Friday, April 22, 2011

Materialism: Stirner, Marx, and Arendt

Max Stirner, Karl Marx, and Hannah Arendt

Max Stirner was born Johann Kaspar Schmidt in Germany in 1806. He was a student of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the German philosopher who developed systems of thought which came to be known as Hegelian Idealism and the Hegelian dialectic.
      In his thirties, Stirner had contact with the philosophers Bruno Bauer, Friedrich Engels, and possibly also Karl Marx. Stirner, Bauer, Engels, Marx, David Strauss, and Ludwig Feuerbach were among many philosophers whom were influenced by Hegel. Marx once wrote a work which criticized Stirner’s writing.
      Marx and Engels articulate materialist conceptions of history, which Engels refers to as “historical materialism”. Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of what causes the development of human society. It views political and societal structures as outgrowths of economic structures and activity.
      According to Josef Stalin, “historical materialism is the extension of the principles of dialectical materialism to the study of social life, an application of the principles… to the phenomena of the life of society; to the study of society and of its history.”
      While Marx and Stirner have each been described as both admirers as well as detractors of Hegel, Stirner is typically characterized as more un-Hegelian or anti-Hegelian than Marx.

      Each Marx and Stirner has his own conception of radical materialist philosophy. While Marx gravitates towards a collectivist model which focuses on labor and its product, Stirner articulates an individualist model which focuses on man, his mind, and his humanity.
      In order to properly differentiate the two philosophers’ ideas, it shall be necessary to first explain the concepts of commodification, fetishism, and abstraction.
      In Marx’s view, the actions which men perform in order to sustain their lives and their livelihoods have been turned into mere commodities, just like any other life-sustaining product such as food. So too has the relationship between laborer and employer been turned into a mere commodity, as well as having been objectified and mystified.
      Thus, the social relationship between laborer and employer – and labor itself as well as its product – have ceased to be things which are material and concrete, and have instead become things which are immaterial and abstract.
      The result of this abstraction and this fetishism of the commodity is that labor, its product, and the relationship have become things which are held over and against the laborer, causing him to become a slave, doomed to pursue the rarely-achievable goals of ever-increasing wages, benefits, standards of living, property values, and the payment of accumulating debt.

      Curiously, socialist philosopher Hannah Arendt criticizes Marx for doing the very same thing which he alleges he is trying to combat. According to Arendt, Marx has elevated the labor of man such that it has become the primary end of human existence. Arendt asserts that this has resulted in the subordination of the political realm to the needs of mere animal necessity, which she calls “the rise of the social”.
      Thus, Arendt effectively argues that it is neither the commodification of labor nor the fetishism thereof which enslaves men, but rather, men are enslaved by necessity, by their own need to survive; men are unfree because they have obligations to themselves which are extraordinarily difficult to provide for permanently.
      Stirner would likely be inclined to agree with Arendt in her criticism of Marx. While Marx is focused on labor as a commodity, Stirner appears to be focused on men themselves – as well as on their minds and their humanity – as the things which have been commodified, objectified, and mystified.

      Stirner defends solipsism, which holds that one’s mind is the only thing which one can be certain exists. Stirner writes, “I am not abstraction alone… I am not a mere thought, but at the same time I am full of thoughts, a thought-world.” Thus, Stirner defends men and the minds of men as the only things which are certainly concrete and material.
      Often, publicly-traded companies are referred to as “corporations”, governmental entities are referred to as “parliamentary bodies”, and groups of people belonging to churches or governmental entities are referred to as the “body politic” or as the “corpus mysticum” – meaning “mystical body” of the group. All of these terms connote the idea that groups of people may perceive themselves to possess a singular physicality. This is perhaps best illustrated by the manner in which Catholics partake in the sacrament.
      But Stirner contests the claimed corporeity of “God, Emperor, Pope, Fatherland, etc.”, and asserts that the only way to reclaim what is one’s own and what is one’s property is to destroy the corporeity of these “ghosts”, to resume perceiving of oneself as his own creator – dislocating the traditional role assigned to the gods – and to proclaim, “I alone am corporeal”.
      Thus, Stirner asserts that only the singular man may possess a body – which is concrete, material, physical, and tangible – as opposed to an abstract, immaterial, intangible concept which multiple men have agreed to construct in their own minds through voluntary cooperation which is – more often than not – merely temporary.
      Being that Stirner asserts that men themselves are corporeal, it would be reasonable to assume that he disagrees with Marx that the labor relationship, labor, or its product were ever either concrete or material to begin with, and so, they cannot be abstracted, because they were already abstract concepts which only existed in the minds of those who perceived them.

