Take the A-Train
Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 15 years ago, in 2008, on the World Wide Web.
Back in 1974, the newly-formed Libertarian Party adopted what’s now called the
Dallas Accord. The Dallas Accord was intended to make the LP platform compatible with both minarchism and anarchism by keeping the LP officially silent on whether or not governments should exist, in the end; hence the platform focused mainly on what ought to be repealed, and where it suggested any positive action by some level of government, it qualified the plank with conditional phrases like
Where governments exist, ….
I think that it was foolish for anarchists to sign on to the Dallas Accord. Partly because I’m a self-righteous ultra and I dislike that kind of calculated compromise in the name of political expediency. But also because of the very practical effect that it has had in constricting the range of subjects that market anarchists are willing to talk about or work on over the past three decades. Avoiding points of conflict between anarchists and minarchists means either studied silence or mumbling prevarication on issues that ought to be absolutely central for any anarchist worth her salt — among other things, the right of (state, local, neighborhood, individual) secession, the moral illegitimacy and practical futility of appeals to the Constitution, the arrogance and abusiveness of monopoly police forces, the illegitimacy of any and all forms of taxation, the fundamental problem with any form of government military or intelligence apparatus whatsoever, etc. Devoting your time and energy to a political organization whose messages are specifically adapted to be compatible with the minarchist program on these issues means frittering away a lot of energy fighting what goes on in the palace — while leaving untouched the pillars that hold the damned thing up. I would certainly agree that market anarchists should be willing to work together with coalition partners on particular issues of concern — the drug war, corporate welfare, the war on Iraq, etc. — whether those coalition partners are minarchists, or state Leftists, or whatever else. But who you’ll work with in issue-based coalitions is a different question from whose movement you’ll participate in, or what formations you’ll make the primary venue for your broader organizing and activism. I think it is long past time that we stop shelving our anarchism and indefinitely deferring our explicit anti-statism in order to fit in with limited statists in organizations like the Libertarian Party or Chairman Ron’s Great Libertarian Electoral Revolution.
Libertarians who favor a more conciliatory approach often use the metaphor of sharing a train as it heads toward the end of the line. For example, here’s Mike Hihn, paraphrasing Steve Dasbach:
There are fundamental differences in what our members see as a proper role for government — original constitution, much less than that, or none at all. Yet, we manage to co-exist and work together. That is precisely why we shall prevail.
Steve Dasbach, National LP Chair, describes our party as a Freedom Train. We’re all on that train together, heading in the same direction. But we’re not all going as far. Some will get off the train earlier than others. Eventually, the anarchists will be riding alone.
That’s not just an analogy. It’s a strategy for eventual governing [sic!]. As we’ve expanded from a tiny band of idealistic anarchists and minarchists, we’ve been forced to refine and expand our original coalition. We succeeded, by becoming a minority in the party we had founded — as we’d intended. (Well, some of us.)
— Mike Hihn, Washington Libertarian (August 1997): The Dallas Accord, Minarchists, and why our members sign a Pledge
And here’s (market anarchist) Tom Knapp:
I am an anarchist. I don’t think anyone who didn’t already know that will find it surprising. I believe that, ultimately, government always does more damage than it does good; that that’s its nature. Eventually, I hope that we will arrive at the point where we can choose to shrug it off entirely.
I also recognize that we aren’t there yet; therefore, unlike some anarchists, I choose to involve myself in the political process. Limited government is conducive to minimal government; minimal government allows the question to be raised, in an environment where it can be considered seriously: do we really need this institution at all? I don’t expect that to happen within my lifetime, nor do I feel the need to pursue it as an immediate goal.
The Libertarian Party is a train that is going in my direction. I recognize that the bulk of the passengers will be disembarking at stations somewhere east of the one for which my ticket is stamped.
