American mutualist and anarchist writer

Kevin Amos Carson (born 1963) is an American author, anarchist and political theorist on the topics of mutualism, individualist anarchism, left-libertarianism and freemarketism. He graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1987.

Associations

Center for a Stateless Society, Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory, Senior Fellow and Trustee

Articles

Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration, by Sheldon Richman, 10 Jan 2014
After describing and providing references on the case against IP laws, reviews Butler Shaffer's essay "A Libertarian Critique of Intellectual Property"
"Indeed, as Kevin Carson documents ... patents were one of the critical elements permitting the unnatural growth of key firms and the concentration of political-economic power during the second half of the nineteenth century. ... Carson writes, 'Without the combined influence of tariffs, patents, and railroad subsidies in creating the centralized corporate economy, there would not have been any large corporations even to attempt trusts in the first place. The corporate transformation of the economy in the late 19th century ... was a necessary precondition for the full-blown state capitalism of the 20th century.'"

Writings

Could Katrina vanden Heuvel Please Just Shut Up?, 22 May 2013
Commentary on The Nation's publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel tweet on "government for common good"
"Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation, is at it again ... This morning she tweeted: "Ginning up IRS story to make government seem like oppressor fits into Right's decades-long narrative. Government for common good is needed." Pssssh. That America has ever had government for common good is one of those officially-sanctioned lies they tell you in the public schools' American history classes ... I wouldn't have been at all surprised if an earlier incarnation of vanden Heuvel had supported Hitler for "restoring faith in government," so long as the death camp guards were unionized."
Don't Hate on Welfare Recipients — The Real Parasites are Elsewhere, 7 Aug 2013
Examines the ways in which the state, at both the micro and macro levels, acts to extract resources from society for the benefit of the classes controlling the state while returning little to the underclasses
"Everywhere you look in the right-wing commentariat, you see the recurring theme of the "underclass" as parasites. Its most recent appearance was the meme of the productive, tax-paying 53% vs. the tax-consuming 47%. And of course there's the perennial favorite mythical quote attributed to Alexander Tytler, trotted out by many who should know better, about the majority discovering they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury ... So don't resent the folks who get welfare and food stamps. Your real enemies — the ones the state really serves — are above, not below."
Related Topic: The State
Intersecting Currents of Change, 1 Jul 2013
Discusses how different forces, such as technogical change, counteract the hierarchies of corporations and states
"There's an occupational category called "futurist," which involves attempting to guess the likely future based on extrapolations from current trends and their interactions. Now, many people can spot the major currents of change in our time. It's when a number of those currents intersect, producing all kinds of whorls and eddies and butterfly effects, that things get complicated ... And now, in the case of ... Edward Snowden, we see dissident states ... aiding American advocates of information freedom purely out of geopolitical interest ... So everything that happens, it seems, inadvertently furthers the cause of freedom."
John Kerry's Tender Sensibilities, 29 Aug 2013
Highlights the hypocrisy of State Secretary Kerry's comments on violation of international norms in Syria vis-à-vis the U.S.'s record in previous wars
"In response to Bashir Assad's crossing of a "red line" by allegedly using chemical weapons against his own people, Secretary of State John Kerry cites his own fatherly feelings as justification for the all-but-inevitable looming US military intervention in Syria. "As a father, I can't get the image out of my head, of a father who held up his dead child, wailing ..." ... In short, the United States simply does not give a rip about Saddam, Assad, or anyone else using chemical weapons or committing war crimes of any kind. ... War crimes by official enemies are just a propaganda point for selling wars to the public."
Related Topics: Iraq, Vietnam War, War, World War II
Lincoln-Worship Overlays the Corporatist Agenda, Future of Freedom, Mar 2014
Review of Rich Lowry's Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream — and How We Can Do It Again (2013)
