Posts tagged Las Vegas

Rad Geek Speaks: Motorhome Diaries interviews me on agorism and counter-economics

It’s been a couple days since I was hepped to the fact that this video has gone online; but I’ve been delayed by travel and other considerations. Anyway, here is a video of Jason Talley’s interview with me in Las Vegas back in April, focusing on anarchism, agorism, and counter-economics. Judging from the closing title card, it looks like the MD3 have decided to break out the material from the interview on anarchism into a separate video, presumably forthcoming. But, in the meantime, this video has the segments of the interview where our discussion focuses on building the counter-economy as an alternative to electoral politics. Enjoy!

The one thing which I regret not having the time to discuss during the interview — which I would have done my best to break down, were I not already taxing Jason’s very generous allowance of time in what are typically very concise interview segments — is how my sympathies for mutualism and wildcat unionism influence my understanding of the agora, and of the sort of counter-economy that we should work to build: why, in short, I think that libertarians should be especially interested in building, so to speak, Black-and-Red markets. (Red as in workers-of-the-world-unite. Not, of course, as in Konkin’s notion of red market mafiosi.) Of course, Konkin’s original-flavor agorism is already very much in favor of the informal sector, and opposed to the state-collaborationist, state-supported corporate economy; but I think that agorists would do well to look at the kinds of counter-institutions that have historically been associated with the anti-statist and anti-authoritarian Left: fighting unions, direct action on the shopfloor, grassroots mutual aid networks, worker and consumer co-ops, neighborhood permaculture projects, community free clinics, participatory indymedia, CopWatch as a means of community self-defense, LETS trading networks, small-scale gift economies based on gleaning and homesteading (Food Not Bombs, Homes Not Jails, free stores, etc.). And so on, and so forth. To the degree that State privilege and State subsidy have artificially roided-up the rentier-centric, cash-lubricated, centralized, formalized bidniz economy, we can expect the counter-economy (which is the embryonic new society, being built within the shell of the old) to form up in opposite tendencies: egalitarian and decentalized exchange (which Konkin rightly predicted and emphasized), and also significantly more emphasis on informal connections, often based not on contracts or cash-on-the-barrelhead exchanges but rather on practicing solidarity, mutual aid, gleaning, homesteading, and other cashless forms of value-creation and social exchange (which I think Konkin underemphasized and overlooked in various ways). (I hardly expect cash, let alone simple quid-pro-quo exchange, to disappear; I’m certainly not interested in any dogmatic campaign to rub them out. But I do expect the counter-economy, and future fully-freed markets, to emphasize them much less intensely, and much less monomaniacally, than the current state-approved official economy does.) All of which underlines why I think it’s important for radical libertarians to see ourselves as part of the Left; and for that understanding to cash out in serious efforts to work together on countereconomic projects with the folks who ought to be our primary allies — that is, other anarchists — rather than working on the familiar set of conventional-delusional electoral projects together with conservatives and conventionally pro-capitalist minimal-statists, which all too many good radical libertarians have, due to a combination of cultural comfort zones, and statocentric models of political change, wasted their time and resources on in the past.

Anyway, like I said, there may be another interview segment forthcoming focusing on anarchism; if so, I’ll let you know when it drops.

May Day 2009

Fellow workers:

I am back home, footsore, throatsore, exhausted and happy. The marcha was awesome. I hope there will be some pictures and some video soon. Unfortunately it leaves me absolutely no time at all to prepare one of my usual May Day orations. In its place, I offer you this, from my 2006 May Day post, which I made at the beginning of the current explosion of the immigration freedom movement. I hope that it offers some idea of what this day for LIBERTAD and SOLIDARIDAD SIN FRONTERAS is all about.

May Day is and ought to be a Day of Resistance, of defiance against the arrogance and exploitation of the bosses — whether corporate or political. A day to celebrate workers’ struggles for dignity, and for freedom, through organizing in their own self-interest, through agitating and exhorting for solidarity, and through free acts of worker-led direct action to achieve their goals. So what a real joy it is to see May Day 2006 honored through general strikes across the country, demanding freedom and respect for immigrant workers…

Of course, there’s no actual extortion involved in refusing to work for a day; workers are not your servants, not even immigrant workers, and declining to freely give their work for a day is not forcing you to give up anything that was yours to begin with. But you’re damned right that this is about confrontation, and you’re damned right that it’s about defying the law.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. … One may well ask: How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that An unjust law is no law at all.

