no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

The “C” Word

July 9th, 2012

For (probably not) the last time…

The liberty movement would be in a far better place if they stopped clinging to “capitalism”, if they stopped trying to rehab the word “capitalism” and if they stopped trying to convince the rest of the world that the Randian “Unknown Ideal” version of “capitalism” — despite being predated by at least a century — is the one and only true definition of “capitalism”.

Discuss.

Extra Credit: Free Market Capitalism is an Oxymoron

Coercion, Corporate Privilege, and “Capitalism”

March 23rd, 2012

If someone were to steal all the bread, and then offer to sell it to us for $10/loaf, we would call that a crime. If a business were to steals only some of the bread, prevents a few other bread manufacturers from operating nearby, and offer to sell us a loaf for $5, would you defend the business’ “right” to sell you bread and your “right” to refuse on free market principles?

If so, you’re an idiot.

Yeah, I had a discussion with some of those misguided souls, you know the type of people who spin their wheels trying to rehabilitate the word “capitalism”, pro-“free market” except their pro-corporate blinders keep them from grapsing how badly the market is being brutalized by the government they purport to hate? Recently, there’s been a little splash because some employers are now asking candidates for their Facebook password, in order to see what’s behind their “privacy” wall. Of course, if government did this it would be atrocious because “government is coercive” but if businesses do this it’s OK because businesses are all “consensual”.

Although this was the genesis of the debate, ultimately it was more of a macro argument. I honestly think these jackasses were more pissed off about the fact that some people want to ask the (government) courts to weigh in on this practice, potentially barring it., but ultimately the discussion centered around their core position: corporations are comprised of individuals, individuals have rights, and therefore corporations have rights.

OK. I’ll play that game. But what about the powers that they exercise, either bestowed by or complicit with the government?

You don’t get to cherry-pick facts. Granting the idea that a corporation (as a collective of individuals) has certain rights transmuted from those individuals, you can’t ignore the exercises of illegitimate powers (things like administering the tax code/collection, or regulatory privilege, and barriers to entry which stifle competition), which are not the proper exercise of rights and therefore cannot be defended as the exercise thereof.

Even though they may act legitimately (by that loose collective rights definition) some of the time or even most of the time, sometimes they do not. As a result, they accrue benefits and privileges which they can (and do) lever against others further down the line, whereupon they ignore the privilege that brought them to the current advantageous position and appeal to the mystical rights argument: “Aha! but right now, you see, I am doing something that is perfectly within my rights…”

Like the bread example above, you must consider the body of work and not just the immediate “option” you’re being presented with. You cannot ignore the usurpation of the rights of others, the coercion which becomes an inseparable part of the whole.

Recognizing this coercion for what it is, you are within your rights to resist, even if that means — ahem — trying to sue them in a government court (really your only option, since the government has a monopoly on law and disorder and it’s the only venue that these corporations would recognize as legitimate anyways).

Yes, the sort of large transnationals, stock-market-indexed corporations are the most obvious examples of this sort of thing, but it’s silly to pretend that smaller businesses are immune from this process. Almost nobody is immune from the process, which is why it is important to understand that literally nothing exists at present which even comes close to the sort of free market corporation (and I use this term veryloosely) that would prevail absent the government’s coercion

Failure to make this distinction, and dogmatically believing in “the market” and the benevolence of corporations is what gives “free market” advocates a bad rap.  So keep the “free market” as an end in itself as your goal, and stop trying to twist logic to justify what is happening, accept that things would (and probably should) be very different, and imagine the possibilities of what could happen in their stead.

Unfortunately I was unable to, despite repeated attempts, get either to budge an inch towards accepting the even part of my argument:


It was an entertaining, if not futile discussion which reminded me why I don’t discuss these things anymore.

“Big Business” is the Problem

July 27th, 2011

If a workplace needs to be unionized, it’s already a problem that “seizing the means of production” can’t fix. The problem is “Big business” no matter who’s in charge and that’s why syndicalism or trade unionism doesn’t do it for me* . I object to any organization the aim of which is to monopolize a sector of the economy (and a very large union of would do precisely that).

If the unions are meant to be a counterweight to state-granted corporate privilege, the proper recourse is repeal, revoke, or nullify all the privileges in order to facilitate the the liquidation and distribution of the wealth they have amassed**. Whether this distribution may be achieved to some degree through the state’s legal apparatus is suspect, since the “law” is the capitalists’ primary instrument of oppression.

Although I am sympathetic to many labor causes, and not opposed to their means, I have reservations about their efficacy in achieving desired results.  As an equality of means brings about equality of opportunity, the real challenge is to equalize the means and I’m not convinced this happens.

  • If successful in “seizing”, the largest unions would control the “means of production”, employed thereafter for the benefit of themselves. They may be tempted to restrict membership to ensure higher wages, and by restricting membership, the union controls access to the means of production in much the same way that the capitalist-owner does: keeping employment safely out of reach for many.
  • Since all means of production are collectively held, a dissatisfied member can’t just walk off on his own because he can’t take his “share” of the cooperative capital when he leaves. Nor can he, or a group of others decide they are unhappy with the union’s stewardship, they probably can’t instigate a micro-“strike” and claim the product of their labor, or a homestead right to a share of the collective assets.
  • The individuals would be in a position much like the majority who live hand-to-mouth today: bound to the occupation by the necessity of hunger.  And if they choose to leave, they would leave with nothing***  whereupon they would ascertain that the only thing they have to negotiate with is their own labor power; they would be at the mercy of others.

On the contrary, in a free society with the means more-or-less distributed, the average man being unhappy with his station should have options:

If he has acted wisely and put some money away, if there is freedom to buy, sell, loan and borrow, he should have the financial wherewithal take some modest risks: he can go off on his own or join with co-workers and form a competing enterprise or start a new one altogether. Or he may choose to work for someone else; since there would be no workplace large enough or economically powerful enough to exert appreciable pressure on the markets for goods or for labor. In short there should be plenty of opportunities one could pursue.

What I hope we may one day obtain is an environment where no sector of the economy (including labor) is dominated by oligopoly.

I am all for abolishing the current order of things, but I do not want to simply put the power in another party’s hands (no matter which flag they’re waving). Instead I want to abolish that concentration of power which is so easily abused.

 

I am not suggesting  there is anything inherently wrong with labor organizations. Nor am I arguing against tactics advocated by labor organizations like the IWW (direct action, “If you need a break, take one”, etc.) nor am I fundamentally opposed sabotage, etc. If you want to argue for a syndic or a co-op of a dozen people or so who have a small shop and manage that endeavor “collectively”, be my guest. I am absolutely not debating that.
** In order to make an omelet you have to break some eggs. This is probably going to be a messy process.
*** Barring of course, any prior arrangements which may provide for severance pay, or other remuneration based on length of service, etc.

no third solution

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