Orwell, Orthodoxy and Organization

This summer, I joined the reading group for Kevin A. Carson’s daunting, 600 page tome Organization Theory. In the first section, Carson presents a compelling mass of research and careful criticism of cross-ideological views of economies of scale. He argues that top economists, from Ronald Coase to John Kenneth Galbraith and Joseph Schumpeter, “accept ‘economies of scale’ as a sufficient explanation for the rise of the large corporation from a supposedly ‘laissez-faire’ economy”, failing to consider the systemic effects state intervention has on the architecture of large firms that would otherwise bow to real market forces.

Five pages in, Carson takes a heavy swing at the Austrians over this issue. “The irony is that the Austrians”, he scolds, “who consider themselves such iconoclasts in savaging so much of the received wisdom of neoclassical economists and liberal managerialism, also accept without critical awareness many of its implicit assumptions… So it’s somewhat jarring to see them… become ardently triumphalist enthusiasts for the sheer Hegelian ‘is-ness’ of things when it comes to Wal-Mart and sweatshops. It’s a bit odd to be so anti-Hamiltonian, and yet so fond of an economy founded on Hamiltonianism.” – Ouch.

Bad theory has an unfortunate tendency to slip between the cracks of active thought and critical inquiry, and Carson is not the first libertarian to bring it up. Henry Hazlitt warns us in the first sentence of the preface to Economics in One Lesson, “This book is an analysis of economic fallacies that are at last so prevalent that they have almost become a new orthodoxy.” Here, Hazlitt uses “orthodoxy” to refer to a generally authorized doctrine that includes both accurate and inaccurate insights, like subjective value theory and the broken window fallacy, respectively.

George Orwell, however, takes the meaning of orthodoxy even further in 1984, defining it to refer strictly to subversive ideas that have become the mainstream via their uncritical reception. In this passage, Winston is speaking with Syme, a dedicated and passionate agent of the state, who is tasked with compiling the latest edition of the Newspeak Dictionary:

Even the literature of the party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like “freedom is slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking-not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

This sort of Orwellian “unconsciousness” is precisely the state of mind that allows bad ideas to fester. Like a virus, these bogus theories permeate the uncritical mind and feed on passive acceptance, reproducing to latch onto new generations of economists, psychologists, scientists, and all other manner of inquiring minds who seek valid answers to key questions.

This tendency of orthodoxy is important to recognize, because a passive thought process is unlikely to stop after letting just one unchecked notion skate by. Liability to let anything at all past the threshold of intellectual scrutiny could be indicative of a more systematic problem. As William Gillis put it, preferring the term “faith” to orthodoxy,

Faith is innately unethical. Ethics without vigilance is meaningless and faith is defined by an abdication of cognitive vigilance… a mind filled with hardened tumors of faith and the rot of lazy habits is a mind always at risk of more proactive cancers.

Orwellian orthodoxy is a threat to all ideologies and fields of study and a potential menace to the development of inquiring minds, which is precisely why libertarians ought to oppose it most fervently.

As libertarians, we take pride in logical discourse and ethical rigor. We condemn the hypocrisies and failed policies of the statist left and the nationalist right. Turning our gaze inward, we are relentless when discussing matters of what is “truly libertarian”, be that tactics, tastes, culture, and other thick conceptions of liberty. Rational thought led us to our conclusions about free markets and individual liberty, and, if exercised consistently, should keep us on the right track with more complex issues that crop up the further we delve into economic and philosophical theory.

But despite our general steadfastness, Carson’s insight teaches us that we are not even safe from orthodoxy within the borders of libertarian thought. We too are liable to let an unexamined notion pass by unchecked, maybe because it confirms our preexisting feelings about the way something works, or perhaps because an idea simply carries the banner of “libertarian”. Either way, allowing these malignant manifestations of orthodoxy in is thoroughly un-libertarian.

The pursuit of truth for truth’s sake is a constitutive part of libertarianism, and for this reason, libertarians qua libertarians owe it to themselves to form an intellectual climate that promotes perpetual scrutiny of all ideas, regardless of whether those ideas were forged by hand-wringing statists or well-intentioned fellow libertarians. This intellectual climate should resemble important features of the economic arrangements that Jason Lee Byas describes in his essay Toward an Anarchy of Production, Pt. I. Calling for markets and the profit motive as agents of social change, he explains that,

by constantly approaching equilibrium yet never reaching it, unchained economic activity is exactly the kind of social dynamic that radicals desire: permanent revolution.

