or·dern.1. A condition of logical or comprehensible arrangement among the separate elements of a group.“…the highest degree of order in society is expressed by the highest degree of individual liberty, in a word, by ANARCHY.”-P.J Proudhon
Hobbes famously defended the hierarchy of the state by claiming that without it, people lived in a “war of all against all”. Though we will not discuss whether or not this has any historical truth to it, we will say the opposite: the State is a war-zone! The aggressors are economic monopoly, tyrannical politics and cultural hegemony, the enemy is humanity, freedom, social interaction, and Order!
A hierarchy is a system of disorder; incomprehensible, illogical and ineffective. On every level, a hierarchy creates antagonism between the different actors. This form of organizing stirs hate against your fellow man, because you are either competing with him, governing him, or governed by him. So you seek to punish, push, avoid, lie and bad-mouth him, because you’re forced to. It is the only thing that makes sense in a hierarchy! Be the worst you can be, or lose your place in social activity, that is the true message of hierarchy.
In hierarchy, knowledge is divorced from authority, reward is divorced from effort, and communication is obstructed by the fact that one actor has the power to put the other in very uncomfortable positions. As a result, the one taking orders will only communicate that information to his superiors that would not put the subordinated in uncomfortable positions. This is understood, subconsciously by both master and serf, and creates an aura of distrust between them. At the end of the day, you will never be able to fully express yourself, efficiently or authentically, to somebody that has the power to punish, humiliate, deprive and bully you.
From the chaos of hierarchy arises war, violence and nationalism, without it, it’s an impossibility. Those at the top of a hierarchy have actual human beings at their disposal, who can be completely divorced from individual will and dignity if the masters so please. The masters, if they want to, can and do make their human capital into soldiers, party loyalists, patriots, consumerists, paranoid lunatics, criminals, sports hooligans, nationalists, racists, and cold blooded murderers. Obedience is a disease that hinders order; people who will not stand up for their own right to be free will never make sense of the world. We only call what surrounds us “order” because we are thought it from youth; let us be honest with our self. This, this system of hierarchy and submission that surrounds us, is nothing but an invisible Civil War.
“I will not Obey!”, is the chorus of order, “I will only conform to my fellow mans will if I share his intent”, is the verse of all human decency. The only order is that order which is based on mutual agreement, not command and obey. Let’s reverse the notion of Hobbes two monsters, “the state of nature” and the “social contract”: The state of hierarchy is a war of all against all! Therefore, we must agree, through unwritten law, to respect each-other and manage our conduct on the principles of mutual agreement and reciprocity. We say with Anselme Bellegarrigue:
Who says anarchy, says negation of government;
Who says negation of government, says affirmation of the people;
Who says affirmation of the people, says individual liberty;
Who says individual liberty, says sovereignty of each;
Who says sovereignty of each, says equality;
Who says equality, says solidarity or fraternity;
Who says fraternity, says social order;
Who says government, says negation of the people;
Who says negation of the people, says affirmation of political authority;
Who says affirmation of political authority, says individual dependency;
Who says individual dependency, says class supremacy;
Who says class supremacy, says inequality;
Who says inequality, says antagonism;
Who says antagonism, says civil war;
From which it follows that who says government, says civil war.
‘Capitalism’ is a funny word. It means so many different things to so many different people, that it’s become entirely useless as a basis for any kind of rational or constructive communication. For some, it is a vessel to romanticize and to pour all their dreams into. For others, it is a trashcan they fill with their complaints and most cynical expectations for the future. But what is capitalism, at its root?
Some will mention wage labor, others exploitation and yet others will talk of free trade. But I think the defining feature is the ability to accumulate lots and lots and lots of stuff (capital). And then, most importantly, to have a third party protect your ability to control that stuff even when you’re not using it. That third party, of course, is the state (the government).
(Does it have to be a state? No. But I don’t think a non-aggressive organization will go to the same lengths as the state to protect property.)
Without this ability to accumulate and have your title to said stuff protected at little to no cost to yourself, things like wage labor, exploitation and managed trade could not happen. These all depend on the power imbalances that stem from the state protecting capitalists’ control of their property.
I don’t think capitalism would survive without the state. In a stateless society, people would be freer to rise up against people who attempt to control more property than they actually use. Acting in concert, great numbers of people could, in the worst case, purchase arms, form a defense force and fight capitalists on a more level playing field. Squatters, worker-owned cooperatives and similar direct actors would take control of more of the capitalists’ property. In the process, their power would be eaten away.
