Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 14 years ago, in 2009, on the World Wide Web.
Bob Kaercher hipped me to the fact that my post How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? is being featured today at the front page on Antiwar.com. I’m flattered; and presumably this also means that for the time being I’ll be getting a lot of readers who are more or less new to the blog.
So–welcome! By way of introduction, I’m Charles Johnson, also known as
Rad Geek. I’m an individualist anarchist, originally from Alabama, now living in Las Vegas. I am a founding member of the Southern Nevada Alliance of the Libertarian Left and an occasional writer for The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty. If you’re new to the blog, here’s some things you might want to read which will give you some idea of where I’m coming from, and what I care about:
In addition to the Rad Geek People’s Daily, I also run an occasional blog of anti-war cultural artifacts, Dulce Et Decorum Est. I have been writing and organizing against the Iraq War since Bush began his public war-mongering in 2002.
GT 2005-08-09: A day that will live in infamy, GT 2007-12-26: Bomb after bomb, and GT 2009-01-05: In which commentary becomes copy-and-paste explain some of the reasons why I’m not just opposed to The War here and now, but in fact condemn all government wars, on principle, and in all nations and all ages. I don’t believe in
bad wars;in fact, I think that the wars people tend to be most invested in passing off as
good wars— wars like World War II or the American Civil War — are typically the worst, most ghastly wars in recorded history.
GT 2005-09-17: International Ignore the Constitution Day, GT 2007-09-06: Marching orders, GT 2007-12-28: A Higher Law Than the Constitution, GT 2008-07-04: Revolution Day explain why I’m not a Constitutionalist, and why I think appeals to the paper Constitution are either useless or harmful to the struggle for liberty and the struggle to end war.
I believe that the nationalistic violence of the warfare State is closely linked with the paramilitary patrols, police state, and nationalistic violence of government border controls — which are nothing other than international apartheid. See for example:
- GT 2008-05-14: Voyage of the S.S. St. Louis (on the use of government border laws against war refugees)
- GT 2008-01-31: Bordercrats Against Joy and Plenty (on government border controls in the perpetual military siege of Gaza)
- GT 2007-11-12: Sin Fronteras
I also believe that the violence of the U.S. government’s imperial military abroad is closely linked with the repressive violence of (increasingly militarized) paramilitary police forces within the U.S. See for example:
- GT 2008-09-25: How cops see themselves
- GT 2008-09-19: No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter…. (#6)
- GT 2008-05-10: Cops are here to protect you (#3)
And I think that the violence of men’s wars and of men’s
law enforcement are closely linked with the violent ideals of masculinity and patriarchy that men are brought up with in our society. For more, see:
- GT 2006-07-31: War and Manhood
- GT 2008-05-16: Women and the Invisible Fist
- Charles Johnson and Roderick Long (2005): Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved?
On economics, I often write about the relationship between the economic privileges granted by the State, class, poverty, and labor solidarity:
- GT 2008-01-11: Scratching By: How Government Creates Poverty As We Know It
- GT 2008-09-29: Not One Damned Dime
- GT 2004-05-01: Free the Unions (and all political prisoners)!
- GT 2008-09-22: You got served and protected #4
In terms of strategy, I discuss my views on the most effective ways to work against government war and the violence of the State in:
- GT 2008-01-25: Take the A-Train
- GT 2008-01-26: In which I fail to be reassured
- GT 2008-06-16: ALL I need to know about the Revolution is what I heard in Vegas
- GT 2008-06-24: U.S. out of Las Vegas!
Welcome, enjoy, and feel free to drop me a line about any thoughts, questions, comments, concerns, applause, brickbats, &c. &c. &c. that may occur to you — in the comments sections, or in private if you prefer.
Mike Gogulski /#
Congratulations, Charles! The attention here from such an audience is entirely deserved.
Now how do I get rid of the big Google ad at right for “Satellite internet for US Army Soldiers” with “Express shipping to bases in Iraq and Afghanistan”? (just kidding)
That’s a very healthy way to respond to publicity. Principled, generous, well played.
Nick Manley -- Classical Liberal Nightmare /#
Speaking of economics and state, I went to a talk by John Allison last night. See information here: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=eventsarievents
Former CEOs of companies with 135 billion dollars in assets don’t come off as that much different on the surface from any of us. That said, I thought it was amusing when he described a purchase of a smaller 600 million dollar bank as a small affair ( :
I asked him about the bailout. He said BB&T was subjected to strong regulatory encouragement to join the TARP program. He said there was no practical way to avoid joining it without being at a competitive disadvantage. His opposition to such things came off as sincere though.
