27 February 2015

The grand plan of the #MONT Order?


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The global dissident affinity club calling itself the Mont Order sees antistatism and transhumanism as two elements of the same grand plan to overcome conflict, scarcity and suffering.

This exchange between Mont advisers comes from the Mont Order February Conference, a defining act in the history of the new modern and tech-savvy variant of the Order's mysterious tradition:
DIRK BRUERE: And if enough people say it, often enough on TV, you know, climate change, disaster, resource depletion, disaster, disaster, disaster – it’s just totally demoralizing, you know. It not only gives people a bad feeling, it makes people feel helpless. And if you can make people feel helpless, they don’t work towards anything better, because they’re assuming – 
HARRY J. BENTHAM: Yes, it’s like – 
DIRK BRUERE: Like being handed a death sentence. You know, you don’t make plans beyond your death. 
HARRY J. BENTHAM: Yes. It’s like with the Scottish Referendum, I think was an example of that kind of fear-mongering. Because it was like – in the end, fear won over hope because the Independence Movement was about hope of building an alternative, whereas the No Camp was just about, “no, you don’t want to do that, because these bad things might happen.” 
DIRK BRUERE: Yes, “oh right, you Scottish people, vote to stay England’s bitch because you might lose your pensions.” 
HARRY J. BENTHAM: Yes, and it is like – people for some reason, when they’ve come into contact with challenges, just tend to overwhelmingly think that they don’t want that challenge. Rather than that they want to overcome it. So, like, for me, the idea that probably the nation-states will become less legitimate and weaker in the future, I view that as a challenge – so I look at it positively and I think that, how can we – how can we get through this and build alternatives in the future? Whereas other people would just say, “no, if you – that’s unacceptable – if that happened, the Islamists would just take over – or if that happened, then the anarchists would take over,” or something like that. You know, like, all these negative images of what might happen. 
DIRK BRUERE: Yes, people are always willing to point out the faults in your plan but they don’t put forward a plan themselves. 
HARRY J. BENTHAM: Yes, yes. 
DIRK BRUERE: You know, it’s like these fifteen thousand transhumanists on Singularity Network. And what they – only a fraction of one percent of them actually do anything. 
HARRY J. BENTHAM: Yes. But if it is really happening, if the nation-state really is in crisis and humans are going to become something more than human – if these are facts, that these things are going to happen – whether or not we endorse them, which is probably the case, then it doesn’t really matter that there are a bunch of people saying “oh, what about this or that, it might be dangerous”. 
DIRK BRUERE: They’ll get steamrollered. 
HARRY: It doesn’t really matter that they think that. Because in the end, the time will come when they have to support these things because there’s no alternative. 
DIRK BRUERE: But, it doesn’t matter whether they support them or oppose them, as long they’re ticking boxes on Facebook, because they’re irrelevant. 
HARRY J. BENTHAM: Yes, yes. 
DIRK BRUERE: You know, the future – it’s like one of the slogans of the Transhumanist Party, you know, “the future doesn’t happen, the future is made by people. You’re not one of those people – yet.” 
DIRK BRUERE: I mean, how many people make the future? It’s very few.
Is something else possible, unburdened by human "nature" and the hostile old models of "national security" that form the basis of the conflicts driving our species to extinction?

If so, it is an answer sure to be held by the Order and its confident participants as they continue their great works to lobby and influence the future of civilization. Inheritance, Equilibrium, Order.

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#GamerGate: The End of Libertarians?


Get Kevin Carson's anti-statist technology treatise here

One of the grievances of the so-called GamerGate movement last August was an article by Dan Golding titled “The End of Gamers” (August 28, 2014). The title referred, not to the literal extinction of gamers as individuals, but of the “gamer” cultural identity as it had previously existed. Golding argued that the previously dominant gamer demographic of white, middle-class males in their teens and twenties, who played games designed for the desktop, was a dying breed. They would cease to define the gamer demographic, and the industry would evolve to reflect the needs of a larger, more diverse market including women, people of color and players using consoles or mobile devices — in other words, the demographics dismissed as “fake geeks” by “real” white male hardcore gamers. The latter demographic, whether sincerely or disingenuously, denounced the article as a literal threat by the dreaded “Social Justice Warriors” to physically eliminate them.

I write, in similar vein, to predict the end of libertarians.

Libertarianism is frequently perceived by the general public, not entirely without justice, as a movement of mostly white male 20- or 30-somethings, disproportionately from the tech industry or other white collar jobs, who see themselves as victims and everyone unlike themselves — women, LGBT people, people of color — as naturally collectivist barbarians.

David Weigel, in his coverage of the recent International Students for Liberty Conference (ISFLC) (“Bow Ties and Slam Poetry: This is Libertarianism in 2015,” Bloomberg Politics, Feb. 17), provides a cringe-inducing example of this. He quotes Rebecca, an Appalachian State University student:
Last night we’re at a party and there’s a guy in a $3,000 suit talking about how oppression is him being taxed on his condo. Well, I have a scar on my head from where a couple of rednecks hit me with a bottle, yelling “queer” at me as they sped by on a truck. I started to argue, and he started telling me go get a job. I had enough of that, and I just got up and left. He said after me: “I hope we get a Republican president so he gets rid of all these social welfare programs.”
No doubt he hopes for a Republican president who can provide more corporate welfare programs for white guys in $3,000 suits instead.

That aside, I find the guy especially annoying based on my own recent experiences. Twice in the same day I had to block clueless white libertarian dudebros on Twitter for replying to my retweets of black people discussing actual chattel slavery, hijacking the conversation uninvited to make comparisons to taxation. Seriously. I mean the people I retweeted were talking about actual forced labor in the fields, with corporal punishment, rape, and families broken up on the auction block, and libertarians felt compelled to jump in with comments like “Hey, I feel ya every April 15, bro!” Two unrelated people, in the same day. And I blocked them because, even after I asked them to stop several times and told them how tone-deaf and counter-productive it was, they insisted on continuing to ‘splain why it was OK.

And please note, I write this as someone who considers taxation a form of surplus labor extraction. It’s one of a wide spectrum of techniques for surplus labor extraction by the privileged classes that control the state, alongside feudal dues, monopoly returns like land rent, profit and usury, oligopoly markups on goods sold by industrial cartels, price gouging by state-licensed professionals — and, yes, actual chattel slavery. Chattel slavery is by far the most severe and exploitative means, among many, of extracting surplus labor by force. Some people find it rhetorically useful to compare all the different forms to slavery by way of analogy; and in some cases it may actually be a useful analogy. But when you’re talking to a person whose ancestors experienced actual, non-metaphoric slavery, it’s not useful; it’s incredibly insensitive and offensive. While we’re at it, comparisons to the Holocaust or to rape are also something you’d better think twice about if you’re getting the bright idea of making them. And if you insist on continuing to dig, and arguing with the descendants of actual slaves about why the slavery comparison is perfectly legitimate, you really just need to SHUT UP.

