Response To The Anarchist FAQ
by Richard A. Garner
Are "Anarcho"-Capitalists Anarchists?
One anarchist theory FAQ on the internet addresses the question of anarcho-capitalism. It starts by defining anarcho-capitalism out of the anarchist movement, by pointing out that, though anarcho-capitalism is consistent with the dictionary definition of anarchism, it is not consistent with the ideas expressed by historical anarchist movement:
"The 'anarcho'-capitalist argument hinges on using the dictionary definition of 'anarchism' and/or 'anarchy' - they try to define anarchism as being 'opposition to government,' and nothing else. However, dictionaries are hardly politically sophisticated and their definitions rarely reflect the wide range of ideas associated with political theories and their history. Thus the dictionary "definition" is anarchism will tend to ignore its consistent views on property, exploitation, property and capitalism (ideas easily discovered if actual anarchist texts are read). And, of course, many dictionaries "define" anarchy as "chaos" or "disorder" but we never see 'anarcho'-capitalists use that particular definition! "Anarcho"-capitalists claim to be anarchists because they say that they oppose government. As such, as noted in the last section, they use a dictionary definition of anarchism. However, this fails to appreciate that anarchism is a political theory, not a dictionary definition. As dictionaries are rarely politically sophisticated things, this means that they fail to recognise that anarchism is more than just opposition to government, it is also marked a opposition to capitalism (i.e. exploitation and private property). Thus, opposition to government is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being an anarchist -- you also need to be opposed to exploitation and capitalist private property. As "anarcho"-capitalists do not consider interest, rent and profits (i.e. capitalism) to be exploitative nor oppose capitalist property rights, they are not anarchists."
The trouble with this argument, though, is that it says that the reason anarchists cannot be capitalists is because other anarchists in the past weren't, and thus implies that an effective definition of what it is to be an anarchist is "to be like other anarchists." This, obviously is no definition, merely a tautology - "to be an anarchist is to be an anarchist" - so trying define anarchists by how easily they can be fitted into an anarchist tradition is self defeating. If I wanted to know what a plate is, I would expect to be told that is is a shallow flat dish used for eating off, not that a plate is something similar to what people have used as plates in the past. You see the point? Anarchism is a political theory, granted, but political theories change. In order to identify a political theory including its changes, one has to throw off historical anomalies and use an essential and objective definition: "The desire for an absence of government" is such an objective, ahistorical, definition, and such is the dictionary definition that anarcho-capitalism is consistent with.
To further illustrate the difficulties of using an "historical" definition of anarchism to rule out anarcho-capitalism, we can simply point out that the same strategy can be used to rule out anarchist communism. You say that anarchists cannot be capitalists because anarchists have traditionally opposed capitalism; However, until Kropotkin and Cafiero's address to the Congress of the Jura Federation in 1880, there was no organised anarchist communist movement. In fact one of the anarchist communists at the 1880 meeting, Adhemar Schwitzguebel, said "Thus far, the communist idea has been misunderstood among the general populace where there is still a belief that it is a system devoid of liberty". Bakunin equated communism with statism, and Proudhon hated the idea, whether it was small autonomous communes or state communism, and their followers agreed. If it is alright, at present, to say that anarcho-capitalists aren't anarchists because anarchism has historically always been opposed to capitalism, then it would have been equally legitimate for an anarchist in the 1880s to turn around to Kropotkin or Cafiero and say that anarchists couldn't be communists because anarchist hadn't been up until then.
In fact, though, anarcho-capitalism does have historical precedent. There were capitalists in the Abolitionist movement in pre-Civil War USA who advocated the abolition of all government, its services to be provided on the market. Charles Lane is one such example. He advocated "Voluntary Government," market supply of roads, schools, banks, free trade, and state welfare to be replaced by private charity. And if you say that this notion of "Voluntary Government" destroys the notion that their were anarchists in the abolitionist movement, I can simply respond that the fact is that some of Charles Lane's contemporaries told him that they agree with his attack on government, with his desire to replace government services with voluntary ones, but pointed out that "Voluntary Government" was a contradiction in terms. Meanwhile, in France, the laissez faire economist Gustave de Molinari, who was influenced by the anarchist William Godwin, and liberal economist such as Adam Smith and Jean-Baptiste Say, decided that if Smith and Say were right about the inefficiency and harmfulness of government intervention and monopoly, then government monopoly of protective force would be just as inefficient and harmful. Under this government monopoly, he argued, Justice becomes slow and costly, the police vexatious, individual liberty is no longer respected, [and] the price of security is abusively inflated and inequitably apportioned. . . ." He argued that competition ought to be introduced in the provision of security of person and property, "If this industry were free, we would witness as many companies founded as could be usefully formed. Too few, and the high price of security would make the formation of more [companies] profitable. Too many, and the superfluous ones would quickly dissolve. Thus the price of security would alwavs be held to the cost of production". You might try to argue that these people cannot be included in the history of anarchist movements and ideas because they never called themselves anarchists. But neither did Godwin or Tolstoy, but they are included in the history of anarchism. Why are such people included in anarchist history? Godwin was an immense influence on the development of socialism, and Tolstoy advocated socialistic arrangements. But they are not included in anarchist history for advocating socialism. They are icluded because they wanted to abolish government and states, just as these capitalist I have referred to did.
So the "historical" argument against anarcho-capitalism fails, fortunately, though, the anarchist FAQ uses theoretical arguments, namely the belief that under anarcho-capitalism hierarchy will remain. Anarchy means an absence of archy, and hierarchy is an archy, and so is logically incompatable with anarchy:
'"Anarcho'-capitalists assume that generalised wage labour would remain under their system (while paying lip-service to the possibilities of co-operatives -- and if an 'anarcho'-capitalist thinks that co-operative will become the dominant form of workplace organisation, then they are some kind of market socialist, not a capitalist). It is clear that their end point (a pure capitalism, i.e. generalised wage labour) is directly the opposite of that desired by anarchists. This was the case of the Individualist Anarchists who embraced the ideal of (non-capitalist) laissez faire competition -- they did so, as noted, to end wage labour and usury, not to maintain them (indeed, their analysis of the change in American society from one of mainly independent producers into one based mainly upon wage labour has many parallels with, of all people, Karl Marx's presented in chapter 33 of Capital).
However, this argument simply reveals that the authors of the FAQ haven't even been bothered to read the basic texts of anarcho-capitalism. Since Murray Rothbard's death, the leading anarcho-capitalist figure has been David Friedman, whose equivalent of a manifesto is The Machinery of Freedom: A guide to Radical Capitalism. In this text Friedman writes,
"I have described what should be done, but not who should organise and control it. I have not said who should command the libertarian legions.
Friedman goes on to apply the idea that "command, hierarchy, is not the only way of getting things done; it usually is not even the best way" to the organisation of industrial relations:
"Libertarian anarchy is only a very sketchy framework, a framework based on the idea of individual property rights - the right to one's own body, to what one produces oneself, and to what others voluntarily give one. Within that framework there are many possible ways for people to associate. Goods might be produced by giant, hierarchical corporations, like those that now exist. I hope not; it does not strike me as either an attractive for people to live or an efficient way or producing goods. But other people might disagree; if so, in a free society they would be free to organise themselves into corporations.
If, as the anarcho-capitalist Bryan Caplan asserts, under free competition what is efficient survives, and what is inefficient doesn't, is true, and if Friedman is right that agoric institutions are more efficient than gigantic, authoritarian, hierarchical, and centralised corporations, then under free competition, corporations will be replaced by the decentralised, libertarian, agoric institutions. People might try to argue that Friedman just through agorism in to placate socialist anarchist, but that he didn't really believe in a non-hierarchical, decentralised economic order. However, it is obvious to anybody who reads Machinery of Freedom that he did really believe. Why? Because he dedicates a whole chapter to describing how universities could be provided in such a manner:
"A university of the present sort, even if financed entirely from tuition, would still be a centralised, bureaucratic organisation. In a free-market university, on the other hand, the present corporate structure would be replaced by a number of separate organisations, co-operating in their mutual interest through the normal processes of the marketplace. The system thus would be ultimately supported by the students, each choosing his courses according to what he wanted to study, the reputation of the teacher, and his price." (pp66)
There are actually texts amongst libertarian literature covering agoric institutions. For example: MARKETS IN THE FIRM by Tyler Cowen and David Parker, of which Laissez Faire Books writes,
"Central planning is discredited but command-and-control structures still operates in many companies. To what extent can market-based systems apply to management of the firm? As one example, the authors explore the "Hayekian" system in place at Koch Industries Inc."
After all, if communism and central planning a far less efficient than free markets in the economy as a whole, then why should they be any more efficient within firms? Corporations are mini, non-geographically determined, communist states, and as such are vulnerable to all the charges free marketeers make against communist states. Abolishing the corporate structure of large firms and multi-nationals will make running firms cheaper and make their operating processes smoother, as well as allowing for greater diversity and liberty within the structure of a firm.