Some will get off the train when we’ve reached their notion oflimited government.Others will keep their seats until we arrive at their conception ofminimal government.At each stop, those disembarking will have the opportunity to urge their fellow passengers to join them. At each stop, those hanging on for the whole ride will have the opportunity to urge those getting off to buy another ticket and go a little farther down the track.
I will personally welcome anyone into the Libertarian Party who wants more freedom and less government. In return, I expect those among them who want more government and less freedom than I do, having purchased a ticket on the same train I did, to refrain from throwing me from that train.
My presence does not stop them from reaching their destination (indeed, it could be argued that my ticket purchase helped make it possible for the train to run at all). Their presence does not stop me from reaching mine.
— Tom Knapp, Rational Review (2003-01-01): Time for a new Dallas Accord?
This metaphor has bugged me for a long time. Let me try to say why.
The image of political factions hopping onto a train, and getting off at different stations, might work well enough if you’re talking about factions within a party all of whom agree on the legitimacy of an electoral process. Say, for example, you’re talking about Constitution fundamentalists and principled minarchists; people get on the smaller-government train because it’s headed towards the political outcome that they want, and if the train reaches a point beyond which they don’t want to go, they hop off and try to find another train (i.e., another political party) that will take them there.
O.K., fair enough. But does the same image work for the relationship between minarchists and anarchists? I don’t think it does. The basic problem is that when we imagine the minarchists
getting off the train, we imagine that they are simply done with going where they want to go, and, while they prefer to stay at the minimal-government station, we will be free to go on past that station to the anarchy station. They’re off the train, and that’s the end of working with them. But it’s not quite that simple. Once you’ve reached minarchism, you’re at the end of the line, as far as a process of reform through electoral politics goes. Moving from minarchism to anarchism isn’t like moving from Constitutional originalism to radical minarchism. It’s not one more reform down the line of electoral politics; it’s a qualitative change that involves chucking out the whole structure of electoral politics in favor of something different, specifically secession and individual sovereignty. Once the minimal State has been reached, there is nothing left to reform by further work from within; the only options left are (1) to attack the remaining
minimal State; (2) to try to ignore it and get yourself attacked by it; or (3) to capitulate to it and give up on anarchy entirely.
So if minarchists simply hop off the train and leave the anarchists in peace to go on towards the anarchy station, then they are no longer acting as minarchists. Once we’re down to the minimal State and the anarchists start trying to withdraw and set up their own competing defense associations (or withdrawing in favor of individual self-defense, or whatever), the minarchists have only two choices. They can allow it to happen. But then what you have is
government where any subject can choose to refuse or withdraw her allegiance at any time, and give it to a different
government, or to no government at all. But that wouldn’t be a minimal government, or any kind of government at all; it would just be one voluntary association amongst many in a state of anarchy. Or they can try to forcibly suppress anarchists’ efforts to withdraw from the minimal State, and to move from limited government to no government. If the minarchists really mean it, then in the end they are going to be turning their limited-government cops and limited-government military on us, just as surely as any Bushista or
So the appropriate image for anarchist-minarchist compromise really isn’t a train ride where minarchists hop off at the next-to-last station, and let the anarchists ride on towards the anarchy station. Statist politics don’t work like that. Rather, what will happen on this ride is that once the train pulls into the minarchy station, the minarchists will get off the train — and then they will try to block the tracks and threaten to open fire on the rest of us if we try to take the train any further towards the end of the line. That’s what being a minarchist means: government always comes out of the barrel of a gun, and that’s true whether the government is unlimited or limited, maximal or minimal. If you try to move, in any concrete way, from minarchy towards anarchy, those minarchists you spent so many years working with are still going to try to shoot you.
Personally, I have no desire to join any movement whose members will turn around and shoot me in the end. I am a market anarchist, and as I see it, as market anarchists, our primary allies shouldn’t be minarchists. They should be other anarchists, and it would be wise to make it so that that’s reflected in the organizations and causes that we spend our time and energy on.
