Saturday, October 29, 2005

Cigarettes, Parecon and Externality

In discussions with comrades on Z Mag's blog comments,, some errors have come up. Bwong, an otherwise progressive and intelligent individual, even claimed that externalities have to do with any complex system. But that's simply false. Under market systems (and, of course, central planning, tribal, etc. systems have also destroyed ecologies), one not only acts in destructive ways out of ignorance, but is even given incentives to do so when one knows perfectly well. To get more concrete, here's an example:

Take the cigarette worker's council in a theoretical American parecon circa 1950. This worker's council begins to discover evidence that their products cause cancer. None of them have any incentive to lie about this fact, as their personal incomes are not tied to net cigarette sales. It is highly unlikely that a parecon would ban cigarettes after such a revelation, and would indeed violate civil rights and thus would be checked by any competent judiciary. But even if it were, it is unimaginable that the cigarette council workers would be so specialized that, either after a reasonable period of training that costs them nothing or no training at all given the general utility of most of their skills, they could not be rehabilitated to work. If they could not, they would be taken care of by society. Further, the scientists council, likely the ones doing the epidemiology, will presumably demand frequent reports and papers from their scientists, so a scientist working for the cigarette council would have little reason to lie, both due to the lack of bribery ability of the worker's council in question and the obvious concerns over reputation and getting paid. And since the whole process is far more transparent, with the "worker bees" having far more say and information (indeed, there are no "worker bees" to contrast against "queen bees"), each individual potential whistleblower has far more impact. And the consumer's council in question can always launch investigations pending complaints, yes, with a law enforcement council of civil servants, and encounter far fewer obstacles of transparency. And those who are externalized upon, whether it be from global warming or similar, have not only judicial redress but also direct economic redress, and since political power is not connected to money as a matter of course, they have as much political say and capacity. Under capitalism, the opposite is true in almost every respect. Cigarette companies squashed data, then when it became too difficult to squash they hired mercenary scientists (who could be doing good work) to defend their interests, put legislators and health industries into their pockets, launched suits against scientists and newspapers who dared to differ, and began a trend of "junk science" questioning of anti-corporate science leading to USSR-like questioning of real science.

Now, the above remains true even if corporations are gone, as managers are still around to muddle the waters of transparency, the workers' success is still linked to sales, scientists and regulatory agencies can still be bought, etc. etc. etc.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Public and Private Ethics

There has been some confusion in conversations with others about my distinction between rights and ethics: that I determine that, while abortion begs some ethical questions, it should be legal. What makes me say this seemingly unintuitive conclusion?

I propose that privately we behave with compassion, selflessly, helping others, etc. But that is my parochial outlook. There are many others who could believe quite differently and nonetheless not be doing anything wrong, having the right to behave as they wish. So I distinguish between a public ethic, codified in rights, and a private ethic.The two, of course, do get intermingled, as should all complex things. Murder is both unethical (in my view) and a violation of the right to life. But theft is more complex, because I personally don't feel people should take other people's things, but I can definitely see situations in which it'd be justified. A capitalist who believes in the right to property and I will sharply disagree on the public side even if we can see similar ethical facts on the private side.

Take the abortion issue. The abortion issue SHOULD be a hot topic. I think quite a few people, even the feminists towards whose side I lean very much, are very much too cavalier about the rights/ethics conflicts. That's precisely why I don't think there should be a ban. When a society, particularly one filled with elitism/statism, sexism, racism, etc. bans something, it means that that question cannot be settled publicly. The behavior goes underground, often becoming more dangerous and spawning other crime. If the matter is complex enough, having the issue in the open is vital. Just an example: Let's say that we make abortion the same as murder one. Who do you imagine will escape prosecution: Rich women with the resources to hire “discrete” doctors and to afford legal fees? Or poorer women without those abilities?

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't be having the conversation somewhere. Indeed, we should, and on physician assisted suicide and drug use and all the other controversies. I think most people can see that allowing something societally doesn't make it right, and that to pretend that a lack of societal PROSCRIPTION is a PRESCRIPTION is silly and not taking personal accountability. There must be a few playing rules for that shared space, what I call “first-order” or political rules. But then there are things we do publicly that are nonetheless not going to be policy: publicly decry abortion or physician assisted suicide. Those are “second-order” or cultural rules, defended by first-order constitutional guarantees of rights. And the last are “third-order” or private rules.

The problem with a state is that everyone feels they must rush towards it in self-defense, either to put into place a ban or to prevent it.

The public ethic should be the right to influence decisions insofar as one is impacted. That includes rights to free speech, assembly, petition (though that means something different under direct democracy), self-management of one's labor, for privacy and against certain actions by law enforcement, etc.

My private ethic is found in the Buddhst tradition, but heavily modified by the public ethic, as one can probably tell.

I have a post coming up on an overview of anarchist perspectives on a variety of topics, but the one I'll preview here is anarchist ethics. Many people view freedom and ethics as somehow in conflict: we grudgingly allow freedom, but we recognize that that will increase unethical behavior. While narrowly accurate, I think this has the situation backwards.

Freedom and ethics are not in conflict: they are two sides of the same coin. As Immanuel Kant (a 19th century German philosopher of unbelievable importance) points out, "Ought implies can". If we were rocks, our "actions" could have no ethical character. He also points out that the maturity for freedom is only arrived at by having freedom. The way we become ethical actors in a truly honest way is through freedom. If being mean to other people kills us, or if we are kind because Santa will shower us with gifts, we aren't being honestly ethical. This isn't to say that, in practice, ethical behavior carries rewards: of course it does. But that shouldn't be why someone behaves in a right way.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Prince and I

Foreword: This essay may make it seem that I applaud Paul's letter to the Romans. I juxtaposed the two rather favorably to show up Machiavelli's failings, but certain quotes in Romans are as statist as you can find. In fact, I considered writing an essay that discussed Machiavelli's sole

Throughout history, humans have arranged themselves in societies ranging from tribes to city-states to feudal kingdoms to nation-states. From the relatively democratic tribal councils to the less democratic Greek city-states onto monarchy and empire, it appeared that societies became more authoritarian as they grew larger and more complex. Soon, to paraphrase St. Augustine's pirate, thieves molesting the oceans in small boats were called pirates and emperors molesting the oceans with large navies were spoken of as great men. In this environment, using the heuristic of circumcision, Paul joined many religious figures arguing that the world of flesh and empire was superseded by the world of spirit and common mankind. Paul's sentiment created a church supposedly at odds with temporal power. In the Renaissance, Machiavelli argued for an opposite sentiment, elevating the temporal above the spiritual. The war between Paul and Machiavelli is a war between an ethic that seeks to make the polity its servant and an ethic that makes the state the highest good. Irrespective of whether or not one views rights or ethics as the fundamental political goal, both outlooks at their core demand a revolutionary new polity that exists only insofar as it can propel these needs, different from all forms throughout history. One's particular spirituality is also largely irrelevant, as no consistent spiritual development is consistent with hierarchical and callous power, which inevitably follows Machiavelli's path rather than Paul's. Politics should be concerned wth the practical, spiritual and ethical development of every human being as well as their involvement in decisions insofar as they are impacted; it should not be concerned with aggrandizing elites or developing a cult of nationality, and to avoid this requires a break with the nation-state.

Machiavelli is explicitly statist in The Prince. Chapter I even denies the concept of anything beyond “either Republics or Princedoms” (Dover Thrift Edition of The Prince, page 1). It is hard to describe Viking or Native American societies as either Republic or Princedom, but irrespective, Machiavelli makes no argument as to why that which has not been seen in the past cannot exist today. After all, Machiavelli argues for a united Italy in Chapter XXVI (pages 68-70), something that had not been achieved since Rome and is different in conception from the Roman Empire. Chapter XXVI also demonstrates Machiavelli's commitment to a unified nation-state, which (by definition) must be either Republic or Princedom. In Chapter VI, Machiavelli argues, “They who come to the Princedom, as these did, by virtuous paths, acquire with difficulty, but keep with ease. The difficulties which they have in acquiring arise mainly from the new laws and institutions that they are forced to introduce in founding and securing their government.” (page 13). In short, they are “forc[ed]” to establish new laws to crush those who happen to think that a prince taking what he wants with violence should not be rewarded with obedience. “Securi[ty]” must be established to preserve the rule obtained by “virt[ue].” It seems to slip Machiavelli's mind that any conqueror will claim to have arrived at his success through “virtue”, and that such a conqueror may have interests beyond “security” when he creates institutions to aggrandize him. Machiavelli masterfully obscures the cynicism of this sentiment by combining Moses, Romulus et al, despite each's almost qualitatively different circumstances, into a seamless mold of Princes who are “virtuous”. Thus Romulus, who murdered his own brother, and Moses, who liberated his people from slavery, are made into moral equivalents. For Machiavelli, what matters is power and success.

