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Posts tagged Kevin Carson

Shameless Self-promotion Sunday

It’s Sunday Sunday Sunday. Let’s get Shameless Shameless Shameless.

It’s my blog, so I guess I’ll have to go first. This weekend, the November 2010 issue of The Freeman was released; among the articles in this month’s issue are:

And — the reason for mentioning it to-day, specifically — there’s also:

Secondly, preparations continue for my appearance to present Women and the Invisible Fist, and to represent the Molinari Institute at the the Radical Philosophy Association conference on Violence: Systemic, Symbolic, and Foundational in Eugene, Oregon. I’ve been working over the paper for its final form before the presentation[3]. If you’re interested in seeing a copy when it’s ready, just drop me a line and I’ll make sure you get one. In the meantime, I’d like to send out a big thank you to the folks who have generously contributed $40 to Molinari to help cover the costs of getting me to Oregon.[4] The point is–thanks, y’all are awesome. If you, too, would like to help me reach the Willamette Valley and support libertarian contributions to radical scholarship, check out the announcement post, or toss a few coins into the hat right here:

Donate to the Molinari Institute to support left-libertarian scholarship.

Anyway, so that’s me. How about you? What have you been up to this week? Write anything? Leave a link and a short description for your post in the comments. Or fire away about anything else you might want to talk about.

  1. [1]I’m not familiar with Payne’s previous work, but this article is a really nice reminder about government’s direct role in ecologically toxic mass insecticide spraying — often without the consent, or without even informing, property owners whose land was being poisoned from the air.
  2. [2]Previously mentioned in these pages when it appeared as an online feature: GT 2010-08-23: The only Good Government is No Government.
  3. [3]Mostly footnote work right now, but if you’ve read one of my papers before, you know that the way I write, damn, the footnotes are a lot of work; once I finish that, next up is a couple timed readings to make sure that I won’t run over.
  4. [4]That should cover at least the distance from Independence, Missouri to the Kansas River. If the hunting’s good, and we don’t lose anything crossing the river, and nobody dies of dysentery, it may even last us to Fort Kearny.

Friday Lazy Linking

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<li><p><a href="http://darianworden.com/blog/2010/07/raucous-radio/">Raucous Radio. DarianW, <cite>DarianWorden.com</cite> (2010-07-20)</a>. <q>If you haven??t tuned into Thinking Liberty, you??re missing a live anarcho-podcast that keeps getting better and better. In May we moved to a new location with our own equipment, and the quality of the production improved dramatically. The improvement in production quality made us more enthusiastic and confident in...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2010-07-22.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://reason.com/blog/2010/07/22/the-vault-of-legislators">The Vault of Legislators. Jesse Walker, <cite>Jesse Walker: Reason Magazine articles and blog posts.</cite> (2010-07-22)</a>. <q>Bryan Alexander describes one gothic remnant of the Cold War: a set of underground chambers that were supposed to serve as &quot;an emergency shelter for the entire United States Congress, a hideout and bolt hole in case of nuclear war, hidden away beneath a benign-looking hotel.&quot; Built in 1958, the...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2010-07-22.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://library.duke.edu/blogs/scholcomm/2010/07/20/more-protection-for-military-faculty-or-less/">More protection for military faculty, or less? Kevin Smith, <cite>Scholarly Communications @ Duke</cite> (2010-07-20)</a>. <q>Section 105 of the U.S. Copyright Law tells us that there can be no copyright in works of the federal government.  Almost uniquely among the nations of the world, the US government does not get to exclude others (including taxpayers) from using works created by government employees as part of...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2010-07-22.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://blog.ericreasons.com/2010/07/crowdsourcing-curation-social-graph-as.html">Crowdsourcing Curation: The Social Graph as Gatekeeper. Eric Reasons, <cite>Eric Reasons</cite> (2010-07-20)</a>. <q>I've written before about the compromise we tacitly agree to when amateurs take over the roles formerly held by professionsals. The Internet promotes this takeover by lowering the cost of production and transmission to near zero for nearly every user, for everything from words (blogs) to pictures (Flickr) to video...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2010-07-22.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/matthewyglesias/~3/MRhlCNy1jCQ/">Libertarianism on the Road. <cite>Matthew Yglesias</cite> (2010-07-22)</a>. Vulgar libertarianism is making yourself into a Toole of state capitalism. (Via Kevin Carson.) <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2010-07-22.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&amp;fd=R&amp;usg=AFQjCNGV8wmq2rPrPQGl4U3-b1FJzteOiA&amp;url=http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20100720/LIVING/7200306/1032">Internet Archive sets goal to digitize more books - Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. <cite>&quot;library&quot; - Google News</cite> (2010-07-20)</a>. <q>Internet Archive sets goal to digitize more booksRochester Democrat and ChronicleBrewster Kahle, a digital librarian and founder of a virtual library called the Internet Archive, www.archive.org, has launched a campaign to double the ...Google preps projects to test digital librarySalt Lake Tribuneall 8 news articles »</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2010-07-22.)</em></p></li>

