School Curriculum Changes

In Colorado recently an AP curriculum change was proposed to “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” (story).

How can “individual rights” be respected if an individual fails to respect an “authority” or statute they don’t agree with…like a potential curriculum change? According to the Jefferson County School Board, by removing a curriculum that tends to “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” So much for the free-market of ideas. To me an AP course would present, for students to grapple and debate, not indoctrinate. Apparently this potential change to the curriculum has done just what the board didn’t want, and civil disobedience has ensued. Besides the curriculum they miss this year due to protests and walk-outs, I suppose the real life events of civil disobedience unfolding before them will teach them more than they would being stuck in a class without the unrest. I’m sure the people protesting in Hong Kong now would sympathize with the students and teachers, and I’m guessing the power elite in Hong Kong would sympathize with the school board trying to mold model citizens.

It’s not that being a model citizen is bad, but just who decides what type of model is up for debate. Apparently, not a model that considers “race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing while simultaneously omitting the most basic structural and philosophical elements considered essential to the understanding of American History for generations.” Just what they mean by “the most basic structural and philosophical elements considered essential,” I’m not sure, but apparently the current curriculum was not liked by some on the Board. Perhaps they could get former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill on the Board and/or in the classroom, as I think he’s still looking for a job.

Speaking of essential, this story brings us to another state, Indiana, where Governor Mitch Daniels tried to nix Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” from state classrooms. For the record, Zinn was an anarchist, and perhaps a model citizen…imagine that.

As a former teacher in California I saw the State Standards/curriculum as generally good…because they were designed by professionals and teachers in those respective fields. Every discipline covered important/essential material. However, what I didn’t like was having so much minutia to cover as to make it difficult to provide an environment where an open-ended Socratic or project-based method of seeing the big picture was valued. The students in Colorado are getting this first hand. As sad as their plight is, as said above it’s a great teachable moment.

Providing the tools to allow students to think (or how to) and ask questions is a hard task while having to simultaneously tell students “this is what you will think” and “I’ll ask the questions.” Only the most experienced and creative teachers were able to cover the ground required by the state and at the same time help students build their own ship to see them off into the sunset, occasionally providing some wind for their sails, but not steering the boat for them. It was much easier to follow a factory model, unscrew their skulls, and dump shit in teaching to the test, rather than going about it as a facilitator, someone to trying to inspire them to go outside the box of the curriculum…at least in my experience, but damn it I tried. The arm of the state didn’t stop in public schools, as private schools had to cover the same state standards/curriculum. I wish these communities luck, and again, in a way the lessons learned by these incidents are actually a good thing as they’ll experience real change and inspiration first hand.

Counter-Revolution of 1776

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/6/27/counter_revolution_of_1776_was_us

The so-called Revolutionary War, Gerald Horne writes, was in large part a counter-revolution, a conservative movement that the founding fathers fought in order to preserve their liberty to enslave others…

“London was moving rapidly towards abolition. This perception was prompted by Somerset’s case, a case decided in London in June 1772 which seemed to suggest that abolition, which not only was going to be ratified in London itself, was going to cross the Atlantic and basically sweep through the mainland, thereby jeopardizing numerous fortunes, not only based upon slavery, but the slave trade. That’s the short answer”:

http://nyupress.org/books/book-details.aspx?bookid=12075#.U6358rGtzMk

Minimum Wage, Minimum Cage

Voltairine de Cleyre:

 

“Laborers are free to compete among themselves, and so are capitalists to a certain extent. But between laborers and capitalists there is no competition whatever, because through governmental privilege granted to capital, …, the owners of it are enabled to keep the laborers dependent on them for employment, so making the condition of wage-subjection perpetual. So long as one man, or class of men, are able to prevent others from working for themselves because they cannot obtain the means of production or capitalize their own products, so long those others are not free to compete freely with those to whom privilege gives the means.”

Those arguing for a minimum wage increase, or a minimum wage at all, are missing the point, and fighting the wrong battle.

