anti capitalism

Libertarian Municipalism: An Overview

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Perhaps the greatest single failing of movements for social reconstruction — I refer particularly to the Left, to radical ecology groups, and to organizations that profess to speak for the oppressed — is their lack of a politics that will carry people beyond the limits established by the status quo.

Politics today means duels between top-down bureaucratic parties for electoral office, that offer vacuous programs for “social justice” to attract a nondescript “electorate.” Once in office, their programs usually turn into a bouquet of “compromises.” In this respect, many Green parties in Europe have been only marginally different from conventional parliamentary parties. Nor have socialist parties, with all their various labels, exhibited any basic differences from their capitalist counter parts. To be sure, the indifference of the Euro-American public — its “apoliticism” — is understandably depressing. Given their low expectations, when people do vote, they normally turn to established parties if only because, as centers of power, they cart produce results of sorts in practical matters. If one bothers to vote, most people reason, why waste a vote on a new marginal organization that has all the characteristics of the major ones and that will eventually become corrupted if it succeeds? Witness the German Greens, whose internal and public life increasingly approximates that of other parties in the new Reich.

That this “political process” has lingered on with almost no basic alteration for decades now is due in great part to the inertia of the process itself. Time wears expectations thin, and hopes are often reduced to habits as one disappointment is followed by another. Talk of a “new politics,” of upsetting tradition, which is as old as politics itself, is becoming unconvincing. For decades, at least, the changes that have occurred in radical politics are largely changes in rhetoric rather than structure. The German Greens are only the most recent of a succession of “nonparty parties” (to use their original way of describing their organization) that have turned from an attempt to practice grassroots politics — ironically, in the Bundestag, of all places! — into a typical parliamentary party. The Social Democratic Party in Germany, the Labor Party in Britain, the New Democratic Party in Canada, the Socialist Party in France, and others, despite their original emancipatory visions, barely qualify today as even liberal parties in which a Franklin D. Roosevelt or a Harry Truman would have found a comfortable home. Whatever social ideals these parties may have had generations ago have been eclipsed by the pragmatics of gaining, holding, and extending their power in their respective parliamentary and ministerial bodies.

It is precisely such parliamentary and ministerial objectives that we call “politics” today. To the modern political imagination, “politics” is precisely a body of techniques for holding power in representative bodies — notably the legislative and executive arenas — not a moral calling based on rationality, community, and freedom.

A Civic Ethics

Libertarian municipalism represents a serious, indeed a historically fundamental project, to render politics ethical in character and grassroots in organization. It is structurally and morally different from other grassroots efforts, not merely rhetorically different. It seeks to reclaim the public sphere for the exercise of authentic citizenship while breaking away from the bleak cycle of parliamentarism and its mystification of the “party” mechanism as a means for public representation. In these respects, libertarian municipalism is not merely a “political strategy.” It is an effort to work from latent or incipient democratic possibilities toward a radically new configuration of society itself-a communitarian society oriented toward meeting human needs, responding to ecological imperatives, and developing a new ethics based on sharing and cooperation. That it involves a consistently independent form of politics is a truism. More important, it involves a redefinition of politics, a return to the word’s original Greek meaning as the management of the community or polis by means of direct face-to-face assemblies of the people in the formulation of public policy and based on an ethics of complementarily and solidarity.

In this respect, libertarian municipalism is not one of many pluralistic techniques that is intended to achieve a vague and undefined social goal. Democratic to its core and nonhierarchical in its structure, it is a kind of human destiny, not merely one of an assortment of political tools or strategies that can be adopted and discarded with the aim of achieving power. Libertarian municipalism, in effect, seeks to define the institutional contours of a new society even as it advances the practical message of a radically new politics for our day.

Means and Ends

Here, means and ends meet in a rational unity. The word politics now expresses direct popular control of society by its citizens through achieving and sustaining a true democracy in municipal assemblies — this, as distinguished from republican systems of representation that preempt the right of the citizen to formulate community and regional policies. Such politics is radically distinct from statecraft and the state a professional body composed of bureaucrats, police, military, legislators, and the like, that exists as a coercive apparatus, clearly distinct from and above the people. The libertarian municipalist approach distinguishes statecraft — which we usually characterize as “politics” today — and politics as it once existed in precapitalist democratic communities.

Moreover, libertarian municipalism also involves a clear delineation of the social realm — as well as the political realm — in the strict meaning of the term social: notably, the arena in which we live our private lives and engage in production. As such, the social realm is to be distinguished from both the political and the statist realms. Enormous mischief has been caused by the interchangeable use of these terms — social, political, and the state. Indeed, the tendency has been to identify them with one another in our thinking and in the reality of everyday life. But the state is a completely alien formation, a thorn in the side of human development, an exogenous entity that has incessantly encroached on the social and political realms. Often, in fact, the state has been an end in itself, as witness the rise of Asian empires, ancient imperial Rome, and the totalitarian state of modern times. More than this, it has steadily invaded the political domain, which, for all its past shortcomings, had empowered communities, social groupings, and individuals.

Such invasions have not gone unchallenged. Indeed, the conflict between the state on the one hand and the political and social realms on the other has been an ongoing subterranean civil war for centuries. It has often broken out into the open — in modern times in the conflict of the Castilian cities (comuneros) against the Spanish monarchy in the 1520s, in the struggle of the Parisian sections against the centralist Jacobin Convention of 1793, and in endless other clashes both before and after these encounters.

