voluntary socialism

I used to call myself a libertarian socialist. This was in college. At the time, I didn’t realize that libertarian socialism was already a common euphemism for left-anarchism. I was not an anarchist, even though I did embrace the non-aggression principle. I just hadn’t thought it through yet.

I was an individualist, a decentralist, and a secessionist. I thought the only ethically legitimate arrangements were voluntary. But I wanted to see more voluntary experiments in socialism and "intentional communities." I absolutely did not trust businesses or markets larger than a certain very small size, and I considered "capitalism" to be a dirty word.

It was with these ideological reflexes that I made my pilgrimage to the Mecca of voluntary socialism: the Israeli kibbutz.

I lived there for almost half a year. I loved the people, loved the life, loved the land, but I also, sadly, came to the conclusion that socialism was not sustainable, whether voluntary or coerced.

It was clear to me that I was visiting a dying institution.

Christopher Westley posts to blog.Mises.org about "the Degania kibbutz’ decision to abandon socialism and allow the private ownership of property, a move many kibbutzim in Israel have been making in response to low productivity and the abandonment of their youth." Read the rest.

left coast road socialism

As I mention here, San Francisco once dealt successfully with disaster by letting the market work.

With drastic shifts in prices came significant adjustments in both supply and demand.

But that was 1906.

Today we have a more overtly market-friendly man in charge:

April 30, 2007

Left Coast Road Socialism and the Market-friendly Governor

B.K. Marcus

Yesterday afternoon, my friend, who has recently moved to the Left Coast, pointed to this blog to alert me to the fact that MacArthur Maze, “the complex of freeways where Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, and all the traffic from the East and South Bay area come to a head,” has collapsed again.

(“Again?” Yes, again: the exact same spot that collapsed in the 1989 earthquake.)

My first thought was, of course, “road socialism.” The blog author concludes it’s corrupt government, without any apparent sense of redundancy.

Last night, my friend wrote me again:

One of the first things I thought was “Oh, ferry and BART prices are going to skyrocket,” as that would be the normal (aka market) method for balancing the suddenly decreased supply of “transportation between the East Bay and SF.”

But no.


I’m gonna have an interesting commute tomorrow.

So Governor Schwarzenegger — who has claimed that the two people who have most profoundly impacted his thinking on economics are Milton Friedman and Adam Smith (“At Christmas I sometimes annoy some of my more liberal Hollywood friends by sending them a gift of Mr Friedman’s classic economic primer, Free to Choose“) — thinks the best way to deal with sudden changes in supply and demand is to obliterate the price system.

So much for electing market-friendly politicians.

April 30, 2007 10:16 AM | comment | Digg | contact B.K. Marcus | other posts

(Many thanks to Choicy White Boy.)

oh, ok

Here’s an image that tells at least half the story:

double-entry bookkeeping

I won’t look for an image to go with this post.

The reliefs carved onto the walls of Rameses III’s mortuary temple gave the pharaoh credit for leading an enormous victory. In the carvings, the rejoicing Egyptian warriors are surrounded by piles of hands; it was customary for soldiers to sever the right hands of the dead and bring them back to the scribes, so that an accurate count of enemy casualties could be recorded.*

* The technique of “counting by hand” was varied, once or twice, in earlier battles, when the soldiers apparently decided to cut off penises and bring them for accounting instead (making for one particularly interesting relief, in which a scribe is comparing the hand-count with the penis-count to see if they agree.)

Susan Wise Bauer, The History of the Ancient World, p. 277


And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.
He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.
And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

Genesis 10:8–10, King James Version

Susan Wise Bauer has some great footnotes in her new book, The History of the Ancient World.

For example, this one from p. 269:

The chronology is difficult but Tukulti-Ninurta is probably the king called Nimrod in Gen. 10:10: a mighty hunter and warrior whose kingdom included Babylon, Erech, Akkad, and Nineveh, the same expanse as that claimed by Tukulti-Ninurta for Assyria. Weirdly enough, this Hebrew version of the name of the Assyrian great king has become an English synonym for a foolish and ineffectual man (“What a nimrod!”). The only etymology I can find for this suggests that, thanks to some biblically literate scriptwriter, Bugs Bunny once called Elmer Fudd a “poor little Nimrod” in an ironic reference to the “mighty hunter.” Apparently the entire Saturday-morning audience, having no memory of Genesis genealogies, heard the irony as a general insult and applied it to anyone bumbling and Fudd-like. Thus a distorted echo of Tukulti-Ninurta’s might in arms bounced down, through the agency of a rabbit, into the vocabulary of the twentieth century.