To give Machiavelli the benefit of the doubt, he appears to have a reason beyond simple power-worship to propose any crime in service of the State. He even admits that not all Princes are equal; Chapter VIII acknowledges that Princes can come to power through “crimes” (pg. 20). However, he gives the game up in the first paragraph; “...a man may also rise to be a Prince in one or other of two ways, neither of which can be referred wholly either to merit or fortune”. But Machiavelli's description of “merit” is precisely the willingness to commit crimes, at least as the word “crime” is normally understood. He also seems to consider it just that some may rise to power based on no “merit” of their own but simple “fortune” (“fortune” such as being born with the Princedom, as he discusses in Chapter II, which even under his twisted ethic has no bearing on merit of any kind). The two ways he speaks of are “paths of wickedness and crime” and “becom[ing] ruler of [a] country by the favour of [one's] fellow citizens”. His description of “crime” in the case of Agathocles (pg. 21) is “to slaughter fellow-citizens”, which implies that human worth is connected not to humanity but due to membership in some arbitrary nationality. More importantly, did not Moses also slaughter his own “fellow-citizens”? Machiavelli seems to find some distinction between Agathocles and Moses in merit, yet this speaks more of the positive associations of any Biblical character and the malleability of Machiavelli's doctrine to state power than to the reasoning involved.

Machiavelli makes an astounding revelation later in the chapter (pg.23): Cruelty may be “well” or “ill” employed, with the only criterion to decide being the effectiveness of the cruelty. And what of the second path? Princes who secure the favour of the “people” must reconcile them to the fact that, “A Princedom is created either by the people or by the nobles...” A world without nobles is beyond Machiavelli's imagination. Luckily, Machiavelli does imply that “the aim of the people [is] more honourable than that of the nobles, the latter seeking to oppress, the former not to be oppressed”. However, such a Prince arrives at a dilemma: “And in times of peril it is too late for a Prince to assume to himself an absolute authority, for the citizens and the subjects who are accustomed to take their orders from the magistrates, will not when dangers threaten take them from the Prince...” Why does such a citizenry need a Prince? Why do they even need magistrates? Why does the Prince necessarily need to consolidate his rule, even during times of strife? Answers are not forthcoming.

It appears Machiavelli has a few values to which he puts his crass utilities. The first is a concept of “greatness”. In Chapter XVI, Machiavelli posits, “In our own days we have seen no Princes accomplish great results save those who have been accounted miserly.” (page 41). Apparently generousity and kindness is not greatness in and of itself; great things are “enterprises” such as what the contemporary King of Spain embarks on (p. 42). He does argue in this chapter that all liberal princes must tax, but he ignores the very concept of taxation: to have a centralized authority invest in things worth more over time. Of course, this liberality is not a problem when acquiring power or when dispensing with “the property of others”. The implication, of course, is that the Prince owns everything in his domain and has the right to take away that which is outside of it. Other than mentions of “greatness”, he offers no reasons why the Prince is needed. However, the greatest hint is in XXVI. There, he begs for a Prince (particularly he who Machiavelli is writing to) to unite Italy. Thus, for Machiavelli, all of the conquering and domination is justified by the continued stable existence of the State.

Machiavelli's fundamental flaw of both reasoning and ethics has to do with a naivete of the true operations of power. There are roughly three symptoms of this consistent mistake. First, Machiavelli assumes that the state is the only means to accomplish what he desires: some kind of unity and security. Yet Machiavelli offers precisely one paragraph describing why he assumes this, and the paragraph has to do with his impression of history, which is a patent irrelevancy.

One can imagine a polity with multiple levels of governance, thus satisfying the people's legitimate urges for self-government while allowing them to unify for the common good. One can also imagine such a polity where the binding “glue” is not a Nation defined by borders and common identity (a fundamentally exclusive identity) or a State defined by hierarchy and coercion, but a different form described by Bakunin, Proudhon, Rocker, and others defined by voluntary interaction and participatory self-management. Such a polity can at least in theory accomplish “greatness”, stability and the common good; indeed, much more effectively.
Second, Machiavelli assumes that there will be no cost to such a state. But the fact is that there is no plausible argument that the Prince will always rule out of even enlightened self-interest, especially since there is every incentive for him for aggrandize himself with more power and wealth and virtually no check upon him doing so. Machiavelli even admits that it is highly unlikely that any Prince will have the good qualities that a reasonable person would desire in a leader; thus, he says, “It is not essential... that a Prince should have all the good qualities which i have enumerated... [but] he should seem to have them.” (p. 46). (Obviously, even a totally enlightened Prince is a fundamentally wrong category because it denies the rights of individuals to influence decisions that affect them, but Machiavelli has assumed those away). A foolish, greedy, callous, insane or vile leader is beyond Machiavelli's conception, yet any one of these cases destroys the Prince's necessity. His state also represses individuals and minorities, who inevitably will let hate and anger fester until the society unravels by violence; creates national identities that establish possibilities for war and genocide (after all, Hitler's extermination of the Jews was because they supposedly stained the German body politic); requires entire classes of commissars, apologists and mercenaries to maintain, all of whom create hierarchy and disorder; and exists in the long term by constructing threats and repressing the citizenry. At the bottom, this state serves the elites of its society, whom the Prince is ultimately beholden to; Machiavelli's own descriptions of failed rulers makes this much clear. These elites do not have security or stability as primary interests

Third, Machiavelli assumes a mean and crass human nature, yet describes no possible explanation for how people got that way, thus replicating the error he critiques in others of assuming that people behave in any particular fashion (whether good or bad). For Machiavelli, men are “dishonest” and “do not keep faith”. Putting aside the obvious ethical argument of universality that what is wrong in others is equally wrong in oneself, Machiavelli's proposed solution is thus to have one “wise” person (of course, the idea that the type of wisdom required to brutally gain power is not the same type required to rule effectively is one he does not bother to explain) who is encouraged, indeed required, to have all of these properties and more. It seems rather more logical to create a state where people are encouraged to be good and where being bad is very difficult, but Machiavelli objects for reasons that remain nebulous.

Paul, on the other hand, supports no special rules for Princes or magistrates. In Romans 2:3, Paul asks, “Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?” To Paul, one's status as judge does not obviate the crime one iota; that which is wrong is universally wrong. Further, ethics and blessings do not belong to any one group; “There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek... For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law... When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law” (Romans 2:9-14). To Paul, Jews are “instructed in the law” (Romans 18), but this does not grant them any special privileges, because that is merely hearing, not complying, with the law (“law” here meaning ethics, not the law of the state). Indeed, such individuals acquire unique responsibilities; they must be a “light to those who are in the darkness” (Romans 2:19). Compliance with the law of circumcision is only useful if one complies with the broader law of ethics (Romans 2:25). This law acquires an oddly temporal character, in that ethics are deemed to reside in living beings; thus, in Romans 7: 1-3, Paul offers the example of a woman whose husband dies who “lives with another man”, and says she is not an adulteress.

Paul admittedly may fall in an ambiguous sense. Romans 13 begins with, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” But there is a hidden implication: Those in authority owe allegiance to God; they do not rule by virtue of power or innate right. He also says, “Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenu is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due”. One must compensate for the fact that Paul was writing under a powerful empire that persecuted his sect. The hidden implication is that a just society in line with God's law (ethics) should be complied with, but one that is not worthy of respect is owed none. Paul goes on to say in Romans 14:13, “Then let us no more pass judmgnet on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother”. Paul seems to argue that people should live and let live; not impede other's spiritual development... in short, a nascent anti-statism.

When applying these insights to politics, a few things must be altered. The rightness of the society, based on the notion that ethics accrue to living creatures and that men should place no impediments to each other, is distinct from the rightness of the spirit. Paul may seem to imply a theology, but a theology would explicitly be an institution that judges, and thus would be vulnerable to hypocrisy and oppression. They key to derive from Paul is that a society that is right deserves involvement from its citizens and that such a society should be based on tolerance and freedom, but should not eschew ethical considerations. The modern formulation is that of rights. While this may seem to imply secular humanism, it does not necessitate it whatsoever. Paul states in Romans 14:6, “He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord...” In short, mundane actions that seem non-spiritual on the surface can be spiritual at the base of it. The point of individual rights is to acknowledge that there is something sacred to one's free actions and that those rights reside in every human being by virtue of existence, and that to challenge them is fundamentally to judge and to impede in violation of God's law. These rights are not designed to make atomistic individuals, but precisely to facilitate full and free interaction between people in safe and tolerant forums leading to all sorts of new and sacred acts.

What, then, would Paul's vision bring? A world without borders that divides human beings into antagonistic clans, no matter how well disguised. A world where an injury to one is perceived as an injury to all. A world with concrete economic, political, cultural and gender institutions that promote happiness, spiritual development, and the free development of all forms of spontaneous interaction. Machiavelli posits that such a world is impossible with the meanness of humankind, yet he has the problem precisely backwards, for it is the world of Princes and authoritarian institutions that reward what innate greed and violence is there and that make cooperation not a normal fact encouraged by the society but an extraordinary feat that requires constant war with the society. It is Princes who make “men” bad, not men who require Princes be bad. In any respect, even if “men” are bad, by Machiavelli's logic they are not bad enough to continue in evil even when the government prevents such actions. All Paul's vision requires is that there be no Prince who is allowed to commit the evil.

Princes must by their nature “judge”; they must by their nature not “respect” those to whom respect is due; they are concerned with their power and the existence of their state and not the power and existence of God; they intrinsically put “stumbling blocks” in the way of their fellow human beings. In short, though there is a nascent statism to Paul's letter to the Romans, it is a statism entirely at odds with Machiavelli's crass utilitarianism. Even if one sheds the concept of Princes, the very notion of a nation-state that judges some to be privy and others not and that draws lines upon the world that God created is antithetical to Paul.