Wednesday Lazy Linking

    <ul>
<li><p><a href="http://feeds.feedblitz.com/~/14216812/1gbb8r/alternet~SWAT-Raids-Gone-Wrong-Paramilitary-Policing-Is-Out-of-Control">SWAT Raids Gone Wrong -- Paramilitary Policing Is Out of Control. Phillip S. Smith, Drug War Chronicle, <cite>AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed</cite> (2010-06-01)</a>. <q>In 1980, 2,884 SWAT deployments were recorded nationwide; the number today is estimated by experts at 50,000 annually or more.</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-06-02.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://c4ss.org/content/2612">C4SS May Fund Drive. Mariana Evica, <cite>Center for a Stateless Society</cite> (2010-05-30)</a>. <q>NEWS Here??s where we are, who??s moving us forward, and what our personnel are doing. Starting June 1st, Thomas L. Knapp will become the C4SS Media Coordinator. His pay will change to $640 monthly for 20 hours weekly labor in that role. He will also retain the title of Senior News...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-06-02.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://feeds.feedblitz.com/~/13528726/1fdoe4/alternet">You Can Get 15 Years in Jail For Recording an On-Duty Cop in Illinois. <cite>AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed</cite> (2010-05-20)</a>. <q>Wow? Last week, an Illinois judge rejected Chicago artist Christopher Drew??s motion to dismiss the Class I felony charge against him. Drew is charged with violating the state??s eavesdropping statute when he recorded his encounter with a police officer last December on the streets of Chicago. A Class I felony...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-06-02.)</em></p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/nostatecom/~3/coNeIADUj3M/">Freedom Blogs will mirror censored websites. Mike Gogulski - nostate.com, <cite>Anarchoblogs</cite> (2010-05-26)</a>. <q>I am pleased to announce, after reading Global Voices Advocacy??s Guide: Mirroring a Censored WordPress Blog, that I am willing to mirror blogs or other websites at Freedom Blogs which: are worthy, in my view, of being defended against censorship; don??t cause me to lose my paid hosting accounts or...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-06-02.)</em></p></li>

Bits & Pieces on Free Market Anti-Capitalism: two meanings of “markets”

In order to get clear on the topic in a conversation about Free Market Anti-Capitalism, the obvious points where clarification may be needed are going to be the meaning of capitalism, the meaning of markets, and the meaning of freedom in the market context. We left-libertarians have spent a lot of time, and raised a lot of controversy talking about the first topic — whether capitalism is really a good name for the sort of thing that we want, the importance of distinguishing markets from actually-existing capitalism, and the possibility of disentangling multiple senses of capitalism.[1] There’s been a lot of argument about that, but here I’m happy to just defer to what my fellow panelists and other left-libertarians have already said. What I’d like to focus on is the less frequently discussed side of our distinction — not the meaning of capitalism, but the different strands of meaning within the term market. As absolutely central as this idea is to libertarian economics, I would argue that there are at least two importantly distinct senses in which the term is used:

  1. Markets as free exchange — when libertarians talk about markets, or especially about the market, we often mean to pick out the sum of all voluntary exchanges — any economic order based, to the extent that it is based, on respect for individual property, consensual exchange, freedom of association, and the freedom to engage in entrepreneurial discovery.