"One of the central themes in James Scott's Seeing Like a State is the ideology he calls "authoritarian high modernism": "It is best conceived as a strong (one might even say muscle-bound) version of the beliefs in scientific and technical progress that were associated with industrialization in Western Europe and in North America from roughly 1830 until World War I. ..." ... In short, both Lowry and Lowry's idealized Lincoln are entirely in favor of activist government, so long as it's "pro-business." Lowry's rhetoric of "our free institutions and free economy" is pure buncombe."
Manning Show Trial Exposes the Fraud of Representative Democracy, 30 Jul 2013
Analyzes the court martial of Bradley Manning and explains what the trial shows about the state
"Major Ashlend Fein, US Army prosecutor in Bradley Manning's court martial, caught my attention when he referred to Manning as an "anarchist" in closing arguments. As an anarchist, I'd be proud to share that label with Manning. But I've never heard from any reliable source that he considers himself one. ... Manning committed the one unforgivable sin in a sham representative democracy: He let the "sovereign" people in on what "their" government is really doing, and whose interests it's really serving. For that, the political class will never forgive him."
Related Topics: Anarchism, Democracy
Public Enemy Number One: The Public, 15 Jun 2013
Considers the establishment's reaction to revelations by Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, and the attempts to manipulate public opinion
"It's important, when listening to the official shapers of opinion in the media, to ask ourselves what they really mean by the words they use. As Orwell pointed out in "Politics and the English Language," those in power use language to obscure meaning more often than to convey it. A good example is the recurrence of phrases like "endangered our national security" and "aided the enemy"... That's why they get so bent out of shape when people like Manning and Snowden tell the enemy — people like you and me — the ugly truth about how their sausage is made. Their power depends on keeping us — the enemy — in the dark."
Related Topics: Democracy, George Orwell, The State
Reports of Peak Oil's Death Are Somewhat Premature, 22 Jul 2013
Examines shale oil and tar sand oil vis-à-vis the state policies that allow extraction to be profitable
"Peak Oil analysis site The Oil Drum recently announced it's shutting down operations. Due to a dearth of new content, the management decided to stop publishing new material after July 31 ... Naturally this evoked chortles of mirth from the Wall Street Journal. Those dumb old gloom-n-doomers at The Oil Drum, they speculated, were suffering crippling depression from the North American fossil fuels boom in the Bakken shale and the Alberta tar sands ... If climate change is a real problem — and I believe it is — it's not something the government needs to fix. It's something the government needs to stop causing."
Related Topics: Fuels, The State
Somebody Might Get Hurt, 31 May 2013
Comments on two unrelated blog posts to highlight a commonly offered "liberal" argument about state programs
"Every once in a while I'm inspired to write a column by looking through my feeds and stumbling across two items that dovetail together so well the column almost writes itself. This is one of those times. There are several hard realities that most liberals — as opposed to those of us on the genuine Left — are constitutionally unable to admit into their "Why Mommy is a Democrat" view of the world ... So if your automatic response to every moral panic is to pass another law to stop people from getting hurt, stop and think it over some more. You're just giving the state — and the interests that control it — power to hurt people."
Related Topics: Democracy, War on Drugs, The State
Sweatshops the "Best Available Alternative"? But Who Decides What Alternatives are Available?, 20 May 2013
Criticizes Benjamin Powell's defense, in a Forbes article, of Bangladesh garment sweatshops
"Of all the self-styled libertarian commentaries attempting to put the Bangladesh garment factory tragedy in "perspective," Benjamin Powell's is probably the worst ("Sweatshops In Bangladesh Improve The Lives Of Their Workers, And Boost Growth," ...) ... Without "intellectual property," those factories in Bangladesh could ignore Nike's trademark and market identical shoes to the local population at a tiny fraction of the price. And without Nike to impose uniform pricing across the industry, they'd have to compete for local workers. It wouldn't matter if Nike decided to "reduce its footprint" and pull out of Bangladesh. "
The Futility of State-Directed "Market Reform": Deregulation, 6 Aug 2013
Analyzes how so-called "deregulation" actually works, with examples from electrical utilities
"A decade after Califormia's disastrous experience with Enron-style electrical utility "deregulation" — rolling blackouts and price spikes — caused Arizona to abandon a similar project, the Arizona Corporation Commission is once again considering it. ... Whether you call it "Progressivism," the "New Deal," or "free market reform," any policy that comes from a state controlled by capitalists will just be a minor variation on the same theme: a collusive alliance between big business and big government, in which the state guarantees the profits of corporate capital."
