About half a year before the beginning preparations for this essay, I published another called The ‘Right’ Definition of Socialism? I received a generally positive response to it (from the few who actually read it); about the only criticisms I got from it at the time were my clumsy conflating of the terms ‘social democracy’ and ‘democratic socialism,’ as well as my far-too-facile description of the Nordic model as socialist (social democratic was what I meant), when the Scandinavian countries’ political and economic systems would be more accurately described as hybrids of capitalism with strong welfare states. Oh, well: no blogger is perfect.
I did get one other criticism, though. It came from a free marketeer who, in a brief rant, called my arguments “silly”; apparently fond of that word, he used it several times in the paragraph he typed. From what I gather, he’d read only to the passage where I said, “we’ve been drowning in [laissez-faire] for over thirty years,” and decided that what I’d been arguing was so “silly” that he didn’t need to read any further, where I would eventually explain what I meant, namely, that the ‘free market’ has been increasingly dominating world politics and economics since the 70s and 80s. No criticism of what I said later was ever mentioned. So, he probably read about one-fifth of my essay, and felt he knew my entire argument just from having read that much. Hmm…
What was the basis of his judgement that my line of argument was “silly”? As any ‘anarcho’-capitalist will tell us, it is “impossible” (his word, I must emphasize) for the free market and the state to coexist; bear in mind that later in my essay, I not only explained how they can coexist, but also must coexist. He addressed none of that section in his rant, hence my very safe assumption that he never read that far (unless his cognitive dissonance conveniently blotted out that part from his memory).
He then accused my writing style of having been full of “histrionics”: now I’m aware that I’d used exclamation marks and italics occasionally, but I’m not aware that my arguing had involved histrionics (just as I suspect he wasn’t aware of his own histrionics in his rant against me). I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to judge whether my writing of that essay, as well as this one, is a flurry of “histrionics”.
He finished off his rant by dropping a number of names of writers for me to read, and therefore enlighten my terribly uninformed mind. I’m afraid I never bothered to commit those names to memory, so I suppose I’ll never enjoy that enlightenment (perhaps if he’d simply told me what insights those writers had for me, instead of just giving me a reading list, I would have been more convinced of his point of view, one that, frankly, was even more weakly argued than the one I’d got from the Facebook troll who inspired my last essay). Therefore, still shrouded in ignorance, I will respond to his position in this essay. After all, the following arguments, already largely dealt with in my previous essay, obviously must be given with more emphasis and elaboration to cut through all that cognitive dissonance.
I: Not a Laughing Matter
It is easy to laugh at right-libertarians and their naive, ill-informed opinions, but there’s actually a danger with so many people thinking the ‘free market’, with its ever-increasing deregulation and ending of provisions for the poor and disadvantaged, is the solution to contemporary problems. More chimeric still is the idea that the free market will end crony capitalism instead of intensifying it. This delusion of free marketeers only adds to the neoliberal agenda.
On Facebook pages like Still Laughing at ‘Anarcho’-Capitalism (SLANCAP) and Ancap vs. Ancom Debate, anarcho-communists (an-coms) and anarcho-syndicalists like me, indeed, laugh at the ideology of ‘anarcho’-capitalists (an-caps), who really should just call themselves capitalists or free marketeers, since, as I explained in my previous essay, and will again explain below (for such is an-caps’ adamant refusal to listen that these explanations must be ever repeated), anarchism and capitalism cannot coexist.
Now, Martin Luther used to propose laughing at the Devil to make him go away; but the advocacy of capitalism is a kind of ‘devil’ we leftists cannot get rid of merely by laughing at it, as the admins of SLANCAP have observed of every annoying an-cap troll on that page.
However clownish my comrades and I may find the free marketeers’ feeble attempts at logic, churned out like so many fetishized commodities, we must remember that those fools are really the useful idiots of the very cronies they claim to be opposed to, as I will try to prove. It doesn’t matter how well we can out-argue them: they are unwittingly helping the mindless capitalism that is destroying everything.
II: The Relationship Between the State and Capitalism
An-caps dream about a stateless capitalist society, but anyone with a brain knows such an idea is beyond utopian. Capitalists need the state, its laws, and police enforcement to protect private property. This isn’t rocket science: it’s common sense, and it is why many socialists are also, like me, anarchists…the genuine kind.
