Let’s Talk About Reciprocity and Mutualization instead of Markets and Privatization
Liberty on Tour strikes again. Voices like these are hard to find in the din of mainstream media. Kudos to Adam Mueller and Pete Eyre for shining a light on these courageous activists. This is not Tea Party astroturfing! This is genuine grassroots activism. These are real people with real motivations. Not angry vacuous middle class patriots.
Pete’s turn at the megaphone was great. But his vocabulary was less than optimal for that context. The words are too abstract. The Goldwater quote and the word ‘market’ are associated with right-wing upper-class republicanism. Most urgently, we need a synonym for ‘market’ that communicates the liberty and equality of voluntary relationships without connotations of corporatism and state capitalist oppression. In other words, how do we present our message in a way that resonates with main street (or hippie street) but doesn’t sound like corporate astroturfing?
‘Community’ is one important word we must squeeze into our vocabularies. Contrasting the disadvantages of central planning with the benefits of local autonomy – that’s something new. It just makes sense to people. It’s sound, too, because at the local level it is easier to hold errant individuals and institutions accountable. When institutions are small, it’s easier to put them out of business. It’s easier to compete with them. The individual is left with more control over her own destiny.
Another critical concept is ‘mutual.’ ‘Mutual’ is analogous to ‘reciprocal’. It implies balance. The imbalance of power caused by state central planning and state-supported corporations is a central, if little-known, issue of our time. Further, reciprocity can be linked to an international golden rule. That is: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It’s also called the ethic of reciprocity. It may be the very foundation of human rights.
Don’t talk about privatization. That concept is polluted. It suggests the turning over of vital services to unaccountable corporations. Talk about mutualization instead. Mutualization refers to the process of converting a corporation (or government agency) into a customer-owned cooperative (“mutual”). Instead of privatizing government, potentially to deep-pocketed corporations that owe their “success” to association with the state, doesn’t ownership really belong to those who have been paying the bills? Those who have suffered at its hands? Those who homestead these properties every day?
Mutualized government agencies can be returned to those people affected by them. Here they can be held accountable. These mutuals will serve the needs of their customers, or cease to exist. This is a better paradigm than privatization. The use of a new, and more accurate, term has the potential to catalyze thought and stimulate new questions. This kind of intellectual effort must dominate our first steps toward liberty.