Philip Pilkington: Cody Wilson and the Language of Power

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Yves here. This post on largely-hidden hidden power assumptions might seem wide of the mark, but it’s well night impossible to effect change without recognizing power dynamics and leverage points. One of our occasional themes at Naked Capitalism is the degree to which the coercive elements of capitalism aren’t acknowledged; they are so deeply internalized by most people as “that’s how things work” as to not be amenable to scrutiny. As we wrote last year:

One issue I’ve long been bothered by is the libertarian fixation on the state as the source of coercive power. The strong form version is that the state is the only party with coercive power (and please don’t try denying that a lot of libertarians say that; there are plenty of examples in comments in past posts). Libertarians widely, if not universally, depict markets and commerce as less or even non-coercive.

What is remarkable is how we’ve blinded ourselves to the coercive element of our own system. From Robert Heilbroner in Behind the Veil of Economics:

This negative form of power contrasts sharply with with that of the privileged elites in precapitalist social formations. In these imperial kingdoms or feudal holdings, disciplinary power is exercised by the direct use or display of coercive power. The social power of capital is of a different kind….The capitalist may deny others access to his resources, but he may not force them to work with him. Clearly, such power requires circumstances that make the withholding of access of critical consequence. These circumstances can only arise if the general populace is unable to secure a living unless it can gain access to privately owned resources or wealth…

The organization of production is generally regarded as a wholly “economic” activity, ignoring the political function served by the wage-labor relationships in lieu of baliffs and senechals. In a like fashion, the discharge of political authority is regarded as essentially separable from the operation of the economic realm, ignoring the provision of the legal, military, and material contributions without which the private sphere could not function properly or even exist. In this way, the presence of the two realms, each responsible for part of the activities necessary for the maintenance of the social formation, not only gives capitalism a structure entirely different from that of any precapitalist society, but also establishes the basis for a problem that uniquely preoccupies capitalism, namely, the appropriate role of the state vis-a-vis the sphere of production and distribution.

What struck me about Heilbroner’s discussion, as if he was tip-toeing around the issue, and it was not clear whether because he could not formulate a crisp description of the power relationships, or that it was clear to him but he really didn’t want to come out and say what he saw.

Ian Welsh ventures where Heilbroner hesitated to go:

The fundamental idea of our current regime is one that most people have forgotten, because it is associated with Marx, and one must not talk about even the things Marx got right, because the USSR went bad. It is that we are wage laborers. We work for other people, we don’t control the means of production. Absent a job, we live in poverty. Sure, there are some exceptions, but they are exceptions. We are impelled, as it were, by Marx’s whip of hunger. It took a lot of work to set up this system, as Polyani notes in his book “the Great Transformation”, but now that it has happened, it is invisible to us.

We have to sell our labor (or be supported by someone who does that) as a condition of survival. Now that may not seem peculiar since that has been the state of affairs in most advanced economies for generations. The seeming exceptions, like farmers and even fishermen, are now little capitalists; they own equipment and sell their goods to wholesalers of various sorts. This order was imposed after the feudal era. As Yasha Levine explained, citing Michael Perelmen’s The Invention of Capitalism:

Faced with a peasantry that didn’t feel like playing the role of slave, philosophers, economists, politicians, moralists and leading business figures began advocating for government action. Over time, they enacted a series of laws and measures designed to push peasants out of the old and into the new by destroying their traditional means of self-support.

“The brutal acts associated with the process of stripping the majority of the people of the means of producing for themselves might seem far removed from the laissez-faire reputation of classical political economy,” writes Perelman. “In reality, the dispossession of the majority of small-scale producers and the construction of laissez-faire are closely connected, so much so that Marx, or at least his translators, labeled this expropriation of the masses as ‘‘primitive accumulation.’’

Perelman outlines the many different policies through which peasants were forced off the land—from the enactment of so-called Game Laws that prohibited peasants from hunting, to the destruction of the peasant productivity by fencing the commons into smaller lots—but by far the most interesting parts of the book are where you get to read Adam Smith’s proto-capitalist colleagues complaining and whining about how peasants are too independent and comfortable to be properly exploited, and trying to figure out how to force them to accept a life of wage slavery.

And this might put the “failure of capitalism” theme in context. If you have a system that requires that people sell their labor as a condition of survival, yet fails to provide enough opportunities to sell labor to go around, you have conditions for revolt. Hungry, desperate people having nothing to lose. That, and not charity, is the root of the welfare state, to provide a buffer for when the capitalist system chokes up and presumably on a short-term basis, fails to provide enough jobs (that and to provide for people who are infirm, handicapped, or otherwise cannot work, which communities in England did in the early modern era).

So you can see the obvious tension: the capitalist classes in America, to increase their riches further, have been squeezing workers harder by not hiring as they did in the past. We’ve never had a “recovery” in the post-WWII era with so little of GDP growth going to labor (meaning both hiring and wage increases). In the past, the average was over 60% and the lowest was 55%. I haven’t seen a recent update, but the last figures I saw was that the level for this “recovery” was under 30%. Yet simultaneously, theres’s a full-bore effort on to gut the remaining safety nets. If this isn’t a prescription for social and political instability, I don’t know what is.

Back to the current post. Pilkington approaches power questions here from a higher level of abstraction. At first, I thought his use of Cody Wilson as a point of departure was a bit of a gimmick, but as I watched the BBC interview, I could see Pilkington’s point: that it became intriguing to watch the BBC host try to interact (with not much success) with Wilson’s frame of reference.

By Philip Pilkington, a writer and research assistant at Kingston University in London. You can follow him on Twitter @pilkingtonphil. Originally published at Fixing the Economists


I don’t usually do moral philosophy here; except, that is, when I’m pointing out the implicit moral philosophy inherent in certain economic concepts. However, I recently came across something that I found so interesting that I felt I had to comment on it. The only way I can justify this is that I know that some of my readers — or at least one of them — gets very uncomfortable when I make criticisms from this point-of-view and what follows may be of interest in this regard. I will try to tie this back to economic by the end, I promise.

The ‘something’ in question that I found intriguing was the following video on Youtube. It is an interview with Cody Wilson, the man most responsible for distributing software packages online that allow people to create firearms using 3d printers. I suggest watching the whole video before reading the rest of this post.

Wilson’s Wikipedia page gives the impression that he is some moron anarcho-capitalist but watching the video you can clearly see that this is probably not the case at all. Rather he is quite clearly a Nietzschean of some form or other; this is confirmed by the following clip in which he, rather hilariously, suggests that Glenn Beck should read Michel Foucault. I think that Wilson’s Wikipedia page reads the way it does because it was edited by pro-gun advocates in the US, the majority of whom are on the libertarian Right.

First I should say: Wilson does support some dubious ideas, such as the internet fad known as Bitcoin. Bitcoin is based on a naive view of the world where the Believer convinces themselves that a system of interacting, ‘free’ people can self-regulate (usually based on some fantasy ‘non-aggression principle’). Implicit in this view is the idea that people are Naturally Good. All the turmoil in the Bitcoin market should be seen as a modern version of Robert Owen and the Utopian Socialists’ attempt to create a perfect society. What actually happens in such situations is that selfish people come in and basically start stealing and wrecking stuff and those that are naive enough to believe in the Natural Goodness of people get the short end of the stick.

Oh well. Man is not Naturally Good and requires Laws and enforced moral norms to ensure that He doesn’t do awful things. The reality of Unbridled Human Freedom is probably closer to a lynch mob than to a harmonious commune. Truth is the butt of a soldier’s rifle when the commander turns the other way. Lesson learned. Everyone go home.

Tied to this Wilson believes — and it is a belief with no real evidence — that innovation will spring up if intellectual property laws are done away with. Presumably, being an anarchist, he is also against state-funding for innovation. All he has is his belief. Again, there is no evidence for what he is saying. It based on Utopian trust in the Infinite Potentialities of Man.