Today, with the increasing centralization and concentration of power in the nation-state, a “new politics” — one that is genuinely new — must be structured institutionally around the restoration of power by municipalities. This is not only necessary but possible even in such gigantic urban areas as New York City, Montreal, London, and Paris. Such urban agglomerations are not, strictly speaking, cities or municipalities in the traditional sense of those terms, despite being designated as such by sociologists. It is only if we think that they are cities that we become mystified by problems of size and logistics. Even before we confront the ecological imperative of physical decentralization (a necessity anticipated by Frederick Engels and Peter Kropotkin alike), we need feel no problems about decentralizing them institutionally. When Francois Mitterand tried to decentralize Paris with local city halls a few years ago, his reasons were strictly tactical (he wanted to weaken the authority of the capital’s right-wing mayor). Nonetheless, he failed not because restructuring the Large metropolis was impossible but because the majority of the affluent Parisians supported the mayor.

Clearly, institutional changes do not occur in a social vacuum. Nor do they guarantee that a decentralized municipality, even if it is structurally democratic. will necessarily be humane, rational, and ecological in dealing with public affairs. Libertarian municipalism is premised on the struggle to achieve a rational and ecological society, a struggle that depends on education and organization. From the beginning, it presupposes a genuinely democratic desire by people to arrest the growing powers of the nation-state and reclaim them for their community and their region. Unless there is a movement — hopefully an effective Left Green movement — to foster these aims, decentralization can lead to local parochialism as easily as it can lead to ecological humanist communities.

But when have basic social changes ever been without risk? The case that Marx’s commitment to a centralized state and planned economy would inevitably yield bureaucratic totalitarianism could have been better made than the case that decentralized libertarian municipalities will inevitably be authoritarian and have exclusionary and parochial traits Economic interdependence is a fact of life today, and capitalism itself has made parochial autarchies a chimera. While municipalities and regions can seek to attain a considerable measure of self-aufficiency, we have long left the era when self-aufficient communities that can indulge their prejudices are possible.

Confederalism

Equally important is the need for confederation — the interlinking of communities with one another through recallable deputies mandated by municipal citizens’ assemblies and whose sole functions are coordinative and administrative. Confederation has a long history of its own that dates back to antiquity and that surfaced as a major alternative to the nation state. From the American Revolution through the French Revolution and the Spanish Revolution of 1936, confederalism constituted a major challenge to state centralism. Nor has it disappeared in our own time, when the breakup of existing twentieth-century empires raises the issue of enforced state centralism or the relatively autonomous nation. Libertarian municipalism adds a radically democratic dimension to the contemporary discussions of confederation (as, for example, in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia) by calling for confederations not of nation-states but of municipalities and of the neighborhoods of giant megalopolitan areas as well as towns and villages.

In the case of libertarian municipalism’ parochialism can thus be checked not only by the compelling realities of economic interdependence but by the commitment of municipal minorities to defer to the majority wishes of participating communities. Do these interdependencies and majority decisions guarantee us that a majority decision will be a correct one? Certainly not — but our chances for a rational and ecological society are much better in this approach than in those that ride on centralized entities and bureaucratic apparatuses. I cannot help but marvel that no municipal network has been emergent among the German Greens, who have hundreds of representatives in city councils around Germany but who carry on a local politics that is completely conventional and self enclosed within particular towns and cities.

Many arguments against libertarian municipalism — even with its strong confederal emphasis derive from a failure to understand its distinction between policy-making and administration. This distinction is fundamental to libertarian municipalism and must always be kept in mind. Policy is made by a community or neighborhood assembly of free citizens; administration is performed by confederal councils composed of mandated, recallable deputies of wards, towns, and villages. If particular communities or neighborhoods — or a minority grouping of them choose to go their own way to a point where human rights are violated or where ecological mayhem is permitted, the majority in a local or regional confederation has every right to prevent such malfeasances through its confederal council. This is not a denial of democracy but the assertion of a shared agreement by all to recognize civil rights and maintain the ecological integrity of a region. These rights and needs are not asserted so much by a confederal council as by the majority of the popular assemblies conceived as one large community that expresses its wishes through its confederal deputies. Thus policy-making still remains local, but its administration is vested in the confederal network as a whole. The confederation in effect is a Community of communities based on distinct human rights and ecological imperatives.

If libertarian municipalism is not to be totally warped of its form and divested of its meaning, it is a desideratum that must be fought for. It speaks to a time — hopefully, one that will yet come when people feel disempowered and actively seek empowerment. Existing in growing tension with the nation-state, it is a process as well as a destiny, a struggle to be fulfilled, not a bequest granted by the summits of the state. It is a dual power that contests the legitimacy of the existing state power. Such a movement can be expected to begin slowly, perhaps sporadically, in communities here and there that initially may demand only the moral authority to alter the structuring of society before enough interlinked confederations exist to demand the outright institutional power to replace the state. The growing tension created by the emergence of municipal confederations represents a confrontation between the state and the political realms. This confrontation can be resolved only after libertarian municipalism forms the new politics of a popular movement and ultimately captures the imagination of millions.

Certain points, however, should be obvious. The people who initially enter into the duel between confederalism and statism will not be the same human beings as those who eventually achieve libertarian municipalism. The movement that tries to educate them and the struggles that give libertarian municipalist principles reality will turn them into active citizens, rather than passive “constituents.” No one who participates in a struggle for social restructuring emerges from that struggle with the prejudices, habits, and sensibilities with which he or she entered it. Hopefully, then, such prejudices — like parochialism — will increasingly be replaced by a generous sense of cooperation and a caring sense of interdependence.

Municipalizing the Economy

It remains to emphasize that libertarian municipalism is not merely an evocation of all traditional antistatist notions of politics. Just as it redefines politics to include face-to-face municipal democracies graduated to confederal levels, so it includes a municipalist and confederal approach to economics. Minimally, a libertarian municipalist economics calls for the municipalization of the economy, not its centralization into state-owned “nationalized” enterprises on the one hand or its reduction to “worker-controlled” forms of collectivistic capitalism on the other. Trade-union control of “worker controlled” enterprises (that is, syndicalism) has had its day. This should be evident to anyone who examines the bureaucracies that even revolutionary trade unions spawned during the Spanish Civil War of 1936. Today, corporate capitalism too is increasingly eager to bring the worker into complicity with his or her own exploitation by means of “workplace democracy.” Nor was the revolution in Spain or in other countries spared the existence of competition among worker-controlled enterprises for raw materials, markets, and profits. Even more recently, many Israeli kibbutzim have been failures as examples of nonexploitative, need-oriented enterprises, despite the high ideals with which they were initially founded.

