Groves of Luxury and Idleness? Roderick, Austro-Athenian Empire (2011-05-28).
As is so often the case with right-wing critics of academia – even, or perhaps especially, those who are academics themselves (and so, perhaps, often brimming with resentment against their mostly left-wing colleagues?) – retiring sociology professor David Rubinstein, in his recent piece in The Weekly Standard, offers what I...(Linked Saturday 2011-05-28.)
Imagine No Taxation. Roderick, Austro-Athenian Empire (2011-05-26).
The following letter appeared in today’s Opelika-Auburn News: To the Editor: Charlotte Ward asks us to imagine a world without taxes. (“Don’t like taxes? Imagine a world without these services,” Tuesday.) Okay, let’s try. What would it be like? True, the government wouldn’t be able to provide its services any...(Linked Saturday 2011-05-28.)
The Atrocity of Hope, Part 15: Toward a New Radicalism. Roderick, Austro-Athenian Empire (2011-05-23).
Chris Hedges on corporate liberalism: The pillars of the liberal establishment – the press, the church, culture, the university, labor and the Democratic Party – all honor an unwritten quid pro quo with corporations and the power elite, as well as our masters of war, on whom they depend for...(Linked Saturday 2011-05-28.)
The Manifesto of the Sixteen (1916) Shawn P. Wilbur, Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule (2011-05-25).
[Here is a translation of the controversial "Manifesto of the Sixteen," the document issued by Peter Kropotkin, Jean Grave and others, advocating support for the Allies and opposition to Germany in World War I. I had promised this to members of the Anarchist Task Force on Wikipedia quite awhile back,...(Linked Saturday 2011-05-28.)
*"Whoever does not affirm at some time the. Masha, Cyganeria (2011-05-23).
"Whoever does not affirm at some time the definite..terribleness of life, never takes possession of the unutterable powers of our existence; he merely walks at the edge; and when the decision is made eventually, he will have been neither one of the living nor one of the dead."~RilkeI know many...(Linked Sunday 2011-05-29.)
The slow boil. admin, This Modern World (2011-05-26). (Linked Sunday 2011-05-29.)
Food Nullification: The Sequel. Jesse Walker: Reason Magazine articles and blog posts. (2011-05-29). The War on the Informal Sector (Cont'd). (Linked Sunday 2011-05-29.)
Revisionist History Day, 2011. Sheldon Richman, Free Association (2011-05-29).
Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country's war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history (see a sampling below) or alternative news sites (start with Antiwar.com and don't forget to...(Linked Sunday 2011-05-29.)
alternatively, why would i add you after only meeting you once? what sort of dark magic is this. Dinosaur Comics (2011-05-27).
archive - contact - sexy exciting merchandise - cute - search - about← previousMay 27th, 2011nextMay 27th, 2011: This weekend I'm getting my first tattoo. Which tattoo? I'll give you a hint: it's one of the tattoos mentioned here. :0– Ryan(Linked Sunday 2011-05-29.)
Columbia SWAT team kills dog during drug raid — again. Dr. Q, Gangsters in Blue (2011-05-28).
One of the most widely watched police brutality videos from last year showed members of the Columbia Police Department’s SWAT team breaking into a man’s home in the middle of the night, shooting his two dogs, terrorizing him and his family, and finally arresting him for a tiny amount of...(Linked Sunday 2011-05-29.)
D. McCarthy Stalks LibertyOnTour.com – Again. Ademo Freeman, Gangsters in Blue (2011-05-27).
Originally posted at LibertyOnTour.com On our last day in Greenfield Beau and I headed to the local gas station to pick up a few things. On our way there we witnessed Daniel McCarthy, a member of the Greenfield police, make an illegal U-turn and park near our location. As we...(Linked Monday 2011-05-30.)
The only other known phenomenon of similar density is Four Dollar 40 Night at Babs’ in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Oh, God, it’s like every hipster joke in the Universe was pulled together and compressed until they reached the Schwarzchild radius and formed a humor event horizon — where no attempt at satire, no matter how ridiculous, can escape the gravitational pull of reality. And so these words appeared in print — not in the Onion but in the Los Angeles Times.