Oxfam hurts the poor

And on the topic of “Fair Trade”

Oxfam coffee ‘harms’ poor farmers

Caroline Overington

April 28, 2007

TWO Melbourne academics have lodged formal complaints against Oxfam Australia over the sale of Fairtrade coffee, saying it should not be promoted as helping to lift Third World producers out of poverty because growers are paid very little for their beans.

You can read the rest of the article, but here’s the summary: Tim Wilson, a research fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs, and Sinclair Davidson, professor of institutional economics at RMIT University, have lodged a formal complaint against Oxfam with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, under the Trade Practices Act. They charge Oxfam with “misleading or deceptive conduct.” Fairtrade coffee is “sold at a premium,” “to lift Third World producers out of poverty.” But Fairtrade harms these poor coffee farmers. To become “certified producers” the poor men have to fork over $3200!! Thus their “costs are … higher than on the open market.” And the workers who pick the beans are paid less than the official minimum wage…

(via Sudha Shenoy)

maternalistic government

I kid you not:

More here:


tired questions

Tom Woods, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, reviews Robert Murphy’s new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism. I won’t review his review. I just wanted to point to a particular passage that resonated with me:

These objections, in fact, illustrate the almost embarrassing lack of imagination and common sense that develop among the general population whenever people have grown accustomed to state-directed approaches. After a while, no one can imagine how things could be done any other way — and when the rare maverick claims otherwise, all people can do is repeat, in zombie-like unison, the clichés they’ve been taught by their masters.

"Economics Is Fun" by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

Naomi Wolf's 10 steps to fascism

  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
  2. Create a gulag
  3. Develop a thug caste
  4. Set up an internal surveillance system
  5. Harass citizens’ groups
  6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
  7. Target key individuals
  8. Control the press
  9. Dissent equals treason
  10. Suspend the rule of law

You can read Naomi Wolf’s full article in the Guardian.

(via neural)

The book that made Wolf famous was The Beauty Myth. I never read it. I first knew Naomi Wolf as one of Esquire magazine’s “Do-me Feminists”. Every now and again, I’d read or hear something by her, usually revising or rejecting some aspect of mainstream feminism. My reaction to her leans toward positive, but I’ve not looked too closely. So I can’t agree or disagree with these critiques:

The release of The Beauty Myth coincided with Camille Paglia’s release of Sexual Personae, which made a scholarly defense of beauty as a natural and enduring dimension of sexuality. Paglia engaged in a spirited critique of Wolf, which included these comments in her infamous MIT lecture:

“If you want to see what’s wrong with Ivy League education, look at The Beauty Myth, that book by Naomi Wolf. This is a woman who graduated from Yale magna cum laude, is a Rhodes scholar, and cannot write a coherent paragraph. This is a woman who cannot do historical analysis, and she is a Rhodes scholar? If you want to see the damage done to intelligent women today in the Ivy League, look at that book. It’s a scandal. Naomi Wolf is an intelligent woman. She has been ill-served by her education. But if you read Lacan, this is the result. Your brain turns to pudding! She has a case to make. She cannot make it. She’s full of paranoid fantasies about the world. Her education was completely removed from reality.”

Christina Hoff Sommers criticized Naomi Wolf for publishing the now debunked figure which claimed 150,000 women were dying every year from anorexia (the actual number is closer to 100). Sommers cites this as evidence of the media’s “servile” attitude to prominent feminists, accepting their figures without investigation as if they were the “gospel truth.”

I quote them here mostly because they relate to other themes of this blog.

For more on fascism, go here.

To be an individualist …

“To be an individualist and libertarian is to understand that no one, anywhere, should ever be aggressed against by anyone, and that the state is the principal form of institutionalized aggression in our world.”

Anthony Gregory, “Real World Politics and Radical Libertarianism,” a speech given at the Libertarian Party of California Convention in San Ramon, CA, on April 22, 2007.