Markets Not Anarchism – a panning

I had the opportunity last fall to have a look at Markets Not Capitalism, released by the otherwise-excellent Minor Compositions, an imprint of Autonomedia. My comments, however, didn’t make it into the book.

Markets Not Capitalism (or Markets Not Anarchism as I grew to call it in my head) is anything but anti-capitalist and anything but anarchist, despite the explicit claims made by the editors and contributors. Now, to be clear, while I am not a market anarchist, I have no objection to the idea. Enough mutualists and the like have convinced me that an anti-capitalist market economy could be part of an anarchist society. (Basically, such a society would still operate using money but would be setup in such a way that one cannot make money with money but instead only make money by actually doing things.) So I picked up this book feeling hopeful. I thought it would better help me understand my market anarchist comrades.

What I found was disgusting. Here is what I wrote in response:

This book makes the basic assertion that a free market economy will set us free. I consider this to be a remarkably dangerous fallacy.
I do not believe that anarcho-capitalism is a part of anarchism. And despite the protestations one might find within these pages, Kevin Carson’s understanding of capitalism as “government interference with the market” means that much of the “anti-capitalism” involved is simply “capitalism” under some weird up-is-down, war-is-peace, rightwing-is-leftwing double-think.
I do believe that there are a wide range of anarchist ideas, and many of them include market economics, and many of the essays within these pages touch upon them. But anarcho-capitalism is outside of anarchism. An economic system that allows the centralization of power is not an anarchist one, and the ability to make money from your money will do just that.
[This is] a book that makes the claim that black civil rights activists would not have had the right to “resist arrest” when protesting segregation, or claims that libertarian thinkers should defend to the death a bigot’s right to his or her bigotry.
I have no interest in a book would pretend to be anarchist while making such bold claims as that the first enemy of the environmentalist is environmental law. As an environmental activist myself, I know full well that the anarchist position is to use the laws against our enemies when they are useful and to never be constricted by them ourselves. It’s a hopelessly reformist idea to claim that the Clean Water Act should stand between us and the people who are destroying the earth. Anarchists will violate the law and the sanctity of property to destroy what is destroying them.
It was a market anarchist who said it best: property is theft.

Another highlight from the book is the idea, disguised as leftist, that welfare is the anarchist’s first enemy in the fight to destroy economic inequality.

Comments for this post are now closed.

31 thoughts on “Markets Not Anarchism – a panning

  1. What Charles Johnson has actually written:

    Well, I do have something to say on behalf of extremism. Not on behalf of sacrificing the civil rights movement’s achievements to extreme stands on antistatist principle. Rather, extreme stands on antistatist principle show what the civil rights movement did right, and what it really achieved, without the aid of federal laws.

    [I]f libertarianism has anything to teach about politics, it’s that politics goes beyond politicians; social problems demand social solutions. Discriminatory businesses should be free from legal retaliation—not insulated from the social and economic consequences of their bigotry. What consequences? Whatever consequences you want, so long as they’re peaceful—agitation, confrontation, boycotts, strikes, nonviolent protests.

    So when Maddow asks, Should Woolworth’s lunch counters have been allowed to stay segregated? neither she nor Paul seemed to realize that her attempted coup de grace—invoking the sit-in movement’s student martyrs, facing down beatings to desegregate lunch counters—actually offers a perfect libertarian response to her own question.

    Because, actually, Woolworth’s lunch counters weren’t desegregated by Title II. The sit-in movement did that. From the Montgomery Bus Boycott onward, the Freedom Movement had won victories, town by town, building movements, holding racist institutions socially and economically accountable. The sit-ins proved the real-world power of the strategy: In Greensboro, N.C., nonviolent sit-in protests drove Woolworth’s to abandon its whites-only policy by July 1960. The Nashville Student Movement, through three months of sit-ins and boycotts, convinced merchants to open all downtown lunch counters in May the same year. Creative protests and grassroots pressure campaigns across the South changed local cultures and dismantled private segregation without legal backing.

    Should lunch counters have been allowed to stay segregated? No—but the question is how to disallow it. Bigoted businesses shouldn’t face threats of legal force for their racism. They should face a force much fiercer and more meaningful—the full force of voluntary social organization and a culture of equality. What’s to stop resegregation in a libertarian society? We are. Using the same social power that was dismantling Jim Crow years before legal desegregation.

    I oppose civil rights acts because I support civil rights movements—because the forms of social protest they pioneered proved far more courageous, positive, and effective than the litigious quagmires and pale bureaucratic substitutes governments offer.

