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Posts tagged Brad Spangler

Wednesday Lazy Linking

Center for a Stateless Society Spring fundraiser

From Brad Spangler at the Center for a Stateless Society:

Dear Supporters of the Center,

We hope you’ve liked what you’ve seen so far from the Center for a Stateless Society. Our financial support for independent scholar (now C4SS Research Associate) Kevin Carson allowed him to produce a widely hailed work in his ongoing synthesis of free-market libertarian and libertarian socialist thought — “Industrial Policy: New Wine in Old Bottles” — as well as ongoing commentary pieces.

With your help, for the Spring of 2009 we’d like to:

  • fund Carson’s research work for the second quarter (April through June), to result in another study for publication…
  • fund Carson’s commentaries for the remainder of this quarter and all of next quarter
  • and add our second paid staff position, a News Analyst, to produce additional commentary

This takes money, but not very much of it. Our modest funding goal, to allow us to carry this out and prepare the way for future growth and success, is very small. I’ll break down the expense list for you and you can see for yourself:

  • $300 for Carson’s research study
  • $400 for Carson’s commentary work from now through the end of June ($25 per piece)
  • $600 for the News Analyst’s commentary ($25 per piece) from April through June

That’s a $1,300 fundraising goal. I believe we can achieve it, but I could be wrong. It’s all in your hands. If you want a polycentric movement, donate today.


Brad Spangler

Over My Shoulder #39: Garrison on radicalism, electoral abolitionism and third-party politics. From Henry Mayer’s All On Fire.

Here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is from Henry Mayer’s masterful biography, All On Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery. I was re-reading it recently because of an interesting debate over the Ron Paul campaign on LeftLibertarian2, in particular some interesting comments by Brad Spangler, who has been beating the anti-electioneering drum for some time, to the effect that he thought support for Ron Paul represented progress in people who would be otherwise be state liberals or state conservatives, but that the real shame was when radical libertarians, who ought to know better got sucked in to the same constitutional-statist song and dance.

Garrison agreed with [Abby Kelley and Stephen Foster] that the allure of the presidential campaign threatened the movement’s identity. Abolitionists should not bow down to the house of Rimmon, alluding to the parable (2 Kings 5:18) illustrating the dangers of false worship and conformity with outmoded rituals and reprehensible customs. The first duty of abolitionists, he concluded, was to avoid becoming Republicans. To the Fosters’ intense annoyance, however, he argued that the amount of conscience in the party and the sectional basis of its opposition to the slave power made it a political entity that the movement had to take seriously. Kelley conceded that the party may be the work of our hands, but she insisted that such progeny, like other children, required a great deal of reproof to bring it up in the way it should go. Garrison agreed, but sweetly added that, as in child-rearing, it was important to praise the party when it tried to do good work, as it had on the issue of nonextension.

That Garrison accorded the Republicans a measure of respect he had never conceded to the Liberty Party remnant should come as no surprise. He always had more interest in politicians who lifted themselves toward an acknowledgment of moral principles than he had in moralists who lowered themselves into partisan activities. For the Republicans to support and elect candidates willing to condemn slavery as wrong would be productive agitation, for it created something where nothing had previously existed. For Gerrit Smith to advance himself as a presidential candidate was ludicrous, in Garrison’s view, for he had no practical organization and demeaned himself in the futile process of making one. For Frederick Douglass to make persistent attacks on Garrisonian abolition as passé–as a phase of moral education through which the movement had inevitably traveled en route to more enlightened forms of practical agitation–was more than a continuation of their personal feud; it was the old Liberty Party idea that a token candidacy offered a greater opportunity for moral agitation than did the prophetic apostleship of Garrison. While the Republican nonextensionist approach had the virtue of exposing the constitutional compromises that prevented abolition, moreover, the Smithites continued to dwell, Garrison believed, in the realm of constitutional fantasy. They tried to claim the Framers as architects of an antislavery politics and advanced all sorts of schemes–a congressional repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law, a reconstruction of the federal judiciary through the appointment of antislavery judges, the fixing of a date certain for abolition in the states and federal control of states in default–that had no chance of peaceably breaking the national political deadlock and, far from saving the Union, would make a military confrontation inevitable. Theirs was an oblique disunionism that masked itself behind the facade of constitutional interpretation. For Garrison the special work of abolition lay not in adopting the model of politics, but in creating a redemptive vision. We see what our fathers did not see; we know that they did not know.