Anyway, I don’t want to focus on that. Rather I want to focus on the way Wilson speaks in the interview. It is quite impressive. He completely avoids any of the moral questions as to whether what he has done by putting the instructions to make weapons on the internet is Right or Wrong. Rather he simply approaches the question of what he has done in a purely matter of fact way. He has, he says, completely circumvented the debate around gun control through a sort of Pure Symbolic Act. And he is correct. He has done just that. What’s more, in doing so he has given us a really interesting piece of television.

What Wilson has succeeded in doing throughout this interview is to completely avoid moral issues and instead speaks a pure language of Power. This is something that Foucault and Nietzsche mastered too and it can be read in their writings (and seen when the former appeared on television; relevant discussion starts at around the 36 minute mark, English subtitles available by clicking the ‘captions’ button on the right-hand side of the video).

As we can see in the Wilson’s interview, the language of Power is very strange when you encounter it directly in the formal Public Sphere. I do not mean by that ‘in public’ — the Foucault debate above is indeed ‘in public’ — rather I mean in a formal authoritative setting where everyone is supposed to behave and speak ‘properly’, like the BBC.

There is something disconcerting about the language of Power when it is presented in such a forum. The reason for this is because Power generally requires a cover behind which it operates in public. This is why, for example, politicians and lawyers are well-known dissemblers. Because they are engaging with Power directly and speak the language of Power, they always have to hide what they are really saying behind a sort of veil. Something similar operates on television shows like the one that Wilson is appearing on but that all breaks down when Wilson makes his appearance and the interviewer seems completely unable to get a handle on it.

Of course, in private politicians, for example, speak quite differently. They speak far more like Wilson in the interview than like the interviewer. This is not to say that either Wilson or politicians are wholly amoral. I don’t believe that Wilson is and I think most politicians do, in fact, have a moral compass (even if this may be badly oriented due to convenience and ideology). In the case of politicians they tend to decide which way they want to lean on an issue but then understand that their main duty is to simply carry it out. That is where the language of morality falls away and the language of Power kicks in.

With Wilson the situation is more complex. He clearly does not want to consider the moral ramifications of what he has done by putting plans for weapons on the internet. If someone was shot tomorrow with one of the weapon designs he would not want to know anything about it. Rather he is interested in doing something that will, through a pure Symbolic act of Power, shake up the Power Structure as a whole. Once again, that is what the language of Power is all about. It is about changing, as it were, the objective coordinates that everyone finds themselves in. Beyond a certain point the language of Power avoids all moral considerations and simply intervenes to change the frame of the debate itself.

In principle, I think that this is very interesting. Interviews like Wilson’s really do, in a sense, give us a glimpse behind the mask. They scramble the circuits of the formal public space in which they are presented and the aesthetic effect, to me at least, is very pleasing. But the language of Power can never operate in a vacuum. Every intervention in the objective coordinates of a situation will channel more Power to one group and less to another. In undertaking any such intervention you are implicitly siding with those who gain more Power through your action. Those that will gain more Power by Wilson’s actions will be the ones who use Wilson’s weapons designs to gain Power over other people.

Who are these people? We have no way of knowing. But something tells me that they will not turn out to be anarchist liberators. Rather they will likely be people who hold Power over others through direct and very immediate and brutal acts of violence. Is Wilson responsible for their actions? Not really. But he has tipped the scales in their favour by releasing weapons designs to them. Looked at from the point of view of Power, Wilson is like a biased referee letting one side get an edge over the other. What they do when he turns his back is ultimately (and legally) their responsibility but you can’t avoid the feeling that in manipulating the game and implicitly favouring one group over another Wilson has some culpability in the outcome.

Perhaps this is where we can bend this discussion back to economics. Macroeconomics is, to a very great extent, a language of Power. (It is not a truly objective ‘science’, don’t be fooled by that guff!). When we make suggestions as to policy prescriptions a good economist should be weighing up how the action is going to distribute Wealth and Power. What people like Wilson can show us is that behind the moral facade of Rational Agents and Pareto Optimality, just as behind the language of television and politics, there resides a hidden language of Power. And every use of that language in real policy situations is an act of Power. Ignore that, and you’re a slave to your own intellectual constructions or, worse still, to intellectual constructions that you have been spoon-fed. And while I am by no means an anarchist, I do believe that people have a right and a duty to think for themselves.

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  1. YankeeFrank

    The idea that Wilson has enabled evil people to access power with his weapons designs is to deny the reality of the contemporary world. Bad people have all the access they need to all sorts of weapons. And as Mark Ames has argued quite well, gun control is a chimera with or without 3d printing tech.

    As the state becomes less accountable and more powerful the only hope we have to counter that power and maintain a sphere of actual freedom is by sidestepping it and creating a space where it cannot operate. That is why Wilson supports the so-called “darknet” and its attendant technologies. But the idea that those who wish to carve out a space for us to live and act outside of state coercion naively believe in the innate goodness of humanity is simply not true. I’m no libertarian, and I do believe, as Yves points out, that the state is most certainly not the only coercive agent in our society. The technologies that Wilson advocates for do not in any way depend on the implicit goodness of human beings. They don’t take any particular stand on human nature at all. As he stated in his response to the question of Mt.Gox’s loss or theft of all those bitcoins, the smart money was out of that exchange long before it fell. The warning signs were there for all to see. The idea that without a state to come in and protect us from our own folly we are helpless is part of the infantilization of the populace. It also belies the facts on the ground, which are that the state has become less and less interested or effective at protecting the average citizen from danger and predatory behavior. Where was the state when the financial sector was pricing us out of our homes and looting us? Where was the state when Katrina happened? 9/11? More and more, the lack of concern for the general welfare on the part of the state has become the norm, and we are on our own in many ways we weren’t for most of the 20th century when our government was more accountable and competent. Neoliberalism preaches that we are largely on our own anyway, because self-interest and individuality are what supposedly define us. If the state wants to whine now about how we are taking our freedom too far, well they have no one to blame but themselves frankly. Given that we’re supposed to be self-reliant in a wage-slave world — that basic contradiction opens us up to the obvious response that we must be free to make our own arrangements. As Wilson states, people need to eat. We can bemoan how it has come to this, but while we moan we must also live. The power structures that supposedly exist to protect us have failed in almost every way imaginable. In such a situation, at what point do people start to take their lives into their own hands? At the point where they have to.

    I do believe that we have to force government to be more accountable to us and that we must reverse the tide of predatory global capitalism and refocus government towards the general welfare. But I’m not particularly confident that we are anywhere near doing that, and I for one am heartened by the possibility that there is another way for the ever increasing numbers of us for whom the system has utterly failed to eke out an existence without having to opt into a minimum wage corporate service job. As Wilson points out, the biggest economy in the world is the underground economy. Without cottage industry, both on and off the net, social stability would be a thing of the past. Bitcoin, the darknet, etc., are merely tools to help us reach a broader market and to accept and make payments outside the clutches of the cartel dominated financial system.

    And while you claim there is no evidence that de facto elimination of IP will lead to more innovation, its not too hard to see how that could in fact be the case. Can you really argue that the current IP regime is not stifling innovation? It would have to be examined separately for every industry, but if we take the example of biotech (which is the sector most often used to argue for strong IP), its arguable that most of the medicines developed under the current big-pharma system are utterly useless for the vast majority. They have discovered some very useful drugs, but could we not have done even better with no IP and full government funding of medical research? Much of it is already government funded despite the fact that private firms manage to grab the profit off the backs of taxpayer subsidized research. These firms spend more on marketing than they do on research. The waste in the current system is vast and its a myth that the private sector is actually efficient. Just like Hollywood has convinced itself that it needs DRM tech despite the reality that it has no impact on profits, government has convinced itself and us (with the wonderful help of big pharma and industry) that we need ever-stronger IP “protection” or the sky will fall on innovation. Tech like the darknet, bitcoin, etc. are helping us to break free from the leviathan that is quickly encircling us. While there could be some bad elements to these technologies (like untraceable access to kiddie porn) I feel they are overwhelmingly good things.