    • I didn’t bring up Charles Johnson, now did I?
      Sheldon Richman (really? His name is “Richman”?) says in his essay “Libertarianism and Anti-racism”:

      But no libertarian I know relishes saying, “I disapprove of your bigotry, but I will defend to the death your right to live by it.”
      Yet that is the libertarian position, and we should not shrink from it.

      and that

      It should go without saying that a libertarian protest of nonviolent racist conduct must not itself be violent. Thus a libertarian campaign against racism in public accommodations should take the form of boycotts, sit-ins, and the like, rather than assault and destruction of property.

      Telling oppressed peoples that they can’t be violent (or even destructive!) against racist institutions is itself a racist position.

      And then he tops it off (and ends the piece) talking about how it would not have been appropriate to even trespass onto segregated property:

      Finally, no doubt someone will have raised an eyebrow at my inclusion of sit-ins in the list of appropriate nonviolent forms of protest against racist conduct. Isn’t a sit-in at a private lunch counter a trespass?
      It is – and the students who staged the sit-ins did not resist when they were removed by police. (Sometimes they were beaten by thugs who themselves were not subjected to police action.) The students never forced their way into any establishment. They simply entered, sat well behaved at the counter, and waited to be served. When told they would not be served, they said through their actions, “You can remove me, but I will not help you.”

      • Oh, my mistake, I -did- bring up Charles Johnson, because he’s the one who wrote the piece “the clean water act versus clean water” in which he makes the claim that anarchists should be opposed to environmental legislation because liberal environmentalists get caught up in the legalese of it.

      • > really? His name is “Richman”?

        I’ll refrain from the cheap prod of anti-semitism here, but seriously? You think a last name is legit for trolling? God forbid he be called “Goldman”.

        • I was unaware that Richman was a semitic last name and would not have taken the cheap swipe if I had. My point was not that I think there’s something wrong with his last name, but that it seemed a “stranger than fiction” moment when someone making a capitalist point has the last name Richman.

          • Sheldon: from my point of view, arguing as you have for the sanctity of property rights over the right of an oppressed people to destroy racist institutions is a capitalist position.

      • I think you should re-read the paragraph you just quoted from Sheldon’s article. It’s specifically an endorsement and a defense of the deliberate use of trespass as a tactic for anti-racist social activism. Not a rejection of it.

        The claim that Sheldon is “talking about how it would not have been appropriate” when the first sentence in the quoted passage directly and specifically refers to “my inclusion of sit-ins in the list of appropriate nonviolent forms of protest,” seems like a pretty bizarre misreading.

        • He says that a “sit-in” is appropriate but only because they were totally passive and unresisting.

          • He says that a sit-in is an appropriate response to segregated businesses, and then in the first sentence of the next paragraph he also categorically states that a sit-in is a deliberate form of trespass. Thus he states that trespass is an appropriate response to segregated businesses. Your interpretation of the conclusion in his article seems to be exactly the opposite of what he actually wrote in that article. Will you admit that this reading of yours was mistaken?

            The question of how sit-in protesters should have responded when threatened with arrest for their trespassing is a separate question from the question of whether the trespass and the sit-in itself was justified. Perhaps sometimes the right thing to do is something that will get you arrested; and perhaps sometimes you ought to accept arrest as a consequence of doing the right thing. Now Sheldon says that the students in the sit-in movement were right to sit in, and also that they were right to accept arrest without resisting it by force. That is “nonviolence” without a doubt, and there’s a conversation to be had about that. Maybe Anarchists should reject that position. Maybe that position is wrong. But right or wrong it is a position that is being completely misrepresented if you claim that he is criticizing the use of “trespass” as a tactic. Rather the position being defended is that the sit-in activists were right to trespass, and also to accept arrest, when it came to that, without violent resistance.

            Now again, maybe you have a problem with the last half of that position. But we should at least keep in mind that that half of the position that Sheldon is defending was you know, for good or for ill, the considered tactical and ethical position adopted by people in the sit-in movement at the time, who did, after all, think they had some good reasons not to use violence in their resistance. (This is not incidentally the same thing as being “totally passive,” unless you think that the only way not to be passive is to be violent instead. But you can hardly expect advocates of nonviolent resistance to agree with you.) Sheldon is here taking his lead from and defending the chosen tactics of the social movement, not criticizing or policing their behavior. Now there’s an important and perfectly valid discussion to be had about nonviolence in different contexts, but I would like to suggest as gently as possible that your position on this is hardly the only one that might possibly qualify as Anarchistic. And that I have some trouble seeing much coming of any conversation on the topic if it is going to proceed from a presumption that a bunch of white activists and commentators would know better than SNCC how to put on an appropriately anti-racist sit-in.