A wrong turn for L.A.’s food truck scene?
Kogi chef Roy Choi thinks some people miss the point of food trucks.
[RoadStoves co-owner Josh] Hiller is not alone in feeling that what was once an exciting, underground food scene driven by a punk rock aesthetic and an exploratory mentality is swiftly becoming a mainstream, bottom-line-obsessed maze of infighting and politics.
When Kogi started, there were only a few new-wave food trucks on the scene; now that number is hovering near 200, says Hiller. And where experimental entrepreneurs once dominated, corporate players such as Jack in the Box and Sizzler are entering the fray.
There are other issues too, including a wealth of copycat trucks and the sense that many entering the business have no culinary experience but expect to make a fortune.
(If you are curious, the rest of the story is more or less the following: self-consciously quirky
gourmet food trucks have been all the rage for a couple years. Now the market is getting competitive, and the first-movers are discovering, holy crap, that mature markets without high barriers to entry are often no longer
experimental entrepreneurs. Because low overhead means lots of competition, and economic rents eventually dissipate as all those entrepreneurial discoveries and the results of all that market experimentation get diffused throughout society. New players jump in and incumbents have to either move on to the next big discovery, or accept the lower margins for normal business. But like a lot of folks in niche markets, their first response to competition has been to toss some indie-crafty-funk bombs about how incumbents shouldn’t have to deal with economic entropy or take some losses or work harder to please customers who are enjoying ever more options, because, dammit, they were into this scene before it got cool. Really, I like what they are doing, and so I hope they have a second response. Meanwhile, the other big squeeze on their margins, and on the viability of funky alternative street food — that is,
all the regulations that are starting to crack down, and the sharp ratchet effect that this has on the fixed costs of operating — is treated as if it were simply an economic fact of nature. Rather than blaming peaceful competitors for
your business, perhaps the energy and the outrage would be better directed at the belligerent, controlling politicos who whose periodic panic attacks are dignified as an attempt to
issues presented by … nascent food truck cultures. (Actually, the folks who run food trucks and the folks who eat at them have been doing just fine;
issues here are the city councils’ — but we’d all be better off if they were no longer able to make their control issues our problem.) Anyway, when margins are being squeezed there are two sides — the competitive pressure downwards on revenues, and the political pressure upwards on fixed costs. The downward pressure is from an essentially peaceful activity and means that the rest of us can get more food from more places at less cost. The upward pressure is from an essentially coercive, dominating activity that provides no-one a cheap sandwich, and mainly benefits local regulators and established restauranteurs. The thing that’s supposed to be awesome about food trucks is how they can bring people together in all kinds of different ways by getting light-weight, creative, and driving the huge fixed costs out of the economic and social equation; why not embrace that, welcome new competition, and refocus on the domming political cartels that try to shove the huge fixed costs back in, make thinner margins so difficult to deal with, and constantly force energy to be rechanneled away from experimentation and into compliance?)
-  Of course, loncheras have been around for decades. What’s changed is that professional-class white people spent years mocking loncheras with borderline-racist put-downs, when not actually going to cops and city councils in an effort to violently shut them down. But thanks to a couple of smart entrepreneurial moves a couple years ago, they got sold on food trucks all of a sudden — as long as they charge high prices, offer weird or gimmicky food options, and sport an expensive new paint job — and so now all of the sudden it’s all the rage among newspaper food writers. Which is all fine, and it’s great really, and I’m glad that folks are doing well and having a bite to eat, but if you’re going to spend all your time talking up L.A.’s neighborhoods and
street food cultureand funky, independent, low-overhead, mobile alternatives to the restauranteuring status quo, you might give some props to the taco trucks that were doing it decades ago, instead of starting practically every story on the New Food Truck Armada with fuck-you lines like
In the past few years, a new wave of food trucks has emerged, making food trucks the latest and hippest niche in the foodie world. These trucks are not theetc. etc. ↩
roach coachesof days of yore. These are sophisticated gourmet eateries where the food happens to be made in a kitchen that operates inside a truck,
"Eminent Domain Through the Back Door" - Reason Magazine. reason.com (2010-08-28). In which the city government's Bulldozer Brigade in Montgomery, Alabama attacks "blight" -- by which they mean black people's houses. (Linked Saturday 2010-08-28.)
