Who Owns the Benefit? The Free Market as Full Communism

<table><tr><td>From <a href="http://c4ss.org/content/12561">Center for a Stateless Society</a> - by Kevin Carson

There’s a wonderful phrase for how capitalism works in the real world (I’m not sure who first came up with it, but I associate it with Noam Chomsky): “The socialization of risk and cost, and the privatization of profit.”

That’s a pretty good description of what the state does under actually existing capitalism, as opposed to the free market. Just about everything we identify as problematic about corporate capitalism — the exploitation of labor, pollution, waste and planned obsolescence, environmental devastation, the stripping of resources — results from the socialization of cost and risk and the privatization of profit.

Why haven’t the cybernetic revolution and the vast increases in productivity from technological progress resulted in fifteen-hour work weeks, or many necessities of life becoming too cheap to meter? The answer is that economic progress is enclosed as a source of rent and profit.

The natural effect of unfettered market competition is socialism.</td><td><img title="Not my fantasy but not as bad as many" src="http://anarchistnews.org/files/pictures/2012/totalfreedom.jpg"></td></tr...
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For a short time the innovator receives a large profit, as a reward for being first to the market. Then, as competitors adopt the innovation, competition drives these profits down to zero and the price gravitates toward the new, lower cost of production made possible by this innovation (that price including, of course, the cost of the producer’s maintenance and the amortization of her capital outlays). So in a free market, the cost savings in labor required to produce any given commodity would quickly be socialized in the form of reduced labor cost to purchase it.

Only when the state enforces artificial scarcities, artificial property rights, and barriers to competition, is it possible for a capitalist to appropriate some part of the cost savings as a permanent rent. The capitalist, under these conditions, is enabled to engage in monopoly pricing. That is, rather than being forced by competition to price her goods at the actual cost of production (including her own livelihood), she can target the price to the consumer’s ability to pay.

That form of enclosure, via “intellectual property,” is why Nike can pay a sweatshop owner a few bucks for a pair of sneakers and then mark them up to $200. Most of what you pay for isn’t the actual cost of labor and materials, but the trademark.

The same is true of artificial scarcity of land and capital. As David Ricardo and Henry George observed, there is some rental accruing on the natural scarcity of land as a non-reproducible good. There’s considerable disagreement among Georgists, mutualist occupancy-and-use advocates, and other libertarians as to whether and how to remedy those natural scarcity rents. But artificial scarcity, based on the private enclosure and holding out of use of vacant and unimproved land, or on quasi-feudal landlord rights to extract rent from the rightful owners actually cultivating arable land, is an enormous source of illegitimate rent — arguably the major share of total land rent. And regardless of any other steps we may be advocate, principled libertarians are all in favor of abolishing this artificial scarcity and — at the very least — letting market competition from vacant land drive down land rent to its natural scarcity value.

We favor, as well, opening up the supply of credit to unfettered market competition, abolishing entry barriers for the creation of cooperative lending institutions, and abolishing legal tender laws of all kinds, so that market competition will eliminate a major portion of total interest on money.

But while demanding the socialization of rent and profit may be frowned upon by capitalists as “class warfare,” they’re totally OK with the socialization of their operating costs. The main reason modern production is so centralized and both firms and market areas are so large, is that the state has subsidized transportation infrastructure at the expense of the general public, and made it artificially cheap to ship goods long distance. This makes large-scale, inefficient producers artificially competitive against small-scale producers in the local markets they invade with the state’s help. That’s why we have giant retail chains driving local retailers out of business, using their own internalized “warehouses on wheels” wholesale operations to distribute goods manufactured by sweatshops in China.

The past forty years’ loss of biodiversity, deforestation, and CO2 pollution has occurred because the ecosystem as a whole is an unowned dump, rather than being a regulated commons. The state typically preempts “ownership” of forests, mineral deposits, etc. — often to the prejudice of indigenous peoples already inhabiting the areas — and then gives privileged access to extractive industries that are able to strip mine them of resources without internalizing the actual costs incurred.