Sounds like what Murray Rothbard called ‘sweet compulsion”…
Nick Manley /#
Imagine what The Alliance of the Libertarian Left could do with a compulsory bailout of a few hundred billion ( :
Further thoughts for the skeptical: I found his competitive disadvantage explanation to be somewhat of a paradoxical response. It reminded me of Kevin Carson’s analysis of regulatory cartelization and oligopoly “markets”. That said, I judged him as sincere based on the whole context of his speech. I didn’t get the impression he wouldn’t push a button to instantly eliminate all protectionism and subsidy for the banking industry.
I suspect that Nick has it right on this issue.
Do others here have any opinion of banking qua banking as an industry? I was speaking with Marja recently, and she helpfully suggested than Carsonian mutualism contains a sense that commerce is parasitic upon industry or primary production. I think there’s a bit of it in Benjamin Tucker as well.
Marja Erwin /#
I think that was the static/interference on the line. I was repeating what I had thought you had said, to clear up what I had and hadn’t heard…
I don’t get the sense that either Carson’s mutualism or the earlier mutualisms suggest that; of course Proudhon’s mutualism sometimes regarded commerce as a productive force.
Nick Manley /#
Looks like Charles is indirectly challenging Lew Rockwell in this piece by Carson below: http://c4ss.org/content/146
Aster will be pleased to see yet another public statement of left-libertarian defiance towards paleoism.
Nick Manley /#
“A good example is Lew Rockwell’s post of Jan. 28 at LewRockwell.com Blog, in which he appeals to the common understanding of most American workers–in contrast to “trade-union commie” dogma–that
A boss is instrinically one’s “benefactor” and owed gratitude-hard work –is owe being used interchangably with duty here?
Aster, you speak so kindly of banking as an industry ;-) My opinion is that banking is very deeply parasitic upon primary production and upon individuals, as revealed in the handling of the recent $700 billion bailout, and indeed the initial demand for it or else.
The rank-and-file workers at my home branch are always nice and friendly to me, but they are not ‘banking qua banking as an industry’. I try to minimise my dealings with banks, and I’m glad to see more discussion of counter-economics here today.
I think it’s a good question to ask ourselves: What are the parasitic and predatory institutions that try to force themselves upon us, and how can we best free ourselves as individuals?
Nick Manley /#
Is that you, Lady Victoria?
Rad Geek /#
Aster, Marja, Victoria,
For whatever it’s worth, my own view is that commerce is not parasitic on any kind of narrower Like Proudhon, as Marja mentions, I think that commerce is itself a production of wealth by means of labor. There are plenty of cases (notably, gathering and gleaning of natural or cast-off but reusable goods) where the material goods are already laying out there, and the primary or sole input of human labor into the wealth-creation process is a commercial process of finding the good and distributing it to them as wants it.(Nor do I think that that’s Carson’s or Tucker’s view.)
Where parasitism comes into effect is not with commerce, or even with banking per se, but rather with the forms of commerce and banking that triumph under statism and under the Four Monopolies — which triumph both because of direct government privileges (the money monopoly, the inflation spigot, commerce in tax-backed bonds, government bail-outs, etc.), and the ripple effects of structural privileges elsewhere in the economy (the creation of artificial dependence on mortgages or cash-rent for housing, etc.). The process of government regimenting of commerce, and alienating it from working folks — artificially formalizing it and concentrating it within the hands of a select culturally- and politically-privileged class of rentiers and commercialists — makes the day-to-day practices commerce and banking more and more parasitic as they become more and more occupied by the the power of the State. The distinction is roughly what I’m talking about in the passage about the strip mall and the bazaar toward the end of “Scratching By”; it’s important to note that that passage is not at all a complaint against commerce as an individual practice or a social function (after all, what else is a bazaar?), but rather against the Chamber of Commerce — the actually-existing distortion of commerce by political pull, fetishized as if it were commerce per se, and condemned as such by vulgar liberalism while it is praised as such by vulgar libertarianism.
The distinction on the commercial side of things is much like the distinction, on the labor end of things, between freed-market industry and government-funded make-work (of the sort we’re about to get a lot of, what with the latest trillion-dollar Works Progress Administration bill).
