Archive for April, 2014

All ye who enter here–abandon purist “Markets!” or “Government!” positions; let Elinor and Vincent Ostrom guide us in getting our hands dirty in the garden of self-governance

April 29th, 2014 No comments

[Cross-posted from the Collaborative Center Community on Facebook]

Leaving purist “Markets!” and “Government!” positions behind — I ask members to consider the relevance and the inspiration of the ‪#‎Ostroms(2009 Nobel Prize-winning Elinor and her husband Vincent) in getting our hands dirty in the garden of self-governance.

There’s a helpful paper by Paul Dragos Aligica and Peter Boettke that I invite you all to take a look at:

“More often than not Bloomington institutionalism is seen in a narrow way, i.e. only in relationship to the common pool resources studies, which are, indeed, very salient, yet, in fact, only one of the many dimensions of this research program. The reality is that the study of the “commons” emerged from a broader and deeper intellectual perspective that frames at a foundational level the work of the Bloomington scholars. As such, it is only one of the ways in which this intellectual vision becomes operational in the research practice. A closer look at this “perspective” reveals the fact that it is complex and profound enough to deserve to be considered what the literature calls a “social theory” or a “political philosophy.” Both explicit and implicit in the Ostroms’ work are attempts to understand, chart, evaluate, and articulate the basic categories with which we think about the social aspects of human life, as well as a willingness to deal with philosophical questions about social order and social behavior. Encapsulated in their studies are views about the nature and desirability of alternative systems of social organization and an effort towards their philosophical understanding. Even more, their empirical and policy-relevant contributions could be positioned in a very telling way at the intersection of several major trends in modern social thinking. Such exercises in interpretation reveal that the Ostroms’ contributions not only have a well-defined place in this intellectual history context, but also that, in many respects, their originality transcends the standard schools of thought and disciplinary boundaries. To focus only on the more salient and publicly visible pieces of the research produced by the Bloomington scholars — such as those on “governance” and “commons” — would be to miss an important part of Ostroms’ perspective on social order and institutionalism.

“The main objective of this paper is to explore what we call the “social theory” or the “social philosophy” that presumably shapes, inspires and defines the Ostroms’ research program. Our argument is that what we have called the “social theory” behind the Bloomington School’s research agenda has in fact two facets that may or may not be consistent with each other. Even more, they may or may not be necessarily and inseparably connected with the rest of the program. The first is built around the concept of “polycentricity” and a series of Public Choice insights, and is a challenge to two of the deepest assumptions of political and economic sciences in the 20th century: the monocentric vision of social order and the “market” versus “state” dichotomy. The second is built around a view of social order seen as a knowledge and learning process, along with a series of observations about the human condition, fallibility, coercion and error as well as about the factors engendering institutional order as a response to the challenges posed by them. But irrespective of how we approach and consider the relationship between these two facets, one thing is clear and stays unchanged: both feature an unambiguous normative engagement on behalf of self-governance and a robust faith in human freedom and human ingenuity.”

Some of my own blogging on Elinor Ostrom (often fighting misunderstanding libertarians) is here:

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Colloquy on “Government” versus “society”

April 26th, 2014 No comments

[cross-posted from Facebook]

– “Govt evolves like society has evolved, like we evolved.”

Formal “Governments” are human artifacts, and subject more or less (depending on size and many other factors) to conscious human manipulation. But as social, cooperative and competing animals, we also “govern” each other in myriads of informal mechanisms, which are also both part of of evolution and cultural heritage. These, too, can in part be shaped.

– “Govt does solve problems but what it does well we can’t see, what it doesn’t do well we notice.”
Well, we all have limited time, energy, cognitive ability and information, and also face competing priorities. We DO tend to notice more when things are broken, in ways that impose significant negative costs or inconvenience. But it is possible to notice what “Govt does well”, as well as to overlook countless things that it does not do well.

– “What you want is the next evolution of govt. You want it to be a society without govt.”
I’m not sure where you’ve derived these conclusions from (or entirely what you mean). Yes; I see many things about formal Govt now that are gravely broken and damaging to many people. But no, I do NOT want “society without [formal] govt”. In fact, my purpose in CREATING this group is to band together with others of many different persuasions to try to CHANGE formal government — not to end formal Govt altogether. But yes, humans did evolve without formal governments, and most of our interactions still take place informally, so I would hope to see formal Govts altered in ways that allow more of what Nobel Prizewinner Elinor #Ostrom called “polycentric” government, including much more self-government and participatory government.

