- Avoid:- claims or arguments for certainty, predicting the future,infallibility,dogmatism, extremism,black and white thinking, utopianism, being ivory tower i.e. too abstract and theoretical,using too much jargon,claiming to know eternal fixed laws,claims to give a complete final worldview or the like.This rules out things like Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, Marxist-Leninism,Stalinism,Anarcho-Capitalism,Libertarianism,Communism etc.
- Systems like Capitalism or Socialism are values expressed in concrete form in institutions.They can co-exist to some extent since there’s no pure capitalism or socialism.The challenge is to make Capitalism a minority element of the system.
- It’s impossible to offer a value free economics, a value free criticism of the status quo or a value free argument for improvements.
- I think it’s safe to say that we should recognise that Marx’s communism of a stateless classless society is utopian and that USSR style complete centralized goverment is not desirable if we hold democratic values.
- There are no guaranteed solutions to problems.We must be open to alternatives and to experimentation.To some extent we don’t know what will work until we try it.
- Power can never be eliminated but may be used for good or bad purposes i.e. to harm or to help, to empower and lead to flourishing or to dehumanize.
- The State is influenced by many interests and not inherently pro-capitalist nor pro-labour.It’s influenced by many groups and this explains it’s conflicting policies and programs.
- Environmentalism must be a vital part of politics.It’s unclear what it will require and how it will be achieved and how it can be achieved quickly.
- There are no final victories.Social progress may be achieved but it can be overturned.All progress is a constant struggle. There is no guarantees of permanent success and improvements.Progress is not necessarily permanent.I view society as always having a certain amount of unavoidable debate and conflict.This leads to the conclusion in my mind,that we can never eradicate the Right wing for example and that there is never any final victory for socialism or anarchism or Communism or any political philosophy.
- I think Amartya Sen’s way of conceiving of freedom or liberty as about capabilities and opportunities is about as useful a theory on freedom we can have but there certainly is no easy distinctions between ‘positive liberty’ and ‘negative liberty’.
- I think we can take insights from things like Marxism or situationism etc without being dogmatic about it or assuming it’s a complete final worldview.
- Reasonable debate and discussion is vital for democracy.
- We should avoid any claims to having eternal absolute certain foundations for a political philosophy e.g. libertarianism has logical axioms and dogmatic marxism claims to be as scientific as evolution.
- We cannot know ahead of time what the best society we should/could have would look like.We can only compare societies and ideas of improvements with now.It would be undemocratic of us to tell future generations what kind of society to have and we also cannot predict the future so we are unjustified draw up blueprints.
- We can only react to political issues as they arise and we are limited in so many ways in what we can do in one lifetime.
- It is not at all obvious that the status quo is heading towards collapse or failure. It must be made to happen.
- Slogans and mottos can be nice motivating shorthand but obscure nuance and complexity.
- No progress comes overnight so the idea of a full scale revolution is utopian. All social progress has taken years to achieve and has been piecemeal.
- Revolution:- While I don’t believe revolution is impossible it seems unlikely given what we know. I consider it somewhat dogmatic to believe it is the only solution.Furthermore I have yet to see a coherent realistic explanation of how it could even possibly occur(granting of course that this is a difficult task) Reform is difficult enough so that revolution looks highly idealistic and unrealistic.
- Serious massive reform takes a number of years if ever achieved and it involves near constant struggle.
- There will always be protests and injustices and we must always be ready to resist. All I am for is genuine improvement of ordinary peoples lives-if that’s reformist and weak then I make no apologies.I do not think the current system is perfect or anywhere near what it should be but aspects of it I prefer to alternatives e.g. I prefer having laws against At-will firing than not having them as anarchism would tend to require.I’m more even about practical improvements than philosophy really.
- Economics:- Economics is little importance.Much of it is either obvious or politics masquerading as science.Too much of it is abstract from real life.Mainstream Neo-classical/ capitalist economics is clearly flawed.I’m pretty uneasy about economics as a practice but it seems Behavioural Economics is at very least a better approach than traditional ones.Economics cannot be ‘value free’ it must by it’s nature involve ethics and political judgements.Economics must take into account culture,history and psychology to name but a few disciplines involved in it.
- No eternally true/useful theory:- In it’s day things like classical liberalism had worth i.e. They smashed state absolutism,theocracy,feudalism etc.But it came that the needs of individuals and society meant that it had outlived it’s purpose such that today it is irrelevant and worse,reactionary.Some elements of Marxism even are also much similiar to this.
- Democracy is a dialogue that never ends,it’s contested,it’s messy,it’s nuanced,pluralistic,allows diversity,deliberation,debate and makes some conflict unavoidable.Not all views can be taken seriously either if we’re being realistic i.e. fascism is ruled out by democratic values and anarchism is beyond what the majority consider practical or useful going forward.
- We should be willing to criticize any institution or policy or part of government or function of it when necessary. Critics, transparency and debate are vital to democracy.
- Majoritarianism is the best most fair system of organizing and decisionmaking.Unanimous agreement is desirable but often impossible especially in large groups
- Answering Anarchism:- I don’t want to get into discussions of whether a stateless society is possible or more just or whether one with a state is always necessary or more just.It’s irrelevant really and as John Dewey( or was it Richard Rorty?) argues we do not find final solutions but give up asking specific questions and move past them.We have a state now- this is our starting point .If you’re gonna make the argument that the state is unnecessary or inherently injust that’s a claim worth dealing with.To some extent just common sense can answer anarchism.But it still needs done.Anarchism serves a purpose.It makes us check our reasoning and justification ,make sure it’s not unduly controlled by those in power.
- I am critical of anarchism because I see it as unrealistic and undesirable.But should it become possible and even desirable and the majority work towards it then I will join with them and support it once I took am convinced.
By: Scott F | Nov 13, 2012 Featured
By: Scott F | Oct 30, 2012 Featured
Brian was really depressed.His really ordinary Peruvian nudist village.He was facing layoffs at his job,his hobby had become stale as cushions and his wife had grown cold to him. They did come from different worlds.community of dinosaur friends with big tails.He wasn’t sure why he stayed in his job.He was nearly old enough to die and had considered it a few times but his old job led to his seeking out a shrink.Post traumatic white collar syndrome.He had a phobia of offices.Halloween too.This woman he worked with became really really into sanity, an extremist even and dressed as a pirate and killed people.When Brian felt low he wondered how the world was filled with normality and sensibility like that.
By: Scott F | Oct 23, 2012 Featured
Understandably worldwide,it has been folk song which has reflected the experience of the working class and the oppressed and it has most often featured song which radically critique existing order from the personal experiences of ordinary people. I’d like to examine a few of them from Scottish culture.
The Jute mill song is based on the experience of women workers in dundee mills who would work up till they had their babies and then had to scrape a living from pitiful wages.The songs last verse remarks “ Them that works the hardest are the least provided” and reflects on the deep inequality in employment.It speaks to a great many people then and now on how working for a wage despite the prestige placed on it by the values of Capitalist society often feels like degradation with little to show for it at the end of the day.The lyrics manage to convey the lack of time in the workers life.Wage labour swallows it up and divides it into blurry sections called work and rest. They are always on the clock.
Alistair Hulett The Red Clydesiders
Red Clydeside is a quite well known period of scottish history within it’s left.the period of 1910s to 1930s saw the growing dissatisfaction of many glaswegians.The period began with working class opposition to Ww1 that european royal family squabble.The Clyde Workers Committee was formed to protest the Munitions Act which forbade leaving your employer and at this time John Maclean and James Maxton were both jailed for anti-war protesting.Rent were increased too and this led to rent strikes all over the city ,often organised by women once famous woman being Mary Barbour.The rent strikes spread and were an incredible success soon resulting in the passing of laws to restrict rent prices.
The question always hangs in the air as to what Red Clydeside was or could have become.The main focus is on the 1919 Battle of George Square.It began with a strike for better working conditions.How it turned into fighting is somewhat unclear but the police declared it a riot and they tried to disperse workers in the Glasgow square. Prime minister David Lloyd George feared a revolution mindful of recent russian and german uprisings and sent in the military.Tanks rolled down the street in a disproportionate response.Soldiers flooded into the street brought from other parts of Scotland to avoid them sympathising with the workers and joining in.
Freedom Come All Ye
Freedom Come All Ye is one of those songs that resonates and speaks for and to the world.The song became popular since it’s writing and continues to be relevant to this day.It calls for a new Scotland and a better world. In the highly poetic song ,rough winds blow away artificial divisions which in the examples given imply town/country, highlander/lowlander but speak more broadly of class,race,gender etc.Hamish Henderson the original writer of the song, describes how these thoughts are hostile to the rich and powerful ruling few and they would flee from it.Taking on both sides of the issue, the song confesses Scottish and more broadly world complicity in imperalism and how this often has a racial element.It talks of how this division will be healed and the races will become married as a single humanity.According to the song no more will children(the greatest victims of any and all wars) mourn the ships which signal the soldiers heading off to war.The last verse ends with a call to all those “at hame wi freedom” who love and seek freedom and wish to find it in Scotland and the world.Henderson says not to listen to the doomsayers and those who try divide and rule or tell us “there is no alternative”.He says we are all “The bairns o adam” and as a human family we all seek the same decency,the same essentials and if we recognition our solidarity and unity then we will do so.He finishes with an almost prophetic metaphorical claim that when Red Clydesider John Maclean meets with his friends in Glasgow, nature will bloom and the oppressed in africa(a metaphor for any oppressed people especially of imperialism) will smash down the punishment and authoritarianism of their oppressors.It’s a optimistic triumphant joyous song.
By: Scott F | Oct 9, 2012 Art
Scottish poetry has moved on quite considerably since the days of Robert Burns. We now have rebels like Tom Leonard bucking the establishment in all sorts of ways including in terms of prescriptive linguistics.Scottish poetry has really moved away from the rut it was stuck in for many years post-Burns ,an era which produced many an imitator for better or for worse(Mostly the worse). Scottish poetry retains many similar aims and themes as our national Bard did but now explores them in a modern context.
My favourite recent discovery of one such poet is Rab Wilson. Rab Wilson was born in New Cumnock,Ayrshire(Burns country) in 1960 and in a lot of ways embodies a mix of modern Scottish concerns with a spice of the Burns spirit.
His poetry often speaks of the devastation and sense of hopelessness left in Scotland after the shutting down of the pits in the wake of the miners strike of 1984.The Miners fought galliantly against the beast of Thatcherism but a victory over the tories, they didn’t come to see. Instead future Scottish generations live in the shadow of those decisions and many communities still ache with hurt and burn with fury with what happened then. For some there is no future.It was all their life was and to them the fact their community has lost industries like coal mining or in other cases ship building(most famously on the Clyde)
Rab Wilson had seen both aspects to that historical era being from a mining village himself, working in the pits and striking with the rest.His poems convey the sense of hollowness and mourning in these preceding years. He takes it as a major theme, even devoting a series of poems to versifying the words of ex miners from around Scotland.
Rab Wilson is first and foremost a poet of the working class. Not content to sit on his arse and pen from his chair ,he’s been known to get himself involved in a range of socialist causes and champion the workers wherever he goes for example speaking in favourite of keeping Johnnie walker in it’s traditional location in Kilmarnock to preserve the working people’s jobs.
His adds his voice to a number of very working class poets who are critical of the safe convenient establishment middle class poetry of your average poet. He aims to speak to your average person and cover topics that would make sense to them(generally).
Rab could be called a modern ‘makar’.He has brought the Scots from Burns and others into the modern day, he shows it isn’t and never was dead. He speaks and writes in scots because it is the person on the streets tongue and one most people in Scotland identify with.More important it’s the working class voice.Rab Wilson’s a great talent for my country and I hope he continues to do what he does best.He’s an innovator and literary dynamite in a flotsam of typically bland safe unpolitical cliché poetry in many sectors in modern poetry.
