Posts tagged Voltairine de Cleyre

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.

Liberty, Equality, Solidarity: Toward a Dialectical Anarchism

Here’s what I got in the mail Monday afternoon. It took a week longer to reach me than it did to reach Roderick; I don’t know whether that’s one of the perks of being an editor rather than a mere contributor like me, or simply because I’m way out west and he’s in Alabama.

A hardbound copy of Anarchism/Minarchism: Is a Government Part of a Free Country? Edited by Roderick T. Long and Tibor R. Machan. Published by Ashgate Press (pictured here). Under the contents, in Part 2, is Chapter 10: Liberty, Equality, Solidarity: Toward a Dialectical Anarchism by Charles Johnson (p. 155)

Liberty, Equality, Solidarity: Toward a Dialectical Anarchism

Charles Johnson

The purpose of this essay is political revolution. And I don’t mean a revolution in libertarian political theory, or a revolutionary new political strategy, or the kind of revolution that consists in electing a cadre of new and better politicians to the existing seats of power. When I say a revolution, I mean the real thing: I hope that this essay will contribute to the overthrow of the United States government, and indeed all governments everywhere in the world. You might think that the argument of an academic essay is a pretty slender reed to lean on; but then, every revolution has to start somewhere, and in any case what I have in mind may be somewhat different from what you imagine. For now, it will be enough to say that I intend to give you some reasons to become an individualist anarchist,1 and undermine some of the arguments for preferring minimalist government to anarchy. In the process, I will argue that the form of anarchism I defend is best understood from what Chris Sciabarra has described as a dialectical orientation in social theory,2 as part of a larger effort to understand and to challenge interlocking, mutually reinforcing systems of oppression, of which statism is an integral part—but only one part among others. Not only is libertarianism part of a radical politics of human liberation, it is in fact the natural companion of revolutionary Leftism and radical feminism.

My argument will take a whole theory of justice—libertarian rights theory3—more or less for granted: that is, some version of the non-aggression principle and the conception of negative rights that it entails. Also that a particular method for moral inquiry—ethical individualism—is the correct method, and that common claims of collective obligations or collective entitlements are therefore unfounded. Although I will discuss some of the intuitive grounds for these views, I don’t intend to give a comprehensive justification for them, and those who object to the views may just as easily to object to the grounds I offer for them. If you have a fundamentally different conception of rights, or of ethical relations, this essay will probably not convince you to become an anarchist. On the other hand, it may help explain how principled commitment to a libertarian theory of rights—including a robust defense of private property rights—is compatible with struggles for equality, mutual aid, and social justice. It may also help show that libertarian individualism does not depend on an atomized picture of human social life, does not require indifference to oppression or exploitation other than government coercion, and invites neither nostalgia for big business nor conservatism towards social change. Thus, while my argument may not directly convince those who are not already libertarians of some sort, it may help to remove some of the obstacles that stop well-meaning Leftists from accepting libertarian principles. In any case, it should show non-libertarians that they need another line of argument: libertarianism has no necessary connection with the vulgar political economy or bourgeois liberalism that their criticism targets.

The threefold structure of my argument draws from the three demands made by the original revolutionary Left in France: Liberty, Equality, and Solidarity.4 I will argue that, rightly understood, these demands are more intertwined than many contemporary libertarians realize: each contributes an essential element to a radical challenge to any form of coercive authority. Taken together, they undermine the legitimacy of any form of government authority, including the limited government imagined by minarchists. Minarchism eventually requires abandoning your commitment to liberty; but the dilemma is obscured when minarchists fracture the revolutionary triad, and seek liberty abstracted from equality and solidarity, the intertwined values that give the demand for freedom its life, its meaning, and its radicalism. Liberty, understood in light of equality and solidarity, is a revolutionary doctrine demanding anarchy, with no room for authoritarian mysticism and no excuse for arbitrary dominion, no matter how limited or benign. . . .

