market Anarchy Zine Series, a short adaptation of an article by Charles Johnson (yeah, me) on the gap between neoliberal privatization and free-market radicalism; and two hard-to-find (until now) individualist classics: No. 9 in the Anarchist Classics Series being an ambitious definition and defense of Individualist property theory by William Bailie, originally serialized in the pages of Liberty which to my knowledge has never before been collected or made available in pamphlet form; and No. 10 in the Anarchist Classics Series being a classic by an Anonymous author, now known to be our own Lysander Spooner, which — in spite of having become one of Spooner’s most popular essays! — has been almost impossible to find in print. Thus:

Market Anarchy #21 (Jul’11). Market Anarchy vs. Corporate Power

The Attitude of Anarchism Toward Industrial Combinations

Benjamin Tucker (1899)

The classic Market Anarchist take on corporate power and the political privileges that prop it up — Tucker’s talk at the Conference on Trusts by the Chicago Civic Federation in September 1899.

The trusts, instead of growing out of competition, as is so generally supposed, have been made possible only by the absence of competition, only by the difficulty of competition, only by the obstacles placed in the way of competition … by those arbitrary limitations of competition which we find in those law­created privileges and monopolies … . The trusts owe their power to vast accumulation and concentration of wealth … But for interest, rent, and monopolistic profit … trusts would be impossible. Now, what causes interest, rent, and monopolistic profit? For all there is but one cause, – the denial of liberty, the suppression or restriction of competition, the legal creation of monopolies… .

Free access to the world of matter, abolishing land monopoly; free access to the world of mind, abolishing idea monopoly; free access to an untaxed and unprivileged market, abolishing tariff monopoly and money monopoly, – secure these, and all the rest shall be added unto you. For liberty is the remedy of every social evil, and to Anarchy the world must look at last for any enduring guarantee of social order.

$1.25 for 1; 75¢/ea in bulk.

A lost classic rediscovered in the pages of Liberty, this essay – never before collected in pamphlet form since its original serialization – is one of the most ambitious attempts to define and defend the Individualist theory of property, and to provide both an Anarchistic defense of private property and market competition, and an attack on the regime of structural violence and legal privilege that sustains capitalism and subjugates the working class.

Modern industry and the accompanying economic conditions have arisen under the régime of status, — that is, under arbitrary conditions in which equal liberty had no place and law-made privileges held unbounded sway,—it is only to be expected that an equally arbitrary and unjust system of property should prevail. On one side a dependent industrial class of wage-workers and on the other a privileged class of wealth-monopolizers each becoming more and more distinct from the other as capitalism advances, has resulted in a grouping and consolidation of wealth which grows apace by attracting all property, no matter by whom produced, into the hands of the privileged, and hence property becomes a social power, an economic force destructive of rights, a fertile source of injustice, a means of enslaving the dispossessed. Under this system equal liberty cannot obtain… .

Can the millionaire capitalist, the labor-robbing idler who lives on interest, the rich thugs of today and their army of parasites, be taken as the outcome of private property? Surely not. They are the direct result of restrictions and privileges, of legal and governmental origin, — causes that render impossible the growth and diffusion of individual property among the mass of wealth-producers. Inequalities in possession exist not so much because of inequalities in the power of individuals to acquire wealth under free conditions, but because political, social, and economic arrangements have always tended to create artificial inequality, to foster and increase whatever natural inequality did exist … .

$2.00 for 1; $1.50/ea in bulk.

Market Anarchists should oppose neoliberalism and its so-called privatization schemes because we are for free markets and private property. What they call privatization means only private profit from political power. What we mean is something entirely different, and it’s time to mint some new language in order to talk about the difference.

Left libertarians, like all libertarians, believe that all State control of industry and all State ownership of natural resources should be abolished. In that sense, libertarian Leftists advocate complete and absolute privatization of, well, everything. Governments, or quasi-governmental “public” monopolies, have no business building or running roads, bridges, railroads, airports, parks, housing, libraries, post offices, television stations, electric lines, power plants, water works, oil rigs, gas pipelines, or any­thing else of the sort… . Governments have no business building or running fire departments, police stations, courts, arm­ies, or anything else of the sort, because governments—which are necessarily coerc­ive and necessarily elitist—have no business existing or doing anything at all.