“A different class o fowk,an ah mean it,
A place ye’d nevvir tae ask fir a haun.
In this world nou they’d stab their ain brither!
Doun there ye looked eftir yin anither.
(From his series Somewhaur in the Daurk,sonnets inspired by the Miners Strike of 1984-1985)
By: Scott F | Jul 8, 2012 Featured
If I was to boil the years of my political positions down I’d say that when I was a social democrat aged about 14 or so,I had no well developed or considered idea about Positive Liberty ,and so I focused on Negative Liberty which seemed easier to understand.This influenced me(along with mistreatment from my peers) to get into an extreme Objectivist inspired Individualism and Egoism-What young teen doesn’t want to be told you have the right to control your life free from any others influence in rebellion against society itself.
Even in a good anarchist community there would need to be people enforcing norms and punishing violaters thus violence is required even if just in an organized sense for defense against rape or murder.
For any social change to be deep widespread and abiding , the majority must accept it.For racism to become generally considered abhorrent ,it took time till the majority accepted it.Other examples could be given: Gay rights,feminism etc. Anarchism needs to convince the majority that it is better.It needs to be shown practical and achievable.People are going to demand a vague picture of what it’s like and how it will be worked towards- better pictures than have been given so far- people will not give up there lives as imperfect as they are now.
My point there was anarchism would only work if people believed in values anarchists do.
This wasn’t a piece about that.” Also, they loved reformism too much to embrace the idea of revolution.”Revolution is unrealistic. I believe in a revolution of ideas not actions.
I expected this kind of insult…. I’m not the kind of person who things everyone should conform to me but some norms are like that.
“It’s not clear to me from your article why you gave up anarchism. “
I stopped believing it was necessary or achievable. I then came to see it as undesirable if it were achievable and
“Were you an anarchist because you were a libertarian? “
I thought of myself as an anarchist when I was an ancap then when I was a ‘left libertarian’ but I then moved beyond that to a more traditional anarchism inspired by Goldman, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin,Marx,Bookchin etc taking influence from Mutualism,Anarcho-Syndicalism and Anarcho-Collectivism.
I am not a libertarian now.
I am a democratic socialist( by which I mean I oppose the USSR and so called ‘actually existing socialist’ countries.)
“Rights don’t protect people “
I disagree.Protecting people is itself a right.
“Also, even if peoples’ rights cannot be secured in an anarchist society, that still does not mean that a state would be justified. “
I disagree. Such a society would be worse than now.
“the state is an inherently aggressive institution”
True to some extent though it can be justified sometimes.
“Did you give up anarchism because you gave up libertarianism?”
No. I gave up libertarianism FOR anarchism.
“what are competing privatized mini-states”?
Ancaps favour (generally) complete privatization of everything.These would be de facto states but privately funded and ran or at least state like.
“I believe government despite it’s errors and evils,is not all bad
and does provide some perennially good things which are huge steps
forward in human society for example food licensing laws,right to
roam,health and safety, laws against at will firing,road
maintenance,water purification,the welfare state,government
healthcare,public transport-to name but a few.”
“if not then how you believe these great acts of aggression are justified?”
Because the absence of them is a great danger to society.With them there can be greater wellbeing and risks of harm are reduced. They are quite vital necessities to any civilized society.
“Any response to any of what I said within the next week will be read and appreciated. Thanks.”
Thank you for your interest.I appreciate your reasonable tone despite my disagreement and I respect your willingness to engage my ideas.
I resent the slur that I am a capitalist.How about debating the argument not just personally attacking me.I am not a capitalist. I am critical of consumerism,corporations,planned obscolescence and a whole lot of capitalist values.I hate most banks…
By: Scott F | Sep 2, 2011 Anarchism
The Non aggression principle (or NAP for short ) claims it is unjustified to aggress -initiate force- against non aggressors and that it is justified to retailate with force(use self defense) against force since (1) the aggressor tacitly consents to your aggression by virtue of not respecting non aggression as a principle(more or less Stephan Kinsella’s estoppel argument) or a purely consequentialist appeal to necessity of defense.
There are a number of Problems with this principle in it’s most strict,absolutist form.
1.) It requires allowing acts of aggression to occur before they are punished.As Rothbard in Man,Economy and State writes “It might be objected that free-market defense agencies must wait until after people are injured to punish, rather than prevent, crime. It is true that on the free market only overt acts can be punished. There is no attempt by anyone to tyrannize over anyone else on the ground that some future crime might possibly be prevented thereby. On the “prevention” theory, any sort of invasion of personal freedom can be, and in fact must be, justified. It is certainly a ludicrous procedure to attempt to “prevent” a few future invasions by committing permanent invasions against everyone”((Chapter 3—Triangular Intervention (continued), C. Standards of Quality and Safety)A strict adherence to the libertarian non aggression principle should forbid belief in pre-emptive force to prevent crimes such as rape or assault because they would constitute aggression against a non aggressor.With this You’re not allowed to prevent your food from being poisoned until it happens, Not allowed to prevent fires before they happen(e.g. you see a criminal talking about it and buying the materials to use and see the plans how to do it but have to let it happen anyway),not allowed to prevent the environment from being polluted and stop people from being harmed until actual harm occurs,not allowed to prevent car crashes until there is car crashes and someone is injured or car smashed,not allowed to prevent shootings or stabbings until they actually happen and someone is hurt or dead.Basically a strict adherence to NAP rules out prevention of crimes.Under a strict version of NAP,more crimes would occur merely because you are not allowed to work to prevent them, even when you have evidence which goes beyond what could be reasonably doubted.
2.) The NAP can potentially require you to contort logic at times to say that aggressors tacitly consent to have force used against them or be punished after the fact, by virtue of having aggressed against you and not respecting the NAP.
3.) If we accept a strict version of the NAP,it’s unjustified to push a blind and deaf person out of the way of a speeding bus because it would be initiation of aggression against an innocent.Now I know the NAP does not allow consequentialist considerations in (or rarely does) but this seems entirely indefensible in my view.From this perspective you are required to allow them to be squashed.
By: Scott F | Jul 23, 2011 Featured
I have to admit my indebtedness to some of the political ideas of John Dewey,however similiar ideas are present in Marx,Bakunin as well as the current political atmosphere of the left libertarians not to mention anarchists.
If ‘Anarcho- capitalism’ is to be considered the final conclusion of classical liberalism then it’s easy to see why it is such a failure.Classical liberalism involves errors on many levels.One of it’s biggest errors is to ignore the importance of social context.
Classical liberalism begins with an unrealistic view of the individual.The individual is a given, a pre social entity.Society exists in this conception to mediate individuals and in part to form them.The alternative is the understanding that identity and individuality can only be formed in a society of differing ideas of what and who you should be.Somewhat simplistically, identity is formed as a reaction to differences and in response to similiarity.So as it turns out, this is what critics mean by classical liberalism(and often libertarianism)’s atomistic view of the individual.Thankfully,corrections appear to being made.
The implication of this for the classical liberal view of liberty is that it is seen as isolation ,as seperation from others – liberty is negative absence of constraint solely – it is a withdrawal not an involvement.It’s unbalanced.
Of this kind of view Karl Marx says “None of these so-called rights of man goes beyond the egoistic man, beyond man as a member of civil society, as a man severed from the common social life and withdrawn into his private interests and private caprice.” (On the Jewish question,part 3)
The contrasted view is more nuanced.Individuals seek negative liberty to exercise positive liberty- the freedom to exercise of their wills towards desired ends excluding those imposed by nature.Negative liberty is necessary for a full bodied positive liberty.That is it’s aim. Likewise seeking negative liberty without positive liberty is likely to eventually lead to the erosion of the former if achieved, and is empty without the inclusion of the latter.If you are free not to be assaulted but kept in a social strata by racism,gender roles or authoritarian boss- worker relations then your life is not really your own ,no matter how free from aggression you may be.This of course, is tied to the classical liberal (and ancap) failure to make sense of the goal of mutually beneficial relations.Mere voluntaryism for them is the be all and end all.A narrow theory indeed,if all of politics is reduced to questions of force.Positive liberty is the more social aspect of the package of liberty.They both go hand in hand.
So what is worth salvaging in Classical liberalism? It’s defense of negative liberty is unlikely to be matched(though coming with the above cautions) Is there anything else? I wish I could say yes,but I don’t think so.other than the fact some classical liberals saw the tie between certain values such as toleration and liberty. It’s economics was and is skewed through with the problems it’s stance of society suffers – Austrian economics is no exception.It pains me to write that, having feel in love with both classical liberalism and Austrian Economics since my discovery of the two.
Is it any wonder Social democrat types are preferred,when your average libertarian(especially LP boffins) or ancap thinks and acts so narrowmindly like this?
By: Scott F | Jul 3, 2011 Featured
Having put forward some positive theory,it’s time for some more criticism of the ‘right libertarians’.
Jeffrey Tucker has recently come out with a gushing article on the benevolence of Mcdonalds. The piece is a prime beef example(see what I did there!) of why I no longer visit or wish to associate with ‘right libertarians’ and ‘an’caps.So what’s the problem you might ask?
Well I could go through the whole left libertarian/anarchist critique of ancaps and this kind of talk but I’ll just mention in passing a few things that struck me.
Any discussion of state-big business relations was short and quickly skipped over- see his ” It’s true that McDonald’s is not entirely sustained by the market alone, and even overly scrupulous libertarians have jumped on the attack. It’s true that it has been reported that some of its business loans were backed by TARP money after the crisis of 2008, and, of course, it benefits indirectly from subsidies on corn and the like”.He basically says, that it doesn’t matter much that they get funding from the state.A large amount of legal privileges and even mere fact that the corporate form is a privilege were omitted completely giving a distorted one sided view.The tone of the whole piece is closer to religious fervour than fair and nuanced consideration.Again and again,he conveys the idea they are good and market driven without looking at the other side- those mistreated by them,child labour,sweatshops,the Mcdonaldization of the world.This is ideologically driven propaganda pure and simple ,and can’t believe how far from reality the picture he paints is.
His comment of “The managers here might be the greatest humanitarians in history or they might be the greediest and most selfish people on earth. It really doesn’t matter. The market is the driving force and the profitability signals are the test of whether the company is or is not doing the right thing”- exhibitis the economic reductionism so common to ancaps and austrian economists.With this sentence sociology,psychology,ethics and wider political issues(politics is about more than statism or aggression) are swept to the side in favour of whether there is market involvement(regardless of whether it’s free market or not) and whether there is profits.Strange too is that the glorification of capitalism here makes no effort to distingush existing capitalism from the ‘free market capitalism’ ancaps are said to advocate.Here Tucker seems to imply there is little to no difference ,and I am only happy to agree.
The huge problem here is the total lack of awareness of what left libertarians know.There’s no talk of how Mcdonalds is only on top due to competitors being kept from the market,how they benefit from direct privilege and the hindering of others, how they act in immoral and exploitative manner consistently,how they engage in inhumane factory farming and more.If I were a social democrat type reading that Tucker piece ,I too would dismiss them as ‘market fundamentalist’ conservatives and call all of libertarianism a bunch of crap.It’s embarrassing and yet this shit passes for what the mainstream consider libertarian.No wonder some who are left libertarians, feel uncomfortable at best about going by that title and prefer anarchist.I know I feel that way.
By: Scott F | Jul 3, 2011 Anarchism
Think about it. When you’re travelling on a road ,you’re using it and so it’s fair to say you own it while you’re travelling yet it does not mutually exclude others from travelling on it and using it too.Therefore collective ownership of roads while in use is justified and essentially there can’t really be anything as persistent ownership of roads -unless maybe you counted maintenance workers or those who lived near by the roads but even then once use stops or the pattern of use stops, so does the ownership.