But my immediate reason for writing this article is another event at ISFLC, and the response to it. Three SFL members, including Mackenzie Holst, Aaron Baca and C4SS comrade Cory Massimino, composed an open letter to Ron Paul taking him to task for his ties to the paleoconservative and paleolibertarian movements, and his tolerance for their racism, sexism and homophobia. Holst read the letter aloud during Paul’s Q&A period. Here are some especially noteworthy passages:
We believe many of the people you have aligned yourself with and continue to align yourself with are libertarians only in name and their true ideology is one more akin to a bigoted and authoritarian paleo-conservatism…. 
“Millennial” or “Second-wave” libertarianism is not going away and there seems to be irreconcilable differences between these new libertarians and the old guard, which includes figures such as Lew Rockwell, Hans Herman-Hoppe, Walter Block, Gary North, and yourself. In this letter, we would like to highlight the downright absurdity promoted by this obsolete style of thinking, as delineated in the racist, homophobic, and sexist undertones present in these thinkers’ writings…. 
At the Mises Circle, Lew Rockwell, founder and chairman of the Mises Institute, compared the life of people under modern nation states to literal chattel slavery. We admit the state is a gang of thieves writ large. But this analogy is downright offensive to people have suffered actual chattel slavery as well as people who have relatively great living standards under modern states. Libertarians can expose the evils of statism without resorting to bad metaphors with blatantly obvious racist undertones. 
Hans Herman-Hoppe, distinguished fellow of the Mises Institute, wrote just last year that, “it is societies dominated by white heterosexual males, and in particular by the most successful among them, which have produced and accumulated the greatest amount of capital goods and achieved the highest average living standards.” Hoppe has also advocated violence against homosexuals and other people who live lifestyles he doesn’t approve of, “There can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. They — the advocates of alternative, non-family-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism — will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order.”… 
Walter Block, senior fellow at the Mises Institute, has argued, “Feminists and gays aren’t libertarians.” Also on the topic of homosexuals, Block has written, “If a seventeen year old is an adult, and voluntarily wants to have sex with an adult homosexual man, I may not like it. I may be revolted by it.” If that wasn’t clear enough, Block has made his bigoted views explicit, “I am a cultural conservative. This means that I abhor homosexuality, bestiality, and sadomasochism, as well as pimping, prostituting, drugging, and other such degenerate behavior.” In addition, he has put forth the idea that “lower black IQs” could explain productivity differences between blacks and whites. Again, the arguments speak for themselves.
Gary North, an associated scholar at the Mises Institute, is an outspoken Christian Reconstructionist and supporter of biblical theocracy. North advocates capital punishment by means of stoning for women who lie about their virginity, blasphemers, nonbelievers, children who curse their parents, male homosexuals, and other people who commit acts deemed capital offense in the Old Testament. These views are certainly not representative of the libertarianism we’ve come to know and love.
Stop and think about this for a minute: These are people who actually call themselves libertarians — advocates of human liberty — and who presumably want to spread these ideas in society at large and attract new adherents to them. Hoppe’s prerequisite for a “libertarian society,” if you want to call it that, is for the minority of rich property-owning paterfamiliases who have appropriated all the land in a society to round up all the people with beliefs or lifestyles they disagree with, and forcibly evict them. North would add stoning to the list of sanctions. “We can only have a totally free society after I’ve expelled all the people who do things I disapprove of!”

They don’t favor liberty because it promotes the widest possible flourishing and self-actualization of human beings. They favor it because it gives local patriarchs and lords of manors a free hand to dominate those under their thumbs, without a nasty state stepping in to interfere. For them, “libertarianism” — a term they pollute every time they utter it with their tongues — is simply a way of constructing the world of Margaret Atwood’s TheHandmaid’s Tale by contractual means. And Block, who shares beliefs with Men’s Rights Advocate creepos and “Race Realists,” is apparently ready to pack up his bags and leave libertarianism for the neo-reactionary movement at a moment’s notice.

And this leaves out other prominent “libertarians” outside Paul’s personal circle, like Stefan Molyneux — a one-man travelling side-show of awfulness.

Beyond the immediate booing in the audience, the reading of the letter sparked a backlash in the larger libertarian movement.

And the backlash extended beyond denunciations by major figures in the libertarian movement. Cory Massimino experienced considerable harassment online, but Holst took a disproportionate amount of harassment, to the point of shutting her Twitter account down. As is usual when a woman falls afoul of wannabe Dale Gribbles, they immediately took to trolling her on social media. Maybe they were GamerGaters who wandered into the wrong convention by mistake and thought she was Anita Sarkeesian.

I’m not just drawing the GamerGate parallel for rhetorical purposes. I really see a lot of parallels, in terms of demographics and attitude towards the outside world, between GamerGaters and the people most outraged by the letter to Ron Paul (especially those trolling Holst in packs). GamerGaters like to think of themselves as victims, and the gaming subculture as their final retreat from a hostile world of Alpha males and “hypergamous” (that is only marrying socially and financially superior men) women. Feminism is just the final insult in a rigged game to make sure Beta males like them never win. So when feminist cultural critics like Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian point to sexist or misogynistic tropes in video games, or note that the market includes people besides white male desktop players, a large segment of gamers see it as the contamination of their all-boys treehouse by girl cooties. “Muh vidya games! SJWs done roont muh precious vidya games!”

A certain kind of libertarian, disproportionately represented in the mainstream of the movement, takes a similar view of women, queers and people of color who invade their stronghold and try to put social justice concerns on the table. These people are used to seeing libertarianism as the final refuge for rational white middle-class males like themselves, where they can hide in the catacombs and read “Isaiah’s Job” to each other while the outside world goes mad under the onslaught of statist racial minorities and welfare moms demanding handouts from the government. And here a girl has the nerve to show up in the clubhouse and suggest that issues like racism, sexism and homophobia (or anything else besides Bitcoin, vaping, Uber and the capital gains tax) should be taken seriously by libertarians.

In both cases, the reaction is one of outrage — taking the form of trolling, abuse, insults and threats — at the affront to their sense of entitlement.

A libertarian movement with this demographic as its core base is doomed to extinction. The reason is that these people, for the most part, aren’t interested in winning hearts and minds among the general public. They’re not interested in recognizing the concerns of poor and working people, women, LGBT people or people of color as legitimate, and showing ways that an ideology of human freedom can address those concerns in a meaningful way. They’re interested in being superior, in being the last tiny remnant of rational people who’ve not bowed their knees to the collectivist Baal.

They’re interested in convincing themselves that, contrary to common sense perceptions, white guys in $3,000 suits, investment bankers and venture capitalists are the state’s true victims, and the enormously powerful constituency of black welfare mothers are its main beneficiaries.

Frankly, I’m sick of libertarian outreach being sabotaged by the need to apologize for people like this. I’m sick of trying to challenge the perception of libertarianism as the movement of entitled 20-something middle-class white males who think “big business is the last oppressed minority,” and the world is going to hell in a hand-basket because of women and racial minorities — and then going to Mises.org, Lew Rockwell, Cato and Reason and seeing a bottomless cesspool of people saying that very thing.

