Posts by Neverfox

Semi-Auto(nomous) Weapons

Maybe, just maybe, after the prayers* go out and we turn towards the inevitable discussion about what happened and what needs to be done, people will step outside of the usual, calcified scripts and realize that there are more possibilities than (racist/sexist) fear-mongering government gun control schemes and (racist/sexist) cock-swinging gun fantasies. That American-style gun culture is messed up is not a reason for more legislation and that our approach to social regulation is messed up is not a reason for American-style gun culture.

Yes, if we were to ever get to the kind of society I dream about, there would really be no place for de jure limitations on the possession of personal firearms; that would simply be the result of taking liberty and equality seriously. But at the same time, if we get there, we’re going to have taken “a good hard look at the social relations and lack of or failing social structures which would cause an individual(s) to resort to shooting up a school” and there would be no place for “systemic crushing alienation” either. (HT John Sabin Adkins @ Facebook)As Shawn P. Wilbur said in a Facebook post:
I’m pretty sure that no amount of modification of our gun policy (in any direction) is going to fix things as long as we live in a society where anger and despair are equally foreseeable responses to conditions that seem unlikely to ease. We probably won’t end the spectacular forms of senseless tragedy without ending the tragically systematic senselessness.
For those tempted to add that we cannot eliminate “psychopathy” (or murder or…), maybe not. What we can do, essentially, is confront the notion that we live in a society where acting autonomously, i.e. doing things because they are ends-in-themselves, is reduced to a minimum. What we seem to be getting as a result are people desperately finding ways to do just that, but these ends-in-themselves are violent, immoral and, if you must, psychopathic. But I’m not going to pretend that “psychopathy” (or whatever you choose to call it) is just some isolated thing that happens to some Other, nor am I going to be afraid to understand something because I might be viewed as excusing it.What kind of society do we want to live in? One that fashions us into semi-autonomous “weapons” of Hate, Alienation, and Destruction or one that fashions us into fully autonomous seekers of The Good, The True and The Beautiful?
* Repose in the eternal Fullness grant unto them, O Eternal One, and let the Light above the Æons shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

Filed under: Culture, In Memoriam, News
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The Devil Is in the Details

In the many discussions I’ve been in where I’ve argued against capital hiring labor and in favor of labor hiring capital, inevitably someone poses a question like the following:

“This contract [wherein labor hires capital] can say just about anything, stipulating how the capital is used down to any detail. How is this different from an employment contract?”

Well, if the details in question go as far as being functionally identical to employment, it wouldn’t be very different. In fact, it would be an employment contract. What makes a contract an employment contract isn’t that the words “Employment Contract” are written at the top. What a contract is or isn’t is going to be a matter of the reality of the situation it brings about. So if employment contracts are not seen as valid contracts in a given society, then they can’t “say just about anything, stipulating how the capital is used down to any detail.” It’s not about avoiding the “magic words” but about actually eliminating the renting of people, explicitly or through legal gamesmanship.

Filed under: Anti-Capitalism, Autogestion, Law, Left-Libertarianism, Mutualism

Possessed of a Certain Mutuality

In the Mutualism group on Facebook, a user posted the following Proudhon quotation:

‎”Every possessor of lands, houses, furniture, machinery, tools, money, &c., who lends a thing for a price exceeding the cost of repairs (the repairs being charged to the lender, and representing products which he exchanges for other products), is guilty of swindling and extortion.” – Proudhon

The quotation was accompanied by a skeptical set of examples (following Proudhon’s list) meant to appeal to the reader’s intuition and, I presume, lead them to conclude that Proudhon was full of it and that there is nothing wrong with charging for the use of something you own. The upshot is that today’s mutualists, if they agree with Proudhon, are full of it too.

With regard to “land” (actually improvements to such), the example was a parcel of land converted into a parking lot that then charges locals a parking fee. How could mutualists think this is “swindling and extortion”?