Can you explain what you mean by “market anarchist”? I’m afraid i don’t see “markets” (at least in any capitalist sense of the word) as compatible with anarchism at all…
Francois Tremblay /#
Shiva, your comment makes no sense whatsoever. How are markets NOT compatible with Anarchism? Markets are the economic form of Anarchism. No other economic form is compatible with Anarchy.
Unless you’re one of those “vulgar libertarians” who support capitalism and think “markets” is what we have today… In which case the problem is with your assumption that what we have today are “markets,” instead of what they really are: State-controlled hierarchies of power and resources.
Rad Geek /#
Brad Spangler), voluntaryists (such as Wendy McElroy), Proudhonian anarchists, American equitists and mutualists such as Josiah Warren or Stephen Pearl Andrews, and the or of individualist anarchists such as Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, Voltairine de Cleyre, or — to move ahead to the modern day — Kevin Carson or Joe Peacott. (For what it’s worth, like Peacott and Carson, I would describe myself as one of the individualists.)is a deliberately broad term that encompasses a few different tendencies within historical anti-statist thought. Market anarchists are anarchists who favor individual possession of property and free exchange of property through market associations. is just being used to describe any voluntary association in which individuals exchange goods or services. So the term includes not only Rothbardian anarcho-capitalists (which I’m not one of), but also agorists (such as
A massively distorted and hammered into their familiar shape by massive and pervasive State intervention on behalf of the propertied and managerial classes, as well as on behalf of those privileged by sex, gender, race, sexuality, medical status, etc. etc. etc. Individual freedom would tend to produce radically different markets, markets in which exchange is much more grassroots, much less class-driven, much less formal and sclerotic, etc. And those beneficial features that freedom wouldn’t produce on its own, we can still win within the market through wildcat organizing and activism (in the form of militant unions, community-based mutual aid, strikes, boycotts, ostracism, guerrilla theatre, nonviolent civil disobedience, and the rest of the toolbox of grassroots, fight-to-win tactics). But I’m willing to work together with other anarchists who have a different view of what free markets will and should look like (e.g. anarcho-capitalists) as long as, and to the extent that, we’re both working towards the same goal — individual freedom and the abolition of the State.per se might be a capitalist style market, in which capital and land are owned (and thus job opportunities effectively controlled) by a minority class of rentiers. But it might not: markets also include markets in which ownership of capital and land is widely distributed, in which work is largely independent or conducted through worker co-ops or through decentralized unions; markets in which exchange is based on gold, or Warrenite labor notes, or mutual bank notes backed (a la Proudhon, Greene, and Spooner) by many different forms of durable possessions, or various forms of barter, or a loosely reciprocal gift economy, or, or, or …. There’s a tremendous diversity of things that market anarchists would be willing to call a market. I have my own views about the kinds of markets that are (1) desirable, and (2) likely to emerge under conditions of absolute individual freedom. For myself, generally, I think they would look very little like modern capitalist markets, which are
Does that clarify or muddify?
There is an ongoing fight within the Libertarian Party over whether the party should be more or less friendly to the cause of anarchy. So-called “Reformers” are trying to purge radical language from the party platform and other documents, in the name of “being taken seriously” by voters. Those of us who disagree with them tend to feel that the party’s goal should not simply be getting pro-liberty people elected, but informing the public about the philosophy of liberty. In that spirit, the party can be (and sometimes is) a powerful vehicle for getting anarchist ideas before the public. It would be a shame to cede that vehicle to those who just want to downplay ideology and use it for short-term political gain. Anarchists who side with the Libertarians fighting for an anarchy-friendly LP are more likely to be able to attract those Libertarians to their own causes.