It is essential to note that one need not believe in the Judeo-Christian God or indeed any God to identify with Paul's sentiments. One can take his tack and complete the ambiguity of “law” and “ethic” that undercuts Romans and simply speak of “law”, not “law” generated by elites seeking to maximize their power and wealth in whatever forms the polity encourages but rather “law” that resides in the rights of individuals arrived at in voluntary congress that allows rights conflicts to be resolved and people to fully influence decisions that affect them. A libertarian society would want “law” of some form, if only because having predictable norms is essential for the proper working of a society. The key is that the law is arrived at with the participation of all impacted, that the law is subject to change and scrutiny, and that the law does not become an independent organism that takes on sanctimonious robes but is always a tool. In short, one can be a secular humanist (thus saying that one particular religious ethic, or any religious ethic, should not enter into politics) and not thereby conclude that politics thereby become vapid subservience to violence (in a positive formulation, that politics include a secular ethic grounded in the rights of humans as temporal, not spiritual, creatures). One can even note that many oppressors throughout history have said words similar to Paul and that Paul's own Catholic Church precisely judged and impeded and still nod to the sentiments in Romans. Surely, such sentiments at least contain some notion of an ethic and an obligation of the “rulers” if such a category must even exist, whereas Machiavelli is simply a crass justification for any crime committed by the state because it is committed by the state, in the worst form of circular logic.
Machiavelli ironically provides one justification for an alternative polity. In Chapter XXV, he argues that, “ man is found so prudent as to know how to adapt himself to these changes [changes created by Fortune], both because he cannot deviatre from the course to which nature inclines him, and becausem having always priospered while adhering to one path, he cannot be persuaded that it would be well for him to forsake it” (pg.67). He then goes onto argue that the most successful Princes are those who can adapt to changing circumstances. Yet one of the arguments for democracy is precisely that democracy, even if taking longer (and Machiavelli in this sense makes no mention of limited time or the necessity for decisive decision-making), incorporates more viewpoints and has more time for deliberation, precisely leading to more complex and flexible policy-making. A truly federated, democratic polity with complex decision-making procedures and paradigms could be more flexible than any one woman, who will always be constrained by her parochialisms.

Such an alternative polity (featured most prominently in the anarchist literature, but developed by and proposed by utopians and revolutionaries of all ilks throughout history) would facilitate both Paul's and Machiavelli's vision. Through federation, it would govern more effectively, having more actors at more levels capable of evaluating circumstances and making democratic decisions. It would endure longer because it would be more flexible in meeting the demands of the people; indeed, it would be the demands of the people incarnated. It would honor people both as “Jews” and “Greeks” (categories that Paul does not scorn unless they are used to provide excuses for judgment) and as people, allowing minorities say in their own affairs and cooperation with broader constituents. Indeed, it would alter identities in a truly revolutionary fashion; one could be cosmopolitan, regional, parochial and local all without skipping a beat. It would be more stable and more creative in responding to the exigencies of Fortune. It would not “judge”; its existence would be predicated on the concept that actions should only be prevented if they impeded the rights of others in a worse manner. Not only would it not allow Princes, magistrates, advisors, flunkies, criminals, and maniacs to impede people, it would precisely create the material conditions under which true freedom would be possible.

Depleted Uranium: Radiological Genocide

Gulf War Syndrome attracted some attention after the Gulf War. It was a set of mysterious, unexplained and rather nebulous illnesses, including dizziness, memory problems, fatigue, loss of muscle control, and similar. The symptoms were wide-ranging but disproportionately affected Desert Storm veterans. Captain Joyce Riley alleges that the United States provided biological weapons to Saddam who in turn used them on American troops. Other explanations have included chemical agents. But very little attention has been put on a disease that affected both American veterans and Iraq civilians: depleted uranium leakage.

Depleted uranium (hereafter known as DU) is used in combat because of its incredible density. It is a “tank-killer” or armorpiercing (AP) munition. This fact is fairly widely known. Less known is an additional aspect of DU usage. When depleted uranium makes contact with metal, it balloons outwards in an explodng superheated cloud of radiological gas. The upside for military application is that this kills the soldiers inside the armor effectively. The downside is that this radiological material concentrates in flora and fauna and eventually makes its way into humans.
Depleted uranium has seen theatre application in Iraq, Kosovo and (allegedly) Palestine and Afghanistan. It has led to 11,000 deaths of American troops as of March 28, 2005. Iraq has attracted particular attention from Depleted Uranium activists. The worst part about the impact is that it appears to be exponential, continuing to do more damage over each subsequent generation. Cancer and deformities have multiplied, and the expected death toll is upwards of a million men, women and (particularly) children. The impact of such intense radiological material causes congenital diseases the likes of which are never seen, such as internal organs on the outside.

The government claims in public that DU is safe, but leaked documents and internal materials show that they are perfectly aware of the danger. Whether they continue through malice or disregard is a question for discussion, but it is the wrong question. DU is 60% as radiological as enriched uranium and it is disposed of in the same location. The United States and its allies are dumping our nuclear waste on other countries in the prosecution of terrible, immoral and illegal wars. It is up to us to stop them.


Wikipedia – Gulf War Syndrome,

Riley, Joyce (Captain). January 15, 1996 speech at Houston, Texas. Transcript available at

Flounders, Sara. Another War Crime: Iraqi Cities “Hot” With Depleted Uranium. August 18, 2003. International Action Center. Available warcrime.htm.

World Health Organization. Depleted uranium. Last revised January 2003. Available

Sharp, David. Maine Judge Sentences Depleted Uranium Activists to 1-Year in Prison. Associated Press, February 2 2001 6:49 pm., Antiwar activists say depleted uranium has led to 11,000 American deaths. Wednesday May 18, 2005. Cites Arthur Bernklau and Marion Fulk.

Green, Robert (Retired Commander of Royal Navy). Reflections on War: the immediate and long-term effects of modern weapons.

International Action Center. What Government Documents Admit.

Tucker, James P. Jr. Nationwide Media Blackout Keeps U.S. Public Ignorant About This Important Story. American Free Press, March 28, 2005.

Scherrer, Christian. DU and the Liberation of Iraq. ZNet April 13, 2003.

The Marx of Freedom

In 1789, the French National Assembly, a token democratic body to appease those railing against monarchy, had a clear distinction between the noble, reactionary First Estate and the peasant, revolutionary Third Estate: the former sat on the right and the latter on the left. Since that time, the terms “right” and “left” have come to be catch-phrases for “conservative” or “reactionary” and “liberal” or “revolutionary”. In the more than two hundred years that have followed, the terms have expanded to mean almost diametrically opposed things, but generally those on the far left, while all being revolutionary in at least one or two spheres of activity, split into a few camps. Marx and Rousseau are two philosophers from whom an astute political reader can get a sense of the divergent and convergent opinions of the Left, especially in the way the individual relates to the state and what the state is designed to do.

Marx and Rousseau agree that the State must either be fundamentally altered or replaced. Rousseau says in Chapter 1 of Book I, “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they... If I took into account only force, and the effects derived from it, I should say: '...for, regaining [people's] liberty by the same right as took it away, either it is justified in resuming it, or there was no justification for those who took it away.' But the social order is a sacred right which is the basis of all other rights.” Rousseau explicitly argues that individual rights are sacrosanct, and notes the dangers of a traditional state in Chapter 2: “[In Grotius' argument], the human species is divided into so many herds of cattle, each with its ruler, who keeps guard over them for the purpose of devouring them.” Rousseau explains his government and its relation to the citizens in Chapter 17 of Book III,
...the Sovereign [meaning the 'general will' of the people, a phantasmal concept that government is supposed to emulate as closely as possible] decrees that there shall be a governing body established in this or that form; this act is clearly a law. By the latter, the people nominates the rulers who are to be entrusted with the government that has been established... The difficulty is to understand how there can be a governmental act before government exists.... It is at this point that there is revealed one of the astonishing properties of the body politic, by means of which it reconciles apparently contradictory operations; for this is accomplished by a sudden conversion of Sovereignty into democracy, so that, without sensible change, and merely by virtue of a new relation of all to all, the citizens become magistrates and pass... from legislation to the execution of the law.
Rousseau advocates something similar to Swedish direct democracy and makes clear that the will of the majority is the primary determinant of policy. (A modern anarchist advocate of something similar is Murray Bookchin, who argues for green libertarian municipalism).
To compare, Marx alleges on page 142 of the Dover Thrift Communist Manifesto, “When... class distinctions have disappeared... the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly speaking, is the organized power of one class for the purpose of oppressing another.” Both Rousseau and Marx, then, clearly view political power as fundamentally oppressive and want to see it replaced by something else.

