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Posts tagged Free Market Anti-Capitalism

We know other marketplaces.

If you enjoyed Pigs as a Paradigm, here is some more from the same place, which may be something by way of a moral. This is in Aristide’s article Globalization: A View from Below, which is a frustrating mix of sharp and important insights and politically-blinkered non sequiturs. The article includes the story about the international-aid driven massacre of Haitian creole pigs, and also includes this, which I think is another of its best passages.

In today’s global marketplace trillions of dollars are traded each day via a vast network of computers. In this market no one talks, no one touches. Only numbers count. . . .

We know other marketplaces. On a plain high in the mountains of Haiti, one day a week thousands of people still gather. This is the marketplace of my childhood in the mountains above Port Salut. The sights and the smells and the noise and the color overwhelm you. Everyone comes. If you don’t come you will miss everything. The donkeys tied and waiting in the woods number in the thousands. Goods are displayed in every direction: onions, leeks, corn, beans, yams, cabbage, cassava, and avocados, mangoes and every tropical fruit, chickens, pigs, goats, and batteries and tennis shoes, too. People trade goods and news. This is the center; social, political, and economic life roll together. A woman teases and coaxes her client: Cherie, the onions are sweet and waiting just for you. The client laughs and teases back until they make a deal. They share trade, and laughter, gossip, politics, and medical and child-rearing tips. A market exchange, and a human exchange.

We are not against trade, we are not against free trade, but our fear is that the global market[1] intends to annihilate our markets. We will be pushed to the cities, to eat food grown on factory farms in distant countries, food whose price depends on the daily numbers game of the first market. This is more efficient, the economists say. Your market, your way of life, is not efficient, they say. But we ask, What is left when you reduce trade to numbers, when you erase all that is human?

–Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Globalization: A View from Below
In Bigelow and Peterson (eds.), Rethinking Globalization: Teaching Justice in an Unjust World (Rethinking Schools, Ltd.: 2002). 10.

Now I’d actually want to say a word or three in favor of mind-boggling scale, computer networks, and global markets. But I think what is most valuable in them — when they are valuable — is precisely their ability to interconnect and network bottom-up confederations of a lot of local, people-centered marketplaces, and to facilitate and loop in the kind of messy, informal, individually-driven, un-professional trade that Aristide celebrates. The highly centralizing, politically captured global market that aims to annihilate this, aims to annihilate it because it is a corporate-owned market herded, and driven by, some very powerful interests exercising tremendous amounts of interventionist political force in order to reshape their environments, to dominate their markets, and to protect their corporate empires, their preferred business models, and their commerce without a human face. Self-organizing markets are at their best when they are the Other Marketplaces. And a radical defense of trade and private property is essential precisely because it is only by sticking to our guns, and defending market forms down to the bottom, and especially in the hands of and for the use of the poorest and most marginalized, that we can move beyond half-measures, business balance sheets and number-crunching neoliberal economic reform; get out of the strip mall and into the bazaar; and get down into the people-powered Other Marketplaces that bring together the best of human sociality and mutual exchange.

Also.

  1. [1][Sic.]

On Being Pretty Much O.K. With That. (Factories, Corporate Secrecy, and Free-Market Anti-Capitalism Edition.)

Here’s a couple of loosely-related conversations from elsewhere on the web. I bring up the less recent one because the more recent one reminded me somewhat of it.

A while back (last May) I was hepped to an odd conversation on left-libertarianism going on over at the Mises Community Forum. I decided to jump in on a terminological point; the thread then became something of a quiz about left-libertarian and free-market anti-capitalist economic beliefs. In reply to some questions posed by Freedom4Me73986, I answered that, in addition to being a free market anti-capitalist, sure, I also call myself a socialist, and yes, I am anti-boss.

Freedom4Me73986:

@Charles Johnson: Do you call yourself a socialist?

Yes, in Tucker’s sense. Some reasons for doing so discussed here, and here, and also here.

And are you anti-boss like many others in the ALL seem to be?

Sure.

I think bossing and conventional employment are both (1) likely to be unstable, and economically unsustainable, in a fully freed market; and (2) kind of shitty ways to treat your fellow human beings.