1. For the purposes of this essay, I will mostly be using the term anarchism as shorthand for individualist anarchism; since the defense of anarchism I will offer rests on individualist principles, it will not provide a cogent basis for communist, primitivist, or other non-individualist forms of anarchism. And I will use the term individualist anarchism in a broad sense, to describe any position that (1) denies the legitimacy of any form of (monopoly) government authority, (2) on individualist ethical grounds. As I will use it, the term picks out a family of similar *doctrines*, not a particular self-description or historical tradition. Thus it includes, but is not limited to, the specific nineteenth and early twentieth-century socialist movement known as individualist anarchism, whose members included Benjamin Tucker, Victor Yarros, and Voltairine de Cleyre. It also includes the views of twentieth and twenty-first-century anarcho-capitalists such as Murray Rothbard and David Friedman; contemporary self-described individualist anarchists and mutualists such as Wendy McElroy, Joe Peacott, and Kevin Carson; and of others, such as Gustave de Molinari, Lysander Spooner, or Robert LeFevre, who rejected the State on individualist grounds but declined (for whatever reasons) to refer to themselves as anarchists. Many self-described socialist anarchists deny that anarcho-capitalism should be counted as a form of anarchism at all, or associated with individualist anarchism in particular; many self-described anarcho-capitalists deny that socialist anarchism should be counted as a form of genuine individualism, or genuine anarchism. With all due respect to my comrades on the Left and on the Right, I will use the term in an ecumenical sense, for reasons of style, and also because the relationship between anarchism, capitalism, and socialism is one of the substantive issues to be discussed in the course of this essay.

2. See Chris Matthew Sciabarra (2000), Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. See also Sciabarra 1995a and 1995b.

3. Libertarianism as discussed in this essay is a theory of political justice, not as a position on the Nolan Chart. Small government types who speak kindly of economic freedom or civil liberties may or may not qualify as libertarians for the purpose of my discussion. Those who treat liberty as one political good that must be balanced against other goods such as social stability, economic prosperity, democratic rule, or socioeconomic equality, and should sometimes be sacrificed for their sake, are unlikely to count. Since they are not committed to the ideal of liberty as a principled constraint on *all* political power, they are no more likely to be directly convinced by my arguments than progressives, traditionalists, communists, etc.

4. Of course, the male Left of the day actually demanded fraternité, brotherhood. I’ll speak of solidarity instead of brotherhood for the obvious anti-sexist reasons, and also for its association with the history of the labor movement. There are few causes in America that most twentieth-century libertarians were less sympathetic to than organized labor, but I have chosen to speak of the value of solidarity, in spite of all that, for the same reasons that Ayn Rand chose to speak of the virtue of selfishness: in order to prove a point. The common criticisms of organized labor from the twentieth-century libertarian movement, and the relationship between liberty and organized labor, are one of the topics I will discuss below.

— Charles Johnson (2008), Liberty, Equality, Solidarity: Toward a Dialectical Anarchism in Roderick T. Long and Tibor Machan (eds.), Anarchism/Minarchism: Is a Government Part of a Free Country. Ashgate Press, ISBN 978-0-7546-6066-8. 155–157.

The good news, for those whose interest is piqued and who would like to read the whole thing, is that the book is now available for pre-ordering and will be shipped somewhere around the end of the month. The bad news is that it’s about $80.00 for the hardcover edition, which is, for the time being, the only edition there is. (If you’re interested in reading the essay but are unlikely to have the bread to buy the book anytime soon, contact me privately.) In any case, for those who do get a chance to read the essay, I’d be glad to hear what you think, or any questions you may have, in the comments section at this post.

I mention this in the essay, but I’d like to repeat it here while I have the chance: the debts I accumulated in the process of writing this essay, and the earlier work on which it drew, are too numerous to give an accounting of them all, but I would especially like to thank Laura Breitenbeck and Roderick Long. The essay would have been much the poorer, or simply nonexistent, without their patience, inspiration, collaboration, encouragement, and detailed and very helpful comments

Friday Random Ten: subversive lazy linking edition

Like the Holy Roman Empire, this Friday Random Ten is neither Friday, nor Random, nor Ten. But it is (I think) a good idea; thanks to Random Thoughts and to Trish Wilson for it. Here’s the idea: you’ve probably all heard of the Friday Random Ten music game. This is sort of like that, except that it’s ten links. The links go to ten worthy posts by webloggers outside of the usual club of folks you link to. Why? Because weblogging, and political weblogging in particular, is interesting and fun and increasingly important but it’s also got a tendency to be inbred and clubby. Most of us are not atop the A-list “dominant link hierarchy,” but we participate in it, and if we don’t try to break up the cartel a bit, who will? The Danny Bonaduce of the blogosphere? I think not. So here’s mine:

  1. When it comes to the hand-wringing and the bloviating over the Left’s attitude towards feminism, abortion, and sexuality, media girl 2005-02-24: Not negotiable puts it better than I could in just three sentences:

    What a lot people — mostly men — don’t seem to understand is that women’s control over our own bodies is not negotiable. We are not slaves. We are not breeding machines to be regulated and controlled by the government.

    Read the whole thing.

