Saturday, May 31, 2008

Conversations With A Left-Rothbardian Anarcho-Capitalist (Part 4)

This is my fourth response to a conversation with Cork that follows from my “Conversations With A Left-Rothbardian Anarcho-Capitalist (Part 3)” blog post.

Private ownership over the means of production is a necessary requirement of capitalism, but it is not all that is required. Capitalism requires a capitalist class, which Benjamin Tucker is clearly opposed to even though he is for private ownership over the means of production. This is why most libertarian socialists are comfortable accepting Benjamin Tucker as one of their own. For capitalism you need the means of production to be the private property of a few individuals at the top of an economic pyramid. Placing the means of production within the reach of all is incompatible with capitalist private property. You just can’t narrow the definition of capitalist private property down to the point where it becomes applicable to people who are blatantly anti-capitalist. Ask an individual if a self-proclaimed anti-capitalist socialist can be claimed as a supporter of capitalist private property and I can pretty much guarantee that you are going to get some funny looks. Go up to pretty much anyone and ask them if an individual against the usury of interest, rent, and profit is for capitalist property rights. I have done so recently with non-anarchist family and friends and everyone I have talked to has said that such a person is against capitalist property rights. Consider that a self-employed individual can still privately possess the means of production even under mutualism. For example, I can privately possess a plough under mutualism as long as I am the only one personally using it. I can use the plow (means of production) to cultivate the soil in preparation for sowing seed or planting (fruits of my labor). As long as I am not using the plow to exploit someone by taking the fruits of his or her labor, individual ownership over the means of production is acceptable. In this isolated self-employed scenario I am not employing the labor of another individual. I am not controlling access to the plow in order to extract surplus value from another user of the plow. Instead I am creating value myself and then directly enjoying the full product of my labor. Such individual ownership over the means of production is not enough to constitute capitalism, and it is acceptable under mutualism because it does not entail the exploitative relationships that arise as a result of extracting surplus value from the labor of others.

An Anarchist FAQ correctly claims that Benjamin Tucker was opposed to capitalist property rights. I can reasonably guess that an overwhelming majority of the population thinks that a person against interest, rent, and profit is necessarily against capitalist private property. Benjamin Tucker’s exclamation about “depriving capital of its reward” doesn’t exactly sound like defending capitalist private property. I can promise you that most will not accept your claim that an explicitly anti-capitalist socialist individual can be claimed as a supporter of capitalist private property. I do not see anything misleading concerning Benjamin Tucker contained within An Anarchist FAQ. The FAQ goes about explaining the views of different schools of anarchist thought—including those it explicitly disagrees with in some areas. Just because much of the FAQ condemns “capitalist property” in the sense of Tucker’s support for private ownership of capital goods, does not make it hard to understand that Tucker holds his own beliefs that are separate from other sections of the FAQ. To gain a correct understanding about people like Tucker you are actually going to have to read that section of the FAQ in its entirety. Naturally if you read selectively you are going to come out with loads of misconceptions from just about any text. Anyone who, in your own words, “only drops by to read the section discussing his views” is of course going to leave misunderstanding Benjamin Tucker. That is true of anyone trying to understand someone’s nuanced philosophy in such a haphazard manner.

As I have already pointed out An Anarchist FAQ actually agrees with your understanding of Benjamin Tucker. I can’t personally speak much about the inaccuracies concerning Medieval Iceland, but I have glossed over the conversation between David Friedman and the writers of An Anarchist FAQ and do find myself agreeing more with the latter. Medieval Iceland was a communal society so it definitely seems silly to try claiming it as a shinning beacon of anarcho-capitalism. The writers of An Anarchist FAQ even readily admit their mistakes concerning Medieval Iceland by saying, “Yes, the initial version of that section was full of errors. It was written in a rush, in 1996 when we were getting what we had ready of the FAQ ready for release and was not checked before going on line. That was a mistake, very true, which was corrected as soon as the errors were shown. However, making mistakes under pressure just shows that we are human.” I and plenty of others fully accept that An Anarchist FAQ is not perfect. That is why the writers accept the need to correct any errors that are spotted as a result of constructive dialogue. That is a strength and not a weakness. There is a reason that it is called AN Anarchist FAQ and not THE Anarchist FAQ. I myself don’t even agree with all that An Anarchist FAQ has to say. For instance, I agree with much of what it says about anarcho-capitalism, but I am not one to dogmatically reject the formation of any alliance with anarcho-capitalists and other right-libertarians when our goals overlap. In an anarchist society I am fine with anarcho-capitalists and other right-libertarians trying to do their own thing as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others to do the same. In my opinion Anarcho-capitalism has even contributed some good ideas that are applicable to different forms of anarchism. Regardless of any flaws, An Anarchist FAQ is undoubtedly one of the best sources of information about anarchism.

I am surprised that any anarchist would have a problem understanding what is meant by “hierarchy.” Hierarchy can be defined as “any system of persons or things ranked one above another” or “government by an elite group.” One of the things I find interesting about anarcho-capitalists is that they believe in the destruction of hierarchy in terms of the unequal relationship between individuals and state-government, but then fail to apply the same principles to the unequal employee-employer relationship. Anarcho-capitalists realize that for individual freedom you must have equality between individuals through the destruction of centralized state-government power, but then they claim that individual freedom doesn’t require equality in terms of economic power. Centralization of economic power magically becomes okay for anarcho-capitalists even though it clearly gives one group of individuals more say in the lives of others. The idea of a capitalist consumers’ “democracy” is complete nonsense. Real democracy doesn’t entail people with more money having a greater say. The golden rule that “those who have the gold make the rules” is completely incompatible with individual liberty.