"Yes. The individualist anarchists desired a society in which there would no longer be capitalists and workers, only workers"
I find this claim to be essentially true, if one is referring solely to Tucker, and defines a capitalist as someone who is paid for the use of capital above and beyond what is necessary to maintain the capital in the same condition as that in which it was lent. Tucker wrote, "Give labourers their liberty, and they will keep their wealth. As for the Somebody [the usurer], he, stripped of his power to steal, must either join their ranks or starve" thus indicating that he wished the capitalist to join the ranks of the working class. On these grounds I think that it is fair to assume that Tucker was an anti-capitalist, and thus a socialist. Tucker said that socialism was "the belief that the next important in progress is a change in man's environment of an economic character that shall include the abolition of every privilege whereby the holder of wealth acquires an anti-social power to compel tribute." (Instead of a book, pp365) According to this Tucker is a socialist, too. The fact that he repeatedly classed himself as a socialist makes it odd that anarcho-capitalists call him a capitalist. What makes it more odd is that he expressedly wanted to abolish interest, rent, and profit. Tell me, how many capitalists want to do that?
The FAQ goes on:
"Moreover, such an aim logically implies a society based upon artisan, not wage, labour and workers would, therefore, not be separated from control of the means of production and so sell the product of their labour, not the labour power itself."
Far from it. Tucker writes that, "the minute you remove privilege, the class that now enjoy it will be forced to sell their labour, and then there will be nothing but labour with which to buy labour, the distinction between wage-payers and wage-receivers will be wiped out, and every man will be a labourer exchanging with fellow labourers. Not to abolish wages, but to make every man dependent upon, wages, and to secure him his whole wages is the aim of Anarchistic Socialism." In the section from which these words are quoted ("Labour and its Pay", in Individual Liberty) Tucker has specifically differentiated between labour and products, and has challenged Kropotkin to answer whether individuals have a right to "buy the labour or products of others". This means that in the two sentences quoted he has quite plainly said that in the society he aims to achieve usurers will be forced to sell their labour, as distinct from their products, and thus their labour power. He defines wages as "the purchase and sale of labour", thus he is quite happy with a world in which people's livings depend on having to sell their labour power as a wage, a fact these quotes make plain.
"Such opposition to wage slavery was a common thread within the individualist anarchist tradition - indeed, given its regular appearance, we can say it is almost a defining aspect of the tradition. For example, taking Josiah Warren (the "father" of individualist anarchism) we find that "[t]o men like [him] . . . chattel slavery was merely one side of a brutal situation, and although sympathetic with its opponents, refused to take part in the struggle [against slavery] unless it was extended to a wholesale attack on what they termed 'wage slavery' in the states where Negro slavery no longer existed." [James J. Martin, Men Against the State, p. 81] Such a view, we may add, was commonplace in radical working class journals and movements of the time. The individualist anarchists identified capitalism as "wage slavery," (like social anarchists) because they saw that profit, rent and interest were all forms of exploitation."
It is debatable that the individualist anarchists saw profit, rent, and interest, totally as exploitation. In "The attitude of Anarchism to Industrial Combinations," Tucker said that he was opposed to "monopoly profit". Any economist could tell you that the level of profit made in a perfectly competitive market - thus the direct opposite of any monopoly situation - is "normal profit", enough to cover costs and keep the firm in the market (or attract it in the first place). Such a level of profit is obviously necessary for any market to function (for other wise firms would go under or wouldn't even start up in the first place), and is more or less equivalent to a marginal product for the entrepreneur. This is not monopoly profit. Monopoly profit is the level of profit that is above normal profit - what economists call surplus profit - and could only exist if a firm's prices were protected against competition. Otherwise all prices would fall to such a level as to make normal profit.
Also, in Individual Liberty there are two sections with the word "Rent" in their title. First is just called "Rent". In this section Tucker says, "Edgeworth says that from tenant to landlord there is payment for damage, and this is just rent; and there is payment for use, and this is unjust rent. I say there is payment for damage, and this is indemnification or sale, and is just; and there is payment for use, and that is rent, and is unjust." As we know, Tucker says that private property in land should be restricted to occupation and use, thereby meaning that a tenant is an owner and so has to pay this rent to nobody. However, the next section is titled "Economic Rent". Here Tucker says, "Liberty has never stood with those who profess to show on strictly economic grounds that economic rent must disappear or even decrease as a result of the application of the Anarchistic principle. It sees no chance for that factor in the human constitution which makes competition such a powerful influence - namely, the disposition to buy in the cheapest market - to act directly upon economic rent in a way to reduce it. The occupant of land who is enabled, by its superiority, to undersell his neighbour and at the same time to rap, through his greater volume of business, more profit than his neighbour, enjoys this economic rent precisely because of his opportunity to exploit the consumer's disposition to buy cheap. In the first place, if I have a right to a share of the advantages that accrue from the possession of superior land, then that share is mine; it is my property; it is like any other property of mine; no man, no body of men is entitled to decide how this property shall be used." Here he is saying specifically that an owner of land (which means the user and occupier) is entitled to benefit, not simply by working, but by owning land. He is allowed to collect the returns to a factor of production, from consumers.
In addition, on the matter of interest, Tucker said, in answer to a letter to liberty, that "she [the writer of the letter] suppose the Anarchists to condemn the contract between the borrower and lender, per se; where as the truth is that they condemn, not the contract, but the conditions of compulsory restriction and limitation, under which the contract is now necessarily made if made at all." He obviously, then, thought that if a person wanted to lend at interest, on a free market, and somebody wanted to borrow at interest, they are perfectly entitled to. And, what is more, he thought such an event would occur, as he says "By way of caution, let me add that the Anarchists do not look forward to a time when there will be no sporadic cases of payment for the use of capital." Thus interest may occur in an individualist anarchist society, and such an occurrence is not would not be unjust.
Moreover the individualists did not "identify capitalism as 'wage-slavery', (like the social anarchists) because they saw profit, rent, and interest were all forms of exploitation". This is because wages are different things from profit, rent and interest. Simply saying, then, that profit, rent and interest are all forms of exploitation is not the same as saying "selling your labour power to somebody willing to pay for is something you have no right to do, no matter how much you want to, and no matter how much you think that your body, and thus the benefits from using it, are yours to give to others, or not to give, as you choose".
And in addition it is grossly untrue to say that "opposition to wage-slavery was a common thread within the individualist anarchist tradition - indeed, given its regular appearance, we can say that it is almost a defining aspect of the tradition". David Miller, in his book Anarchism, says,
"It will be seen that Warren's system would work best, if it would work at all, within a small community of farmers and artisans, where demand was relatively stable, costs of production could be estimated accurately, and the population was sufficiently fixed for confidence in the labour-notes to build up. Nonetheless the Warrenites did envision the application of their ideas to industry, and indeed envisaged something akin to a capitalist firm, with a boss employing subservient workers. The great difference would lie in the distribution of rewards. The industrialist would get the same income as his workers (assuming equal labour-time), since neither he nor anyone else would receive a return on capital invested in the firm."
Thus it seems plain that the original individualist anarchists (before the adoption of mutual banking and Proudhonian ideas) were happy with a wage system, with bosses employing workers.
Moving on, we can look at Stephen Pearl Andrews' work, Science of Society. James J. Martin wrote of this book,
The publication of Andrews' analysis of Warren's principles in 1852 under the general title The Science of Society was henceforth regarded by anarchists as the finest statement of Warrenism ever written.
In The Science of Society Andrews wrote,
"We come, finally, to the consideration of the much-abused 'Wages System.' . . . It is not all men who are made for designers, contrivers and directors. That is perhaps one of the most exact generalisations of mankind by which they are divided into Originators, Organisers and Exectutors. . . . . Naturally each is content with the performance of his own function, according to his organisation. The few only will desire to lead; the mass of mankind will prefer to follow, so soon as an equality of rewards renders it alike honourable either to follow or to lead.
Hence Stephen Pearl Andrews claims that the wage system is justified. This has implications for the whole individualist anarchist tradition due to Andrews' influence. James J. Martin, on this subject writes,
"The American anarchist Henry Appleton declared him to be 'the intellectual giant of America.' The English anarchist Henry Seymour said he was 'probably the most intellectual man on this planet.' Benjamin Tucker's estimate, probably the soundest, was: 'Anarchists especially will ever remember him because he has left behind the ablest English book ever written in defence of Anarchist principles'. That Tucker's followers were to claim substantially the same for him at a later time illustrates the continuity of intellectual content in the American anarchist movement."
Moving on to Lysander Spooner, Martin writes "The 'economical propositions' he set forth to establish hinged on the proposition that it was a principle of natural law that every man was entitled to 'all the fruits of his labour.' That this might be feasible, it was necessary that every man be his own employer or work for himself in a direct way, since working for another resulted in a portion being diverted to the employer." This seems to vindicate the claim that some individualist anarchists were opposed to employment and wage labour, and I have not seen any writing by Spooner to contradict this claim. However Martin quotes a Spooner in a footnote, writing "He was not so taken with Josiah Warren's 'cost-the-limit of-price' theory, however; 'I heard a lecture on the subject by Mr. Warren a few months ago, but it did not convince me.' Spooner to Andrew's, July 4, 1851, Baskette Collection." What effect this has on your interpretation of individualist anarchist tradition, I am not sure, yet I feel that it is pertinent.