  2. Bitch, Ph.D. 2005-02-22: The Washington Monthly points out that it’s that time of the three months again: Kevin Drum has come down with a nasty case of QMS, and it’s made him impulsive and irrational enough to start spouting off without so much as bothering to so much as search Google for female political bloggers first. Or, as we have it from the good doctor:

    Oh look. We have another well-meaning non-sexist liberal non-discriminatory fuckwit around being all concerned about how women just don’t choose to talk about politics. Or maybe it’s that they’re innately less comfortable with the “food fight” nature of political discourse.

    Hey Drum, you moron, try doing some goddamn research before you shoot your mouth off, ok?

    How the fuck do men ever manage to succeed in any kind of intellectual endeavor without bothering to find out what the fuck they’re talking about before shooting their mouths off? Oh yeah, right, it’s the magic power of the cock. Jesus.

    Read the whole thing.

  3. Bean has a new blog (you may know her from her posts on Alas, A Blog), and in Cool Beans 2005-03-03: The Invisibility of Feminism she points to another one for the what is seen and what is not seen file. Here we have one of the countless examples of why men in the media seem able to confidently declare feminism dead once every five years or so, without the least bit of circumspection: because nobody seems to feel obligated to actually, y’know, look up feminist publications before they gather their data and start spouting off.

    Read the whole thing.

  4. Jill Walker at misbehaving.net 2005-02-27: The Debian Women Project notes the lack of women in open source development, or at least in Debian development specifically.

    Hanna Wallach posted her slides from a talk she gave on Debian Women yesterday. She showed statistics showing that 10-20% of computer science undergrads are women, and that 20-35% of IT professionals are women, and yet there are only 4-8 women among the nearly 1000 developers of the open source Debian "universal" operating system. That’s less than one percent. While Hanna mentions possible reasons briefly, her main concern in the talk is to show what is being done in Debian Women.

    It’s good to see that the topic is being addressed, and everyone’s best wishes should be with Debian Women, which seems to be off to a good running start; one can only pray that the boys will keep tabs on the organizing and action that’s going on, instead of treating everyone to a trimonthly outbreak of oblivious Where are all the female software developers? e-mails on devel mailing lists…

    Read the whole thing.

  5. Mouse Words 2005-03-05: 10 things you need to know about men demonstrates once again that shooting fish in a barrel can be damn funny if you have the talent (as Amanda clearly does).

    From iVillage and by Richie Sambora. Sambora couldn’t tell you shit about playing guitar, and he’s a guitarist. So why do we assume he knows something about being a man? As usual, we women are presumed pretty clueless when it comes to men. Men, however, know everything they need to know about us.

    We want you to be our mothers.

    Heather Locklear is a saint. And now I have the unfortunate image of her man calling her Mommy and I’m all upset.

    We don’t mind it when you dress us.

    If he asks for a sponge bath next, I hope Locklear takes a moment to remember that she is a stunning beauty who has exactly zero reason to fear that she’s headed for spinsterhood if she suddenly gave up playing Airplane in order to get her husband to eat.

    Read the whole thing.

  6. Avedon Carol 205-03-05: How you become crazy takes on the pervasive idiot notion that any ideological skew in the media, if it exists, is prima facie evidence that the media is doing something wrong and therefore needs to change:

    I have never understood why this should be a criticism of the media, anymore than it makes sense that this is a negative trait of academe; if the people who are best educated and most aware of what is going on are more liberal, maybe that’s because you have to be ignorant to swallow conservatism. What is really suggested by this “criticism” is that the alleged “bias” isn’t bias at all, it’s just a recognition of what is, and that bias is required to lean to the right of this “liberal” position. Indeed, the behavior we’re seeing from the administration is fairly explicit in that we are told that simple facts are “biased”. The news media are not supposed to tell the public the truth about anything because that would bias us against the administration. The real question is not, then, about a bias toward liberalism or conservatism, but rather a belief that “news” should make some attempt to serve the public rather than just the corporate hierarchy.

    Those people really do need reminders. They need to be told every single time they spew right-wing bull. They need to be reminded over and over that reality still holds sway for at least half of the population. Most of all, they need to be told that we’re not talking about forgetfulness and errors and “misstatements” from Condi and George and friends, we’re talking about lying, and they should call a spade a spade.

    Whether Avedon’s right or not about all that (I think she’s clearly right about the media’s limitless charity for Bush administration fraudsters, probably right about some parts of reporters’ policy skew, and probably mistaken about others), the underlying point is awfully damned important: the demographic arguments that “liberal media” bloviators (and their “corporate media” comrades on the Left) aren’t enough to show anything in particular. The perverse sort of ideological identity politics that the Right especially loves these days needs to be called for what it is: pure bluff.