      It may be concluded that Stirner believes that men have had their own minds and their own humanity abstracted from them and held over and against them, and that men’s humanity and the need for mankind to pursue a more perfect humanity in addition to the goal of civilization have turned men themselves into slaves.
      Now, due to the commodification of the minds and of the humanity of men themselves – and the fetishism thereof – rather than chasing unachievable economic goals through endless labor, men instead chase the deity-like perfection which is held over and against them by the abstract, immaterial, intangible, and truly incorporeal body politics of the church and of governmental entities, in addition to chasing examples of pinnacles of civilization which often draw back hundreds of generations into the past.
      Thus, humanity and civilization have become mere abstract concepts which are no longer grounded in reality. Furthermore, considering the principles of solipsism subscribed to by Stirner, one can no longer even be certain that humanity and civilization exist in the first place.
      As a result, rather than adopting a societal model which places focus on the importance of the individual, his uniqueness, and his specialty, we have allowed the perfect – which is, for all intents and purposes, unachievable – to take precedence as the primary end of human existence.
      This may be what is truly signified when the abstract is “held over and against us”. Not only is perfection above us, but it has – in a way – become an enemy; an enemy which taunts us from behind the safety of the whip and the chains which it uses to hold and keep us in thrall, terrifying us into resigning not to even consider whether we are free to reach out and achieve it.

      Ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras said, “Man is the measure of all things”. It is a well-known and widely-accepted premise in capitalist and Smithian economics that efficiency, prosperity, and liberty increase with the division of labor and the specialization of profession and task.
      But this specialization has been forfeited, along with the specialty of men – i.e., that which makes men special – and men have consented that their minds, their freedom – especially the freedom to choose their own profession – and their humanity – their essence – become mere chattel, unachievable perfection always just beyond arms’ reach.
      Stirner writes, “…liberalism is a religion because it separates my essence from me and sets it above me, because it exalts [capital-‘M’] ‘Man’ to the same extent as any other religion does its God or idol, because it makes what is mine into something otherworldly, because in general it makes out of what is mine, out of my qualities and my property, something alien – namely, an ‘essence’; in short, because it sets me beneath [capital-‘M’] Man, and thereby creates for me a ‘vocation’.”
      While “vocation” typically denotes one’s occupation, profession, or task, Stirner is using the word in a way which suggests that what he means is that an individual feels that liberalism has summoned him into living a religious life; that he has begun to feel that he has a calling which causes him to feel obligated to act within a framework of moral principles that resembles the structure of religion.

      Stirner appears to be defending men’s ability to choose their own callings, occupations, professions, and tasks, and to create themselves in the manner which they believe to be most conducive to their own uniqueness and specialty. But what does it truly mean to be special?
      A species is a class of individuals having some common characteristics or qualities. An individual is deemed “special” when it is recognized as having some unusual characteristic or quality which distinguishes it from the others. Thus, as one out of many – e pluribus unum – it becomes an example of the commonality to which it belongs.
      In a representative democracy, the common people choose one individual person from among them to become their representative. Once he is chosen – or elected – he joins the collective governmental body politic, and, in so doing, he runs the risk of becoming drowned out in a sea of voices, and compelled to negotiate his own principles away in the name of accomplishment, getting things done, and doing what the people pay him to do. Thus, he can lose his uniqueness, his specialty.
      However, as he has distinguished himself from among his people, and as he has been elected as an example of the people, he also becomes an example to the people and for the people. The representative’s achievements become a symbol of the achievements of his district’s constituency, and the representative’s moral character becomes an example to and for the moral standards of the people whom he represents.
      Hmmm… one individual coming from among the people, and rising up to be held over and against them as an example of, to, and for their achievement and their moral character, and then participating in their judgment… where have I heard that before?
      Stirner writes that Jesus was “not a ringleader of popular mutiny”, nor was he “carrying on any liberal or political fight against the established authorities”, nor was he a revolutionary who desired to overturn the state. Nor, writes Stirner, was Jesus someone who expected any “salvation from a change of conditions”.
      Instead, Stirner characterizes Jesus as an insurgent who “wanted to walk his own way, untroubled about – and undisturbed by – these authorities”, and so, he “straightened himself up” and “lifted himself above everything that seemed so sublime to the government and its opponents, and absolved himself from everything that they remained bound to...” Stirner continues, “…precisely because [Jesus] put from him the upsetting of the established, he was its deadly enemy and real annihilator…”.

      What is the desire of humanity? Is the desire of humanity whatever the collective wants and needs? Or is the desire of humanity the desire for humanity, whether felt by the collective or by the individual; the feeling of want and need to obtain that abstract, intangible, immaterial, incorporeal, unachievable commodity known as humanity itself, which is always held – just beyond reach – over and against us in the forms of civilization and moral perfection?
      Is there something that makes the desire of humanity which is felt by the collective inherently superior to the desire of humanity which is felt by the individual, or are the desire for humanity and the desire of the individual one and the same?
      Stirner would likely argue that it is the fetishism of the commodification of humanity which has caused this “two-heads-are-better-than-one”, “strength-in-numbers”, “what-is-popular-is-always-right-and-what-is-right-is-always-popular” mindset.
      Lower-case-“m” men and lower-case-“h” humans have allowed capital-“M” Man and capital-“H” Humanity to get away from them and become abstracted from them. Thus, our humanity has disappeared; it has gone from the only thing which we were certain materially and concretely existed to an intangible, immaterial concept.
      Humanity has become held over and against us; used not only as a standard and as an example, but also as something which ironically and humorlessly can be legitimately used as an excuse to punish and torture us for failing to achieve it.
      Humanity has become institutionalized into the falsely corporeal realms of the state, the church, and the corporate business. These entities have stolen our unique claim to the concrete, the material, the corporeal, the physical, the tangible, the achievable. They have stolen our ownership; literally, that which has the quality of being our own. Stirner contends that these things are property which have been stolen from us, and that they are property which we can and must reclaim.

