The Anarchist Township

Fight the war, fuck the norm!

Month: August 2011 (Page 1 of 2)

Discourses on Liberty post for 8/26/11: Left Against Left: Part Deux!

(Original post)

A Reintroduction 
So this conversation started with a few posts being responded to at this post. BP then made a response here.

This is my attempt to make some concluding responses to BP. I do not intent to make another response as it’s not only pretty time consuming but I understand BP’s position well enough and am willing to move past it and see where I can go from here.BP can make another response if he wants but I’d like to let him know that I won’t be responding either way and so he’ll have the last word if such is the case.

I’ve decided to post it here so I contribute another blog post here and so my responses are more spread out than just on my own blog, though I suppose I’ll be reposting this at my blog as well anyways.I begin here…

The Response 

“I get the impression that this is meant to counter a perceived complaint about “pluralism”. But I haven’t argued that the Alliance of the Libertarian Left is too diverse.”

Actually it wasn’t, it was just to point out that there are a lot of differing opinions in the left-libertarian movement and that any attempt to generalize as was pointed out in the comments of your blog may not go well.

“The sense in which I have criticized “pluralism” in the ALL (and more broadly as market anarchists tend to wield the term) is that it almost always seems to be illusory in that it’s on free-market-libertarian terms, or on the other hand that it represents a kind of intellectual incoherency in which people try to let everyone have their cake and eat it too as a conflict-avoidance mechanism without grasping the deep reasons behind the conflict.”

I’m unsure how true this is. For myself I certainly don’t think there’s no room to build bridges or alliances between market and social anarchists. In fact I’d argue that market anarchists can find more in common with social anarchists at times than those who would be referred to as right-libertarians. Class struggle, disparities in economic and social power, etc. are all things we as anarchists should be interested in. Going from and past the NAP into other ideas about social, economic and political relations past the public realm and into the private realm as Charles Johnson and others have suggested with thick libertarianism and so on.

So I think to a certain extent left-libertarians are and have been doing these things. Perhaps not to the extent that’s necessary and if that’s the case then it’s something that needs to be worked on. There are real areas of contention between social and market anarchists and again, I’m unsure if most left-libertarians don’t see that or recognize it but speaking for myself I understand it coming from a personal level and my own experience.

“It often seems like the only sense in which market anarchists can “reconcile” themselves with social anarchists is by not understanding their positions and offering a fig leaf to something more watered down that doesn’t contradict their own position.”

Well for one thing, market anarchists and others of the libertarian-left aren’t just going to abandon their principals just because social-anarchists have different ones. This is another problem and disagreement BP and I have. I don’t think left-libertarians need to engage in massive appeals to social-anarchists and adopt their positions just to be considered “left”. I think what’s needed to be considered left is a class analysis, a thicker analysis of authority and power relations, including but not limited to, economic and social disparities in power.

I also think things like class and hierarchy itself should be criticized, cultural norms should be looked at with a critical eye and possibly (like the rest of the things I’ve listed) be revised based on how much damage it can, could or even does to a truly freed society.

Now to what extent to left-libertarians recognize all of these things? As with most movements it seems to me to be with varying degrees. Some left-libertarians recognize that a disparity in wealth, social power, privilege, property and the mere existence of wage labor and hierarchy is dangerous towards society because of the preexisting state conditions that could arise out of them. Some market anarchists (and I haven’t discussed this with too many left-wing varities just the right ones, aka an-caps) just push it away and say “the market will work it out”. And this reveals a bit of holy faith in the “one true maret place” that I don’t appreciate rhetorically or
substantially.

Rhetorically this just makes it sound like the market place is something somehow separate from normal human relations which I think we both agree is false. The market place is simply an arena of particular social relations in which subjectively valued products come together to be traded form some sort of currency. If you have a better term I’d like to hear it since I’m not convinced that’s as good as it could be. At any rate the market place can obviously be free or unfree as it is right now for the most part. So obviously the social relations that happen within the market place with or without government can be good or bad. I’m unsure what left-libertarians recognize this but I don’t think it’d be a stretch for any of them to accept it already or once you made the argument either.

“To be clear about this, it is not a troll post in the sense of me being insincere in what I stated. It is a troll post only in the sense that I deliberately use a provocative tone and personalize things.”

Thanks for clarifying.

“The point expressed here has to do with just how much of an online echo chamber it is. ”

But how does this only apply to left-libertarians? I’ve seen BP do this before and he does this to libertarianism in general. He likes to criticize certain parts of it that, while legitimate, he seems to make a big deal out of when every other movement seems to have similar problems as well. I understand the negative effects of an echo chamber and I for one don’t favor it. Sometimes it’s best to have similar views and see if they’re in place and others you need different views to get a new perspective. There’s no one method of obtaining truth through discussion and debate but I agree echo chambers generally are not a good idea.

But again, why does this only apply to left-libertarians? Sometimes it seems right-libertarians can do the same thing and the same thing for social-anarchsits as well, so why specifically the left-libertarians?

“It’s a criticism of the sociology of the movement, as something largely isolated from meaningful dialogue with the rest of the philosophical and political community.”

That’s funny because C4SS largely has been published all over the world in different publications (Counter-Punch and Forbes just to name a few of the big ones) and has engaged in many different discussions on the Freemanonline, Facebook, at talks, at debates and so on. So I don’t see left-libertarians within themselves too much, I think it’s more of a problem that they haven’t come out enough because the majority of the people they sometimes hang out seem to have knee-jerk leftism and “mah propertai!” syndrome. It’s a dangerous idea and I admit that’s why myself and others might like it to begin with. But I think it’s also a lot more substantial than that.

The idea that you can synthesize things like individualist and social-anarchism to me sounds like a wonderful idea. I don’t think that mutualism is necessarily such a fusion and Shawn P. Wilbur has argued that if it was this simple it wouldn’t be much of a philosophy which I agree with.

“To someone on the outside, it’s likely to be seen as psychobabble, especially when its members deliberately play with language in the attempt to be provocative and eclectic.”

Well again, why just left-libertarians? In the anarchist movement and libertarian movement in general those who are unfamiliar with the dialect, terms, popular figures and scriptures it would seem mysterious to anyone at first. Indeed, this is what Professor Roderick Long’s draft essay was all about to begin with, the mysteriousness of libertarianism *in general* to other people outside the movement.

For us as anarchists statists sometimes seem so bizarre and to have their own weird culture, set of norms and ideas we can’t get involved in, etc. So again…if you’re going to call a duck a duck then why not call everyone else the same?

And look, I’m not excusing the echo chamber or the “psychobabble” you’re talking about here. It’s true that sometimes the language can be confusing for people outside it but this isn’t a very interesting conclusion or accusation since that’d just about apply to anyone trying to get into a new movement. Now if what you’re positing that it’s particularly bad in the left-libertarian movement that’s another thing. But really it’s just going back to individualist anarchism that Tucker and others favored and tried to use socialism, etc. It’s supposed to be contra Mises, Rand, Rothbard and others who claimed capitalism is and was a good thing. It may be confusing but there might also be a sense in which confusion is always necessary in certain scenarios before a better sense of clarity can be reached. Such may be the case here sometimes.

“The sense in which I call it a semantic cluster-fuck has to do with how certain terms are appropriated from other political ideologies while being radically altered into their content and just how obsessed some left-libertarians can be about the use of certain words.”

Well I for one am not obsessive about “capitalism” or “socalism” but usually it seems to me that people only get like that in publications for the public or just to put a new spin on a tired old debate. But yes, this is one problem with left-libertarians we’ll agree more than we disagree. Because, in the end, I get tired of these stupid terminological debates that have gone on for so long. I don’t care about what capitalism or socialism means, if I have to use the words I’ll try to be clear about them and using the insights from Gary Chartier and Charles Johnson have said about capitalsim and Ken McCloud said about socialism (“…what we always mean by socialism wasn’t something you forced on people, it was people organizing themselves as they pleased into co-ops, collectives, communes, unions…”) I think it’s roughly clear was we may mean by things like voluntary socialism.

But on the other hand sometimes leaving out the adjectives is sometimes the best route and this where my anarchism without adjectives comes into play. I follow in the tradition of Voltairine de Cleyre and Karl Hess on the grounds that firstly you are an anarchist and this means opposing coercively imposed leaders (rulership) and defining the imposition of rulership within more than just the context of using physical violence. This is where things like thickness in cultural and social relations as well as economic, etc. comes into play for me.

“In my view, what we’re dealing with here is an error in which people try to construe what is Murray Rothbard briefly opportunistically exploiting the political climate of the times in the name of recruiting people to his ideology as if it was the formation of an actual synthesis position.”

Just because Rothbard was exploiting an opportunity to build a coalition doesn’t mean left-libertarians are doing the same. Nor does it mean we’re following what Rothbard did or having the same objectives he did. Konkin and Hess showed that by becoming more and more radical (especially insofar as Hess is concerned with allying himself with the Black Panters, etc.)

“The main issue that attracted Rothbard about the New Left was their anti-war sentiment. But Rothbard fled from the New Left like they were the plague the moment it became clear to him that they weren’t useful for his overall purposes.”

Well left-libertarians list a lot more than just that for why we should ally with the left. Their opposition to corporations, their ideas on sexism, racism, economic disparity and opposition to domination on multiple levels, etc. are all useful things. Also, historically the left

“On the other side of the aisle, Murray Bookchin abandoned his earlier tolerance toward the libertarian right and developed his infamous critique of “lifestyle anarchism”, which is partly a critique of American individualist libertarianism. The “coalition” didn’t last.”

So what? Just because the coalition didn’t last then between libertarians and the left doesn’t mean it’s forevermore doomed to failure. We can analyze for instance, why it failed (Rothbard being shallow for one) and hopefully improve on that. Plus the point is to broadly recognize that libertarianism needs to be more developed and conscious of things like power relations and develop their ideas more complexly. We also recognize that originally people like Bastiat and Proudhon were on the left and not right of the French Assembly. The power of tradition, monarchy, feudalism, monoply, power and privilege was on the right. I think this is still the case today.

“There are a few points to make here. From what I see, the elements of the earlier anarchist tradition that the ALL refers to are dominantly American and individualist elements. You don’t particularly see ALL intellectuals referring to people like Bakunin, Kropotkin, or Malatesta.”

Well I’m unsure about Kropotkin. I generally hear (and I recently heard Gary Chartier reference Kropotkin’s work on mutual aid as wonderful on thinking liberty) good things about mutual aid and those ideas in general from left-libertarians. Bakunin also has some praise here and there but I admit there could be more besides “Against Authority”. And Maltesta I don’t usually here about even from the few social-anarchist friends I have on Facebook, so from my limited experience it doesn’t seem to be limited to left-libertarians.

“One could hold up references to Proudhon as an example, but it often seems like Proudhon is being grossly misinterpreted or appropriated through the lens of a more contemporary market-libertarian framework, making him a French version of Benjamin Tucker. The closest person I know of who can claim to be an expert on Proudhon is Shawn Wilbur, and he has expressed disagreement with much of how Proudhon has often been read by many ALL associates. Indeed, Wilbur seems quite disappointed with what many people are saying “mutualism” is these days.”

I can’t comment too much on Proudhon here and I’d be remiss to try to counter claims about Proudhon made by Shawn but then I’ve hardly seen claims about Proudhon being some sort of market anarchist either.

“I brought this up because it is one of the most clear-cut examples of ALL members disingenuously using semantics to try to erode substantive distinctions between political positions. As far as people ceasing to refer to themselves as anarcho-capitalists, this is quite a common maneuver that I myself engaged in at a much earlier stage. The initial motivation for doing this is often to simply avoid the stigma attached to the word capitalism while keeping one’s position the same.

However, I imagine that what Brad Spangler would cite as his “substantive” reason for not calling himself a capitalist is the largely semantic-based basis upon which many ALL associates call themselves “anti-capitalist”, I.E. by associating capitalism with statism and then concluding that they are anti-capitalists as an extension of their anti-statism. This is precisely what I’ve criticized as not substantive enough.”

This misses the point that capitalism is not just tied to the state but also the wage system and a society majorly based on things like profit. These are both things Charles mentioned and things I’ve seen left-libertarians such as Brad Spangler criticize.

“The reason I consider it wide-spread even within the ALL is that if you look at the bulk of material produced by its main intellectuals, the focus is always on blaming state intervention and for the most part nothing more beyond this is said.”

Well the focus of that is mostly based on the fact that the state is probably the most visible use of suppression of individual liberty. When I’ve read the main literature (and I’ve probably done it a few times over to boot) the state supresses individuals in multiple, layered out ways seems pretty clear to me. So even if they’re only mentioning things past the state (and I agree that’s a problem if it’s happening) then it’s to establish a basis of the most clear examples. Charles Johnson I think has done the best work by far and to my knowledge of trying to move past just looking at the state but I agree it should be (and I think it can) improved on. I’ve tried to point
out several times that while the state IS our enemy it’s not the ONLY one

“The Center for a Stateless Society is practically founded on producing articles that argue this same point over and over, and it’s also the same automatic response to concerns that many libertarians who don’t even associate with the ALL will often give.”

You also have to keep in mind that C4SS while being the media center for a lot of left-libertarian ideas is also trying to be published around the world (and it has as I believe I pointed out before). Thus I think, again, for the sake of simplicity and shortness you have to go to the biggest and more clear cut case for the anarchist and people in general. Reviewing things like sexism, classism, racism, etc. are more intricate than a clear cut of government intervention in people’s life. Also consider that C4SS does a lot of commentary on contemporary issues and they often do the same thing. So it’s a sort of ironic vicious circle of sorts.

I do agree that more should be done though.

“When it comes to the whole thick libertarian thing, I have the impression that this is mostly used to focus on “social issues”. Notice that Nick himself mentions racism, sexism, and patriarchy, but nothing is said about economic oppression. What I see is a lot of people giving lip service to the notion of “interlocking systems of oppression”, but then when the discourse about economic questions gets going, everything always comes back to “the state did it”. There does not seem to be awareness of economic hierarchy as a problem in and of itself or how power can operate outside the context of state intervention.”