The Futility of State-Directed "Market Reform": Privatization, 5 Aug 2013
Examines how so-called "privatization" typically works, with examples from various industries and how Carson thinks it ought to work
"If there's one thing the libertarian establishment — that is, mainstream libertarian organizations whose main activity is lobbying the state for "free market reform" — loves, it's so-called "privatization." An article by Paul Buchheit at Truth-out.com ... treats the failure of privatization as a reflection on the limits of "the free market system." ... The last major head of state to propose privatization on that model was Mikhail Gorbachev, who was deposed by a conveniently timed coup that eventually brought Boris Yeltsin to power — followed by the selling-off of the state economy ... to the kleptocracy."
The Only Thing Dumber Than Libertarianism's Critics are its Right-Wing Defenders, 22 Jun 2013
Responds to question posed by Michael Lind regarding the lack of actual libertarian countries and an attempted rebuttal by Robert Tracinski
"In a recent piece that got lots of replay from the online liberal commentariat, Michael Lind ("The Question Libertarians Just Can't Answer" ...) posed what he considered an unanswerable question to libertarians: “Why are there no libertarian countries? If libertarianism was a good idea, wouldn't at least one country have tried it?” ... There's not a single country in the world in which free and equal human beings can peacefully cooperate and share or exchange the product of their labor without an interventionist state. And so long as the interventionist state exists, there will never be economic and social justice."
The Second Superpower is the Real Fourth Estate, 28 Jun 2013
Explains the term the "Fourth Estate", how the current fourth estate are simply stenographers and who are supplanting them as true journalists, as per James Moore's idea of a "Second Superpower"
""The Fourth Estate," as a nickname for the press, is anecdotally attributed to Edmund Burke, when the House of Commons was opened up to press reporting in the 18th century. The idea is that the press is another branch of government without official recognition, representing the interests of civil society as a whole, and acting as a sort of check or limit on the others ... The new technologies of free communication and association mean, for the first time, we can take on powerful institutions — on a more than equal basis — without becoming powerful institutions. And that means the days of powerful institutions are numbered."
The Security State's Reaction to Snowden Shows Why It's Doomed, 9 Aug 2013
Comments on the differing behavior between networks and hierarchies and how the responses by the hierarchical national security state to the Manning and Snowden leaks tend to be counterproductive to the State's ends
"Back in 2006 Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom, in The Starfish and the Spider, contrasted the way networks and hierarchies respond to outside attacks. Networks, when attacked, become even more decentralized and resilient. A good example is Napster and its successors, each of which has more closely approached an ideal peer-to-peer model, and further freed itself from reliance on infrastructure that can be shut down by central authority ... The U.S. security state and its agencies, in the long run, are doomed for the same reason that all authoritarian hierarchies are doomed: They're stupid."
Related Topics: The State, Technology
The State: Judge in its Own Cause, 22 Aug 2013
Explores, with several historical examples, the United States government's role in judging itself or disregarding its laws
"At a 2011 press conference President Obama, in response to a question about Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, said "We are a nation of laws. We don't let individuals make decisions about how the law operates." Is this really a nation of laws, though? ... That's the way it works. The government commits crimes, classifies all the evidence of its criminal activity, and punishes anyone with the audacity to tell you about it. The government is judge of its own cause, every step of the way. This is not a government of laws. The state is the opposite of law."
The Third Industrial Revolution: Not As Easy to Co-opt as the Second, 8 Jun 2013
Compares the first (steam and hydraulic power) and second (electric power) industrial revolutions with the new micromanufacturing and networked communications technologies and the ability of dominant players to co-opt the third revolution