An advantage of this conclusion, is it dispels any worries such as raised by Ancap that individuals or groups could choose to block roads and effectively isolate whole tracts of land – I have some small scale examples of this happening in real life. Where I live in England, my local area is largely privately owned and exclusive, meaning there is few communal spaces to go for walks and whole streets are closed to everyone- not an conclusive argument true but evidence enough that fears like this are not unfounded .It’s a more social conception and it seems to me people would be more likely to go for it, since everyone wants to make use of such essential things as these .
Potential worries are (1) organization of road maintenance – though I think that can be simply done with a community fund or something- and(2) those who say free at point of use -but not necessarily untaxed such as now- roads are a subsidy to firms (especially under capitalism/statism) and huge corporations giving them a competitive advantage.
By: Scott F | May 7, 2011 Anarchism
Anarchism is more than a mere political theory. It is a philosophy of ethics and of sociology, of relationships and organizations. It is ethical, social, individual and institutional. It is a theory which aims to deconstruct and destruct, the illegitimate gorgon like state and it’s accompaniments, the established economic order of Capitalism.
From this ,we see that as humans we require a new way to relate to each other. We must look to each other as part of the same human family, despite our differences. Our benevolent treatment of others strongly follows from this recognition of others as like us. To focus on the knowledge that others suffer and rise to the heights of joy exactly as we do is a hugely humbling and unifying thought. It is the seeds of the revolution.
Socialism has longed been mocked for it’s over sentimentality, it’s solidarity and it’s unifying call. Yet many people around the word are drawn to and accept the sentiments which can lead to anarchist conclusions and feed the wellspring of those emotions so nourishingly.
We are the products of a universal progression of affairs from the beginnings of time, under the skin we are one. If you strictly adhere accept and keep to mind these understandings, then it does not take much to work out the beginning of anarchist principles. That you do not desire to be the subjected, the oppressed, the slave should tell you all you need to know. Others feel likewise. The Golden rule is clear enough for you to see : do not do to others what you do not wish to have done to yourself. With this in sight, we see this rationale has passed through the ages worldwide. It has not dared been applied to the political realm.
Why should we seek only mutually beneficial relations(The Mutuality Principle)? Because others are living beings like us. What we do not wish for ourselves we should not wish for others, on pain of contradiction. Hierarchy is not an ideal which is meaningful given universalizability.
The unsatisfied might ask why not? Because government has no master and those wishing for government in that suffer a contradiction, because hierarchy is degrading to our human as experiencers of life, it is dehumanizing, and to see that and know it to be true, it does not make sense to wish to see it become universal. In this sense we can see that the ethics of Kantianism of some kind and Anarchism do not necessarily stand apart. In fact everyone accepts them to some degree , albeit maybe inconsistently.
From the mutuality principle we derive the core of anarchism: Anti-statism, Voluntaryism, opposition to unused land, opposition to landlords, opposition to rent, to profit, to interest, opposition to bosses, worker self-management, and most important of all ,opposition to hierarchy- the grading of humans into categories of ‘lesser’ and ‘superior’ on arbitrary, meaningless or irrelevant criteria.
So it appears, the grounding for anarchism was there all along and from it voluntaryism and together the project and philosophy of anarchism.
Surveying the UK political scene for fellow radicals I feel disappointed in both directions I look.
In turning to my closest allies,the libertarians of the UK ,I am thoroughly embarrased and the picture is bleak.Most libertarians of the UK are minarchists not anarchists.They are closest to 19th century classical liberals or more correctly (as in the case of many) the Conservative party.I’ve seen a stream of vile rhetoric in which David Cameron is praised as a liberator,smashing big government.Ignorance of the distinction between alleviating measures(such as the welfare state which the Tories are slashing) and privileges benefitting the wealthy and politically connected elites(e.g. Corporate welfare) abounds.
As with Benjamin Tucker’s criticism of Herbert Spencer, they seem more concerned with policies which (allegedly) harm the rich instead of those affecting the poorest.This understanding is important to making sense of what’s going on with the cuts in the UK currently.It is more correctly the state trimming off those measures which cloak it’s iron fist and maintaining it’s core privileges and most pressing tyrannies- that of it’s monopoly on law,policing and military.Many UK libertarians haven’t really heard of the concept of Vulgar Libertarianism or at least act like they haven’t.Their idea of a free society is dominated by Tesco and big corporations.
What about the UK Libertarian Party? Well as with in the US, their wishy washy. As a young minarchist influenced by Ron Paul I did broadly like and support them ,putting to one side the moderatism of much of their platform.On closer more recent examination,it’s horrendous to the point of being conservatism with libertarian wordplay- that’s without going into detail about recent stories circulating about sponging party leaders and dodgy relationships.
I don’t want to make it sound like there’s masses of libertarians gathering in the streets.No, out of the UK population the percentage of libertarians is very low.Probably approximately 5% or less and of that libertarian anarchists are less.There is the Libertarian Alliance which has had some very kind words for Kevin Carson.But it’s hard for me to feel comfortable with the organization especially when Sean Gabb makes gushing articles on Monarchy and dismisses the history of Scottish oppression while admitting Scottish independence is vital.
I said both directions.So what about the Anarchists? Well I’m not so pessimistic about them.As we’ve seen recently and can be shown again and again,they are passionate and very active.There’s a lot of good things to be said about them.However if you go by the likes of Libcom.org, anarchists of the UK are at best dismissive of Mutualism and the like and at worst, opposed to it.Hopefully that isn’t a true reflection of reality or if so,that it changes soon.Until then my strategy will be to working with others,finding common ground on an issue by issue basis.Am I positive about the future of politics in the UK? not at all sadly.The UK ,among Europe surely ranks as one of the most intrusive and totalitarian.But I live in hope.
By: Scott F | Apr 21, 2011 Anarchism
Anarchism or broadly libertarianism cannot succeed if alliances are limited only to a purist circle.The death of other political philosophies’ presence on the ground is largely due to it’s unwillingness to work outside set in stone parameters.One only need to look at organized Objectivism to see the truth in this.Anarcho-Capitalism is to some extent much the same.I’ve heard some who have a deep seated antipathy for any other anarchists that don’t fit their label.With that strategy they’ve cut themselves off from a great number of people who are in (certain respects) in agreement with them.
I need to make some caveats to this point though;It doesn’t mean we should work to get along politically with the most hardcore of statists(e.g. Far Right fascists) and it does not imply a relativism where anything goes and you must make apologies for being anarchist.What I’m getting at is where and if our support for a cause matches that of some other group or individual we should be willing and able to work with them for that cause provided it doesn’t require us to compromise to further statism or acceptance of Capitalism.
Some left libertarians have told me of their joy in working with Marxists, that’s one possible avenue.It seems to me that until our numbers grow or in areas where they are not very large, it’s important for us to reach out to those we can agree with on an issue by issue basis and work to avoid our goals.Being so sectarian as to avoid working with those who disagree with us in some ways on a specific issue will get us no where.Isolation never solved anything.All it helps is contribute to us languishing in obscurity and being so lacking in credability that when we are discussed it’s with ridicule.Broad your mind,find common ground and see what you can achieve.
Usually I try to bring a new take to an old topic or if I can bring up a new topic altogether.In this case I think I’m probably just covering old ground but it’s helpful just to refresh the arguments.
Who else could be called more oppressed than the proletariat (or labouring classes)? From all sides they are squeezed ,pushed and prodded, forced onto bended knee to submit to the diktat’s of hierarchs and dehumanized in the process.The whole system is set up to oppress them and it has developed increasingly so along these lines throughout history.
Firstly, the economy is so rigged that wage labour is made to be the most viable form of employment for the vast majority.Barriers to entry such as licensing and artificially inflated overheads ,remove autonomy from the worker in many cases reducing options or even eliminating them altogether.In dire circumstance,they are left with the choice of work for the boss or die of starvation.This is what it means to be called a wage slave.
A mix of state intervention and property arrangement has led to this situation.Absent of these conditions, individuals would be able to be either self employed or work for their mutual benefit in organizations such as co-operatives.The vulgar argument that individuals chose to work in poor conditions with abusive and degradating treatment, ignores the multiple ways in which our current society is organized so that choices for those who wish to work are limited greatly.Those who have other options are often lucky.It’s a mistake to say that someone bears horrible treatment because they believe it is worth it.In a sense this is true, but only in that the person bears it because often again( as I’ve said) the option is mistreatment or starvation or prostitution.Wage labour is often the less bad choice among a bad set.It’s a trilemma.
Once this relationship is entered into the hierarchical aspect of it becomes apparent.Look at the typical labour contract.Usually it’s framed in language of demands made by the employer on the employee and with bargaining power reduced by the above mentioned barriers to entry, it’s highly doubtful it’ll contain any statements which give the impression of a trade of mutual benefit between equal parties.The onus is all on you to live up to your side of the bargain.The boss holds all the power.Granted , it’s not like centuries ago when this power was De Jure and the workers were literal slaves who were not allowed to leave except by the masters permission.Instead,today that power is De Facto.The ambiguity of the labour contract allows the boss to interpret passages as they please, the openness of ‘overtime’ allowing them the ability to decide when you rest,when you eat, when you leave,when you work.. essentially mastery over your life.Rarely, is there the option to refuse.You have agreed to it ,defined as the boss pleases (or at least so it’s claimed) As Bob Black ( who I disagree with in more than a few respects) states “ Your foreman or supervisor gives you more or-else orders in a week than the police do in a decade.”
That’s before mentioning the phenonmenon of Contract Feudalism,whereby your boss can determine what internet sites you visit,what you say on them or how much you can say about what goes on at work.Effectively it works to silence dissent.Mistreatment is not allowed to be discussed outside of the procedures and bureaucracy of the workplace.
But why is a boss a ruler, you might ask? The relationship is inherently one of unequals.The boss has the right to make decisions about your life in this respect,you have little choice.The boss, by status, has expertise that you lack(even though you are the individual directly involved with the task and so mostly likely to have embodied knowledge of what it involves).If mistreatment ended and there was workplace democracy, would this relation change? it would be the equivalent of changing a monarchy to a ‘democracy’. The rulership might seem less harsh and the illusion of participation would be present but the fact they have ultimate decision making over you remains.
These facts are easy to miss if anarchism is defined in terms merely of voluntary relations.But that is only one half of the whole picture.Anarchism involves voluntary and Mutually beneficial relations.Voluntaryism allows for mutually beneficial relations but is not sufficient to meet them.Anarchism is opposition to rulers -i.e. to archons ,to hierarchy, to dehumanization.It requires a deep re-organization of the relationships and institutions of society.And wage labour is a deep impediment to that goal.
A reply to Jay Batman’s Why I Am an Anarcho-Misogynist.
Part of me wonders whether I should even dignify a response. So manywords have been used, explaining why Feminism is important that there’s not really much I can add to explaining the basics. Simply put, Feminism is and always will be an integral part of Anarchism ,and when it’s cut out whatever it is that’s left, is not Anarchism. I’ve got no time for Paleo apologetics. We’ve all probably done this dance, and done it to death. Feminism is just woman’s liberation (though it does not and should not exclude men either).I’m honestly confused why rightly understood, anyone could oppose that. However it seems to me, you don’t understand and that’s where the problems lie. Hopefully I can at least allow you a glimpse of understanding. If not, I think there’s no hope there.
You say, “The welfare state, the nanny state, all of the major advances of the state into social concerns over the past fifty years is undeniably matriarchal in their concerns”. Let’s examine that. It seems your equating concern for others with the feminine – a stereotypically sexist gender role equation. Apparently, men can’t be caring now. It you truly looked at these issues you would see that these institutions in fact mirror the authoritarian parent or family particularly the out-dated patriarchal father of older times.