I think this is particularly unfair. For one thing I’m gonna pull out my first excuse (which is particularly lame) that I was writing this early in the morning. Second I also think it’s particularly unfair that just because I list the first few examples that come to my head doesn’t mean I wouldn’t agree with you or list them if I had thought of. It’s true racism, sexism, etc. first come to my head often times but that doesn’t mean I don’t accept other things, which is precisely why I said “etc.”. Finally, I’ve already pointed out how people like Professor Long, and Kevin Carson should be mentioned as well for speaking lowly at best of most forms of hierarchy, especially the contemporary ones that exist.

“My reasoning is that certain ingrained notions of private property are a significant part of what capitalism is based on, which is why the classical anarchists were skeptics about property.”

Well again, some left-libertarians don’t support absentee ownership such as mutualists, geoists, voluntary socialists and individuals who are agorists and other left-wing market anarchists are probably skeptical of it to some extent. I doubt this is good enough for you, but I figure it’s also worth pointing out that I see left-libertarians are usually seeing a much more diverse array of property (and non-property based rghts) existing in a truly freed market so I think it balances out well enough for my liking.

“By “robust” I basically mean broad and deep. I happen to think that a robust conception of personal freedom inherently comes into conflict with at least the kind of property that American, individualist libertarians tend to support and that in realistic consequentialist terms such property systems enable authoritarianism even if a “left-libertarian” in good faith thinks that they lead to egalitarian results. ”

I’m unsure that left-libertarians believe that they’ll uniformly lead to more egalitarian results or that they seek other results. It really seems you’re being more critical of agorists, left-Rothbardians and left-wing market anarchists such as the ones of C4SS are not left enough and should at least get more into mutualism and voluntary socialism or social-anarchism, libertarian-socialism, etc. And I agree on some aspects really that some ideas need to be dropped so that left-libertarians can become more consistent in their positions whill still holding on to different methods, ideas and in short not being dogmatically fundamentalist about the market place and property rights like right-libertarians can be.

“The bulk of Austrian economists, from my observations, use it for capitalist apologetics. A good look through the material produced at Mises.org makes this quite clear. Now, I understand that people in the ALL may call this “vulgar libertarianism”, being of the mind that Austrian economics does not support the conclusions that the Misoids think it does. But the fact of the matter is that Austrian economics, perhaps with the exception of a few conclusions that happen to be correct (and are ironically shared by Marxists), is a dogmatic system of thought that does not work as a very accurate tool to describe social phenomena. And more often than not, the function of sticking to belief in what Austrians consider “economic laws” is as an automatic denial of the reality of economic power.”

Well again, I plead ignorance on this whole thing here. You’d need to talk to someone more well versed in Austrian Economics to get a better argument here.

“The question is if they sufficiently really recognize this, especially to the extent that they espouse economic reductionism. Market economics and “methodological individualism” (as something more than a valid rejection of the reification of society and social groups) is quite often wielded in a way that simply ignores the social context in which phenomena takes place in order to apply a presupposed “law” to explain it. Man is reduced to an egoistic economic utility calculator. There is a strong focus in much of economics on the subjective as opposed to the intersubjective. To the extent that ALL associates espouse much of the same economic ideology as anarcho-capitalists, the critique applies to them too.”

Sure…as much as they espouse it. But for myself I’ve hardly ever heard them espouse certain strong-iron laws that somehow gurantee man’s freedom and some seem to be highly skeptical of some uses of methodological individualism to begin with. I agree all of those things are ridiculous but I’ve just never seen it happen, which of course doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen or exist just that I don’t recall it happening and it just seems bizarre and out of character for what left-libertarians should be saying, which is certainly not things like this.

“Firstly, not to be mean-spirited, but it starts to become really clear at this point that Nick hasn’t sufficiently looked into this stuff, and that this kind of relativism about property is often an easy way out of having to thinking deeply about it and come to a clear position.”

Oh man you’ve got me! I haven’t boned up on my “studies in property” volumes 1-20! I’ll just go in my corner and not contribute to the conversation at all because I’ve clearly got better things to do…

Ok, all of that stupid stuff aside, yes, I’m not as well read on some of these things as I should be. If you’ve got suggestions for things to me to read you’re more than welcome to do so instead of just accusing me of pure ignorance.I have stated quite a few times I’m not the man for the job to do this…just the man willing to do it.

It doesn’t mean I’ll know everything that there is to know or that I’m even qualified, it just means I’m dumb enough to try anyways. Whether I succeed or not is really largely irrelevant to me because success to me in these discussions doesn’t mean convincing you it means bettering myself.

Now I wasn’t using that to “get out of a clear position” I was, instead, using it so I could get across the idea that many different conceptions of what property is and is not can compete with each other because I don’t think I have the knowledge to exact one system of property rights on other people and say it’s the right one for them in any situation. I’m not in favor of one size fits all systems, whether it comes to property or anything else. Also, anarchism is largely an experimental and evolving system of relations and I think this means that no property rights system will be implemented on the whole.

“Nick doesn’t really say anything here that addresses why or why not occupancy and use is a quantitative position on an abandonment continuum. He jumps to the more general question of co-existing property systems, while I’m objecting to necessarily framing everything in terms of a property system and the trivialization of the notion of occupancy and use to neo-lockeanism with a personal preference for shorter abandonment time-scales.”

Alright, fair enough. That was my mistake and I apologize for that.

“Since Nick isn’t quite talking about the same thing that I was, I’ll reserve my objections to this characterization of occupancy and use. Rather, I’ll focus on the relativism, or more accurately, localist conventionalism. The problem I have with this is that it seems obvious that different positions on property have radically different levels of compatibility with person freedom and radically different implications for people’s lives in general. So it seems like if we really are concerned with personal freedom and people living the best possible lives, it doesn’t make sense to be have an indifferent attitude toward norms and structures that effect people.”

Agreed, but then I explicitly stated that this sort of evolving relatvism is, through the way it develops will ensure that people recognize what works and what does not. For instance if a system of use and occupancy works better for bigger areas and collective ownership as well as cooperative ownership works better for areas that are called “public” now while private property works best on small areas of land then people will keep engaging in those relations with each other. If they don’t work like that people are free to get out of those associations and vote with their feet about which system of human relatinos they prefer.
That’s one of the big ideas from anarchism from the start. It doesn’t mean people are indifferent to what’s going on. It means people don’t need to necessarily get violent about it. People can get out of the situation, educate people about what they think works best, form new asssociations, blacklist people who have wronged them and so forth.”I also don’t think it’s true that whatever “emerges” is whatever is best or better. If we want to make an analogy to evolution, it definitely does not work that way.”

Well, this was an embarrassing slip on my part I’ll readily admit. Alex is right here to point out that just because it emerges doesn’t mean it’s inherently good. I think this just means though that people need to be actively involved in the process to ensure it doesn’t turn out the wrong way. Is there some sort of guaranteed method? I for one don’t think so but if Alex has any suggestions or ideas I’d welcome hearing them.

“When it comes to some of the nitty gritty details, Shawn Wilbur can say a lot more about this than I can. In either case, my point is that there are a whole lot of people (especially people with a history as an-caps) crawling around the internet calling themselves mutualists who have either not read Proudhon or do not understand him very well, and that the crux of what they understand mutualism to be tends to be watered down to be pretty similar to standard free market libertarianism. If mutualism is just free market libertarianism with a personal preference for co-ops, or a propertarian position with a stricter abandonment convention than the one held by anarcho-capitalists, then it isn’t that substantive or distinct of a position. Fortunately, we have people like Shawn Wilbur around to establish that this isn’t the case.”

Not much to disagree with here, though I question how true all of this is I largely have not read big mutualist work with the exception of some of the pamphlets Shawn has released and the translations of Proudhon’s work in a few cases.

“Yet a significant aspect of the Tuckerite-Carsonian position is precisely to avoid explicitly taking a normative stance on various questions and claim that the natural tendency of a free market is to diminish economic woes. The context in which those woes are supposed to be addressed is one in which good consequences simply emerge as a market phenomenon, which seems to be implicitly based on an equilibrium model. I’m then lead to wonder if one would take a more proactive, normative stance if it ended up being the case that things don’t turn out as they’ve been predicted after the fall of a state, or if everything that is considered a negative feature of capitalism would be accepted in the name of “the free market””

Hmm…well I don’t agree with this position but “leaving it up to the market place” means leaving it up to a certain set of human relations correct? So I think it’s wrong off the bat because we shouldn’t just rely on one set of human relations. I mean, even if the market place does it best, so what? That doesn’t exclude a gift economy, barter network or other things not giving useful insights into what we can do in a truly freed market and what works and what doesn’t. I don’t agree that “nothing outside the market place, everything within it, nothing against it”.

“More specifically, I highlighted the fact that Richman holds to a premise commonly held by anarcho-capitalists and free market libertarians, which adds to the case for doubting that such “left libertarians” can meaningfully distinguish themselves from that ideology. I was also taking note of the fact that on the rare occasion these days that someone like Shawn Wilbur does try to enter into dialogue with the main intellectuals of the ALL about certain things, he is mostly met with silence. This is meant to underscore that it has become a bubble.”

I see, well I’ve seen tons of debate about that on the FLL so I’m not sure if that’s the exception to the rule or what but that seems to underscore your opinion. But you’re right in a way too, I don’t understand why Sheldon wouldn’t give a better response than he did.

“The point is that the very nature of “the double inequality of value” as it is presented by Austrian economists is an a priori denial of the possibility of economic exploitation, because it defines all parties as inherently benefiting or “profiting” from market phenomena. And in discussions about various things, I’ve seen it (and “the subjective theory of value” more generally) brought up mostly by anarcho-capitalists as a counter to claims of exploitation.”

I’m suspicious of a-priori clams in general because they seem to diminish choices of what reality actually constitutes in an unecesary way. But I question if Sheldon uses it in such a way that apologizes for exploitation. Does he use it like the an-caps do? I oppose such a thing in any event.

“Yes, people’s notion of a “true free market” always has more to it ideologically than “whatever occurs in the absence of state intervention”. Indeed, I went on to say precisely that when I brought up Murray Rothbard in the next paragraph, because typically “a true free market” is conceptualized in the context of a property rights system that is part of a whole political theory. In either case, the fact remains that state intervention is the only thing that most associates of the ALL point to in order to explain capitalism, and this is what I’m taking issue with.”

I get that you take issue with it and I apologize if I’ve not addressed it enough as much as I should be. In any case I think there’s more to the rise of capitalism than just the state. Carson talks about the subsidy of history, the stealing of property from the peasants by the ruling class and the other laws that influenced why their land was stolen. I know a lot of this is more state-intervention but it also seems to have implications past that for just general land stealing and ideas on property that I think some left-libertarians can and probably have for all I know brought up. The point is that these basic general points can be brought to a new level if people actually recognize that more is going on than just the state.

“You know what’s funny? What I did was choose to give some examples because I’ve been accused before of making general statements about the anarcho-capitalist and libertarian movement without exemplifying what I’m talking about. Then when I actually do give examples, all of which comes from the leading intellectuals of the ALL, I’m accused of cherry-picking. Excuse me while I laugh out loud!”

It really does seem that way to me Alex. It seems like you can’t do much more than pick a few positions that lack as much substance as you’d like and then widely apply it across the left-libertarian movement as a whole. I don’t know what you have to do to get your points made as right to you as they are to me, but whatever you’re doing now and whatever you want to call it is not as convincing as you’d like it to be for me for the most part.

“From the fact that Roderick Long quite correctly denies that political authority is justified a priori, it does not follow that his position does not have authoritarian consequences or is not compatible with authoritarianism.”

Sure, but what I was saying is that I find it *less likely* not that it guarantees much of anything. I think this goes for left-libertarians in general.

“What matters is what people do in fact put forward as justification, and the Rothbardian framework that Roderick relies on does justify political authority on the basis of property rights.”

Well I agree that’s something that should be discussed to see if it’s legitimate or not.

“I’ve extensively argued before that it is logically consistent with Rothbard’s premises to justify an institution that functions exactly like a state on the grounds that its territory was achieved through homesteading or trade.”

I’m curious then, how would you be able to do this? Can you elaborate? How would one be able to homestead that much land and get people to be taxed and so on?

“Furthermore, if we want to talk specifically about Roderick Long’s position on land, to my knowledge he makes no distinctions about land property and doesn’t adhere to an occupancy and use position that would significantly question absentee landlordism.”

Alright, well again I’m pleading ignorance on the topic of landlordism and absentee ownership and that’s not to excuse Roderick Long’s position but just to acknowledge your statement here as potentially valid.

“I’d have to start at square one with the problems with the neo-lockean position. I’ve argued about this elsewhere ad nauseum and a portion of my objections are on other posts at this blog. For now, I’ll simply say that there are problems with considering transgressions against external property as being the equivalent of initiating force against a person (this is a case of taking “property as an extension of the self” quite literally), and that the narrative of property originating from “labor mixing” isn’t particularly applicable to a modern industrial society and isn’t historically accurate as a description of the accumulation of property.”

Well then the question is how we make it more accurate if this is the case. Your problems make me think of the problem some social-anarchists have with the claims of current property rights and how they originally belonged to the Natives and I’d ask them the same question: What can we do about this? How is this a meaningful idea apart form the fact that it’s historically accurate?

There’s only so much you can do with accurate historical actions and if there’s not much to at all with what you can do with them then I can’t see much of a practical use for them. But insofar as such a narriate of “homsteading” etc. I don’t buy it either. A lot of the land (probably most of it even?) came from colonialism, slavery and other harms not homsteading.”It isn’t an arbitrary appeal to tradition, especially because it applies just as much today as it did in the past.”

So a NO U response followed by a “it applies here too”? Color me unimpressed with this particular response.