      Some say we should glorify that which we hold in common. It may be argued that we, in fact, do this quite often, through voting and through the election of our representatives. But what is it about using voting results to make decisions that necessarily causes the outcome to be wiser, fairer, and more appropriate?
      If individual freedom to pursue one’s own selfish desires does not bring about the public good, then why are individuals given the freedom to vote democratically in accordance with the pursuit of their own selfish desires?
      Furthermore, if all legitimate government power is derived from the authority of the governed, then precisely why and how is the government able to do things which those governed individuals are not themselves permitted to do, such as wield a monopoly over the legitimate use and exercise of coercive, violent force?
      How can one delegate a right which one does not have?
      Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin agree that private property rights are to be upheld through social contract. Stirner appears to agree as well, although the manner in which he articulates that agreement reveals a unique approach to the concept of the social contract.
    Stirner writes, “According to the Communists’ opinion, the commune should be proprietor. On the contrary, I am proprietor, and I only come to an understanding with others about my property. If the commune does not do what suits me, I rise against it and defend my property… society gives me what I require – then… I take what I require.”
      He also writes, “Whoever knows how to take, to defend, the thing, to him belongs property…” and “What I have in my power, that is my own. So long as I assert myself as holder, I am the proprietor of the thing.”
      Stirner is correct when he contends that the commune should not be proprietor. The truth is that the commune cannot be proprietor. To be proprietor is to possess property; to have ownership. Inherent in the concepts of property, propriety, ownership, and ownness is individuality.
      Only one man can have what is his own; only one man can have what is proper to himself. The only types of so-called “propriety” which the commune may wield are possession, utility, and access.

      Those who assert that that which is common to all individuals should be held up, exalted, and glorified as the ultimate goal of the existence of men and as an example to and for them are often the same people who seem content to allow just the opposite to occur; that the collective ought to choose one unique, special, distinguished individual from among them to be held up, exalted, and glorified as one who represents the masses, in exemplification of them.
      Perhaps they allow this to happen because they know that their representative’s uniqueness and specialty nearly inevitably become overshadowed by the other representatives with whom he becomes obligated to compromise his ideals in the name of getting things done.
      That which all people have in common does not need to be held up, glorified, nor exalted; it merely needs to be recognized.
      Lower-case-“m” men have no need to become capital-“M” Man; what they need is to take satisfaction in – and feel fulfillment from – the mere fact that they are men, whom are uniquely material, corporeal, physical, tangible, and concrete, unlike the abstract, falsely corporeal body politics which beat them for failing to achieve perfect capital-“M” Manhood.
      Likewise, lower-case-“h” humans have no need to attain capital-“H” Humanity; what they need is to take solace in the fact that they are able to conceive of such an idea in the first place – which gives them certainty about the materiality of their own minds, their own freedom of thought, and their ability to achieve a sort of theoretical perfection – and in the fact that they are free and liberated enough within their own minds to arrive at their own conclusions about how best to make decisions that may be conducive to guiding them towards their own personal, subjective conceptualization of what humanity really is.

      But can we truly attain perfection? Is capital-“H” Humanity within our grasp? No, it is certainly not within our grasp. However, it may be within the reach of individuals whom have truly freed themselves; individuals whom have become free through reclaiming their ownership and propriety.
      Once an individual has acceded to the commonly accepted system of rules, he has consented to be governed by the institutionalization of mediocrity. Once an individual has acceded to the commonly accepted set of constraints, he has consented to become chained to the wall of Plato’s Cave, only able to see – although not even necessarily comprehend – the shadows of the true Forms.
      It is only when a man decides he will play by neither the Rule of Law nor the rules of revolt… that he reaches out and grasps true freedom, perfection, capital-“M” Manhood, and capital-“H” Humanity.
      It is only when a man realizes his own capacity as creator, commits unequivocally to creating himself, reclaims his corporeity from his captors – the body politics of the church and the State – and absolves himself from everything to which the body politics remain bound.
      It is only when a man rises above the external material world within his own mind that he distinguishes himself as unique, as exceptional. As exception to the Rules.
      Out of many, one. E pluribus unum.

Post-Script (2014):

     The adoption of terms like "head of State" into our political lexicon - as well as "the invisible hand of the market", "the three arms of government", "body politic", "parliamentary body", "the publicly-traded corporate (bodily) business", its "corporate head-hunters" - and also the perception that the "oneness" of the supposedly collectivist "union", the "corpus mysticum" of the Church, the notion of "corporate personhood", and ideas like Strawman Theory and Capitis Diminutio, affirm the propriety of Stirner's desire to destroy and reclaim the corporeity of these "ghosts".
     That the national bank, corporations, and unconstitutional government bureaus and programs have the potential to be extended (i.e., to live) past the expiration of their charters (and indefinitely); that an American president has joked that government bureaus seem to possess eternal life; that the government still claims "legitimate violence" in asserting its right to indefinitely detain and murder us, and that the legal fiction of "corporate personhood" (which is possessed by governments, businesses, cooperatives, unions, churches, trusts, etc.) fails to obligate corporate entities to behave with the same responsibility and responsiveness which are expected of individuals, re-affirm Stirner's desire.
     Perhaps we should describe what we desire as "corporate humanity".

