Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Capitalist Authoritarianism and How To End It

"Capitalism" is, rightly or wrongly, associated with the current economic system. While many individualist anarchists use the term in a strictly economic sense, based on very well-defined notions of legitimate property rights, no such system and no such property rights exist or have ever existed in the real world (all individualist anarchists, past and present, support “capitalism” by the standard contemporary dictionary definition).

Under our present system, a great many capitalists have become the equivalent of feudal lords and tyrannical oligarchs. This is because of the control they have over the state, the mechanism through which they are able to exploit the rest of the population. These capitalists use every trick in the book (state-aided land grabs, subsidies, patents, intellectual “property”, protectionism, the federal reserve system, the military industrial complex, eminent domain theft, anti-strike laws, regulatory cartelization, and so on) to maintain and perpetuate their power. Thus, although it is not “free market” in any sense of the phrase, it is fair to call the current system a capitalist plutocracy, as it is a plutocracy run by number of capitalists.

"American conservatives... exhort the backward countries on the virtues and the importance of private foreign investment from the advanced countries, and of allowing a favorable climate for this investment, free from governmental harassment. This is all very true, but is again often unreal to the undeveloped peoples, because the conservatives persistently fail to distinguish between legitimate, free-market foreign investment, as against investment based upon monopoly concessions and vast land grants by the undeveloped states. To the extent that foreign investments are based on land monopoly and aggression against the peasantry, to that extent do foreign capitalists take on the aspects of feudal landlords, and must be dealt with in the same way...."
-Murray Rothbard

As Benjamin Tucker pointed out, this plutocracy is responsible for much of the existing crime:

We make war upon the State as chief invader of person and property, as the cause of substantially all the crime and misery that exist, as itself the most gigantic criminal extant. It manufactures criminals much faster than it punishes them. It exists to create and sustain the privileges which produce economic and social chaos. It is the sole support of the monopolies which concentrate wealth and learning in the hands of a few and disperse poverty and ignorance among the masses, to the increase of which inequality the increase of crime is directly proportional. It protects a minority in plundering the majority by methods too subtle to be understood by the victims, and then punishes such unruly members of the majority as attempt to plunder others by methods too simple and straightforward to be recognized by the State as legitimate, crowning its outrages by deluding scholars and philosophers of Mr. Ball's stamp into pleading, as an excuse for its infamous existence, the necessity of repressing the crime which it steadily creates.
-Benjamin Tucker

Notice how Tucker mentions “methods too subtle to be understood by the victims.” This is exactly the case. Most people simply have absolutely no idea just how extensive, secretive, and ruthless this process is. Most people have no idea just how long it has been going on for, or just how many current land titles and riches are stolen. So when they see injustices taking place, they assume it is the result of not enough statism.

These privileges often lead to authoritarian employment relations ("the subjugation of labor to capital"). In the unlikely event of them being abolished, modern “wage slavery” would come to an end and employment would simply become a mutually beneficial transaction. In our current plutocracy, employment is about as “consensual” as a salad-tossing session in prison with Bubba.

However, if authoritarian employment relations did somehow manage to take place under a total free market with perfectly just property titles, we should still actively oppose it and call for non-statist solutions and alternatives. Again, I don’t think all employment is inherently authoritarian, but a great deal of it currently existing is. This is especially true under our current system where corporations can team up with dictatorships to put workers in sweatshops and assassinate labor organizers. While it is difficult to imagine a modern market economy devoid of any employment, we should support and encourage worker autonomy to the highest degree possible.

The labor theory of value and corresponding goofy “revolt” against “interest, rent, and profit” that all too many anarchists engage in is a pointless distraction from the real problem: statist corporations and the obscene levels of power they possess, along with the authoritarian social relationships created through such power.

How to end this system of plunder? Take a guess.

*This post has been edited a bit, so that it flows better.

1 comment:

Mike Gogulski said...

My name is Mike, and I endorse this message.