Fighting for a minimum wage, or a wage at all, is to fight to stay in a cage created by capitalist paymasters. The only way to break free is to demand the abolition of the prison, and a place at the table of free enterprise and “democracy,” not wage slavery. Instead of fighting for “full product” and a place at the table, ultimately the abolition of human rentals, minimum wage activists are fighting to remain in a cage, albeit a cage with a few more amenities or cubic feet of space, but still a cage.

The fight should be to smash the cage of wages, minimum or other. The fight should be to demand liberty, a voice, and partnership in a firm, not servitude. This means when times are good everyone wins, and when times are bad everyone suffers…not just the “owners;” in other words everyone who works is a owner, not owned- incomes fluctuate. Minimum wage battles keep the cages erect and legitimize imprisonment, rather than direct attention to where it should be shifted, a paradigm shift to abolish rental contracts.

David Ellerman: It is important to note that both the alienation of governing control at work and the transfer of responsibility cannot in fact take place. A person can not alienate their authority to a state or firm without a say in the governance, at least if one believes in inalienable rights and democratic theory. [source ]

 

“capitalist production, i.e. production based on the employment contract denies workers the right to the (positive and negative) fruit of their labour. Yet people’s right to the fruits of their labour has always been the natural basis for private property appropriation. Thus capitalist production, far from being founded on private property, in fact denies the natural basis for private property appropriation.” [The Democratic worker-owned firm, p. 59]

The minimum wage activist is promoting the same lie and living the employer has promoted (or perhaps it’s a paradigm the employer is also caged within). Capitalism is the theft of surplus value, a denial or alienation of labor from its whole product. Capitalists sit outside the cage, feed a wage through the bars, and usurp the surplus, but in reality this theft is illegal as the fruits of labor are inalienable from it’s producer(s). Also illegal is the alienation of a producer in a say or place at the table. Without democracy in the workplace, a worker is a deaf, blind, and dumb slave in a monarchy or oligarchy. As a wage laborer food comes in the cage, but the worker does not define the terms or know if there is any surplus. In reality they should not define the terms of their capture, they should not be caged to begin with- liberty and justice for all…

Kevin Carson: The value of labor power is less than the embedded labor-value in the product of labor precisely because artificial property rights and artificial scarcity cause the worker to sell her labor-power for a price less than the value of her product. The capitalist is able to sit in the position of a monopsonist, targeting the price of labor-power to the minimum value the worker is willing to accept rather than the free market value of her labor, for the same reason that a monopolist is able to target price to the consumer’s ability to pay rather than cost of production….The concrete values which the capitalist must pay for labor-power, versus what he can receive for the worker’s labor product, are not constants. They are heavily influenced by the structure of privilege. The capitalist’s power of exploitation is conditioned by the question of whether or not he has to compete with the possibility of self-employment. And the more artificially scarce and expensive the means of production, the less competition the capitalist faces from self-employment.

 

Proudhon: “Whoever labours becomes a proprietor — this is an inevitable deduction from the principles of political economy and jurisprudence. And when I say proprietor, I do not mean simply (as do our hypocritical economists) proprietor of his allowance, his salary, his wages, — I mean proprietor of the value his creates, and by which the master alone profits . . . The labourer retains, even after he has received his wages, a natural right in the thing he was produced.” [What is Property?, pp. 123-4]

Free yourself from (minimum) slavery, none but ourselves can free us from the cage of a wage.

PDF of Ellerman mods

Mods to Ellerman

Subsidized “Hustle”

While I like Richard Wolff to some degree when he gets it, I think I’m more bothered when he’s off the mark than I would be from someone else as he claims to be an economist, and an anti-capitalist (for the most part). In this program he discusses this Routers article as well as what “capitalism” means. The Router’s article notes that “four of the biggest U.S. technology groups collectively hold an estimated $124 billion in U.S. Treasury debt, much of it offshore, earning them tax-free interest.”