The following was written in July 2011,
as "Liberalism as a Religion".

     Decades before Ann Coulter was railing against liberalism as a secular religion, Max Stirner decried liberalism as a religion. Religion and liberalism alike become vocations (callings), compelling men to subject their actual bodies to the authority of falsely-corporeal body-politics (corpus mysticum / mystical body) of the church and the governmental association.
     Welfare liberalism is like asceticism in that it teaches the poor to endure their own suffering (in the case of Catholicism, with the hope that the poor will come to identify their suffering with the suffering of Christ). But liberalism largely ignores the other important role of religion, which is to encourage private charity.
     When laborer and employer contract with one another, each may become aware that the values of each person is subjective; the laborer values his employer’s money more than he values his own labor, while the employer values the laborer’s money more than he values his own money.
     Once one of the parties becomes aware that the other party believes himself to be in a position of benefit (or advantage), he may conclude that he himself must be in a position of detriment (being taken advantage of). But he may fail to take account of his own subjective desires, i.e., that he would take advantage of the other party were the opportunity presented to him (and indeed it is presented to him whenever an employment interview takes place).
     It is the duty of each party to exchange to simply choose for his own purposes whether mutual aid, mutual harm, unilateral benefit, or unilateral detriment is occurring. To assume the other person is trying to harm him is an act of apprehension, neglecting the possibility of mutual aid based on subjective values.
     But to ignore this apprehension and proceed with the contract is an act of good faith; it is an act of charity in which at least one party concerns himself with profiting off of the agreement, but resigns himself to rejoicing in the opportunity to help and serve another human being.
     Coerced charitable giving earned through the extraction of taxes – on the other hand - is a perversion of consequentialist morality; it relieves the taxpayers’ burden of having to bother to contemplate how to act morally of their own volition, and delegates the duty of determining morality to government and to the institutionalized mediocrity resulting from the decision-making of the majoritarian will.
     As in the Alex character in “A Clockwork Orange”, not being able to do evil does not make us good, so long as we still wish to do evil. I see economic systems which place emphasis on the private sphere as inherently more moral than those which do not. I say, give evil a fair shot at competing, and let the good win out by identifying evil as such.

Originally Written in April 2011
Post-Script Written and Added in July 2011

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Feudalism and the Class War

You may be unaware that I consider myself neither a completely Progressivistic Social-Democratic Liberal, nor a completely Libertarian Laissez-Faire Capitalist. I do not advocate for a total absence of public involvement in marketplace affairs because I value the usefulness of public entities such as governments and public-employee unions in preventing fraud, abuse, and coercion, especially when they are actually effective in doing so.
I desire to expand the liberty of the individual and of the private sphere in general by legalizing competition in areas of service provision in which governments typically wield monopoly power. I want to reform the law so that private-sector entities become freer to fairly compete with public-sector entities in the provision of charity and social reform.
This makes me an Agorist, or a Social-Libertarian, and that is why I desire to forge coalitions between Progressives and Libertarians. Such coalitions may often be temporary on economic issues, but they would likely be permanent on many civic and social issues, such as defense and legal rights.
Agorist philosophy uses free-market solutions to address Marxist criticisms of political, economic, and social problems, and so, reconciliation between Progressives and Libertarians in a way that brings about a synthesis of their ideologies is crucial to bring about these ends.
Many mainstream, conservative Republicans today seem to want to paint Progressives as a bunch of Christmas-banning Jihadi who want to take this country back to 636 – when the prophet Muhammad had just died and the Arabs were beginning to conquer the Levant – and to paint Libertarians as a bunch of government-hating racists who want to take this country back to 1964 – when government, business, and society in general discriminated against minorities, and American infrastructure was relatively underdeveloped.
But I, as a Social-Libertarian, am willing to compromise on how far backwards this country should be taken. I want to go back not to 636, nor to 1964, but to a date half-way between them, at least in terms of the world-view to which I’d like to expose people. That date is 1300; the date when the Middle High Ages ended, and the end-date of traditional Feudalism.

Considering recent events in American politics – such as the conflict between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and certain types of government employee unions over benefits and collective bargaining rights, the extremely narrow state judicial election which occurred in its wake, and conflict between governors and public-sector unions in states across the country (most notably in the Midwest) – polarization between the left and the right appears to be at a fever pitch.
I feel that the contempt which has arisen from differences in economic ideology largely stems from a lack of public education about the history of the development of economics over the last several hundred years.
On the left side of the political spectrum, we have Liberals, Progressives, Socialists, and Communists all lumped into one class. On the right side, we have Conservatives, Capitalists, Libertarians, and Market-Anarchists all lumped into the other class. This is a class system which is primarily based on a binary division between general economic disposition, and on little else, if anything.
In America today, we see most Liberals, Progressives, Socialists, and Communists uniting under the banner of the Democratic Party; and most Conservatives, Capitalists, Libertarians, and Market-Anarchists uniting under the banner of the Republican Party. No group is perfectly represented, and the boundaries of neither group are clearly defined.