When you write “societal conventions that deny a man’s natural and innate inclinations to preach some false idea of domestication as the ideal are the creations of a matriarchal tyranny”, I think you have it round the wrong way. This applies more (though not exclusively) to women than to men. No one is( or should be) denying that gender roles oppress both men and women.
With sentences such as “Women have appropriated the state and religious institutions to systematically de-masculinize men and relegate us to a less virile, less potent existence”, you appear to be suggesting there is some sort of inherent thing called ‘masculinity’ which can be eroded or attacked whereas it is really socially constructed and defined. What is ‘masculine’ is determined by cultural norms. It can either be the stereotype of watching sports, as in the west or holding hands with friends as in Middle Eastern cultures. I think you would struggle to define that concept without implying that only men can exhibit that behaviour, that it’s inherent to men or without arbitrarily assigning someone common to all humans as distinctively male. If I were to question what is ‘masculine’, you would answer ‘manly’. I would ask, what is ‘manly’ you could give a list of traits but to claim they are inherently bound to the nature of being a man is to fall into the trap of thinking in gender roles- to say men always do(descriptive) or should( Normative sexism) act in x,y,z ways. I’ve discussed this before in the topic of Dehumanization. Your thinking treats human beings with will and rationality as mere objects.
Essentially it seems you’ve failed to engage with the relevant literature and philosophy and instead ride the bandwagon of a minority of masculists who wrongly see men and women as inherently opposed and thus reject feminism as competition.
“The two are mutually exclusive, because the feminine paradigm of thought is largely concerned with the oppositional, either/or mutually exclusive dichotomy.” fails into the same error that some so called feminists have when they have claimed that men have an exclusive way of thinking such as rationality while women are more emotional suggesting that women should be less rational which is altogether insulting and sexist in of itself. No, it is not true there is ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ ways of thinking. There is merely ways of thinking, common to both. It was Aristotle who first widely propagated the idea of mutual exclusivity. Is he dominated by this way of thinking, even though Feminism as an organized movement did not exist in his time?
Furthermore the schema you are proposing of male vs. female, ‘masculine’ vs. ‘feminine’ is but itself, a false dichotomy based on gender role and out-dated gender binary.
“a life built on the idea of reproductive responsibility for men and reproductive emancipation for women, are indisputably the province and idea of women.” ignores the fact that marriage was to some extent created to allow men to reproduce and claim exclusivity over women and thus control their bodies. We can see this playing out via statism with men allowed ownership of women’s bodies and possessions and in the fact that up until quite recently, rape within marriage was considered acceptable. Marriage can be oppressive for men and women-there is no doubt about this. Anarcha-Feminists have acknowledged this fact for years. Again, ignorance leads you to overextend your points.
“The correct answer is this: a man has a choice, a free choice, and he should be allowed to choose whether or not enter into the child-rearing with a woman”, is of course absolutely true and I think no one should deny the tyranny of things such as enforced child support regardless of which parent of which gender it falls upon. Again this is an issue Anarcha-feminists do not have. The ethics of this however may be a different matter.
In writing “anarcho-misogyny is a new way of viewing antiquated arrangements like family and monogamy, neither of which can be said to be the natural state of males”, you are really making Anarcha-feminist arguments but from a masculist perspective. There is nothing wrong with that provided you understand the worth of feminism and it’s opposition to sexism, gender roles and the like.
To claim “Moreover, a woman within a monogamous relationship has a monopoly over the only asset sufficient to make any man entertain the prolonging of marriage: sex” is a thoroughly cynical reductionist view which excludes love from marriage.
The piece begins to have a personal ring to it when you say “but the simple truth is that he is a man engaged in the fullness of manhood.” I find it difficult to reconcile sleeping around with feminism. Furthermore, I see nothing which indicates that kind of behaviour is more ‘manly’ than not doing it. Again a gender role is assumed.
It’s a whole other debate whether “We are hardwired for polygyny, and our physiological realities prove as much.” but initially it seems this does not hold, current rates of divorce to the contrary. The reasoning of “Typically, human males are 10 percent taller and 20 percent heavier than females. This suggests that, throughout history, humans have been mildly polygynous.” is not immediately obvious neither does it follow from what of it you’ve presented.
“[W]hile powerful men throughout Western history have married monogamously (only one legal wife at a time), they have always mated polygynously (they had lovers, concubines, and female slaves)” speaks more to the use of women as objects of reproduction than as an inherent tendency against monogamy. Remember as biologists are found of reminding us, biology is not destiny.
It was a mistake to say “The answer is female-dominated and defined religion, specifically Catholic sexual mores, with their veneration of virginity ” since this ignores the clear understanding that the belief that women should remain ‘pure’ and virginal until marriage is clearly intended to be a means of control of women through male exclusivity. Remaining a virgin is not a ‘feminine’ value inherently.
It’s not entirely clear what you believe “equality of outcomes and results” involves, but I will say that Feminism is advocacy of equal treatment for women-i.e. that women and men be treated equally well. That’s part of opposition to Dehumanization which is involved in hierarchical relations of which sexism and larger Patriarchy, is a kind.
Unless under the influence of Paleo-libertarians or misguided anti-feminist masculinists, it’s unclear why you’d argue ” The state has been redesigned to care about health, about education, about egalitarian outcomes, and about promoting the universalization of said concerns throughout the globe through NGOs and other institutions” and lay the blame exclusively on women. These measures existed before organized feminism arose throughout globe, throughout history and were more about a political embodiment of the model of authoritarian parenting than women’s interests.
You haven’t defined you the meaning of “doubtful masculinity” and let the door open for a wide array of accusations of homophobia. In the one swipe your paragraph, in which you state “To allow socialism and other communitarian ideals to have their way is execute the Promethean impulse within men that reaches towards fire to achieve greatness on an individual level. Feminization teaches us that individual achievement, and any insistence on reaping the rewards of individual achievement as an individual, is selfish and evil. It denigrates that within ordinary men that might give them the chance to be extraordinary.” has misunderstood Socialism, implied Feminism inherently opposes self-interest with some randianesque rambling and set up Feminism as some sacrificial cult. Quite a feat!
In your mention of Warren Farrell, I would say that while he speaks much true about sexism against men, his philosophy is out of balance in excluding women or at least going on the offensive against Feminism without depth thought.
I think you’re wrong to “reject categorically the idea of sexual harassment” as if it can never occur and there are no ethical concerns involved. What you should have said is rather that it’s complex and beyond Freudian bizarreness, “dedicated to all of the women who covet what a man has ” is a pretty absurd statement.
NB: I consider this the end of the debate on my part.I don’t really have anything more to say.
I’ve had a re-orientation in my thinking in recent months.Anarchism will likely not be spread by academic papers,foot noted in the circles of intelligensia.That’s a problem we face.Your average person has neither the desire nor the time, to sit down and read a 500 page book . I’m not dismissing there worth, but there needs to be something of a balance and my recent thinking has led me to believe it should be tilted towards the person in the street.
While some may say Anarchism will filter from academics down to the general populace ,look at the history of anarchism.It was the Emma Goldman’s, the Benjamin Tucker’s and the Proudhon’s who spread ideas widely, while writing in a simple everyday language easy for the average person to understand.They did not over complicate it.I think it is in our interests to continue follow suit.Too much there is this worry of appearing unprofessional, and so unsophisticated.But papers can be page after page of verbal wizardry. with no substance.Better to get to the meat of a topic.There’s a lot to be said for substance over style.
While some terminology and ideas are rather complex and unavoidable,I think it’s important to write with the intended audience of the average person in mind.It seems to me that Gonzo Times and a number of other sites is succeeding in that goal quite well.Some seem to be less accomplished at this goal.They exist in a certain closed intellectual millieu which isolates them from others with similiar ideology.They lack the sweat on their brow and the crushing sense of smallness, to speak to the experiences and troubles of embodied wage labourers and ordinary people struggling to get by on this earth without being patronising or overcomplex.When you can’t convey why your opinions are relevant ,then should you really expect to be listened to? Write as you would if you were talking to a friend ,with all the intimacy and fire that it entails.Here’s to the future: Anarchist populism.
The charges laid out and listed with particular reference to those of the Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell.com
- Anarchism has been defined in ahistorical terms of a thin voluntaryism.Anarchism is just voluntarism in their minds.
- Conflation of property and ownership without understand the historic usage of the former. This conflation leads to the fallacious argument that opposition to property means opposition to ownership.
- Knee Jerk anti-socialism/anti- leftism. By this I do not mean opposition to statism but I mean to things such as workplace democracy, syndicalism, co-operatives, anti-corporate theory etc. (For example one Mises forum member said of left libertarianism:Basically communism without the marching bands and statues. or there was “The stuff that Scott posted in his manifesto, is basically the same post hoc, ergo propter hoc rationale for socialism that Communists use.)
- False dichotomy of individual ownership or state ‘ownership’.
- Failure to consider critically the tragedy of commons and engage with the work and ideas of Elinor Ostrome(though as a concession, I heard Hoppe is re-thinking this issue)
- Uncritical reliance of the big figures such as Mises
- Tendency towards cultural conservatism
- A reactionary tendency to defend the status quo (excepting statism) especially corporations against the state.
- Tendency to downplay if not deny social issues making it irrelevant to the poor and non white.
- While claiming to not concern themselves with social issues , a tendency to defend culturally conservative positions such as defending discrimination or classism
- Classism especially against those on welfare with dismissal of other causes for poverty
- Worship of those who are rich and wealthy- functioning as ‘rich white man’s anarchism’
- Failure to engage criticism of the meaningfulness of ‘self ownership’
- The belief labour unions are inherently violent or state backed(Thomas Dilorenzo is guilty of this)
- apologetics for corporations in reply to statism or even other anarchists
- apologetics for bosses (often in reply to statism or even other anarchists) for example in Jeffrey Tucker’s piece How to handle getting fired which sides with the employer largely, argues for following the bosses orders even if wrong and omits completely the hardship of unemployment.
- dismissal or downplaying environment issues.Opposition to global warming because it’s mainstream
- opposition to political correctness as a knee jerk reaction
- apologetics for landlords
- failure to engage with anarchist history or original anarchist philosophy
- Conflation of what would exist in the free market with the current statist quo – Vulgar libertarianism
- Failure to seriously engage with LTV defenses or STV critiques
- apologetics for rent
- Residual support for libertarian political parties/politicians
- Horrendous cultic approval of Ron Paul- totally dismissing or ignoring his support for a bill in favour of a tax funded wall to keep out immigrants etc.
- Restricted immigrationism especially based on Hoppe
- Using Hoppe to argue for ‘Anarcho-Monarchism’ or Feudalism
- Authoritarianism and sometimes open support for hierarchy -e.g. Rothbard.
- Rothbard and others Anti-egalitarianism.Strawmans of equality such as equality means everyone is identical.
- Walter Block’s defense of discrimination.
- Walter Block’s argument for ‘voluntary slavery’
- Following Walter Block claims to be ‘plumbline libertarian’ and so neither left nor right while leaning strongly right
- Some have a Culturally conservative heavy emphasis on respectability in some cases verging on fear of being ‘too extreme’.
- Hoppe calling homosexuality an “anti family lifestyle”- “They — the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism — will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order.”
- The attitude of abolish the state and let the market deal with racism,sexism,environmentalism etc
- Belief the wage gap currently cannot be due to sexism because women have lower productivity due to marriage and the market would prevent sexism/racism etc(from Walter Block)
- Quick to jump on the Gold standard as the solution to all monetary woes.
- Tendency to become an echo chamber- less than the cult of organized Objectivism but more so than other anarchist groups.
- Unconcern/dismissal of workplace democracy and /or worker self management if not outright hostility.