The version of libertarianism preached by these people is dying, because it’s the ideology of a dying (and rightfully so) demographic. Whether we let them take the entire movement down with them, or whether we make ourselves relevant to a larger world of people outside a tiny privileged group, is up to us. I close with a quote from Leigh Alexander (“‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over,” Gamasutra, August 28, 2014):
These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers — they are not my audience. They don’t have to be yours. There is no ‘side’ to be on, there is no ‘debate’ to be had. 
There is what’s past and there is what’s now. There is the role you choose to play in what’s ahead.

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#Keystone Pipeline is Land #Theft

James C. Wilson

The US Congress approved construction of the Keystone XL pipeline’s fourth phase on February 11, with the bill scheduled to land on president Barack Obama’s desk for a likely veto sometime after the “President’s Day” recess. Near-unanimous support for Keystone from self-proclaimed “conservatives” and “libertarians” is disappointing but unsurprising. This government land grab is just the latest example of alleged “small government” advocates abusing their power at the expense of ordinary Americans. Despite their ceaseless rhetoric about free markets and limited government on the campaign trail, most Republican legislators — and the GOP’s 2016 presidential front-runners — openly embrace such robbery once in office.

Completing Keystone requires the state to forcibly take large tracts of land from American farmers and homeowners through a process known as eminent domain.TransCanada Corporation — the company behind Keystone — has sent Texans andNebraskans threatening letters demanding they enter “negotiations” (read: Sell, at prices acceptable to TransCanada) or face legal condemnation and loss of their land. The company, with government assistance, has already stolen more than 100 tracts of land from Texans. Homeowners along the line connecting Oklahoma to Alberta are next. TransCanada also plans to use eminent domain against Oklahoma’s Sac and Fox Indian Nation, undermining tribal sovereignty and adding a new chapter to the US government’s long history of land theft from Native Americans.

In a free society, people and companies seeking to build on others’ lands must reach voluntary agreement with rightful owners. This stands in complete contrast to the approach of Transcanada and its GOP allies. Such theft gives unfair competitive advantages to its beneficiaries, greatly distorting the economy. It is no coincidence that the firms benefiting from eminent domain lobby heavily for its use. In a real free market they’d have to negotiate and compete without government favors of this kind.

The Keystone land grab illustrates how supposedly conservative and libertarian politicians violate the freedoms and property rights of others. They have become part of a corrupt, coercive system that freely uses force against ordinary people when doing so suits its purposes. Ultimately, the state corrupts even the most principled advocates of liberty who join its ranks. Replacing the current system with a society based on voluntary interaction should be our ultimate goal. Until this happens, Americans need to recognize that allowing government to give stolen land to business interests is incompatible with freedom and must be opposed.
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24 February 2015

#Multiculturalism is 'old as culture itself'


As Islamophobic paranoia and demagoguery gain appeal among audiences in Europe and the US, we ought to remember that our own cherished "West" is little but an illusion.

That's the message being advanced by top US academic sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein, at his syndicated column. And in a world with growing violence on an increasingly irrational basis, it is apparent that more people need to listen:
Both its advocates and those who denounce it seem to be under the illusion that multiculturalism is something very new. But it isn’t new at all. Multiculturalism is as old as human cultures have existed. And it has always been the subject of passionate debate.
Considering the cultural side of Immanuel Wallerstein's analysis of the world-system is important at such a tense moment in the crisis of our world-system. Think, for example, of the knee-jerk cultural reactions to Islam that seem to drive numbers of Europeans and Americans increasingly towards imagining a political resurgence of Christianity in their countries, with many believing that Christianity is intrinsically superior to Islam due to its comparative lack of terrorists.

But the main reason for a lack of terrorism by Western Christians isn't because Christianity is peaceful. It's because Christianity is kept powerless under our constitutions. The separation of church and state keeps Christianity from hurting people in the way that Islam is alleged to hurt people. With this in mind, advocacy of political Christianity as an answer to political Islam would be a recipe for hypocrisy and medieval sectarian warfare, and not a solution against militant groups like Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

Beyond defeating religious illusions that instigate violence lies defeating the state itself, which relies upon nationalist illusions to instigate violence. These crises understandably make many people confused and violent, but there is a future. Alternatives are being conceived, and these alternatives that will make us better than the state and better than human are where the most elite architects of the future are turning.

In many respects, dwindling resources and the inevitable trends of migration and modern communication are pressuring groups into competition with each other, and they are grasping at any petty difference to reject the other and instigate warfare against them. It is a trap that will accelerate the death of our species:
Humans have always been on the move for many reasons. One is ecological exhaustion of the area from which they are moving. Another is the attraction of a higher standard of living elsewhere. A third is that for some reason they are being chased out of the area from which they are moving. The reality is that, if we trace descent far enough into the past, no one is where their ancestors once were. We are all migrants. We are none of us indigenous except by suppressing historical reality. 
To be sure, this issue has caused more acute strife in recent decades for two simple reasons. Technological advances in transport and communications make it far easier to migrate further and faster than in earlier times. And the polarization of the world-system is much greater, making it considerably more tempting for persons in poorer countries to move to richer countries. 
In addition, the fact that we are living amid the structural crisis of the modern world-system has meant that the rate of real unemployment has mounted very sharply. Hence the search for scapegoats has led to focusing on the migrants who are supposedly the cause of the high unemployment rates in the wealthier countries.
Here are the cultural questions that shake the foundations of our dwindling society:
Can we in effect support the inevitable and desirable form of multiculturalism that is the basis of a fruitful peaceful interchange of cultural values? Or will we succumb to xenophobic ethnic cleansings across the world?
Just as Wallerstein is urging, people must rise above the primitive impulses that create the conditions for ethnic cleansing. We must look beyond the protectionist boundaries of both the state form and the human form, to envisage a future that is not despair and extinction.

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Selective Hearing in the War on #Terror


Territories that the so-called Islamic State group intends to conquer.

Watching Fox News’s recent coverage of the Islamic State’s Twitter-hack left me shaking my head in disbelief, as usual. The latest act alleged to have been carried out by IS is the group’s takeover of several Twitter accounts belonging to the wives of US military servicemen. Among the threatening tweets issued by IS through the hacked accounts were comments like: “You think you’re safe but you’re not,” “IS is already here,” and “We’re watching you” (issued specifically to Michelle Obama).

The IS tweet receiving the least attention from American media outlets appears to be the most substantive: “While your president and your husband are killing our brothers in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan we’re coming for you.” In fact, it is the only tweet in this series including content beyond ambiguous threats. Despicable as it is to those of us who abhor violence, the comment is revealing and deserves the close attention of American policymakers. Yet, it got no such attention from the American government or media. They preferred to speculate on whether IS really might be around the corner.

