STIGMERGY: The C4SS Blog
No Code Alone Will Save You

The Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE) conference has long been one of the more explicitly leftist and politically conscious hacker conferences. Unlike hacker conferences like Defcon and BlackHat, where the atmosphere has been relatively permissive of sexual harassment, state collaborators, and reactionary politics, HOPE has a reputation for being better. A little outpost of European hacker radicalism in America, HOPE has slowly improved; this year anarchists and anarchist propaganda were everywhere, talks featured reports from antifascists on their efforts to dox nazis, and heroes like Chelsea Manning were headline speakers.

And yet at this year’s HOPE some shitbag got up during a Q&A and bragged about having marched in UniteTheRight in Charlottesville, the nazi rally that murdered Heather Heyer. This fascist was joined by a small crew of reactionary provocateurs including Thomas Ryan, an FBI snitch in Occupy Wall Street. Naturally conference attendees rapidly mobilized themselves to respond in a variety of ways to this explicit reactionary presence. Yet the real clusterfuck ensued when many conference organizers and security staff refused to even remove the bragging fascist and threatened conference goers if they took action themselves.

Individual staff members sneered about “SJWs,” declared that wearing a nazi flag wouldn’t be grounds for expulsion, and claimed that no action taken outside the conference (like marching in a famous neonazi rally) would be relevant to expulsion from the conference. This absurd and infuriating stance of “ideological neutrality,” which has since set off numerous articles and the possibility of HOPE itself dissolving, must be read in context.

This was the first year HOPE banned the famous hacker John “Captain Crunch” Draper after his proclivity for sexual harassment and assault had been an open secret for decades. Indeed the first outburst of the Charlottesville fascist was to protest Draper’s exclusion. Despite this very small step, HOPE still gave a prominent speaking slot to known rapist Will Scott. It should go without saying that these things are deeply interconnected.

The argument against kicking out a fascist that goes, “yeah but did he march with nazis at this conference?” is obviously an argument that can be applied to dismissing rapists with, “yeah but did he rape anyone at this conference?” But moreover the place HOPE organizers were coming from is clearly one of conflict avoidance. It’s very clear that their instinct and priority was “preventing drama” in the sense of visible conflict, and not combatting oppressive power dynamics. They were, in short, welded to a naive and childish notion of apoliticism and “neutrality” that is of course anything but.

Those who set up spaces help determine the culture and norms of those spaces. And, despite the longstanding presence of anarchists, there is also unfortunately a longstanding fraction of the hacker milieu that values an acerbic and calloused environment where the unifying identity is one of nerd toughness and competitive edginess, with serious issues of ethics and politics being sidelined as minor distractions or personal affectations. “Who cares if he’s a nazi???!” They would rather cling to policing a tiny set of “behavior” or “actions” in a myopic and context-less vacuum. The effect of such shortsighted policies has long been plain and has been demonstrated empirically in countless other subcultures: if you ever let literal nazis into a space you encourage them to bring all their friends, to aggressively hollow out your project, and turn it into a nazi project.

What’s more the first people you lose as a result of your “tolerance” for genocidal authoritarian street thugs are the people most at risk from them. While some have doubled down on staying and fighting — and some have preternatural capacities to persevere in hostile environments — the simple reality is many women, queer folk, and people of color, are never coming back to HOPE. A number of great hackers and pillars of the community already refused to attend this year because of HOPE’s refusal to kick out rapists.

Before last weekend’s conference and after much dragging of feet, HOPE finally adopted a “Code of Conduct.” But it was clearly weaksauce and the result of contentious negotiations with those who prioritize “ideological openness” over actual fucking openness to marginalized people. Prioritizing the inclusion of those who choose to identify as nazis over those who have no choice in things like their skin color and the disadvantage such brings in our society. But never mind that the Code of Conduct preemptively carved out a justification for the inclusion of nazis — as a code its exploits were obvious and manifold. I personally heard core organizers sneer things like, “Oh so this person got physically up in your face and loomed over you menacingly after you said something snarky about their reactionary politics? Bad on you for snarking at them, you started it.” Meanwhile someone openly broadcasting their identity as a fascist and bragging about having marched in Charlottesville was not seen as displaying threatening behavior. It’s alright for reactionaries to corner speakers, but those opposed to the explicit fascist were told that if we did the same or attempted to expel him we’d be expelled.

Devoid of any bare semblance of explicit political orientation, a “Code of Conduct” will always be interpreted by those individuals who set themselves up as a spaces’ police. And a few of those individuals doing security at HOPE were besties with the fascist, the snitch, and their reactionary buddies, hugging and meeting up with them at Hooters afterwards.

But I don’t want to whine about how the Code of Conduct was “unfairly” enforced. It’s quite clear that the words in it were always interpreted by different people in vastly different ways. And I care not one whit whether the explicit fascist and his buds were technically “harassing” — that is ultimately such an irrelevant and meaningless standard. Explicit fascists should not be welcome at any conference worth a damn and neither should snitches. Full stop.

This should be fucking obvious.

It takes an extremely impoverished view of free speech or freedom of information to defend the inclusion of neonazis in our communities. Freedom of information must be evaluated on the scale of a whole network. The inclusion of deeply malicious nodes out to impose fascism on everyone poisons the network, impedes the flow of information within it. Time during HOPE that would have otherwise been spent on productive conversations on hypervisors was wasted organizing impromptu security for Chelsea Manning and having the most basic 101 of conversations over and over again, arguing that yes nazis exist today, yes they constitute an active threat, yes we must stand against them, and yes the bare fucking minimum is kicking them out of our spaces.

Unfortunately it seems that for many — pickled in a proud ignorance of politics beyond their nose — “free speech” doesn’t mean a world of maximally efficient information transfer and processing, but a bro-y culture where communication is stripped of nuance and attentiveness in favor of inane performative edginess and competitive callousness. This is disappointing to say the least. Because the hacker dream of freedom of information unleashing historically repressed voices online to help tear down all antiquated boundaries like borders and create a new world with new cultural norms? We got it. We actually kinda won that. It’s called “social justice.” There are still some unfortunate bugs and failure modes to be worked out, but on the whole it’s been a stunning success. The internet has opened up the world to countless people marginalized by systems of oppression. It’s beyond infuriating that those upset with this, who want to roll back the clock and give speech welfare to the shittiest ideas imaginable like fascism have the gall to pretend they stand for “free speech.”

While I understand the attachment many people have to Codes of Conduct at conferences given how hard they had to fight for them, I think a focus on appealing to a CoC is deeply flawed. Not least because codified rules of behavior will always struggle to integrate context. I don’t give a shit whether a rapist happened to rape someone at the conference or whether a neonazi shouted “jews will not replace us” at said conference. Rapists & neonazis should obviously be banned entirely. We shouldn’t have to legalistically argue about CoC violations.

A Code of Conduct isn’t a panacea. Not everything egregious will fall cleanly under it. No code of clearly measurable behavior, whether a CoC or the NAP or some Constitution will ever provide us with everything we need. The real world is complicated and so are the threats we face. Anarchists and others have long used Points of Unity in addition to clarify our values and motivations so that we can at least argue individual situations from the same starting ethos. HOPE and the broader hacker community need to accept that there is no such thing as neutrality, that values are inescapable, and that having any values means some manner of political exclusion.

To defend an open world of freedom of information necessarily involves cutting out and routing around bad nodes in the network. If we let rapists or proud fascists and snitches invade our spaces we push out most everyone else. If we fail to resist fascists we are functionally complicit in their campaigns and aspirations.

What If We Treated ICE Agents Like They Treat Us?

What if we treated ICE agents and cops the way they treated those accused of the non-crime of illegal border crossing? What their crimes against personal freedom were met with the type of treatment they impose on others? Perhaps in such a world those arresting them would document their arrest using templates such as this one.

The following is a template to be used when arresting oppressors after liberation is achieved.