    1. skippy

      Frank When you say Government – State, all I hear is Think Tanks and Lobbyists.

      Although this seems relevant – In “The Mass Psychology of Fascism” (1933), Wilhelm Reich suggests the classic, pro-fascist argument that the government was out of control (sound familiar?), and that the ordinary citizen simply lacked the power to bring government back under control. It was only corporations that were big and strong enough to take on the out-of-control government behemoth, and for that reason, the average citizen should honor and give his/her loyalty to the corporation. Corporate positivism and market fundamentalism are one side of the coin of fascist power; hatred of the government that can stop these is the other.

    2. JCC

      YF, your comments expressed my feelings about this post well. Also, thinking about the lead of this post and this statement ” It took a lot of work to set up this system, as Polyani notes in his book “the Great Transformation”, but now that it has happened, it is invisible to us.” was my primary focus as I read and watched the interview.

      Some of the other comments below talk about the belief that anything Wilson says should be discounted because he is an “extreme right-wing gun-loving anarcho-capitalist type” and yet many have no problem backing up the philosophy of various business leaders in Industry that are also involved in the exact same sorts of weapons production, GE, Lockheed, IBM, Colt, Remington, General Dynamics, ITT, etc., off the top of my head, come to mind (not to mention our fearless leaders in Government).

      When you are discussing Power, usually the language of power is necessary, just like the language of medicine is necessary when discussing American-style health care (as well as the language of power in this particular case).

      Balance of Power is taught and touted as a reliable method of control as well as a way to avoid large war, yet somehow the morality of Wilson is questioned when he talks about the exact same thing, a balance of power regarding the means and ownership of production between the individual and the State.

      It will take a long time, if ever, to set up a system where an individual again has some kind of power/control over his livelihood, and Wilson dares to make it visible with the obvious symbol of a gun? How dare he do so!

      1. digi_owl

        “Balance of Power is taught and touted as a reliable method of control as well as a way to avoid large war”

        Is is now? Could have sworn that it was the very thing that brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation in the 60s. And only by someone ignoring the arithmetic behind that supposed “balance” did the situation diffuse itself.

    3. Schofield

      “The idea that without a state to come in and protect us from our own folly we are helpless is part of the infantilization of the populace.”

      Deng Xiaoping re-phrased Mao Zedong “power doesn’t just grow out of a barrel of a gun but also a barrel of money”

      Now square that circle without democratic representation both small and large.

  2. P James

    Cody is just an extreme right-wing gun-loving anarcho-capitalist type. Don’t let him fool you with his garbage talk about “freedom”.

      1. JEHR

        Maybe Wilson is an idiot but an idiot who makes sense when he says that things (e.g., lack of gun control) have become so radical that real radical actions are no longer considered radical but commonplace. That can be applied to finance, too, where derivatives would have seemed radical at one time but have now become commonplace and will probably be at the base of the next financial crisis. What could be more of a commonplace now than that the shadow banking system is larger than the “real” banking system?

    1. YankeeFrank

      Ad hominem much? He actually strikes me as a very thoughtful young man. He’s not some blind libertarian and he’s not a winger. It really surprises me how people are blinded by the fact that he chose to focus on the gun. If he didn’t do it someone else would’ve, and the fact is that we have so many guns already — guns that are way more effective and deadly than anything that can currently come out of a 3d printer. Wilson is directly addressing the corrupted power structure with this overt political act. I would think more of us would applaud his brazenness and guts, but the gun thing is blinding many of us who have a knee-jerk association with regards to the NRA and gun culture. As Michael Moore pointed out many years ago, its not the guns that make us violent, its the culture. Canada has more guns per capita than we do, and yet their levels of gun violence are pretty much nil compared to ours. So the solution is not gun control, which has never really worked here and never will. The solution, if there is one, has much more to do with how we define ourselves culturally, and how much violence we permit as a “solution”. And when I mention violence, I’m not just talking about gun violence. I’m talking about the violence of crony capitalism and the protestant work ethic that preaches self-reliance as the answer to lack of jobs and community support. As a culture we turn to violence as the solution to many of our problems, both foreign and domestic. Until we become more enlightened and more compassionate this will not change. David Bowie doesn’t say he’s afraid of guns, he says “I’m Afraid of Americans”, and he should be.

      1. H. Alexander Ivey

        Cast my vote here! Damn straight.

        Loved the reference to David Bowie’s piece “I’m Afraid of Americans”. Hear it as background for a “Person of Interest” episode, loved it then, and later found the video. All too true.

  3. P James

    “Bitcoin, the darknet, etc., are merely tools to help us reach a broader market and to accept and make payments outside the clutches of the cartel dominated financial system.”

    What a complete load of crap. ‘Bitcoin’ and ‘the darknet’ will never solve any problem. ‘Bitcoin’ is just a handy way for people to engage in criminal behaviour, as is ‘the darknet’. I can’t believe you would be so gullible as to believe that these things might somehow solve the problem of corruption of government by money.

    1. Banger

      What would you call the oligarchy if not “criminal”? Have you counted the dead in the wars made by these people–compare it to gang violence. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were based on lies and/or misdirection and kept going for the profit of the military industrial complex and to cow the world into believing that we’re violent crazies–read the neocon documents from the eighties that describe the ideal policy–to make the world fear us because we might go to any violent extreme.

      I’m not a particular fan of Bitcoin but the state (including corporations) are far more toxic than anything right or left-wing anarchists can think of–not that they are the “solution” to any problems but only through moving towards anarchy can we begin to create a proper order not dominated by gangsters.

      1. P James

        Bitcon and ‘the darknet’ will never do anything to stop violence or war.

        “only through moving towards anarchy can we begin to create a proper order not dominated by gangsters”

        Garbage. “Anarchy” would be totally dominated by gangsters. If you really want to stop the gangsters, you have to take down the gangsters, legally. Bitcon and ‘the darknet’, and tax evasion for the wealthy and free guns for right-wing gun nuts will never achieve anything worth achieving. They’re just more crap from the constant-crap-creation machine that is right-wing “libertarianism”.

        1. Banger

          Anarchy, contrary to your cartoon view (or so it seems) would be a process rather than and end result of feudalism and war-lords. It would through various mediums that humans lacked in the past, technology, the internet and so on, empower people to take up their lives instead of laying on their backs and taking in that big red white and blue object that Carlin rightly described as our current state. Many perverse people will opt for gangsterism but many others (as happens in emergencies) would take up responsibility for their loved ones and their communities. The vast majority of people are motivated by good impulses and will, in my view, put down gangsters. In fact, it is capitalism and the gansterism that breeds the gangsters you imagine–these types of people are not “natural”; our natural feelings lie in the direction of connection, love, compassion as neuro-science shows us. It is the perversity of the current power structure that creates the need for crime. There are societies, for example, where crime is almost unknown and it isn’t do to cops standing on every corner. Let your mind expand just a little and don’t believe that the TINA point of view.

            1. Banger

              I have not interest in abolishing anything–I’m interested in empowering people. I believe in PROCESS and SYSTEMS not final ideological positions. When authoritarian forms predominate we need disorder when there’s too much disorder then we need order–I don’t see how or why this is hard to grasp.

              1. P James

                it’s not hard to grasp, it’s just vague to the point of being meaningless. What kind of ‘disorder’? With what purpose?

                1. Banger

                  I’m talking about systems. Our current system, based on analyses made at Naked Capitalism over the years, is dominated by an increasingly rigid oligarchy which keeps the system stuck. Therefore we need some chaos to disrupt the system–what I’m arguing is homeostasis. How is that vague? I can write for the next few hours about why the system is stuck and what the dynamics of that “stuckness” is but I’ve already written that as have others on these pages.