— Charles Johnson (28 May 2012), re: What’s your beef with Roderick Long and left-libertarianism? at the Mises Community Forum

In reply, Freedom4Me73986 asked:

So how does a bossless factory work if there’s over 100 workers? How can that many people all make decisions w/o a boss? How can 10 people make a decision w/o a boss? Bosses exist for a reason. There way more efficient. Without one nothing would get done.

— Freedom4Me73986 (28 May 2012), re: What’s your beef with Roderick Long and left-libertarianism? at the Mises Community Forum

To which I answered, first, that you might look at existing examples of big factories running without a boss; but that there is also a more important point. Boldface added.

Well, I dunno. I guess if you really want to know the answer to this question, and don’t just intend it as an apriori Gotcha! about what you are already sure must be unworkable, then probably the best thing to do is to ask some of the people who already work in bossless factories with over 100 workers. There are a number of interviews in books like this one. My impression is that it is typically done with a combination of temporary, constantly-rotating responsibilities, a lot of local initiative on the shop floor, and regular big group meetings for making decisions as a group. Maybe this is an inefficient way to do things. On the other hand it seems to be working for the people who are doing it. In any case, I am quite sure that the claim that “Without [a boss] nothing would get done” is empirically falsifiable, and has in fact been falsified. Spontaneous orders are of course possible without central direction.

But in any case suppose that it turned out to be true[1] that on the whole, in a maximally freed market, the complexity and the costs of keeping everyone communicating with everyone else would tend to hobble the workability of big factories without bosses. That might be a reason to think that there will be more bosses in a freed market than I think there will be. But it might just as well be a reason to think: Well, then there will be smaller factories. And if we turn out to have smaller factories, with their activities largely coordinated by trade and contract rather than by bureaucratic management, I don’t see how that would be a problem. Certainly there is no reason apriori why libertarian economics would have to be concerned with figuring out a way to run giant factories with hundreds of workers. If that turns out to be economically and socially sustainable under conditions of free-market competition, then people will do it. But I don’t take it for granted that it will be, and if it isn’t, then people won’t sustain it, and will find other market means of meeting their needs.

In fact I would say there are some strong reasons to think that that kind of business model — at least, nearly every example of that business model that we have available to us for inspection, from General Motors to Lockheed-Martin to GlaxoSmithKline to Foxconn — is not a product of freed market labor agreements, but rather of a pretty heavy-handed structure of government-financed lines of credit, government privileges, government subsidies, and government contracts to the employers, on the one hand, and on the other hand, political impoverishment, political dispossession, and political constraints on the employee’s options for alternative modes of making a living. My reasons for thinking that bossing will be unsustainable in fact have a lot to do with factors that will apply whether or not big factories tend to need bosses (e.g., they have to do with the changes which are more likely, ceteris paribus, to occur within labor markets when people’s fixed costs of living are radically lower, and their options for making a living outside of formalized employment relationships have radically expanded, as discussed briefly e.g. in The Many Monopolies and in Scratching By — all of which are changes that, if they are likely to come about, are likely to come about regardless of the organizational economics of trying to run a large factory.)

— Charles Johnson (28 May 2012), re: What’s your beef with Roderick Long and left-libertarianism? at the Mises Community Forum

I’m reminded of the conversation back in May because of a different thread in Stephan Kinsella’s recent AmA on Reddit. Kinsella highlighted his opposition to patents and copyrights in the pitch for his AmA, and a lot of the conversation focused on the topic of IP. When asked, Kinsella added that in addition to patent and copyright, he also favored the abolition of trademark and trade secret laws, saying:

I am totally against patent, copyright, and also tradmeark and trade secret. Trademark law should be replaced with fraud law only. Trade secret should just be a private contract. Easy.

— N. Stpehan Kinsella (23 January 2013), re: I am Stephan Kinsella … AMA at /r/IAmA

Redditor /u/probablyreasonable asked, in response:

Trade secret entirely replaced as a private contract? You’re joking right? What of the litany of examples where exiting employees do not sign their nondisclosure? What of the litany of examples where the disclosing party was not in privity with the TS owner?

Please elaborate.

— /u/probablyreasonable (23 January 2013), re: I am Stephan Kinsella … AMA at /r/IAmA

I answered with a charitable clarification of Stephan’s position (as far as I understand it), and then some commentary of my own on the argument, in which I am speaking only for myself. If government doesn’t enforce corporate secrecy, then corporations may have more trouble keeping their secrets. Well, then there may be fewer companies keeping secrets. I’m pretty much OK with that.