Proudhon doesn’t appear to be saying anything more or less here than that rental prices should be in line with competitive arbitrage:

C – S/(1+r)n = RKa(n,r)

where C is the current market value of the capital asset, S is the scrap value after n years of use, R is the current market rent for K units of capital services, and a(n,r) is an ordinary annuity of one. If no one is “guilty of swindling and extortion,” viz. “under competitive conditions, arbitrage between buy and lease markets would enforce equality between the present values of the outlays to obtain the same real services through buying and leasing.” [1]

So in the case of improvements to land? Let’s say you could sell the lot for $300,000 immediately on the market. So C = $300,000. Let’s say you plan for the lot to operate for 50 years, so 50*K units of capital services will be used by those parking on the lot. If the market indicates that you could expect $50,000 for a lot in that condition in 50 years, the present value of the scrap would be $18,397.65 if r is, say, 2%. Doing a little algebra, your arbitrage-enforced annual rental income RK = $8,961.49. At this level of annual nominal income, you would essentially be slowly selling the lot, and it’s hard call that “swindling.”

This all amounts to an income stream of about $448,000 (plus “scrap”) over the whole time horizon before repairs, which the possessor may or may not choose to do. But arbitrage assures that this is equivalent to $300,000 in present value. Seen in this way, it’s no more true that no one would ever build such a lot if all they got in return was what Proudhon allows than that no one would ever build such a lot if they were only allowed to sell it outright. Which you choose to do would be determined by whether you want your labor to manifest as wealth or income.

As for repairs, if you kept the lot up, you would be producing what amounts to a new asset, C’, worth $250,000 to add to your scrap value. This would renew your income stream but it would have been the result of additional labor and cost as it should be. I realize this is grossly oversimplified but the general point isn’t changed.

It should be clear from this example how it plays out with houses, furniture, machinery, and tools. The same goes for money, where the stream reduces to r, as you would expect.

So am I just saying that Proudhon or mutualism in general is just capitalism described in socialist-sounding language? After all, nothing I’ve said so far about capital assets yielding an income stream wouldn’t be enthusiastically endorsed by most bourgeois economists. In short, no, because there are different ways in which owning an asset can do this. What we’ve considered thus far is the “passive” use of a capital asset. Capitalism, however, legitimizes another “active” way. Capitalist economists apply this capitalization theory to cases where, instead of hiring out capital, capital hires in labor, a product is produced and the income generated in imputed to the capital asset. This capitalized value is C + profit*a(n,r) or (what amounts to the same thing) the capital asset plus the value of the stream of labor’s whole product. By doing this, they are “guilty of swindling and extortion” because that stream is not what you are purchasing when you buy an asset. That stream depends on future contracts that may or may not be made and furthermore, those contracts (i.e. employment contracts) aren’t even legitimate. This stream must be appropriated as new property based on the actual satisfaction of a legitimate contract of hired inputs.

Now, I’m not claiming that mutualists are never heard decrying passive capital asset income streams, or even that Proudhon didn’t. What I’m saying is that separating passive and active income streams in the theory is important to any analysis of the matter of lending and that, in my opinion, the passive streams don’t conflict with the spirit of mutuality and reciprocity central to mutualism.

Where does occupancy and use fit into this, you might wonder? In the language I’ve been deploying, occupancy/use theory is usually seen as arguing that the only legitimate enjoyment of a capital asset is in realizing it as wealth (“use it or sell it”), but not a stream of income (“but don’t rent it out”). I would argue that the spirit is better captured by arguing that the only legitimate enjoyment of a capital asset is by realizing it as wealth or a stream of passive income (viz. by realizing either the market value C or rental-plus-scrap), but not active income. To put that in occupancy/use language, the whole product stream cannot accrue to a party that isn’t occupying and using the capital asset, viz. whoever hires the asset appropriates the  whole product, which includes the “negative” product (liability for the passive stream to the owner) and the “positive” product (the residual from its use as an input to production).

[1] Ellerman, David. Economics, Accounting, and Property Theory. Lexington: Lexington Books, 1982.

Filed under: Anti-Capitalism, Economics, Markets, Mutualism, Property, Uncategorized Tagged: David Ellerman, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Distinguished Capitalists

After initially disagreeing with me (by defending the idea that capitalism is fundamentally about “private ownership of the means of production” or POOTMOP), Stephan Kinsella conceded that for a system with “private ownership of the means of production” to count as capitalism, it must have certain features (emphasis mine):

If society adopted some kind of bizarre model with no firms, no division and specialization of labor, no significant accumulation of capital, I guess I would not call it capitalist.

Kinsella has now elaborated on that idea, fully embracing (along with Marx) the notion of “capitalistic patterns of ownership and control” as distinct from “a free market in land and the means of production,” including  ”employers and employees and employment.” He sees the link as inevitable (as may, arguably, Marx and unlike me*) but at least we seem to agree that POOTMOP, by itself, is too vague to distinguish what capitalists mean by “capitalism” from what they don’t.