On another topic, I question the use of the term “market anarchist” for quite different reasons than shiva (see first response above). As a believer in minimal government with anarchist leanings (e.g. one that is voluntarily funded and allows secession), I want to see a strong and vibrant anarchist movement that views anarchy in libertarian terms. Using modifications of the term anarchy, such as “market anarchy,” or “anarcho-capitalist,” implies that plain old “anarchy” is *not* libertarian or not compatible with free markets. I disagree — free markets are natural, and would flourish in the absence of government, so those “anarchists” who talk about anarchy without markets are either suffering the old communist delusion about remaking human nature, or plan to use aggression to prevent economic freedom from taking place in their version of anarchy. In the former case, they are effectively saying that anarchy is a pipe dream, and in the latter case, what they are advocating is not anarchy at all. The only realistic anarchists worthy of the term are those who see it along libertarian philosophical lines. So my advice is to let the “anarcho-syndicalists” or “anarcho-communists” or whatever they choose to call themselves be the ones to hyphenate their anarchism and distinguish it from the plain, unadulterated condition of no government.
A minarchist system would have minimal ability to “block the tracks”, even if it had an interest in so doing.
Sisyphus old lad, would you rather push a pebble or a planet up a hill?
“Lind never explains why this algleed record doesn’t merely reflect on the particular named individuals”It’s because Lind is representing a political movement. The misunderstanding goes deeper than positions, it goes to the way we think about positions, politics, and movements. Libertarians put their primary loyalty in ideas, and only secondarily in people. While we may admire and respect Mises for some of his ideas, we do not hold him up as a representative of libertarianism. Libertarian ideas are separable from the people who hold them in ways that are not possible for the holders of ideas within political movements. A political movement’s primary loyalty is to the people who are its face, because political movements’ viability is defined by their numbers, and numbers are defined by aggregate loyalty to certain people. Lind criticizes libertarianism on the grounds of what would be a dangerous flaw for the representative of a political movement, but he does not know (or will not concede) that libertarianism, as an anti-political movement, does not live and die by representative people, but by representative ideas. This is why criticisms of libertarianism coming from political movements always miss the mark. Unfortunately, many libertarians cooperate in trying to move that mark in front of the arrows.
“Unless you’re one of thosewho support capitalism and think is what we have today… In which case the problem is with your assumption that what we have today are instead of what they really are: State-controlled hierarchies of power and resources.”
No, i’m the exact opposite – an anarchist who is utterly opposed to capitalism in all its forms, and cannot see a market (I refuse to use the oxymoron “free market”) as anything but a “State-controlled hierarch[y] of power and resources”.
As far as i’m concerned, to truly achieve anarchism would require the abolition of the concept of exchange-value itself, and a move to a rational form of a gift economy, where production (of anything) is not motivated by what it would fetch in a market (however that is defined), but by the simple need or desire of people for such a thing to exist. Maybe that’s a naive or simplistic view; it’s one that my reading of Bakunin, Goldman and Kropotkin leads me to think is inherent in their anarchism, however.
I really don’t think that would involve “remaking” human nature; rather, i think that human nature is currently in a hideously distorted form due to a certain subset of humans being treated as the only valid and “natural” type of humans in the current system, and anyone not fitting that being marginalised or medicated into conformity. I think that without capitalism, statism and patriarchy, human nature would seem vastly different from what it seems to be today, but it is capitalism, statism and patriarchy that seek to “remake” human nature.
Maybe some anarchists can concieve of a market-based economy which doesn’t result in monopoly, inequality and lack of self-ownership created through some people having nothing to exchange but their labour. I can’t help but see all those things as stemming inevitably from the whole concept of transferable exchange-value.
I think the label of “anarcho-communist” is redundant; to me communism is what distinguishes anarchists from libertarian capitalists, and libertarianism is what distinguishes anarchists from statist communists; or, to put it slightly more elegantly, I am an anarchist because I believe that the only true libertarian is a communist, and the only true communist is a libertarian. (I appreciate that might seem paradoxical to US ears, as the commonly used definitions of both those words over there seem massively distorted from their original meanings to me.)
(Ironically, i pretty much gave up posting on libcom.org because most of what i said there was vilified as “too individualist”… it seems i am forever fated to fall between two stools one way or another…)
Bob Kaercher /#
“So my advice is to let the ‘anarcho-syndicalists’ or ‘anarcho-communists’ or whatever they choose to call themselves be the ones to hyphenate their anarchism and distinguish it from the plain, unadulterated condition of no government.”
