Intellectual Property is Theft

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frew
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Mar 28 2007 00:50
Intellectual Property is Theft

I think that the free software movement is a great living example of decentralised, non-hierarchical production. Groups like the Free Software Foundation www.fsf.org/ and Creative Commons www.creativecommons.org/ allow people to protect their creations as part of a gift economy (check their legal paperwork for how they deal with property).
The Internet allows anything that can be reproduced electronically to be shared freely. Infinite copies can be made without any alteration to the original. This is why corporations are so quick to protect their intellectual property through shutting down Napster etc. and suing software pirates. Without the law to enforce artificial scarcity, there would be no way to generate profits as everything could be shared freely.
Here are a few things I have posted to other sites about this topic:
http://aptgetanarchy.org/blog/24 (check out the three posts on intellectual property...)
http://aptgetanarchy.org/node/109
What does everyone think?

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thugarchist
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Mar 28 2007 02:29

Not if your tinfoil is store brand.

dowcet
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Mar 28 2007 03:39
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Infinite copies can be made without any alteration to the original.

Exactly why all of this has only very limited bearing on the rest of the dominant political economy... the Internet is not like real life. Even if it continues to work better and better for software and culture, that won't necessarily get us any closer to making it work for the manufacture of computers themselves, never mind food and all the other physical things we need but that don't simply replicate themselves for free.

Nonetheless, I'm hopeful that if the free software movement continues to thrive at the rate it has, the capitalist software industry wither... maybe not completely, but they will continue to have less and less control over people's lives. And it does give us some theoretical insights into how a large scale industrial gift economy could work... Toward brining about social revolution though, its hard to say how much any of this matters.

AP
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Mar 28 2007 05:34

GDID: Did you have something to say?

As for free software and such: yes, the scope is indeed limited to information production, which doesn't get anyone food or shelter or such. Still, software can be a very useful tool, and free software makes those tools available to people who don't have much capital. Also, it makes it possible to use software without being locked into a power relationship with the vendor of said software. So if you want to change something, you can do it, or find someone who can do it for you. Note that this site, libcom.org, runs on free software, and -- I imagine -- under the direct control of some good folks.

As for a "gift economy": free software production is totally different from production of physical goods, for two huge reasons: the means of production is cheap (an old computer, occasional internet access, and the source code), and the product can be reproduced at very little cost. The result is that the social dynamic of a free software project revolves around the concept of "forking" -- a subset of the contributors heading off in their own direction, working on a now divergent body of code. Because a project can be forked at any time, by anyone, the people coordinating the project (often called "maintainers") tend to take others' opinions into consideration. If a given group of maintainers is doing a poor job, then many users and contributors will follow a fork of the project. A recent, large example of this is Xorg, a fork of the most widely used graphics system for Unix.

This is totally different from the social relations between people working on a farm, or in a factory. You can't simply resolve disputes about production by duplicating the land or the machinery. The owner of the land or of the machinery has control; the maintainer of a free software project does not. And when you've produced something, everyone can use it for free, so you don't have to worry about how to divvy up the products. Sometimes free software enthusiasts lose track of some of these distinctions.

Having said all that, I should mention that my own positive experiences as a programmer using and writing free software, and the contrast between those experiences and my job life, were some of the initial things that got me headed down this road.

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 28 2007 07:45

what's interesting about free software isn't so much the infinite nature of the product but the fact that real (finite) labour is expended in producing it, and this labour is co-ordinated towards social needs without recourse to central planning or markets, that's where it might offer some insights into a large scale gift economy imho

frew
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Mar 28 2007 10:23

I wasn't implying that everyone should adopt it as a model for everything... Its just a good example that many less politically inclined people are familiar with and support. In my day to day street activism, I often use Linux, peer to peer etc as examples of what is possible with co-operation and without need for financial compensation. A good example of mutual aid in action.
Information is knowlege in its raw form (unabsorbed). Information is really important so people can educate themselves, and being able to access that in way that doesn't need a physical form, means that the work required to reproduce the information becomes minsiscule (in the context of it being a part the whole 'Internet'). Knowlege shapes the amount of labor it takes to produce something, more knowlege means more efficient production, means less work (or more stuff, if you value stuff over spare time). Of course there are limitations, not least that (where I live) only half the population are on-line and only 1/6 of the world's population.
Joseph K. wrote...

