Srsly Wrong Interviews Yours Truly!

That name…it seems…familiar…

As I mentioned before, I had been brought up on an episode of a podcast called, “Srsly Wrong”. The mention came in the form of a Facebook friend of mine commenting on my anti-work stance co-existing with a pro-market stance. The article I just linked goes into how I (briefly) rectify these two stances…a rectification I’ll openly admit that most anti-work folks tend not to have to do, being anti-work and anti-market, generally speaking.

After making this article (or before, my memory is lousy) I encouraged the Srsly Wrong folks via a contact form on their site as well their Youtube channel to interview me. I even found their subreddit and posted my article on it.

To my pleasant surprise they not only accepted but were very interested and appreciative of my perspective! Although you only hear Aaron in the interview, you get a sense for what Shawn thinks of my views sprinkled throughout the introductory notes and end notes (which I’ll have some brief rejoinders for in a second…).

But enough blabbing, here’s the interview! (downloadable link here)

…Are you good? Enjoy it?

Either way, it was an absolute blast for me! Aaron and Shawn were way too nice to me during the introduction…and the conclusion…and basically in general. But really, thank you to both of them for having me on!

Fun fact: I actually had one of my Abolish Work handouts (at the top of the picture) in front of me to describe Abolish Work. But me being…me, I immediately forgot about it and never described the site itself. Go figure!

Anyhow, Aaron was great to talk to.

It was awesome to be able to talk to someone who really got the anti-work position and even sympathized with the pro-market positions as well. Finding common ground on criticisms of anarcho-communism and reclaiming “impersonal markets” (another essay for another time…) was really exciting.

Discussing the many (many) faults of primitivism and how it’s an intensely ableist philosophy (intentionally or not) was also something great to get off my chest. So too were the discussions on why I support markets not capitalism. (PDF)

To add to that discussion on markets, I used the definition Charles Johnson does here. Further, I also like how he draws distinctions between mutualist markets on the one hand and corporate markets, here.

You can find helpful discussions on the many meanings of capitalism by my left-libertarian comrades here, here and here.

Another discussion I particularly enjoyed teasing out was the different senses of hierarchy. If you’re curious about the Tyranny of Structurelessness then you can find the original essay here. And there are some popular responses that can be found here and here. The first of which is by a post-left anarchist and the second by another feminist.

If you’re interested in a criticism of anarcho-communism that I find particularly persuasive, I recommend Jason Lee Byas’s Towards an Anarchy of Production, which hits on a few of the points I make as well.

I mention the individual being subsumed under work and liken it to the nation-state’s dynamic with the individual. You can find an article where I talk about that here.The article also links where Thaddeus Russell makes a similar argument about nation-states.

I’m sure there were some other things that were brought up, but if so I’m not remembering them right now.

So here are some brief  rejoinders to Aaron and Shawn’s end-notes:

Shawn mentions that the way I define markets (and thus by extension Charles) isn’t the typical way. But that’s exactly why I use it. I like challenging the conventional discourse and stirring up some terminological trouble. Comes with the territory of being a “free market anti-capitalist” or a “left-libertarian” in America, eh?

He also points out how markets can be seen as “quid pro quo” and this is another term I should have mentioned but didn’t.

Luckily Charles addresses this definition beautifully for me (the joys of being a slacker!):

Markets as the cash nexus — but we often also use the term in a different sense — to refer to a particular form of acquiring and exchanging property — that is, to refer to commerce and quid pro quo exchanges, typically mediated by currency or by financial instruments denominated in units of currency.

So yeah, that’s definitely a type of market. But not really the sort of one I’d advocate.

As Charles explains:

Markets in our first, voluntary-exchange sense exist only where people really are free to produce and exchange – free market, in the voluntary-exchange sense of market, is really a tautology. But a market in the cash-nexus sense may be either free or unfree; cash exchanges are still cash exchanges, whether they are regulated, restricted, subsidized, taxed, mandated, or otherwise constrained by government action.

Thus, the social and economic value of the cash nexus, as a social relationship, depends entirely on the context. Kinds of interaction that are positive and productive in the context of free exchange easily become instruments of alienation and exploitation when they are forced on unwilling participants, in areas of their life where they don’t need or want them, through coercive government.

