I had someone follow me on twitter who called herself an anarchist and I followed back. A short while later there was an avalanche of tweets about how the Austrian School of Economics was totally wrong, laisez-faire leads to enslavement and so forth. The boat load of tweets were typical of socialistic myths that were debunked in the 20th century by theorists like von Mises, and by real world examples of communism in action. Think USSR, East Germany, Mao’s China, North Korea, or Cuba. So, I though I would give her my thoughts on communism and things that sound like they are different from communism but, in fact, reduce down to communism when inspected closely. If you don’t like my use of “communism” then substitute “collectivism” instead as they amount to pretty much the same thing in practice.
There can be no doubt that humanity needs to run an advanced industrial society if we expect to support the over seven billion souls that are on this planet as I write this and if we plan on keeping the living standard we enjoy today. There are three major proposals for running an advanced industrial society. There is some variant of socialism, free-market capitalism, and syndicalism. Some might say, “what about the US system we have now”. The US has a crony-capitalist system that is essentially corporatism. (Mussolini’s term for fascism) Corporatism is just fascism and hence a close cousin of socialism. The U.S.A. did practice a semi laissez-faire system at times early in its history but at least since 1850 there has been heavy intervention into the market by the various levels of government.
We live with scarcity as a fact of life. There are never enough resources to meet every want and need. In any society, there must be a rational mechanism for allocating resources efficiently. There must be some mechanism to signal how much land, labor, and capital equipment is to be used and used in what ways to best satisfy the wants and needs of the society. Over and over, history has demonstrated that free market capitalism most smoothly and efficiently does this while being based solely on voluntary inducements and incentives. Many books and essays have been written on how mankind could run an anarchy using laissez-faire capitalism, and some even prefer the term market anarchy to the term capitalism.
Socialism itself, in any of its various flavors, demands the armed intervention of a government to force people to do as the government demands since voluntary cooperation is not a feature of the system. Without a price feedback mechanism no one knows how much of what needs to be produced and who should do the producing, and so a government bureaucracy backed by guns issues the orders telling the slaves what to do. Ludwig von Mises showed how a socialist economy could not work back in the 20s of last century. The examples of socialism abound and socialism is a demonstrated failure. Given the record of socialism in the 20th century, we must reject socialism as it is the path to tyranny and deprivation.
The syndicalist “anarchists” claim to believe in full worker ownership of their industries. Each plant would be owned by the workers and some sort of plant government would have to arise to force John to clean the restrooms while Bill sits in the air-conditioned front office. Even worse they do not even attempt to achieve a rational allocation of total societal resources since they claim to rule out the voluntary cooperation of the laissez-faire free market and the coercion of the socialist central planing bureaucracy also. So we have the rational and voluntary allocation of resources of the free-market, or we have the tyrannical force of the socialist central planning boards, or we have … what? We have the total chaos of the various syndicated plants all demanding whatever resources they wanted with no mechanism for allocation. Out of the chaos of the syndicalist system would arise planning boards to settle the disputes and allocate resources among the industrial plants. In effect, syndicalism is just one more path to central planning and all that entails.
In conversations with these left-anarchists one finds that they are eaten up with envy, fear, and loathing. They detest the idea that some individuals might form a business, have it become well loved by the public, and see it grow into a very large corporation. Many seem to hate the idea that in a free society some men will grow rich honestly while other men will remain ordinary guys with a job. I was told by the syndicalist on Twitter that the free market was ok “up to a point“. What point? Like the USSR letting people trade a bit of their personal wares for profit as long as they obeyed the government and did their government assigned job? It is also true that left-anarchists hate the idea of private property more than they hate the state.
