Posts Tagged ‘economic freedom’

23
Dec

How Compatible Are Anarchism and Capitalism?

by adminadam in essays

Are Anarchism and Capitalism irreconcilable or can these two schools of thought be integrated?

Let’s first explore some definitions. The term ‘anarchism’ comes from the Greek an and archos, which roughly translates to “without rulers”.

Traditionally, Left Anarchism has promoted the idea of political action committees and workers’ councils as an alternative governance structure to State politics. Essentially, these PAC’s and councils are meant to exert political pressure as they see fit. This is both to maintain their political monopoly position — to prevent the reemergence of the “Nation State” (read: any competing governance model) in a given geographic area or indeed the whole world — and also to disrupt the inevitable accumulation of capital in any given enterprise or individual. In effect, the means of political control and domination in such a Left Anarchist society are the same as that of a capitalist nation state. Political power, undoubtedly, still exists; it has just been rebranded. Left Anarchists thus seek to appoint themselves as the new rulers of their society post-revolution.

It is interesting to note the responses received when asking a traditional (Left) Anarchist who it is that would lead these PAC’s and workers’ councils. I have often been disappointed at the naivety (and obstinance) of those with whom I’ve taken up the matter: “All of us would lead. There would be no rulers. We would make all decisions affecting our citizenry through consensus”.

I am personally unconvinced by these assurances and others, such as the assertion that all members of the society would receive everything they needed in order to live a happy and healthy life — and that all this would be accomplished through bi-weekly meetings conducted by the dedicated and incorruptible. Are we all truly so virtuous?

“It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.” –David Brin

Of course humans are corruptible. And it stands to reason that — in complete denial of our own faults and arrogance — we might view ourselves as pure and righteous and worthy of such power. It is an insidious twist — a leap in logic as it were — to say that instead of just me (for, of course, I am not fit to rule) that we all rule (for, of course, we will make wise and just decisions together). What’s often left out of these discussions in my experience is the question of what happens to the people that don’t participate in the consensus process. Are their views weighed? Or is a small minority (a bureaucracy) making decisions — however presumptuously — for us all?

So we see Left Anarchism is Statism-rebranded, albeit with a necessarily destructive bent towards capital and those who wish to retain the fruits of their labor. With this it seems a wholly more thorough, more potent form of Statism with a penchant for violence and an inherently contradictory nature: If we are all rulers, and some choose not to exercise their place on the Grand Council, we will decide for them. That there can be no competing models, that the Grand Council decides everything, that capital also is inevitably siphoned off to feed this Council smacks of Authoritarianism and Tyranny to me. (Better almost to have a King, considering that: 1. Alone a King could implement logically- and internally-consistent policies, 2. Only a small portion of the populous’ wealth would go to feed him, and 3. he may even give back to his people on occasion.)

Left Anarchists do not truly seek to destroy the State, although they make such pronouncements regularly; they seek to, themselves, become it.

Could Capitalism and Anarchism conceivably compliment each other?

While few understand Capitalism to mean simply the freedom to earn and keep the product of your labor, many take it to mean a world in which corporations — regarded as citizens by the State, mind you — monopolize and exploit workers and the environment. Capitalism is understood to equate to the exploitation of workers in developing countries and the destruction of the environment by corporations. Let us not forget that these corporations are granted rights and given welfare by the State.

In all truth, this consequence or set of consequences, the impacts of corporations, are entirely dependent on the State, which:

  • controls the issuance of credit and fiat currency,
  • subsidizes wholly unprofitable industries, and
  • bails out banks laden with toxic assets (further encouraging investment in such assets).

Remove the State, along with it the subsidies, corporate taxes, and start-up costs… and competition can begin to sort out the problems in the market. Failing banks will fail; private losses will remain private. An oil company that causes undue harm to the environment in this society will be boycotted and hence incentivized by consumers to do the right thing: make ammends, pay reparations, and straighten out its act — or else wither and die. Innovative companies will succeed, and continue to succeed until such time as they stop innovating or are overtaken by even more innovative firms. The Free Market Anarchist, the Anarcho-Capitalist, endeavors to bring about this exact state of affairs.

The Left Anarchist retort to this free market vision is often one which insinuates hypocrisy for proposing to supplant political rulers with the Captains of Industry, the Rich. Wouldn’t the capitalists become the new ruling class, absent any political structure?

This question deserves some exploration.

Capitalists as “Ruling Class”

If we return to elementary economics, we see that when a store owner tries to charge a customer too much for a loaf of bread the customer goes elsewhere. In voluntary market interactions such as these there is by definition no coercive element.

Consider the inverse of this situation, which is that a State or Workers’ Council runs the only store in town — or the only store in the whole country for that matter — and demands $10.00 for Wonder Bread. People are forced to buy it or try to get it through the black market, for which by no mere coincidence they may have their lives and livelihoods threatened by the very same State or Council. This is coercive, indeed. The Command Economy is clearly the more violent of the two systems.

wonder-bread

Which would you prefer? A single state-run bread company, or many firms which compete to offer better bread to you for less money?

Simply put, unless a State is propping up a corporation as a monopoly through legislation, bailouts, and subsidies, a corporation has no chance to coerce its potential customers. Even if for a period of time it charges high prices, eventually competitors will arise.

“The average lifespan of a company listed in the S&P 500 index of leading US companies has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century, from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today.” (source: BBC: Can a company live forever?)

Let us reiterate: The average S&P 500 company of today will last just 15 years! Compare this to the life of Empires and Nation States, which is a much longer 250 years on average.

Even the average life of currencies — at 27 years — is nearly twice as long as that of a corporation:

According to a study of 775 fiat currencies by DollarDaze.org, there is no historical precedence for a fiat currency that has succeeded in holding its value. Twenty percent failed through hyperinflation, 21% were destroyed by war, 12% destroyed by independence, 24% were monetarily reformed, and 23% are still in circulation approaching one of the other outcomes. … The average life expectancy for a fiat currency is 27 years, with the shortest life span being one month. (source)

Compared with the perenniality of the State, corporations are ephemera. As fast as corporations wane at present, imagine a world in which none are bouyed up by the government. Were they then to fall into such disreputable behaviors as price gouging or senselessly inflicting environmental damage it would only hasten their demise. Fear not an enduring Corporatocracy; it cannot exist without the collusion and the many blessings of the State.

So to answer the Left Anarchist retort: No, there are no Rulers in Free Market Capitalism, only the shifting sands of the innovative and the stagnant — a sea of companies with natural variation over time, high and low tides.

But what of the Command Economy? Can’t it even out these natural variations?

Ignoring for a moment the folly of a group of politicos thinking they can outwit the market — the collective economic intelligence of all of humanity — how could we summarize the vision of the Authoritarian or the Left Anarchist and contrast it with that of the Anarcho-Capitalist?

Let us consider the intersections of political power and economic freedom. We have Authoritarianism on the one hand, which is complete political control, not unlike what is espoused in Left Anarchists circles. The typical government is monopolistic. It has one set of laws and one primary means of enforcing those laws. To suggest that alternative, parallel legal systems or means of enforcement could co-exist is tantamount to treason. The authoritarian condemns and incarcerates the dissident, quashes divergent thinking through indoctrination and “re-education”. And while anarchists of all stripes rail against this, sadly only a select few mean to completely dismantle the State and break the spell of Statism that has been cast over the people, like wool over their eyes.

The State, the Commune, the Council are all authoritarian in essence, or at the very least tend towards authoritarianism and tyranny, growing ever bigger with the passage of time. It is due to this that I lump Statism and Left Anarchism under the same category of Authoritarianism. I’ll leave it to you to perform the mental substitution for either of these schools of thought in light of my visual below.