There is something called privatization which has been a hot topic for the past 15-20 years. It has been a big deal in Eastern Europe, in third world countries under the influence of the IMF, and in some cases in the United States, too. Naomi Klein has a new book on the topic, which focuses on the role that natural and artificial crises play in establishing the conditions for what she calls privatization. But privatization, as understood by the IMF, the neoliberal governments, and the robber baron corporations, is a very different beast from privatization as understood by free market radicals… . What we advocate is the devolution of state-confiscated wealth and state-confiscated industries back to civil society … the socialization of the means of production. Government outsourcing, government-backed monopoly capitalism, and government goon squads, might more accurately be described as privateering.

$1.25 for 1; 75¢/ea in bulk.

This classic attack on political prohibition and moralistic law-making, was first published anonymously in 1875, as a chapter in the anthology Prohibition a Failure: or, the True Solution of the Temperance Question. It was revealed as the work of the radical libertarian legal theorist Lysander Spooner soon after his death in 1887, but it was neglected by posthumous collections and not included in the multi-volume Collected Works published in 1971. After Carl Watner rediscovered and recirculated the essay in 1977, it quickly became one of spooner’s most popular and influential works — but, between editions going out of print (e.g. TANSTAAFL’s 1977 edition), and the occasional useless disaster — it has remained notoriously difficult to find in in print.

Until now.

VICES are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property or another… . For a government to declare a vice to be a crime, and to punish it as such, is an attempt to falsify the very nature of things. It is as absurd as it would be to declare truth to be falsehood, or falsehood truth… .

IT is only those persons who have either little capacity, or little disposition, to enlighten, encourage, or aid mankind, that are possessed of this violent passion for governing, commanding, and punishing them. If, instead of standing by, and giving their consent and sanction to all the laws by which the weak man is first plundered, oppressed, and disheartened, and then punished as a criminal, they would turn their attention to the duty of defending his rights and improving his condition, … enabling him to stand on his own feet, and withstand the temptations that surround him, they would, I think, have little need to talk about laws and prisons for either rum­-sellers or rum­-drinkers, or even any other class of ordinary criminals. If, in short, these men, who are so anxious for the suppression of crime, would suspend, for a while, their calls upon the government to aid in suppressing the crimes of individuals, and would call upon the people for aid in suppressing the crimes of the government, they would show both their sincerity and good sense in a much stronger light than they do now… .

$2.00 for 1; $1.50/ea in bulk.

As I’ve mentioned before, both the Market Anarchy Zine Series and the Anarchist Classics Zine Series are regular monthly publications, with one issue each being sent out each month. You can always order individual copies online from the Distro page, but if you’d like to save on shipping & handling charges, and to get new orders as soon as they come out, you can always contact me to sign up for a regular subscription. (Subscriptions can be for personal reading, or for bulk orders of material for distributing, tabling, or for stocking your local infoshop and other radical spaces.) If you’re considering subscribing, contact me to request a free sample copy for you to check out, compliments of the Distro; then, if you like it, continue th subscription for the rest of the year at the following rates (all prices already include any shipping and handling costs):

Market Anarchy Zine Series

Delivered each month

Individuals Bulk Distribution Packets
$1.50/issue
(= $18/year)
No. of copies ✕ 80¢/issue
(= N ✕ $9.60/year)
Anarchist Classics Zine Series

Delivered each month

Individuals Bulk Distribution Packets
$2.25/issue
(= $27/year)
No. of copies ✕ $1.25/issue
(= N ✕ $15/year)

For details on all your options (including ready-to-print electronic versions, customizations of booklets with local contact information for your ALL chapter or local Anarchist activities, discounts for receiving quarterly shipments, etc. etc. etc.), see Market Anarchy Mailed Monthly. If you decide not to continue the subscription, the sample issue is yours to keep. Intrigued? Contact me forthwith, and we’ll get something worked out.

That’s all for now. Next month we’ll be dropping some more science; until then—read and enjoy!

See also:

M@MM for July 2011 — Coming attractions; a real announcement to arrive soon.