  2. Markets as the cash nexus — but we often also use the term in a different sense — to refer to a particular form of acquiring and exchanging property — that is, to refer to commerce and quid pro quo exchanges, typically mediated by currency or by financial instruments denominated in units of currency.

Of course, one of the central points of libertarian economics is that these two senses are interrelated: when they takes place within the context of a system of free exchange, social relationships based on the cash nexus ?? producing, buying, and selling at market prices, saving money for future use, investing money in productive enterprises, and the like are positive, even essential features of a flourishing society.

But while linked, they are conceptually distinguishable, and it’s important to see, first, that markets in the first sense (the sum of all voluntary exchanges) include the cash nexus ?? but also much more than the cash nexus. Family sharing is part of a free market; charity is part of a free market; gifts are part of a free market; informal exchange and barter are part of a free market. Wage labor (renting labor in return for cash), rent, corporate jobs, corporate insurance and the like can be part of a free market, but so are alternative arrangements ?? including many arrangements that clearly have nothing to do with capitalism3, and fit awkwardly, at best, with any conventional usage of the term capitalism: worker co-ops and consumer co-ops are part of the market; grassroots mutual aid associations and community free clinics are part of the market; so are voluntary labor unions (based on free association and the right to protest or quit), consensual communes, narrower or broader experiments with gift economies, and other alternatives to the prevailing corporate-capitalist status quo. To focus on the specific act of exchange may even be a bit misleading; it might be more suggestive, and less misleading, to describe a fully free market, in this sense, as the space of maximal consensually-sustained social experimentation.

The question, then, is whether, when people are free to experiment with any and every peaceful means of making a living, the sort of mutualistic alternatives that I’ve mentioned might take on an increased role in the economy, or whether the prevailing capitalistic forms would continue to predominate as they currently do. To be sure, the capitalistic arrangements predominate now ?? but that, of course, is no reason to conclude that the market has spoken. It would be enough if the predominance of capitalistic arrangements were the product of revealed preferences in a free market; but since we don’t have at present have a free market, it will, at the very least, take some further investigation ?? in order to determine whether those capitalistic alternatives prevail in spite of the unfreedom of actually-existing markets, or if they prevail, in part, because of that unfreedom.

Which brings us to the market as cash nexus. It is important here to see not only that the cash nexus doesn’t exhaust the forms of voluntary exchange and economic experimentation that might emerge within a freed market, but also that a cash nexus may exist, and may be expansive and important to economic life, whether or not it operates under conditions of individual freedom. Markets in our first, voluntary-exchange sense exist only where people really are free to produce and exchange ?? free market, in the voluntary-exchange sense of market, is really a tautology. But a market in the cash-nexus sense may be either free or unfree; cash exchanges are still cash exchanges, whether they are regulated, restricted, subsidized, taxed, mandated, or otherwise constrained by government action.

When free marketeers turn from the formal discussion of voluntary exchange, toward a substantive discussion of actually-existing economic relationships and financial arrangements, our analysis has to discuss more than just limitations on market activity. We often speak of market exchange and government allocation as cleanly separate spheres, as if they were two balloons, set one next to the other, in a closed box, so that when you blow one of them up, the other has to shrink to the same extent. That’s true enough about markets as social experimentation, but the relationship between cash-nexus exchange and government allocation is really more like two plants growing next to each other. When one gets bigger, it may overshadow the other, and stunt its growth. But they also climb each other, shape each other, and each may even cause some parts of the other plant to grow far more than if they had not had the support.

Any discussion of the cash nexus in the real world, then, needs to take account not only of the ways in which government limits or prohibits market activity, but also the ways in which government, rather than erasing markets, creates new rigged markets ?? points of exchange, cash nexuses which would be smaller, or less important, or radically different in character, or simply would not exist at all, but for the intervention of the state.

