The House Always Wins

March 23, 2009

To justify labor contracts, we need to look at them from a new point of view. We need to see them as wagers. For example, you do not exchange title to your body and its labor for money. Instead, you make a bet with your employer. You bet that you will work for the employer and he bets that you won’t. You risk nothing except your reputation for promise-keeping (which you don’t own anyway) and the transformations that you make to the employer’s property that result from any labor that you may perform at his request. The employer risks paying you money (wages) and other benefits, and capital investment. If you perform the services as prescribed by the terms of the bet (employment contract) then the employer “loses,” and the wages that he wagered (note the similarity between these two words) and the other benefits he risked become your property and the transformations that you made to his property by the labor that you performed become the employer’s property. If you decide not to work for the employer (if you quit your job) then you lose (or fail to gain) title to whatever wages and benefits were detailed in the terms of the bet.

Roy Halliday, “The Gambling-Stakes Paradigm for Loans and Labor Contracts”


With all due respect to Halliday, whose essay is otherwise very good, this is just another example of the bizarre metaphors some people feel compelled to create to avoid simply describing work as it is: cooperation. Read the rest of this entry »


Life on Mars

March 7, 2009

In a recent post by Cork, he quotes the following from Rothbard:

But more deep than that is the fact that Karl [Hess] after having been an anarcho-capitalist for some time shifted over to become an anarcho-communist or anarcho-syndicalist. I don’t really see any basis for collaboration between the two groups, because even if we are both against the existing state, they would very quickly come up with another state. I don’t think you can be an anarcho-communist or an anarcho-syndicalist. You know if the commune runs everything, and decides for everything, whether it is a neighborhood commune or a mass country commune – it really does not matter in this case, somebody’s got to make the communal decision. You can’t tell me that you’ll have participatory democracy and that everybody is going to equally participate. There is obviously going to be a small group, the officiating board or the statistical administrative board or whatever they want to call it, whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be the same damn group making decisions for everybody. In other words, it’s going to be a coercive decision for the collective property. It will be another state again, as far as I can see. So I really can’t see any basis for collaboration. That is really part of a broader analysis of the communist versus the individualist position.

However, I see a big blind spot in the logic here. It operates from the view that in an anarcho-capitalist society, all interactions will be market interactions and that there will be nothing approaching the social anarchist’s “preferred institutions”. There won’t be “a small group of elites controlling and planning the economy”. But what about the firm? Is the firm not a large part of life? Read the rest of this entry »

Paper Bags

March 1, 2009

The following is my “blog intro” submission to LeftLiberty #1:

Others offer you the spectacle of genius wresting Nature’s secrets from her, and unfolding before you her sublime messages; you will find here only a series of experiments upon justice and right a sort of verification of the weights and measures of your conscience. The operations shall be conducted under your very eyes; and you shall weigh the result.

– P.J. Proudhon, What is Property?

Instead of a blog, being much too busy to write one, I am trying to wrestle out of the paper bag of, as Shawn Wilbur put it, “defending a poorly defined territory against equally ill-defined invaders”. If I succeed in breaking out, it will be through systematic thinking about the topics that interest me: property and contracts, labor-management, non-state forms of oppression, autonomy-respecting assistance and development, the foundations of ethics, law, reciprocity and immanent justice. If we succeed in breaking out as an alliance, it will be because we have chosen the harsh, critical light over the safe darkness of our canards and herrings; we will have found our conatus.