Hey y’ALL,

So, this is just a brief note — a sort of placeholder — to mention that July 2011’s new Market Anarchy and Anarchist Classics Series booklets (No. 21 and No. 9, respectively) were finished on time and mailed out to subscribers on July 27. The official announcement has been delayed because the end of July also happened to be the exact time at which I, and with me the Alliance of the Libertarian Left Distro, went on a cross-country move from Las Vegas, Nevada to Auburn, Alabama. L. and I arrived safely in Alabama and we are in the process of getting settled in, but my print shop, the advance copies I’d already prepared, and all the rest of my office are not arriving for about a week. So, in the meantime, here’s a preview of what will soon be up for orders and available to the general public through the Distro website. Enjoy!

Coming Soon to an ALL Distro (Virtually) Near You…

Market Anarchy #21: Market Anarchy vs. Corporate Power

or: “The Attitude of Anarchism Toward Industrial Combinations,” by Benjamin Tucker (1899)

Anarchist Classics Series #9: Problems of Anarchism: Property, Labor & Competition

selected articles by William Bailie (1893)

See you all again when the dust settles….

An official announcement and links for non-subscribers to order the new booklets will be up in about a week.

Friday’s Reading: one on post-WWII bohemian-anarchism, one on early anarcho-capitalism, and some mutualist portraits

I spent most of the day booked with a consulting client and doing some house-cleaning, which was much-needed anyway but especially so in light of an impending family visit from Michigan and from Maine. Still, I had the time to catch up on some things I’ve been meaning to read. It all turned out to be PDFs I’d accumulated, but now that I have a Kindle (thanks to a Christmas present) it’s actually no longer excruciating for me to sit around reading PDFs. In any case:

  • I got the chance to read The New Cult of Sex and Anarchy (!), Mildred Edie Brady’s shocking exposé of the emerging Northern California counter-culture — of 1947. (The article went into the April 1947 issue of Harpers. (Suggested by Jesse Walker.)

    This is, roughly, the intellectual and artistic milieu that the Beats would eventually emerge from, and monopolize in the public consciousness; but that particular coffeeklatsch was still 10 years away from their public breakthrough, and in 1947 there was a lot more attention on Henry Miller, California surrealism, and the occasional cameo by Man Ray and Kenneth Rexroth. I should say that the article is not as stupidly alarmist as the title that some editor no doubt inflicted on it; maybe the whole thing would have read like more of an awful calumny when the story was published, on the eve of the Great Sexual Backlash, when sexualism was something more hotly contested than it now is.

    Anyway the sex part in the article has to do with the author’s obsession with the bohemian mens’ obsession with Wilhelm Reich. The anarchy part refers, by turns, either to an artistic radical indifference to State and social authority; or, at times, to genuine intellectual anarchism. Anyway, I don’t know that the article will offer you any really deep insights, but it’s fun, and a nice time-piece, and also a rare glimpse (even if distinctly from the outside) of the anarchist/bohemian milieu, such as it was, in the now-rarely-discussed, now-mostly-forgotten years just after World War II. It also told me little about, but gave me the titles of, a number of new little publications to chase down. Anyway. Here’s some of the interesting, and some of the ugly, on the part of the subjects:

    Pacifica Views was openly anarchist and its influence was enhanced by the sympathetic representation of the [Conscientious Objector’s] position in the community. Its editor, George B. Reeves, successfully accomplished this not only through the magazine itself but also in the Human Events pamphlet Men Against the State. Even in Pacifica Views, however, the anarchism-sexualism tie was aired by several weeks’ discussion of Wilhelm Reich’s thesis and the magazine’s political position was embellished with a sure come-on for the young—sexual freedom for the adolescent and the deep political significance that lies in developing a healthy sexuality among the masses of the people who are endemically neurotic and sexually sick.

    ANARCHISM is, of course, nothing new to the West. There have been in both Seattle and San Francisco small anarchist groups ever since the first World War and before, and remnants of them have persisted. Some are hangovers from the days of the Wobblies. Others are made up of first and second generation European immigrants—like the San Francisco group, the Libertarians, which is largely Italian. All during the thirties these small groups existed without benefit of attention from young intellectuals who in those days were most apt to be thumping their typewriters on behalf of the United Front.

    Not long after December 7, 1941, however, the poet Kenneth Rexroth left the ranks of the Communists in San Francisco and turned both anarchist and pacifist. Around him, as around Miller, there collected a group of young intellectuals and writers who met weekly in self-education sessions, reading the journals of the English anarchists, studying the old-line anarchist philosophers like Kropotkin, and leavening the politics liberally with psychoanalytic interpretations from Reich. It was and is, however, a decidedly literary group in which politics is all but submerged by art, where poems, not polemics, are written, and where D. H. Lawrence outshines Bakunin—Lawrence the philosopher, of Fantasia and the Unconscious rather than Lawrence the novelist.