C4SS Appeal. Roderick, Austro-Athenian Empire (2010-08-28).
Guest Blogs by Brad Spangler and Kevin Carson PLAN B: Okay, It’s Time to Panic by Brad Spangler Dear Supporters of the Center for a Stateless Society, I blame myself. When we launched the month-plus long fundraising drive for combined July and August expenses two weeks ago, I tried to...(Linked Saturday 2010-08-28.)
Gandhi on the State. Sheldon Richman, Free Association (2010-08-27).
"The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence." --Gandhi(HT: Shikha Dalmia)Atom(Linked Sunday 2010-08-29.)
True Economic Liberty: Not a Conservative Idea. Darian Worden, Center for a Stateless Society (2010-08-04).
Alexander McCobin (“Considering a Conservative Plea for Libertarian Support,” Students for Liberty, 08/04/10) makes an excellent rebuttal to the claim that libertarians are just a faction of conservatism. The label “libertarian” indicates someone who consistently supports the liberty of the individual — a standard that most conservatives just don’t reach....(Linked Sunday 2010-08-29.)
Unpaving is Progressive. Kevin Carson, Center for a Stateless Society (2010-08-17).
Rachel Maddow and Paul Krugman, among others, have been in a tizzy recently about the unpaving of roads. One result of Congress’s refusal to renew counter-cyclical stimulus grants to state and local government is that fiscally strapped governments are cutting back on highway maintenance. Specifically, dozens of counties in several...(Linked Sunday 2010-08-29.)
Re: Guy Offers Free Rides to Keep Drunk Drivers Off the Streets, Is Arrested - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine
Katherine Mangu-Ward | August 5, 2010 Some guy's friend gets killed by a drunk driver and he decides to do something about it. He starts a service to keep drunks off the road by offering free rides home. It turns out that Quincy, Illinois, is well stocked with semi-responsible drunks,...
In which the city government in Quincy, Illinois solves the Free Rider problem.
This is the final instalment of the remarks that I gave as part of my presentation at the
Free Market Anti-Capitalism? panel at the Association of Private Enterprise Education on 13 April 2010.
- By way of introduction or apology
- With apologies to Shulamith Firestone
- Two meanings of
- Rigged markets, captive markets, and capitalistic business as usual
- The Many Monopolies
- What about them poor ol’ bosses? What about gains from trade and economies of scale?
- Is this all just a semantic debate?
I’d like to close my remarks with some considerations about why we need to even have this discussion. When a libertarian like Gary or Sheldon comes out for
free markets, but against
capitalism, he’s often met with the charge that he’s just playing with words, or trying to
change the vocabulary of our [sic] message in a misguided
appeal to people who do not share our [sic] economic views. There is not much to say to that, except to point out that the use of
capitalism really is more complicated than that. There are several meanings attached to the word, which have coexisted historically. Those meanings are often conflated and confused with each other, and capitalism1, the peculiar technical use of the term by
pro-capitalist libertarians to refer strictly to free markets — free markets in the very broadest sense, markets as spaces of unbounded social experimentation) is only one of these among many, neither the original use nor the use that’s most commonly used today. Free market anti-capitalists aren’t trying to change anything; we’re using the word
capitalism in a perfectly traditional and reasonable sense, straight out of ordinary language, when we use it to describe the political privileges we’re against (capitalism2) and the nasty structural consequences of those privileges (capitalism3).
But the worry at this point may be whether it’s even worth it to fight over that particular patch of ground. To be sure, equivocal uses and conflation of terms is a bad thing — it’s important to distinguish the different meanings of
capitalism, to be clear on what we mean, and to get clear what our interlocutors mean, when we use the term. But once you’ve done the distinguishing, is it worth spending any great effort on arguing about the label
capitalism, rather than just breaking out the subscripts where necessary and moving on? If the argument about
capitalism has helped draw out some of the economic and historical points that I’ve been concentrating on in these remarks, then that may be of some genuine use to libertarian dialogue. But once those points are drawn out, aren’t they the important thing, not the terminological dispute? And aren’t they something that nominally pro-
capitalist libertarians would also immediately object to, if asked? All libertarians, even nominally pro-
capitalist libertarians, oppose corporate welfare, government monopolies, regulatory cartels, and markets rigged in favor of big business. So why worry so much about the terminology?
