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On Anarchy and book reviews.


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In my blog post yesterday I had touched on a comment that was made concerning a book review I wrote on Amazon about The Anarchists Tool Chest. My contention was/is that Anarchism and Capitalism do not necessarily coexist well together. The commenter had mentioned that Anarchy and Capitalism do in fact work quite well together (something I don’t believe one bit) and that we here in America refer to it as Libertarianism. Truthfully, the last time I truly considered Libertarianism and what makes it tick was more than twenty years ago in a history class during my first year of college. As I said yesterday, I replied to his comment and when I got a free moment last night I did a little research on “free-market anarchy” or “Anarcho Capitalism” as it is referred to by people who like to use ten-cent words. All in all, I was surprised, in a good way, with what I discovered.

Anybody who knows a little about Anarchy as a political system knows that it advocates the elimination of centralized government. Rather, an anarchist would essentially govern himself and a anarchic free-market system would regulate itself, which in turn would theoretically eliminate price gouging, graft, and so on. I’ve always contended that this system would not work for several reasons, with one big reason being human nature. But let’s just say that we have an ideal situation with every person being a law abiding, hard-working, and intelligent member of society, this would still not account for the driving force behind any economy-commodities (i.e. food, building material, fuel).

For example, in our own perfect little society-let’s say for arguments sake the size of a small town- we have a hard working populace with a balanced system of craftsman, farmers, medical personnel, etc. All services offered, as well as the goods being made or grown, are bought and sold at a fair market value and things like inflation are non-existent. Let’s also say that in our ideal world all of the members of the workforce are equally skilled, therefore not one tool, wagon wheel, or grown beet is worth more than another. What happens for instance if the beet crop is bad one year, suddenly the value of beets becomes greater and therefore the cost goes up because the cost is not regulated by a central governing body? If in our so-called balanced free-market system the cost of a commodity such as beets increases, how then would they be paid for when something such as profit is not really part of your economy? Would the bartering system work? Maybe, but because the value of beets increased, that would mean the value of bartered goods normally used to exchange for them would in turn decrease. For example, if the cost of five pounds of beets in barter was five candles during a normal season, and suddenly the cost increased to ten candles because of the scarcity of the product, what would we have? Inflation.

Generally, when one commodity cost increases the cost of other commodities will rise in order to gain more capital. When the cost of commodities increase, so too do the cost of non-commodity items such as tools, vehicles, housing etc. Suddenly, an unregulated free-market system goes out of control, as the people who control the commodities must charge more and more for their goods. The same too can be said when the value of commodities decrease. This all leads directly to over-inflation and even worse, crime.

What I just offered was a very simplistic view of “free market anarchy”. Now, I will freely admit that I am not an educated economist. But it does not take an educated economist to see the failures of the system, because it has happened continually throughout recorded history and continues to happen to this day. While this may simply come off as anarchy bashing, trust me it’s not. In fact, don’t take my word for it. Several prominent anarchists both past and present have said what I’ve said many times: Anarchy and the free market(Capitalism) do not mix. As I said, an unregulated free market system cannot exist, they just don’t work, and Anarchy cannot exist within a regulated system. There are many articles on the internet that seem to confirm my believe, including a pretty good one on Wikipedia.

So what does all of this have to do with woodworking? Not a blessed thing! That’s what I’ve been trying to say! Woodworking and anarchy have nothing to do with each other. Yet I’ve had people tell me that they do; I’ve had people tell me to ignore the word “anarchy” from The Anarchists Tool Chest. How? It’s in the freaking title, and several chapters of the book are dedicated to anarchy and how it supposedly correlates with woodworking. The fact of the matter is that hobby woodworking could not exist without mass production, both of the tools and the furniture. If the free market system of capitalism broke down, where would the average person get tools, wood, nails, glue, or even furniture for that matter, for even the most dedicated woodworker surely cannot furnish his entire home with his own creations. A true anarchist woodworker would never support mass production, or in reality any type of free-market capitalism, otherwise he would be going against his own philosophy. But a real world hobbyist woodworker needs the free market to practice his hobby. Of course, there are individual exceptions with this, but on the large scale it is not feasible.