Market forces are robust because they are unyielding in adaptation and growth. By “constantly approaching equilibrium”, markets continuously reach to perfect allocation of resources both material and immaterial. This profound dynamic, which simultaneously optimizes productive efficiency and social flourishing, must be mirrored by any ideological community that wishes to grow into the best version of itself. Through unforgiving intellectual resilience in the face of propositions both pleasant and precipitous, libertarianism can stand athwart orthodoxy and achieve the kind of intellectual dynamic that the liberty-minded deserve: permanent cognitive revolution.

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Support C4SS with Anna O. Morgenstern’s “Anarcho-‘Capitalism’ Is Impossible”

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Anna O. Morgenstern‘s “Anarcho-‘Capitalism’ Is Impossible” that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Anna O. Morgenstern‘s “Anarcho-‘Capitalism’ Is Impossible“.


$1.50 for the first copy. $0.75 for every additional copy.

“What will happen under anarchy? EVERYTHING.”

This booklet collects three Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) feature articles by left-libertarian writer Anna O. Morgenstern, examining the rel­ation­ship between anarchism, capitalism and pro-capitalist “libertarian­ism,” including: “Anarcho-Capitalism is Im­pos­s­ible,” “Anarchism & Capitalism: A Revisitation,” and “Market Anarchism vs. Market Statism.”

“Goals sometimes lead people toward certain means, but it is the means that determine results, not the goals. And if the anarcho-capitalists follow anarchist means, the results will be anarchy, not some impossible ‘anarcho-capital­ism.’ . . .

“Anarchy does not mean social utopia, it means a soci­e­t­y where there is no privileged authority. There will still be social evils to be dealt with under anarchy. But anarchy is an important step toward fighting those evils with­out giving birth to all new ones. My take on the impossibility of anarcho-capitalism is simply as follows:

  • Under anarchism, mass accumulation and concentration of cap­it­al is impossible.
  • Without concentration of capital, wage slavery is im­poss­ible.
  • Without wage slavery, there’s nothing most people would re­cog­nize as ‘capitalism.’

“Even assuming an ‘anarcho-capitalist’ property re­g­ime, any­thing recognizable as ‘capitalism’ to any­one else could not exist. In fact the society would look a lot like what ‘an­archo-socialists’ think of as ‘social­ism.’ Not ex­act­ly like it, but much closer than anything they’d imagine as capitalism. . . .”

The essays in this collection first appeared in 2010 and 2014, as Featured Articles at the Center for a Stateless Society, a left-wing market anarchist think tank and media center. They appear here in print for the first time.

Anna O. Morgenstern, a Contributing Writer at the Center for a Stateless Society, has been an anarchist of one stripe or another for almost 30 years. Her intellectual interests include economic history, social psychology and volunt­ary organization theory. She writes frequent com­ment­ar­ies for the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org).

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Support C4SS With Barbara Sostaita & Judith Ayers’s “Liberty Beyond White Privilege”

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Barbara Sostaita & Judith Ayers’s “Liberty Beyond White Privilege“ that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Barbara Sostaita & Judith Ayers’s “Liberty Beyond White Privilege


$1.00 for the first copy. $0.60 for every additional copy.

This article was originally published under the title “What Would Libertarianism Look Like, If It Wasn’t Just White People?” in August 2013 at policymic.com.

“Within today’s libertarianism, topics like racism and classismoften take the back burner, or are ignored entirely. Is­sues of in­equality and poverty, solitary con­fine­ment and prison reform, women’s rights, queer and trans* abuse . . . are often met with hostility. But Black com­mun­i­t­ies, and other com­mun­it­ies of color, have long traditions of struggling for freedom. Those trad­it­ions, when acknowledged by and com­bin­ed with libertarianism, could create an em­pow­er­ing and radical message. . . .