On [DATE] of [YEAR], [ARRESTEE’S NAME(s)] were arrested and charged with civil rights violations. Specifically, they were charged with willfully exerting harm or directing others to exert harm in violation of individual rights and/or generally accepted standards of ethical treatment toward their fellow human beings. The offending actions are listed below:

  • War crimes, including intentionally targeting civilians
  • Illegal aggressive actions
  • Cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners
  • Indefinite detention of innocent individuals
  • [ADDITIONAL CRIMES LISTED]

As offenders have a tendency to flee prosecution, the accused will be held in a detention facility until the date of their trial. Typically, trial can be arranged within __ months. However, please be advised that recently there have been delays and processing times may vary. The accused may be able to shorten their detention by up to __ weeks by agreeing to plead guilty. Unfortunately, the policies and actions of recent presidents have led to a backlog of human rights cases. In particular, decisions made recently by the Trump administration have led to an increase in offenses along the border. The accused is advised to expect extra wait times if their trial is a ‘border problem,’ as it is difficult to convince highly-trained civil liberties judges to travel to such remote locations as Tucson, El Paso, or Washington D.C.
Any children of the accused will be detained and processed separately. Some offenders have claimed dubiously to have “families” that “need” them, without being able to immediately produce proof of familial relationship (document lists for establishing parentage are spelled out in Section 6 of the document). As such, children and other family members found in the offender’s custody will be considered illegally smuggled until proven otherwise. The accused need not worry about the safety of “their” children however as the children will be supplied with adequate plastic mattresses, foil blankets, and concrete floor space while being processed. Rest assured that our facilities fall well within U.S. norms for the care of children when parents are accused of a crime.

To that end, children will be held in chain-link enclosures for no longer than __ hours/days before being transferred to a foster care family, or whatever. If the accused is concerned about the well-being of the children, they can check in on them by calling the following number:____________. An operator will kindly advise where the child is being warehoused/re-educated.

Obviously the accused has the right to a public defender, however the accused should be advised that public defenders are over-worked and may only be able to meet with each client for a few minutes, if at all. The accused should be prepared to present their plea and the details of their defense intuitively. We understand this may be difficult for individuals who have little legal training.

If the accused is sentenced to a period of incarceration, they may be assured that their prison stay will be as comfortable as is typical. Extreme punishments, such as solitary confinement, will only be imposed if guards or prison employees perceive a need for such punishments, and will only last as long as is required to inflict the desired effect. Food will be provided to nearly/barely meet caloric and nutritional needs (note that individual needs may vary) and many supplies including phone minutes, will be available for purchase at a ‘competitive’ price.

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation during this process. Please indicate below, on a scale from 1 to 5, how likely you would be to recommend this arrest experience to your friends/co-conspirators:

1 2 3 4 5

Border Abolition: The Common Sense Position

One big problem with border abolitionists and open borders advocates is a lack of focus on how unradical it actually is. Well, of course it’s radical politically, but the major concerns among restrictionists are cultural, and well, we live in a post-monoculture world. We have for pretty much all my life. Most people don’t understand the country they want to preserve from globalism is the country most responsible for globalism’s existence. One thing I’ve noticed is that communities, even in conservative areas, are not at all fearful of the actually existing immigrants living among them. They will even rally to protect them. The hopeful yet frightening truth is that if the US citizenry wanted to purge itself of its undocumented population it has the capacity and institutions. But as happy as we are to call the police on our neighbors in many circumstances, an extreme minority of the population possess the desire or motivation to make that call to ICE.

What they dread is a meme embedded in their head by the media they consume. Rather than presenting them with the neighbors that have participated and contributed to the life they wish to preserve, the media feeds them representations of some brave new world where what they know is overrun by, at best, strangers from a strange land, and more typically by a horde of amoral third world conquistadors. We too often insist that the natives learn to adjust to this imposition rather than point out this is already the world they live in, and the political movement that would need to wipe away the values and progress of our civilization is actually the closed borders crowd. Without some cataclysm tearing our ways of life asunder, the free flow of the world population is inevitable, and in many ways it is already here.

Problems have and may yet emerge as a consequence of national barriers breaking down, but those problems are often inflicted by the last gasps of a dying world that very few of us have lived in for much of our lives.

So if you wish to go back to that world, then find a community that wants to build up those walls, and leave the billions of us who love this rather familiar world in peace. And to those who wish to fight for the promise of a world that has evolved beyond these glorified gang lines, realize that it is not the forces of reaction against that goal that pose the greatest danger. The threat comes primarily from inaction and a lack of perspective. The likes of ICE and DHS were constructed overnight, not long before this night. They can be demolished at the same pace, as long as we possess the moral and historical clarity to strike at their shallow roots and expose their weakness, their contingency, and the damage they’ve inflicted on every person who wishes to live in a world that’s freer than the one they were born into. It has been over a half century since humanity escaped the gravitational pull of the earth. Let us not accept that the world as we’ve viewed from the heavens, open and united, is beyond our grasp. Anything less than the abolition of this whole state of affairs is uncivilized and beneath every individual upon the surface of this boundaryless rock.

Support C4SS At Our New Store!

Want to support the Center and the work we do? Visit our brand new store
where you’ll find amazing deals on a variety of left market anarchist books, as well as stickers, buttons, and more.

For years you’ve supported us through our relationship with the Distro of the Libertarian Left — which continues to host a vast variety of historical zines — but we wanted to offer a more direct relationship for our supporters as well as a wider array of material than just zines and books.

Director’s Report: Spring 2018

At its inception C4SS focused on getting timely editorials with an anarchist focus published in newspapers around the world. However, with the slow decline of print media, many of the community newspapers that served as our bread and butter have dried up. Meanwhile, thankfully, our profile has risen as an incubator of theory and discourse. Consequently over the last eleven years we’ve slowly shifted focus from getting republished in mainstream media to things like publishing academic studies, translating anarchist material into fifteen languages, and hosting symposiums and debate between anarchist thinkers across the spectrum. Over the last year we’ve expanded the number and role of our editors to assure consistent quality and help nurture new writers. Additionally we’ve built a more active social media crew. Looking forward we’ve invested major energy into a number of new upcoming projects.

That said, while many of us have become preoccupied with these projects it’s important that we continue to fill our unique role providing a source of timely anarchist commentary on current events and also avoid creating a sense of institutional remove or inaccessibility around the Center. To those ends we’re looking to train up new writers.

We’re proud to have have collaborated with ALL Distro for years and they’ve done incredible work spreading Left Libertarian materials, however the primary maintainer has become preoccupied in his academic work and so over the last year we’ve been working to put together our own full fledged store. We will offer a wide range of products, not just books and zines but a host of unique buttons, stickers, and apparel. Some of which was available early to fans who visited our table at a number of bookfairs and conferences. All of which will be accessible as public domain information in addition to purchasable material goods. Running a store for ourselves will enable us to provide more materials, to directly profit from purchases, and to generally lend the institutional weight of the Center to better fulfill customer demand.

Available in our store will also be book versions of our popular Mutual Exchange symposiums, which are in the process of going to publication. The first of these books was published not that long ago and we’ve loved the feedback so far. Nowhere else will you find anarchists thinkers from across the spectrum debating in good faith and with great depth topics like property, democracy, and antifascism.

We’re in the process of building towards a new mutual exchange this summer that we’re very excited about and can’t wait to reveal.

Eleven years of nonstop publication has given C4SS a rich backlog of material to pull from, but it can also become inaccessible. We’ve renewed our audio projects. Check out our youtube channel for uploads of the audiobook version of Markets Not Capitalism, read aloud by Stephanie Murphy as well as continuing new recordings of C4SS articles. You can also now download the audiobook on Bandcamp, for free if you like, of course.

While C4SS continues to reserve money each month for the efforts by our active translators, we’ve also undertook a massive translation effort to get several core articles like the introduction to Markets Not Capitalism, Charles Johnson’s The Many Monopolies, and Kevin Carson’s The Iron Fist Behind The Invisible Hand, translated into a number of world languages where anarchist content — to say nothing of market anarchist ideas — is rare. We’re now in the process of formatting those translations for distribution as booklets or pamphlets.

There are many more projects in various stages of work, from grants for investigative reporting and quantitative analysis, to reading groups and meetups. If you’re interested in getting involved drop us a line.

Left-Libertarians at Libertopia

Next month (3-6 May) in San Diego I’ll be speaking at the Libertopia conference, which is back after several years’ hiatus. Here’s my topic and abstract:

Hoppean Libertarianism as Right-Wing Tribalism: A Critique
Roderick T. Long

One of the main conduits by which many libertarians in recent years have been drawn into the orbit of the Alt-Right is the work of Hans-Hermann Hoppe. I argue that Hoppe’s views on such matters as racial difference, immigration, monarchism, and the desirability of culturally homogeneous communities are systematically mistaken, as well as incompatible with a libertarian understanding of human action.