Marx thought of the State primarily as the bulwark and fulcrum of revolution. This is demonstrated rather aptly in a few key ways. On page 141, Marx argues for some familiar reforms: a progressive income tax, socialized public education, mass transport, etc. In fact, Marx critiqued bitterly on pages 142-149 a whole set of schools of socialism, some of whom would be what is now called “reformist”. Clearly, seizure of the State in the authoritarian fashion Marx describes was not the end goal. He makes this clear before his proposals on page 141: “The proletariat will use its political power to wrest by degrees all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class, and to increase as rapidly as possible the total mass of productive forces. This, naturally, cannot be accomplished at first except by despotic inroads on the rights of property...” For Marx, an authoritarian action on the state's part could not be justified by an appeal to nationalism but only by revolutionary necessity, and even if the existing state did an act the revolution would do in precisely the same form, Marx makes it clear that for him the revolutionary agent must be the proletariat themselves or else one will get at best a decrepit 'socialism' that does not dispense with class conflict. Nonetheless, he does propose an “obligation of all to labor” and “organization of industrial armies”, something a libertarian would balk at even when they to seek a totally new economic and political order. Marx is possibly the penultimate revolutionary: though he does assume a transitional state to create a machinery of abundance, he argues on page 140-141 to those who say that Communism dispenses with all previous historical forms and that this is dangerous, “The history of all past society is the history of class antagonisms, which took different forms in different epochs. But whatever form they may have taken, the exploitation of one section of society by another is a fact common to all previous centuries.” There is clearly a strong libertarian strand running through Marx's work, one Rousseau would applaud, and Marx only tolerates usage of the state as an interim.

Other members of the left even at Marx's time disagreed with the notion of hijacking the state. To choose a response Rousseau would undoubtedly resonate with, let us consult Rudolf Rocker: “Anarcho-syndicalists are convinced that a Socialist economic order cannot be created by the decrees and statutes of a government, but only by the solidaric collaboration of the workers with hand and brain in each special branch of production; that is, through the taking over of... [economic] management... by the producers themselves under such form that the separate groups... of industry are independent members of the general economic organism and systematically carry on production and the distribution of the products in the interest of the community on the basis of free mutual agreements.” This is the notion that the facts on the ground must be created during the pre-revolutionary, revolutionary and post-revolutionary period by the workers and that any State action is highly risky in that it could be used to create a new authoritarian elite, as anarchists would argue occurred in the Soviet Union. To contrast, Engels' response to this argument was, “But to destroy [the state] at such a [revolutionary] moment would be to destroy the only organism by means of which the victorious proletariat can assert its newly-conquered power...” Rousseau similarly argues in Part 10 of Book III, “Government undergoes contraction when it passes from the many to the few, that is, from democracy to aristocracy, and from aristocracy to royalty. To do so is its natural propensity.” In other words, the state is fundamentally directed towards expanding its tyranny.

Rousseau and Marx also seem to agree that the State is not legitimate in any form unless it conforms to a higher end. Rousseau in Chapter 16 argues in the very title that “The Institutions of Government is Not a Contract”. Rousseau cannot imagine transcending the state, but he makes clear that the most radical democracy is optimal; thus, in Chapter 3 of Book IV, he posits, “In every real democracy, magistracy is not an advantage, but a burdensome charge which cannot justly be imposed on one individual rather than another. The law alone can lay the charge on him on whom the lot falls.” Thus, the general will is something that can only be imperfectly reached, and the measure of the polity is the extent to which it reaches it. Marx's position is even more radical: As we have seen, he believes all political power to be an attempt to prolong and stabilize class conflict, and thus he imagines a post-statist world, where (as he argues on 142), “an association appears in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” Like Rousseau, however, there are totalitarian overtones; Rousseau makes clear in Chapter 2 of Book IV that liberty is derived from the general will, and Marx makes clear that he believes a very authoritarian state will be needed to transition into the next era. It is difficult to balance the rights of the community and the rights of the individual, to answer the question of whether a decision one disagrees with is legitimate if it is obligatory, to fight injustice without inflicting it, and it is disturbing that two thinkers about freedom made such mistakes.

Marx and Rousseau are also both concerned with inequity, alienated labor and private property, but in rather different ways. Rousseau says in Chapter 11 of Book II, “...[B]y equality, we should understand, not that the degrees of power and riches are to be absolutely identical for everybody; but that power shall never be great enough for violence... no citizen shall ever be wealthy enough to buy another, and none poor enough to be forced to sell himself ”. What is capitalism but the imposition of poverty such that someone has to sell themselves? Marx's critique is substantially more thoroughgoing; on page 130 and 131, he says, “These workers... are a commodity like every other article of commerce... [The worker] becomes a mere appendage of the machine...” Rousseau does believe in private property, but with caveats he explains in Chapter 9 of Book I: “Each member of the community gives himself to it, at the moment of its foundation, just as he is, with all... the goods he possesses. This act does not make possession, in changing hands, change its nature, and become property in the hands of the Sovereign; but, as the forces of the city are incomparably greater than those of an individual, public possession is also, in fact, stronger and more irrevocable... For the State, in relation to its members, is master of all their goods by the social contract, which, within the State, is the basis of all rights... Having his share, he ought to keep to it, and can have no further right against the community.” This indicates that Rousseau believes that property is contingent and is not axiomatically granted, that each individual can only ask for a certain amount (and surely cannot aggrandize themselves at the cost of the community amassing profit), and that social goods are necessary. His anti-capitalism is drastically different from Marx's, but anti-capitalism it would be nonetheless. As we have seen earlier, Marx seeks to abolish private property; he cops to it in characteristic terms on 137 by saying, “... you reproach us because we would abolish your property. Precisely so; that is our intention.”

The real point of distinction between the two can be summed as followed: Marx is anti-nationalist and futurist, Rousseau primitivist and nationalist. On page 135, Marx talks about how the Communists hold common interest of workers above nationality, even implying that nationalism is a delusion (page 139: “The workers have no country. What they have not got cannot be taken from them.”). Rousseau, on the other hand, argues in the Second Treatise, “...when I see multitudes of entirely naked savages scorn European voluptuousness and endure hunger, fire, the sword, and death to preserve only their independence, I feel it does not behoove slaves to reason about freedom." Rousseau has a romanticism about tribal structures and non-Western cultures. The question is a difficult one, for the left wishes to be anti-statist, and many liberation movements wish to create a state, but the left also strives to be anti-imperialist in values and proposals. Marx's position would be that the left should not support such movements because they simply reincarnate class conflict, while Rousseau would say that this is reasoning about freedom from a European enslaved intellectual and that it is not Marx's place to pass judgment. A compromise is to support a national liberation movement but to propose that the liberation not take place in the traditional form of the state. Marx inexorably looks towards the future for salvation, and Rousseau believes that we do our best by looking towards the past and the 'noble savage'.

Regarding political loyalty: Rousseau believes that the general will is the source of loyalty and that it justifies creating laws that are binding upon all. Marx believes that political loyalty is a phantom to make an illusion of unity over a reality of division, but that social unity is needed; thus, on 137, he says, “When... capital is converted into common property, belonging to all members of society, personal property is not thereby converted into social property... It loses its class character.” Marx also clearly states on 127, “The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every profession previously venerated and regarded as honourable. It has turned doctor, priest, poet, and philosopher into its paid wage-workers.” Many would say that Marx and Rousseau are both collectivist, and this is true, but it is not true that collectivism is authoritarian. Yes, it can have authoritarian overtones, but so can complete individual freedom. The question is the conflict of rights. Where the individual affects others' rights, there must be collective action; where the collective oversteps such boundaries, there must be individual act. Putting aside capitalism's usage of totalitarian states, so evident at Marx's time, and putting aside the totalitarian nature of corporations, the abrasive nature of wage slavery and the rights conflicts generated by capitalist institutions mean it must be transcended, either politically (as Rousseau would put it) or economically (as Marx would argue); and, of course, the state must similarly be transcended, as Rousseau would advocate if he believed it to be possible and Marx advocates (but with the caveat that the state must be a transitionary force for the economy, a fact that anarchists disagree with).

Rousseau wants complex direct democracy, a 'general will' that creates rights, a original position of humankind that humans should try to emulate, and believes that the society is suspended by the agreement of all to make the society. Marx believes that society is historical, that it goes through inevitable cycles, that the feeling of political loyalty is a historical illusion created to allow the continued existence of class conflict, that political forms are largely irrelevant and that a utopian economy is key, that the individual is defined by his labor, and that looking romantically to the past will enslave the movements of the present. There are disagreements and agreements, but aside from a shared resistance to oppression, a willingness to have communalist values and a desire for equity, the two share almost nothing.

Citations Taken From:

Engels, Frederick. Personal correspondence. Cited by Robert C. Tucker, The Marxian Revolutionary Idea, in Tucker's comparison of Marxism and anarchism.

Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Available from The Communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings, Dover Thrift Edition

Rocker, Rudolf. Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 94.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract; Or Principles of Political Right. Originally
published 1762. Translation by G.D.H. Cole. Also the Second Treatise on Inequality, translated by Roger D. and Judith R. Masters.

Deviance of Hegemony

Would the Mongols have viewed their devastation of Asia, Europe and the Middle East as "deviance", or rather as the just expansion of their illustrious empire? Would the Nazis have viewed the Holocaust and the conquering of Europe as "deviance" or as the Aryan race taking back its rightful position and cleansing itself of cancers on its body politic? And why did the Nazis term what are now universally agreed to be the courageous and legitimate resistance to them "terrorists"? The point of these questions should be clear. It seems that there is a double standard in the mainstream culture about "deviance": the rich using cocaine is acceptable, the poor using crack is not; corporations engaging in cutthroat practices for profit is fine, gangs are a major danger (not to mention the common association of "gang" with black or Latino groups, not, say, mostly white bikers). But this is in fact not a double standard. Rather, their position is very consistent: the crimes of the powerful are just and right; the crimes of the weak and poor are either specimens to viewed at a distance with disgust (assuming any attention is paid, and assuming that those crimes do not harm the prerogatives of the politically and economically potent), or alternately brutally crushed and repressed.