Stephan’s view is that if they didn’t sign the contract, then their actions should not be prosecutable. The reason they should not be prosecutable is because they didn’t violate any rights that they were bound to respect. This means that only people who have agreed to keep a secret can be bound to keep it; if that arrangement causes a problem for companies being able to police their own secrets, then we may well end up with fewer businesses whose business models depend on keeping information secret. Well, OK. It’s not obvious, to me at least, that this is a bad outcome.

— Charles Johnson (23 January 2013), re: I am Stephan Kinsella … AMA at /r/IAmA

probablyreasonable replied with what seems to me a bizarre non sequitur, about utopianism and corporate espionage.

Corporate espionage unpunished and will encourage the behavior to increase profitability and competitiveness.

Again, all of Stephan’s arguments presuppose that everyone in our society is healthy, co-operative, and not driven to criminal behavior. This is not the case.

— /u/probablyreasonable (23 January 2013), re: I am Stephan Kinsella … AMA at /r/IAmA

Again, speaking only for myself and not all of Stephan’s arguments, I replied:

That’s a problem if you think that corporate espionage is a problem. I think that corporate business models that are heavily dependent on secrecy and institutional opacity are the problem, and that corporate espionage is a predictable reaction, and a symptom of a broken business model. If companies can adequately keep their secrets by means of contractual agreements and simple property rights (e.g., controlling who has access to sensitive locations or documents in their possession) then they will keep their secrets. If they cannot adequately keep their secrets by these means, then they will fail at keeping their secrets. And if their business depends on keeping secrets, they will fail at their business. That doesn’t mean that nobody will go into business; it means that people who go into business will find it to their advantage to adopt alternative business models, which don’t depend so heavily on secrecy. Again, you need to actually give an argument if you want to establish that this is an unjust, or even an undesirable outcome.

— Charles Johnson (23 January 2013), re: I am Stephan Kinsella … AMA at /r/IAmA

There is no reason at all why writers who defend market relationships should feel compelled to rig their theory in such a way that it could somehow justify, explain the value of, or defend the interests of gigantic-scale factory production, or rigidly-enforced institutional opacity and corporate secrecy. Speaking for myself, as a free-market anti-capitalist, I think that one of the great values of open, bottom-up market relations are the radical possibilities they might offer for destabilizing these deeply dysfunctional, monopolistically policed concentrations of commercial and industrial power.

Also.

  1. [1]I’m not committed to this claim, but I don’t reject it out of hand either.

Rad Geek Speaks: In which I join an Anti-Capitalist Mob at Libertopia

I am happy to announce that I have been invited to speak at three sessions at the upcoming Libertopia convention, October 11-14, in San Diego, California. In particular, I’m going to be doing:

  1. Part of a panel on so-called Intellectual Property, together with Stephan Kinsella (Saturday October 13, 2012, 2pm-3pm), on the Main Stage.

  2. A breakout session on Ask an Anti-Capitalist! A Freewheeling Q&A on Markets Not Capitalism, Left-Libertarianism, and Mutualist Ends Through Free-Market Means (Sunday October 14, 2012, 9:45am-10:30am).

  3. Part of a panel discussion on Markets Not Capitalism, together with my co-editor Gary Chartier, and contributors Roderick Long and Sheldon Richman. (Sunday October 14, 2012, 3pm-4pm), on the Main Stage.

  4. Tabling in the exhibition area for Markets Not Capitalism, the ALL Distro, and Center for a Stateless Society. We’ll have copies of the book, booklets, pamphlets, buttons, and more; and we’ll be there to talk to convention-goers about free-market anticapitalism and left-libertarian ideas. I’m going to enjoy the talks but in all honesty the person-to-person contact and the tabling is the kind of groundwork that I see as by far the most important stuff, and which I’m most looking forward to doing.

I should mention that the Ask an Anti-Capitalist! session is being held in the John Galt Room, which I’m choosing to take as one of the more hilarious culture-clash moments I’ve had since I started doing this gig. The bad news is that this is scheduled opposite breakout sessions by Gary Chartier on war, and Sharon Presley on libertarian feminism (?!?). I guess the good news is that by packing us in like this, they’ve ensured that no matter what breakout session you go to during that block, you are going to get some lefty libertarian stuff to hear. Anyway, there’s going to be a veritable mob of left-libertarians, free-market anticapitalists, C4SSers and other lefty-friendly commentators there throughout the event, including Gary Chartier, Sheldon Richman, Roderick Long, Stephanie Murphy, not to mention presentations by Angela Keaton, Sharon Presley and Anthony Gregory. You can check out the whole schedule here.