Hierarchy is the organizational structure that embodies authority and is therefore antithetical to equal-liberty. Capitalism requires class stratification. There must be an elite ruling class containing those few individuals at the top of the economic pyramid controlling access to the means of production/survival. This inequitable bargaining power based on capitalist private property means that the lower classes become dependent upon the “generosity” of the ruling elite to gain access to the means of production/survival. Therefore, capitalists have a much greater say in the running of other people’s lives and functionally serve as a privatized government. Look at the internal structure of any capitalist business and you will readily observe that a few individuals at the top of the corporate hierarchy deny those below any say in the decisions that affect their lives. For instance, just look at the authoritarian monitoring systems that capitalist corporations implement to induce enough fear to keep their workers in line. It’s enough to make Big Brother proud. Indeed, more people come into direct contact with authoritarianism at their workplaces than state-government. This is why when you talk about eliminating state-government the first reaction that most people have is horror at the idea of private capitalist bosses ruling their lives. Class divisions, with their power disparities, are clearly incompatible with individual freedom. If you don’t have a say in decisions proportionate to the degree to which they affect your life, then you are not free.

If you have a classless society, then you don’t have capitalism. Benjamin Tucker’s individualist anarchism allows private ownership of the means of production, but sets out not to allow the means of production to become monopolized by a few. Once again, Tucker envisioned an individualist anarchist society as "each man reaping the fruits of his labour and no man able to live in idleness on an income from capital....become[ing] a great hive of Anarchistic workers, prosperous and free individuals [combining] to carry on their production and distribution on the cost principle.” Tucker was clearly for a society without a capitalist class extracting surplus value from the labor of others, so there is no intelligible way to claim that such a society would entail support for capitalist private property.

You seem to still be misunderstanding where economic coercion comes from. For mutualists, we don’t see it coming from the bargaining power of exchanged labor. A person with rare skill is expected to command more than others in a socialist free market. It is obvious that hierarchy is not necessarily involved in your description of “performing a service for someone else in exchange for money.” Furthermore, you are wrong to say that this is “all that employment is.” Paying someone money to shine my shoes is obviously not hierarchical. I am not the boss over the person shinning my shoes, so he or she is not my employee. The shoe shiner is a producer and I am a consumer. I haven’t used authoritarian control over the means of production/survival to artificially limit the shoe shiner’s options in this scenario. Here your description of “employment” or “wage labor” brushes aside the blatantly inequitable bargaining power created by economic rules allowing for the unlimited accumulation of capitalist private property. Your description ignores that such economic power entails the artificial narrowing of other people’s choices. If individuals have taken measures to limit my options to working for you or starving to death as a result of their private ownership over the means of production/survival, then there isn’t much in the way of real choice for me. I’m being coerced by those who have imposed upon me an economic system designed to perpetuate artificial scarcity. I am being denied the ability to govern over my own affairs. Having no other choice but to work for a capitalist boss is the same thing as having no other choice but to vote for a state-government politician. In both cases I am being denied any real say in the decisions that affect my life. That’s simply not freedom.

For anarcho-capitalism freedom becomes measured in how much private property you own. The more private property you have the more freedom you have. You have unrealistically redefined libertarian socialism’s opposition to capitalism so that it comes to mean opposition to all economic transaction. That is clearly not what mutualists are saying at all. I am against capital hiring labor, which constitutes “wage labor,” but I am not against labor hiring capital or labor hiring labor. Of course I am for “performing a service for someone in exchange for money.” How could I even support co-operatives if that weren’t the case? Observe that when I pay someone to mow my lawn, that person is not my employee, and yet the transaction involves “performing a service for someone in exchange for money.” I am not ruling over any one in such an economic relationship. We both come to the bargaining table as equals to exchange our labor-added value. You have completely edited out the role capital ownership plays in the “wage labor” picture.

I think you may also be confusing inequality and hierarchy. You can have inequality without hierarchy, but you can’t have hierarchy without inequality. Hierarchy requires inequality in terms of power, which entails people being freer at the top and less free at the bottom. However, you can have inequality in terms of possessions without it necessitating exploitation or hierarchy. For instance, I can possess many toothbrushes without it conferring upon me inequitable bargaining power over another individual. You see, when talking about inequality it is necessary to make it clear what you are looking at. As mentioned before, inequality based on labor (ex. greater bargaining power as a result of having a relatively rare skill) is acceptable under mutualism. We don’t believe we can make everyone the same and we don’t desire to do so. We want equality of opportunity and not equality of outcome.

So we have observed that items can be used in different ways to promote certain human relationships. It is the hierarchical use of land and resources to extort money from productive individuals that I am against. As long as having more possessions does not confer upon you inequitable bargaining power on the basis of this mere ownership, then any resulting inequality on the basis of valued labor is acceptable. This would constitute inequality of possessions, but it would not entail inequality in terms of freedom between individuals. This is what the co-operative business form with its one person one vote system aims to do in terms of equalizing bargaining power. It does this by circumventing the coercive effects of private capital ownership. For instance, consider how workplace democracy based on one person one vote equalizes bargaining power by taking capital (ex. shares of stock) out of the equation. Instead of bargaining power based on idle capital ownership it becomes based on valued labor. Note once again that I am not for equality of outcome but for equality of opportunity. Those who have an aesthetic dislike of all “equality” often try to confuse the different things that equality can be referring to. It is simply this unequal bargaining power on the basis of capital ownership that is being attacked by destroying the capitalist privileges in the money, land, tariff, and patent/copyright monopolies.

I see this being related to the whole anarchist understanding that there is a difference between being an authority and having authority. There is legitimate (or rational) authority and illegitimate (or irrational) authority. “Being an authority means that a person is recognized as competent for any particular task based on her or his knowledge and individual skills. It is socially acknowledged expertise. Legitimate authorities are experts who are particularly knowledgeable, skillful or wise in any particular area. It may be in our best interests to follow their recommendations, but they have no power to force us to do so, nor should they. Legitimate authority is this kind of authority, the authority of an expert. Having authority is a social relationship based on status and power derived from a hierarchical position within a group. It means dividing society/the group into the order givers and the order takers. The order givers, the authorities, tell the order takers what to do and they must obey. This is illegitimate authority.”