The tweet is crucial in that it reveals one of the Islamic State’s main motivations — their desire to drive American military forces from their positions in nearly every Arab country. It’s the latest in a long line of such declarations from various Islamic factions offering the same rationale.

Michael Scheuer, Former chief of the CIA’s bin Laden Unit, said about bin Laden: “[he] is remarkably eager for Americans to know why he doesn’t like us, what he intends to do about it and then following up and doing something about it in terms of military actions.” Bin Laden laid out his motivations directly to the American public in a letter. He cited, among other reasons for fighting, the US government’s continuing support of Israel’s ethnic cleansing in Palestine, the US government’s wars in Muslim lands like Somalia and Iraq, and the US government’s repression of Muslims via Middle East puppet regimes. Notice a recurring theme here? Bin Laden’s grievances were with the US government.

Yes, bin Laden does attribute some responsibility to American taxpayers for making “their” government’s actions possible. This should not come as a shocking revelation. In any government war, the enemy’s source of funding is a primary target. For this very reason, the US government has made it a crime to provide financial support to those it deems terrorists. So it should come as no surprise that al Qaeda or IS would play by the same rules of war, declaring the US government’s piggy bank fair game. Disturbing, yes. Surprising, no.

There is no denying that the American way of life also motivates the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and their brethren. In bin Laden’s letter, he also cites western culture’s repugnance to his perverted brand of Islam as a motivating factor. Unfortunately, in an effort to avoid blame, the US government and its mouthpiece media present only this factor. It is absolutely taboo to mention the murder and mayhem committed by US forces in Muslim lands as a contributing factor. As Scheuer said, trying to do so is like “yelling into a closet. The American people, God bless ‘em, are just so badly educated and unaware of how duplicitous their leaders are …” Time to listen and learn.
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#Evolution of the #Urban Corridor


In the November of 1859, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published, thus changing the way natural scientists viewed the world forever. In this text, Darwin describes the idea of descent with modification and brilliantly illustrates the concept of natural selection: The gradual process by which heritable traits express themselves, if at all, in a population based on reproductive success and environmental pressures. Amid the scientific jargon, there exists grand prose that capture the incredible workings of nature. One such passage comes at the end of Origin:

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us……There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
What Darwin captures with his rhetoric is the incredible way everything works together to form the living Earth. Behind the simplest of actors lies an infinite and beautiful complexity — billions of years of life, ancient worlds and time our civilizations will never know. Darwin is correct, there is grandeur in this view of life.

It is interesting to consider the interactions of life out in the wild. Microbes liberating breathable oxygen, annelids and nematodes churning the soil, fungus bonding to the roots of plants and feeding them nutrients, trees providing canopy habitat for numerous fauna and so on. There is mutualism everywhere in the wild. When we think of evolution the old motto “survival of the fittest” comes to mind. This is a bit unfortunate. Darwin did talk of competition in his book, but, as the above passage signals, he also provides lengthy descriptions of mutualism and symbiosis. He regards many of the relationships among species, such as the moth and orchid, as cooperative, complex and wonderful. It is considerations such as these that also caught the deserved attention of another famed evolutionary biologist: Peter Kropotkin.

Kropotkin was an interesting human with a rather lengthy curriculum vitae. In addition to his biology credentials, the man was also a Russian prince. Growing up he was fascinated with the French revolution and studied anarchist theory. Above all, he was a lover of nature. Considering the lengthy bio, it is pleasant to think of this man reveling in natures beauty while reading about the splendor of liberty. One can almost picture the bearded fellow, studying Darwin’s book and anarchist literature in the great out-of-doors. After all, there is no better place than the natural world to discover liberty and one’s own wildness.

Kropotkin’s anarchism grew with his fondness of the wild. The prince saw mutualistic relationships everywhere in nature. While conducting field research in Siberia he wrote:
I failed to find, although I was eagerly looking for it, that bitter struggle for the means of existence, among animals belonging to the same species, which was considered by most Darwinists (though not always by Darwin himself) as the dominant characteristic of the struggle for life, and the main factor of evolution… 
In all these scenes of animal life which passed before my eyes I saw Mutual Aid and Mutual Support carried on to an extent which made me suspect in it a feature of the greatest importance for the maintenance of life, the preservation of each species and its further evolution.
At the time, Kropotkin’s ideas were rather radical. The narrative of the day described evolution as the product of strict competition among species. Kropotkin did not waver from his views, however, and argued mutualism was just as prominent, if not more so, than competition. He was, of course, correct. Today there are hundreds of papers published annually that describe the cooperative relationships among all kinds of living organisms — all three domains and all kingdoms are represented. Kropotkin found hope in the natural world. He wanted to contribute to the understanding of mutual aid to shed light on human cooperation. This was his labor to save humanity from systems of power and domination — to render such institutions useless.

Like a countless number of people, I too find beauty everywhere in nature. I am an advocate of wilderness preservation for what open spaces can teach us. I do not mean the information found in stratigraphy, though rocks do tell the greatest tale ever told — they have crafted their story for some 4.6 billion years, after all. I instead refer to nature for nature’s sake. When we take time to contemplate the natural order, we see the simple turn to the complex in a great bottom up diversification of life.

There is a humbling and awe-inspiring liberty in the wild — freedom from the industrialized, mechanized, technicalized order of human civilization. Wilderness is an open system. The interlocking, ancient mechanisms of biology, ecology, geology, chemistry and physics operate in unison. There is no administration in the wild. Wilderness is a place to discover truth, a place of challenge and a space for tranquility. Wilderness is a means of escape, it allows us to re-imagine the human condition. I speak of the danger, the splendor, the solitude, the adventure, the comradeship and the truly liberating experiences awaiting us in the great out there. Wilderness allows us to discover our individual wildness.

I do not mean to paint a picture of myself as a rugged, wilderness individualist. Nothing is further from the truth. I am an urbanite, as are most of us these days — for better or worse. I truly enjoy our cities and the benefits they award us in a post industrial, technologically advanced society. I especially enjoy baking soda tooth paste, beer can chicken, beer, the internet, libraries, college campuses, the farmers market, food trucks, taverns (the best of human institutions), Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, a good protest, the theatre and other such conveniences. My family and I live in Knoxville, Tennessee and are just a mile from the urban center — a quick stroll on the bridge across the Tennessee River and we are in the square. I enjoy walking downtown as the activity awards the perfect excuse, no matter the time of day, to stroll inside a watering hole, order a pint or a shot of Tennessee whisky (Hell, why not both?) and relax the day away.