On the other side of the coin, if the state seizes control of the means of production (nationalization), instead of the workers taking control (as we anarcho-communists would have it), capitalism still wouldn’t disappear. Instead, the state would simply become the new capitalists. The socialist state might use government revenue generously and create universal healthcare and education, as well as other welfare programs to help the poor, but the state would still be the new boss. Indeed, Milovan Dilas’s New Class theory is all about how the bureaucratized Soviet Union created a new ruling class (the Nomenklatura) in spite of its promise to create a classless society. Similarly, countries with mixed economies can each be seen as a kind of state capitalism, with their mix of private and state control of the means of production.
So as we can see, the state and capitalism are always together in some form or another. They are eternal lovers, and so to get rid of the one, we must get rid of the other. Both Romeo and Juliet must die. Even Marxist-Leninists, in a way, imply an acknowledgement of this reality in their theorizing. Once all capitalist societies around the world are annihilated, all the transitional socialist states–set up to replace the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with that of the proletariat–will become superfluous. The state won’t be abolished, Marx and Engels say, it will die out. It will wither away. No more capitalism, so no more state.
The common explanation given by the average an-cap to explain our current–and ongoing–political and economic woes is to claim that the cause isn’t capitalism per se, but rather ‘crony capitalism,’ or ‘corporatism.’ To leftists, such verbiage is redundant. Now for the an-cap, the solution isn’t to eradicate capitalism, but to ‘purity’ it somehow. As the free marketeer sees it, the current incarnation of capitalism is controlled by the state, and therefore corrupted. What he cannot see is that he has the problem upside-down: it is capitalism that is directing the state; this is how things have been ever since capitalism emerged and began replacing feudalism several centuries ago.
An-caps imagine that the solution to our problems is to have free market capitalism, something they bizarrely think has never truly existed. Supposedly, if the state exists, and with it taxes, regulation of the economy, and the like, then ‘real’ capitalism never has existed. This is a would-be clever evasion of responsibility for all the havoc capitalism has caused around the world, except for the fact that no leftist is buying such a disingenuous excuse.
Of course, every benefit of the modern world that we enjoy–every convenience, our smartphones, our computers, and all our other forms of the latest technology–is the creation of a capitalism that ‘has never existed,’ rather than made by over-worked, underpaid factory workers; so we socialists are hypocrites, apparently, for making use of such technology (the fact that socialists need to participate in this economic system in order just to survive, apparently, is no excuse). But I digress…
More to the point, though: why should we believe that the solution to our woes is an intensification of the same neoliberalism we’ve already been increasingly enduring for the past thirty-five to forty years? Now we must understand what the ‘free market’ really is.
III: What Is the Free Market?
An-caps subscribe to a predictably simple-minded definition of the free market, and therefore of capitalism in general: the total absence of a state, leaving businesses to buy and sell freely, and to compete fairly, without any government favouritism. We would thus have a level playing field, where employers and employees make ‘voluntary’ agreements: bosses can pay their workers as little as they like, and make them work as long a set of hours as they wish. Workers would be content in this Never-never land, or if not, they would be ‘free’ to quit and perhaps start their own businesses…though how they would get such an opportunity, with such small scraps of a salary, is never explained. Still, we’re expected to buy into this idea uncritically and think, What joy! What bliss! Indeed, I can see Julie Andrews now, twirling in an Austrian (!) field, singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of markets!” (I hope my histrionics aren’t irritating you too much, dear reader.)
What makes this definition so ridiculously obtuse is not so much its Randian utopianism, but also its dichotomous absolutism, with black capitalism on one side and white centralized government on the other. The truth is that the free market and regulation exist on a continuum of varying shades of grey: sometimes more regulation, sometimes less.
Furthermore, it isn’t a matter regulation per se: regulation is a matter of which things ‘ought’ to be regulated, and which not. Is it regulation for the sake of workers’ rights? Is it regulation to stop businesses from harming the environment? Or, as in the case of regulating against monopolies, is it regulation for the sake of fairness in the market? That latter kind of regulation can prevent the crony capitalism that an-caps claim only an absolutely free market can prevent.