We’re doing our best to do all this on as thin a shoestring budget as possible. I’ve arranged for couch-surfing and carpooling to help keep the travel and lodging expenses as minimal as possible, but there’s still a couple of hefty charges that we’re paying out of pocket to get Markets Not Capitalism and a rambunctious left-libertarian presence out to California. So if you want to help out, you can toss a few coins into the hat with the ChipIn widget below. Donations go to the Molinari Institute, so any proceeds above reimburseable expenses will go to support the production and distribution of market anarchist literature, and towards supporting future speaking gigs for Markets Not Capitalism. Anyway, here’s the shoestring, for reference. (This may be revised as other arrangements get nailed down.)

Markets Not Capitalism 2012 Libertopia budget
Cost Description
$440 Travel. Rental car to ferry me, L., and a friend across the continent to San Diego
~$0~ Lodging en route (2 nights there, 2 back; crash space secured!)
$400 Tabling space expenses. To reimburse Roderick Long for the expense of securing a table in exhibition space for C4SS, ALL, and Markets Not Capitalism
(he will otherwise have to pay out-of-pocket)
$840 Total costs (estimate as of 23 Sep 2012)

Chip In to get Markets Not Capitalism to Libertopia!

ChipIn: Markets Not Capitalism! at Libertopia (Oct 2012)

Thanks! And I hope I’ll see y’ALL there!

Markets Not Capitalism in the Gnu’s

So I’m happy to say that Markets Not Capitalism is now available for sale on the shelves of my favorite bookstore, The Gnu’s Room, here in Auburn. The Gnu’s Room has also very generously agreed to host a local author reading / discussion / book-signing / market anarchist hootenanny this Wednesday, November 30th. I’ll be there to do a brief talk and a reading; and Roderick Long will be there to do much the same. Books will be sold, books will be signed, discussion to be had, caffeine to be consumed. Come on down! Invite yr friends!

Here’s the schedule:

Markets Not Capitalism Book Talk/Signing

Charles W. Johnson (editor, contributor) & Roderick T. Long (contributor)

Markets Not Capitalism:
Individualist Anarchism Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Structural Poverty

(Eds. Gary Chartier and Charles W. Johnson. Minor Compositions/Autonomedia, November 2011).

Wednesday, 30 November 2011. 7:00pm-8:30pm.
at The Gnu’s Room bookstore/café
414 S. Gay St
Auburn, Alabama 36830

Here’s the event description from The Gnu’s Room:

Co-Editor Charles Johnson and major contributor Roderick Long to the book Markets Not Capitalism (2011) will be at The Gnu??s Room for a discussion of the topics addressed in the book. The economic crisis needs fresh new responses, which emphasize the ways in which poverty and economic inequality have resulted from collusion between government and big business, which has enriched a few corporate giants at the expense of the rest of us. Rather than turning back to politics, the authors argue that working people must begin to free themselves of the mistakes of the past, and work together to take back control over their own lives and livelihoods through individual freedom, mutual exchange, and nonviolent grassroots social activism.

In which market anarchists are sent out to catch the wild 22

Here’s Juan Cole, Informed Comment 2011-08-12: Paul, Santorum and the Sixth War (on Iran):[1]

A significant stream within [Right-wing] libertarianism theorizes war as the ultimate in this racket, whereby some companies use government to throw enormous sums to themselves by waging wars abroad and invoking patriotic themes. This analysis is remarkably similar to that of Left anarchists such as Noam Chomsky.

The difference is that for anarcho-syndicalists like Chomsky, the good guys of history are the workers and ordinary folk, whereas for Libertarians, it is entrepreneurs. Both theories depend on a naive reading of social interest. Right anarchists seem not to be able to perceive that without government, corporations would reduce us all to living in company towns on bad wages and would constantly be purveying to us bad banking, tainted food, dangerous drugs, etc. I mean, they behave that way when they can get away with it even when there is supposed government oversight, usually by capturing the government oversight agency that should be regulating them and then defanging it (e.g. BP and the Minerals Management Service). On the environment, private companies would never ever curb emissions without government intervention because of the problem of the commons. (Tellingly, Ron Paul calls global climate change a ??hoax.?)