Libertarian municipalism proposes a radically different form of economy one that is neither nationalized nor collectivized according to syndicalist precepts. It proposes that land and enterprises be placed increasingly in the custody of the community more precisely, the custody of citizens in free assemblies and their deputies in confederal councils. How work should be planned, what technologies should be used, how goods should be distributed are questions that can only be resolved in practice. The maxim “from each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her needs” would seem a bedrock guide for an economically rational society, provided to be sure that goods are of the highest durability and quality, that needs are guided by rational and ecological standards, and that the ancient notions of limit and balance replace the bourgeois marketplace imperative of “grow or die.”

In such a municipal economy — confederal, interdependent, and rational by ecological, not simply technological, standards — we would expect that the special interests that divide people today into workers, professionals, managers, and the like would be melded into a general interest in which people see themselves as citizens guided strictly by the needs of their community and region rather than by personal proclivities and vocational concerns. Here, citizenship would come into its own, and rational as well as ecological interpretations of the public good would supplant class and hierarchical interests.

This is the moral basis of a moral economy for moral communities. But of overarching importance is the general social interest that potentially underpins all moral communities, an interest that must ultimately cut across class, gender, ethnic, and status lines if humanity is to continue to exist as a viable species. This interest is the one created in our times by ecological catastrophe. Capitalism’s “grow or die” imperative stands radically at odds with ecology’s imperative of interdependence and limit The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other — nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society, or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status.

Will this ecological society be authoritarian, or possibly even totalitarian, a hierarchial dispensation that is implicit in the image of the planet as a “spaceship” Or will it be democratic? If history is any guide, the development of a democratic ecological society, as distinguished from a commend ecological society, must follow its own logic. One cannot resolve this historical dilemma without getting to its roots. Without a searching analysis of our ecological problems and their social sources, the pernicious institutions that we now have will lead to increased centralization and further ecological catastrophe. In a democratic ecological society, those roots are literally the grass roots that libertarian municipalism seeks to foster.

For those who rightly call for a new technology, new sources of energy, new means of transportation, and new ecological lifeways, can a new society be anything less than a Community of communities based on confederation rather than statism? We already live in a world in which the economy is “overglobalized,” overcentralized, and overbureaucratized. Much that can be done locally and regionally is now being done largely for profit, military needs, and imperial appetites — on a global scale with a seeming complexity that can actually be easily diminished.

If this seems too “utopian” for our time, then so must the present flood of literature that asks for radically sweeping shifts in energy policies, far-reaching reductions in air and water pollution, and the formulation of worldwide plans to arrest global warming and the destruction of the ozone layer be seen as “utopian.” Is it too much, it is fair to ask, to take such demands one step further and call for institutional and economic changes that are no less drastic and that in fact are based on traditions that are deeply sedimented in American — indeed, the world’s — noblest democratic and political traditions?

Nor are we obliged to expect these changes to occur immediately. The Left long worked with minimum and maximum programs for change, in which immediate steps that can be taken now were linked by transitional advances and intermediate areas that would eventually yield ultimate goals. Minimal steps that can be taken now include initiating Left Green municipalist movements that propose popular neighborhood and town assemblies — even if they have only moral functions at first — and electing town and city councilors that advance the cause of these assemblies and other popular institutions. These minimal steps can lead step-by-step to the formation of confederal bodies and the increasing legitimation of truly democratic bodies. Civic banks to fund municipal enterprises and land purchases; the fostering of new ecologically oriented enterprises that are owned by the community; and the creation of grassroots networks in many fields of endeavor and the public weal — all these can be developed at a pace appropriate to changes that are being made in political life.

That capital will likely “migrate” from communities and confederations that are moving toward libertarian municipalism is a problem that every community, every nation, whose political life has become radicalized has faced. Capital, in fact, normally “migrates” to areas where it can acquire high profits, irrespective of political considerations. Overwhelmed by fears of capital migration, a good case could be established for not rocking the political boat at any time. Far more to the point are that municipally owned enterprises and farms could provide new ecologically valuable and health-nourishing products to a public that is becoming increasingly aware of the low-quality goods and staples that are being foisted on it now.

Libertarian municipalism is a politics that can excite the public imagination, appropriate for a movement that is direly in need of a sense of direction and purpose. The papers that appear in this collection offer ideas, ways, and means not only to undo the present social order but to remake it drastically — expanding its residual democratic traditions into a rational and ecological society.

Addendum

This addendum seems to be necessary because some of the opponents of libertarian municipalism — and, regrettably, some of its acolyte — misunderstand what libertarian municipalism seeks to achieve indeed, misunderstand its very nature.

For some of its instrumental acolytes, libertarian municipalism is becoming a tactical device to gain entry into so called independent movements and new third parties that call for “grassroots politics,” such as those proposed by NOW and certain Labor leaders In the name of “libertarian municipalism,” some radical acolytes of the view are prepared to blur the tension that they should cultivate between the civic realm and the state — presumably to gain greater public attention in electoral campaigns for gubernatorial, congressional, and other state offices. These radicals regrettably warp libertarian municipalism into a mere “tactic” or “strategy” and drain it of its revolutionary content.

