Carson’s Citizens Briefing for President-Elect Barack Obama

Center for a Stateless Society Research Associate Kevin Carson has posted a Citizen’s Briefing at the change.gov web site, entitled “Easing the Transition to an Alternative Economy“, which essentially summarizes his recently published study “Industrial Policy: New Wine in Old Bottles” for U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama.

Change.gov is an official web site of the U.S. presidential transition team. Supporters are encouraged to vote for Carson’s briefing at the site.

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5 thoughts on “Carson’s Citizens Briefing for President-Elect Barack Obama

  1. Mr. Carson's proposals are interesting, and I can't say I disagree with any of them. But I have a question for him and kindred anarchists. Suppose that after the revolution it transpires most people don't want, and don't create, "a decentralized economy of small-scale manufacturing for local markets." Would you still favor free markets? Or would you decide that freedom had failed, and we need state power so that your vision of society can be realized?

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  2. Speaking only for myself and not Carson, I would say that your question is basically "Are you really an anarchist, or are you an advocate of X who happens to think anarchy is the best route to achieving it?"

    The concern would be that the person making the anarchist argument is merely a fair-weather friend of freedom who might switch to supporting tyranny at the drop of a hat. It's a valid concern and potentially applies to anyone making any argument for freedom that's even remotely utilitarian. It all boils down to a question of trust, really.

    Can Carson be trusted? Well, it doesn't seem that he's asking you to trust him with power, so you don't really have to trust him or me or anyone else. Either you agree or disagree with what they advocate.

    Every movement has sellouts, traitors, wimps and fools. Carson's advocating less statism. As the Bible says "By their fruits you shall know them".

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  3. admin, you're correct that a utilitarian defense of liberty is inherently a conditional one. But I think there's a difference between favoring a free society a) because it's the best way for people to be happy, healthy, and comfortably well-off, and b) because it's the best way to achieve "something like the present-day economy of Italy's Emilia-Romagna region." Most people like being happy, healthy, and well-off. Mr. Carson's list of demands is quite detailed and tendentious. It seems to me that he has a very "thick" and "patterned" conception of the good society, and I think it's very likely the real choices of free people are going to disappoint him.

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  4. Well, my personal opinion is that many distrust left libertarians like Carson and myself because political ideology is often just a rationalization for a sort of tribalism that's conveyed by shared narratives and word associations rather than actual political theory. Libertarians are not immune to this unfortunate tendency. The way I see it, libertarianism as a movement is saddled with a sort of osmotically-propagated conservative movement culture and it's a quite seperate matter from libertarianism as theory.

    Carson's preaching libertarianism with a left rhetorical bent and some libertarians will find that grating despite the shared theory. The ironic thing is, though, that many of those same folks will have felt wounded or wronged over the years by those critics of libertarianism who have insisted that libertarianism is a form of conservatism — because they've been blind to their own right rhetorical emphasis and that of the movement in general.

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  5. rhanneken: I would choose liberty regardless of the outcome. But I don't think my vision of a free economy is as arbitrary as all that. I believe I have showed elsewhere, repeatedly, they ways state intervention has pushed things in the direction of centralization, capital-intensiveness, mass production and push distribution.

    More specifically, to take my focus on the contrast between Sloanism and Emilia-Romagna: the latter model of production was taken by Kropotkin and many others as the natural organization for realizing the full potential of electrically powered machinery. I believe history shows that the potential for electric machinery was hijacked instead, and forced into what Mumford called a "cultural pseudomorph," by state action to promote the mass production factory model. The giant manufacturing corporation serving national wholesalers and retailers, described by Chandler, was almost entirely a creation of the state. Without railroad land grants, tariffs and patents, I think it's extremely likely that the whole world would have been Emilia-Romagna. What's more, based on considerable review of the evidence, I don't think the present industrial model could exist without subsidized distribution to utilize full capacity of expensive product-specific machinery, or all the cartelizing and centralizing effects of IP law.

    I think you'll find most libertarians have pretty definite, if not fully stated and defended, ideas of what a free society would be like. But the implicit assumption that a free society would be (as Sean Gabb put it) "Tesco minus the state," is (unfortunately) so common as to be unremarkable.

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