A Rebuttal to “Sorry Libertarian Anarchists, Capitalism Requires Government”

I find it rather fun to debunk articles about why anarchists are wrong. Mostly, this is because the people writing them are generally in favor of limited government, yet use all of the tactics of their big government counterparts when arguing against voluntaryism. This article called Sorry Libertarian Anarchists, Capitalism Requires Government, by Harry Binswanger was a slightly better critique of anarchism compared to Austin Petersen’s, but essentially makes the same mistake of failing to differentiate between defensive force, and offensive force.

The anarchists object to the very idea of a monopoly on force. That only shows that they cannot grasp what force is. Force is monopoly. To use force is to attempt to monopolize. The cop or the gunman says: “We’ll do it my way, not your way–or else.” There is no such thing as force that allows dissenters to go their own way.

If a man wants to have sex with a woman who doesn’t want it, only one of them can have their way. It’s either “Back off” or rape. Either way, it’s a monopoly.

Does he not realize that this argument says rape need only be deemed legal and the rapist is in the right? Anarchists recognize the aggressor as always wrong. Anarchists understand that force is a meaningless word in the way that he uses it, because he fails to differentiate between types of force. Defending against rape is not monopolizing force, it is monopolizing your body. And monopolizing your own body is where all rights stem from.

You are your own property, and therefore philosophically have total autonomy. He speaks of a “proper government”, which is mythical, unless you count the individual as a government of one. The only thing you have the right to monopolize is your own body, and the property that stems from the right of self ownership (acquired by trade, or original appropriation mixed with labor). This highlights the difference between the force used in rape, and the force used in defense of rape.

Monopolizing force in an attempt to rape would not be “proper government” (defined as a government that does not violate any rights) because it seeks to monopolize more than your own body (and your property which stems from self ownership). Monopolizing force to defend against rape would indeed be “proper government” because you are only monopolizing your own body, and demanding that no other (government or individual) break your monopoly on self ownership.

He really digs his own grave on this point, since all government does is in fact “rape”, by failing to recognizing autonomous individuals who own themselves, and therefore monopolize their own body. Government says it has partial ownership of you, and the proof is that they can force you to do things you do not want to do. And in this sense, he makes the same argument as Petersen: they both believe that just by wielding force, whether defensive or offensive, you are a government. But practically no one agrees with their definition of government.

Governments monopolize regardless of rights, and individuals acting in self defense are monopolizing only in accordance to their rights. If a government only operated without violating others’ rights, this means they would not forcefully exclude a competitor, and therefore would not be a government, but a competing business to fulfill a market demand.

And after all of the effort to show how force will be monopolized no matter what, Binswanger then argues that we need government force in order to protect us from force from others. But he never explains why the government’s force is better than those it protects you from. In essence he admits that there is no difference between “the cop or the gunman,” then arbitrarily chooses the cop’s force over the gunman’s. Binswanger would therefor not necessarily prefer the woman’s monopoly on force to the rapists: first he must check with the government to see which will be allowed under their monopoly.

He then goes on to praise the non-existent “American system” of government, which even in its perfect form violates the individual’s right to self ownership, and therefore does not fit the definition of a “proper government”.

The genius of the American system is that it limited government, reining it in by a Constitution, with checks and balances and the provision that no law can be passed unless it is “necessary and proper” to the government’s sole purpose: to protect individual rights–to protect them against their violation by physical force.

Tragically, the original American theory of government was breached, shelved, trashed long ago. But that’s another story.

No, it is not another story, it is very much a part of this story. What is so genius about a system that could not maintain itself? How was it reigned in by a Constitution, if he admits that it was “shelved and trashed long ago”? As Lysander Spooner said, the Constitution either allowed such a system as we have, or failed to prevent it.

Never has a government existed whose sole purpose was and stayed to protect individual rights, let alone doing so funded through voluntary means! So Binswanger can keep arguing for that type of government, but without saying how to get or keep it, what good does the argument do? I could use this same argument for a monarchy or dictatorship, and just ignore the fact that it would be impossible to always have a benevolent dictator in power.