- Quick to side with the south against the north concerning the US Civil war- dismissing the evils of the south almost entirely
- Willingness to publish pseudoscience while having no critiques of it or in some cases preventing critiques being aired alongside them
- Certain Organizations desire to cover up incidents and writings which make them look bad or reveal an individuals evils at a certain time.
- Major figures willingness to work with an openly admitting theocrat
- Bigotry masked by economics talk
- Downplaying , dismissal or even outright hostility to feminism
- Unwillingness to take seriously other branches of libertarianism/anarchism
- Dismissal/downplaying of historic development of Capitalism e.g.Mises defense of the Industrial revolution omitted the oppression occuring then
- Knee Jerk Anti-Marxism without engaging it’s truths
- Environmentalism portrayed as fascist- George Reisman
- Residual Cultic adherence by some to Ayn Rand
- The Ron Paul Newsletters incident.
- Uncritical thinking of Austrian Economics on Inflation and how it may not always cause price increases
- Tendency to dismiss concerns of ordinary working people.
- Classism in favour of middle-upper class and classism against working/lower class people especially those on welfare
- Ignorant of how much the status quo is due to statism
- Failure to engage with the evils of wage labour and what’s called wage slavery
- Strong belief in meritocracy in current world
- Belief current ‘democracy ‘ is egalitarian(following Hoppe)
- Hans Hermann Hoppe’s arguments suggesting monarchy is preferrable to democracy
- Domination of rightwing or conventional thinking on organizations ,laws,communities etc
- Belief in non state top down hierarchical structures and organizations
- Failure to engage with Co-ops and mutual organizations
- Anarcho-Capitalism defined more in terms of opposition to ideologies such as socialism,marxism etc than in terms of what it is in favour of.Reactionary.
- Tendency to serve as apologetics for rich/ politically connected(linked to vulgar libertarianism)
- Failure to engage critiques of Absentee Ownership or Occupancy and Use
- Contorsions of logic involved in ‘self ownership’ especially from a reformulation lockeanism.
- Failure to even deal with Locke’s Proviso.
- Tendency to fall prey to conspiracy mixed with half truths
- Non voting,agorism etc often portrayed as doing nothing
- Rothbard’s ‘leninist’ political party strategy.
- Uncritical belief economic growth, progress, expansion, technology etc is good
- Tendency to focus too strongly on academia to the exclusion of the ordinary person
- Tendency to focus on getting qualifications to the exclusion of other routes in life
- Related to Cultural Conservatism- tendency to quickly criticize weird behaviours or lifestyles
- Tendency to conflate opposition with X with belief force should be used to stop/end X e.g. on the issue of racism or oppression of workers.
- Tendency to fail to understand shades of anarchism,socialism etc.
- omission of the evils of bosses such as strikebreaking or glorification of them under the rhetoric they were statist/(some libertarian historians are guilty of this)
- Residual reliance on conservatism
- Tendency to jump into bed with conservatives as if it’s natural
- Tendency to deify entrepreneurs and/or businessmen
- Distanced from real life concerns and the drudgery of day to day life.
- Uncritical reliance of the big figures such as Mises
- False dichotomy of individual ownership or state ‘ownership’
- Failure to see why corporations are statist
- Failure to see why current limited liability is statist
- Distortion and selective reading of Mutualism/Individualist Anarchism especially Benjamin Tucker.
- Rothbard’s opposition to Jury Nullification in anarchist societies
- Rothbard’s belief in a libertarian legal code arising.
- Tendency to conflate Capitalism with Free Market so Free Markets are automatically Capitalistic and Anarchism is automatically Capitalist.Ahistorical usage of term Capitalism.
- Failure to engage properly critiques of Anarcho-Capitalism such as the Anarchist FAQ e.g. as seen in such people as Bryan Caplan.
- Romantic attachment to founding fathers,constitutions etc.
- False dichotomy of ‘anti-market’ socialism vs pro-market libertarianism.
- Assumption Communism is inherently statist.
- Package dealing such as conflating leftism/socialist concerns with statism.
- Few discuss LGBT issues.
- Unwillingness to work with other anarchists -even on an issue by issue basis- leading to complete isolation.
- Failure to grasp the actual difficulties of being poor.
- Failure to grasp the mistreatment workers face often.
- More concerned with economics than ethics.
- Tendency to wrongly think concern for social issues is overreaching and a desire to control others-pretty much excluding morality especially from politics.
- Some have argued that parents own their children and so have a right to mistreatment or spank/smack them.
By: Scott F | Mar 7, 2011 Featured
It is with sad regret and nostalgia that I come to this place. I’ve pretty much distanced myself from Anarcho-Capitalism and conventional (non left) libertarianism as a movement including Mises.org and Lew rockwell.com. I’d say I’m in a post-Ancap stage, discovering plenty to not like and looking at anarcho-capitalism and the conventional libertarian with new more critical eyes. My feelings and movement away has been a long time coming. It is a mix of disgust at the ideals and errors made, the attitudes expressed in forums and debate and the corruption and likely deception, within the above mentioned organizations, related to the Ron Paul Newsletters and other events.
With anything as your views change and move towards something new, you’ll find yourself surprised, disgusted and confused by your old views and associations. I’ve had this a number of times -leaving Objectivism, leaving Minarchism, when I gave up the nominal An-cap label but remained theoretically An-cap etc. This time it’s just such of a shock for me because I’ve become intertwined with Mises.org, Lew rockwell.com and those associated with it including in the forums for years. I’ve spent 4 years of my life focused on this stuff. I just think some of it was wasted to some extent. I’m having the feeling of “I used to believe that!”, “I used to associate happily with THEM!” sort of thing.
The path I’m on now has been one I’ve travelled along since mid-2010, dropping the An-cap label for the simplicity of “libertarian anarchist”. I don’t know what it was about the An-cap label, but it seems in my experience to restrict my thought processes. I defined myself in such a way that many areas to explore were closed, barriers erected, no go signs prominently displayed. Once given up, I freed myself to explore anarchism as it historically has been and from there the journey was not long to the more critical voices of left libertarianism.”Anarcho-Capitalism” seemed a wrongheaded label to me, it implied and conflated so much that need not go together. I guess it was from there ,that I quickly agreed with left libertarian separation of the free market and capitalism.
I saw problems even when I was roughly in favour of what the anarcho-capitalist crowd supported. I saw knee jerk rejections of feminism and environmentalism etc from many there. I wrote in favour of reforms, but these were dismissed or attacked. That was step 1.Step 2 came when after accepting left libertarianism I came to notice the vulgar libertarianism among the mainstream of libertarianism, I saw the knee jerk anti-leftism, I saw the echo chamber , I saw strongly and clear as day what I had been feeling for a while but was too ashamed to mention- it felt like libertarianism had become stale. What I saw ,was often repetition of old themes ,new justifications for old dichotomies and monotonous clichés. What I have sought from the beginning is(as in life) spontaneity, growth, critical thought, a view whereby we can hold up our hands and say ok we were wrong and accept that supposedly conflicting X and Y fit together. I’ve always wanted to be on the cutting edge of libertarian thought instead of the retirement house and recycling centre of old news.
I don’t know if it is just a few bad apples. Granted I don’t know all An-caps, but it seems like a strong tendency to be the way I’ve said. I see it in the elite leading figures of Mises.org and Lew Rockwell.com. Lew Rockwell.com was an important focus of this publishing what I saw as a stream of dull cliche stuff with an occasional brilliant piece and lots of right-wing conspiracy/survivalist type nonsense mixed in .What worries me most is that Lew Rockwell himself has happily endorsed at least some of this stuff( I’m thinking ‘dr’ Joseph Mercola) I’m all for unconventional thought. But this?
Step 3 for me was the fallout from my A left-libertarian Manifesto which I posted at Mises.org to inspire some critical thought and hopefully raise consciousness. I was unhappy with the reaction this brought about which I had not anticipated. All the differences raised in that piece became crystalized and I experienced the jarring gap of understanding there exists between us. I didn’t realize just how intolerant libertarians can be. I’ve invested my time and thoughts in libertarianism since 2008 and it’s been one of the few consistencies and ‘great untouchables’ in my life and yet sadly this is where I am with it at the moment and it seems long that it will remain so.
Let no misunderstanding cloud your thoughts. I am NOT saying that mainstream libertarianism has or does lack any value. But I am tending to think it is minimal to the fuller bodied successor- left libertarianism. I am Not saying I would never work with An-caps.However I am highly critical of them and would not let there mistakes pass for title of libertarian.
By: Scott F | Mar 7, 2011 Featured
Recently I came across the awful expression “that’s so common”. It brought back memories. In the past when I’ve heard it, I’ve often wondered what’s so bad about being common. I mean really? I’ve generally taken it as held true that to be common (which implies being working class) is a positive thing in the sense that you’re “salt of the earth”, down to earth, without affectation or pretence. Humble, often springs to mind. So what is being implied, when being common is suggested to be negative?
It seems to me, that just like other ways in which oppression and dehumanization is manifested in our language, classism is too. By speaking in this way, we are supposed to think that being common is lowly, disgusting and unfitting of dignity. Those who are common are to be seen as less than us, less human than us. It’s classic dehumanizing discrimination. Also within this phrase is the idea that certain expressions, pronunciations or accents are not to be used as they speak of poor or even a lack of education. This is incredibly unfair on the part of the speaker, who is trying in vain to impose a linguistic uniformity that cannot be. When this sort of language is used, it goes a long way in helping to prop up a cultural atmosphere supportive of the status quo.
A related issue which is less relevant to American peoples ,but is to those of us here in Britain, is the debated subject of ‘chavs’ (or the Scottish version ‘Neds’) Is the social stigma against them .merely due to the tendency of those who are labelled as such to have undesirable characteristics. Or are they seen to have undesirable qualities, merely because they tend to be working class? It’s hard to tell at times. Certainly as individuals they may have undesirable qualities that anyone could have. If that’s all the stigma is about then ‘chav’ becomes a redundancy.
A common way classism spews forth without notice is in classism directed at the worse off in society. The common direction of classism is downwards, and the homeless are no less a victim of this. Common attitudes are to think they deserve it, to assume they must be drug users, to assume they are failures in life. (Sadly all too common responses) Yet we have no reason to generalize or assume this. I’ve seen some decent people who are homeless and appear nothing less than kind-hearted people. There is something about our society, an error in the code, which leads us to associate worth with money so that lack of money signifies a lack of worth. It’s a perverse self-serving bias. It serves us well when we have plenty wealth- we deserve it we’ve worked hard (which is usually true), we’re worthy of this fortune- yet when we have little or none at all, it comes back to haunt us. “I’m not unworthy, I’m not unworthy because of what little I have”, you’ll be sure to cry. And often it’s not your fault you ended up there.
A similar expression of this can be seen in our society whereby success is defined almost exclusively in terms of what you have, what you own- your possessions- and less on what you’ve done, how you’ve done it .Now it’s true enough the latter may lead to the former but generally it seems to be assumed that if you lack a house, a car etc. then you have not had success(or you’ve had little).With this definition success is difficult and narrow, requiring years and years to achieve while effectively communicating your ideas, improving yourself, learning a skill or interacting well in a situation is excluded from the realm of success. The only way we can change these sorts of thought patterns is by showing the falsity of them, highlighting the evils they tolerate and allow and keeping mindful of what our language says both about us and society at large.
By: Scott F | Feb 27, 2011 Featured
Reading Gary North’s articles at lewrockwell.com, it’s easy to think he’s a hard line anti-statist. He takes an axe to the idea of bankers and politicians all over the place. So it’s tempting, to be happy to offer him a place at the table of anarchists. However digging deeper , you’ll quickly come across his religious views. North is a Christian Reconstructionist. Hearing it described , you’ll start to worry. It sounds like authoritarian fundamentalist hell , covered by a fig leaf of liberty. You’ll feel this nagging concern. But then you might think “not to worry, Gary North’s an anarchist” right?…. right?