As Wolff points out, we pay more for our tech devices and search engine use than previously thought because we subsidize tax breaks. The irony being that because the tax is not collected in the first place we then have to borrow for x,y,z…from the very people that ‘didn’t pay enough to begin with’ according to Wolff. We could borrow less (and pay less interest) if the tech giants were taxed ‘correctly’ to begin with. Not that I’m a fan of taxes, the State, or capitalism to begin with anyway, I just find this “hustle,” as Wolff calls it, particularly amusing because I help pay for it like it or not. This is “redistribution,” for the fat cats, and back to the fat cats again…getting screwed squared, capitalism squared. Honestly, I’d rather see “cost be the limit of price,” (Josiah Warren) to hell with profits, and taxes for products I don’t want, and interest/usury ta boot. Wolff fails to recognize the inflated cost-plus price at the root of profits as capitalism.

What bothers me about Wolff, besides the last point made, is that he thinks taxes are OK, or so it seems. He also complains about how bad markets are…not to the degree that Micheal Albert does, but still, he hates markets. What are taxes if not a market, a forced market? And why whine, as Wolff does, about companies ‘not paying enough considering the profits they make’? Profits should be his focus, not that companies aren’t paying enough taxes on the profits. So while he bashes capitalism, he defends it, because to defend profits and taxes is to defend theft, they are both capitalism. Profit is theft because profits are created by charging more than cost (cost plus), and/or stealing/skimming the cost plus from the workers that produced profits to begin with.

With cost plus the buyer pays more than they should; and with tax the economic relationship is a forced one where the payee purchases products they may not want to buy. Force is not democracy, but of course this depends on who you ask. Taxes support the coercive institutions that see to it that capitalism and taxes survive, i.e. the State. State Socialism is State Capitalism. No taxes, no state, no state, no capitalism. Their parasitic nature makes them depend on each other. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t pay the full value and externalities of products, just not taxes for products we don’t consume or demand. Wolff is against markets, but fails to mention or perhaps see free market anti-capitalism because he’s the in  trees of a State Socialist forest wearing rose colored lenses.

Wolff who appears to be a State Socialist is essentially a capitalist. At 38 minutes he goes over how he defines capitalism: the private ownership of the means of production (pootmop, and here too), resources are exchanged voluntarily (market exchange)… he then goes on to describe government/state socialism, and market planning. In addition, he defines capitalism on the organization of production, at ~42 minutes he states that decisions should be democratic, essentially plugging his Democracy at Work idea. A forerunner to Wolff in this regards is David Ellerman, who has a similar yet more elegant take. What bugs me is not how Wolff wants to have democracy in the workplace, but how he does not want democracy in markets. He complains about hierarchy and capitalism on the production end, but stops short of democracy in exchange, and wants hierarchical planning, and profits (i.e. capitalism), or so it seems.

Capitalism is usury, aka rent (aka interest, and profit). Rent, profit, and interest are often separated, but profit and interest are both rent (usury). Capitalism is privilege or gratuitous appropriation, i.e. usury, with artificial “ownership Rights to control access to natural opportunities.” Capitalism can happen between two or more people or systemically ‘where the State intervenes in the economy on behalf of capitalists to create artificial scarcities, artificial property rights, erect entry barriers, enforce monopolies, and cartels so capitalists can collect rents…because free competition is prevented from driving the price of things to their true cost of production.’ Kevin Carson

Rent is a credit or a right to ownership of material and immaterial resources that grant the appropriation of surplus based on a relation of distribution other than any normal function in the process of production. In other words,

surplus-value/profit expropriation from:

1. interest or financial rent- privatization of currency and public debt

2. scarcity, natural or artificial(monopoly, Intellectual Property Rights)

3. ground rent– the transformation of land and labor into fictitious commodities- de-socialization, re-socialization and then new de-socialization

Socialism is low to no rents/profits, worker owed production, where workers receive/divide profit/surplus-value to receive their full product, it is not siphoned out of their pockets as in the case of capitalism (this holds for reproducible goods anyway)

“Socialism, practically, is war upon usury in all its forms, the great Anti-Theft Movement of the nineteenth century; and Socialists are the only people to whom the preachers of morality have no right or occasion to cite the eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not steal!” That commandment is Socialism’s flag.” Benjamin Tucker

Mutualists advocate free-market socialism, collectivist anarchist advocate workers cooperatives and salaries based on the amount of time contributed to production, anarcho-communists advocate a direct transition from capitalism to libertarian communism, and anarcho-syndicalists advocate worker’s direct action and the general strike to abolish privilege.