“Atrue, ideological, libertarian re­nai­s­sance can, and will only, hap­pen if we learn to list­en to those who have lived under gov­ern­ment oc­cup­at­ion: those who live in poverty, are iso­lated, and lack access to resources; those who have suffered in soli­tary confinement; those of different sexual identities; those who are vict­ims of the drug war, political prisoners, sex work­ers, domestic work­ers, or undocumented per­sons. Libertar­ians need to talk, and listen to, the survivors, the ‘others,’ the voiceless and the ignored.”

Judith Ayers is a student pursuing double major in Mass Communications and Political Science at York College in Pennsylvania, who specializes in issues of education, poverty, and immigration policy, women’s and children’s issues, race, and culture and hip-hop. Barbara Sostaita is a student at Salem College focusing on International Relations and Religion. As an immigrant from Argentina, she has witnessed her parents struggle for political, social and economic freedom. Both co-authors are active within Students for Liberty, a growing worldwide network of campus groups for young libertarians.

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Support C4SS with Miriam Daniell’s “Songs of Struggle and Sorrow”

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Miriam Daniell’s “Songs of Struggle and Sorrow“ that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Miriam Daniell’s “Songs of Struggle and Sorrow“.

$1.50 for the first copy. $0.75 for every additional copy.

A voice rebellious, which should never cease…

This chapbook is a new selection of poetry by Miriam Daniell, edited by the ALL Distro. The 34 poems in this collection were gathered from two main sources: her prolific contrib­utions to Benjamin Tucker’s individualist paper Liberty during 1892; and a series of several more poems prepared for posthumous publication by her friends, which appeared in the Chicago anarchist paper Free Society during 1902.

The Anarchist press of the late 19th and early 20th centuries published much more than ideological tracts, polemics and political analysis. In their newspapers, pamphlets, union halls, radical community schools and gatherings, Anarch­ists and labor radicals alike worked to build a broad, vibrant and lovingly crafted culture of creative solidarity and resistance. Theoreticians, workers, story­tellers and dreamers made car­toons, posters, poems, stories and labor songs. One of the most restless and, for a few years, one of the most prolific of these authors was Miriam Daniell (1860–1894), a strike leader in England and a prolific poet, writer and critic in the u.s. radical press.

Daniell was an English­-American labor activist, writer, and individualist anarchist. Born in England, she helped to organize a wave of textile workers’ and dock-­workers’ strikes in Bristol in 1889–90, one of the most significant labor uprisings in Bristol’s history. In 1890, she left a stifling marriage, and England, together with her close friend and fellow organizer Helena Born (the subject of the intimate “To H. B.,” included here). When she arrived in Boston, she became involved with both the free love movement and American individualist anarchism. For a few years she became a prolific contributor to the radical press, with work from her hand appearing in almost every issue of Tucker’s Liberty for several months running, until her hand was stilled by a tragic death at the age of 34. She left us these poems. The 34 collected here offer a sample not only of her feminist and radical labor poetry, but also her personal and confessional moments, her humor, her vivid sense of the eerie and grotesque, and her meditations on sorrow, struggle and loss.

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Support C4SS with Nathan Goodman’s “The Knowledge Problem of Privilege”

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Nathan Goodman‘s “The Knowledge Problem of Privilege“ that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Nathan Goodman‘s “The Knowledge Problem of Privilege“.

$1.00 for the first copy. $0.60 for every additional copy.

In this essay, Nathan Goodman (Center for a Stateless Society) discusses how the Knowledge Problems facing elites, “experts” or “representat­ives” recur not only in economics, but also in cultural conflicts over gender, disability, and other systems of structural social privilege. The danger of trying to make decisions for others, when cut off from the dispersed, tacit or local knowledge that they have, show how Hayekian limits on what we can know also apply to the the struggles and the challenges of other oppressed and marginalized people.

“IN HIS CLASSIC ESSAY, “THE USE OF KNOWLEDGE IN SOCIETY,” F. A. Hayek explains the concept of dis tributed knowledge. Every individual has unique knowledge shaped by their experiences and preferences, knowledge that may not be accessible to others, no matter how well educated they may be. But Hayek’s point about distributed knowledge applies to more than just economic issues. It also applies to social issues. . . .

“JUST AS WITH ECONOMICS, THESE SOCIAL PROBLEMS of epistemological hubris become bigger when government gets involved. By definition, politicians do not have the knowledge of everyone their policies will impact. But often, when marginalized groups are impacted, politicians become extra prone to ignore those from an affected population. . . .