Quote:
what's interesting about free software isn't so much the infinite nature of the product but the fact that real (finite) labour is expended in producing it, and this labour is co-ordinated towards social needs without recourse to central planning or markets, that's where it might offer some insights into a large scale gift economy imho

Yeah, wish I said it that way...

As for the forking... That's kinda how I envisage the reality of autonimous workplaces carrying out their projects. Different people will have different ways of doing things according to their circumstances. If one way of organising a workplace becomes obviously better than any other, it will catch on and everyone will be able to change. With material labor, it would depend on convincing the collective in control of the peice of productive property to implement any change in work practice in the first place...

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Khawaga
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Mar 28 2007 10:46

Interesting thread Frew

Quote:
what's interesting about free software isn't so much the infinite nature of the product but the fact that real (finite) labour is expended in producing it, and this labour is co-ordinated towards social needs without recourse to central planning or markets, that's where it might offer some insights into a large scale gift economy imho

Agree, this is the crux of the matter. Is p2p production some form of unalienated labour and part of a gift economy (IMO using commons is better than gift, but even that fails to capture what the 'new economy' is about) or is capital valorizing the voluntary labour of peers. In management literature they're all about the latter - referring to it as crowd sourcing or user generated content (one of the pillars of web 2 thinking).

The problem with creative commons and GPL is that they are basically part and parcel of copyrights, albeit inverted. The point must to be away with the thinking that digital products can be property, and in that sense it must be used in a way that shows the perversity of property rights over finite goods. What is happening with digital stuff, i.e. primitive accumulation and production of scarcity, is reflected in the physical universe as well if one bothers to look into it. Driving a wedge between rivalrous and on-rivalrous good reinforces the notion that we need to have property rights in the real world and that somehow things are scarce there. It is utter bollocks, but it does come from the very right-wing libertarian perspective that a lot of the main free software proponents share (e.g. Stallman, Lessig, FSF and a bunch of others).

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Mar 28 2007 17:22
frew wrote:
I think that the free software movement is a great living example of decentralised, non-hierarchical production. Groups like the Free Software Foundation www.fsf.org/ and Creative Commons www.creativecommons.org/ allow people to protect their creations as part of a gift economy (check their legal paperwork for how they deal with property).
The Internet allows anything that can be reproduced electronically to be shared freely. Infinite copies can be made without any alteration to the original. This is why corporations are so quick to protect their intellectual property through shutting down Napster etc. and suing software pirates. Without the law to enforce artificial scarcity, there would be no way to generate profits as everything could be shared freely.
Here are a few things I have posted to other sites about this topic:
http://aptgetanarchy.org/blog/24 (check out the three posts on intellectual property...)
http://aptgetanarchy.org/node/109
What does everyone think?

I agree. Markets create scarcity, they don't utilize it.

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Mar 28 2007 18:04

It's mere further evidence evidence of my vanity, I know, but I humbly direct you to my post on that other free software thread.
The most relevant excerpt is this:

Quote:
Prior to Microsoft selling its version of basic, it hadn't occured to anyone to charge money for computer programs .... In effect, it introduced a new market: software. Ideally, the most OSS advocated can do is destroy this market. Thing is, they're not even trying very hard. Most businesses have no problem selling software incorporating open-source: they just accept the limitations, adapt to them, and make money.

Intellectual property is just the ultimate reification of the middle-man, the hustler.

Antieverything
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Mar 29 2007 01:55

Middle-people generally sell support nowadays. Not so much software.

If they are selling software, its only a matter of time before open source catches up anyway. If the open source movement doesn't develop a certain type of software and thus if it is possible to continue selling a proprietary form, who cares? Let them sell it...once data gets to a certain level of demand, it can't be proprietary.

Who here payed for an OS? Media player software? Photoshop, etc.? If a firm wants to stay legal and buy the shit, that's their problem.