“I’m underscoring the fact strong private property rights of the sort that Rothbard favored is a basic foundation of capitalism, and this is why opponents of capitalism are property skeptics. The fact that classical anarchism is anti-capitalist is not important simply because that’s what the tradition is. There are good reasons why that is the tradition. And if we do want to talk about history, it formed partly as a reaction to the rise of liberalism in the 19th century. This isn’t something that can just be ignored.”

Sure, I agree history can’t be ignored and it really should be expanded upon more. I also think ant-capitalism isn’t all there is to “traditional anarchism” (again you still haven’t defined this so that makes my response a bit shorter than it would have otherwise) and you’d agree so left-libertarians should keep that in mind as well.

“What left-libertarians think or intend is irrelevant. One can not want hierarchy or think it is necessary, but that doesn’t mean that one’s ideas and principles aren’t compatible with hierarchy. One can be against something and build a grand theory opposing it that actually enables or supports it when applied to the real world, because one’s theory is bad. When left-libertarians take Rothbardian, propertarian ideas and attach good intentions to them, that doesn’t change their nature.”

Alright, fair enough. I guess then we’d need to go into the details of Rothbard’s ideas and then see who it applies to. If you don’t want to that’s fine since I’m sure you and many others have written about it, but know that that’s where I stand on this particular part.

“Charles Johnson’s article in question reiterates the narrative that capitalism is to be explained by state intervention, and goes no further. I looked at the comments section, and the thrust of what he had to say in response to critical posters was to talk about how state intervention is responsible for what they decry and to to get into the empirical evidence of this. What isn’t there to see?”

Well do you ever think that these are just examples that can just be extrapolated on if you asked them to? If he doesn’t in the article then it could either be within the context of what subject or article he’s posting, etc. And the response he gave was mostly fuled by talk *about* the state that was already being made to begin with.

“It’s funny that Nick made the error of not putting the word “not” before “perfect”. I’ll put that aside.”

Dammit! But I agree that’s a funny mistake that I missed in my tired half-assed editing at around 3 AM.

“Bracketing for the moment the more general problems with propertarianism, it isn’t that some of you still have some sense of property rights that means you’re not “left enough”. It’s that many of you adhere to doctrines that are just about as absolutist and strong as one can get in favor of property rights, while attaching egalitarian intentions to them. Behind the slogans (“building the new society within the shell of the old”) is bad theory with dangerous consequences.”

Ah, I think I see your criticism now: Too much holding on to Rothbard and not enough divergence for your liking,is that fair enough? Or perhaps just propertarian absolutism in general? Either way I’m only seeing the former and not the latter and don’t see the two as equivalant. Then again I haven’t read nearly as much Rothbard as they have so I can’t sympathize much or really elaborate why they feel they do.

“My point is that their theories do not sufficiently account for the factors that I bring up, even if they explicitly put forward the intention to do so, and indeed the content of their theories contradict those intentions. It’s all well and good to say that one wants a world devoid of authoritarianism and without capitalism, but there is tension within one’s ideology if one wants to join that with theories derived from capitalism and norms that justify authority.”

Then again, we need to question these norms and theories and see if we can get farther along and more radically consistent, I for one am with you on such an idealogical journey/transformation.

“In truth, it is Nick Ford who largely comes off as someone who has not looked very deeply into the material on these matters.”

Perhaps not as well as other people have, but I’m willing to learn and if that means doing this then I’m fine with that.

“He often speaks from a position of unfamiliarity with the points of contention that are being talked about and responds with naivety when people are critical.”

I’m not naive about the things you speak of. I’ve seen some of it, but I deny it happens to the extent you say it does in a lot of the cases.

“He defends figures while simultaneously admitting to not being sure what their positions are, and bases some ofhis views on 2nd hand opinions about thinkers that he has not read yet.”

Sure, speculation and generalization (which is still generally a bitch but only generally of course) are with me sometimes, I won’t deny that. But for the most part I HAVE read these authors to a pretty good degree in my own mind.

“I don’t think that Nick Ford is stupid, but he certainly does not seem properly equipped to form a strong opposition to what I’m presenting.”

Perhaps, but I’m dumb enough to try I guess. 😛

“Honestly, at various points it doesn’t seem like he has a strong sense of what his own position is.”

Such is the life of being a young, confused person I suppose.

“If my wit has in some way wounded him over the course of this post, this is the unfortunate price to pay for stepping into the ring this extensively.”

Nah, don’t flatter yourself.

“I wish him luck on his ideological journey.”

I’d say the same to you but then I hardly ever know where you stand. 😉

Left Against Left: Responding to Criticisms of Left Libertarianism from Further Left

There are some things you just know you should do. Regardless of whether you perhaps need more knowledge on the ins and outs of things or have every detail. Sometimes something bothers you enough that you want to do your best to deal with the situation and what will come will come. Such is the case here. I don’t claim to have all of the info in the world to debate the recent points made by Alex Strekal (AKA Brain Police) nor Scott Forester’s slightly less recent points. But I do think I know about left-libertarianism in my year or so within it. From all of the readings I’ve done, the conversations I’ve had, the people I’ve met, the events I’ve helped organize and so on. All of these things give me enough confidence to attempt to refute or at least bring some questions to the criticism in those two blog posts I’ve listed above.

Now why exactly are left-libertarians being criticized in this particular case? Well it seems to be the fact that some of us as left-libertarians aren’t left enough for some people. Is this a bad thing necessarily? Perhaps, perhaps not. It depends on definitions of “left” what values there are in following it, etc. And I can only speak for myself of course and my general impressions from the rest of the left-libertarians I’ve seen, read, etc. Are there problems with left-libertarians? Definitely. There’s problems with all sorts of movements, probably one of the biggest problems with left-libertarianism is that it’s still so disorganized. It’s decentralized, very pluralistic and sporadically organized and the people all have many differing opinions on many different things.

Is this completely out of the norm for a political movement, even a small one like the left-libertarian one is right now? I’d argue that such a case is only inevitable among interaction with people in such a complex mess that political discussion entails. It necessarily will become pretty complex as more people come in and have different opinions, ideas and different strategies and desired outcomes. So I’d say in my opinion that I don’t think that the Alliance of the LibertarianLeft  and left-libertarians in general are so widely different sometimes is a big surprise or even a necessarily a bad thing. In my opinion it’s not a good thing to all be marching in a line all wearing the same colored arm bands chanting similar salutes etc. I’m interested in mobilizing a powerfully radical and consistent liberatory message to the people, not the borg.

That being all said, perhaps that will give some insight on some of my own critiques and rejoinders to my own critiques on left-libertarians. I certainly don’t feel as if there are no problems or that some left-libertarians could be a bit more consistent in their cultural thickness or criticism of “sticky” property rights, voluntaryism and so on. But then again, for the most part I’d disagree with the extent to which Alex Strekal (From here on out referred as “BP” for Brain Police) has made his claims. The same goes for Mr. Forester (Scott Forester).

I shall start with Mr. Forester’s article seeing how it originated first, is shorter and may shed some early light on some of my opinions on BP’s blog post as well.

Addressing: “My Issues with Left Libertarianism”

Scott begins by citing an older BP article on left-libertarianism which I think will be worth addressing in its own separate section after this one. For now however, let’s investigate some of Mr. Forester’s claims:

“I mean Agorists like to think of themselves as something radical,original and ‘to the left of rothbard’ but really it’s just Ancap with a more developed anti-statist strategy.Agorism is not new.Anarchists have always carried it out in terms of counter institutions and Dual power.”

As an agorist myself I’d disagree with this summation. While it’s true agorism is largely just left-Rothbardianism I’ve seen many diverging opinions on what constitutes the correct sort of property rights. In addition agorists also have a class theory and a radical manifesto as well as the “more developed strategy” that Mr. Forester briefly mentions in it. They also generally devalue electoral politcs and favor more radically revolutionary methods of overthrowing the state. So I’d like to think that all of this plus perhaps some cultural thickness on the leftward side would make them different enough for Mr. Forster.

Now it’s true that agorists aren’t the most widely differential from anarcho-capitalists at times. Some see them interchangeable, others see them as merely a strategy and so they can fit them in even if they’re not an an-cap. I personally think that there a lot of elements from agorism that are worth taking from and that if agorism has to be anything it’s just a much more consistent application of what anarcho-capitalism tries and fails to be often times. And what it seems to me it tries to be is to reduce things into simple terms and rely heavily on Austrian economics and “sticky” property rights, Lockean stuff, etc. Agorists don’t necessarily buy the Lockean stuff or at least they’d allow for abandonment and for a non-universal application of property rights and some may even think having some collective property is a good idea. But again these are generalizations based on my own experience, perhaps Mr. Forster has had different ones.

I certainly do concede to Mr. Forester that agorists could be more radical sometimes but for the most part I think they’re certainly better than an-caps with a class theory, an idea for liberation and usually some leftist cultural thickness.

“I’m not saying I wouldn’t ally with these people on an issue-by -issue basis but a wide gulf of disagreement remains.For them Ancap is only wrong because it lacks cultural thickness ,goes too far on property,knee jerk anti-leftism etc.”

Well these are all good reasons to reject the an-caps positions sometimes. But it’s also a lack of a coherent strategy, reformism with politics, a lack of a class theory or ideas on corporations at times too.

But let’s see what else Mr. Forester has to say,

“The position of people such as myself,is deeper.We reject Ancap because of it’s fetish of property and the market to the level of fundamentalism, the classist mentality,the worship of economic growth with no limits,the love affair with bosses and landlords, it’s post hoc use of economics as justifications of rent and interest..”

Well last I checked I haven’t seen many agorist fetshize the market place or worship it at some altar. If it’s been happening then I guess I just haven’t been getting invited. At any rate, the “classist” mentality is something I’m not familiar with, nor the “worship of economic grown with no limits” so I can’t comment on that until Mr. Forster decides to elaborate more. Insofar as bosses and landlords, rent and interest? I think some agorists don’t see these things as likely as “thriving” as they do now but I could be mistaken.

Agorists typically tend to favor small, decentralized businesses, some even like worker cooperatives or just cooperatives in general. And some seem to really strive towards more egalitarian structures and such. Now whether it’s achievable within their model I think is a case by case sort of thing. As for interest and whatnot I can’t comment much on that either since economics is certainly not my strong point, though I doubt agorists have much against rent, interest, etc. insofar as they come out of the free decisions of laborers.

To continue…

“Essentially because we view any system of capitalism whether with a state or ‘free market capitalism'(as if such a thing could or has ever existed which I think impossible) as unjust.I have no deep attachment to the market except where it is wanted and where it actually furthers human ends.If I was to discover it could not do this and was contrary to human ends I’d turn Anarcho-Communist.”

I actually agree with Mr. Forester on all counts here and I think most agorists would agree or at least some may. Again, generalizations are a bitch…generally speaking. I’m mostly speaking for myself and some self-identified agorists I’ve met both in real life and online and from the conversations I’ve had with them. But for the record I’d hope that if they discovered the market place wouldn’t further human ends that they’d drop it. In fact I don’t have many reasons to conclude that they wouldn’t.

Lastly,

“In closing,I’d say I’ve give up the label ‘libertarian’.It’s a shame really.It’s origins from an anarcho-communist mean it is not in of itself a dirty word but the way it’s been misappropriated by a bunch of capitalist shills and capitalist lite left libertarians disgusts me.”

I don’t have much to comment on here. If Mr. Forester feels so disgusted with the terminology herein then he’s welcome to. As Voltairine de Cleyre said, “I fear no bugaboos!”

“I am fundamentally opposed to the economic system of Capitalism:root and branch, it’s wage labour(and wage slavery),interest,rent ,absentee ownership,bosses,landlords,corporations,classism,the anarchist defined Profit(Surplus value),It’s economic inequality,It’s hierarchy and it’s safeguards which convince the Proletariat that it has their best interests at heart.”

Well again, certainly most agorists wouldn’t go this far and quite frankly I’m not sure what to do about that. A lot of the economics is still based on Austrian economics (of which I have not read much on so can’t really comment) so that’s gonna happen I guess. I think some agorists prefer equity in the workplace or at least would like to see it happen just like in the strain of the individualists in the 20th century like Benjamin Tucker, Josiah Warren, etc. As far as absentee ownership I’d say that’s a bit mixed, still confused on “classism” when agorists clearly have a class theory, profit is nothing I’m against if people decide surplus value towards certain people is acceptable, but again lack of economics here so I could be way off.

Well I won’t address the rest of Mr. Forester’s terminological problems, he can deal with that on his own. As for the problems he’s raised, they’re mostly fair ones I do have to say. The problems here seem to largely mirror the fact that him and BP both wish that left-libertarians would be more left and I’ve got to say that where we seem to differ most are real points of contention and I’m certainly not denying it.

However I think agorists (for the most part) are as left as it needs to be. We don’t need to oppose profit, interest, rent, hierarchy or whatever on any normative basis. We can recognize however, in my opinion, that all would be lessened and mostly out-competed due to the four monopolies being abolished and free competition being opened up. I don’t think that will solve all of the problems, the market won’t do that, the state can’t do that, individuals can’t do that nothing can. I think we need many different methods to get to and then maintain liberty. If it turns out (or I find reasonable evidence otherwise in my lifetime) that such things should be opposed in some nominal way and they just won’t either be phased out, ignored, out-competed and pose a real threat to a free society then I don’t see much trouble in disapproving of them. So where’s the proof?

Moving on to BP’s two blog posts on this topic.

Addressing: “Why I’m Not A “Left Libertarian”‘

I can’t exactly say I “like” BP’s article here since it’s mostly based on personal observations and vaguely correct ones if that. But still, I’d like to address it just to give myself and the audience a feel for what my opinion is on his second article.

I would also like to mention that I believe BP said explicitly that this was mostly a troll post and not a serious critique of it. However, for the sake of this blog I would like to say I do believe that there are a few somewhat legitimate critiques you can get out of this article that are worth addressing in of themselves, serious or otherwise.