— Martin Luther King Jr. (1963-04-16): Letter from Birmingham Jail

And it is an unjust law: neither you nor the government has any right to commandeer the lives and livelihoods of innocent workers to satisfy your Law-and-Order hang-ups, or your theo-national power trip. …

What we are witnessing today, and have been witnessing for the past few weeks, is nothing less than an explosively growing freedom movement. A freedom movement bringing millions into the streets, bringing together labor militancy and internationalism. And it is being done in defiance of the violence of La Migra, the bullying bigotry of the nativist creeps, and the condescending hand-wringing of the sympathetic politicos. It is exactly what May Day was made for. And exactly what the kind of creeps behind the Loyalty Days of the world — whether state-communist or state-capitalist — fear the most: ordinary people standing together, celebrating together, free, happy, irreverant, and unafraid.

There will be a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!

—Last words of August Spies (1887-11-11), immigrant, anarchist, and Haymarket martyr

Happy May Day, y’all.

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¡Papeles para tod@s! 1 May 2009, 3:30 PM @ Commercial Center Drive, Las Vegas, Nevada

Bring your signs. Bring your flags (all of ‘em, from anywhere). Most important, bring yourself and bring your friends! Stand up and march on with your fellow workers and your fellow immigrants, against international apartheid; against the bordercrats and their walls, their checkpoints, their paramilitary raids, and their police state; and for the human rights of each and every person to be left alone, to live and work in peace, without needing to get a permission slip from the State for their existence.

1-mayo-2009-handbills

Justice for Immigrants; Human Rights for All!

May 1st 2009

Meet at 3:30 PM at the Commercial Center (between Commercial Center Dr and E. Sahara Ave).

March will begin at 5 PM, ending at the Federal Courthouse

  • Support family reunification!
  • Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform!
  • Support Workers’ Rights to Organize!
  • Support the DREAM Act!

Sponsored By:

LiUNA, PLAN, MEChA, Young Democrats of UNLV, LUZ community development coalition, Hermandad Mexicana, Stone Wall Democrats, Si Se Puede, Latino Democrats, NV NOW, Así Se Habla and UCIR.

For More Information Contact Us at info@ucir.org

Justicia Para Inmigrantes; Derechos Humanos Para Todos!

May 1, 2009

Reunión a las 3:30 PM en el Commercial Center (entre Commercial Center Dr y E Sahara Ave).

La Marcha comenzará a las 5PM y Terminará en la Corte Federal.

Apoyen La Reunificación de Las Familias!

Apoyen Una Reforma Migratoria!

Apoyen Los Derechos del Trabajador Para Organizarce!

Apoyen el Dream Act!

Patrocinado Por:

LiUNA, PLAN, MEChA, Young Democrats of UNLV, LUZ community development coalition, Hermandad Mexicana, Stone Wall Democrats, Si Se Puede, Latino Democrats, NV NOW, Así Se Habla and UCIR.

Para Más Información Por Favor Contacte a UCIR en info@ucir.org

In twenty words or fewer: Comparative Politics edition

From a short article in the most recent issue of reason (Citings, p. 13) taking notice of recent changes in the Cuban government’s policies towards private taxicabs:

But in January, the Cuban government took a surprising step, announcing that it would loosen up the rules, even going so far as to let taxis set their own rates in the city. Rates are still capped, and the number of licenses will be determined by local officials, but it’s a pretty big step for Cuba, where nearly all aspects of commercial life are state-controlled.[1]

Taxi drivers and passengers in communist Cuba now enjoy freer markets for transit than their counterparts in hypercapitalist Las Vegas.

1 Katherine Mangu-Ward, Connecticut vs. Cuba, reason (2009.05), p. 13; originally appeared in Hit and Run (2009-01-13). Emphasis added.