Instead, voters are given two well-established and therefore consistently-viable choices, and thus, they feel compelled to rally behind and defend the leaders of the parties who have the most name recognition, visibility, prominence, influence, clout, and financial backing. And so, almost everyone who votes is given the uncomfortable choice between either criticizing those in charge, or else defending them half-heartedly.
It may often seem helpful to take several ideological movements and lump them in with each other for the sake of simplicity, but I believe that drawing only one line separating half of the political spectrum from the other is not only unproductive, but also that it confuses things more than it helps people understand what is really going on, and how we got where we are.
Today, most welfare recipients, public employees such as teachers and certain types of hospital staff, and industrial workers who belong to unions tend to rally behind their representatives in the Democratic Party; and self-employed individuals, small and local businessmen, private contractors, white-collar employers, and those in the banking and insurance industries tend to rally behind their representatives in the Republican Party.
In terms of the general division that is commonly made between the two dominant economic ideologies, Democrats are considered to be Socialist-leaning, while Republicans are considered to be Capitalist-leaning. But it is really only a very small percentage of the voters of each party whose ultimate goal is a perfect fulfillment of those economic visions.
So small, in fact, because, to those voters – or would-be voters – of extreme or absolutist ideologies, the parties by which they grudgingly accept representation are all too similar to one another and / or too different from their own personal agendae for them to be willing to compromise their ideals by endorsing and defending such mainstream choices.
It is certainly not every Democrat who desires to implement a utopian, decentralized federation of participatory social-democratic communities, just as it is most assuredly not every Republican who desires to implement a society of regional-, state-, and / or locality-based governance based on total individual rights and perfectly fair competition in a totally free-market paradigm.
But in the same way, it is also not every Democrat who desires a highly-centralized globalist State with numerous expensive social welfare systems, just as it is not every Republican who desires a monolithic, isolationist State with a weakness for influence-peddling lobbyists, special interests, and corporate welfare.
Although Karl Marx once advocated a centralized, federalist banking system, he later disowned this viewpoint, making it clear that his ultimate goal was the anarcho-communalist paradigm, rather than the “Socialism” ascribed to the Wall Street regulars who pervade the administration of President Barack Obama, which is really not socialism, but a big-“D” Democratic form of Corporate-Protectionist Nationalism which is rigged to generate the privatization of profit and the socialization of losses.
By the same token, Agorist philosopher Samuel E. Konkin III once wrote, “...if the 'entrepreneuriat' are tossed into the Capitalist class, then the Marxist must face the contradiction of 'Capitalists' at war with the Capitalist-controlled State.” Liberals all too often lump Free-Market Libertarians and Main-Street Entrepreneurialists in with these so-called “Capitalists”, which most Libertarians view as having perverted and soiled the name of Capitalism.
Thus, together, Marx and Konkin made it clear: the heart of both pure Socialism and pure Capitalism is not the concentration of power; but rather, the diffusion of authority.
Unfortunately, it is all too often that Liberals and Progressives who grudgingly support the Obama Democrats get compared to Stalinists as parts of the Socialist or “leftist” class; and that small-government Libertarians are made to listen to those on the left lump them in with fraudulent, robber-baron, environmentally-hazardous corporate welfare cases as parts of the Capitalist or “rightist” class.
Despite the typical sidling-up of presidential candidates against one-another’s backs during lead-ups to national elections; rampant government bailouts for big business; and exploitation of workers by unions that often parallels, equals, assists, and enables the exploitation of workers by corporate management; these common misperceptions persist.
However, it has not always been the case that government and unions were aligned with one another against banks, big business, and entrepreneurs in the public mind. This is where Feudalism comes into the mix.

