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Posts Tagged ‘anarcho-capitalism’

Don’t criticize the rich

September 23, 2018 Leave a comment

Why is it that ancaps, who know the economy is based on theft and violence, will attack you for wanting to “redistribute” wealth (whatever you or they mean by it)? Why is that they tell you you are just jealous and want something you don’t deserve? Is it because they hate socialism (or love capitalism) so much they will attack you to defend the current order? Smash the state, but don’t take away any of the money acquired by the violence of the state. That would be stealing!

When Voltaire said “to find out who rules over you, simply find out whom you are not allowed to criticize”, he was not talking about political correctness. The point of political correctness is to make it no longer all right to hurt marginalized groups, like ethnic minorities, disabled people, the poor, and so on. When making fun of people reinforces beliefs about people’s inferiority and thus contributes to their lower status in society, we are punching down. We should be punching up.

So who else are we not supposed to criticize? Ask people in the US, Canada and other places what they think of the rich as a class. Ask if it’s right to have much more money than 99% of the rest of the people. Among many–ancaps and conservatives tend to have this trait in common–it is considered normal that the rich earned their wealth and subsequent power. They will say, given the system is basically fair, most of them earned their money legitimately.

But the system is not fair. So how is it legitimate? What did they do? How did they get their money? And why would having money justify having power over us? Most people can only become wealthy by taking advantage of the state’s use of legal force. That is how wealth and poverty are created together virtually everywhere: forcing people into subordinate relationships and making them work on the productive resources available. Like the corporation, money and the wage system do not exist because they were widely considered good ideas. They are the products of a long process of ordering an economy to create a few rich people and a subordinate class dependent on wages. We should pay more attention to the people making money off this system and expose it all.

We are allowed to criticize wealthy individuals for individual actions–think of villains like Kenneth Lay or Bernie Madoff–while nearly all the rest of the people doing equally bad things get off scot free. How many executives of Lockheed Martin or Boeing can you name? How many have you seen in the news over the number of dollars each has made from war? Even when someone at a food company makes a decision that poisons a thousand people, the company spokesperson comes out and says the company made a mistake. Who made the decision? Why will there be no justice? Can you name any other powerful person that you don’t regularly see in the media? The rich are the class you are not allowed to criticize.

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Is it only from the concentration of wealth that we make any progress? If so, does that justify corporate or any other hierarchy? We should be allowed to keep the product of our labor and pool it with whoever else chooses to do so. We should be creating organizations so others can flourish, not so we can use them to create wealth for ourselves. We should be cooperating with people working on the same things as us, not competing with each other in different organizations, conducting research separately and spying on each other, creating redundant products, spending time and money on advertising instead of simply distributing that money to everyone involved.

There is no doubt that through organization we get things done. But we do not have to have a hierarchical structure where some people make all the important decisions, including how the money is spent, while most have no such power. The existence of such structures is why hierarchical society is allowed to exist. Even if we managed to eliminate the state, the presence of large concentrations of wealth would lead back to a privileged class that makes the rules.

Of course, people who eliminated the state would be vigilant. We could only ever reach that point if a large proportion of the people agreed with the cause and took self-defense into their own hands, and they would be on the look out for the power-hungry. But if we continue to live somewhere money piles up very unevenly we might still ignore the real problems it causes, and end up back where we started. The problem is inequality.

Communists are not coming for your toothbrush

January 31, 2017 3 comments

People who do not leave their hometowns or countries of origin, or who leave them only with closed minds, have trouble understanding what is wrong with their own culture, ideas and beliefs. The same can be said of people who choose an idea and do not question it. For about three years, I was committed to what its adherents call anarcho-capitalism, along with its close cousins, voluntaryism and agorism. If you have followed this blog, page and book, you will have heard my perspective mostly through the voluntaryist lens. But as I strayed into deeper waters, I began to see the flaws and limitations of my ideas. This post is part one of a summary of what I have learned since I finished my book.