Anarchy on the other hand, tells you how it will remain free: through market decisions. If the market dictates that force be used not only in self defense, we may end up right back where we are now. But that is a less likely scenario based on everything we know about markets and competition–competition delivers a better product for cheaper. It also speaks volumes that we are currently living in the worst case scenario for how anarchy would turn out: violent monopolization of force without accordance to individual rights stemming from self ownership.

But this last point, Binswanger would argue, is moot, because protection is not production, so it is therefore not an economic service which can be provided by the market.

However protection is creating a proper environment for economic transactions, just like vacuuming the floor at a shop creates a proper environment: vacuuming is not production, but it allows the store to be more productive by appealing to customers who want to shop in a clean store. A guard does not produce whatever you are selling, he allows you to be more productive by creating an environment where people feel safe shopping, working, or living.

The anarchists do not object to retaliatory force, only to it being wielded by a government. Why? Because, they say, it excludes “competitors.” It sure does: it excludes vigilantes, lynch mobs, terrorists, and anyone else wanting to use force subjectively.

“A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control–i.e., under objectively defined laws.” (Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal)

There can be only one supreme law of the land and only one government to enforce it. (State and local governments are necessarily subordinate to the federal government.)

Yet despite his arguments, governments currently use force subjectively! And how can he claim competition for retaliatory force would be more subjective than monopolization on retaliatory force? What evidence does Binswanger have to show that government can more effectively objectively define laws than competing firms? None! In fact an examination of every government’s laws on earth will yield no such objectivity, especially when their aggressive actions are examined next to their laws. Read the Constitution for proof, and tell me if you think our government is objective in their enforcement.

Vigilantes, lynch mobs and terrorists would all be subject to further retaliation when they violate others’ rights. Not always, but more often than in government, will objective laws come from companies who wish to turn profits, because conflict is costly, and not conducive to the bottom line. Competing entities are not simply competing in force, but in productivity. They must bring people to justice in order to serve their customers, but not invite conflict by going beyond the objective, previously defined contracts they agree to fulfill. In other words, the competing wielders of force have all the incentives to lay out their “laws” and stick to them, while government has no such incentive.

Binswanger does not say what land area a government may cover, so we can assume that governments could be as small as we want, except that he says local and state governments are “necessarily subordinate to federal government” (despite arguing earlier in favor of the Constitution which subordinated the federal government to state governments). But why does a law of the land have to be subject to arbitrary borders? I might assume he would support one world government, because then the ultimate “agreement” across the board would be had over what an individual can and cannot do.

He claims the mythical government that he wants will not get its money through force, but voluntarily, and only wield force in a retaliatory manner. So the monopoly on law is what he really wants the government to have. Throw in the possibility of different courts defining different segments of law, or laws in different regions. The laws would depend on the people who voluntary patronize such firms for protection, while agreeing that they will not violate the laws they are protected with, and voila, we have an anarchist society.

People, consumers, would define the laws by patronizing competing agencies of law–security companies, third party arbiters, crime insurance companies, etc. Desire for profits will keep these competing firms from breaching contracts or waging wars. Governments on the other hand, routinely wage wars when they cannot agree with other governments.

The anarchist idea of putting law on “the market” cannot be applied even to a baseball game. It would mean that the rules of the game will be defined by whoever wins it.

An absurd analogy! In order to play a game at all, it must first be defined! This is a paradox; how can there be a winner if it takes a winner to define what it means to be a winner?! How can a game be won, if there is no game until it is won?

Imagine someone saying, “We’re going to play a game. Okay, I win; now I will tell you what the rules are. The rules are, I win.” That sounds like a government to me.

But let’s follow the baseball example. Two people or companies engaging in free trade would be the baseball teams, and they must both agree on the terms of the game before playing with each other. If they never agree, they never play!

If they agree on the rules, they then both agree on a third party to whom’s authority they will voluntarily submit, in order to engage in the game–the economic transaction–because they both want to play, they both see some benefit in the game. So both teams hire an umpire to call the shots based on rules that both teams agreed to, not that the umpire simply makes up.

Again, it is hilariously cringe-worthy that Binswanger would use an example of a baseball game, that could be compared perfectly to an anarchist scenario. Both teams agree on the end that they want: to play a game. They create law by defining the terms of the game. They know the umpire won’t always make the calls they want, but they also know the game essentially would be chaos–not anarchy–without the third party making the calls. Its a win win, even for the loser, who will have the chance to play other games, since other teams know they play fair.