And so we pass onto the Tuckerites. Here the most obvious starting point is not Tucker, but John Henry MacKay. Everybody who has read of the debate between individualist and communist anarchists knows Mackay's famous words:
"Would you, in this system of society you call 'free Communism,' prevent individuals from exchanging their labour amongst themselves by means of their own medium of exchange? And further: Would you prevent them from occupying the land for personal use?"
To MacKay this implies a number of things. 1, that individuals have a right to sell their labour if they have a right to liberty. 2, that they have a right to private property. Note that he talks about occupying the land for personal use, and says that this is property. No doubt the you who have written this FAQ would believe that this is the right of possession (Proudhon says that possession is a fact not a right, in which case workers already have possession). The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines possession as, "Possessing; actual holding or occupancy; (law) visible power of exercising such control as attaches to (but may exist apart from) lawful ownership." To actually use and occupy a resource is to possess it. To hold it as one's own domain, to have an exclusive right over it, to have absolute legal and moral control over it is to own it as property. If workers are to have absolute legal and/or moral control over the means of production, then they must have property rights in the means of production. Such a definition of property may be implicitly drawn from the economic analysis of law. The economic analysis of law says that a property right is efficient if it gives control of an article of wealth to the person most able to control it in the way that producers greater benefits and fewer costs. Thus the economic analysis of law defines property as a right to control wealth. If workers are to have a right to control wealth, then they must have a right to own wealth. Thus possession is not enough for workers control, as workers presently possess the means of production, but they are owned either by the state or by capitalists, and what MacKay is asking is whether, in free communism, a person has a right to control the land free from interference.
From MacKay we can pass to Tucker. State Socialism and Anarchism contains a suggesttion that under free banking wages would increase. Wages could only increase if they existed and thus Tucker believes that wages would exist in anarchy. Likewise your FAQ contains a quote from Tucker on the relations between employers and workers in anarchy, so there must be employment of wage labourers in Tucker's anarchy. Moreover, obviously continuing from MacKay's argument Tucker wrote,
"In No 121 of Liberty, criticising an attempt of Kropotkine to identify Communism with individualism, I charged him with ignoring 'the real question of whether Communism will permit the individual to labour independently, own tools, sell his labour or his products, and buy the labour or products of others." In Herr Most's eyes this is so outrageous that, in reprinting it, he puts the words 'labour of others' in large black type. Most being a Communist, he must, to be consistent, object to the purchase and sale of anything whatever but why he should particularly object to the purchase and sale of labour is more than I can understand. Really, in the last analysis labour is the only thing that has any title to be bought or sold. Is there any just basis of price except cost? And is there anything that costs except labour or suffering (another word for labour)? Labour should be paid! Horrible, isn't it? Why, I thought the fact that it is not paid is the whole grievance. 'Unpaid labour' has been the chief complaint of all Socialists, and that labour should get its reward has been their chief contention. Suppose I had said to Kropotkine that the real question is whether Communism will permit individuals to exchange their labour on their own terms. Would Herr Most have so shocked? Would he have printed that in black type? Yet in another form I said precisely that."
The emphasis on the ors is mine, and indicates that in this rather mocking argument Tucker defended the right to buy and sell labour power. In Instead of a Book Tucker wrote,
"When this struggle comes, the weak point in Mr. Bellamy's position will be located. I point it out in advance. It lies in the enormous assumptions that labourers, in order to receive the profits which now go to the employers, must become their own employers, and that the only way by which they can do this is to assume through their salaried agents the conduct of industry. The anarchistic solution shows that there is no such must and no such only. When interest, rent, and profit disappear under the influence of free money, free land, and free trade, it will make no difference whether men work for themselves, or are employed, or employ others. In any case they can get nothing but that wage for their labour which free competition determines. Therefore they do not need to become their own employers. Perhaps, however, they will prefer to do so. Any of them that choose will be enabled throgh mutual banking to secure the means of production whereby to conduct whatever industry they desire." (pp475)
We can pass from Tucker right up to the modern day individualists. In Individualism Reconsidered, by Joe Peacott of the BAD Brigade, the author writes, "Because of this widespread competition in the marketplace, those who choose to continue to sell their labour to others would be able to demand wages that reflected the full value of their labour." This shows that Joe has obviously said that in anarchy people will have a right to sell their labour.
Thus, even though you might see it as inconsistent with individualist anarchism that they should defend the employment of wage-labour, it is quite untrue to say that opposition to "wage-slavery" is an underlying belief that unites the whole individualist anarchist tradition. We have been through the whole individualist anarchist tradition to prove that it isn't.
"More importantly, as far as the employer/employee social relationship goes, it does not fit in well with Tucker's statement that "if the individual has the right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny." [The Anarchist Reader, p. 151] As we have argued in Section B.4 (How does capitalism affect liberty?), wage labour produces a very specific form of "external government" in the workplace, namely hierarchical management structures. Therefore, logically, Individualist Anarchism (like Social Anarchism) must oppose all forms of wage labour in favour of self-government in production (i.e. co-operative, not wage, labour).
The first sentence ignores the fact that workers, since the abolition of slavery, voluntarily contract to work for employers. Tucker says, "This, then, is the Anarchistic definition of government: the subjection of a non-invasive individual to an external will." He wants "no use of force, except against the invader." Tell me, is there a difference between invasion and invitation? Obviously there is: one is forceful, the other is consensual. Workers consent to their employment, so it is not an act of invasion, it occurs in accordance with the will of the worker, so the worker is not absolutely controlled by the employer. However, I don't want to dwell on this as I will go into it further later. And as for the first paragraph in the above quote from the FAQ, merely pointing out that it would be logical for the individualists to oppose the "external government in the workplace" does not imply that they did oppose the "external government in the workplace." Therefore, by pointing out that you think that opposition to hierarchy in the firm logically follows from the individualist's anarchism, you are actually making a criticism of the individualists - by showing them to be inconsistent - rather than describing how their beliefs differ from capitalists.
The quote from Proudhon was taken from the third part of the fifth study in General Idea of The Revolution in the Nineteenth Century. In that same part of the book Proudhon writes,
"Anybody who is capable of cutting and sewing up a pair of shoes can get a license, open a shop, and hang out a sign, 'So-and-So, Manufacturing Shoe Merchant," although there may only be himself behind the counter. If a companion, who prefers jouneyman's wages to running the risk of starting in business, joins the first, one will call himself the employer, the other the hired man; in fact, they are completely equal and completely free."
Thus Proudhon said that it was all right to employ wage-labour.
"Tucker considered private property in land use (which he called the "land monopoly") as one of the four great evils of capitalism."
The land monopoly was ownership of land beyond what an individual could use and occupy, not private property in land, full stop. These words from Tucker possibly say all that it is necessary to say on the subject:
"Man's only right to the land is his might to it. If his neighbour is mightier than he and takes the land from him, then the land is his neighbour's until the latter is dispossessed in turn by one mightier still. But while the danger of such dispossession continues there is no society, not security, no comfort. Hence men contract. They agree on certain conditions of land ownership, and will protect no title in the absence of the conditions fixed upon. The object of the contract is not to benefit all equally from the land, but to enable each to hold securely at his own disposal the results of his efforts expended upon such portion of the earth as he may possess under the conditions agreed upon. It is principally to secure this absolute control of the results of one's own efforts that equality of liberty is instituted, not as a matter of right, but as a social convenience. I have always maintained that liberty is of greater importance than wealth, - in other words, that man derives more happiness from freedom than from luxury, and this is true; but there is another sense in which wealth, or, rather, property, is of greater importance than liberty. Man has little to gain from liberty unless that liberty includes the right to control what he produces. One of the chief purposes of equal liberty is to secure this fundamental necessity of property, and, if property is not thereby secured, the temptation is to abandon the regime of contract and return to the reign of the strongest.
This passage makes a few interesting points, that are worth highlighting: First, Tucker that that ownership of land should be a matter of expediency, not right; second that ownership of land was a promise from others to be protected and given security over however much land the contract entitles you to; and third, he says that anarchism secures property - and therefore does not abolish it.
This, I think, contradicts the belief that Tucker considered all property in land as an evil. However, I do predict one reply: You may point out that in the proposal quoted above Tucker never once claimed that what the contract entitled its parties to was called property.
However, Auberon Herbert once complained of individualist anarchism that it would throw property right, principally in land, into confusion. Tucker gave a response that property rights in land would be generated in much the same manner as he described in the quote above (and implicitly implied that whilst inequality would be diminished, some would remain). His purpose was to prove to his Voluntaryist opponent that (a) property rights could be established and enforced by voluntary association, and (b) that the law enforcing these rights "will be so flexible that it will shape itself to every emergency and need no alteration. And it will then be regarded as just in proportion to its flexibility, instead of as now in proportion to its rigidity."
It is pertinent to look at the suggestion that Tucker may have only wanted private property over products, and not the means of production, or capital. Tucker himself dismisses this suggestion:
"Proudhon scoffed at this distinction between capital and product. He maintained that capital and product are not different kinds of wealth, but simply alternate conditions or functions of the same wealth; that all wealth undergoes an incessant transformation from capital into product, and from product back into capital, the process repeating itself interminably; that capital and product are social terms; that what is product to one man immediately becomes capital to another, and vice versa; that if there were but one person in the world, all wealth would be to him at once capital and product; that the fruit of A's toil, when sold to B, becomes B's capital (unless B is some unproductive consumer, in which case it is merely wasted wealth, outside the view of social economy); that a steam-engine is as much a product as a coat, and that a coat is as much capital as a steam-engine; and that the same laws of equity govern the possession of the one that govern the possession of the other."
