Fraternity! The Markets Are Not Free!


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Is it possible for one to be both an anarchist, or more precisely a voluntaryist and a socialist? Do you think it's possible? Well I know that is. Because that is I. No cognitive dissonance neither! No contradictions. It is possible. And thank God that it is! Otherwise this counterfeit divide between the left and the right, this false political dichotomy which has become so polarising of late can only lead to no good. Let me tell you why.

Linear Politics

The political dimension is presented as a linear dimension. And linear things are divisive. You are either on the left or on the right. Not the centre! Ah the centre. Usually a place reserved for balance, the middle path, the third way. No. The political centre is now a locus of tyranny, where oligarchs and corruption meet. The hegemonic will to power flamed by wealth extracted from dazed workers via monopolies and greed.

Which has by now led to a resurgent 'socialist' left. Socialism is typically defined as a political system wherein the workers control the means of production. But this is not socialism's raison d'être. Rather this is but one of the suggested means of achieving a well sought ends. Socialism's goal is not about controlling the means of production. No. Socialism's goal is Equality. Socialism's defining impulse is that very human and most fundamental of desires for equality and justice. This is the unifying project of the 'left'. Some argue that having the workers control the means of production does not in fact achieve equality, but rather that having the workers control production stifles innovation, restricting and regulating so that socialism ultimately degrades into a tyranny of corrupt political power and bureaucracy. I tend to agree! Disclaimer, my natural bias has always been towards the left.

If equality is the characterising principle of the left then what is it that rallies the right? Freedom! Of course. Free markets, free of regulations, free of contraints. Free association. What a deep and fertile thing this instinct towards freedom is. Imagine history without it. Unthinkable. In its political guise freedom is usually applied to the markets. The Thatcherites. Reaganomics. To achieve freedom we must have free markets declare the right! The usual set of billionaires nod approvingly. The Koch brothers, the Rockefellers, Soros et al. Of course they do. They love it free. Others say that free markets naturally devolve into monopolies, into the law of the jungle with the big gorillas. Hard to argue that. Free markets do not make you free. Slavery is a market too.

A first glance these two great and worthy human impluses seem as though they are in conflict, as though they are in tension. It appears as though they are irreconcilable. If we are to be equal how can we be free? What does free equality mean? Stated together like that surely, one thinks, surely we must forego one to achieve the other. Not so!

Human beings are not linear beings. We are more complex than that. Could it be that within our breast lies more than one dimension? And if so might it be that we sometimes displace or mislocate one dimension into the realm of the other? Let me introduce you to social threefolding.


Social threefolding sees the collective human, the organism of the species, as divided into three parts. Political life, Economic life and Cultural life. Just as a single human being has a metabolic system, a rhythmic system and a nervous system so too the collective being is composed of three separate but interwoven parts. Broadly the Political is about equality. So in our linear model it represents the left. Human rights! Human dignity! Hardly a soul would speak against such things. In contrast to our Political life, Culture encompasses the arts, religion, science and so forth. Culture, driven by human endeavour, is too expansive to to define. It is just too free! Culture is the happy product of creativity itself, and to flourish it must be free. So it is Culture rather than the markets that is the true concern of the right. Note the religious right for example. The home schooling or no schooling right. The libertarian and anarchist right.

So what of Economic life?

We, each of us, have both something to offer and something that we need. Life in our soujourn here has to be sustained, our stomachs fed and our bodies clothed and nourished. As society evolved we have increasingly done all of that together. We have built things up into a complex web of interdependency. A market farmer, a seamstress, a computer programmer. What a multifaceted web of activity. What an internet of value we have made! A vast and interconnected network. The thing that makes it so great is not that it is free. It's exactly the opposite of that. What makes it beautiful is that it's crystalline. A diamond bound by strong bonds. Our interdependence becomes especially obvious when a hub on this network fails. Should a factory in Detroit close first the hitherto workers suffer, then their families. But soon the neighborhood feels the loss. The grocer not only loses some business but also misses the camaraderie and easy chat with Joe on Saturday mornings. The restaurants leave town. The newstand falls. Papers blown down empty streets. In our economic lives we are bound together, a complex matrix. The market is not free!

You see capitalism is freedom misplaced. Freedom displaced into the economic realm. Unfettered where fettering is just the thing. Soon capital usurps political life and all becomes profit. Today war is a market. Stock prices reacted poorly to the North Korean summit. War a market?

Freedom in the economic sphere transforms into an unhealthy culture of thievery and greed.

