Posts tagged Reason

Welcome, Reasoners

Since my article on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Walmart, and alt-labor is appearing this morning at Reason.com, a fair number of y’all passing by may be readers who are more or less new to the blog.

Free-Market Labor Wins Wage-Boost Victory

Economic liberty shouldn’t simply assume a pro-business stance, or discuss only the privileges government extends to unions.

Charles W. Johnson @ Reason.com | January 28, 2014


So—welcome! I’m Charles W. Johnson; often, I write online under the handle Rad Geek. (Not because I’m trying to hide who I am, but because it suits me, and because sometimes it helps me avoid being confused with some folks I am not.) I’m an individualist anarchist, living in Alabama. I write this blog, I co-edited (together with Gary Chartier) the left-wing market anarchist anthology, Markets Not Capitalism (Minor Compositions/Autonomedia: 2011). I write occasional columns for libertarian and anarchist outlets including The Freeman, Reason.com, Free Voices, and The Industrial Radical. I publish a lot of small-press anarchist and left-libertarian literature through the Distro of the Libertarian Left. If you’re new to the blog here, and trying to get oriented, here’s some things you might find interesting to read, which will give you some broad idea of where I’m coming from, and what I care about.

I’ve written a lot over the years about the C.I.W., both basic event coverage of some of their main campaigns, and also a fair amount of my own commentary on what I take to be the significance of their use of social protest and state-fere, market-based methods in their activism.[1] If you’ve come here from the article and you want to read more about the C.I.W. or the context of its campaigns, I have some links, both to my own writing and also to a number of other sources that I consulted while preparing the column on the recent Walmart victory. Those are at the bottom of the post, though, so feel free to scroll right down past the following, which is mostly just orientation on me and where I’m coming from.

Speaking generally, I am a market anarchist: I am radically opposed to any invasion of economic liberty and to the state as such, and I am in favor of freed markets, free exchange, voluntary association, open competition and individual ownership of property. But, unlike many pro-capitalist libertarians, I argue that one of the likely and important features of freed markets is their tendency to cut against socioeconomic inequalities, to provide a space for economic alternatives to status-quo corporate capitalism, and to undermine and replace traditional top-down firms or employer-employee relationships. The kind of things I believe are often called free market anticapitalism or left-wing market anarchism. For more on what I mean by all that, and why I believe it:

I also think that rambunctious nonviolent social activism, worker-owned enterprises and radical labor unions, based on voluntary association without government privilege, and an anti-authoritarian culture of worker solidarity, are all an important part of a flourishing free market.

Since Walmart is at the center of the story, I should say that, while I am immensely pleased to see Walmart signing an agreement for the Fair Food Program, I think that many of the common criticisms of Walmart’s business model, exploitative labor practices, and economic dominance are justified, and that I would be quite happy in general to see Walmart constantly confronted and challenged with some really vigorous and uncompromising competition, social criticism and alt-labor organizing and activism. I say this not because I object to business, or to low prices, or whatever, but because I object to highly centralized state-capitalist business models that depend on, and heavily exploit, corporate welfare, eminent domain, and other favors from corporatist local governments.

More broadly, much of my writing on economic questions aims to focus attention on the relationship between the economic privileges granted by the State, class, poverty, and corporate power.

I am an Anarchist. I don’t care about smaller government, or limited government, or about Constitutions, or about electing libertarian candidates to political office. I am the farthest thing possible from a conservative. I believe in abolishing the State as such, and in doing so through the practice of education, solidarity, and direct action.

As an Anarchist, and as a human being, I am utterly and irreconcilably opposed to all forms of government warfare.

I believe that the nationalistic violence of the warfare State is closely linked with the paramilitary patrols, police state, and nationalistic violence of government border controls — which are nothing other than international apartheid. See for example:

I also believe that the violence of the U.S. government’s imperial military abroad is closely linked with the repressive violence of (increasingly militarized) paramilitary police forces within the U.S. See for example:

And as a feminist I think that the violence of men’s wars and of men’s law enforcement are closely linked with the violent ideals of masculinity and patriarchy that men are brought up with in our society. For more, see:

I’m against all forms of Intellectual Property restrictions, which represent not genuine forms of property, but a grant of monopoly privileges over the minds of other people — which I view both as tyrannical in themselves and also as immensely, lethally destructive in the effects of the coercive monopolies that they grant:

Thanks for coming on down; I hope you stay a while, do some reading, and enjoy the blog. So, come, let us Reason together … .

