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How would trading work in an anarchist world?

0 votes
Sorry if this question is stupid. I'm very young and very new to anarchism, and have a question about trading. Foodstuffs and materials and whatnot. If it's really naive and makes too many assumptions, sorry, I'm still in the process of 'revolutionizing' my thinking and getting away from all that statism stuff. So onto the question.

Self-sustainable, local food production is great and everything, that I'm not denying. But a self-sustainable community would likely not be creating every single sort of food imaginable, so there would have to be some long-distance trade, especially with geography. How would pepperoni from one side of the globe get to pizza on the other? (I love pizza, so this is important.) Who would be organizing the movement of these things and how would the trading be weighed? Would some random people from the Arabian peninsula travel up to Scandinavia with their quality Arabian Tomatoes and see if anyone wants to trade them for some nifty Nordic foodstuff? Or with the internet would things be more organized?

This is a loaded and open question, I know, but I think knowing the answer to this is important if I want to expand my economic understanding of anarchism.
asked Mar 12, 2015 by aton (130 points)
Be welcome, questioner and seeker.
You have no cause to apologize for an honest question here.  As our berespected 'Dot' has reminded us of late, (despite some of us having short tempers and shorter memories),
"[all] are free to ask questions ...
it is on us (anarchists) to argue our points coherently and clearly, not on guests to already know what we think. this is the point of this site. "

[edit:  transferred to answer below.]

Peace, companion; in your own mind at least.  We find quite enough war outside as it is.
"If an industry needs a ton of iron, it would ship that ton halfway across the globe to save a dollar on the ton, though an equivalent ton sat idle next door."
I actually never thought about this. This is a really good point.

I could see it being a lot easier to acquire goods in a non-capitalist system, as nobody would be exploited so iron in X land isn't different from iron in Y land; no difference in political climate. And yeah without rampant consumerism there would be less blurred lines about what is and isn't necessary or even desirable.

Okay cool. Thank you clodbuster, I really do appreciate the response.
"And yeah without rampant consumerism there would be less blurred lines about what is and isn't necessary or even desirable."

I like this sentence. Even I would personnaly replace "rampant consumerism" with "capitalist industry and the state" as long as without them, you won't have rampant consummerism. ;)

I liked your answer clodbuster, but please leave the kitchen of history alone now : I want to make my own pizza with green chili pepper, olive oil and artichoke hearts.

2 Answers

0 votes
my response to this question is that a sustainable, interesting world is going to have very different rewards and different drawbacks than the one we live in. and in fact that it might not be fun for any of us, raised to capitalist expectations. luckily probably none of us will be around to be unhappy.

my other response is that i'm not worried about how things will work because i expect that things will be so different that my imagination is insufficient to the task.

but of course both of those answers are unsatisfying, so... go clodbuster!
answered Mar 14, 2015 by dot (50,460 points)
edited Mar 28, 2015 by dot
but dot, isn't the whole spontaneity and unexpectedness (with all it's dangers and discomforts) exactly what we desire in the gamble for anarchy?
i thought that was what i alluded to?
+1 vote
<too-freakin'-long-to-read-the-whole-thing summary>
What we actually 'need' and 'want', ain't very much.
Most of global trade supplies shit we don't need or want, including 'global trade' itself;
Many different imaginings of possible schemes for new economies, most could be made to work more or less, all would have shortcomings and create new harms.
_Every_ economic scheme has holes in it, through which people fall to their deaths;  the _only_ way to patch up these holes and prop up the scheme, is some form of Gift.

So, i'll start my response with the pizza.
Other than a few things like coffee and bananas, most domesticated crops will happily grow most places people habituate.  (so the tomatoes in sweden get 16 hours of sunlight in midsummer, and with the appropriate varieties, they grow like mad - no need for morrocan fruits  [and yes, i'm ignoring your implicit question, for now - patience please].)  Tomatoes grow in the sub-tropic and temperate and even the sub-arctic (with a little help), mozzarella can be made anywhere we keep dairy herbivores, and dry-cured sausage... a thousand varieties carried from place and to place - all the same technically but each individual and unique in flavor and spirit.  
Essentially, we are talking recipes - recombinations of base ingredients and flavorings, constantly reimagined every time we approach the kitchen counter, to use whatever may be at hand.

Now, we address your deeper questions.  The things we actually 'need', these are few and easily supplied from your locality, in quantity and diversity enough to satisfy the most jaded soul.  The things we actually 'want', these are rarely more numerous, and tend more to the intellect - stories, songs, and images; easily transmitted across distance with little effort.
The networks of 'trade' that cross the globe today are simply a symptom of the sickness that is capitalism - the reduction of every value to a dollar figure, the reduction of every relation to an expression of 'profit'.  If an industry needs a ton of iron, it would ship that ton halfway across the globe to save a dollar on the ton, though an equivalent ton sat idle next door.  The entirety of legal global trade, tourism, and money  laundering - it all replicates this nonsense in greater or lesser degree; blessed by poisonous economic 'theory', shepherded by metanational organizations, underwritten and bled-off by the usual suspects.  To expand this trade, and their potentials for profit, they must ever increase our 'wants' by inducing us to buy 'shit-we-don't-actually-want', by inducement or by intimidation or by open threat,
(because, as we already said, what we _actually_ 'need and want', really isn't much).

As trade is decreased, the industry necessary to support that trade withers, and the trade necessary to support _that_ industry withers, so the industry necessary to support _that_ trade withers,.. ;  even the most industrial syndicalist would find it necessary to rapidly scale back global trade, if only to avoid the waste of it all.

To handle what distant trade may remain, different schools of thought approach this differently:  
(  http://anarchy101.org/2623/what-different-proposed-imagined-anarchist-economic-systems
see Dot's explanations of mutualist, communist, and collectivist economic schemes.)

Some try to use a form of money or credit based on human labor;  
some envision over-arching bodies of governance to co-ordinate production and distribution, locally and regionally and globally;  
some hope that society can be torn down to a local subsistence level with caffienated luxuries gifted amongst distant friends, as we travel to visit each other  (morrocan dates in stockholm, quince jam in jamaic, ...).  
And some of us here have other thoughts.
[The various schemes are not necessarily mutually contradictory, there is no dogmatic schema for any proposed system, just the various imaginings of various individual minds;  it may be more useful to think of them as bands on a broader spectrum, or regions on a spectral plane, widely divergent in places and bleeding together in others and breaking up into scattered point fields along the edges.  ]
Which is fine from the economic/political analysis.  but studiously ignores the ecological threshold we crossed several generations ago...

While the pre-occupation of modern industrial civilisation is to frame every societal issue in economic terms, and to challenge every new idea with 'well, yes, but that wouldn't be _economical_', we have to step back from that conditioning and _look_.
Because in truth, how economic matters may be arranged, is essentially a _social_ question.  I have dreamt up various schemes of distribution and of barter, and read far more, but the important stuff always falls back to a question of how an individual society deals with the disasters and 'externalities' that inevitably occur in any formal economic system; these fallbacks do not follow from the economic structure, but may be varied according to the ethics or foibles of the society.  (Be it the church poorhouse for the early factories, various charities in modern industrialism, government welfare/subsidy in social democratic nations, or...)
Note please, that the only way to backfill the holes in any formal economic scheme, is to resort to the Gift, (albeit often laiden with the poisons of church morality, protestant 'worthiness', and so on; but a gift none the less).
answered Mar 19, 2015 by clodbuster (1,950 points)