If I made a hammer, it would be both a product and a means of production, so if I am entitled to the product of my own labour, then I am entitled to capital.
However, I agree with the FAQ's assertion that the individualist anarchists were socialists. They wanted a world with greater equality, and anarcho-capitalists don't. I also agree with the FAQ's criticism of Bryan Caplan's suggestion that the individualists looked upon the reduction of interest as a mere beneficial side effect of free competition in banking. Tucker himself, though I cannot find the quote, asks what the point will be in free banking if it didn't reduce interest rates. The answer is an end to inflation and the business cycle, but his question indicates that he didn't look upon the abolition of interest as a mere side effect.
Why do Social Anarchists Reject Individualist Anarchism?
This section of the FAQ is the word that, traditionally, I am most obliged to answer, as it more than any other, is a criticism of positions close to my own. It starts:
"Individualists mostly base their economic ideas on the free market. However, as we have argued elsewhere, competition for profits in a free market creates an numerous problems - for example, the creation of an 'ethics of mathematics' and the strange inversion of values in which things become more important than people."
I don't know what is meant by an ethics of mathematics, unless it is talking about distribution according to utility. If a piece of wealth is of greater utility to me than to you, then I should have it, if our objective is to maximise social utility. This applies, however, in a commune as much as in a market: Imagine that you are in a commune, and there is a decision that has to be made concerning a road. The road is very busy, and often becomes congested and dangerous to pedestrians. The decision is whether to build a pedestrian crossing or not. Suppose that having the road clear is of greater utility to drivers than a crossing is to pedestrians, by a multiple of two. In that case, having no pedestrian crossing produces a greater degree of welfare than having the pedestrian crossing. Building the pedestrian crossing would be an economic worsening. Now imagine that it the pedestrian crossing was of greater utility to the pedestrians than having a clear road was to the driver by a multiple of two (the pedestrian crossing is twice as useful or satisfying to pedestrians as a clear road is to drivers). In this case, in order to maximise social welfare we ought to build the crossing. However, imagine that using the resources to build the crossing meant that we didn't have enough to build a hospital, and that the hospital produced three times as much utility as the crossing did. If we built the hospital, then we wouldn't be able to build the crossing, and the drivers would have a free road which is worth less to them than the crossing would be to pedestrians. However, we would still have maximised social utility or welfare, as we have built something that makes people even better off than the crossing would make pedestrians. If the commune should be run in an efficient manner - one that producers a situation that any change will not produce a net increase in utility, or welfare - then however the commune is administered, it ought to be by a process that would result in the hospital being built, and not the crossing. In exactly the same way, utilitarians defend the free market by saying that, if a commodity is owned by one person, but is worth more to another (is of greater utility) the free market will make sure that that person will get it. The differences in utility are mathematically represented, but it makes no difference.
Now I believe that a just society is not merely one in which rights are respected and defended, but also one that people would be better off in. This means that, if I think that people's rights ought to be respected if it makes society just, then I believe that respecting rights makes people better off than they would be in another society. This means that I have to calculate the advantage having a particular right to not having it. Take free speech. If we give fascists free speech, then it is possible that this will produce more fascists. Likewise with other forms of speech - they may promote, and thus bring about harm. Harm is costly. So, should speech be regulated, or should it be free from regulation? Well, suppose that speech (or other forms of expression) were regulated, this would mean gathering every single piece of information up and analysing and testing it, and predicting its outcome. Everything anybody expressed in any manner, anywhere, at any time would have to be monitored. This, even in a world without money, has costs, in resources, time and effort. Resources might be used in other ways that promote utility, time can be better used, and effort is always bad, so employing each of these to regulating the expressions people made would be costly. Suppose we didn't employ them, but left speech free. This seems to raise costs as harmful things might be said. However, other things will be said too. When people say that we shouldn't have free speech, because then fascists can promote their cause, they forget that people can promote opposing views at the same time. People will only accept fascism if they knew know better alternative. In addition, from the day we are born we have to weigh up the costs and benefits of the decisions we take, through observation of those taking similar ones, and through our experiences of doing so for ourselves. If we practice this we become better at it, and so more able to weigh up the costs and benefits. Thus nature provides us with a means of filtering out harmful points of view and replacing them with beneficial points of view. Thus liberty produces the benefits of regulating speech, but without the costs.
This is an ethics of mathematics, but if you think that making people better off is a moral objective, then you are in favour of an ethics of mathematics, and anarchist communists think that the poverty in the world is morally unjustifiable, and so making the poor better off is a moral objective. This is because you want to make them better off by some sum.
As for the notion of market economics creating an ethical system where things are valued more than people, that is rot. Imagine that a charity was selling goods at £1 so that it could raise money for the homeless, yet down the road another store was selling similar for only 50p. Suppose also that I value the good as much as £1.50. I go into the charity shop and buy their good. Why? Surely because their commodity was worth more to me than the other shop, which means that (if the commodities were homogenous) I helping homeless people at least 50p more than I value not helping them at all. In fact, I could have given a whole pound to them. This is still market economics, but in the example I am paying for the welfare of homeless people, not simply for a piece of property. It is equally possible that the charity shop wasn't selling anything, but I would have been happier giving them money rather than spending it in the other shop.
The belief that market economics creates an ethical system where property is given more weight than people is essentially the same as the anti-market slogan, "peoples rights, not property rights." The only time property is given more rights than people is when people say that I should not be able to cut down a tree on my land, because it is of historical or scientific importance. That is a rare example of property rights over people rights. When I say that I should have X and you shouldn't because X is my property, it is not X's rights I am thinking of, but my own, and I am a person, so I am prioritising one person over another, not property over another person. The question of whether workers control a factory or whether capitalists control it, then, is not a question of property over people, but of people's rights over people. It is not the property that matters, but the people involved. David Friedman wrote, of the slogan, "property rights vs. human rights",
"But property rights are not the rights of property; they are the rights of humans with regards to property. They are a particular kind of human right. The slogan conjures up an image of a black 'sitting in' in a southern restaurant. That situation involves conflicting claims about rights, but the claims are all property rights. The restaurant owner claims a right to control a piece of property - his restaurant. The black claims a (limited) right to the control of part of the same piece of property - the right to sit at a counter stool as long as he wants. None of the property claims any rights at all; the stool doesn't pipe up with a demand that the black respect its right not to be sat upon." (Machinery of Freedom, pp3)
However, note that so-called revolutionary anarchists are prepared to kill people in order to get things. Common ownership involves a different bundle of property rights than private ownership, but they are still property rights, and people who are prepared to kill in order to bring about common ownership are quite obviously valuing people's rights to things more than people themselves.
The FAQ goes on:
"For in order to survive, banks - like any company - will have to make money, and so they will wish to lend to the most profitable firms. Capitalist firms are exploitative, thus allowing them to expand faster than co-operative firms. Hence even mutual banks will wind up preferring to lend to capitalist firms in order to survive on the market."
In order to make a profit, firms have to do two things: Sell goods, and cut costs. If one firm tried to keep up its prices by curtailing its supply, and thus keeping its profits up, then the high than normal rate of profits would attract other firms that would make up the lost supply. If firms formed cartels or colluded against consumers, so as to maintain high prices, then again the higher than normal rate of profit would either attract new members to a cartel, thus masking the share of the monopoly profit smaller, or else under cutting the cartel. In short, firms in a free market can only make a profit by serving the needs of their customers. This objection to mutual banking implies that banks should lend to those that don't make a profit. This implies that capital should go not only where it is needed, but also where it isn't, or to where it will be wasted! Besides, mutual banks aren't in it for the money. Tucker said that the incentive to start a mutual bank comes, not from the desire to make money, but not to have to pay it:
"Is the desire to borrow money at less than one per cent, instead of at four per cent or more, a sufficeint consideration to induce men to form such banks as I have described?"
Mutual banks, as described by James Martin in the section on William Greene, in Men Against the State are started by borrowers, for the explicit purpose of reducing interest, not for getting rich off it. They do not, then, need the sort of incentives that the FAQ claimed that they need, because they are not run by lenders seeking to make a profit, but by the borrowers.
In addition, this rot about capitalist firms being able to make more profit than co-ops is simply untrue. Christopher Eaton Gunn, in Workers' Self-Management in The United States said,
"In the short run, with capital stock fixed and equal for both the labour-managed and the capitalist firm, the level of optimal employment in the labour-managed firm is less than or equal to the employment level in the capitalist firm. The capital-labour ratio of the labour-managed firm is greater than or equal to that of the capitalist firm. In the ideal case in which the competitive capitalist firm is making zero profits, the marginal and average revenues of the capitalist firm are equalised [perfect competition], and labour employment is the same for both types of firms. In that case the income per worker in the labour managed firm is equal to the wage for workers in the capitalist firm. If the capitalist firm is making more than normal economic profits [imperfect competition], its wage rate will be lower than the income per worker of the labour-managed firm.