Glad that’s cleared up.

* I not only see it as not inevitable but unlibertarian and thus precluded conceptually by the term “free market.”

Filed under: Anti-Capitalism, Left-Libertarianism, Markets, Uncategorized Tagged: Karl Marx, Stephan Kinsella

A Force Much Fiercer

If an armed band of brigands is determined to take your land, or your crops, or your resources, or impress you and your friends and family into slavery, or establish some other kind of permanent control or direction over all of you, you can hardly prevent them from doing so just by ignoring them. You have to repel them and defeat them.

Now I suppose you can succeed here and there in repelling and defeating threats by adventitiously banding together temporarily into an organized, rule-governed unit for that limited purpose, and then dissolving back into a less organized form of existence. But the threats are persistent and many, and it’s both inefficient and ineffective to keep forming and dissolving units of organized power only when threats arise. For one thing, you will want to deter threats from acting against you in the first place, rather than continue paying the high price of only banding together and acting once threats have arisen, and have begun to do their damage. The practical thing to do is to preserve the band as an organized society; to debate, refine and improve the rules under which you live and organize your cooperative activity and common life; and to establish settled practices for keeping these rules and in place. And then you are a government.

Nope. This is the problem underpinning Dan Kervick’s whole line of thinking here (along with that of people like Gus diZerega and others in the state-as-self-organizing-network camp). He has convinced himself that anarchism is the lack of persistent institutions or organizations because he seemingly defines governments or states as any persistent institution or organization. Either that or he thinks this is the case in matters of large-scale defense. But why should we accept this? I find that to be a weird way to think of it.

If you’re going to tell an anarchist that they don’t really oppose the state if they support any kind of “organized, rule-governed unit” for defense (as Kervick suggests is prudent), then it probably helps to know what they mean by a “government” or “state”:

I won’t hazard a definition of either “government” or “state” here, but some essential features can be described. States have governments, and governments, as such, claim authority over a defined range of territory and citizens. Governments claim the right to issue legitimate orders to anyone subject to them, and to use force to compel obedience. But governments claim more than that: after all, I have the right to order you out of my house, and to shove you out if you won’t go quietly. Governments claim supreme authority over legally enforceable claims within their territory; while I have a right to order you off my property, a government claims the right to make and enforce decisive, final, and exclusive orders on questions of legal right—for example, whether it is my property, if there is a dispute, or whether you have a right to stay there. That means the right to review, and possibly to overturn or punish, my demands on you—to decisively settle the dispute, to enforce the settlement over anyone’s objections, and deny to anyone outside the government the right to supersede their final say on it. Some governments—the totalitarian ones—assert supreme authority over every aspect of life within their borders; but a “limited government” asserts authority only over a defined range of issues, often enumerated in a written constitution. Minarchists argue not only that governments should be limited in their authority, but specifically that the supreme authority of governments should be limited to the adjudication of disputes over individual rights, and the organized enforcement of those rights. But even the most minimal minarchy, at some point, must claim its citizens’ exclusive allegiance—they must love, honor and obey, forsaking all others, or else they deny the government the prerogative of sovereignty. And a “government” without sovereign legal authority is no government at all.

-Charles “Rad Geek” Johnson, “Liberty, Equality, Solidarity: Toward a Dialectical Anarchism”

Kervick has not demonstrated that simply reaching the point where an institution is “preserved,” where there are “settled practices,” or where there is enough continuity to “deter threats” requires anything of the sort Rad Geek describes. If an organization hangs together despite lacking these essential features, then it is not a state, but anarchy. If we accept, as Kervick says further down, that “[objectionable forms of bondage or coercion] are only actively prevented by an organized power that has more coercive heft than the potential oppressors” then why must we also accept that this can only take the form of something with sovereign legal authority?

For example, all kinds of forms of male domination and female subjugation that existed just a few decades ago have been altered and pushed back in the US and other societies.  That’s in large part because many of the constitutive practices of male domination are now illegal, and the institutions and claims of right that once underpinned these practices have been abolished.  Those who seek to engage in those practices, and there are many who do, are now thwarted by the law and by the imposition of punishment, or at least the threat of punishment, on a continuing basis.  So if this is a triumph on behalf of liberty, it is a triumph of democratic government and the rule of democratic law.

