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05 August 2010

Pick-and-choose agorism

When deciding whether one has common cause with movements like 'market socialism' or 'free-market anticapitalism,' it makes sense to figure out just what it is that these people mean by 'market.' What are the essential properties of the market mechanism?

What about strong efficiency? Is transparency a necessary condition for efficiency? If it is, there may hope for a non-dystopian yet market-oriented future. Under strong efficiency, informational outsiders are nevertheless treated to 'efficient prices,' which suggests the dismal possibility that we're living in the best of all possible worlds. A related question is whether market equilibrium is the best of all possible worlds. I may be wrong (I'm often wrong) but this seems to be the main bone of contention between the neoclassical and Austrian schools of economics. From my perspective, they both look far-right and laissez-faire capitalist (if anything the Austrians more so), but if the Austrians are de-linking equilibrium-seeking and (global) optimum-finding, perhaps that should be interpreted as a form of optimism, and it can be understood (to some extent) why so many 'left'-oriented anarchist and libertarian blogs link to, despite the snarkiness and the 'yes Virginia TANSTAAFL' tone.

Most of these seemingly paradoxical market≠capitalism schools accept the exchange paradigm but not property. But what is exchanged in this actually-free market if not property?

Another question is whether market economics can be had without marketing, or the related dark arts of salescrittership and advertising. If forced sales is inherently authoritarian, how is it that involuntary unemployment is not? Maybe it's a lesser evil thing, prioritizing freedom over security or equality. Or is the libertarian left in full agreement with the libertarian right that not only doesn't the world owe anyone a living, but it doesn't even owe them a job offer or the equivalent? I can see how there is a problem if someone's particular handiwork (and gift to society in the gift economy sense) is neither needed nor wanted. But assuming one is flexible about what work they will perform, must the opportunity to perform it be a privilege? Perhaps this is the fatal weakness of gift economics based on doing your own thing—the likelihood that the outcome of doing it is not what is needed by others. So it is that Henry David Thoreau had to "make it worth men's while" to buy his particular kind of basket of a delicate texture. In what to me is the spirit of anti-authoritarianism, he elected instead to study "how to avoid the necessity of selling them." He of course pursued this by attempting a minimalist and subsistence-based lifestyle. We all know this strategy has its limits.

These class struggle agorists also tend to embrace competition, at least between group endeavors, be they cooperatives, syndicates, federations, etc. I fail to understand how this type of competition can help but lead to competition between individuals over opportunities to participate. Inevitably at some point some individual will be seen as a competitive liability to a work group and will face rejection, and possibly failure, insolvency or non-survival, or is this not as inevitable as I imagine? Even if competition is somehow magically limited to ersatz institutions and not individuals, what is being competed over? Wealth? Power?? Market share? What is the penalty for being a loser?

It's hard to imagine a movement rallying around what it terms 'the free market,' but also having a shared social goal of eliminating the necessity of selling. Perhaps mutualists have no complaint with the necessity of selling, per se. The question becomes, what organized or at least self described movement or school of thought does? Whoever they are, I wish to join them.

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