The market was created by the two teams. The two will not be playing the same game, or in the same stadium, unless they first agree on the rules.

Binswanger also forgets that economics is not a zero-sum game. There is no outright winner in economics, and there is only a loser when the business shuts its doors. Otherwise, the business will stay open to competition. The team may lose one game, and win the next one; that is it may lose one customer, and gain the next one, based on how well it plays the game. But the teams it engages with are always on the same page, or they would not be engaging.

This guy might do better writing for the Onion. Look at these two lines, where he tells us why government functions cannot be accomplished through competition:

Actual competition is a peaceful rivalry to gain dollars–dollars paid voluntarily in uncoerced trade.

Governments are necessary–because we need to be secure from force initiated by criminals, terrorists, and foreign invaders.

Peaceful competition cannot exist without violent force. Allowing violent force to be used against you is the only way to prevent violent force from being used against you. Peaceful competition is the ideal, therefore we must accept violent force to make sure all competition is peaceful. He should be embarrassed that he wrote these two sentences in the same article, let alone right next to each other.

Government forcing you to fund and use their services is coerced trade! A voluntary trade would be hiring a firm who agrees to protect you from criminals, terrorists, and foreign invaders. And you would hire the best firm, not the one that says it will cage you if you refuse to engage, as the current government does.

Binswanger has already said that the only moral use of force is to defend rights, yet even when governments have defended some of these rights, they do so by first violating them in order to gain their funding through violent theft via taxation. It is a contradiction of objective morality, unless he somehow thinks paradoxically that an immoral act is required to stop other immoral acts.

The attempt to invoke individual rights to justify “competing” with the government collapses at the first attempt to concretize what it would mean in reality. Picture a band of strangers marching down Main Street, submachine guns at the ready. When confronted by the police, the leader of the band announces: “Me and the boys are only here to see that justice is done, so you have no right to interfere with us.” According to the anarchists, in such a confrontation the police are morally bound to withdraw, on pain of betraying the rights of self-defense and free trade.

First of all, whose rights have been violated? Men walking down the street with guns is not an infringement on any rights. On the other hand, armed police officers walking down the street, paid and armed through theft of the citizens wages, is itself an immoral act (according to his own definition) due to the rights violated to make it possible. Of course the police are morally required to withdraw.

But say it was just two gangs of gun toters: the immoral party would be the first one to fire a shot unprovoked. This isn’t hard: the people in the wrong are the ones who initiate force, who violate others’ rights, who infringe on the self ownership of others, who seek to break the monopoly that the individual inherently has over himself.

And anarchists think a free market for the services government provides would more often hold the wrongdoers accountable, based on the fact that the free market more often serves the consumers’ demands in every area in which the government doesn’t interfere.

Anarchy is no guarantee that a man’s rights will not be violated. Government is a guarantee that a man’s rights will be violated.

Economic competition presupposes a free market. A free market cannot exist until after force has been barred. That means objective law, backed up by a government. To say it can be backed up by “competing” force-wielders is circular. There is no competition until there is a free market, and some agency has to protect its condition as a free market by the use of retaliatory force.

He’s got it all backwards! The only natural law, that offensive force is barred. If you allow government to wield the force, then force has not been barred, and it is not a free market, which is presupposed for competition!

The question is, what is the most effective way of getting to a truly free market? Recognizing all force as immoral would be a good place to start, as opposed to giving government the magic power of abracadabra, and they are somehow not guilty of an immoral act.

If you can disassociate, and refuse to do business with someone, that is a free market. Government, which forces you into their marketplace, does not create a free market.

Competing force wielders would be more constrained by the market than monopoly force wielders, thus being more likely to lead to a freer and freer market, until economic incentives dictate the only rule that ever needed to exist: do not initiate force against others.

And at that point there will be 7 billion “proper governments” on earth called sovereign individuals.

