let it all collapse, the icon for the www.punkerslut.com website
Home Articles Critiques Books Video
About Graphics CopyLeft Links Music

  • Return to Debate Index
  • Anarcho-Collectivism versus
    Anarcho-Capitalism Debate

    Between Punkerslut and
    Hogeye Bill

    Posts #03-#04

    From RadicalGraphics.org
    Image: From "Anarchia" Gallery,
    from Peace Libertad Blog

    Post #03

    Punkerslut

    Punkerslut to Hogeye Bill...

    Date: June 10, 2009

    Greetings,

         And thanks for taking the time to respond to many of my points. I'll try to consolidate our disagreements, and try to find the specific points where we disagree.

         For general purposes, my economic theory is Anarcho-Collectivist, or "to each according to their contribution," which -- of course -- we want to achieve through voluntary and cooperative associations.

    Hogeye Bill:
    "I agree with your main point, that a massive redistribution of wealth is in order due to past violations of property rights. I suspect that our class analysis is somewhat different. To me, the two classes are the producers and the parasites. Some capitalists got their wealth through voluntary trade and without favoritism from the State. These are in the producer class. Conversely, some "workers" got wealth via State aggression. Doctors with high salaries due to occupational licensure for example, and some others through big established government-privileged unions. There is a huge difference between an Apple or Ben and Jerry's and a Bechtel or Halliburton. In short, I look at actual government favors rather than superficial Marxian classes."

         This is a particularly interesting point. Actually, I do have just as much against Ben and Jerry's as I do against Halliburton. It seems odd that you would say that any member of the Capitalist class obtained their wealth. Consider the steel refineries, manufacturing plants, and factories in third world countries right now. They produce virtually every type of commodity, from things as simple and basic from silverware to extremely sophisticated computer systems and mainframes. Where do you think that Ben and Jerry's got their means of production? Whether it's the basic ammenities available in a store, from paper plates to ice cream scoops, or whether it's the research and development crew at headquarters using machines to do advanced calculus... They obtained their means of production from these third worlds.

         Now, I'm certain you can tell exactly where I'm going with this: those third world countries, from Burma to China, Chile to Indonesia, Cuba to Vietnam... All of these countries are under the dominion of dictators and Authoritarian governments. Workers who organize are generally tortured, imprisoned, or executed. And when people try to put together community organizations, they face the same thing: state-sponsored terrorism, bombings, assassinations. Virtually every bit of wealth, of the majority of private enterprises in the West, get their working capital from these countries. Whether you're running a Kinko's franchise or some one-worker craft shop, or you're the top CEO of Nike and McDonald's, your wealth is built upon the violent repression of the world's people. It is very difficult to separate the present Capitalist class from the slavery where they claim their wealth.

    Hogeye Bill:
    "I agree. Murray Rothbard discussed such redistribution in The Ethics of Liberty chapter 10 and 11. Basically, he thinks that stolen land/goods should be returned the the rightful owner as determined by (non-proviso) Lockean property theory. In free market courts, he avers, the current possessors are innocent until proven guilty, i.e. it takes a reasonable claim with some proof that you are the rightful owner, or an heir thereof. Simply dispossessing someone because of their caste or class doesn't hack it."

         As stated above, every member of the Capitalist class trades in, or contributes to, the slavery and oppression of third world peoples. If there was one Capitalist who had a "refusing to handle stolen goods" policy, they would quickly find themselves economically isolated, which will certainly destroy their industry.

    Hogeye Bill:
    "I disagree with this assumption. Before land was scare, e.g. in hunter-gatherer days when humans had the same population density as bears, land was unowned. How can someone legitimately own something they don't know about, have never seen, etc. I go by the neo-Lockean theory of property. Before things were owned, they were unowned. The purpose of property is to solve the scarcity problem. See my e-book 'Against Authority,' particularly the chapter 'What is Property?'"