Further reading on C.I.W., the Fair Food Program and Alt-Labor

As I mentioned, I’ve been following the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Fair Food Program for over a decade now. Here are some other articles that I’ve written on C.I.W.:

And here are a bunch of things that other people have written, which I consulted at some point or another recently while preparing my column, and which you might find useful as elaboration, context or backdrop about C.I.W., the Fair Food campaign and the creative activism used to win it, or the development and direction of alt-labor groups in general.

  1. [1] Full disclosure: besides having written frequently about the C.I.W., many years ago I was also indirectly involved in setting up an organizing workshop for C.I.W. that led to an impromptu radical cheerleading picket at our local Taco Bell in Auburn.

Auburn police department contact sports

Officers will have 100 contacts per month, minimum … 40 of those may be warnings for traffic, the other 60 will be divided between: traffic citations, non-traffic citations, field interviews and custodial arrests …. Do not be the one that does not get 100.

— Sgt. Trey Neal, Auburn Police Division, Auburn Alabama.
Recorded by officer Justin Hanners, qtd. by Tracy Oppenheimer, Cop Fired for Speaking Out Against Ticket and Arrest Quotas
Reason TV (July 24, 2013).

Oh, hey, look, my hometown’s in the national news again. This time it’s for the contact quotas handed down from the police division’s chain of command. The requirements for ticketing and arrest quotas required more contacts[1] every year than there are people in the city of Auburn. The story has hit the news because Justin Hanners, a former police officer in Auburn, says that he was fired by the police department in retaliation against his objections to the quota policy, and to the over-use of police force and arrests that it was producing. After making some contact with local CopBlockers in Auburn, Hanners got his story to Reason TV.

From the story in the Opelika-Auburn News:

Back in 2010, when Chief Dawson came in, immediately afterward, they started telling us that we had to have two tickets a day and two warnings a day on average and if we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t get promoted, we would get bad evaluations and if we continued to not do it, we would get written up and ultimately fired, Hanners said in a phone interview with the Opelika-Auburn News.

Hanners said he initially wrote a complaint about what he thought of the alleged quotas, but was soon suspended for other reasons and put on bike duty.

They went back seven months on my computer where I told a joke to another officer and suspended me for four days and made me forfeit two days of annual leave, Hanners said, who added the other officer was not punished.

Hanners said while on bike duty, which he claimed involved patrolling the interior of Auburn University, he was still force[d] to comply with the alleged quotas.

By directives, I’m not even supposed to be writing tickets, but my supervisor told me in my bike duty that I had to have just as many tickets as officers in cars, Hanners said.

— Drew Taylor, Former officer claims Auburn police division quotas
Opelika-Auburn News (July 25, 2013)

Since the story came out in the press, spokes-flacks from the city government have issued rote denials and slimy Oh-we-can’t-comment-but… insinuations about Hanners’ personnel file from the City Manager’s office. Assistant City Manager James Buston admits that the sergeant said everything that was on that tape but that it wasn’t official policy. (But, you know, if it were official policy, it’d be O.K., because it’s kind of challenging them to do what they are supposed to do…). The Office of Charles Duggan, City Manager of Auburn, says The message that there is a quota was wrongfully conveyed through supervisory channels to at least one patrol shift — which of course is a long-assed way of saying that there was a quota while denying responsibility for setting it — but insists that there is an unfounded accusation being leveled by Mr. Hanners. Because, when ex-chief Dawson told the city government that this story was going to hit the press, the city government hired another government investigator to look over their records and tell them that all was O.K. Tracy Oppenheimer at Reason responds to the denials here. Public Safety Director Bill James, for example, put the following in writing:

To make 100 contacts, which include among others, traffic stops, issuing warrants, field interviews and arrests, requires about two contacts per shift hour. Making two contacts per hour is not unreasonable and still seems to leave a lot of time to perform other duties that are detailed in your job description. Your supervisors as well as I have an expectation that each employee needs to be productive during their time on shift.

