The Geo-Mutualist Treatment of Markets and Democracy

Difficulty    

The common form of government in Western nations is the republic, and the prevalent form of economy is capitalism. By republican government, I am referring especially to the system of representative democracy, wherein periodic elections decide on individuals to make decisions on behalf of the public. By capitalism, I am referring to an economic system in which private property—as opposed to personal or cooperative property—[1] is dominant, and that property earns a return above cost, such as interest, profit, or rent. It is common for Western nations to have republican governments, wherein elected representatives make decisions on behalf of the population, and capitalist economies, wherein private firms compete for profits. These political and economic systems are not all alike, but come in many varieties, from parliamentary to congressional republics and from social capitalism to “laissez-faire” capitalism. Capitalist republics, these nations remain.

Capitalism can be seen to be a step toward freer markets, while not having established free market purity, and republics can be seen as a step toward democracy, while not pure democracy. Before capitalism, there was feudalism, and before republics there was monarchy. The main difference between capitalism and feudalism is that under capitalism a worker can choose their employer, and may relocate, rights of association which were restricted from the serfs and peasants of feudalism. The main difference between a republic and a monarchy is that under a republic, citizens may elect their leaders, and their terms of representation are limited, while monarchies were often inherited and perpetual. The transition from monarchical feudalism toward republican capitalism was one towards greater amounts of freedom, both political and economic. It was one toward greater degrees of voluntary association in the market, and democratic participation in the political process.

 Historically, capitalism and republics have been closely related. During the late horticultural and the agrarian ages, long before industrialism, maritime (sea-faring) societies would commonly have more republican forms of government, and capitalistic economies. The Phoenicians, the Greeks, and others serve as good examples of this. While neither of these societies can, in whole, be said to be fully republican or capitalist, relative to societies of their time, these societies were very liberal, allowing for much more civic participation and commerce than the feudal societies they were surrounded by. The same can be said of many of the medieval communes, wherein merchants and artisans established walled cities to protect themselves from the domination of feudal lords. The Papal States are another great example of medieval republics, which were accompanied by the commercial interests of strong merchant and artisan classes. These forms of political and economic civic structures were not the standard of the agrarian age, but were the exception. It would not be until after the Enlightenment that republican capitalism would become normalized, and these would in turn usher in the industrial age. It had already begun, however, as in the Renaissance, where parliamentarian monarchy had become the norm in England, which had sponsored a mercantile economy.

What is most important to point out here is that, contrary to popular belief, markets and democracy are mutually-reinforcing, rather than mutually-antagonistic. The bargaining power and leveling power alike, which the merchants found in the market, allowed them the ability to form republican societies, and these republican societies, in turn, enforced property rights that allowed the market to function more smoothly on behalf of the merchants and artisans. Historically, republics are a necessary form of governance to enforce private property rights, which a monarch was likely to neglect, and markets have provided the bargaining power to establish republics, and the leveling power to ensure that republics do not degrade back into monarchy. When we look throughout history, markets and democracy are mutually-reinforcing. Without one another, they would degrade.

In order to understand why markets and democracy are mutually reinforcing, we must look to the problems that can occur when each system acts on its own accord, and in neglect of the other. Democratic societies can themselves become problematic, when their representatives get out of hand, or when a majority becomes oppressive to a minority. So long as one cannot leave such a society, or change their officers, there is little to keep this in check, in the case a problem develops. Markets can become problematic when they operate between and further incentivize monopolies. However, and strangely enough, the solutions to these problems are help from their opponents. Marketeers see their opposition in the (small-D) democrats, and the democrats in the marketeers, but the two values actually strengthen one another when they are properly applied.