          • (this is a reply to Charles, as the comments seem to be nested as far as they are allowed and I can’t “reply” to your comment)

            You say:

            The question of how sit-in protesters should have responded when threatened with arrest for their trespassing is a separate question from the question of whether the trespass and the sit-in itself was justified.

            I don’t believe this is the point that the author was trying to make in his piece. And if it was, it is poorly written. As it is written, it is making the point that their trespass was justified (presumably for economic reasons, as the rest of the article describes) only because of its non-violent and non-resistant character.

            I have nothing against civil disobedience and believe nonviolence can be strategically useful. Hell, I’m even fine with people who support it ethically from the point of view of pacifism, despite disagreeing with them. But as written, his point appears to be that the trespass itself would become unethical if they were to resist once on said private property.

            Since the idea seems to be that any kind of more active trespass would be ethically immoral for property rights reasons, I still hold to my conclusion that he is not allowing trespass against the property operated by bigots.

            But it could just be that, as an anti-capitalist, I have no respect for private property.

          • And if it was, it is poorly written.

            Well, you know, if Sheldon writes that he thinks something is “appropriate” as a tactic and you respond to him by concluding that he thinks it is “inappropriate,” or if he says that “a sit-in at a private lunch counter” categorically is “a trespass,” and then goes on to defend sit-ins at private lunch counters, and then you interpret him as “not allowing trespass against the private property operated by bigots,” then I’m not really sure how much better writing could possibly have helped you.

            He also believes (this is the point of the closing paragraph that I assume you’re referring to when you inaccurately summarize Sheldon’s view as being motivated by “economic reasons”) that in the actual historical context of the Jim Crow South, white store owners — as the economic beneficiaries of massive racist violence, and the use of this violence to dispossess black workers and suppress competition from anti-racist alternatives — may not have had any really legitimate claims of ownership in the stores that they controlled. Now this is it seems to me an interesting view and in fact it is exactly the view that you claim to think an anti-capitalist Anarchist ought to hold — that the “private property” operated by bigots is (at least in that historical context) not in fact owed any respect, that their private property claims in that context have little or no ethical significance for the kinds of protest you can direct against them. Yet you interpret him as holding exactly the opposite.

            He does not hold the opposite. But his defense of nonviolent trespass is in any case not based on that claim; it would hold up even if he rejected it. It is in that sense a broader defense of the legitimacy of sit-in protests and similar forms of trespass than the one that you offer. He spends the entire article up to that very paragraph arguing that even when a sit-in at a private lunch counter does count as a trespass against the legitimate owner of the counter, that’s still perfectly compatible with the kind of nonviolent confrontation that Sheldon (following SNCC) is defending. If it turns out that there wasn’t even a trespass worth discussing — because the “owner” did not really have legitimate proprietary rights over the counter — then that’s just gravy.

            Perhaps you think that this is not clear from what Sheldon wrote, and if it’s what he meant, he should have said so more clearly. No doubt we could all be clearer. But it seems to me that when he explicitly tells you that he’s OK with trespass as a protest tactic, when he phrases this in the form of a simple question-answer (“Isn’t a sit-in at a private lunch counter a trespass? — It is.”), when he states that his argument there is not dependent on, but is only “buttressed” by, the paragraph that follows, etc., and you come away from this with the conclusion that you did, that sounds to me more like motivated misreading than it does like bad writing.

          • My point is that, as written, it appears that only certain very limited forms of trespass are allowed, excluding the majority of trespass.

  2. I totes agree that non-violence is racist, and the author is far more of a right-libertarian than he should be, but

    1) Sheldon’s piece is explicitly written to a right-libertarian audience. It’s legit in the context of outreach and even though it’s inclusion in MNC somewhat undermines it for social anarchists they’re not the only ones this book is supposed to be persuading.

    2) It would have been better if Charles published his own piece rather than Sheldon’s follow up, obviously his abstention is understandable, but any accusation of racism on Sheldon’s part needs to be read in the context of the article being a followup to Charles’ piece that is approving of his argument and only expanding on a single issue/sticking point for right-libertarians.