The growth of markets as spaces for social experimentation is always a liberating development — but these social experiments may be mediated by the cash-nexus, or may be mediated by entirely different social relationships.

The growth of markets as cash-nexus exchanges, on the other hand, may be liberating or violating, depending on whether those relationships come about through the free interplay of social forces, or through the direct or indirect ripple-effects of government force and the coercive creation of rigged markets.

On the other hand I love what Shawn said about “meta-markets”!

That got me really excited because I’ve toyed with calling myself a “meta-anarchist” or something. I want competition on a society wide basis and even above that level a competition of different societies.

Basically I want escape hatches for everyone on a large scale.

I also really dig how Shawn commented that “capitalism can’t compete on the free market”. He specifically meant it with regards to gift economies but I more generally like the point.

The discussion about IP and scarcity reminded me of Kevin Carson (one of my favorite current living authors) and what he said about IP abolition and free market communism:

As surprising as it might seem, there’s a strong parallel between this free market vision of abundance and the Marxist vision of full communism. Carl Menger wrote of economic goods (i.e., goods subject to economic calculation because of their scarcity) becoming non-economic goods (i.e., that their abundance and near-zero production cost would make the cost of accounting greater than the production cost, if any).

This parallels a major strain of thinking among socialists in the free culture/open source/P2P movement. They see the communist mode of production practiced by Linux and other open-source developers as the kernel of a new post-capitalist, post-scarcity social formation.

Much as capitalist production started out in tiny islands inside the larger feudal economy and later became the core of a new, dominant social formation, commons-based peer production is the core around which the post-capitalist economy will eventually crystallize.

And we free marketers are also information communists. We want the benefits of knowledge and technique to be fully socialized. The largest single share of profit under the current model of corporate capitalism is embedded rents on the artificial scarcity of knowledge and technique.

So, to play with Shawn’s idea of perfect communism having markets, how about perfect markets having communism?

Oh, I couldn’t help myself!

Switching over to Aaron and the larger discussion of hierarchy that he and Shawn get into, I loved the ideas of self-erasing hierarchies. That’s exactly the sort of hierarchy I was talking about! Things like teacher and student, apprentice and master, cameraman and director (as Aaron helpfully added).

I think all of this goes back to Bakunin’s fruitful conception of authority:

Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought.

In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or the engineer.

For such or such special knowledge I apply to such or such a savant. But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure.

I do not content myself with consulting a single authority in any special branch; I consult several; I compare their opinions, and choose that which seems to me the soundest. But I recognise no infallible authority, even in special questions; consequently, whatever respect I may have for the honesty and the sincerity of such or such individual, I have no absolute faith in any person.

Such a faith would be fatal to my reason, to my liberty, and even to the success of my undertakings; it would immediately transform me into a stupid slave, an instrument of the will and interests of others.

I also think another great way to look at issues of authority and hierarchy come from Chomsky’s definition of anarchism.

And despite some of my misgivings about Chomsky (his strategy in particular), he has a pretty cool definition:

Primarily it is a tendency that is suspicious and skeptical of domination, authority, and hierarchy. It seeks structures of hierarchy and domination in human life over the whole range, extending from, say, patriarchal families to, say, imperial systems, and it asks whether those systems are justified. It assumes that the burden of proof for anyone in a position of power and authority lies on them.

Their authority is not self-justifying. They have to give a reason for it, a justification. And if they can’t justify that authority and power and control, which is the usual case, then the authority ought to be dismantled and replaced by something more free and just.

One thing I strongly disagree with Shawn about, is his method of a crossing a more”tangible” gap. He seems to motion towards making politics more suitable for public involvement. I think direct action (and for another view on it, see here) is what gets the goods.

But I’m sure he and I can get into that another time…

And though Shawn and Aaron were joking when they said, “fucking unions…” I do think that there are some useful criticisms of modern-day unions. Though I don’t reject them entirely either, e.g. the Induustrial Workers of the World or the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Lastly, Shawn and Aaron wondered how much time and effort should be put into uselessly shunning people?

Some people think this much, apparently.

Did you like my interview?

Maybe you appreciated these extra notes?

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