Thursday, October 24, 2013

Elite Theory

Where does power lie and who controls policy? This is a key question within political science, and one with much disagreement over. One group is the pluralists. Pluralists argue that power is distributed among competing interest groups striving to control policy, either mediated by the state or with the state as its own autonomous entity in this fight. Pluralists argue that, through this competition of interest groups, the will of the people can be expressed. In contrast, class theorists argue that it there are stratified classes within society and that those in the upper classes control policy, but have to contend with the lower classes through class conflict. This is the analysis of Marx and many class theorists are marxian theorists, though not always marxists.

Then there is elite theory. According to elite theory, there are a small number of "elites" who control policy and the state. These elites can be government officials, people of prestigious families, leaders within corporations, or people with powerful social influence, such as preachers. Usually, they are more than one of those. For example, Ted Kennedy was a US Senator for nearly 50 years (making him a governmental official) and was a member of the Kennedy family (making him a member of a prestigious family). While people can rise to join the elite, such as, to continue the running example of the Kennedy family, P J Kennedy, grandfather of JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Ted Kennedy, managed to rise from obscurity to become a US Representative then later US Senator and became adept at playing the internal politics of Boston, those who are already the elite or have family within the elite can more easily gain and use power thanks to greater education, more money, family and personal connections, and education of the inner workings of the state and other bodies of power, often since an early age. While the elite do not necessarily agree, they are the only ones with power and they are the ones who control the system. In fact, the masses are often excluded entirely from the decision making.

Now, this does not mean there is some conspiracy of elites who are necessarily in cahoots with each other and control things in secret. Indeed, oftentimes the elites exert their influence openly. In addition, the elites are not necessarily unified.

This also does not mean that the excluded group can never exert any influence. Indeed, elite theory recognizes the existence of "counter-elites" through whom the disenfranchised can negotiate with the elites. However, the excluded group do not have any power nor do they participate in the making of policy.

Elite theorists see the US, and other western nations claiming to be democracies, as not truly democratic because the people don't have true influence on who is in power or policy making. While this may seem to deny the existence of voting for public officials or more direct democratic initiatives where the people themselves vote for policy. However, elite theorists argue that the choices that the voters have are limited. When we choose between two senators, both of them are "pre-screened" by the elite and the choices are limited to those who the elites want or are at least ok with. This often means that the voter is choosing between two elites themselves or just between two people who can be controlled by elites. On occasion, one of the choices will be rising elites, like P J Kennedy in 1884 when he successfully ran for the House of Representatives. With direct democratic initiatives, they are written by or at least approved by the elite. The choices become remaining in the status quo, which, while not necessarily in the interests of the elite, definitely preserving the power of the elite, or choosing something the elite want or don't mind. This is not the same as having power or choices.

Now, one might wonder why sometimes policies which don't benefit the elites or actively hurt the elites can happen if the elites truly control policy. This is a complicated issue and one without a single answer. There are many reasons why this might happen.

One obvious reason is that the policy might actually benefit the elite, and it's only perceived as not benefitting the elite. One example I can think of is a progressive income tax. While the progressive income tax appears to hurt the elite, since the vast majority of the elite are rich and a progressive taxation system taxes the rich more than the poor, it actually comes with benefits to the elite. If we were to switch to a flat tax or a sales tax, both of which disproportionately hurt the poor, the rich benefit from a functioning state, and flat or sales taxes makes it more difficult to continue having a functioning state, so the progressive income tax helps them by keeping the state functioning.

Another reason is that the elite aren't perfectly rational and don't necessarily want what is in their best interests. In addition, sometimes the elites don't know what is in their best interests, so they fight for a solution that hurts them.

Still another reason is that the elite aren't homogeneous and don't have one voice and one interest. What might hurt one elite helps another. A high progressive income tax clearly helps a senator who's salary depends on a functioning state more than the CEO of a corporation.

Finally, there is the existence of counter-elites and threats from the masses. One of the key examples of this is the New Deal. The Great Depression hurt the masses greatly, and negative feelings arose among them. Many were radicalised and a radical sentiment grew within the masses. There was a growing danger that the elite would be taken out of power through a revolution similar to what happened in Russia. Because of this danger, FDR, who was a member of the elites as a member of the Roosevelt family, growing up in a monied atmosphere, married to a member of the Roosevelt family (far enough removed that there was no danger of anything bad related to incest) who was the niece of former president Teddy Roosevelt, and a former senator and governor. However, he recognized the danger of a communist revolution, and, in his desire to save capitalism, he instituted the New Deal. The New Deal helped the masses immensely. While the Great Depression wasn't completely ended by it (that would be the almost corporatist economics instituted during World War II), it did alleviate many of the ill affects to the poor and helped lessen it at the expense of the elites. Not all elites recognized the importance of this to their power, and many called him a class traitor. However, the power of the elites was maintained.