                  1. P James

                    “Therefore we need some chaos to disrupt the system”

                    ‘chaos’ in itself doesn’t achieve anything. It is not any sort of purpose or goal. How about an armed insurrection by white-supremacist fascist religious fundamentalists? That’s pretty chaotic.

          1. jonboinAR

            The vast majority of people are motivated by good impulses and will, in my view, put down gangsters.
            You’re speaking very naively.

            –these types of people are not “natural”; our natural feelings lie in the direction of connection, love, compassion as neuro-science shows us.
            Man, what planet are you FROM? Both love and the imposition of one’s will on others by whatever means it takes are “natural”, expressed all the time, all over the place. Traditionally, have not the “peasants” (those who didn’t command overwhelming force) longed for kings (large, powerful, central government) to rule them in order to control the warlords or gangsters who were plundering and raping them? Gangsterism, I fear, is a very real danger with anarchy (which I take to mean much reduced government).

            1. Banger

              Well, respectfully, I’m from this planet and I’ve had a very broad experience of life in different continents, cultures, I’ve hung out with street criminals, politicians, journalists, military men, captains of industry, spooks and so on and so on. In all that bunch I have rarely seen bad people–I have seen foolishness, self-deception, bad values, insensitivity, I’ve talked hoodlums and cops out of hurting me by connecting with them and not showing fear (and I’m fearful up until the time I face a direct threat, then I am too scared to be scared)–or maybe I was just lucky.

              I believe recent findings in neuroscience show that we are hard-wired for compassion–selfishness (I’ve tried it) is not fun but a result of pain or perversion it is not in the least natural.

              Try a to be a little less insulting in the future–it doesn’t help the case you are making.

    2. YankeeFrank

      “What a complete load of crap. ‘Bitcoin’ and ‘the darknet’ will never solve any problem. ‘Bitcoin’ is just a handy way for people to engage in criminal behaviour, as is ‘the darknet’.”

      What do you define as “criminal” behavior? Is it whatever the state declares it to be? The obvious example is drugs. The vast majority of the American people want the drug war to end, and have wanted this for many years now. The government is not responding, so people carve out realms for themselves where they can live free of government control. Bitcoin, etc. are just a small (and growing) part of this. Defining activities that consenting adults want to engage in, that don’t harm anyone and don’t steal anything from anyone, as criminal, is just a form of social control. Just look at how unevenly the drug laws are enforced between “minority” communities and white communities if you want to know what they’re really about. And I assume you are opposed to cash money because way more drug dealing is done with cash than will ever be done with bitcoins and the like.

      “I can’t believe you would be so gullible as to believe that these things might somehow solve the problem of corruption of government by money.”

      I never claimed these technologies would ‘solve the problem of government corruption’, you put those words in my mouth. What I did say is that they hold the promise of unshackling us from a more and more unaccountable government that criminalizes dissent and common adult behaviors while ignoring the massive crimes (crimes that actually harm people) being committed by the well-connected. If we can do business with each other outside of the, as Wilson says, byzantine regulatory structures that have only served to make small business more difficult every year, and we can start to produce at home the very things that used to require massive factories and capital, this means we can subvert much of the power structure and make a space for us to live where they are increasingly irrelevant to our lives. We can still fight against government corruption of course, but it won’t be able to do as much damage to us in the first instance. Your hostility makes me think you haven’t really thought any of this through in any clear way. Kind of like the host of the Wilson interview that trips over his own logic several times. The one that hit me the most was his expressed fear of these technologies to weaken control by government, while later in the interview he expresses fear of government control of our lives via NSA-like spying. Unless he is suggesting dismantling the internet, which is not going to happen, then he needs to think about his position more clearly: either he is for big government regulating our existence or he isn’t. I’m all for dismantling the NSA but its not going to happen is it? Given that reality what do we do if we want privacy? Strong encryption, the darknet and related technologies are some solutions that can help us gain some privacy back by blocking the panopticon of constant surveillance they’ve made of the regular internet.

      1. skippy

        Frank do we need to endlessly review the last 40ish years and the machinations of the faction that tried to unceremoniously depose a sitting President, not that the same game has not been on from inception of the country. The Buchanan Committee was quite indicative of this type of ratchet effect, when extenuated up to the present.

        skippy… btw the good old days are not coming back, as the physical world is acutely different, and going to be increasingly so into the future.

  4. P James

    Cod Wilson’s favourite authors are the demented Hans-Hermann Hoppe, and Frederic Bastiat. You can’t really get more right wing.

    1. JCC

      I love ad hominem, it works so well to clear the air and and offer opposing views.

      Of course bitcoin and the darknet won’t solve the “problem”, but 16th feudalism morphing into modern Capitalism, or 19th centuy banks issuing their own money, eventually morphing into a Federal Bank, sure has brought us problems,

      Are you suggesting that we do nothing other than try and fix what we have now? To cobble more laws, regulations and other crap on what we have now surely won’t work, and, as long as tech survives, things like darknet and bitcoin may point a way forward in giving individuals a method of some independence from a State that has nearly full control now and is desperately attempting yet more control on all individuals’ control of their economic life (I’m no libertarian, but surely some de-centralization of our present system sure wouldn’t hurt).

      They (bitcoin, etc.) are, to me anyway, just experiments at this point, experiments that the status quo seems to be fighting until they can figure out a way to co-opt it, of course. These experiments just may lead, in the long run, to a new and more interesting construct. Too bad none of us will be around to see the results.

      1. P James

        “19th centuy banks issuing their own money, eventually morphing into a Federal Bank”

        You’re not a goldbuggery enthusiast are you?

        “things like darknet and bitcoin may point a way forward in giving individuals a method of some independence from a State”

        Bitcon might permit some tax evasion. That won’t solve or achieve anything. ‘The darknet’ might permit some people to exchange illegal stuff. That won’t solve or achieve anything. Nothing but distractions from the real problems.

        “surely some de-centralization of our present system sure wouldn’t hurt.”

        That could be good, but that has nothing to do with bitcon or ‘the darknet’ or free guns for gun nuts.

        1. YankeeFrank

          Tax evaders don’t need any help from bitcoin. And these are not “distractions from the real problems”, they are tools that can help us engage in actual free market capitalism, not the monopoly, crony-based corrupt version we now have.

          And these technologies, especially 3d printing, hold the promise of massive decentralization of production. You are too focused on the present state and not seeing how quickly this space is opening up and what it will look like in 10 years.

          1. P James

            “they are tools that can help us engage in actual free market capitalism”

            ha ha ha.

        2. JCC

          P James, again, ad hominem? You just can’t give up, can you?

          No, I’m not a gold bug… or into buggery. It is kind of interesting, though, that should be the first thing that crosses your mind. (One ad hominem sometimes deserves another :)

          By the way, what does the evolution of our monetary system into what many see as one of the biggest ponzi scheme in history have to do with “gold buggery” anyway? The monetary system will continue to evolve, and bitcoin, good or not, is part of that evolution… and no, I don’t have of those, either.

          As for “free guns for gun nuts” you, very apparently, haven’t looked into the cost of a good 3D Printer, materials, and the learning curve and time necessary to use one successfully to print something other than coffee mugs, ashtrays, toy dinosaurs and other trinkets… far cheaper to go down to your local gun shop and purchase a “Made In America by proud American Corporations exporting millions of guns to the world” pistol (or two or three as a matter of fact) that fires more than 3 or 4 rounds, and far more accurately, before blowing up in your hands. And no, I am not a “gun nut” either. I haven’t held a pistol or rifle in my hands since I left Iraq 9 years ago.

