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.'"
Could Katrina vanden Heuvel Please Just Shut Up?
, 22 May 2013
Commentary on The Nation
's publisher tweet on "government for common good"
"It's probably no coincidence that the nonsensical phrase 'general Welfare' appears in the US Constitution's Preamble right after the equally nonsensical 'common Defence.' The idea that American military policy serves some common 'national interest,' as opposed to the corporate entities in whose interests wars are actually fought, is pure buncombe. And so is the idea that the American state's economic policies are aimed at some sort of general welfare."
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
"Consider how state policies on behalf of land owners and real estate investors, like the enforcement of absentee title to vacant and unimproved land, drives up rents and closes off access to cheap living space. Consider how licensing schemes and 'anti-jitney' laws, zoning laws against operating businesses out of one's home or out of pushcarts, and regulations that impose needless capital outlays and entry barriers or overhead costs, close off opportunities for self-employment. And consider how zoning restrictions on mixed-use development and other government promotions of sprawl and the car culture increase the basic cost of subsistence."
Intersecting Currents of Change
, 1 Jul 2013
Examines how different forces, such as technogical change, counteract the hierarchies of corporations and states
"Sometimes, improvements in networked communications and cybernetic technologies reinforce the shift in military balance of power from the United States and its allies to dissident regional powers ... Sometimes states, in attempting to undermine rival states' control of their domestic populations, create liberatory technologies that undermine not only their rivals' power but their own. For example the Tor router ... now undermines the NSA's ability to keep the American domestic population under surveillance and the proprietary content industries' ability to prevent file-sharing."
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 WWII, for instance, the U.S. holds pride of place not only for the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo, but for being the first and only military power in history to burn hundreds of thousands of civilians alive with atomic weapons in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As for chemical weapons, aren't Agent Orange and napalm — the liquid fire used on that screaming little girl mentioned above — supposed to count?"
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
"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
Analyses the court martial of Bradley Manning and explains what the trial shows about the state
"The U.S. government fears an informed American people, and an informed world public opinion, far more than it ever feared al Qaeda. What we've called 'representative democracy,' since the rise of universal suffrage in the West a century or so ago, has been an elaborate exercise in securing the outcome desired by ruling elites — preserving an intersecting alliance of corporate and state oligarchies — while maintaining the fiction of popular rule."
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
"The 1960s was the first time since WWII when it seemed to dawn on a significant portion of the public that 'another world is possible.' Since then, management of public opinion to engineer consent has been doubly important to them. That's why the 'national security' community engages in psychological operations to manage public perceptions, the same way they'd manage the perceptions of a wartime enemy — in both cases, the goal being to manipulate the desired reaction out of us."
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
"These new sources of oil all have very low energy returns on energy investment. It takes a lot of energy to get just a little more net usable energy at the end of the process. That means it's only profitable when it's heavily subsidized by taxpayers, extracted from stolen land at government expense. And even then, the total increase in net energy output doesn't equal the oil produced by all those legacy fields in places like Saudi Arabia and Texas that are near exhaustion."
Somebody Might Get Hurt
, 31 May 2013
Comments on two unrelated blog posts to highlight a commonly offered "liberal" argument about state programs
"The coercive state, by its nature, is the instrument of a ruling class. Sometimes the state functionaries themselves will supplant the old ruling class and constitute a new one, as in the case of the bureaucratic oligarchy that ruled the Soviet Union. More frequently, the regulatory and welfare state will align itself with the preexisting corporate capitalist ruling class, and incorporate itself as a junior member, as in European social democracy and American New Deal liberalism. In either case, the vast majority of society will be the ruled. And the rulers will exercise their power over us in all sorts of unpleasant ways. Once you set up an enforcement bureaucracy of cops and administrative law courts capable of shooting or imprisoning people, or seizing their assets without proving them guilty of a criminal offense, they will happily exercise this power."
Sweatshops the "Best Available Alternative"? But Who Decides What Alternatives are Available?
, 20 May 2013
Criticises Benjamin Powell's defense of Bangladesh garment sweatshops
"Thanks to international trademark and patent law, Nike and a few other companies are the only game in town when it comes to hiring people to make shoes. They can take Nike's price or leave it. But there's lots of competing sweatshops, and Nike can easily take its business elsewhere. ... And the same 'intellectual property' gives them oligopoly pricing power in the United States to sell the sneakers at a retail price thousands of percent above the actual cost of production."
The Futility of State-Directed "Market Reform": Deregulation
, 6 Aug 2013
Analyses how so-called "deregulation" actually works, with examples from electrical utilities
"In most cases, regulatory policies were adopted in the first place because they served the regulated industries' interests in extracting monopoly profits at the expense of consumers and workers. So it hardly stands to reason that a state largely controlled by corporate interests would genuinely deregulate those same industries and open them up to full-blown market competition if they didn't have the game rigged somehow."
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 it ought to work
"You start with an infrastructure built at taxpayer expense. The state 'privatizes' it by selling it off to a nominally private corporation, on terms basically set by the corporation behind the scenes. Those terms usually include an expenditure of taxpayer money (often in excess of proceeds from the sale) to upgrade the infrastructure and make it saleable; some sort of guarantee of profits to, or restriction on competition against, the privatized entity; and a large-scale asset-stripping and hollowing out after the sale takes place."