This analysis shows that a labour managed firm can operate perfectly well in a free market economy. The labour managed firm generally employs fewer people than a capitalist one, yet its workers earn more. This means that whilst it may appear initially that it is harder to find a job in a labour managed sector, there is a high incentive to do so, as you will get more than you do in a capitalist managed sector. In addition, labour managed firms tend to reach equilibrium at a smaller size, which means that there is less of an argument to say that monopolies while arise out of free competition, even if we had something to worry about from this possibility (which we don't). This notion of capitalist firms having an advantage through being exploitative is pretty meaningless anyway.
"And we may note this 'love it or leave it' attitude of Tucker in regards firms in an anarchy ignores the fact that following orders is not a form of liberty and is degrading even when you get the full product of your labour. Again we see a support for contract theory creating authoritarian, not libertarian, relationships between people.
There are a number of hilarious points in this quote, that make it is easy to use to ridicule the authors of this FAQ. The quote says that "following orders is not a form of liberty," and quite right it is, too. If following orders were a form of liberty, then by being coerced into obeying orders, I would be coerced into being more free - an easy contradiction that the FAQ quite rightly disposes of. However, employed workers contractually agree to follow their boss's orders. The authors respond to this point by indicating that this is another example of how contract theory creates authoritarian and not libertarian social relationships. The FAQ says that a boss attempts to control employees everyday, and thinks that this is evidence that the boss is coercing the worker. Then the FAQ says, "[T]o 'coerce' bosses by removing their authority to control (i.e. govern) others is not itself coercion but a blow struck for liberty. It is not coercive to prevent others from coercing!"
The principle that may be deduced from this is this: To coerce somebody is to attempt to control them, whether the person controlled has consented to being controlled or not. Coercion necessarily violates liberty, so the forcible interference in somebody's ability to coerce (control) another is not coercive, but is protecting the rights of the coerced. The problem I have with this is the question of consent. The FAQ has clearly said that even though hierarchical and controlling structures may be voluntarily formed, they are still coercive, and thus those in control ought (a moral imperative) to be deprived of their power to control, whether they like it or not. The example in question is of a boss controlling his employee with her consent.
To test the logic of this principle we can use another example - a BDSM sexual relationship. A large number of libertarians and anarchists adopt their political positions having already adopted liberal attitudes towards sex: If it is between consenting people, and doesn't harm anybody else, then it is alright, is the usual position. BDSM stands, I think, for Bondage, domination, sadism and masochism. Perhaps an addition should be made to make the position complete: submission. In a BDSM relationship, typically, one or more people voluntarily adpts a position of subservience to one or more other people, and these latter people adopt a position of dominance. One person is the slave, the other the master. One person, controls, the other obeys. Practitioners of BDSM are generally very big on consent. This is indicated by the fact that when SM is used, and one party tortures another, code words are used so that the victim, the slave, can indicate when he or she has had enough. Or limits are agreed upon, based upon what the victim feels he or she can take. People can become slaves for long periods of time, and when they do, frequently a slave contract is formed (some of these can be found reproduced on the internet if you look in the right places), and sometimes slave auctions take place, in which quite literally, one person is sold by another person, to another person - treated as property.
BDSM is, then, a perfect example of a situation arising voluntarily, through the explicit consent of all parties, in which people are controlled and dominated by others. Thus applying the logic of this FAQ, BDSM is immoral, and such situations ought to be prevented from arising, by removing the control of the dominant over the submissive. Doesn't matter whether the situation is voluntary or not, the authors of the FAQ will be there to rescue me from the oppressive exploitation inflicted upon me by the person I chose to inflict it on me, whether I want the authors to or not. They have to admit that they are willing to violate the privacy of people's sexual lives in order to prevent immoral activities where one person consents to be controlled by another.
Rape is immoral. Any libertarian will agree with this, as rape necessarily means forcibly interfering in how another chooses to live his or her life. Any non-consensual sexual activity necessarily involves rape, and it is perfectly alright to use force to prevent rape. However, the logic of this FAQ's argument is that there are other sexual situations that it is morally justifiable to use force to prevent. Some libertarians they are, then! Consenting adults, beware!
I have had objections given to me in the light of this argument against that FAQ. The first is that the FAQ explicitly says that workers should liberate themselves, not be liberated, so the argument from the FAQ is not that it is justifiable for others to forcibly intervene in a voluntary arrangement that creates hierarchy, but that those low down in the hierarchy should liberate themselves. However, this misses the point. My argument is not about whether people should be liberated or whether they should liberate themselves, but about whether people in these voluntary hierarchical arrangements are coerced or whether their liberty is un-violated. In the example of a BDSM relationship, the sex-slave is still free because he or she is uncoerced.
The second objection is that this argument is a straw man. But it isn't a straw man. The FAQ made a claim about what was just from which we deduced a principle of justice. In order to test whether this principle was true or not, we used a technique called analogising - we came up with an analogous situation to that in which the FAQ tested its principle. Our answer here was that if the FAQ's principle - To coerce somebody is to attempt to control them, whether the person controlled has consented to being controlled or not. Coercion necessarily violates liberty, so the forcible interference in somebody's ability to coerce (control) another is not coercive, but is protecting the rights of the coerced - is true, then it implies that they must accept conclusions that they will (hoefully) be unwilling to agree with. Namely, certain sexual relationships. This is not erecting a straw man, it is using legitimate logical practices, and the conclusion is that if the authors of the FAQ are unwilling to admit that some voluntary relationships in which one person control's another are morally acceptable, then they need to go further to explain why others aren't.
The FAQ is objecting to the idea that bosses are entitled to control their workers because workers voluntarily entered into contracts that allowed the bosses to control them. It says that nobody is entitled to try and control anybody else, whether they have been given consent or not, and that if they do they are being unjust to the person controlled. I have shown that this contradicts some libertarian positions to particular activities, and therefore is un-libertarian. However, now I will show that it is an illogical position to adopt.
Firstly the argument says that you are not entitled to control somebody, even if that is an article you have in a contract you have with that person. A contract has two roles: A contract lists in detail two or more party's rights and duties to each other, as associates. However, this is not sufficient to make the contract binding, and to make this rights and duties obligations. This comes from the contract's second function: It provides written evidence of consent. Without this a contract wouldn't be binding and therefore wouldn't be a contract. Now, I know that if I come up with my own definition of consent, the authors of the FAQ will simply tell me that I am making up definitions that prove my case. Therefore, I will turn to the dictionary definition: The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines consent as: "Voluntary agreement; compliance; permission." Collins Pocket English Dictionary defines consent as "1 Agreement, permission. -v 2 (foll by to) permit, agree to." Therefore the FAQ's argument can be restated as "you are not entitled to try to control a person even if that person has given written proof of his or her permission to be controlled." Collins Pocket English Dictionary defines permission as "authorisation to do something." The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, defines permit as "Allow". Therefore the FAQ's argument can be restated as " you are not entitled to do something to someone that they have written evidence of permission allowing you to do it to you." As such, the argument doesn't really make much sense, for surely by definition of being allowed and permitted to do something I am entitled to do it.
Therefore, any worker who signs a contract that says that that worker must submit to the control of a boss, permits and allows that boss to control him, and so entitles the bosses to her right to control him. Thus it cannot be unjust, for the boss is doing what the worker has entitled her to do.
I have received responses to this argument, too. Here people have said that if there is no real option but to work for a boss, then we are forced to work for a boss.
But what's a real option? One that doesn't leave you starving to death? But who said that in a free market anarchist society you will starve to death if you don't work (or have investments)? Family, friends, charities, and community self-help groups could all provide for your welfare. Moreover, for a number of people every year, death is not only a real choice, but the most favourable one. For those that commit suicide, death definitely does present a real options, so this response is not empirically viable. It has to qualify itself with an argument about how those that choose to kill themselves don't really choose to kill themselves. Oh, and by the way, by "those that commit suicide" I do not just mean sufferers of depression, who may be "miserable at their poverty stricken life inflicted on them by the defenders of private property and the market," but also those who choose to act in manners we consider not merely morally excusable, but morally commendable: Martyrs and those that give their lives to help others, for these people, too, think death is a real option. You must also argue why these people's morally commendable actions - actions they would have felt proud of, and actions we feel proud for them performing - are actions they didn't really choose to, and so aren't responsible for their moral value. It seems that actually this response to me is merely trying to argue that a choice isn't free unless it contains the most favourable option possible (and even then it would still have to argue that suicide, whether to avoid our own misery, or to prevent misery and suffering to others, is never the most favourable option). To this we can simply respond in the manner of Robert Nozick, that I can freely walk somewhere I would rather fly to unaided.
Moreover, if starving, or at least having an otherwise lower standard of living than would be available if you didn't choose to accept an employer's contract makes that choice unfree, then couldn't we say that the decision to join an anarchist communist's commune is also unfree and forced? The FAQ argues that individualist anarchism can't work, and thus doesn't present a viable alternative to either capitalism or its own form of anarchism. Kropotkin argued that Bakunin's collectivism was in consistent and contradictory in its support of property in the products of labour, and would return back to capitalism, too. Therefore the only alternative to the FAQ's communes is capitalism, and under capitalism, the FAQ argues, workers cannot have a decent standard of living, or may even starve. Thus, by communist anarchist's own arguments, they have to believe that the worker's choice of whether to join a commune or not is "either join a commune, or live a miserable and less preferable life in some other manner, probably starving to death". This is identical to the choice that communist anarchists say workers are presented with by their employers under capitalism, so if the decision to accept employment under capitalism is a forced decision because the only alternative is a lower standard of living, or even starvation, then the decision to join a commune is forced for precisely the same reasons.