Now, there are surely other ways for such policies to happen, but all of them must eventually go through the elite and happen because the elite want them to happen.

Now, the power of the elites can crumble. This often happens in revolutions. In the French Revolution, the aristocracy lost its power thanks to the masses rising up and killing them or kicking them out of the country. This didn't lead to an end to elites, though, and new elites soon cropped up. These destruction of the power of the elites almost always comes from below, and sometimes through the counter-elites, though they often benefit from the current structure since it gives them power, too, even if they don't have any actual control over policy.

But what does this all mean for anarchism?

The most important thing about this is that the power of elites and hierarchy in general cannot be destroyed from within. The elites are the ones benefiting from their power and from hierarchy, and they are the ones who control the system. They are not, or will very rarely, willingly give up that power. This is why revolution is necessary.

The other lesson from this is that we need to be cautious of the rise of elites and design whatever society we create from the shell of the old in such a way that elites cannot form.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Political Dada

So much time and effort is put into acting politically. We engage in political protests, vote in political elections, and fight in political revolutions. That's all well and good, but what does that actually change? Well, a lot, but not some of the most fundamental political assumptions. The French Revolution made leaders elected, but it didn't remove leaders. The Russian Revolution made production nationalized, but it didn't free us from production. Voting is worse. It doesn't even cause major changes, let alone systemic ones.

What's the problem here? Everyone still takes political institutions so seriously that we could never take them away. As long as people think that these institutions are Serious, Important Things™, they will always exist. No amount of protests, voting, and revolution can change that.

But what can change that? Political Dada. Just as the Dadaist mocked art and tried to create stupid, horrible pieces of art to show how art can be stupid and horrible, we should create mockeries of institutions and belittle and make fun of them. It's not merely enough, for example, to not vote for any candidate. We need to call for the election of the Power of Love, or stand in line all day on voting day, but never vote, rather going to the back of the line when you finish. We can't just tear down advertisements and condemn corporations. We need to create horrible advertisements or modify existing ones to make them bad. We should add a Hitler stache to models on billboards, or change Wallmart's logo to just say Wall.

Mockeries make are fun and fundamentally undermine the seriousness and significance of political institutions allowing for them to be abolished altogether.

The General Eh

Anarcho-syndicalism, for all its flaws, does contain within it a radical idea. Specifically within the idea of the General Strike. The idea is this: What if everyone stopped working all at once? Isn't that a wonderful idea? Everyone just refusing to work. However, past that, things veer off course when they introduce the demand that the industries be handed over to them so that they can return to work. However, I wish to rescue this brilliant nugget with my own proposal: The General Eh.

So how does the General Eh differ from the General Strike? Whereas, in the General Strike, the workers make demands of their employers to get back to work, in the General Eh, no demands are made. No longer working is the goal of the General Eh. Whereas, in the General Strike,  the workers get up and fight for their workplace, in the General Eh, everyone just stays at home. People stop being workers and do their own thing. They renounce the authority of the state and the necessity of their jobs. They sleep in. They plant gardens or have dinner in a field with their loved ones. They fight back, if the capitalists try and force them back to work, or if the police try to force them to obey the law, but they aren't fighting to get something because they already have everything they want. Everyone becomes free in an instant merely by deciding to walk away. That is the General Eh. It's the General Strike for those who think that's too much work, and, indeed, too much like the job they stop working at.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Beginnings of a Comprehensive Economic Theory: Economic Crisis, Especially in Capitalism

What causes an economic crisis? I'm not certain, but, given what I've investigated so far, I'm inclined to think it is an imbalance in the three struggles. Indeed, imbalance in one of the struggles leads to imbalance in at least one other, if not both. If the buyer start winning the struggle between buyer and seller, profits fall, which companies turn into laying off workers allowing them to lower wages. One company dominating a market leads to high prices and low wages, since they need hire less people to produce the same amount thanks to economics of scale, though profits soar. Bosses starting to crush workers leads to lower wages, which means that the companies can't sell as much. Sellers winning out on prices more, but causes buyers to stop buying, so the sellers begin losing, and the buyers start winning. Workers winning out over bosses causes bosses to rise prices to compensate for high wages and fire a lot of workers, which causes them to dominate the seller-buyer struggle.