“ULTIMATELY CALLS FOR PEOPLE TO CHECK THEIR PRIVILEGE are not an attempt to silence. Rather, they
are an attempt to get people to recognize the limits of their knowledge. Libertarians should have the humility to check our privilege, to listen to oppressed people who discuss their experiences, and to respect oppressed peoples’ rights to direct their own struggles for liberation. . . .”

Nathan Goodman is a writer and activist living in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has been involved in LGBT, feminist, anti-war, and prisoner solidarity organizing. He writes frequent commentaries for the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and keeps a blog, Dissenting Leftist (dissentingleftist.blogspot.com).

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Support C4SS with Jeremy Weiland’s “Let the Free Market Eat the Rich”

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Jeremy Weiland‘s “Let the Free Market Eat the Rich“ that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Jeremy Weiland‘s “Let the Free Market Eat the Rich“.

$1.00 for the first copy. $0.60 for every additional copy.

“Along running debate among anarchists, especially between the individualist and collectivist schools, centers around the justice of wealth disparities. Certainly the existence of the State serves to enrich particular interests at the expense of others, but in anarchy would the rich dominate society–just as they do with the State? Even if we could immediately switch off the institutions that forcibly manipulate society, there is danger that the legacy of privilege and accumulated wealth could persist for some time, distorting markets and continuing to frustrate the balance of power between individuals . . . .

“The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate how large scale aggregations of wealth require an outside stabilizing force and defensive agency to maintain, and how in a free, dynamic market there are entropies that move imbalances back to equilibrium. . . .”

“Let the Free Market Eat the Rich!” was written in May 2007 at the 6th Density blog. This revised version (2011) appeared as # 33 in Charles Johnson and Gary Chartier’s Markets Not Capitalism: individualist anarchism against bosses, inequality, corporate power and structural poverty (pp. 301–308), and online at socialmemorycomplex.net

Jeremy Weiland is a software developer, writer and left-libertarian activist. He maintains the website Social Mem­ory Complex: a political economy of the soul, and lives with his wife in Richmond, Virginia.

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Support C4SS with Kevin Carson’s “Organization Theory

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Kevin Carson‘s “Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective“ that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Kevin Carson‘s “Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective“.

$25.00 for the first copy. $20.00 for every additional copy.

This book applies the economic principles of individualist anarchism, as developed in Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, to the study of the large organization. It integrates the insights of mainstream organization theory into that framework, along with those of more radical thinkers like Ivan Illich, Paul Goodman, and R.A. Wilson. Part One examines the ways in which state intervention in the market, including subsidies to the inefficiency costs of large size and regulatory protection against the competitive consequences of inefficiency, skews the size of the predominant business artificially upward to an extent that simply could not prevail in a free market. Part Two examines the effects of such large organizational size on the character of the system as a whole. Part Three examines the internal pathologies and contradictions of organizations larger than a free market could support. And Part Four surveys the potential building blocks of an alternative, decentralized and libertarian economic order.

As long as free-market advocates continue to embrace a theory of the firm that is contradicted by the daily experience of millions of ordinary people, they will continue to be regarded as apologists for big business – and deservedly so. Carson does a brilliant job of showing how the swollen, hierarchical, exploitative firms that dominate our economy are the product not of the free market but of systematic government intervention on behalf of the corporate elite. Carson’s work offers a compelling alternative to both the right-wing package deal (embrace predatory capitalism in order to get the benefits of free markets) and the left-wing package deal (reject free markets in order to avoid the evils of predatory capitalism), and lays out an inspiring blueprint for workers and consumers to take back power from the bureaucrats and plutocrats. – Roderick T. Long, professor of philosophy, Auburn University

Kevin Carson’s book touches many of the key subjects regarding the transformation of our political economy into a post-capitalist, ‘peer to peer’ logic, examining not just the organisational logic of productive organizations, but also the transformation in the nature of machinery and capital goods (which are becoming more and more distributed and miniaturized) and the new culture of cooperation that is taking root in open design communities. I don’t think there is an equivalent book that look so seriously and deeply into the real potential of social and economic transformation, anchored in a detailed study of contemporary productive capacities. – Michel Bauwens, P2P Foundation