But I’m taking the phrase “anarchy woodworking” too literally, you say? No, I’m not. The book itself tells us as woodworkers to eschew mass production, to make tools rather than purchase new, or to purchase from individuals rather than companies. That is certainly a form of anarchy, if I’m not mistaken.

But the anarchy of the book really only relates to woodworking, you say, not to everyday life! C’mon now. How you can you live part of your life like an anarchist and the rest like a consumer? That’s like calling yourself a vegetarian only on the days you don’t eat meat. In theory I guess you could advocate calling yourself an anarchist only when you woodwork; who am I to judge? But I personally think it doesn’t add up.

Here’s the deal, once again, for everybody who thinks I’ve “bashed” the book; I honestly really enjoyed it. When I wrote a review of the book on Amazon I felt the need to be upfront on exactly what I liked and disliked; in other words, I tried to provide an honest and insightful review of the book. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that maybe my review wasn’t all that insightful; that is for others to judge. But whatever the review may be it is hardly mean spirited, not even close. I would even go as far to say that if you haven’t read the book, and your are somewhat intrigued by what I am talking about, then by all means I would recommend you go and purchase the book and read it for yourself, maybe you will agree with me and maybe you won’t.

Lastly, I have nothing against a person or persons disagreeing with my opinion; I only object when they feel that I have some ulterior motive behind those opinions. The great part about open debate is that it allows us all freedom to agree to disagree without it coming to anger, or childish implications. I like to think that the author of the book himself would feel the same way. Like I said, if you haven’t read the book and your are intrigued by what I’ve written about it, I highly recommend going over to the Lost Art Press site (there is a link right on my blog home page) and purchasing the book. At worst, you are getting a nice looking book that has a good tool selection list as well as plans for a tool chest. Whether or not you agree with the philosophy, the book is worth it’s cost for those reasons alone. It’s funny, but who would have thought that Anarchy was so controversial?

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4 Comments

  1. I should get the book and find out for myself. I’m glad you touched on most woodworkers would be unable to furnish their own homes. I think that concept can be a bit of a burden. Most of us work full time jobs and have families. The chances of making all the stuff you need is 0%. I love woodworking books, I’m less comfortable with too much preaching. I’m big enough and ugly enough to take my own view on the touchy feely stuff.

    • billlattpa says:

      I think the real issue is as a woodworker, either professional or hobbyist, is knowing that it is okay to purchase furniture without breaking some sort of unwritten rule that says I don’t know what. The same way it is okay to purchase tools and wood, and the same way it is okay to use whichever methods make you happy. That is all I’m trying to get across.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  2. dzj9 says:

    He he, I remember Mr. Plato writing a similar blog a while back. Proves the old adage that nothing new has been written since the days of ancient Greece.
    Anarchy? It’s just a gimmicky word meant to hook the rebellious nature of an unsuspecting woodworker.
    And sell him a book.

    • billlattpa says:

      Anarchy does not work as a political system, a business model, or even self governance-the days of the self sufficient farmer are long, long gone, especially in America.
      As a means to revive woodworking as a profession/hobby, Anarchy fails extraordinarily, as it would exclude the vast majority of hobby woodworkers in America alone. An anarchistic approach wouldn’t bring more people to the hobby, it would in fact drive them away.
      Like I was saying, let’s leave the politics out of it-try to woodwork without using the free-market, meaning tool manufacturers, suppliers, and lumberyards, and see how far you get. However, that is what the book advocates. Again, that is fine with me; it’s not my book. I just get tired of people telling me personally that I should embrace this philosophy, when I know that it is not feasible.
      I’ve also heard it said-The book doesn’t really advocate leaving the free market, only the construction of your own furniture, tools etc. That’s fine, and if it makes you feel better about woodworking then I have no right to judge. But the book does go farther than that. The book flatly advocates avoiding mass market, mass production, and corporation backed retailers. Once again, a professional woodworker following this ideology would be out of business in months, and amateurs attempting to do it would be hard-pressed to build one piece of furniture per year-not what I would call “good for woodworking”
      Again-this is all opinion, but I like to think I’m more correct than not.
      Thanks.
      Bill

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