Ok, so you are telling me that if I built a fence around North America it wouldn’t mean that I magically own everything inside according to anarcho-capitalism. I figured as much. So if I can only own what I transform through labor, then I do at least privately own the fence around North America. I’m assuming that I can forcefully keep people from trespassing on my private property. No one is allowed to touch, damage, alter, or cross my fence without my permission. I’m assuming that I can also charge people to cross my fence border. So I am effectively using the fence to restrict access to the inside and outside. I am making whatever lies inside and outside the fence artificially scarce. Just like implementing tariffs on imports and exports! Now instead of using state-government guns to extort money, I am using capitalist private property to extort money. I am using the fence to artificially restrict the free movement of people and goods. If I don’t also own the land below and the sky above my fence, then I assume that the only way people can legitimately cross my fence according to anarcho-capitalism is by tunneling under or flying over my fence. As far as I am concerned forcing others to expend labor to tunnel under or fly over such a fence still constitutes theft from the labor of others. Just let people peacefully cross through your fence! Also consider that it may have taken $200 billion dollars worth of time, labor, and resources to build a fence around North America, but eternally charging everyone who wants to cross the fence would cover the cost of building it hundreds of times over. If people want your fence, you should only be paid for what it cost you and no more. Otherwise you are being paid for something other than labor. Such capitalist private property allows a person to remain idle indefinitely and leech off of the productive labor of others. It is quite clear that capitalist property is theft.

I am glad that you acknowledge that it would not be impossible to own an island under anarcho-capitalism. Therefore, the owner of a private island can deny a desperate shipwrecked man life and liberty in the way that I have described. Now we should be readily able to see the coercion inherent in capitalist private property. I am glad that you have apologetically resorted to explaining that owning an entire island would not be as likely under strict acknowledgement of anarcho-capitalist property rules. If it were likely would you or anarcho-capitalism have a problem with it? I might agree that owning an entire island would not be as likely under anarcho-capitalism, but it does not erase the coercion inherent in even the smallest example of capitalist property rights. Can I deny a starving individual access to an apple from a tree in my yard according to anarcho-capitalism? The only consistent anarcho-capitalist answer that I can see is “yes.” As far as I am concerned the starving individual’s life takes priority over your capitalist private property. Note that having a bunch of individuals privately own an entire island produces the same effect. It still produces a lower class of people ruled by and dependent upon those who own private property. Maybe it is not very likely that one individual could come to own an entire island, but some part of you must accept that such a coercive situation of private world ruler-ship would be hypothetically acceptable under anarcho-capitalism. Making the argument that it is “unlikely” instead of arguing that it is “incompatible” with anarcho-capitalism means that you have come to some small realization that it is unacceptable to have this unlimited accumulation of capitalist private property because it destroys individual liberty.

You are right in terms of how much more quickly capitalist private property accumulation occurs as a result of forceful state-government intervention. However, I highly doubt your assumption that anarcho-capitalism would make it unlikely for individuals to privately own huge swaths of land (like entire islands) in the long run. Even if you start out roughly equal in an anarcho-capitalist society of small individual homesteads, the rules of capitalism ensure that it won’t stay that way forever. Over generations of private property transactions in an anarcho-capitalist society more and more land and resources would accumulate into the hands of a few individuals. I use to think so myself, but it is simply inaccurate that anarcho-capitalists believe that you can only get your wealth from laboring. What happened to the capitalist spiel about “getting your money to work for you”? Sorry, but capital simply is not labor.

No, my statement that “Crusoe can work years homesteading different parts of the island himself and/or he can buy up the homesteads of others. Such an occurrence is completely compatible with anarcho-capitalism” doesn’t apply to the mutualist property system. You can’t homestead different parts of the island so that each plot permanently becomes your private property, and you can’t buy up the homesteads of others to become an absentee landlord under mutualism. You only own the land and resources that you can personally occupy and use. If you mix your labor with something and leave it unused and unoccupied, it becomes abandoned. You ask, “What if I’m a rich mutualist who simply pays people to “occupy and use” every square inch of the island? Or the entire world?” I am sorry, but I must admit that I find these questions of yours pretty funny. Let’s think about this a second. If under mutualism I own what I personally occupy and use, then why would a “rich” mutualist pay me just to sit there and own what I already own? I can already exclude people from accessing what I personally occupy and use, so what exactly is the “rich” mutualist gaining? He or she isn’t gaining any power from doing such a thing. The “rich” mutualist would be gaining nothing. It would just be a big waste of money. It is not as though paying others to personally occupy and use the whole island or the entire world enables these things to become the property of the “rich” mutualist. Each individual would still own what they personally occupy and use. No one has to obey any of the decisions made by the “rich” mutualist. They aren’t dependent upon the money being paid to them by the “rich” mutualist, so not obeying wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

Everyone would still be able to personally occupy and use whatever un-owned land and resources are available. No one is dependent upon the “rich” mutualist to gain access to the means of production/survival and can easily enter a co-operative to become a business owner. Under mutualism there is an upper limit on wealth accumulation because it is only possible for one human to produce so much labor-added value. When capital isn’t being paid tribute in the form of interest, rent, and profit, there isn’t this hypothetically unlimited amount of wealth that can be accumulated by an individual. There isn’t this unsustainable capitalist “grow or die” imperative. Therefore, your “rich” mutualist itself is an oxymoron. Whatever wealth disparities exist under mutualism can be expected to be relatively small. Furthermore, whatever the size and magnitude of these wealth disparities under libertarian socialism, the situation still wouldn’t bestow some individuals with hierarchical power over others. If people are already personally occupying and using an island or the entire world to the greatest extent possible—to the point where not even one more human life could be sustained by the available land and resources—then there isn’t scarcity artificially being imposed upon others by human beings (to benefit some at the expense of others), but the existence of actual nature-imposed scarcity. The person who comes along when I am drinking the last life-sustaining glass of fresh water on Earth is simply out of luck. I am not responsible as long as the other individual’s sad predicament is not a result of my actions but the result of nature. Paying everyone to occupy and use every bit of land and every single resource on an island or on Earth wouldn’t accomplish a thing under a mutualist or other libertarian socialist scheme of possession property rights.

