Kevin Carson and the Freed Market: Is His Left-Libertarian Vision Plausible?

Libertarian Papers 8:273-292 (2017)
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How accurate is Kevin Carson’s characterization of “freed” markets? Carson, a left-libertarian “free market anti-capitalist,” portrays free markets as so radically different from actually-existing markets that they are almost unrecognizable. In The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low Overhead Manifesto, he provides an alternative history of industrialization that argues that large-scale industrial organization and production are largely creatures of state intervention and that truly free markets would be characterized mainly by small-scale production for local markets. This paper evaluates Carson’s narrative in order to determine whether his vision of the freed market is credible. I find that Carson fails to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that, but for government intervention, national markets would only exist for a few goods. Furthermore, many of the features he believes freed markets would possess are based on fallacious views of competition, knowledge, capital, and entrepreneurship.


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