i am an anarchist

I read Leonard’s book and identified completely with his crunchy Granola post-scarcity, zero-coercion aliens and their fluid overlays for getting things done. I said to Danny: “I think I may be becoming an anarchist,” and Danny, because he is perfect, ran off to find a pamphlet to push into my willing hands.

The pamphlet is perfect. It is Kevin Carson’s “Resilient Communities: Society After State Capitalism.” The first essay talks about local economies, including farmers’ markets and barter systems. The second essay talks about the historical roots of such local economies: Pompeiian villas and labor cooperatives.

I started to realize that I have been a practising anarchist for quite some time. Consider! I like: credit unions, hackerspaces, Mechanics’ Institutes, small-press books, community gardens and California commune and other DIY architecture. I dislike: large banks, surveillance, inequality, institutional racism and sexism and the police state.

I’ve been thinking a lot about money, both professionally and politically. Despite the overwhelming centrality of venture capital to the technology industry, my standard (good) advice to engineer-entrepreneurs is: “bootstrap. Run off revenues. Never sign a term sheet.” The more I read Keynes, the less I think of money as stored value. Money is something else.

This is important. Carson brings up Schumpeter, who distinguishes between “the money theory of credit” and “the credit theory of money.” We live in a world ruled by the money theory of credit. That is, when you borrow money from a bank or VC, it is assumed that loan comes out of a pile of cash placed in the bank or fund by account holders or limited partners. The credit – the loan or investment – is funded by the money, which exists. Right?

Wrong. Schumpeter’s credit theory of money turns that logic on its head. “It is much more realistic to say that the banks ‘create credit…’ than to say that they lend the deposits that have been entrusted to them.” What does it mean to create credit? Think about what “credit” actually means. It is a measure of trust in a relationship. Money flows from the social contract.

That’s why Keynesianism worked, especially after WW2: people were too afraid of the consequences of not trusting one another, and so they credited one another with enough goodwill to build the Interstate Highway System and the National Health. It worked right up until Reagan and Thatcher made hate fashionable again.

Carson takes up the argument:

“Capital” is a term for a right of property in organizing and disposing of this present labor. The same basic cooperative functions could be carried out just as easily by the workers themselves, through mutual credit. Under the present system, the capitalist monopolizes those cooperative functions, and thus appropriates the productivity gains from the social division of labor.”

Far from “storing” “value” in the form of “money”, banks and venture capitalists subtract credit from the social contract by adding (mostly worthless) extra layers of abstraction between individual actors. The mortgage crisis began with liar loans and banks selling off mortgages: anything to distance themselves from the consequences of what they had done.

Vast wealth is hoarded money, stagnant credit. It is more disgusting and a bigger threat to mental and public health and aesthetics than the hoarding of physical goods.

So that’s where I am. Still supporting Obama because of Affordable Care, but adamantly opposed to extraordinary rendition and detention without trial. Not exactly soured on electoral politics, but empowered to say A Plague On Both Your Houses! because finally able to imagine an alternative: a society in which we help each other, listen to one another and share what we have. In short, I am an anarchist.

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