Response to Aurora Apolito
In “The Problem of Scale in Anarchism and the Case for Cybernetic Communism,” Aurora Apolito writes: I don’t believe that markets can be “liberated” from capitalism, nor that they can do anything good anyway, regardless of their liberated status. In essence, this is because I view the market mechanism as running on a steepest descent…
Relitigating Decentralization: Response to M Black
I must confess no small horror on reading M Black’s contribution to this Mutual Exchange. A self-professed anarchist, defending centralization? I would normally let such arguments fall on their face alone, but if we are to platform them in this exchange I feel a moral obligation to reiterate basic reality. My response will be divided…
Modern Money Theory: Using Authoritarians’ Tools Against Them
For a few years now, Modern Money Theory, or MMT, has been the hottest buzzword in economics. The insights of MMT regarding our nation’s spending debate have been simultaneously misunderstood, disregarded, and celebrated. In this essay I will explain the central argument of MMT. I will explore why its conclusions are dangerous in the wrong…
Complexity As a Fundamental Diseconomy of Scale
I want to begin by praising Apolito’s piece. It both tackles the strongest argument against anarchism, the problem of achieving coordination at scale, and models the problem using insights from the cluster of fields that lie at the base of complex systems. Whatever my disagreements with them over markets, this is a welcome addition to…
Revealed Preferences and Deliberation: A Defense
Emmi Bevensee’s article “Social-Anarchism and Parallel Economic Computation” is an excellent and important introduction to the challenges that complexity poses for economic planning. I think Emmi’s conclusion—that we need to sketch what the limits of planning are and pursue alternative mechanisms beyond this point—is a good one, as is pointing out that problems arise when…
Centrifugal Tendencies in Information & Wealth
I’m a big fan of Aurora and hope that her contribution to this symposium helps encourage more anarchists to engage fearlessly with the mathematical dynamics of an anarchist society. But I must admit my disappointment, I was hoping her contribution would seriously engage with the arguments for markets and either present a novel alternative or…
Maximum Viable Economic Planning: The Basis of New Economies
A tweet jokingly showing James C. Scott centrally planning his small chicken farm.  Even in his devastating critiques of high-modernist central planning, James C Scott acknowledges the benefits to planning and the levels at which it can occur with relative safety. The author M Black also challenges us not to fetishize decentralization in such a…
De/centralization, Discretion, and the Anarchist Movement
Anarchists have long made decentralization a core demand for the structure of our organizations and have placed tremendous faith in the decentralization of our organizations as a means by which to prevent the generation of hierarchies and abuses of power, among other issues. However, this faith is based on very little, and anarchists can stand…
The Implications of Institutional Limits in a Complex World
Let me begin by stating how happy I am that this exchange is happening. As information technology has come to saturate our lives over the last two decades we’ve seen the debate over non-market economies remerge. A recent essay published in The Economist1 both summarizes the discourse and speaks to its increasing prominence. In the…
Does Anarchism Skirt the Calculation Problem?
Now it may surprise some, but unlike many fellow freed market anarchists at C4SS, I am not a market anarchist because of the economic calculation problem. While I do think the economic calculation problem rightly points out that top-down command economies cannot adequately produce and distribute goods to meet the needs of society, anarchist economic…
We Are in Midst of a Seismic Shift, It Is up to Labor to Decide the Outcome
About a decade ago The Third Industrial Revolution was published, and a few years later The Zero Marginal Cost Society came out by the same author, from a mainstream and politically moderate economist who advises the EU and German government, making very radical predictions such as moving to a society without money as a result…
Memetic Propagation and Mediation: Tools for the Distributed Economy
There’s an eerie familiarity to the stay-at-home orders issued during COVID-19. I can’t help but relate this to my experience as an 11 year old during the month-long curfew after the communal riots of Bombay.  Growing up in India, communal life dominated our lives. While the state functioned along the lines of rigid, monopolistic, soviet-socialist…
The Tithe as an Element of Economic Democracy: Decentralizing Collectivization
Introduction: Towards a Combined Anarchist and Communist Approach to the Question of Central Economic Planning This essay deals with the question of central economic planning, or minimum viable economic planning (MVEP) from both anarchist and communist perspectives. The central operative terms will be collectivization, or the process of pooling resources to be shared at the…
Action Is Sometimes Clearer Than Talk: Why We Will Always Need Trade
Is it possible for our enemies to discover actual insights? The impulse to deny this is universal. The third reich dismissed special relativity as “Jewish physics” and lost significant advantage. The USSR worried that accepting Darwin’s insights in evolution would open the floodgates to capitalist social darwinism and so they hurt themselves by sticking with…
The Problem of Scale in Anarchism and the Case for Cybernetic Communism
Note: In order to properly display some of the mathematics in this piece, it’s hosted here as a .pdf. Or, click the image below the introduction. The problem of scale is perhaps the most fundamental problem of anarchism. We all know by direct experience that anarchism works well on a local scale. Most people who…
Social-Anarchism and Parallel Economic Computation
Note: I’ve tried to minimize the math and computation theory to make this more generally readable but where it gets more complex I just wrote (math paragraph) before the paragraph and you can read or skip it and still understand the piece. I’ll open with a potentially contentious take. Most of the decentralized and left-leaning…
Mathematical Optimization and the Economic Calculation Problem
In 1939, Leonid Kantorovich, a Soviet mathematician, came up with a formulation for optimization problems called linear programming (LP) after being tasked with planning production in the plywood industry during World War 2. A linear program is a constrained optimization problem with a linear objective function that is maximized or minimized subject to linear equality…
Decentralized Economic Coordination: Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom
The calculation problem, as stated by Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, has been central to most libertarian arguments against non-market or non-price forms of economic coordination. The Misesian variant, argued in Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth and Socialism, is based on the role of factor input pricing in allocating inputs among competing uses….
C4SS Mutual Exchange Symposium: Decentralization and Economic Coordination
Mutual Exchange is the Center for a Stateless Society’s effort to achieve mutual understanding through dialogue. In this fecund moment of global political collapse and upheaval, amidst pandemics and police repression, there are also seeds of a better world being planted. It is in this spirit that we open this Summer Mutual Exchange on Decentralization…
Fighting Fascism in a Complex World: A Response to William Gillis
There are many threads in Will’s post, spiraling out in several different directions, and it would be impossible for me to fully respond to all of them within the length appropriate for a response post. Furthermore, much of what I have already said can be cross-applied to his post – for instance, he seems to…
Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory