Anarchy, Property, and Capitalism
Liberty is freedom from rule, where rule is the initiating or threat of initiating coercive violence, used by a sentient being to coerce sentient beings.
Ability to act to alter the external reality, is power.
There is no such liberty as a ‘right to sunshine.’ There is no such liberty as a ‘right to a 24 inch color TV.’ Welfare-state benefits are not liberties, they are the granting of power to consume.
A definition of anarchy: ‘without rule.’ To aim for anarchy is to aim for the ideal of absolute liberty, which is to my mind both a sensible and a good political purpose, though if the ultimate outcome ever occurs, it will be long after I've died. Ethical values serve materialist wants, and all moral systems start from at least one axiom (‘...’ ‘is good.’.) No one has produced empirical evidence for an absolute morality.
My moral system pertaining to human relations, is based largely upon one axiom: human existence is good, meaning human existence is something desirable. I hold this to be true because I want to perpetuate human existence. I want to perpetuate human existence because I can, and because I will... because I have the power.
A person starting with the axiom that ‘human existence is bad,’ has just as much objective ground as I do for mine, that is to say, none whatsoever.
I do not understand why many moral absolutists object so vehemently to moral relativists, when each hold ‘human existence to be good’ to almost identical degrees.
Morality is spread through the use of power.
Action is everything. At the atomic level, all matter is in motion at all times. ‘Being’ is an action. A cup on a table exists by emitting, absorbing, and reflecting photons, and by emitting force-fields. Time is a measure of action, for if nothing changes, if nothing acts, then no time passes and nothing exists. Therefore all definitions, in as far as they define something that exists, define actions.
Human existence: the application of power (not restricted to political power,):
* Explore (learn of, or experience; external space-time, emotion, sensation)
(My personal preference is to use power more for exploration than for creation, some may regard that as selfishness.)
Given that; human existence I consider good; human existence is power, and; there exists no absolute morality to guide the use of power; I think it wise to allow every individual as much liberty as is pragmatic.
Moreover, individual liberty heightens our powers to explore and to create, by greatly facilitating; wealth, education, and technology. It provides the greater power for the greater number.
In a world filled entirely with sufficiently honorable (unselfish to a certain degree) and rational beings, anarchy would be a viable system. Strangely, in a world that is otherwise, the most anarchy is obtained by providing constraints.
People who would break the state of anarchy and tyrannize others, I regard as needing to be constrained, and excessive foolishness can be averted by government action, for example, with regard to the despoiling of the environment.
Anarchy is a very human-centric ideal, and within my morality (that pertains to human relations) it is subservient to human existence, which is also very human-centric. Because I am not very human-centric (and I think human-centricism is largely irrational, or the product of limited awareness, given that the context of the surrounding universe is one in which we are but a blink of the eye,) I do not for this reason hold either human-centric values as the only, or absolute, goals. I think we have some duty as caretakers of the environment (socialist regimes tend to be great polluters,) that animals deserve some rights etc. Furthermore, I am not dogmatic about these human-centric values in the context of humanity. I think that setting some minimum standard of human comfort is desirable. I also hold a minimum degree of liberty to be above human existence in my value-scale, or in other words, there is a minimum level of liberty below which human life is not worth living. “Live free or die, death is not the worst of evils.” General John Stark.
Note that the conclusion of this is; anarchy is best promoted by the spread of rationality. Note also that; pragmatism is rational, dogmatism is not.
Resources, the supplies of some types of which are scarce relative to human wants, become property when the supply is placed under human control, if the supply is scarce then the resource has exchangeable value. A firework-display is not property, the fireworks are until they are lit. When we talk about property, we are talking about controlling the supply of individual units and not necessarily the total supply. I can bottle air, but I cannot sell it! The bottle of air is my property in context of the total supply of that bottle of air, but the total supply of air with which it is homogeneous is not my property, or that of anyone else. Although the total supply of air is not property, the air in the bottle is.
When types of a resource are scarce and controllable, the question is how to allocate ownership.
Given that so much of human life involves the use of resources, property is, as the saying goes, nine tenths of the law.
