"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Feb 28, 2013

Choreographic, Chiropractic

Markets are like ideologies, because they are ideologies. They do not occur by a process of natural accidents accumulating into persistent structures which evolve into self-propagating systems; they are choreographed, they are planned. Ants do not have markets, because ants do not create ideological spaces where values are determined and recorded. Ants do not sell. Monkeys do not sell. Crows do not sell.

They might exchange, those non-ideological creatures. But, they do not create and impose markets. Ideologists of markets would have you believe that markets are merely systems for exchange, that they occur whether or not people want to have them, that they are naturally arising.

Let's test this hypothesis. Say nothing for a week. Write nothing for a week. Type nothing for a week. Do not pay any bills for a week. Do not obey your employer, for the next seven days. Do not engage in any employment which obligates you to trade your labor for numbers recorded in a file. Do not make any purchases for a week. Do not enter into any agreements for this same period of time. Do not attempt any non-verbal communication. Do not explain any behavior to any other person. Obtain only what foodstuffs you can consume by casual theft, accident or happenstance.

Report back, if the pleasure so arises, on whether or not your outcomes were similar to that of the previous week.

Or, do all of the things you normally do at the supermarket, gas station, landlord's office, employment site, city hall and big box retail outlet. Take everything you want, but do not offer any paper or digitized numbers in return. See if you are "naturally" allowed to retain your even rudimentary liberties and freedoms.

Do not, in short, perform acts of valuation. Have needs, and meet them. If you aren't thrown into prison, it's because you are either very, very important or very, very wealthy. If you are deprived of your freedom, and forced to exchange even further ideological value in order to re-lease it, please afterward explain how markets are "naturally arising."

Markets are like gods: without the word, without the text, they do not exist. It is not nothing that, as Shlain insightfully and clumsily infers in his The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, that the written word shows up with the advent of priesthoods. It is not nothing that gods and markets cannot be idealized and faked into existence absent language.

It is not nothing that when Apples tries to sell you its latest tablet, it does so through choreographed goat-plays, accompanied by a liturgical rite.


anne said...

fair '

Joe said...

Ants and monkeys don't have cars, airplanes, or microwave ovens, either. Markets are systems of exchange, and I'd say their existence throughout human history is proof that they do naturally arise--unless by "naturally arise" you mean appear without any deliberate effort, in which case, yeah, they don't naturally arise, but then neither do ant hills or bird's nests.

There's nothing inherently evil about valuation. The problem is when a minority imposes its preferred system of valuation upon everyone else and actively discourages alternatives.

Jack Crow said...


I'm leery of the notion that the production of a sophisticated mechanical machines justifies the production of sophisticated behavioral machines.

And markets are not just systems of exchange. If I give you an apple, we do not have a market, even though an exchange has occurred.

Markets are systems of exchange wherein one party institutionally has an advantage over the other party, because one must sell his labor to exist, while the other not only buys it, but profits from the transaction. This does not arise naturally. This must be imposed. This must be enforced, or people find other ways to eat and clothe themselves. Markets do this with debtedness, and education, and direct violence.

Markets are not free. They are compulsory.

anne said...

..while we are on ..ants and mon keys , can someone remind john 'lox, and just in ,not to try and speak for them .. .. like dogs ,they don't blo g , you know ..that we don't know what's going on with their lovely minds thing ..

Joe said...


I agree what we have now is largely a compulsory arrangement, but even within this system there are instances of exchange where both parties "profit" (I'd say black markets are a good example, ironically, except for the threat of jail). An exchange among equals is free, but yeah, when one party has an institutional advantage over the other it's definitely not. My only real disagreement is with the idea that markets are inherently unfair. I guess it also depends on what somebody means when they say "market."

As for whether building sophisticated mechanical devices requires behavioral control, I'm not sure. I know some people think it does. I'd like to think not. Though I'd say some form of behavioral control is inevitable where large numbers people live together. The more informal these "controls" the better, though.

High Arka said...

Decades after World War III, Jack's great granddaughter, known to her people as the Crowcaller, leads a popular revolution against the brutal rule of the United Pfizer Imperium. The UPI struggles, but its troops fall before the Crowcaller's devastating guerrilla tactics: she brings her people to victory.

Within the husk of the old UPI building, she establishes laws meant to redress the Pfizerians' wrongs: no woman may kill another. Anyone who uses medical relics from before the War to poison another person shall be put to death. No dueling shall occur in the vicinity of children, or without the prior written consent of both duelists.

As the harsh times Pfizerian rule fade to memory, the Crowcaller's people find it difficult to constantly exchange twenty-pound barnacle clusters or day-long promises for food and tools.

Far from the compound, a woman is robbed by roving bandits, while she is attempting to bring her daughters' daily barnacle harvest into the building.

The Crowcaller comes up with an idea: "batteries," those relics from before the War, will be used for exchange, instead of barnacles. She proclaims that anyone who wishes to trade may do so in the former Pfizerian cafeteria, between the hours of 8AM and 8PM every other day, and that she and her guards will be present during trading, to ensure that disputes will not turn into physical confrontations.

Market! Has she become evil? Are women so inherently sinful that her attempt to help people exchange without fear of physical confrontation will cause her to develop the Federal Reserve Bank?

Are evolution and imagination necessarily corrupted by some fundamental flaw in humanity?

Jack Crow said...

I am impressed at the facility with which you miss the point, Arka.

High Arka said...

I think I agree with most of your feelings about markets. If you'd explain yourself in a different way, maybe I'd understand what you were trying to get at with your first post.

Jack Crow said...


You might be accustomed to rewards for passive-aggressive replies in the meat world, but I'm not game for that mode of interaction.

I wrote what I wrote. Asking me to restate everything is not a sound method for achieving "understand[ing]." It's what people used to dominating others do in order to gain control of the ground of perceived contest.

I've shown, over the last year, a rather masochistic willingness to engage you, but I've got a far shorter clock than I'd have preferred, and no time for conversations in bad faith.

If you have specific questions about a point, or several points, I'll give it a whirl.

But, I treat with "say everything over again, differently" for what it is: disputatious nonsense.

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that markets arose with the advent of agriculture (civiliazation I guess you could also call it). As far as technology some animals use tools and as someone once said people are just monkeys with car keys. But for me I agree with Jack because civilization does not actually exist.

Solar Hero said...

Crow I always love your posts even when they veer into...what, nihilism? They are provocative, and that's good enough for me.

Compare to Ian's latest post, which I think is trying to get at some similar themes...


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