An-an-an-archic questions and another 1000 mile journey

I have been having an ongoing conversation with Jock Coats (@jockox3 on Twitter) that veers from face-to-face to Twitter to the blogs. For me it has been an education in the literature of anarchism, particularly that of the libertarian, individualist, mutualist, market sort, to which Jock a recent post ( jock concludes, “…how difficult it is for monopoly to form without the state’s intervention.” And in a comment on my [late lamented] Posterous blog, reposted here), we got into a couple of chicken/egg circles: which came first, the state or government? And, could there be monopolies without the collusion and facilitation of states and/or governments? These are themselves sustained by – and sustain – monopolies of the power of violence (police/army), money and property.

But, my problem with this is that we start from where we are.

I do not think the ontogeny matters. Whether states or governments came first seems irrelevant. We have both and they are both problems. Similarly we have huge corporations, which impoverish the globe and cause suffering in a myriad of spheres, while concentrating wealth and its attendant power in fewer and fewer hands. My assertion is that next to the power of corporations, governments and states are merely a convenience. Were governments and all their apparatus to be swept away, were states to cease to exist the corporations would carry on in a perverse, self-serving (corporate-mutualist?) dystopia of private security firms, private money and gated cities. An oligarch’s wet dream. I do not see power slipping from the hands of the powerful simply because states and governments might fail.

So the question, for me, is that given where we are, how can we be organised to govern ourselves to provide services for all, to alleviate suffering and promote all that life, liberty and pursuit of happiness stuff? I accept that this might require some coercion. Power will not willingly be ceded just because a world of good people point out that it has behaved wickedly. Deciding at what scale what kinds of coercive decisions should be taken requires some governance framework above each smaller level in order to determine whether to aggregate or to disaggregate the coercion. And, even an asymmetric struggle requires some kind of co-ordination and rules of engagement. But, who decides?

Another 1000-mile journey is the distance between the commons and private property. On the one hand, it seems best to me that most property be held in common for the common good. But on the other, it seems silly that people should not own their own tools, or clothing. But where I would draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable levels of private property will be different to where many others, similarly reasonably would draw that line. But, to admit the slightest amount of private property, has the Zen consequence of admitting it all: the journey of a thousand miles again; the slightest crack and heaven and earth are forever put asunder. Can an engineer own a van with tools in it, but not the factory that makes the van? Can I own one restaurant but not a chain? Can I leave one house to my children but not a property empire? If we collectivise all property at what scale do we collectivise it? Small syndicates? Global communism? Are co-operatives OK but not private partnerships? Should everyone be an employee? Or, no one? I do not think the market can answer all these questions. We are not equal actors. But, through our common effort we may aspire to equality of opportunity and a kind of equality of outcome. We need a means of managing the problem of scale and of holding power in check. But, that means taking power. And, that is another 1000 mile journey.

Posted via email from George’s posterous

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