The troubling thing about cities, however, is they are enclosed. There is limited neutral space in the city proper, though the city center should be rich in common place. Most venues are spaces of capital exclusions and barriers to entry exist everywhere — “Do you have any money, sir?” Even the geography of the city is affected by enclosure, creating spaces of privilege and spaces of disparity, blocked apart by neighborhoods, zoning laws and manipulated by the gentry. If only we would organize a strong movement for the commons. Should all members of the community not have, as first proposed by sociologist Henri Lefebvre, a “right to the city” — a space shared in common, free of capital restrictions? Urban sociologist David Harvey elaborates:
The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.
In order to claim this right to the city our cultures will need to evolve. How do we imagine this evolution — how do we proceed and function as an adaptive unit? How do we craft mutualistic relationships among individuals and neighborhoods? How do we advance pro-social behavior? Yet another evolutionary biologist, Dr. David Sloan Wilson, has pondered these questions for a few years. The focus of his work includes genetics and, sometimes controversially, cultural evolution. He is fascinated by the idea of an altruistic city and suggests we pay attention to Nobel Prize laureate Elinor Ostrom. For Wilson, Ostrom’s ideas of commons governance offer a way to get there. In an interview, for NPR’s On Being, Wilson explains:
Her contribution was to show how groups of people attempting to manage their common resources, such as farmers or fishermen or forestry people managing forests, how they’re capable of managing their affairs pretty well, but only if certain conditions are met. Those conditions are very conciliant with what we know from an evolutionary perspective about pro-sociality and cooperation.
Human beings are social animals. As such, we are fond of organizing in groups. According to Wilson, the social environments we produce directly affect our biological fitness (fitness is the product of interactions between different groups and of individuals within a group). This idea, that groups are fundamentally important to the human condition, paves the way for the emergence of a fairly controversial subject in evolutionary biology – group selection. If evolution works on individuals, organisms and groups, argues Wilson, then groups and symbiotic communities can become higher evolved organisms in their own right.

This is particularly important for human beings because the cultural transmission of traits can quickly escalate behaviors throughout an entire group. Evolutionary biologists who study cultural evolution acknowledge just how important cultural selection is to human evolution. Cultural selection can potentially produce very large implications for our societies — socially, economically and biologically.

An example of such progress is found in the Dudley Street neighborhood of Boston. Economic woes in the 1980’s left much of the neighborhood vacant. The city government of Boston sought the classic neo-liberal fix to the urban corridor: Gentrification. The neighborhood was to be converted to a space for hotels and offices that would serve downtown Boston. Community members organized the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, however, and developed a land trust to take democratic control of the land and guide re-development. This stopped such gentrification in its tracks, as explained by Yes! magazine:
A community land trust (CLT) is a nonprofit organization governed by community members that stewards land for long-term public benefit. CLTs protect land from the pressures of the real estate market, as the land is never resold. It remains part of the commons… 
Through its governance structure, the land trust balances the varying interests of homeowners and the broader community in the land.
What’s developed in the Dudley neighborhood is not only a reclaiming of the commons, but also a reconnection with nature. Among the affordable housing, town common and community center there too exists a community greenhouse, public gardens and several urban farms. The agrarian life in the city, complete with habitat and niche space for numerous critters — absent of capitalists, commissioners and central planners.

There are many other examples, all over the country, around the world, of social power advancing past the authorities. Each unique. That is really the beauty of it all. Who knows what may happen with reclaimed space? Commons governance is as spontaneous as the freed market. These ideas depend on you and me — it is up to us to decide how to live our lives. We just have to take that first hard step toward a higher evolved society: Democracy. Anarchism will be our method.

So, what does all of this talk of urban space and common property have to do with the wild? Governance in urban corridors has sweeping consequences. Urban governance impacts not just us residents, but also, if not more so, the natural world. Cities are population centers and population centers drive policy. Cities are also mechanized, industrialized and centralized — they are highly inefficient and removed from the wild. Their demand for resources is great. Power lies in the city – we, the urban population, need resources. Our demand for energy and commodities impacts the natural world — global biomes are exploited for the means of our consumption.

Cities place demand on their sites and their hinterlands. Urban sprawl and demands for energy call for the excavation and reshaping of natural lands. In the search of coal, oil, gas and timber the policy of growth levels mountains, fills valleys and wetlands, buries streams and plunders forest. The neo-liberal city paves roads for the sake of roads, builds malls, subdivisions, manicured lawns, factories and churches for the sake of growth. From the city center, and out into natural lands, wildlife populations are killed. Earth’s current great extinction, the literal end of entire species of flora and fauna, is a result of central planning — the backbone of urban development and growth economics.

Reclaiming the commons in our urban corridors can change this. In a libertarian social order market actors will conduct cost/benefit analyses before harvesting resources. By paying true environmental costs market mechanisms for conservation will develop and naturally cap resource extraction at its maximum sustainable yield. It is in our best interest to have resilient, healthy ecological communities because the ecosystem services they award are far too important for the cash nexus. Because of this, wilderness will be preserved once more. Gone will be the maximum utility of resources we see today. Respect for natural boundaries will also limit the amount of sprawl into the landscape. In the commons, land is not a commodity, but a connection — a place of labor and heritage

One thing is certain to me: If our cooperative, libertarian spirit is to defeat the authoritarian nature of the powerful we must champion a grand, renewed preservationist ethic. The idea that human utility of resources is superior to an entire species or ecosystem, that we would favor extinction to preservation, is nothing but extreme totalitarianism. Such an ethic flies in the face of liberty. Such power holds no place in the permissive, free society. Civilization needs wilderness. We need to know and experience natural lands. We need to shed the “social” we, every now and then, for the “wild” we. Just having wilderness exist, a place totally free of the Leviathans of civilization, keeps the very idea of liberty alive. A whole other world is out there — we can run to it so long as we protect it. Wild lands are the cradle of all life, the bastions of existence and the cathedrals of creation. To plunder such grandeur defiles the very concept of civil society.

I am ever grateful to those who labored for the preservation of wild lands. They were able to keep the spirit of liberty alive. I personally owe them a great debt. I have experienced much in the wild — built memories and lasting friendships. I have grown in solitude in the forest and have learned more among the rock and tributaries than any classroom instruction. I have explored wild lands with such a close friend I can only refer to him as a brother. I proposed to my wife along the banks of the Big South Fork on an overnight trip into the country. We now have a beautiful child with whom we hike the woods with weekly, just to babble the afternoon away. My heart bursts with love in the wild. Out there, I continue to discover who I am.

I love my community, but my heart aches for the places I have been. There is no way to describe the experience of standing in the summer rain of a mesic cove forest in the Cumberland Gap. Watching the sun set over the ancient ocean rock of the Badlands, feeling the wind on ones skin out on the prairie with the Grand Tetons on the horizon, watching ocean waves crash into arched rock on the Northwest coasts, standing among the towering Redwoods, sitting among sage brush and rolling desert hills and the many other experiences that await are moments of nothing but radical freedom.

For what it is worth, I encourage you to get out there. I encourage you to breathe deep of the sweet, lucid air. Run the ridges, bag the peaks, make your way to the most amazing view. Sit a while. Smile. Enjoy the untouched wild. Get lost in thought. Peer into the forest canopy. Experience your wildness. Be an individual. Stand naked, with all worldly burdens stripped away. Get dirty. Be bone weary. I sure will.
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20 February 2015

#IS #AUMF: Obama Doth Protest Too Much


The archaic Westphalian nation-state system, which ever since 1648 has been the basis of all foreign policy and national security thinking

“The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” writes US president Barack Obama in his letter to Congress of February 11, “poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East, and to U.S. national security.”