         Perhaps it is equivalent, or nearly equivalent, to say that something is unowned or collectively owned -- we are certain, in fact, that be walking these lands and taking nourishment from them, our ancestors treated this land as property, which was equally held between individuals. Locke's theories, ultimately, are based on scripture and Biblical interpretation (some of it really goes out on a branch). (I.E.: The only reason why government can't destroy its people is because government is based on the rights people give to their government, and god never gave humans the right to self-destruction. Whereas, in my opinion, believing in any religion is acting on your right to self-destruction.) Locke's are interesting and helpful at points, but following them to their natural end isn't logical or reasonable. (don't get me wrong -- Second Treatise is my favorite book)

         However, Rousseau's tracing of humanity and property seems to be routed much more in history and fact than theology. Humanity, by using the land, made it ours, and since it was owned by none, it was certainly owned by those who used it. It would seem illogical to say that someone has property rights, but at the same time, does not have property. So, either way you look at it, whether the land is collectively owned or unowned, humanity's first practice of property treated it as though it were collectively owned. If you believe in the idea of inheritance of property, then it is certain that we each still have a right to collective ownership of the planet. It would be unsound if any of our ancestors, collectively owning and using the land, were to give up this right for absolutely nothing.

    Punkerslut:
    "How can we guarantee that the workers will never be exploited again, or that the common people will never be oppressed again?"

    Hogeye Bill:
    "I don't think we can - that is an unrealistic goal. Some people want to be ruled, and it would be against our principles to force them to be free. I propose a more realistic goal: that people who want to be free can be free. Even then, there is no guarantee that some evil assholes won't try to create a new State. But history shows that, once a stateless society exists, it is stable. In our current statist societies the anarchists have the public goods problem, but in an anarchist society the statists have the public goods problem. There are two equilibriums, like driving on the left or right side of the road. Both are stable; both are difficult to change."

         The idea of stateless societies existing stabling is questionable. Calling back to the most notable examples of Anarchist societies -- the Paris Commune of 1871, Anarchist Catalonia in 1936, and the Free Territory of Ukraine in 1922. There were countless other examples, of all sized communities, that have generally created Anarchist society. Looking at the most notable, however, even these were completely destroyed. The Free Territory fought Bolshevik reds to the east and Monarchist whites to the west, the Paris Commune was hounded by French and German monarchies, and Anarchists in Catalonia would be in a three-year war with Nazis, Spanish Fascists, and Italian Fascists. In short, the Anarchist community can only be destroyed by the most sinister, evil, and dehumanized governments on the planet. Liberal France fell to the Nazis in three weeks (or, better put it, she co-conspired her defeat with Hitler). [*1] But Anarchist Catalonia survived for three years, and the veterans here were the most valuable core of French, Italian, Yugoslavian, and other anti-Fascist, Partisan movements.

         But, for all the Anarchist movements that were briefly successful, we find ourselves examining an Anarcho-Collectivist/Syndicalist society. We cannot convince the workers that they will have liberty, and that this liberty will still have unemployment, starvation, homelessness, and poverty. These are the products of isolating wealth into the hands of a few -- it would cost nothing to let the commoners take the land, farm and work it, and then feed themselves with their fruits. But profit, not social-responsibility, is the primary incentive to the Capitalist -- and as long as it rules, we will have a world where the wealth of a society is organized according to a small, elite few.

    Punkerslut:
    "The result has always been: anti-competitive behavior. The lowering or prices, until the new competitor is driven out, and made absolutely no threat any more."

    Hogeye Bill:
    "This strategy generally only works in conjunction with State aggression. In a free market, the larger firm is hemorraging wealth faster than the smaller firms. Not only that, the smaller firms can stop producing easier than the huge ones. The little guys are more nimble and versitile. I don't see large corporations surviving without State privilege except in rare cases of extreme competence. Monopolies are creatures of the State."

         This is not true. Quoting from Industrial Socialism by Big Bill Haywood...