    3) There are plenty of advocates of non-violence published by AK Press and included in Anarchist compilations all the fucking time. It’d be nice to see some evenhandedness calling every compendium that includes Tolstoy, et al “Disgusting” and “Racist”.

    • I’m obviously not going to convince you of my point, and vice-versa. I find it despicable to publish information in the guise of “anarchism” that argues from an ethical standpoint for the property rights of racists.

      Publishing Tolstoy or contemporary pacifist thinkers is contextually different. First of all, pacifists (aside from certain liberals) rarely conflate property and people… trespass is not considered morally wrong. In fact, for militant pacifists (including most among the anarchist milieu), trespass is practically a moral obligation. At least they’re arguing from the point of view of “something must be done and we must take radical action to solve it” as compared to this articles tone of “well, it’s all fine and good because they stayed nice and civil, and that’s what’s important.”

      • “Conflating property and people” is an unsustainable slander–basically you’re clearly just bringing your preconceptions about market-advocates to the conversation and trying to impose it regardless of fit. Oh good lord, “nice and civil”? Do you have any interest in actually following what is being said rather than attempting to slap on whatever strawman you can?

        Yeah, there are pacifists among those of us that see property/possession as ethically relevant. But social anarchist pacifists often make similar points — arguing that some trespass is ethical and other trespass isn’t (corporate property versus some poor person’s home, even if they’re privately racist). These are very much concerns that get discussed in meetings among radical pacifists and the lines Sheldon draws are pretty reasonably representative.

        Property/possession is often a valid ethical consideration. We don’t go invading the homes of people we dislike. Even when folks confronted an abuser with a bloc mic-checking outside his home they were deliberately conscious not to invade his home. Property is less important than people’s bodies, but it’s not ethically negligible. I’d be horrified if for example someone posted something under the guise of “anarchism” saying that anyone who ever said something a smidgen racist (or was accused of such) immediately lost all claim to the sanctity of their property/possessions (incidentally any line between the two allegedly distinct concepts is silly, arbitrary and unfeasible in practice). Sheldon may have a slightly stronger inclination to hold back in forms of trespass, but it’s all a matter of degree. There IS a legit danger in making it the purview of some community/whatever to determine what kind of exclusions/expulsions individuals are allowed to make from their homes/spaces. Sheldon’s basically trying to avoid opening that can of worms by arguing that certain forms of limited disobedience were historically quite effective unto themselves even in the context of freaking Jim Crow segregation.

  3. Hi there, I want to give a response to your “panning”. I’ve been a left-libertarian long enough to know what I’m saying (I think) and defend my comrades in this book against (what I feel) undue criticisms. I hope this comment can open some bridges between us and clear up some misconceptions.

    I’m perfectly content to extend this conversation past this post FWIW.

    “This book makes the basic assertion that a free market economy will set us free.”

    Er…not exactly. It’s a little more complex than that. Actually what Charles and co. are saying is that while a truly freed market would bring about much bigger social mobility (in class, race, sex and economic position in general) but that we *also* need certain cultures of equality and solidarity to bolster the liberty that a truly freed market will most likely have once infused with such cultural considerations.

    I feel what you’re doing here is nothing more than a statement of reductionism which paints a very narrow picture of what’s actually taking place in this book.

    “I consider this to be a remarkably dangerous fallacy.
    I do not believe that anarcho-capitalism is a part of anarchism.”

    This is what baffles me throughout this criticism of yours. I simply don’t understand where you’re getting anarcho-capitalism from and it’s never explained either. Could you explain it to me? What’s your definition of anarcho-capitalism? How does this fit it? Why? etc.

    How can you consider this “anarcho-capitalism”? What anarcho-capitalism called for anywhere? Advocated? Expounded upon? Did it have it’s favorite thinkers in most of the page? Where’s the anarcho-capitalism?

    Is it with Johnson? Nope, he’s never self-identified as such and repudiated capitalism as an economic system he supports as well as hierarchy, boss-relations and the concentration of wealth and property in the few hands. So has Gary and so has Kevin. And as a matter of fact I bet most of the people in this book would repudiate such a label and don’t share some notable positions with an-caps (such as the sticker property norms they hold, the fetish of the word capitalism, the vulgar tendencies they sometimes have of defending big business, holding up the word boss as g-o-d as Carson said and so on) so I’m just not seeing it and would be grateful for an explanation.

