Organization Theory

Danny O’Brien and Sean Gabb both give enthusiastic reviews to Kevin Carson’s book Organization Theory.

Carson variously describes himself as a left-libertarian, a free market anti-capitalist, and an individualist anarchist.

Gabb says:

I will begin my review by stating its main conclusions. These are that Kevin Carson has written one of the most significant books the libertarian movement has seen in many years. I do not agree with everything he says here. I do not suppose any libertarian will unreservedly accept what is said. Even so, I doubt if there is a libertarian who can read this book and not, in some degree, have his vision of a free society enriched and even transformed by it.

O’Brien adds:

Like Gabb, I don’t necessarily agree with every pinion that Carson meshes together to form his argument. The problem with being a left-libertarian is that it’s pretty much idiosyncracy squared, so Organization Theory’s conclusions are almost guaranteed to have something you’ll disagree with: worker-owned production, free contracting, steroidically strong unions, no public transport subsidy, land property reform, FidoNet (yes, FidoNet).

But for all its sprawl, Organization Theory is the first book I’ve read in a long while that, while it only occasionally tangentially touches my domain knowledge, nonetheless manages gets the facts and policy implications right every time. I’ve read technical articles that have got both the details and the gist of the United State’s IP provisions in its Free Trade Agreements wrong (hint: they have nothing to do with free trade). And rarely have I seen anyone make the link between DeCSS and the lack of innovation in the DVD market since its introduction, let alone in the same volume as a detailed discussion of soil management (a gardener of my acquaintance says he got that right too). It’s one of those books where, if you disagree, you start scribbling in the margin. And when you agree, you start cutting and pasting into the top of your quotes file, and the bottom of your email sig.

Carson like me favours microbusinesses, or rather, favours creating a political/economic climate where they can thrive:

[Consider] the process of running a small, informal brew pub or restaurant out of your home, under a genuine free market regime. Buying a brewing kettle and a few small fermenting tanks for your basement, using a few tables in an extra room as a public restaurant area, etc., would require at most a bank loan for a few thousand dollars. And with that capital outlay, you could probably service the debt with the margin from a few customers a week. A modest level of business on evenings and weekends, probably drawn from among your existing circle of acquaintances, would enable you to initially shift some of your working hours from wage labor to work in the restaurant, with the possibility of gradually phasing out wage labor altogether or scaling back to part time, as you built up a customer base. In this and many other lines of business, the minimal entry costs and capital outlay mean that the minimum turnover required to pay the overhead and stay in business would be quite modest. In that case, a lot more people would be able to start small businesses for supplementary income and gradually shift some of their wage work to self employment, with minimal risk or sunk costs.

For reference my thoughts on microbusinesses (in the context of reforming the UK benefit system) are:

I’d establish a legal category of microbusinesses, defined a those with revenue of less than £2000 a year (An entrepreneur would only be allowed to run one microbusiness, and it couldn’t put their total income in the tax-paying limit). No microbusiness would have to pay tax, and anything that it’s legal for people to do privately without money changing hands, it’d be legal for a microbusiness to do. This would encourage people on benefits and low incomes to become entrpreneurial — an extra 40 quid a week goes a long way. If a microbusiness started doing well, it would make sense for the owner to expand it and put it on a regular footing.

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2 Responses to Organization Theory

  1. Kevin Carson says:

    Thanks a lot for the review, Philip. I like your microbusiness proposal. L2000 is what, between three and four thousand bucks in USD? Of course the limit is almost certain to be evaded by people trading in cash, or via informal barter networks that don’t file tax info. (I pay my chiropractor in cash for a 25% discount.)

    • cabalamat says:

      £2000 is about $3270.

      Of course the limit is almost certain to be evaded by people trading in cash

      You’re right, tax is likely to be evaded. There’s not a lot can be done about this, since the cost of checking on everyone, to make sure they pay all the tax they are supposed to, would be greater than the amount collected. And I wouldn’t want to live in a society where the state snoops on me all the time.

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