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August 27, 2008


Kevin Carson

As technological change ends the ability of IP-based business models to suppress peer production and distribution in software and entertainment, and as order of magnitude decreases in the cost of desktop machine tools make household and informal increasingly cheap and feasible as a source of subsistence compared to wage labor, we're approaching a singularity where the capitalist economy will no longer be able to compete with the socialist (i.e. self-organized) one.


"Let’s define socialism as Norm does"; let's not. That way madness lies.

Bob B

Wot, no mention of Joe Stiglitz: "Whither Socialism?" (MIT Press, 1994)?

chris strange

Defining socialism as Norm does makes Margaret Thatcher one of the most important figures for getting this society closer to his socialism. For example she transfered huge amounts of assets away from the control of the remote class of bureaucrats and into the hands of individuals to help them pursue their own courses.

Brad Spangler

I'm surprised Kevin didn't note this because his work has been so crucial to me coming to this conclusion...

It all boils down to what Marx called "primitive accumulation" -- using government to rip people off, thus creating a politically favored ruling class with grossly disproportionate bargaining power in the market place, but not as a result of any actual market process -- continuing in a myriad subtle forms on an ongoing basis.

Bob B

Chris Strange: "[Margaret Thatcher] transfered huge amounts of assets away from the control of the remote class of bureaucrats and into the hands of individuals to help them pursue their own courses."

Without comment, I quote from the Wikipedia entry for Harold Macmillan:

"Macmillan is commonly thought to have likened Thatcher's policy of privatisation to 'selling the family silver'. In fact what he did say (at a dinner of the Tory Reform Group at the Royal Overseas League on 8 November 1985) was that the sale of assets was commonplace amongst individuals or states when they encountered financial difficulties: 'First of all the Georgian silver goes. And then all that nice furniture that used to be in the salon. Then the Canalettos go.' Profitable parts of the steel industry and the railways had been privatised, along with British Telecom: 'They were like two Rembrandts still left.' Macmillan's speech was much commented on and a few days later Macmillan made a speech in the House of Lords to clarify what he had meant:

"'When I ventured the other day to criticise the system I was, I am afraid, misunderstood. As a Conservative, I am naturally in favour of returning into private ownership and private management all those means of production and distribution which are now controlled by state capitalism. I am sure they will be more efficient. What I ventured to question was the using of these huge sums as if they were income.'

"In 1984 he finally accepted a peerage and was created Earl of Stockton and Viscount Macmillan of Ovenden. In the last month of his life, he observed:

"'Sixty-three years ago ... the unemployment figure (in Stockton-on-Tees) was then 29%. Last November ... the unemployment (there) is 28%. A rather sad end to one's life.'"

For another perspective of how Mrs T's privatization programme came about, try Simon Jenkins's book: Thatcher & Sons (Penguin, 2006):

Curiously, in 1997 Gordon Brown transferred the onus of setting Bank Rate from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a bunch of faceless economists sitting in conclave as the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England.


What on earth does Tony Blair's Vicar On Earth know about socialism(s) anyhow?


"But leave this massively important point aside."

And not come back to it? Leaving this aside makes a mockery of the rest of the post, doesn't it?

Certainly both "village cricket leagues" and village markets are viable examples of socialism by this definition. "The question: can we extend these models to larger organizations" seems a bit lame, doesn't it?


Improbable - any proper form of socialism will use markets, probably more so than hierarchical capitalism does.
This point is so obvious that I took it for granted.

Andrew Duffin

An important bit of norm's definition has been missed out, changing the whole emphasis imho. his original ends with "...on the basis and within the limits of some agreed area of common ground and public good".

These are the weasel words, of course, which permit coercion, the enforcement of conformance, punishment for differences, and ultimately the Gulags.

Discussing norm's view while leaving this bit out seems a bit too selective to me. Its actual on-our-backs meaning in terms of how socialism pans out in practice is vital. And, as a great man once said, it is written in blood in the histories of several powerful nations.

Matthew Sinclair


Might your views be better described as some form of anarchism rather than socialism?

Regardless of what the term should mean I'm not sure the word "socialist" can now be separated from economic planning and the big, overbearing state. Why try?


Chris: My point was that, if your definition of socialism is so wide as to include pure market states which libertarians would approve of, then it includes a pretty broad spectrum of things! Any company where people work, without compulsion, serves as an example.

I think you want these examples to demonstrate the vaiability of a more planned economy than we have at present. Is that right? They don't help you here, because that's a different use of the word socialism.

Besides, it's not clear that examples of something working on a small scale imply that it works on a much larger scale. We're OK with families, and with the dictatorship of each restaurateur, but would never put up with that level of control from a government.

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