Thus, the social and economic value of the cash nexus, as a social relationship, depends entirely on the context. Kinds of interaction that are positive and productive in the context of free exchange easily become instruments of alienation and exploitation when they are forced on unwilling participants, in areas of their life where they don’t need or want them, through coercive government. The growth of markets as spaces for social experimentation is always a liberating development — but these social experiments may be mediated by the cash-nexus, or may be mediated by entirely different social relationships. The growth of markets as cash-nexus exchanges, on the other hand, may be liberating or violating, depending on whether those relationships come about through the free interplay of social forces, or through the direct or indirect ripple-effects of government force and the coercive creation of rigged markets.

I’ll be turning to the analysis of that context, and the way that free market anticapitalists apply it to the real-world business-as-usual, in the next instalment.

  1. [1]For examples, see my Anarquistas por La Causa and What’s in a name?, Roderick Long 2006-04-08 and 2008-06-27, Steve Horwitz 2009-12-31 and 2010-01-07, Gary Chartier 2010-01-19, Kevin Carson 2010-03-06, Sheldon Richman 2010-03-02 and 2010-04-16, etc.

On Big Charity

I’ve talked here a couple times before about the notion of mass education and targeted persuasion and how important it is to what I take myself to be doing in writing a crazy-ass blog about all my crazy-ass positions like I do. (The basic notion here is that one way to advance crazy-ass radical views — views which you’re not likely to convince many people of, just as they are, outside of a relatively small, somewhat self-selected target audience — you can still move the conversation forward in really important ways just by taking the time to put the position on people’s intellectual radar — by explaining the view, and why some people might hold it, clearly enough that you thereby push out people’s horizons of intelligible dissent. Most folks still won’t accept your position, but if you do it right, you will get them to where they’ll consider it as a position that’s open for discussion. And just doing that much has a big damn effect on where discussions can go.)

Anyway, the point of mentioning all this is to bring up a really fine post that Roderick put up last month, entitled Wild Cards, which I think does some really important work towards just that kind of dialectical project. After some excellent introductory material which introduces several of the same notions, in other terms, Roderick comes around to this really quite excellent effort to distill the left-libertarian position down to six key points:

Our vital task, then, is to get the word out that there is a position out there that includes the following theses:

  1. Big business and big government are (for the most part) natural allies.

  2. Although conservative politicians pretend to hate big government, and liberal politicians pretend to hate big business, most mainstream policies ?? both liberal and conservative ?? involve (slightly different versions of) massive intervention on behalf of the big-business/big-government elite at the expense of ordinary people.

  3. Liberal politicians cloak their intervention on behalf of the strong in the rhetoric of intervention on behalf of the weak; conservative politicians cloak their intervention on behalf of the strong in the rhetoric of non-intervention and free markets ?? but in both cases the rhetoric is belied by the reality.

  4. A genuine policy of intervention on behalf of the weak, if liberals actually tried it, wouldn??t work either, since the nature of government power would automatically warp it toward the interests of the elite.

  5. A genuine policy of non-intervention and free markets, if conservatives actually tried it, would work, since free competition would empower ordinary people at the expense of the elite.

  6. Since conservative policies, despite their associated free-market rhetoric, are mostly the diametrical opposite of free-market policies, the failures of conservative policies do not constitute an objection to (but rather, if anything, a vindication of) free-market policies.

Of course we should be prepared to defend these theses through economic reasoning and historical evidence, but the main goal at this point, I think, should be not so much to defend them as simply to advertise their existence. We need to make our red spades and black hearts a sufficiently familiar feature of the intellectual landscape that people will be able to see them for what they are rather than misclassifying them ?? at which point we??ll be in a better position to defend them.

— Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire (2009-09-10): Wild Cards

Read the whole thing.

Now, part of the point of this kind of thing is to provoke discussion. And here’s Stephan Kinsella’s reply to principle (1) in particular:

As I noted there, Do you mean big business as it exists in today??s world, or big business per se? If the former, you have a point (and from my quick read I don??t disagree with any of your other points). But to argue for the latter interpretation would imply that there could be no big business in a free society.