Well no. He’s not. And if half of the libertarians who claim to be fans of him, knew his true views they would neither like him nor associate with him. Gary North is not only NOT an anarchist he’s a thoroughgoing authoritarian. He’s in every way contrary to the spirit of anarchism or even moderate libertarianism .I will show why.
First let us look at his cultural views.
He is not just pro-patriarchy in the way a cultural conservative might be, but radically so to the extent that he runs right up against the historic anarchist opposition to patriarchy. He writes “The man is head of the household. He represents God before his wife and children. They are to obey him.”( P17 on sidebar , THE SINAI STRATEGY )
North continues to tick all the boxes on the authoritarian front. He favours authoritarian family relations, arguing ” When people curse their parents, it unquestionably is a capital crime (Ex. 21:17). The son or daughter is under the lawful jurisdiction of the family. The integrity of the family must be maintained by the threat of death. Clearly, cursing God (blasphemy) is a comparable crime, and is therefore a capital crime (Lev. 24:16).” (P82 sidebar ,same book as above)
That should suffice to highlight why North is a hardcore authoritarian.
Now we turn to his political views which are much less than anarchist, nor even meeting the standards of a Ron Paulesque Minarchism.
Is North an anarchist? In The Failure of the American Baptist Culture , (THE INTELLECTUAL SCHIZOPHRENIA OF THE NEW CHRISTIAN RIGHT P41 in the sidebar), he states “The point is: freedom of religion does not, in a Christian commonwealth, involve total license. There is no such thing as legitimate Christian anarchism. The civil government is allowed to restrain public evil.”
In North’s mind ,Anarchism is equated with immorality making his work with Anarcho-Capitalisms seem strange at best.
On P45 side bar he plainly says “On the other hand, if they are proclaiming radical libertarianism as the only theoretical alternative to statism, then they are laying the foundations for an ethical and political backlash which will aid those who are seeking to expand the autononomous powers of the State. Men will not live under anarchy; libertinism (sexual and otherwise), which is necessarily a consequence of abolishing all civil laws (anar chism), creates the backlash.”
So if not anarchism, what kind of government does North favour?
Allegedly he aims at a limited government claiming “Limited civil government is one of the two political preconditions of a free market economy. “ (P38 sidebar ,same book) yet his libertarian government is not the typical monarchist one in that it will enforce biblical law. According to North, “The biblical program is clear: government under revealed biblical law, with various aspects of this law enforced by a biblical revealed system of decentralized courts” (P37 on sidebar ,The Sinai Strategy) Furthermore North is aware this is a monopoly and it does not concern him.
North sets out too, what he would like to see criminalized and carried out in his theocratic world.
“The biblical view of the State unquestionably and irrefutably affirms the right and obligation of the State to execute men, for the Bible sets forth God’s law. God has delegated this power to the State.” (P119 of above book)
Furthermore North is Pro-stoning. ” That modern Christians never consider the possibility of the re- introduction of stoning for capital crimes indicates how thoroughly humanistic concepts of punishment have influenced the thinking of Christians” (P147 sidebar ) Considering North considers humanist an insult, he is not being complementary.
Should someone object to his arguments for this he has ready replies.
Should someone object to his capital punishment advocacy on Christian grounds, he responds “Critics of capital punishment could argue that men are not to avenge, and that we view capital punishment as a transgression of God’s sole and exclusive monopoly of execution. This argument is wrong. The institution of civil government is entrusted with this responsibility . The individual may not execute another man, as if he were an autonomous agent of judgment, but the covenanted political community may. In fact, this power reduces the likelihood of blood vengeance by close relatives of the slain (p139 on the side bar to the left) and “Furthermore, by denying this right of execution to the State, the opponents of capital punishment me implicitly turning over the power of execution (as distinguished from the right of execution) to murderers and rebels. It reduces their risk of permanent bodily judgment. “ (P120 sidebar, of same above book )
At this point ,I’m thinking I should be worried about what I’ve typed. Why? “The existence of this theocentric commandment against distorting the truth concerning God has created a unique property right: the right to a name. A man is entitled to his good name. Slander is therefore a form of theft. The civil government has an obligation to defend the right of an individual to use a particular name, both personal and corporate, both familial and institutional. The civil government must also defend that name against false witnesses.”(209 on sidebar) Thankfully everything I’ve said is absolutely true , with no signs from North of having repudiated or disassociated himself from these views. It makes you wonder why Paleo-libertarians choose to associate with him in the first place. Now I’m all for working with individuals or groups who are not anarchist on an issue by issue basis where our views align but it must be noted North is not libertarian and should not be claimed as a great champion of liberty. Hopefully those who know of his views do not share his agenda.
By: Scott F | Feb 26, 2011 Featured
So far in my writing here at Gonzo times, I have tended to not discuss more controversial issues, not out of fear of censor or criticism but so far that’s where my inspiration has led me. This piece represents a break with that ,and a desire to address what I feel to be pressing controversial issues , highlighting the left libertarian break from traditional libertarian thought.
I would like to discuss Professor Walter Block ,since his arguments make the rounds among Austro-libertarians, since they remain a frustration in opening up new paradigms of thought to the issues of discrimination and linking it to ‘thick libertarianism’.
My issues with Block’s arguments are not rights based ones. He is correct, in that there is a right to discriminate. Make no mistake, I’m not advocating aggression to correct this. My contention with his points, is that the lines in some instances become blurry whether he is defending discrimination as a right or as a moral concept and this to me seems like hypocrisy in light of Block’s arguments for ‘plumbline libertarianism’. While he may not intend to, Block has here accepted ‘Thick libertarianism’ of a decidedly strong culturally conservative bent.
First he begins with a vague definition of the concept , “In the days of yore, to say that a man was discriminating was to pay him a compliment. It meant that he had taste; he could distinguish between the poor, the mediocre, the good and the excellent. His ability to make fine distinctions enabled him to live a better life than otherwise.” While Block clearly is using a definition of discrimination(“the ability to make fine distinctions”) ,he is clearly not using the term in the way most people conceive of it today i.e. racism, or classism. With this wrong footed definition, Block continues.
With “Nowadays, in our politically correct times,” Block marginalizes legitimate concerns by conflating them with Political correctness, a term which only can be intended to close down dialogue and prevent critical thinking. As can be seen from articles at Lew Rockwell.com ,the general culture is opposed to it - propagating falsely given media driven hysterical examples along the lines of the supposed casting of ‘blackboard’ to the outer limits of acceptability.
Block’s troublesome treatment of this important issue does not end there.
He writes “ If not, coercive bisexuality would be the logical implication of the anti-discrimination movement. Why? Well, male heterosexuals despicably discriminate against half the human race as bed/sex/marriage partners: all other men. Nor can female heterosexuals plead innocence against this dread charge; they, too, abjure half of their fellow creatures in this regard. Can male homosexuals deflect this deadly indictment? No, they, too, refuse to have anything to do with all females in such a context. Similarly, female homosexuals, lesbians, rotten creatures that they are, also avoid entangling alliances of this sort with all men, again, half the human race. No, it is the bisexuals, and only the bisexuals, who are entirely innocent of discrimination of this sort. They are the only decent people in the entire sexual spectrum to refrain from this evil practice. (We now disregard the fact that bisexuals also make invidious comparisons based on beauty, age, sense of humor, etc.) Therefore, if we really opposed discrimination in matters of the heart, we would all embrace bi-sexuality.”
This argument would be valid IF discrimination as commonly used meant what Block here claimed it to .But it does not. As I’ve argued, discrimination (as commonly used) is very specific. It refers to a relationship (systematic or spontaneous ) involving the treatment of one person or group as inferior, while another is viewed as superior, based on false or arbitrary claims.It involves the dehumanization of that ‘inferior’ group, depicting them as less than or non human.They become objects, viewed as lacking in free will, bound by forces such as ‘race’ or ‘gender’ to act in pre-determined stereotypical ways. Block’s treatment of such a emotional and thoughtful topic, with such whimsical and absurd commentary is insulting at very least. He reduces it to the blame the victim, scaremongering mentality that we’ve come to expect among the staunchest of right wing figures. Apparently discrimination is one of these bizarre liberal concepts.
Now lets turn to Block’s relation of this argument to economics. He argues “Similarly, in the labor field. If whites refuse to hire blacks, their wages will fall below the levels that would otherwise prevail. This will set up large profit opportunities for someone, be he white or black it matters not, to hire these people, and thus be able to outcompete those with great tastes for discrimination.”
Here as Roderick Long has argued, Block has treated the existing order as if it were a free market, since his assumption of competition relies on there being no barriers to entry or limits on competition. Block has fallen into the error of ‘Vulgar Libertarianism’.
Yet strangely Block admits the existence of such occurances in a later paragraph but fails to make the connection, conceding, “ But, this phenomenon did not work with the plight of black people who were forced to sit in the back of the bus during the Jim Crow era in the south. Why not? Because entry into the bus industry was strictly limited by the political forces responsible for this reprehensible legal code in the first place. If all there were standing in the way of black people sitting in all reaches of the bus was private discrimination, this would have been an impotent force, as other, competing firms would have supplied bus service.”
As discussed in the above referenced Roderick Long article, Block also argues that the Wage gap is due to cultural factors unrelated to sexism. But Block ignores the fact that these cultural factors(Block’s claim that married women earn less) can be influenced by sexist gender roles or by barriers to entry or by oppression from inflexible uncaring bosses.If someone unfamiliar to libertarian circles, were to read the article(and I’m sure someone has) they would see it as whitewash dismissal of the issues, a typical rightwing response. Thankfully there exists left libertarianism, as a check on the absurdity and logical faux pas of traditional libertarian thought and as a beacon of hope offering a superior alternative.
By: Scott F | Feb 13, 2011 Featured
Social democrats are often inconsistent wen they claim the state must be used to protect against environmental destruction. They are often anti-war ,and if they thought about it deeply(as some have done ) would see that the state is one of the greatest destroyers of the environment. But it needs to be remembered that concern for the environment does not involve just anti-statism, but personal responsibility. Environmentalism can only succeed with a change in thought patterns and lifestyles along with abolition of the state and flourishing voluntary counter associations.
This is in stark contrast to the traditional libertarian line suggesting we have to weigh concern for humans with concern for nature and one must come out as more vital- as if one can be excluded without consequences of the other. The Randian message is worse, “exploit the earth or die!” they chant as they hug chimneys and worship at the altar of corporate defilers. If we understand our place within nature in a way similar to Eco-feminists or the like, we’d come to see that far from being above nature we are part of it – neither inferior parasites nor Randian ubermensch who dominate and rape the earth. The fundamental fact is if we harm nature, we harm otherselves sooner or later(this is important in reference to the global warming debate whether true or not). Statism or if you prefer Capitalism encourages this mentality. Expansion and industry at the expense of human rights and nature. That’s not an argument for primitivism. Nothing inherent to industry suggests it has to be this way. The small scale association is at least a step in the right direction.
Let us now count the ways in which Statism contributes to destruction of the environment.
Subsidies to the industries producing fossil fuels artificially tilt the table in their favour leading to high levels of pollution and distorting the costs of looking into alternative or sustainable energy sources. British newspaper The Guardian, in 2010 ran an article in which it discussed a report with estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA) which showed that $557 billion was spent by governments during 2008 to subsidise them. Should peak oil theory be correct- even if not in the apocalyptic histrionics of its proponents- then it is desirable that humans the world over seek out new sources to fuel the planet.