The self resides in the brain, it is the consciousness that determines our status as individuals (to do otherwise is in my view irrational.) The body is a transport and life-support mechanism for the self. A biological brain controlling and supported by a robotic body, including mechanical organs and limbs, which exhibits consciousness and a sense of self, has the rights of an individual because it functions as an individual, but a biological body where the brain is absent, is just a corpse. One could go further and state that a non-biological brain exhibiting consciousness and a sense of self, has the rights of an individual.
The self is, at least at the moment, inalienable -- it can never be exchanged, and cannot be controlled by an external agency. Therefore, the self owns itself, always and regardless of any human law. ‘Human rights’ e.g.; freedom from murder, freedom from constraints on bodily functions (speech, movement etc.,) freedom from torture; are laws that confer to the self the ownership of the attached body. The self therefore owns its labor and talents, which are never strictly speaking ‘given’ to an external employer, but are employed in a way desirable to the employer in exchange for some of his/her property, as per a pre-negotiated arrangement.
Land in economics is a technical term meaning all resources supplied by Nature, that is, resources that do not need to be produced (by humans) but are readily available.
Land becomes property when it is produced, that means, when humans deliberately apply their labor to it in order to use it as property.
Once when Nature was in a pristine condition, man, lets call him Jim, walked the earth and found a brook. He settled by the brook and the space and ground he settled on became his property. He did not need to produce the space or ground, they were already there. He transformed them into his property by moving his presence into and over them, that is, he produced property.
Jim wandered out of his property and saw a mango hanging on a tree. At that point, the mango was not his property, nor would it be if he had pointed at it and said ‘mine.’ It became his property when he walked over and picked it from the branch.
Wealth consists of everything that humans value, including sunshine. Property is wealth which has been produced, production increases wealth. All property is descended from an initial mingling of labor with land.
Once produced, property can be produced further to increase value. Jim picks a sturdy branch to use for picking mangoes. Sturdy branches are in short supply, and picked sturdy branches even more so! By producing it still further, that is, by fashioning it with a knife to make it smoother, he increases its utility to him (utility: another word for value.) Whilst the stick is being fashioned, it is a capital good. Whilst it is being used to pick mangoes it is also a capital good. The knife is a capital good, it is used to produce either consumer's goods, or more capital goods which are ultimately used to produce consumer's goods. Mangoes are consumer's goods at the point of being eaten, if they are used to make a mango sorbet, they are capital goods and the sorbet is the consumer's good.
All production requires investment of time, and wealth (capital goods.) Investing wealth requires forsaking immediate consumption in the hope of greater future consumption.
Ownership can change in the following ways; exchange, gift, abandonment (including the death of the owner,) and theft.
The above does not describe capitalism, but the nature of property, and the nature of the world in which we live. All attempts at abolishing property have merely been a transfer of ownership (control) from some individuals to others, often using great violence. Only individuals can own property. A society is a general term referring to relationships between a large number of individuals grouped by virtue of; inhabitation of a contiguous or near-contiguous land area, under similar government, and sharing similar culture. Society is not an entity, ‘it’ cannot control anything. Similarly, government refers to the relationships between members of the government, and between members of the government and the governed.
Theft rightly considered is the use of property without the consent of the owner, ‘violence against property’ means the same -- theft is violence.
Theft does not add to total wealth, and it discourages production (why produce when you can steal, and why produce when what you produce will be stolen?) The end result of a culture where theft is endemic, is poverty for everyone. Cultures that evolved laws against theft prospered.
Capitalism means; government members desist from involving government funds in production, leaving production to the efforts of private individuals; government enforces the rights of individuals to use their property (enforcing negotiated contracts, enforcing action against theft.)
Capitalism encourages cooperative economic relations. Although this requires the use of coercive violence against violence, and it is not quite anarchy, it is the closest that can be obtained as long as people are irrational enough to steal or to tyrannize.
Under a capitalist system it is normally considered acceptable for private individuals to use coercive violence against violence, even preemptive coercive violence, against threats to private property including one's person. The level of violence which is acceptable, and the degree to which preemptive action is considered reasonable, vary but it is relatively easy to obtain consistent standards. One of the necessary safeguards of liberty is the ability of private citizens to defend their selves rather than be forced to rely upon government protection (the comparison with a protection-racket is not altogether unfair.)
Almost all land has now been produced, meaning it is almost all capital or consumer goods, and a new-born starts with no wealth apart from its body. When reaching adulthood it will probably start working upon capital owned by someone else, in exchange for a share of the proceeds, which remuneration is normally exchanged for a mixture of consumption goods and capital of his/her own.