Carson brings so-called ‘economies of scale’ down from the clouds so that we can compare them with different economies of different scales we might otherwise have enjoyed of states and corporations had not so helpfully inflicted a particular pattern of artificial bigness on us for nearly 200 years. He analyzes in great detail the top-down bossism of large-scale organizations. Conversant with a wide range of literature on management questions, he applies the Austrian theorem on economic calculation to a critique of corporate capitalism – an area where Austrians fear to tread. At the same time, Carson sketches out an alternate set of arrangements – without large-scale accumulations of political-economic power. All who have followed this book’s emergence will be very happy to see it in its final form; not least because of the work’s systematic and synoptic vision, which brings empirical reality into focus in reltion with the relevant theory. – Joseph Stromberg, Independent Institute

Kevin Carson’s new book offers another remarkable contribution to the theory of the freed market, and his defense of cottage industry and cooperative organization strikes a powerful blow against the ideological underpinnings of Progressive managerialism and state capitalism – an ideology shared by the statist Left and Right, and by all too many libertarian apologists for actually-existing capitalism. In the individualist tradition we have written a great deal about the need for consensual and respectful free association, but not nearly enough about just what our organizations, networks, and cooperative projects might look like in a world free from the coercion of the State; Carson argues exhaustively and persuasively for a vision of a cooperative, localized, green and durable economy – a vision which calls libertarians back to our historical roots in the radical (anarchistic Left), while prodding us forward to a new and fuller understanding of the full social and economic implications of radical freed-market ideas. – Charles Johnson, Molinari Institute

Kevin A. Carson is a contemporary mutualist author and a prolific writer on subjects including free-market anti-cap­it­al­ism, the in­div­idualist anarchist tradition, grassroots technology and radical unionism. He is the author of ”The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand”Studies in Mutualist Political EconomyOrganization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution. He keeps a blog at mutualist.blogspot.com and frequently publishes short columns and longer research reports for the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org).


  • Preface

Part One: State Capitalist Intervention in the Market

  • A Critical Survey of Orthodox Views on Economy of Scale
    • Cross-Ideological Affinity for Large-Scale Organization
    • Chandler, Galbraith, and Push Distribution
    • Williamson on Asset-Specificity
    • Appendix A. Economy of Scale in Development Economics
  • A Literature Survey on Economies of Scale
    • Economies of Firm Size
    • Economies of Plant Size
    • The Comparative Significance of Scale Economies and Organizational Efficiency
    • Increased Distribution Costs
    • The Link Between Size and Innovation
    • Economy of Scale in Agriculture
    • Conclusion
  • State Policies Promoting Centralization and Large Organizational Size
    • The Corporate Transformation of Capitalism in the Nineteenth Century
      • The Nineteenth Century Corporate Legal Revolution
      • Subsidies to Transportation and Communication Infrastructure
      • Patents and Copyrights
      • Tariffs
    • Twentieth Century State Capitalism
      • Cartelizing Regulations
      • Tax Policy
      • The Corporate Liberal Pact With Labor
      • The Socialization of Corporate Cost
      • State Action to Absorb Surplus Output
      • Neoliberal Foreign Policy

Part Two: Systemic Effects of Centralization and Excessive Organizational Size

  • Systemic Effects of State-Induced Economic Centralization and Large Organizational Size
    • Radical Monopoly and Its Effects on the Individual
    • Systemic Effects on Institutional Culture
    • The Large Organization and Conscript Clienteles
    • The New Middle Class and the Professional – Managerial Revolution
    • Postscript: Crisis Tendencies
    • Appendix. Journalism as Stenography
      1. Scott Cutlip
      2. Justin Lewis
      3. Sam Smith
      4. Harry Jaffe
      5. The Daily Show
      6. Brent Cunningham
      7. Avedon Carol

Part Three: Internal Effects of Organizational Size Above That Required for Optimum Efficiency