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The State of the Debate

Las Vegas is having a city government election soon, and one of the noxious byproducts of the process are the debates among the ranting power-trippers who are scrapping for the jobs, which completely took over a perfectly good local news-talk program pretty much every singe day last week. The discussions are boring, and depressing, and mostly pointless, but they occasionally offer a bit of insight into the kind of a policy debate that electoral politics allows. For example, here’s an excerpt from Tuesday’s show, in which we hear from Jennifer Taylor (the challenger for the seat in Ward 6) and Steve Ross (the sleazebag currently in charge). Here they work out the range of politically acceptable debate over development in the desert around Las Vegas (which is to say, government hand-outs to politically-connected multimillionaire developers, and government land-grabs in which they arbitrarily dictate to landowners what sorts of things we do or do not need to put on their land).

Taylor leads off by proposing that she knows better than you do what sort of neighborhood you might like to live in, and that the city government ought to deal with this by forcing the developer to do what she wants rather than what they think their homebuyers will want.

JENNIFER TAYLOR: Let’s start specifically with some of the issues that I think Steve needs to address.

And of them is the absolute failure to work aggressively to truly diversify this economy. Two years ago, a group of us were down in front of Steve at City Council arguing about the Kyle Canyon development agreement, which would have allowed the construction of 16,000 homes on the eve of the foreclosure crisis. we said we really don’t need that kind of glut on the supply of homes because we were already seeing that there were problems. It would have also centered on a neighborhood casino, and I think it’s been pretty clear that when you lean solely on one industry that you end up in the type of quagmire that we are in now. We are suffering so much more than so many other cities who have taken proactive roles to diversify their economy….

DAVE BERNS: Back this up even more. When you talk about Kyle Canyon, and I hear you talking about homes out there and development… The 1,700 acre Kyle Canyon project would have put homes, shopping, offices, a casino, at the southwest corner of US95 and Kyle Canyon Rd, pretty much at the base of Mt Charleston. The developer, Focus Property Group, paid $510,000,000 for the land. In October of last year, Wachovia Bank foreclosed on the property after Focus Property defaulted on the loan. One of the criticisms that we heard of this project was that it was inappropiate. It didn’t belong at the base of Mt. Charleston.

JENNIFER TAYLOR: No it didn’t. It was just a basic, cookie-cutter repeat of projects that we had seen throughout the Valley, and really worse than that Dave, was that the contract was so poorly vetted and provided so little benefit to the citizens of Ward 6 compared to what Clark County and the city of Henderson had forced folks to do in Inspirada and Mountain’s Edge.

DAVE BERNS: Such as what?

JENNIFER TAYLOR: Such as open space. We had significantly less percentage of open space in that project; the density was significantly higher than those other projects; there was not as much public and service funding in the Kyle Canyon development agreement as there was for Inspirada and for Mountain’s Edge. And again, it centered on this whole concept of anchoring it around a neighborhood casino.

Of course, the real problem is not that the city government in Las Vegas has somehow failed to force developers to do the right things; the problem is the fact that the city government of Las Vegas controls who does and who does not get access to unused land in the first place. There was no right way for such a planned community development contract to be written, because there is no way to fake freed-market results through government monopoly on sales or politically-allocated ownership. So the solution is certainly not more aggressive government thuggery, but rather giving up entirely on the idea of half-billion-dollar politically-determined land sales for state-capitalistically planned communities.

Of course, Steve Ross is often referred to as a defender of private property rights and a friend of developers. No doubt he will point out the destructive thuggery of Taylor’s position, right? Well, here he goes: check out this principled defense of private property. (Emphasis is mine.)

DAVE BERNS: Let’s start off… let’s back up a step and then we’ll come to the campaign contributions. First of all, your position position on Kyle Canyon. Spell it out.

STEVE ROSS: You know, it’s a great thing that we live in America, where if someone wants to do something with property, they’re allowed to apply to do whatever they want with their property.

— knpr’s State of Nevada (2009-03-31)

Wait.

I’m not sure I heard that right.

You mean, they’re allowed to do whatever they want with their property, right?