Free Market, Less Poverty

Poor people in America have cell phone, cars, apartments, food, alcohol, cigarettes, medical care, and free time. These people are “poor” for the first time throughout human history, because poor is a relative term, and they live next to people who have twice, 5 times, or a 100 times more stuff or better food etc. But what people seem to gloss over, is that the American market started out as probably one of the freest markets ever. And what it created was some of the lowest poverty in the history of the world.

To clearly distinguish it from crony capitalism, free market or laissez-faire capitalism removes entire populations from poverty. Indeed even having a sort-of capitalist economy in a few major worldwide superpowers has made poverty drop by 80% worldwide over the last 30 years. And the countries with the more free markets still have the least poverty yet! It makes sense when you think about it. When people can keep more of the products of their labor, they create more, and will trade this excess. All of society benefits because more is created. The Mises Institute has posted an article which supports this common sense with more data.

It is an obvious fact that severe poverty has disappeared in the most industrialized countries. Nations like the US, UK, Switzerland, and Japan industrialized within what were predominantlylaissez-faire free-market conditions. Even the so-called social democracies, like Sweden and Germany, developed in free-market conditions, and adopted extensive state welfare and regulatory programs only after achieving high levels of economic development and industrialization. World Bank data shows that there is inequality, but this inequality is between the free-market nations and the crony-capitalist and socialistic nations.[1]

The idea that domestic laissez-faire causes poverty is unfounded. It is a historical fact that India, China, and Kenya never tried capitalism, so this system was never given a chance to work….

There have been significant improvements in living conditions around the world over the past thirty years. The largest improvements in the poorest nations took place during the wave of globalization that took place twenty years ago, after the fall of the USSR. The collapse of the Soviet Union opened the door to unprecedented globalization of industry. What does real data tell us about poverty during this period? Per Capita GDP rose dramatically

Clearly we should be less worried about catering to special interests by pouring money (extracted from the working population by force) down the poverty hole. As wealth is created, it naturally finds its way into the hands of the poor, without having to be stolen: the act of stealing it reduces the entire amount of wealth available. So by allowing people control over the products of their own labor, we are actually helping the poor people by wealth diffusion, more than they would be helped by redistribution.

True Utopia: Communism versus Anarcho-Capitalism (Part II)

Yesterday I started discussing how a communist utopia is unattainable because of the lack of incentives to produce necessities for human survival. I offered anarcho-capitalism as an alternative, which would bring that “utopia” into reality. While some people would inevitably have more than other people, the reason I am calling the outcome from an anarcho-capitalist society “utopia” is because in such a society there would be enough extra production that no one would go without necessities. And what’s more, is that an anarcho-capitalist society would distribute this “excess” in a more efficient way than government does, in order to eradicate poverty, without discouraging future production. The reason for this, in a nutshell, is because it would be each individual’s choice to decide where their extra resources went.

And this is why hippies or communists don’t want an anarcho-capitalist society: because they can’t let go of control. They want to control how much people produce, and control how much they can keep for themselves. They want to control energy sources, and carbon output. Get rid of the control, get rid of the force, and we can all live happily together. And its okay, hippies can still choose to sing kumbaya together next to the campfire, no one’s going to tell them to stop.

So let’s start by getting back to the wheat example. If you grow an acre of wheat, and the government takes half of it, that means you really only have half an acre of wheat to live off of. You sell some, keep some, trade some, and manage to get everything you need for the year. Now imagine if the government didn’t take that half acre. Your yearly net worth just doubled, so you are able to buy everything you need, plus some. This extra supports the carpenter who you buy handcrafted furniture from, and the fruit importer who you can now afford to patronize. Not only do you have more, but the economy is booming because you have more product to inject into it, in exchange for others’ products and labor.

The result of this is that there are fewer poor people in the first place, because the fruit importer needs to hire more shippers, and the carpenter needs to hire more apprentices. The ripples keep going though, as more people are employed to mill wood, and more people are employed to grow and pick fruit. But even after all this extra economic activity, you still have some wheat left over. Some can be stored, but that costs money too, so you ship some to your brother who had a tough year with his cattle, and you give some to the local church who hosts dinners for the needy. This isn’t the only charity that your grain has produced however, because the carpenter and the fruit importer also made more this year, since you got to keep the full product of your labor, the whole acre of wheat.

And those government workers who were supported by the half of your wheat that was taken, they now need to find productive labor to go into. Their job with government was not necessarily unproductive, but when they must find a market for their labor, the excess that went into funding the government is cut. Now it takes a fraction of your wheat to get the same benefits that the government delivered before. You and 5 other area farmers decide to hire police to protect your crops, so you all chip in a bit (and the neighbors who couldn’t afford to chip in also benefit from the cop’s presence). A police officer who was once paid by the government is now paid by local farmers. And his budget does not bloat with needless equipment purchases, mandates, and costly details because business has to give the best bang for the buck, or competition will replace it.

EPA officials decide they still care about the environment, so they start a website that reports on the state of water and air in different places. They make money on the web traffic, and from individuals and businesses who hire them to test land that they might want to buy, or the quality of water in an area. These former EPA employees can use public pressure and boycott to get to their environmental goals, instead of government force—true democracy at work! And now website advertisers and individual customers are paying for it to get done. Again, since this is a business, it needs to balance its budget, and trim the waste. Only the most productive and positive environmental agendas will survive, and the unethical bullying will stop.

So these government workers are now producing, and producing more efficiently then before, adding even more into the economy. Just allowing that wheat farmer to keep all of his labor and product made net production for the entire country increase. And next year, he might decide to plant even more, since every second of effort will be rewarded, not confiscated.

Everything that used to get done, still gets done. The difference is that the free market organized the labor and production so that nothing gets wasted, and so that you must produce in order to consume. But since there would be no government pretending it was taking care of the poor, this responsibility would fall on society’s shoulders. This is not a problem however, because people would have so much extra that they could easily give more to the poor. And we’ve already established that there would be fewer poor in the first place, because more jobs would be available with a net increase in production. The rising tide would lift all ships.

If we look at the internet, we get a chance to explore certain types of free markets, like the market for information. There is so much competition that with hardly any effort, we can find reliable sources for pretty much anything we want to learn or research. This is free to us when it used to cost tax dollars to run a library that could only provide half the information you needed, and take twice as long to find it. And why is it free to us? Because the market has figured out a way for the person who provides the info to benefit, as well as the consumer. An advertiser pays the infopreneur to show products on his website to consumers who visit, who also sometimes find an interest in whatever is advertised. Everyone wins! The website owner gets money for the info he provides, the consumer gets the info he was looking for, and the advertiser gets a targeted market to sell to. Otherwise everyone in a society is paying for a library, which only a small fraction of society would use.

Imagine a world where 30 hours is a normal working week, and most jobs could be done from home. What would you do with all your extra time? Write? Grow a garden? Woodworking, hiking, sports, time with family and friends? Imagine a world where the poorest people live in free apartments, provided by advertisers. Imagine free samples on every corner, everything from food, to hygiene products. Imagine being able to travel the world for practically nothing. Imagine if the lowest standard of living on earth was that currently enjoyed by those in America who make six figures.

This is possible. Not through magic, not through lofty ideals without incentive, but through letting go of control, and allowing each individual to do what individuals do best: learn, produce, pursue happiness, pursue comfort, joy, and love. Individuals will organize themselves to get what they need, in exchange for providing others with what they need. We need to remove the shackles on labor, remove the shackles on production, and let go of our desire to force, and this could be paradise.

So this is just something to think about, since we are hardly ever exposed to ideas that involve an absence of government. We are so conditioned to think that a government is necessary; try thinking outside the box. Be a true rebel! And subscribing to the stale, debunked theories of communism is not rebellious, its actually cliche. But that doesn’t mean we have to give up on the quest for utopia! We just have to be more realistic in our approach of how to achieve it.

Two Americas: David Simon’s Cure is Really the Disease (Part II)

In part I of this article I began discussing a speech given by David Simon that advocates for a mixed economy, as opposed to a completely Capitalist, or completely Marxist economy. But as I explained, we live with a mixed economy, and all the negatives that Simon points out in his speech are still present. What really causes those problems is the very system he advocates, yet he still claims that the economic woes are caused by too Capitalist a system. Simon does not understand that we are the market, and therefore a free market economy would heed our concerns. We would all have the ultimate regulatory power, if it weren’t for the force used by government to create our mixed economy; a crony capitalist system.

