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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Friday, December 31, 2010

Should Labor be Paid or Not?

Good stuff from Benjamin Tucker, Liberty, April 28, 1888; reprinted in Instead of a Book, by a Man Too Busy to Write One (1893/1897):
In No. 121 of Liberty, criticising an attempt of Kropotkine to identify Communism and Individualism, I charged him with ignoring the real question whether Communism will permit the individual to labor independently, own tools, sell his labor or his products, and buy the labor or products of others. In Herr Most’s eyes this is so outrageous that, in reprinting it, he puts the words the labor of others in large black type. Most being a Communist, he must, to be consistent, object to the purchase and sale of anything whatever; but why he should particularly object to the purchase and sale of labor is more than I can understand. Really, in the last analysis, labor is the only thing that has any title to be bought or sold. Is there any just basis of price except cost? And is there anything that costs except labor or suffering (another name for labor)? Labor should be paid! Horrible, isn’t it? Why, I thought that the fact that it is not paid was the whole grievance. Unpaid labor has been the chief complaint of all Socialists, and that labor should get its reward has been their chief contention. Suppose I had said to Kropotkine that the real question is whether Communism will permit individuals to exchange their labor or products on their own terms. Would Herr Most have been so shocked? Would he have printed that in black type? Yet in another form I said precisely that.(131 ¶ 1)

If the men who oppose wages—that is, the purchase and sale of labor—were capable of analyzing their thought and feelings, they would see that what really excites their anger is not the fact that labor is bought and sold, but the fact that one class of men are dependent for their living upon the sale of their labor, while another class of men are relieved of the necessity of labor by being legally privileged to sell something that is not labor, and that, but for the privilege, would be enjoyed by all gratuitously. And to such a state of things I am as much opposed as any one. But the minute you remove privilege, the class that now enjoy it will be forced to sell their labor, and then, when there will be nothing but labor with which to buy labor, the distinction between wage-payers and wage-receivers will be wiped out, and every man will be a laborer exchanging with fellow-laborers. Not to abolish wages, but to make every man dependent upon wages and to secure to every man his whole wages is the aim of Anarchistic Socialism. What Anarchistic Socialism aims to abolish is usury. It does not want to deprive labor of its reward; it wants to deprive capital of its reward. It does not hold that labor should not be sold; it holds that capital should not be hired at usury.

But, says Herr Most, this idea of a free labor market from which privilege is eliminated is nothing but consistent Manchesterism. Well, what better can a man who professes Anarchism want than that? For the principle of Manchesterism is liberty, and consistent Manchesterism is consistent adherence to liberty. The only inconsistency of the Manchester men lies in their infidelity to liberty in some of its phases. And this infidelity to liberty in some of its phases is precisely the fatal inconsistency of the Freiheit school,—the only difference between its adherents and the Manchester men being that in many of the phases in which the latter are infidel the former are faithful, while in many of those in which the latter are faithful the former are infidel. Yes, genuine Anarchism is consistent Manchesterism, and Communistic or pseudo-Anarchism is inconsistent Manchesterism. "I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The More Things Change...

From the Washington Post:

The president's recently departed budget director is joining Citigroup.

The New York Federal Reserve Bank's derivatives expert is joining Goldman Sachs.

And numerous investigators from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are joining Wall Street's top law firms.

The vast overhaul of financial regulations and the renewed intensity of investigations into white-collar crime has been a boon for regulators, prosecutors and financial policymakers looking to cash in on their government experience and contacts.

In recent months, prominent officials from the White House, Justice Department, SEC, banking regulators and other agencies, both federal and state, have been walking through the proverbial revolving door to join Goldman, Citi, other financial companies and top law firms in Washington and New York.

The corporate state is alive and well.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Did I Mention...

... that the January-February issue of The Freeman is now online? Contributors include James Bovard, Wendy McElroy, Joseph R. Stromberg, David K. Levine, Warren Gibson, Isaac Morehouse, Douglas Rogers, and a cover story on war as economic stimulus by Steven Horwitz.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Peace & Anarchy on Earth.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Well, Mr. Moore?

See update below.
Cuba banned Michael Moore's 2007 documentary, Sicko, because it painted such a "mythically" favourable picture of Cuba's healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a "popular backlash", according to US diplomats in Havana.