That’s an excellent point and a great idea, Starchild.
“Anarchists who side with the Libertarians fighting for an anarchy-friendly LP are more likely to be able to attract those Libertarians to their own causes.”
Here I beg to differ.
Any political party running candidates for public office must necessarily aim at winning as many elective offices as possible. It would seem to me that this very fact alone makes the LP’s potential for anarchy-friendliness quite limited.
Further, the Libertarian Party is not the only game in town for spreading Libertarian ideas, let alone anarchist ideas. The very medium of mass communication we are currently utilizing has opened the floodgates for minarchist and anarchist libertarians alike to get their message straight to the people, rendering party meetings unnecessary.
Shiva, you wouldn’t happen to be this commenter would you? Or any idea who that was?
No, that wasn’t me; I was totally unaware of the existence of that blog. On Blogspot blogs i always comment using my Blogspot ID (because i want bloggers whose blogs i comment on to be able to see my blog). However, I do agree with that commenter…
Francois Tremblay /#
“No, i’m the exact opposite – an anarchist who is utterly opposed to capitalism in all its forms, and cannot see a market (I refuse to use the oxymoron) as anything but a .”
I am also anti-capitalist, but unlike you I understand the difference between capitalism and a market. If you’re not making the difference, then how do you understand Anarchist economy at all? What is your position on the subject? If you reject value-exchange, and you reject coercion, then what do you accept?
“As far as i’m concerned, to truly achieve anarchism would require the abolition of the concept of exchange-value itself, and a move to a rational form of a gift economy, where production (of anything) is not motivated by what it would fetch in a market (however that is defined), but by the simple need or desire of people for such a thing to exist.”
And how is that NOT a value-exchange?
Rad Geek /#
There’s no need to be polemical. Obviously, I also think it’s very important to strictly distinguish free markets, on the one hand, from actually-existing capitalism, on the other. But everybody comes to anarchism from their own direction, and given the prevalence of vulgar libertarian writing on the topic of free markets, if someone comes to anarchism through reading Bakunin, Kropotkin, et al., rather than through reading the individualists or mutualists, then it’s likely that all he or she will ever have encountered about are the vulgar apologetics for actually-existing capitalism. That’s a shame, but speaking as if that’s all there were to free markets when that’s all you’ve encountered is at worst a forgivable lapse.
I absolutely agree with you here. But part of the question is surely whether a radically free market — without any of the innumerable existing State privileges for those privileged by capitalism, bureaucratic Statism, patriarchy, etc. that currently exist — would still provide the same resources for the privileged to marginalize and normalize those who don’t fit in. In a genuinely free market, I’d argue, most of the tools of normalization would be broken by individual freedom to exchange or not to exchange, without doing anything else. Directly coercive institutions such as government schooling, urban homesteading, community clinics, etc. — would be able to flourish and provide viable alternatives far better than they currently can, laboring as they do under huge legal obstacles imposed by the State. With no FCC doling out monopolistic privileges for communications and no copyright monopolies constricting the free flow of ideas, communications would no longer be dominated by a small handful of centralized big media companies; it would be far harder for dissident views to be marginalized and squashed in a radically open media environment where the telecom landscape is full of pirate radio, guerrilla TV broadcasting, D.I.Y. wireless Internet, etc. And so on, and so forth.jails, vice laws, zoning laws, forced medication, psychoprison legal privileges for teachers and psychiatrists and social workers over their unwilling etc. etc. etc. would be gone completely. Institutions that tend to normalize by holding people’s material well-being hostage — bosses, bankers, landlords, professionalized doctors, insurance bureaucrats, etc. — would have much less power than they currently do, because they would no longer be receiving State subsidies, and competitive grassroots counter-institutions — worker co-ops, unions, mutual aid societies, co-operative housing,
As for the rest: I want to stress that I have no objection in principle to gift economies. Neither do most market anarchists. (Indeed, many market anarchists use the wordin such a way that a gift economy would be one kind of market amongst many — that’s because they’re using the word in a technical economic sense, to include absolutely any network of voluntary transfers of goods and services, including those based on gift as well as those based on quid-pro-quo exchanges. I don’t usually use the word this way, because I think that the technical usage can be misleading in ordinary speech; but it’ll be good to keep it in mind in order to avoid potential misunderstandings.)