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Mar 29 2007 09:37
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Intellectual property is just the ultimate reification of the middle-man, the hustler.

Not at all. Open source, as antieverything wrote consist of support services and special customization. Other OSes such as Tiger or Vista gives MS and Apple monopolies over those properties (which is the intent of IP and copyrights). Can't see how MS and Apple are middle-men.

And depending on the license most businesses cannot sell open source software, they can only charge for the cost of actual distributing it (i.e. printing a CD or shipping it, but not for the software itself). It's called Free Software which means both that it is free/gratis (as in beer, extremely important for developing countries or countries with low computer penetration) and gives you the liberty to modify it freely.

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Tojiah
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Mar 29 2007 10:38
atlemk wrote:
And depending on the license most businesses cannot sell open source software, they can only charge for the cost of actual distributing it (i.e. printing a CD or shipping it, but not for the software itself). It's called Free Software which means both that it is free/gratis (as in beer, extremely important for developing countries or countries with low computer penetration) and gives you the liberty to modify it freely.

Well, it's called Free Software, but it's easily incorporated into proprietary software, and as far as businesses - which buy "solutions" rather than software - are concerned, it doesn't really matter. All of the software companies I was interviewed at used open source as part and parcel of their business model, a mere "tax" with benefits, as it were.

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Mar 29 2007 11:39
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Well, it's called Free Software, but it's easily incorporated into proprietary software

Well with the free software definition (or is it called the open source definition), or using GPL, free sofware cannot be used in (closed) propietary software.

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as far as businesses - which buy "solutions" rather than software - are concerned, it doesn't really matter.

This is true. But businesses buying solutions are technically (and legally) buying the services from a company, not the software. In any case this is how capital pracitcally has found a way to valorize the labour that goes into open source development. Of course a lot of the labour that goes into making oss is made in cubicles in software companies working 9-9 (labour conditions in software companies in the silicon valley have very 'flexible' work hours).

Quote:
All of the software companies I was interviewed at used open source as part and parcel of their business model

I've heard open source is huge, and that the Israeli government has embraced it. Do you know the reasons for the latter (do you have a link)?

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Tojiah
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Mar 29 2007 15:37
atlemk wrote:
Well with the free software definition (or is it called the open source definition), or using GPL, free sofware cannot be used in (closed) propietary software.

No, the only condition is that the modules that are free software be provided with their source-code. Otherwise, how do you think that proprietary drivers are used with Linux, say?

atlemk wrote:
I've heard open source is huge, and that the Israeli government has embraced it. Do you know the reasons for the latter (do you have a link)?

Not really something I've given much consideration to. Be aware that Israel is one of the software piracy capitals of the world, and it's very hard to convince people to actually buy certain basics, like operating systems and office programs. Companies are prosecuted for this, which is why, I suppose, it is easier for them to embrace open source. The main thing, though, is probably how it allows high-tech workers to pretend that they are making social change when they are really incorporated into capital. The faux socialism streak in Zionism has always been part of the reason people supported it, after all. A vestige of that, perhaps.

Antieverything
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Mar 29 2007 16:45

perhaps...but it is only software, after all.

frew
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Mar 29 2007 21:52

I don't see how Corporations using open source makes it somehow 'bad'.
They use Linux etc. because it is better than any OS Microsoft or Apple can make. They (unfortunately) aren't stupid. Code worked on by volunteers runs better than the code of the worlds biggest software firms. This (to me) is evidence that we can do much better without corporate hierarchies. Apple and Microsoft can't write something that works as well as Linux. Corporations can't directly compete with something made by the people. To paraphrase some graffiti from May/June '68 France "The boss needs us, we don't need the boss."