I have never heard anarchist communists speak of a wage relationship that wasn't wage-slavery. Whenever it appears that a particular system involves wage-labour (selling one's labour, as opposed to the products of that labour - being paid to work for someone) anarchist communists always condemn such as system as involving "wage-slavery". Seeing as any system that involves wages they condemn as wage-slavery, it would appear that under any sort of wage-system it is a necessary fact that labour is given without consent; it is forced.
In a free society, can a worker sell his labour to any employer that wants to buy it if he wants to? To this question, I reckon that the first thing an anarchist communist would say is that no worker would want to sell their labour, when the commune guarantees them a living without having to do so. Firstly this assumes that a commune will be able to provide all its members with an adequate living, which I doubt it can do more efficiently than the market can. However, I need not argue this, as I can just say, secondly, the question did not ask whether workers would want to sell their labour, but whether they would be allowed to if they did want to. Now, supposing that there were no natural prevention, if a worker wanted to sell his labour to an employer who wanted to hire him, the only way they would not be able to is if some person or people is preventing them. And seeing as they want to enter into a wage relationship, this interference must be non-consensual, and thus forced, or coercive. Seeing as this would negate the claim of the free society to be a free society, then such coercive interference leads us logically to one conclusion: In a free society a worker can sell his labour to and employer who wants to pay for it. However, this would imply that wage relationships can exist in a free society, which logically implies that there is nothing necessarily coercive about a wage relationship.
Moreover, suppose we have no state - we are living in an anarchist society. Bob decides that he wants to sell his labour to, to be employed by, Pete - he wants Pete to be his boss. Pete wants to buy Bob's labour and wants to be Bob's boss. Now, anarchist communists, what are you going to do about this? How are you going to stop the formation of this wage-labour relationship and others like it in your anarchist society? In individualist anarchist societies, and in anarcho-capitalist ones, private companies can sell protection of people's rights on the market. Subcontracting between firms to agree to arbitration rather than fighting costly battles will produce legal systems that reflect the interests of their consumers. However, Bob wants Pete to be his Boss, so he is not going to spend money on preventing Pete from being his boss. Pete wants to be Bob's boss, so he will bid against any such law. Moreover, others will be unlikely to spend money to produce a law that makes it illegal for Pete to be Bob's boss, because they would get little benefit from doing so, and could only do so at the expense of other uses of their money that would give them more benefit. Therefore voluntary organisations would not be able to prevent Pete from Employing Bob. If you interfere in Pete and Bob's agreement to form the employer/employee relationship they both want, then it would have to be without their consent, and seeing as neither is harming anybody else, your interference would not be defensive, but invasive. Remember Tucker said that government was "the subjection of a non-invasive individual to an external will," your interference would, then, be governmental. So my question is this: How, in your anarchist society, are you going to stop people from forming wage relationships if they choose? You can't without contradicting the idea that it would be an anarchist society.
There is an argument that can be used against Marxists that goes like this: Marxists believe that wage-labour is coerced, because some people privately own the means of production, and others must either sell their labour to these owners or starve. Such a state of affairs would not occur when the means of production belong to the community. But suppose that in a society there is a public sector (one where the means of production belong to the community) and a private sector, and people can choose to work for which ever one they prefer. It is logically possible that more and more people could choose to work in the private sector until the public one ceases to exist completely, and no means of production belong to the community. Are we to suppose that in the time where the public sector ceased to exist, something incredible happened in which people's voluntary decisions not to work in the public sector magically turned into coerced ones? That seems an illogical claim to make, but the implications are plain: Even though no property is owned by the community, all work in the private sector would still be voluntary, because people chose to work in it rather than in the public sector. The most intelligent anarchists around nowadays claim that all forms of anarchism will probably be tried out, until the best form(s) remain, or the best aspects of some forms are kept, and others rejected. Imagine this, then: the only sorts of anarchism left (all others having been tried and rejected) are anarchist communism and anarcho-capitalism. People are free to join whatever society they prefer. The same argument applies - people could choose not to join the communist society, but rather the work in the capitalist one. How can we assume the suddenly, where they had made a voluntary choice, their pasts had somehow changed and they hadn't made a voluntary choice after all? The only logical answer is that we can't, and in such a case the wage-labour in the capitalist society would be voluntary, in which case, again, wage-labour is not necessarily forced or coerced.
All this leads us to one conclusion: The claim that workers are wage slaves, the claim that labour, under capitalism, is forced, or coerced, is a contingent truth at best, and not a necessary one. This is a relief, because I have heard of workers who have been presented with the case for worker's control and have preferred their wage and their boss to the increased responsibility of running a workplace and community, and I now know that there is a place for such people in an anarchist society.
Moreover, suppose we agreed with the most intelligent anarchists (like Malatesta) who argue that, with the abolition of the state and the government, people in an anarchist society will form their own communities to put whatever economic expression of anarchism into practice they like. Right, now suppose that you and your comrades want to form an anarchist communist society. However all the best available resources are already being used by another community - an anarcho-capitalist one. Members of the anarcho-capitalist society hold the resources you want to use in your commune as their private property - not (only) possession, but property. This property they acquire using profit they get from their wages, or investments, or from renting land, but mostly from selling products for a profit - products made by employed workers under capitalistic relations of production. So what are you going to do? If you forcibly "expropriate" the anarcho-capitalist community's resources to use in your commune, then you would be interfering in people's ability to form whatever experimental community they choose. But if you decide to respect people's ability to form whatever experimental community they choose then you would have to respect people's rights to private property (and not just possession), property you, as an anarchist communist, believe they have no right to, and which they acquired, you believe, by exploitation and theft. You must either decide that people have a right to capitalistically acquired property, or you must decide that people do not have a right to set up whatever economic arrangements they want in an anarchist society.
The usual argument that workers are forced to work starts with the claim that they don't agree to their contracts because they want to, but because they need to, in order to get a living. This is illogical, because we often want to do the things that we need to do, so just because workers need to work in order to get a living does not necessarily imply that they don't want to work. The argument also fails to take note of the fact that workers sign a particular contract, and work for a particular boss, so while it may be true that their choices are restricted to "work or starve", they still have a wide choice as to who to work for. In addition, the fact that their choices are limited does not imply that they are not able to act freely. Imagine you went to an Italian restaurant and said, "I'll have a plate of my favourite spaghetti, please." The waiter responds, "I'm afraid that we don't have any spaghetti, sir, all we can offer is either pizza or lasagne". Begrudgingly you say, "OK, I'll have the pizza." Now, we have all been in similar situations, yet it has never occurred to us that the restaurant (or whatever) is coercing us into eating their food. Simply because the choices we have are limited to such an extent that they exclude our favourite option does not mean that we are no longer able to choose freely, and thus does not mean that taking the pizza was not a free choice. In that case, even though workers choices may be restricted by circumstances to "work or starve", it does not follow from this that they do not freely choose to work, or are coerced into working. But the choices aren't limited to "work or starve" anyway, as anarchists are revealing new means by which poor people in the world as it is voluntarily associate to provide for their welfare.
Anarchist communists argue that workers are forced into working for their employers, for otherwise they would not get a living. By the same argument, though, people are forced into joining anarchist communes. After all, why would I want the services that the commune has to offer if my living is guaranteed whether I join or not? Otherwise the argument would imply that nobody needs to form or join a commune. Kropotkin argued, however, that it was not the fact that workers contracted into a relationship with an employer in order to get a living that they wouldn't have had otherwise, that makes labour forced. Rather it is the fact that capitalists exploit the poor person's need for a living for their own benefit. Thus Kropotkin would have to argue that communes do not benefit from people who join them in search of a living. It is plainly obvious that this is not the case: Many communes fail due to lack of membership, which means that they do better with new members, and thus benefit from new members. New members mean less work and more wealth for other members, plain as that. Thus communes do benefit from new members, and if people join communes in order to get a living that they couldn't get elsewhere, then by anarchist communist arguments those new members are being forced to join the commune and exploited when they do so. QED.
The FAQ, in attempting to "prove" that voluntarism and consent are not enough to guarantee liberty often argues that modern democratic states are voluntary, because, if you don't like one, then you can emigrate to another. This sort of argument was used by John Locke, who said that if you didn't want to be part of the voluntary civil society then you could emigrate to North America.
However, I reject Locke's "its-voluntary-because-you-can-leave" defence of the state. The state is that organisation which monopolises the legitimate use of force (violence, coercion) in a particular geographic area. In other words, in order to voluntarily subscribe to this association I must move into its geographical area, and in order to disassociate from it I must not only withdraw my subscription, but move out of the area. So what happens if I am living in a Lockean state of nature, and suddenly a state starts growing around me? Suppose that I didn't choose to become a citizen of this state. Locke says that in the state of nature, but not in the "voluntary" civil society, individuals have the right to protect themselves against theft and violence. However, should I do this when a state is formed, by others, around me in the same geographic area that I am in, then I would be challenging the state's monopoly over legitimate force. In order to remain a state, it must coerce me into not protecting myself (or getting protection from other non-citizens). This would negate the claim that it is voluntary. What would further negate it is the fact that I was there first, and for my only option to be "vacate this land or join our association" the state would have had to have had property rights over all land before it even existed - a ludicrous assumption.