Capitalism, on the other hand, can be considered a politically-neutral state of affairs in which the accumulation of wealth is entirely unrestricted. These two, I will argue, opposing systems often comprise the political reality of the day in concert. The U.S. is one such hybrid model, for instance.

Political Power and Economic Freedom AUTHORITARIANISM CAPITALISM
AUTHORITARIANISM Authoritarian Ruling Class
Entrenched State Monopolies
Command Economy
All Profits Go to Government
Hybrid Ruling Class
Some State-Backed Monopolies
Mixed Economy
Some Private Profits
CAPITALISM Hybrid Ruling Class
Some State-Backed Monopolies
Mixed Economy
Some Private Profits
No Ruling Class
No Entrenched Monopolies
Free Market Economy
Maximum Private Profits

We can summarize the above as follows:

  • If we have a State we have a Ruling Class.
  • Similarly, if we have a Council or some kind of PAC we have a Ruling Class.
  • If we have Corporations and a State we may have a hybrid Ruling Class, but certainly a Ruling Class exists.
  • If we have only Corporations we do not have a Ruling Class. What we have instead is a constant turnover in the means of production and consistent innovation stemming from unencumbered markets.

But how do we make decisions without the guidance of a State or Council?

If all interactions are voluntary, and all transactions are entered into freely by consenting participants, then no need for political authority exists. It is thus up to each individual to determine what he needs and what he desires. The idea of having “No Rulers” is less prescriptive and more descriptive of reality in this imagined Free World in that case. It achieves the end-game of Anarchism without the need for constant, bloody revolution, without the need for bi-weekly meetings in which conniving bureaucrats on one side, and hot-headed idealists on the other, try to convince themselves that they are still all, in fact, on the same side of the table.

All Statist ideologies posit the need for a final arbiter of truth, a single individual or set of individuals which is not only capable but also virtuous enough to make decisions for the whole of society — often without the input of any of the members of said society — on matters as diverse as finance and environmental stewardship, logistics and defense, welfare and money printing, science and morality, immigration and agricultural production, ad infinitum. We live currently in a world in which people predominantly see through the lens of Statism, one that unquestioningly asserts that such expert and morally-superior Arbiters of Truth exist. Tell me, please: Where are all these Anomalous and Divine Beings? And why on Earth would they choose to enter into Politics of all areas?

So aren’t Anarchism and Capitalism complimentary in fact?

Indeed, it appears so, that the absence of rulers (Anarchism) and the absence of barriers to trade and free association (Capitalism) go hand in hand. Anarcho-Capitalism is a marraige of ultimate personal freedom with that of maximum economic freedom. It seems the more internally-consistent and morally-justified of the political models:

Nolan Political Chart - Capitalism

Source: paoracle.com

At the very least Free Market Capitalism, or Anarcho-Capitalism, starts with the assumption of Freedom for All. Maximize freedom for everyone and dismantle Political Power. On the opposing end we see Communism and Socialism — the same camp in which Left Anarchism ultimately finds itself — and these are in close proximity to Facism and Nazism. All four of these -ism’s presuppose and necessitate the expansion of government power, whether the reigns of Government change hands or not. It seems prudent — insofar as you have a choice — to choose to implement or support a system which grants you the utmost freedoms, so that even if they are eventually curtailed, at the very least you will have experienced Freedom in its purest form during your life time. What a marvelous thing that would be!