My Molinari Institute / Center for a Stateless Society / Alliance of the Libertarian Left / Bleeding Heart Libertarians colleague Gary Chartier will also be speaking; here’s his topic and abstract:

How to Think About the Constitution
Gary Chartier

Libertarians often defend particular theories of constitutional interpretation. But, at least for those who are skeptical about standard defenses of state authority, there’s a prior question: are we obligated to follow the Constitution? If we’re not, I suggest, then there’s no right answer to questions about the right way to read the Constitution. Instead, we should make constitutional arguments likely to advance liberty.

Other speakers include David Friedman, Scott Horton, Jeff Tucker, Spencer MacCallum, and many more. Check it out!

Call for Anarchist Writers

We at the Center believe ideas matter. We believe thoughtful discourse enriches, rather than undermines, anarchist praxis. We believe that a world free of compulsion and degradation is achievable through, in part, a culture permeated by anarchist ideas. Our mission as an openly anarchist think tank is to thoughtfully articulate and defend anarchist ideas. We strive to present the inspiring, yet practical, alternative of anarchism and serve as a consistent source of engaging thought.

If you’re an anarchist and you have something to say, we want to hear from you. If you yearn for a better future, free of power and authority, but value productive dialogue over tribal posturing or armchair theorizing, we want to hear from you. If you’re angry about or acting against police brutality, military occupation, ICE deportations, mass incarceration, social injustice, or structural poverty, and want to channel that anger into something that can somehow, somewhere, sometime change someone’s mind for the better, we want to hear from you. Whether it’s your first time publishing anywhere or just with us, C4SS is always welcoming new writers.

We offer $25 for your first article we publish. Send essays or commentary of around 500-800 words to editor@c4ss.org and we’ll work with you the rest of the way. We’re particularly interested in anarchist commentary on current events.

We are also looking for folks with the proper equipment interested in recording some of our expansive archive of literature (current recordings can be found here). C4SS will compensate you ($10 per recording starting rate) for new audio recordings of:

  • Feature articles
  • Classic essays
  • Mutual Exchange contributions
  • Book chapters

Audio submissions and/or any questions about audio submission should be sent to media@c4ss.org.

 

Upcoming Panels: Marriage and Anarchy

Two Molinari/C4SS panels are coming up at two different conferences later this week:

1. The Molinari Society will be holding its mostly-annual Pacific Symposium in conjunction with the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association in San Diego, March 28-April 1, 2018. Here’s the schedule info:

Molinari Society symposium:
Author Meets Critics: Gary Chartier’s Public Practice, Private Law: An Essay on Love, Marriage, and the State

G9C. Friday, 30 March 2018, 7:00-10:00 p.m. (or so), Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, 910 Broadway Circle, San Diego CA, room TBA

chair:
Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)

critics:
Jennifer Lockhart (Auburn University)
Lori Watson (New Mexico State University)
Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)

author:
Gary Chartier (La Sierra University)

2. We’ve also organised a panel at the Association of Private Enterprise Education conference in Las Vegas, April 1-4, 2018. Here’s the schedule info:

Topics in Free-Market Anarchism

4.A.6.. Wednesday, 4 April 2018, 8:00-9:15 a.m., Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd S., Las Vegas NV, room TBA.

chair:
Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)

panelists:
Gary Chartier (La Sierra University)
Jason Lee Byas (University of Illinois)
Nathan Goodman (George Mason University)
Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)

Nathan is also on a bunch of other panels; he’ll be speaking on “Social Capital and Social Justice: Why Liberalism is Essential” (Monday at 1:10 p.m.), “Voluntary Associations as an Alternative to State Social Welfare Provision” (Monday at 2:30 p.m.), “The Political Economy of Whistleblowers” (Tuesday at 8:00 a.m.), and “Policing, Civil Society, and External Aid: A Polycentric Perspective” (Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.).

In other news, for a brief report on the recent PPE Society meeting in New Orleans, see here.

See C4SS at LibertyCon!

From March 2nd to the 4th, hundreds of libertarian-minded students will gather for the conference of the year in Washington D.C. For the fifth time, The Center for a Stateless Society will be promoting the ideas of left-market anarchism at Students For Liberty’s LibertyCon.

We are bringing all the ingredients for productive dialogue — eye-grabbing swag, thoughtful literature, and good manners — in the hopes that mainstream American libertarians will be more open to synthesizing concerns for social justice and structural poverty with their anti-statism, not in the form of sacrificing anti-statism for the other two values, but instead recognizing their interconnectedness. At a time when libertarianism is fighting off reactionary entryists left and right, the Center’s uncompromising radical vision ought to be at the forefront of the conversation.

Here’s a sneak peak at just some of the books, zines, stickers, buttons, and shirts we’ll have at our LibertyCon booth.

Whether you’re already a committed left-market anarchist and looking to stock up on various goodies and meet other like-minded folk, or you find the Center’s ideas somewhat compelling and want to bolster your knowledge about left-market anarchism, or you just know absolutely nothing at all about our ideas and want to learn more, take a second to stop by our booth this March 2-4 at LibertyCon.

And don’t forget our Saturday lunch event at Medaterra where we’re raffling off a free copy of Markets not Capitalism! You can register for LibertyCon here, and use the code CMASSIMINO for a discount! Travel and lodging information can be found here.

See you this weekend!

Decentralization and the Poverty of Our Political Language

Political dialogue suffers mightily from a lack of categorizational clarity. This problem is attributable in part to the slipperiness of political concepts, which implicate and blend (often carelessly) the empirical, the historical, and the normative. To blame, too, is the cultural phenomenon of politics as entertainment or sport, team-rooting being more important than truth-finding or genuine understanding. Once one has settled upon a team, he systematically shields himself from any information that could compromise his allegiance to it, as even brain scans have been able to demonstrate. Still, conceptual or categorizational clarity (if you’ll pardon the mouthful) is worth pursuing if we aspire to more than talking past one another or angrily exchanging partisan talking points.

One who consciously identifies his political thinking with decentralism has a particularly hard time finding his place within today’s ideological taxonomy. To whose cause does the decentralist join his strength, the left or the right? Liberals or conservatives? Decentralists argue that centralization and its massive institutions encourage and engender unaccountability, that the proper goals of socially beneficial human organization are obstructed rather than served by all-consuming centralization. As the anarchist intellectual Paul Goodman pointed out, “In a centralized system, the function to be performed is the goal of the organization rather than of any persons (except as they identify with the organization). The persons are personnel.” Though clearly a man of the left, when Goodman discusses the “centralizing style of organizing” he doesn’t sound anything like today’s liberals and progressives, who have made of rigid hierarchy and centralization through distant, monolithic institutions practically a religion. Indeed, he sounds very much like today’s libertarians, except that his analyses are filled with trenchant criticisms of existing capitalism, which he perceptively contrasts with “Adam Smith’s economics.” If Goodman’s drawing of this distinction comes as a surprise to today’s political left (however defined), it shouldn’t, for there has always been, particularly in the United States, a tradition of market-oriented left-wing individualism.

Strong decentralist currents are an important part of the DNA of both the left and the right, just as are the opposite forces; this is one of the many reasons why the labels “left-wing” and “right-wing,” by themselves, can’t clarify or explain very much of substance, why they fail to express anything particularly meaningful about the arrangement of the social and political order. German National Socialism and Italian Fascism are examples of what we might call right-wing centralism, while American free-market libertarianism might be an example of right-wing decentralism. On the other side, Maoism, Soviet Communism, and the twentieth century’s various other forms of authoritarian communism may be regarded as left-wing centralism, with classical anarchism, certain localist and anti-globalization movements, and aspects of the cooperative movement perhaps understood as cases of left-wing decentralism.

Yet even this attempt at classification seems to fall apart upon inspection. It is not at all clear, for example, what it is about libertarianism that places it on the political right, other than, perhaps, the fact that it is putatively a reaction, at least in the American context, against Progressivism and New Deal Liberalism, neither of which itself arguably belongs on the left. Similarly, definitions of Nazism and Fascism that associate them with the right, thus failing to recognize the socialist extraction of both, seem extraordinarily inadequate and tendentious. We’re left with a puzzle, the lingering feeling that our need to classify in terms of left and right may actual obscure more than it illuminates.

