The analogy of discriminating against a black youth is inapplicable. By calling someone a human being, we are discriminating, because we are applying all the attributes of a human being to someone who only appears to have them. Likewise, calling someone a black teenage male is also discrimination, because you are applying attributes to them that may not be actual. In fact, this is the exact cornerstone to all human language -- discussing anything requires categories. When I describe something as a tree, am I not describing it then as a continuation of the trend of trees? I refer you to the most essential, sociological work by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "Every general idea is purely intellectual; if the imagination meddles with it ever so little, the idea immediately becomes particular. If you endeavour to trace in your mind the image of a tree in general, you never attain to your end. In spite of all you can do, you will have to see it as great or little, bare or leafy, light or dark, and were you capable of seeing nothing in it but what is common to all trees, it would no longer be like a tree at all." [*1]
When one says tree, one is naturally referring not to the IDEAL tree, as it would no longer be a tree at all, except one is referring to the gathered knowledge one has concerning trees. This, alone, does not disprove someone's argument, "Taking an axe to a tree will cut it down." Tell a lumberjack that his understanding of trees is illogical because of its based on the demographics of trees -- and I'm quite certain, this isn't going to stop him from cutting them down or knowing how to do it. You seem quite content to talk about "human nature," but of course, you are doing the same thing as me: applying a general understanding of concepts to specific cases. If you draw out concepts of "human nature," and apply them to individuals, you will end up constantly expanding the idea, to where it means nothing, or you will end up excluding humans. And you especially generalize in terms of the states, as you seem to have no preference between elective and authoritarian, Representative and Genocidist. Either way, language and communication fairly rely on generalized ideas; and,a generalized idea (like gravity) isn't inherently wrong, just because it's a generalized idea.
Applying this to economics... The essentials of all rational economic theory is based on these two premises: (1) people have wants, (2) people respond to their wants in a logical way; while it may not actually bring them closer to their wants, they weren't unreasonable in thinking it would bring them to their wants. (For instance, someone wants bread, and buys bread, but instead is ripped off by a merchant. They are still fulfilling both of these premises.) If you doubt either of these, allow me to refer to you a book I wrote on Economics about five or six years ago. The title is "Class Conscious: The Injustice of Poverty," but for the time being, I'll refer to it as My Economicon. : http://www.punkerslut.com/books/classwar2/chapter2.html I'll quote just one of the economists whose research I draw upon. William Stanley Jevons, in 1866...
Both Capitalist and the workers have prejudices, or attitudes about the social organization of humanity. There are a million things that could influence their attitudes, in terms of religion, culture, family or friends, etc., etc.. In terms of economics, we just want to know what motivates them in their trading activities -- whether it's buying commodities, or exchanging labor for wages.
Examine a laborer that owns nothing but the commodity value of their labor. Their interest is to live and to feed their families. Some of them certainly have higher aspirations, but this seems to be one of the most essential. Their reaction to this interest is to trade their labor in exchange for sustenance. There is the economic interest, there is the action responding to it. And, while it is true that there is an endless amount of ways to produce wealth, the masses are dependent upon wage labor.
Examine then the capitalist, whose sustenance is provided for simply by the act of owning property. There interest is simple: maintain the mode of their sustenance, their business, and keep it functioning. Their reactions, then, tend to be against anyone who might try to upset this order. If workers organize, they might use their wealth to hire the state and oppress the laborers, or they might create a blacklist with other employers to prevent employment to unionists. If competitors are threatening their market, they'll buy them out or enter into a cartel with them. If the state's taxes are landing on them, and not enough on the poor masses, they'll buy out the government, either with bribes or just by supporting their own candidate. The self-interest of the Capitalist is very clear, and the wide-range of actions they've take on their own behalf is also very clear.
I may have simplified my argument by saying that all Capitalists are responsible for exploitation and oppression. What I really meant to say was... All Capitalists have the same, economic interests, and they all react to their self-interest by using their wealth-based power. And any action they could take, from blacklisting workers to bribing government, necessarily is a form of exploitation or oppression against the common masses.
There is no point in injuring or outlawing competition when the vast amount of lands, mines, natural resources, and the like, are in the hands of an extreme few. Who's going to compete with a farm that owns all the land? Very few. According University of California, Santa Cruz, "In terms of types of financial wealth, the top one percent of households have 36.7% of all privately held stock, 63.8% of financial securities, and 61.9% of business equity. The top 10% have 85% to 90% of stock, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate." [*2] If someone starts a farm, it's going to be local, and it certainly won't be able to compete economically with megacorporations. It's share of the market will be very dismal. The US, market structure is an oligopoly: two to three firms control the majority of all markets' industries, from batteries to cereal to apparel to manufacturing and electronics. What is preventing the little business from starting up is this type of market structure, but this type of market structure rises without the interference or knowledge of government.