One can argue that the disdain shown in popular culture for organized crime or criminal groups and "gangs" (though there is always the morbid fascination: see The Sopranos, The Godfather, Scarface, Carlito's Way...) is the competition of different epochs. The Mafia, the Triads, the Irish gangs, all were in one view ruling groups that set themselves apart from the official state and protected communities. Since those groups compete with the new power structures, the bourgeois corporation, they must be repressed, even though their values are identical, and in fact better, in that they make more than paeans to community value and service while corporations simply despoil. As Martin Jankowski indicates, “... the entrepeneurial spirit, which most Americans believe is the core of their productive culture, was a driving force in the worldview and behavior of gang members.” He even quotes a gang member named Sweet Cakes saying, “, I wouldn't mess with my community that way, but the rest of the folks is fair game”. Given how corporations are willing to export or “outsource” jobs out of their community, move their headquarters to take advantage of differential policies (say, tax policies), threaten such moving unless communities give favorable treatment to them, and build excess production around the planet so they can play workers off against each other, it seems uncontroversial that gangs, considered criminals, are far more community-oriented than the average capitalist institution, considered the norm. One can argue that gang members still victimize their communities, but this is at best a deeply simplistic description of the relationship. There is also the proposition that gangs engage in black market activity, but that in turn makes us question why legal sanction or prescription is necessarily congruent with the ethical nature of an act, especially given the obvious argument that the rich run the polity and of course will design the laws such that they are benefitted. The obvious example here, as above, is the distinction between corporate profits off of alcohol and tobacco, not to mention their complicity with drug laundering, and the illicit market of heroin and cocaine, which are certainly at least roughly equal in terms of social cost.

Even mental illness, seemingly "objective", is in fact socially contingent. It is one thing to find a distinct behavior, perhaps neurologically caused. It is quite another to say that this is good or bad. Was Einstein's dyscalcula a flaw or his greatest strength? Is an ADD child in the modern, strict classroom a monster or a precocious intellect and spirit that is being oppressed? These are value and social questions that are obfuscated by the veil and hammer of overzealous science. Now, in actual fact, according to the dominant definition of insanity (the rapidly burgeoning DSM, now in its fourth edition), America has the highest incidences of mental illness in the industrialized world.1That has clear roots in culture, polity, economy, gender, etc. To quote Tim Wise on the topic, “And since dominant group members have not had to deal with major obstacles to our advance, or in terms of our being accepted and valued in society, we really haven't had to develop those coping skills. So when the going gets tough, so to speak, we, more so than others, are more likely to react in a manner that seems so bizarre that it literally defies logic.” He justifies this conclusion by pointing out that what we call “control” illnesses are disproportionately found in white communities. But, looking even more closely, we find that what is called "deviant" behavior has a distinctively female tone: that is, we define what is "deviant" by what is female and what is "normal" by what is male, in line with the ancient association of moon, night, darkness, insanity and femininity, and sun, day, light, rationality and masculinity.2 This isn't the only critique of the DSM, either. Critical race theorists have argued that the DSM is culturally imperialist; civil libertarians have noted the frightening trend to increase the amount of disorders “punishable” by institutionalization; postmodernists have noted the problematic nature of the discourse of “mental illness” and psychiatry; and anti-capitalists have argued compellingly that beneath apparently benevolent impulses lie the inevitable pressure of the market towards commodifying solutions to problems in the form of “silver bullet” pills and making profit off of suffering rather than presenting solutions involving community, solidarity and liberty. Then we must consider the stigma associated with mental illnesses such that people hide in shame, further severing them from community and family such that the conditions get worse.

All of the above indicates the complex social flow, wherein the fish run with the current and yet we decide to pretend that the fish have complete freedom of choice to move how they wish as if no river existed. The final aspect of deviance is the aspect of punishment. Institutions preserve themselves not least through assigning disincentives to destructive activities: Social ones of stigma, material ones of deprivation, political ones of force and unequal access to judicial and legislative redress, etc. It is not my intention to declare that all anti-system movements and tensions are equal ethically. We often see old systems of power attacking the new, ostensibly for noble reasons but really for self-interest, such as with organized crime. But we see this same pressure against completely legitimate resistance groups and revolutionary societies. Let us make no bones: Any successful movement seeking true justice will face the punishment of State, Capital, Gender and Culture.


1.For discussion of the linkage between hegemony, white privilege, acrid sexual politics, and the other social confluences with mental illness, see: Chuckman, John; “First in the World in the Deranged”, Counterpunch, June 3 2004. Wise, Tim, “Whiteness and the Social Entropy of Privilege”,

See Wiley, A. (2001). The absence of the feminist critique from abnormal psychology. Presented in "Bias in Psychiatric Diagnosis" symposium. Association of Women in Psychology conference. Los Angeles. And Collins, L. H. (1998). Illustrating feminist theory: Power and psychopathology. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 97-112.

Certainty as Chance

It is clear, for a philosopher, that some kind of certainty of claims is vital. Yet in one paragraph, David Hume seems to declare all of philosophy to simply be quibbling over instances and hoping that truth will arrive by accident: “...`tis impossible for us to satisfy ourselves by our reason, why we should extend that experience beyond those particular instances, which have fallen under our observation.” What is the evidence for this claim?

Assume, for a moment, that one could discover a completely self-evident cause-and-effect relationship in the past, such that one is absolutely confident that an apple released from a man's grip would fall to the ground or that a particular trajectory of billiard ball would propel a different ball to a different trajectory (or, to use an example discussed in lecture on October 20th, that a certain fermented concoction in a chilled glass would instill a feeling of warmth and freedom). Even this will not do, Hume says. For, as he describes in T, “ Your appeal to past experience decides nothing in the present case; and at the utmost can only prove, that that very object, which produc'd any other, was at that very instant endow'd with such a power; but can never prove, that the same power must continue in the same object or collection of sensible qualities; much less, that a like power is always conjoin'd with like sensible qualities.” Even if we are totally confident of one instance of cause-and-effect that we can identify as not mere coincidence, or even an infinite array of past instances, we have no reason to expect based on empirical evidence or the story of our senses and memories that that power will be retained into the future. The rules of the universe, or of a localized space, may change completely tomorrow. Attempting to establish with evidence from the past that evidence from the past is reliable, a classic scientific response, is viciously circular; as Hume indicates, “If you answer this question in the same manner as the preceding, your answer gives still occasion to a new question of the same kind, even in infinitum; which clearly proves, that the foregoing reasoning had no just foundation.”

In addition, as Hume declares in, “We cannot penetrate into the reason of the conjunction”; the causal relationship is uncertain because it is a human conjunction. While one may see event X followed by event Y, it is only the provision of the mind that generates the causal relationship. To be fair, Hume almost seems to establish this through definition, moving through his fork until it becomes clear that of course a cause cannot reside in an impression and must be an idea that is formed. Yet this does beg a question: If one lights a fuse of a bomb, is there not a cause that is clearly visible that one can see? Or is the cause rather the chemical interaction of the detonation? Nonetheless, the point is reasonable to accept. Though Hume does not have the language to make this claim, one can bear in mind the admonition in statistics to avoid confusing causation with correlation, indicating that causation requires something more than simple consistent connection between two vectors.

To analyze properly, one must separate the cognitive implications of Hume's argument from the epistemological import. Hume proposes not only that constant conjunction is an empirically uncertain way to proceed, but that (strangely enough) it is what humans automatically assume. In, he proposes, “We only observe the thing itself, and always find that from the constant conjunction the objects acquire an union in the imagination.” One wonders: If Hume is such a skeptic, how is he willing to make such concrete claims about human cognition? Putting that aside for a moment, there are a few ways one could test the hypothesis. It seems some danger responses are ingrown: no matter how uneducated the man, he will always duck a fastball; a baby will not cross a glass pane unless he has good reason to believe it will be safe1. It seems there are certain reflexes that are inborn. Yet it is also obvious that a man who has not been told that a particular liquid will be intoxicating or that a particular small white ellipsoid shape will help cure some malady will proceed as comes naturally to him without that information: perhaps drink the liquid without checking, perhaps smell the liquid and taste it thereby deciding not to drink it, perhaps not take the pill because most people don't put random objects into their mouths. With that information, they will proceed differently. More, they are more likely to trust that the above results will be inevitable if they are told by a trusted friend or professional. Here, the causal chain is, “X actor that has given good results before tells me to do Y thing. Since good results have always emerged from doing what she tells me to do, Y will also have good results.” (To reaffirm the causal questions above: Epidemiology tells us that some drugs are allergic to a minority of the population, such that the person above might be mistaken in making that assumption; and that many medicines work to varying degrees, sometimes not at all; and often inaccurate diagnoses of either symptoms or causes occur such that the drug will be ineffective). If the person drinking the liquid or taking the pill then discovers that the results are pleasant, they may continue to do so in a variety of different circumstances, even without guidance or with trusted friends; and, alternately, if the results are poor, no amount of trust may elicit a repetition of the result.