  • Knowledge and Information Problems in the Large Organization
    • The Volume of Data
    • The Distortion of Information Flow by Power
    • Conclusion and Segue to Chapter Six
    • Appendix. The NHS’s IT Program as an Example of Systematic Stupidity
  • Agency and Incentive Problems within the Large Organization
    • Introduction
    • Mainstream Agency Theory
    • Radical Agency Theory
    • Summary
    • Toilet Paper as Paradigm
  • Economic Calculation in the Corporate Commonwealth (the Corporation as Planned Economy)
    • The Divorce of Entrepreneurial from Technical Knowledge
    • Hayek vs. Mises on Distributed Knowledge
    • Rothbard’s Application of the Calculation Argument to the Private Sector
    • Conclusion
    • Appendix. “The End of the Quarter Shuffle”
  • Managerialism, Irrationality and Authoritarianism in the Large Organization
    • The Corporate Form and Managerialism
    • Self-Serving Policies for “Cost-Cutting,” “Quality” and “Efficiency”
    • The Authoritarian Workplace: Increased Hierarchy and Surveillance
    • Authoritarianism: Contract Feudalism
    • Authoritarianism : The Hegemony of “Professionalism”
    • Motivational Propaganda as a Substitute for Real Incentives
    • Appendix A. Blaming Workers for the Results of Mismanagement
      1. Senators Were Warned of Lexington Air Controller Understaffing
      2. Dian Hardison. “I F—ing Warned Them!”
      3. MSHA Makes The “Wrong Decision” To Blame Workers For Accidents
      4. Labor Relations in the Health Care Industry for Nurses
    • Appendix B. Corporate Rhetoric vs. Corporate Reality: The Case of “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap
  • Special Agency Problems of Labor (Internal Crisis Tendencies of the Large Organization)
    • Introduction
    • The Special Agency Problems of Labor
    • Labor Struggle as Asymmetric Warfare
    • The Growing Importance of Huma n Capital : Peer Production vs . the Corporate Gatekeepers
    • Austrian Criticism of the Usefulness of Unions
    • Appendix A. Sabotage in a London Nightclub: A Case Study
    • Appendix B. Yochai Benkler on Open – Mouth Sabotage : Diebold and Sinclair Media as Case Studies in Media Swarming
    • Appendix C. DeCSS as an Example of Media Swarming
    • Appendix D. Open-Mouth Sabotage, Cont.: Alisher Usmanov as a Case Study in Media Swarming
    • Appendix E. Open Mouth Sabotage, Cont.: Wikileaks as a Case Study in Media Swarming
    • Appendix F. Stupid White Men as a Case Study in Media Swarming
  • Attempts at Reform from Within: Management Fads
    • New Wine in Old Bottles
    • Lip Service and Business as Usual
    • Management by Stress
    • Dumbing Down
    • Conclusion and Segue to Part Four
    • Appendix. The Military Origins of Quality Control

Part Four: Conjectures on Decentralist Free Market Alternatives

  • The Abolition of Privilege
    • Reciprocity
    • Privilege and Inequality
    • Specific Forms of Privilege, and the Effect of Their Abolition
      1. The Credit Monopoly
      2. Artificial Property Rights in Land
      3. Patents and Copyrights
      4. Occupational Licensing and Safety Codes
    • Appendix. Reciprocity and Thick Libertarianism
  • Structural Changes: The Cost Principle
    • Introduction
    • Peak Oil and the “Long Emergency”
    • The Scale of Possible Savings on Energy Inputs
    • Path Dependency and Other Barriers to Increased Efficiency
    • The Cost Principle and the Work-Week
    • The Cost Principle and Local Autonomy
  • Dissolution of the State in Society
    • Revolution vs. Evolution
    • Dialectical Libertarianism and the Order of Attack
    • The “Free Market” as Hegemonic Ideology
    • Gradualism and the “Magic Button”
    • “Dissolving the State in the Economy”
    • Counter-Institutions
    • Counter-Institutions and Counter-Economics
    • The Two Economies and the Shifting Correlation of Forces
    • Privatizing State Property
  • Decentralized Production Technology
    • Introduction
    • Multiple-Purpose Production Technology
    • The Transition to Decentralized Manufacturing
    • Desktop Manufacturing Technology
    • Polytechnic
    • Eotechnic, Paleotechnic, and Neotechnic
    • Decentralized Agriculture
    • A Soft Development Path
  • Social Organization of Production: Cooperatives and Peer Production
    • Introduction
    • Self-Employment: Increased Productive Efficiency
    • Cooperatives: Increased Productive Efficiency
    • Innovation Under Worker Self-Management
    • Social Benefits of Worker Empowerment
    • Peer Production
    • The Social Economy and the Crisis of Capitalism
  • The Social Organization of Distribution, Exchange and Services
    • Demand-Pull Distribution
    • Local Exchange Systems: Household and Informal Economies
    • Certification, Licensing and Trust
    • Social Services
    • Mutual Aid and the Voluntary Welfare State
    • Education
    • Healthcare