The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile. It’s a juvenile notion and it’s still being argued in my country passionately and we’re going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I’m astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?

The only juvenile notion here is that people somehow can’t solve problems without the force of government. You know what solved the racial divide in sports? The economic self interest of sports team owners who understood that they were sacrificing talent by excluding minorities. You know what reduced workplace discrimination against women? The economic interests of companies that no longer wanted to sacrifice half of the potential labor of the U.S. in order to satisfy their beliefs about a male dominated society. Today their is a growing market for environmentally friendly products, and growing awareness and avoidance of environmentally damaging companies like Monsanto. Monsanto’s control was only achievable through government contracts, subsidies, and bought off politicians and courts.

Government is the only thing standing in the way to the destruction of Monsanto. Popular opinion and boycott would have rendered the company bankrupt years ago if it didn’t have political protection that killed the First Amendment protected free speech of victims who would otherwise speak out. That is a mixed economy, the subsidies that flow to corrupt corporations who have political pull and don’t need to compete for profits. And Simon must be joking when he says that profit is not a valid incentive to integrate new generations of workers in a changing economy, that’s what capitalism does best! Capitalism allows individuals to specialize, and fulfill a need of society in exchange for a portion of the products of another person’s skills. To think that a disinterested government could organize better than entities which must succeed in order to post profits, is a juvenile way of thinking.

And kind of interesting in this last recession to see the economy shrug and start to throw white middle-class people into the same boat [as minorities]… And all of a sudden a certain faith in the economic engine and the economic authority of Wall Street and market logic started to fall away from people. And they realised it’s not just about race, it’s about something even more terrifying. It’s about class. Are you at the top of the wave or are you at the bottom?

But here Simon’s entire argument falls apart. Our economy has become more mixed, more interventionist, more Marxist, and more crony Capitalist every year. So how can he attribute the financial crisis to capitalism, when the mixed economy gave us the housing crisis, in an attempt to “mitigate” capitalism to provide affordable mortgages? How can he claim Wall Street’s power is derived from Capitalism, when all the big banks were bailed out, just handed money, by our government? That is the epitome of a mixed economy. Who would bail out failed predatory banks in a free market? No one, the fact that they were going bankrupt proves that: they didn’t have enough people to bail them out by their own free will AKA give them their business. And in a free market where people can bank their profits, banks can give out more loans with a lower interest rate because of the excess capital available to lend.

The biggest class problem we have now is the ruling class which sits in Washington D.C. for their entire lives literally leeching off the taxpayer. In the name of distributing the fruits of Capitalism, politicians, lobbyists and the corporations they support get rich off of the business class, the middle class, and the lower class. This isn’t because of a free market, it is precisely because we have gone away from a free market which allows the government to intervene “on the poor’s behalf”. But they just toss peanuts to the crowd for votes, and take the plunder for themselves. There is no way to set up a government that does not attract corruption if they can set up regulations and subsidies for businesses. The free market regulates naturally, because the only way to be a big company, is to deliver the product demanded by the market, the people.

The last job of capitalism – having won all the battles against labour, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what’s a good idea or what’s not, or what’s valued and what’s not – the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained to Americans.

Right now capital has effectively purchased the government, and you witnessed it again with the healthcare debacle in terms of the $450m that was heaved into Congress, the most broken part of my government, in order that the popular will never actually emerged in any of that legislative process.

So I don’t know what we do if we can’t actually control the representative government that we claim will manifest the popular will.

And here’s where Simon hands me my argument, there should be no government to buy! At least not in the economic realm. A mixed economy inserts government into the market, if it is not inserted, there is nothing for capitalism to buy from politics. Who else would make these socially equitable rules if not the government, which will always be taken over by big money? The only solution is to give big money no choice but to compete, instead of setting a price at which they can buy freedom from competition. And how can this logic escape Simon that a mixed economy would obviously lead to big money taking over government? If the government is to do the regulating in a mixed economy, “advocating for the people”, then how do you stop big business from hijacking that avenue, and steering all the money to themselves and their cronies? Quite simply there is no way to stop it, except by banning the government from giving any subsidy, any bailout, any grant, any corporate welfare, or making any regulations. All those things are the tools meant to be used in a mixed economy, and those are the tools that have been taken over by business to form our crony capitalist system.