Notice how in all of those, the workers and buyers are hurt far more than the companies which employ them and sell to them.

A good example of a worker crisis is the stagflation in the 70s. Unions gained a lot of power. In response, bosses raised prices and culled workers. This was termed stagflation, and is exactly what should happen when unions gain power.

Our current recession is a boss crisis caused by a buyer crisis, which expanded with the boss crisis, caused by a seller crisis, otherwise known as a clusterfuck. The housing bubble was caused by sellers lying to buyers to convince them to buy. As that kept going and going, they made a ton of money. However, the lie got exposed, and buyers stopped wanting to buy. This caused the companies to quickly lose a lot of money. This meant they started firing workers to lower wages. As they did so, people stopped buying elsewhere, so other markets were forced to fire workers to lower wages and earn less.

Beginnings of a Comprehensive Economic Theory: Worker-Boss Struggle

I'd like to focus on each of the three struggles individually. While each is broadly the same, the devil is in the details, so the details it is.

Now, before we begin, there needs to be some way to measure this struggle for us to even hope to study it. Luckily, there are a couple, depending on certain factors. If a currency is backed by something, like, say, gold, then wages are the best measure. When wages are high, the workers have a lot of power. When wages are low, the bosses have a lot of power. If a currency is fiat, then inflation is a better measure. When wages rise, bosses need to raise prices, if they want to continue to make money. In reality, inflation under a fiat currency is measuring wages, but it is aggregate so it's a better method. (This is the part I'm most unsure about and the part that will go through many revisions in the future. Any way to improve this part any of you can think of can go in the comments. Thank you.)

In addition, there are many ways for one side to have power over the other. One basic thing is unemployment. When unemployment is high, the bosses have power since they can always find new workers, so they can fire workers with impunity. The opposite is true of low unemployment.

Of course, not everything can work like unemployment, and will only grant one side power. For example, unions can only really grant power to workers.

On the side of the bosses, they have similar organizing. The difference is theirs is institutionalized. The organizational structure of the company itself is the organization that empowers the bosses.

In addition, regardless of how they feel about each other outside of this struggle, all bosses are allies in this struggle and all workers are allies in this struggle. Workers who gain power encourage those who don't to unionize and fight for more power, just because they can see the other workers winning, which is inspiring.

That's why companies don't encourage workers of the companies they compete with to unionize. This is also why unions often strike when other unions strike in a show of solidarity and bosses share troublemakers with each other creating blacklists.

This creates inefficiency in a number of ways. First and foremost is strikes. That's time, energy, and resources being put into the struggle rather than elsewhere. Second is systemic unemployment. That's labor that could go somewhere productive, but isn't going anywhere. Third is the resources bosses use to regulate and control the workers.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


There is much contention on the topic of civilization. Some support it. Some militantly oppose it. Some see it as inescapable. But what is civilization?

Indeed, much of the debate between pro and anti-civ comes down to definitions. On the anti-civ side, some define it as "mass society" which has always expressed itself in the form of some sort of empire with internal hierarchies. Some see urban planning and division of labor as key to it. On the pro-civ side, some see it as the combination of all human activity. Some see it as everything beyond the advent of agriculture. Some see it as society with at least one ceremonial center, a system of writing, and at least one city.

But are any of them right? Civilization was, originally, used by Europeans to set themselves apart from the "barbaric" rest of the world. In a sense, it is still used that way. When we talk of civilization, we talk of something above "barbarism" and "primitive" cultures. We talk of land that haven't been invaded by the Western Civilization™, such as deep in the Amazon.

But what sets us apart from the "barbaric" or "primitive" cultures? Many anti-civ proponents would say states, but were there not miniature states in some, though not all, so called primitive cultures? Many pro-civ proponents would say technology, but this is laughable. Spears are technology. As is fire. As is clothes. Are those not things that the cultures outside of civilization have?

So what does set us apart? That's simple: Nothing. "Civilization" is just a term used by a culture to declare itself above all the rest. But they aren't. Civilization is not fundamentally different from "barbaric" or "primitive" cultures. That is to say, there is no such thing as civilization.