Today, libertarians may be foremost among the flag-bearers of decentralism, though their role as earnest defenders of global corporate capitalism detracts from their decentralism. Indeed, much of the left’s anti-corporate and anti-capitalist message is historically bound to decentralism, to an opposition to monopoly power and grants of special privilege to the rich, together with a preference for local and cooperative forms of production. In the late nineteenth century and through the twentieth, decentralism fell out of favor and the global socialist movement embraced political and “industrial gigantism,” possessed by a spirit that transcended political ideology during that period, that of treating hierarchy and centralization as the scientific way. In his biography of the first self-described anarchist, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, George Woodcock argues that the political left took a wrong turn “in accepting so uncritically the phenomenon of large-scale and centralized industrial organization.” Proudhon, whose anarchism incorporated a radicalized federalism and decentralism, has become more relevant than ever “now that we know all the social, economic, and ecological evils of industrial gigantism.”

Proudhon and American individualists that followed him (Benjamin Tucker, for example) were keen to point out that market economies are not inherently or necessarily capitalist economies. Much depends on how we define capitalism, whether we treat it as just another way to express the notion of free markets or define it in terms of inequality, exploitation, and privilege (as socialists of all stripes have tended to do). We won’t get very far in a conversation or a debate until it is clear that we’re using the same language, and too often we aren’t. The current moment in American political life seems to call for a renewed interest in decentralist ideas, if only as a point from which to start real conversations. In his introduction to E.F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful, Theodore Roszak remarks, “Bigness is the nemesis of anarchism, whether the bigness is that of public or private bureaucracies, because from bigness comes impersonality, insensitivity, and a lust to concentrate abstract power.” Notwithstanding the fact that today’s incoherent political categories would make anarchism and conservatism antitheses, there is certainly a current of Kirkian conservatism about which the very same thing could be said.

Help Bring C4SS to LibertyCon!

C4SS, or the Center for a Stateless Society, is a left wing market anarchist think tank. The Center utilizes academic studies, book reviews, op-eds, and social media to put left market anarchist ideas at the forefront of libertarianism and to eventually bring about a world where individuals are liberated from oppressive states, structural poverty, and social injustice.

Simply, the Center’s mission is to build a new world in the shell of the old.

Students For Liberty’s LibertyCon is the year’s premier gathering of libertarian minds from all over the world – and C4SS is a mere $750 away from getting a table at this event. This is a wonderful opportunity to promote radical left anarchist ideas among young liberty lovers from around the globe.

Every penny counts and the Center appreciates any and all help you are willing to give. Let’s get C4SS to LibertyCon and start building the new world!

Donate here.

Two New Publications

My chapter on “Anarchism and Libertarianism” is forthcoming in Nathan Jun, ed., Brill’s Companion to Anarchism and Philosophy (Leiden: Brill, 2017), at the usual insane Brill price. In the chapter I explore the relationship between libertarianism (in the free-market sense) and the anarchist movement, including the question whether anarcho-capitalism counts as a genuine form of anarchism. (My C4SS colleague Kevin Carson has a chapter in the book as well.)

According to the publisher, I’m only allowed to make 25 hard copies of the chapter – but I’m also allowed to post a copy online, so long as it’s on my personal website. That seems to me a bit like saying “No smoking allowed in this room, but it’s okay to set the bed on fire.” But okay, here’s a link to the chapter.

(My reference to capitalist labour markets as “oligopolistic” was supposed to be “oligopsonistic.” The editors changed it to “oligopolistic,” which of course has the opposite meaning; I changed it back in galleys, but it ended up “oligopolistic” in the final published text nonetheless. Sigh.)

I also have a chapter on “Minarchism on Seasteads” in Victor Tiberius, ed., Seasteads: Opportunities and Challenges for Small New Societies (Zurich: VDF, 2017). I explore options for constraining a seastead minarchy (essentially by incorporating as many anarchist features as possible; those who remember my articles from the FNF/LNF days will find my proposals familiar). Here’s the link.

(The version I’ve posted is the galley proofs with my corrections. No, of course the corrections did not make it into the final published text. Sigh again.)

Server Outages

For years we’ve relied on webhosting from 1984 Hosting, a small radical project based out of Iceland. We moved to 1984 from our old provider after a racist by the name of Olivier Janssens took us offline with a DMCA so spurious it made international news. 1984 has been good to us, but unfortunately last Wednesday their entire server infrastructure suddenly collapsed. You can read more about the unusual situation and the severity of it here.

We’ve spent the last week waiting for good news on what’s recoverable. As you can see our backup of the site has been restored on a temporary server with no missing stories, although a few months of images and files are presently lost. What this has meant however is an interruption in our Mutual Exchange symposium and outages on Wednesday and Thursday as we waited for a damage report and then went through the process of restoration.

Combat Illiberalism

Today marks the 80th anniversary of then-aspiring tyrant Mao Tse-tung’s “Combat Liberalism.” In that short pamphlet Mao outlines eleven ways that liberal attitudes might manifest themselves within an anti-liberal revolutionary movement like his. Broadly, Mao characterizes the liberal attitude as an orientation towards “unprincipled peace” and petty egotism. The pamphlet’s recurring theme is one of instilling party discipline both internally in oneself and externally in others.

There is a lot to say about “Combat Liberalism.” One startling feature is the way it exemplifies the illiberal fear of freedom. Economically, illiberals fear that free trade and laissez-faire will inevitably result in monopoly. Socially, illiberals fear that free speech and toleration will inevitably result in repression by their enemies. Accordingly, when building movements, illiberals fear that anything less than total regimentation will inevitably result in total disintegration.

Beyond remarking on those undercurrents in Mao’s pamphlet, we can also consider the inverse of his worry; political movements of all kinds can fall into attitudes opposed to their values. Libertarianism, especially individualist anarchism, is a kind of radical liberalism. Yet there are several ways that petty movement politics can push us into very illiberal behaviors.

Here I’ll be considering ten ways this can happen. Since I, unlike Mao, am a liberal, I will not just bark them at you. I will also give some brief explanation with each as to why it strikes me as illiberal and why it is a problem. With most of these, there are clear exceptions – times where the behavior is perfectly beneficial or even necessary. However, I would wager that we’re, at least, experiencing a crisis of overproduction in each of the following.

  1. The use of loud, public call-outs, especially when used to secure preferred distributions of social capital.[1]

Loud, public call-outs accompanied with damning screenshots have become unfortunately ubiquitous parts of political culture on the internet. This is not to suggest that everyone on the receiving end of these attacks is innocent. Innocence isn’t necessary for this practice to have its problems – just as the fact that most people in prison are guilty of actual rights-violating crimes doesn’t make mass incarceration acceptable.

These acts of shaming are dangerous in their power to socially isolate. They also give incentives towards cruelty, as those engaged in shaming elevate themselves socially through contrast with the person being shamed. This has an illiberal effect in that it pushes people apart into increasingly tribalistic subgroups, which then reproduce call-outs as a way of settling social scores instead of resolving problems.

To combat this illiberalism you should reserve public call-outs of this kind for truly serious cases where nothing else will work. 99 times out of 100, you should instead privately contact the person with your concern. If that does not work, you should privately contact mutual friends who are more likely to be receptive. This should be common practice even towards people you strongly dislike.

You can also combat this illiberalism by accepting the unenviable role of That Person in the comments of these call-outs. Often, it is easy to tell when someone is being unfairly construed to mean something much worse than what they actually mean. Take the time to make clear what this person is actually saying, especially when this person is from your outgroup and, especially, when what they are actually saying is still something with which you disagree.

  1. The drawing of hard social lines which must not be crossed.

Illiberal internet warfare that has its genesis in the last point can often become cemented by publicly calling out others for bare association, no matter how tenuous. This usually takes the form of insinuating or explicitly stating that if Person X retains some vague association with Person Y – coexistence within an organization, mere Facebook “friendship,” or whatever – then Person X must harbor some sympathies with Person Y’s problems. Incidentally, acquiescing to these demands can make them more effective. For if you accepted a demand to disassociate with Person Y but don’t do so with Person Z, it looks more plausible that you don’t take Person Z’s problems seriously.