Capitalism has produced huge benefits in terms of wealth and freedom; for everyone, at least more so than any other system.
Anarcho-socialism is a system often commended by its adherents as a more anarchic alternative to capitalism. Some even go as far as to claim it is the only ‘real’ anarchy, much like some socialists claim their socialism is the only ‘real’ socialism.
They claim that opposition to free-market capitalism and government are the same. But the free-market consists entirely of voluntary relations, opposition to which cannot do other than to create government; stealing wealth through taxation; monopolizing production; monopolizing monetary policy; distorting markets through regulation and protectionism; legislating restrictions on how people may use their property, skills, time and labor; controlling the banking industry, etc, etc, ad nauseum. That the free-market contains hierarchical organizations appears to be the source of their objection. But to prevent someone from voluntarily joining, supporting, or creating a hierarchical organization, is not, of course, anarchy. Anarchy essentially means an absence of coercive violence, it does not say anything about the type of relations that occur and hence the form of the culture that exists. But anarcho-socialists promote a model of their ‘anarchic’ society which is based on a strictly limited set of relations, normally a glorified form of labor-unionism, and unless such occurs by chance under anarchy, then anarcho-socialists must be prepared to force their model of society upon others.
Note that an anarcho-socialist society can be set-up within an anarchy, the only qualification is that no-one may be violently coerced into joining and members may not be prevented from leaving (is this the real source of their objection to the free-market, and is this why they claim their model is the ‘only real anarchy’?)
Unlike state-socialism, its adherents claim, there is no government ownership of production, unlike capitalism, capital can be owned by ‘the workers’ only.
In a capitalist system of course, many who work on capital do also own capital.
In a given anarcho-socialist business, production is owned entirely by those who worked upon the capital (for they own the capital,) and is presumably sold in some form of market.
Given that no one would give capital to an anarcho-socialist business for free, and given that no one can invest in an anarcho-socialist business for they can gain no return, therefore to gain employment workers must be forced to contribute capital. Which means that workers without capital are in an irresolvable situation, for they can neither gain employment nor capital, unless some charitable person were to grant them capital for free. A loan of capital to the worker is out of the question, for consider; the creditor purchases capital upon which the worker is employed, the creditor takes some of the production in return, which is no different from capitalist investment!, and this holds true even if the loan is issued by their future co-workers.
All workers must invest capital, and their remuneration must be commensurate with the amount that they invest; for any other would be grossly unfair. Workers however do different types of work, for different durations, requiring different skills. remuneration must also be commensurate with the type of work they do. Given that the remuneration, or ownership of production if you like, is dependent upon the level of investment and of work, both of which vary, why not allow people to invest and do no work, as per capitalism? And this brings to light the false distinction, for anarcho-socialism contains the capitalist element of capitalism, just that investors must work on their capital, which seems to me -- utterly stupid. Any level set by law which determines whether an individual investor is really ‘a worker’ or ‘an evil capitalist’ will be an arbitrary ratio between the level of investment and the level of work contributed. Now, the judgment by members of a business as whether to employ an additional co-worker will depend not only on the skills of the particular worker, the amount of remuneration relative to their contributed work that they desire and the business can afford, but also the amount of capital which this particular worker can and wishes to contribute. Given that this is specific to the worker, and given that each business will have different needs for capital, there will be no market-price for any type of labor, and so no reliable guide.
By forbidding all investment where the capitalist does not also work on the capital, businesses can only gain investment by employing more people, and individuals cannot invest unless they work, which means they also cannot distribute risk in their investments.
Unlike in the capitalist system, workers must work without pay until the product is sold.
The results of an anarcho-socialist system are inevitable; substantially reduced investment, increased poverty.
Assume though that an anarcho-socialist system were viable, and that one day a former worker decides to invest his/her earnings, except that he/she does not wish to work upon capital. Consider though that he/she offers employment to someone working elsewhere in a similar line of work for an anarcho-socialist business, and that the offer includes; immediate pay, no requirement of investment and therefore no risk, and a higher wage, and that the product is sold at a lower price to consumers. This would be forbidden. Yet... what is so wrong about it that it requires legislation?
