July 2011


Distributism and the Health Care System: I’m no expert on the American health-care system; what I know is a matter of first-hand experience, anecdotal matters from those within the system, and some reading on the subject. That said, Médaille’s ideas here seem quite sound: the current system is deeply flawed, with profits and power flowing towards the top- whether state or corporate or both- with costs heavily distributed along the bottom. It is also a system in which both workers and consumers are marginalized despite their immense importance. Médaille hits on two of the biggest problems in sustaining this system: monopolization and lack of genuine workers’ control, both of which are propped up by the State and the powerful (and vocal) interests that wish for the continuation of the system. Of course, the central problem with Médaille’s analysis is one common to many radical critiques: the system is deeply entrenched, as are the mentalities that support it, both among those at the top and those spread out along the bottom.

White House Admits Some Medical Value to Marijuana: But of course, said medical value would be doled out by a State-approved company, employing a monopoly privilege that would industrialize medical marijuana and drive small-holders under.

Illegal Gardening in Detroit: One that’s been making the rounds of the internet. A reminder that even small acts of resistance- like planting your yard with vegetables instead of monoculture grass- can bring the fist of the state down…

The Great Generational Threat: To say the American public has been sold- is being continually sold- a bill of goods does not go far enough.

How Taft-Hartley Restricts Labor Rights: A nice run-down of some of the ways in which the American state’s appropriation of the labor struggle robbed it of much of its fire and potency. ‘In the 1930s organized labor, largely led by the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations), fought back through sit down and wildcat strikes. A wildcat strike is an unofficial strike, usually called in response to mistreatment of a co-worker. In essence, workers refuse to return until management agrees to their demands. Because slowdowns and wildcat and sit down strikes are illegal under the Taft Hartley Act, American unions face steep fines for engaging in them.  In 2011, if a worker is bullied, harassed or illegally fired by an employer, his only option is to file a grievance through the National Labor Relations Board, a process that can drag out for months or years. Because there are no real sanctions against employers, workplace bullying and harassment are incredibly common in the US.’

Libertarianism: Left or Right?: ‘Libertarians also showed their Left colors by opposing imperialism, war, and the accompanying violations of civil liberties, such as conscription and arbitrary detention. (See, for example, the writings of Bastiat, Cobden, and Bright.) Indeed, they didn’t simply condemn war as misguided; they also identified it as a key method by which the ruling class exploits the domestic industrious classes (not to mention the foreign victims) for its own wealth and glorification. Libertarianism and the anti-war movement went hand in hand from the start.’

Another excerpt from al-Ghazali’s work on nature; this time however I am not sure what creature our author is referring to- it sounds rather like a jumping spider, which al-Ghazali may have differentiated from web-building spiders (the subject of the paragraph following the one translated here; you may read it here).

So look to the animal that is called ‘fly-lion,’ and what he has been given of slyness and subtlety, through which he seeks his sustenance. You will find him feeling for a fly which has alighted near him- he remains motionless for a long time, so that is as if he is dead or his body has no motion left in it. Then, if he senses that the fly has become still, he creeps discreetly lest the fly bolt- then, when he is close enough to the fly that he can get him with one jump, he springs on the fly and seizes him, and when he has the fly he enfolds his body about the fly completely, lest the fly escape from him. And he does not stop his grasping until he feels the cessation of the fly’s motion- then he turns in on the fly and receives his nourishment from what is suitable for him in the fly. So behold this subtlety in his action, created on account of his sustenance- glory to the Creator, the Wise!

Abū Ḥāmed Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Ghazālī (1058-1111), The Wisdom in God’s Creation

So look to the ants and how God has inspired them to the action of gathering together for the gathering of their sustenance, and their cooperation regarding that task, and their preparation for the time of their inability to depart [from their home], and their regulation on account of heat and cold. They are inspired regarding the matter of inconstancy of conditions to determination towards outcomes which are not immediately known, so that you can see in that matter that when one of them is incapable of bearing what he bears, or is struggling with it, he is aided by another ant. So the cooperative activity of transporting [among the ants] is like the humans cooperating in labor that cannot be completed save through cooperation.

Then, they are inspired to delve houses into the earth, beginning in that by expelling the dirt, and setting out for grains in which is their sustenance, and dividing them up lest they sprout in the moistness of the earth- and none other created this aspect in their nature save the Merciful, the Compassionate. Then, if moisture encounters the grain, they take them out and spread them out until they dry. They only build houses in elevated locations of the earth, places that are dry, without streams that could flood the houses.

Abū Ḥāmed Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Ghazālī (1058-1111), The Wisdom in God’s Creation

See also: On the Spider, On the Human Eye

To Live With Dignity is to Build a New World: Two parts to this story: first, the rapacious alliance of State and Capital on clear display, and their distortion of both society and markets. However, also on display is ground-level mutualism/anarcho-distributism, though I doubt those involved are too busy thinking up adjectives for themselves.  ‘The movement is ten years old. It was born in December 2002, in the midst of demonstrations in front of the Lavalle municipal government. The demonstrations were called by collective organizations in the area to demand that farms abandoned in the wake of bankruptcy caused by the economic crisis be given to the unemployed for their subsistence. Instead, municipal officials gave the information they had received from the campesinos to big business, to facilitate new businesses in the area. “That’s when we learned that we couldn’t expect anything from the state,” said a member of the UST.’