    "For a long time, down even till 1900, farmers who owned one hundred or two hundred acres of land could make good use of the machines which had been invented. Their children could help run the machines and thus they kept all the profits. At most they hired one or two wage-workers, with a few extra during the summer months. But the machine process has now outgrown the size of the old-fashioned farm. Plows are being drawn by traction engines. Grain is being reaped and threshed by great machines which the small farmer cannot afford to buy and could not profitably use even if he possessed them. Above all, science is being applied to farming. The raising of crops, the breeding and care of cattle, and all the other work of the farm must be carefully studied. One man cannot possibly know all that must be known in this great and ever changing industry. So we must have farms of greater and greater area, where work may be specialized and where all the modern machines and scientific methods may be put to good use. This means that very soon only great capitalists can get profits out of a farm. The farm has been the last place where a man with a small amount of money could go to work, be his own boss and make a good living. But soon this will be impossible. In fact, in many states it is already impossible."

         The most effective methods of production are the most technologically advanced, and they are only available to very wealthy firms. I don't see an economy of multitude of small-shopkeepers ever returning; in fact, the French Revolution of 1789 was exactly for this class, and they had to use violence to achieve it, because they were already on the way out with the advent of manufacturing. Competing economically had failed, so they competed politically and won.

    Hogeye Bill:
    "Some anarchists make a big deal out of the differences between schools. I'm more of an 'anarchist without adjectives' type. We agree on most things. We have a minor difference, perhaps, about class theory, and a clear difference (if you are like most anarcho-syndicalists) about the best property/economic system. But in a stateless society, different visions about economics can peacefully coexist - unlike a statist society with its winner-take-all fight to the death. Without a state to bash each other with, diversity is no problem."

         That is true. Of course, as anarchy has occurred in the past, it only came about by massive, worker-led and managed movements. And where the people have been well organized against oppressive governments, whether its MLK and civil rights, or Poland and Soviet oppression -- it has always been movements of common people, working together voluntarily, to achieve a social justice. The social justice that I seek to achieve is a world without poverty, exploitation, homelessness, and widespread hunger. Just like those who accomplished other social justice, this one will come about by voluntary action, or not at all.

         There is a phrase the rings throughout the French Revolution of 1968, "Those who make revolutions by halves dig their own graves." We can't organize a working class resistance to government with a program that leaves the worker just as dispossessed. We can't speak about liberty, when there is no liberty to work the land, and to become the possessor of what you've created. It is almost like speaking about the evils of Racism, but still endorsing Patriarchy -- the combination of the two things seems so illogical, and whatever social progress is achieved, happens to be limited.

         Abolish the state, and create a society where each has the option to join a cooperative, and become the master of themselves economically. If this is not our program, then we certainly can't expect to bring people together in overthrowing the state. Or at least, we won't be able to bring them together to make real, creative change.

         Thanks, I know I talk too much...

    Andy Carloff,

    Resources

    *1. The French film, Le Chagrin et la pitiť ("The Sorrow and the Pity"), covers this well.


    From Radical Graphics
    Image: From Radical Graphics,
    From "Anarchy" Gallery

    Post #04

    Hogeye Bill

    Hogeye Bill to Punkerslut...

    Date: June 10, 2009

    Punkerslut:
    "Actually, I do have just as much against Ben and Jerry's as I do against Halliburton. ... Consider the steel refineries, manufacturing plants, and factories in third world countries right now. They produce virtually every type of commodity, from things as simple and basic from silverware to extremely sophisticated computer systems and mainframes. Where do you think that Ben and Jerry's got their means of production? ... All of these countries are under the dominion of dictators and Authoritarian governments."

         To me there is a significant difference between simply benefiting from aggression beyond your control and participating in aggressive acts. Your argument proves too much - it could be extended to virtually all workers, who use government roads, went to government schools, buy clothes and cars, and yes, some even use computers. Does this make them morally culpable for State aggression? I don't think so.

         Ben and Jerry's, as far as I know, does not get a significant part of their income from government contracts, does not encourage foreign governments to raze barrios to make way for foreign factories, or anything like that. Since government is ubiquitous, they do deal with government and benefit in some ways, as we all do. Do they receive a net benefit, after taxes and regulations and such? I don't think so. Compare that to Halliburton, which gets massive government contracts and exists off the State's war machine. Rule of thumb: If a firm gets more than half their income from the State, it is part of the ruling class. In short, I make a distinction between those firms (and people) who live mainly from voluntary trade and production (producers) and those that live mainly off State aggression (parasites.)