Why is this any more likely to be the case than the idea that the Civil Rights Act is in large part the reason that many of the constitutive practices of racism “have been altered and pushed back in the US and other societies”?

And none of these changes would ever have occurred without the extension of the voting franchise to women.

Yes, it’s probably true that legislative changes would not have occurred without the extension of the voting franchise to women. That’s very different from saying that any change would never have occurred without the extension of the voting franchise to women. (I say this not to suggest that women shouldn’t have obtained the right to vote when men continued to have it, but rather that a sovereign legal authority that uses voting shouldn’t exist and that this state of affairs would be better at ending patriarchal domination.) Yes, men face threats of legal force to curb their domination. To the extent that this domination is a violation of rights, they should. But to the extent that it isn’t, they “should face a force much fiercer and more meaningful—the full force of voluntary social organization and a culture of equality.”

In addition to these kinds of consequentialist considerations, (to quote Rad Geek again, somewhat out of context):

But even if you concede that immediate repeal of statist controls, without the preconditions in place, would eventually result in disaster, rather than cultural adaptation … you would need to add some kind of further moral argument that would show that people are entitled to continue invading the rights of other people in order to maintain a particular standard of living, or to stave off aggression that would otherwise be committed by some unrelated third party at some point in the future.

Rad Geek is speaking here against gradualism as a strategy for moving toward statelessness but I think the moral (no pun intended) applies as well to the question of whether we should move there at all. From the perspective of the anarchist, you are arguing that we should trade coercion for coercion, and that, in light of the idea that it doesn’t need to be a choice, isn’t a very appealing argument.

Filed under: Anarchism, Feminism, Left-Libertarianism Tagged: Charles Johnson, Dan Kervick, Gus diZerega

Eight Pounds Lighter

From the transcript of Ron Paul’s interview with Piers Morgan last night: On abortion, I just recognition [sic] as a physician and scientist that life does exist prior to birth. There is a legal right to it and there is a biological definition of it. And most people don’t think about it, that if you [...]

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Hard-wired to Choose

Seems like “the debate” is often structured so one has to either believe in some “exception” to cause and effect, or that that our preference for a Belgian triple ale with tonight’s dinner is merely fall-out from the big bang. I’m in the “hard-wired to choose” camp. (Shawn P. Wilbur) (University of Texas at Austin [...]

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charley2u, over at the unique and intriguing Marxian blog Re: The People, wrote a post (which looks like it will be part of a series of posts) answering my call for eir perspective of FOFOA’s unique and intriguing hyperinflation prediction. Be sure to check it out, along with the rest of both blogs.

Filed under: Economics Tagged: charley2u, FOFOA
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We Still Need Feminism? You’re Fired!

Here are two nearly identical “boardroom” scenes from the current season of Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice. If sexism were still a problem, the reaction to Star Jones in the second clip would have been different from the reaction to John Rich in the first. We might expect Donald Trump to call it PC bullshit or for Meat Loaf to make a play about good intentions. But since women got the right to vote, like, a long-ass time ago, it doesn’t turn out that way, natch.

Scene 1: Episode 7 @ 01:16:54

Scene 2: Episode 10 @ 02:01:20

(The links will cue to the right spot after some ads. There are also captions below the video for those who can’t or don’t want to hear it.)

Filed under: Culture, Feminism
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Waiting for Mubarak


There is no need to wait for Mubarak to “step down.” If you have decided that your government is illegitimate (as all states invariably are) then, in the words of Charles Johnson, “you have already completed the revolution: no government on earth has any legitimate authority to bind you to any obligation that you did not already have on your own. It’s a mistake to think of the State as holding you under its authority while you struggle to escape; at the most, it has power, not authority over you. As far as your former government is concerned, you have the moral standing not of a subject, but of the head of a revolutionary state of one.” Don’t give any more legitimacy to Mubarak by acting like some declaration on his part means anything. What are you waiting for? Look around and start living free.

Furthermore, “declare [the uprising] as the new basis of social organization and…appeal to the oppressed of the world to join with it. The call for a transitional government, constitutional reform, new elections, etc., should be rejected. The January 25 uprising must avoid being defined as something of significance only to Egypt; it cannot win if it is confined to Egypt — it must strip off its national form. In response to the secret negotiations directed by Washington, the January 25 uprising will have to aggressively declare its intentions to go global.”

Filed under: Anarchism, News Tagged: Charles Johnson
Categories: Anarchism
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