But those who propose to use tenets of libertarian municipalism for “tactical” reasons as a means to enter another reformist party or function as its “left wing” have little in common with the idea. Libertarian municipalism is not a product of the formal logic that has such deep roots in left-wing “analyses” and “strategies” today, despite the claims of many radicals that “dialectics” is their “method.” The struggle toward creating new civic institutions out of old ones (or replacing the old ones altogether) and creating civic confederations is a self formative one, a creative dynamic formed from the tension of social conflict. The effort to work along these lines is as much a part of the end as the process of maturing from the child to the adult — from the relatively undifferentiated to the fully differentiated — with all its difficulties. The very fight for a municipal confederation, for municipal control of “property,” and for the actual achievement of worldwide municipal confederation is directed toward achieving a new ethos of citizenship and community, not simply to gain victories in largely reformist conflicts.

Thus, libertarian municipalism is not merely an effort simply to “take over” city councils to construct a more “environmentally friendly” city government. These adherents or opponents of libertarian municipalism, in effect, look at the civic structures that exist before their eyes now and essentially (all rhetoric to the contrary aside) take them as they exist. Libertarian municipalism, by contrast, is an effort to transform and democratize city governments, to root them in popular assemblies, to knit them together along confederal lines, to appropriate a regional economy along confederal and municipal lines.

In fact, libertarian municipalism gains its life and its integrity precisely from the dialectical tension it proposes between the nation-state and the municipal confederation. Its “law of life,” to use an old Marxian term, consists precisely in its struggle with the state. The tension between municipal confederations and the state must be clear and uncompromising. Since these confederations would exist primarily in opposition to statecraft, they cannot be compromised by state, provincial, or national elections, much less achieved by these means. Libertarian municipalism is formed by its struggle with the state, strengthened by this struggle, indeed defined by this struggle. Divested of this dialectical tension with the state, of this duality of power that must ultimately be actualized in a free “Commune of communes,” libertarian municipalism becomes little more than “sewer socialism.”

Many heroic comrades who are prepared to do battle (one day) with the cosmic forces of capitalism find that libertarian municipalism is too thorny, irrelevant, or vague to deal with and opt for what is basically a form of political particularism. Our spray-can or ’ alternative cafe” radicals may choose to brush libertarian municipalism aside as “a ludicrous tactic,” but it never ceases to amaze me that well-meaning radicals who are committed to the “overthrow” of capitalism (no less!) find it too difficult to function politically — and, yes, electorally — in their own neighborhoods for a new politics based on a genuine democracy. If they cannot provide a transformative politics for their own neighborhood relatively modest task — or diligently work at doing so with the constancy that used to mark the more mature left movements of the past, I find it very hard to believe that they will ever do much harm to the present social system. Indeed, by creating cultural centers, parks, and good housing, they may well be improving the system by giving capitalism a human face without diminishing its under lying unfreedom as a hierarchical and class society.

A bouquet of struggles for “identity” has often fractured rising radical movements since SDS in the 1960s, ranging from foreign to domestic nationalisms. Because these identity struggles are so popular today, some of the critics of libertarian municipalism invoke “public opinion” against it. But when has it been the task of revolutionaries to surrender to “public opinion” not even the “public opinion” of the oppressed, whose views can often be very reactionary? Truth has its own life — regardless of whether the oppressed masses perceive or agree on what is true. Nor is it “elitist” to invoke truth, in contradiction to even radical public opinion, when that opinion essentially seeks a march backward into the politics of particularism and even racism. It is very easy to drop to all fours these days, but as radicals our most important need is to stand on two feet — that is, to be as fully human as possible — and to challenge the existing society in behalf of our shared common humanity, not on the basis of gender, race, age, and the like.

Critics of libertarian municipalism even dispute the very possibility of a “general interest.” If, for such critics, the face-to-face democracy advocated by libertarian municipalism and the need to extend the premises of democracy beyond mere justice to complete freedom do not suffice as a “general interest,” it would seem to me that the need to repair our relationship with the natural world is certainly a “general interest” that is beyond dispute — and, indeed, it remains the “general interest” advanced by social ecology. It may be possible to coopt many dissatisfied elements in the present society, but nature is not cooptable. Indeed, the only politics that remains for the Left is one based on the premise that there is a “general interest” in democratizing society and preserving the planet Now that traditional forces such as the workers’ movement have ebbed from the historical scene, it can be said with almost complete certainty that without libertarian municipalism, the left will have no politics whatever.

A dialectical view of the relationship of confederalism to the nation-state, an understanding of the narrowness, introverted character, and parochialism of identity-movements. and a recognition that the workers’ movement is essentially dead all illustrate that if a new politics is going to develop today, it must be unflinchingly public, in contrast to the alternative-cafe “politics” advanced by many radicals today. It must be electoral on a municipal basis, confederal in its vision, and revolutionary in its character.

Indeed, in my view, libertarian municipalism, with its emphasis on confederalism, is precisely the “Commune of communes” for which anarchists have fought over the past two centuries. Today, it is the “red button” that must be pushed if a radical movement is to open the door to the public sphere. To leave that red button untouched and slip back into the worst habits of the post-1968 New Left, when the notion of “power” was divested of utopian or imaginative qualities, is to reduce radicalism to yet another subculture that will probably live more on heroic memories than on the hopes of a rational future.