Many people who think they are right simply refuse to listen. I have been one of these people many times in my life, certainly when I was part of the online anarcho-capitalist (ancap) community. I have never heard any anarchist say we need to create a state. Creating a state is antithetical to all variants of anarchism. Yet ancaps have insisted to me, repeatedly, without ever backing up their claims, that anarchists want to create a state. Indeed, I have explained anarchism and communism as decentralized, with no state and no need for a state, with no hint of wanting to centralize power, and ancaps have told me I want to create a state.

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Presumably, this belief stems from their further claim that anarchists want to forcibly collectivise everyone and everything. Again, I have never heard anyone say that, but it has been repeated so many times among ancaps it has become an article of faith, a given, a fact that needs no facts to back it up. They want to kick you out of your homes, we are told, and collectivise everything you have, right down to your toothbrush (though that part might be a joke). Who says? Why would they? Because they do not believe in property? Different definitions of property are part of the root of this misunderstanding, though different attitudes toward it are as well. (I will discuss property vs possessions in a future post.)

Many of the same ancaps also refer to all anarchists who are not capitalists as “commies”, by which they seem to mean Stalinists. Anarchism is the opposite of Stalinism. Communism has more than one definition and many self-styled communists want to destroy the state and give, as the slogan goes, all power to the communes. The ones who want strong states, armies and gulags while calling themselves anti-imperialist are usually referred to as tankies and have virtually nothing in common with anarchists. Yet, so many ancaps lump tankies and ancoms in together and call them all “leftists” and assume “leftists” all want to recreate the state and force you to live a certain way. Not all communists are tankies and, by the way, not all anarchists are either capitalists or communists, and if you do not know that, you have only a limited understanding of anarchism and communism.

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Ancaps usually denigrate anti-fascists (antifa) and then display a shining disdain for learning by assuming all antifa are “commies” who are just as guilty as Stalin for the crimes ancaps attribute to communism. They label antifa communists and then dismiss them out of hand. Then they say antifa is bad because anti-fascists call everyone they don’t like fascists. The irony keeps me up at night.

Neither have I ever heard anarchists say they want to stop free and peaceful trading of goods or labor by force, yet I have been told that is exactly what anarcho-communists (and presumably anarcho-syndicalists, but to most ancaps, again, any anarchist who does not identify as a capitalist must be a commie) want. What they want, in fact, is to make trading unnecessary by sharing everything. There is a world of difference between trying to make something that is imperfect unnecessary and using force to ban it. I seriously doubt anyone, ancom or otherwise, has any desire to intervene in some trade you are making with your neighbor. These strawman arguments serve no purpose other than to dismiss other anarchists without having to listen to them.

In fact, some ancaps believe their own tales to such an extent they say “capitalists are the real anarchists”. To be true, this statement requires extremely narrow and uncommon definitions of both capitalism and anarchism. People who laugh at the supposed contradiction of “libertarian socialism” do not get that “libertarian” meaning anarchist, favoring freedom and equality in opposition to capitalism, predates the more American definition of favoring free markets.

On a related note, “socialism” does not mean “anything the state ever does”. No definition of socialism means that except the ancap definition. Anarchism is stateless socialism. To most anarchists, socialism means decentralized or common ownership of the means of production. Likewise, there are not many people other than ancaps who think “capitalism” means completely free trade. So why do ancaps feel the need to interrupt every conversation about capitalism as it is by saying “that’s not capitalism”?

But if “we have never had capitalism before” because it is a perfect free-trade society, why do so many ancaps resort to telling socialists they would never have all the good things they have without capitalism? Whatever “capitalism” means, that argument begs the question. There are not only two possible economic systems, capitalism and Stalinism. Anarchy would mean a major unleashing of economic potential and people would choose various forms of organization and production. But why would you favor business when mutual aid has been the norm throughout human history? How will poor, sick and disabled people get by without mutual aid? And why trust charity, a top-down approach, over treating people as equals?

The next post will be about the danger of tolerating hierarchy in social institutions.