Powerful organizations never espouse great reforms, the editor told a December 1855 meeting called to celebrate the desegregation of Boston’s public schools after a decade-long struggle by abolitionists of both races. Social reform, he said, begins in the heart of a solitary individual and grows strong among humble men and humble women [who], unknown to the community, without means, without power, without station, but perceiving the thing to be done … and having faith in the triumph of what is just and true, engage in the work…. He always regarded the abolitionists as a saving remnant who would create the preconditions for reform. Theodore Parker compared such non-political reformers either to the windlass that raises the anchor while the politicians haul in the slack or to the spinners and weavers who make the material from which politicians cut their clothes, but Garrison found the humblest metaphor of all in the baking of bread. By and by, he said with the apostle Paul, the little leaven leavens the whole lump … [and] this is the way the world is to be redeemed (1 Cor. 5:6). The most popular metaphor for the progress of reform in the 1850s, however, drew from both mechanics and nature. The world moves, people said, having found a shorthand way of remarking social change that evoked at once the lever of Archimedes and the stubborn faith of Galileo that the earth itself revolved in obedience to higher laws.

–Henry Mayer (1998), All On Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery, pp. 456-457.

Lazy linking on Leftist labor libertarianism

Try saying that three times fast.

For a while now I’ve been urging libertarians and the labor movement to take a more serious and sympathetic look at one another. (Cf. GT 2004-05-01: Free the Unions (and all political prisoners!), GT 2005-03-23: El pueblo unido jamás será vencido! and GT 2005-03-31: Anarquistas por La Causa for representative examples.) Just as with radical libertarianism and radical feminism I think that the supposedly obvious and unbridgeable opposition between the two is the result more of terminological difficulties and shifting political alliances over the course of the 20th century than any deep or principled gulf. The best way to see this is with more engaged discussion: fewer polemics, more history, more earnest questioning, and more listening. So I’m excited to see a lot of interesting new material just in the past couple of weeks from libertarians (mostly but not exclusively left-libertarians) trying to get clear on the questions and hammer out some of the answers about the prospect for a libertarianism that has a place for workers organizing freely, and a wildcat labor movement that frees itself from the smothering patronage of the State. Here’s a bit of lazy linking to the discussion so far.

  • Brad Spangler (2005-12-03): War, Socialism, and Precision in Thinking writes on the need to disentangle the different meanings attached to the words capitalism and socialism (each of them has at least one traditional meaning that’s perfectly consistent with the peaceful economic cooperation, and one that’s directly antagonistic to it). Brad protests the fuzzy thinking that typically comes about from running the terms freely together, and urges libertarians to realize that If anything that is voluntary on all sides is, at the very least, acceptable to the point that it at least can not righteously be opposed by force, then one has to come to grips that a stateless society will have capitalistic and socialistic aspects in practice. Hippy communes. Farmers co-ops. Employee owned enterprises. Workers syndicates. Unions. … Ultimately, vulgar libertarians, on this point anyway, fail to distinguish libertarianism from personal preference for a particular class of business models.

  • Roderick Long at Austro-Athenian Empire (2005-12-04): Freedom and the Firm asks What will firms look like in a free society? He points out the important trade-off that you face when you decide whether to get business done with a centralized, amalgamated firm, or a small-scale, decentralized operations like family shops and worker’s co-ops: larger size can mean lower transaction costs, but it also comes at the cost of calculational chaos. (The incentive problems and knowledge problems that libertarians have pointed out in central planning don’t evaporate when the central planning is done by corporate rather than government bureaucrats.) Roderick points out some of the ways in which state capitalism distorts the trade-off in favor of big, centralized firms; Leviathan, as always, is Behemoth’s greatest ally: We don’t have a free market, however; instead we have a highly regulated market. For familiar reasons, such regulations hamper the less affluent more than the more affluent, and so successful firms will tend to become somewhat insulated from competition by less established firms, thus removing one check on their inefficiency. And as Kevin Carson points out, regulatory standardisation also decreases competition among the successful firms — a form of de facto cartelisation. Government regulation thus lowers the costs associated with size and hierarchy more than it lowers the associated benefits; it stands to reason, then, that firms in a genuine free-market context could be expected to be smaller and less hierarchical than they tend to be today. This is doubly true once one takes into account the increased competition for workers that a less regulated economy would presumably see (assuming that workers generally prefer less hierarchical work environments).