What must be emphasized, ultimately, is that there is no one objective definition of the free market. With varying extents of regulation or deregulation appealing to different capitalists’ or socialists’ needs, how could there be only one?
I don’t subscribe to this writer’s proposed solutions to our economic problems by any stretch of the imagination, but as Ha-Joon Chang relates in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, regulations are like the invisible strings holding up kung fu fighters in movies: we don’t see them, but they’re still there (see pages 3-6, Penguin Books, London, 2010). Many of the laws that we consider humane today, such as those against child labour, were considered unjust from the point of view of free market advocates in the 19th century. Do an-caps want to return to that kind of barbarism? Judging by the not only callous but outright bizarre comments made by an-caps about allowing rape or murder in a stateless society, it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to assume that many of them do want such a return (In my previous essay, The ‘Right’ Definition of Socialism?, scroll down to the SLANCAP meme to see what I’m getting at.).
Unlike the regulations analogous to the invisible strings of movie kung fu fighters, though, there are other regulatory strings that are more like the strings on UFOs in low budget movies: strings obvious to most people, but always missed by an-caps, those Ed Woods of politics. How would a stateless capitalist society be able to protect the capitalists’ private property? Regardless of one’s attitude towards the validity or invalidity of ‘property rights,’ surely common sense would cause even advocates of private property to realize that a state, its laws, and police would all be necessary to keep the capitalist system intact.
IV: The Free Market and the State Must Coexist
An-caps make all kinds of absurd counterarguments in their vain attempts to invalidate this simple fact, ranging from weird ideas like getting their guns and firing at all thieves trying to break in and seize their property (I wonder if the an-caps plan to take amphetamines and stay awake 24/7 so they’re always on guard. Will their employees do it for them? How do the an-caps know their hired guards won’t turn on them?), to employing security services of some kind (privatized police, in other words). With this latter idea, the ‘free market’ will ensure, apparently, that ‘rational self-interest’ will motivate these competing businesses of capitalist cops to do a much better job of protecting property rights than state police, with its monopoly on force and, therefore, lesser incentive to do a better job. We pay the cops, and they curb crime. This might work…if you’re rich.
How are the poor supposed to get protection with such a system, when their pay is so low (no more state-enforced minimum wage, not even a shitty one) they can barely even support themselves? This question remains unanswered. And what of the benefits of privatized police for the rich? How will that pan out? This should not be too difficult to figure out. These hypothetical security services will either be each preferred by each of the many competing companies, making them essentially the soldiers of rival mafias, or the most successful of them will be the shared police force of all Big Business in Ancapistan, the less successful police companies being merged with and/or acquired by the top one. Laws will evolve, giving structure and justification for the new system…and voila! We have a free market STATE.
Police in their present incarnation are already contemptible as it is. In fact, they’ve always been contemptible. They’re bullies with bullets. Can one even begin to imagine how thuggish they would be in Ancapistan?
Here’s the thing about an-caps: the particularly stupid ones clearly haven’t carefully thought through how their utopia will be; the more intelligent (and thus more disingenuous) ones secretly know that it was never their intention to pulverize the state–they merely want to privatize it. Put another way, they want to do what successful right-libertarians have already largely done. They want to be the cronies of their own corporatism.
That ‘real’ capitalism would result in a level playing field, with perfectly fair competition, is false both to capitalism and to human nature. The very competitive nature of capitalism not only makes rival businesses want to come out on top–using any sleazy method they can possibly come up with, including taking advantage of state favouritism–but also compels those businesses to do so. Companies not only want to win in competition, they need to win; and considering all the difficulties a company may have in achieving a victory, it isn’t surprising that many would use quick, easy ways to get that victory, including government regulation in their favour at the expense of their rivals.
Still, an-caps can’t imagine how their idealized conception of ‘true capitalism’ could possibly have a state propping it up. Of course, they have it all arse-backwards, as they do so many things. They imagine that the state has capitalism in chains. And of course, these chains are generally some variety of an abhorrent tyranny called socialism!