Does Hume mean that this response occurs involuntarily, such that every time one sees or somehow confronts X external influence it becomes associated with Y idea or impression? Evaluating this claim is difficult, of course, but it should be obvious that people forget some events such that they thereby will not draw a cause-effect relation, or will only vaguely remember, or will remember competing things, or will dismiss the associated memories as irrational or coincidence. Indeed, what is often called an “open mind” is precisely the ability to suppress this bias of linking two events. One may have bad memories from a particular ethnic group, such that encountering a member of that group makes one imagine a causal relationship wherein an unpleasant result will occur, yet one will (perhaps on the advice of friends or family) try to ignore that association. Yet this may be unfair to Hume. As indicated above, Hume is not necessarily speaking of the rational inference through induction of causal relationship; he would view those as intellectual constructions of convenience. Rather, he is saying that the human mind does not imagine something without connection to other referents and, more importantly, that “'tis an idea related to or associated with a present impression”. One would clearly not assume a theory of gravity if one regularly saw apples floating in mid-air. The more times one sees a particular set of circumstances being conjoined and the more clear the conjunction, the more likely the inference of a causal relationship, even if that relationship cannot be spelled out. If a man sees a black cat and then is struck by lightning once, he may view it as a freak coincidence. If that number were ten, or one hundred, he might view the situation somewhat differently.

To refine the above: Consider the matter of the billiard ball. Hume alleges, in the eleventh paragraph of the Abstract, that “Were a man, such as Adam, created in the full vigour of understanding, without experience, he would never be able to infer motion in the second ball from the motion and impulse of the first.” This may or may not be true. A person of a more Chomskyan persuasion would propose that there might be and probably is a natural instinct of humans to track motion and anticipate its result. But even if one assumes this result, it does not go very far in disproving Hume. Hume, in fact, was setting out to produce a science of human nature. The fact that cognitive biology and psychology may complete his vision would appeal to him, not irritate him. One must also remember Hume's assumption of a Lockean framework, including the tabula rasa principle. Now, assume Adam decides to become a novice billiard player, with some degree of talent. He may have a vague natural notion of the motion of objects. But he would have no reason, when beginning the game, to assume that the balls weren't too heavy to move with a wooden stick, or perhaps were unfairly weighted to lean to one side or the other. After enough repetitions, as Hume says in the 12th paragraph of the Abstract, “If he [Adam] had seen a sufficient number of instances of this kind, whenever he saw the one ball moving towards the other, he would always conclude without hesitation that the second would acquire motion.” Over time, he would refine this notion, acquiring a more and more precise understanding, perhaps even intuition, of the way billiard balls operate, of how to coordinate his body and his stick to produce desired velocities and trajectories, of how to avoid “scratches”, and of all the other necessary faculties to play a good billiards game. He would do so through a process of more and more sophisticated cause-and-effect relationships that would indeed become so ingrained as to be almost automatic.

What does all this mean for humanity? Is it doomed to proceed blindly with no certain knowledge whatsoever? Or is it to use reasonable certainty, in line with its unique cognitive abilities, to survive in a complex world and satisfy its ethical and personal passions? Hume will take this up later on in his work.


Gibson and Walk, 1960. The experiment was called “the virtual cliff”, wherein babies were placed on one table, a glass pane set across to another table, and a mother at the other table called the baby. Infants regularly refused to cross the pane. This is why many psychologists argue that the only two innate fears are of heights and loud noises. for more.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Running Responses to The Corporation and Frankenstein

People within it make decisions that design where it goes. It has defining components just like parecon does. The only difference is that parecon has not existed per se (but by that logic authoritarian societies are natural and ruleless because we couldn't find representative democracy).

Markets aren't robust at all. This is an empirical statement: Do markets accept a wide variety of conditions? They simply don't; markets are among the first things to collapse when crises occur, and in Katrina's wake we saw the natural choice to be cooperative institutions, not market-based asocialism. Parecon, on the other hand, can handle a whole number of varying situations and circumstances, indeed far more.

"It's common sense that social skills are very important in getting jobs and promotions."

Under a market economy, of course. There are some differences and some similarities. Also, we have to bear in mind the cultural and gender changes we want in this discussion as well. But let's take this example headon.

Someone who is attractive and fun to be around would be in sales now. They could be public debaters of plans, or laywers, or could be in the "sales" department. But the "sales" department, as Albert makes clear in Parecon: Life after Capitalism, is paid not based on their sales but only based on their effort/sacrifice, which means they only have the incentive to offer information to those who want it.

People can make social interactions as they please, getting connections or what not. There's no way to deal with that that's worth it. But they don't get paid more for it and there are redreses. Best of both worlds.

If people can sweet-talk their councils into hiring them, fine. But when they don't commit the proper effort, they hurt the whole council and thus everyone has an incentive to pay them less. If they also happen to be qualified, no problem. I would hope that, insofar as possible, worker's councils can see through charisma and hire the best candidate, but if they can't markets have the same problem.

”We all externalize and be extranalized on. The point is how to be relatively balanced.”

This is laughable. An externality is defined as a cost not borne by the consumer or producer in a transaction. Since a producer benefits from artificially low prices, they have every incentive to continue to externalize costs even when they detect a process that does. You are now showing how ignorant you are about markets' uncontroversial features, admitted EVEN BY ADVOCATES.

“How do you decide who deserve what from their efforts? I have no problem if you get more than I as long as I have enough(which is modest)I think most folks would agree.”

You don't. You look at effort and sacrifice and reward it. I think most people agree that if I work harder than you, I deserve more pay. And since that gives me more

In any respect, markets don't just set us all equal because hey, we're really not jealous of people; rather, it rewards output or bargaining power, which isn't fair or efficient.

“To reiterate. I would rather live in a society with some inequalities but with enough opportunities and social mobility rather than one which forces everyone to be uniform at the expense of all else.”

But your own argument says that we shouldn't really care about opportunities or social mobility since we're all just good with whatever we get.

“Life is about trade offs. For some reason you keep missing this point.”

I don't miss meaningless points. Unless you can identify the tradeoff for me to answer, this is just rhetoric.

“Only a crackpot would sell you a scheme with no catch.”
Of course there are catches to parecon. Some people can't be super-rich. And by your argument a catch is that we can't use markets anymore. Great. Those sound like good catches to me.

“Your method of argument is clear. Parecon claims it "solves" a problem but 1) its proposed solution is at best dubious and 2) it simply brushes aside the side effects that the "solution" may create”

I don't agree. You're simply wrong about parecon. If you can actually IDENTIFY FOR ME why you think the solution is dubious and what the side effects are, we can have an argument. If you can't, then you're asking me to accept your position based on faith. Sorry, no dice. At the moment you're behaving like a snake oil salesman, not answering problems about markets or just brushing them over and asserting with no evidence what the other properties are.

"I could say a polity is a type of state and be no more wrong than you."

Well, except that you're precisely inverting the commonly accepted definitions of the word, but that's not pure semantics if I can show the two aren't identical. When most people say "the state", they imagine a political organization, centralized, with national borders.

The fact that some people can be quite domineering has nothing to do with the system practically requiring everyone to be domineering even in self-defense. Just consider: Whether its abortion or gay marriage or what have you, everyone rushes for the state to ban the activity, rather than trying to convince people in the cultural realm to do what they'd prefer.
"and adjust my expectations now and then than to live in a rigid, ration economy."

But it's not a ration economy. You can buy whatever you want. You submit your consumption proposal and then throughout the year you can alter it as you please, but you might discover a shortage. Just like in capitalism where things get sold out.

Your next bit about not knowing is, of course, irrelevant in light of the above, but you're making another misunderstanding. My Mom plans pretty much on going to a yard sale every other week because she likes it (so yes, I prefer a parecon that allows yard sales). Sometimes things change, but nothing substantial. Under our tax code most people pretty well anticipate the kind of things they'll buy (say, X amount on entertainment), even if they don't know what it will be.

"Doestovsky said that if you design a rational paradise and put people in it the human heart would rebel."

Doesn't mean you should put people into a hell. I think people want a reasonable society that doesn't force them to practically try to kill each other.

“How do you decide who deserve what from their efforts? I have no problem if you get more than I as long as I have enough(which is modest)I think most folks would agree.”

You don't. You look at effort and sacrifice and reward it. I think most people agree that if I work harder than you, I deserve more pay. And since that gives me more

In any respect, markets don't just set us all equal because hey, we're really not jealous of people; rather, it rewards output or bargaining power, which isn't fair or efficient.

"So I ask you again, what would be the motivation to attain training if education is not compensated accordingly?"

You missed, as I noted, that within a reasonable degree the effort and sacrifice expended to acquire training is remunerated. But if that's the case, we can remunerate during the training process as well, if it's so onerous. And training may be difficult, but it ain't working in a coal mine, which also needs to be done. In any respect, except for a very few positions such as advanced professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.) most people don't use anything like what they learn in college, and even most doctors and lawyers don't require half the classes they take. I admit this is a slightly different topic, but what it indicates is something I know Bwong agrees with: one can have a ton of mediocrity and have a working system.

There are also other incentives to be a doctor. There is the very natural social status and approbation, fairly important (as we all know when we cut through the crap and remember why people really buy fancy cars and houses), the desire to satisfy one's dreams and talents (do you imagine that most people who go through all those years of med school are thinking "Man, fat paycheck" or "I really want to help people"), the daily empowerment of being a doctor. What I wonder is, why wouldn't TOO MANY people try to be doctors?

You're also ignoring that the class "doctor" versus "janitor" doesn't exist per se. A balanced job complex provides for highly trained professionals in virtually every field.

I recommended you actually read on the topic, as good FAQs and introductory pieces are easily available. You apparently haven't done so yet.