It seems that the bigger a company is, in today??s world, the more they have to play ball to prosper. I??m not sure, though, why this observation is limited to big business, or even business in general. Even individuals drive on public roads, and are incentivized or coerced into using public schools, say. And what about Big Medicine, Big Education, Big Research, and so on? (And let??s not forget Big Labor!)

Come to think of it??most larger charities I??m aware of continually seek state partnerships and funding, and encourage state redistribution schemes. Down with charity!

— Stephan Kinsella, The LRC Blog (2009-09-15): Big Charity

Sometimes with Stephan, it’s hard to tell whether he intends this kind of but-what-about, doesn’t-everybody move as just some further observations riffing on the general theme or whether he really intends for it to be taken as support (by means of a reductio) for some specific objection. But if this is intended as part of an objection to (the per-se interpretation of) Roderick’s claims about the alliance between Big Business and the interventionist State, then what exactly is the objection here supposed to be?

Let’s set aside Stephan’s mentions of individuals driving on government roads, or sending children to government schools. Sure they do; but this doesn’t strike me as even remotely compelling, if you pause for even a second to consider matters of degree, and it’s hard to see what purpose mentioning it really serves except as a way to just sort of scatter critique as broadly as possible. Last year, the Department of the Treasury sent me a $600 check, allegedly for the purpose of economic stimulus — just like how they also cut AIG a $170,000,000,000 check last year, also allegedly for the purpose of economic stimulus. But, well, so what? I’d say it’s still pretty accurate to see AIG as having a much closer relationship with bail-out statism than I do.

So let’s set aside the doesn’t-everybody move, and stick to the comments on other Bigs — large-scale, formalized institutions in which control is concentrated in a professionalized hierarchy and an administrative bureaucracy — whether it’s Big Medicine, Big Education, Big Research, Big Labor, or Big Charity. Kinsella points out that the other big institutions are, in general, tangled up with the interventionist state, just as big business is. If left-libertarians are going to lay down some heavy critique on Big Business, shouldn’t they be doing the same on the other Bigs?

Well, sure.

So what’s the problem?

What makes you think that left-libertarians would have some kind of problem critiquing Big Medicine (2, 3, 4), or Big Research, or Big Education (2, 3, 4), or Big Charity (2, 3), or Big Labor (2, 3, 4)?

Sure, public-private jobbery, state regimented, hypertrophic, centralized institutions, political capture, subsidized featherbedding, and unresponsive professionalized bureaucracies are hardly limited to conventional for-profit corporations. They happen all over the place — in big professionalized charities like United Way or the Starvation Army; in big hospitals and corporate adjuncts of the medical industry (insurance corporations, pharma corporations, etc.); in big administration-heavy multiversities; and in top-down, centralized business unions like the UAW, the Teamsters, or SEIU. Just like the Fortune 500, they’re also major beneficiaries of State regimentation, subsidy, and captive audiences; just like the Fortune 500, they’re also major causes of State regimentation, through their lobbying and political influence. And just like with hypertrophic, centralized, top-down corporate commerce, there’s some solid reasons for thinking that their hypertrophic, centralized, top-down not-for-profit operations would be fundamentally unsustainable in a freed market.

But that’s hardly an objection to the left-libertarian critique of big business; it’s a perfectly acceptable complement to it. Left-libertarians — at least, the sort of left-libertarians that Roderick is an example of — aren’t just conventional libertarians who believe you ought to voluntarily give more to charity. The critique of corporate capitalism is just the most high-profile part of a broad critique of the state’s promotion of credentialism, bureaucracy, and top-down centralized control — which is why folks like us generally promote community mutual aid over professionalized charity; grassroots, rank-and-file unionism over AFL-CIO-style union bosses and collective bargaining; unschooling over bureaucratic-liberal public education; etc., etc., etc.

So, yeah, down with Big Charity. I agree. Where’s the problem?

Updated 2012-03-23. I fixed a typographical error and updated some links to articles from Formulations, whose archives have moved to a newer, more secure web home.

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