President Gowen, of the Reading Railroad in the late 1800's, described exactly how Capitalists organize themselves:
This was, in fact, a trial against the Reading Railroad for running a monopoly. You seem certain that all states prop up Capitalists, and that the hapless little Capitalist is completely unable to do anything about it. Why, then, do states and governments prosecute and outlaw these monopolies? Beyond bribing a governor, or a the captain of the police, there has been virtually no government involvement in these monopolies. There are plenty examples of this type of monopoly, or what is better called a Capitalist-Planned Oligopoly. Quoting one encyclopedist, "The investigation revealed that the companies had worked together for some time to divide the market in line with the market shares each company had at the onset. Executives met secretly to discuss bids, leading all companies to tender exactly the same dollar bid. For instance, when the TVA asked for bids on 4,200 insulators, it received eight bids -- all for exactly $12,936." [*4] The investigation, which sent several wealth Capitalists to prison, revealed absolutely no government involvement.
Archer Daniels Midland corporation was fine $100 million for collusion and price-fixing with other businesses. [*5] Did an investigation reveal the defense of the government? Nope, not there, either. ABN Amro, [*6] Balfour Beatty, Kier Group and Carillion, [*7] Sainsbury's, Asda, Safeway, Dairy Crest, Robert Wiseman Dairies and The Cheese Company, [*8] Siemens, Alstrom, Areva, Schneider and Japanese firms Fuji, Hitachi, Mitsubishi Electric, Toshiba and Japan AE Systems, [*9] Heineken , Grolsch and Bavaria, [*10] -- these are all clear-cut examples of collusion and price-fixing. However, none of them had any serious interference from the government, until they were charged and fined. Without the government, they had organized the oligopoly and kept it functioning perfectly well. For the most part, the actions of these companies can be explained using the interest-and-reaction, economic model I provided above. It seems, then, particularly odd, that you would seriously consider the oligopoly model as only possible with massive state intervention -- because this has very rarely been the case in the past.
Furthermore, there is no demonstration whatsoever that cartels tend to break down, nor is there any evidence or argument for it. The word applied to these cartels by economists is "Natural Monopoly." This is because one firm, managing things for everyone, is capable of keeping production costs significantly low, when compared with multiple firms competing with each other. Consider fifty companies making electricity and providing their own sets of telephone poles; it's very easy to see the tremendous cost of multiple companies, compared to one company that is owned by the consumers. This is generally regarded as the text-book example of natural monopolies, but it applies to all types of monopolies.
It is redundant and misleading to say that companies, when they reach too large a size, become inefficient. There are economies of scale, and diseconomies of scale. Increasing or decreasing, for an economic unit, can produce more efficiency, or less efficiency, but it is not the direction they are going in that determines the result. A firm that upgrades from hand tools to turbines is increasing the scale of production -- and they are becoming efficient. But that same firm, hiring a bunch of middle managers, will become inefficient. It is not increasing the scale of production, or reducing it, that determines the efficiency of a firm. Absolute centralization, or decentralization, will mean ruin. If you reduce a turbine to hand tools, this is decentralizing, just like taking apart the hammer and giving away its pieces to individual workers, is also decentralizing. It doesn't necessarily mean that efficiency grows or declines. If there is something our economy has been certain of, it is that a certain degree of centralization is essential.
An increase in the power of the state? Well, in Uruguay the people went from secret police murdering people in the street to a multi-party system. Then consider Poland -- which was liberated by the Polish Round-Table Talks, and not the internal collapse of the USSR. You might be able to argue that the failings of the Soviet Union contributed to Polish independence; but, likewise, you could just as well argue that the Polish Strikers contributed to the collapse of the authoritarian empire.
Would you prefer a Soviet magistrate of the Dictatorship, or an elective government? Of course there are still social problems in Republicanism; but if I have to choose between having the right to read whatever books I want, and being forced into massive state censorship, I'll take the first. The Bolivian Cochabamba Strike forced out a Capitalist that was trying to bribe the government and buy up the municipal water supply. The French Caribbean General Strikes of this year? Well, for a centuries-old colony, they are now allowed to vote in a referendum for autonomy, and increasing the wages of the workers. Far from "increasing the power of the state," the effect of the General Strike was to give more self-rule to every single person in the colony. Is it not progress when the people move away from authority and towards liberty?