To those who say that capitalism is free trade, nothing more and nothing less, that is not its defining characteristic. Free trade can happen under many different ideological systems. Free trade is blooming right now in China in the midst of an ostensibly socialist system. Free trade can happen in an anarchist society. I don’t doubt that free trade even happened in the Soviet Union, where some may have bartered vodka for bread (or the opposite), for example.
Neither is exploitation a defining characteristic of capitalism, since it can happen anywhere there is an imbalance of power, including under socialist, communist, democratic or plain old totalitarian regimes. In other words, exploitation is not unique to capitalism.
So that’s my problem with capitalism: that some privileged people get to accumulate tons of stuff at other’s expense by using the government to shield them from market action. By market action, I mean homesteading of property the capitalists aren’t themselves using.
So, I’m not high on capitalism (anymore). What am I into? I like the idea that people’s possessions should be respected. These are the things an individual uses on a regular basis to live his life. I would include all the tools and toys a person uses in their home and business, including a reasonable amount of land to live on, to use for recreation and producing food; and everything that goes with their business.
If a person prospers legitimately, I have no basis to challenge any accumulation of wealth. But I take issue with absentee control of things, especially natural resources. There is an argument that the earth is the common heritage of all people. I find this convincing. So for one person to deny others the reasonable use of this common heritage is not legitimate.
For example, if someone fences off 1,000 acres of land but consistently uses only 2, I don’t consider that legitimate. Simply being first to fence is not a solid foundation for denying this common heritage to others. If someone needed land and had a solid intention to use it to sustain his life, I would support that person in any attempt to homestead a reasonable parcel out of the 1,000 acres.
A capitalist might argue that the the first-fencer mixed his labor with the land or registered title and so it was now “a part of him” (which sounds a little too mystical for my tastes). But the first-fencer only mixed his labor with the 2 acres he is using and the thin strip of land the fence is on. What about the other ~998 acres? He hasn’t done anything there. So I don’t even think the homesteading principle supports the first-fencer’s actions.
But you can’t live life without property, say the capitalists. Yes, you can. You can live life with possessions, the things you control and use. You absolutely can live life without those things that you don’t use but control (property). If you don’t use them, that right there shows that you do not need them in order to live.
I realize that last post was more about discourse and responding to attacks rather than an actual account of the legitimate differences between mutualists and anarcho-capitalists. I’ll attempt to do this here, not as a way of starting a fight, but to educate.
Theories of value:
Most mutualists subscribe to the Labor Theory of Value, and were among the first to realize their socialist conclusion. This is rather controversial in modern economics, a considerable amount of people (libertarians in particular) consider it to be some sort of pseudo-science, although there is serious debate about this. The anarcho-capitalists generally hold the work of Eugene Böhm-Bawerk to be the end of Ricardian and Marxist labor-theories, and argue that the subjective theory of value is correct. Kevin Carson in his book “Studies in The Mutualist Political Economy”, argues that Böhm-Bawerks straw-manned Ricardo and the other classical economists, and attempts to synthesize the Marxist labor theory of value with Austrian praxeology.
The support of LTV among mutualists lead them to oppose profit, interest and rent. Anarcho-capitalists do not have any problems with this. Interesting debates can be had about this, but both tend to agree that the problems are less prevalent in a free economy.
It’s fair to say that generally, Anarcho-Capitalists are Lockeans. Anarcho-Capitalists like Rothbard supported some form of IP-rights, but modern Anarcho-Capitalists usually find it illegitimate. Mutualists tend to subscribe to the Ingalls-Tucker doctrine of occupancy and use, but Lysander Spooner, for instance, supported the same kind of natural-law doctrine that is common among Rothbardians, and even supported IP. Thomas Hodgskin, to name another example, defended the private holding of land, against Herbert Spencer of all people. Other people, like Ezra Heywood, suggested that:
…there can be no truly free market while property in raw materials and monopoly of the means of exchange exist
Kevin Carson, however, subscribes to the above mentioned Tucker-Ingalls doctrine, and since he is the main source of mutualist material today, most people who call themselves mutualists subscribe to it. Roderick T Long(who doesn’t call himself capitalist but is a Rothbardian) debated him about this. But what mutualists today find interesting, is not who’s philosophically right or wrong, but the general lack of understanding of from whence capitalist property comes from, that is not limited to just anarcho-capitalists, but most people (though a few Marxists recognize this). Mutualist argue that it took enormous force and government intervention in the economy in order to create what is generally known as “capitalist property”, and that if this hadn’t occurred, the economy would have developed more along the lines of worker-self-management. This is not so much an argument against anarcho-capitalist property rights, but an argument against the “organic liberty” some claim capitalism is. Some Rothbardians have accepted this and have framed themselves “anti-capitalists” as a result.