  1. The drawing of hard ideological lines which must not be crossed.

This problem is often combined with the last one. In combination, they have the under-discussed effect of shielding people from critique. Much of the libertarian movement’s problems are born in mirrored dodges like “You can’t take their anti-war stuff seriously, they associate with people who are bad on immigration” and “You can’t take their pro-immigration stuff seriously, they associate with people who are bad on war.”

This point is also a bit more complicated than the others. Libertarians should unambiguously declare that shams like pro-war “libertarianism” and anti-immigration “libertarianism” are shams. In no way should those declarations be tamed – this would be a kind of “unprincipled peace.” Instead, we should reserve these kinds of statements for the cases where they are absolutely necessary. Moreover, even when drawing lines becomes necessary, we must stand guard against the abuse of those lines to keep out critics.

  1. The replacement of principles with alliances.

Construed broadly, most of this list could fit under this one point. What I mean more specifically, though, is the practice of downplaying problems that crop up within one’s own particular subgroup. People who have no actual affinities with war or borders will treat those issues as insignificant when it is their comrades who are hawks or nationalists. This is also true of less directly political problems.

In exceptions to points 2 & 3, this problem often motivates resistance to necessary action. More interesting, however, is the way these points feed off each other. Cases of opportunistic line-drawing can often be used to present problems within a movement as being necessarily a product of one’s intra-movement outgroups. This produces a tendency to see one’s own subgroup as definitionally the solution, never the problem. When individuals within that subgroup do create problems, these blinders prevent responsible action.

  1. The insincerity of shaping your positions according to your political identity, not what you think is true.

The subgroup tribalism discussed here can also develop commitment mechanisms in the form of strange beliefs. One way that you show affinity with a group is by having their back on their most bizarre beliefs. The illiberal effect here is in channeling your reasons for a belief away from reason and towards collective identity. It is also dangerous in that progressively wilder beliefs become necessary to show you’re really down. Stepping away from libertarianism for a second, this is one of the many ways perfectly normal young people in the illiberal left start joyously treating plans for mass-murder like a roleplaying game.

  1. The insincerity of shaping your positions according to shock value, not what you think is true.

Another death spiral comes in taking on views because they repulse people you dislike. This produces a kind of catharsis, where raising the blood pressure of your enemies gives you relief. As Jeffrey Tucker outlined in “Against Libertarian Brutalism,” this is a deeply illiberal impulse. It is also an addiction. Like many drugs, one can develop a tolerance and require deadlier doses for a high. Today, an edgy argument about the compatibility of libertarianism and immigration restrictions might be enough. A few years down the line, though, you might find yourself screaming about Jews in a Vice documentary without really knowing how you got there.

  1. The insincerity of treating ideas like a game.

Marxists take ideas to be largely impotent, with history moved instead by “material” economic relations. Fascists also laugh at claims that ideas rule the world, convinced that everything boils down to brute impositions of will through violence. It is liberals who afford ideas a central place in explaining history’s path.

Hence why treating ideas like a game does not make sense for libertarians. Before perpetuating the idea that killing political opponents is fine, with helicopter, gulag, or guillotine memes, you should consider the corpses that could follow. This is not hypothetical, as shown by Heather Heyer’s murder, which followed far-right repetitions of “run them down.” Returning to point 4, you should also be willing to be the killjoy who refuses to join your friends’ bloodlust. A commitment to open discourse does not require treating evil trivially, and those who do so should be held accountable.

  1. The molding of your views to moderation for moderation’s sake.

Since radical views have an aesthetic pull, this can facilitate the last three points. One solution might be, then, to consciously adopt a policy of moderation for moderation’s sake. I myself was deeply tempted by this in the days immediately following Trump’s election. What pulled me out of it was a friend noting that this is itself an aesthetic pull, making it deceptively illiberal. Comfortably simulating sincerity and smart opinions will not push you towards truth, it will push you towards complacency.

Karl Hess’s words, spoken by Barry Goldwater, that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue” have become a libertarian cliché. We should still revisit them frequently. They are a healthy reminder that an open movement for the open society cannot silence its logical conclusions for the sake of PR.

  1. The use of equivocal language that distorts the topic being discussed.

Unlike Mao’s regimented Communist movement, liberalism thrives on open debate. That ebb and flow of ideas, however, can be disrupted through bad faith argumentation. One such virus is the deployment of ambiguous phrases. These can sneak one indefensible premise in on the backs of a defensible one. They can also create false dichotomies, where those who disagree sound much more ridiculous than they actually are.

One case is when immigration restrictionists say they favor “private property borders.” Taken literally, this position is identical to advocating for open borders. Implicitly, this is actually building in the illiberal – in fact, very progressive-sounding – premise that We the People own the U.S.-Mexico border and public roads. It further sneaks in the illiberal – in fact, majoritarian-democratic – premise that the will of a xenophobic majority must be favored over the individual preferences of people who would gladly welcome immigrants.

Another such case is in the discourse surrounding “denying fascists a platform.” This is ambiguous between two separate positions. The first is a refusal to offer one’s own property to help fascists organize. This is obviously a correct approach, and someone who denies it misunderstands liberalism. However, the phrase “denying fascists a platform” binds that position together with the position that one should violently disrupt fascist speech and assembly. So too with “physically confront fascism” – which binds that violence against speech and assembly together with obviously good things like assertive protest and standing ready to defend against fascist violence.

As this point shows, open debate can be corrupted by equivocal language. It does not follow, though, as I have seen it recently claimed, that liberalism requires the flawed assumption that everyone is engaged in good faith. Liberalism – both in its vision of an open society and its open movement towards that open society – is perfectly well-equipped to deal with this problem.

The solution is nit-picking. When equivocal language is detected, it should be interrogated. People should be called on to specify what they mean and to make clear why they think one claim entails another. Forcefully drawing attention to implicit assumptions of this kind puts them into territory where they must be defended, and where their traps can be sidestepped by onlookers.

  1. The casual indifference between rational and sub-rational forms of communication.

There are many other things I could add to this list, but most of them fall under this final point. For example, it is easy to mock far-right internet trolls who are overweight, dressed poorly, or have “neckbeards” for those characteristics of their physical appearance. Much has already been said about the general sliminess of this behavior. It is also a discourse of self-destruction, if we take seriously the ideas of liberalism.

Sub-rational forms of communication, like mockery, are not the territory on which we will win. We will win through greater reliance on reason, where ideas rise and fall on their merits. Whenever we engage in sub-rational communication, then, we are in dangerous territory. Sometimes we must fight there, but it should always be to push things back onto our preferred turf. Our mockery should always show that those who stand against us are being ridiculous, not that they are unattractive. Those whose ideas are forged in un-reason are more familiar with un-reason and will, therefore, often be better in battles of un-reason.

I have already passed twice the size of Mao’s original pamphlet. There is much more to be said – and much of it already has been said, much better than I could. I recommend George Orwell’s “Politics & the English Language” and Emmi Bevensee’s “The Conversations We Can’t Have.” The first expands on the insidious dangers of imprecision in political discourse, and the second engages seriously with the noxious environment created by petty social games in activist communities.

Illiberalism, in whatever form, is extremely harmful to any emancipatory movement. It is a process of melting that first eats away openness, undermines cohesion, and causes apathy, and then it re-solidifies to create stagnation. It replaces robust and diverse orders with the weak ties of strict discipline. It kills the potential of meaningful action and spreads ignorance. It is a deeply destructive tendency.

Illiberalism stems from the yearning for identities based in conflict; it replaces self-actualization with slavish devotion to floating abstractions, and this gives rise to political, economic, and organizational illiberalism.

Illiberalism is a manifestation of opportunism and conflicts fundamentally with both libertarianism and anarchism. It is negative and has the effect of creating enmity where none previously existed; that is why pre-existing enemies welcome its preservation in our midst. Such being its nature, but it has no place in the process of liberation.

We must use liberalism, which is positive in spirit, to overcome illiberalism, which is negative. Individualist anarchists should have an activeness of mind, finding their own interests in harmony with others through the proper use of reason. This is what it means to be an individualist, and this is what it means to be an anarchist.