In the words of Mikhail Bakunin, "It is true that the most imperfect republic is a thousand times better than the most enlightened monarchy, for at least in the republic there are moments when, though always exploited, the people are not oppressed, while in monarchies they are never anything else." [*11] There are worse states and there are better states; but this doesn't change the fact that we still want to abolish them all. One government responds to their people's pleas with gunshot, the other responds with courts. If you had a choice, what response would you prefer? And very quickly, you should realize, that it is not really a preference of response, but a preference of government type. That is to say, a preference towards the most libertarian government -- that state that comes closest to anarchy.
Of course, I am grouping together people into classes based on their prejudices and bigotries. Those who rule by militaries, prisons, and police will think and exchange with the people very differently. That is, when compared to those who rule by political parties, elections, and campaigns. I group Stalin with Hitler, the Han and Ming Dynasty, Pinochet, Mussolini, Lenin, the House of Bourbon and the House of Hohenzollern, and every dictator throughout history: certainly, they each have their own individual contributions, but they each follow an amazingly similar trend. And, it is certain, that this trend is different from Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, or Thomas Jefferson. Examine these empires for the amount slaughtered, imprisoned, and oppressed by the government; you will find trends, where the libertarian governments produce much less misery and suffering, than the authoritarian governments. All governments, in fact, are evil; but some are much more so than others. And we can generally make this judgment not based on this or that type of ruler, but on this or that type of government.
Naturally, of course, a mafia is not the libertarian "underground market" that you seek. My only point was that this is the most prominent type of underground market structure that has existed in the past few centuries. And if the mafia prospers and grows because of state prohibition, what is to say that this wouldn't have the same exact effect on the agora? Also, the problem with the Wild West and Classical Iceland is that they were territories colonized by a people; there was no need for a revolution against the government in those areas. So, their tactics in overthrowing the government -- which didn't exist -- are completely useless and inapplicable to our current situation.
The majority of people need to work, and in our industrialized age, they need to work for a Capitalist, becoming alienated from their terms of production. They are exploited by the owner of wealth, and they are oppressed by the state -- both the state and the Capitalist live off of our hard labor. If we want to organize people who have an interest in changing their world, then it is the worker we need to go to. As it is going to be the most common, and the poorest, who benefit from a Social Revolution -- and, given their strength in a General Strike, it is also going to be this group that overthrows the state. That is Anarchist-Syndicalism -- applied to the interest-and-reaction economic model!
*1. "A Dissertation on the Origin of Inequality Among Men," by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, First Part.
(followed by exposition about epistemology and concept formation)
I don't understand why. In both cases, one is taking a conceptual class and making a judgement about an individual member of that class on the basis of probabilities related to that class. (BTW I basically agree with your epistemological observations, which are pretty much the same as Ayn Rand's in "The Objectivist Epistemology.")
I agree. Those are the same praxeological axioms as the Austrian School of Economics. They tend to say (2) more concisely: men act. And for (1) add that men's wants/desires generally exceed goods/services available - IOW scarcity exists. Other axioms are included in Austrian economics, e.g. people prefer more good to less (or equiv. less bad to more), and people prefer benefits sooner rather than later. All in the ceteris paribus sense of course. We express your point that actions may not have the expected results by speaking of the actor benefiting ex ante, i.e. expecting to benefit rather than actually benefiting as a result of the action. We seem to agree on the basics of economics.
So it's no surprise that you quote one of the original Austrians, Jevons. However, modern Austrian economists would disagree with Jevon's claim that "economy does not treat of all human motives. There are motives nearly always present with us, arising from conscience, compassion, or from some moral or religious source, which economy cannot and does not pretend to treat." Nowadays, economists (as in your axioms above) do not care what motivation impels people's wants, only that they have wants. It does not matter to the economist whether the desire comes from desire for eternal life in heaven or to make a buck. They are concerned with demonstrated preferences, not motives.
Here you seem to be making two errors. First, you seem to be taking the set of capitalists and the set of workers to be disjoint. Actually, they overlap considerably, and are better thought of as roles that the same person may play. When you work for an employer, you are in your worker role; when you write a document or create a graphic or design a web page or grow tomatoes (to sell some) you are acting in the capitalist role. A computer is a capital good if you make money with it, as is a garden. I suspect most people are sometimes capitalists and sometimes workers.
The second error is imputing motives by membership in a group. Just because someone is in class X doesn't imply that his motives are entirely determined by membership. You are making the error of some feminists who insist that all men are rapists, or all men promote a patriarchal society. People within these classes have all sorts of goals and motives. I can tell you didn't read that article by Wendy McElroy I linked earlier.
But, except in rare circumstances, that situation only comes about due to State aggression favoring the eventual owners. And generally that situation can only be maintained by continuing aggression by the State. Such monopolies wither away once statist aggression no longer bears. Like the land monopoly given to the Virginia Company in colonial America. Like the monopoly given to the US Postal Service for certain types of mail/package delivery. Except in the rare case of natural monopoly (e.g. nickel mines in North America), monopolies wither away.