— Auburn Public Safety Director Bill James, Re: Grievance
Correspondence with Officer Justin Hanners (November 20, 2012)
Quoted by Tracy Oppenheimer, Auburn Cop Fired for Resisting Quotas Gets Online Support; City Officials Deny Deny Deny

Buston also claims that Reason did not offer the city government an opportunity to respond before they put the video together. Oppenheimer’s story shows that this is false, and that Capt. Tom Stofer of the Auburn Police Division specifically said that the Division refused to comment. As for the insinuations about Hanners’ personnel file, besides the note about the retaliatory shift to bike duty, here’s some more elaboration on what happened to him.

“Well, the day my grievance was over, I get called into the Chief’s office, and was told that some evidence I presented was from an internal affairs investigation and the gag order had been placed and I wasn’t supposed to have it. So then the Chief, who is the suspect in my grievance, now starts an internal affairs investigation into me and my partner to see if we somehow compromised his own investigation into his own wrongdoing where he had found he had done nothing wrong. So in this investigation, they found that we had violated a gag order and that I had violated the city’s reporting policy by reporting these people. And they ultimately fired me for it and suspended my partner who gave me a statement that said everything I was saying was true.”

— Justin Hanners, qtd. by Tracy Oppenheimer, Auburn Cop Fired for Resisting Quotas Gets Online Support; City Officials Deny Deny Deny

Here as elsewhere, cops protect their power. Support your neighborhood CopWatch.

  1. [1] When you hear about police departments setting requirements for making contact with individuals on Auburn streets and sidewalks just think of contact in the sense that ice hockey or American football are contact sports.

“Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law.”

From a recent submission to Reason’s Brickbats column:

Mark Chase got a federal court order allowing him to paint on Ocean City, Maryland’s boardwalk without a license. That didn’t impress Baltimore police, who arrested him for painting at the Inner Harbor without a permit. When Chase complained that the permit requirements violated his constitutional rights, and officer told him “Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law.”

And of course the officer was right. So: to hell with the law. And to hell with paper constitutions that can do nothing effective to restrain it.

You can quote your constitutional rights all the way to the station-house, but it won’t stop you from getting good and due-processed whenever a cop feels that you’re on the wrong side of The Law. Which, of course, means nothing more or less than on the wrong side of Law Enforcement. Paper constitutions don’t do anything to hold back police abuse; only a culture of popular resistance, social accountability for abusive cops, and hard-driving community activism do that.

Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

— Lysander Spooner (1870). No Treason No. 6. The Constitution of No Authority

Support your neighborhood CopWatch.

See also:

Tertium Non Dant

From Tim Cavanaugh, Steven Chu, Oh Where Are You? (Solyndra Roundup), at Reason.com:

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that a new poll indicates few Americans are paying attention to the Solyndra scandal, and most still support so-called clean energy initiatives … . More surprising than the continued support for solar power is the apparent support for spending taxpayer dollars on it, which the report from Public Opinion Strategies has at 62 percent, versus 31 percent opposed. However, I’m a little skeptical of the strongly leading questions:

There are thousands of successful and profitable clean energy and clean technology companies all across America; the failure of one California company should not stop us from continuing to make targeted public investments to help create American clean energy jobs. 62%
The collapse of Solyndra shows that investing taxpayer dollars in so-called green jobs is a waste of money; these businesses cannot compete or succeed on their own without government assistance, and we cannot afford to prop them up with government funding. 31%

I hope the remaining 7 percent answered, as I would have, Both of these options are stupid. I don’t want my taxes subsidizing private companies of any kind, and I’m aware that the amount of energy conventional solar power generates is modest. But how the hell should I know whether solar businesses can compete or succeed without government assistance?

The only way to find out whether these companies can work in the marketplace is to let them compete without government assistance.

— Tim Cavanaugh, Steven Chu, Oh Where Are You? (Solyndra Roundup), at Reason.com, 29 September 2011

See also.

Investors Anonymous

A Knowledge Problem with Insider Trading Law. Brian Doherty: Reason Magazine articles and blog posts. (2011-05-16):

Reihan Salam at The Daily is of course glad hedge fund villain Raj Rajaratnam was convicted for insider trading, blah blah, but spells out one of the perverse results of keeping those who know the most about companies (theoretically) from helping spread that knowledge and help bake it into the...

How the regulatory arm of the Money Monopoly -- in order to "protect" small investors from predatory insiders, natch -- ends up encouraging, nay demanding, faceless corporations with governance alienated from the enterprise and unaccountable to investors.