Apparently, not only communism, social democracy, and anarchism (the real kind, mind you) are examples of the socialist despotism of the state (Gosh: anarchism, too?), but, according to right-libertarians, so are Fascism, Nazism (whose National Socialist German Worker’s Party is a name taken too much at face value), and, bizarrely, the Obama administration. Ergo, the state and capitalism must be mutually exclusive. Bollocks.
V: The Free Market and the State Can Coexist
Firstly, the state is frequently oppressive, enough for anarchists like me to oppose it, but it isn’t always so in an absolute sense. Some are clearly worse than others. While Salvador Allende’s vision of a socialist Chilean state is far from my own ideals, I would have preferred it over Augusto Pinochet’s free market, authoritarian nightmare any day. The worst states are generally right-wing monstrosities, like his, Hitler’s, Franco’s, or the Bushes’. The best states may be socialist, or quasi-socialist, but are unreliable, as the hopes of creating a just society tend to degenerate into bureaucracies that either result in some kind of Stalinism, or create a Nomenklatura New Class.
Secondly, socialism needs to be clearly defined, and free of right-wing propaganda. Socialism advocates a worker-ruled society. Some socialists advocate using the state to make a transition from capitalism to classlessness (either through a revolutionary vanguard, as the Leninists would have it, or through gradual nonviolent voting, as the social democrats would have it). Others, like me, want a revolution, then complete anarchy immediately afterwards. We all want liberation; we don’t want anything redolent of tyranny.
Many right-libertarians subscribe to the ideas discussed in Jonah Goldberg’s book, Liberal Fascism, which contends that there is much that was left-wing in Mussolini’s Fascism, and in Nazi Germany, and much that has been fascist in the American Left. Goldberg’s weakly-argued thesis was actually meant as a kind of devil’s advocate rejoinder to the Left’s frequent labeling of conservatives in general as ‘fascists’. Now, admittedly, the Left does tend to use the label of ‘fascist’ too…liberally…to describe our ideological enemies. Fascism does refer to a more specific ideology than the popular use of the term does.
But to describe socialism as synonymous with fascism is patently absurd. Painting all conservatives with the same fascist brush may be a stretch, but to paint all leftists with it, even those of the authoritarian variety, is just plain wrong. There have been times when demagogues like Joseph Goebells spoke the language of socialism, and fascism in theory may mix elements of left and right; but this all must be put in its proper political context.
Fascists were essentially political opportunists. In the 20s, Hitler indeed railed against capitalism (as well as communism) to steal as much of the vote of the Left as he could, and gained the following of left-leaning men like Goebells, Ernst Rohm, and the Strassers. But when he came to power, and had the backing of Big Business, he moved the German state decisively to the Right, and purged the Nazi Party of all left-leaning members, including Rohm and the Strassers, during the Night of the Long Knives. The only remaining left-leaning Nazi, Goebells, was deeply saddened to see only the Nationalist agenda fulfilled, but not the Socialist aspect. Rohm and the Strassers were similarly disappointed: hence their assassinations. And the first people to be put into the concentration caps were socialists: communists, anarchists, and social democrats. If Nazis were socialists, they were pretty strange ones.
Predictably, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany backed the right-wing coalition of Nationalists led by Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939; this coalition combined Catholics, monarchists and the fascist Falange party, all of whom felt it was their mission to ‘save’ Spain from the influence of new, modern ideas like…socialism! When the Francoists won, all communists and anarchists were brutally repressed.
Since Fascism is supposed to be a Third Position between capitalism and communism (the closest it really comes to being socialist, which isn’t saying much), the Falangists were opposed to free market reforms. But in 1959, Spain was forced to adopt such reforms because it was facing near bankruptcy, and while there was economic liberalization of a sort that right-libertarians love (the Spanish Miracle), all other aspects of Francoist repression and state brutality remained intact. The free market and an oppressive state went hand in hand.