  • Kevin Carson (2005-12-08): Socialist Definitional Free-for-All: Part I reviews a recent donnybrook over the meaning of socialism and whether voluntary workers’ co-ops and other forms of state-free direct worker control over the means of production are (1) instances of socialism, and (2) compatible with libertarianism. Bithead makes an ass of himself; Knapp holds his own; John T. Kennedy directs some good critical questions at Knapp; Knapp offers some good replies. Carson adds his own Extended Commentary, placing the debate in the historical context of the thought of late-19th and early-20th century libertarians such as Thomas Hodgskin, Benjamin Tucker, and Franz Oppenheimer, who explicitly considered themselves (1) socialists, (2) supporters of organized labor, and (3) radical advocates of laissez-faire in economics. Carson also offers some interesting historical notes on the individualists’ economic thought

    Individualist anarchism, the strand of socialism that most closely approximates my own position, doesn’t place that much importance on ownership of the means of production (leaving aside the views of Tucker et al on occupancy-based ownership of land, anyway). Although some strands of mutualism tended toward a much more active affinity for cooperative organization of production, and considered explicitly cooperativist arrangements would likely predominate in a stateless society, the American individualist branch of mutualism placed much more emphasis on the conditions of exchange than the organization of production. … What mattered to him was that, without state enforcement of special privileges for capital, and without artificial scarcity rents resulting from such privileges, the natural wage of labor in a free market would be its full product. And without the state’s enforcement of artificial scarcity in land and capital, jobs would be competing for workers instead of the other way around.

    And Carson points out that the debate is often confused by the fact that all sides tend to talk about coercion and property as if everyone already had a perfectly clear and common conception of what sorts of things can count as your property and under what conditions. Libertarians tend to broadly agree on central cases, but when the debate is about something more substantial than name-tags or banner colors, it usually comes down to substantive disagreements over peripheral cases:

    All the parties to the debate tend to throw around the term coercion, in discussing whether coercion is essential to collective ownership of the means of production, without addressing the prior question of what constitutes coercion. Now I would argue that whether the establishment and enforcement of collective ownership is coercive depends on what set of property rights rules you start out with. Forcibly invading someone’s rightful property, by definition, is coercion; but using force to defend one’s rightful property claims against invasion is not. So the question of whether force is coercive depends on who the rightful owner is. When the parties to the dispute adhere to two separate sets of rules for property rights, they will disagree on who is the aggressor and who is the defender.

  • Kevin Carson (2005-12-08): Socialist Definitional Free-for-All, Part II offers a lengthy follow-up where he assembles quotes from posts Roderick, Brad, and me on definitions of socialism and capitalism, the size of firms, and organized labor, and adds his own exposition and commentary. Among other things, he points out one of the important ways in which unionization can serve as a road to, rather than a roadblock against, workers adjusting pay, security, and conditions to something like the marginal product of their labor: Regardless of the long-run market incentives to pay labor its full product and treat people like actual human beings, in the short run the uncertainty and potential disruption of being an at-will employee can be quite a hassle. For the benefit of those who have been living on Planet Cato these many years and never had direct experience working for a boss, I’d like to point out that the average boss can fuck your life up in some really unpleasant ways before the market disadvantages of doing so are finally brought home to him. And, as some radical historians of workplace relations have pointed out, a management policy of harassing selected subgroups of workers and dividing them against each other may produce benefits, in the form of reduced labor solidarity and bargaining power, that outweigh the alleged irrationality costs. On the other hand, the benefits of contractually-enforced stability and predictability are just as real to a wage-laborer as they are to the parties to any other kind of contract.

