Misconception #1: Anarchism Would Stunt Progress
I’d like to take today to talk about an extremely common misconception among statists at it applies to anarchism: the idea that anarchism (socialism) would kill progress.
First, let’s begin with some unspoken implications of this statement, required for it to have any meaning in the context of the argument:
False Implication #1: Capitalism Supports Progress
While it is easy to come up with some examples of successful tech startups who have done huge amounts of progress in our society, this is insufficient to show that capitalism itself is responsible for this progress.
In fact, these examples of successful startups pale in comparison to the real capitalist success stories: the enormous corporations. These lumbering beasts are incapable of the kind of agile change required for true progress. They do, however, have a large advantage in the statist-capitalist world: money! Using things like patent laws, they are capable of bringing other companies (or, indeed, the very startups the capitalists love to talk about) to their knees in reverence to ridiculous concepts like intellectual property. Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman wrote a piece for the Guardian about this (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2005/jun/20/comment.comment) which outlines why patent law is an absurd obstacle to actual progress. Patent law is another weapon in the hands of the lawyers who give corporations their immense staying power.
False Implication #2: The Profit Motive Creates Progress
This is, of course, false. There is a large number of counterexamples to this argument, ranging from the world of software, to the world of artists, to the world of knowledge.
- Free Software (which powers the majority of the Internet and every electronic device owned by yours truly)
- Wikipedia (licensed under the Creative Commons and created by croudsourcing)
- Community music, especially pony music (most pony music is also released under the Creative Commons)
- The starving artists who could easily have chosen “success” (you all know many of these, see: everybody who did not get signed by an international label)
While there are some people who get paid for their work on such projects, a good deal of them do not, and almost zero of those individuals started off their work in their community on a pay basis. A longtime Linux kernel developer may find himself doing paid development work (indeed, 75% of Linux kernel development is paid development) but I challenge anyone to find me someone who said “you know what would make me a bunch of money? Kernel development!” Some pony musicians, like Aviators, may sell their albums for money (while licensing them CC), but I doubt any of them have ever said “you know, I really hate this music thing, but there appears to be a lot of money in it!”
False Implication #3: Capitalism Is a Free Market
This one is probably the most controversial and is the reason I am a mutualist and emphatically not an “anarcho”-capitalist. The protections afforded by classical capitalism (the protections of private property, of private ownership of the means of production) are impossible without the strong arm of the State. For one to say “that land over there is mine, do not tread upon it” requires a group above all others to enforce it; such a claim to unproductivity would never be accepted by a community and is simply another form of the hierarchy that cannot be permitted to exist in a free society OR a free market.
- Capitalist conceptions of “private property” must be enforced by a State entity
- The existence of a State entity is another resource to be leveraged against the less wealthy by the rich (see: lobbying)
- Therefore, the existence of a State entity is antithetical to the existence of a free market
- Therefore, capitalist markets are not free.
True progress requires a free market not just of products but of ideas, of art, of human interaction. Capitalism does not support such a system and punishes those that seek to live freely with the threat of starvation.
As I will do in every post from now on, I will exit with a quote:
The purchaser draws boundaries, fences himself in, and says, “This is mine; each one by himself, each one for himself.” Here, then, is a piece of land upon which, henceforth, no one has a right to step, save the proprietor and his friends; which can benefit nobody, save the proprietor and his servants. Let these sales multiply, and soon the people — who have been neither able nor willing to sell, and who have received none of the proceeds of the sale — will have nowhere to rest, no place of shelter, no ground to till. They will die of hunger at the proprietor’s door, on the edge of that property which was their birthright; and the proprietor, watching them die, will exclaim, “So perish idlers and vagrants!” - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Spooner: Government Worse than the Robber
But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.
The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the road side, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.
The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.
Although Spooner was one of the (unknowing) forefathers of “anarcho”-capitalism, his writings are more than worthy of reading. One wonders, while reading, if Spooner would more have approved of the school of mutualism, advocating as he did for self-employment and the like. Indeed, mutualism.org considers Spooner to have been influenced by socialist teachings.
Anarchism and Bronyism
OK, so I’m finally back to using Tumblr after a year away from it. I deleted my Facebook and need to replace all the time I wasted mindlessly surfing through the moronic posts of the people I went to high school with.
So, I wanted to get started with a post on something dear to me: the intersection of anarchism and brony culture. Why do I link the two so strongly that I use a compound word of the two for my handle?
Liberation is Magic
The brony culture teaches us that all people are important, that we should consider the feelings and lives of others, and other social behaviors that are beneficial on the whole. Each individual has something of worth to contribute to society (a special talent), and we should appreciate that. We can all share and cooperate to form a better society.
Capitalism, on the other hand, teaches that each person is only worth what he or she can produce. That some peoples’ lives are worth more than others based on how many resources they can amass. That we need violence to keep our things from being used by others (that sharing is bad).
Therefore, from my perspective as a humanitarian who actually pays attention to the news and to the class war, bronyism and capitalism are mutually exclusive. To be a brony is to believe in the worth of all people; to be a capitalist is to degrade people into instruments of production. To be a brony is to believe that each person has some talent of worth; to be a capitalist is to say that some people are fit only to scrape out a living on the bottom of society as beggars and slaves.