Haitian Farmers and Brazil’s Landless Worker’s Movements Work Together: Some more mutualism in action, this time between Haitian and Brazilian farmers and agrarian allies. ‘What we are doing doesn’t consist of donating things, it consists of identifying and constructing alongside Haitians. The Haitian people have to be respected and we have to get to know them, we have to speak their language. It’s very symbolic, what we are doing.’

Meet the Movement for a New Economy: Still more voluntarism (mostly- there is some flirting with the State, unfortunately, and a few whiffs of elitism, but overall encouraging stuff) and mutualism in action. ‘At the cutting edge of experimentation are the growing number of egalitarian, and often green, worker owned cooperatives. Hundreds of “social enterprises” that use profits for environmental, social or community-serving goals are also expanding rapidly. In many communities urban agricultural efforts have made common cause with groups concerned about healthy nonprocessed food. And all this is to say nothing of 1.6 million nonprofit corporations that often cross over into economic activity. For-profits have developed alternatives as well. There are, for example, more than 11,000 companies owned entirely or in significant part by some 13.6 million employees.’

Cooperative Sector Has Grown by More than 25% Since Credit Crunch: Similar news from the United Kingdom.

Come Home America: A very encouraging alliance of paleocons, progressives, and anarchists/libertarians of all stripes: ‘The people signing this letter come from all segments of the political spectrum. We are conservatives and progressives, liberals and libertarians, from the right, left and center. We are Democrats, Republicans and independents. We represent a healthy and still vital American tradition, indicated by the fact that the majority of Americans want the United States to bring the soldiers home from these counterproductive and avoidable wars.’

Cory Maye Freed After Ten Years in Prison: the Back Story: Sometimes justice does get done, even in the American judicial system. Here’s hoping Mr Maye- who was nearly executed for the crime of defending his home and family from a midnight intruder- will be able to go on and live a normal, and safe, life.

Soft corrugations in the boortree’s trunk,
Its green young shoots, its rods like freckled solder:
It was our bower as children, a greenish, dank
And snapping memory as I get older.
And elderberry I have learned to call it.
I love its blooms like saucers brimmed with meal,
Its berries a swart caviar of shot,
A buoyant spawn, a light bruised out of purple.
Elderberry? It is shires dreaming wine.
Boortree is bower tree, where I played ‘touching tongues’
And felt another’s texture quick on mine.
So, etymologist of roots and graftings,
I fall back to my tree-house and would crouch
Where small buds shoot and flourish in the hush.

Seamus Heaney, Glanmore Sonnets V

George Orwell and Ideology: ‘George Orwell is paradoxical in the best sense: he is beyond doxa, outside the camps and categories of conventional political discourse. Admiring critics snip and squeeze, but Orwell will not be tailored into an ideology. An anticommunist nonpareil who never doubted that it was necessary to support the United States against the USSR, Orwell in 1948 expressed a preference for Henry Wallace, that scandal to Cold Warriors. In fact, although Orwell called himself a socialist, he scorned both socialism and capitalism as those terms are ordinarily understood, because he rejected the modern political doctrine which is the foundation of both.’

Our Corporate Military: An excellent rebuttal to Nicholas Kristoff’s horrid article in the NYT a couple weeks back. ‘Aside from that, I think Kristoff has it exactly backward: The military is almost a parody of American corporate culture. It’s riddled with hierarchy, with Taylorist/Weberian bureaucratic work rules and standard operating procedures, and all the irrationality that goes with them. The only difference is, the pointy-haired bosses wear a different kind of uniform. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Brazil,” or read Dilbert on a regular basis, you get the idea.’

Hilaire Belloc on Property: Old but still quite good critique of industrial capitalism and a presentation of an alternative and better world. As I’ve written before, the basic tenets, and many of the techniques and and strategies, of distributivist thought and praxis are more or less the same as market anarchism and mutualism. Our primary differences lie in the role of the state: Belloc and Chesterton were, I think it is fair to say, ‘minarchists’ of sorts, envisioning a highly constricted, highly democratic state, but still a state, with a role in securing the new economic order, and a lesser role in maintaining it. Otherwise, distributivism and market anarchism are very much in agreement about what a better world would look like: an economy and society made up of small-holders, small firms with distributed production (on this note, see Kevin Carson’s A Low Overhead Manifesto), widespread worker-control and cooperative firms in situations where large industry is still required, and deep networks of mutual aid and support.

Mao Inc. China’s Terribly Successful Communist Party Turns 90: ‘China’s communists have not been shy. Little is sacred, while almost everything can be bought, even the Great Hall of the People. When the party is not in session in the magnificent building, with its more than 300 rooms and enormous paintings, companies like Ford and Kentucky Fried Chicken can rent space at astronomical prices.’

Why Does the War Go On? ‘Tens of thousands of American troops will remain for at least three more years, some of them will be maimed or killed, and Obama offered no good reason why.’