April 3, 1991; addendum, October 1, 1991

The Socioeconomic Guardians of Scarcity by Hagbard Celine33

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We live on a planet with finite resources, however scarcity is relative to the way we manage those resources. “Scarcity” as a condition is artificial in the 21stcentury. Scarcity is artificial in the sense that it literally has to be enforced by a socioeconomic system of structural and behavioral authoritarianism. To quote the sociologist Philip Slater “Inequality, originally a consequence of scarcity, is now a means of creating artificial scarcities.” Anti-authoritarians have traditionally defined themselves as opposed to socioeconomic hierarchy. However, by defining oneself as opposed to socioeconomic hierarchy, one is really saying that they want free association as a means to organize society. Free association means freedom to associate, freedom from association, as well as freedom within the association(decision making power being held by people within an association, as well as equality of voting power for people within associations). The words “free association” mean nothing if there is not an environmental context that allows for such behavior/systems to prosper via meeting people’s needs and minimizing abuse. Under capitalism, the necessities of life are commodified. However if food/water/shelter/energy can be commodified, humans can be commodified. Capitalism is the buying and selling of people forced into contracts due to economic conditions of artificial scarcity. The state serves as the enforcer class of the economic warfare inherent in capitalism (protecting the upper classes from the lower classes). The state is based on the selective application of law and punishment. We reflect values of our social and economic systems which are interconnected. Rather than punishing people for reacting to a system that deprives people of their needs and creates abuse, we should focus our energy towards prevention/education/restraint of those harming others IF we want to create a non authoritarian society. Capitalism and the state are both different yet interconnected incarnations of authoritarian top down organization that inhibit well being and protect scarcity.

Capitalism is an authoritarian economic system, based on private property rights (the private ownership of the means of production) and economic competition in a market system. This creates a network of top down organizations that people are forced into by market pressures in order to survive. If we want to stop theft we need to meet people’s needs (which can’t be done in an economic system where scarcity in regards to the basic necessities of life keeps the economy going). Freedom from association is meaningless when your options are starve or associate within an association where there is no freedom within the association. To quote Noam Chomsky, “The idea of “free contract” between the potentate and his starving subject is a sick joke, perhaps worth some moments in an academic seminar exploring the consequences of (in my view, absurd) ideas, but nowhere else.” Capitalism is antithetical to free association, for the contracts that are occurring within capitalism are based on unnecessary work for a boss or suffer economic conditions; especially unnecessary given that we live in an age where the majority of labor relevant to meeting human needs can be automated. Denying the necessities of life to anyone turns life into a privilege instead of a right.

We live in a system where 85 people have more wealth than 3.5 billion people. Around 20,000 people die a day from starvation. Somewhere between 30–50% of food humans produce on the planet is not eaten. In 1976 a study done on structural violence (avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs from hierarchical socioeconomic structures) found that 18 million people die a year from structural violence (and wealth inequality has doubled since then). David Pimentel’s research shows that 1.2 Billion people lack access to clean water, 57% of people are malnourished, and Around 40% of deaths on this planet are from water/air/soil pollution. Yet we have the resources and technology to meet everyone’s needs. We have clean energy technology such as wind/wave/solar/tidal/geothermal energy. We have the knowledge of hydroponic/aeroponic/aquaponic skyscrapers to ensure free clean food for all. We have the technology to purify water via water desalinization and rain water collection and purification. Then there is hemp which has thousands of industrial uses including eco friendly plastics/paper/housing/clothes/etc. We have 3d printing, and contour crafting which is the 3d printing of buildings. We can combine 3d printing with open collaborative design defined by the website Adciv.org as a process that “involves applying principles from the remarkable free and open-source software movement that provides a powerful new way to design physical objects, machines and systems. All information involved in creating the object or system is made available on the Internet – such as text, drawings, photographs and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) models – so that other people can freely re-create it, or help contribute to its further evolution.” We have the knowledge of using techniques like mycorestoration, which is “the use of fungi to repair or restore the weakened immune systems of environments” definition given by Paul Stamets in his book Mycelium Running. We have Maglev train technology for transportation, making transportation faster, more resource efficient and more energy efficient than current outdated modes of transport. Then there is the internet and the educational resources that it provides. And last but not least our ability to automate the vast majority of toil. You cannot argue with the fact that this technology exists, which is why our technical reality is consistently sidestepped by most people who critique post scarcity economics. This technology exists, but it is not being fully implemented because of inhibiting factors. It is important to note that “the scientific method applied to social concern” is a process constantly changing with new relevant information/technology.

We have the technology and the resources to live in harmony with the global ecosystem and each other, but socioeconomic hierarchy prevents this technical reality from being actuated. For scarcity is a precondition of profit. The more scarce a specific resource/good/service is, the more one can sell the resource/good/service for. And this means an access abundance of a particular resource such as shelter or food is actually bad for profit maximization (which is the law of capitalism). Scarcity is literally reinforced due to the basic incentive system inherit within the market. Throwing a moral imposition of non violence onto an economic system that is based on the artificial scarcity of the basic necessities of life is about as much good as the laws “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not steal”. Historically, rulers who enforce “thou shalt not kill/steal laws” tend to be exempt from their own laws. These verbal/written proclamations do nothing to alleviate the root causes of murder and theft. People consistently conflate a law with conditions that actually prevent authoritarian behavior. There often needs to be other rules in place to allow other rules to be followed. Ethical behavior we wish to see needs to be reinforced by other rules. Authoritarian behavior is tied to a dialogue of unmet needs/abuse/ignorance/malevolence and the systems that enforce unmet needs/abuse/ignorance/malevolence. There is an attempt to trow the moral imposition of “thou shalt not privately own the means of production” on to the market by mutualists. And when worker owned co-operatives exist in a market, they must be subservient to market pressures such as cost efficiency and competition. The best way to maximize money within a market system is to privately own the means of production and extract surplus value from workers. Worker ownership over the means of production can exist to certain degrees within a market system, but the very incentives of a market system reward private ownership over the means of production.

All ideas have been given to us by our environment. We are standing on the shoulders of giants who have stood upon the shoulders of giants who have stood upon the shoulders of giants. Yet we fight over the fruits of labor given to us by dead and living humans. Private property is not based on needs, nor is it based on use. Private property is based on privately owning/managing that which others use. Personal property(items intended for personal use) involves claims to that which one uses, whereas private property  involves ownership claims to that which is used by others. If you don’t want people to steal the ___ you are using from you, declaring ___ your property does not stop theft. If you want to stop theft you need to create an access abundance of the necessities of life. The way we manage our resources needs to be based on needs, use, gift, and environmental concern rather than centralization of economic/political power if wellbeing is our end goal. And from the viewpoint of wanting to meet human needs and adhere to ecological principles, the more we share resources in library-esque access centers the better. And of course we are dependent upon our global ecosystem. If we destroy our global ecosystem through the inefficient and violent use of resources, we destroy the foundation we are dependent upon.