          I’m not sure, but it seems that you are intentionally missing the point of this article, the video and many of the comments. Either that or all you know about this 3D Printed Pistol is what the American Pravda printed. The fact is, it’s not safe, it’s not accurate, and it has no long term usefulness. It was, and still is, nothing but a symbol that showed that a core method of displaying/having power is available outside the purview of The State, and not just guns. As a “free gun for gun nuts” it is nearly useless and has a far better chance of harming the shoot-er than the shoot-ee.

          Your comments are contributing absolutely nothing to the conversation… other than personal attacks on everyone that does not agree with you and your very apparent love of the status quo with its “proper channels of change”.

          I’m no anarchist but I do believe that a little anarchy is good for the soul, let alone human evolution, or to semi-quote Eric Schmidt, (today’s technology) “is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.” (He actually said (The Internet) “is the first thing…”)

          Try giving us your idea of a rational and viable solution that the working man or woman can implement in order to gain back some control over his/her labor from the State instead of direct attacks on those that are able to sympathize at least a little with what this video and article are saying… and “The Right To Vote” doesn’t count.

          1. P James

            “It was, and still is, nothing but a symbol that showed that a core method of displaying/having power is available outside the purview of The State”

            Instead of being vague, why don’t you explain exactly what being able to print your own gun achieves. Please be precise.

    1. digi_owl

      I honestly don’t know either way, especially after learning that his Nazi supporting sister edited his texts after his death to make them more supporting of same…

  5. allcoppedout

    There have long been anarchists feeding at the Establishment zoo. Chris Burden made ‘Movie on the Way Down’ by throwing himself off the top of a gymnasium with a video camera. This was the second in his series of ‘pain art’. In the first he shot himself in the arm. Cody has some more sophistication is all.

    Bitcoin, MMT and Piketty’s global wealth tax all have an element of anarchism. One of Nietzsche’s keys was provocation. And all these concepts provoke us to think what money is. The wider language question makes it impossible to use rough pub or typical cop canteen gossip (or oval room expletive-ridden) language even here or in Cody’s interview. We must have manners, though no one asks why, or if the censorship is legitimate. Terms like ‘bimbo’ (actually a good non-gendered origin) can get one sacked as a sexist, yet those doing the sacking may be accessing ‘scat sex porn’ and other muck far more likely to actually effect certain forms of fantasy objectification. In our weird confusion, one’s personnel manager may be forcing an arranged marriage on her children. The politically correct white academic may be spending his summers in a beach house bought with a cheap loan from the bank that does his university’s loan business, ripping students off and never living anywhere near the competition for homes and jobs immigration brings.

    Frankly, I agree a lot with Frank – though the Devil rides out. Real innovation could come if groups of unemployed people, helped by academics and our armed services, could work together with ‘MMT money’ to come up with green projects that would pay everyone doing their bit in producing green capacity. In the way is the operation of the language of power. We would be building capacity not to burn and poison the planet, not to create the negative of current groaf, capacity not to have more work to do to get by. The key internet role in this would be people talking to each other and able to organise doing what’s needed, wanted, fun and satisfying. In the way is the vile political-economic system of les salauds.

    I break with what Frank says before his end. What we need is government and ‘policing’ that works for us, that we are part of and structures as much freedom as possible. We need some jolts to stop us thinking in the language of their power and sad, academic-regurgitation of concepts that inevitably regard ‘greening’ as a cost and have detached money from its real role in creating capacity. We need to create anarchist moments, not the space for the libertine devil to ride.

    1. YankeeFrank

      ” What we need is government and ‘policing’ that works for us, that we are part of and structures as much freedom as possible.”

      I agree. What confuses me is that many on this thread seem to think its only one solution or another, as if we cannot have many solutions at once. The fact is we need as many solutions as we can muster. After all our opposition, the power structure as it exists now, has many tentacles, and the only way to beat them back is by using every tool at our disposal.

      1. allcoppedout

        We might be able to locate the ‘heart’ Frank, though squids have three. I would think a lot of the control system could be local after we kill off the beast. Global governance is achievable without Global Government.

  6. allcoppedout

    Skippy pertinent, P James right – but the fact Bitcon could work for a while and the darknet is there tell us something, much as porn popularity does.

  7. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    Geez Yves enough with the Bitcoin bashing already. What does it possibly have to do with some “belief that people are Naturally Good”? It’s an internet system for exchanging value fer chrissakes. Like all money (OMG here we go again “oh oh it can’t possibly be called money!”) it can be used for good or bad purposes. May as well rave against the USD if you’re against “dark” activities, that’s the coin of the deepest darkest realms we know. “Man requires enforced moral norms to ensure He doesn’t do awful things”? Oh, you mean like gamble the entire existing financial system away at a running cost of the Financial Crisis so far of $24 *trillion* (according to the GAO), Oh THAT system of enforced moral norms? I don’t care if it’s Utopian Socialists or Little Green Men, it’s better than what we’ve got now. And to diss Wilson’s thing because it’s about guns is also pretty thin, I mean Good God the spectacle of Fully Armed America is there for the world to see even before Wilson used the net to make 3D guns. Have you ever been to a gun show? And exactly what happened after Sandy Hook? Why not spend your time chasing down the politics of THAT instead of just apeing at a guy like Wilson. Freedom is under the worst assault in our history and we need some guys like him pushing as hard as possible in the other direction.

    1. P James

      “Freedom is under the worst assault in our history and we need some guys like him pushing as hard as possible in the other direction.”

      He’s not pushing for freedom. He’s just handing out instructions on how to make guns, and how to evade taxes or swap illegal porn.

      1. Banger

        Define “freedom” you haven’t and until you do stop asserting empty words–there is no more ambiguous word in today’s parlance.

        1. allcoppedout

          The word is more or less ambiguity Banger. Freedom to, freedom from, plus all the cry freedom of the next tyrant, mine different but probably complimentary with yours … deregulation to allow bullying … Hobbes …

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            I’d define freedom the way the Supreme Court defines pornography “I know it when I see it”.
            And I don’t.
            We’re supposedly normalizing the idea that freedom and privacy must be relinquished because of boogiemen under the bed. But the boogie-hunters (the surveillance-industrial complex) themselves admit that their freedom and privacy-destroying results in NO additional security.
            The chance of being killed by a terrorist in the US is significantly less than being killed by a falling TV set. So I imagine P James and other commenters will support a new law requiring all TVs to be chained to a wall. We can set up a Department of Audio-Visual Device Safety and Security. I’m sure they’ll need to requisition millions of rounds of hollowpoints to execute their critical mission.

      2. tim s

        yes, but now our taxes are generally used to buy guns and other police/military weapons which are being used for oppression by and for the TPTB, which we see are most wholly corrupt. One man’s anarchy in the face of such a system is another man’s freedom fighter. Your use of “just” is dismissive and wreaks of either trolling or lack of understanding.

        1. P James

          “another man’s freedom fighter”

          If you think this guy is a freedom fighter you’re an idiot. Do you think those militia morons who flocked to Bundy’s Ranch were “freedom fighters”?

          This guy is just an extreme right-wing gun nut who thinks that the right to own any sort of weapon is the most important “freedom” that exists. It’s pathetic.

          1. P James

            in case you aren’t aware, this Cody Wilson guy is at the same end of the ideological spectrum as those extreme right-wing white-supremacist gun-loving militia morons over at Bundy’s Ranch who think the most important thing in the world right now is to “protect” Bundy from having to pay the million dollars in fines that he owes to the US courts.

            I mean, what the hell does printing a gun achieve? What sort of problem is that ever going to solve? It achieves nothing, it solves nothing.

            1. tim s

              idiot? morons?

              the commentary on this website is by-and-large better than what you are contributing. Again, you are either a troll or your understanding of complex issues is lacking. Either way, you are not making your points, whatever they are since I’ve seen nothing but name-calling, convincingly.