Socialist Definitional Free-for-All

Wolff’s arguments are a “clever game to play” just as he says the capitalists play, but if he is playing the State Socialist card then Wolff is a capitalist. The gains he claims will occur in the workplace are washed away in a planned market, not to mention a State that plans how to put its hands in our pockets and force us to pay for products we don’t want. Taxes are not democratic they are tyrannical, and bolster a coercive machine that can only survive by a theft analogous to the theft Wolff claims he is seeking to ameliorate in the workplace.

While I like democracy, it possess a number of problems not the least of which is the very thing it purports to do: adhere to the Lockean consent theory. The consent theory demolishes democracy (Josiah Tucker). To consent to be governed is to be a slave under State Socialism or Wolffian capitalism.

Cost, The Limit

Today’s big hit is a cute little paper by a couple econophysicists in Bremen. They built a toy model where a whole bunch of limited agents each have two types of interactions: they decide a ‘trustworthiness’ value for themselves [0-1] as well as who all to contract with, and strategize to maximize the number of folks contracting with them times those folks’ trustworthiness and minimize their own trustworthiness in the contracts they initialize with others (each agent is forced to initiate said contracts/interactions with a set number of people per round). This asymmetry between initiated interactions and responsive interactions is intended to mirror a distinction between selling and buying and I’ll stick to that metaphor from here on out although it’s not unproblematic. Who to buy from in this model is decided by a straight comparison of prices while sellers set prices (quality/trustworthiness) by comparing the immediately preceding prices and resulting payoffs of their competitors. Long story short there were three major environmental variables, the set number of people the buyers were forced to buy from, a randomness factor localized to a single agent each iteration and the relative speed at which buyers updated their strategies versus sellers. The resulting system behavior revealed that this market had only two stable points: extreme competition (selling with next to no profit above marginal costs) or extreme cartelization (sellers get ridiculous profit). source

‘Cost should be the limit of price’ Josiah Warren, or similarly: “the labor theory of value recognizes no distinction between profit and plunder” SEK3. Nice to see an example.

I remember a friend lamenting that his bids for roadwork were approaching the cost of doing the work because of the competition in bids from “cheaper” guys. A real world example I just loved to hear considering Warren’s catchphrase. I didn’t think his lament was a bad thing, but didn’t really get into with him. I did wonder how “extra” money, i.e. profit, if small, could ever pay for repairs and future new equipment, but all things equal, if the market for the equipment and everything else were near cost I could see them doing just fine, and giving taxpayers the true price, not some inflated price to go into bonuses, investors, and who knows what else. The only ‘problem’ here was that labor was paid a ‘prevailing’ State mandated wage. This is a problem if the market says one thing, and the State another. The bid essentially revolves, or devolves, around this ‘prevailing’ number. I realize this can be a good thing for the prevailing employee, but if all things were at cost, including labor, then the bids could even be cheaper not to mention the cost of living (and taxes ta boot). A simple solution with complicated implementation when beholden to what amounts to a fettered market.

If the overall governance structure reinforces the capability of local groups to deal with their own problems, then user groups have an incentive to manage their own common-pool resources wisely. Under these circumstances, development is likely to be sustainable. Conversely, if local rules are routinely superceded by the policies of higher authorities, then it will be much more difficult to restrain individual appropriators from engaging in opportunistic behavior. In those circumstances, any effort to develop the national economy as a whole will rest on shaky foundations at the local level. source

The solution seems to be local, duh…Smash the State! Smash Government, Not governance.

 

Spying on Democracy and Reversing the Panopticon

Spying_on_Democracy_coverI recently heard Heidi Boghosian on WBAI and was not surprized to hear what I did in regards to Democracy and spying. She wrote a book to document the phenomenon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spying_on_Democracy.

It’s not surprising that the power elite want to maintain their hegemony and thwart democracy. I pointed out many problems with democracy here. Nevertheless, if we followed Thomas Jefferson’s democracy to its logical end we would indeed have anarchism, as to follow Locke’s consent theory leads to just that. A republic was born to maintain some hegemony, but a democracy remains free.

