by Darian Worden
16 Mar 2010
Statists say that people can’t be trusted to interact with each other without someone lording over them. They view the state as a solution for inevitable problems of human relations. In reality people often work with each other, without rulers, to solve the problems created by rulers and statists.
Recently the number and size of homeless encampments has risen dramatically, creating scenes reminiscent of Great Depression era Hoovervilles—shanty towns named for the first president to administer over the Depression, Herbert Hoover.
Austrian School economists including Murray Rothbard have chronicled the government policies that led to the Great Depression. The short of it is the Federal Reserve greatly increased the supply of money, lowering interest rates and encouraging a boom of unsustainable investments. This led to a bust when it had to be paid for and the money supply was contracted.
Of course, a system designed to safeguard power and privilege through force, favoritism, regulation, and outright theft and murder is bound to get caught up at some time.
Herbert Hoover, a progressive with a history of supporting government intervention, believed that government should be an active player in economic recovery. His administration raised taxes, tariffs, and subsidies, and pushed for the creation of government programs and industrial cartels.
This of course failed. Government cannot create wealth, but can only redistribute it. And since government responds to the political pull of the powerful interests it serves, not to the demands of numerous actors of the market, it will disrupt, rather than encourage the creation of wealth.
If government can’t save us, who will? We will save each other through mutual aid, solidarity, and other enterprising activity.
House sharing is one response to rising housing expenses. Just having access to a solid structure and indoor plumbing can greatly increase living quality. One organization that works to connect people who need housing with people who are willing to share space (often to help meet expenses) is HomeSharing, Inc., which has operated in New Jersey for over 25 years. Craigslist and similar networks now connect people for whatever housing arrangements they might work out.
Free economies built from the ground up can enable more choice and accountability than the state-controlled economy. And they will enable people to be less vulnerable to the failures of state capitalism. Connecting with people via the internet and face-to-face communication can make this a viable option. Some opportunities include barter networks (including those that involve commodities like DelValley Silver), Really Free Markets where people give and take items as they want, local gardens, and the numerous examples of free exchange found in Kevin Carson’s Center for a Stateless Society paper “Society After State Capitalism” [.pdf].
When people do things without asking permission, they might break laws. But mutual aid and solidarity can be used as weapons against authority. Working around the system to alleviate the problems it creates can build a strong position to challenge the system from.
“Counter-economics” is a term coined by Samuel Konkin to describe the economics of acting counter to the establishment. He advocated trading risk for profit to build non-coercive underground markets. Eventually organizations forming in these markets would be able to overcome the state, as the loss of economic control and popular support severely weakened state power.
Counter-economics is most useful as a strategic concept when it is not described as simply doing what is counter to the state’s commands (a reaction to the state), but is instead seen as actively building an economy that helps people live counter to authority. It is the economic basis for networks of free individuals resisting the imposition of authority.
Practicing solidarity and mutual aid can make the counter-economy a more attractive choice than the state-controlled economy. If you need help becoming autonomous then other people, knowing it is in their interest to include more people in libertarian action, will help you.
This is better than the statist system, in which most people are at best just another file for some bureaucrat trying to get through the day, another annoyance for some cop trying to do his job, another resource for some politician looking for glory—and at worst a target for thugs with government privilege or trash to be removed when in the way.
Liberty and solidarity can help people flourish better than statism and authority. When people assist each other without some lord stealing from them and giving only commands in return, the aid is mutual.
Darian Worden is an individualist anarchist writer with experience in libertarian activism. His fiction includes Bring a Gun To School Day and the forthcoming Trade War. His essays and other works can be viewed at his personal website. He also hosts an internet radio show, “Thinking Liberty”, on PatriotRadio.com.