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Support C4SS with Kevin Carson’s “Studies in Mutualist Political Economy”

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Kevin Carson‘s “Studies in Mutualist Political Economy“ that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Kevin Carson‘s “Studies in Mutualist Political Economy“.

$15.00 for the first copy. $13.00 for every additional copy.

First published in 2005 by the author. Second edition published in 2007.

When describing his book, Kevin says: This book is an attempt to revive individualist anarchist political economy, to incorporate the useful developments of the last hundred years, and to make it relevant to the problems of the twenty-first century. We hope this work will go at least part of the way to providing a new theoretical and practical foundation for free market socialist economics. Speaking for the Distro, I think Kevin is much too modest. This is Kevin Carson’s first big book, an immensely important document in the contemporary revival of left-libertarianism and anti-capitalist individualist anarchism, and one of the most significant developments in the last century for both libertarian politics and radical economic thinking.

Anarchists tend to look embarrassed when the subject of economics comes up. Or we mumble something about Proudhon and then sheepishly borrow ideas from Karl Marx… A specifically anarchistic approach to economic analysis has lain dormant for the last 130 years. However, with the publication of Kevin A. Carson’s STUDIES IN MUTUALIST POLITICAL ECONOMY this period of dormancy has finally come to an end. –Larry Gambone, Red Lion Press.

I highly recommend Carson’s book… That doesn’t mean I agree with everything in the book… But where I agree with it I think it is an excellent defense of the sort of anti-corporatist, pro-labour, left-libertarianism I embrace; and where I disagree with it I think it makes intelligent arguments that deserve consideration. –Roderick Long, editor, JOURNAL OF LIBERTARIAN STUDIES

Overall it is a valuable contribution to political economy and a timely reminder… to libertarians of how radical their creed actually is. In my view, one cannot overstate the importance of Carson’s asking libertarians: what are you defending, the free market or the political-economic system we currently live in? –Sheldon Richman, editor, THE FREEMAN

… his remarkable STUDIES IN MUTUALIST POLITICAL ECONOMY… displays an admirable range of reading and the style invests the driest economic questions with a certain peculiar charm. –Ken MacLeod, author, FALL REVOLUTIONtrilogy

Kevin A. Carson is a contemporary mutualist author and a prolific writer on subjects including free-market anti-cap­it­al­ism, the in­div­idualist anarchist tradition, grassroots technology and radical unionism. He is the author of ”The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand”Studies in Mutualist Political EconomyOrganization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution. He keeps a blog at mutualist.blogspot.com and frequently publishes short columns and longer research reports for the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org).


  • Preface

Part One–Theoretical Foundations: Value Theory

  • Chapter One–The Marginalist Assault on Classical Political Economy: An Assessment and Counter-Attack.
    • A. Statement of the Classical Labor Theory of Value
    • B. Vulgar Political Economy, Marginalism, and the Issue of Ideological Motivation
    • C. The Marginalists versus Ricardo
    • D. Exceptions to the Cost-Principle: The Classicals in Their Own Defense
    • E. The Marshallian Synthesis
    • F. Rothbard versus the Marshallian Synthesis
  • Chapter Two–A Subjective Recasting of the Labor Theory of Value
  • Chapter Three–Time-Preference and the Labor Theory of Value