When society deprives any community or individual of the necessities of life, there is a form of violence happening. When society commodifies the bare necessities of life, they are commodifying human beings, whose labor can be bought and sold. Underneath the pseudo-philosophical rationalizations for capitalism is a defense of wage slavery. For if your labor is for sale then you are for sale. To conflate capitalism with free association is to ignore the context that the market transaction occurs within (which is a context of the artificial scarcity of the necessities of life). And to ignore the context is to ignore reality altogether. Market pressures force people to join associations they do not want to join, and force people to stay in associations they want to leave, and any decision making power given to workers can be vetoed by the upper levels of the hierarchy. Capitalism is not about meeting our demands with supply, it is about maximizing profit (which enforces artificial scarcity). Capitalism is nothing more than well dressed economic warfare backed up by the physical warfare of the state. Within the quest to maximize profit is the very incentive structure that would inevitably create the state or some institution that performs the same functions as the state (for the state protects the privatized commons with violence, protects the rich from the poor, allows corporations to avoid liability, and the state applies “the law” selectively which makes those who control the state exempt from the state’s laws). When market economists use the term “Efficiency” they are speaking of cost efficiency, which is a phrase that really means “maximize profit at every level of production”. This really translates to “maximize profit” at the expense of liberatory technical potential and life whenever possible. Underlying our current ecological crisis is an outdated hierarchical socioeconomic structure. Cost efficiency/economic growth are better measurements of ecocide than efficient use of finite resources. It might be resource efficient and technically possible for us to give everyone on the planet a clean energy supply/houses/clean food free of monetary charge but that does not maximize profit, and under capitalism profit must be prioritized above human needs. The root problems aren’t the microcosms of corruption we see, but socioeconomic hierarchy itself. However the microcosms of corruption often help to reinforce/accentuate the system that created such corruption. We must critique and abolish branches of corruption, but we ought to also critique and abolish root causes.

To quote Alfie Kohn “The more “means interdependent” the task, the more cooperation helps. In some instances, it is claimed, competition may produce better results—but only if the task is simple and not interdependent at all.” Economic Competition is inherent to capitalism, yet competition is inferior to cooperation in regards to task completion (and under capitalism the task is maximize profit). This is why there are certain degrees of cooperation even within hierarchies or amongst financial and political elites. The market is able to channel cooperation into competition. Competition does not just happen between competing businesses. The buyer/seller relationship is a form of competition, for the seller is trying to maximize profit and the buyer is trying to minimize cost. The employer/employee relationship is a form of competition, for the employer and employee haggle over the cost of the employee’s labor. Quoting Alfie Kohn’s summary of David and Roger Johnson’s meta analysis on competition vs cooperation: “65 studies found that cooperation promotes higher achievement than competition, 8 found the reverse, and 36 found no statistically significant difference. Cooperation promoted higher achievement than independent work in 108 studies, while 6 found the reverse, and 42 found no difference. The superiority of cooperation held for all subject areas and all age groups.” The idea that society needs competition (and the punishment/reward system inherent in competition) in order to be productive is completely backwards. Competition also enforces scarcity. Quoting Alfie Kohn again, “Structural competition usually involves the comparison of several individuals in such a way that only one of them can be the best. The competition itself sets the goal, which is to win; scarcity is thereby created out of nothing.”. Competition is based on punishing the losers and rewarding the winner (or winners). Which brings me to a quote by the former director of Harvard’s “Center for the Study of Violence” Dr. James Gilligan,“Punishment is the most powerful provoker of violence that we’ve yet discovered”. Capitalism punishes people for being victimized by capitalism. And the inability of many to trace the symptoms back to root causes leads parts of our society to blame victims of the system rather than the system itself. And this socioeconomic punishment only causes more violence which creates more punishment. In order to solve the problem of violence we need to look at violence from the perspective of “preventative medicine” rather than symptom suppression.

Capitalism is based on plutocracy concealed under the clever disguise of “voting with your money”. Under capitalism everyone votes with unequal amounts of money (and there is inequality in regards to how much people make per hour). “Philosophical” Capitalists will often criticize democracy as if it is a monolithic term that only has authoritarian forms ignoring participatory democracy based on freedom of/from/within within associations (based on free association but not necessarily consensus). And by freedom I do not mean freedom from context such as various definitions of free will, nor do I mean the freedom to exploit others and freedom to perform acts of ecocide. I mean freedom FROM structural violence, behavioral violence, and freedom from ecocide(and various other ‘liberatory freedoms’ such as the freedom to have power with people instead of power over people). In the realm of the representative based systems, there is a form of pseudo democracy where we are given the choice to vote on rulers but not given the freedom from having a political ownership class. Ignorance of participatory democracy and any kind of anti authoritarian solutions to capitalism serves the status quo, influencing people to think that the only alternative to capitalism is some other authoritarian system such as Leninism/Stalinism/Maoism/etc. Saying that our options are either the state or the market is a classic false duality fallacy.

To quote David Graeber, “This is the great trap of the twentieth century: on one side is the logic of the market, where we like to imagine we all start out as individuals who don’t owe each other anything. On the other is the logic of the state, where we all begin with a debt we can never truly pay. We are constantly told that they are opposites and that between them they contain the only real human possibilities. But it’s a false dichotomy.” We are given a false duality in our current socioeconomic conversation, that the only way to run society is some ratio of statist/capitalist control. However at the heart of statecraft/capitalism is authoritarian top down organization. The feedback loop of hierarchy/ignorance/scarcity is at the root of the current socioeconomic system. We cannot solve violent top down social organization through violent top down social organization (and thinking that we can is tautological). The state/market duality is really just a more sophisticated form of the republicrat/demopublican duality and it serves the purpose of tranquilizing any actual solutions to socioeconomic hierarchy.

