Dale Carrico on peer to peer and the market

Dale Carrico has an interesting response to a critique, that equates P2P and the Market:

Ironically, the laissez-faire capitalist system of grassroots exchanges of money is ‘p2p’ while basic income guarantee represents a centralized, ‘broadcast’ form of economic exchange.”

He responds in the following way, stressing how markets are entirely depending on the institutional framework of the state:

The formations that we describe as “Market” orders, such as they are, depend on laws backed by force, depend on norms practiced in the context of relatively stable institutions providing for the resolution of disputes beholden to legitimate governance, depend on infrastructure maintained to provide equity for all citizens rather than profit for a minority of owners, and depend on prices articulated by treaties, protocols, agreements, regulations enacted by authorized representatives, and on and on and on and on and on. The actual historical forms that so-called free, so-called spontaneous, so-called natural markets take will actually definitively reflect the particular historical forms of these laws, norms, protocols, treaties, assumptions on which they also depend for their maintenance.

Laissez-faire capitalism and the fantasy of “spontaneous order” are entirely rhetorical constructions deployed by incumbent interests to bamboozle majorities into collaborating in the terms of their own exploitation by incumbent interests who benefit from the indispensable unpaid or ill-paid looting of their common heritage, earthly commons, and their common peers.”

I agree with Dale’s analysis, but would make an exception that there is a tradition of left market anarchism, which may be mistaken, but at least is not motivated by any defense of existing privilege. See Kevin Carson’s mutualist approaches for example.

My take on this is that markets should be distinguished from capitalism, and that once the destructive infinite growth machine is dismantled, we can and will still have markets that will operate under different institutional conditions, and may be one of the mechanisms society will use to deal with scarce rival goods. At least in terms of values, mutualist approaches are not antagonistic to peer to peer logics.

But I think there is another response to the difference between markets and true peer to peer dynamics.

Essentially, markets are a form of swarming, and lack any social awareness, but parties interact starting from their own self-interest, with no consciousness of the whole, no extended circle of care. Activities have no objects that transcends the interested parties. Market dynamics are like insect dynamics, with prices acting as stygmergic signs that guide behaviour, the individual has no intentionality beyond his own. Really existing ‘capitalist’ markets, dominated as they are by large multinational companies, have a decentralized, and not distributed dynamic. And of course, the very pricing mechanism works in an exclusionary fashion against those who do not have money.

True peer to peer dynamics take place in distributed systems, and are permission-less, not dependent on powerful obligatory hubs (hubs are chosen/created through cumulative individual action). Participants have the intentionality and awareness that they are either participating in a sharing mechanism, or in a commons mechanism, and therefore human intentionality is integrated in p2p dynamics, having social objects that transcend the individual. P2P systems are designed, to converge individual and collective interests, unlike markets that are based on the hope that individual interests will converge into a collective interest, but we know that this mechanism does not function without regulation and external control from the state or civil society. Historically unregulated markets have always resulted in a strengthening of the domination of the already powerful as it has done in the last 30 years of neoliberalism, to an unprecedented extent. In peer to peer, the two wins of the participants are augmented by the win of the group project, and the benefit of the group for the whole society through the distribution mechanism which guarantees universal availability through sharing or a commons. Motivation for peer to peer is intrinsic positive, i.e. deriving passion, rather than ‘extrinsic positive’ (self-interest or greed, motivated by the external money mechanism). Finally, in terms of the cooperation mechanism it is not neutral as capitalism is (I win, you win as rarely achieved best hypothesis), but synergistic in its very design.

For all these reasons, the market cannot be equated with a peer to peer mechanism, as it operates in peer production and governance processes.

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