In a freed market, there is every reason to think that there would be commerce, banking, and all the rest of it — but little reason to think that it would look anything like the way it looks at present. Tucker, famously, thought that in a freed market commerce and credit would largely be coordinated throughwhich allowed for the issuing of notes of credit backed by the property of the issuer, where the bank basically acts as a reputation agent, to vouchsafe the existence and security of the mortgaged goods. Others proposed land-banks, labor notes, and all kinds of other schemes. I have no real opinion on the matter, except that I think that different communities would probably adopt all kinds of different forms of banking, mutual credit, finance, etc. according to their needs. As a proportion of day-to-day exchanges, the amount of energy and wealth spent on finance would probably decrease — because there are lots of ways in which government privilege artificially drives labor into cash exchanges and into the manipulation of finances, where it might otherwise be spent on direct labor, the accumulation of illiquid goods, or informal mutual arrangements (person-to-person lines of credit and the like). Here’s a typical example: if government seizure and reallocation of land were eliminated, I think far more people would own land than would rent it, and far more people would own land free-and-clear rather than under a mortgage. The reason is that far more people would have access to unused or abandoned land that they could homestead through sweat equity, without expending cash; and those who still buy land rather than homesteading it, or rent it rather than buying it, would be doing so within a much more competitive market, hence at much lower cost. How much more time might you spend making things directly for yourself, or making trades with neighbors that don’t necessarily involve cash on the barrelhead — and how much less important would it be for you to make sure that your economic activity always has a cash payoff — if you didn’t have to pay the rent every month? And the less important cash becomes, the less important it will become to find professionals to manage it for you. But, throughout, it’s important to remember that all that means only the transformation, informalization and decentralization of commerce and banking — not its abolition.
Does that help?
Nick Manley /#
Charles basically beat me to my point — and in much more detail. Alas, let us let the late Tucker speak in his own words too:
“First in the importance of its evil influence they considered the money monopoly, which consists of the privilege given by the government to certain individuals, or to individuals holding certain kinds of property, of issuing the circulating medium, a privilege which is now enforced in this country by a national tax of ten per cent., upon all other persons who attempt to furnish a circulating medium, and by State laws making it a criminal offense to issue notes as currency. It is claimed that the holders of this privilege control the rate of interest, the rate of rent of houses and buildings, and the prices of goods, – the first directly, and the second and third indirectly. For, say Proudhon and Warren, if the business of banking were made free to all, more and more persons would enter into it until the competition should become sharp enough to reduce the price of lending money to the labor cost, which statistics show to be less than three-fourths of once per cent. In that case the thousands of people who are now deterred from going into business by the ruinously high rates which they must pay for capital with which to start and carry on business will find their difficulties removed. If they have property which they do not desire to convert into money by sale, a bank will take it as collateral for a loan of a certain proportion of its market value at less than one per cent. discount. If they have no property, but are industrious, honest, and capable, they will generally be able to get their individual notes endorsed by a sufficient number of known and solvent parties; and on such business paper they will be able to get a loan at a bank on similarly favorable terms. Thus interest will fall at a blow. The banks will really not be lending capital at all, but will be doing business on the capital of their customers, the business consisting in an exchange of the known and widely available credits of the banks for the unknown and unavailable, but equally good, credits of the customers and a charge therefore of less than one per cent., not as interest for the use of capital, but as pay for the labor of running the banks. This facility of acquiring capital will give an unheard of impetus to business, and consequently create an unprecedented demand for labor, – a demand which will always be in excess of the supply, directly the contrary of the present condition of the labor market. Then will be seen an exemplification of the worlds of Richard Cobden that, when two laborers are after one employer, wages fall, but when two employers are after one laborer, wages rise. Labor will then be in a position to dictate its wages, and will thus secure its natural wage, its entire product. Thus the same blow that strikes interest down will send wages up. But this is not all. Down will go profits also. For merchants, instead of buying at high prices on credit, will borrow money of the banks at less than one per cent., buy at low prices for cash, and correspondingly reduce the prices of their goods to their customers. And with the rest will go house-rent. For no one who can borrow capital at one per cent. with which to build a house of his own will consent to pay rent to a landlord at a higher rate than that. Such is the vast claim made by Proudhon and Warren as to the results of the simple abolition of the money monopoly.”
~ Benny Tucker