    Nevertheless, the anarchism of this group is taken seriously enough to call forth tokens to the political as well as the sexual; and at meetings of the Libertarians, today, you will be apt to find young intellectuals sprinkled among the moustachioed papas and bosomed mamas [sic! Really? —R.G.] who, until recently, had no such high-toned co-operation. In this particular group around Rexroth, the Henry Miller kind of anarchism is held to be irresponsible, for Miller goes so far on the lonely individualistic trail as to sneer at even anarchist organization.

    To the outside observer, however, the differences between the Miller adherents and the Rexroth followers are more than outweighed by their similarities. They both reject rationalism, espouse mysticism, and belong to the select few who are orgastically potent. And they both share in another attitude that sets them sharply apart from the bohemians of the twenties. They prefer their women subdued—verbally and intellectually.

    No budding Edna St. Vincent Millay or caustic Dorothy Parker appears at their parties. If the girls want to get along they learn, pretty generally, to keep their mouths shut, to play the role of the quiet and yielding vessel through which man finds the cosmos. Although there are a few women writers found now and then in Circle [a prominent literary magazine from the San Francisco scene] — Anais Nin is a favorite and Maude Phelps Hutchins (wife of Robert Hutchins, chancellor of the University of Chicago) has appeared—the accepted view of both the wome nand the men seems to be that woman steps out of her cosmic destiny when the goal of her endeavor shifts beyond bed and board. This doesn’t mean that the women are economically dependent, however. Most of the girls hold down jobs. But the job is significant only in that it contributes to a more satisfactory board.

    — Mildred Edie Brady (1947), The New Cult of Sex and Anarchy, Harper’s (April 1947).

    Well, nobody could say that revolooshunerry chauvinism is some kind of new problem in the scene; Manarchy abides.

  • I also finished off Jarret Wollstein’s Society Without Coercion: A New Concept of Social Organization (1969), one of the first documents (to my knowledge) to advocate self-described, self-identified anarcho-capitalism. Wollstein was a dissident Objectivist (less dissident and more uniformly Objectivist-influenced than, say, Roy Childs). It’s been suggested that Wollstein was the first to coin the phrase anarcho-capitalism. I don’t know if that’s right or not, but in any case here’s some of his reasons for employing the term; in this one he mentions it as a term already floating around the circles he’s a part of.

    2.4 Naming A Free Society

    To name the social system of a free society is not as nominal a task as at first it may appear to be. It is not only the existence of complete social freedom which is absent from today’s world, but also the idea of such freedom. There is, in truth, probably no word in the English language which properly denotes and connotes the concept of the social system of a free society.

    A number of persons who have recognized the fallacies in the advocacy of not just this or that government, but who have also recognized the inherent contradiction in government itself (such as Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess) have decided that since archy means rule, or the presence of government — which they are against — they will designate their sociological position as anarchy — no rule, or the total absence of government. This decision is unfortunate, to say the least, since it embodies several epistemological fallacies. Firstly, the term anarchy is a negative one; to say that one is for anarchy is only to say that one is against government. It is not to say what are the positive social forms which one advocates. This may be perfectly fine if one, in fact, advocates no positive social forms. However, if one advocates freedom and its economic expression laissez-faire capitalism, the designation anarchy or anarchism, of itself, will hardly suffice. Secondly, anarchy merely means no rule not no coercion. It is perfectly possible to have an anarchist society with coercion initiated by random individuals and robber gangs. So long as these persons do not claim legal sanction or create formal and enduring institutions, one would have a very coercive anarchist society. Further, it is possible for there to be an anarchist society in which no force was initiated, although due to the personal irrationality and mysticism of its occupants, no rational person would want to live in it. For example, imagine a society occupied exclusively by non-violent schizophrenics, or equivalently, by Zen Buddhists. [sic. Really? —RG]

    Less important, but also significant, is the fact that the term anarchy, in present usage, has come to mean not only no rule but also has come to imply social chaos and senseless violence. This is a corruption of the original meaning of the term, but nevertheless it makes the word anarchy an impediment rather than an implement to communicating the concept of a free society. When one wishes to defend in principle and implement in reality a free society, it is irrational to deliberately choose a term which one knows will alienate, at the outset, persons with whom one eventually intends to deal.