Francoist Spain isn’t an isolated case of the free market and a tyrannical government existing side by side. Another noteworthy example is when the democratically elected Chilean socialist government of Salvador Allende was toppled by a CIA-backed coup that brought the brutally authoritarian Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973…the other September 11th. Pinochet’s political opponents suffered terribly: between 1,200 and 3,200 people were killed, up to 80,000 people were put in concentration camps, and as many as 30,000 were tortured while he was in power. Through the influence of the Chicago Boys, Pinochet’s government (1973-1990) also introduced free market reforms, which resulted in the so-called ‘Miracle of Chile,’ but also created terrible economic inequality: wages decreased by 8%, budgets for education, health, and housing decreased by over 20% on average, and trade unions were restricted. In 1988, 48% of Chileans lived below the poverty line, and a referendum paved the way for the reestablishment of democracy in 1990.
Finally, we must look at how Reagan’s and Thatcher’s economic reforms show the growth of the free market in the context of the state. The four pillars of ‘Reaganomics‘ were a reduction in the growth of government spending, reductions in taxes, less government regulation, and a tightening of the money supply to reduce inflation. He wanted a return to the free market economics that had preceded FDR’s New Deal and Keynesian economics. As a result, there was a rise in homelessness during Reagan’s first term and a sharp rise in it just after his second had ended.
Free market ideas grew under the administrations of George W. Bush, Clinton (aspects of his administration, anyway–i.e., NAFTA, the Welfare Reform Bill of 1996, and the subsequent budget compromise of 1997), and Obama (the so-called ‘socialist’), in spite of (rather because of) Big Government. Bear in mind NAFTA, which had its roots in the free trade agreement between the US and Canada in 1988, then came into full form, including Mexico, in 1994. This sort of thing has ballooned into globalization, in which worldwide free trade benefits only the wealthy in all countries. Indeed, free trade is really just thinly-disguised capitalist imperialism.
Thatcher similarly introduced free market reforms in the UK, restraining government spending and giving tax cuts to the rich. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown largely continued these policies despite being of the Labour Party; indeed, the name of that party seems historically to have been little more than just a name. This kind of catering to the capitalist class is the essence of the neoliberal agenda, and an-caps are willfully blind to all the evil it causes.
These free market reforms have also been made, to give a few examples, in Australia under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in the 1980s and 90s; also, in New Zealand under Finance Minister Roger Douglas since 1984, continuing in the early 90s with Ruth Richardson; and in Japan under Koizumi from 2001 to 2006. Also, free market influences came in the 1990s in the form of the Washington Consensus, forged by the World Bank and the IMF; free market ideology is also espoused in prominent media such as the Financial Times and The Economist. There were a few moderately Keynesian changes in the 2000s, but things have nonetheless remained largely laissez-faire.
What again must be emphasized is that free market ideals like deregulation and tax cuts don’t have to be absolutes in order to exist in essence. These laissez-faire ideas can, however, increase incrementally over the years, as they most obviously have. Only someone who is either ignorant of history, or unwilling to have his or her an-cap biases challenged by simply doing some reading to see the abundant proof, would not be aware of the monster that laissez-faire has grown into over the past three or four decades.
The problem with an-caps is their absurd notion that the free market can only exist with absolutely no state. No credible proof is ever given that such a state of affairs must be: it is ‘true’ merely because an-caps say it is true. This sort of thing is the essence of religious dogma. One must accept the idea of stateless capitalism on faith. The idea cannot be tested or falsified, because it is only theoretical. Like ‘praxeology,’ there is no empiricism used to verify its validity.
To anyone with a modicum of common sense, however, the free market, as opposed to heavy regulation and high taxes, exists on a continuum from a minarchist black to a Keynesian dark grey, then a social democratic light grey, then a Marxist white, if you will. Minarchism, or capitalism with minimal state involvement, is the closest an-caps will ever come to realizing their chimerical dream…and even the realization of as little as that is highly doubtful. For what is minimized in ‘minarchy’ isn’t the state’s monopoly on force per se, but socialist safety nets for the poor.
VI: As the Free Market Expands, the State Expands
Capitalism is all about growth and expansion: that’s why it’s called capitalism. The capitalist is ever trying to acquire more and more capital. Commodities are sold as exchange values, profits are made, there is reinvestment, and more factories, more branches of businesses, and more commodities are produced and sold, starting the cycle all over again. This cycle goes round and round, and there are no limits to capital’s growth, or at least there mustn’t be any limits.