So I'm not pro-civ. I'm not anti-civ. I'm a civilization denier.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fuck the Closet

I am not in the closet about my sexuality. I never have been. I never told anyone I'm straight. I never pretended I wasn't attracted to men and women. Anyone who has ever thought I was straight either jumped to conclusions or wasn't paying attention to my actions. This is how it should be.

So often people encourage members of gender or sexual minorities to come out of the closet. We act like every gay person has to come out at some point. Fuck that shit. We shouldn't encourage coming out of the closet. We should burn the closet to the ground. We should never sit in the closet to begin with, excepting cases in which ones identity could lead to them being killed. Live outside the closet, even if you never tell anyone your gender or sexuality. If they think you're straight or cisgender, then fuck them. You're not the one living in a closet. They are hiding. Not from you. Not from the world. Not from themselves. Not like those of us who are a part of gender or sexual minorities. No. They are hiding from truth. They think that they can just sit in their closet and pretend like your sexuality or gender doesn't exist. They think they can sit in their closet and pretend that everyone, unless otherwise noted, is straight. Fuck them. They are the ones living a life cut off from reality. They are the ones hiding.

So don't come out of the closet. Light a molotov and burn the closet to the fucking ground.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Empathetic Pangs

I was driving to class, today, and, in the middle of the road, I saw the corpse of an animal that was hit by a car. I felt horrible, like someone had wrenched my heart out of my chest. This wasn't a new feeling. It's a feeling I feel when I see someone sitting alone and crying. It's a feeling I feel when I hear about people being killed in warzones. It's a feeling I feel when I see the picture of the screaming child sitting in the ruined city of Hiroshima after it was nuked. It's not always as strong or weak, but the basic feeling is the same.

There's a similar feeling I feel, too. This one I feel when I see someone smiling or friends having a good time. This makes me feel energized and happy.

But is it a similar feeling? I don't think so. I think it's the same feeling, just in the opposite direction. This is caused by empathy.

Empathy is the ability to feel what others are feeling. You see someone in pain, and you feel the pain. Empathy is one of the strongest mental forces we have, perhaps dwarfed by the instinct to survive.

When one gets overwhelmed by a bad feeling very suddenly because of empathy, I call this feeling an empathetic pang. The opposite feeling is a negative empathetic pang.

These pangs and negative pangs are often mislabeled as morality. They are "just" empathy, and that's all morality is, empathetic pangs mistaken as something else. I put just in quotes because I see nothing trivial about empathy. Empathy isn't something to brush off or ignore.

This is why I get baffled by people who say "If morality is 'just' emotional feelings, why should I care?" This makes me wonder if they have ever felt emotion. Emotion drives us. Emotion gives us the reasons to do shit. Emotion can feel great or horrible. You should care because it is your emotions.

So next time you feel an empathetic pang, remember that this is what people are talking about when they call something morally wrong. That feeling is the very essence of morality.

Friday, October 4, 2013

More Bullshit of the Tea Party and Anarchists

Elizabeth warren just did a piece calling tea partiers, or "extremist republicans," anarchists.

"If you watch the anarchist tirades coming from extremist Republicans in the House, you'd think they believe that the government that governs best is a government that doesn't exist at all." Yes. The government that governs best is the government that doesn't exist at all. Governments exist to protect the rich and capitalism. Without the state, the proletariat could be free from the shackles of oppression.

" When was the last time the anarchy gang called for regulators to go easier on companies that put lead in children's toys? Or for inspectors to stop checking whether the meat in our grocery stores is crawling with deadly bacteria? Or for the FDA to ignore whether morning sickness drugs will cause horrible deformities in our babies?" And no actual anarchist would advocate that. Do we want lead in children's toys? Or meat to have bacteria? Or a morning sickness drug to lead to deformed babies? No, fuck that, but the state isn't the solution. The state is supporting the problem. All of those are problems in the capitalist mode of production that leads to myopic and irrational egoism leading to the capitalists forcing the workers to slave on things that could kill those workers themselves, and will remain a problem only as long as capitalism still functions. And capitalism needs a state.

"After the sequester kicked in, Republicans immediately turned around and called on us to protect funding for our national defense and to keep our air traffic controllers on the job." Of course! It's cause they aren't anarchists.

"Government is real, and it has three basic functions:

"1. Provide for the national defense.
"2. Put rules in place rules, like traffic lights and bank regulations, that are fair and transparent.
"3. Build the things together that none of us can build alone – roads, schools, power grids – the things that give everyone a chance to succeed."

