Continuing from my last post, here reproduced are excerpts from the Usenet debates I had in the summer and fall of 2002, mostly, with self-described “anarcho”-capitalists. The original argument concerned “rights” and “freedom,” but it quickly led, as most debates with “anarchos” go, to the question of property. As I mentioned yesterday, these issues, I believe, lie at the very heart of the debates going on presently over the debt-ceiling (actually over revenues vs. spending) in Congress and the media. But you won’t hear our pundits or politicians for the most part bring it down to the very ground it all springs from.
Where you see angle brackets [<< >>] in and around certain paragraphs, those represent quotes from the persons I was debating with. If you want to follow the debate in Usenet format go here. My comments were posted under the handle “xofpi.”:
Note that “anarcho”-capitalists object to the worker’s democratic ownership/control of the means of production precisely because it is, (in theory at least, since it has not been allowed to actually be in practice), democratic. These so-called “anarchists” would rather invest all authority over the means of production in a single manager/owner or oligarchy–i.e., not change the structure of authority at all except to get rid of any vestige of democratic counterweight to it. And then they’ll lie about what they’re opposed to, pretending that they are the guardians of liberty!
The key to the difference between real libertarian-anarchism and proprietarianism (in my opinion, the proper name for “anarcho-captialism”) hinges on the question of authority vs. freedom. Proprietarians deny it–or are in denial about it–but their system is based on the same mystical sources for authority as feudalism and royalism. The proprietarian wants to sacralize heredity as a rational basis for ownership rights. They claim that property is a “natural right,” but in effect their system endorses the same discredited system of aristocracy and hereditary divine right that the Enlightenment threw over and the American founders–at least the leftists among them–thought they had banished for good. Socialism is egalitarian, but not in the way the phony proprietarians claim. Socialism is against the exploitation of humans by other humans, and its cure for this ill is to empower the powerless the only way societies can hope to empower each other–economically and politically–which means democratizing the economic and political systems. Oddly enough, some proprietarians I have argued with in the last couple of weeks have complained bitterly about unions and government “profitting at someone else’s expense.” Don’t they see the irony of this position?! Of course not, because they aren’t truly interested in ridding the world of a system that rewards profit at others’ expense. Indeed they fantasize about getting rewarded by the same system some day. But in order to profit themselves from the system, it’s not enough for them to preserve native inequalities of talent, etc., (which no system can ever hope to get rid of), but to maintain the institutionalized inequalities that real anarchists oppose.
<<…you cannot equalize humans by dragging everyone up to the >> >level of the elite, only by shoving everyone down to the level of the >> >savage. Not everyone is capable of greatness; they lack the talent, >> >intelligence, and mentality. However, everyone is capable of going down…>>
Red herring alert: no one that I know of, except for characters in a Kurt Vonnegut story, has ever argued for equalizing people according to their talents. The issue is not native inequalities, which no person has control over (though give capitalists in the genetic engineering sector time), but institutionalized inequalities, which *can* be changed for justice’s sake.
<<>If leftists were truly about compassion and care and >providing for the starving and sick they would have no problem with church’s >involvement. >>
An objectivist defending the church?!
<<They claim this would be mixing church and state, starting >from the premise that it is the government’s duty to care for the “needy”. >>
Strawman alert: Show me one citation from a leftist who argues that there’s no role for the church in caring for the needy. The church-state controversy is not over the church’s involvement in care for the needy, it’s in the state’s funds going to pay for evangelizing missions, which violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
I read somewhere recently that proprietarians consider the taking of property through war as legitimate if the other side can be said to have “inititiated force.” Thus, because the governments of England, Holland, Spain, etc., were “legitimate” ca 1492 and because their wars against the peoples who were in the Americas were allegedly waged to protect the safety of their citizens against marauding redskins, the appropriation of lands in the Americas was “just,” and all exchanges over property since then have been “just.” (Whereas taxation is “unjust”–even though taxation merely pays for the system that legitimizes private property in the first place.)
<<…does it make sense to change all inequalities if it results in >an overall loss in material terms and freedom?>>
Who said anything about changing *all* inequalities? Isn’t it possible to effect changes that will distribute resources more equitably, which will increase liberty overall for most people, without causing the harms you imagine? There are certain people who have access to more resources than they could possibly know what to do with while many millions more can barely feed themselves. Why not create the conditions for a world in which this imbalance of needs is put in greater balance? How can this present kind of inequality be morally justified?
<<Is is better for >everyone to have an income of $10,000 a year or for nearly everyone to >have an income much higher than that, even if it means that some will >have an income hundreds of times that of others? >>
According to real anarchists, everyone in a society should be able to have their basic needs met. No one should starve. No child should be deprived of health care and decent education just because his parents are poor. Everyone should have shelter. Equality means equal access to the resources that meet basic needs. Everything beyond that is gravy–and is permitted. The only thing that is not permitted is exploitation of other people for the purposes of personal profit, which is the heart and soul of capitalism. This is why “anarcho”-capitalists are oxymorons, so to speak.
<<>Even if it means that it stifles technological progress, which is the >main means by which people’s lives are improved overall? >>
People’s lives overall are not improved if there is no mechanism to distribute resources more equally.