It is clear that we sometimes hold the same ideas but express them with different semantics. Capitalism, to most anarcho-capitalists, is an economy with zero government intervention. Socialism, to most mutualists, is an economy with zero government intervention. Capitalism, to most mutualist, is systematic government intervention, destroying self-employment activity to create a class of rentier capitalists. Socialism, to most anarcho-capitalists, is systematic government intervention in the market to redistribute wealth and seize private property.
Now, can there be a right or wrong party to this? I don’t personally think so. Mutualists use a definition of capitalism and socialism that dates back to the 19th century anarchists, while anarcho-capitalists use a definition of capitalism and socialism more linked to Mises and Rand. Anarcho-capitalists definitely have a more modern and commonly accepted use of the term, while mutualists twists the definition on it’s head to illustrate that the principal function of government is to maintain capitalist rule.
Anarcho-capitalists are usually gold-bugs, even though some have been enthusiastic about Bitcoins. But according to them, the best money is specie-based. Mutualists argue instead for a form of mutual credit, which is created through an interest-free “mutual bank” (effectively a gift economy with a unit of account). Rothbard argued that this was some sort of “fiat currency”, to which Kevin Carson responded:
Greene and Tucker did not propose inflating the money supply, but rather eliminating the monopoly price of credit made possible by the state’s entry barriers: licensing of banks, and large capitalization requirements for institutions engaged in providing only secured loans.
Modern mutualists tend to be very interested in barter-economies and credit-unions and other forms of local currency.
Goals and Visions
It’s unfair to say that anarcho-capitalists want everything to be a supermarket, but the general attitude among anarcho-capitalists is one in favor of a society centered around entrepreneurs and commerce. Most of them don’t have a real vision, just as long as it’s voluntary and doesn’t infringe on private property rights. They are in favor of the means of production being held privately. Their favored way to get there seems to be either to make the government as libertarian as possible, making it easier for people to secede or revolt through “revolutionary libertarian tribunals” like Walter Block suggests, or the left-libertarian strategy of “agorism”, meaning “counter-economy”.
Mutualists however, aren’t market fetishists to the same extent. Our favored vision is best described as a communitarian one, where most goods are produced for the local economy and based on local needs by self-employed producers and worker-owned businesses. The different communities would interlock under the principles of free-federalism to effectively communicate over larger geographical area. Since Proudhon, mutualists have generally been gradualists when it comes to revolutions, but not reformists. They support syndicalist takeovers of business through general strikes, dual power strategies to create alternatives to the legal institutions, and also agree with the agorists that we need to trade outside the cash-nexus.
Hope this article was helpful, and not too antagonistic.
(translators note: translation from a swedish blog about mutualism, translated by Sushi Goat: http://mutualism.blogg.se/2011/july/hur-exploateras-arbetarklassen.html )
According to the labor theory of value there is a difference between use-value and exchange-value (for people who think the LTV is BS I will explain the exploitation of labor even without the LTV after a while, but it’s easier to start with this). Use-value is the the use an individual can have of a certain good or service, while the exchange value is the price - that is, what this good or service can be traded for on the market. In the long run, with free competition, the exchange-value of easily reproducible goods will simple fluctuate around the labor value, or the cost of reproducing the same good.
In the capitalist economy, labor is both a good that is bought and sold, and a factor of production that give other goods their value. This means that work has a dual function; it’s exchange-value is determined by how much is necessary to reproduce this work (that is food and housing for the worker and his potential family - coupled with, when it’s about work that requires higher qualification, a wage high enough to attract this kind of workforce), while it’s use-value is decided by how much this work contributes to the production.
This means in turn that the workers use-value, in the capitalist economy, must be higher than the workers exchange value. If the exchange value is higher than the use-value - i.e if work costs more than what it brings in - then there is no capitalist in the universe that would hire. If the work brings in 1000 monies, but it costed 2000 monies, it would be a complete loss to hire such labor-power; if the work instead brings in 2000 monies, but costed 1000, the labor power would be a complete gain. The difference between the use-value and the exchange value is usually called the “surplus value”, i.e the value that the worker creates but goes to the employer. The surplus value is also that which in first hand makes up the profit for the capitalist (which he or she can increase through market barriers that lead to monopoly-or-oligopoly power.) The profit and the exploitation are thus two sides of the same coins, to be exploited it is necessary for there to be someone to profit of your work, and to profit it is necessary someone else’s labor is exploited. This led Benjamin Tucker to the opinion that “profit is another name for plunder”.(Coughlin, Hamilton and Sullivan (red.) “Benjamin R. Tucker and the Champions of Liberty”, s. 29).