    Another term has been suggested by Robert LeFevre, advocate of the free market and founder of Ramparts College [sic—RG] in California. Mr. LeFevre rejects the term anarchy primarily because of its past close association with collectivism and, recognizing the fallacy of limited government, proposes in its stead the word autarchy, meaning self-rule. Again this term suffers several epistemological faults. It fails to state how one should rule oneself, and in fact says nothing about the nature of social order.

    Next we have the term voluntarism, also advocated by many proponents of the term anarchism. This expression is superior to the term anarchy in that it does exclude coercion from its subsumed concept of social order. It is therefore acceptable for this communicative purpose. However, several necessary differentia in the valid concept of a free society are still lacking. Conceivably one could have a voluntary collectivist society (at least for a while), in which individuals voluntarily become slaves, as well as a voluntary individualist society, in which the individual is his [sic —RG] own master. Consequently, this term is not fully satisfactory.

    A phrase in increasingly popular use which I advocate as the best presently available specification of the socio-economic position of persons advocating a society of consistent rational freedom is anarcho-capitalism. Here the prefix anarcho indicates the lack of coercive government, and the word capitalism indicates the positive presence of free trade based upon respect for man’s [sic] rights. This term is not ideal: the prefix anarcho has negative semantic value, and the term capitalism is intimately associated with the present American statist mixed economy. However, it would seem to be the best term which we now have, and consequently we will use it (and in more limited contexts voluntarism) in the remainder of this essay.

    — Jarret B. Wollstein (1969), Society Without Coercion: A New Concept of Social Organization. Society for Rational Individualism. 21-22.

    A bit further down there’s also some material on strategy. After rejecting retreatism, and purely theoretical education, Wollstein advocates counter-institutions. Sort of….

    4.1 Alternatives to Government Institutions

    How often have you presented a brilliantly stated, logically air-tight thesis to a collectivist only to have him [sic] say, That’s fine in theory, but in practice it wouldn’t work. THis of course is an absurdity, but it is next to impossible to convince most collectivists of this fact by purely forensic ability. Clearly, if we are to convince the great majority of American intellectuals, something more than logical theorizing is necessary.

    What I propose is the actual creation of alternatives to government institutions — initially schools, post offices, fire departments and charity; later, roads, police, courts and armed forces. Libertarians recognize that government services are hopelessly obsolete and inherently economically unsound. With the present system it is patently impossible to assess the costs of education and police investigations at all. Rather than trying to politically convince two hundred million Americans that this is so on the basis of rational economic theory, libertarians should instead demonstrate the fact by actually creating the far superior institutions of a free society. Fire departments, schools and post offices should immediately be set up by men and women who understand the free market and who are competent as businessmen [sic].

    One way to do this would be for rational businessmen [sic] to cooperate with libertarian students and theorists in order to establish such enterprises as franchise operations, using all of the skills of modern industry. Simultaneously, libertarians should act politically to free the market to facilitate these enterprises; meanwhile theoreticians should attempt to infiltrate the mass media, or start their own popular magazines and telecommunications facilities to emphasize to the American people that these institutions are working far better than their governmental equivalents; and then to explain why they are doing so. Such a dramatic demonstration of the efficacy of the free market might well accomplish what mere talk alone is unable to do: free America.

    How can the men and women of America fail to understand the value of freedom in all areas of human enterprise when private post offices, roads and police are actually providing far better services than government is capable of delivering?

    — Jarret B. Wollstein (1969), Society Without Coercion: A New Concept of Social Organization. Society for Rational Individualism. 40.

  • Finally, I got a start on Dear Tucker: The Letters from John Henry Mackay to Benjamin R. Tucker, which run from 1905 to 1933 (ed. and trans. by Hubert Kennedy, 2002). I haven’t gotten deep enough in for any interesting pull-quotes from the text. But I did come across these rad portraits of Clarence Lee Swartz (a frequent contributor to Liberty and author of What Is Mutualism?) and Steven T. Byington (another frequent Liberty correspondent, founder of Liberty’s Anarchist Letter Writing Corps, and the translator of Stirner). Both photos are from the Labadie Collection.

    Clarence Lee Swartz (1868-1936)

    Steven T. Byington (1869-1957)