Those individuals passing through a community’s co-operatively owned road network that pay for temporary road usage do not form a landlord-tenant relationship. This scenario does not involve usury because those individuals just passing through the community’s co-operatively owned road network could just as easily reside within the community and become road co-op owners just like everyone else. Opportunity isn’t being denied to them. Their freedom of movement isn’t being denied. Ownership over the road isn’t being held above others to confer some individuals with greater bargaining power at the expense of others. When the road is co-operatively owned it isn’t like having a capitalist owner privately control the conditions under which the road can be used. Those just passing through are just paying to cover a small part of the wear and tear contributed through use of the road network. They aren’t bared from owning the road through personal occupancy and use. You shouldn’t be making money off of something that is not labor. That is theft, and it is what would occur with private capitalist ownership of the roads.

Sorry, but an anarcho-capitalist road owner would indeed have quite a lot of bargaining power. It’s interesting that you find this so funny and hard to believe. Just further proof that you can’t recognize economic coercion with your incomplete conception of freedom. You can rest assured that I am not entering the realm of paranoia here. Let’s think for a moment. Why do existing private roads only charge a few quarters for passing? The reason is that they are competing with state-government subsidized roads that are completely open to the public. Now let’s imagine what would happen if every road was someone’s private property. Under anarcho-capitalism the road passing by my house could be someone else’s private property, which means the road owner can deny me access for whatever reason. I would have no say in how the privately-owned road is run. I can’t go anywhere without permission from the private road owner because I could be punished for trespassing on his or her property. I am stuck. I am at the mercy of the private road owner. I need free access to the road in order to get to work, go to the store, etc. I don’t have a choice but to pay for use of the road or suffer, starve, and die. This sort of coercive privatized tyranny also shows that anarcho-capitalism would result in things like widespread gentrification. The poor would be forced into slums in great numbers—most likely more so than under our currently restricted state capitalist economy. Anarcho-capitalism would undoubtedly promote an ever-increasing rich-poor divide. It would give people no other choice but to rebel violently to survive. Things that approach natural monopolies like roads, electricity, sewage, etc. must especially be co-operatively owned to avoid this kind of coercion.

Direct democracy is not tyrannical and does not require a monopoly of force. You can have direct democracy without state-government. All libertarian socialists are against the representative “democracy” of countries like the USA. Libertarian socialists are for a completely voluntary direct democracy that does not involve a majority coercing a minority. Freedom to associate and disassociate at will ensures that both the majority and minority are protected. No one is bound by the decisions of an organization that he or she disapproves of. Continual renewed consent is required. Yes, by democracy we are talking about rule by the people. Libertarian socialists believe that an organization must be libertarian internally as well as externally. That is why internally hierarchical capitalist organizations are not considered libertarian by most anarchists. Private rule by capitalist corporations is not rule by the people.

Now let me deal with your example of a group of actors getting together and deciding that they want to act in a movie even though they know little of filmmaking. No, there is no goofing up the division of labor here. If there were, co-operatives in places like Argentina would not be as successful as they have been after the failure of state capitalism. Let’s think about this a moment. So I am an actor that realizes that I don’t know how to make a successful movie. According to you this means that I can’t shop around in the free market to find a good filmmaker. That is simply not the case. My example of finding a good doctor without any real medical knowledge has already addressed this. Imagine that I shop around and discover that I have a choice between Jack, who has made some unsuccessful movies, and Jill who has made some very successful movies. If I can afford it, I am naturally going to hire Jill to direct my movie. I don’t need to know how Jill does it, only that she can do it. You don’t need to know much of anything about script writing, directing, and so on to hire people who are good at those particular things. If need be, you can even voluntarily consult people who are good at identifying talent. If you don’t have a good manager/director/filmmaker/etc then you simply are not going to be successful in a socialist free market. Note that I find nothing wrong with a filmmaker hiring actors, and of course I have nothing against actors hiring filmmakers. As long as everyone involved becomes an owner of the project within a workplace democracy, then there is no exploitive employer-employee relationship.

Remember that I don’t have a problem with labor hiring capital or labor hiring labor. I have a problem with capital hiring labor. All I require is that people go into business as co-owners (as equal partners/one person one vote) instead of forming hierarchical employee-employer wage labor relationships. I even expect more filmmakers to hire actors instead of the other way around. Those who have a project in mind are likely to be the ones seeking out the talent to implement their vision. Logically you are more likely to have more actors clamoring to work under the direction of a great filmmaker than the other way around—although it is true that filmmakers also like working with successful actors. Naturally those with greater skill, knowledge, and wisdom are going to have higher bargaining power and command more in a socialist free market. Again, the real issue is with capital extracting surplus value from the labor of others. Greater bargaining power based on valued labor is good, while greater bargaining power based on capital ownership is bad. In a co-operative all of the actors, filmmakers, technicians, etc. would co-own their project. In a libertarian socialist society you could have a film studio co-operative hiring people from acting co-operatives. The means of production (sets, lights, studios, cameras, etc.) would still not be privately owned by a few individuals who extract value produced by the talent of others.

I agree with quite a bit of what you say in your description of your imagined anarchist society. As you expect, I do disagree vehemently with your impoverished assessment of co-operatives. Note that by “purity” libertarian socialists are referring to the differing degrees of hierarchy that can be found within co-operatives. In particular we are concerned with the percentage of non-owner employees within some of the existing co-operatives. Let’s not forget that co-operatives are at a disadvantage automatically by having to compete within a market biased by an imposed state capitalist system. The value of things becomes skewed by capitalist pricing mechanisms even within non-capitalist co-operatives. Whatever the case, all existing co-operatives are majority-owned by the workers. Co-operatives contain a higher owner to employee ratio. Regardless of how “pure” any of these co-operatives are from a strict libertarian socialist viewpoint, the important thing is that all of them involve labor hiring capital instead of capital hiring labor. Even with some internal hierarchy, co-operatives of all shapes and sizes are still anti-capitalist and are therefore a vast improvement. In any case, it is up to the voluntary actions of the equal worker-owners to decide how non-hierarchical their co-operative is internally organized. Regardless of “purity,” all of the successful co-operatives analyzed in the studies provided demonstrate that there are viable alternatives to capitalism. As much of the data shows, capitalism is politically, economically, socially, and environmentally unsustainable in the long run, so even in the absence of ideological considerations, an alternative to capitalism must be found. I would still be much happier with a world containing co-operatives even if they aren’t completely “pure” by rigorous libertarian socialist standards. One of the most important things is that all individuals are free to experiment in order to discover functional non-hierarchical or flattened hierarchical ways of libertarian organization. I would not support capitalist forms of organization within an anarchist society, but I am fine with people voluntarily choosing to do so as long as they do not impose capitalism on others. Whatever the case may be, there is no doubt that co-operatives provide a viable alternative to capitalist corporations that entails greatly reduced hierarchy.