Who cares? The local farmer wants to make money and earn a living. He couldn't care less about competing with megacorporations if he can do that. Tying this to the preceding paragraph, the industrial farming corporations only exist due to State aggression favoring such monocultural farming, e.g. wars subsidizing cheap oil, transportation subsidies, crop subsidies, regulations which effect the little guy more than the mega-corps (effectively creating barriers to entry,) and so on. In a stateless society, such megacorporations would mostly go broke. It would be the megacorporations who wouldn't be able to compete with the smaller "lean and mean" firms in a free society.
You quote Gowen as saying, "Every pound of rope we buy for our vessels or for our mines is bought at a price fixed by a committee of the rope manufacturers of the United States. Every keg of nails, every paper of tacks, all our screws..." The question is: Was that cartelization secured and/or maintained by State aggression?
Businesses on their own (without government help) failed to create a sustainable cartel. Only when they used the gun of State were they able to pull it off, starting with railroads.
On the contrary, there is ample historical evidence for it. In US history there were the railroads failure to successfully cartelize until the ICC, steel, oil, and banking (cartelized by the Federal Reserve Act. [ http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/cartelization.pdf ] ) More recently, OPEC is another example of attempted cartels breaking down due to defection. Game theoreticians call it A Prisoner's Dilemma Game - it is always individually rational to defect. Cartels not backed by govt force tend to break down.
We agree on this. But later in the same paragraph you seem to forget the diseconomy of scale part. For any given endeavor/technology there is an optimum size. If you are below that optimum size, growing helps. If you are above that size, shrinking helps. IMO most megacorporations are way above that optimum size, and survive only because of government intervention in their favor. BTW computer tech generally decreases the optimum size.
I don't agree with Bakunin that "the most imperfect republic is a thousand times better than the most enlightened monarchy." Having read Hans-Hermann Hoppe's "Democracy: The God That Failed" I am aware of some important considerations. E.g. A tyranny of the majority can be every bit as oppressive as a monarch. If you get a benevolent monarch, that could be a lot better than a rob-thy-neighbor winner-take-all democracy or republic. Historically, democracies plunder more of the people's wealth than monarchies. Monarchies' wars were more limited - usually property disputes between kings with only professional soldiers fighting and non-combatants generally left alone. Even extensive trading was allowed between non-combatants of warring States. Democracies' wars have been bloodbaths, with little or no distinction between combatant and non-combatant, as all the enemy's subjects are paying taxes into the opposing war machine, and all vilified for ideological reasons. Hence, weapons of mass destruction. Also, democracy legitimizes States in the eyes of the subjects, who buy the myth that they (and not a ruling elite) have real input into decisions. Kings wanted to pass on the wealth of their kingdom to heirs, thus tended to maintain the capital value of their domain. Democratic politicians are merely temporary stewards, so tend to dissipate wealth and borrow heavily. They grab what they can when in power, knowing that after their term or two the consequences will be somebody else's problem. It's not as simple as Bakunin makes it out to be.
I'd prefer the one with courts, whether it be democracy or monarchy. I'd look at how much freedom is enjoyed and the prognosis for liberty, and pretty much ignore the mythology of rulership espoused by the State. We both know that, no matter how pretty the mythology, an elite few rule. If voting for your master makes people hate the State less, then that may be a bad thing.
"A man is none the less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years." - Lysander Spooner
Most prominent in the sense of well-publicized perhaps. But the fact is that the untaxed market ("counter-economy") is ubiquitous. Everything from hobby sidelines to web design to carpentry and plumbing to farmer's markets to cannabis sales is part of this counter-economy. Some places it even dominates the legal taxed market. (E.g. 90% of the mass transportation market of Lima, Peru is "informal," as is over half of the produce/food market, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa in "The Other Path.") How much of production in the US is "off the books" is hard to determine, but it is clear that there is a lot.
True. We agree on this.
I agree with the second part. The first part may or may not be the case. There is nothing wrong with voluntary employment. When aggression is used to exploit an employee, it is almost always due to some kind of statist intervention. I do not believe in the Labor Theory of Value, so do not think that employment is intrinsically exploitive. I believe in the subjective theory of value, or as applied in some contexts, the marginal utility theory of value.
I agree that the worker will benefit most from a stateless society and free markets. I think that encouraging him to believe in the socialist exploitation theory and hate capitalists is counterproductive. We must teach him that the State is the problem. Telling him that productive people who happen to own capital goods is his enemy diverts him from the real problem and creates enemies of allies. If class analysis matters at all, the classes are producers and parasites, not workers and capitalists.