In Europe, before the Industrial Revolution, before labor unions and trade unions existed in the forms in which we know them today, and even before corporations existed, there was Feudalism. Feudalism brought with it the economic system known as Mercantilism, under which existed the guild unions, also known simply as guilds.
Mercantilism is most simply described as “State Capitalism”, but this phrase really only serves to obscure the true nature of the Feudalist, Mercantilist, and Guild-Unionist systems – and of Statism and Capitalism themselves – because in many ways, guild unions were the forerunners of not only Nationalistic Corporate-Protectionist Monopolism and Entrepreneurial Free-Market Capitalism (or Classical Liberalism, now commonly known as Libertarianism), but also of Labor-and-Trade-Unionism, State Socialism, National Syndicalism, and big-“C” Communism.
Under the Feudalist / Mercantilist / Guild-Unionist system, in any given town, townspeople who worked in whatever particular field belonged to the corresponding handicraft associations. In each handicraft association, the manufacturers and / or artisans had to cooperate and pool their resources – such as skills and materials – because they had a common interest and necessity; namely, producing what they had the resources to produce in order to sustain themselves and to keep wealth concentrated near themselves, their families, and their respective towns.
Being that this was centuries ago, when commerce was not well-integrated enough for there to be abundant and diverse resources, materials, and varieties of types of skills, which narrow range of products that the townspeople should make – and which townspeople should make them – was very important for maintaining the town’s wealth, its place in global commerce, and its reputation.
The principle that a locality should primarily focus on producing those things which it produces best and / or better than its neighbors – as well as on putting to good use the natural resources which are most abundant in the locality – are key aspects of Mercantilism.
Since the Feudal / Mercantilist State was ruled by the king, each local town’s business affairs were regulated by groups of authority figures who represented the king. These groups of authority figures can be likened to modern chambers of commerce, except tending towards a higher concentration of decision-making power towards the king, rather than a diffusion of authority towards the people.
Through the establishment of charters by the business authorities of the towns, handicraft associations became guild unions. The business authorities would regulate the guilds by granting their members privileges – such as letters of patent, trademarks, and exclusive retail rights in certain local areas – essentially, monopoly rights.
These rights of monopoly were augmented by regulations which required traveling foreign merchants to pay fees for permission to sell their goods in local markets. Being that the integration of commerce was low and inefficient, rarity and scarcity of certain goods – especially in remote and isolated places – inflated demand for such goods, giving merchants an increased financial incentive to travel in order to sell those scarce goods. Accordingly, guilds also had systems that helped provide funding for the lifestyles of domestic traveling merchants.
These regulations can be considered early forms of what are known today as tariffs – i.e., taxes on the importation of foreign goods – constituting evidence for the practice of the greater economic paradigm now known as Protectionism, which augments and strengthens Mercantilism by employing regulation and taxation to protect favored domestic industries against foreign markets.
The townspeople and the king’s regulating authorities had vested interest in maintaining the reputations of not only the towns, but of the guilds as well. They did so by ensuring that workers whom were affiliated with guilds were experienced; they imposed long, standardized periods of apprenticeship.
Regulators required handicraft workers to become masters in order to become members of guilds, and once they became guild members, they were eligible to run businesses. However, for those without sufficient capital and / or public approval, it was difficult to gain access to more materials and knowledge, and more difficult to earn permission to sell into certain markets.
We can see that this was a system in which craftsmen had to conform to high and rigid standards in the process of working to prove their worth over a long period of time, and a system in which monopoly rights were offered as a reward for earning public trust and having enough capital to continue one’s handicraft.
It was a system that rewarded hard work, but it also rewarded the accumulation of wealth in resources with a local business monopoly granted by the State, all but ensuring an increased accumulation of resource wealth for the rewarded person. It takes little stretch of the imagination to liken this to what we would now call corporate welfare.
Leftist economists often criticize Capitalists, claiming that the types of de-regulation which Capitalists desire naturally and inevitably lead to monopolization by the most reckless and competition-minded businesses. But libertarians and Austrian-School economists argue that monopoly and competition are clearly antithetical to one another, and that it is government which permits monopolization and protects those businesses which monopolize. I believe that I have shown through the Guild-Unionist example that this has been the case at least once throughout history.
Given that, under the Feudalist / Mercantilist / Guild-Union system, there were low populations, limited resources, and inefficient commercial integration, and that it would have been highly impractical and counter-productive for the townspeople and the government to do anything but work to prevent competition between groups of people who were involved in the same trade in the same town, we can see that the State – perhaps most notably and tellingly through its practice of requiring outsiders to pay in order to have a chance to compete – deliberately sought to maintain and entrench a state of nature in which townspeople remained dependent on one another and on the king’s representatives by preventing and imposing penalties on whatever it judged to be competition – whether foreign or domestic – which threatened the political, economic, social, or religious status quo.
Therefore, we can see in the Guild-Unionist system an inclination towards domestic business welfare and Protectionistic Mercantilism through the maintenance of government-granted monopoly rights and the suppression of competition through regulation and taxation.

But guild unions were, to an even more self-evident degree, forerunners of not only labor and trade unions, but also of Socialism and Communism. Being that guild unions were established through charters granted by local business regulators, their connection with the public sphere – i.e., the government – is glaringly obvious.
Guilds were also early avenues for the development of social welfare. Guild unions set up systems which allocated funding to health care for the sick and the elderly, as well as to support for widows and orphans, in addition to funding merchant travel, which I mentioned earlier.
Thus, the relationship between the social progress sought by guild unions – as it stood in the face of routine government granting of monopoly rights to domestic business – to the development of government-associated social welfare and publicly-funded redistribution of wealth for the purposes of general societal improvement cannot be ignored or downplayed as one of the most important developments in the history of Socialism and Communism.

Given these facts, we can see that there were aspects of the Guild-Union system which can be reasonably perceived as precursors of both Domestic Business Protectionism and Labor Socialism. However, that was just the way things were before the end of the 13th century. The 14th century saw an even deeper entrenchment of Domestic Business Protectionism.
In towns and cities, the merchant class began to acquire greater control over the means of production and venture capital, and they formed their own guilds which they could regulate themselves. This was a key turn in the development of what is today called Corporatism – or Corporativism, Corporatocracy, and even, sometimes, Fascism – in which business managers come to wield regulation power which is independent of the government, so much so, in fact, that they often begin to resemble governments unto themselves.
However, the situation in the countryside remained quite different and separate from the conditions in the towns and cities. In the country, where the guilds did not operate and their rules did not apply, the handicraft associations remained diffused and dispersed systems which were difficult to control.
Craftsmen had access to local markets, and were able to provide raw materials to networks of cottagers who based their work in their homes. They were free to turn profit in an absence of regulating authorities, and thus, they could easily become entrepreneurial capitalists. Therefore, we can see the framework of Laissez-Faire Entrepreneurial Venture-Capitalism beginning to take shape in the European countryside of the early 14th century.
This politicoeconomic system rounds out the three strains of rightist economic philosophy which grew out of the guild unions; Domestic Protectionistic Mercantilism gave rise to Corporatocracy – and, eventually, 20th-century Fascism – in the towns and cities, and to Classically-Liberal Free-Market Libertarian Entrepreneurial Venture-Capitalism in the country.