The Only Thing Dumber Than Libertarianism's Critics are its Right-Wing Defenders
, 22 Jun 2013
Responds to question posed by Michael Lind regarding lack of actual libertarian countries and an attempted rebuttal by Robert Tracinski
"Every country in the world has an interventionist state. Every country in the world has class exploitation. Every country in history with a state, since states first arose, has also had classes and economic exploitation. The correlation is one hundred percent. This fact is key to understanding why Lind's framing of the question is so naive. Lind writes as though the adoption of this or that form of polity by 'countries' was simply a matter of peoples collectively deciding on the best way of life for everyone involved."
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
"This illustrates the fundamental game change that networked communications technology has introduced in the age-old struggle between the privileged and non-privileged. For centuries, the transaction costs and capital outlays for coordinating action have meant that we have been oppressed largely through hierarchical, institutional actors. ... 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."
The Security State's Reaction to Snowden Shows Why It's Doomed
, 9 Aug 2013
Comments on how the reactions to the Manning and Snowden leaks tend to be counterproductive to the State's ends
"... the internal witch hunt atmosphere in the U.S. security apparatus is alienating the very contract-work hackers whose skills it is increasingly dependent on. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sticker on Snowden's laptop wasn't a deviation the NSA's leadership failed to catch. It's typical of the cultural pool from which the NSA, of necessity, recruits its contractors. Such people read the news, and they aren't impressed with the government's draconian treatment of people like Aaron Swartz, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden."
The State: Judge in its Own Cause
, 22 Aug 2013
Explores, with several historical examples, the state's role in judging itself
"During the administration of Richard Nixon ... Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, a collection of classified documents showing how the United States had inexorably increased its involvement in Indochina ... lying to the American people about the situation the whole time. ... In 1953 the CIA helped overthrow Iran's elected government ... In the late '70s, under Zbigniew Brzezinski's foreign policy leadership, the U.S. began backing Islamic fundamentalist rebels against the Soviet-friendly government of Afghanistan ..."
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
"By all these means, the state and the coalition of interests that controlled it were able to stave off the threat liberatory technologies posed to their centralized power. The Second Industrial Revolution, which offered to destroy the factory system, free labor from the domination of capital, destroy decentralize production to the neighborhood and village, and abolish the divisions between both town and country and hand-work and brain-work, was instead co-opted into the institutional framework of the First Industrial Revolution. The technology that should have destroyed the old system of power was instead harnessed to serve it."
Treating Surveillance as Damage and Routing Around It
, 11 Aug 2013
Discusses how distributed networks respond to attempts at state control, citing PGP adoption and the Firefox TOR browser bundle malware
"That's how networks always respond to censorship and surveillance. Each new attempt at a file-sharing service ... was less dependent on central servers and other vulnerable nodes than the one before it. Wikileaks responded the same way to U.S. government attempts to shut it down: Besides being hosted on backup servers around the world — some in countries less than friendly to the U.S. government — it responded to seizure of its domain name by publicizing its numeric IP address. Thousands of Wikileaks supporters around the world published its IP address or mirrored the site."
Vote Harder: The Barack Obama Story
, 19 Aug 2013
Examines the results of voting for "the most anti-war, anti-police state Democrat in decades"
"So, to summarize: 1) The biggest grass-roots progressive effort in decades to elect an anti-war, anti-police state president successfully elected a man who immediately proceeded to do the direct opposite of what he promised; and 2) some of the people who elected him are the most strident defenders of his betrayals. Do you really think voting even harder next time is the solution? No. All of this just shows what a monumental waste of effort and resources it is trying to capture the state."
When What's Costly is Cheap -- and Vice Versa
, 6 Jul 2013
Explains how the corporate state programs subsidize big business at consumer expense
"Consider the share of industry's total inputs that are artificially cheap thanks to the state. The state preempts ownership of vacant land and gives privileged access to oil and coal companies, preempts civil liability for oil spills and pollution with its 'environmental' regulations, fights wars to guarantee American access to foreign oil reserves on American terms, and spends many tens of billions on a Navy whose main function is to keep the sea lanes open for oil tankers — all to keep energy artificially cheap. ... It spends tens of billions on an educational system whose main purpose is to supply corporate HR departments with a trained, docile work force at public expense."
With Enemies Like This, Who Needs Friends?
, 23 Aug 2013
Reflections on the actions taken by the U.S. government in response to threats to maintaining its supremacy
"Entirely through its own responses to 9/11, the U.S. government has run up $1.5 trillion dollars in war debt and turned its civil aviation system into a comically totalitarian nightmare straight out of the movie 'Brazil.' ... the U.S. government's draconian prosecutions of Manning and Aaron Schwartz have turned them into martyrs and created sympathy among millions of people around the world."
Mutualism: An interview with Kevin Carson | The Isocracy Network: For Liberty and Common Wealth
, 3 Nov 2009
"Having read Proudhon for some years, his thought is so complex and at times even seemingly self-contradictory, that I still hesitate to summarize it. But I'd venture to say, as an approximation, that his programme centered on 1) abolishing artificial property rights in land and artificial scarcity of credit, so that the working class could secure cheap access to the prerequisites of production; and 2) organizing the economy around associations of producers."