    “And despite the protestations one might find within these pages, Kevin Carson’s understanding of capitalism as “government interference with the market” means that much of the “anti-capitalism” involved is simply “capitalism” under some weird up-is-down, war-is-peace, rightwing-is-leftwing double-think.”

    This isn’t so much a refutation as an insult wrapped up in the so-called “legitimacy” of your complaints against the book. Unfortunately, Carson’s understanding for one thing (even if it *was* this) doesn’t represent everyone in this book, just himself. So your critique here wouldn’t even point to a more general problem but just a problem with Carson himself. Now if that’s *all you were after to begin with then that’s fine. But you posted this as “markets not capitalism” a panning and so unless you think this says a lot about the book itself (which is never said to my knowledge) then I’m unsure why this point even matters.

    But apart from that that’s not even Carson’s understanding of it as it turns out. Capitalism is not *just* the government interfering in the economy but a certain *class* of people being able to monopolize, centralize, cartelize and hold power over the trades and good that should be exchanged freely. Instead their largely concentrated into the hands of the landed class. The financeers, the bankers, the landlords and others. And as free market anti-capitalists we oppose this class and want to see people *much less* stratified by class and privilege as much as possible within the mechanisms of social-activism and the creation of the truly freed market.

    So again, this is just an unfair reductionism of Carson’s position like you did with the book in general already.

    “I do believe that there are a wide range of anarchist ideas, and many of them include market economics, and many of the essays within these pages touch upon them. But anarcho-capitalism is outside of anarchism. An economic system that allows the centralization of power is not an anarchist one, and the ability to make money from your money will do just that.”

    I don’t think you’ve read much of the works if you *really* think that Carson, Johnson, Gary and co. support anarcho-capitalism *let alone* a further centralization of power or one at all. But I’m curious, *why* do you believe this? You’ve given us no good reason to think so by my estimation, where do these beliefs come from?

    “[This is] a book that makes the claim that black civil rights activists would not have had the right to “resist arrest” when protesting segregation, or claims that libertarian thinkers should defend to the death a bigot’s right to his or her bigotry.”

    Actually I never saw that Sheldon said explicitly that they couldn’t resist or that it’d be illegitimate and I’m fairly sure he’d agree while it’d be *morally* ok to resist it might not be the best tactics when a bunch of cops are around you. I’m sure you could always ask Sheldon if you don’t believe me yourself. Hell, I’ll ask him *for you* and give you his response if you like.

    And yes, libertarians should defend people to hold unpopular opinions insofar as they don’t try to coercively impose them on others. *However* you don’t have to *stay* at this position to be a libertarian and that’s why Richman supports active social and grassroots movements to undermine the view of racism in a community or a business or whatever. I don’t think such a notion “supports” racism anymore then telling people they can watch Reality TV on TV if they want to promoting stupidity. We’re just saying you can do it if you want but you’re going to not only face the higher costs of a truly freed markets but people-powered social movements in communities that frankly won’t want to put up with that shit.

    We’re trying to build alternative and counter cultures as much as institutions and associations against the status quo.

    “I have no interest in a book would pretend to be anarchist while making such bold claims as that the first enemy of the environmentalist is environmental law. As an environmental activist myself, I know full well that the anarchist position is to use the laws against our enemies when they are useful and to never be constricted by them ourselves.”

    Why would using one of the biggest promoters and allies of environmental damage (the government) make it (the government) suddenly change its mind about the effects its having on the world just because *you* think (as an anarchist no less) that somehow enviornmental laws should be changed.

    And why should they even be messed with? Why should we be dealing with the government at all? What experience as an environmental activist do you have? And why should we take this concern seriously if you don’t even *attempt* to elaborate on such basic questions to begin with?

    “It’s a hopelessly reformist idea to claim that the Clean Water Act should stand between us and the people who are destroying the earth. Anarchists will violate the law and the sanctity of property to destroy what is destroying them.”

    Again: Why? I know this is supposed to be a “panning” of the book and not a treatise on why property is wrong but couldn’t you have expounded a *little* and told the anxious reader *why* any of this is?

    I hope you don’t assume just because the reader doesn’t understand why this is that they’re just not “anarchist” enough for you. That seems like a pretty overly-hostile idea to hold for me.

    “It was a market anarchist who said it best: property is theft.”

    It’s debatable how much you can even call someone a term that didn’t exist until long after their death from the get-go but let’s push that aside for a second.

    Your rudimentary understanding of Proudhon mystifies me. How can you say Proudhon hated property when he also said it was liberty and it was impossible? Why would you ignore such important context?