Therefore, Obama requests that Congress pass an “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” supporting his prior military measures in Syria and Iraq and giving him carte blanche to continue and escalate those measures for three more years.

Obama’s AUMF proposal raises several questions within the context of state action. For example, why does he only now request Congress’s permission to do what he’s already doing while claiming he doesn’t need that permission? Why doesn’t he go whole hog and request a declaration of war — the only instrument of congressional approval which passes constitutional muster — instead of an unconstitutional “authorization?”

But unlike some previous “AUMF” situations, this one brings a more important question to the forefront. Why won’t Obama admit that the Islamic state is, in fact, a state? That question looms implicitly in previous AUMF requests versus “rogue” or “failed” states (like Saddam’s regime in Iraq and the Taliban government in Afghanistan) and “non-state actors” like al Qaeda. With respect to the Islamic State, Obama has put the question front and center.

In a previous presidential message, Obama claimed that the Islamic State is neither Islamic nor a state. Both claims are risible, and for the same reasons.

The Islamic State is clearly Islamic. It bases its claims to religious authority on Muslim doctrines drawn from the Quran and from particular hadiths (Islamic prophetic traditions). Disputes concerning the validity of its interpretations are sectarian, of a piece with arguments between Christian denominations over the appropriate method of baptism and so forth.

The Islamic State is also clearly a state. From among many definitions of the word, Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s should suffice here: “[A] compulsory territorial monopolist of protection and jurisdiction equipped with the power to tax without unanimous consent.” The Islamic State stakes that monopolistic claim over large portions of Iraq and Syria. The people living there are taxed to support it and forced, violently as necessary, to accept its laws and its authority.

Why doesn’t Obama want to admit that the Islamic State is a state? Because it openly rejects the Westphalian system, the model derived from 1648’s “Peace of Westphalia.” In the Westphalian system, a state claims sovereignty over defined territory, respects the similar sovereignty of other states, and is held equal to all other states in international law. Because the Islamic state claims the whole world as its territory, denies the sovereignty of other states and holds its claims superior to any prior international law, Obama asserts that it is not a state.

But the United States fails that definition on the same grounds. For 70 years now, the US has done what it wants where it wants around the world, denying at will the sovereignty of other states and rejecting any adverse applications of international law to its own actions. Other states — notably the late Soviet Union — have done likewise as they were able.

World War II was the Westphalian system’s death knell; the time since has been an extended wake. Obama refuses to recognize this because he doesn’t want to go down in history as the eulogist at its funeral by admitting the moral equivalency of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s regime with his own.

The Westphalian system lies dead in history’s dustbin. Humanity’s next task is to sweep its successor states in after it.

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Listen up! It's not all #code and #content


Running communities around projects is all about getting the job done, and getting it done well. If you don't nurture a community, it won't grow and produce. Then, if you get that right but fail to maintain and organize things so that the people involved, your community, can continue to succeed and feel happy doing it, your project's growth and success won't last long.

These are the intricate details of a project, and the people that constitute it, that Robyn Bergeron orchestrates everyday. She incorporates a deep understanding of the technology behind her company with the feedback she gets from the developers who are building the project out.

Robyn is an Operations Advocate for Elasticsearch, an end-to-end search and analytics platform. In this interview, she answers my questions about her role as part community manager, part developer advocate at this acclerating open source company. But, what is it exactly? Bascially, Elasticsearch is an open source, distributed tool for powering search applications, based on Apache Lucene. It has many uses; a popular one is a configuration often referred to as an ELK stack (ELK = elasticsearch + logstash + kibana) used as a backend for analytics tools.

Find out more in this interview.

Let's go way back. How did you get started in open source? What or who made the biggest difference to your start?

I started participating in open source communities back in 2008, volunteering as an editor for the proceedings of the Ottawa Linux Symposium. The toolchain and environment we used for editing was entirely on the Fedora desktop, and by chance in 2009 (my second year of editing) I happened upon the Fedora wiki page that showed the many ways to contribute to Fedora. I was intrigued by the idea of participating in the marketing group, as I had previous career experience in that area. I joined the mailing list, and within probably 6 months of my first post, I found myself not only writing a lot of release-related content, but also volunteering to organize a FUDCon in Tempe, Arizona.

I think there were a number of factors that influenced my participation and enthusiasm; honestly, if I hadn't seen the "join" page describing how to participate, which highlighted ways for non-coders to contribute to the project, I never would have thought that I could have contributed in any way. This is one of the reasons why I think it's incredibly important for projects to show how people can be involved—many people, including myself at the time, don't realize all of the different ways that various skillsets can make a project even better. Of course, having a number of people making me feel incredibly welcome and valued made a huge difference. I really felt like I was part of the team.

I remember the day when "stickster" (aka Paul Frields, who was then the Fedora Project Leader) first talked to me on IRC; it seems funny in retrospect, but I was so blown away that I was worthy of his attention that I was just giddy with excitement. And I learned so much from so many people, in such a short period of time. Max Spevack took time to listen to me and blessed me with his wisdom, Mel Chua taught me the value of transparency and documenting anything and everything. I could go on and on...

but the real point is that there were people who really believed in me, and that made all the difference in the world.

What does a Developer Advocate do, in general? What's it like to do this job for Elasticsearch?

It's funny—there are lots of "Developer Advocates" out there, and much like the "community manager" job title, the roles and responsibilities seem to vary from project to project (or company to company). And in many cases, there is a fair amount of overlap between those two job titles in terms of the roles and responsibilities they perform. I would say that, for myself, it comes down to a small handful of things:
  1. Ensuring that community members have access to the things they need to contribute in the ways that they wish. That can be anything from information, to helping out with a meetup location, to facilitating improvements in pull request processes, etc.
  2. Listening. Lots of listening. Making sure that what I'm hearing from the outside world is being funneled back into the project's developers ears.
  3. Communicating. Generally getting the word out, whether via presentations, newsletters, social media, or just participating in the hallway track at a conference. Making sure contributors and observers know about what's going on in terms of project development, participation opportunities, etc.

All that said, I recently, with my lovely boss's blessings, have shifted my title from "Developer Advocate" to "Operations Advocate"—mostly because ops is where my interests have always been, having been a sysadmin way back in the day (years that start with "19"), and because those are the folks that I tend to interact with most at conferences. In all honesty, I think there's not much difference between the two, other than perhaps better reflecting who I tend to connect with. I really just think of myself as advocating for contributors in general.

Any stories or lessons of note from your time as the Fedora Project Leader?

Oh, I have an a-bun-dance of stories. And the wurst puns you've ever heard. (Ah,Beefy Miracle. He shall live forever!) But they're best told in person.