This appears to be the heart of the essay. We need government for national defense, regulating capitalism, and making things together. I'll deal with the second claim first.

"2. Put rules in place rules, like traffic lights and bank regulations, that are fair and transparent." Of course, capitalist banks, if unregulated, can do horrible things and destroy the economy, but capitalist banks only exist on the back of help from the state. If the state didn't uphold the monopoly on banks and the state supported media hold the proletariat back with their propaganda, worker banks, owned and run by the workers, would quickly spring up and out compete the capitalist banks. When the revolution succeeds, for it has always been here, the abolition of money will destroy the foundation upon which the banks stand. Capitalism needs the state. If we abolished the state, we wouldn't need the state to regulate the capitalist banks.

"1. Provide for the national defense." This, surprisingly to most, doesn't need the state. In times of need, militias spring up, and non-hierarchical armies can form. People don't need to be told to defend themselves.

"3. Build the things together that none of us can build alone – roads, schools, power grids – the things that give everyone a chance to succeed." This is just insulting to people. It's saying we can't cooperate and work together without a boss telling us what to do. We can discuss and work toward consensus and create and maintain roads, schools, and power grids on our own, thank you very much. Children can run their schools. Communities can fix their roads. Societies can maintain electricity. We don't need bosses to tell us any of that.

" These things did not appear by magic. In each instance, we made a choice as a people to come together. We made that choice because we wanted to be a country with a foundation that would allow anyone to have a chance to succeed." Actually, no. People like you made the choices for us.

" The Food and Drug Administration makes sure that the white pills we take are antibiotics and not baking soda. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration oversees crash tests to make sure our new cars have functioning brakes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission makes sure that babies' car seats don't collapse in a crash and that toasters don't explode." And why would companies do that? Oh, yeah. Capitalistic greed and its warped egoism puts making money above all else, leading people to make shit and market it as good. Without the capitalist mode of production and without money, that won't fucking happen.

"We are alive, we are healthier, we are stronger because of government. Alive, healthier, stronger because of what we did together." Fuck that. We have more empty homes than homeless people because the government protects the claims by banks to those homes. We have people starving on the street because the government backs companies forcing those in need to pay money for their necessities. We have huge income inequalities because the government protects corporations. We have workers being oppressed in factories because the government protects the capitalists' claims to the factories. We aren't healthier or stronger. We're crippled and oppressed.

"We are not a country of anarchists. We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is, 'I've got mine, the rest of you are on your own.' We are not a country that tolerates dangerous drugs, unsafe meat, dirty air, or toxic mortgages." Wow. How anarchist. Such critique. You know what some actual anarchist slogans are? "All power to the soviets." "From each according to ability, to each according to need." "An injury to one of us is an injury to all of us." "No gods. No masters." "It is the liberty that is the mother, not the daughter, of order.” “To be governed is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so . . .”

"We are not a country of anarchists. [...] We are not that nation. We have never been that nation. And we never will be that nation." Tell that to the members of the IWW, which, for a time, was the biggest union in the US. Tell that to Josiah Warren, who predates even Proudhon. Tell that to the Haymarket 8, who were persecuted for their anarchism. Tell that to Benjamin Tucker and his periodical "Liberty." Tell that to the protestors at the G20 conference in Seattle in the late 1990s. We are lovers of liberty, and anarchism is the truest expression of liberty.

Do not be so quick to label reactionary populists anarchists. We despise them as much as you do, if not more.

Homesteading and Seizing the Means of Production

Murray Rothbard, revolutionary anarchist and socialist, put it best: All Power to the Soviets. No. Really.

The argument goes that only justly acquired, through homesteading or trade from those who justly acquired it, property can be held to the standards of property. Thus, if someone steals unjustly acquired property, that person has done nothing wrong. As a result, property that has been unjustly acquired is not property at all.

Now, what does it mean if it isn't property at all? Well, it means the property is ripe for homesteading, and the only ones who are mixing their labor with the "property" in the workplace are the workers. Thus, the workers, not the capitalists, are the just owners.

All Power to the Soviets, indeed.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Interacting with Children

A lot of people don't know how to interact with children, specifically I'm talking kids younger than, say, 10, though this applies more broadly to whoever the person considers to "not be an adult". It isn't all that hard, though, just not obvious to many.

What you do is you treat them like everyone else. End of story. You don't talk down to them. You don't exercise authority over them. They are people, not things. Treat them like people.