So there goes the idea that our ability to emigrate makes states voluntary. Now what happens if I am living in Ipswich and "the Revolution breaks out" and Ipswich is now called the "Free Ipswich Commune"? I want nothing to do with the commune - it is a voluntary association that I choose not to join. So what do I do? Do I have to leave Ipswich? Wouldn't this mean that all the land that Ipswich now occupies (in this present real world, 1999 ad) belongs to some "voluntary organisation" that people might decide to form in some possible future? That is a very odd belief. This line of inquiry leads directly to another question: Would a free commune tolerate non-members within its borders? Would it share its geographical area with non-members? If so, then how would this effect administration? If not, then is it not just another state?
Also, I have pointed out the state's monopolistic nature. This monopoly doesn't rest solely on the fact that the state is the only organisation allowed to do certain things in a certain geographic area. It also comes from the fact that I can't be a citizen of more than one state. Now, can I be a member of more than one commune? Can I get the services of more than one commune, and contribute to more than one commune?
Also, if the commune permits non-members to co-exist with it in the same area, then can non-members provide people with the same sort of services as the commune provides? Obviously they can, for the only way to prevent them from doing so would be by coercing them, in which case they would come under the regulation of an association they did not consent to, and weren't directly threatening. So non-members can provide the same services as a commune could, in the same area as the commune. People can choose to join the commune to benefit from the services it provides, and the commune has a vested interest in providing them, for it needs members to survive. But if non-members can provide the same services as the commune, in the same geographical area, then it is possible that people won't want to join the commune but will choose to go to non-members. This means that the commune and non-members are in competition. And seeing as the commune benefits from having new members, and members benefit from being in the commune, it is an exchange economy - a market.
Commune, then, is just a fancy word for a firm (albeit, a consumer's co-op). A world where a person can live in the same area of the world as a commune, but not be part of the commune, is like a world where you can live in the same area of the world as a firm is operating, but not work for or buy from it. A world where you can be a member of two or more communes, and get benefits from each, thus giving communes overlapping constituencies, is like a world where more than one firm can sell in the same geographic area. A world where communes compete against non-members, or other communes, for members, by providing attractive services, is like a world where different sorts of firms compete for buyers. This world is like a competitive free market. A commune is a firm competing on a market. If the commune were not like a firm competing on a free market, then it would be like a state. So, anarchists, choose: Market, or State, of which are you in favour, as there are only two options?
I have had responses to this argument, too. They say that Kropotkin has made it explicitly clear (see Conquest of Bread, and Act for Yourselves) and the FAQ has too (see quote on voluntarism above) that people will not be forced to join a commune, but will do it (or not) of their own free will. But any sensible reader should easily be able to see that this is not a real objection to my argument. In fact, I had assumed it as given that communes were voluntary. My argument was based on questions about what the nature of a voluntary commune would be. If communes are voluntary, then can I live actually within a commune's boundaries but not be a member of a commune? Can I provide people with the same services as the commune does, within its boundaries, and thus compete with it? This response to my argument does not answer any of these questions, it merely restates the premise that I had accepted anyway!
And what would it be like if communes planned the economy, any way? Ask Hayek:
"The authority directing all economic activity would control not merely the part of our lives which is concerned with inferior thing, it would control the limited means to all our ends. And whoever controls all economic activity controls the means to all our ends, and must therefore decide which are to be satisfied and which are not. This is really the crux of the matter. Economic control is not merely control of a sector of human life which can be separated from the rest; it is the control of the means for all our ends. And whoever has sole control over the means must also determine which ends ate to be served, which values are to be rated higher and which lower, in short, what men should believe and strive for. Central planning means that the economic problem is to be solved by the community instead of by the individual; but this involves that it must also be the community, or rather its representatives, who must decide the relative importance of the different needs.
Surely this is obviously true. How many of our activities do not involve the consumption of some resource or another? If "the community" is to control the allocation of resources, then, it is to decide what is produced, and so ho gets what, then it is the community that decides whether or not we get to perform those things. The very name "consumer society" attached to market systems implies that it is a society run for the consumer. In markets production anticipates demand, because people produce what they think they can make a profit supplying, and thus what people want to buy. Thus it is consumers that decide what is to be produced. Imagine I wanted to read gay porn, but somebody else wanted the scarce resources involved in printing the material to be used to make textbooks for school children. First of all, I would only pay for gay porn if I valued that use of my money more than I valued other uses. The same with the textbooks: People would only pay for them if they valued that use of their money more than other uses. If follows from this that if I am willing to pay the printer more to produce gay porn than people are willing to pay him to produce textbooks, then I value gay porn more than others value text books. The printer, out to make a profit, will produce what he can get the higher price for, and so he prints gay porn. Thus in a market society it is consumers that decide whether or not goods get produced. Whether or not I get gay porn depends on how highly it ranks in my scale of preferences. If the commune planned the economy, on the other hand, whether or not I get gay porn depends on how highly the commune ranks my getting it in the commune's scale of preferences. Whether or not I am allowed to read gay porn is not up to me, but the commune. How libertarian is this?
Communist anarchism is not demolished by my arguments. An anarchist communist can still have a sentimental attachment to his vision of a just and efficient social order. My arguments simply indicate that anarchist communism as it now stands is not a consistently thought out position and contains too many inconsistencies to present a real alternative to free market anarchism. The FAQ's arguments, far from presenting a well thought out and thoroughgoing argument for "social anarchism" actually do more to reveal the holes in anarchist communist theory. Frankly, even if these holes were filled by greater theoretical development, I sincerely doubt that communist anarchism will still present a viable alternative to free market anarchism. By abolishing the price mechanism in exchange for economic control by planning committees you abolish the best means we know of for co-ordinating the economy using the decentralised knowledge in society. How are you going to tell how much of a good people want or don't want? Planners can't know all this. Even if they went around and asked everybody, it would take ages, and would be expensive in resources and man power that would be more valuable elsewhere. All this implies that under anarchist communism goods will be wasted or misallocated.
But we can go further. Under anarchist communism interest groups will collude with the planners for special privileges. Economic power will be used to exploit the rest of society to benefit the privileged few, at the price of welfare. Direct democracy is still government, and even in a direct democracy political parties will form even in a direct democracy as factions appear and people form allegiances within their factions. As society becomes more complex, if it is to have a government at all, the government must become separated from the rest of society as society's complexity makes a division of labour necessary. In other words, where, in the direct democracy, people exercised power themselves, as society becomes more complex they would have to delegate this task to others. Obviously they will select those other from the factions they are allied with or support. Thus we get a situation where politicians are elected from political parties by the people in order to exercise the task of administering society.
Parties have to gain power if they are to best exercise their influence. Power, as I said above, is a means to an end. Where people have ends they want to accomplish, they will want the power to accomplish these ends. Parties will start off small, poor, but ideologically pure. As they gain in power, by gaining support, it will become obvious to some members that their positions of power are worth large sums of money - or may be used to achieve people's causes in exchange for those people's support. Parties need resources to get into power - millions of pounds worth of assets. Thus, even if the party wants to get into power to achieve its ideological purpose, it still has an incentive to take money from special interest groups in exchange for "favours." Moreover parties are likely to have at least some members that care a little less about ideology than they do about wealth. In addition, parties need votes in order to achieve power (and they need money to attract votes). In order to get votes the parties have to attract voters - voters who may usually be spending their votes elsewhere. On a private market different firms can exist in the same area, so, even if there is an incentive to appeal to the broadest section of the market, there is not an incentive to appeal to only the broadest section. This way, due to the possibility of multiple sources of provision, it is less necessary for private markets to produce homogeneous, standardised products. With public bodies, on the other hand, only one body can provide a service at a time, so there is an incentive to appeal to the broadest and only the broadest sections of the market. This means that parties will try to win votes off each other by becoming more similar, more moderate, and thus their ideological purposes will become watered in an effort to win the votes necessary to win power.
Thus, in order to achieve power, parties have an incentive to support the ends of special interest groups that will be likely to give support, in the form of money and votes, whether or not supporting those ends coincides with the party's ideology. Thus parties get to power by leaving in their wake privileged groups and individuals at everybody else's expense - people who have been granted advantages and favours by political power.