Google to me, is the other side of the coin. They control the flow of information, you type in what you want to search for and they provide the links. The results of any search can easily be manipulated to direct people towards the paying corporation, or away from the radical press. They have done this (most obviously) with YouTube. A conspiracy theory documentary called Terrorstorm had its hit counters reset by Google so it became a lot harder to find. A right wing comedy skit bagging out Bill Clinton's North Korea policy was made Adults Only despite its lack of adult content.
There is a book by McKenzie Wark called A Hackers Manifesto which describes this as the Vector (I'm a bit critical of A Hackers Manifesto, but as far as describing the way business can profit on-line, it does a good job). By controlling the vector, corporations control the flow of information. Google is the best example of this. MySpace is a bit more blatant, people who spend a lot of time on MySpace are barraged by adds. Every click brings up new advertisments, just like TV we are the products that NewsCorp sell to profit from MySpace.
Anyway, for anyone interested here is a link to a shortened version of A Hackers Manifesto:
http://subsol.c3.hu/subsol_2/contributors0/warktext.html

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Mar 29 2007 21:54
frew wrote:
MySpace is a bit more blatant, people who spend a lot of time on MySpace are barraged by adds. Every click brings up new advertisments, just like TV we are the products that NewsCorp sell to profit from MySpace.

use firefox, get adblock. open source to the rescue innit tongue

Guilt
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Apr 3 2007 14:29

Actually, the GPL doesn't prohibit you from selling Free Software at any price you can get people to pay. The problem lies in convincing people to pay for something they can easily download for free.

Consumariat
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Apr 6 2007 18:21
Quote:
Markets create scarcity, they don't utilize it

In what way do markets create scarcity?

ffaker
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Apr 6 2007 21:54
atlemk wrote:
It is utter bollocks, but it does come from the very right-wing libertarian perspective that a lot of the main free software proponents share (e.g. Stallman, Lessig, FSF and a bunch of others).

I agree in some ways, though I don't see anything wrong with using copyright law against itself.

Also, although many open source types are free market fundamentalists who like to call themselves "libertarians," the FSF and Stallman are not. Many open source and free software folks are just liberals. Stallman described himself once as “a sort of combination between a liberal and a leftist anarchist. I like to see people working together, voluntarily, to solve the world’s problems. But, if we can’t do that, I think we should get the government involved to solve them. ”

So a liberal then. wink

frew: I agree in some ways and disagree in others. smile

Antieverything
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Apr 6 2007 22:12
Consumariat wrote:
Quote:
Markets create scarcity, they don't utilize it

In what way do markets create scarcity?

I'm a bit bemused by this statement, myself.
perhaps it is a reference to the artificially imposed and maintained scarcities and inequalities that make 'the market' function the way it does. I can't seriously believe anyone can say that the market mechanism itself creates scarcity.

frew
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Apr 7 2007 02:00

Well, I said Copyright Law creates an artificial scarcity, that Corporations use to generate profit, which is what I think Commodity was referring to.
How does this work? Well, the Internet allows those with access to share files. Any piece of information that can be stored digitally (movies, music, programs, pics etc) can be exchanged freely (only taking the time to download). This upsets corporations who used to be able to control access to their intellectual property through physical means (selling the CD's, books, DVD's whatever) because they can't extract their profits from things that don't have an exchange value. They hassle their political mates to tighten up Patent and Copyright Laws and then go on the offensive calling everyone who shares information Pirates. This creates artificial scarcity because it puts a money value on something, that without the Law, could be freely exchanged.
Of course, most people just keep on sharing anyway. smile
This is something I find useful (in general conversation) to explain to people how Capitalism is conservative, because its something that most people tend to resist anyway.

Ffaker: That second article is a bit over-critical. Here are the issues I have with its arguments: I already mentioned the inequality of access to the technology. Access to the Inernet has tripled since that article was written, it does take time for technology to spread, and yes access is concentrated in the first world. Just like cars, mobile phones, whatever... Capitalism is all about wealth and power inequality, that doesn't make use of that technology 'bad'.
The idea of writing a proscriptive Terms of Use (that attempts to limit the ways that software is used) seems to me to be a bit crazy. Who is going to monitor it? Will people who misuse it be procecuted? Will there be a 'secret police' who check that everyone is using the software in the correct manner?

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Apr 7 2007 11:27
Quote:
I'm a bit bemused by this statement, myself.
perhaps it is a reference to the artificially imposed and maintained scarcities and inequalities that make 'the market' function the way it does. I can't seriously believe anyone can say that the market mechanism itself creates scarcity.