I expect that in a free society, in which people are free to order their working and leisure as they please, many of them may choose, either in small groups or in entire communities, to live on the basis of a gift economy. I also expect that many people will prefer to keep at least some things on a paying basis (gift economies tend to work well within small communities where everyone knows each other and where gifting is likely to be at least loosely reciprocal; not so well between strangers passing in the night). Different communities would likely have different conventions, and different groups of people within communities, too. What I would hope is that anarchists can agree amongst themselves to live and let live — to let those who want to live in a mostly-gift economy to set up their mostly-gift economy, and for those who want to live in a mostly quid-pro-quo economy to set up their mostly quid-pro-quo economy, and for those who want to do the one sometimes and the other other times to go back and forth as they please.
Presumably if one of these options is obviously better than the other in most circumstances, then free people will tend to gravitate toward it of their own will. I have my own views about what I’d prefer: I think that monopolistic capitalism derives almost exclusively from State privilege to the propertied and managerial classes, along the lines of Tucker’s Four Monopolies, and I believe that the elements that wouldn’t crumble of their own accord under the pressures of creative haggling and hustling in a genuinely free market, would be vulnerable to deliberate concerted action within that market, through unions, co-ops, mutual aid societies, etc. So I think that the (legitimate) problems that Leftist critique has identified in actually-existing capitalist markets have to do with the State privilege for capitalists, not with any intrinsic features of the free market. (See Part II of Kevin Carson’s book, my essay Scratching By, and various of my Fellow Workers articles for some further discussion of the reasons why.)
But whatever my own analysis and my own preferences may be, my main point here would be to stress that I’m perfectly willing to let a thousand flowers bloom and see what kinds of free arrangements free people will tend to make; if you are too, then I reckon we can work together.
Venus Cassandra /#
You seem like a well read person, but I admit that I don’t understand your strict distinction between exchange-value and “simple need or desire of people for such a thing to exist.”
If the term market simply describes a situation where all economic relations are truly voluntary, than how is it incompatible with someone producing something with a view towards simply satisfying the needs of others? Are you saying that a person should reason as follows:
“There is a shortage of clothes this winter, so I will produce clothes, but I know that the people in my community have nothing I want for them”
Let’s say that you feel really good about yourself for helping make sure people stayed warm that winter. Isn’t that the trading of material goods for the psychological satisfaction of knowing you helped people out?
A person who wants something in return for what they produce also has to make things that others need or desire. How else will they be able to convince people to part with their goods (barter) or money (currency)? If they could force other people to accept their products, then that would “solve” the problem, but an anarchist would oppose such force on the grounds of protecting individual freedom.
I am also an egoist, so I don’t feel that wanting a value in exchange is evil. This value doesn’t have to be material though. I receive a value when I contribute to charity. It’s the psychological value of feeling good, because I contributed to the welfare of someone else.
If you’re interested in learning about anti-capitalist forms of free market anarchism, then I suggest you check out the work of Benjamin Tucker and Kevin Carson.
By the way, I sort of agree with you about human nature. I am not so sure that I understand it enough to declare libertarian communism incompatible with it. There seem to be examples of communalism today that satisfy the people involved in practicing it.
“Maybe some anarchists can concieve of a market-based economy which doesn’t result in monopoly, inequality and lack of self-ownership created through some people having nothing to exchange but their labour. I can’t help but see all those things as stemming inevitably from the whole concept of transferable exchange-value.”