    Unless of course you’re just trying to create a small hit-piece that probably isn’t really worth the time and effort to responsd to. Of course that begs the question of why *I* responded to it.

    Because just like the racist, although you shouldn’t be violently aggressed against just ’cause your views are uneducated (to put it politely) doesn’t mean I have to put up with your beliefs.

    • Yes, as a matter of fact, I am uneducated. I don’t hold a single degree. I’m surprised this is a sticking point for you.

      The piece was short by design. I don’t feel like its brevity or refusal to go on at length about any given point disqualifies the opinions within.

      I will not engage in a pissing context about my environmental activism and don’t feel the need to cite direct actions or campaigns I’ve participated in to lend weight to what ought to be a self-evident point: anarchist environmentalists are concerned with the environment and not the law.

      It’s possible that I have unfairly reduced Carson’s point of view, but I didn’t just make this idea up. You ask where I got the idea that he feels that capitalism is “government interference with market” and so I’ll cite him in the preface of Studies in Mutualist Political Economy: “It is state intervention that distinguishes capitalism from the free market.”

      When I discovered this about one of the principal contributors to the book (having authored five of the essays within), I was nervous, to say the least. And then I realized he is cited extensively through this book in a way that led me to believe, right or wrong, that he is one of the main proponents of “free market anticapitalism” and his work is used as the basis of many of the other articles.

      I don’t know or give a shit about nitpicky differences between people who believe in capitalism and people who believe in capitalism but don’t want to call it capitalism because of all the baggage associated with it. And when I hear people talking about how “government interference with the market” is what they have against capitalism, it doesn’t make me want to like them. Or care whether or not they themselves identify as capitalists, when what they describe is a society based on capital.

      Don’t get me wrong… I -want- to be wrong about you left-libertarians. (Or rather, I want you to actually -be- left-libertarians and not just the an-caps so many articles in this book make you come off as).

      • But why assume that, instead of considering the idea that he is putting forth that “a society based on capital” is only possible with State intervention?

        Since I believe the exploitative qualities of Capitalism require a coercive state, I would indeed say that capitalism is about (though not entirely about) State invention in the market. It isn’t that you are misquoting Carson, but you are assuming that what he means by free markets IS capitalism, exactly what he as a mutualist is trying to disprove.

        • adding – David Graeber is not a Market anarchist, yet at several points in his brilliant Debt: The First Five Thousand years, he distinguishes between markets and Capitalism, and especially in covering the historical markets of the Muslim world, notes how the more divorced from the State markets become, the more they become rooted in honesty and mutual aid. To argue from thence that he is making any sort of capitalist apology would be to wildly miss the mark.

          Merely putting forth that the state involving itself in markets is the source of Capitalist evils. D

  4. Non-violence is not “a product of privilege,” “racist” or “self-castration” as it has been described. Violence and coercion are probably the most important issues to an anarchist, and to embrace any kind of violence other than self defense is so blatantly contrary to anarchism that I shouldn’t even have to explain it. You’re not ‘edgy’ or ‘more authentic’ for embracing violence, you’re an immoral oppressor, just like the State you claim to oppose. If not for its coercion and violence, on what ground are we supposed to oppose the State?

  5. I think a major flaw of this review is that you say things like, “This book says…”

    “This book” is a collection of many different authors, with what is a fairly broad view point. But seriously, with such a pithy, ambiguously general review, it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility that you only lightly browsed through “this book”.

    This is the reason why I believe this:

    ” that welfare is the anarchist’s first enemy in the fight to destroy economic inequality.”

    Do you know anything about left libertarians? One of the major divisions between us and right libertarians is that we don’t blame poor people. If anything, we go out of our way to show that the welfare we really oppose is that going toward the wealthy.

  6. Another highlight from the book is the idea, disguised as leftist, that welfare is the anarchist’s first enemy in the fight to destroy economic inequality.

    Perhaps I am forgetting a passage that takes that position. But in at least one place, the book makes the exact opposite argument:

    “Unfortunately, the typical ‘free market reform’ issuing from corporate interests involves eliminating only the ameliorative or regulatory forms of intervention, while leaving intact the primary structure of privilege and exploitation. The strategic priorities of principled libertarians should be just the opposite: first to dismantle the fundamental, structural forms of state intervention, whose primary effect is to enable exploitation, and only then to dismantle the secondary, ameliorative forms of intervention that serve to make life bearable for the average person living under a system of state-enabled exploitation. As blogger Jim Henley put it, remove the shackles before the crutches.”