You know what is better at manifesting the popular will? The market which by definition is the popular will! Simon laments that we may have lost control over our electoral system, but a mixed economy that he argues for by definition takes control away from the people, and gives it to the government—and if the government is taken over by business, then business will essentially be regulating business. As a collective—and Simon loves collectives in every other sense—the market will regulate corporations based on what people buy, where they spend their money, what products and quality they demand. But a mixed economy is exactly what has led to the rich poor divide, because it does not negatively effect the regulators if they help a bad business with a bad product.

A corporation can’t “buy off” 300 million regulators in the market. If they did, it would be called delivering a good product that the market, all of us, demanded. Let the people advocate for ourselves instead of handicapping our consumer regulatory power with corrupt government regulation. Only when the government is completely absent in the market will the economy finally be free to grow, and the problems caused by our mixed economy will fade away.

Two Americas: David Simon’s Cure is Really the Disease (Part I)

The creator of The Wire, David Simon, delivered an interesting speech at “The Festival of Dangerous Ideas” in Australia. He starts off by saying that he is not a Marxist; that Marx had the proper diagnosis but the wrong prescription for economic woes. But Simon thinks he has found the cure, a mixed economy where neither side “wins”; not complete socialism, not complete capitalism. Simon points out many real problems in America that culminate to a scary trend, but then claims that today’s America is the result of Capitalism winning. The suspension of disbelief required to believe his argument is monumental, because we have had a mixed economy for some time, just as Simon describes. His cure is the disease.

What Simon pegs correctly is that there is a large and arguably growing divide in America between the rich and poor. Unfortunately like so many, David Simon cannot tell the difference between Big Business and Capitalism. You see there is more than one way to become wealthy in a crony capitalist system, or mixed economy. One is to go the old route and work hard, innovate, and deliver a better product than your competitors; this works as long as you don’t cross paths with someone from the other route. This second path to wealth still involves capital, but the investment is in the corruption of government, and its a fixed game. Buy the politician and he will regulate your competitor out of business, or subsidize you into business. Telling these two wealthy apart is key to understanding our economy, and what needs to be done in order to lessen the divide between the rich and poor.

A key aspect of Simon’s argument is the staple of the Keynesians who advocate a mixed economy, that after World War II the U.S. was an economic powerhouse. This, says Simon, was due to the fact that neither side won, that there were some wins for labor, and some wins for capital; of course the referee was government. And this argument can seem viable if you ignore the half of the world that was bombed beyond economic viability during WWII, meaning: who else had the capability to manufacture besides America? WWII created a lack of supply with the same world-wide demand, that’s why the American economy boomed, and we had enough left over to satiate the mixed economy folks, just like Neville Chamberlin’s appeasement would keep Germany from expanding their empire.

Ultimately we abandoned that and believed in the idea of trickle-down and the idea of the market economy and the market knows best, to the point where now libertarianism in my country is actually being taken seriously as an intelligent mode of political thought. It’s astonishing to me. But it is. People are saying I don’t need anything but my own ability to earn a profit. I’m not connected to society. I don’t care how the road got built, I don’t care where the firefighter comes from, I don’t care who educates the kids other than my kids. I am me. It’s the triumph of the self. I am me, hear me roar.

Oh how little Simon understands libertarianism. We are the market! Saying the market knows best, is synonymous with saying 300 million Americans know best, or that every individual knows his own needs best. And if not the market, then who, the government? Somehow 1,000 people in Washington D.C. know better than the 300 million Americans living their lives? And does Simon honestly believe that there would be no market for firefighters if the government didn’t provide them? Yes, people enter a social agreement like insurance where a pool of people working together spreads risk, but the key difference between this and socialism is the choice of the individual to participate, or not, or choose which fire station gives him the best bang for his buck.