He starts off by saying,

“Left-libertarianism”, as it is used by many of the people I’ve associated with, is a highly eccentric/idiosyncratic semantic clusterfuck clung to as a label by a fringe minority of a fringe minority (I.E. “market anarchism”).”

I’m unsure how this even matters; that is, whether it’s a fringe within a fringe, this doesn’t necessarily prove or disprove anything. Nor is anything really stated here to prove it’s a “semantic clusterfuck” so I don’t see what evidence I should debate here.

A somewhat intriguing but ultimately wrong premise BP makes is,

“They use the term “left-libertarian” in a context that is largely confined to a marginal phenomenon that occured in the late 1960’s in America, and somehow expect to be taken seriously by “the left” when they’re effectively defining the bulk of its history out of existence in order to claim that they rightfully occupy such an ideological space.”

While some left-libertarians like agorists, left-Rothbardians tend to do this to an extent that others on the libertarian left may not this doesn’t necessitate that they’re wrong to. For instance a resurgence of a left and libertarian coalition came out of the “new left” coming. And it’s not “defining history out of existence” if we make constant references to those like Benjamin Tucker, Voltairine de Cleyre, Lysander Spooner, Proudhon, means we’re remembering and moving forward with our history. Left-libertarians such as mutualists can’t even be considered targeted by this remark due to how far back mutualism goes, the same goes for the georgists, voluntary socialists, etc.

“Brad Spangler’s posts claiming that anarcho-capitalism is a form of libertarian socialism (see here and here) is a prime example of this kind of semantic game that understandably will only get a hostile reaction from traditional anarchists. ”

Well for one thing Brad merely speaks for himself, I’m unsure how many left-libertarians really agree with such a diagnosis or whether Brad even still agrees with this. I know I recently (in the past few weeks or so) saw him say that he doesn’t refer to himself as an an-cap for both terminological and substantial reasons. However I could be wrong and in the end it’s best to ask him either way.

“It’s bad enough that capitalists and the political right have tried to appropriate the words “libertarian” and “anarchist” in general – now they’re doing it with “the left”! What a recipe for confusion.”

Well all of these terms are wonderfully imprecise and when Charles Johnson makes articles like this, and Gary Chartier has a good post along the same lines here I seriously doubt that they’re trying to or even are murkying waters. I’ve never really felt like Charles or Gary’s work has somehow murkied the waters, for me it makes perfect sense that there are different senses in which capitalism exists and is referred to as and thus can be opposed or proposed of simultaneously.

Which brings me to BP’s latest post…

Addressing: Capitalist Ideology With A Mask

I guess I’ve built it up enough, so what’s BP have to say?

To be sure, BP has a much more extensive and thorough look this time away, but is it any more accurate or fair? I’d first like to address this part,

“Many of them claim to be anti-capitalists, but often on the least substantive grounds possible, more or less reducing their anti-capitalism to anti-statism.”

I believe he’s referring to the major tendency within left-libertarians to be against the current market place phenomenons of hierarchy in the workplace, centralization, bureaucracy, capital accumulation in the hands of the rich, disparity in social relations and economic levels, etc. are usually the result of state-intervention in the market place. While I think relying on the state too much for the evils of the world is certainly a libertarian problem I’m unsure how widespread such a tendency is occurring within the left-libertarian movement. It was my understanding that it’s much less if not really present at all because we as left-libertarians also recognize that interconnecting systems of oppression can reinforce statism through such social phenomenons of racism, sexism, patriarchy and more. And as Charles Johnson has pointed out it can all happen spontaneously and non-aggressively. So if this is what BP is talking about I don’t see it being thin libertarianism at all or just relying on mere “anti-statism”. Perhaps his experience differs though. I’d be intrigued to hear it at any rate.

“And they do this while often espousing many of the common hallmarks of capitalist ideology: a commitment to a robust conception of private property rights, the extensive use of free market economics (especially Austrian economics) as a tool of analysis, and an atomistic form of individualism as an ethos.”

Three points:

1. I’m unsure of what’s wrong with valuing a “robust conception of private property” exactly. From a quick Google search it just means well structured or healthy…so what’s the problem? Even if you mean that you nominally oppose private property and the tensions in individual liberty you see it necessarily cause why not explicitly state them instead of begging the question of what’s wrong with that? At least it’s begging the question for me since I’m not totally familiar with your position on the matter.

2. Sure, Austrian economics is used quite a bit, though I don’t think it’s nearly universal and within left-libertarians I think a good portion of the insights come from them but it’s not as dogmatically or tightly held. Whether this is a good thing or not depends on your interpretation of Austrian economics and since I haven’t read a lot of it I can’t comment much beyond that.

3. I’m completely baffled by this third claim. How do left-libertarians in inherently recognizing interconnecting oppressive systems, cultural thickness, going past the NAP and property rights, seeing social relations of being more than just voluntary and there’s more to your actions than just yourself (for example cultural norms you reinforce, the environment you may damage, etc.) how is that possibly a somehow atomistic viewpoint of human relations? I don’t think BP knows what he’s talking about quite frankly and would love to hear what makes him think I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen.

Continuing,

“The notion of occupancy and use is reframed as a tendency on an abandonment continuum with all of the assumptions of a normal propertarian left intact.”

Ironically this is largely where I stand. But that’s only because I haven’t done enough reading on property theory for my own liking to come to any other conclusions. I fully and readily admit that Lockean ideas are difficult and have their conceptual holes but then use and occupancy seem to as well. Is there a good middle ground? I’m unsure. Some people like Gary Chartier and Brad Spangler and I think even Charles Johnson though I could be wrong (and I’ve largely adopted this view) is that a multitutde of property rights systems would emerge in an a truly freed society. Whichever one works best in a certain context would most likely be used the most.

Does this mean relativism insofar as property use and rights are concerned? Well I think to a certain extent that’s possible. But on the other hand I also think that emerging systems will come through people deciding what is just or more beneficial towards individuals and the larger communities. So it’s a sort of emerging and evolving relativsm that has some thickness to it. I’m unsure if this is the big answer to it but I think it’s at least a decent start.

“Mutualism is interpreted as the individualist Benjamin Tucker’s position + Austrian economics.”

Is it now? I’ve heard Shawn P. Wlbur say that Tucker was hardly a mutualist to begin with and I don’t know many who think that it’s only these two. Then again Shawn wouldn’t call himself a left-libertarian anymore probably so take that for what it’s worth I suppose. Also Carson to my knowledge only takes some inclinations and such from Austrian Economics and while he’s certainly more influenced by Tucker it seems to me (I mean Tucker is on the front cover of his mutualist political studies so one would think anyways…) I doubt he hasn’t read Proudhon, Greene and the like and incorporated much more into his ideas than just Tucker and the Austrians. I think the same is for the mutualists I’ve talked to in the past.

“Socialism is understood to be a rosy prediction of the outcome of market forces after the fall of a state. Of course, this is all bogus stuff.”

All of these criticisms seem to be rooted in some truth but then that little truth is amplified to the point that it really becomes a bigger deal than it really is or BP tries to make it seem so. Such is also the case here I fear. For instance, I don’t think left-libertarians just see predication of market forces going towards their favor but also social relations being grown and developed in certain ways towards certain ends. It’s not just about the market place for left-libertarians, I was fairly certain that was one of the points of being a left-libertarian to begin with come to think of it. So it’s not just “rosy predications” but prescriptions and descriptions of what will most likely happen as well as how to make it possible and so on.

“A few months ago, “left libertarian” Sheldon Richman wrote a piece favoring Murray Rothbard’s notion of “the double inequality of value”…”

The rest of this is just BP saying that somehow because Richman buys a certain premise of Austrian economics and didn’t give a long response to Shawn that he somehow a “capitalist in disguise”.

I’d also like to point out that what Sheldon actually said was,

“I appreciate the discussion, Shawn. I’m not convinced that Proudhon’s account of exchange is superior to the Austrians’, but it gives me something to think about.”

Now of course, I’m unsure how sincere Sheldon was here, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he really did think about it and remains open to it. I think that’s an important point to consider and not just lambaste Sheldon for not going into a huge internet debate I mean…what sort of idiot would do that…?

Oh…right…

Anyways…

“And objections such as the ones that immediately come to my mind – that people can engage in economic exchange purely out of pragmatic necessity and under duress, that the social context in which economic exchange takes place can threaten to falsify “the double inequality of value”, and indeed the most common usage of the principle is as an apologetic for exploitation – are definitely not on the table.”

Really? I’m unsure of that. I know Roderick Long himself has explicitly stated that hierarchy is at best dangerous and should always be kept in check or under control if somehow possible. I certainly think there’s a tendency in the left-libertarian community to not be as specific as possible with what exploitation constitutes so I’d see that as a valid point in that light. But otherwise I’m unsure all of what you say is always completely off the table or that it should be. I definitely agree this is stuff worth discussing more in depth for the record.

“Most “left libertarians” either do not have a concept of exploitation or don’t have a very robust one, because they are blinded by what “economics” has taught them.”

Well perhaps, it could be Austrian economics, or it could be psychological reasons or perhaps something else, I’m unsure. I don’t feel as if I’m in a good position to judge here either way.

Now going back to Charles Johnson’s recent post BP says,

“Well, it’s because of how narrow or unsubstantive this ends up being if that’s the thrust of what constitutes the “anti-capitalism” and when one looks into all of the implicit and explicit assumptions made that are shared with your standard anarcho-capitalist. In its most narrow sense, the notion of “a truly free market” is not very substantive, since it just means “in the absence of state intervention”. Beyond the fact that an absence of state intervention by itself doesn’t necessarily equal freedom or point us to any particular useful norm for what constitutes freedom, the “truly free market” of the left libertarian is the same thing as the “capitalism” of the anarcho-capitalist. Their dispute is a semantic quibble at this level.”

I’m not sure how this is correct. Saying you support a “truly freed market” doesn’t just means a market place without government intervention. It also prescribes certain things such as more decentralism, horizontalism, equity in social relations, more evolving cultural and property based relativism and so on. At least, these seem to me to all be other things that left-libertarians favor. That and perhaps more inclinations towards communal property, keeping in place cultural freedom, reciprocity, and less disparity in wealth in a truly freed market.

So, again, I don’t see how we’re just an-caps engaged in some sort of smenatic quibble. We’re not only against the wage labor of the day, the corporations, the state-intervention, the four monopolies Tucker talked about and more but we also have radical anti-political ways of getting to a truly freed society.

And,

“Beyond the fact that an absence of state intervention by itself doesn’t necessarily equal freedom or point us to any particular useful norm for what constitutes freedom…”

I agree with this statement by the way. Just because there’s a lack of a state doesn’t mean there’s freedom but then you’d see any anarchist recognize this, even voluntaryists and an-caps do. So I once again feel as if BP is basing his criticisms off of valid concerns but then enlarging them to ridiculous heights just to make a basic point that is fine on it’s own, even if it’s usually a bit off.

“A left-Rothbardian” such as Roderick Long more or less holds the same view, but predicts a comparably egalitarian outcome of its application and makes a few modifications. In such a case, “left libertarianism” really is pretty much anarcho-capitalism with more of a social conscience, but the social conscience doesn’t negate the fact that the principles are basically the same. It is precisely these principles that the radical left and social anarchists reject, because they uphold capitalism as an economic power arrangement and justify dubious authority.”

So I think I get what BP is doing finally. He’s just cherry picking certain views of certain individuals within the left-libertarian movement, saying it’s somehow a bigger problem within it without really backing that hidden assertion up and then rinse, wash, repeat.

To be fair Alex’s critiques are largely fair in quite a few ways but again, I’ve found holes in them. For instance Roderick in that essay states:

“A crucial feature of libertarian political theorizing is the insistence that not just the precise nature, but the very existence, of political authority requires justification and cannot simply be assumed.”

So if he perceives better outcomes from similar principals perhaps he’s applying it in a better or more consistent/different way than you imagine. After all, if authority can’t be assumed as correct just because it exists then landlords, bosses and the like can’t just be assumed to be just. I do think some left-libertarians such as volutnary socialists, georgists, and mutualists all understand this point. Agorists to some degree and perhaps even left-Rothbardians do too, though they’re largely the same. In either event I don’t think left-libertarians from agorists to voluntary socialists would favor many of the things that uphold oppressive molds.

This is especially the case if things that harm the existence of a free society can’t just be limited to private property violations or aggression more generally speaking. And if we engage in this more thick analysis of social relations we can certainly find other things that occur culturally and socially that don’t necessarily meet the usual criteria of those who reduce social relations to the voluntary nature of it, etc.

I feel also that Roderick may be lambasted for his ideas of positive and negative rights but from my reading of it (it’s the first so I could be off) he seems to leave open the possibility of thickness:

“But what the libertarian is claiming is that the possibility of accepting the Positive Thesis while rejecting the Negative Thesis is precluded by the logical structure of the concepts involved. If people have a right not to be aggressed against, then people have a right not to be subjected to any initiatory use of force.”

I’d also like to take note that there’s no date on this draft so I have no idea when Roderick wrote this or how recent it is. So I’d like to say I’m unsure if he’s still with all of these opinions or what has happened to make him stop working on it. I’m merely adding some side considerations to keep in mind however, I’m not using this to try to weasel myself out of this discussion.

To extrapolate on the above quote however, I’d say that the initiation of violence or aggression isn’t just limited to physical damage done to people, or at least I’d like to think that how you define aggression and so on could leave for varying opinions on harm towards people. I’ve never known Professor Long to be thin in his analysis of rights violations so if he is that’s news to me. It may also be however, that rights issues are different than the thickness Charles Johnson supports…I’m unsure.