That’s a rather dense thicket of interlinking posts; moving aside from this mutualist admiration society, there’s also been good discussion elsewhere:

  • Joshua Holmes at No Treason (2005-12-09): Open Question about Libertarians and Unions asks What do libertarians have against labour unions? This question struck me the other day (because it was better than studying for Business Associations) and I wondered why libertarians have so much bile for labour unions. Holmes has a good breakdown of common corporatarian objections to unions and responses to them. A vigorous go-around on semantics, tactics, and principles follows in the comments.

  • Irfan Khawaja at Theory and Practice (2005-12-15): The Taylor Law and the Transit Strike: Some Questions asks for further discussion from libertarians and classical liberals about the status of strikes and work stoppages, and laws (such as the Taylor Law) which ban strikes by government employees:

    Is a strike–as Howard Dickman suggests in his book Industrial Democracy in America–just a glorified form of breach of contract? In that case, libertarianism justifies strike-breaking and scabdom, period. (Cf. Truman’s breaking up the railway and miner’s strikes in 1946.) Or does striking have a deeper justification in libertarian principles? To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t much normative discussion of this subject in the contemporary libertarian literature–a shame, considering the centrality of the issues.

    In comments, I suggest a focus on questions about individual rights to refuse to work and move on to the status of strikes from there; Irfan replies with more helpful questions and commentary.

This doesn’t end here. A week from now — 28 December 2005, 11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m — The Molinari Society will be holding a symposium at APA Eastern Division in New York. The topic is going to be the debate between thick and thin libertarianism, and the thick side will be represented by Jack Ross’s Labor and Liberty: A Lost Ideal and an Unlikely New Alliance. Ross will read and I’ll be commenting on the essay. (Shorter me: the outline of Ross’s argument is correct and important; I’m not so confident about the details and I think there are some important questions and distinctions to be raised about the kind of labor organizing that libertarians should ally with.)

Hope to see you there!

Talking about the French rioters

There’s been a lot of talk about the rioters in France, and a lot of analysis of why they rioted.

Jocelyn Gecker (2005-11-02), for the Associated Press, reports on the seventh day of rioting. Experts are said to say that Islamic radicals seek to recruit disenchanted youths by telling them that France has abandoned them; sociologist Manuel Boucher suggests that French society is in a bad state … increasingly unequal, increasingly segregated, and increasingly divided along ethnic and racial lines, and that some youths turn to Islam to claim an identity that is not French, to seize on something which gives them back their individual and collective dignity. Gecker says that some said that the unrest — sparked by the accidental deaths of two teenagers last week — is an expression of frustration over grinding unemployment and police harassment in the communities, and cites direct quotes to that effect from the president of the Clichy-sous-Bois mosque, the Socialist mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois, and a 22 year old Moroccan-French resident of Clichy-sous-Bois. On the other hand, there are no direct quotes from any of the rioters as to why they are rioting.

Franck Prevel, reporting for Reuters (2005-11-07), discussed the escalating violence against police. He quoted a statement from the French police union, President Chirac, a police officer, Interior Minister Sarkozy, Prime Minister de Villepin, and mentioned a fatwa against the riots issued by one of France’s largest Muslim organizations in response to official suggestions that Islamist militants might be stoking some of the protests. Prevel mentions that rioting began with the accidental electrocution of two youths fleeing police in Clichy-sous-Bois outside Paris and cites frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and harsh treatment by police. On the other hand, he doesn’t cite any direct quotes from any of the rioters as to why they are rioting.

Meryl Yourish (2005-11-03) linked to Gecker’s AP report; she suggested that there is a global war being driven by radical Islamism in European slums, and remarks that first they came for the Jews, and many did not speak out, because they were not Jews. Her post has a lot of analysis, but no direct quotes from any of the rioters on why they are rioting.