Read some Amartya Sen on famines, especially on the Ethiopian one in the 1980s. That is a clear example of the normal workings of the market created scarcity and famine in certain areas. During famines there is usually never a shortage of food, as was the case in the areas where the famine hit the hardest. Food actually moved out of those areas because people could not afford to buy it, and to places where people could afford to buy it. This happens due to the "market mechanism", but it does rely on production of commodities of course.

sphinx
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Apr 7 2007 11:53

I work in a patent office and have torrents running off my work computer, heh.

If anyone else works in the industry it would be interesting to open up an inquiry about its inner workings. MJ and I had some conversations about this awhile back and he looked at intellectual property as a rent levyed on firms in order to spur technological development. I'm going to quote him (hope that's ok):

"It goes something like this: capital regulates the markets to strengthen its socialized form by using the state to guarantee rents on the use of novel technologies (therefore ultimately novel labor processes), placing an incentive on innovation which exceeds that which would be parcelled out by market exchange. This regulation requires an army of highly-paid technicians to argue against each other in courts. The high aggregate cost of sponsoring this process is presumably worth it to capital: we haven't yet heard politicians denouncing parasitic patent lawyers. So a chunk of rent extracted by (mostly monopoly-oriented) capitals is given to those technicians, who in turn pool together into firms and externalize their low-skill tasks onto a shared pool of service and clerical workers. So the earnings of these workers are THIRD HAND RENT. "

Working in Japan, patents are levyed on production processes, consumer technology etc. at a fantastic rate. For instance, I translated a patent about a device that makes it possible for a component loader to be operated from either side. In other words, a button was added to the other side of the machine. Pretty fucking ordinary right? But patents like that are filed in droves, becoming 'tama' (eggs), which are accumulated and accumulated by the industry giants such as Sony, Matsushita, Canon etc., who then meet at the end of the year and haggle over gross compensation for patent infringement or usage of techniques. So the extra button on the component loader (depending on its range of use) could add a bit of claim or offset a claim from another corporation for whatever amount of cash. For that reason, as well as the increasing digitalization of all patent-related processes (at the US patent office and the EU too), patents are being filed at an unprecedented rate, especially from Japan into other technology markets (to the extent that the USPTO has recently had to change its entire operation around in order to cope with the massive inflow of patent applications). The leverage that companies hold over intellectual property rights allows them to collect significant royalties abroad. So in this sense, not only is the national patent system a way for a national state to spur innovation and therefore capital investment, but it is also indistinguishable from a national strategy of capital that jostles for property rights abroad.

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Apr 9 2007 18:00
atlemk wrote:
Quote:
I'm a bit bemused by this statement, myself.
perhaps it is a reference to the artificially imposed and maintained scarcities and inequalities that make 'the market' function the way it does. I can't seriously believe anyone can say that the market mechanism itself creates scarcity.

Read some Amartya Sen on famines, especially on the Ethiopian one in the 1980s. That is a clear example of the normal workings of the market created scarcity and famine in certain areas. During famines there is usually never a shortage of food, as was the case in the areas where the famine hit the hardest. Food actually moved out of those areas because people could not afford to buy it, and to places where people could afford to buy it. This happens due to the "market mechanism", but it does rely on production of commodities of course.

Haven't posted in a while, nor read most of the new posts, but the structural excess created by markets should be brought to everyone's attention also.

Mike Harman
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Apr 9 2007 23:46
Guilt wrote:
Actually, the GPL doesn't prohibit you from selling Free Software at any price you can get people to pay. The problem lies in convincing people to pay for something they can easily download for free.

And that's the beauty of it.

Antieverything
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Apr 14 2007 21:53

Sorry to take so long to respond...

Quote:
Well, I said Copyright Law creates an artificial scarcity, that Corporations use to generate profit, which is what I think Commodity was referring to.

True enough...but that isn't the market, its a result of state intervention in the market.