    Punkerslut:
    "As stated above, every member of the Capitalist class trades in, or contributes to, the slavery and oppression of third world peoples."

         We definitely differ here. I require some proof of aggression, or aiding and abetting aggression. What you say strikes me as gross discrimination of a class of people, regardless of whether they aggressed or not. As stated above, claiming that a Ben and Jerry's manager is guilty of aggression simply because he benefits from aggression in the third world he has no control over is like saying that a worker is guilty of aggression since he benefits from aggression related to the government school he went to, or the fact that his underwear is made in China.

         I think you may be using the concept of class inappropriately. A class is a conceptual grouping, like blue-eyed people or people over six feet tall. A class has no motives, although individual people in that class may. Here's a pretty good discussion by anarcha-feminist Wendy McElroy about the limitations of class theory: Mises' Legacy to Feminism.

    Punkerslut:
    "Perhaps it is equivalent, or nearly equivalent, to say that something is unowned or collectively owned..."

         I don't think so. In the case of unowned stuff, anyone who uses it in some significant manner becomes the owner. Collective ownership is a type of property; geoist style commons is yet another type.

    Punkerslut:
    "Locke's theories, ultimately, are based on scripture and Biblical interpretation."

         Some of his theories are - you gave a good example - but not his theory of property. His property theory is based on use. Locke had an erroneous notion of commons which anarcho-capitalists generally reject, along with his famous proviso so long as there is equally good stuff left. That's why we use the term neo-Lockean or some such. Although he appeals to it, even Locke's theory of government does not depend on theism - it's based on consent and non-aggression.

         The major flaw in the Second Treatise is Locke's fallacy of composition wrt consent. Early on, he stresses individual consent, using government in a weak Jeffersonian/Nockian sense that even an anarchist could approve of, i.e. a voluntary association for self-defense. But later in the Treatise he fallaciously shifts to a different meaning of consent - a collective "consent" whether the individual agrees or not! He even goes so far as to say that, to opt out of his (what is now a) State, a person loses all his landed property. This of course contradicts Locke's stated purpose of government - to defend property.

         Since Locke, many theorists have justified property rights, government by consent, etc. without appealing to the supernatural, e.g. Herbert Spencer, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard. The majority of anarcho-capitalists are atheists in my experience.

    Punkerslut:
    "So, either way you look at it, whether the land is collectively owned or unowned, humanity's first practice of property treated it as though it were collectively owned."

         If you mean that, before land was scare and conflicts in usage occurred, people used it without resorting to a property convention, I suppose you could say that people treated the unowned land as if it were collectively owned. But, to be precise, I would call it unowned rather than collectively owned. If a certain group of people shared usage and claimed a prerogative to exclude outsiders, then it is collectively owned by that group. If someone said that all humanity collectively owned it, I'd dispute that, since someone who does not use it or even know of its existence cannot be an owner. (BTW, even in hunter-gatherer days, scarce items such as tools and weapons were generally sticky property, i.e. "privately" owned, according to most anthropologists.)

    Punkerslut:
    "The idea of stateless societies existing stabling is questionable. Calling back to the most notable examples of Anarchist societies -- the Paris Commune of 1871, Anarchist Catalonia in 1936, and the Free Territory of Ukraine in 1922."

         I was speaking of internal stability. You are right that such societies can be conquered from without, usually by States. The examples you give were mostly smack-dab in the middle of failed States, with other States vying for power. One of my favorite examples is Holy Experiment Pennsylvania, where the Quakers had no formal government, peace with the Indians, and when William Penn sent in a governor, after a few months he quit in disgust, telling Penn that those Quakers were ungovernable! See Pennsylvania's Anarchist Experiment: 1681-1690. The other example is not a totally anarchist society, but one that came very close: Classical Iceland. See David Friedman's article Private Creation And Enforcement Of Law: A Historical Case and/or Medieval Iceland and the Absence of Government. Classical Iceland lasted for three centuries. That's pretty darn stable. Neither of these societies was collectivist.

    Punkerslut:
    "We cannot convince the workers that they will have liberty, and that this liberty will still have unemployment, starvation, homelessness, and poverty. These are the products of isolating wealth into the hands of a few..."

