Open Source Institutions vs. the Corporate State

Commenter b-psycho writes:

Libertarians, vulgar or not, tend to talk a lot about property rights. What the vulgar ones, who unfortunately dominate mainstream discussion, fail to connect the dots on is that being consistent on property means that rent-seeking is equivalent to robbery — and that keeping that consistency demands seizing back the gains from it. Ironically for what "libertarianism" has come to mean publicly, you start poking around that whole property thing and you end up at a rather Left-wing conclusion.

So corporate rent seeking — hell, I would argue corporate status itself even — is theft, and all property claims arising from it are void. Conservatives don’t even think about this, as it would knock over the apple cart, and they worship apple carts. Thus far, the response on the part of liberals is to qualify and regulate corporatism, while taxing some of the proceeds to ameliorate conditions of the poor.

Well…here’s my idea:

Organize the working class, outside of the state, along the kind of lines previously introduced by the Wobblies (look it up if you have to). Don’t accept and qualify the corporatism, dismantle it and seize back the stolen property. "Class Warfare"? Yes, please.

The mainstream Left sees the problem, but insists on using as a solution the co-conspirators in the status quo. The most this leads to is bribing people to not revolt.

Or, in other words, pity-charity liberalism.

I think the alternative to the Class Warfare suggestion – the whole dismantling of the status quo – is to build alternative institutions outside of the status quo, and then wait patiently for those alternative institutions to work their quiet subterfuge.

Technology and open-source manufacturing and software and any number of other alternatives to the corporate status quo are beginning to pop up. I imagine we’ll gain more ground by adopting these over time, piecemeal, rather than any sort of massive organized class warfare.

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the editor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.


  1. I’d say both approaches could easily co-exist, and indeed should. I just wanted to keep with the theme that the guy I was responding to was focusing on.

  2. Amen to most of the above. I’d only add that we ought not to underestimate economic justice. It works. Look at places that have low taxes yet public recovery of land values – Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. Not paradise but surely ahead of the pack. Some places get carbon taxes passed by attaching a citizens’ dividend. Let’s use the dividend strategy to get rid of subsidies and to replace counterproductive taxes with fees, dues, leases, etc that recover the socially-generated values of land, resources, and government-granted privileges — at least until we get rid of corporate charters et al. It’s called geonomics and it even predicted the recent recession — being beyond the left/right box. Join us!

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