Quote:
Read some Amartya Sen on famines, especially on the Ethiopian one in the 1980s. That is a clear example of the normal workings of the market created scarcity and famine in certain areas. During famines there is usually never a shortage of food, as was the case in the areas where the famine hit the hardest. Food actually moved out of those areas because people could not afford to buy it, and to places where people could afford to buy it. This happens due to the "market mechanism", but it does rely on production of commodities of course.

An excellent example, indeed. However, I would argue, that these are examples not of a general failure of the market mechanism but rather of groups not integrated into the money economy being unable to participate in the money-driven market for food. This is in no way evidence that a money-driven market economy in which cash and the sort of assets which correspond to cash value are somewhat equitably distributed wouldn't efficiently allocate resources, food included. Again, all this shows is that those without money are excluded from markets...it doesn't show that the market mechanism in and of itself isn't exceptionally useful and efficient for allocating goods and services.

I don't think the problem is either markets or money but rather the historical context that determines how these institutions are implemented.

Marx intentionally distorted the degree to which the transition from feudalism to capitalism represented the expansion of power by the same old group of elites...(instead he proclaimed antagonisms between the systems of exploitation). While he definitely accounted for primitive accumulation, he focused more on the 'inevitable' development of huge wealth disparities by the market mechanism itself...a story contemporary proponents of capitalism readily promote as it attributes the rise of capitalism to the industriousness of particular individuals.

It can be argued that Marx willfully distorted the historical facts in order to promote his historical theory...de-emphasizing the role of state intervention in producing the huge concentrations of wealth that made industrialization possible. In so doing Marx forwards a view of capitalism that mostly attributes its rise to purely economic forces. Such a perspective may be tempting in its simplicity but it fails to sufficiently account for both cultural and military dimensions of the history of capitalism.

The dislocation of the European peasantry, for example, was not a product of "market forces" sweeping a new elite in its wake as much as it was a militaristic power-grab by elites already in place.

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Apr 15 2007 09:07
Quote:
An excellent example, indeed. However, I would argue, that these are examples not of a general failure of the market mechanism but rather of groups not integrated into the money economy being unable to participate in the money-driven market for food.

Amartya Sen (a very mainstream economist) is in no doubt that it is the market mechanism that creates the problem of famines. He argues that the problem is of loosing control over food by not having entitlements (which includes money, any trinkets, land, cattle etc.) or work. Proletarianization is a huge problem, if a famine comes your way you're in trouble.

Quote:
This is in no way evidence that a money-driven market economy in which cash and the sort of assets which correspond to cash value are somewhat equitably distributed wouldn't efficiently allocate resources, food included. Again, all this shows is that those without money are excluded from markets...it doesn't show that the market mechanism in and of itself isn't exceptionally useful and efficient for allocating goods and services.

It's true that there is probably no evidence of this, but you are referring to some abstract market that does neither exist in real life nor ontologically. If wealth was distributed equally and the production of commodities did not exist then I'll agree with you. The problem is that we have commodity production, which includes food, and those commodities are distributed via the market. Under capitalism markets (the capitalist ones, not the actual markets where people meet and trade goods) are supposed to exclude people, this is how scarcity is produced!!!

Quote:
I don't think the problem is either markets or money but rather the historical context that determines how these institutions are implemented.

I agree with an analysis of markets and money needs to be grounded in the historical context, but I do not believe that just focusing on markets or money in isolation will yield much. "The market mechanism" or the market does not exist in isolation antieverything. This is exactly what analytical philosophy and mainstream economics wants us to believe (markets are natural, markets need no interference, markets are the most efficient distribution mechanism). Markets always interface with whatever way exchange occurs be it through gift-giving or commodity exchange - the market mechanism does change on the basis of this.

I think you are confusing free exchange and markets, though similar and very different things.

Quote:
It can be argued that Marx willfully distorted the historical facts in order to promote his historical theory...de-emphasizing the role of state intervention in producing the huge concentrations of wealth that made industrialization possible. In so doing Marx forwards a view of capitalism that mostly attributes its rise to purely economic forces. Such a perspective may be tempting in its simplicity but it fails to sufficiently account for both cultural and military dimensions of the history of capitalism.