              If you want gun nuts, try looking up how many citizens have been killed by police in the USA. I read recently that since the start of the Iraq war, the number is higher than the number of the US military killed in Iraq.

              Regardless of what you think of Bundy, people have a right to bear arms, specifically in the form of a militia, in order to protect themselves against tyrrany. Are the feds in this case tyrannical? I don’t know, but they are tyrranical enough in many other areas (economic policy, drug war, world war, etc) that one should pause for reflection, even if you find those who are trying to protect themselves very unappealing and perhaps in the wrong in some aspects. There are some interesting side stories to the Bundy issue and it is very difficult to know facts considering how pervasive disinformation is these days. One thing I do know, people who live in regions like that generally have a strong sense of right and wrong and make for a fairly tight community even though sparsely populated, and if they unite against the feds in this situation, I’d be slow to make judgement, and I’d advise you to do the same. Come up with something better than these shallow attacks or quit polluting our space

              If the militia is in the wrong, they will lose the support of the general population and will eventually fail.

              1. P James

                they never had the support of the general population.

                Instead of coming up with any real solutions to the problems that exist in the world, these militia morons and this Cody Wilson cretin think that the most important thing is to stockpile weapons for the coming war with the feds. And once you scratch the surface of these “libertarian” types all you find is a mush of infantile youtube conspiracy theory, racism, pseudo-history, denial of science, and stupid angry hatred of all sorts of things, like environmental regulations and minimum wages and such nonsense, all mixed together with the most extreme know-nothing right-wing political and economic ideology you can possibly think of. They are contemptible characters, beyond redemption, not “freedom fighters”.

                1. tim s

                  alright bonehead, I’ll spell it out for you since you persist in name-calling over anything else. The world is not black and white, it is quite grey, and noone is all right or all wrong. You’re the idjit who doesn’t see that.

                  listen to the video again, since you missed the point entirely. If you want to cut him down, at least be accurate – he was never “stupid angry hate”, and I believe that he said the gun printing file distribution was more to make a larger point than to get guns into the hands of the masses, particularly since he said that this was already available.

                  ’nuff said already

                  1. P James

                    “I believe that he said the gun printing file distribution was more to make a larger point”

                    What point. There is no point.

                    It’s as stupid and pointless as Alex Jones screaming that he won’t let the NWO big government communists take away his guns.

  8. Banger

    Excellent introduction by Yves and very important interview by the BBC and interesting commentary by PP. This is just the sort of “meta” discussion that is essential for us to begin addressing the major issues that confront us.

    The subject of this post is anarchism. I don’t have an objection to either anarchism or statism–all are have valid arguments in their favor.

    PP makes a categorical mistake in taking the anarchist ideas of Cody Wilson as ultimate questions of morality and political philosophy–there are no such things and as, PP likes to say, there is no “evidence” that there are such things at least not in the realm we are discussing, i.e., human practical affairs. So Philip, let’s stop the moral posturing here–you don’t, I suspect, have a solid moral philosophy you can articulate but, as with most people, a potpourri of sentiments that you learned in childhood and through schooling.

    I have to approach this on a “systems” basis. The implication of the discovery and articulation of the field of systems analysis has, it seems, only had some kind of narrow utilitarian value and has, like the “discovery” of the unconscious been largely ignored in intellectual discourse at least in the U.S. From a systems approach we now need a heavy dose of anarchism for the state to be reborn. Why? Because, and here the facts are about as crystal clear as any historical situation can be, i.e., we live in a radically dysfunctional civilization that is in need of drastic and revolutionary change for obvious pragmatic reasons. No, it’s not income inequality though that is a powerful symptom–it is the fact that our current power set-up cannot and will not deal with the issue of Climate Change and Environmental degradation despite almost universal understanding among the elites and nearly all scientists that have studied the question. We’ve know about this problem for a quarter-century and virtually nothing has been done about the problem and we are probably further away from dealing with it today than twenty-five years ago. The state must be smashed (I include the whole corporate structure as well as the formal state) and the sooner the better because we don’t have time to dick around with half-measures and I challenge PP or anyone else to counter this argument. The proof is right in front of us.

    There is some special documentary on Showtime about climate change hosted by Leslie Stahl wherein she interviewed John Kerry who was fully aware of the problem but said that basically there’s nothing to be done–the opposition is too strong, the wheels of the state move too slowly and said that more public pressure is needed–what kind of attitude is that? If he believes what he believes why doesn’t he publicly resign? What keeps these guys blundering along? They need a big f*cking fire lit under them and all these characters must be opposed and their power undercut.

    Anarchism is a short-term solution to our problems a first step to a more orderly system. The order we have is an order for the subjects of the state–the powerful have no order–they are a series of criminal gangs who will do ANYTHING to keep in power–no crime is too great and I can prove that–we have evidence for that. The evidence of what we know about human nature is that we are hard-wired for social connection and we will find healthy arrangements and I will give you an example that some of us have experienced. When disasters hit and the state is not present most people react with often heroic humanitarianism and true human nature comes out. I believe humans are naturally “good”, which I define and PP does not, as the movement towards connection, i.e., “love.” Our issue today is now to realize the good in the social context. Supporting the current state structures and even “reforms” as PP suggests is impossible since, as we have analyzed endlessly here on this site, the state (in the U.S. at least) is beyond redemption–there is no clear path to addressing any critical issue. We don’t even know what the state is and we don’t know who actually run things because the tissue of lies that the mainstream media has been giving us has grown impossibly thick. People like Coy Wilson and some of the young anarchists show us the correct path for now.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Gramsci would argue that the distinction between state and civil society (in which corporations reside) is academic; useful for exposition, but that is all.

      However, although I agree that humans have displayed adaptability by evolving in the direction of social connection (I hate the dead metaphor “hard wired”), I don’t see that as intrinsically healthy. There are plenty of social arrangements on any timescale or scope you can name that are not healthy.

    2. jonboinAR

      “They had one thing in common, they were good and bad…” (I thing the words are actually “good in bed”, but I’ve always liked the former hearing as it describes actual human nature. If I understand correctly even some of the worst monsters have been perfectly affable, even loving, a good deal of the time.)

      IOW, I can’t agree with you that human nature is basically good. It’s good and it’s bad, both. I can’t agree with your advocacy for doing away with central government until you account for that “fact”. I know some US agency probably has a file on me, but what about my freakin’ neighbor? He’s armed to the teeth and has kind of a bad temper. Do I need to start loading up?

      1. Banger

        I know plenty of people armed to the teeth–and they’re great people (I live in the South). I’ve been around all kinds of people who do bad things–but I never saw them as bad just deeply wounded, even my ex-wives.

  9. JGordon

    “Oh well. Man is not Naturally Good and requires Laws and enforced moral norms to ensure that He doesn’t do awful things.”

    That is not the issue at all here, and framing the issue in that way would cause many people to consider you to be dangerously short-sighted. While I am not interested in commenting on issues of morality, simply because “morality” is something that each of us experiences subjectively, at the very least I believe that what Mr. Wilson is doing is overall beneficial to the human species, and will allow more of us and our progeny to survive than otherwise would without his activities. And if we are using that as the measure of morality, then in my estimation Mr. Wilson is a very moral person, and possibly a hero as well.

    Oh yes, and tangentially I agree that Economics is bullcrap and that all economists ought to be fired and replaced with astrologers. Astrologers are just as accurate (if not more), will accept much lower pay, and are trained to be entertaining–unlike economists who generally dour and a real bummer to be around. Therefore there is no reason to have an economist on staff over an astrologer. Just throwing that out there.

    1. Lloyd DeMausse

      “Oh well. Man is not Naturally Good and requires Laws and enforced moral norms to ensure that He doesn’t do awful things.”