"who charge $12,000 per lecture and live in rich suburban neighborhoods"

Chomsky doesn't charge $12,000, he charges nothing.

Albert and Hahnel developed parecon, and it grew out of what they quite naturally did at South End Press with others. The experience of left coops tells us that, even with the demands of the market, cooperative institutions can be quite effective.

"I think Fred has a disdain for markets because no one wants to buy his parecon bullshit."

It's not my bullshit (Eric Patton and others have advocated it on this forum alone), and when I speak to the working class I find broad appeal for parecon. The people interested in it and advocating it is broadening, not shrinking. I hear a lot of questions from more privileged intellectuals, very much predicted by coordinator class critiques. And Yakov, by that standard, you must have a disdain for, well, practically everything, as no one buys your crap. I may also note that Hahnel/Albert's books have sold reasonably well, given the difficulties leftist books face.

"You achieve so called "efficiency" by basically trying to match demand and supply exactly"

Yes, with direct information from consumers and producers.

GM only plans for cars (and weapons), but GE plans for, well, practically everything, and Microsoft plans for software, and... Since the vast majority of products are produced by corporations of middle to large size, EVERYTHING is planned to an incredible degree. Yes, of course market research is just statistical, but here's the thing. Since there's no apparatus that allows that information to be filtered, that information must be attained multiple times, which requires replication of services (a fact that you did concede). That means, on average, that there are huge inefficiencies: production of excess goods, etc. Those don't disappear in parecon, but they're sharply reduced.

The main problem with your argument, Bwong, is that you're arguing against a small group of eggheads who produce and implement a plan based on forms from absolutely everyone. But that's simply not the model, and the barest read of the topic would show that. Rather, there are rounds of "negotiation" wherein expected consumption (not "eggs" and "lettuce" but rather "groceries") is contrasted with expected production. This occurs on federated levels. It's not too hard to construct a computer program that makes a guess at the end result. Finally, given the data, a few plans are formed and there is a vote for each.

The nice advantage here is that a worker's council can detect that they're producing too many eggs based on information fron consumers just like in a market, and demand/supply can be constantly adjusted throughout the year just like in a market, but we have a good guess at the beginning of the year. But Bwong, this IS the way OUR economy works too. Every year, we all go through tax time, we all plan what we think we can consume, and producers in particular constantly plan all the time for everything: marketing, focus groups, advertising, assessment of sales from last year, quarterly earning reports, etc. all not just to BEAT but also CONTROL the market.

I can't imagine the number of times I thought of something that would be excellent to have and didn't see it, or didn't find a product I needed, or had to search through dozens of stores to get what I wanted.

You're also ignoring a vital point: provision of social goods doesn't require nearly as much of the planning effort.

“But these are MACRO plannings. Macro plannings only set up broad conditions, constraints and rules to guide the market process.The market mechansim then work out the deatils.”

But here's the analogous situation, then: Participatory planning does the macro strokes; consumers, as represented by consumer councils, and workers, as represented in worker's councils, do the finetuning.

No, it's not just macro planning. Small businesses plan every day, trying to figure out how much they should put out onto the storefront. Individual consumers plan.

If a worker's council notes that there are too many eggs, they can cut down on how many eggs they get from the agricultural councils. The participatory planning process is not a straitjacket, but a guide. Further, as Steinbeck notes in The Grapes of Wrath, the market leads to oranges rotting while people starve, NOT DUE TO “MACRO PLANNING” or some other crap, but simply the incentives of the market. The fact that other institutions can restrain this tendency is IRRELEVANT, just as the fact that the state can make some strides against racial and gender inequity is IRRELEVANT.

“Your so called intrinsic inefficiencies of the market is the nature of macro strategies.”

They're not the failures of central planning models, which are just as macro, they're unique failings of market. Commodity fetishism is ONLY possible under markets where producers are limited in linkage to each other, indeed competing, and consumers can't access except through non-systemic means information about the true social costs of their products. Markets depend on some degree of trust, even though they are instituted as a substitute for trust, because if someone lies about what they have someone gets profit from an inferior product. There's no incentive again fraud in markets, there is in parecon because one's wgaes are not linked to sales.

“Macro plannings only aim for optimal solutions "on the average". Glitches, mismatches of expectations and wastes are unavoidable.”

Yes. So we pick the best macro planning system or choose smaller systems. Here's another advantage: Parecon is the only economy I'm aware of that can rationally choose to go more bio-regionalist or more macro.

Since we know central planning can accomplish basic production, often more effective in some vectors than markets (as markets are invariably disasters), your argument is simply false.

“Parecon's planning is MICROMANAGING each and every aspect of the economy. It may seem more efficient because you're able to track the economy in a much finer scale.”

No, it simply isn't. The participatory planning process provides for guidelines, occuring at multiple levels, with information available to all producers and consumers. The back-and-forth nature of the process allows for qualitative information. And, since the economy is based on voluntarism, everyone has incredible freedom to refine their choices over time. Further, since after a few years a good record will emerge, the planning process will get better over time, not worse.

Bwong, you continue to have this fantasy about markets that any honest economist can tell you is just pure bull. There are giant database banks that contain minutiae about you or me, a veritable biography of practically every person who has ever registered online or used a credit card. As you continue to pretend that it's impossible to micromanage, what business is loudly yelling about is “narrow casting”, wherein we target consumers (and voters) WITH INCREDIBLE PRECISION, often appealing to demographics of a few thousand people. While you continue to pretend its impossible to run a good economy, capitalism is developing the means to do so.

“But this is misleading because the inefficiencies in setting up such a system,-just based on what you describe,-- vastly outweigh whatever efficiency gain you may derive from it. Again this is an instance of trade off, which the parecon totalists evidently cannot comprehend. Albert has no appreciation of complexity and nuances. All "plannings" are not the same.”

All rhetoric without warrants, implying arguments that I've answered. What parecon provides for is planning without inflexibility. The fact that we have a complex world doesn't mean we proceed blind.

The Princeton Volume contains proofs using a very interesting principle, one of the things that attracted me most to parecon. Your view was that parecon would mind control people to becime homo socialis. But what parecon does is the opposite: assuming homo economicus, it provides the incentives and the institutional roles that make homo economicus closely estimate homo socialis. It allows people's greed to be socially beneficial, not socially destructive.

“Who are the managers accountable for and whether managers are necessary?”

Wrong. The existence of “manager”, someone who transmits orders, is the problem. This is why advocates like you don't appeal to the working class, Bwong. The dude at the bottom doesn't care about the capitalist. He cares about the jerkoff telling him what to do. Of course management responsible to capital and not workers is bad, but having managers without capital does not lead to managers responsible to workers but managers responsible to themselves. This is the core of the coordinator class critique. This is an elementary derivation of the principle, “Power corrupts.” If people are in a dominating position, even if the first generation has the best intents, eventually that class figures out that, hey, they can rig the system to their benefit. This is what the USSR tells us. And the fact that you misread my argument this deeply is truly frightening.

I want to eliminate capital as a class to be accountable to. I also want to eliminate managers, though not policy-making (but that'll be democratic). People can, of course, have foremen or

And “necessity” doesn't really appeal to me, because people have the right to self-management, period.

“The first paragraph proves that management under the current system is accountable for capital but not workers, which I totally agree.”

No, it doesn't.

“But that does not prove that bureaucracies and managers are unnecessary.”

But it does indicate how dangerous they are. However, I have argued, to little onpoint rebuttal from you, that managers and bureaucracy are in fact not necessary, but deeply inefficient. A democratic decision-making process is not only possible, but with technology even easier. This is the import of my automation comment: Automation could have been used to eliminate managers and allow workers to run their workplaces; instead, it was used to empower managers and deskill workers, even when that reduced profit. We have seen, from SEP, from the Spanish Revolution, from numerous coop and revolutionary experiences, that we can have non-hierarchical rule.

I hope you see why I become very skeptical and critical of the perspective that we just need to have smart guys run everything. It's elitist, hierarchical, and is guaranteed to be justified regardless of actual merit by people like, say, mathematicians, who would benefit from such a system. It is why the Left will never appeal to the working class with your proposals: they don't want to have to deal with more crap. They might even prefer capitalism, not just prefer inaction, because at least the people who give them crap and tell them what to do every day are in turn humiliated by richer people.

“I indeed argue for a "bottom up" models(co-ops, say) where the management is accountable to the workers(=owners).”

Problem is that the workers, by virtue of having imbalanced job complexes, and the managers, by virtue of actually controlling the coops, will eventually be in conflict, and the maangers will almost always win. The managers will demand more power and money, and eventually you see Soviet totalitarianism or capitalism reemerge. The only way to prevent this is to eliminate a class of people who transmit orders. But I don't even need to prove that: people deserve to determine their own workplaces' policies and their own labor.

To quote: "For example, if you were a central planner, in a centrally planned economy, able to bend and massage economic outcomes to serve your class by further enlarging the advantages it enjoys due to promoting investment patterns that enhance information centralization and thus the further aggrandizement of intellectual workers – coordinator class members – your claim would be quite right."

“But for large institutions you still need professional managers and bureaucrats to handle day to day functions of the organization.”

Maybe, maybe not. In that case, you have a few options. They become a separate class but cannot issue orders, instead propose plans for the workers to ratify. Or you have foremen, or conductors in orchestras, but they're fundamentally answerable to the workers, replaceable, accountable, and don't issue “orders” per se. And the advantage, as you conceded, is that decisions arrived at democratically require less enforcement and monitoring, as well as include more viewpoints and styles of contribution and thus are superior.