42 comments:

Francois Tremblay said...

What a waste of time. We should start discussing how to work together instead of debating stupidities like capitalism. The idea that anyone still supports capitalism in this day and age is just as absurd as supporting communism.

Cork said...

SilentRadical,

At this point, we're just arguing in circles. I feel that we've both made the points we wanted to, so I don't see much of a point in continuing this. If you want to toe the Che Guevara line on economics and continually repeat the talking points from the AFAQ, fine. Believe whatever you want. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

Francois,

"The idea that anyone still supports capitalism in this day and age is just as absurd as supporting communism."

So you're another labor-theory-value mutualist?

Francois Tremblay said...

Heavens no, I'm not a communist.

Cork said...

Heh, well if you're not a mutualist, a communist or a capitalist, then what the hell are you?

Francois Tremblay said...

I'm a Market Anarchist.

Cork said...

I'm a Market Anarchist too. What is the beef with capitalism, then? (By "capitalism" I am obviously talking about a pure free market economy, not mercantilism/fascism.)

Francois Tremblay said...

Oh, you're one of those people who use "capitalism" like the Austrians and ignore that 99.999% of the world uses the term to mean something completely different.

Cork said...

Capitalism, at least in this discussion, means making a profit by paying someone to do work for you with your tools.

Francois Tremblay said...

As long as we're talking about corporations, then obviously that's not acceptable. Homesteading principle is pretty clear on that.

Cork said...

What do you mean by "corporations?" If you're talking about an entity with limited liability, then you're mistaken. Limited liability can be done on the free market.

Francois Tremblay said...

I don't disagree that anything CAN be done, if people are immoral enough. But as a Market Anarchist, I am strictly against it.

Cork said...

You're against limited liability, even if it is completely voluntary and contractual between all parties involved? Why?

Francois Tremblay said...

Clever trying to use voluntaryism as an argument, but a great number of things are voluntary and undesirable. Women have let men abuse and beat them for millenias because they thought their worth was solely dependent on having a husband.

Cork said...

Why is in the world is limited liability undesirable?

Francois Tremblay said...

People like you are exactly why other Anarchists don't take the free market ideology seriously.

Cork said...

Huh? All I asked was why you think limited liability is immoral, even though it doesn't violate the NAP at all. If there's something wrong with it, explain what it is.

Silent Radical said...

Francois, as long as capitalism is around as the predominant economic system it will unfortunately require constant debunking. It’s not a waste of time in and of itself to discuss alternatives to capitalism, but I do agree with you that the radical libertarian left and right should work together more when we share common goals. Also please do not insinuate that mutualists who support the labor theory of value are state communists. Let’s also avoid doing this to the anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists, anarcho-collectivists, and others who should be considered our fellow anarchist comrades even though we disagree in areas. Let’s also not forget that one of the primary proponents of the labor theory of value was Adam Smith, who was definitely not a state communist. Mutualists like myself are free market anarchists as well even though we are socialists. Furthermore, to my knowledge you can’t really be a free market anarchist without leaning towards anarcho-capitalism, mutualism, or georgism. From what I have seen of your work, you appear to reject the “capitalist” mainly because of the stigma attached to it. Aren’t you still mainly a proponent of a system with anarcho-capitalist features? It’s fine if you are trying to do the “anarchism without adjectives” thing, but most people tend to personally lean towards one particular economic system. If you are simply trying to avoid the prescription of a rigid anarchist economic, social, and political system and you want anarchists to work together more, then you have to accept all of the socialist and communist anarchists as well. I may be misreading you, but it does appear to me that you are doing otherwise.

Cork, yes we are arguing in circles because it seems that I just can’t make things any clearer for you. The coercion inherent in the capitalist imposition of poverty, starvation, and sickness upon individuals unfortunately appears to remain largely invisible to many. Either that or it is somehow considered justified through the supposed “meritocracy” that is capitalism. If you don’t get what I’m trying to say, then you can get much more articulate and detailed information elsewhere if you care to look. Whether you accept it or not, An Anarchist FAQ is one of those places. I do not appreciate that you claim that I toe the “Che Guevara line on economics.” Che Guevara was a murderous, megalomaniacal, authoritarian, state communist. How about I equate your anarcho-capitalism to people like Pinochet or Margaret Thatcher? How about taking a look at Milton Friedman’s disaster capitalism? This kind of deceptive attack is simply not fair to you and it is not fair to the ideas you espouse. Furthermore, your broad sweeps against everything that An Anarchist FAQ has to say is very disheartening. It does not bode well for the cooperation I hope to see between the libertarian left and right. I seriously hope this does not indicate that you are another one of those anarcho-capitalists who simply cannot accept that socialists and communists are anarchists. It just so happens that An Anarchist FAQ has already gone about explaining most of the things I’ve been trying to convey better than I probably can. I have enjoyed much of our conversation, but in light of your new disingenuous attacks I am definitely in favor of dropping any further discussion.

Cork said...

"The coercion inherent in the capitalist imposition of poverty, starvation, and sickness upon individuals unfortunately appears to remain largely invisible to many."

You act as if mutualism would have state-supplied health care, anti-poverty programs, unemployment insurance, public education, minimum wage laws, and the like. In fact, it would have absolutely none of those things, which is why I don't understand why left-anarchists think it would be so much "nicer" than anarcho-capitalism.