I think this is a very problematic reading of Marx. Marx was not a reductionist like analytical philosophers. His narrative of the advent of capitalism is a bit more sophisticated than just referring to economic forces.

Antieverything
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Apr 15 2007 18:00
Quote:
Amartya Sen...is in no doubt that it is the market mechanism that creates the problem of famines. He argues that the problem is of loosing control over food by not having entitlements (which includes money, any trinkets, land, cattle etc.) or work. Proletarianization is a huge problem, if a famine comes your way you're in trouble.

Take out the word "market" and you've pretty much summed up exactly what I was trying to argue...its funny how differently we would begin that paragraph!

The problem of proletarianization and the problem of the market mechanism are not the same thing, that's the point I was trying to make. Proletarianization is always a result of state intervention in the economy. I know this may sound controversial at first but hear me out. Obviously, families lose their land due to 'economic conditions' all the time--the temporary or habitual inability to be competitive in the market. At the same time, the process of capitalist accumulation historically was initiated by an unabashed land-grab by existing landowners who saw an opportunity to unilaterally dissolve traditional system of communal and mixed private-communal land use. Capitalism didn't get its jump-start through the natural development of a competitive economy (what Marx focused on) but through the emergence of a new state power created to uphold a new social relation--private property. And this new thing called private property was not simply the negation of communal land-holding--merely the transition to a competitive system where former peasants would get 'bought out' by their more industrious former neighbors.

This new property relation was unique not because of its individualist character, but rather because it is absolutely exclusive and in perpetuity. Family plots of land are not necessarily capitalist nor do they necessarily contain the roots of capitalism. Capitalism and the massive accumulations of wealth that enable it would not be possible simply because economically distinguished individuals were operating a system of exchange based on a competitive price mechanism (a market).

Rather--and this is the central point of my argument--such an accumulation was made possible by something other than the 'private' aspect of 'private property': namely the way in which it is fundamentally based on a ubiquitous apparatus of state violence in order to maintain the artificial division between ownership on one hand, and occupancy and use on the other hand. Simply put, without the state, one couldn't possibly acquire more land than one could occupy or work. Capitalist private property can best be understood as a deepening of feudal landlord rights...the "right", for instance, to tax people for existing.

Antieverything
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Apr 15 2007 18:14
Quote:
...but you are referring to some abstract market that does neither exist in real life nor ontologically

That's precisely what I would say about the overly-economistic approach I see in Marx (although it isn't nearly as bad in Marx as it is among Marxists). I suppose my point is that it seems a bit ridiculous talking about a labor market and the humanitarian failures thereof, for example, when said market is operating within the context of a legacy of historical violence of absolutely jaw-dropping proportions...primitive accumulation in Europe and raw unmasked imperialist aggression (the conquest of 'the new world' for instance) are disturbingly similar historical phenomena.

Antieverything
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Joined: 27-02-07
Apr 15 2007 18:25
Quote:
I think this is a very problematic reading of Marx. Marx was not a reductionist like analytical philosophers. His narrative of the advent of capitalism is a bit more sophisticated than just referring to economic forces.

True enough. But like 'markets' Marx didn't operate in a vacuum...some of the competing socialist thinkers at the time (and Marx definitely saw it as a competition for influence more than truth) were focusing primarily on the roots of capitalism in state violence. Marx needed to differentiate himself...and to do so in a grandiose, authoritative fashion. The major way he distinguished himself from other socialists is through his economic-historical theory.

Of course, the sort of historical violence I'm talking about figures rather prominently in Marx's account of the formation of industrial capitalism...as well as his descriptions of colonialism. The difference isn't that vast...Its just a matter of telling a story in slightly different ways and in doing so coming to two different morals.

I've read that Marx grossly misjudged the composition of the industrial bourgeoisie, for instance...modern historical research has uncovered that this "new ascendant class" was more of a direct continuation of the old feudal aristocracy...capitalism wasn't so much the imposition of a new class relation as the deepening of an already existing one...from feudalism to a system of land ownership where the landlord's power extends to every aspect of how land is used instead of the mere ability to tax the product.