The state is a monopoly on the use of legal violence in a given territory based on centralization of decision making power. Obviously such an institution is antithetical to a liberatory society. The state includes administrators (politicians) and enforcers (such as the police and the military). The state, like capitalism, is based on socioeconomic hierarchy. The state includes a governor class and a governed class. At the end of the day capitalism and the state complete each other, like the most romantic of lovers. Capitalism controls the state, and the state controls capitalism. Where does one begin and where does the other end? For the police are the physical extension of intra-national economic warfare, and the army is the physical extension of international economic warfare. Here is an Adam Smith quote that explains the romance between the state and capitalism, “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” Within a system of economic hierarchy and class warfare, there are going to be inevitable rebellions from those who have no property towards those who do have property. The state is what helps protect the inherent instability within a system of perpetual economic warfare. So according to the great priest of capitalism (Adam Smith), capitalism requires a monopoly on the use of legal violence in order to maintain it. A relatively recent University of Hawaii study found that democide (which is the murder of people by states) in the 20th century killed over 250 million people. The state is a product and co-creator of structural violence that requires behavioral violence as a mechanism to enforce the privatization of the commons. The political representatives in a statist society are for sale just like any other commodity. Political representatives in the pseudo democratic regimes like the United States serve as a middle man between people and their ideas. This is not true bottom up organization, for people vote on who has centralized decision making power. Subtract the structural violence from the state, and the state ceases to exist (or as Kropotkin said “It is authoritarian or it ceases to be the State.”). Capitalism needs some institution that performs the same function of the state (protection of private property) in order to function (so there is really no such thing as stateless capitalism, for stateless capitalists merely advocate completely privatized states((or states that dont pretend to represent anyhing or anyone but their private owners))). “Stateless capitalists” talk about how they want to privatize the police/the army/nuclear bombs/courts/and all bathrooms/and even have a free market of buying and selling starving children. Besides those solutions being absurd, they merely recreate the state under a separate name. The state is not authoritarian because it is influenced by capitalism and nor is capitalism an authoritarian system because it is influenced by the state. The state and capitalism are both structurally violent on their own, however state power and capitalist power tend to merge due to the basic power consolidation tendency of both systems. Not only are markets in love with states, but states are also in love with markets. This romance is mutual. For the market forces the subjects of the state to feed/clothe/house themselves by competing amongst each other for survival. The state and the market aren’t just married, they are practically inseparable forms of authoritarianism that work together to centralize decision making power. The worker is exploited by bosses and shareholders at work, exploited by the landlord at home, and exploited by the state through taxation. When the state takes money from owners of the means of production, the state is really taking the spoils taken from workers by private owners, guaranteed to the state for maintaining the system that allows for such conditions to exist in the first place. This is taken into consideration by private owners and worked into their general strategy for profit maximization.

Statecraft involves the argument from authority and /or non authority fallacy (which are fallacies that conflate experts or non experts in a field with evidence). Politicians do not know what is best because they are politicians. As we have witnessed in the controversial Milgram experiment, a shocking amount of participants were willing to electrocute someone to a point that would cause extreme harm because they were told to do so by a person in a lab coat. In the realm of the state people apply a double standard towards political representatives and the police who are not bounded by the laws they administer. The state is an institution that is defined by gratuitous violence yet enforces thou shalt not kill laws (selectively). If we want to maximize well being, then we need to subtract the state, subtract capitalism, subtract the market, subtract sexism, subtract racism, and all other forms of bigotry from society(systemic or behavorial), and use technology to automate the means of production and base production and distribution on human needs and environmental concern. We need highly organized non authoritarian communities that check and balance liberatory technical potential with ecological principles at every stage of production. We need highly organized decentralized yet federated communities that harmonize the individual and the collective and the environment, rather than states. An important difference between a state and a community is that states are necessarily authoritarian whereas communities are not necessarily authoritarian. Part of how the state survives is through people conflating the will of the state with the will of the community the state governs and claims to represent.

One important guardian of scarcity is the belief system that socioeconomic hierarchy is human nature. Private property, states and other forms of socioeconomic hierarchy are not inevitable institutions that arise when there are multiple people. Quoting Dr. James Gilligan, “Violence is not universal. It is not symmetrically distributed throughout the human race. There is a huge variation in the amount of violence in different societies. There are some societies that have virtually no violence. There are others that destroy themselves.” Competition and Behavioral Violence are reactions to environmental conditions, and mechanisms for survival under certain environmental conditions (for example under capitalism people are forced to compete with each other for jobs in order to survive). However different contexts bring about varied mechanisms for survival including behaviors such as free association, cooperation and even pan empathy. Quoting Robert Sapolsky, “It is virtually impossible to understand how biology works outside the context of environment.” Our true human nature is to adapt to our nurture. We are not genetically determined towards socioeconomic hierarchy. Quoting Gabor Mate, “The genetic argument is simply a cop-out which allows us to ignore the social and economic and political factors that, in fact, underlie many troublesome behaviors.” This leaves us with the question: what contexts incentivize mutual aid and compassion, and which contexts incentivize parasitic competitive behavior? Mutual Aid and competition can be seen as survival strategies that can be reinforced and even eliminated depending on the environment. And to what extent are we able to share and give when we are under perpetual threats of absolute or relative deprivation of resources? To what extent can we build a library society when the market surrounding the library society creates the incentive to steal from the commons and the sell the stolen resources?

