Free exchange would look nothing like the rigidly hierarchical state capitalism we see around us. Facilitated by horizontally networked organization and peer-to-peer exchange, new decentralized economies will look like Occupations, not Corporations. Economic experimentation is the most dangerous threat to the status quo, and the organizations that hope to perpetuate it.
“T he nature of distributed systems themselves have brought with them their own culture or ideology. . . . Our new peer-to-peer reality has changed the way we think about everything from exchange to personal relationships. And we can perceive the ways that technology informs culture (and vice versa) all around us, back through history. The work of the Center for a Stateless Society’s Kevin Carson has demonstrated the effects of a subsidized American car culture on the overall economy, suffusing everything from suburban sprawl to distribution paths or consumer goods. Nothing about the present system was simply a foregone conclusion. Authority has impacted the technological ecosystem at every step of development, suppressed alternatives, and obliged the established economic powers.
“Contrast authoritarian capitalism with the decentralized, horizontally-networked-and-ordered free market presently materializing, one in which the effective exercise of power through hierarchy is less and less possible. . . . The individualist anarchists’ was the ultimate ‘open source’ economy, enabling each individual to enter into any economic endeavor she pleased, to contribute in any way, thereby occupying the margins on which capitalist profits rested. The Internet has thrown open those margins to the benefit of
individuals and at the expense of established corporations who have used legislative and regulatory means to keep them closed. . . . The individualists, from Josiah Warren onward, shared amongst one another an enthusiasm for and desire to undertake experimentations within the economic realm, eschewing uniformity and doctrinaire declarations about what a free economy must be. Experimentation of the kinds they esteemed is of course a threat to the status quo, and thus to the organizations that depend upon and hope to perpetuate it.”
M. George van der Meer is a mutualist and decentralist. Formerly a curator of fine art, his interests include social philosophy, antiquing and film. His columns can be found at
Introduced March 2013.