Friday, May 11, 2007

William Pare on equitable commerce

William Pare's "Equitable Villages in America," a lecture from 1854, is a particularly good short treatment of the system of "equitable commerce" proposed and practiced by Josiah Warren. Pare never forgot that the first principle of Warren's philosophy was individualization, and this helped him to understand that the "cost principle" is not simply a matter of exchanging labor time, but a system which incorporates into the notion of "cost" a whole range of subjective valuations, which cannot be subordinated to any social or institutional standard of equity without betraying the system completely. I recommend the essay to anyone interested in Warren's thought.


Crispin said...

john stuart mill says in his autobiography: "a remarkable American, Mr. Warren, has framed a System of Society, on the foundation of 'the Sovereignty of the Individual,' had obtained a number of followers [at Modern Times] (whether it now exists I know not) which, though bearing a superficial resemblance to some of the projects of the Socialists, is diametrically opposite to them in principle, since it recognises no authority whatever over the individual, except to enforce equal freedom of development for all individualities. As the book which bears my name claimed no originality for any of its doctrines, and was not intended to write their history, the only author who had preceded me in their assertion of whom I thought it appropriate to say anything, was Humboldt, who furnished the motto for the work; although in one passage I borrowed from the Warrenites their phrase, the sovereignty of the individual."

it would seem likely that pare was his source?

Shawn P. Wilbur said...

Warren was in touch with British cooperators. Holyoake writes: "Among the correspondents of the British Co-operator was Josiah Warren. He wrote from Cincinnati, January 30, 1830, to recommend a scheme of cheap printing, of which he was the inventor. Considering the power of giving a monopoly by patents absurd, he makes known his scheme and offers it to any one w adopt. Application was to be made to the Free Inquirer, conducted in New York by Frances Wright and R. D. Owen. Like Paine, Warren made a present to the public of those copyrights in inventions and books, which in Paine’s case made others rich and left the author poor. The world, which is apt to despise reformers for being always indigent, should remember how some of them became so." (History of Co-operation, p. 91) We know that he considered equitable commerce to be an alternative to Rochdale-style cooperation. It would be interesting to know whether Warren fought that battle directly. UIUC has one of the only microfilm files of the British Co-operator, so if I end up headed in that direction, I can check it out eventually.