The revelation, contained in a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks , is surprising, given that the film attempted to discredit the US healthcare system by highlighting what it claimed was the excellence of the Cuban system.

But the memo reveals that when the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so "disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room".

Castro's government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it "knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them."

The rest of the Guardian's story is here.

UPDATE: Moore replies:
Sounds convincing, eh?! There's only one problem -- the entire nation of Cuba was shown the film on national television on April 25, 2008! The Cubans embraced the film so much so it became one of those rare American movies that received a theatrical distribution in Cuba. I personally ensured that a 35mm print got to the Film Institute in Havana. Screenings of 'Sicko' were set up in towns all across the country. In Havana, 'Sicko' screened at the famed Yara Theater.
The lesson? Be skeptical of anything originating within the U.S. government. It's also fair to ask why the Guardian did not check the veracity of the cable.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Beware the Campaign for War against Iran

The American people were stampeded into war against Iraq through a shameless propaganda and disinformation campaign led by government officials and facilitated by prominent newspapers. We must not let the same thing happen with Iran.
Read the full op-ed here.

TGIF: A Boost for the Managed Economy

More important, all players in the game have revealed themselves to be interventionists. (Okay, we knew this already but confirmation is nice.) Regardless of party, they see the economy as something to fix by turning a knob here, pulling a lever there, and stepping on a pedal over yonder in order to get the desired performance: higher consumer spending, lower unemployment, increased investment, and so on. It’s as though the economy were a machine in need of adjustments and a few quarts of oil. But an economy is not a machine. It’s a network of people engaged in myriad exchanges of goods and services –pursuing end-oriented activities informed by subjective values and expectations. Such information is largely unavailable to politicians, bureaucrats, and their economic advisers.
Read the full TGIF here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

About Those English Student Protests

The best thing I've read about the English student protests against reduced government subsidies for higher education is here. In "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste," Kevin Carson writes:

Aren’t these just a bunch of spoiled brats, throwing a tantrum when they’re cut off from the taxpayer teat?

Not exactly.

British students, like those in America, are hit from two directions under the state capitalist model: First, by government interventions that inflate the amount of the “education” commodity they’re forced to consume in order to make a decent living. And second, by government interventions that inflate the cost of procuring it.

So government has placed students in a double bind in which relying on government tuition subsidies is the only way out.

What does Carson propose?

The answer, first, is to eliminate all state-mandated licensing and credentialing, all college and technical school accreditation, and to dismantle higher education as a conveyor belt for processing human raw material for delivery to the appropriate HR department.

Educational offerings should be driven, on a demand-pull basis, by the desires of students, while all the state-created artificial scarcities that cause the wage labor market to be a buyer’s market should be eliminated.

Second, we should eliminate the high-overhead, cost-plus culture that predominates in the university (as in all other large institutions of state capitalist society).

There's more. So read the full article.

Friday, December 10, 2010

TGIF: "F" as in Fed

The Federal Reserve, America’s fatally conceited monetary central planner, is not terribly popular these days – which is cause for hope – and now we have a report card on the entire Fed era that strongly supports the view that we’d be better off without it. At the very least, as the authors suggest, the burden of proof is squarely on the shoulders of those who would retain the Fed.

The report card comes in the form of a working paper from the Cato Institute: “Has the Fed Been a Failure?” by George A. Selgin, William D. Lastrapes, and Lawrence H. White.
The rest of TGIF is here.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Anarchists Launch WikiLeaks Mirror, Assistance Program

For Immediate Release

POC Thomas L. Knapp

Media Contact:

Technical Contact:


December 5th — “Censorship has always been wrong and irresponsible,” says Brad Spangler. “Now it’s another thing: Impossible.”

Spangler, director of the Center for a Stateless Society, announced on Sunday that the Center is now mirroring Wikileaks — an international whistle-blower site which reactionary elements in the US government have worked assiduously to suppress over the last week — and encouraging and assisting others in doing likewise.

“I feel [US Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton’s pain,” says Spangler. “Wikileaks’ release of 250,000 diplomatic cables previously hidden behind a state secrets wall has been tremendously embarrassing to her, not to mention implicating her in an international identity theft scheme that looks a lot like Watergate and the Zimmerman Telegram rolled into one.