Briefly skimming over Professor Long’s property rights I don’t see any huge problems with it, the principles seem sound enough for me, which to be clear are,

“Libertarian property rights are, famously, governed by principles of justice in initial appropriation (mixing one’s labour with previously unowned resources), justice in transfer (mutual consent), and justice in rectification (say, restitution plus damages). It is easy to see how the right not to be aggressed against will be interpreted here: I count as initiating force against a person if I seize an external resource that she is entitled to by the application of those three principles. If she is not entitled to the resource under these principles, but is in possession of the resource anyway, then my seizing the resource counts as force, but not as initiatory force, so long as I am acting on behalf of whichever person is entitled to the resource; otherwise I am initiating force against that person.”

There’s nothing haphazard I see here, so I await the arguments I suppose.

Back to Charles’s article now,

“Substantive opponents of capitalism have never accepted anything like Rothbard’s views on property.”

Well so what? Why does tradition now matter so much to an anarchist? I don’t mean to say that no tradition is important to an anarchist being an anarchist but why does suddenly the fact that just because traditional anarchists (which is never really defined…anti-capitalist anarchists?) disagree with it doesn’t mean much if you don’t elaborate on why their opinion matters in the first place. This just sounds like a vague appeal to traditions to me. There are certain ways in which capitalism is tolerable to some and intolerable to others. Left libertarians don’t all agree with Rothbard (again, mutualists, voluntary socialists, geoists) nor do all agorists, left-wing market anarchists, etc. dogmatically hold on to Rothbardian views on property. Besides that stuff like Homsteading and the Confiscation Principle seemed to me to be pretty leftist but perhaps I’m just too “right” to really understand it either way.

“The outcome of applying a political ideology based on such notions will amount to what social anarchists oppose: heirarchical systems of control based on accumulated property.”

Well how so? You can’t just state things without backing it up or providing reasons why. At least give me an article to work with, an author, a particular strain of thought…something!

But I digress. Left-libertarians seem to me to be at worst thinking that hierarchy is dangerous but acceptable in some places, perhaps that’s where I put myself. But regardless I think a lot of us also don’t think hierarchy is generally necessary for human relations to flourish like they should. And accumulated property? Well it’d be tough to finance such accumulation without slave labor, a state to reinforce it, a culture a lot less full of imbalances in social relations and more. And all of these things I see left-libertarians working towards.

“This makes the fact that the left libertarian opposes the state meaningless, because if there’s anything that the left has always understood better than libertarians, it’s power relations. Left libertarians can argue that the state is the cause of bad things until they are blue in the face, but it is not a sufficient position from which to oppose capitalism.”

Sure, I agree…but since when have left-libertarians only opposed the state? I mean…all-left.net even explicitly states:

“The Alliance of the Libertarian Left is a multi-tendency coalition of mutualists, agorists, voluntaryists,
geolibertarians, left-Rothbardians, green libertarians, dialectical anarchists, radical minarchists,
and others on the libertarian left, united by an opposition to statism and militarism, to cultural
intolerance (including sexism, racism, and homophobia), and to the prevailing corporatist capitalism falsely called a free market
; as well as by an emphasis on education, direct action, and building
alternative institutions, rather than on electoral politics, as our chief strategy for achieving liberation.” (emphasis mine)

So what gives? Where’s the disconnect here? Am I just missing something?

“There is a complex network of interlocking power relations that can’t be reduced to the relationship between agents of the state and citizens. There are many forms of power, and economic power is one of them.”

I don’t think any left-libertarian would disagree.

“This is something that Charles Johnson of all people should understand, since he’s well known for being the guy to popularize the notion of “thick libertarianism”, which implicitly recognizes a kind of holism or intersectionalism as he describes it. Indeed, he tends to be quite good about this when what are commonly considered “social” or “cultural” issues are on the table. And yet it seems like when the whole discourse about capitalism gets going, things come back to anti-statist reductionism anyways.”

But how? Where? Where’s the evidence? I read his piece and I’ve read a lot of his other pieces and from his membership to the IWW, opposition to things like Walmart and the wage labor and pure skepticism of hierarchy in general I’m just not seeing it.

“What’s missing from all this is the understanding that market dynamics and property rights systems themselves can produce massive power disparities.”

Wait…we’re missing this? Because I’m personally not. I understand the market place isn’t perfect, that property rights can be fucked up as well…but how does the fact that some of us still have some sense of property rights mean we’re not “left” enough for you? I’m not interested in appeasing people per se’. I mean, I like good marketing and all and that’s a part of left-libertarianism but for me what the main thing is that it’s about consistency, radicalism and truly caring about others and trying to build the new society within the shell of the old.

“To take things to another level, I think that states form in large part from pre-existing power disparities.”

Charles Johnson argued the same thing in the article you linked about thick and thin libertarianism ironically,

“Thus, for example, left libertarians such as Roderick Long have argued that libertarians have genuine reasons to be concerned about large inequalities of wealth, or large numbers of people living in absolute poverty, and to support voluntary associations – such as mutual aid societies and voluntary charity – that tend to undermine inequalities and to ameliorate the effects of poverty. The reasoning for this conclusion is not that libertarians should concern themselves with voluntary anti-poverty measures because free market principles logically entail support for some particular socioeconomic outcome (clearly they do not); nor is it merely because charity and widespread material well-being are worth pursuing for their own sake (they may be, but that would reduce the argument to thickness in conjunction). Rather, the point is that there may be a significant causal relationship between economic outcomes and the material prospects for sustaining a free society. Even a totally free society in which large numbers of people are desperately poor is likely to be in great danger of collapsing into civil war.”

So…yeah…apparently Gary Chartier and Charles Johnson support such an opinion, as do I, and I think most others would as well. It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to me personally at any rate.

“What we end up having to aknowledge is that capitalism is not just a problem of state intervention, that it is partly supported by certain ideas and norms, and that the power dynamics created by implimenting those ideas and norms are a pretext for state formation even in a “stateless society”. The left libertarians are so focused on “a stateless society” in the abstract that they don’t have the necessary tools with which to form and sustain one!”

The trouble is that BP doesn’t realize that left-libertarians largely do recognize this already. Ironically it seems to be in the very thinkers he’s only criticizing through cherry picking however.

“Until they make the leap in the direction of the kind of positions I’ve briefly outlined here or at least generally move further away from the residue of standard capitalist libertarianism in some meaningful way, “the libertarian left” will rightly be regarded with suspicion by most social anarchists, because to a significant extent they functionally are still capitalists. At their best, they are confused capitalists with good intentions. If they continue to fail to understand why the left opposes capitalism and always bring things back to the market vs. the state, I don’t see much hope for them.”

I guess this last paragraph really sums up BP’s biggest problems: confused criticisms, priorities, mis-identifications, artificially enlarging minor problems in the left-libertarian problems out of basic problems that stand better on their own and trying to make the left-libertarian movement what he personally wants to see. Now to be fair, all of us want that to some extent or another, but the way BP puts it out here he makes it (and this apples to Mr. Forester as well) that it’s somehow nowhere near what’s going on with what they want to see. I just think that if BP and Mr. Forester looked a bit deeper into the people and material they seem to like to criticize so much (and that I like to try to defend) that they’d find themselves making better arguments. Because left-libertarianism and the people who subscribe to such an idea have flaws, no doubt, but not to the level or sometimes not even how both BP and Mr. Forester frame it.

Conclusion

I have to say, it took me a while just to write this all out and I’m not sure if I’m satisfied. I still feel as if someone else could do a better job than I can. So I completely encourage other fellow ALLies to reply to me, reply to Mr. Forester, BP, anyone or anything on this topic really. I sincerely doubt I’ve changed Mr. Forester’s or BP’s mind but that largely was not the point. The point was to help clarify (again) some positions that may be, are already and should be suitable for a left-libertarian. I hope I’ve at least helped clarify my own positions (and lack of knowledge on certain ones) and perhaps this will help propel more and better discussion elsewhere by more well known and better read left-libertarians than myself.

I have my hopes, but then in this world I try not to get those hopes up too high. Suffice it to say I’m just glad I could get this out in the open and hopefully something good comes out of it. One final thing to note is that there is a suspicious lack of citations or articles backing up many of my claims and there’s a few reasons for this. First, I assume Alex has read most of the material I’d link to him. Second, I’d rather focus on our own disagreements than introduce new lines of it to further complicate the whole thing. Third, I think most of my arguments speak for themselves or it was my desire that they do so without using citations to back up my claims.

Gonzo Times article for 8/17/11 and Youtube videos for 8/20/11

Sorry about the lack of updates lately, hopefully this will get me a bit more caught up. I’ll do a blog later on today.

(The original article can be found here)

In my last post I briefly talked about what strategies for the struggle I think are best. Now, I’d like to take the time to dedicate four separate full length articles to all of my preferred strategies. In addition I shall have one more after that to bring them all together. Because next week will be hectic for me (my birthday and other events are going on) I doubt I’ll be able to start next Wednesday/week. On the plus side that will give me a little bit more time to research and so on.

I shall start with discussing agorism, its history, some of the original strands of thought, how it evolved, etc. With direct action I’ll be discuss Voltairine de Cleyre’s essay as well as other resources on how best to use this tactic against the state. For dual power/counter power I’ll use quite a few essays, videos and so on on what it is and how it can be used. Finally with education I’ll try to give some sort of rough outline of how best to educate people and more importantly yourself.

First though, to introduce this whole new series I’d like to define some of the words in the title. What do I mean by strategy and struggle? What sort of struggle lays ahead for us as anarchists?

Strategies

So Wikipedia (the final arbiter of all knowledge…I swear this will catch on someday as a meme) says that strategies are plans of action that have a particular goal. Now the word strategy also has a lot of military contexts but for the purposes of this series I’m not referring that. I’m just referring to a plan of action with a goal of a certain kind in mind. In this case it’s a plan of action to abolish the physical and mental construct of the state.

Struggle

Struggle (1-3 and 5 are applicable) here means in this context that the energy going towards something is going to face resistance. So putting into place ideas towards a particular goal will always be some sort of struggle but in this case it’s especially so. What sort of struggle? Well it depends on which strategies we’re going to use in the struggle itself. If we use violent means it might eventually result in more physically demanding than mentally demanding energy. If we use non-violence it might be a lot more of thinking but not as much physical demand insofar as the cops don’t decide to beat you. So the type of struggle is largely contextual on what sort of strategy we’re using for it.

Looking ahead

As the title suggests this article wasn’t intended to be long but I just wanted to give you guys a look at some of my thought processes involved with this. I also think it’s important for anarchists to get out of theory and start discussing concrete action more. I have my doubts that this series will somehow spring some sort of big social revolution but I hope it’ll at least keep a conducive conversation starting and perhaps have it result in something tangible if possible.

Youtube videos

And here’s a few video responses I made over the weekend:

Blog post for 8/15/11: What should we Tolerate?

Some recent posts on BHL I suppose I’ll discuss some brief thoughts on toleration.

So first off…what is toleration?

Having toleration and tolerating something according to Wikipedia (the final arbiter of all knowledge) are two different things. However for the purpose of this blog post I’ll say toleration is:

“the act of allowing the existence of some entity that one may dislike and is in power to do otherwise.”

For example, when I allow a particularly bad looking plant to stay on the front porch because my partner enjoys it while I do not. Here it’s toleration on the basis of someone else’s needs and not my own. The idea of toleration therefore seem to me to be pretty useful for any society that would like to flourish. If you want a multitude of ideas to exist in society and for them to compete you’re going to have to tolerate some without devaluing the autonomy of others.

However, I only think this should happen when the acts themselves are more benign then not. For example if you oppose wage labor in a truly freed society then you can simply tolerate the existence of it by stopping people physically. But you can also try to get people to do some alternatives such as work with their fellow workers in collectives, cooperatives and more. Here, the act of toleration is actually only toleration in the direct physical sense to you. While you won’t forcibly stop anyone from doing wage labor you’re working against the idea via bringing up alternatives ones you find more effective. If the other people don’t join you then you’ll just have to try harder or else just focus your energies elsewhere.

One of the biggest upsides to being tolerant is that it promotes more easily a sense of free thinking in a society. If people aren’t afraid of speaking their mind as much so long as it does not promote oppression of some sort then society may flourish on both the collective and individual level. Why? Well ideas will be more free roaming than they would have been otherwise. If we have a society based on people shutting down most of the other ideas the people in the higher social positions don’t like we won’t have a very innovative society will we?

One of the biggest downsides to toleration however is when toleration just becomes passivity. There’s a certain (and I think legitimate) concern about things like multiculturalism as being too ethically relativist and allowing oppression to exist for the sake of diversity. I think that this concern is pretty well backed up by allowing things like racial, ethnic, religious, economic, etc. divides in many countries getting out of hands on the basis of “well that’s how they exist” and not trying to promote other ways. In some ways toleration can sometimes just become sort of pacifying effect for thinking and people just stop questioning things on the basis of “diversity”.

You see this with a lot of laws congress dolls out in the name of “racial diversity” and so on. I think it also applies to people who say bad strategies like electoral politics for anarchists should be used because it allows multiple ways of attacking the state. This is of course question begging since it doesn’t even state whether we should sacrifice efficiency for diversity and why this is.

So I think toleration can be a great thing. For myself I think it just has to be done to the point of allowing possibly good ideas to thrive. And then the ideas that may lead to oppression and so on should be diverted as best as possible with the least amount of violence possible.

Blog Roll Call for the week of 8/8/11

Anarchoblogs

Some people like to wage the war of ideas when they don’t even know their opponents ideas.

An excerpt:

‘”The East India Companies of Britain and the Netherlands behaved that way,” Cole writes. “[And] India was not conquered by the British government, but by the East India Company. Likewise what is now Indonesia was a project of the Dutch East India Company.”

However, while intended as a critique of anarchism, Cole’s examples only bolster the critique of the state. The East India Companies, after all, were chartered by the British government, granted trade monopolies by the British government, and had their claim to properties, most of which were looted from poor foreigners, protected by the British government.”

Want a some alternative views on the London riots? This seems like a pretty good bet then. Please note I do not completely agree with all of the opinions expressed here but I think a lot of them make good points.