To hoard resources to the point where you are harming other individuals/collectives by creating artificial scarcity is to recreate a system of abuse since scarcity/unmet needs and socioeconomic hierarchy/unmet needs/abuse are interconnected. Take 10,000 vegan pacifists and put them on an island with no food resources and watch a culture of peace turn into a culture of cannibalism. Our actions are reactions to context, which is why it is absurd to enforce moral laws upon a system that creates the incentive to break such laws.

In order for non authoritarian societies to exist, we need to meet everyone’s needs and minimize abuse/ignorance/malevolence. To create and enforce artificial scarcity is to create and enforce unmet needs and abuse. Yet the market forces us to act in ecocidal ways such as hoarding resources we barely use in order to have access to those resources, or forcing us to use the petro fascist economy in order to have access to relevant mobility, or forcing us to buy cost efficient goods (rather than resource efficient goods) through economic incentive, etc. Conspicuous consumption is a phrase that is used to define consumption for the sake of status rather than utility. It is a defining characteristic of the modern day market (especially the upper classes). If we subtracted this learned behavior from society, our global demand would go down immensely. But there is an incentive within the market to maximize this parasitic behavior, for maximizing consumption for the sake of status is a great way to maximize profit. The value system at the heart of conspicuous consumption is the exact opposite of the value system at the heart of post scarcity economics. Conspicuous consumption is both a result of scarcity based economics, and a mechanism that perpetuates scarcity. If we subtract conspicuous consumption from our society, while applying technology to meet the needs of humans and the environment that we are dependent upon, we can reach a post scarcity society. If people think they are entitled to have all of California as a backyard or other absurd demands such as 5 mansions and 5 cars we cannot (as much as that would be efficient in regards to market efficiency which shows how antithetical the market is to sustainability).

An important characteristic of a hierarchical socioeconomic model is the fact that some people can have the most absurd wants fulfilled while some people are denied their basic needs. Which ever routes can make the most money get priority. And unfortunately there is not a lot of money to be made in free food/free water/free energy/free shelter for everyone (not that there aren’t steps we can take within the current cage of state/capitalist power, just that the entire point of the hierarchical socioeconomic model is to make sure those steps aren’t made without resistance. To what extent can we build a new world within the shell of the old world when the old world prevents the new world from existing? That being said we still need to create the new world within the shell of the old to whatever extent is possible within the current socioeconomic context). Whether we live in a pure state economy or a pure capitalist economy, or some awkward form of love between the two, the same underlying problem of socioeconomic hierarchy persists.

Violent top down organization is damaging to collective and individual well being. For example, violent top down organization creates extreme stress especially within members of the lower castes. This extreme stress causes brain damage amongst other externalities such as increased risk of heart disease and cancer . Paraphrasing Richard Wilkinson’s research, bigger income gaps within economic hierarchies lead to more child conflict, more homicide, more imprisonment, less trust, more drug abuse, more infant mortality, more mental illness, and a decreased life expectancy. And since we are all interdependent upon each other and our environment this winds up harming all of society. So from a purely naturalistic standpoint the governed/governor relationship, the employee/employer relationship, the rich/poor relationship and other forms of socioeconomic hierarchy cause harm. To Quote Albert Einstein: “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” Which leads us to the question: What form of authority is legitimate? The philosopher Bakunin says “Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from 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 engineer.” And most importantly the real authority is the scientific method and the natural laws we are all bounded by. Quoting Bakunin again “in recognizing absolute science as the only absolute authority, we in no way compromise our liberty.” Not only do we not compromise our liberty by accepting the scientific method as our authority, we extend our liberty (for the scientific method can tell us what causes well being/suffering). We need legitimate authority rather than authoritarian social relations.

When we understand that our behavior has environmental context we start to look at the world realizing that there is no person to blame, for it is to incorrect and counterproductive to blame someone for reacting to environmental stimuli. From no blame we can move into pan empathy, and from pan empathy comes the desire to maximize the well being/intelligence/compassion of all people. And there are certain rules we can follow to ensure contexts that minimize harm and maximize well being (such as lack of socioeconomic hierarchy, and the use of liberatory technology). Lack of socioeconomic hierarchy doesn’t mean uniformity nor does it mean chaos. It means differences in abilities unified by liberatory social organization.

Capitalism puts maximizing profit for some before the needs of all. Capitalism puts maximizing profit before human wellbeing, and before liberatory technical potential leading to artificial scarcity of the basic necessities of life, minimizing well being and forcing people into positions of economic servitude in order to survive. The state maximizes profit through rigging the market. Yet when you look closer the market creates the incentive system to rig the market, so the market isn’t being rigged at all (for breaking rules set up within or outside of the market in order to maximize profit is a natural outgrowth of the incentives within the market. The one rule that does not get broken is the law that governs the invisible hand which is “maximize profit”). Capitalism leads to inevitable class warfare because of economic inequality and the unmet needs/abuse/psychosocial stress/death/malevolence/ignorance economic inequality creates. The state then serves the function of protecting the rich from the poor. The state and capitalism are interconnected systems used to privatize the commons via state owned property, private property, and enforcement thereof. Capitalist power and state power merge via venn diagram (due to the power consolidation tendency inherent in socioeconomic hierarchy). All ratios of statist/capitalist power minimize well being via structural/behavioral violence (although some ratios provide comfier cages than others). Statecraft vs. capitalism serves as a false duality that distracts us from options such as post scarcity economics/libertarian municipalism. “Statecraft vs capitalism” is also an incorrect lens to view the world from because the state and capitalism are interconnected (for capitalism needs a state to enforce private property laws). We have the technology to automate the vast majority of toil yet it is not being implemented because human wage slaves are sometimes cheaper than automating a particular chore (for now). Within the market we compete with each other and our technology for labor in order to survive, while scarcity of resources/goods/services creates profit. When our technology is applied towards human needs and environmental concern rather than the maximization of profit the centralization of power we will be able to maximize well being and minimize suffering.