In his early 16th-century work Utopia, Thomas More noted that when lords invested in sheep in order to make profit off of their scarce and valuable wool, they would often require that common lands be enclosed in order to keep the sheep in.
More further explained that this eventually caused the impoverishment of the serfs who tended the land, driving them into the centers of towns and cities to seek employment, and that this caused an increase in the crime rate because, at times, these people were driven to steal out of simple necessity of survival.
Much of socioeconomic material philosophy traces the roots of – and attribute the causes of – European Socialism and Communism to what leftists occasionally refer to as the “privatization” of common “public” lands which were inhabited and tended-to by agrarian serfs. But what leftists often neglect to consider is that this “private-vs.-public” land dichotomy which they describe may not be so black-and-white.
In a Monarchical Feudalist State, not only was the king often a religious authority, but he was also the major proprietor of land, as well as the ultimate authority on economic and business affairs, and on regulation and the affairs of the State. The king was at once the embodiment of authority in the social and religious sphere, the private sphere, and the public sphere.
Therefore, the enclosing of common lands by kings and aristocrats could be characterized as a “privatization” of land just as easily as it could be characterized as public-sphere government land reclamation, thus making it arguably akin to eminent-domain takings.
I feel that to characterize common lands as “public” is to claim that the serfs were really free people, rather than slaves; commoners whom were mere subjects and property of the members of the chains of fealty above them which culminated at the top in the personage of the king.
Regardless of how one wishes to characterize this enclosing of land, its effects were clear. Agrarian serfs relocated from common land in the countryside to the centers of towns and cities, becoming compelled to sell their labor in order to survive.
After some generations, rapid development of industry and the integration of commerce made it both practical and necessary for industrial workers to band together in order to pressure management to give in to worker demands for better wages, benefits, and conditions. Thus, the liberal bourgeoisie was born, and along with it came the Anarcho-Syndicalist politicoeconomic philosophy.
In the early 20th century, labor unions, trade unions, and syndicates began to realize that they were too weak, and so they decided it could benefit them to reach out to governmental entities to help them secure legal guarantees of the economic and social rights which their movements had already begun to achieve de-facto. This was the birth of the State Socialism and National Syndicalism politicoeconomic systems, which coincided with the rise of Progressivism and the advocacy of social welfare within both the Democratic and Republican American political parties.
Given these facts, we can see that not only did the guild unions give birth to several rightist economic strains of thought, but also that the guilds were predecessors to several leftist economic ideologies. Localistic, Guild-Unionist Welfare-Statism gave rise not only to Anarcho-Syndicalism, but also to National Syndicalism and State Socialism, in which governments take on the agendae of unions.
Given that the by-and-large reclamation of common land in the countryside all but eradicated leftist economic philosophies from anywhere other than the towns and cities to which their proponents fled, I feel that Anarcho-Syndicalism, National Syndicalism, and State Socialism are all primarily bourgeois politicoeconomic philosophies.

Earlier, I mentioned that Agorist philosopher Samuel E. Konkin III viewed Agorism as the use of free-market principles to solve Marxist problems. I also mentioned that Marx eventually retreated from his advocacy of federalism and centralization. A synthesis of Marx and Konkin reveals that pure Socialism and pure Capitalism can co-exist, as their essences are an emphasis on localistic authority.
Furthermore, a synthesis of small-“d” democracy and small-“r” republicanism reveals that the essences of both of these systems also lie in an emphasis on localistic authority. While democracy places that authority in the majority of votes in a given community, republicanism places that authority in the majority of votes in a given community, municipality, country, state, or region, but within the constraints of written law.
Localistic authority is also emphasized by Austrian Marxist Otto Bauer and French Classical Liberal Frederic Bastiat. Bauer and Bastiat respectively articulated Socialist and Capitalist conceptualizations of an idea known as jurisdictional aterritoriality.
While Bauer’s concept of pure Socialism – which he called National Personal Autonomy – relied on the principle of organizing individuals and communities on the basis of simple associations irrespective of where they are located, Bastiat’s concept of pure Capitalism – which, through the course of its development by his intellectual heirs, came to be known as Panarchism (or Pantarchism) – relied on the principle of allowing individuals ultimate liberty in choosing who represents, protects, and defends them from among a field of competing governmental entities and private or public defense organizations.
It may seem evident upon first examination that localistic authority necessarily implies the employment of geographic boundaries, but I believe that the conceptions of jurisdictional aterritoriality which were formulated by Bauer and Bastiat stay faithful to the localistic principle on the basis that they intend to keep decision-making authority as close to the individual person – and / or the voluntary association of persons – as possible.