Through the labor theory of value it is as such very easy to show how the working class is being exploited by the capitalists. Unsurprisingly, this theory is not used by modern national-economists, that instead use different kinds of marginal utility-theories (that, as Kevin A Carson, as previously pointed out, isn’t by any means “wrong” - but such a theory should be incorporated into a more comprehensive labor-theory of value rather than be put against it, because the theories in no way contradict eachother). Because these theories do not use terms like “use-value” or “exchange value” it is more difficult to clearly and concisely prove this exploitation (maybe a contributing factor to why it relatively quickly became so popular in bourgeois economies?) - but this exploitative relationship that is the foundation of the capitalist economy can of course be illustrated without these values. Instead of speaking about use-and exchange-values, I will instead show this relationship through example, and debunk the pro-capitalist arguments put-forward against them.
Imagine a worker who preforms wage-labor for a company that produces and sells iron nails, while the company profits. What is the source of this profit? The revenues are higher than the outlay. What are the revenues? The sale of iron nails. What are the outlays? Rents, capital investments and - that’s right - labor power. The rents probably can’t be affected (unless the capitalist owns the land and buildings he rents them from another land-owner/capitalist, who puts his own price in relation to the present market). The capital investments are also a thing that can’t be affected to a larger degree, when such- in the same way as rents - is done through trade with other capitalists. What the capitalist himself can affect is the cost of the labor power he uses, and how the mode of production looks. Here, he can generate profits, by paying the workers as little as he possibly can - which means as huge profit as possible for himself, all other things equal.
The pro-capitalists biggest objections are usually these:
1) The capitalist is taking all the risk, he deserves this surplus value(even if liberals and conservatives rarely want to call it surplus value)!
2) The capitalist contributes through factory and machinery, of course he should have this surplus (even if….)!
And these objections are reasonable in a capitalistic economy; it is correct to say the capitalists is the one taking the risk, and the one contributing with the factory and the machinery. What liberals forget is that we libertarian socialists don’t want a capitalist mode of production; these objections become fairly meaningless. Why is it that the capitalist has the possibility to own factories, and take the risk to produce with the promise of enormous profit? Present day economical property relations are not given by nature, but is a result of an economic evolution, based, first and foremost, on violence and coercion, state intervention and capitalist power games. We socialists don’t want to rob the capitalists of their “wage” in the capitalist economy, like capitalist liberals seem to presume; we want to replace capitalism with something else, where these property relations are not present and were work - rather than usury, is the source of income. I have yet to show exploitation of the labor force without the help of a labor theory of value - because this cannot be explained in marginalist language without a counterexample. Because of the blogs orientation, I am of course choosing a mutualist counterexample.
Let’s imagine that instead of capitalism and wage labor we had a mutualist economic order. Self-employed producers own their own means of production, large producers work together and own their production cooperatively, investments are made through credit cooperatives and mutual banks while land-ownership is decided based on occupancy and use. We immediately get rid of rent on land, because this ownership is based on capitalist landownership and is impossible with occupancy and use. The mutualist banks and credit-coops furthermore means that the self-employed producers and worker-coops no longer have to rely on resourceful capitalists to make investments. That the producers directly own their workplace makes no profit necessary to pay to a specific owner, when the revenues - minus the revenues that go to investment in further production (if the producers are interested in producing for tomorrow) - go directly to the workers. Here we see an economic order where no capitalistic profit is necessary - the capitalist is out of the picture. If my work creates 2000 monies then my revenue is also 2000 monies; where I alone (and possibly my co-workers, if I work cooperatively) decide how much of my revenue should go to my consumption and how much should go to future production.I contributed then with work that earned 2000 monies for the business and I receive 2000 monies for this; something completely different than what we can see in the capitalist economy built on hierarchy with the capitalist on top and the workers on the bottom.
When we compare these two examples the exploitation becomes apparent. Even if you who reads this is reluctant to use terms like exchange-value and use-value we can from these two examples see clearly a difference between use-and exchange value in the capitalist economy, while labors exchange value in the mutual socialistic alternative is irrelevant, when the entire process is based on it’s use-value. The liberal, who is reluctant to accept any thought of “usurpation”, could replace “exchange-value” with “the price of work” and “use-value” with “what labor contributes to production”, if this makes the concepts easier to understand. Which leads us to our next procapitalist objection to the fact that the working class are systematically exploited in the capitalist economy:
3) You’re forgetting about time-preference! Something is today worth more than something tomorrow, because of the humans subjectivite evaluation - the capitalist gives up something today, invests in production, to get more tomorrow - everyone is happy!.