    • I am glad there are some people speaking reasonably in the book. However, in “The Poverty of the Welfare State,” the following remarkably classist statement is made:

      While workers pressuring their employees for a better deal is simply a case of people demanding part of what is rightfully theirs anyway, recipients of welfare payments and other benefits are asking the government to take someone else’s money and give it to them. Many advocates of maintaining the current welfare system, however, correctly state that it doesn’t cost very much in the greater scheme of things. State spending on weapons of mass destruction and payments to corporations are each much more costly than welfare programs for poor individuals and families. Additionally, many working people, not commonly thought of as welfare recipients do, in fact, receive such benefits, as when middle class people get medicaid to pay for their nursing home expenses, or working people obtain free care from hospitals, the costs of which are covered by the government. While this is all true, this does not justify government theft of working people’s money to give to someone else.

      [emphasis mine]

      And let’s don’t forget those lazy welfare cheats who live like kings! Oh no!:

      Among the poor people who receive money or other benefits from the state, on the other hand, there are those who are in genuine need. Some are truly the victims of circumstances largely beyond their control, and others have made bad choices and expect or hope that others will bail them out. But there are also welfare recipients who are simply parasites who feel that others should work to support them in the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed (just like the rich).

      • Neither of those passages claims that “welfare is the anarchist’s first enemy in the fight to destroy economic inequality.”

        • You know, I read it last fall. I won’t apologize for misconstruing finding the concept that “poor people are lazy thieves who live like kings off the backs of the middle class” in a text that talks about how anarchists need to turn their attention to the dismantling of welfare with “welfare is the first enemy in the fight to destroy economic inequality.”

  7. “As it is written, it is making the point that their trespass was justified (presumably for economic reasons, as the rest of the article describes) only because of its non-violent and non-resistant character.”

    For the record, I’d like to say that Magpie’s interpretation of my words is wrong.

    • Sheldon: I’m genuinely glad to hear that. However, I don’t think I will be alone in interpreting your writing that way, since when you say:

      Isn’t a sit-in at a private lunch counter a trespass?
      It is – and the students who staged the sit-ins did not resist when they were removed by police. (Sometimes they were beaten by thugs who themselves were not subjected to police action.) The students never forced their way into any establishment. They simply entered, sat well behaved at the counter, and waited to be served. When told they would not be served, they said through their actions, “You can remove me, but I will not help you.”

      you immediately disclaim that the action was non-violent and as peaceful as possible, as though this disclaimer is why the action is justifiable.

  8. Magpie, I think some of your resistance to the left-libertarian message is natural, and is probably not being eased much by all the left-libertarian attention. As someone who has identified with left-libertarianism in the past (and appears, if perhaps a little incongruously, in “Markets not Capitalism”), let me suggest a couple of things. First, folks like Charles, Sheldon, Gary and Kevin are sincere anti-capitalists, and sincere proponents of most of the forms of social justice that I expect you hold near and dear. They’re proponents of “property” in a sense that is intimately connected with the protection of individual rights and freedoms. And they’re bright folks. You should just grant them all of that. It doesn’t oblige you to agree with their solutions.

    When the question is something like environmental protection or the extension of civil rights, I’m inclined to think our historical examples show that no particular strategy — whether it be legislation, market action, extra-legal direct action, or education — has achieved great strides alone. I’m also inclined to think that some of the standard left-libertarian critique of legislative means depends on emphasizing “legislative capture,” while de-emphasizing the fact that it is forces from “the market” (though, of course, not the desired “free/freed” market) that do the capturing. That observation doesn’t resolve anything clearly, but it does point to one of the places where I have to step away from the “market” approach.

    I think, too, that one can agree that the “free/freed market” is not capitalism, either as we’ve seen it or as some an-caps desire it to be, and still wonder seriously if a market-centric approach does not still present circumstances in which various values that we all presumably take seriously have a hard to making their impact felt in the sort of daily, distributed calculations that will presumably make a market anarchism work.

  9. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I am uneducated. I don’t hold a single degree. I’m surprised this is a sticking point for you.”

    That’s not what I mean by “uneducated” and if it did it’d be just as much an insult to myself (I dropped out of college after only a year of attendance for fear of being a debt-slave) then it is to you. I’m surprised you can misread something as simple as me saying that I don’t think your’e properly understanding what’s going on to actually insulting you and claiming you’re uneducated in some other sense.