– “Perhaps we as a society think we are ready for that, I am not sure we really are.”
I share your doubts that we are ready to live without formal Govt. In any case, it is not my objective. But we have before, can again, and imho definitely need to live again, with much more robust self-government that is more resistant to central corruption and looting by distant and unaccountable elites.

– “After all, you think there is no community.” 
I don’t think that there is NO community, but that growing crony capitalism and a growing Big Brother has steadily ERODED our communities and our mutual reliance and accountability, and set us up against each other in fighting over the crumbs that fall from the table, and for an illusion of who is really in charge.

Hence, my objective here is to BUILD community among others who are also waking up to the stinking mess that is America. Allies of all political stripes are welcome. We need to unite and build coalitions in order to push for changes that will rein in crony capitalism and restore more power for people to manage their own affairs and communities.

I am concerned much of BIG BROTHER actually arises out of what community may still exist, the desire to control women, the desire to suppress atheism in the US…

My own view on the growth of Big Brother is that it has fairly steadily centralized power, reducing the ability of people to live their own lives and manage their own communities, turning Govt into a one-stop shop for corporate welfare, contracts to provide military/defense and other services and for regulations that limit competition, and turned we the people into eternal supplicants for welfare and for more regulations to make the Frankensteins play nice.

Big Brother doesn’t so much “arise from community” as from a dynamic whereby it arrogates the right to solve the problems that it creates (by serving elites who fight to coopt it and to use its power).

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The movie “Avatar” is an allegory for “property”, and for what is worth banding together with other people to defend

April 26th, 2014 No comments

What are YOUR thoughts on the movie “Avatar“? Is it just an enviro fantasy? Or is it an allegory for what is “property”, and what is worth banding together with other people to defend?

The struggle to protect community/common property that James Cameron addressed in Avatar is still very much underway; see this from recent news?

It differs only in degree from the role of governments and corporations in resource development and pollution in the US, Canada, Europe, Japan, China, India, etc. etc.

“They want us to give up our traditions, work in the mines, and let them pollute our land. But we will give our lives to defend the land, because the end is the same for us either way.”

Here are two libertarian takes on Avatar, and on “property rights”:

Stephan Kinsella

– Yours truly: I think we need to rethink the roots of corporatism, and to attack them.

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David Stockman and Larry Lessig suggest a Left/Right reform platform

April 26th, 2014 No comments

[Facebook cross-post]

Larry Lessig said earlier this week:

D.C. Needs a Grassroots Fix That Will Come When Left and Right Find Common Ground
Citizens on the left and right agree that the government is in dire need of reform. So why are the political parties, including the Tea Party, of so little help when it comes to working for legitimate reform?

Lessig refers to a talk/workshop by David Stockman, in which Stockman suggested the following Left/Right reform platform (I quote):

1. For Peace: “Empire America,” as Stockman calls it, must end. No longer can we serve as the world’s policeman. And to staunch our Superman urges, we must radically reduce our military budget so that any urge to intervene takes affirmative action by Congress.

2. For Compassion: The government’s number one job, Stockman believes, is an “appropriate defense.” Number two is to care for those who can’t care for themselves. Yet only a tiny fraction of the transfer payments within our government today actually benefit the poor or needy. Whether or not we can afford entitlements for the middle-class or rich, in Stockman’s view, we must at least guarantee proper support for those who need our help.

3. For Liberty: Both the Big Brother and Nanny State must go. Prohibition (aka, the “war on drugs”) is an illiberal failure. We should declare peace, and call our troops home. And the perpetual surveillance of us by our government is not the America of our Founders. If the police want to invade our privacy, let them get a warrant.

4. Against Corruption—of the Democracy: Congress, Stockman believes, is a failed state. The economy of campaign fundraising has driven the institution to the brink of collapse. Nothing serious will get done so long as this system survives. And no reform, whether from the Left or Right, will get passed so long as the number one job of members is raising money from the especially interested to get reelected. The only way to fix this corruption is to radically change the economy of fundraising. Stockman therefore supports full and exclusive public funding of public elections, term limits and the end to any revolving door to K St.

5. Against Corruption—of the Economy: Our government has been seduced (this former Wall Street executive tells us) by the Wall Street economy. It needs to refocus on the Main Street economy. Government policy systematically tilts towards Wall Street growth. In the process, it tilts against Main Street growth. Stockman would enact a super-Glass-Steagall, separating banks from investment banks, and breaking up the big banks. He would level the taxes between capital and labor (no more special capital gains tax), and put an end to the “Greenspan put”. (Suffice it: Wall Street wouldn’t like the policies of its former executive.)