With this increase in the amount of private property, there must be a proportionate growth in the state apparatus to defend the capitalists’ gains. Not that I agree ideologically with Lenin, but he was right to point out that imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism. When capitalists have run out of markets in their own countries, they must seek out new markets in other countries. This is the basis of modern-day imperialism. It isn’t the state all by itself that causes all these horrible wars; it is the corporations, for which the state is a whore, that cause them.
Capitalist countries create, or propose to create, free trade deals like NAFTA, TTIP, and TPP to do such things as procure cheap labour from Third World countries. Wars are fought because there are profits to be made off of them. Small wonder America has military bases in countries all over the world: this is the state in the service of capitalism.
So, we have all this economic liberalization all over the world, laissez-faire capitalism with a fully intact state, and that state is expanding into the size of a monster in a Japanese kaiju film. Hence the perpetual ‘War on Terror,’ NSA spying, and militarized police brutality in America.
VII: So, What Can An-Caps Hope For?
An-caps need to understand that unfettered capitalism is the problem, not the solution. The free market is not the ‘liberating’ utopia they think it is. Laissez-faire doesn’t free us from the state’s monopoly on force, it brings the state into existence, more and more. They imagine that it’s a choice of either the free market or the state, so if one is opposed to capitalism, one must be a ‘statist.’ I don’t know how many times we an-coms have held our heads in our hands in sorrow from hearing such a ridiculous false dichotomy.
Though I consider a Keynesian-style mixed economy to be preferable to the grotesque income inequality caused by the free market, that is only because anything is preferable to laissez-faire. An-caps seem to forget that the high standard of living enjoyed in the First World during the Golden Age of Capitalism in the mid-twentieth century was to a great extent due to Keynesian capitalism, not the free market variety.
That said, I don’t ultimately want Keynesianism, either, because it allows the ruling class to stave off revolution by throwing a few bones at the poor. I worry that if Keynesianism is revived, and the wolf of the working class is kept at bay for a few decades, another economic crisis, like those of the 1970s, could bring the free marketeers back, reviving the neoliberal nightmare for ensuing decades. For, regardless of whether Keynesian or laissez-faire, capitalism is still capitalism, resulting in wealth inequality and economic crises. I want liberation from that roller-coaster forever, and I see anarchism as the cure.
Here’s what the an-caps miss: capitalism is an inherently unstable system, given to frequent economic crises or recessions, over and over again. It may cause a rise in the standard of living, but this is enjoyed largely by the ruling class; those underneath get very little.
Also, the tyranny the an-caps fear of communism is largely the fault of state socialists (i.e., Leninists), who frequently went after other communists (i.e., anarchists, Trotskyists, etc.) as rapaciously as they did after capitalists. The Bolsheviks didn’t just kill the tsar’s family and capitalists during the Russian Revolution and Civil War of 1918-1921: they also went after Nestor Makhno’s anarcho-communists. The Bolsheviks also put down the anarchist Kronstadt Rebellion in 1921. Finally, there was Stalin’s Great Purge in the 1930s, again killing off or imprisoning large numbers of communists, as well as pro-capitalist reactionaries. Almost all the crimes of communism can be attributed to Marxist-Leninists, Stalinists, Maoists, and the like. Extra-judicial shootings by the anarcho-syndicalist CNT/FAI during the Spanish Civil War resulted in a much smaller death count, and those were far more justified: after all, they were fighting fascists, who were guilty of much greater brutality when they won.
We anarchists do not advocate a transitional state to smooth over the shift from capitalism to communism: Leninists do. We do not want a vanguard to lead us, as we consider such a thing too authoritarian, leading to the tyranny an-caps fear. We want a revolution, but we don’t want anyone having power over us, financially or politically.
An-caps claim that, in the victory of anarchy (by their definition), they will allow an-coms and anarcho-syndicalists to coexist with them; but we see how disingenuous this claim is, considering how compulsively capitalism grows, trying to snatch up everything around it in its quest for more and more profit. Whenever large groups of people live together, there will always be some element of making others conform, to some extent at least, to the community standards approved of by consensus; but anarchism at least strives for an egalitarianism (no racism, no sexism, no homophobia or transphobia, or any other forms of discrimination) that most an-caps couldn’t care less about. We are the ones who want fairness and freedom, not them.