STEVE ROSS: When somebody owns a piece of property they have the right to apply and do what they want with it. My role as a city councilman in the northwest is to ensure that development in that project is right for this city. Somebody owns the land at Kyle Canyon road and US95, they’re allowed to apply to do something with it. They want to build something, they’re allowed to do that. And that’s how our laws are.

— knpr’s State of Nevada (2009-03-31)

Oh.

Right.

So that’s your freedom, fellow citizen — and such an important freedom that Steve Ross had to make sure he repeated it three times within a few minutes: that, when you want to put something up on your own damn land, you have the precious right to apply to the government to do something with it.

This may be the purest expression I have ever heard of the only kind of debate that’s allowed in city politics, here in Vegas and in countless other cities across the country, when it comes to private property and land use: the Smart Growth tools who figure that you can somehow force government-privileged monopolists to do the right thing, and, on the other hand, the Growth Machine tools who will stand up resolutely and defend, come hell or high water, your freedom to apply for permission to do whatever you want on your own land.

In case you were wondering, here’s an example of why Steve Ross, by the grace of Law Warden of 6 and Vaquero Supreme of the Vegas Valley, might decide that your plans to do something peacefully on your own property just isn’t right for this city of his: it might interfere with neighboring property owners’ wishes to make sure that land that doesn’t belong to them gets subdivided into equestrian estates instead of affordable family homes.

DAVE BERNS: Can you think of a residential development where somebody owns some property — Focus Group, Olympic Group, whatever it may be — that you would vote No on. As you say, if they own the land, they have the right to do with it as they may, as long as they follow our laws. Can you think of any project, Steve Ross, that you would reject, as a member of the city council?

STEVE ROSS: Oh, absolutely.

DAVE BERNS: A residential project?

STEVE ROSS: Yeah, let me give you a heads up here.

DAVE BERNS: Give us an example of why you would.

STEVE ROSS: Well, let me give you an example of actually something that did get approved, but not according to how the homebuilder want to build them.

DAVE BERNS: Please.

STEVE ROSS: There was a project out in the northwest, on the north end of Jones Blvd. The developer wanted to build a highly dense community in basic ranch land. I mean, there are 2 to 10 acre ranches out there in the northwest, and it didn’t fit. This neighborhood was going to be next to a proposed 300 acre equestrian facility that’s still proposed for the northwest, one day when we have the funds to do it. The developer, again, I had the developer go meet with those neighbors out there long before it came to city council. Interest enough—projects are vetted out in the neighborhoods long before they get to the council level. And projects don’t make it to the council level if the neighborhoods don’t like them. And that’s just the nature of how it works. This one particular neighborhood, they wanted half-acre equestrian estates on this property. And the developer bent over and said, OK, I will do that. I will build half-acre equestrian estates, because it’s in a rural neighborhood; we want to maintain the rural nature of this area, and that’s what they did. And not because of me, but because of the neighborhood.

— knpr’s State of Nevada (2009-03-31)

When I tell people that I don’t see the use of lobbying or electoral politics as a means to social change, the first response that I get is typically some kind of complaint that I’m out of touch with the real world; that if I want to make a practical change, I have to jump in and try to intervene in the power-games of the existing political aparat. This kind of complaint is the worst sort of nonsense — the kind of dogmatic practicality that you constantly get from people who are unwilling to actually think about what gets the goods, rather than what the tiny minority of professional politicians and media professionals have decided to dignify as proper political etiquette. In the real world, the debate is perpetually, structurally locked into a very limited range of positions, oriented around two poles that are themselves fixed by the platforms of the two established political parties, and if you want to try proposing anything outside of that range of politically-acceptable debate — like, say, a genuine notion of personal freedom, or a principled opposition to government planning and privateering corporate development scams — you will quickly find that such arguments find no purchase, and no interest within any of the political parties. The message won’t fit through the channels that electoral politics makes available. If you want to advance the ideas, you are going to have to do so through other means, that aren’t filtered by the conventional idiocies, or constrained by the structural barriers, of electoral politics, because as long as you’re subject to those filters and that structure, you’re not going to get much out other than a debate like this, between the virtue of force and the importance of your God-given right to apply to the government to do whatever you want on your own property, as long as the neighbors don’t want equestrian estates, instead.

Good night, and good luck.

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