And, what makes the Libertarians think that if there were no governments or only weak governments, the corporations would not just wage the wars themselves? The East India Companies of Britain and the Netherlands behaved that way. India was not conquered by the British government, but by the East India Company. Likewise what is now Indonesia was a project of the Dutch East India Company. Libertarians have difficulty imagining warmongering corporations who pursue war all on their own without any government involvement.

And below, in comments on the post:

The theory that big corporations exist only because of government, and that monopoly capitalism is a result of government, is wrong. In fact, it is so obviously wrong and ahistorical (the biggest corporations and the strongest monopolies have occurred in the most laissez-faire societies) that it bewilders me how intelligent people ever came to believe it.

Well, you know, when left-libertarians get into arguments with progressives about this sort of thing, and we point out that, historically speaking, American-style capitalism did not really arise in anything resembling a free market — that there never has been anything resembling a free market — and when we point to the actual history of regulatory capture, legal monopoly, state subsidy, government dependence, etc. that historically lies behind commercial empires like the East India Companies (government-chartered and government-protected monopolies), British Petroleum (until recently a wholly owned subsidiary of the United Kingdom), Standard Oil and its descendents, Ma Bell and its descendents, General Electric, J.P Morgan-Chase, Bank of America, General Motors, etc. etc. etc. — and which created and sustained the family fortuens of the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Morgans, Goulds, ibn-Sauds, et al. — the response to this discussion of the historical sources of actually-existing capitalism is always met by a purely hypothetical alternative history, in which, it is alleged, such titanic concentrations of wealth, even though they actually arose in a system of privilege that had nothing to do with free markets, would still have arisen and maintained themselves just as well under purely hypothetical conditions of laissez-faire, even without all the concentrating, insulating, and subsidizing efforts that the manorial and corporate states have so energetically made on their behalf. If this claim is argued for at all, it is not argued for historically, since, of course, there are no historical examples of it ever having happened. It is instead argued for apriori, based on well, why wouldn’t they sorts of appeals to the nastiness of businessmen[2], and the occasional reference to ahistorical hypotheticals or game-theoretic models, like Garret Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons[3] Then left-libertarians are accused of being naive.

But if we respond to this hypothetical speculation by adding on, alongside the history we have already discussed, some more general, apriori economic reasons to believe that stable monopolies and cartels cannot maintain themselves without government privilege, that freed markets would tend to dissipate concentrated fortunes, and that they would systematically contain and undermine, rather than entrenching, monopolies and cartels, then we are accused of utopian theorizing, and told that our view of markets is ahistorical.

Apparently we can’t win. Maybe that’s the point; but I think a rhetorical victory that actually engaged with the historical arguments being offered, or with the apriori arguments being offered, rather than simply waving them off as either nonexistent or obviously beneath the notice of intelligent people, might be a more satisfying achievement.

  1. [1]Cole’s post is, structurally speaking, a post about how Juan Cole agrees with Ron Paul, and disagrees with Rick Santorum’s belligerent idiocy, on Iran. But Juan Cole cannot simply write a post about how he agrees with Ron Paul, just like that. So instead he spends about a third of the post talking about how he thinks that Right-wing libertarianism is a lot of rubbish with a dangerously naive view of corporate power. Which is not in an of itself a problem — right-wing libertarianism is a lot of rubbish with a dangerously naive view of corporate power. And I certainly have nothing against criticizing Chairman Ron’s version of it. But if your criticism of Ron Paul is based on the assertion that he is a Right anarchist — and that what makes him an anarchist is that he [wants] the least government possible then you are about to say something that has probably nothing really to do with, and certainly is not an accurate representation of either Ron Paul or Anarchism. And if you think that Ron Paul is an example of a Right anarchist, and Noam Chomsky is the best example you can think up for a Left anarchist, then I must gently suggest that you are talking outside of your area of expertise.
  2. [2]As if a freed market meant nothing more than that businessmen will act however they please — as if there were no other social forces that could possibly be activated within a freed market.
  3. [3]There is actually quite a lot of good economic literature demonstrating how and why real-world common-pool resources don’t simply get obliterated, as Hardin predicts they must be, in the absence of individualized ownership or top-down legal regulation. See for example the work of the Ostroms.
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