You might suggest that this assumes that special interest groups will try to use the public bodies in order to achieve their own ends, and that this is an unfair assumption - they might not so decide. I agree, they might not; but they probably will. First of all, we are assuming that a society in which nobody tries to use political power to win privileges is preferable to one in which they don't. Therefore we can assign a higher payoff, 3, to the society with no such behaviour, and a lower payoff, 2, to one that does. However, If you use power to win privileges and I don't, then I will be worse off than if everybody had done so, and so get a payoff of 1. You, on the other hand are better of than everybody else would be, even if everybody had tried to win privileges, and better off than if nobody had. Therefore you get a payoff of 4. If I had tried to use power to my advantage, and you hadn't then I would get 4 and you would get 1. Therefore we both have an incentive to try to influence bodies with power in order to win privileges. But this leads to the outcome of us both getting 2, a payoff that is worth less than if nobody had tried to get privileges. The payoff matrix looks like this:
This is a Prisoners' Dilemma game. Moreover, when we are talking about the public body in question being the state, then it is a situation so vast that there is a very low chance of future interaction between groups. This means that the likely outcome is that people will try to influence those with, or seeking to achieve, power in the public bodies, leading to a situation in which everybody is worse off if such people didn't exist. The existence of a democratically controlled public body causes the existence of people who try to encourage the body to use its power to grant them special privileges rather than promote social well-being, and the parties that are elected to run these bodies have an incentive to respond to these people's encouragement. Intervention in the economy by democratically controlled public bodies will breed privilege.
"But," people will argue, "at least the political market is fairer than the private market. If on the political market people "buy" things with their votes, and on the private market people buy things with money, then the political market will produce fairer results because on the private market people have unequal numbers of "votes" to get what they want, whereas, on the political market they all have the same number of votes." However, this response assumes that the analogy between votes and money is perfect; it isn't. At every election I always come to the process with the same number of votes - if I spend my vote in this election, I still have the same amount of votes in the next election. On the private market, if I spend my money to outbid you now, then I have that much less money to outbid you in the future.
For instance, imagine, for simplicity's sake, that there were only one commodity; flour. I have £10,000 and you have £5,000. We both what flour to bake our bread. In order to outbid you for the flour, the least I have to offer is £5,000.01p, so I win and get the flour to bake my bread. Then I decide that I'd like to buy up the rest of the flour on the market so that my kids can use it to make papier mache masks for Halloween. However, the most money I can have is £4,999.99p, whilst you are bidding against me to get the flour you still want for your bread, and you still have £5,000 to bid with - more than me. So you would win.
Now take the same situation, but on a political market. You lead a faction commanding 5,000 votes, but I lead a faction commanding 10,000 votes. We vote to see who gets the flour to bake their bread; my faction has twice as many votes as yours does, so I win. Then my faction decides that it wants the rest of the flour to use to make masks, so we vote again. My faction is twice as strong as your faction, so we win, masks are made, and you starve to death. On the political market the faction with the most votes will always win, so long as it always has the most number of votes. On the private market the rich cannot perpetually outbid everybody else, because, in terms of money, they become less rich every time they do so. Therefore the private market is more likely to provide for everybody's wishes than the political market is. Now try taking the commodity flour out of the example, and putting others in instead: Health care, police protection, roads, unemployment insurance. Simply try looking around you in the world. How many good (if not excellent) cars can you find in the ghettos or inner cities? How many working class houses, and poor people's homes have satellite TV or cable, How many of their kids where Nike trainers, how many would choose to spend their time and money in night clubs or cinemas rather than county council sport centres and recreation areas. Now compare this with the poor quality of roads in council estates and working class areas. Look at the fact that there are far fewer good state schools in the inner cities and ghettos than there are good cars. Ask yourself whether you are likelier to get mugged or robbed in South Central LA or Hackney than in Beverley Hills or Highbury, and then ask in which of these places you are likelier to find a police person. The state lets the poor down far more than the market does.
The above example, however, assumes that voters always have an incentive to use their votes; they don't. Take the example of good policy produced on the political market. Politicians rarely say "I am supporting The Good Policy, she is supporting The Bad Policy, so vote for me." Voters have to spend time watching the news, or reading the papers, are listening to debates on the radio, or at the library researching policies. Doing so imposes opportunity costs on them - they lose the use of their time one other things. So does spending their vote on what is socially or ideologically the best option rather than spending it on a policy that more directly benefits themselves. Now ask yourself, if it was likely that other people were going to vote for the best policy, perhaps enough for it to win, then wouldn't you get the best policy whether you voted for it or not? In which case, wouldn't it be in your interest to let everybody else vote for the good policy, or spend their time researching what politicians were talking about, whilst you relax, or vote for a policy that is more directly beneficial to yourself? Of course it would. You would free ride on everybody else's good policy. Unfortunately, everybody else is likely to think exactly the same way as you, in which case nobody is likely to vote for the best policy. Therefore good policies will be under supplied when provided by the political market. Imagine that the service provided on the political market were health care. This means that a good quality health care system will be under supplied on the political market.
On the private market, however, if I want the best product then I have to research the alternatives, and I have to spend my money. If I didn't do so, then I wouldn't get it, because products aren't generally delivered to everybody at once, but just to those who pay for them. On the political market only those who receive a substantial benefit from policies will have any incentive to ensure that the policy is provided - i.e. special interest groups. Therefore, again, we have a reason to assume that intervention in the economy by public bodies will produce privilege at the expense of the rest of society.
The problem with the political market stated above is a special sort of market failure called a public good. Good services on the political market are public goods. This means that if they are provided, then they have to be provided to a group of people at the same time, which means that a member of that group has no incentive to pay for them, because they will come even if she doesn't and somebody else does. Public good problems can exist on the private market. For instance, take street lighting. I might want street lighting, but if I pay for it, then I won't be the only one who gets it - everybody using the street will. Therefore it may be in my interest to hope that somebody else wants it, so I can free ride off them. Unfortunately everybody else may be thinking exactly the same think. Thus nobody will put up the costs of providing for the street lighting even though they would be better off if they did. There are solutions to some public good problems. For instance, they are generally presented as being Prisoners' Dilemmas, in which case, if repeated interaction is likely, we can expect people to voluntarily provide for them. Alternatively the firm selling street lighting could say "unless everybody living on this street signs this contract, no lighting will be provided at all." This way nobody could free ride.
Liberal economists often say that state intervention is justified in the case where a public good is supplied. Those that might free ride are forced to bear the costs of the goods they consume, in the form of taxes. The trouble is, pure public goods on the private market are the exception to the rule, where as, with the state, they are the rule not the exception. This means that when we ask the state to intervene in the case of failure on the private market, what we are likely to get is a bigger market failure, only this time in the political market. In addition, when we want public bodies to provide public goods then it is harder to arrange such solutions as I described above. This is because public bodies generally serve quite a wide area, with quite a dispersed public. Therefore repeat interaction between receivers of the good is unlikely, and it is hard to organise a contract of the sort described above. Another obstacle to the formation of such a contract is when it is difficult to identify recipients of the public good. For example, suppose the government planned to flood a valley to create a reservoir, and said that if would pay compensation to everybody who lived in the valley, plus extra compensation for farmers. Suddenly it would find the number of farmers increasing.
In addition to public goods, some things are public bads. This means that they inflict costs on a group. If someone inflicted costs on me alone, then I would pay to ensure that such a cost producing process was deterred. But if they inflicted them on both myself and my neighbour - thus producing a public bad - then I would hope that my neighbours paid the costs of preventing it, and free ride on their expenses. But my neighbours would think in exactly the same way, so little is likely to be done about the public bad.
Most of what public bodies do when they try to provide services (which become public goods) produces public bads. This is because most public bodies are funded by taxation - the nation pays, even if the nation does not receive. But we can go further, and link the process to our story of the creation of privilege. Suppose the government proposed some inefficient policy: It took imposed costs of £50 a thousand people (group A), and gave £500 pounds to five hundred different people (group B). How much would group A pay to deter these costs? The answer is, not much, even though doing so would be in their interest. This is because the policy could be reversed if only part of A paid the costs of reversing it, meaning that the other part could free ride off the first. The trouble is, both parts would prefer to free ride off the other, so nobody will pay. "But," you may say, "the benefits that go to group B seem to be a public good, in which case they will not pay what is necessary to get them, and they will not be provided." Not necessarily: A special interest group is often not that dispersed, and members of it often interact with each other frequently. They may even have a sort of contract linking them with lobbying groups. Therefore, if group B is a special interest group, and group A is some dispersed public, say, taxpayers, then it will be likely that the inefficient policy will go through. Therefore, if public bodies provide services on the political market, public goods (practically all the services it provides) will be under supplied, or of a low quality, and public bads, such as favours to special interests group rather than benefits to society as a whole, will be over supplied. Consequently, then, public bodies that intervene in the economy will tend to breed privileged elites at the expense of the rest of us.
Corporations would not spend their money on lobbying groups if they did not think that they could make a profit by doing so. Corporations do spend their money on lobbying groups, meaning that they do make a profit by doing so. Therefore the rich get rich by competing on the political market at least as much as they do on private markets. David Friedman wrote,
"Many people who agree that private property and the free market are ideal institutions for allowing each person to pursue his own ends with his own resources reject complete laissez faire because they believe that it leads to an unjust, or at least undesirable, distribution of wealth and income. Therefore, they argue that the government should intervene in the market to redistribute wealth and income.
The same applies to communes. You can't merely say "let the commune help the poor" in the expectation that we can set up a commune or a special committee to produce whatever objective we want. As a public body it will act in particular ways. Anarchist communism will simply produce what we already have now: Public bodies intervening in economic relations so as to grant privileges to those interest groups that keep representatives in power, and allowing those interest groups to exploit everybody else.
Richard A. Garner