Arm your Mind for Liberty

George Donnelly has some good stuff on communicating with statists. As well as some words on the rioting in the UK.

Austro-Athenian Empire

Roderick has an interesting moral quandary you might be interested in checking out.

Bleeding Heart Libertarians

Andrew Cohen has some ideas on understanding and libertarianism. Not sure whether I agree with or not but I think it’s interesting enough to be worth checking out either way. And Fernando Tenson has a sort of test to judge the idea of toleration.

Special announcements

As you can see my blog has turned into a repository of my latest writings, videos, blubs, ideas and so on. Admittedly this is probably what this blog should have been before instead of some sort of project I wanted to do for my big writings. Right now I find this a perfect compromise for what I’d like to do this blog and I don’t think I’ll resume those big blog projects any time soon. As it turns out I did not do a Youtube video yesterday but I may do one today, I’m unsure either way. Regardless expect another blog on something tomorrow.

In other news Kevin Carson’s Homebrew Industrial Revolution is now on Kindle! I haven’t read it yet myself but the premise sounds fascinating and since it’s Carson I must recommend it just on that basis alone.

Sheldon Richman also had a great article about how libertarians use of some language has alienated people unnecessarily.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Unfortunately, the emphasis on cooperation is not what nonlibertarians are likely to “know” about free-market economics and the normative freedom philosophy. They are more apt to associate these with “rugged individualism” than “social cooperation.” I have no doubt that a major reason for this is that our opponents who know better want the public to have a distorted sense of the genuinely liberal worldview. When President Bill Clinton declared (disingenuously) in his 1996 state of the union address, “The era of big government is over,” he followed up that sentence with this: “But we can’t go back to the era of fending for yourself.” But human beings have always been social/political animals. There was no era when men and women fended for themselves individually. The choice was between free and forced association.”

I’d also like to link this blog on why religion is like Stockholm Syndrome, it’s quite good and informative.

One last thing, I co-hosted Porc Therapy with the lovely Stephanie Murphy on Friday and you can find the two hours of discussing thick libertarianism, left libertarianism, the power of language, if kids need homework and more!

Links for both hours are here and here.

I’m happy to say that I’ll be co-hosting it with Stephanie every second Friday of the month! So please look out for that. I shall always use it as an opportunity to promote the left and thick libertarian and more!

Ok…ONE last thing, I’m working on ne.libertarianleft.org and hopefully it’ll be fully operational before this upcoming week is over.

Last words

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their weekend, liberty, equality and solidarity to ALL!

Discourses on Liberty post for 8/12/11: We all Need some Therapy…

The original post is here.

So nothing too in detail today, instead, I thought I’d just point out that I’ll be talking with Stephanie Murphy tonight on Porc Therapy from 10-1l PM on LRN.fm. We’ll be discussing thick libertarianism, perhaps left-libertarianism in general, polyamory and more.

Check it out if you can!

Gonzo Times article for 8/11/11: What’s the Enemy? (Part 2)

You can find the original article here.

A Re-Introduction:

In my previous post I analyzed why I thought the concept of calling people your enemy or a statist, either in frame of mind, or in discussion is not a good tactic at best and at worst, a damaging one. Why? Well, the concept of regarding people as some sort of concrete enemy to you just because of certain ideas they have is already imprecise. You have to make a whole set of assumptions about how committed they are towards the ideas, how much they care about them, whether they even think about them at all. So for me then it makes no sense to really regard our fellow man as some sort of collective political identity that all share the same ideas.

In the comments section Mr. Harris and I exchanged a few friendly words on the matter and I still feel as if the whole idea of enemy hasn’t been explained enough for me. I still maintain that he has not really explained why we need to regard other people as an enemy or what use this really has to offer conceptually or otherwise. He talked about judgement and how it may help good ones flourish easier but when asked how I don’t recall him elaborating. Nonetheless, I will not dawdle on the subject. I think it suffices for me to say that I stay committed to the idea that none of us are completely committed to the ideas we have in our mind. And I also think that to think anything else is to ask perfectionism or assume too much either way.

Lastly, if you recall, dear reader of mine, you would recall me saying I would relate my answer to whether we should regard others as enemies and so on to our strategies towards abolishing the state. Once I had established some sort of answer there I ventured to try to relate it even further. I would attempt to relate all of these ideas of knowing what the enemy is, how it can be expressed, what tactics should be used and such to the recent riots in the UK. First I’d like to start by going over a few ideas I’ve had about having an enemy and such. From there I shall relate that to strategy and the riots.

Dropping the Style Clearly

I think it’s best to elaborate on the notion of an enemy, what is it, what does it look like? Is it a who? What are the underlying beliefs that come with believing in such a concept to begin with? And so on.

First off I think the reader should take note of the title. I’ve extrapolated past a who and gone to a more abstract what. Now what does this mean? Well it means I’m questioning the notion of the idea of an enemy to begin with and what may constitute it. When we regard someone an enemy what do we mean? Wikipedia the final arbiter of all knowledge has a decent definition of noticing that enemy is usually defined to mean someone against you in some way. But not only this but the fact that they are dangerously against you or in such a way that makes you defensive ideologically or perhaps physically when push comes to shove.

I actually think Mr. Harris with past article of his is actually making my point for me in the title. Consider this: ideas fuel people, of this, I believe, there is no question. There’s a reason or causality that goes into our actions and that stems from our reasoning and cognitive facilities. These processes in our mind help our decisions and value judgement as well as considerations for what’s practical or moral. Sometimes these things can be warped or damaged, perhaps because of our past, perhaps because of some blinders to our considerations at the time. All of these things however impact our actions and this is no different if one considers themselves an anarchist or not. The statists therefore are as susceptible to as non-committing or committing to the idea of the state existing until they think it shouldn’t exist anymore as much or as little as they want.

So when Mr. Harris tries to say that statists will unilaterally or perhaps even a good majority of them would report you for smoking weed even if you kept to yourself is not only pure speculation but based on my personal experience it has little backing. It seems to me that people often don’t care about things unless they directly affect them in some negative way or they think it’ll affect others they care about in such a way. Consider the wars far away: if you brought them up with people they’d probably say it’s terrible but wouldn’t be able to conceptualize it or even come close to the sheer terror the people who are in it are facing. Why? Because it’s distant from them. They only have preconceived notions of what war is (which is most likely government based) and so they may not like the war but their not sure what to do about it. This isn’t to say their bad people, but they’re more complex than just one dimensional labels Mr. Hariss and others can give them.

Mr. Harris says that I am not considering the danger of statism, etc. Ah to the contrary! I not only recognize it but I am recognizing it in a much more precise way than Mr. Harris is. Why? Because as George Donnelly said, ”

“Are you opposed to bad people (statists)? Or bad ideas (statist philosophy)?” Again, if you’re just going to attack people for what they believe instead of what they believe itself then what is the conversation is worth? I said what’s the enemy because there is not who.

The “enemy” is not one person. It is not Obama. It is not Sarah Palin. It’s not the Rothschilds. It’s not even the New World Order. The enemy is an idea. It is an idea that allows people to kill, maim, slaughter, bomb, rape, steal and destroy life. It is the idea of statism that I oppose.

I do not find hate worthwhile insofar as people are concerned. People are fallible, hating people for their faults, whatever they may be is not enough to defeat them and it’s more likely to defeat you anyways. What is the hate worth? So you can grit your teeth? So you can stamp your feet? Bang the walls? Cry out in agony at a world gone awry? Tell me what hate does for you, let’s talk. But until that time, I dismiss hate as necessary. I do not contribute such energies to hating people. There are ideas, conceptual products of the mind that I simply cannot align myself with at present and hope to never do so. The ideas of sexism, racism, militarism, corporatism, statism and more are all heinousideas that reproduce each other and more. They all feed off of each other and build upon one another. Therefore anarchists must consider their commitment to the individual to be a thick bundle of concerns and not a thin one made up of only non-aggression and a principle of voluntarism.

So with all of this said what do I plan to do about this idea? I plan to educate people about alternative and better ideas. I do not wish to force my ideas on others. I will show them through using myself as an example, through using alternative structures that are currently existing and those still to be built. I will try to use logic and compassion if and when it’s possible. I do not let myself come to use terms like “statist” or whatever in hardly anything but a joking manner. My fellow man is just that my fellow man (that’s a gender neutral term there for the people think I’m being a sexist here) and being such they are worthy of my respect insofar as they do the same for me.

As I said in the last article I find this especially true if they can get past all of the deception in media, schooling and governmental propaganda (and more) about anarchism and still show respect towards you as a human being. That shows something worthy of respect in of itself. I think I’ve said all I’ve needed to say about what the enemy is. For myself, it’s the idea of statism. It’s a virus. Statism is a virus. And it’s one that we as anarchists need to outcompete with better ideas.

How do we do that? Well we implement strategies to do so first before rushing into it. What strategies though?

 

Some Strategies for the Struggle: To be Violent or Non-Violent?

Now I actually don’t want to focus on this section too much because I’d rather save it for a later date. However I do want to briefly discuss my own personal favorite tactics: agorism, direct action (preferably the peaceful sort), education (and I don’t care if you don’t like the Mises institute, this is a damn good talk), and dual power (perhaps counter power if you prefer).

All of these tactics for me focus on something specific: non-violence. That isn’t to say there’s no self-defense if the situation is right. I, for instance, think cops might be killed  in self-defense if the anarchists sees no other way out or thinks they’ll die either way, etc. So I’m not one for complete pacifism, though as of now, I do have a respect for the views. Further, I’d consider myself philosophically a pacifist in that I generally consider violence of any sort not preferable or usually an overall negative experience. But still, I’m not against defending myself or loved ones or others doing the same. But where’s the value in this non-violence? Some may even say I’m helping the state by being non-violence? Is this the case?

Well for one thing I think it’s obvious that this is not always the case. I think I’m doing a lot less to perpetuate the state by going limp when a cop tries to arrest me because…well because he probably feels like it, then shooting the cop and dying in “a blaze of glory”. I think some of the criticisms in the video I linked about how non-violence protects the state makes some valid points however. To its credit it does recognize that the movement Gandhi was involved (this goes the same for MLK) was not entirely peaceful and I suppose it’s entirely possible the British empire would rather negotiate with Gandhi than some violent protester.

On the other hand isn’t there something worthwhile in being non-violent? Isn’t there something to be said about someone who is clearly being beaten and doesn’t fight back and people are watching this blatant unjust violence and internalizing what it means? Again, these sorts of things can show people the negative side of the state (aka the real side) and perhaps they may be less trustful of the cops and may want to form community watch groups or other voluntary associations that serve the same function as the police supposedly do. Not only that but non-violence also seems more in line with our principles as anarchists. Why should we resort to violence against the state? Why do we need to treat the actors of the state like they treat us? If we think that the way they treat others is antithetical to the very idea of a civilized society then what does that say about us when we enact violence back?

Now I’m not saying violence is always a zero-sum game or that we should be a bunch of pussies or even that I don’t understand why people are being violent. Look, I do, I do get why people lash out against certain institutions. They’re frustrated, they’re oppressed, opportunities are missing from their life that they could get. But as V from V For Vendetta said: ideas are bulletproof. You cannot destroy a police building and hope to have cops actually resign or the state to crumble because of it. If anything more of your money will be stolen from you to pay for a new building and other things that were destroyed.

Finally, I think it’s worth noticing that the game of violence is the state’s main weapon. If we show we can be non-violent officials either don’t know what to make of it or just keep wailing on you. The public sure as hell doesn’t know what to make of it and sometimes they even side with the protesters! But more concretely I think we’re just outgunned and outmatched when it comes to violence. I mean, two words: atomic bomb. Ok…the main actors of the state probably wouldn’t use an a-bomb on the country they purport to be protecting (one would hope…) but I hope the point is made that the state’s resources are nearly infinite compared to the average protester. Men with night clubs, rubber bullets, real bullets, tasers, the military with their sub-machine guns, missiles, combat training, cold calculation of life and death and…oh yeah…motherfucking tanks. What does your average protester have? Some bricks? Maybe one of the cops weapons if they’re lucky.

My point is both a moral and practical one. It’s neither practical to engage in a violent war with the police, military or go around assassinating business CEOs and politicians (no matter how much you may want to sometime) nor moral to force our viewpoints, ideas and so on on to others. Even if they do it, that doesn’t necessarily mean we have the moral right to do so. We may have the capability in some cases but that doesn’t make it moral or even necessarily practical in the long run. In the end I oppose insurrectionist anarchism and am more hopeful for a gradual evolution that is made up of education, direct action, agorism and dual power.

And for those who don’t like my revolutionary gradualism (revolutionary due to the agorism factor as well as direct action and ways you can go about education as well as the inherent nature of building counter power itself) I refer you to Voltarine de Cleyre’s  and Rosa Slobodinsky’s wonderful dialogue The Individualist and the Communist:

“COM.: “Then you hold that your system will practically result in the same equality Communism demands. Yet, granting that, it will take a hundred years, or a thousand, perhaps, to bring it about. Meanwhile people are starving. Communism doesn’t propose to wait. It proposes to adjust things here and now; to arrange matters more equitably while we are here to see it, and not wait till the sweet impossible sometime that our great, great grand children may see the dawn of. Why can’t you join in with us and help us to do something?”