Part Two–Capitalism and the State: Past, Present and Future

  • Chapter Four–Primitive Accumulation and the Rise of Capitalism
    • Introduction
    • A. The Expropriation of Land in the Old World
    • B. Political Preemption of Land in Settler Societies
    • C. Political Repression and Social Control in the Industrial Revolution
    • D. Mercantilism, Colonialism, and the Creation of the World Market
    • Conclusion: The World We Have Lost–And Will Regain
    • Appendix: On the Necessity of Primitive Accumulation
  • Chapter Five–The State and Capitalism in the Laissez-Faire Era
    • A. Tucker’s Big Four: The Land Monopoly
    • B. Tucker’s Big Four: The Money Monopoly
    • C. Tucker’s Big Four: Patents
    • D. Tucker’s Big Four: Tariffs
    • E. Infrastructure
  • Chapter Six–The Rise of Monopoly Capitalism
    • Introduction
    • A. Liberal Corporatism, Regulatory Cartelization, and the Permanent Warfare State
    • B. Power Elite Theory
    • C. Monopoly Capital and Super-Profits
    • D. Socialization of Costs as a Form of Cartelization
  • Chapter Seven–Monopoly Capitalism and Imperialism
    • Introduction: Elite Reaction to Crisis (With Digression on Maldristribution of Income)
    • A. Open Door Imperialism Through the 1930s.
    • B. The Bretton Woods System: Culmination of Open Door Empire
    • C. Export-Dependent Monopoly Capitalism (with Digression on Economy of Scale)
  • Chapter Eight–Crisis Tendencies
    • Introduction
    • A. Accumulation Crisis
    • B. Fiscal and Input Crises
    • C. Legitimation Crisis
    • D. Neoliberal Reaction and Political Repression
    • E. Built-In Limits to Effectiveness of Neoliberal Reaction
    • F. Neoconservatism as Attempted Defense Against Legitimation Crisis
    • G. The Frankfurt School: Fascism and the Abandonment of the Law of Value
    • H. Global Political Crisis of Imperialism

    Part Three–Praxis

    • Chapter Nine–Ends and Means
      • A. Organizing Principles
      • B. Getting There

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Support C4SS with Gary Chartier’s “The Distinctiveness of Left-Libertarianism”

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Gary Chartier‘s “The Distinctiveness of Left-Libertarianism“ that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Gary Chartier‘s “The Distinctiveness of Left-Libertarianism“.

$1.00 for the first copy. $0.60 for every additional copy.

This essay from Gary Chartier, originally written for the Bleeding Heart Libertarians symposium on left-libertarianism in November 2012, lays out the distinctive vision of left-libertarian theory and practice: a social struggle to achieve left-wing ends by libertarian means — for a leftism that challenges the authoritarianism and privilege of the state, and a libertarianism that stands for liberation across the board from multidimensional, intersecting forms of oppression. Chartier applies left-libertarian thought to anti-capitalism, class, solidarity, grassroots mutual aid, civil liberties, the drug war, the rights of sex workers, the emancipation of children, challenging police power, resisting social privilege, and resisting war, imperialism and colonialism.

“Left-libertarianism embraces and transforms leftist and libertarian ideals. Many leftists and libertarians al­ready share some commitments: opposition to war, empire, and corporate privilege; support for civil liberties and grass-roots empowerment. However, many leftists and libertarians also embrace, and often share, various mistaken assumptions. Left-libertar­ians challenge these assumptions. . . .

“The ruling class — made up of wealthy people empowered by the state, together with high-level state functionaries — is defined by its relationship with the state, its essential enabler. Opposing this class thus means opposing the state. . . . Left-libertarians share the awareness that racism, sexism, heterosexism, nativism and national chauv­inism are morally repugnant. Suspicious of the state and respectful of just possessory claims, they stress non-aggressive solidar­istic action as the appropriate means of dealing with persistent discrimination.”

Gary Chartier is an American legal scholar and philosopher at La Sierra University in Riverside, California. A left-wing market anarchist and a proponent of New Classical Natural Law theory, Chartier moved from state social-democracy to anarchist views after his contact with the work of left-libertarian authors such as Kevin Carson and Roderick Long, the New Left-inspired decentralism of Karl Hess, and the individualist anarchism of Benjamin Tucker. He is the author of books including The Conscience of an Anarchist and Anarchy and Legal Order. Together with Charles W. Johnson, he is the editor of the free-market anticapitalist collection Markets Not Capitalism.

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Laissez-Faire Socialism (1884-1890)

This booklet collects five essays from the individualist anarchist Benjamin R. Tucker on the nature of competition, labor, pay, stateless markets and the ideal of socialism. Included are: (1) “Socialism: What It Is,” (2) “Armies That Overlap,” (3) “Should Labor … Continue reading