Carson and Tucker envision a marketplace where people have access to cheap capital or credit. That would allow many people the chance to be self-employed rather than submit to the authority of a boss.
Some questions I have about your comments are:
What do you consider monopoly to be? Is it when people are legally (i.e. forcefully) barred from producing something someone else is or can? Is it when a particular organization is the only one producing an item, but it’s possible for other people to do so too?
Is all inequality unacceptable? What type of equality do you advocate?
Discussed at radgeek.com /#
Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-01-26 – In which I fail to be reassured:
Francois Tremblay /#
I don’t think I’m being polemical. But we do have very different writing styles…
Fact is, he’s coming from a leftist perspective, and so he doesn’t understand anything about economics. As you pointed out, the concentration of power under capitalism comes from State privilege and regulations. Under a market, there are no hierarchies of power, no incentives for concentration of power, and therefore lower concentration of power.
Rad Geek /#
I’m not convinced that there will not be any hierarchies of power in freed markets. There will, of course, be no coercive hierarchies of power, but that’s a somewhat different point.
Liberty alone is always better than coercion, but some exercises of liberty are better than other exercises of liberty, and it’s up to us to choose how we will use our own. To be sure, the existing concentrations of power are due to intense and pervasive government distortion, and, over time, the natural operations of freed markets will tend to have a centrifugal effect on concentrated wealth and influence, even without any conscious effort to undermine it. I think it’s quite likely that bossism and managerialism are supported not only by direct State intervention, but also by a complex of institutional and cultural factors which would not automatically disappear with the emergence of freed markets. (Just to pick out an examples, the elimination of the State would not by itself eliminate managerialist and classist prejudices that tend to marginalize working folks from control over the conditions of their labor.) These factors would tend to erode somewhat over time, under the pressures of competition, without any further action, but I think it’s quite likely that it will take conscious and concerted activism within the market — moral agitation, wildcat unionism, community organizing, social investing, organized mutual aid, etc. — in order to eliminate the remaining vestiges of them, and to prevent them from re-emerging and re-asserting themselves in new forms throughinstitutions.
Francois Tremblay /#
Well, what I mean is that in an Anarchy the workers would take over corporations and big businesses in a self-management system, thus eliminating hierarchies of power in the workplace. (an idea which, before anyone accuses me of being a leftist shill, Rothbard himself endorsed)
Discussed at jeffreyquick.wordpress.com /#
The “freedom train” dead-ends? « The Quick and the Dead:
Rad Geek wrote:
Hmmm… Rad Geek, what do you plan to do with those of us who positively want to be subject toand ?
Let me make this clear: I don’t want to be a boss or a manager, and I also do not wish to work in a democratic, consensual workplace. I want to work for a boss who makes the big decisions.
To be sure, I don’t want to work for an idiot who is so hung up with symbolic status symbols that he can’t focus on getting the job done. And, as the management literature has pointed out for decades, a wise manager encourages input and discussion from subordinates and recognizes that the informal structure of communication and cooperation is nearly as important as the formal structure of authority.
And, yes, far too few real-world managers understand what I wrote in the last paragraph. But, it really is old-hat in the management literature. I want a smart intelligent boss, smarter than most I’ve had (I have had a couple who came close to what I just described), but I do want a boss.
I assume you are not going to put people like me in jail!
So, are you going to organize boycotts, encourage social ostracism, etc. against firms of the type I would like to work at?
Or, can we agree that there is space for co-ops, for worker-managed enterprises, for the enlightened-management I just described, and even for a genuine Scrooge here and there (personally, I doubt that Scrooge is a very sound business model) in a free society?