“I am aware of your Dad's experience. But managing a workteam of 5 is not the same as running the payroll department of IBM.”

The comment about my Dad was not about his workteam but about how a coop is undermined by the market. I hope you rebut to that onpoint, as I (on a blog post) and Albert spend a lot of time talking about how the market pushes towards managerial dominance, worker disenfranchisement, etc.

But let's talk about that for a second. The payroll department of IBM could be arranged democratically, too. And, as you missed completely, my Dad isn't unique. The whole of the tech economy has been based on small teams of smart guys in somewhat democratic, BJC arrangements.

“The world is not black or white.”

Direct contradiction isn't non-dualism.

“Except it won't work on a large scale.”

Markets don't work on a large scale. They're catastrophes that require corporations and states to manage their screwups. We can't get much worse than that.

Your tradeoff argument, of course, is fun, because it implies that we just pick on various vectors to choose one or the other thing. Fine. So I just need to prove that the choices parecon makes are best. Suddenly your crap about “It won't work” disappears; after all, it's just another tradeoff,.

“To say that South end press is a model of a whole country is laughable, just like you fail to see the difference between your dad's workteam and IBM.”

Fallacies answered above. The Spanish Revolution was a largescale success. And even if SEP doesn't establish my argument in toto, it does prove that I have a practically 100% success rate so far. Markets have, what, 10%? 5%?

“Quantitative difference IS qualitative if it is sufficiently huge. This is complexity.”

Don't see the import of this comment, as parecon has both on its side.

"Not surprisng parecon sounds so perfect. All Utopian schemes are insanly simplistic. "

So now it's simplistic, eh? I really want you to explain how parecon can be simplistic, utopian, too detailed, authoritarian, and inefficient because it denies the dominance of managers and bureaucracies. This is blatant contradiction.

Parecon has simple principles, but with proper understanding they are very robust and offer quite a few potential answers and responses. It is an economy designed first and foremost to increase liberty, self-management and rights.

"Markets exist in very town and village since the dawn of civilization. Even nomads trade."

No, they don't. But, as you conceded, hierarchy and authoritarianism has existed in almost every society too; is it impossible to transcend those too? Was it impossible to institute representative democracy or private ownership because you didn't see it before? And of course people adopt a system that lets them screw each other when they don't trust each other, another matter you didn't rebut.

"Being so bitter about managers I expect you have some understanding of the managerial perogative."

I'm not bitter. I'm from a manager family and I may end up being one. It's pretty tiring for you to launch these ad homs all the time. A manager tells me what to do. Why should I have to listen? I can't get any simpler.

"If you can draw a red line directly from ANY market activity to the hell you describe..."
I have been. You then play with definitions, what you accuse me of, or say that it's a problem of all societies even when you can't establish that claim for parecon and can't rebut its unique nature in markets.

"Direct democracy doesn't work except for communes of a few hundreds."

Then liberty might require small communes interlinked, what Sale proposes. You then go onto talk about "complexity" with the utterly stupid consequence that you're ignoring that, hey, maybe we SHOULD choose the above. But I described how delegates could be used to transcend this problem, to laughable rebuttals. for more.

Re: Managers needed

In what institutions? By your own argument about mediocrity, most managers I know sit on their thumbs, micromanage useless things and do nothing of improtance. The only reason they're necessary is because workers don't want to contribute their energy to their totalitarian employer, their capitalist enemy.

What workers councils allow is for the rules to be formed so that people can arrange what they're doing. In most situations, that's by far enough, as you would know if you had done physical work recently. I know from my varied work experiences as both a temp and a tutor that managers were at best an obstacle and inconvenience. But if, say, a foreman is needed, that's fine. The point is that the foreman's role and behavior is democratically determined and she can be "fired" by the workers if she deviates.

I have no problem with a reasonable degree of flexibility for whatever bureaucracy is left. But they must be fundamentally accountable and their role is primarily to propose plans to democracies.

So now we have another of these "tradeoffs". You lean towards domination. I lean towards freedom.

Another advantage I describe: Markets lean towards production-oriented jobs and underpay "quality of life" jobs such as teaching, art, etc. But those are things we need to encourage, especially since we're running out of resources to do product-based jobs with. Parecon can provide for that.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Reflections Found in Chaos

Reflections Found in Chaos

As an anarchist, I argue that all forms of social oppression and coercion are fundamentally illegitimate. They may be justified only tendentiously and temporarily on the basis of extreme need, and even then only when fundamental rights are not violated. Anarchists hold, in general, that social institutions, though not determinative of all human behavior (otherwise no revolution against them would be possibly), project outwards both in cultural/attitudinal forms (what I term “fluid” power) and in solid forms (institutions such as corporations, states, etc.). These institutions of culture, polity, economy and gender are particularly vital because they contour individual relations no matter the merits of the individual. Consider that a racial slur is insulting to some no matter the intent of the speaker because of the social generalization of the individual circumstance. To quote Michael Albert in his article “The Personal is Political” (the New Left phrase that describes how seemingly individual circumstances can be linked by social institutions), “In each instance we uncovered that "the personal is political," i.e., the experiences, feelings, and possibilities of our personal lives were not just a matter of personal preferences and choices but were limited, molded, and defined by the broader political and social setting. They feel personal, and their details are personal, but their broad texture and character, and especially the limits within which these evolve, are largely systemic. In this sense, the contribution of the New Left was to say that we suffer a "totality of oppressions," systemically based, entwined, and all needing to be eliminated via a "revolution" in existing institutions, and the creation of new liberating ones. The 'personal is political' therefore meant that our personal lives are in considerable part politically delimited and determined so that improving our personal experiences meant we must collectively address political relationships and structures.” What does the practice of sociology have to inform my political practice?

C. Wright Mills, in his classic “The Sociological Imagination”, explains the basis of sociology: “When, in a city of 100,000, only one man is unemployed, that is his personal trouble... But when in a nation of 50 million employees, 15 million are unemployed, that is an [social] issue...” One can add to that argument the point that, even when one or two people are impacted, it may still remain a social issue: perhaps a small clique of people so obsessed with material possessions and status that they defraud billions for status symbols, clearly not normal behavior but caused by social influences. Yet Mills is clearly not immune from these influences: He argues that the common person is “[s]eldom aware of the intricate connection between the patterns of their own lives and the course of world history... They do not possess the quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of man and society...” (my emphasis). And, of course, Mills provides the solution: a sociological imagination possessed by a select few who will tell us ordinary folks without the quality of mind to understand the world where our selves come from and who we are. Funny, I thought that every individual person was the best judge of their own best interests. Why does the working class need education about the injustice of managers? Or blacks, Latinos and Native Americans need primers on racism?

Steven A. Holmes argues that there is a phenomenon (he terms it the “whoops factor”), wherein “shoddy research or the misinterpretation [thereof]... moves on quickly to public outcry, segues swiftly into the enactment of news laws or regulations...” He implies that Americans have a “willingness, almost eagerness, to accept a Hobbesian view of man as a brutish thug...” Might this be, in line of the above arguing for an institutional focus, that the constant “disaster pornography” (as Baudrillard termed it) script that is run by mainstream news organizations and lawmakers in fact has the intention (as it clearly has the effect) of causing widespread public panic and confusion, increasing as the claims are disproven, causing increased mistrust and apathy about institutions? Holmes, of course, describes how his own preferred school of inquiry can help prevent this. My response is that those struggling for social justice must teach intellectual self-defense and common sense tools to people to help save them from the deluge of falsehoods coming from their ostensible ideological superiors, rather than relying on the same institutions that benefit from this campaign to clean up their act.

The Horace Mirier article, “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema”, points out that, “The anthropologist has become so familiar with the diversity of ways in which different peoples behave in similar situations that he is not apt to be surprised by even the most exotic customs...” This indicates to me that people can in fact live under revolutionary conditions, that the attitudes of capitalism are not in fact ingrained and eternal. Unfortunately, this writer in 1956 could take a rather instructive look at his own zeitgeist by this standard, as he goes onto say, “... for most of the population shows definite masochistic tendencies... a preponderantly masochistic people have developed sadistic specialists...” Strange, I wasn't informed that a culture of disparate people with different attitudes and backgrounds can have psychological ailments such as “sadism” and “masochism”. Is this anthropologist also an experienced clinical psychologist? Anecdotes of 19th century anthropologists indulging in fantasies of differential cranial size along racial axes come to mind. And might Americans be argued to be masochistic, as they suffer under a system that they seem to despise; as Noam Chomsky notes in Necessary Illusions, “Polls show that almost half the population believe that the U.S. Constitution -- a sacred document -- is the source of Marx's phrase "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," so obviously right does the sentiment seem”? Simultaneously within the same article, a description of why radical politics are possible and an example of why radical critique of our institutions (in this case, racism and imperialism) must be launched lest such prejudices influence otherwise good people (in this case, good scholars) occurs. This indicates quite a bit to me about radical critiques' simultaneous potential efficacy and absolute necessity.
Each of these authors provide critiques that are valuable to those of us with a radical agenda, yet each reveals their own limits in fending off the influence of elitist social norms. If such intelligent individuals can fall prey, what about the rest of us? The solution is clear: develop the movement institutions that will allow us to carry on the fight together, catching each other's errors.