Your post itself goes far beyond mutualism. You don't believe a person has a right to the basic fruits of his labor, even if no interest or profit is involved. You believe that one person has a right to steal an apple grown by another person, just because he is hungry. This is flat-out communism, and totally flies in the face of even Proudhon's (let alone Tucker's) version of mutualism.

Francois Tremblay said...

Well I don't know how anyone can believe in LTV without being a communist. Have you written an entry on that that I could read?

Silent Radical said...

Cork, of course mutualism doesn’t support any state-supplied health care, anti-poverty programs, unemployed insurance, public education, minimum wage laws, and the like. Neither does anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-communism, anarcho-collectivism, and other communist/socialist forms of anarchism by the way. All of these things have been and can be organized through voluntary direct democracy. However, I should point out that things like anti-poverty programs and minimum wage laws would probably be unnecessary in a socialist free market because people would already be receiving their natural wage being the full product of their labor. Check out Joe Peacott’s article ”Health Care Without Government” for a brief explanation of how some of these things have been and can be provided without the state. I would recommend taking a look at An Anarchist FAQ about this subject or to look at the way free hospitals and schools were organized during the Spanish Civil War, but I know how you hate that. Needless to say, there are countless proposals made by anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists, anarcho-collectivists, and others to provide all these things without state-government, but you apparently aren’t interested in them because to you they all involve theft from those poor rich capitalists. Left-anarchists think their society would be “nicer” than anarcho-capitalism because it would lack the extortion created by capitalist private property. Capitalist private property is theft.

Indeed the whole point of the mutualist abolishment of the capitalist privileges in the money, land, tariff, and patent/copyright monopolies is so that people can become self sufficient. People aren’t free when they are forced into relying on the “charity” of a ruling class to survive. Charity requires dependency. The whole point is that freedom requires self-government. You undoubtedly decry the dependency created by the welfare state as I do, but all you apparently want to do is shift this dependency to privatized government by a capitalist ruling class. I don’t believe your allegation that my supposed “flat-out communism” flies in the face of even Proudhon’s mutualism. He is the anarchist who declared “property is theft” after all. Life is much more important than someone’s possessions. The starving person taking apple has not endangered the yard-owner’s life. Even John Locke believed that it should be considered theft when an individual horded more perishable goods than he or she could use and simply allowed them to rot out of the reach of potential users.

John Locke stated, “Before the Appropriation of Land, he who gathered as much of the wild Fruit, killed, caught, or tamed, as many of the Beasts as he could; he that so employed his Pains about any of the spontaneous Products of Nature, as any way to alter them, from the state which Nature put them in, by placing any of his Labour on them, did thereby acquire a Property in them: But if they perished, in his Possession, without their due use; if the Fruits rotted, or the Venison putrified, before he could spend it, he offended against the common Law of Nature, and was liable to be punished; he invaded his Neighbour's share, for he had no Right, farther than his Use called for any of them, and they might serve to afford him Conveniencies of Life.”

You are also undoubtedly missing the context within which I proposed my scenario of a person having the right to “steal” an apple in another person’s yard because he or she is starving to death—not just hungry. Capitalist private property is theft, so the starving person isn’t actually stealing, but taking back what a capitalist society has stolen from him or her. I’m assuming the starving person has been denied the equal opportunity to provide for himself or herself as a result of capitalist private property. The capitalist owner of the apple tree is just as guilty for participating in the coercive system. The mutualist system of possessory rights is designed to avoid this predicament in the first place. The individual shouldn’t be starving in the first place when there is an abundant amount of food, water, clothing, and shelter to sustain everyone. I hate to break it to you, but you can’t be free if you are dead. Hording the world’s land and resources in order to greedily accumulate more and more wealth at the expense of human lives and freedom is repugnant. Denying a person access to the means of survival/production and self-sufficiency is the same thing as murdering them. Poverty kills people and is therefore unacceptable in a free society. Society must be classless in order for there not to be authoritarian rule. A person absolutely has the right to take what is needed to sustain his or her life and therefore his or her liberty. Otherwise you are inconsistently telling me that people have the freedom to deny others their freedom.

Francois, I haven’t written an entry on the labor theory of value as of yet. Consider that mutualists aren’t communists, but some of them do believe in the labor theory of value. One of the things to realize is that the labor theory of value can certainly be used by state communists, but it can also be used by anarchist communists and socialists. I wouldn’t just throw out everything that can be associated with any form of communism. I realize that there is often a gut rejection of the word “communism” because it is mostly associated with authoritarian state communism, but it is important to note that we have anarchist comrades supporting stateless communism. If people want something like parecon, a gift economy, or some other communal society, then all individuals calling themselves anarchism must accept that. While being for a free market, mutualism definitely does have some communism running throughout its ideas. Proudhon himself explained that mutualism can be considered “the synthesis of communism and property.” It is also interesting to note that the there is the potential for a “subjective recasting of the labor theory of value.” Kevin Carson does a really good job of explaining this in his book “Studies in Mutualist Political Economy.” Also note that even if we do reject the labor theory of value, the conclusions reached by libertarian socialists can still be arrived at through an examination of the exploitive hierarchy created by the unequal bargaining power conferred upon individuals within a subjective free market as a result of mere ownership of capitalist private property. We can see still see that theft occurs when capitalists claim to actually own what others produce.

Cork said...

No, Proudhon most certainly would not have supported someone stealing an apple from someone else's yard. You misunderstand his statement that "property is theft." Proudhon also hated communism (as did Tucker, Yarros, Appleton, etc).

Proudhon was not a good guy anyway; he was a vile scumbag--a crazed anti-Semite whose economic ideas helped inspire fascism.

You don't need to keep giving me links I've already read. I can assure you that I'm not some newb to anarchism. I am more than familiar with Carson's work, the anarcho-communist FAQ, Joe Peacott, the BAD Brigade, the "Question Everything" website, zmag, gift economics, Bob Black, Infoshop, etc. I've been into this kind of stuff for years, and know the whole act.

Silent Radical said...