She added a later update which links to an article by Paul Belien (2005-11-02) in his Brussels Journal blog. The article cites Theodore Dalrymple’s poignant analysis the crisis faced by British Muslims, and articles from FOX News, the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, Knack, and a Danish blog called Viking Observer on the dangers faced by police and other emergency workers in Muslim slums in Malmo and Brussells, and rioting by mostly Muslim youths in France and Denmark. Belian suggests that these are problems all across Europe, and that they’ve resulted from a naive belief in universal cultural compatibility, the harsh reality of looming permanent conflict, and weak-kneed appeasement by the government officials in European countries. He suggests that the proximate cause of the French riots was unreasonable resentment over reasonable attempts by the French police to do their job; and that they were exacerbated by the unwillingness of the French government to take a more militant response. He quotes Viking Observer’s translation of some direct quotes from Danish rioters, as reported in the Danish press; on the other hand, he has no direct quotes, and links to no stories with direct quotes, from French rioters on why they are rioting.

At Positive Liberty, Jason Kuznicki (2005-11-07) argues that evidence for radical Islamist involvement is thin at best, and argues that it has much more to do with the material and the cultural conditions faced by young men in communities marked by poverty, dependency, desperation, and ghettoization, in turn caused by the French government’s restrictive economic and social policies. He cites some comments by Mark Brady at Liberty and Power, who in turn cites commentary by British sociologist Frank Furedi, attributing the riots to the exhaustion of national politics in Western Europe, and commentary by British writer James Heartfield, who suggests that It is not that assimilation has failed, but that France only pays lip service to assimilation, while practically refusing it to the descendants of North African migrants. Timothy Sandefur dissents, arguing that there is good reason to believe that at least a large part of the Islamic world does see the situation in France as an Intifada. He offers some subtle comments aimed at demonstrating the ways in which an extremely insular immigrant population and a stagnant, stultified economy can, by producing an an angry mass of economic and social outcasts, which comes to see itself as exploited by another large segment of the community, provide an opportunity for violent, hatred-fueled ideologies such as fascism or terrorist Islamism. He suggests that in such a situation the causal threads tying together the material conditions and the Islamist ideology can intertwine so thoroughly that it may not make any sense to try to separate the one from the other when trying to give causal explanations of the violence that ensues. He cites commentary from the Affordable Housing Institute, which discusses the alienation and insularity created by France’s public housing policy and mentions statements by Interior Minister Sarkozy, President Chirac, Prime Minister de Villepin, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, authorities (who anonymously say that it’s Islamist militants and drug traffickers), and A Clockwork Orange. He also cites two news articles — one on the arrests, back in September, of some suspected members of an Algerian terrorist group living in France; and another from a reporter who seems to have actually found a website in which the rioters make bellicose statements and brag about their martial accomplishments. On the other hand, neither that article nor any of the others, nor Sandefur’s commentary, nor Kuznicki’s, nor Brady’s, nor Furedi’s, nor Heartfield’s, contains any direct quotes from any of the rioters on why they are rioting.

Brad Spangler (2005-11-04) thinks that it’s racialized violence and the ghettoization created by the welfare state, with conditions that have far more in common with the recent riots in Toledo (or in Watts a generation earlier) than they do with events in the Middle East.

French fascist demagogue Jean-Marie Le Pen blames mass immigration, the moral corruption of the country’s leaders, disintegration of the country and social injustice.

David Brooks (2005-11-10) thinks it’s French gangsta rap.

Victor Davis Hanson (2005-11-07) thinks that the riots are a clear example of what happens to a society that doesn’t ask the immigrant to integrate, and the immigrant doesn’t feel that he has to integrate, or to learn the language, or learn the traditions of the West, and further blames the French govement’s appeasement of Muslim immigrants.

Colby Cosh (2005-11-07) argues that France has undeniably been more aggressive than the Anglo-Saxon countries in asserting a unitary national culture and blames the despair and anger created by a government housing policy that amounts to warehousing members of a particular ethnic group in horrible, unsightly, cheaply-made housing projects.

Rox’s friend from Paris says that it’s not an Islamic riot at all, but rather drug dealers defending their turf from the police.

Emma Kate Symons (2005-11-12) thinks it’s the expression of a violently male supremacist adolescent culture.

Mark Steyn (2005-11-10) thinks this is the start of a long Eurabian civil war we’re witnessing here.

On the other hand, none of them cite any direct quotes from any of the rioters as to why they’re rioting.

So why did all those rioters set towns across France afire? Don’t ask me. How would I know? If you want to find out, ask a rioter Pourquoi? You might even wait for the answer before you start offering an analysis.

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