INDV.: “Yea, we hold that comparative equality will obtain, but pre-arrangement, institution, ‘direction’ can never bring the desired result—free society. Waving the point that any arrangement is a blow at progress, it really is an impossible thing to do. Thoughts, like things, grow. You cannot jump from the germ to perfect tree in a moment. No system of society can be instituted today which will apply to the demands of the future; that, under freedom will adjust itself.”‘

Bring it all Together II: The Riots in the UK

Finally, I’d like to analyze the recent riots in the UK under the ideas of the idea of statism being the real enemy, the four methods I briefly laid out (mostly via links because I’ll elaborate more on each individual method some other time) and that non-violence is usually preferable to any sort of violence. First let me explain before I’m accused of well…something like I’m a privileged white guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, etc. I’d like to say that I agree with both of PJC’s posts which can be found here  and here. And look, even MLK had something to say soon before he died about rioting in a somewhat understandable manner:

“Now I would like to examine both questions. First, is the guilt for riots exclusively that of Negroes? And are they a natural development to a new stage of struggle? A million words will be written and spoken to dissect the ghetto outbreaks. But for a perceptive and vivid expression of culpability I would like to submit two sentences that many of you have probably heard me quote before from the pen of Victor Hugo. “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin but he who causes the darkness.” The policy-makers of the white society have caused the darkness. It was they who created the frustrating slums. They perpetuate unemployment and poverty and oppression. Perhaps it is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes, but these are essentially derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.”

I think if even MLK can even be understanding of the riots you can’t just naturally presume that just because I may prefer non-violence I don’t understand the struggles that led the people to rioting. Again, there are sources of the British riot and these people aren’t all doing this because they’re mindless dumb youth seeking attention. There are legitimate concerns and ideas being expressed that the media is ignoring/distoting and I think that’s a big problem. We can’t ignore that we must at the end of things look on with unease about what’s happening in the UK with neither a wholesale support of the protesters or of course the police, etc.

But what does all of this mean? Are the protesters attacking the idea of the state? Perhaps in some ways, but what effects are their actions having on the populace at large? Mostly fear it seems, disapproval, etc. I mean with incidents like the looting and burning, etc. etc. it’s hard not to see why.

But is George Donnelly right when he says that rioting is not a form of protest? Well for once (shock!) I must disagree with George…though ever so slightly perhaps. I mean, perhaps it’s me just being terminological/semantical and if George thinks as much that’s fine. However, for myself I think rioting is a form of protest…just not usually a very effective or moral one. Now, I’ve already discussed my moral and practical problems with initiating violence so other people stop being violent earlier in this article so I won’t address that again.

However I think, in the end, the rioters in the UK are not addressing the real problem (the idea of statism), nor are they using more practical methods or moral ones that they could use. Again, I do understand why these kids (and it’s mostly kids from what I’ve heard and read thus far) are doing what they’re doing. I don’t necessarily hold it against them, I sympathize in some ways and I hope that the youth of the UK can somehow turn this into a positive thing once all is said and done. All of that being said I do not prefer nor condone rioting and I think that sadly this will not end well for most of the people involved.

Conclusion

I think an appropriate way to wrap up this two part post (which was originally going to be one post) is just to say that judging what the best moves are is largely a strategic matter. And this matter depends on who or whatyou consider going after, how you want to go after it and in what ways: violent or non-violent. For myself, I think the idea of the state, non-violent means and building the new society within the shell of the old are the best combination of ideas right now. Will that change? Can that change? It sure can. I’m of the opinion that universals are nearly impossible to come across because of the myriad of ways that things happen in this universe. And thus I’m sure there’s a proper context for violence or perhaps for even a political method. Though that’s at best and I don’t see those contexts happening much to make these ideas too worthwhile to be applied on a broader scale.

Though I suppose to be more fair I guess I’m repeating myself by saying violence and then politics as it stands today as if they’re different. Which, also is another factor that helps me sympathize (though not condone) with the rioters in the UK.

Good luck to them and I hope for the best for the people of the UK.

Gonzo Times article for 8/10/11: What’s the Enemy? (Part 1)

The article where it was originally published can be found here.

Introduction

There’s been a lot of talk lately about who’s the enemy. From this post, which, in my opinion,started it all and then to George’s follow up post, to a response on GT, another response on GT, and finally George’s last post on the subject. So the talk about who is the enemy of the anarchist is in dispute. Not only this but whether we should see other people as an enemy itself is another thing at stake. These ideas also relate to effective communication and to illustrate what that may look like I’ll be referencing George’s final post on the matter and this post by George, as well as my own thoughts.

 

Related to this discussion is that once we know who the enemy is, what do we do about it? What’s the right course of action to deal with the enemy? (Assuming the answer to our previous questions is that we actually want to regard other human beings as our inherent enemies which it may not be.) If the fact is that it’s not proper to talk to other people like that or relate to them in such a fashion (regarding them as enemies) where do we go from there? How do we evaluate the best course of action in dealing with people who are fundamentally against some of our ends?

And finally how do the answers to these questions relate to the riots in London?

 

The Discussion of the “Enemy”

 

Responding to: Statists are not the Enemy:

 

I think it’s most convenient to respond to each article as it’s own separate part and then try to bring it all together. Based on that structure I’ll quote the sections that I think sum up the main points of the article/posts starting with this article,

“That’s what is wrong with labels, and with fashioning your arguments around clean-cut categories that do not exist in real life. We are dealing with people here, not things, not interchangeable cogs in a big machine.

Not only do real people have a mess of often conflicting and inconsistent tendencies of statism and anarchism in different varieties, they also change over time, sometimes drastically when outside events rattle their cages (witness the growing crowds of protesters in Egypt).

Yes, there are in fact “statists” who can let you be in some respects, maybe the respects you care about, and that does not automatically turn them into “voluntaryists,” or make your arguments crash into logical inconsistency. Such arguments only fail if you have a weird view of what people are. They are not cogs. They don’t fit into neat, perfect categories.

Yeah, guess what, we can’t just go out and find people with the word “statist” tattooed on their heads, and shoot them. We have to deal with them, some way or another; and the best way to deal with them is persuasively, and through example, and through friendly trade. That can only be done if we haven’t turned them into “enemies.”

And the conclusion:

We definitely need to stop thinking of “statists” as enemies (and other disrespectful terms such as “sheeple”), and start thinking of them as people, imperfect just like we are–and victims of the state, just like we are. Stop collectively throwing everybody into some category, and deal with them as individuals. When we finally have our “Egyptian moment,” we will need them out there on the streets along with us.

So first off I’ll say that I agree with almost everything in this article but I’ll elaborate why after I summarize the main points:

1. Ideas are only as useful insomuch as they coincide with our own actions. The idea of declaring people “statists” however in some universal fashion as a means of deciding who agrees with what ideas and actions doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense because peoples ideas about how they can carry out their actions differs in countless ways. And not only this but what it means to carry out their actions or what their ends should be are also things that differ in countless ways.

2. Because people do not fit into neat categories or what have you it makes no sense to try to do so with the term “statist”, especially on the scale of millions of people.

3. Not only this but if you do so you may start dealing with people in particularly damaging ways that don’t help conversation or your cause. And when push comes to shove and we need more people for the movement (and we always do and will) you probably can’t count on the people you treated as less than human because they disagreed with you.

 

I do think that most of these (if not all) of these premises and conclusions do make valid points and are reasonably sound. I question what exactly are the benefits of regarding someone as a “statist” or your enemy. What does it give you? I’d think at best it gives you a very imprecise way of talking to people and regarding them as something totally different than you. But if it doesn’t affect your actions towards them if this is the only that happens and only your thought, yet you never act on it in any new tangible way what does it really matter? If an idea hardly effects your actions in at least a neutral sense there doesn’t seem to be much value in the idea itself. Here too it seems to me that at best that you might get some neutral response but also a bad way of thinking about people. And at worst you could start becoming actually dialectically  aggressive towards these people . This is not only ineffective for communication but it’s not a healthy way of thinking either.

But does it necessitate this bad thought process? Well it’s not even that actually. Instead, it’s the fact that this thought process is seen as legitimate by the person which might lead them to do destructive things to not only themselves in their way of thinking of others but those people who they try to talk to. This sort of thought process even if it’s not acted upon could inevitably in of itself be a sort of self-isolating factor. And this may lead to lost opportunities, valuable alliances and other things missed in the process. All of this in the name of regarding people as enemies.

 

Moving on…

 

Responding to: Statists are not the Enemy

 

 

George’s post here is substantially shorter but here’s the part that I think sums up his point:

 

“In fact, hating the state is a form of ad hominem. If you hate the state, want to be an enemy of the state and/or want to hurt state-supporters and/or state agents, your energy is illogically misdirected. You’re focusing on attacking the people. You’re not focusing on a reasoned discussion. You’re just saying things like “You suck.” or “You should be killed while you sleep.” (Yikes!)”

Now George  not only reaffirms the previous positions I’ve held in regard to the first article I responded to but he’s added on to them. What has he added? Well, he says that by having this sort of attitude your whole frame of mind is not is not going to produce positive results when you try to communicate your ideas. And that you are actually ignoring discussion if you only focus on the fact that they hold a particular belief and you think it’s bad. Obviously some ideas are bad but just saying it and making it look like the person is bad is not a reasonable discussion. As George says a little further down in the post, if you’re focused on bad ideas as opposed to bad people then it makes more sense to get into a discussion with someone. But if you’re only after them as the person they are instead of the ideas they’re presenting which are really the problem then the conversation is more likely to devolve.

George finished by quoting some guy named Nick Ford (never met him personally…) who had this quote to say about the topic:

 

“The hallmark of political anarchism is its opposition to the established order of things: to the state, its institutions, the ideologies that support and glorify these institutions.” -Paul Feyerabend

 

I think I can also add another quote to further the idea of that quote:

 

“To defeat the aggressors is not enough to make peace durable. The main thing is to discard the ideology that generates war.” – Ludwig von Mises

 

The ideas in this quote and the one I’ve added are pretty easily seen as parallel. Just addressing the people is not good enough. In fact it’s nowhere good enough. You should criticize the ideas, how they are expressed and what constitutes them, etc. not be calling names, labeling people your enemies and so on. That’s none too productive. If you criticize the idea on some principle or comparative basis or what have you then discussion becomes more reasonable as a result because there’s less of a chance it’ll result in name calling and the like. Likewise, this applies to a more broad range of concerns such as the state itself. If all your doing is telling people Obama is a bad person because of his position and what he’s doing with it, etc. that’s a good start. However, what is even better, is criticizing the idea of the position itself and perhaps listing some ideas for the person you’re discussing it with why the position itself is illegitimate, etc.

And like Feyerabend says, it’s not only the idea that directly perpetuates the structures and institutions that you find illegitimate but the ones that glorify them or give them some kind of  credit when credit is certainly not due to them. This goes back to the idea of  thick libertarianism and the idea that there are multiple concerns for anarchists. I think it also makes the point that anarchism and anti-statism are not the same thing.

 

I shall now continue my responses with the articles written from Gonzo Times.

 

Responding to:  Re: “Statists are not the Enemy”

 

 

This one may be comparatively be a bit longer but what I thought were the main points were pretty easy to find:

 

“Virtually everyone has a libertarian viewpoint on at least one issue.  Screaming “STATIST” at them and treating them like crap for supporting entitlement programs, the never ending list of wars my country has begun, or wanting to put up a US-MX border fence is not going to win them over, even incrementally.”

“Why would anyone want to be a part of a movement that doesn’t help you muddle through complex issues and figure out answers to difficult questions?  These are new ideas for a lot of folks, and it would be beneficial all around if we responded with helpfulness and kind words instead of animosity and hatred of teh evul evul STATISTS!1!1one!”

 

These two points again reinforce previous points I’ve agreed with and extrapolated on. Therefore, I’ll try not to bore the reader by repeating myself yet again…too much. I do think it’s worth reiterating that Vicky, George, and Paul Bonneau (the author of the first article I responded to) are all on a similar train of thought. We all think it’s worthwhile to consider our audience, who we’re talking to, why we would want to talk to them and how to go about doing it. In the end I think this approach is a lot more beneficial, not only for the person you’re talking to but for yourself.

Vicki’s second quote that I’ve put here makes note that not only is it ineffectual but that there are negative consequences to displaying yourself like you dislike the person as a person just for their beliefs. I think it’s time we as anarchists treat people how we would like to be treated. And since I’m assuming that most anarchists would prefer a respectful tone then we should try to treat the “other” people the same. This is especially the case if the other person who you’re talking to has somehow gotten past the cultural perceptions, lies from the media, schools and government, etc. and still treats you on equal footing knowing you’re an anarchist.

 

Responding to: Without bad people, bad ideas cannot result in a piles of dead civilians

 

 

Well Mr. Harris certainly knows how to make a provocative title, I’ll give him that much right off the bat.

 

But unfortunately it’s my opinion that articles need more than a good title to be considered good all around. That being said let’s see how some of Mr. Harris’s arguments amount to:

 

“Statism is, quite clearly, an ideology.  It’s an ideology which advocates not just violence on a global scale, but the initiation of violence against innocent people on a massive and global scale.”

To start, statism is indeed a system of particular ideas about how the world is and how it should be. But again…which statists? Why does it make sense to call people this? I think the issues of communication and how we deal with others is really the crux here. The institution known as the state and its allies in its destruction of people is certainly a legitimate threat but what about the people under the system? Don’t all of these people have different ideas? In some way one who supports a state must necessarily support such violence, this is a fair claim. But do they actually act on it themselves? Or do they just rely on the state and its allies to do so? It seems odd to treat the people under the system as if they’re dishing out the violence themselves or actually know about it to begin with.

Now, I’m not saying this is what Matt’s arguing but just pointing out what the train of thought that all people who support the state are such and such and that such a statement isn’t too great of an idea communication wise.

 

The next quotes I found worth addressing/disagreeing with…

 

“If an anarchist sees someone on the street being attacked by police, the least they’re going to do is video the event or get someone on-site who can.  At most, they might step in and try to defend a civilian from the state.  The same is not true of an average statist. “

 

“The statist is the enemy of the innocent person being beaten, and the statist is the enemy in an even more tangible way of an anarchist who may choose to video the event or step in to defend the victim.”

 

Both of these quotes refer to each other quite well so I thought I’d address both.

