Archive | July 15, 2009

Inquiring Minds Wanna Know

I just heard Douglas Rushkoff on Colbert talking about his new book. I don’t know anything about Rushkoff, but what he said sounded LL-compatible, and a websearch revealed this quote:

Most people seem to think having written a book as stridently anti-corporate as mine qualifies me as a lefty. While I might be left-leaning, I find myself disagreeing with pro-market publications only about as often as I disagree with pro-labor or progressive ones.

Pro-market advocates often forget that the corporations whose interests they’re championing are actually the beneficiaries of government policies and rule sets developed to favor the activities of giant, centralized, conglomerates; they argue against regulation, when it’s regulation that have built the monopolies preventing truly free commerce from taking place. Anti-market arguments, on the other hand, too often rely on the false promise of central planning or equally large institutional forces to address societal ills. They may hate corporations, but they see them as necessary employers of the masses.

So, can anyone tell me more about him? Is he a homeless or potential left-libertarian, or is there a bunch of disappointing statist stuff lurking in the background somewhere?

The Man of System; or, See the Pyramids Along the Niagara

I’ve never read The Human Drift, an 1894 utopian novel by King Gillette, inventor of the safety razor – and not to be confused with Jack London’s book of the same name – but judging from the book’s write-up on Wikipedia, I don’t think it’s going to be getting a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award any time soon. In particular it sounds like a cross between F. A. Hayek’s and Kevin Carson’s worst nightmares:

The book details Gillette’s plans for social and technological advancements that would replace the chaos of contemporary existence, which he termed the “human drift,” with steady and predictable progress.

Gillette's rational cityGillette starts his book with a discussion of the role of the business tycoon in social reform. Gillette propounded the somewhat paradoxical view that the business magnate is the natural leader of reform, because of his rationality and his understanding of the power of capital. …

The main substance of the book, however, is Gillette’s plan for an immense three-level metropolis (called “Metropolis”) on the site of Niagara Falls. Designed to accommodate a population of tens of millions of inhabitants, the mega-city would draw its electric power from the Falls. … Gillette’s city was to possess “a perfect economical system of production and distribution,” run by a World Corporation; it would in fact be the only city on the North American continent. Economies of scale would mean that a single one of every necessary facility – one steel mill, one shoe factory, etc. – would exist. Advances in mechanization would generate ever-greater efficiencies, and ever-greater wealth for the whole society. …

Gillette gives a highly specific picture of his metropolis: it is shaped in a perfect rectangle, 135 miles on the long side and 45 on the short. … Gillette favored circular buildings, even for residences (25-floor apartment complexes), and a hexagonal street plan. … The text of The Human Drift was accompanied with abundant illustrations and plans, a graph of the “Educational and Industrial Pyramid,” and other features of Gillette’s scheme.

A quick websearch unearthed an image of the aforementioned Educational and Industrial Pyramid, which looks pretty much as one would expect:

Gillette's pyramid

Accompanying text explains that “the divisions of the pyramid from base to apex represent the Grand Divisions of Industry – all of which finally merge into the ‘WORLD CORPORATE CONGRESS.’ Under this system the individual is free to choose his path of inclination, and his progress cannot be barred.” (But what if the individual’s path of inclination is to build a non-circular house or to make shoes in competition with the One Shoe Factory? That would be anarchy!)

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