Of course, it’s not hard to see why the state subsidizes those industries, when they are vital to supporting its vast war machine. Oil companies are an extensive aspect of the military-industrial complex. According to Nick Turse in The Complex(P.41) , “The Defense Energy Support Center(DESC) from October 1 ,2001 to August 9,2004 supplied 1,897,272,714 gallons of jet fuel ,alone for military operations in Afghanistan”. The result of this is we have the perverse relationship of wars for oil(at least in part motivated by fuel) fuelled by a an increasing desire to consume oil, meaning while the the state has wars to wage, it will continue to need to expand more and more in a global conquest to maintain it’s supply –always in ally with it’s partner in crime, the fossil fuel industries.The military above anyone else is the worst polluter, with the US military ranking the worst of a bad bunch.
Once wars are ongoing , there is also the harm to the environment. Depleted uranium degrades soil preventing already impoverished peoples from subsistence farming and having hazardous health effects, Oil from tanks and vehicles runs into lakes and bodies of water tainting what could be the only water supply, chemicals act as de facto herbicides killing vegetation and causing deforestation as was seen with Agent orange in Vietnam.
As Kevin Carson has noted, choices of fuel are not the only industry distorted by subsidy . With transport subsidies, there is a socialization of the cost onto everyone violating the cost principle of user pays while incentivizing needless travel where alternatives could be sought.
Land monopoly also keeps resources out of the hands of those who could better utilize them. Contrary to received wisdom, the tragedy of commons is not a problem of property – of common ownership versus private individual ownership – but a problem of responsibility and motivation i.e. it’s largely a problem of morality. It’s not that common owned property results in no motive to conserve ,it’s that individuals who own the property must be motivated and must be responsible- there must be a system of ensuring resources are not expended too quickly to the harm of the group. There also must be a voluntary system to rebuke or prevent violations of the system. As with all human action, the tragedy of commons is not a definite guaranteed fact but rather it is a tendency and not a particularly strong one at that. The error is in claiming that within this ‘democracy’ , state claims to ownership are common ownership when often the claim resources are unowned or owned by individuals or groups without recognition. Absent land monopolies, individuals who were motivated to protect and conserve could do so- individually or collectively. It’s often argued that without profit there would be no incentive to conserve and so the resources would be abused in much the same way as before. This argument is essentially a claim that profit is the only motivating factor or that every motive is profit driven which is ultimately untrue. You need only look at volunteers and unpaid bloggers to see the falsity of this statement. No, it’s entirely possible that those who genuinely care about the earth could come to own it.Further more, the human cost of land monopoly is the homeless and poor are kept from having a place to stay or live forced to live on the margins of society.
The conclusion of any well meaning environmentalist is that to protect, to conserve, to help your fellow human and the interconnected web of life, you must turn to yourself –to voluntary peaceful solutions individually or collectively and not to the state. You must work on your own responsibility, conscientiousness and morality while working to remove all of the oppressive system which results in the problems in the first place. The problems cannot be solved solely by recycling, nor can they be solved by any measure with regulation, nor can they be solved by just abolishing the causes and leaving it at that. A viable green agenda must be all involving and thoughtful ,even if that meanings running contrary to conventional opinion.
By: Scott F | Feb 5, 2011 Featured
When anarchists criticize inequality , others –especially non left libertarians- are quick to dismiss these concerns. We are told individuals are free to rise as far as they desire. We live in a meritocracy after all. This is an incredibly disheartening tactic to hear from a libertarian- an alleged champion of freedom and prosperity. It’s disturbing in at least two ways.
The first error in this meritocratic worldview results from vulgar libertarianism. This tendency to view the current statist quo as if it is a free market leads to the belief that there are no possible viable barriers in the way of individuals. In this view, if they have talent they should become wealthy and upper class .If not, then the reason is because they have an immoral lifestyle and parasitic habits. Without deeper thought, the poor are blamed for their condition. Is it any wonder why libertarianism is not appealing to the poor? This rhetoric results in the view that libertarianism (especially Anarcho-Capitalism), is ‘the rich man’s anarchism’. To the extent that this view is truly held and expressed by libertarians, the criticism is indeed valid. The reason meritocracy is vulgar, is almost never discussed by Anarcho-Capitalists. Barriers to entry such as licensing, all out monopoly and institution’s such as the welfare state propagate and maintain poverty. How disgusting it is to hear from statists that the state is the friend of the poor when it is their main barrier. The state breaks their legs, and then gives them crutches. How benevolent of the ruling class!
But wait. Let’s not fall into the second error of the defender of an existing meritocracy-‘Thin libertarianism’. Meritocracy is not only minimal to non-existent under statism but even were it not, there would be other factors at play. It’s not all about aggression as ‘the thin libertarians’ claim. There are deeply embedded cultural conditions which reduce or prevent social mobility. At this point, your average libertarian would tend to get uncomfortable. Admitting cultural forms of domination exist ,puts them in a panic- for what reason?, who knows !Maybe they conflate the raising of these issues with statism, so then when out comes one they think the other must inevitably follow. That is however a mistake.
The cultural conditions which hold people down are little discussed in libertarian circles. It’s almost never mentioned how a child growing up in a poor family has to struggle hard and be lucky (never mind dodge state barriers) to advance beyond the wealth and class they have inherited due to their upbringing. It’s never mentioned how society’s dehumanization of the non-white, immigrants, women and the disabled (among others )acts as a heavy weight on the shoulders of those seeking to improve their lot in life. It’s so easy and so safe to blame the victims for their status. It’s so self-protecting to say that the only possible reason they are poor or homeless or jobless is because of an inherent disposition to be that way – because a flaw on their part .It’s so generous to the cultural ,political and economic status quo for you to think and say so. For all the elites talk of democracy for the ordinary person, the classist attitude is one they revel in. Pervert perceptions and hide the problems.
The typical reaction of course will be the thin fall-back position. Those might be valid issues but what’s that got to do with libertarianism or anarchy. These are just aesthetic preferences. However this reply is based on a great misunderstanding of what freedom is and the values it relates to. Absence of aggression against innocents(which could be called freedom) is of course valuable. But within freedom is autonomy. This link is rarely made.
Freedom is but the specific application of autonomy to politics, to aggression and what to do about it. It is pretty meaningless to value freedom but when it is no longer an issue ignore the autonomy of the individual to put their desires, choices and preferences in action without unnecessary and immoral barriers. Social mobility requires autonomy. If this connection is not made, then libertarianism just functions as above- as a “rich man’s anarchism” with little concern for social issues. It just appears as a desire to abolish the state to be able to put in place restrictive social conditions. Anarchy is seen as the best way to do this and the state being viewed as little more than an impediment to it. What kind of fulfilling life can anyone have if instead of being met with institutional organized aggression they are met with a more loose but more pervasive more all embracing cultural domination ? It is in this same way that many social and political concerns intersect. That’s why won’t find within traditional anarchism a limiting just to opposition to statism. Anarchism is broader than that. It is radical social change on many fronts.
By: Scott F | Jan 29, 2011 Anarchism
Often when we consider the harm of statism we think in monetary costs or the costs of those whose lives it has destroyed or ended. This is justified but there are other costs worthy of mention too. Statism is responsible for great psychological disturbance and harm. Here I will offer an account of just some of the ways it does this.
Since the beginning of humanity creativity has been an important need , expressed variously through cave paintings or Shakespearian drama. Statism inhibits this important need and aspect of a fulfilled life. With creativity, there is the desire and ability to seek out the commonplace. Statism is obviously opposed to such kinds of thinking. The ideological apparatus of statism seeks to limit other thinking to how this or that problem can be solved by violent. Alternative options are taken out of the discourse in the way it is framed. We see this in the media in discussions of any policy. The debate rages on whether it should be decreased or increased but rarely ever touches on whether it should be abolished absolutely and removed from government interference. Now thankfully anarchists do not suffer from this problem. However, we do struggle at times with imagining how certain organizations would run in anarchy- Statism has brought down blinders on our capacity to imagine voluntary solutions. It is this tendency we must struggle against especially when we are asked how x, y, z will work under anarchy.
Working against state created limitations is also present in our actions throughout our lives. Statism is an artificial limit on autonomy –opposition to its aggression being one expression of this. Statism in creating barriers to entry reduces and limits options. Depending on how much you fall into the problem of the above mentioned this can mean living in the narrow confines of a state defined state approved reality. Your live is an artificially narrow path. Of course, state ‘democracy’ offers no solution since it is not truly making decisions on your life , but selecting which slave master will hold the chains- the choices being carefully selected by the ruling class and media to prevent unorthodox thoughts. Maybe these limitations on autonomy could account for much of the crime which goes on today. Individuals are reacting again society (which they see) as entangled with the state. Not only that but it could be that an opposite reaction to frustration created by statism is depression.
Actual crime may be a reaction due to the frustration of being a puppet in the hands of the powers that be. Butler Shaffer writes about this saying “When our self-directed, self-serving undertakings are forcibly interfered with by others [e.g., the state], our purposes become frustrated, a consequence of which is often a resort to aggression. A number of contributors to the study of aggression tell us much of the dynamics regarding aggression. Two such commentators observe, “[a] person feels frustrated when a violation of his hopes or expectations occurs, and he may then try to solve the problem by attacking the presumed source of frustration”. So the old anarchist position that there will be little crime once the statist causes of it are gone may indeed be correct.
As a coercive institution, inevitably statism gets in the way of voluntary interaction especially those in which we aim to help the less fortunate. The State has been known to try to prosecute voluntary giving of food to the poor without licenses. With the welfare state, it crowded out mutual aid and friendly societies that could have aided the downtrodden without creating dependency on the state- a counter revolutionary tactic if ever there was one. Even indirectly, the state has a negative impact on benevolence. With the heavy burden of taxes, individuals are more reluctant to give to charity(The attitude of “the government took my money,now you want some too” and it becomes more costly especially for those who’d like to give but just can’t afford to. This can lead hearts to harden and smash social solidarity in which we have situation something like the social atomism so often said to be at the heart of individualism or anarchism. In reality, it is the state not opponents of it which disconnects individual from individual and deters charity and quashes kindness.
As Roderick Long argues, statists seem to think of state intervention as incantational. It is made law and carried out .As if this means the problem truly is being solved. As if it’s sufficient for the state to be said to be doing and the issue no longer matters .This sort of dependency is linked to the lack of imagination I first mentioned and the limitations to action above.
There are many ways that the state is like a drug- addictive, requiring bigger and bigger hits, creating a false sense of community and unity etc , but the most obvious is that it’s in some ways like an opiate. The state is in a difficult position. It must make individuals concerned enough about the bogeyman of anarchy and the false conflation of it with chaos to support statism yet it must avoid making them care enough to turn a critical eye on the state’s claims to be solving solutions which might bring criticisms of statism itself. As has been discussed before, there are a number of ways in which this is carried out:- tv, sports, video games, flashy celebrity magazines, discussion of the latest celebrity hoo hah in the newspaper instead of a worthy discussion of an issue. Now, granted there are exceptions but this seems to be a general tendency. I want to be clear also, that I’m not saying these forms of entertainment do not have a place –I’m not saying we must be all about the cause 24/7- just that balance between being sucked into them to the diminishing of serious issues and being political 24/7 seems the right position. Unfortunately , it seems to me that the majority of people have fallen into the former. I guess you could call this hedonism. Within our culture, we can see it as an anti-intellectualism. Anarchism and like philosophies are seen as ‘abstract’. To those with this attitude, life is for bodily experience and sensation alone with little to no concern for ideas. This narrow vision of life- in contrast to a balanced life of bodily pleasure and concern for ideas too – disconnects individuals from wider social problems. It serves statism well.