Eos and the new Economy

How then do we design a system that supports a healthy economic life? How do we prevent free markets from running roughshod over our shared resources, the common good? We need open access. We need a system that incentivizes cooperation and punishes, yes perhaps even punishes exploitation. We need a system that recognises that property rights are granted by the community, not by the jungle, not by might. It's a difficult job and I don't pretend to know where to find the answers. But I suspect that the blockchain may very well be a part it. The Blockchain.

Dan is tweaking the incentives, the game theory, the tokenomics of Eos. These rules represent the new regulatory environment. I hope that he succeeds. And that we can help. I hope that Eos will encourage fraternity in open markets. Not free markets. But open ones. The markets are not free.

Dan often says that he wants to find free market solutions to secure life, liberty, and property. But I translate it as wanting to find open source solutions to Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

Eos has chosen to live under the symbol of the heart. The Chestahedron. The rhythmic system. At it's heart Eos is a cooperative that promises to enable a true marketplace, a healthy commons. A fertile home for our future economic lives.

Social threefolding is part of Rudolf Steiner's amazing body of work. It is more involved then I have rendered it here! And I'm no expert. Steiner formulated it in response to the first world war.

Rudolf Stenier remains a misunderstood figure and is largely ignored in political and philosophical discourse. His contributions range wide from biodynamic farming and education to medicine and architecture. He is no doubt a difficult read. But I believe social threefolding is sorely needed in these times. A good introduction can be found here. If you are interested in Steiner's philosophical writings try Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path. I am such a fan. I have read a lot and continue to find new impulses from his huge body of writings and lectures.

This article was also inspired by the coinbase survey on the political leanings of crypto enthusiasts that can be found here and all those linear charts!

Photo taken fro Pixabay available here

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Is it possible for one to be both an anarchist, or more precisely a voluntaryist and a socialist? Do you think it's possible?

It is very hard to answer this question, @mjhomb, without first clearly defining the terms “voluntarism” and “socialism”. Most people in the West still considers USSR socialist country, which it was never have been. It DECLARED itself as socialist, but was not, neither in its essence, nor in form.

Here is a brilliant explanation of professor Richard D. Wolff on What Socialism is and What is Not.

We live in a matrix that deliberatly manipulate terminology in order to kill any notion of a more humane society. Clearing up terminology is just a first step towards the real question — how to transform society into a humane one?

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Thanks @lighteye! My premise was not so much about the definition of socialism as a particular political/economic system. More that the underlying impulse behind socialism is a desire for equality and human rights. In that sense I am a socialist too! I am also a voluntaryist because I believe in freedom. Restated I believe that all human beings are equal and that all human beings are unique. That's the idea I was playing with. Contradiction? Perhaps I can be both if those beliefs are rightfully applied to very different social domains - that was the idea I was exploring. Thanks for pointing me to the video. Fantastic. He mentions the French revolution's liberty, equality, fraternity. Equality is the socialist impulse but capitalism only serves liberty. In emphasising one we lose them all.


underlying impulse behind socialism is a desire for equality and human rights. In that sense I am a socialist too!

That exactly is the idea of socialism. But it will be never achieved until there are middlemen who will decide on fair distribution of wealth and human rights. Blockchain can do it. You may say then, I’m a voluntaryist too, because I believe in freedom with a little help of technology ;)

And BTW, capitalism does not serve liberty. It’s a matrix propaganda story. Capitalism is an exploitative socio-economic order. Small part of people has freedom at the expense of the vast majority. You see, this kind of order…

…cannot be sustained without the massive military/police apparatus — that is — a mechanism of oppression. It is not liberty.

I’m very glad that we tried to define what we are talking about @mjhomb. It always brings a constructive discussion :)

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Re the distribution of wealth that is where fraternity comes in. Our economy should flow in a spirit of brotherhood and interdependence.

Capitalism is viewed as freedom misapplied to the economic sphere. Free markets leads to an exploitative social order run by big gorillas, law of the jungle. The economy then starts to dominate political sphere too, like you say, military, police, ever bigger gorillas!

That's the social threefolding take on it that I have been reading about lately.

Thanks and I agree, terms are so important!


Every system dependent on humans is prone to corruption, @mjhomb. Call it whatever you want, it will fail. Blockchain is long awaited fix.

And I have one little reservation to the blockchain, having read the wonderful treasury of wisdom titled: “Murphy’s Law”:

It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

True. Blockchain will be a test of their ingeniosity. 😄