Rad Geek /#
Well, hell, I’m a Wobbly, so I’m sympathetic enough to the idea. But just what should happen with a particular company depends in part on what you mean by
If you mean the workers forcibly expropriating the shop and the tools, then the legitimacy of that kind of action depends on specifics about the boss in question. Rothbard’s position (which I agree with, on this point) was that workers could legitimately expropriate the shop and tools if the company is one of those companies that are so thoroughly dependent on direct government contracts or privileges that it is effectively operating as an arm of the State. So there’s a pretty big and important difference between the status of direct State profiteers like General Dynamics or Blackwater, on the one hand, and companies like General Motors, on the other, which receive some significant direct government pay-outs, and profit tremendously from the ripple effects of coercive interventions (oil, government roads,through government regulation of unions), but which make the bulk of their money through voluntary transactions rather than direct tax-transfers or tightly-controlled captive markets.
Of course, in the case of big companies like General Motors, workers still have the option ofin the sense of gaining effective or de jure control through the creative use of agitation, wildcat organizing, nonviolent direct action, etc., in such a way as to make make continued bossism less and less economically unsustainable. But in that case, that just brings us back to my point about conscious activism within a free market.
As far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to seek any kind of job that’s on offer, if you please. However, I do have my suspicions that the kind of business you imagine is very hard to create or sustain in practice (since it depends heavily on having the right people in the positions of authority, which creates significant problems both in discovering them, and in holding on to them over the long term). And also that any form of large-scale separation of management and labor is likely to be unstable at best under the pressures of free market competition. So I don’t know how many of those kind of jobs you can count on as being on offer.
And I do have my own opinions about what kind of working conditions are most pleasant, most prudent, and most compatible with a rationally flourishing life. You may see things differently, of course, and I don’t intend to get in your face about it. As far as confrontational tactics like picketing, social ostracism, etc. go, I see these as tactics to use in settling problems you may have with your own boss (landlord, whatever), or to use and support out of solidarity with other workers who have complaints against their boss. So my point is not that I’d go charging in on an unsolicited crusade against a company that I don’t work for, if none of the workers there are complaining. Just that if workers there are putting up a picket line, I’m not going to cross it, and if they are gearing up for a pressure campaign, I’ll often be willing to pitch in.
And when it comes to non-confrontational tactics, like social investing or establishing and/or patronizing grassroots alternatives, I certainly do practice, and will continue to practice, that sort of activism on a day-to-day basis. If the workers at Amalgamated General Widgets of North America are happy to work there, then, again, I’m not going to get in their face about it, or go crusading against AGWNA. But given my opinions about that kind of business model, there’s no particular reason why I should go around actively supporting AGWNA with my money, either as a consumer or as an investor. All things being equal, I’d prefer to deal with co-ops, independent contractors, community organizations, etc. on a day-to-day basis.
Hope that clarifies.
Yeah, that does clarify.
Incidentally, I once threatened management to start a union aimed at replacing the company’s de facto seniority-based system with a merit system. Management was not amused.
I ended up quitting.
Many years ago, I heard a paper by, I think, Gus DiZerega, arguing that the managerial system of American business was heavily influenced by military modes of organization. He made a good case — the simple vocabulary used (etc.) is very suggestive. I don’t know if you’ve seen the paper (or if it still exists) — I hope I’m right in attributing it to Gus (who seems now to have a thing about neo-paganism). My own experience in industry has tended to confirm Gus’s view: for example, I was once accused of for pointing out to co-workers that a new supervisor was obviously incompetent both technically and in terms of people skills: management ended up having to demote him.
I agree with Gus that the military model is not a wise model for management.
My dad, who spent most of his life in middle management, thinks the behavioral and ethical standards of American management have declined dramatically in recent years, which is rather depressing. So, I’m certainly not defending every American manager! But I do think it would be a mistake to try to impose (even if non-coercively) a one-size-fits-all culture on all businesses — surely, there is room for diversity.
Let a hundred flowers bloom! I take it from your response that we’re not opposing each other here.
Francois Tremblay /#
Well, the very concept of a corporation is a Statist concept and is maintained by the State’s legal system. So I don’t see how any Anarchist could justify not taking over all corporations that currently exist.