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Left-Anarchism, Seasteading and Occupy Wall St.

November 15, 2011

At Huff Po, Robert Teitelman gives seasteading and OWS the old compare and contrast:

Here’s Graeber on Rose in 2006 with his short definition of anarchism: “Anarchism is about acting as if you’re already free. … Anarchism is democracy without the government. Most people love democracy, but most people don’t like the government very much. Keep one, take away the other — that’s anarchism. Anarchism is direct democracy.” He elaborates. “Anarchism is the commitment to the idea that it is possible to have a society based on principles of self-organization, voluntary association and mutual aid. It’s not the belief that we are necessarily going to have it but that we could have it. You can’t know it’s possible. But by the same token you can’t know that it’s not possible.”

Graeber’s description of the anarchist impulse, as an experiment without government, veers awfully close to Ron Paul-like “End the Fed” libertarianism. Venture capitalist and libertarian Peter Thiel, for instance, has helped fund The Seasteading Institute, whose “mission is “to establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems to sell structured settlement.” One of the founders of the institute is Patri Friedman, a grandson of Milton Friedman, and a former engineer at Google. What is the difference between Zuccotti Park and a free, autonomous and sovereign community located in (presumably warm) international waters? Well, the seasteading idea remains theoretical, while OWS exists, albeit with the fragile and ironic permission of the police and city. The emphasis of a Thiel or a Paul (who Thiel has endorsed for president) involves a far more profound belief in markets than the anarchist belief in direct democracy, which has its market-like aspects but which is no fan of the wisdom of markets. Paul and Thiel-style libertarianism has an Ayn Randian edge — meaning a kind of Nietzschian belief in supermen dragged down by the demons — that is utterly lacking in the consensus style of Graeber and anarchist theory. The OWS crowd, naively or not, seem to believe it can transform the larger community by example, like medieval monks praying for our souls in giant monasteries; the steasteading crowd seems to argue that they can only carve out their free space outside the oppressive shadow of the nation-state.

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8 Comments
  1. Abelard Lindsey permalink
    November 15, 2011 10:05 pm

    The difference is the left’s version of anarchy involves coercion and Peter Thiel’s libertarain version does not. This is the key point.

  2. November 16, 2011 3:21 pm

    Plus, we’re not stealing or destroying other people’s property, either in present reality or in our fantasies about the future. Nor demanding endless lists of “free” goods and services. Nor asserting supposed “rights” which would require the active and nonconsensual cooperation of innocent third parties.

    All kind of important distinctions, I think.

    Not to mention that, given diversity of structure and right of exit, democracy is unnecessary. Democracy’s main effect is that anyone who can cobble together a band of supporters numbering at least 50% of the voters plus one can dictate arbitrary and oppressive terms to everyone outside that band. Democracy is not the solution…democracy is the PROBLEM!

  3. November 18, 2011 10:03 pm

    Perhaps people should be worried that the communists and the capitalist anarchists draw their arguments from similar places?

    Abelard, I suspect the key point is that we’re all anarchists now. Detroit is what happens when anarchists take power.

  4. Wonks Anonymous permalink
    November 18, 2011 10:22 pm

    Why did I read that Patri had stepped down from the Seasteading Institute via Global Guerrillas rather than here?
    http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2011/11/links-november-17-2011.html

  5. Mike Gibson permalink*
    November 18, 2011 11:25 pm

    Patri hasn’t completely stepped down from the Seasteading Institute. He is still serves on the board of directors. As for his latest activities, I’ll let him make that announcement whenever he’s ready.

  6. November 20, 2011 5:18 pm

    I think we should start living at sea on small sailing yachts: because most of these arguments and worries disappear when there is so much to do looking after the weather and the yacht; not to mention the hungry crew. We need to keep track of where is friendly at which times of year. Seasteading will be that much better accepted as landlubbers get to see the advantages, for them too, on a small scale.

  7. December 21, 2011 6:25 pm

    The left and right are both controlled by the same high corporate families. They both use coercion via control of government. Ron Paul’s von Mises school of economics was Rockefeller funded. His mentor, Ayn Rand’s book, “Atlas Shrugged,” was funded by Phillip De Rothschild, her boyfriend. Ron Paul blames government, as if government is inherently evil, when actually it is the only way to rein in corporations, which now control it. The problem is not government but criminal control of government and criminal control of corporations. Ron Paul a free market believer would do nothing to change the manipulation of the free markets and the corporations that rule the USA.

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