A University Built by the Invisible Hand – Roderick Long

The history of the University of Bologna offers an example of how the spontaneous-order mechanisms underlying market anarchism — mechanisms like mutual-aid surety associations and competing legal jurisdictions — can operate in a university setting.

Seal of the University of Bologna, Italy 日本語: ...

Many mediæval universities were run from the top down. The University of Paris, for example, was founded, organized, and funded by the government, and students were under the strict regulation and control of the faculty. But the University of Bologna was run from the bottom up — controlled by students and funded by students. As for its founding, nobody ever really started the University — it just sort of happened. The University of Bologna arose spontaneously, through the interactions of individuals who were trying to do something else.

In the 12th century, Bologna was a center of intellectual and cultural life. Students came to Bologna from all over Europe to study with prominent scholars. These individual professors were not originally organized into a university; each one operated freelance, offering courses on his own and charging whatever fees students were willing to pay. If a professor was a lousy teacher or charged too much, his students would switch to a different professor; professors had to compete for students, and would get paid only if students found their courses worth taking.

Bologna soon became crowded with foreign students. But being a foreigner in Bologna had its disadvantages; aliens were subject to various sorts of legal disabilities. For example, aliens were held responsible for the debts of their fellow countrymen; that is, if John, an English merchant, owed money to Giovanni, a Bolognese native, and John skipped town, then innocent bystander James, if James were an English citizen, could be required by Bolognese law to pay to Giovanni the money owed by John.

The foreign students therefore began to band together, for mutual insurance and protection, into associations called “nations,” according to their various nationalities; one “nation” would be composed of all English students, another of all French students, and so on. If any student needed assistance (e.g., in paying other people’s debts as demanded by the government), the other members of his “nation” would chip in to help. Each was willing to pledge a contribution to the group for this purpose, in exchange for the assurance that he would himself be able to draw on these pooled resources in time of need.

Read the rest via Center for a Stateless Society » A University Built by the Invisible Hand.

Left Wing Individualism – David S. D’Amato

Perhaps because I live in Chicago, perhaps because I work with other attorneys, in my day-to-day life I’m surrounded almost exclusively by people who identify with the mainstream, American left, centrist Democrats for whom mere mention of the word “libertarian” calls forth nightmarish imaginings of the Tea Party right. Regrettably, identifying myself as a libertarian stops any meaningful dialogue with this set before it starts; for them, libertarianism is associated with the extreme right wing of a one-dimensional American political spectrum that they have been successfully trained never to question. They often know just enough about Ayn Rand to regard libertarianism as an oversimplified and merciless case for corporate greed, for an economic status quo that finds the one percent growing ever richer while the “middle class” contracts and the poor suffer in sheer destitution. Ironically, this kind of centrist Democrat probably understands capitalism and its effects better than many libertarians, seeing economic predation for what it is and looking (however unsystematically) for something to step in and pull back on the reins. What they haven’t taken the time to understand, however, is either libertarianism as a real philosophy or the cavernous gulf that separates the economic system of the present moment from real free markets.

Benjamin R. Tucker, who suggested that anarchi...

Because of this reflex revulsion at the mere mention of libertarianism, experience has inclined me to describing my politics as “left wing individualism.” This characterization, I have found, invites questions rather than angry diatribes, preparing the ground for a fruitful conversation as opposed to a futile debate. I borrow the phrasing “left wing individualism” from Eunice Minette Schuster, who made “A Study of Left-Wing American Individualism” the subtitle of her dissertation, Native American Anarchism. Schuster’s book follows Native American Anarchism from its nascent, prototypical forms to its blossoming as a distinct and fully realized philosophical system and movement. Her study is important insofar as it illumes a strain of political philosophy that can seem confusing and oxymoronic within the context of today’s mainstream political debates.

The individualist anarchists that Schuster discusses in the section of her book that treats anarchism in its “mature” state were both extreme individualists and socialists, architects of a project which we at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) undertake to continue today. As advocates of unhampered freedom of competition, property rights, and the sovereignty of the individual, individualist anarchists are a part of the history of the contemporary libertarian movement. At the same time, like C4SS today, this group opposed capitalism and regarded socialism as, in the words of radical reformer Ezra Heywood, “the great anti-theft movement” of their day. Unlike today’s free market libertarians, who often demonize the poor as welfare receiving “takers,” thinkers like Benjamin Tucker, Ezra Heywood, and Josiah Warren (just to name a few) saw the rich as the true idle, freeloading class, the beneficiaries of privileges that allowed them to game the system and put a stop to real market competition.