Lessig concludes:

“[W]hat is striking is just how much there is to agree upon, and yet how little of this agreement is even utterable by lame-stream politicians (to remix that slogan just a bit). Exactly why is it that 25 years after the end of the Cold War, our defense budget is larger (PDF) than it was then? Even if Social Security should be expanded (a view the Left holds but not the Stockman Right), why isn’t our first priority to make sure the poor and the helpless have the support that any decent society would give? Who really is for the NSA-state? Or the war on drugs? Whatever a “financialized economy” means, is there any non-campaign-fundraising-related reason why Democrats and Republicans continue to fall over themselves to keep Wall Street happy? And with 96 percent of Americans believing it “important” to “reduce the influence of money in politics,” why is this even a question to debate?

“The striking fact about American politics today is the gap between America and its politics. If this were a market, entrepreneurs would quickly fill that gap. If this were a democracy, a new generation of leaders would claim it.

“We’ll soon see just what we are—and who the real “reformers” are.”

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The sociopathy of not wanting to see the structural roots of “sociopathic” business behavior

April 19th, 2014 No comments

[cross-posted from comments at WBOS FB]

A colloquitor believes business successes are driven by “betrayal, and ruthless sociopathy. That is how it works, and that surprisingly is what seems to lead to dominance and success in markets – or is believed to lead to dominance and success in markets.”

I think the sociopathy you speak of is a very real problem, but it is one we see mainly where, thanks to the Govt interventions that have made shareholders powerless, there is no effective external check on management. Did you see my post on “drone corporations” (half of the Fortune 500)?

The progressive approach differs from mine/the real libertarian one largely in that progressives still naively believe that more centralization (more power to a few) is the best way to fight problems produced by centralization. Rather, we must fight the DYNAMIC of centralization — roll back Govt-enabled risk socialization (limited liability of shareholders, deposit insurance and “protection” of public shareholders) and make use creative destruction to bring down the dinosaurs/Frankensteins.

Yes, the NAME of “libertarianism” has been used to magnify and justify corporate power, and attack and disempower ordinary working people, but not real libertarianism itself, which fights against the dynamic of the growth and capture of a central state that both parties have fed.

“Arn’t you being a bit monotonic in your explanations here? Everything wrong with biz is an external factor that depends on the government and only on the government? Isn’t it possible there could be other sources of malfunction as well? If the government has done stuff surely it is in response to the encouragement of the sociopaths and the delinquence of the supposedly controlling shareholders? And you must be aware that appointing sociopathic upper executives has often increased the shareprice, suggesting that shareholders approve in general, or even demand sociopathy? just as they approve sacking ordinary workers or cutting their wages? Sociopathy could be a feature encouraged by capitalism and free markets – competition, wiping out the opposition, exploiting the workers, and profit are the key values – which could be easily embraced by sociopaths.”

I may seem monotonic because I am looking at core dynamics of#MoralHazard, risk socialization, govt “capture”, corruption and theft.

On share prices and sociopathy, can I get you to look at these posts on drone corporations’ negative behavior invited by unaccountability and government? [Did you know that cronyism in general means LOWER economic performance?]

See Roderick Long here:, and my earlier post on Robert Nisbet…/1984/10/01/cloaking-the-states-dagger.

Libertarianism/anarchism/mutualism/true conservatism would actually bring government and business both down to levels that could be managed by people in the communities that commons-guru #Ostrom spoke of:…/hometown-hero/…/remembering-alienation……/robert-nisbet-and-the-idea…/

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What is a “drone corporation”? I don’t wanna know — I just want Govt to save me, please!

April 19th, 2014 No comments

[cross-posted from the We Build Our Society FB group]

What is a “drone corporation”?

I don’t wanna know — I just want to pretend that I need Govt to SAVE US! from “business” and “free markets”.

“Corporations “un-owned” by their shareholders—corporate “drones”—are far worse corporate citizens and have significantly lower average shareholder returns than firms in which owners still exercise authority over management”

“First, corporations have ascended to levels of unprecedented power in the United States, thanks in large part to legal rulings. The Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, for example, removed virtually all limitations on corporate political spending—a “grotesque decision,” rightly judges Monks. Second, the leaders of the largest and most powerful corporations in the U.S. (ExxonMobil, IBM, and General Electric top the list) have never been less accountable to shareholders. This is because of weak boards and the movement of large ownership positions to passive institutional investors, among other things. The result is “drone corporations,” in which “manager kings” have free rein to pursue their own self-interest. Monks puts more than half of the Fortune 500 among their numbers.

