This is a follow up on yesterday’s post, arguing that the idea and practice of markets, should be divorced from their present embeddedness in an unsustainable infinite growth system such as capitalism.
Today, we look at the ideas of mutualist Kevin Carson. I will follow this up in a next installment by some of my own ideas on a commons-centered economy.
Kevin sends us the following contextual info to link the two articles together:
“The only thing I would add, to flesh it out: the two pieces you quote from involved dismantling the infrastructure of state capitalism from the top down. The other side of the strategy is the kind of stuff I talked about in the “Building the Structure of the New Society Within the Shell of the Old” post–building counter-institutions from the bottom up to fill the void. It’s a sort of dialectical strategy, with the agenda you quoted providing political cover and room for the alternative economy to grow.
A proposed market strategy against corporate capitalism
(Note that I find most of these proposals very sensible, with the exception of having tolls for the public highway infrastructure; this in effect limits the use of roads by those with financial means – Michel Bauwens)
“1) eliminate all corporate welfare spending, and translate this and all other budget savings (e.g., a radical scaling back of the drug war) into income tax cuts on the lowest brackets; eliminate all differential corporate income tax benefits, including deductions and credits, and lower the corporate income tax rate enough to make it revenue neutral;
2) eliminate all credit union regulations more restrictive than those on ordinary commercial banks; eliminate capitalization requirements and other entry barriers for banks engaged solely in providing secured loans against property;
3) fund federal highways and airports entirely with tolls and other user-fees, with absolutely no subsidies from general revenues, and no use of eminent domain;
4) repeal Taft-Hartley, all legislation like the Railway Labor Relations Act which restrains specific categories of workers from striking, and all legal restrictions on minority unionism in workplaces without a certified union;
5) repeal all food libel laws, liberalize or eliminate restrictions on alternative medicine, and radically scale back or eliminate the so-called “intellectual property” of the agribusiness, infotainment, and drug industries; radically scale back or eliminate patents in general;
6) devolve control of federal land to states, counties and municipalities, with those governments replacing much or all taxation of income and sales with severance and resource extraction fees as a source of revenue;
7) restore the common law of liability to its full vigor, in preference to the regulatory state, as a way of forcing pollutors and other corporate malefactors to internalize the costs they impose on society; make civil damages directly proportional to the harm done;
8) at the state level, drastically scale back the drug war and translate the savings into eliminating the sales tax and cutting income taxes on the lower brackets; at the state and local levels, eliminate all corporate tax incentives, public spending on industrial parks, and the like, and reduce income taxes on the lower brackets accordingly; at the local level, shift all current taxes on buildings and improvements and personal property, and all sales taxes, onto the unimproved site value of land;
9) at the local level, accept some portion of taxes in LETS notes and other alternative currencies;
10) eliminate all local zoning restrictions on mixed-use development like neighborhood grocers in subdivisions, and walkup apartments downtown; fund all urban freeway systems with tolls; require real estate developers to pay the full cost of extending roads and utilities to new subdivisions, instead of passing on the cost to tax- and ratepayers in old neighborhoods.”
Kevin Carson on Freed-Market Policies for Development:
“So what kinds of genuinely free market policies could the West undertake to promote prosperity in the Third World? Here are a few, for starters:
1. Western governments should support genuine property rights in the land. That is, they should stop siding with the Latifundistas and other landed oligarchies against land reform, and support strengthening of the peasantry’s traditional tenure rights in the land. The history of American foreign policy in the Third World, unfortunately, is pretty accurately symbolized by its intervention on behalf of United Fruit Company in Guatemala: decades of collusion between landlord and general oligarchies, American agribusiness interests, and the U.S. national security establishment. Murray Rothbard, a libertarian considerably less prone than the Catoids to confuse “property rights” and the “free market” with plutocratic interests, acknowledged that most “property rights” in the Third World were really what Thomas Hodgskin called “artificial” and Albert Jay Nock called “law-made” (see “Rothbard on Feudalism and Land Reform”) Such property claims, descended largely from state grants of land under colonial regimes, came at the expense of the legitimate property rights of the peasants who had appropriated the land through their own labor.