Time-preference with all-due respect, and such a thing exists to the highest degree in the human consciousness; but the thought that capitalism is legitimized because of time-preferences is once again something that comes from idea that the capitalist property-relations are something “natural”, along with production based on propertarian capitalists and property-less workers. Once again, therefore: a brilliant defense of capitalism that presupposes capitalism, but a fairly useless one if we discuss socialist alternatives. Because, in the mutualist alternative above, what is the time preference based on? Time-preference is based on what has been mentioned above: the workers decision over how much of the revenues they should use themselves and how much should be reinvested in production. Kevin A. Carson represents this relationship in a excellent way:
“In an economy […] as would have existed had the free market been allowed to develop without large-scale robbery, time-preference would affect only laborers’ calculations of their own present consumption versus their own future consumption. All consumption, present or future, would be beyond question the result of labor. It is only in a capitalist (i.e., statist) economy that a propertied class, with superfluous wealth far beyond its ability to consume, can keep itself in idleness by lending the means of subsistence to producers in return for a claim on future output.”(Kevin A. Carson, “Studies in Mutualist Political Economy”, Chapter 3)
If we use the labor-theory of value, or if we completely exclude it from our analysis, the answer is the same: the working class is exploited in the capitalist economy, when this is compared to a socialist alternative. All productive people in our society gains from the libertarian and anarchistic socialism - while the losers are the parasite classes: the capitalists and the landowners, who live of the labor of others. Liberal reactionaries and bourgeois national-economists defense of the present day order in with all due respect, but this defense is so flawed that even a text as short as this can easily tear it apart.
Mutualists are at an awkward place: they’ve labelled themselves as anti-propertarians and pro-propertarians at the same time. Proudhon’s “Property is Theft” is certainly quoted way more than “What is Property?” is read, let alone Proudhon’s later work. It becomes especially confusing if you read Tucker and Clarence Lee Swarts defense of individual property, which brings to mind a gun-pointing neck-beard waving the Gadsden flag (jokes, jokes…).
Mutualist property is usually summed up as “occupancy and use”. It is true that it is this PRINCIPLE on which we base legitimate ownership, but that principle is generally only applied when there’s a conflict in who has the right of ownership. That is the way mutualist have always framed it, as a response to the feudalism of capitalist “private property”. It generally never discussed in traditional mutualism whether person A could legitimately go to your house and steal person B’s food while B is away. I find this concern rather silly. Local agreements would be made by all involved to ensure that people don’t step on each-others toes. It’s the only way, since property in dead material is a social construct, not an objective law.
In a broader analysis, mutualist promote not just some vague occupancy and use basis of property, they promote what I’d like to call Social property against Political property. Political property is the property that can only be realized and enforced through a state mechanism. Political property can exist and be maintained only through state force. Kevin Carson does a brilliant job at showing us how instrumental the State has been in creating, enforcing and maintaining what is now known has “capitalist” private property in his illusion-shattering essay The Iron Fist Behind The Invisible Hand. It is clear to mutualists that capitalist property as a product of a free economy is a destructive myth, an insulting fable. The dominance of private ownership over capital, and territorial property (effectively feudalism), can only be viewed as one class using the state to expropriate labor-time and rent from the other. State socialist property is also included under this, even though it’s instituted for different reasons: to attack capitalist property. But as we have seen, it is a ridiculous attempt, since capitalist property is a product of the state itself.
Social property in contrast to Political property can best be described as Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea put it in The Illuminatus Trilogy:
The test is to ask, of any title of ownership you are asked to accept or which you ask others to accept, “Would this be honored in a free society of rationalists, or does it require the armed might of a State to force people to honor it?” If it be the former, it… [it] represents liberty; if it be the latter… [it] represents theft.
Social property is precisely what would be honored by all in a free society, and it is what we want society to center around. A way to interact with each-other without stepping on each-others toes. Without state enforced privilege distorting principles of ownership, we would expect this form of property to become the norm of society: it may be individual, collective or common, but never feudal, territorial and usurping.
The differences are clear: social property is evolves from the continued interaction of free individuals in a community through realizing how we can best structure society in a mutual way. Political property is the opposite: it cares not for people, it only cares for the will of the person holding the gun. It doesn’t evolve; it hinders evolution, and keeps people down. Social property, then, is our goal. Political property remains our enemy.