Markets are a great solution to overwhelming majoritarian democracy and rogue representatives, and have been found to accompany republics throughout history. Voluntary association or dissociation in the market keeps institutions in check, by putting pressures on the institutions to perform well, or to otherwise face a loss of business. While the transition from monarchical feudalism to republican capitalism did not allow for complete freedom of association, the modern nation-states of the West do allow for considerable more rights to free association than the monarchies of the past. While workers may find it economically infeasible, they at least maintain a theoretical right to relocate, even to another nation if they will be accepted. This was not a right allotted to serfs or peasants in feudal economies under monarchical forms of governance. It was the transition to republican capitalism that allowed for this, which was a move toward democratization and freer markets, while not meeting their full maturation. Modern nation-states do compete for citizens, particularly from the educated professional classes, and they must do so, to some extent, by making their policies—particularly those relating to private property rights and business interests— more appealing to those classes.

Democratic processes are nonetheless important, despite having some associated pitfalls, such as empowering representatives or a vicious majority. Free association is not enough. Democratic processes have ensured that property is more widely distributed (even if not fully so) and that the people’s voices are heard to a greater degree. Democracy also provides one of the most successful counterweights to the problems of private property. In Western nations, for instance, republics have supplied their citizens with varying degrees of welfare, in order to provide some kind of a cushion for the victims of property. Similar to markets, which have been anything but truly free, democratic processes relating to our time are not pure by any sense, and are far from perfect. Any provision of social benefits granted by republics has been incremental, and not absolute. Still, in comparison to monarchy, republics have ensured capitalism as the norm, which is, like it or not, much more egalitarian than feudalism was. More people own private property under capitalism than they did under feudalism, which also means that republics have allowed for more economic freedom than monarchies.

Voluntary association in the market provides a solution to the problems of democracy, and political participation through democracy provides a solution to the problems of capitalism. The oppressive conditions of both capitalism and communism are dissolved when the two are married. Voluntary association of the market prevents the tyranny of the democratic majority, and participatory decision-making prevents the monopolization of the commons, as capitalism implies.

Voluntary association and democratic processes provide checks on one another, and this is the reason they are seen to be in opposition to each other, rather than mutually-reinforcing. However, they also stabilize and improve one another, the way evolutionary arms races do, such as those between the cheetah and the antelope, which has encouraged the swiftness in both creatures, despite their opposition as predator and prey. On one level, there is opposition, but this opposition lends itself to the mutual improvement of each, and in the struggle each reaches ever further for the ever-transcendent warmth of the blazing star,[2] and in so doing, develops from their chrysalis, sprouts from their nut, maturing in their form. As it goes in spiritual thought, the acorn holds the form of the oak tree already within itself, and likewise, human ideologies contain in themselves a mature form. Republics and capitalism, these are the acorns to the oak tree of participatory democracy and free markets. As they conflict, each is stabilized in identity, and is brought closer to its mature form.

Having an economic democracy, by most definitions, implies a step toward communism, wherein the state maintains as much control of the economy as the majority believes to be necessary. Having a free market, in contrast, implies a step toward capitalism, so long as property rights are kept the same way they are today. For this reason, I associate democracy loosely with communism, as each imply social decision-making, rather than individual autonomy, and markets loosely with capitalism, though democracy can exist without communism, and markets without capitalism. I argue, in fact, that a purer democracy depends on a freer market, and vice versa. The two keep one another in check, and balance society.

In a communist democracy everything is owned in common, and decisions are made in a directly-democratic fashion. This is democratic centralism. Because all items are owned in common, all changes to those items require common management, in this case democratic process. Clearly, this is not how communists actually wish to operate, as no communist suggests that in order to drive a car, the whole commune should vote on it. In practice, communism has to step a bit away from centrism in order to function. Can you imagine receiving a referendum every time someone in the community wanted to use a car? That would be quite overwhelming, so in theory communists break decisions down to smaller units, but allow for considerable over-riding power on behalf of the larger units. The point is, any democratic element in communism must establish some system of possession for sake of efficiency, and, in practice, possession allows for exchange. This democratic element in communism, however, is quite weak. More commonly, dictators are established. While they still must hand some power down to officers and the like, communist dictators are the antithesis to democracy, and commonly revert to some system of feudalism.