These early libertarians saw that freedom and competition work for all the reasons that are familiar to us today: division and specialization of labor, the massive amounts of information distilled in prices, and accordingly the folly of attempting to plan the economy through the greatest monopoly of them all, the state. They argued that genuine competition in a free market is the best, surest way to ensure that labor is paid with its full product, that is, to solve what was then often called the Labor Question; this made them socialists, even if they fit uncomfortably with much of the socialist movement. Their fit with the liberal advocates of free trade and competition — the political economists — was no less uncomfortable, finding the individualist anarchists constantly compelled to school the economists in their own doctrine, to point out the errors and inconsistencies that characterized so much of what passed as defenses of free trade.

Read more via Center for a Stateless Society » Left Wing Individualism.

American Anarchism – Grant Mincy

On July 2nd, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, officially breaking ties between the American colonies and the British empire. It is the idealism behind this document and American independence that folks across the United States will celebrate this 4th of July. The 4th is the central holiday of the summer season and liberty is the theme of the day. After signing the Declaration, John Adams, in a famous letter to his wife Abigal, penned his thoughts on the new holiday:

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jeffe...

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival … It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Of course, Adams was correct. There are 4th of July celebrations all across the country — fully equipped with the activities mentioned in his letter plus tons of food and fireworks. Today, however, there is an urgent need for collective reflection on the all too important idea behind the holiday — liberty — and its unique history in the country.

A society rooted in liberty would be defined simply as (to borrow from Merriam Webster) one “free from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior or political views.” We in the United States enjoy degrees of freedom, but said freedom is not absolute. Furthermore, there currently exist aggressive barriers to achieving a free society (such as structural poverty and racism to name only a couple) and such barriers are institutionalized, protected and upheld by state power.

Social power, however, works in opposition to state power. Throughout our collective history, liberty has been achieved by people either working around power structures or directly engaging them, forcing change. Liberty is not the product of legislation, but the sum of human action. It is important to remember that patriotism is not allegiance to government or obedience to law, but rather defending and advocating moral positions in spite of the power structure.

There is something classically American about questioning authority and having distrust of large centralized governments. This tradition is experiencing a needed resurgence as of late, and along with it, so too are libertarian politics.

Read more via Center for a Stateless Society » American Anarchism.

Psychology for Anarchists – Chad Nelson

Robert Anton Wilson’s 203-page mindbender, Quantum Psychology: How Your Brain Software Programs You and Your World, is more than meets the eye. The subtitle suggests a self-help book, and it appears to be just that in many respects. But twenty pages in, one realizes that there is no labeling this one. It is a psychedelic mix of pop-science, psychology, philosophy and politics all rolled into one. And if that doesn’t sound crazy enough, the book comes with exercises at the end of each chapter to be performed as part of a group-read. Wilson tells the reader throughout the book that he or she will gain much more from it if the exercises are actually performed. One of Wilson’s fan sites – http://www.rawillumination.net – joins readers together to discuss the exercises in a chat forum and, surprisingly, most are completely appropriate for remote participation.

Quantum Psychology

Quantum Psychology is divided into five sections. The sections begin with an analysis of how the brain actively filters information pulled from the external world, and Wilson’s attempt to get us to “step outside our minds” to acknowledge this subjective process. As the book moves on, physiological and psychological systems the body’s hardware and software are explored, and a detailed discussion of the intricate “feedback loop” connecting the two morphs into a discussion of how you can actually reprogram them. Much of the material is Wilson’s extension of Dr. Timothy Leary’s Eight-Circuit Model of Consciousness, which is a kind of trippy roadmap of the brain and all of its component parts.

As the reader works through each section, the connection between them becomes apparent. The common thread that runs throughout each section is this: Your brain perceives the world in ways that are unique to you, and many times, that perception is filtered, consciously or unconsciously, through an ideological lens. Wilson urges readers to attempt to view the world with the understanding that this lens exists, and that nobody else’s “reality-tunnel” is filtered through an identical lens. Much of the world’s conflict, Wilson says, stems from people disagreeing over whose perceived reality-tunnel is the correct one. Once one is aware of his or her own special gloss on the world, communication with others becomes more meaningful.

via Center for a Stateless Society » Psychology for Anarchists.