As surprising as it might seem, there’s a strong parallel between this free market vision of abundance and the Marxist vision of full communism. Carl Menger wrote of economic goods (i.e., goods subject to economic calculation because of their scarcity) becoming non-economic goods (i.e., that their abundance and near-zero production cost would make the cost of accounting greater than the production cost, if any). This parallels a major strain of thinking among socialists in the free culture/open source/P2P movement. They see the communist mode of production practiced by Linux and other open-source developers as the kernel of a new post-capitalist, post-scarcity social formation. Much as capitalist production started out in tiny islands inside the larger feudal economy and later became the core of a new, dominant social formation, commons-based peer production is the core around which the post-capitalist economy will eventually crystallize.

And we free marketers are also information communists. We want the benefits of knowledge and technique to be fully socialized. The largest single share of profit under the current model of corporate capitalism is embedded rents on the artificial scarcity of knowledge and technique.

In a society where waste and planned obsolescence were no longer subsidized, and there were no barriers to competition socializing the full benefits of technological progress, we could probably enjoy our present quality of life with a fifteen-hour work week. And in a society where the dominant mode of production was craft production with cheap, general-purpose CNC machine tools (as Kropotkin anticipated over a century ago in Fields, Factories and Workshops), the division of labor and the dichotomy between mental and physical labor would be far less pronounced.

Taken together, these two outcomes of free market competition in socializing progress would result in a society resembling not the anarcho-capitalist vision of a world owned by the Koch brothers and Halliburton, so much as Marx’s vision of a communist society of abundance in which one may “do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”
---

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center's Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. Carson has also written for such print publications as The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty and a variety of internet-based journals and blogs, including Just Things, The Art of the Possible, the P2P Foundation, and his own Mutualist Blog.

Comments

EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!

for real. deregulating the market will lead to communism? are you fucking kidding?

expropriation and communization are all that will lead to communism.

this program sounds more like the republican party platform minus the "radical" rhetoric.

"deregulating the market will lead to communism?"

it seems pretty boiler plate revolutionary marxism to understand that the de-mystified functioning of capitalism is what provokes the proletariat to action.

all you mutualism haters are really bad at thinking.

the author does not want proletarian "action". the author wants the competitive market to set us all free by its inherent unfettered goodness.

youre pretty bad at mystifying criticism.

Anon one: “the author does not want proletarian "action". the author wants the competitive market to set us all free by its inherent unfettered goodness.”

That's pretty much what Marxism was before it stumbled upon the notion of individuality.

Question 4: On what do you base your community of property?

Answer: Firstly, on the mass of productive forces and means of subsistence resulting from the development of industry, agriculture, trade and colonisation, and on the possibility inherent in machinery, chemical and other resources of their infinite extension.
Secondly, on the fact that in the consciousness or feeling of every individual there exist certain irrefutable basic principles which, being the result of the whole of historical development, require no proof.
Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith

What could be more of an unfettered capital than the Ukrainian terror-famine?

Mutualism pertains more to an individuals relationship with their immediate surroundings. Not big grandiose paradigms of how people are supposed to fuction. Its fun to think about, and its great to dream, tote out for liberal progressives and anarcho-coffee hounds, but come on. You're overlooking individualistic human elements here. I.e. In order for this to work everyones gotta be on board. Kind of sounds fucking boring if you ask me.

Boring is a too weak a word for these "anarchist" insitutes.

*Institutes

Life is just a war of all against all in the end. Dreams and ideas mean nothing in the face of reality and an empty stomach.

though the article is very interesting. I think all us anarchs need a little help from our friends. hippie commune style without all the new age bullshit.

"In a society where waste and planned obsolescence were no longer subsidized, and there were no barriers to competition socializing the full benefits of technological progress, we could probably enjoy our present quality of life with a fifteen-hour work week. And in a society (..) the division of labor and the dichotomy between mental and physical labor would be far less pronounced."

Fifteen-hour work weeks, an ode to 'technological progress', free markets and a 'less pronounced' division of labor, yup thats FULL COMMUNISM right there....

i actually like Kevin Carson. I read his "Studies of Mutualist political economy". Of course i think markets the smallest and less present, the better but mutualism is a good provider of ideas for transition away from capitalism.