On the flip side, consider “libertarian” capitalism. Everything is privately owned, and all decisions are made by the proprietors. What we have is a variety of decentralized feudalism, wherein land is privately owned and leased, without property-protection from the government. Eventually, the threat of the serfs revolting will establish some form of union between the landlords, for the sake of mutual protection of one another’s interests. If these landlords are to remain on equal footing within such an association, they must engage somehow democratically, sharing in equality of rights. Eventually, they will need to convince their renters they are somehow acting on their behalf. The point is that property rights are unstable without social conventions to back them up, and proprietors have a vested interest in establishing a union in order to maintain their privileges of private property, and protecting them from outsiders.

As you can very well see, property rights and democracy are mutually-supporting. Even the communist, if they are to be democratic, must admit subsidiary possession rights. Short of this, they will be bogged down with referendums, or must admit representation or dictatorship. Possession rights tacitly imply exchange, for what one possesses one can exchange. If this is not so, exchanges must be made by referendum, and we are back to the problem originally described. The capitalist, if they are to hold onto their property, must establish democratic government to protect it from kings and servants alike. The alternative is to lose their privileges or to associate unequally, both of which seem distasteful. The oppression that we face today under capitalism and republics is dependent on the mutual reinforcement these have on one another. Without understanding this, it becomes easy to attack one side, and elevate the other, leading to problems. If we want to progress, it is better not to fight the forces of history, but to catch their wind and sail. Markets cannot be abolished in the name of democracy, as the Marxist communist would have it, nor can democracy be abolished in the name of property, as the Rothbardian capitalist would have it. Communism reverts to property or dictatorship, and capitalism to democracy or feudalism. Rarely has actually-existing communism upheld directly-democratic values, or actually-existing capitalism upheld decentralism. Instead, we see communism coupled with dictators, or reverting back to capitalism, and capitalism coupled with republics.

Communists reject the market entirely, but purport to uphold democracy. In practice, they’ve established dictatorships. “Libertarians” of the capitalist variety uphold private property rights, but oppose democracy. In practice, private property without democratic government reverts to feudalism, wherein the market is monopolized by a single monarch. Don’t look to governmental centrists for the solution, either. While more tolerable than the others at times, they merely pick and choose from solutions provided from the left and right, and mix them up. They are not truly centrist, at least not while maintaining a consistent set of values. Their picking and choosing tends to be arbitrary, rather than methodological. Rather than upholding property rights at the expense of democracy, or vice versa, governmental centrists seem to lack principles altogether, having highly subjective, random, and incoherent positions.

Historically, it has been necessary for markets and democratic forces to coexist, so why are these so often pitted one against the other?

 For one thing, our current situation has much to be improved upon, and many people are quite aware of this. For this reason, they are drawn to the various forms of psycho-political movements, such as those relating to personal identity, social placement, etc. Many of these ideologies are short- or one-sided, or both. An individual may suffer from a particular aspect of a society, grounding their psyche in the situation, and rejecting a particular part of the society or the society as a whole. They may see problems with representative democracy, while ignoring the problems of capitalism, leaving them to become “libertarians,” for instance, or vice versa, becoming “democratic socialists.”

Another component of the problem is historical ignorance, and the lack of consideration towards processes and evolution. People see aspects of a society that they do not like, unaware of what it was like before, or outright romanticizing a false age of glory. They often refuse to see that, while there is much progress to be made, evolution is a process. One can’t build a house if one decides to keep starting over every time a foundation is established, simply because the house isn’t finished yet. That is what happens with politics, though! A Marxist and a Rothbardian may agree that the society we are living in is not ideal, but they lived their whole lives not seeing that the solution was not in the eradication of the other’s philosophy, but in their mutual reinforcement. Rothbard wanted nothing to do with democracy, Marx nothing to do with markets. However, freer markets are contingent on populist democracy, and populist democracies are contingent on property rights. This is true historically, and it is true futuristically.