      And thus the religious and childhood origins of Mr. Pilkington’s ideology are revealed. This is what Philip believes because it is what he was told as a child, over and over, likely accompanied by an act of violence, either by a parent or a priest or both. Philip’s entire “moral philosophy”, and it appears his whole career and life, revolve around this lie. Many others believe him because many others were also told this lie, and to come to terms with the fact that humans are not born evil (“original sin”), but rather are made evil by violent and abusive parents (just as anyone knows that if you abuse a puppy, it will grow into a vicious and violent dog) is too difficult for them to bear, just as it is too difficult for them to confront the abuse and neglect inflicted upon them by their parents and other caregivers when they were children.

      90% of parents are still hitting their infant children, and this is the root cause of all of the evil in the world, including the soft evil of Mr. Pilkington’s sophistry and defense of the indefensible (the State). Of course it is never “politically correct” to speculate about the childhood trauma and abuse of another, which is unfortunate because it is so often obviously relevant to what they are attempting to argue, but if I were to speculate I would at the very least estimate that Mr. Pilkington spent a great deal of his childhood abandoned by his parents to the asylum-like prisons for children known as government (or religious – but I repeat myself) schools. Given his British origins I would go even further and speculate that a “boarding school” was involved, possibly with “corporal punishment”, and like a baby duckling, Philip bonded to those who raised him, and in this case he was raised by that ever so convenient father-replacement, The State, and even to this day he spends his hours justifying and defending his violent and abusive adopted parent.

      But of course nobody wants to talk about that, lest we actually begin to hack at the root of our problems and risk offending the delicate sensibilities of abusers and their victims. Much easier to pen long-winded abstract economic treatises rather than to confront one’s own inner demons caused by childhood trauma.

      1. Banger

        Indeed, a careful study of social science, anthropology, neuroscience shows us that people do bad things because they are in pain usually stemming from cruelty of parents or the Mr. M’Choakumchild’s of the world. These individuals themselves were in pain–I believe our job in the world is mainly to heal the pain that has been handed down over generations.

  10. James Levy

    The comments here are depressing. You’re not all going to take out your printer-guns and defeat the Marine Corps. The dangerous fantasy of power through weaponry has been demolished by feminist scholars for years. Throughout history, guns have been used overwhelmingly to dominate, not to defend. And if you all think that morality is just “subjective” why are you so pissed off at the oligarchs and the US government intervention in Ukraine and a hundred other issues that rile reader’s bile. On what basis are you bitching about the actions of Geithner if there is no good and evil, only whatever people subjectively imagine?

    I hate to break this to you, but some people shouldn’t have guns. Ask battered wives if they think the bullies and the batterers should be armed with assault rifles. Ask people who have been raped if the rapist, when they get out of jail, should have access to firearms. And for those who say, “they can get them anyway”, well, that’s largely a function of people having been undermined in every attempt to circumscribe the spread of these weapons for ever in this country. If we had simply said that every hunter or target shooter who wanted a bolt-action rifle and a shotgun could have one, but nothing else (because nothing else is needed for any legal purpose) we wouldn’t be in this mess. But no, that wasn’t good enough for the paranoid gun-nuts. They thought their masculinity, power, and autonomy hung on the size and number of guns they could own. And now we’re fucked, because the genie is out of the bottle.

    Lay off the “freedom fighter” and post-apocalyptic power fantasies, people. Stop reading “Farnham’s Freehold” and work cooperatively with your neighbors to build a better future.

      1. Jess

        I’m still waiting for someone — anyone — on the gun control side to put forth a rational explanation of how all guns except those bolt-action rifles and shotguns could be actually eliminated from society. Not outlawed, but physically taken out of circulation. I want the step-by-step process outlined in an least enough detail to allow examination of enough specifics to render rational judgment on the efficacy of the plan. I’m particularly interested in the procedures for the massive nationwide search of every structure and piece of property for those firearms accidentally or intentionally not turned in when possession is no longer legal.

        Anyone up to the task also be sure to explain how banning these weapons will be any more effective than banning alcohol was during Prohibition or how the War on Drugs has succeeded in eliminating public access to and widespread use of pot, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, meth, etc.

        I’m waiting, folks. Let’s be quick about it.

        1. James Levy

          I’m promising myself I’ll stay calm and civil. The point of what I said was that 40 years of obstruction have made so many guns so easily available in so many jurisdictions that comprehensive gun control, which would have been possible in the 60s, and might have been in the 70s and 80s, is no longer much of an option. All we can do is pass draconian measures for those who use guns in the commitment of crimes and enforce them. This is, of course, closing the barn door after the horses have escaped.

          I still maintain that if reasonable people had accepted the argument that those who need a weapon or two for hunting and target shooting can have them, but the rest are outlawed, we’d be in a much better place. But paranoia and testosterone got in the way. We now have to deal with the deadly consequences.

          1. JCC

            James, not only paranoia and testosterone, but America’s Gun Mfg’s and the Federal Government/I.R.S. (Not to mention Job Security for the DEA and other Federal Acronyms).

            There is big money in guns. Don’t forget that guns of all sorts, not just military weaponry, are a major export. The latest estimate I read stated that the Industry did at least $12 Billion in domestic business and over $4 Billion in exports for sporting rifles and pistols just last year.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          They did it in Australia. So there is a road map. And it worked. So it can be done.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      James, that’s a must read for our militarized police departments (too much masculinity), warmongers (work with our neighbors) and Military-Industrial Complex profiteers (some people shouldn’t have guns, like Blood Diamond kids in Africa).

      Universal, comprehensive gun (and lethal weapon) control.

      Something about the empire being the greatest purveyor of violence…

  11. Banger

    Hope this doesn’t offend anyone–but man is naturally “good” and the kind of depictions of our nature presented here that we “need” the lash in order to do right is absurd and a result of the perversity of our cultural institutions–in fact neuroscience points in the opposite direction. Anarchism is based on a positive view of mankind that is objectively true–we are good if you define “good” (as I do) as moving towards connection and compassion. When emergencies occur and humans are left to their own devices the good shines through and heroism emerges despite the systematic dis-empowering nature of today’s political economy.

    1. Vatch

      I partially agree that people are naturally good. Most people are basically good, but there is a minority (1%, 4%; different authors choose various numbers) who lack conscience and are considered to be sociopaths or psychopaths. There’s disagreement about the cause of these conditions, but there appear to be structural differences in the brains of such people. For various reasons, socio/psychopaths seem to be better at rising to leadership positions in politics, business, the military, even religion.

      The prevalence of such people in important roles complicates any discussion of the need for coercion to manage society. Most people do not require “the lash” to do the right thing, but the socio/psychopaths do need it. Yet the people without conscience often end up being the ones wielding the lash, which is the reverse of how it should be.

    2. allcoppedout

      I believe that too – but there are weak and strong versions. In the strong version ‘all truth lies in the main destruction’ and that if we just get rid of institutions the corruption will fade. I don’t know anyone still supporting this. In the weak version, we need to examine institutions and get rid of the unnecessary ones. I think we have to admit there is good and bad in all of us in varying degrees. So we need some notion of ‘policing’. Something after American Spring.

      1. Banger

        If you mean that there are a percentage of sociopaths born with bad brains–I reject that. Brains become deformed through social interaction or lack thereof, for the most part. Yes, certain children have a predisposition towards violence but social cues and stress are the direct cause of sociopathic.

      1. allcoppedout

        My ‘policing’ would have little relation to what is going on now Alej – and a lot more to do with the solidarity expressed in your link.

    3. tim s

      Yet when given nothing but leisure and power, humans do not incline toward good, and this is most certainly true of generations born into privilege. It is relative, and to consider humans as either inherently good or bad is a mistake. We are potentially either, although individuals by their specific personality are more disposed toward one or the other in any given situation, i.e. a sadist will always be so, as will a saint, but those are outliers.