Anarcho-socialism is far less anarchic than capitalism.
Anarcho-socialist businesses can be created in a capitalist system. The objection that anarcho-socialists hold toward capitalism is that they believe workers to be exploited by virtue of not receiving all the fruits of their labor, which anarcho-socialists believe to be all of production.
Production results from labor and from capital. Neither function can produce without the other.
To examine this ‘exploitation’ further, NtK have written:
A tragicomedy: Worker Rodosha and Capitalist Shihonshugi
Worker Rodosha: My, that's a mighty fine collection of mangoes you have, must be about 5000 in total.
Capitalist Shihonshugi: Yes indeed, took me a long while and a lot of effort I can tell you. But I'm not going to consume this wealth now, I'm going to invest it.
Worker Rodosha: Oh yes?
Capitalist Shihonshugi: Well this may interest you. You're a mighty strong fellow and skilled in woodwork, I need someone like you. I'm going to give 1000 mangoes to Ironmonger Kanamonoya in exchange for his axe. There are ten fine red-oak trees in the forest, good for building-material and I notice there's been a lot of building going on recently. If I buy the axe it should last long enough to turn ten trees into planks. Would you be willing help me? I will pay you 4000 mangoes for your effort. Then I will sell the planks and keep whatever I make.
Worker Rodosha: Well that's a mighty fine idea. I don't own an axe myself, and that's more than I would earn from working elsewhere. But are you sure? Think about it; you're paying me my contribution to the production of future goods with present goods, in exchange for those future goods of unknown value. Shihonshugi you may not even gain your investment back!
Capitalist Shihonshugi: That's fine. You choose security, I choose risk. Someone has to risk their wealth, it is unavoidable. Is it agreed then?
Worker Rodosha: Agreed.
Capitalist Shihonshugi and Worker Rodosha proceed as arranged. Worker Rodosha chops down the trees, fashions them into planks, and receives 4000 mangoes for his efforts. Sadly however, the latest fashion is a beach-hut, for which red-oak against yellow sand and blue sky and blue sea is a definite no, the demand is for yellow-pine. Capitalist Shihonshugi sells his planks as firewood in exchange for a paltry 1000 mangoes, a total loss of 4000 mangoes [plus time.] Worker Rodosha however is very happy with his goods, and invites Capitalist Shihonshugi around for drinks and commiseration. They share fermented mango and talk throughout the night.
The end?! This was meant to be a tragi-comedy.
Ah yes, the punch-line.
All the while, throughout the business of production, Capitalist Shihonshugi was oppressing and exploiting Worker Rodosha.
Does this sound like exploitation? That is seriously what some anarcho-socialists believe. If an anarcho-socialist were to script a happy ending, it would be that Worker Rodosha stages a “revolution” and steals Capitalist Shihonshugi's last remaining mangoes.
Capitalists do contribute to production, and do make sacrifices; the prediction of future wants, the investment, the postponement of consumption, and the risk.
Without capitalists there would be no production, no employment, no wages.
Capitalism has raised real wages (or lowered real prices) more than any other system, so much so that someone working for McDonalds has enough disposable income to invest in capital, which approximately 50% of Americans now do.