As far as lessons go, that's tough. If I was to give advice to anyone participating in open source, it would be to remember that sometimes things fall on the floor, don't get finished, or just flat out fail—and that's okay, so long as you figure out why and prevent it from happening in the future. Even if that prevention is simply determining that perhaps something wasn't as important as you thought and eliminating it altogether! But nothing is worth burning people out; the community isn't made up of code and content, it is made up of people.

You'll be talking at SCALE13X this year about DevOps in practice, theory, and otherwise. Can you share a few things with us now?

Sure. Be warned: It may sound buzzwordy! (And barely scratching the surface!)

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. And have empathy.

Automate All The Things.

Release early, release often!

Be transparent!

But wait! Those last two sound like things from the land of open source, you say? You're right. In fact, a lot of the goals one might have are very similar to what open source communities have, as they are both communities of practice (even inside an organization!).

What's the #1 best practice or habit of a successful open source community?

I have to pick a number one?! Impossible. But I'll mention one that I think is less often mentioned: Listening.

As individuals in a community, and the community as a whole. Being humble enough to not be above advice or criticism; being empathetic enough to put yourself in someone else's shoes; being kind enough to listen to one another as individuals who sometimes just need a friend to talk to. The things you learn by listening can be the things that make a difference to one person, or to the community as a whole.

This article is part of the Speaker Interview Series for SCALE13X. The Southern California Linux Expo brings together Linux and open source users, developers, companies, and enthusiasts.
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#Openhardware helps businesses

Rich Thomas

“Open source hardware gives people the freedom to control their technology while sharing knowledge and encouraging commerce through the open exchange of designs.”

That sentence was taken directly from Open Source Hardware Statement of Principles 1.0, a preamble of sorts located in the definition section of the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) website. Part blog, part doctrine, the site serves as a hub for this ever-growing community of creators.

Knowledge is power, resources are communal, and the ecosystem stays in harmony through a modest yet well-policed set of rules and best practices (which can be found here, if you’re interested).

Some might argue that this DIY culture originated—or at least came to a well-publicized head—back in the mid-‘70s with the Homebrew Computer Club, a group of Silicon Valley hobbyists who jumpstarted the PC. So why, nearly 40 years later, has the simple concept of sharing ideas become such a pivotal practice for the small businesses of today?

“Apple and Commodore computers used to come with schematics and repair instructions because they often needed tweaking,” said Limor Fried, founder and CEO of Adafruit Technologies. “Now we’re heading towards having more of our consumer electronics ‘glued shut.’ Open source hardware is the best way for the engineers of the future—and other engineer-curious people—to understand what’s going on under the hood of the devices that surround them.”

Simply put, companies like Adafruit, Arduino, and Bug Labs sell hardware that anyone can access or modify (think RadioShack on steroids). Those components are then used by impassioned creators to build anything from laptops to children’s toys.

A win-win for everyone

As demand increases for unique, customizable products, innovation follows suit. Take Andrew “bunnie” Huang’s Novena laptop, a product Fried describes as one of the most impactful open source breakthroughs of the past five years. Built using components that have a “reasonably complete set of NDA-free documentation,” the laptop reached 287 percent of its funding goal this past May viaCrowdSupply.com.

But open source hardware innovations aren’t limited to complex tech. From LED-infused, 3D-printed “fire horns” to Christmas tree toppers, there’s a little something for everyone.

“We have enough low-cost sensors and low-power technology to be able to design small wearable devices,” Fried said of the kits her company offers. “Wearables are also a great way to get all sorts of people interested in electronics, from fashion to jewelry to medical to sports. Our new FLORA and GEMMA platforms for maker-wearables are the largest-growing market segments we see.”

In addition to keeping costs down by circumventing expensive licenses, open source practices can increase a company’s efficiency and mitigate risk through a “hive-mind” approach to problem solving. For small businesses, that’s a win-win scenario, especially if you’re dealing with manufactured goods with a potentially high overhead.

Riding the wave of the open hardware movement

Champions of Autodesk’s free 123D Design software, Adafruit find themselves at the leading edge of this movement, and they’ve got the revenue numbers to show for it: $4.5 million in 2011 and the potential to crest the $20 million mark once 2014 is in the books.

Not only has Fried been a Wired cover star, but she was also named Entrepreneur of 2012 by Entrepreneur Magazine. She attributes her company’s success to a simple phenomenon.

“It takes longer to do something simple and elegant than hard and unusable,” says Fried. “Our customers and community often say how easy something is to make and build when it comes to Adafruit, and it’s because we found all the mistakes and the challenges and distilled it to the simplest possible steps to an often-challenging category: engineering.”

Open source hardware significantly shortens the gap between the concepts of “project” and “product,” and in conjunction with the boom in Additive Manufacturing, is creating fertile ground for growth in the small-business world.

Originally published on Line//Shape//Space. Reposted with permission and under Creative Commons. All photos CC BY-SA 4.0.

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17 February 2015

Quotes from the #MontOrder gathering


The Mont Order club, which sports its own cultural image with allegations of mysterious religious origins and conspiracy theorist claims surrounding it, has made public comments.

At a live-streamed conference on Saturday, Mont advisors made a number of political calls to the public.

Originally intending to bring representatives of all nine public participants of the Mont Order together, the meeting saw participation between the following opinion-makers:
  • Harry J. Bentham: UK-based dissident columnist for Beliefnet and Press TV
  • Dirk Bruere: UK-based transhumanist representing the Zero State
  • Mike Dodd: US-based editor of the Wave Chronicle
A full transcript of the Mont Order discussion will be made available at our client website cispiritual.com, and the Wave Chronicle. In the meantime, ClubOfINFO has compiled ten of the most important quotes from the online dissident meeting below.

1. It’s the warmonger elite. They need and want a perpetual war. They have been consistent in wanting this perpetual war, pretty much on an economy basis, the military-industrial complex.

2. What America is doing is trying to look for any excuse to back Assad against IS, because IS has got out of hand.

3. No matter what happens in Syria, it isn’t going to be a democracy.

4. Ukraine will have to pay back the money it gets from the IMF. It’s a death knell for that nation.

5. The most impoverished, backward countries in the world are allies of the US, and countries ally to the US thinking they’re going to get rich.

6. If Islamic State can build a nation, then they’ll do it, and it becomes a nation. If they can’t, they can’t. This is how every other nation in existence, came into existence.

7. There’s a kind of ideology that says the nation-state is sacred, and the other thing that is sacred is that we can’t divide people along ethnic lines.

8. We didn’t have a referendum to invite American troops into Eastern Europe, or have a referendum about whether we want American nukes in our country, and basically making ourselves a target for anyone who wants to attack US interests. Nobody had a referendum to do any of that. None of that has any democratic basis, but we just get told to accept it anyway.

9. To the existing power structures, transhumanism could be a very significant threat.

10. We already have people like Edward Snowden, who, just with a flash drive, managed to completely challenge existing power structures, and he was just one person.