I’ve often thought the key to freedom is to “reverse the panopticon” of spying as I wrote some time ago:

nixonbackgroundpanopticontrans2“Fight the Power”(with counter counter-intelligence).
The Panopticon Reversal Symbol:

  • The triangle and all-seeing-eye:
    • does not necessarily stand for “The Illuminati,” though can if that’s what you think goes on. This isn’t to say there certainly aren’t “real” conspiracies, as several come to mind: COINTELPRO, Watergate, The Manhattan Project, Iran-Contra, Gulf of Tonkin, BCCI, The Dark Alliance, The Federal Reserve, Iraqgate…
    • is “societal controls which include institutional indoctrination (schools), surveillance (the police-state), and propaganda defining normal and abnormal behavior so as to stamp-out any challenges to the status quo.”
    • is the conscious effort of the ruling elite to maintain a system of power brokerage controlled from the inside of the triangle, where most do not have access. It is an affront against liberty, the denial of individual-sovereignty, or individual-autonomy, in favor of conformity and vanguardism.
  • The circle and arrows:
    • represent outsiders looking at the ruling elite observe and rule from the inside. The arrows represent the questioning of authority, i.e. the “reversing” of the panopticon.
    • attack each side of the triangle, and the circle also does this, encircling the panopticon.
  • The “i” inside the eye:
    • represents information the ruling vanguard has, and desires from us, including the information they feed us to maintain their power and control. TrapWire, ECHELON?
    • means we have to fight fire with fire, it is where those outside the inside come into play– ‘we,’ the arrows, fight info/disinfo emanating from the ‘eye’ with info and networking of our own– counter counter-intelligence. We question the rules, policy, economy, media, history etc. that keep their feet on our backs. Wikileaks comes to mind.

The original use of the word “Panopticon” (all observe) comes from social theorist Jeremy Bentham, who designed a prison with a central watchtower, Panopticon_blueprintno doubt inspired by his views on society and ethics. Ironically, the word is actually “all observe,” not “observe all” as that’s what Bentham intended. The design was used and popularized as a metaphor by Michel Foucault, in Discipline and Punish, to mean a form of power or hierarchy via observation and normalization. Emma Goldman, before Foucault’s time, summed up the idea nicely: “The most unpardonable sin in society is independence of thought.” Of course the gravity of your social “sin” depends on who your company is, and what your thoughts and actions are.

I am pretty sure Naomi Klein wrote the panopticon article below. It was posted almost a year after it was downloaded from the web (back in 2003?). The author’s name was lost and we can’t locate it with any search engines. If I remember correctly it is Klein– the content and language are definitely reminiscent of her work.

The Inverted Panopticon: Reclaiming Surveillance–The Inverted/Subverted Panopticon

      Indeed, not only is it feasible to suggest that there are ways out of the carceral archipelago, I would also like to suggest that the Panopticon can be inverted or perhaps subverted in order to provide a model for the ‘reacting-back’ of individuals against the institutions which seek to bind and control them.

What follows below is something of a ‘thought-experiment': I am not claiming to offer a definitive view of the modus operandii of the new social movements, but rather want to suggest a possible model which demands further testing and empirical research to ascertain its viability as a metaphor.

nixonYEARS_wrenchred200

So, let me begin this thought experiment by positing that there is a ‘domain’ of society – roughly speaking, a ‘public sphere’ – which in fact observes institutions themselves and scrutinizes them – albeit naively and idly – for infractions of the more basic human rights or standards of decency and accountability. This public sphere is ‘naive’ because it has no particular knowledge of the internal workings and dealings of corporations and/or nation-states: it is, for example, not trivial for Joe or Jane Public to know which factories Nike has contracted out to manufacture its shoes, and whether these factories adhere to basic labour standards. But if Joe or Jane were to be reliably informed that Nike were utilising Chinese sweatshops with no regard whatsoever for human rights, Nike risks going the way of Kathie Lee Gifford unless it can be extraordinarily light on its feet and charming in its PR. In short: the public gaze – properly directed – carries a great deal of weight.