    Read the whole thing. (Thanks, Trish.)

    [Update 2005-03-27: Incidentally, the name is Avedon Carol, not Carol Avedon as I originally wrote. Oy. My bad!]

  7. What Is Past Is Prologue 2005-03-04: How Low Can You Go follows up with this fine look at how the Great Americans at MSNBC ensure that the tough questions get asked in spite of the fiendish plot of the liberal media hegemons:

    Then he went on to flagellate that old tired concept that everyone knows is a lie: The Vicious Liberal Media. His commentator? The resentful Ari Fleischer, clearly still smarting from his days as White House Press Secretary

  8. Clancy at CultureCat 2005-03-04: Orphan Works: Tell the Copyright Office Your Stories calls for shedding light on one of the rarely-seen but often-onerous unintended consequences of the intellectual enclosure regime: valuable works are left in limbo when you can’t find their copyright holders. I’m sure that making works completely impossible to reproduce for a good 70 years or so is really incentivizing some creative excellence. Somehow.

    Read the whole thing.

  9. Micha Ghertner at Catallarchy 2005-03-06: Small Is Beautiful points out something that you just don’t see in most discussions of prying education out of the hands of the bureaucratic State: the way that government monopolization of schools and politicized pressures constrict schools into multimillion dollar all-things-to-all-people facilities—thus forcing down the number of groups that could reasonably get a school off the ground—thus forcing them into crowded splinding-and-sorting centers for thousands of students:

    Would people want to send their kids to small, simple, less expensive schools? Would some parents drop off their kids at an individualized schooling program for a few hours, and then take them to the gym or the community center for a sports league or a friendly pick-up game with other children? Those who are satisfied with the current system of institutionalized babysitting may want to stick with the status quo. Those who would prefer a close-knit atmosphere, where everyone knows each other by name, and where the programs and costs are specially tailored to each individual student’s needs, may conclude that bigger is not always better.

    Read the whole thing.

  10. Alina at Totalitarianism Today 2005-03-01: International aid worthy of the title? reminds us of the dirty little secret about government-to-government foreign aid: when you give money to the government instead of to the people in distress, they just waste it.

  11. Voltairine de Cleyre (1907-04-28): They Who Marry Do Ill argues (under the title of a particularly delightful turn of phrase) that marriage — whether government-sponsored or wildcatted, whether religious or secular — offends against individualist principles:

    Some fifteen or eighteen years ago, when I had not been out of the convent long enough to forget its teachings, nor lived and experienced enough to work out my own definitions, I considered that marriage was a sacrament of the Church or it was civil ceremony performed by the State, by which a man and a woman were united for life, or until the divorce court separated them. With all the energy of a neophyte freethinker, I attacked religious marriage as an unwarranted interference on the part of the priest with the affairs of individuals, condemned the until death do us part promise as one of the immoralities which made a person a slave through all his future to his present feelings, and urged the miserable vulgarity of both the religious and civil ceremony, by which the intimate personal relations of two individuals are made topic of comment and jest by the public.

    By all this I still hold. Nothing is more disgustingly vulgar to me than the so-called sacrament of marriage; outraging of all delicacy in the trumpeting of private matters in the general ear. Need I recall, for example, the unprinted and unprintable floating literature concerning the marriage of Alice Roosevelt, when the so-called American princess was targeted by every lewd jester in the country, because, forsooth, the whole world had to be informed of her forthcoming union with Mr. Longworth! But it is neither the religious nor the civil ceremony that I refer to now, when I say that those who marry do ill. The ceremony is only a form, a ghost, a meatless shell. By marriage I mean the real thing, the permanent relation of a man and a woman, sexual and economical, whereby the present home and family life is maintained. It is of no importance to me whether this is a polygamous, polyandric or monogamous marriage, nor whether it is blessed by a priest, permitted by a magistrate, contracted publicly or privately, or not contracted at all. It is the permanent dependent relationship which, I affirm, is detrimental to the growth of individual character, and to which I am unequivocally opposed. Now my opponents know where to find me.

    Read the whole thing.

O.K.; that was eleven, not ten. And the eleventh isn’t exactly a blog link anyway. But I did warn you ahead of time that Friday Random Ten would be a name here, not a definite description. And if the dominant link hierarchy in the weblog world is worth breaking up, then I’d have to say that it’s also worth breaking up weblog reading with a bit of material that was written before the turn of the 21st century. Enjoy the subversion!