As for the roads, the first highway built in Alaska was a privately owned toll road. Libertarians don’t think that its every man for himself, we recognize the value in voluntary collectives where each individual has something to gain, and something to give. I’ll build a highway, you pay the toll. Is that so much worse than, I take your money, and will probably get around to building and maintaining a highway, and it might go to the place you want it to go? And public education is a prime example of the results of a mixed economy; we went from the Department of Education spending $14 billion in 1980, to $68 billion in 2012, and have dumber kids. So when Simon pictures libertarians saying “I’m not connected to society”, what they are really saying is, “I am not forced to connect to society at arbitrary points. I will decide where to connect through mutually beneficial transactions”. Again, we are the market. If you are connected to the market, you are connected to society. Simon pictures 300 million Americans holding hands; I picture 300 million Americans specializing in a skill, and trading their labor. The latter is a realistic goal, and the former would produce nothing.

Simon thinks it all comes down to greed, and there is an “inability to see that we’re all connected”. I believe he has an inability to see that the market connects us all, in the best way possible, a way that precludes force as a viable medium… unless we allow a mixed, crony capitalist economy. Then we will all be connected by force. Simon speaks of society and the market as if they are not made up of individuals, as if they are entities which exist independent of humans to hand down rules, and hand out necessities.

I’m utterly committed to the idea that capitalism has to be the way we generate mass wealth in the coming century. That argument’s over. But the idea that it’s not going to be married to a social compact, that how you distribute the benefits of capitalism isn’t going to include everyone in the society to a reasonable extent, that’s astonishing to me.

Capitalism is not a zero sum game, there is not a pie that everyone has to scramble to grab a piece. Do you have an empty backyard? There could be crops there. If there are vegetables, who did you take them from, who gave them to you? You worked the earth, you planted the seeds, you watered the plants, and you picked the vegetables. You just created wealth, and you didn’t have to beg for it to “be distributed” nor did you have to take it from someone else. The role of government is to keep others from taking you crops, the product of your labor.

And Simon talks as if libertarians would just ignore people who cannot help themselves, as if the only possible benefit we can see for ourselves is monetary. You know what benefits me? Giving money to an effective charity. It benefits me that I feel better about my contribution to society. It benefits anyone who believes in karma, in an afterlife, or in any kind of spirituality. It benefits my family because they don’t have to watch people in our society suffer. Profit may be the motive of corporations, but the individuals behind them are not motivated by greed, but by the desire to live as happy and healthy a life as possible.

Money is the means for most libertarians, not the ends. And the market (the people) can decide which companies receive business, which could exclusively be companies who deliver some humanitarian need with a portion of their profits. If it is profit driven all the better, we have the power to make it economically unfeasible for companies to not offer some charity from their profits. The economic self interest of corporations will lead to a plethora of social benefits, if we, the market, demand this. The mixed economy that Simon exalts hinders this dynamic. It dissolves market pressure for companies to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves, by putting the responsibility on the ineffective government.

And one of the things that capital would want unequivocally and for certain is the diminishment of labour. They would want labour to be diminished because labour’s a cost. And if labour is diminished, let’s translate that: in human terms, it means human beings are worth less.

Everyone is so obsessed with labor as we see it now, why are they so afraid of change? We’ve traded factory workers for IT specialists, ditch diggers for machine operators, and apothecaries for pharmacists; every time a job becomes obsolete, a new one arises, because we all have the equivalent in our brains to a backyard where we could grow crops. There is always another need to fill, skill to gain, product to offer. Advocating a mixed economy is the same as saying we need to use force to suppress advancements in production and distribution in order to preserve these particular jobs at this particular time. We sacrifice the advance of society as a whole, for the preservation of a segment of labor.

There are an infinite amount of jobs that could arise to fill the next need of society when the old one has been streamlined. Just like our backyard that we can choose to keep a dirt lot, or make into a field of crops, so can we choose to keep our minds blank, or grow a garden of skills. We have the ability to create, to produce, and the only thing that can stop us is force. In a free market there is no force, just competition and mutually beneficial transactions. By definition a mixed economy, crony capitalism, market intervention, or just a little bit of Marx will include force. Capitalism hasn’t created the negative aspects of our economy, intervention in the free market has.

But Simon’s argument against capitalism in favor of  a mixed economy doesn’t end there. Come back tomorrow to read “Two Americas: David Simon’s Cure is Really the Disease: Part II”.