“The dangers in such a situation are obvious. Monks offers up a litany of them, including the gutting of the political system, regulatory abuse, tax avoidance, the mistreatment of U.S. workers, obscene CEO compensation packages—and the list goes on.”

“What makes a corporation a drone corporation?

“By drone corporation, I mean one in which there is no element of effective ownership to monitor or to restrain the exercise of power by the corporate executive,” Monks told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week.

Most major American corporations are drone corporations.

“I would say that about 60 percent of the biggest ones are,” Monks said. “Companies like General Electric. Exxon. IBM.”

Name some that aren’t drones?

“Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway, Google, Apple,” Monks says.

The key characteristic of a drone corporation?

“Drones were more likely to externalize liability,” Monks said. “In comparing drone corporations to non-drone corporations, we discovered that the drone corporations were distinctly more likely to externalize liability. They were distinctly more liable to be indicted for criminal activity. And the extent of their criminal fines were significantly larger than those for the non drones.”

“There are now a significant number of drone corporations that use the violation of criminal law and the fines and penalties that result as a sales expense that on balance they have concluded is worthwhile.”

“This is true for companies like Pfizer in the pharmaceutical industry. And it seems to be a policy that British Petroleum has followed. They are prepared as a matter of management policy to conduct themselves in such a way as to violate criminal laws, to accept criminal penalties, and then continue to violate criminal law. That seemed to be substantially more prevalent in drone corporations than in non drone corporations.””

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Parasites infect our body politic, and do an amazing job of tricking US into DEFENDING THEM

April 17th, 2014 No comments

[Cross-posted from The Anti-Establishment Center Community]

Blind faith in government and denial of reality continues to aid the 0.01% and the Govt-enabled ‪#‎CronyCrapitalists‬ in fleecing and controlling us.

Parasites are highly evolved, infect our body politic, and do an amazing job of tricking US into DEFENDING THEM:

See parasite guru Carl Zimmer:

“Parasites can castrate their hosts and then take over their minds. An inch-long fluke can fool our complex immune system into thinking it as harmless as our own blood. A wasp can insert its own genes into the cells of a caterpillar to shut down the caterpillar’s immune system. Only now are scientists thinking seriously about how parasites may be as important to ecosystems as lions and leopards. And only now are they realizing that parasites have been a dominant force, perhaps the dominant force, in the evolution of life. … ”

“Simply living within another organist—locating it, travelling through it, finding food and a mate inside, altering the cells that surround it, outwitting its defences—is a tremendous evolutionary accomplishment. But parasites such as Sacculina do more: they control their hosts, becoming in effect their new brains, and turning them into new creatures. It is as if the host itself is simply a puppet, and the parasite is the hand inside.”

We have a great big commons problem that is extremely difficult to solve, not in the least because “good” people are fooled and WANT to keep being fooled.

[See my other posts on parasitism]

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The Bundys, the BLM and the fruits of Govt-owned “property”

April 17th, 2014 No comments

[cross-posted from The Anti-Establishment Center Community on Facebook]

A few thoughts on the notion of Govt-owned “property”, in connection with the radical misanthropes who have been ranching in Nevada for 100+ years on “Federal land”.

I’m afraid it’s turtles all the way down, with respect to corrupt “Govt ownership,” particularly with respect to the politics and special interests relating to the Bundy Ranch and Gold Butte:

Also, please consider the corrupt mining of coal, oil, gas and hard rock minerals, our forests and offshore resources, including fisheries — from BP/Gulf to Alberta’s oil sands.

Then consider the corrupt railroad grants and payments, the creation of ‪#‎LimitedLiability‬ corporations, and the granting to them of pollution permits and use of Govt eminent domain powers.

Finally, don’t ignore all the ridiculous, expensive and environmental Federal hankypanky/”Defense” activities — including decades of open-air nuclear bomb testing — that are possible because the Govt asserted territorial claims over vast resources in which natives, Mexicans and tens of thousands of Americans had already “homesteaded” and lived in one way or another. The Feds have long been and continue to be agents for wealthy private interests to take control of land already used by others.

The destruction of the Appalachians is a long historical example of rich men using government to take land from others who were there first, and using state-made corporations to hide behind the thugs they hired:

The story continues, and hopefully the Bundy ranch dispute can be a trigger for people seeing a bigger picture.

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