He's not so bad actually. I was just pointing out that think-tanks and groups like the Institute for Anarchist studies and C4SS are silly and thought provoking at best, and counter-revolutionary at worst. but no, i don't hold any animosity toward Kevin Carson. I've been thinking very frequently on the necessity of communization, and mutualism does have some gems ripe for the pickin'; though after the preverbial bathwater is drained.

Yeah, while I'm not with him Carson all points, he's a bit of a breath of fresh air in a sometimes overly Marxist economic environment. Over the years he's become a lot more of an anarchist and less of a market advocate (unlike some at C4SS), and it suits him well.

"Communism" is great and all, but what room does it leave for autonomy?

Purists will of course curse you, but yes,,at least one can say that a laissez-faire system is anti-statist! What really annoys me about theorists in the dreary science of economics is that they lack creative imagination, Anarchists, Communists, Marx even was petrified into a currency based value system, rather than such as offered by an individualist nihilist---

Proposing a standard unit of sustenance i.e.clothing, shelter, and one feast per day for 2 hrs labour, in other words, a 14 hr week!! This is possible if not for the military industrial complex, obsolescence, lack of birth control yadda yadda etc. The world would be an eden (without the fig leaves ;)

Damn you capitalist scum!!!

fuck a free market. i want a free society. communism will dictate the market. not the other way around.

the opposite of a thing will dictate it's opposite. not the opposite of the thing that is dictating to its opposite being the thing which dictates to its opposite.

Fuck "free market competition" and start working of "free market cooperation".

working on*

This is awful.

Concerned with the ideological perpetuation of the technical aspects of a symbol.

Fuck markets. We want free humans.

So, will we all be allowed to each of us print all of the money we need to live? Or, would that not be competitive enough for our god, Market?

Tired of seeing humans slaving to make some deified object freer than them...gods, kings, capitalists, economies, bureaucracies, markets, states, etc...

On a more positive note, this is the best free market material I've read. Is there hope yet?

Forgot to mention that for as much as the state gets dissed in this there's so much state-influenced mythology being embraced surrounding the notions of work and progress. Ellul would have a heyday...shit is right out of Propaganda.

Carson is putting down what I think many people were thinking in the 90s. This is star-trek style communism.

But capitalist economics is really just about forcing people to work and having the power to print unlimited amounts of paper money isn't it?

“The socialization of risk and cost, and the privatization of profit.”

If Chomsky did first coin the expression, in whatever context, it's like saying capitalism is analogous to the legalisation of gambling as an occupation and not taxing the casino'. The winner is the 1% (state casino metaphorical). Gambling is working. So in a way, despite his horrible liberalism, he has managed to describe the most basic social mechanism that drives capitalism. 5/10 Noam.

Thats the point. Describing, not advocating.

Well he IS a semanticist rather than an advocate. Is it because his methodology is misunderstood and this is the reason why many purist(lol) anarchists reject him as liberal? If so, in the end there would probably be only 100 pure anarchists left standing. But isn't just defining sectarian structures and judging them an authoritarian tendency? Or activism and insurrection, isn't this a case of binary complicity, are not the opponents perpetuating and empowering the system mutually?
Sooo maybe intuitive economics is the way to go.

No, he's not an anarchist because he's a social democrat.

So you are saying he is an asshole totally!!! OK! Well I ask you as a nihilist, what is the definition of an anarchist? I mean, I know hill-billies who hate the state and want it ended as much as anarchists do, whereas nihilists synthesize social relations in a way which holistically absorbs all defects, which we bear ourselves for our existence within the totality, but tell me, how are anarchists different from the hill-billies that say,,,lol,,,were in Deliverance? Gasp! Tell me, a request for enlightenment from a humble individualist anarcho-nihilist please :)

But maybe that's the whole reason why paranoia exists with anarchists, and registered posters have a less vehement approach to socio-economic relationships? Lol, think about it, I'll put you up against the wall if --

1) You don't enslave yourself to my system,
or
2) You will not fight to overcome the hegemony

But it ends up anyway in every revolutionary economic masculine event that it is the women and children who suffer the most collaterally, you know theorists lack heart, and machismoism is still such a dominant anachronistic cultural remnant of medieval feudal judeo-christian viciousness, alas, I am spent, farewell,,,

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