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Defending #Commons from Firm and State


For policy elites in most nations, there are only two alternatives for the provision of public services: State ownership and management (the preferred model of Social Democrats and liberals/progressives) or corporate “privatization” (pushed by neoliberal heirs of Reagan and Thatcher). Commons governance (about which more later) isn’t even on the radar.

There’s little practical difference between state- and corporate-owned services, despite the theoretical difference in ownership. Both are governed by the same top-heavy managerial culture, the same bureaucratic “best practices” and the same high-overhead business model. Both serve the same interests, regardless of whether a particular service is nationalized or “privatized.” Nationalization amounts to “lemon socialism,” in which some input is of vital importance to the interests of capital as a whole but corporation interests either find it insufficiently profitable or have difficulty overcoming the prisoner’s dilemma problems of funding and coordinating it themselves. And “privatization” is just the opposite — lemon capitalism — in which the state’s performance of a function has outlived its usefulness for capital and corporate interests see the opportunity to extract a profit from it (but still with the state’s help, of course).

The two are frequently parts of the same life-cycle. Initially the state creates an infrastructure that’s necessary for capital’s realization of profit. For example, the majority of foreign aid and World Bank loans since WWII have gone to building the transportation and public utilities infrastructure needed to make Western capital’s overseas investments profitable. Quite often public debt is undertaken to fund such infrastructure as the result of collusion between multilateral institutions or corporations and unaccountable elements within the debtor government, without any taxpayer feedback.

Once undertaken the public debt, in turn, serves (much like company store debt in American mining towns) as a lever for enforcing desired behavior on the recipient. Ultimately, if servicing debt becomes too big a burden, it may be used to blackmail governments into adopting neoliberal austerity policies (e.g. the “structural adjustment” programs imposed on much of the developing world, the European Central Bank’s squeeze on Greece, or the corporate coup which put an “Emergency Manager” in charge of Detroit).

The cycle is complete when neoliberal elites use debt from creating the publicly funded infrastructure to blackmail governments into virtually giving away that same infrastructure to the corporate interests it was created to serve in the first place. Such “privatization” typically involves insider deals by which it is priced at a tiny fraction of the cost of creating it, or of what it would cost for those corporations to build it from scratch themselves. In fact governments often spend as much money upgrading the infrastructure to make it saleable as they realize from the sale. And the first order of business for the corporations that acquire these infrastructures at fire sale prices is usually asset-stripping and hollowing out. Finally, far from functioning in a “free market,” newly “privatized” services continue to exist in a web of state protections and de facto monopoly status.

It’s an overall process in which the state socializes operating costs and subsidizes inputs to make capital artificially profitable, and disaster capitalists seize on the resulting fiscal disaster to loot taxpayer-funded assets and subsequently gouge the public.

The principles are basically the same, with minor changes in details, in the kinds of “public-private partnerships” where a service or infrastructure remains state-owned and -funded, but some aspect of service delivery is outsourced to a for-profit corporation (the corporate model of “educational reform” the disaster capitalists imposed on New Orleans is an example). As Cory Doctorow (“Go digital by all means, but don’t bring the venture capitalists in to do it,” The Guardian, Feb. 6) points out in the case of museums, libraries and schools as “market-driven public institutions,”

it’s we, the public, who are the angel investors. We paid to keep the archives growing, to put a roof over the museum, to amass and catalogue all of our nation’s cultural treasures (and the treasures of many other nations). The internet now makes it possible for those institutions to reach wider audiences than ever before, at lower costs than ever before – once their collections are digitised. When Siemens or another big company comes along to digitise our investments, they are the VCs putting in late-stage capital after we’ve borne all the risks, sometimes for centuries.

Both variants of “privatization” are everywhere to be found. In countries like Iraq that are militarily defeated by the United States, or countries like Chile and Russia where US-backed dictators come to power, entire economies are auctioned off to global corporations. The same is true of debtor nations like Greece that international vulture capital has over a barrel, and cities like New Orleans and Detroit that experience one kind of disaster or another that renders them vulnerable.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was born without a sense of ethics, filled a vacancy on the school board with Deborah Quazzo, co-founder of GSV Advisors, a firm that raises venture capital for outsourcing public school functions (“teaching math, educating disabled students, even writing report cards”) to for-profit businesses. (The seat was previously held by billionaire Penny Pritzker when she was appointed to Obama’s commerce department — I’m not sure whether that says more about Emamuel’s Chicago or the Obama administration.)

GSV Advisors’ sister firm, GSV Capital, owns educational technology companies that sell teaching software and extracurricular materials to public schools. Since accepting her school board seat Quazzo has continued to invest in such firms. “In other words, a key decision-maker for Chicago’s public schools makes money when school boards decide to sell off the functions of public schools” (Rick Perlstein, “How to Sell Off a City,” In These Times, January 21).

Fortunately, we have alternatives beyond ownership of public services and resources by governments or corporations. Commons governance of common pool resources (like the lakes and aquifers that city water systems depend on) and social (not state) ownership of public services is one of them. Social or common ownership can be reflected in public utilities organized as stakeholder cooperatives, with the ratepayers themselves directly governing the use of resources and distribution of services.

Fortunately, too, the communities being stripped of their rightful ownership rights by states in collusion with capital aren’t taking it lying down. In Detroit, for instance, the Detroit Water Brigade (an organization former “Emergency Manager” Kevyn Orr denounced as a “tool of Occupy Wall Street,” and accused of putting manufactured victims on display as a gimmick to villify him and the corporate looters) is resisting the corporate parasites who’ve taken over the city water system and put the screws to the public. Detroit Water Brigade, among other things, stockpiles and distributes drinkable water to Detroit residents in danger of dehydration, and likewise distributes portable rainwater collection systems as an alternative for those whose water has been cut off. And it’s conducting a public awareness campaign to shine the light on the scavengers picking Detroit’s carcass clean.

More generally, there’s a movement to reclaim the commons as a public inheritance against both state and capital (“Ciudad furor: The public, the commons and the democratisation of the city,” Provisional University, Dec. 4, 2014):

  1. People are fighting privatization by refusing to recognise the state as the owner of public services and resources, instead claiming that they belong to the people.
  2. Where public services are gone, people are organising themselves, locally and democratically, to provide the services they need. This included the provision of healthcare in the Greek example and the provision of housing in the Spanish example, but there are millions of others.
  3. But there are also forms which kind of bring together both elements of the first two. These are struggles which both defend or demand the public provision of services while at the same time vesting ownership of services in the people and getting people involved in the democratic control of services.

The manufactured struggle between “government” and “business” conceals a real alliance. The claims of business interests to favor “free enterprise” are as fake as government claims to represent the “public interest.” It’s time for us to reject this false choice and instead turn to the real alternative of cooperating with each other in our common interest.
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High-ranking psychopaths are pushing for a nuclear war with Russia, seemingly intentionally

If the US leaders wanted to wage a thermonuclear war that would destroy America and the world, we would not be here to talk about it. Presid...

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