Endnotes

[1] A friend who studies social capital has voiced annoyance with the way that the term gets thrown around the internet in these discussions, especially among radical liberals. To be clear: “social capital” of the kind studied by sociologists and economists, taken on its own, is a good thing. It is better for people to have connections that allow them greater opportunities. However, the sharp centralization of social capital in a way that makes others reliant upon its monopolists is highly dangerous, and creates relational inequalities that are deeply destructive towards living a life worth calling “free.” The right analogy here is with economic capital. Economic capital, taken on its own, is a good thing. It is better for people to be able to have greater resources with which to create better goods. However, the sharp centralization of economic capital in a way that makes others reliant upon its monopolists – what free market anti-capitalists mean when they say “capitalism” – is highly dangerous. Our goal is not to destroy capital, of either the social or economic kind. Rather, we want to free it up by removing barriers and enabling contestation, so that it will be distributed widely and not create destructive relationships of power.

Anarchist Ends, Market Means

Zine form can be found here!

Markets are not my end goal. My end goal is anarchism which will always look like something just beyond the horizon of my knowledge. Markets unleash the creative complexity that make the dynamic testing of a wide range of liberatory strategies more meaningfully possible. This very same complexity makes it harder for authoritarians to squash resistance or take root themselves. It is no coincidence that dictators target harbingers of complexity such as internet freedom advocates. Yet also, there are aspects of the anti-capitalist freed market ideology that make me nervous and give me significant pause. It is not impossible that we would, in the long-run, completely outgrow markets in the traditional limited sense as we perceive of them now and develop some sort of yet unimagined post scarcity utopia but, it seems clear that regardless, markets exist as unavoidable steps and laboratories along the way. For example, even the CNT-FAI,  Rojava, and the Zapatistas realized that currency solves practical problems, at least in the short-run.

There are a wide range of anarchist strategies that are, on the whole much better than what we have now, but not anything resembling anarchism in the depth of its striving. Things like federalism/municipalism and experiments in direct democracy are light-years better than the pile of shit we are currently dealing with, but to me they will never represent an end goal. If anything, they are limited instrumental strategies along the way. The networked horizon of anarchism is far more audacious.

Markets realize that beneath virtually all of the issues we face as a species are two dynamic points of tension: ethics and coordination problems. A younger me may have seen in a big spook like Capitalism, the heart of all the issues we face as a species. This is a grossly limited view. Capitalism, however broken, is a strategy for addressing issues of ethics and coordination not the source of all of the problems themselves.1 Get rid of capitalism and many of the issues it attempted to solve will still exist. In this view, problems of access, rights, and equity fall into questions of ethics while, how we herd the cat-like human race is one of coordination. Any decent economic theory is attempting to answer these two questions in one way or another.

The most basic level of coordination problems (which are generally seen as following n-iteration game theoretic dynamics) in economics is supply and demand as broken down into preference and production. In simpler terms, we need to connect what people want and what they want the most, with a wide range of variables related to production. This is an unavoidable, tangible set of mathematical issues that will be faced by any radical society. It is not capitalist propaganda even if capitalists have used it to justify their coercion.  Any honest anarcho-communist or anarcho-syndicalist with an eye towards tangible issues of economic scalability will admit that these problems are difficult and have proven difficult historically. Price signals are seen as a more efficient way of addressing these seemingly infinite complexities by leveraging local knowledge as opposed to central economic planning. Most authoritarian socialists and communists recommend central economic planning which relies on coordinating bodies having both access to and the sorting ability to slog through and make sense of an infinite data pool that is almost impossible to systematically gather. This dilemma is why most, if not all, authoritarian socialist societies run into massive goods distribution and inflation problems such as those that the 1975 Nobel Prize recipient in economics attempted to solve through their study of central economic planning in the USSR. 

The liberal economists saw the problem of coordination as being quite central and prescribed that we develop a system that does not expect people to make good choices, but rather tries to create the maximum net benefit from the bizarrely irrational and generally self-interested (that “self” does include your community or larger values) decisions that we as individuals are wont to make. Market economists wisely predicted that things like the currency nexus allow us to express preferences in a way that solve many of these coordination problems and that has the potential to steer the macro utility maximization of the ship. These are, of course, also ethical statements and initiatives in many respects as they imply certain values for the direction of the species and societies and views of human nature. However, many classical and modern liberals chose to sell out the ethics of power and coercion in order to achieve these ends and so made endless ratcheting exceptions that led to the perversion of markets that we see today. Capitalists (capitalism itself is used quite differently by many) and (economic) liberals tend to disagree dramatically on the role or merit of socialism in navigating ethical coordination. Freed markets are inherently anti-capitalist but nonetheless draw from the wisdom of liberal economic theory despite its betrayals and sabotages of its own dreams.

Socialists, in the broadest sense of the term, saw the inequality and coercion inherent in statist capitalism and began to try and think of ways to undermine and redistribute the ill-gotten power as part of an ethical imperative. Socialism, like Capitalism, is a bit too broad to easily define (do you mean like Kropotkin or Tucker or Marx or Bernie Sanders?) but it is nonetheless, at root, a statement of the right of people to basic livelihood. This is an ethical statement that implies the need for a different approach to coordination problems than those provided by the capitalists and classical liberals. Socialists tend to disagree on the role of markets seeing them either as practical tools in the process of ethical coordination of utility functions (ie. market socialists) or as evil seeds of memetic danger, destined to corrupt their mission through exchange value (ie. communists).

What modern capitalism calls markets, is of course nothing that any self-respecting liberal or socialist wouldn’t spit upon. All of the power of markets to unleash creativity and accord is devastated by structural power and coercive exploitation. They aren’t markets so much as playgrounds for the protected rich and graveyards for their pawns. These distorted incentive machines that capitalism calls markets are created through a wide range of monopoly and oligopoly protections such as subsidies, artificial economies of scale, intellectual property and patents, structural racism, (neo-)colonialism, and nationalist military-corporate alliances. All of which prove far less sustainable in freed markets.

When market-anarchists call for “freed markets” we are advocating for a dynamic process of experimentation in an attempt to ethically solve coordination problems. We want to maximize utility without minimizing agency. We are not talking about structural adjustments and multi-national corporate predators. However, talk to any two market-anarchists and you’ll encounter wildly different values and approaches. Although we do oscillate around many themes, this vibrant disagreement is part of our shared value for diversity and is a hint at what markets are capable of providing. However, this strategy for ethical coordination should not be seen as an ends in and of itself, but rather as a meta strategy for developing better questions and approaches to the problems we don’t even yet know how to describe, much less solve.

Unlike strict normative philosophies, market anarchism provides space for many systems to explore. Capitalism and communism require the active subjugation of liberatory experiments. In the practice of market-anarchism, anyone can try out their ideals as long as they meet basic criterion for ethical coordination. Those criterion don’t need to be coordinated or enforced by a state because they represent normative trends within the workings of radicalized markets. In practical terms, market anarchism allows for things like federations, (voluntary) anarcho-communism, direct democracy, various interlocking legal systems, competing currencies and the abolition of currencies, collectives and hardcore individualism, and a wide range of economic philosophies. The real test is whether they work or not! Beyond these limited goals though it suggests a scientific pursuit of working knowledge of roots and applied solutions to technological and ideological problems. Markets make it so that all of these paths have the capacity to coordinate expectations of one another in a way that doesn’t violate the rights of individuals or groups. This is what makes it a superior mode of both ethics and coordination as it innately leverages the strengths of theory and practice from a diverse marketplace.

Market anarchism points out that we should ideally be humble with respect to the limits of its own capability of knowledge. After all, knowledge problems are core to our advocacy of markets as a tool. But what this suggests is something more beautiful than I think is often explicitly mentioned. In advocating for left-market anarchism, we are advocating for a tool that helps us to develop a future more magnificent than we are capable of knowing. The knowledge problem of anarchism is the process of striving for utopia.

When I identify as a left-market anarchist, it’s a way of saying I want a system where many systems can play, as long as they’re doing so in an ethical way that can also contribute to the greater good even if just through what some would consider selfish goals. The tacking of left- onto market-anarchism is, for me, a commitment to ethics in distribution and commitment to and recognition of the role of so called, “thick libertarian” implications such as fighting racism, fascism, authoritarianism, and homophobic violence. It means harnessing the socialist tendencies of markets such as flatter firms and greater access to means of livelihood,  and more functional social support systems. Using the word ‘markets’ is a commitment to complexity and experimentation as well as the role of voluntary and spontaneous coordination as a stigmergic means of transforming society. ‘Anarchist’ is the only of the three terms that represents the endless return to the barricades in the search for a better world. ‘Anarchist’ symbolizes the utopistic ends while containing within in it the seeds of various means. In the end, I am an anarchist without adjectives, I just think that it is of dire importance that we learn from the mistakes of anarchists in the past and utilize whatever aid freed markets can contribute to our impossible dreams.