The paradigm of capitalist republics was ushered in by the resonance of markets and democracy, and the paradigm of the future society will be governed by the same principles. Similar principles, universal in application but unique in context, drive all of evolution. Supply and demand—market selection—, for instance, is simply a matter of natural selection, and as economies are subsidiary to biology, it follows that the laws of economy must be derivative of biology. As all individuals have been sculpted by the same forces of evolution—selection—, so too have societies. The forces of societal selection have been described in detail as various forms of innovation, diffusion, subsumption, etc. in the fields of anthropology and sociology. The various forms of societal selection can philosophically be understood to work dialectically, meaning that societies evolve through the struggle offered between the competing interests in those, or between those, societies. We can see that today the struggle is taking place between advocates of capitalism and those of communism. Rather than seeing one dominate the other completely, we are more likely to see a synthesis from this struggle. That is, we will see the freedom of the market and the equality of democracy amplified together, rather than seeing one advance at the other’s demise. Capitalism and republics will be transcended, and something new, perhaps geo-mutualism and panarchy, will take their place.

In order to properly understand how the process works, we must view the present system not only as something to get past, but as something to also be preserved, as it is itself a step forward from an even deeper past than our own, which was even more vicious. Republican capitalism, that is, was a positive step away from monarchical feudalism, though it retained parts of it, the same as all evolutionary processes do. [3] Just the same, we cannot look to completely eschew the things which have helped us move forward. We cannot throw our cars away at the mere thought of a flying machine, but must recognize that much of the same technology used in the car will be used in the flying machine, even if not in exactly the same fashion. Similarly, we cannot simply do away with markets or democracy, as the communist or the capitalist would have, but must put these together, perhaps with new elements, in new and useful ways.

It is good and well to criticize both capitalism and republics, but these are best criticized on the grounds that capitalism does not free the market enough, and that republics do not allow for enough democracy. Capitalism and republics alike are replete with monopolists. Republican representatives are always of the capitalist class, and the capitalist class always has the say on representation. When elected, representatives always uphold laws that protect the interests of the capitalist class, and when it comes to nomination, the capitalist class always sponsors one of their own for election, and funds their campaign. It’s a revolving door policy, and no one has been powerful enough to stop it. It does no good to criticize capitalism for having markets, or republics for having democracy.

Rather than rejecting republican capitalism altogether, it is best to learn how it overthrew monarchical feudalism, so that a new paradigm, such as panarchist geo-mutualism, can follow suit, using the same liberatory principles. These principles, by the way, were not simply ideas, but forces of nature, like the force of gravity. We too may learn to wield them, and nothing can refute them. We commonly approach politics as opinions to be forced onto others, and which do not matter until others accept them, but the laws of political economy, like those of nature herself, are not dependent on one’s willingness to accept them, but are themselves a fact of their own. By learning to wield these principles, we need no longer to convince with words, but through demonstration. Geo-mutualism, a free market industrial democracy, effectively addresses the concerns on both sides of the dialectic, and by establishing institutions based on geo-mutualist principles, we are essentially catching the current downstream, to where we really want to be.

If our goal is to achieve freedom, we must work for equality, and if we want to achieve equality we must work to achieve freedom. Rather than being paradoxical, this is an argument for feedback. We can’t work for economic equality by ignoring economic freedom, or vice versa; nor can we work for political equality at the expense of political freedom, or vice versa. If we want to work for freedom and/or equality, we have to work for both at the same time. This is not my opinion, but the rules of nature. You can disbelieve me if you like, but you will never achieve your goals of freedom or equality separate from one another, believe me or not.

 If you are a communist because you would like to see wider amounts of wealth spread around, and democratic participation by the workers in decisions that affect them, communism is actually antithetical to your goal. If you are a capitalist because you would like to have less arbitrary restrictions, and more freedom, capitalism is antithetical to your goal. I’m not saying to trade sides, but to find the place in the middle. Worker democracy and free markets are not only mutually compatible, but are mutually-reinforcing. In fact, it is impossible to have one without the other, the same as it is impossible to have capitalism without a republic, and communism without dictatorship.