Good grief. Defending some of Proudhon’s views does not entail defending things like his anti-Semitism. Pretty much all anarchists denounce Proudhon’s abhorrent anti-Semitic beliefs while understanding that he has still made some great contributions to anarchism even while being inconsistent at times. Proudhon was not a perfect human being, but trying to dismiss some of the good things of substance that he has to say is just unreasonable. What you have been saying here recently has led me to believe that you reject the claim that libertarian socialists and communists are true anarchists. Please reassure me that this isn’t so. Note that with Proudhon’s belief in property rights based on personal occupancy and use it is unlikely that a person would be starving to death and need to “steal” (as defined by capitalist property rights) an apple from someone’s yard to begin with. That is the whole point. Capitalist private property leads to coercive situations as a result of centralized economic power promoting things like artificial scarcity. It’s this coercive situation of needing to “steal” an apple from someone to survive that we are trying to avoid in the first place. I’m sorry, but I do believe that Proudhon would advocate this so-called “theft” within the context of a state capitalist economy.

As far as I am concerned I would hope that even within an anarcho-capitalist society human life would override capitalist private property rights in an emergency situation. Unfortunately I believe anarcho-capitalism would actively promote these coercive situations. Dying of hunger and needing an apple is certainly one of those emergency situations. I don’t know or care if what I have said is incompatible with someone else’s mutualism, but it certainly isn’t incompatible with mine. Let’s take another example and say that within an anarcho-capitalist society I have just been shot and am bleeding to death in the middle of nowhere. Now if I come across your house while you are not at home, I sure hope that it is considered permissible for me to break into your home and use the telephone to call an ambulance. If you were at home would you have the right to deny giving me access to desperately needed help in an anarcho-capitalist society? If you have the right to effectively contribute to my death, then you have just helped prove my point that capitalist private property is inherently coercive and works against individual liberty.

Corky, those links weren’t just for you. Note that some of what I said was directed at Francois. I also tend to provide such links for other less informed readers that might happen along and read some of this stuff. I did not mean to imply that you are new to anarchism by any means. It’s just frustrating that you can’t seem to see what libertarian socialists are getting at with their attacks on capitalist private property. I’m probably not doing a good job, so I simply recommend looking elsewhere. If anyone is new to anarchism here it’s me. I’m just a casual explorer of this stuff. I’m not a well-read scholar on these subjects by any means. I’ve only been an anarchist for around three years or so. I was an anarcho-capitalist for about two years and have only been a mutualist for about a year. I myself have a lot more to learn about all of the different forms of anarchism. That is why I am here discussing these things and trying to get my thoughts down where I can put them in some kind of order. Most of what I understand has been gleaned piecemeal through haphazard internet reading and discussion. I hope that we can at least accept our differences and seek to afford all individuals the freedom to do whatever they want as long as they don’t infringe upon the freedoms of others. We only iron out what that really means through perpetual debate.

Cork said...

"What you have been saying here recently has led me to believe that you reject the claim that libertarian socialists and communists are true anarchists."

I can accept mutualists (despite my numerous disagreements with them), but I cannot accept anarcho-communists or anarcho-syndicalists.

I know for a fact that in those systems I would end up completely powerless and helpless, while some other group of snot-nosed brats would have great influence and reap all the benefits. As usual, nobody would give a shit about *my* needs or input. It is a dead certainty that I would be completely ignored and screwed over (like always). That is why I hate collectivism. It is just one more opportunity for other people to completely fuck me over, and I have had enough of it. It doesn't reassure me when so many "social anarchists" are fans of Hugo Chavez and Che Guevara (I'm not saying that you are, but RevLeft.com is a damn freak show in that regard).

To answer your question, if I was bleeding to death I would barge into the first house I saw, and then pay the people back later. But without some form of property rights, you will have a totally chaotic society and economy. That's reality.

Francois Tremblay said...

I would like to hear why some Anarchists support LTV, definitely.

Belinsky said...

SR, I agree with Francois that you should spend your time more productively instead of wasting your time with capitalist ilk. (Not that you're ilk, Cork; I was just using that word for dramatic effect.) I have little desire to read a long debate with a capitalist about mutualism vs. "anarcho"-capitalism, but I would love to read posts written by you about current issues, legitimate debates among anarchist theory, and so forth.

And Francois, wasn't it Jevons, one of the earliest proponents of the marginal utility theory, who conceded that the LTV and marginal utility are the same at equilibrium? Maybe I just read that somewhere. At any rate, if you want a serious defense of the LTV, I hear that Kevin Carson's book is worthwhile.

Silent Radical said...

Cork, I find it strange that you can accept mutualists, but can’t accept anarcho-communists or anarcho-syndicalists. We are all considered forms of libertarian socialism, and our suggestions for how society might look aren’t even mutually exclusive. Some mutualists have even been anarcho-syndicalists, which is really just radical trade unionism. Rejecting anarcho-communism means rejecting the one form of anarchism that has actually almost had a successful revolution in places like Spain and France. I really think that you are incorrect to believe that in anarcho-syndicalism or anarcho-communism that you would be completely powerless and helpless. If “some other group of snot-nosed brats would have great influence and reap all the benefits,” then it actually wouldn’t be considered a form of anarcho-syndicalism or anarcho-communism because it would entail hierarchy. What you are afraid of sounds more to me like what you would end up dealing with under the rule of an elite anarcho-capitalist ruling class. Corporations privately owning all of the land and resources definitely wouldn’t “give a shit about (*your*) needs or input” and would completely ignore and screw you over at the slightest opportunity to make a profit.

I don’t spend time on RevLeft.com, but I do know that those who wholeheartedly support people like Hugo Chavez and Che Guevara are either gravely misinformed anarchists or authoritarian state communists in disguise. I have seen plenty of intelligent anarchist pieces attacking the likes of Hugo Chavez and Che Guevara. Just do a few searches or ask me to dig something up and you will see some pretty severe attacks against these individuals by libertarian socialists and communists. Just because there are some anarchists on RevLeft.com don’t confuse them with the large amount of authoritarian state communists that frequent the site.