"In the late 19th century, the decentralizing potential of the Second Industrial Revolution — the introduction of electrical power into industry — was a common theme in social analysis. The idea was that electrical power was destroying the technical rationale for large factories ... The new technologies of abundance, by their very nature, thwart the enforcement of state-imposed artificial scarcity. The present corporate-state order, exhausted and bankrupted from the sheer cost of subsidizing inefficiency and protecting it against competition against the superiority of free cooperative labor, has reached the breaking point."
Related Topics: The State, Technology
Treating Surveillance as Damage and Routing Around It, 11 Aug 2013
Discusses how, as in the wake of the Snowden disclosures, distributed networks respond to attempts at state control, citing PGP adoption and the Firefox TOR browser bundle malware
"Even as the U.S. security state becomes more closed, centralized and brittle in the face of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's leaks, civil society and the public are responding to the post-Snowden repression by becoming more dispersed and resilient. ... This is yet another example of a broader rule: The superior agility and resilience of networks compared to authoritarian hierarchies, and the ability of freely cooperating individuals to devise new ways of evading surveillance and control faster than authoritarian institutions can devise ways of controlling us."
Vote Harder: The Barack Obama Story, 19 Aug 2013
Examines the results of progressives voting in 2008 for "the most anti-war, anti-police state Democrat in decades": Barack Obama
"In theater productions of Peter Pan, there's a scene where Tinkerbell is dying. Peter exhorts the audience to clap their hands to save her. If everyone just claps harder and says "I believe in fairies!" Tink will be restored to life by the power of faith and love. Progressive calls to defeat corporate power and the warfare-surveillance state through more enthusiastic engagement in electoral politics sound about equally plausible. ... We don't need to capture the state or the corporate economy. Leave them to rot. We'll build the new society in their ruins."
When What's Costly is Cheap — and Vice Versa, 6 Jul 2013
Explains how the corporate state programs subsidize big business at consumer expense, and on the other hand creates artificial scarcities to again benefit corporate interests
"Now we can add border militarization to America's list of "moral equivalents of war" — all of which involve tightening state control over the public and funneling billions in loot from taxpayers to corporate interests. As part of the US Senate's "Immigration Reform" package, the border control budget will increase by $38 billion over ten years — including the cost of funding a whole slough of choppers ... as the music and industry can tell you, controlling the free flow of information is well on the way to being impossible. The corporate state is headed for a fall — and it can't come soon enough."
Related Topics: Corporatism, The State
With Enemies Like This, Who Needs Friends?, 23 Aug 2013
Reflects on the actions taken by the U.S. government in response to threats, such as from bad actors like Al Qaeda, or disclosures from whistleblowers such as Snowden and Manning
"The U.S. government's persecution of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning (who came out publicly as a transgender woman after sentencing) is the latest example of a general rule: In the transitional struggle between networks and hierarchies, sometimes networks' most powerful weapons are the hierarchies themselves. You spend a few thousand bucks to yank a network's chain just right, and it'll respond by doing something stupid that costs itself millions ... the forces of the old hierarchical order — the weary giants of flesh and steel, as John Perry Barlow described them — are hanging themselves with their own rope."

Interviews

Mutualism: An interview with Kevin Carson | The Isocracy Network, 3 Nov 2009
Topic discussed include: mutualism in theory and practice, worker cooperatives and credit unions, small-scale manufacturing, Henry George, worker-managed firms, Lockean land ownership concepts, labor theory of value and political coalitions
"Could you begin by giving a description of mutualism ...
Well, first of all, it's important to distinguish between mutualism as a general form of praxis, and mutualism as a theory. Mutualist practices (friendly societies and lodges, guilds, arrangements for mutual aid, etc.) are probably old as the human race ...
What other political requirements do you think have a particular priority in breaking down authoritarian elements in statist rule?
... in my opinion it's at least worth a shot to pressure the state from outside, and form ad hoc alliances to pressure the state ..."

Books Authored

Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, 1 Mar 2007
Contents: Preface - Part One—Theoretical Foundations: Value Theory - Part Two—Capitalism and the State: Past, Present and Future - Part Three—Praxis
Related Topic: Mutualism

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Kevin Carson" as of 6 Jun 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.