Thursday, May 21, 2009

The utilitarian case for radical market anarchism

Since a lot of people are (often understandably) not convinced by normative arguments based on "rights," I wanted to make the utilitarian case for free market/individualist a single post.

Why should a utilitarian be radically anti-state? The answer is laid out so well in this essay, it’s not even worth trying to rephrase it:

Anarchists oppose the state (defined as an organization with a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force in a given country) because the state exists for the sole purpose of limiting human freedom and imposing the will of a certain group of people (usually a tiny minority) on the rest of a nation’s citizens. Because of the state, millions of people are incarcerated—mostly for nonviolent and “victimless” offenses—and forced to live in totalitarian conditions in which they have absolutely no control over their own situations. Because of the state, untold multitudes are forced to alter their behavior for fear of enduring punishment and incarceration if they act autonomously. Because of the state, millions of people die in wars and genocides, and millions of others are forced to live under foreign occupation in which their liberty is severely restricted. It is obvious that, so long as the state exists, human beings can never attain maximum freedom or maximum happiness, and so, utilitarians and anarchists should oppose the state.

It doesn’t get much more succinct than that! Governments killed something like 262 million people in the last century. Governments are the most brutal, unaccountable organizations in the history of mankind. They’ve brought tyranny, oppression, slavery, and poverty wherever they’ve been allowed to exist. They benefit a small but powerful elite at the expense of everyone else. Governments have brought us unspeakable horrors: gas chambers, torture dungeons, gulags, mass executions, human ovens, large-scale starvation, ethnic cleansing, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Newt Gingrich, you name it. And there’s no end in sight! There’s only one remedy: abolish the state immediately, completely, and unapologetically, piss on its ashes, and then put its “leaders” on trial for crimes against humanity.

The utilitarian case for the total free market also simple to make. Market anarchism would allow for unrestrained competition, capital accumulation, and innovation like we’ve never seen before. People would be rewarded, not punished (as they are in the current system) for creating wealth and raising the standard of living. People would be punished, not subsidized (as they are in the current system) for failing to raise the standard of living. The rewards and punishments in both departments would be far, far greater, which is a good thing. The poor would easily benefit the most from all of this. (See George Reisman’s article Anti-Obamanomics for a more extensive discussion of this.)

Money would no longer be diverted to wealthy government bureaucrats and their cronies, nor would it be spent on their trillion-dollar wars or boondoggles. The Federal Reserve would no longer transfer wealth from the poor to the ultra-rich. The countless monopolists, price gougers, illegitimate landholders, and authoritarian employers propped up by the government would be put out of business. The minimum wage would no longer trap people in grinding poverty to make billionaire leftists feel good. Regressive taxes (social security, sales taxes, etc) would no longer exist. People trying to start their own businesses or become self-employed would no longer be stopped or punished by government regulators

Market anarchism would mean complete freedom and autonomy for all individuals. Instead of living as serfs on the land of a feudal government, every single person would have absolute control over their lives and the decisions they make. Everyone would be free to keep every last penny (would pennies even exist?) they make, and free to spend it however they want. Instead of a one-size-fits-all, poorly run government education system, they would be able to choose whatever school they want, with whatever values they want, at whatever price they want. The same goes for health care, garbage collection, firefighters, postal service, and everything else. There would be far more choices than with a government monopoly (or a heavily cartelized economy). And when people are free to choose from a number of options, they are usually more happy than when they are coerced into one.

People could choose for themselves what drugs (including prescription drugs) they want to use, what guns they want to buy, who they want to marry, who they wish to associate with, and which charities they want to donate to, without government idiots interfering. What does that sound like? Freedom!

No more FCC telling us what we can and can’t watch. No more “selective service.” No more Department of Homeland Stupidity with its absurd color warnings. No more restrictions on freedom of speech. No more Rick Santorums using legislation to ram their insane religious beliefs down our throats. No more laughably ineffective government police, who crack down on petty “crimes” while leaving violent wackjobs free to terrorize us. No more military industrial complex, medical industrial complex, or security industrial complex. Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity would likely have to sell themselves into prostitution (which would also be legal). What does all of this add up to? Greatly enhanced autonomy, extreme freedom, and more happiness.

When should we want all of this? Now!! As quickly as possible! Radical abolitionism is the only way we’ll ever get anywhere. Gradual and “pragmatic” reforms will never achieve anything.

So whether you're a Stirnerite egoist looking to promote his own interests, a Kropotkinite do-gooder who wants to help society as a whole, or someone else skeptical of arguments from "rights," you should consider market anarchism.

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