If communism or capitalism suggest a rigid and cold world where dynamism is throttled, freed markets suggest a playground for practical utopian dreams. Markets are hubs of innovation and if that innovation finds a way out of markets entirely, that is not contradictory to what markets do. If anything, it is their ultimate internal utility function. So you think that money is the root of all evil and have an idea for a way around it? Go for it! Freed markets won’t stop you as long as your tactics don’t involve the subjugation of minds or the exploitative use of resources. Or maybe you believe that markets are the end goal and that instead we have to forever asymptotically boost their effectiveness and self-correcting efficiencies. Go for it! Freed markets will support you all the way! The point is that we need all the good tools we can get to keep ratcheting towards an ethical coordination that maximizes liberty and empathy without the use of coercion, and markets are a damn good means to a forever distant but brilliantly inspired ends.


  1. This should not be seen as a stand-in for the brutal, complex, and robber baron origins of capitalism and its overtaking of feudalism as the dominant economic order of the era.
Social Movements and the Sacrifice of Epistemic Rationality

There are two common ways to engage with ideas. The first is to treat them as models for the world, ideally providing us with greater accuracy or understanding and thus agency in our choices. The second is to view ideas exclusively in terms of their effects upon people and their relationships with one another.

In practice we all do both.

It’s almost impossible to consider a statement without considering the impact it might have upon likely audiences and we can rarely segregate our desire for truth entirely from our other desires or aspirations. Nevertheless there are still clearly different degrees to which we can weigh the first mode of thinking versus the second.

It’s tempting to try and parse the difference between these approaches in terms like ‘prosocial’ versus ‘antisocial.’ Altruistic science versus malicious manipulation. Internal clarity versus public positioning. But the dynamics are usually more complicated. We may, for example, lie to ourselves, focusing on the psychological effect a certain narrative or frame would have for us. Even honest communication with the goal of providing others with more agency necessarily involves modeling them, considering what frames or presentations will be most likely to “manipulate” them into an accurate understanding.

Of course one can make a utilitarian case for certain modes of discourse — the construction or presentation of ideas and statements — that intentionally deviate from improving accuracy. Obviously no one would object to lying to the gestapo at your front door about the border-crossing refugees you’ve hidden inside. But most of our interactions are rarely so extreme.

Today we frequently read a news article or an editorial piece and think first and foremost about it as a development in a strategic arena. Who benefits and loses from a certain statement or claim, and in what ways. What friendships are brought closer or severed. What demographics align. What social forces gain momentum. Those raised on the internet know this intuitively. Every development in The Discourse is a military act, every argument is a soldier.

The political movements of this primordial moment in the information age — as diverse as “social justice” and the “alt-right” — operate almost entirely in such a frame. Truth always has a bias and nuance is betrayal, or at least any nuance that smells of The Enemy. We can afford to tell some facts, but never all of them. Framing and narrative are half of everything, and the other half is who your utterances place you in alliance with.

I’ve long argued that the better part of this vicious polarization is not the natural tendency of information technologies to create bubbles but the limited capacity or hamfisted means of our present technologies to give us agency in our social networks.

Closed conversations with limited audiences are plainly useful, even necessary. Specialized knowledge bases and discourses are critical to the development and advancement of ideas. Physicists need to be able to have conversations with other physicists without fear of derailment by cranks. Women sometimes need the company of other women to be able discuss common experiences without constantly having to explain or prove them to the disbelieving. This loose clustering is hardly pernicious unto itself. What has fueled runaway ideological and demographic nationalism in our era is our inability to associate and disassociate in ways that we can completely control. Our communication technologies provide little nuance in our selection of audience. The choices are basically very select private chats or broadcasting to everyone.

When literally any stranger can show up in your mentions or in the comments, people necessarily turn harsh as a means of policing online “spaces” by overwhelming cruelty or other social psychological pressures. There are then sneering appeals to “coolness” that are necessarily statements about your social alliances. Since our tools are still too blunt to fine-tune audience and association, we resort to tribal discourses and fractal nationalisms.

The chaos and tribalism of our era is not an indictment of globalism or universalism but an indictment of how our hereto existing hegemonies were built. The norms and beliefs of the pre-internet era were incredibly suboptimal; they had escaped any real evolutionary pressures, backed by institutions and histories of centralized violence. Now those universal assumptions and patterns, grown bloated and domesticated, are being eaten alive by their sudden contact with an archipelago of ideological and subcultural ecosystems.

Centralization and institutionalization has weakened the epistemic muscles of civil society. Developing efficient grassroots social organisms and instincts for parsing truth takes time, and while they slowly and fitfully evolve from the primordial market, even the stupidest of ideas can win for a while with a few shallow tricks. Every inanity from nazis to flat-earthers are gorging themselves in this environment.

We exist in a period of grave upheaval, when white nationalists have begun to stalk the streets confidently again, murdering on a whim.

Obviously we must mobilize, we must convey the graveness of this situation, and we must get serious about responding with strength of our own. This is a time for movement building. For stepping forward to boldly face the challenges and horrors arising.

But it is precisely in such situations when it becomes easier and easier to think entirely in terms of friends and enemies, to dismiss ideas as phantasmal distractions without pull or torsion. It is precisely when the social stakes are so high that we risk accidentally trapping ourselves in a world of nothing but social positioning.

Things matter, and we cannot pretend that they don’t for the sake of some illusion of detached rationality, but we should nevertheless always bend towards it. Accuracy in our picture of reality is incredibly important, without accuracy our agency slips away, and the first thing small deviations from rationality do is hide the scope of their consequences. True rationality is not emotional detachment, nor is it willful blindness to the complexities of discourse and political struggle in favor of some simplistic code.

But social positioning is the language and paradigm of power, it encourages us to think entirely in its terms. The psychosis of power is a creeping denial of anything else besides the game. Eventually the entire premise of accuracy is lost to the most distant recesses of our minds, everything becomes positioning, and those not swallowed up entirely by the game are rendered enemies. Sincerity becomes viewed as betrayal, a weakness in the ranks, an unwillingness to fully embrace the most vicious tools. Or at least the most effective in the immediate. In a war of social positioning the honest person is criminally untrustworthy. Truth is lost and only teams remain.

This is how power wins. Small little cycles of feedback, building up to a storm of obtuse tribalism, authoritarianism, and sociopathy.

Fascists Invade Orlando; Anti-Fascists Strike Back

June 10, 2017 marked the date of the national March Against Sharia, an event celebrating Islamophobic war propaganda while warning against the supposed looming threat of Sharia Law being implemented in America. The thing is, Obama isn’t president anymore so unless Donald Trump is also a secret Muslim then I’m confused who exactly is pushing for Sharia Law.

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19095437_470842686597729_1526525730701085208_o.jpgWhile some folks were slightly more nuanced and reasonable in their arguments for being there, many were there to wave Trump flags, confederate battle flags, kekistan flags, and even iron cross flags in direct reference to Nazi Germany. In Orlando, members of the Proud Boys marched alongside the III%ers, Identity Europa, and “libertarian” fascist Augustus Invictus who exploited very real issues such as homophobia, sexism, child marriage, and genital mutilation in order to recruit and spread a message of hatred, deportation, interpersonal violence, and warfare. In fact, most of these groups are not even based in Orlando but instead travel around in an attempt to actively recruit and spread their message.

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While the loose right wing coalition protested at the entrance of Valencia College, there was much in-fighting within their ranks. The few folks who were truly there only to denounce radical Islam butted heads with those who explicitly advocated outright racism. Many in their ranks flashed Nazi gang signs, wore iron crosses, rebel flags, and even swastikas, and were openly antagonizing anti-fascist protesters. Several times they attempted to rush us but we stood strong. One fascist shoved through the crowd and started an altercation with an anti-fascist counter-protester.