One reason Third World labor is willing to work in sweatshops as their “best available alternative” is that they’ve been forcibly deprived of any better alternative. If the countless land expropriations of recent decades had not taken place, if the property rights of peasant cultivators had been upheld against quasi-feudal property rights based on state land grants to absentee landlords, if hundreds of millions of now landless laborers still had independent access to subsistence farming, the bargaining position of labor against Wal-Mart’s suppliers would be considerably different. As was the case with the enclosures in Britain, employers find it a lot harder to get cheap labor when workers have independent access to the means of production. Some factual questions were recently raised about Ellennita Muetze Hellmer’s JLS article “Establishing Government Accountability in the Anti-Sweatshop Campaign,” but that shouldn’t obscure the validity of her central point: it’s disingenuous for sweatshop employers to congratulate themselves on providing crutches to destitute Third World laborers when they’ve colluded with government in breaking their legs in the first place.
2. Repudiate international “intellectual property” accords. The central motivation behind the GATT intellectual property regime was to permanently lock in the collective monopoly of advanced production technology by TNCs, and impede the rise of independent competition in the Third World. It would, as Martin Khor wrote, “effectively prevent the diffusion of technology to the Third World, and would tremendously increase monopoly royalties of the TNCs whilst curbing the potential development of Third World technology.” The developed world pushed particularly hard to protect industries relying on or producing “generic technologies,” and to restrict diffusion of “dual use” technologies. Not to put too fine a point on it, the aim of international “intellectual property” law is to lock the Third World into a permanent status of global sweatshop, hewers of wood and drawers of water for Western capital [Martin Khor, The Uruguay Round and Third World Sovereignty (Penang, Malaysia: Third World Network, 1990); Chakravarthi Raghavan, Recolonization: GATT, the Uruguay Round & the Third World (Penang, Malaysia: Third World Network, 1990)].
3. Replace the phony neoliberal version of “privatization” with the real thing–that is, privatization based on respect for the property rights of the taxpayers whose sweat equity is embodied in the assets. Murray Rothbard argued that state property should be treated as “unowned” in the Lockean sense, and subject to homesteading by those actually mixing their labor with it [“Confiscation and the Homestead Principle,” Libertarian Forum June 15, 1969]. In the case of public utilities, that means organizing them either as producers’ co-ops under the control of workers’ syndicates, or consumer cooperatives owned by the ratepayers. All state property and services should, in some similar fashion, be returned directly to the people. The state has no right to sell, to its favored cronies, property that was originally paid for with money looted from the taxpayers.
4. More generally, the U.S. should abandon the Palmerstonian model of fake “free trade” for the genuine article, as conceived by Cobden. According to Oliver MacDonough [“The Anti-Imperialism of Free Trade,” The Economic History Review (Second Series) 14:3 (1962)], the Palmerstonian system was utterly loathed by the Cobdenites. The sort of thing Cobden objected to included the “dispatch of a fleet ‘to protect British interests’ in Portugal,” to the “loan-mongering and debt-collecting operations in which our Government engaged either as principal or agent,” and generally, all “intervention on behalf of British creditors overseas” and all forcible opening of foreign markets. Cobden opposed, above all, the confusion of “free trade” with “mere increases of commerce or with the forcible ‘opening up’ of markets.”
Real free trade policy, on the other hand, doesn’t require multilateral bureaucracies like the WTO. It simply requires eliminating U.S. trade barriers, and allowing Americans to trade or invest anywhere they want to in the world on whatever terms they can negotiate–provided that they also internalize all costs and risks of doing business overseas, without the U.S. government subsidizing their operating costs, insuring them against nationalization by hostile governments, and suchlike. It’s that simple.”