Given that the primary division between societal classes which has largely been a binary cleaving of leftist ideologies from rightist ones in recent years has only served to conflate the many different politicoeconomic systems with one another, it seems appropriate that a new primary division between societal classes should be made, and that that division should serve to make rural, localistic, and aterritorial paradigms distinct from bourgeois, centralizationist, and geographical paradigms.
Rightist economic systems which rely on the localistic principles include Free-Market (or Laissez-Faire) Capitalism, Entrepreneurial Venture-Capitalism, Classical Liberalism, Libertarianism, Market-Anarchism, Agorism, Panarchistic (or Pantarchistic) Jurisdictional Aterritorialism, and Catallaxy – commonly referred to as “spontaneous order” or “the invisible hand of the market”.
Rightist economic systems which rely on the centralizationist principles include Fascism, Corporatocracy (or Corporatism or Corporativism), Corporate Nationalism, and Corporate-and-Business-Protectionistic Mercantilism.
Leftist economic systems which rely on the localistic principles include Participatory Social-Democratic Communalism, Guild-Unionist Social-Welfarism, National Personal Autonomistic Jurisdictional Aterritorialism, and, to some degree, Anarcho-Syndicalism and the various bourgeois anarchistic labor movements.
Leftist economic systems which rely on the centralizationist principles include Soviet Communism, State Socialism, National Syndicalism, and bourgeois anarchistic labor movements which have tendencies to defend and / or justify centralized, bureaucratic, and federalist governmental entities.

In today’s contentious political atmosphere, it is easy to get swept up in arguments about spending, and to focus on a class war based on economic ideology, especially when the narrative is primarily dominated by the most wealthy and influential members of each general economic division, whom are often using false and oversimplified class-war issues to distract the citizens from real wars – i.e., the kind with the fighting and the killing and the bombs and the missiles – which members of both ideologies almost always have roles in waging.
That is why I desire to help forge an alliance between progressives and libertarians; I believe that it is only through the cooperation of all those who desire true voluntarism, individual liberty, fidelity to the law, equal opportunity, responsible and fiscally-solvent welfare programs, localistic governance, and the diffusion of authority that those oligarchs, bureaucrats, and lobbyists who wish to further concentrate power in the hands of the few and subvert the law and the will of the people may be held at bay.
Tea Party members need to understand that most liberals and progressives do not hate freedom; they very often truly desire individual liberty. Rather than to demonize them and call them Communists or Socialists, the Tea Party should instead encourage liberals to revert to their first principles; to bring about the social justice they want to see through means of direct action such as person-to-person charity that side-steps needless and wasteful government bureaucracy.
Liberals and progressives need to understand that most Tea Party members do not hate social justice; they very often truly desire social progress and responsible, fiscally-solvent social welfare systems. Rather than to demonize them and call them Fascists or Nazis, the liberals and progressives should instead encourage the Tea Party to revert to its first principles; to be tolerant of alternative lifestyles and individual free choice, and to give charitably as much as they are able to do so.
As evidenced by both the local bourgeois social welfare programs and the rural entrepreneurial venture capitalism which existed under the Feudalist / Mercantilist / Guild-Unionist system, the primary sociopolitical, politicoeconomic, and socioeconomic principle is charity, i.e., voluntary sharing.
Rabbi Eleazar taught that the only form of charity which is holier than anonymous donation to anonymous recipients is to take a man off the street, care for his most urgent and immediate needs, and assist him to earn a living so that he may learn to help himself. If there is room for charitable actions that suggest a tendency towards both socialism and capitalism in religion, then certainly they can co-exist in society in general.
As Congressman Ron Paul noted after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the government promise to assist relief efforts in that country did little besides deepen our debt, increase the burden on the taxpayers, and cause significant amounts of public money to get lost in the bureaucracies of international charity organizations. Maybe if we actually do something to address our national debt, we could relax the tax burdens on those who bear their brunt, and they could afford to provide more direct assistance than government charity, and they would perhaps not feel that their accomplishment is unappreciated and that they have been taken for granted.
The oligarchical, centralizationist State and the State-maintained monopolistic corporation act as leeches on any and all available appendages of human society which dare to stick up off of its main body. As leeches help regulate the flow of a patient’s blood, so too do governments regulate our living. As leeches tax and make demands on our bodies, so too do governments tax our production.
Governments and monopolies can create nothing original, neither lives nor material goods; they can only consume as parasites do. They thrive off human blood, sweat, and tears. Regulation and taxing can help the patient up to a point, but eventually the patient will find himself sucked dry.
To repeat the Samuel E. Konkin III quote which I read earlier, “…if the entrepreneuriat are tossed into the Capitalist class, then the Marxist must face the contradiction of ‘Capitalists’ at war with the Capitalist-controlled State.”
Civic and commercial human society needs two basic things to function: human resources and human creativity. The biologically fertile proletariat is that which brings about the renewal of human life and human resources, and the industrially fertile entrepreneuriat is that which brings about the renewal of human originality and human creativity.
The only way out of endless war and propagandist manipulation is for the proletariat and the entrepreneuriat to set aside their petty economic differences and begin to see themselves as one, for they, when united, are the only true source of creative power in this earthly material realm.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Local Inhabitants Per Deployed U.S. Soldier, Mid-2008

Click image to enlarge

Created in April and May 2009
Re-Created in April 2011
Originally Published on April 9th, 2011

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