I certainly sympathize with the impulse — I’m an Analytic philosopher by training, and subscripting is one of the favorite tools of my trade; if I have to choose between debates about the word
capitalism and debates over the state-corporatist interventions I’ve been discussing, I think the latter is always going to be a lot more important. Further, when we are trying to understand what other people have said about markets or capitalism, it’s important to remember that considerations of charity absolutely call for this kind of approach — when a libertarian writer praises capitalism meaning freed markets, or when a libertarian writer condemns capitalism, meaning capitalism2 or capitalism3, the best thing to do is just take them on their own terms and interpret their argument accordingly.
But there’s a lot to argue about here that’s not just about labels, and it’s not always clear that that’s something that
we all readily agree on. What about when it’s not clear that the writer has really consistently held onto the distinction between free markets and actually-existing capitalism? What about when we’re not just talking about single positions on isolated policy proposals, but talking about the bigger picture of how it all works — not just the individual pieces but the gestalt picture that they form when fitted together? When, that is, it really starts to matter not only how a writer would answer a list of questions if asked, but also which questions she thinks to ask in the first place — which features of the situation immediately come to mind for analysis and criticism, and which features are kept as background or afterthoughts?
To put a finer point on it, let’s consider not only how we should understand others’ word choices (which calls for interpretive charity, in part, because it’s not up to us), but also how we ourselves should choose words to describe our own position (which certainly is). Rhetoric is a complicated art, and intimately related to the context of the particular conversation you’re having. I haven’t had space in my remarks to survey all the considerations, or even most of the important ones, about the rhetorical question of which meaning of
capitalism to favor, or whether simply to abandon the term. But before I leave off, I do want to touch briefly on one consideration — the question of paradigm cases, of what sorts of examples we take as typical, or characteristic, or especially illustrative of what free markets are and how they work. When we’re looking at the broader picture, at how political and economic structures play off of each other, we’re talking about a structure that has a foreground and a background — more important and less important features. And one of the important questions is not just what may be encompassed by the verbal definitions given for our terminology, but also what sorts of paradigm cases for markets and voluntary society the terminology might suggest, and whether the paradigm cases that it suggests really are good paradigm cases — whether they reveal something important about free societies, or whether they conceal or obscure it. I would argue that identifying a free market position with
capitalism — even if you are absolutely clear that you mean capitalism1, that this encompasses all kinds of market exchange and all kinds of voluntary social experimentation outside the cash nexus — offers a particular picture of what’s important about and characteristic of a free society, and that this picture tends to obscure a lot more than it reveals.
This is where the question of labels and terms move beyond
mere semantics, and has some real cognitive import. The question is how we picture freed-market activity — whether our model is something that looks a lot like business as usual, with a few changes here and there around the edges, or whether our model is something radically different, or radically beyond anything that currently prevails in this rigidified, monopolized market. Do we conceive of and explain markets on the model of a commercial strip mall: sanitized, centralized, regimented, officious, and dominated by a few powerful proprietors and their short list of favored partners, to whom everyone else relates as either an employee or a consumer? Or do we instead look at the revolutionary potential of truly free markets to make things messy — how markets, without the pervasive control of state licensure requirements, regulation, inspections, paperwork, taxes,
fees, and the rest, so often look more like traditional image of a bazaar: decentralized, diverse, informal, flexible, pervaded by haggling, and kept together by the spontaneous order of countless small-time independent operators, who quickly and easily shift between the roles of customer, merchant, contract laborer, and more? When we choose a term that is historically so closely attached to workplace hierarchy and big business, and a term which linguistically connected with the business of professional capitalists (that is, people in the business of renting out accumulated capital), this naturally influences the kind of examples that come to mind, fetishizing the business of professionalized capitalists at the expense of more informal and simply non-commercial forms of ownership, experimentation and exchange. It tends to rig the understanding of
markets towards an exclusive focus on the cash nexus; and it tends to rig the understanding of the cash nexus towards an exclusive focus on the most comfortably capitalistic — hierarchical, centralized, formalized and
businesslike — sorts of enterprises, as if these were so many features of the natural landscape in a market, rather than the visible results of concerted government force.