I also really wouldn’t be that worried with the supposed “collectivism” espoused by anarcho-syndicalists and anarcho-communists. None of the communist anarchists who want social ownership or sharing of the products of the workers labor are going to force you to join a commune or a collective. Likewise, we can’t be against the anarchists who do decide to voluntarily organize social ownership even if we personally believe use-rights shouldn’t include the product of the worker’s labor. It’s interesting to note how authoritarian state communists are constantly denouncing libertarian socialists and communists for their individualism. I really find that the perceived division between individualism and collectivism is an artificial construct that only applies to authoritarian state capitalism and communism. Consider that the free market itself is really just the collective group consisting of all the individuals acting to make up a society’s economy. Even though some try, anarchists really can’t be classified as collectivists and individualists because all anarchists necessarily espouse the equal freedom of both.

Libertarian socialists recognize that the collective group is necessary to help protect and cultivate individual development while also recognizing that the thinking and feeling individual is the fundamental unit of the collective group. We all recognize that groups don't think and feel, and that only individuals can. If you don’t have free and equal individuals you can’t have a healthy group. Therefore, a particular collective group should not be imposed upon an individual, and an individual should not have an inordinate amount of power over the collective group. To have a healthy society requires that the collective does not subjugate the individual and that the individual does not subjugate the group. Both state capitalism and state communism perpetuate an artificial discord between the individual and the collective. Communist anarchists really don’t replace individuality with community but instead use community to defend individuality. Ultimately, freedom means that an individual should have a say in decisions proportionate to the degree that he or she is affected by them. It’s not freedom to have more of a say in decisions because of having more land and resources than another. Freedom requires both positive liberty (freedom to) and negative liberty (freedom from).

Francois, I may eventually get around to doing something on the Labor Theory of Value, but for right now I definitely recommend taking a look at Kevin Carson’s work. I myself simply believe that all value stems from the collective integration between subjective valuations that approximate the labor cost embodied within a good or service. This labor value can only arise in a free market absent the price skewing mechanism of capitalist private property’s artificial scarcity.

Belinksy, I know that I should probably be spending my time better. It’s just that having personally spent some of my days as an anarcho-capitalist appears to compel me to make an attempt at persuading others who are where I once was. I should probably just let it go and realize that in all likelihood I am fighting a losing battle. I should remember that when I was an anarcho-capitalist no one could really tell me that I was wrong either. I had to discover that I was wrong for myself. I’ll definitely start posting some different things here soon. I’ll probably start going through some of my essembly discussions again to find some good material to put into blog format. I also promise that I will blog about current events every once and awhile. Nice work on some of your more recent blog posts by the way!

Cork said...

Hahaha, the LTV? You're joking, right? I really want to have a rational conversation with you guys, but you're hopelessly stuck in the horse and buggy days. The Amish are starting to look progressive in comparison.

Belinsky said...

I didn't come here to discuss the LTV; I came here to urge SR to spend his time more constructively (i.e., not debating capitalists for such prolonged periods of time). But if you're going to attack the LTV, you might do it without a fallacy.

Francois Tremblay said...

Here is an article that Cork should read:
http://www.fee.org/Publications/the-Freeman/article.asp?aid=8271

Francois Tremblay said...

Also this one:
http://jed.jive.com/?p=23

Cork said...

What exactly am I supposed to take away from those articles? That state capitalism is bad? What a shocker. Or is it that worker co-ops are the wave of the future (I'm barely able to restrain the laughter while typing that)?

Cork said...

It's hilarious how people keep linking me Carson and others as if I'm unfamiliar with their work or arguments.

Belinsky said...

All I have to say is that the best pizza in the San Francisco Bay Area comes from a worker cooperative. Check it out: http://www.zacharys.com/

Arizmendi is also a great bakery: http://www.arizmendibakery.org/

Therefore, worker co-ops are the way to go. QED!

Francois Tremblay said...

The fact that you laugh proves that you haven't grasped the homesteading principle, which is one of the foundations of Market Anarchy (or as you still quaintly call it, "anarcho-capitalism").

Cork said...

Francois,

What point are you trying to make about the homesteading principle? Which part of it do I not "grasp," and which part of it says I can't set up any kind of business I damn well please?

Francois Tremblay said...

Seemingly all of it! You do not understand its nature or how it comes about, or how property is circulated.

Cork said...

Why do you say that? Are you going to back that up with anything, or what?

Francois Tremblay said...

What, you need me to explain the whole theory to you? Read Rothbard...

Cork said...

Are you going to give a straight answer? You just start claiming, out of the blue, that I don't understand the homesteading theory of property (a subject SR and I have barely discussed in this conversation). Then you refuse to back it up with anything. Do you have a point?

Jeremy said...

Cork,

I appreciate the spirit in which you've engaged SR, and I want to thank you both for trying so hard to communicate effectively.

I think what this ultimately comes down to is cultural expectations, and that much of what we consider the political is actually tied up in tacit expectations and social norms that individualists are not used to examining. Therefore, when we try to talk about them, we often use the models and language of the left.

The big difference between ACs and mutualists, in my mind, is personal distrust. We don't trust the other's predictive vision of an anarchy; we believe instead that they are prescribing what must be in order for that speculative future to be classified as an anarchy. That's why I applaud you two for carrying on as long as you did!

Jeremy said...

Francois,

Per your inquiry into why anarchists would support the LTV, I can only point you to a post I wrote on this. My opinion, and I think Carson would agree with me, is that the LTV and the subjectivist theory are both incomplete, and they are really two sides of the same coin.

"When the market is seen as a way of balancing individual production and consumption over the long run, it is the labor theory that informs the long term workings of the political economy best. In the short term, where immediate market conditions demand explanation, it is the subjective theory of value that fits best (which not only Carson, but other labor theorists have conceded). It really comes down to which dynamics of human behavior do you want to explain over what period of time - not which view is absolutely right and which is absolutely mistaken!"

Francois Tremblay said...

Hello SMC AKA Jeremy!

I read your article but it seemed to jump into the issue of the relation between consumption and production. Is that what you consider the LTV to be about?