    “The piece was short by design. I don’t feel like its brevity or refusal to go on at length about any given point disqualifies the opinions within.”

    Then I don’t see why other people should take your opinions or gripes too seriously if you’re going to try to dismiss 400+ pages with similar assertions throughout, few of which actually had any citations, quotes or backing for them. Just my 2 cents.

    “I will not engage in a pissing context about my environmental activism and don’t feel the need to cite direct actions or campaigns I’ve participated in to lend weight to what ought to be a self-evident point: anarchist environmentalists are concerned with the environment and not the law.”

    I’m not interested in a so-called “pissing contest’ and am against surprised you can derive such an interest from what I said. I’m only interested in you substantiating your claims. You seem (thus far) unwilling to do so.

    It”’s possible that I have unfairly reduced Carson’s point of view, but I didn’t just make this idea up. You ask where I got the idea that he feels that capitalism is “government interference with market” and so I’ll cite him in the preface of Studies in Mutualist Political Economy: “It is state intervention that distinguishes capitalism from the free market.”

    Instead of actually citing what’s wrong with this definition (or trying to debate my own definition) you act as if this “fact” of yours holds a lot more weight than it actually does. “Capitalism” is defined by an artificial concentration of wealth in the landed classes and historically (as Carson points out in his works) have always been done through state privilege. It’s of course also done through cultural privilege (most of these people are white males and use such ideas as classism, racism and so on to divide the ruled class). Why this definition or use of “capitalism” is wrong is still unclear to me. I would appreciate an elaboration.

    “When I discovered this about one of the principal contributors to the book (having authored five of the essays within), I was nervous, to say the least. And then I realized he is cited extensively through this book in a way that led me to believe, right or wrong, that he is one of the main proponents of “free market anticapitalism” and his work is used as the basis of many of the other articles.”

    Again, this says a lot less then what you’d like to think it does. You’re not *talking* to anarcho-primvitists or communists so you might want to try actually *explaining* to me why any of what you’re saying matters and why. If you don’t care to elaborate then I’m unsure how seriously this “panning” should be taken.

    “I don’t know or give a shit about nitpicky differences between people who believe in capitalism and people who believe in capitalism but don’t want to call it capitalism because of all the baggage associated with it. And when I hear people talking about how “government interference with the market” is what they have against capitalism, it doesn’t make me want to like them.”

    Actually that’s *not* what Carson and co. are saying is the only problem with capitalism and I’m (again) baffled that this is what you get out of it. Did you not see “The Many Monopolies” Charles responds to? How about Free Market Labor Struggle by Carson in which he details how unions are corrupted through big labor and big business in collusion with government?

    “Or care whether or not they themselves identify as capitalists, when what they describe is a society based on capital.”

    When has *anyone* said this?

    “Don’t get me wrong… I -want- to be wrong about you left-libertarians. (Or rather, I want you to actually -be- left-libertarians and not just the an-caps so many articles in this book make you come off as).”

    Maybe we come off as an-caps because you’re not as well read on these subjects as you’d like to believe. I can only assume so because of the way your conversation with Charles (and others above) are going.

    • I make no claim to be well read on the intricacies of various market economics. I am not an advocate of any market economic system and I have more or less no interest in them, beyond being willing to acknowledge that there are ways in which market economics could be anti-capitalist and anarchist. Which, as I recall, I preface my problems with book by stating, and mention that a good portion of this book describes exactly that.

      I don’t care whether or not you know what environmental activism I have participated in, because it remains irrelevant to my point, which is that environmental law is sometimes a useful tool in environmental activism and to be disregarded when it is not. If I wanted to tell you about Mountaintop Removal coal mining I would tell you about any experiences I might have in that. If I wanted to tell you about ecosystems, the national forest timber sale program, megafauna, etc. I would tell you whether or not I have been involved in such activism. But I have no interest in this chest-puffing.

      What I find as problematic is that this is a text that explicitly positions itself as leftist / socialist / anarchist that makes the intensely problematic assumptions I have stated in my panning and elaborated upon in the comments above.

      What I find particularly amusing is how I said “Carson says capitalism is just government interference with market.” And immediately I was met with claims ranging from “he doesn’t speak for the rest of us” to “he would never say something like that, you must have misread him” to “yeah, he did, and he was right. So what?”

      I am closing comments on this article now. I have stated my opinion, you have stated yours. Please go free-associate elsewhere.