Freeing the freed market from the banner of
capitalism, on the other hand, and identifying markets with the opposition to mercantile privilege, the expropriation of labor, and the resulting concentrations of wealth in the hands of a select class, brings a whole new set of considerations and examples into the foreground. These new paradigm cases for
free markets are deply important if they encourage a wider and richer conception of what’s in a market, a conception which doesn’t just theoretically include mutualistic alternatives and social experimentation outside the cash nexus (as some sort of bare possibility or marginal phenomenon), but actually encourages us to see how these forms of free association and exchange might take on a prominent, even explosive role in an economy freed from the rigged markets and many monopolies of state-supported corporate capitalism. The free market anti-capitalist holds that it’s precisely because of those rigged markets that we have the strip mall rather than the bazaar, and precisely because we have the strip mall rather than the bazaar that so many working-class folks find themselves on the skids, confined to ghettoes, caught in precarious situations, and dependent on a highly rigidified capitalists’ market.
Since this cruel predicament is so central to how most people experience
the market in everyday life, it’s vital that advocates of free markets take a position that clearly reveals, and marks out as important, different, positive, disruptive possibilities for the kind of free society that we advocate. If we choose terminology that highlights this reality rather than obscuring it, which makes it clear that the problem is not the fact of market exchange but rather the deformation of market exchange by political privilege to actually existing capitalists, at the expense of dispossessed workers, and which suggests paradigms that revolutionary transformations that freed markets without those privileges, we’ll have chosen well.
That’s the end of my remarks; I’ve already said more in these than I was actually able to say in person at APEE (since I stuck to the major points I covered in the talk, but included footnotes and asides that were in the text but had to be clipped from the talk itself). But there is a lot more to say on all these topics, and on several others that I had been thinking and writing about in the lead-up to the talk, but which didn’t get aired in the presentation. I hope to build on what I have said here,and come around to a number of these points, and to and on some of the questions and conversations that these Bits & Pieces have helped draw out. Until then…
-  Jackson Reeves, quoted by Walter Block in
-  I’d be more happy with this suggestion if it actually seemed to be going both ways — that is, if the people calling for us to move away from
mere semanticsactually were willing to split the difference and let each side have their terminology, as long as they are clear about it. What actually tends to happen, though, is that nominally pro-
capitalistlibertarians often use complaints about
semanticsto insist that readers understand what they mean by
capitalism(capitalism1), but then turn around and start bickering as soon as some nominally anti-
capitalismas a term of criticism, rather than actively trying to figure out whether they might be criticizing capitalism2 or capitalism3, or showing any willingness themselves to subscript and move on when it’s a question of appreciating what nominal anti-
capitalistsmight be saying with the terminology that they are accustomed to use. Without that willingness, the complaints about
semantic argumentslook more opportunistic than principled, and that suggests that there may be something more at stake here than the complainants would like to let on. ↩
-  For examples, see the critical discussion in Roderick Long (2008-11-10) Corporations Versus the Market, Kevin Carson, Vulgar Libertarianism Watch, Part 1 et seq., GT 2005-03-23: El pueblo unido jamás será vencido! etc. ↩
-  In grammar, a paradigm (from the Greek,
to show beside) is an illustration of a grammatical rule by using an example — e.g. when a student learning Spanish is taught how to conjugate -ar verbs by giving her the a series of parallel examples (hablar: hablo, hablas, habla, hablamos, habláis, hablan; tomar: tomo, tomas, toma, tomamos, tomáis, toman, etc.); the purpose of the examples is to illustrate the principle so that the student can apply it by analogy with other stems. ↩
-  The images of the strip mall and the bazaar are taken from my concluding paragraph in Scratching By: How Government Creates Poverty as We Know It. Those images were inspired by and modified from Eric Raymond’s use of
The Cathedral and the Bazaarto explain and defend hacker culture and open-source software. ↩