Both capitalism and communism have positive elements, and negative ones, and the trick for the flourishing of the future society is to keep the positive, while moving past the negative. The positive aspect of capitalism is the market, but the negative aspect is private property. The positive aspect of communism is industrial democracy, but the negative is compulsory association. “Libertarian” capitalists often fashion themselves as being anti-state, as being anarchists, while communists tend to support a “workers” democracy. The market aspects of capitalism, which truly are libertarian, need to be maintained, but by maintaining an ideology of private property, no capitalist can truly be a libertarian or anarchist. Similarly, industrial democracy is a wonderful idea, but so long as the state is empowered to implement that democracy, it has nothing to do with genuine worker control of the means of production.

 As an alternative to private capitalism and statist communism, alike, I propose the philosophy of geo-mutualist panarchism, which incorporates the truths of each into a comprehensive worldview. A geo-mutualist panarchy is a thorough application of both free market principles and participatory industrial democracy. In such a society, all association would be completely voluntary, and all decisions would be made by individuals affected by those decisions, and none other. The society would have free markets without capitalism, and industrial democracy without the state. The deeper expression of voluntary association will ensure that such a society maintains democratic internal organization; and internal democratic organization will ensure fairness in the provision of property rights. Many churches, unions, and cooperatives are good examples of democratic market institutions, kept in check internally by democratic process, and externally by free association. If a church, union, or a cooperative becomes particularly oppressive, it is much easier to leave than one’s government is. Churches, unions, and cooperatives have provided their members with democratic alternatives to the ownership structures capitalism, rather than simply extending them bandages for their lesions. As you can see, the voluntary association of the market ensures that—so far as it is allowed to operate— institutions are kept democratic. The shared political power in democracies ensures that their members are treated more fairly.

Geo-mutualist panarchism is unique amongst ideologies, in recognizing that markets and participatory decision-making are not at odds, but are essential to each other’s development, and must be co-nurtured. Because geo-mutualism does not fight the forces of history, it is not entirely unlikely to provide the next major synthesis between today’s oppositional forces, democratic communism, and private capitalism, taking their positive elements, and leaving the rest for compost.


[1] Private property and personal property are different in this context, in that personal property refers to property that one personally uses, and does not rent to others, while private property refers to property that is owned by someone separate from the user. According to this view, a homesteader is a holder of personal property, whereas a landlord is a holder of private property.

[2] Opposition is necessary for each other’s definition, and for the stability of society. Society is ultimately a holographic projection, an interference pattern of the oppositional values within it. Without the oppositional forces within society, the construct of society would fall apart before any desirable end (such as the sublation of the collective and the individual), which society has been established as a means to reach, comes around. We would have to start over, the same as if one of our holographic projectors went out. Remember, it takes two interacting beams to create a hologram, which is simply an interference pattern, and we live in a holographic Universe.

The ultimate goal of human life, and the ultimate political destiny for human societies, will not be found in the domination of one vice over another, but in the synthesis of these oppositional forces. Afterall, opposition is needed for definition, and for maintaining balance. Ultimately, specificist human ideologies never play out as they are fully desired, and no single individual ever gets exactly what they want, but instead nature maintains a balance of their interests, and this balance allows for the existence of human societies. Without it, societies would fall apart. When looked at mechanically, polar ideologies play the role of defining values, and this role is necessary for society, even if these individuals will never see their values come fully into fruition. If we are to have the fruit of our values, we must integrate them with others, and accept that our realism or idealism may conflict with the world’s idealism or realism.

 [3] Nothing that exists on an atomic level or higher has simply sprung into existence, but must transition. Transition entails points in-between. It entails that step B is a mixture of A and C, rather than being wholly unique. Just because we want to get to C from A, does not mean it is possible to skip B. In fact, C is nothing more than the mixture of B and D.

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