But how can this gaze be directed? How can we ‘model’ the relations which uncover abuses of corporate trust and ‘focus’ public attention upon the transgressors? Perhaps the answer lies in not a rejection of Foucault’s metaphor, but rather an inversion of the power relations it entails: an ‘inverted Panopticon’, in which the power relations of domination and exploitation which are present in everyday life are turned on their head by the actions of activists [see fig.1]. fig.1 – the ‘Inverted’ Panopticon

Now, instead of institutions (be they states, corporations or any other dominant organisation) acting as the observers inside the tower, they instead can be pictured as the prisoners: not trapped physically, but symbolically by their brand, their public image. Of course, anyone can see into these cells from the outside – from the public sphere – into the cell, and see the presenting his outward image: smiling and open-armed, inviting them to peruse every inch of his or her cell. But, of course, the public’s vision is blocked by the prisoner’s very presence: he or she can stand in such a way as to obscure any less salubrious part of his/her cell: the public image is never the whole story. In fact, the only way to outmanoeuvre the prisoner – to see the whole picture of his/her doings – is to gain access to the tower behind the cell. From the tower, the prisoner no longer blocks the view: the angle has changed. And, indeed, by using his/her specialised skills (be they hacking, ‘culture jamming’, or defacing a corporate website), the activist can use various lines of flight – essentially lines of information passage, such as corporate network gateways – to gain access to the tower and, perhaps just for a split second, see the full picture: what is hidden from the view presented to the public.

Thus, once again, the operation of the inverted Panopticon is all a question of the control of vision and the positioning of bodies. The framework of Foucault’s metaphor holds good in reverse: all the thought experiment does is to turn the power/knowledge apparatus on its head and ask ‘what if…’. Control of the Panopticon is not inherently the privilege of a particular social group: with the right skills, the right knowledge, the functioning of the concept can be turned against those for whom it was originally designed, bringing discipline through surveillance – manifested as transparency through accountability – back into the institutions who would seek to impose its operations upon us.

References

Castells, M. 2000. Network Society: Second Edition. Oxford: Blackwells.

Foucault, M. 1977. Discipline and Punish. London: Penguin. -1981. History of Sexuality: Volume 1. London: Penguin.

Habermas, J. 1992 (1969). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Cambridge: Polity.

panopticondapathy

…The two contrasting modes of punishing are snapshots drawn from the two types of what Foucault terms ‘technologies of punishment’. The first, the ‘monarchical’ technology of punishment involves the repression of the populace through brutal public executions and torture. The second, ‘disciplinary punishment’ – which according to Foucault is the form of punishment practised today – gives ‘professionals’ (psychologists, program facilitators, parole officers, etc.) power over the prisoner in the sense that the prisoner’s length of stay depends on the opinion of these professionals. Foucault compares modern society with Jeremy Bentham’s (unrealised in its original form, but nonetheless influential) “Panopticon” design for prisons, in which a single guard can watch over many prisoners while themselves remaining unseen. The dark dungeon of pre-modernity has become replaced with the bright modern prison, but Foucault cautions that “visibility is a trap” – it is through this optics of seeing that modern society exercises its controlling systems of power-knowledge. In this way, Foucault suggests that there is something that connects the maximum security prison with our everyday working and domestic lives, namely the (witting or unwitting) supervision (surveillance, application of norms of acceptable behaviour) of some humans by others. There is a ‘carceral continuum’ stretching from the prison, through to secure accommodation, to probation, social workers, the police, teachers… and us ourselves. (Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, source)

more on the Panopticon: Escaping the Panopticon: Protecting Data Privacy in the Information Age

Sousveillance

Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, discuss possible prosecution of reporters in the NSA leaks and Senior Legal Analyst Norman Goldman on the 1917 Espionage Act. link

TrapWire

ECHELON

Reporters Committee For Free Press

 

The Ponzi Scheme for Managing the Planet

Is the environment a public good?

What we have actually had is a state capitalist marketplace, where the state artificially raised the transaction costs of enforcing civil protections against pollution — and thereby reduced the transaction costs of pollution.

 

As always, it’s not a question of what we’ll do when the state stops solving the problem. It’s a question of how to stop the state from creating the problem.

 

also see:

Capitalism’s Running Out Of Water — And Everything Else
The Clean Water Act Vs. Clean Water