First, I think we’ve all seen videos where police are beating up someone and someone videotapes the cops doing so or perhaps reports them or gets in touch with the media or whatever. Now let me ask: do anarchists make up most of the population? Last I checked they did not. Ordinarily, it seems to me that while people may trust cops more than anarchists if they see someone being beat, especially for no reason at all then they will also at the very least record it. I think it’s out of common decency that people do these sorts of things. They know something is wrong within the context here and plenty of people to my knowledge and recollection of police abuse videos come from ordinary people (“average statists”) and not anarchists.

So on to the second point. Here we go with the line of “enemy” again. Now if I’ve proved, reasonably, that Mr. Harris’s case isn’t necessarily true and thus even logically sound  then I don’t think it follows that some people who are more inclined to like the state might stop other people from defending others from cops. Back in the 60s and 70s the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was built on the basis that black people needed to defend themselves against racist and prejudicial cops. And this was largely a community effort by non-anarchists. In fact some anarchists may even argue (an-caps, right-libertarians, etc.) that the BPP was more statist than your average person because they liked people like Mao, etc. but even so and even accounting for this being a special case I think it shows that it can and does happen even without anarchists.

But why? Well because people recognize wrong things sometimes independently of their political positions. If people see a white cop beating a black man who’s on the ground doing nothing wrong then they’ll either ignore it out of safety of their lives, record it, or if they’re feeling brave they may attempt to save the man’s life. I don’t entirely disagree with Mr. Harris’s statements and nor do I with all of his post. I think it’s a worthy contribution to this discussion for sure and for the most part well reasoned and argued. But I do think it’s worth pointing out that these absolutes are not as absolute as he makes them out to be.

 

Finally…

 

“The statist is an enemy of the individual trying to peaceably relax in his own home, and has indirectly initiated force – using the strong arm of the state – against them.  On the other hand, if the statist’s views are not currently enforced by the state, the statist will lobby the state to do so in some manner.”

“Within the context of living beings, however, we add actions to the mix; actions driven by ideologies.  Thus in the context of statists, it is important to understand that they are, in fact, our enemies by their actions.”

For myself, I think the first quote largely depends on whether people care enough about you smoking weed or what have you. I think it’s also worth mentioning that a vast number of people in the US do not vote. Also, for example, many parents know their kids smoke weed (as well as their friends) or suspect as much but they either don’t do much about it or just know what most people know: that it’s mostly, if note completely harmless. Again, they reach such conclusions independent of their political opinions and regardless that they may be a “statist” or not. People who live near you probably won’t care to notice you lighting up in your house if you’re minding your own business and being discreet about it. But on the other hand if you get drunk and knock on their door and such they might call the police. So again I think it’s a heavily contextual and just accruing the faults of people to just on the basis of believing in statism seems thin and lackluster to me.

Lastly, even if people do act against our intended goals or means and if you regard them as an enemy or obstacle in your way…what does this accomplish? What does it matter that they are statists? They’re human beings as much as you or I in their blood and ideas. Yes, their ideas hold less legitimacy and are potentially dangerous perhaps moreso than others. And Mr. Harris and I both agree this should be addressed through education, etc. But Mr. Harris doesn’t seem to extrapolate where we go from treating people as our enemies. This is a part I’d be especially interested in hearing from Mr. Harris and those who support his thinking. Where does treating people like our enemies take us exactly?

 

Responding to: Are you Talking to Statists, or just waiting to Shoot them in the Head? 

 

 

George pretty much sums up my problem with Mr. Harris’s arguments and since this is a short post this is all I’ll put for this response:

 

“By the way, all this talk of statists do this and statists do that, be careful you don’t engage in collectivization of them. If you group billions of people together and talk about them as if there were all the same, is that logically sound? Be careful you don’t dehumanize them by reducing them to a single, nameless profile. “The statist does this,” “The statist does that.” These methods are not consistent with a reasoned approach, tho they may be convenient for fundamentalists.” (Link on fundamentalists was added by me)

 

Response to: Do you Know What Statists Need? 

 

I’m quoting this one because it’s relavant to better communication and for me that’s really  what this is about. A better means of communicating our ideas to people who may not agree with us. And the bottom line is that calling them our enemy or “statist” or whatever either in our thought process or way we directly interact with them is in the end not beneficial. It’s not beneficial towards reasonable discussion, a healthy mindset or even towards establishing our goals in a better way. I myself have never regarded another person as an “enemy” of mine or someone that somehow completely embodies the antithesis of all of my ideas. Nor have I made some purposeful attempt to regard some of my friends who support government as “statists”. I’ve sometimes jokingly called them that or made references to it but I’ve never really used it as an insult or treated it as a means of effective communication to my knowledge.

 

George says,

 

“But, instead of understanding people in terms of their needs, we inject a pathology or psycho-analysis into the conversation. That screws it all up. It dehumanizes. It’s not communication. It’s avoidance of communication.

The next time you speak with a state supporter, ask them what they need that they think the government provides them. Take notes and post a comment, email me or write your own blog post about it. If we all do this, we will soon have a small database of new information. We can use this to be better salespeople for liberty.”

 

And this is yet another great alternative. We can address their ideas instead of trying to demean them directly or in our heads. We can listen to what they’re trying to achieve and we can probably do a lot more too to make better conversation.

 

Bringing it all together

 

I’ve already discussed the barriers between anarchists among themselves here  and here and so I think some of the discussions that come from there definitely apply to the discussions, questions, assertions and ideas I’ve explored here as well. I think the ideas behind a useful discussion is not to dehumanize people either directly or before you ever meet them but to consider their point of views and realize we’re all human beings. We may consider ourselves anarchists and that’s fine and we may consider other people as thinking the violence of government is ok and that’s ok too but we can’t let that get in the way of reasonable discussion.

 

Now I’ve said that I want to respond to tactics of dealing with the state itself, what exactly is an enemy to the anarchist and relate this to the recent riots in London. However, I feel I’ve said quite enough for just one article. I shall, since I’m not uploading a Youtube video tomorrow, instead write part two tonight or tomorrow and submit it sometime tomorrow.

 

Special note:

 

I’ve heard people having problems with how we at Gonzo Times do our articles (noticeably a lack of proofreading which I think might be in line with Gonzo journalism anyways…) and I’d like to make it clear that we at GT have no proofreaders. So this is probably why you’re not seeing glamorously well written articles. Instead it’s very much dependent on how skilled the writers are with their writing and self-editing. This is especially true if they don’t ask others to help them.

On that note though I myself would be glad to have people peer edit my articles before I post them. Especially if people find my writing hard to understand, read, etc. As for my own self-editing process: I review my articles now at least once after I read it and not to mention as I write it. I also read it out loud when I’m going back to edit it the second time around.

I hope all of this makes your reading experience better. And if not, please feel free to contact me on my Facebook to give me suggestions on how to improve my writing!

Youtube Video for 8/9/11: Bass Cover #11: Tom Sawyer, by Rush.

Sorry about the messups during the difficult bass parts. I tried practicing a few times before recording and it usually went ok but it’s a tough bass line either way.

On Patriotism, Nationalism and Pride.

Consider this quote from Emma Goldman:

“Conceit, arrogance & egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who had fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all others.” (Emphasis my own)

Well how true is this exactly? It sure seems on the Alliance of the Libertarian Left’s Facebook Page that this quote has gotten a lot of support but that doesn’t necessitate its truth value by any means. Instead, let’s not look at the first sentence and the first one only,

“”Conceit, arrogance & egotism are the essentials of patriotism.”

Why only quote this portion? Well if this section can be proven false/right then the rest of the argument that expands upon this notion then the whole argument can either be seen as true or false. So what exactly is patriotism? Most anarchists know from Goldman’s essay on the subject that is it, “a menace to liberty” and “the last refuge of scoundrels”, etc. but are the essentials of patriotism such? Can patriotism only be such a concept? Or could it ever be something different?

Goldman says in her essay:

“We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that it will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations.

Such is the logic of patriotism.”

But is it fair to put all of the blame on patriotism? Certainly being proud of something is usually never enough in of itself (insofar as that pride does not become arrogance but more on that later) a reason for people to kill other people. If I am proud of my athletic prowess or my talents as an artist or perhaps something else this does not inspire me to kill other people. Indeed it seems this so called “pride in one’s birthplace” is something fairly benign. Or at least as one commenter on the Philosophy Bro’s post about patriotism suggested as much when he said,

“In early human societies, or so some theories go, survival was difficult enough that everyone needed to have each other’s back. There was no room to fuck around. Decide you don’t feel like pulling your weight today, the tribe may not have enough food for the winter. Get a girl pregnant before you’ve proved you can provide, you may be dooming the baby to death. Drink from the wrong watering hole, get poisoned and die.

So you get social codes that keep the tribe safe from stupidity. Support kin/country no matter what. Do what you’re told or get exiled, because otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll end up killing someone else. Even if you don’t understand the rules, they’ve helped your tribe survive for centuries and that’s worth some respect. This leads to the first type of patriotism I listed. When the alternative is death, it’s hard to argue.”

Now this is somewhat hard to argue with in some aspects of it. It seems to make sense to me that patriotism in its infancy was just benign mutual trust and respect in each other and in their tribes/communities, where they come from, etc. To me these sorts of arrangements seems perfectly fine and natural. So what then does patriotism have now that is different? Well for one as Goldman makes note of constantly the idea of having pride in where you came from are used to justify horrible things. Now does this necessitate the thing in question (having pride in where one came from) meaningless? I don’t think so. Indeed I’d argue that having a prideful spirit in what you are a part of, contribute towards the society etc.

But as comedians like Doug Stanhope and George Carlin have pointed out, why be proud of something you had no part in? Why, for example, as Carlin points out, should one be proud of genetic accidents?

Philosophy Bro quotes Carlin saying,

“I could never understand national or ethnic pride, because to me Pride should be reserved for something you achieve on your own. Being Irish isn’t a skill, it’s a fucking genetic accident. You wouldn’t be proud to be 5’11”. You wouldn’t be proud to have a pre-disposition for colon cancer.”

I think Carlin’s point is mostly spot on. I also never really understand these sorts of pride that people have. As Carlin points out though, you can be happy with what ethnicity you are or nationality you are but there’s no reason to be proud of it right? Well yes and no.

First the yes. I’d have to say that it’s pretty pointless to take pride in things you had little or nothing to do with. You couldn’t exactly tell your parents to fuck when you weren’t even born yet right? So it doesn’t seem to make any sense that you would take pride in your parents just happened to be in some arbitrary nation-state/location and happened to have certain genes and then happened to have sex. What’s there to be proud of exactly in this whole thing?

But second the no. I’d also have to say however that certain people share common or at least similar goals, interests, likes, desires and wants, etc. So this also means that I think if you improve on these sorts of things in a way conducive to a freer society I don’t find any harm in taking pride in what you are doing about these things. If, on the other hand, you’re just putting up bumper stickers, waving the damn flag and calling for the bombing of brown people because they can’t speak the language then I definitely have a problem with you.

But what about pride? What exactly is pride anyways?

Pride, for me, seems to be a sense of accomplishment or something along those lines in something that you’ve accomplished. So this is why, if, for example, you’re building on the community spirit of helping each other out in hard times I think that’s something to be commended and be prideful of even. What I don’t say is that as Goldman says that entitles you to,

“…consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all others.”

I don’t think that’s nearly as commendable and probably not commendable at all.

So what then about nationalism? Well nationalism, since I think nation-states are a bad idea I’m not one for pride in something like a nation. Consider what the individualist anarchist and writer Charles Johnson says about borders in these two posts here and here.

These sorts of acts seem to me as an anarchist are clearly wrong. But it’s not pride at the root of things that is to fault. It is, and perhaps Goldman and others could redefine what they mean, I think state-induced pride in the state itself. Of course as anarchists there’s nothing to be prideful of in the state’s actions, what it stands for, what it is and so on. The state is only the manifestation of the ruling class’s interest in subjugating the people so called “below” them through tribute (taxation) and telling them that defending them is in their best interest (aka dying in unjustified wars).

It seems then that when the state gets involved, when culture is distorted by a lens of authoritarianism in an even larger scope than just the scope society (that is, those individuals who decide to socialize together in a voluntaristic manner for mutual benefit) seems to become more and more submissive to the state and less autonomous.

Is Miss. Goldman right then? That these are the essentials of the patriotism? I think I must answer this question before closing. I think this is the case but only insofar as patriotism stands right now. And how it stands now is (and Goldman provides ample evidence in her wonderful essay, that, for it’s flaws I recommend just as an anarchist classic essay alone) in defense of murder. Pure and simple. The subjugation of immigrants, free roamers, people with different cultures and ideas may be less stifled if patriotism as it is now along with nationalism and the distorted pride of the day would be a lot less prevalent if these ideas along with statism and more are outcompeted with better ones.

I think all of these questions bring us to a few ending statements as the Philosophy Bro post makes note of:

“Is the existence of Athens or America or Italy or any state a good thing, something that we can justly contribute to or participate in? This in turn raises difficult questions about what exactly a state is. Is America its current government? Is it the body of institutions that comprise that government? Is it the set of values ostensibly enshrined in the founding documents? Is it the laws, or the enforcement of those laws? Some of these are more worth contributing to than others.”

And finally an interesting questions for anarchists to consider,

“Look at it this way: if I was born and grew up in a successful anarchist colony that was surrounded by giant capitalist systems, would I be justified in being proud that our colony has survived? I was raised as an anarchist, and my entire culture was anarchist. Of course I would think anarchy is something worth furthering. But that doesn’t mean that anarchy is meritless, or that I don’t have grounds for believing that it is something worth furthering. It’s possible some of my fellow anarchists have rejected anarchy and gone to live in capitalist society, the pigs, just as it is the case that some of my peers who were taught the same “American values” I was taught have rejected those values; my predisposition, whether to anarchism or America, does not render me incapable of overthrowing those values, and it does not render the act of retaining those values completely insignificant.”

As the Philosophy Bro post points out, it’s not made to answer all the questions but its hope is to open up the discussion a bit more and make things clearer. I can only hope to do the same.

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