Rothbard once observed:
And when the left-anarchists can be pressed for an answer, the response is disturbing indeed. Take for example one of our most distinguished socialist-anarchists, Professor Noam Chomsky. Professor Chomsky has recently expressed a great deal of worry about the recent rise of our “right-wing” libertarian movement; apparently he is – I am afraid unrealistically – concerned that we might succeed in abolishing the State before the State has succeeded in abolishing private property! Secondly, Chomsky has written that the anarcho-capitalist society would constitute “the greatest tyranny the world has ever known.” (What, Noam? Greater than Hitler? Than Genghis Khan?)
Whether or not anarcho-capitalism would be tyrannical is here irrelevant; the problem is that, in so expressing his horror at the possible results of complete freedom, Professor Chomsky reveals that he is not really an “anarchist” at all, indeed that he prefers statism to an anarcho-capitalist world. That of course is his prerogative, and scarcely unusual, but what is illegitimate is for this distinguished linguist to call himself an “anarchist.”
I had someone say to me on Twitter that the large corporations would “dominate” us and become our masters in the absence of government. Does she not know of how many corporations have lost out in the competitive race due to the customer’s whims? Where the hell is the A&P grocery chain that was the largest and most powerful in the nation when I was born? Were is Florida’s dominate drug store chain that was called Eckerds? Heck, I am not sure of the spelling any more they have been gone so long. Dominate us? Walmart has no army to make me buy from them. I have not been inside one of their stores in years and they can’t do a thing about it. I prefer Target. And at one time IBM was the only maker of computers that any business would buy from and there was even a saying back then, “no one ever got fired because they bought IBM”. Do they even make computers any more? What happened to them? Does anyone still use a Zerox copy machine?
In a free society without government where free-market competition rules, there would be competing firms or voluntary organizations that offer me insurance, protection, and legal services. In other words, in a free society I would not be forced to do as others demand as long as I was innocent of aggression against others. No monopoly is possible under these circumstances as von Mises demonstrated decades ago.
Ludwig von Mises once observed:
Under capitalism, material success depends on the appreciation of a man’s achievements on the part of the sovereign consumers. In this regard there is no difference between the services rendered by a manufacturer and those rendered by a producer, an actor or a playwright.
In the ‘workers paradise’ proposed by the syndicalists, who would decide if some workers in a plant wanted a four day week while others wanted a five day week? Silly question, but who decides? In a market economy the management appointed by the stock holders would decide. In a syndical system there would have to be force or threat of force to make decisions stick. The same can be said for all the varieties of left-anarchists no matter what they call themselves these days. Communal, syndical, left-anarchists or whatever, we see that there is libertarian rhetoric hiding compulsory and coercive collectivism of the socialist system. A system of coercive egalitarian despots in other words.
I often call all variants of collectivism by the term communism. “Commie” for short on Twitter. For once you allow a small group to make all the decisions and do away with private property rights you are on the road to the hell that was the old USSR. Collectivism is the original sin of mankind. Once you leave the idea of men and women cooperating in a voluntary manner without any coercion then you have strayed into the realm of violence and slavery.
The market anarchists have one main starting point — the non-aggression principle. No individual or group may legitimately use fraud, force, or threat against someone who has not committed aggression himself. A great writer once observed that the whole system evolved from the simple observation that slavery was always wrong. One may support slavery and violence, or one may advocate anarchy with absolutely no monopolies on the use of force. One may not legitimately propose a system that requires changing human nature as the old USSR did when they claimed to be “building the new Soviet Man” as that is just a utopian fantasy.
I can imagine some people buying or building a factory and running is as a “worker co-op” in a market anarchy. There would be nothing wrong with that, let them have at it. As long as they respect the property rights of the rest of us and they don’t try to use force or intimidation on us, then market anarchists would not mind the attempt at all. In fact, I would love to live long enough to enjoy the spectacular sight of some people trying that experiment.
Force and violence; or peace and prosperity — which will you advocate? For myself, I will go with voluntary cooperation that leads to peace and prosperity. I greatly detest systems that require the use of force and I detest the avocation of systems that are based on the rule by a minority using force. Syndicalism is just another path to rule by the few.