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After the fascist ripped the anti-fascist’s shirt, he was prompted kicked in the testicles and punched. His glasses were smashed and his rings, one of which was covered in Nazi symbols, were taken as trophies as the police tackled the fascist to the ground and arrested him for attacking the antifa activist. The fascists were so shocked by this unusual response by their friends in blue that many wrongly claimed the man arrested was a member of antifa despite the myriad of evidence to the contrary. And while, as an anarchist, I am against using police force against anyone, it was pleasing to see the pigs they so admire turn against them even for a brief moment.

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But just because the police arrested one of their more rowdy members does not mean they were kind to us by any means. While no one on our side got arrested, we were kettled and contained by the police who gave near free reign of the streets to the March Against Sharia. In fact, they even harassed me and several fellow disabled and able bodied folks for daring to sit down and rest on tax-funded land.

When they attempted to rush us again, I ran past the police line to confront them. As I did, a member of Identity Europa flashed Nazi hand gestures at me, telling me I was poisoning this country while repeatedly calling me a faggot, threatening me, and asking me what I was going to do about it. As I raised my sign, which was stapled to a giant plank of wood, he went running like a coward. I went to follow after him as the police pulled me away. Needless to say, he wasn’t brave enough to follow through with his words nor was he brave enough to defend himself from a faggot like me. I shook free from the police and re-joined my friends who were confronting members of the Proud Boys who had tried to harass and dox anti-fascist activists in Gainesville.

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In the end, we showed them that we would not let them continue to promote Islamophobic propaganda which only perpetuates hatred, bigotry, and the War on Terror without consequences. No longer can we sit idly by as people continue to be killed both abroad and here at home because of groups like these. We will confront fascists at every corner. We will defend ourselves and our communities when attacked. We will stop this before it’s too late.

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For more information on how to get involved with anti-fascist organizing check out the following groups:

Redneck Revolt/John Brown Gun Club

Libertarian Anti-Fascist Committee

Radical Movement

Huey P. Newton Gun Club

Black Women’s Defense League

Hayemaker Gym

Or search facebook to see if there’s an Antifa chapter near you, just beware of fake honeypot pages created by fascists attempting to doxx anti-fascists! (See @antifachecker for a list of actual orgs.)

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Photographs generously provided by Derek Leavitt and CB

Wanted: Journalists, Researchers, Investigators!

Hey! Are you an anarchist? Are you a researcher, journalist, autodidact or amateur gumshoe? Do you have a pet project, topic of research or big, explosive story sitting under your pillow, waiting to be published? Email Investigations Coordinator Trevor Hultner at trevor@c4ss.org for information about an upcoming C4SS project.

A Legislated Minimum Wage Inhibits Low-Income Entrepreneurship

There are many different arguments against the Minimum Wage. One less prominent criticism of the idea is the fact that it restricts entrepreneurshipespecially from those with low incomes. It is worth conceptually exploring how this happens.

To begin with, when a Minimum Wage is instituted, there are layoffs. The wages of remaining employees are left clustered around the Minimum Wage. Although these employees may be able to nominally increase their savings, they immediately become more constrained in terms of their entrepreneurial capacity with those same savings.

Whereas those same employees with those same savings could have afforded to employ people at below the legislated, enforced Minimum Wage (and therefore engage in entrepreneurship more quickly), this becomes more difficult because of the Minimum Wage.

Imagine if someone on a $10/hour Minimum Wage wants to start their own business and they would like to employ two workers for that purpose. This means that they would need to save enough to pay $20/hour for a sustained period of time. Let’s suppose that this person works eight hours per day, five days per week, and 50 weeks per year. This means that their annual income is $20,000 based on their being paid $10/hour.

Suppose that they also seek to save 10% of their income per year with the intention of starting a business one day. Given that they seek to employ two workers at $10/hour each, this means that they would have to consistently accrue savings for 20 years before they can afford to employ those two workers for a year in pursuit of their entrepreneurial ambitions. This does not even presume that the legislated, enforced Minimum Wage increases over time (which it does) and it does not even allow for the savings required to sustain their own standard of living.

Now, imagine if there was no legislated, enforced Minimum Wage and that same individual who was earning $10/hour still merely sought to accrue savings (at an annual rate of 10%) to employ two workers for a year. This time, however, the would-be low-income entrepreneur is allowed to employ the workers at $5/hour. It is clear to see that they need only save for half the time (10 years) before embarking on their entrepreneurial ambitions. Of course, this is a very simple example, but one can readily see how the logic translates into economic reality.

When applying this insight on a macroeconomic level, the effect of a Minimum Wage in terms of inhibiting low-income entrepreneurship is all the more frightening and startling. Therefore, is it any wonder that Quartz published an article entitled ‘Entrepreneurs don’t have a special gene for risk – they come from families with money’? Minimum Wage laws, therefore, help perpetuate the paradigm of entrepreneurship being predominantly ‘a rich man’s game’.

Portland Must Be Done with The Oregonian

Last Friday, The Oregonian published a staff editorial that responded to the police brutality unleashed on May Day protesters by labeling all anarchists as “punk fascists.” This editorial — published by the conservative newspaper that used to be a daily powerhouse in the Northwest — has been roundly denounced in many circles for its political ignorance, opportunism, and misrepresentation of the facts. While some participants in the black bloc chucked Pepsi cans at alt-right provocateurs and the cops, the Portland police — infamous for rehiring officers exposed as neonazis — were the clear aggressors, as is the inherent nature of police.

They responded to the minor actions of a few by brutally attacking the entirety of the march: including families and the disabled. In the resulting chaos as police beat, gassed, and chucked grenades at protesters, some members of the black bloc responded by smashing bank and corporate windows, and a fire was set in an intersection as an impediment to slow the attacking police down. The Oregonian‘s attempts to portray all anarchists as responsible, and furthermore as “fascists,” is beyond atrocious. One cannot help but juxtapose this narrative with the police’s friendly approach to (and the media’s craven positive coverage of) white nationalists who marched through a poor immigrant neighborhood in outer East Portland two days prior.

The Oregonian, in its baiting rhetorical manner, demanded to hear from anarchists. The following is but one of many letters to the editor submitted by anarchists from Portland and around the world. Of course, it is highly doubtful The Oregonian will print a single one:

How fitting that The Oregonian would use a holiday internationally recognized in commemoration of eight anarchists unjustly prosecuted and convicted in 1886 to launch its own half baked crusade. May Day has always been primarily an Anarchist holiday, in remembrance of our role as organizers in the Labor movement that normalized the 8-hour day, and anarchists have always marched on May Day in a variety of organizations and capacities.

The Oregonian, on the other hand, has long served as a running dog for the Police and the Business Alliance, aggressively twisting public narratives to benefit and shield them. This week, it has truly lived up to this tradition in its laughable attempts to paint anarchist participants in the march as uniform, the police not as violent instigators of collective repression but as just responders, and the participants in the black bloc who shielded women and children from police attacks as out to “menace and control” the population.

But of course the job of yellow journalists has long been to push such Orwellian hogwash. In the 1800s you were able to redefine in the public’s mind a word like “an-archy” that literally means “without domination” into somehow meaning “a war of all versus all”. Now open white nationalists armed to the teeth march down 82nd sieg heiling and shoving black residents and you report it as a “free speech march”, happily drumming up a single preposterous anonymous threatening email that sounds like no actual leftist on the planet. Freedom is war. Racist thugs are civil libertarians. Self-defense is unilateral aggression.

Establishment rags like The Oregonian have pushed such lies, happily repeating anything the cops claim as fact, since long before I was born here in Little Beirut. But now people are waking up. “The Tale of Two Marches” last weekend has been truly illustrative. Open neonazis are normalized and embraced as merely “Trump voters”, while actual defenders of liberty must remain masked at marches lest they be exposed and gunned down in the streets of Portland like anti-racist activist Luke Querner was in 2011.

It’s no surprise The Oregonian cares more about a few broken windows and a small fire started than resisting actual attempts to menace and control. Nor is it any surprise they attempt to paint those who engage in misdirected attempts at resistance while being shot and beaten by the cops as “fascists” to dilute the term and provide cover for a real authoritarian police state and real white nationalists. But enough is enough. Portland must be done with The Oregonian.

William Gillis,
Coordinating Director of The Center for a Stateless Society

Free Markets & Capitalism?
Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist