Because Governance of Peer Production is Meritocratic, not Egalitarian. My watchwords are Equality, Liberty, Sorority and Fraternity (the latter two more in the French sense of “brotherhood” than the “Greek” sense of secret societies). I put Equality before Liberty not because I consider equality a strictly higher priority than Liberty, but because I don’t see the promotion of Liberty as an “under-served market.” On the other hand, I just provided another example of how hard it is to escape the logic of the market. :-) In my defense, I do drop frequent disclaimers that at least half of what appears at the present blog might be in the spirit of devil’s advocacy.
Back to the Governance of Peer Production; maybe my anarchist-sympathizing soul is opposed in principle to Governance, which sounds suspiciously like Government. Or maybe I’m opposed in principle to Meritocracy, which ends in the -ocracy suffix, which is usually more or less synonymous with the -archy suffix. In my defense, I’ve promoted Meritocracy over Promotion (e.g. here and here). This is largely because I’m a frank aspie and I am a lot less (a LOT less) intimidated by civil service exams than by J.O.B. interviews, let alone “networking,” “elevator pitches” and other increasingly-mandatory practices that from my perspective look like extreme feats of extroversion. While posting those essays, the -ocracy at the end of meritocracy was of course sticking in my craw, as of course is the obvious problem that civil service jobs are government jobs and therefore not suitable for a practicing anarchist. My nebulous policy statement is “let’s extend civil-servicey humyn resources praxis to the private sector,” with “policy statement” walked back to “best practices norm” for the sake of anarchy, but in the name of all that is sacred, can’t we advocate these practices ASSERTIVELY?
Back to the Governance of Peer Production; reading about its Governance reminded me that, while there’s no I in team, there demonstrably is an -ocracy in Meritocracy. In short, the essay served as a wake-up call that it’s high time that I explicate that while I prefer Meritocracy over Promotion, I prefer Egalitarianism over Meritocracy. Egalitarianism-bashing has become fashionable even in progressive circles, where its not unheard of that outing myself as an Egalitarian gets me reflexively called insulting names such as Diana Moon Glampers. Maybe all I’m really asking for is a little Inclusivity. The social and economic forces that galvanized me into an Anagorist consist of nothing more than
- The experiences of a foolish youth with a resume too short on experience and therefore too long on education.
- The experience of living in a culture in which one’s J.O.B. is literally one’s Justification Of Being.
- The experience of discovering the Internet during its relatively innocent period in 1991, but nevertheless being assaulted by ALL CAPS verbiage in misc.jobs.misc along the lines of THREE PLUS YEARS OF FULL TIME PAID NON-ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE ENTRY LEVEL NEED NOT APPLY AND WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED.
- The experience of listening to sanctimonious assholes whose current fad is calling themselves “the 53%,” who say “I wish everyone was willing to work” when what they mean is “I wish everyone was able to sell themselves.”
The experience of being ineligible to claim any experience at all.
To add injury to insult, it turns out that in the New Economy, even unpaid volunteer work is a privilege, not a right. The market value of the data entry and other back-office gigs even I was able to drum up back in the Halcyon Nineties has fallen literally to pennies or fractions of a penny as evidenced by the existence of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. As Felix Stadler tells us, anyone can be a user of free open-source software, but not everyone can be a contributor. This mirrors the 53% mentality perfectly. According to those reactionaries with their creative accounting methods, 53% of the American population are taxpayers, which is to say, contributing members of society. Part of the emerging message discipline of the right is to rebrand clients/beneficiaries/etc. of the safety net as consumers/users/etc. The “everyone can be (and in fact is) a consumer but not everyone can be a producer” mindset is the essence of the market, and I see no solid reason to believe that the so-called freed-market somehow negates this fact. Assuming you have money (and money is money—a “welfare consumer” has money, at least for a few moments now and then) the market economy offers no resistance to the privilege of consuming at least some amount of economic goods. The privilege of being an economic producer, a contributor, on the other hand, is a well-guarded fortress. Competition itself is an entry barrier and therefore a barrier to the unattainable ideal called perfect competition. And yet, production is a pre-requisite for consumption. Solvency requires producing at least as much as you consume. And of course dignity requires solvency. People who have lived under Big-C Communism talk of (i.e. lecture Egalitarians about) a world in which even buying grocieries requires connections, references, the Gift of Gab, scary-smart shrewdness and other stuff a lucky Citizen of Capitalism like me thinks of as weapons for penetrating Fortress Employment. Each individual has their economic inputs as a consumer and hopefully economic outputs as a worker. In a market economy they deal with the Business Community, whose dealings with individuals has its inputs as an employer and outputs as a retailer. For each, solvency happens when outputs meet or exceed inputs. An individual is an individual, while a business is an institution (I *Hate* using the word “collective” as “the opposite of an individual,” BTW) so of course individuals are encouraged, yea pressured to consume, but at best invited to run the gauntlet to see if they’re “good enough” to produce. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor the solvency to the institutionalized. The previous sentence is ironic. This is why, in spite of my sympathy to the anarchist cause (or at least the anarcho-communist cause), I see no way around some kind of basic income guarantee, except Frank Social Darwinism. Back to the Governance of Peer Production; Mr. Stadler wants me to believe that Benevolent Dictatorship and Voluntary Hierarchy are somehow not oxymorons, while the less starkly contrasting and less antisocial Egalitarian Meritocracy is. No thank you, Mr. Stadler, I don’t want to buy any of what you’re selling.
Perhaps the days are over in which a brainchild released into the public domain can serve as an individual’s “calling card” or even a one-time waiver of the ENTRY LEVEL NEED NOT APPLY clause, simply because of all the coding projects of one-person scale are a sort of low-hanging fruit that has already been harvested. In the spirit of the New Economy in which even the supposedly nerdy jobs like engineering and accounting require SOLID COMMUNICATION SKILLS BOTH ORAL AND WRITTEN, even contributing to the open source movement requires People Skills. If the tone of what you just read (If you’re still with me a big THANK YOU btw) seems abrasive, it’s because right now the future looks to me like a Very Scary Place. I’m literally trembling in my boots.