“But embarrassment or not, state officials have no right to hide their misdeeds from the people who foot the bill, in money and blood, for government actions. Nor, now, do they have the power to do so.”

Using custom software developed by C4SS web administrator Mike Gogulski, the mirror site (wikileaks.c4ss.org) updates daily from Wikileaks’ servers regardless of where those servers are located.

C4SS is also making the software publicly available and encouraging others to mirror Wikileaks as well. “This is an opportunity for those who support freedom of information to take action,” says Gogulski. “We particularly hope to see people and organizations with greater resources than we dispose of — the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for example, or US Representative Ron Paul’s IT staff — making use of those resources, and of the tool we’re offering, to settle this issue once and for all.”

“The toothpaste is out of the tube and we intend to keep it out of the tube,” says Spangler. “This information will remain publicly available to anyone who cares to look it over.”

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Why the Latest WikiLeaks Leaks Matter

Why should anyone care about diplomatic cables? So what if State Department bureaucrats say unflattering things about other world “leaders"? Some people may be asking this in response to WikiLeaks' latest disclosures. Okay, they say, leaks about atrocities on the battlefield (such as the first WikiLeaks disclosure, “Collateral Murder,”) tell us something we should know about – the gross misconduct by U.S. military forces, condoned by the command all the way up to the president of the United States.

But diplomatic cables? Who cares?

We all should care. The 250,000 documents serve as a timely reminder that the people who call themselves “the government” are professional liars. Lying is what they are paid to do. The biggest lie of all is that they do it in the people's interest. U.S. government officials have reacted to the latest document dump as though Julian Assange has struck at the very heart of the State. No surprise there -- because he has! When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the disclosures are an "attack on the world," she is really saying it's an attack on her world -- the world of power, of legal murder and plunder.

When American (mis)leaders profess confidence in the Afghan president and his government, while saying privately they are incompetent and corrupt -- stealing hundreds of millions of Americans' dollars -- that’s the people’s business – at least as long as they are compelled to bankroll the government’s lethal adventures.

When American (mis)leaders praise and encourage the Mexican government’s efforts in the criminal “war on drugs,” while privately believing they're practically worthless, that’s the people’s business – at least as long as they are compelled to bankroll that evil crusade, which harms Mexicans and Americans.

When American (mis)leaders bomb Yemen while conspiring with the Yemeni dictator to portray the murderous campaign as the act of Yemen’s government in order to make it more palatable to the Yemeni people, that’s the people’s business – at least as long as they are compelled to bankroll that imperialist policy.

When other countries' officials implore American (mis)leaders to bomb Iran, that is the people’s business – at least as long as they are compelled to bankroll militarism and suffer the “blowback” such an action would produce.

And on and on and on.

Sure, the American people already “know” at some level that their (mis)leaders and (mis)representatives are liars. Everyone laughs at the riddle asking how you know when a politician is lying: “His lips are moving.” But that knowledge too often fades deep into the background as the people are distracted or put to sleep by the solemn mendacity that issues from the politicians mouths on a daily basis.

So WikiLeaks performs a critical service by reminding us what those sanctimonious mountebanks really are. (The Guardian lists the key points of the cables here.)

Some will say that government couldn't exist without duplicity. I take them at their word.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Inflation Doesn't Pay the Government Like It Used to

Jeff Hummel and I have an opinion piece at Forbes.com by that title. Read it here.

TGIF: "A Free Market in Banking? Not Even Close"

Between the state and national governments, there has always been substantial regulation of money and banking in the United States.
Read TGIF: "A Free Market in Banking? Not Even Close" here.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Why Not, Indeed!

 If all our emails, however personal, are to become subject to the scrutiny of the government, why shouldn’t all the government’s emails, however sensitive, become subject to the scrutiny of us? If we can’t plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament without their knowledge, why can they and Saudi Arabia plot to blow up Iran without ours?

Allan Baker

Kettering, Northamptonshire

Published in the Guardian.

HT: Jim Bovard

Op-ed: TSA Intrusion Is One Price of Empire

How gratifying to see Americans increasingly angry at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for using offensive full-body scans and frisks in its latest production of what security expert Bruce Schneier calls “security theater.”
The rest of the op-ed is here.