Anarcho-socialists imagine (I can see no better way of describing it) a world where capital has accumulated in the hands of a few, whom cooperate to drive worker's wages ever lower and charge consumers ever higher prices. But this type of oligopoly has failed to occur for a number of reasons. One is; competition between owners of capital for labor and market share. Another; that there are upper limits on the size of any single business beyond which profitability decreases. A few large businesses would not be much more efficient than the typical state-monopoly. Oligopolies have formed, but where there has been some peculiarity about the market to hamper new entrants -- e.g. mobile phone network and PC operating system markets. These markets are relatively rare. There are many protections available to smaller competitive businesses to prevent their being purchased by a larger competitor. Free-trade means expanded, more diverse markets and increased competition, there are too many businesses for viable market-distorting cooperation [thanks to ‘evil’ profit motive.] All producers are in competition with each other. If Coca-Cola were to monopolize the entire soft-drinks market and charge $100 per can, consumers would instead spend money on music, or clothes, or books, or whatever. In a competitive market, all else being equal, including; the contribution of the labor process, the desirability of certain types of labor, the length of production and uncertainty of the market, all of which of course never are, wages in every industry tend to the same proportion of production. Nor has capital in fact become more concentrated. If massive exploitation were really the case then worker-cooperatives would indeed be viable, even with inefficiencies inherent in such an organization. It should be easy for a worker-cooperative to drop prices and reward workers more, thereby attracting the best workers and dominating the market. Worker-cooperatives would by their nature avoid buy-outs. So, where are all the worker-cooperatives? The exploitation claim is a fallacy. It would be necessary for a small number of cooperating capitalists to own -- everything, all the land, all the producer's goods. Imagine though, the world is owned by 10,000 capitalists. Now, the Toyota car company produces 6 million cars per year. What is a single capitalist going to do with 600 new Toyotas per year? Or 1,000,000 pairs of white socks? The myth is based on a misunderstanding of capitalist wealth which overestimates their influence on the market. A capitalist does not own disposable wealth, what he/she controls (capital) has little direct personal use, and the end product too, e.g. 1,000,000 pairs of white socks. So they are dependent upon consumers buying the production and workers selling their labor (and workers are consumers,) for they stand to lose a huge quantity of wealth if their investment becomes worthless.
In a typical competitive capitalist economy with an interest rate of 3%, for a stage of production requiring $100 of
investment and one year to produce (in real prices:)
Anarcho-socialism is based on economic illiteracy, many still cling to the long-ago discredited LTV (labor theory of value.)
Another meme they promote is to allocate property by use, which means, if someone is not ‘using’ a property, someone else can pick it up and use it. In a world where resources are not scarce, and where production requires no serious level of human involvement, such a system may well be viable.
The main problem is how to determine what constitutes use, given the huge range of resources and the huge number of ways in which each may be used. Property-ethics are created to resolve disputes. A benefit of capitalism, where property is by title and transferred by contract, is consistent clarity.
It may well be legal to initiate coercive violence under ‘ownership by use’; an individual may threaten to ‘use’ the house of another as firewood when it is vacated, if certain conditions are not met. This raises the following point: how a person ‘uses’ an object, what constitutes ‘use’ goes right to the heart of property and value; how a person uses an object is by definition determined by the desires of the individual. When a person vacates their house, they are using it by keeping it empty, if a book lies on a shelf it is there because the owner intends it to be in that location, they are using it by keeping it in that state. Once property has been produced, it is always in use.
The other problem is the one related to theft: why produce when you can just take, and why produce when what you produce will be taken?
Anarcho-socialism is the creation of Mikhail Bakunin, a one-time rival of Karl Marx. Some quotes:
[Jews are] one exploiting sect, one people of leeches, one single devouring parasite closely and intimately bound together not only across national boundaries, but also across all divergences of political opinion
that mercantile passion which constitutes one of the principle traits of their national character
For more on the ugly face of socialism, see here.
There is a problem with capitalism, and with anarchy, that cannot be resolved without either an improvement in rationality or by government intervention, namely; the tragedy of the commons, which occurs when; a valued resource is freely accessible; its supply cannot be controlled; it is not under ownership, and where either this fact alone, or the resulting use of the resource, cause damage to human welfare.
Consider a small island with a human habitation, depending upon cattle for nourishment, where the land is not owned and is open to communal grazing. Now there is an economic incentive for each individual to graze more of the available land. But if everyone follows this incentive, then the land becomes over-grazed, the cattle die, and the people starve. If someone owned the land and charged for the grazing of cattle, they would gain greater economic benefit from sustained use. The same would be true if ownership were allocated to multiple individuals, each keeping their parcel of land under sustained usage.
Most tragedy of the commons cases occur where private-ownership cannot be allocated, and so require government intervention.
The earth's atmosphere is a prime example, where polluters are not charged for using it as a dump for their waste, unless government places a pollution tax.
A similar situation is national defense, where every individual benefits from protection, but the service cannot be provided by the market because it is not possible to restrict national defense to paying-customers only. International conflict and conflict prevention, typically require military defense under one hierarchical organization with a command over vast resources.
As stated earlier, spreading rationality is necessary to promote a freer culture.
Here is a great (and very funny) sci-fi of how an anarchic culture might work.
For an introduction to anarchy based on the protagonists, together with criticisms, the Anarchist FAQ by Brian Caplan is worthwhile reading.