Dale Carrico on peer to peer and the state

Dale Carrico, in the same post we mentioned yesterday in our discussion on the market, also tackles the issue of the relation between the state, democracy, and peer to peer:

Dale writes that:

Violence inheres in human plurality as a permanent possibility, and human beings are always capable of retroactively justifying any conduct, however violent or unjust, if they have the authority to get away with it. Governments claim and then exercise a monopoly on the legitimate recourse to coercion within particular geographical or jurisdictional bounds. That an authorized minority can and almost inevitably will exercise violence on the majority is another permanent and ineradicable possibility inhering again in the basic fact of human plurality in its actually-existing diversity.

The violent state is ineradicable, not to be wished away by New Age fantasies of a triumph of love over all, nor defined away as free marketeers do when they simply claim that all market exchanges, however duressed, are noncoercive by fiat, nor smashed in some revolutionary’s or anarchist’s daydream of violence.

The State cannot be wished away or smashed, but at best democratized, tasked to maintain institutions that provide for nonviolent alternatives for the resolution of disputes and to maintain the legible scene of informed nonduressed consent for their citizens, through the connection of a guarantee of representation and legal recourse to any who are taxed to support its ongoing functioning, through the multilateral antagonisms of a separation of powers, through the dedication to a Constitution and delineated Rights invested with a formal universality soliciting foundational investment rendered especially resistant to tampering, through the solicitation of ever wider ever more diverse participation, and so on.

Where governance is backed by the consent of the governed as well as by its ineradicable violence, it can legitimize and so transform the red thread of that violence into one tasked always only with preserving the peace and protecting the scene of consent on which it depends. The creation of this virtuous circle is the great triumph of democratization, to the extent that we have managed through centuries, bit by bit, to institute it, struggle for it, and in struggling through it to invigorate it.”

The critique against Dale’s proposed basic income scheme to support peer production, what he calls pay to peer, was based on the idea that such state support is incompatible with peer to peer.

To which he responds:

What I worry that Martin is decrying in his response as the “centralization” or “industrialization” of a government regulation and subsidization of p2p formations is in fact the legitimacy that is ineradicably connected to the monopolization of the recourse to violence to preserve the peace and protect the scene of consent.

But the alternative to such centralization is not free love or a market provision of these “services,” but inevitably the disintegration of freedom and the reappearance of the tyrannical sovereign “centralized” form of authority at the local level. p2p won’t smash the state (nor should anybody in their right mind want to smash the state), but p2p can facilitate its ongoing democratization to the emancipation of us all.

As it happens governments (even the cranky minarchist Founding Era United States) have always subsidized the media infrastructure on which they depend for the administration of trade, intelligence, and defense, from roads, to postal services, to universities and presses, to telegraphy and telephony, to radio, to television, to the internet. Subsidizing peer production practices with a basic income guarantee (my “pay-to-peer” scheme) would be an extension of this practice, even further substantiating the democratic civilizational ethos that citizens are peers rather than clients of or footsoldiers for self-appointed elites.”

I agree with this vision of Dale, and do not think the peer to peer dynamic aims to replace the state, though it does create a stronger sphere of autonomy for civil society, and subjects the state under a stronger influence of civil society. It does so partially by strengthening the mechanisms of democratization, i.e. the formal rules for the allocation of scarce resources, but also by creating a larger sphere of self-governance. Peer to peer thereby exemplifies the principle of subsidiarity, as expressed for example in the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Here are some of my own additional comments.

Peer to peer dynamics should not be considered as totalitarian dynamics i.e. replacing everything, but rather as the coming dominant logic of a sustainable post-capitalist economy and civilization. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with combining peer to peer dynamics with market or state dynamics, and many hybrid mechanisms will be tried. The reason for this is that even though in many cases peer production and open design communities will proven to be more productive that centralized planning or decentralized corporate market production, most peer projects can still profit from a ecology of support and such supported peer projects will be generally stronger than those that only operate through a community. Similarly, both corporate and state structures profit from the positive social externalities created by social innovation. In a situation where more and more of the innovation is social, i.e. an emerging property of the distributed networks of peer communities and lead users, there is a very strong argument that the state, through Partner State Policies which enable and empower the direct production of social value, would support peer producers. After all, if medieval societies could support up to a quarter of the male population in being monks (engaged in spiritual production you might say), it is entirely realistic that our current societies are able to fund peer production in a more sustainable manner.

After all, that is the crucial problem of peer production today: it is collective sustainable as a project (as long as volunteers who leave are replaced by newcomers), but not for the individuals involved. If more value is created by individuals outside of the corporate wage relation, then it makes sense for society to reward and enable such activities.

In this line of argument, the basic income is not a handout by the central state, but a recognition by society of the value created by individuals, who are creating value by the very condition of their being citizens.

It is in the end, a matter of justice. Since corporations and the state are profiting so much from social innovation, it is only normal that a part of that benefit is returned to its real producers, i.e. the citizenry organized in peer communities that are creating all kinds of social value.

1 Comment Dale Carrico on peer to peer and the state

  1. Pingback: P2P Foundation » Blog Archive » There is always already coercion

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