In this short piece, I have shown ways in which statism perverts human psychology. There are other ways it does this not mentioned. Also, it should not be forgotten the ways in which the state exploits natural tendencies to its own advantage .Examples of this would be its use of fear mongering which creates an environment of what psychologists call situtational ambiguity where individuals do not know what’s going on and so conform to those who appear to know or be in control of the situation or it’s exploitation of the human desire for community to promote nationalistic imperialistic and xenophobic agenda.
The State is so deep within society that it even warps human psychology.It is true enough,that the first weapon of statism is our own minds.
By: Scott F | Jan 16, 2011 Featured
What is Left-libertarianism?
It is libertarianism synthesized with leftism. It is the awareness that the two are not contradictory or opposites on a spectrum but properly understood are the same.It should be clear from the beginning left-libertarians reject the statism of traditional leftists.Many do not consider such individuals to be leftist.Merely left-libertarianism is the understanding that libertarianism leads to leftist conclusions – that libertarianism is a philosophy from which to view the causes and solutions to traditional leftist concerns such as bargaining power,bosses or corporations.To use Gary Chartier’s phrase it is “socialist ends by (free) market means”.
Central tenets of left libertarianism.
- ‘Subsidy of History’ .Further awareness of how history has had no golden ages and elites have benefitted from statism in past while average person has suffered due to state e.g. in the Industrial Revolution.
- The political class.The State has throughout history to present day acted to artificially privilege the rich,corporations, landlords and employers(The political class) at the expense of everyone else particularly the poor, employees,women, black people,foreigners, tenants,small businesses,the self employed, unions and the like(the exploited class).Following from this left-libertarians are on the side of the downtrodden and the marginalized.
- Two Kinds of Government intervention. As Kevin Carson says there’s two kinds of government intervention.Primary which are privileges such as subsidies to the rich etc.Secondary which the government puts in place to hide the injustice of primary intervention and make the system seem humane e.g. minimum wage,welfare etc yet which remain harmful as ever.
Concern for the downtrodden.Furthermore concern for the downtrodden follows from left-libertarian opposition to aggression against innocents.Those aggressed against- the oppressed- are just one group of the downtrodden.
- Current Distribution of wealth and land.Following from the previous link, the recognition that current distribution of wealth and land is largely due to state intervention whether that be barriers to entry or statist privilege and that just because someone is wealthy need not mean they achieved it themselves and just because someone is poor does not mean that they make bad lifestyle choices.Following from this understanding we must reject classist prejudices.
- Belief in Anarchist Pluralism.This is a belief that various legal and political arrangements would exist in anarchy ranging from back to nature communes,co-ops, collectives to voluntary socialist federations and so one.No one arrangement would and should dominate.Anarchist arrangements will compete and finally truly be put to the test.
- Opposition to Thin libertarianism and belief in Thick libertarianism.Left libertarians are not arguing that there should be a set moral creed for libertarians but also that morality is not irrelevant.It is worth discussion in anytime there is a discussion of rights.We should always keep in mind that while there may be a right to do X that does not imply that it is morally right to do X.Even prominent ‘thin libertarian’ Walter Block is really thick.He speaks of religion as potentially being a bulwark against the state and that it is important for libertarians to support it when it does so.This is thick libertarianism.There are many kinds of thickness varying in degrees and one can belief in one kind while rejecting another.One kind is the basic left libertarian position that while opposition to aggression against innocents is vital and necessary ,it is not sufficient.Left-libertarians broaden the scope to include cultural matters such as structures of domination and dehumanization.
- Belief in ‘Thickness from grounds’- A kind of thickness.This is values which lead you to libertarianism or are implied as part of it, that lead to a concern for wider issues.An example of the links here would be:- concern about aggression leads to general concern for others .Concern for others leads to concern about dehumanization.Concern for dehumanization and about aggression leads to concern for the marginalized and downtrodden of which the aggressed against are one group.
- Belief in Thickness from consequences- As Charles Johnson explains it “there may be social practices or outcomes that libertarians should (in some sense) be committed to opposing, even though they are not themselves coercive, because (1) background acts of government coercion are a causal precondition for them to be carried out or sustained over time; and (2) there are independent reasons for regarding them as social evils.”Examples of this are sweatshops,’contract feudalism or authoritarianism arising from land ownership.
- Rejection of conservative baggage of traditional libertarianism.Historically classical liberalism defined itself largely in opposition to state socialism.Libertarianism with it’s opposition to state socialism during the progressive era and the cold war has done likewise.This is due to unfortunate alliances with the old right and conservatives.Libertarianism has unthinkingly and knee jerkedly embraced evils in the name of opposing state socialism as a package.Libertarians have engaged in the fallacy of package dealing here and in doing so have accepted evils which socialists of all stripes-statist and anarchist- rightly oppose.Left-libertarians seek to help the philosophy of libertarianism shed this baggage.This baggage can be seen in opposition to leftist language and concepts or the belief that voluntary socialism is impossible- an argument that likewise can be turned back on the arguer.Also this tendency is exhibited in anarcho-capitalist selective re-reading of history to downplay or exclude elements of classical liberalism/libertarianism which came close or even were left-libertarian.
- Opposition to Vulgar Libertarianism.Kevin Carson Defines Vulgar Libertarianism as the tendency to falsely believe that X condition holds because the actually corporatist we live in is a free market.An example would be to say workers who have horrible working conditions should just quit.This ignores the extent to which workers bargaining power is reduced by statism.
- Anti-corporate.There are many left-libertarian criticisms of corporations.But the most basic is that corporations are defined by (1) state granted limited liability and (2) corporate personhood. (1) It is an error to think left-libertarians oppose limited liability per se.More correctly,we oppose state grants of limited liability which amounts to the state legally privileging a company owner ,manager or higher staff (especially corporations) to be exempt from prosecution.This is not a free market contract because the state is enforcing this against non agreeing third parties.It is essentially a kind of social contract.Now it is true this can sometimes be ignore by the state when pressing for prosecution but this is rare.(2) Left-libertarians oppose corporate personhood which is the treating of a corporation- an organization as if it is an individual with rights as an individual.It’s true individuals in a corporation have rights but the organization itself does not.This is an epistemological error and one which should he gross to libertarians who favour individualism.These two criticisms lead left-libertarians to the conclusion that corporations are products of statism and could not exist on the free market or at very least would be very improbable.Important to note is that corporations are defined by thesr two privileges, a company missing the latter one is just a artificially privileged company not a corporation but left-libertarians oppose these all the same.
- Seperation of management and ownership.At very least, left-libertarians think this can be problematic and at most think it is immoral or a violation of rights.
- Unions are not inherently coercive.Unions have been co-opted at times by the state.Left-libertarians oppose this.We believe in unions that work for left-libertarian goals and seek to level the playing field between employer and employee.
- Belief in Strategic Thickness ,that is values that would help lead to and maintain a free society.
- Reduced/limited Bargaining power. The state limits job opportunities by instituting barriers to entry such as licenses and monopolies.Thus workers either cannot be self employed or independent contractors or the numbers of individuals taking up such kinds of employment are vastly reduced.This means that workers do not have much ability to turn down job offers ,look for better working conditions such as hours,oppose boss petty authoritarianism or argue for benefits such as child care.Workers are stuck with what there is,so the employer holds all the power in their relations.The State is the enemy of the worker.
- Solutions to reduced bargaining power.Possible solutions include Workplace democracy,Worker Self management, collective bargaining,labour organizing,work to rule, go slows etc.
- Ambiguity in labour contracts allows employers to take advantage of employees reduced bargaining power and require things not specified in the contract.
- ‘Contract Feudalism’.Reduced bargaining power means that employees can do little when employers extend their authority into the private lifes of workers such as preventing criticism of the company on social networking sites.Kevin Carson calls this ‘Contract Feudalism’.Employer authority is extensive and all embracing.
- SweatShops.Due to reduced bargaining power which results in workers reduced ability to seek better worker conditions sweatshop workers have limited options.They are not choosing the second best option nor even the best option but the best option ALLOWED by statism.
- Poverty. While libertarianism has always emphasised how statism causes and maintains poverty, left-libertarianism are strongly in favour of making sure it is not forgotten in case status quo apologetics or classism enter in.The state’s cause and maintenance of povety is extensive resulting twofold:- statist privileges and statist intervention which holds down the poor.The group most harmed by statism at any time is the poor.The State is thus the enemy of the poor.
- Pro-migrant.Culturally, left-libertarians are pro-migrant which follows from concern for the downtrodden( and opposition to xenophobia) since often migrants come into a country due to state created poverty or war.Left-libertarians view the most flourishing society as one in which their is a variety of groups and cultures.Left-libertarianism is on the side of the migrant.
- Opposition to I-it relationships which result in dehumanization- that is treating of individuals as objects, as lacking in free will and determined by their group- Examples of these include sexism,racism,classism,xenophobia, transphobia and homophobia.
- Statism on the side of the bigot.Since we don’t have free markets , to some degree employers are protected from suffering from loss of profit due to discrimination because of state reduction of competition and corporatism.Walter Block is wrong.
- Authoritarianism due to land ownership. At minimal concern about how land ownership might be used to mistreat or control others.At most ,outright opposition to land ownership for this very reason
- Equality. The Belief that large wealth disparity is due to the mix of statist privilege and barriers to entry and that minus these in a free market, wealth and land would be more widely distributed and wealth would be less inequal.The Free market is a form of wealth redistribution.It is inherently corrosive to wealth concentration and inherently leftist.
- Artificially large firms. Firms have two forces involving their size:- economies of scale and diseconomies of scale. The vulgar libertarian analysis assumes current size of firms is due to serving the needs of the masses.This is claimed because it is said that certain factors reduce production by unit and allow for increase of firm size.These are economies of scale.Diseconomies of scale are factors which limit the size of firms such as costs,transport etc.The vulgar analysis is mistaken because it assumes a free market which is what this clear law applies to.The situation as left libertarians point out is more complex in the current corporatist atmosphere.An analogy will help illustrate. Imagine a set of scales.On the right side is economies of scale and on the left, diseconomies. The way it would work in a free market ,is the right will become weighted by economies and the left weighted by diseconomies( both factors are always in play ) until the left diseconomies outweights the right economies.But in Corporatism, statist privilege artificially reduces if not in some cases eliminates diseconomies on the left side of the scale and adds extra economies of scale onto the right side.The result of this is artificially larger firms.Absent these factors in a free market,firms would have clear diseconomies and thus would be smaller to some extent than currently.
- Fewer firms. Statist privileges allow firms to grow to artificially large sizes while barriers to entry reduce smaller businesses entering the market to compete or prevent their entry in the firstplace(the unseen of barriers to entry) The result of this is fewer bigger firms- the traditional leftist complaint.Thus it follows the solution to this problem is not statism since it is the cause.
- Prices. Since on a free market, competition tends to result in lowered prices and better quality goods and services with statism hampering if not at times eliminating competition completely then these two tendencies do not hold currently and we have artificially higher prices and artificially lower quality goods and services than we could have.You might say this doesn’t seem to be true.Things seem to be get better all the time.While it seems this way ,things could be much better in a free market.
- Rent. By artificially creating scarcity via barriers to entry for example rent control or zoning and statist privilege, statism results in reduced supply of land while demand remains the same.The result of this is artificially increased prices in buying or renting land and artificially high rents.
Artificially increased overheads.The state artificially raises overheads.Overheads are the costs of running a business.The costs are raised by such things as the cost of filling tax reports, complying with regulations etc. clearly now to deal with those requires large bureaucracy in businesses.Smaller businesses and individuals have a harder time to keep up with these costs so artificial overheads reduce their amount or actually exclude them from the market -especially in the case of the poorest.
I would be happy to see others follow in my path and write their own manifesto’s either following my general outline or not.
Hopefully my explanations are full enough to generate more understanding of what left libertarians believe.