Still, if the an-caps are so terrified of the advent of Stalinism, and they want to debate with those who genuinely advocate authoritarian socialism, my suggestion to them is this: take it up with the tankies, not with anarchists. People like Jason Unruhe (Maoist Rebel News) will go to the mattresses defending Stalin, Mao Zedong, or even North Korea. Go debate with people like him; I promise you a lively discussion. (I may have used some material from Unruhe, since I find his critiques of capitalism and the like useful for my purposes, but don’t be mistaken: I don’t agree with half of his ideas about implementing socialism.)
Don’t equate us anarchists with Leninists, though. Stop painting all socialists with the same brush. Put an end to your closed-mindedness and actually learn a few things about socialism; such an education will effect a much-needed cure to your prejudices. Socialism is not ‘gummint, gummint, gummint.’ Socialism is worker control, sometimes attempted through the aid of the state, sometimes not, as is the case with anarchism.
And capitalism will not lead to the horn of plenty you an-caps think it will. Capitalism is, in fact, a tyranny all its own. Apart from overworking and underpaying workers in countries around the world, especially those in sweatshops in the Third World, capitalism–particularly the free market variety–has either directly or indirectly caused the deaths of at least ten times as many people as the highest estimates given to communism. (For a fuller examination of this, please see my previous essay, The ‘Right’ Definition of Socialism?, under the sub-heading, ‘IV–Capitalist Crimes‘.) The number of people, especially children, who’ve starved to death, in the Third World in particular, over the past twenty to thirty years–all preventable deaths, given how we can easily produce enough food to feed the whole world, but don’t because of the profit motive–is already a higher statistic than the highest estimate of deaths blamed on communism.
So my suggestion to an-caps is that if they really hate the state that much, they should rethink their support for ‘property rights,’ and understand that as long as private property (not personal property, which will remain as such under communism) continues to exist, so will the need for a state. Abolish private property, and the state will either ‘wither away,’ or be abolished, too.
Here’s a secret: I used to be an an-cap (for about half a year or so), then I came to realize that private property had to be abolished in order to smash the state, and I opened my mind to the socialist criticism of capitalism. I went from right to left (I’m not the only former an-cap, either), and I haven’t regretted it. I suggest you an-caps consider doing the same: then you’ll be real anarchists.
The notion that the state and ‘true’ capitalism are incompatible is complete nonsense. A state must exist to protect private property, and deregulation and tax cuts needn’t exist in an absolute sense, though there can always be fewer regulations (or fewer of the sort that are inconvenient to the more successful of capitalists, anyway) and more tax cuts for the rich. Capitalism is always about more for us and less for everyone else.
Working for free is actually something some capitalists want to encourage. Evil. What will be next, I wonder: legalized human trafficking? You see, here’s the thing that capitalists simply don’t want to admit–they’re selfish. An-caps may want to be the bosses pushing for free labour, but I don’t think they’ll want to be the workers in such a situation.
Right-libertarians will never abolish the state, but they can keep on shrinking it, or more accurately, shrink those aspects of the state that serve the poor, while the other aspects of the state–those needed to protect private property at home and abroad (i.e., those of imperialism)–get more and more bloated.
An-caps say they’re anti-state. How adorable: so do the Koch brothers, two of capitalism’s cronies who have been contributing to (right-) libertarian think-tanks and campaigns ever since the late 1970s. Charles Koch actually co-founded the Cato Institute with Edward H. Crane and Murray Rothbard in 1977! David H. Koch was a (right-) libertarian vice-presidential candidate in 1980. They have advocated doing away with such things as Social Security and public schools, and lobbied against universal health care and climate change legislation. They also fund and support organizations that contribute to Republican candidates. David even supported Mitt Romney in 2012.
So all of this ‘anti-state’ but pro-capitalist thinking not only keeps the state alive and well, but it also reinforces the insidious neoliberal agenda. We anarchists may find a lot to laugh at in the ideology of an-caps, but their support of the status quo and its intensification is no laughing matter.