         Yet many American workers in the 19th century believed that liberty facilitated employment and prosperity - that without the State's plunder and its support of a parasite class, capital would not remain in the hands of the few. (Cf: American individualist anarchism, a precursor to anarcho-capitalism.) So apparently we differ in our predictions about the results of a stateless society. I think property would devolve to the many without a State, while you think that even in a stateless society massive accumulation would occur and/or be retained. IOW I see large corporations as creatures of the State and existing only so long as they receive plunder and special privilege by the State, while you see corporations as powerful even in the absence of a State. (If I understand you correctly.)

         I think history supports my view. E.g. The American colonies that originally had land owned by private corporations quickly devolved to individuals and households, while the colonies that were granted to individuals per the feudal model kept large land-holdings much longer. And the US land grants to revolutionary war heroes and land corporations were unable to maintain their fraudulent claims because homesteaders ignored them and had guns. The US was forced to give in (mostly) with the policy of preemption, the filthy squatters stealing land from the government became hardy pioneers. There's an excellent book about how property rights arise spontaneously from community: "The Mystery of Capital" by Hernando de Soto. It took a Peruvian to explain gringo-American property!

    Punkerslut:
    "But profit, not social-responsibility, is the primary incentive to the Capitalist -- and as long as it rules, we will have a world where the wealth of a society is organized according to a small, elite few."

         Yes, as long as it rules - as long special interests have a State to use as a gun - there will be a ruling elite few. But without a State, making a profit is equivalent to serving one's fellow man. Profit becomes the engine of social responsibility - people will only voluntarily pay you for providing a good or service to them.

         Regarding Bill Haywood's quote about farming: He has been proved wrong. Even small farmers can afford tractors now, and small operations can be profitable. Nowadays most realize that the big monoculture industrial farms mainly exist only due to massive farm subsidies by the State. Subsidized corn is sold below the cost of production to industrial cattle producers, etc. I recently saw a documentary called "Food, Inc." which makes this point. And locally, we have a thriving farmers' market which refutes Heywood's claim. Science and technology does not cause an arbitrarily large economy of scale. Even, perhaps especially, small farmers take advantage of science and technology. In some cases, such as computer/info tech, the optimum scale for production of many things is reduced.

    Punkerslut:
    "The most effective methods of production are the most technologically advanced, and they are only available to very wealthy firms."

         But the very large firms often do not want to use the most advanced tech. Many are committed to one size fits all mass production, monoculture agriculture, etc. They do what profits them most in light of special privilege and subsidies by State. We know that shipping tomatoes from Argentina is inefficient in terms of fossil fuel usage, but since the costs are subsidized by State (through wars for oil, transportations subsidies, etc.) the big food firms don't care. Big connected firms are perfectly willing to externalize costs rather than update technology. Furthermore, the big established firms are bloated and slow-moving, and don't want to undermine their existing products. IBM would never have come out with a personal computer on its own. That would be undermining their mainframe market. It took small startups like Altair and Apple to do it. You seem to consider big established firms as ultra-efficient and super-powerful. I consider them bloated and usually incompetent, only surviving through political suck. They would largely wither away without the State to prop them up. A case in point: General Motors. Did GM use the latest high-tech and create fuel efficient or electric cars? No, they stupidly went with momentum, churning out gas-guzzling SUVs. But have you heard of Tesla Motors? An offshoot of computer laptop battery tech is making an electric car in Silicon Valley.

         As far as strategy goes, I think agorism has it right. (See the New Libertarian Manifesto for details.) I think general strike type ideas are hopelessly outdated, if only because the computer revolution has made (is making) the industrial mode less and less significant. Look at it this way: In 1900 90% of Americans worked in agriculture. By 1970 less than 10% did. I think factory line work will go the way of agriculture - fewer and fewer people will be doing it, and soon it will also be under 10% like agriculture. The rise in self-employment and small firms make government control much harder. All the tanks in the world can't crack PGP. For the first time in 500 years, technology favors decentralization and freedom.



    Punkerslut
    join the punkerslut.com
    mailing list!

    Punkerslut
    copyleft notice and
    responsibility disclaimer