Sunday, April 15, 2007

Josiah Warren, Equitable Commerce, &c.

Here are four pieces, recently added to the archive, all relating to Josiah Warren.

Peter I. Blacker was a frequent contributor to The Boston Investigator, where his posts were frequently signed "P. I. B." He was also, from all indications, one of the most enthusiastic converts to the system of "equitable commerce" promoted by Josiah Warren in a series of lectures in Boston in 1848 and 1849. Blacker contributed a number of articles to the Investigator, and to other Boston papers, in support of Warren's efforts. This article, from 1852, announces the beginnings of the Modern Times experiment and lays out the basic principles of Warren's "equity villages."

This article, originally published in Warren's own Peaceful Revolutionist and submitted to the Investigator by Blacker, contains a very succinct statement of the principles of equitable commerce. There are some interesting elements here, such as the definition of "cost" in terms of pain, which is somewhat at odds with at least the more naive readings of just what Warren meant by "labor for labor exchange." The pain-standard opens "equitable commerce" to some very subjective interpretations of "cost," removing many of the objections raised by those opposed in principle to any labor theory of value.

Here is part of the story of Warren the inventor—desk-top publishing, 1830 style. Note both the very contemporary concern with individual access to media, and the comments of intellectual property rights.

This satirical piece is probably by Josiah Warren. There was at least one other writer who wrote for The Free Enquirer over the signature "J. W." This other J. W. appears to be the same Baltimore subscriber who later contributed to The Boston Investigator. This letter, however, strikes me as displaying a number of Warren's standard concerns, from a suspicion of government to a disdain for intellectual property rights. Perhaps Crispin or Jason will be able to confirm or deny my suspicion.

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