19
Jan

Democracy is Evil

by adminadam in videos

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  • No-Government is better than Democracy, the tyranny of the majority.
  • Individual rights are sacrificed to the uninformed, entitled, and sheepish collective.
  • Already-corrupt politicians compete to rise to the top. Although not an endorsement of monarchy, at least monarchs have the potential to be not-corrupt at the start of their reign.
  • Humans are flawed and imperfect; therefore, politicians are flawed and imperfect. Uninformed, imperfect voters, however, are presumed to be competent enough to elect their own rulers. This is a fundamental flaw inherent in representative democracies — forget voter fraud, forgery, hackable voting machines, and other issues of cheating and corruption that make the process all the more untrustworthy. The fact is, anti-statists (I included), don’t consent to you choosing who should rule over and make decisions for me. I will almost certainly have no reason whatsoever to trust in your (or your politician-of-choice’s) competency.
  • Australia has made voting compulsory. Seems a clear indictment of the democratic system: Statists will often use voter turnout as a metric on which to base their arguments for the right to rule over, or choose who can rule over, others. As the fallacy goes, if you don’t participate in the flawed system, you don’t get to choose who rules over you (interesting how choosing a person who would violate your rights and make decisions for you is considered a “choice”, a privilege even). As for the Catch-22, if you do vote and participate in the so-called democratic process, thinking that perhaps you can change the system from within in some miraculous way (say by chanting “Yes, We Can!”), you actually just further prop it up. Politicians are under no obligations to do whatever it is that they promised to do that happened to appeal to you when you voted for them. Voting is consent to rule in the minds of politicians. Compulsory voting is forced consent to allow tyrants to continue to believe that they are entitled to rule. Consider what it means to choose to not vote; consider the power of a vote of no confidence.
  • Conversing with open-minded acquaintances and discussing the fundamental flaws of democracy should help to encourage more dissent from the current system. To choose to not vote is a principled — if not effective — way for an individual to revoke his/her consent to be governed, taxed, violated, and misrepresented. Eventually, when enough people reject the farce that is our current system, either through not-voting or by engaging in other, non-violent acts of political and economic disobedience, the State and its apparatuses will crumble.
  • Who would build the roads if we didn’t have the State? Probably the same people that currently build them, but most likely they would build roads faster and more efficiently sans bureaucrats telling them how to do their jobs. See Taking Politics Out of Transportation: Economist Bruce Benson on Private Roads below discussing how successful and instrumental private roads have been throughout American history — and why they have a bright future.
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What to read next: Doug Casey on Voting, Redux — Why voting is an unethical, degrading, privacy-violating waste of time. Another good one is: Why Not Vote? by Davi Barker, published (albeit only in-part in Grist).
23
Apr

Thrive Countries, 1st Issue

by adminadam in articles

This is a mostly personally relevant list of 10 countries I thought I ought to travel to or live in at some point. However, it does contain a few good general insights and some interesting cross-referenced information from the Index of Economic Freedom and the Freedom on the Net report (links below). For example, you may be interested to know that Estonia is among the top 15 economically free countries in the world, but that it also tops the charts in press freedom and has the world’s greatest internet freedom.

I have included crosses (†) to indicate my own interest in the culture of countries listed where applicable, in addition to minuses (–) to show places that I am not interested in going to or spending that much time in (for now). For example, the United States is ranked 9th in Economic Freedom, extremely high in Press and Internet Freedom, but nonetheless it is my country of origin and therefore less interesting to visit than many of the others. For this reason it gets a minus. Note that I am also very interested in learning other languages and that I studied Spanish and Japanese for many years. Hence, Australia is less interesting, while Japan, Chile, Brazil, and others are more so.

Press Freedom I haven’t included but hope to in future editions of my list; This is something that is, of course, intimately connected with Internet Freedom and very important for every nation on Earth. It is another attribute that, for me, increases the gravity and draw of a place. If you are curious about Press Freedom as well right now, know that Freedom House publishes both reports: (PRESS FREEDOM) and (FREEDOM ON THE NET 2011).

This list is comprised of well-established, demonstrably-free societies that also happen to interest me personally. In later lists I hope to include information from the Human Development Index, Press Freedom statistics, and more.


Top 10 Thrive Countries for 2011

1. United States
2. Germany (†)
3. Hong Kong
4. Switzerland (†)
5. Estonia (†)
6. Japan (††)
7. Singapore
8. Chile (††)
9. Brazil (††)
10. Australia


Thrive Countries, 1st Issue (PDF)

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