      1. Banger

        I disagree–human beings are hard-wired for cooperation, love and connection–it is the perversity of civilization that causes most evil. Evil is present but it is rare. Certainly we all have good and bad but, in my long experience, we tend to notice the bad within ourselves and others far too often.

        1. James Levy

          You are, overall, correct. But the Julius Caesars, the Napoleons, the Charlemagnes, Churchills, Stalins, Hitlers, the people who are really charismatic and good at getting people to follow them and organizing them to do their bidding, these people are not so hard-wired. They like power, They like war. They thrive on conflict, and will create it even if most people don’t want it. You have to build some serious checks and balances into any system to try, best as you can, to keep these people away from the levers of power, or the levers modest enough so it takes an unlikely concatenation of bad guys to mess things up. Too much organization, or too little, gives these types free reign to go bananas and take us with them.

          1. Nathanael

            What we need is some people who enjoy conflict, who are willing to ruthlessly kill their enemies, but who are not sociopaths, don’t actually like war, and are actually on the side of the 99%.

            They seem exceedingly rare. FDR, Earl Grey. Lenin?

  12. allcoppedout

    William Godwin, the father of modern anarchism, actually believed politics will be displaced by an enlarged personal morality as truth conquers error and mind subordinates matter, looking forward to a period in which the dominance of mind over matter would be so complete that mental perfectibility would take a physical form, allowing us to control illness and ageing and become immortal.

    This is a long way from being able to speak and think without the dominating censorship of politics and economics. I have some fear that Banger-style “goodness thinking” can forget just how rotten the State of Denmark is, though I’ve seen enough to know he isn’t suckered into this.

    Cory Wilson is at least a rhetorical form rejecting the trap of ‘the sensible that isn’t’ of most MSM. There are more sophisticated notions on argument.

  13. Lee Robertson

    Wilson sees power as a “Commons” and merely attempts to point out the usurpation this commons by hierarchic structures. The moral implications of “power” just go along for the ride. The usurpation of power implies the usurpation of morality.

    1. allcoppedout

      Morality and manners screw out thinking – and yet we don’t have to give up to the childish drum beat of Nietzsche.

  14. paul

    This is a long way from being able to speak and think without the dominating censorship of politics and economics. I have some fear that Banger-style “goodness thinking” can forget just how rotten the State of Denmark is, though I’ve seen enough to know he isn’t suckered into this

    I’m fairly convinced that most folks don’t naturally want to kick it or lick it.

    What we have is, I think, a sort of minskyian paradox, social stability (in the west) has allowed in the social gamblers/gamers working on the premise that the public won’t put up much of a fight.*

    Stability should empower us as surely as insecurity (the master control) disables us.

    Yet the moment you lean back in the garden chair (or any other commodity), you forget some cunt is going to steal it overnight.

    I wonder if in your policing career you, because of institutional culture, your society, ever made a conscious, deliberated error? I’m not attacking you, most people are forced to. Everyday.

    *Its been a winning bet so far, black always wins
    except when it doesn’t..

    1. allcoppedout

      The culture was sadistic to be honest Paul, and often farcical. Bosses had us doing stuff like raiding a Labour club for ‘bingo infractions’ and 2000 of us guarding a one man fascist march. I’d say the percentage of the force doing a good job for ordinary people was as low as 30% and this is likely to be lower 30 years on.

    2. Nathanael

      What we have is, I think, a sort of minskyian paradox, social stability (in the west) has allowed in the social gamblers/gamers working on the premise that the public won’t put up much of a fight.*

      *Its been a winning bet so far, black always wins …except when it doesn’t..

      I think you’ve got it exactly. The fact is that if the sociopaths keep pushing and pushing, eventually they will push people too far and there will be a revolution. But until then, most people are calm and don’t put up much of a fight, so the sociopaths think they can get away with more. So we’re on this headlong express to the French Revolution.

  15. impermanence

    Taken towards its limits, intellectualism breaks down rapidly. Although Cody Wilson pointed to some very interesting truths, the contradictions [which define all things intellectual] subverted his intentions and rendered his positions impotent.

    It all comes down to the struggle between individual v. the collective, always has, and always will. Technology is neutral and simply serves as a distraction in this discussion.

  16. paul

    In my secondary school, a comprehensive with historical pretensions, the most dysfunctional were shephered to the police force.
    30 years later I saw friends or friends of friends drawn to it for largely pension reasons (eg a housing worker, a cellist).
    The culture gave them the ‘offer’: get along and get on, or not.
    Understandablly they contracted.

  17. susan the other

    I guess I’m just an exploding hothead. This video with Cody Wilson really pissed me off. 3-D print your own gun and all your problems will be solved. Wilson himself is such a purified piece of bullshit he could be turned into an app and we could just print him out. And what difference would that make? Aaarrgh. The hidden power of language, indeed. And it’s accomplice the not-so hidden power of propaganda. Oh great… let’s just embrace the vision of Blade Runner. Nevermind that it was a warning.

    1. H. Alexander Ivey

      Humm, take a breath, get a cup of coffee, and watch the video again, with this point of view, Mr Wilson is talking within a logical framework, one that he can not clearly say, partially because his interviewer will not state his (the interviewer’s) framework. Then you may see that Mr Wilson has an interesting point, that his arguments are not lunatic crazy, but are based on a different set of assumptions – namely that the individual has a right to decide on their level of violence, not the government. He is not arguing for the complete elimination of government rules, but for the individual to be able to define, for themselves, what the rules are – at least to define more than is allowed today. Or I don’t think he is arguing for “every man for himself” either, more like let every man decide for himself.

      A second interesting point is the BBC interviewer. He can not help himself to take a moral stand, one that he will not clearly state, which is, the government is morally correct to make any and all rules it feels it needs to protect the public good.

      Now that I think of it, this argument between the BBC and Mr Wilson comes down to “the greatest good for the greatest number” vs “respect for persons”. All philosophy comes down to these two, mutually conflicting, can-not-have-both, positions. You must choose one or the other for your argument.

      1. P James

        garbage “anarcho capitalist” drivel.

        You understand that we live in a society, not as atoms floating in a vacuum? If so, then “let every man decide for himself” is meaningless.

        “the greatest good for the greatest number” vs “respect for persons”

        False dichotomy.

  18. paul

    Texnoligix is in thehands of Texnoligixists and their sponsor.
    The idea that the weirdo in the guarden shed is going to change things exists in harry potter novels and their like.
    hedrick smith has realised the answer
    Its like paul craig roberts lamenting his ‘solution’,it didn’t work and the bad boys (non reaganites cheney and herrr rumsfelfd) stole his work and somehow despoiled it.

  19. allcoppedout

    The role of taking away our means of living with coerced joining of the capitalist system is well made by Yves and her citations. In a sense, we have climbed the ladders to where we are now and pushed them away (Wittgenstein). We need ways into our plight that are not academic, not the next piece of enslaving theory or propaganda. And preferably something of a laugh as ‘seriousness’ is part of the language of power. The “controlling aliens” can’t take ridicule and people enjoying themselves.

    The question ignored over and again is how we can take democratic control without some of us becoming the “new aliens”. The scientist would examine what happens when such a vital question is asked, to understand the language of power. I throw in the “aliens” as provocation to the madness that surrounds apparently normal speech. The language of power will make it my madness, but who will have spoken the silent disapproval, itself silencing what we need to discuss and plan?

    I take it no one here would think I’m a ufo-spotter, waving his arse to signal the nearest alien proctologist. Imagine walking in to see Obama or Cameron and telling the truth on what they have made you feel and explain a new way of doing things social. If we really value truth in the sense of being honest, how do you start without calling them shits? Don’t get polite or mannered, this is imagination. We talk about telling truth to power, yet only manage mannered versions of this. How did this come about? How true is anything mannered? Don’t think I’m advocating rudeness, this is about a thought experiment on the conditions in which dialogue can exist.

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