From “ancap” to libsoc…

This testimony from Chris Wilson also serves as a good description of the general path that people take towards libsoc when they start from the more right-wing side of things. For some reason, Mike Huben, a rabid anti-anarchist and a nasty piece of work, has left this testimony on his anti-libertarian FAQ. Who knows why.

My experience in the work world forced me to seriously reconsider my advocacy of capitalism in any form. As I was still very committed to libertarian principles, I began to study the “socialist anarchists”. (I put “socialist anarchist” in quotes, as I now consider such a term to be a redundancy — anarchists are necessarily socialists.) I forced myself to consider the fundamental disagreement that separates Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Malatesta from Rand, von Mises, and Friedman. My answer to myself: The advocates of capitalism believe that one can sign away or sell off one’s liberty, whereas anarchists do not. As a right-wing libertarian capitalist, I was of the opinion that one could enter into a morally binding agreement in which one sacrifices one’s liberty in exchange for a wage. My position was that a worker would be committing fraud against the employer if he attempted to retain rights to the full product of his labor. My argument was that if an employer has a “legitimate” prior claim upon the capital being used, then he has the right to dictate its terms of use. The laborer doesn’t have the right to anything more than what the capitalist agrees to give, just as the capitalist doesn’t have the right to take anything more than what the laborer agrees to give. (Of course, I didn’t realize in my early “anarcho-capitalist” days that capitalists almost always demand more than what the worker initially agrees to give.)

… When I was working out my views regarding this issue, I decided to simplify my decision by subjecting myself to a thought experiment: Jones is a individual who has zero access to capital, which excludes him from being self-employed. He must must find somebody who will share access to capital if he is to continue to eat. Fortunately, Smith has plenty of capital, and is willing to share it — under certain conditions of course. Smith says to Jones that he can use Smith’s capital to produce, *provided* that Jones engages in 90% of the productivity while Smith engages in 10%. Also, Jones will only receive 10% of the revenues despite all of his hard work, while Smith gets to keep 90% for his hoggish self. Jones agrees to these conditions because he has no other option. Is Jones morally bound by his agreement to allow Smith to keep 8 in 9 parts of what what Jones produces? The capitalist, of course, answers, “Yes”, and I once would have given the same answer, even though I knew intuitively that such an arrangement would be grossly unfair. My current answer is “No” — this relationship between Smith and Jones is inherently exploitive, and Jones is entitled to much better.

6 thoughts on “From “ancap” to libsoc…

  1. vroman January 8, 2010 at 10:08

    The terms the capitalist offers to his prospective employee are kept in check by the presence of other employers, and other laborers. The aggregate supply and demand of capital and labor respectively determine the equilibrium wage. Its not a moral question, just math.

  2. Francois Tremblay January 8, 2010 at 16:14

    What do you mean, “it’s not a moral question”? How resources are distributed in a society, and whether someone has power over others in that regard, is very much “a moral question.”

    “The terms the capitalist offers to his prospective employee are kept in check by the presence of other employers, and other laborers.”

    The same ol’ “competition improves condition” nonsense, which is disproven by history as well as simple common sense. In reality, capitalists have a convergence of interests, and will tend to offer the same terms unless some external pressure forces them to change.

    “The aggregate supply and demand of capital and labor respectively determine the equilibrium wage.”

    What does that have to do with the actual value of the work?

  3. […] From Anarcho-Capitalist to Libertarian Socialist by Francois Tremblay […]

  4. rabc January 11, 2010 at 06:05

    I very much doubt that in so called Capitalist countries supply and demand set the price of anything. The theory used to justify the system says that this is what happens, but in practice everything is controlled by cartels and oligarchs including price

  5. Brian E. Peterson (@_aeide) August 24, 2013 at 22:29

    I realize these comments are old as old. Continuing anyway…

    > “The terms the capitalist offers to his prospective employee are kept in check by the
    > presence of other employers, and other laborers.”

    Ahem, they theoretically could be. @rabc is right; in the current very non-free market system, the price point of a laborer’s wages is regulated much more by big business cartelization, barriers to competition, and other govt. and corporate gettings-together than by supply and demand.

    > “The aggregate supply and demand of capital and labor respectively determine the
    > equilibrium wage. Its not a moral question, just math.”

    Although it comes down to math (the math of whoever is more powerful), whether or not people ascribe morality to a given issue is a matter of degree. For instance, if by exploiting unequal contracts, the employer lives what we’d call an upper middle class lifestyle while the employee lives a lower middle class lifestyle, this may stand. But if the owners of capital are the 1% of the 1%, and half the world’s starving, it won’t. It’s as simple as that.

    We may say “this is a moral issue” when it reaches a certain point along that continuum, but moral is just the set of things you’re willing to care about. So it is moral when you care. And it’s not when you don’t. The people who have less leverage in a given situation usually care when they start to notice it a lot; the people who are more privileged usually only notice it if they are humble and exercise their empathy.

    Frankly, if you are not a sociopath, you should care how other people feel; and if other people are in pain, that should cause you to experience a mirroring effect. More generally, communities and the societies they make up fall apart when people stop caring about each other.

  6. Brian E. Peterson (@_aeide) August 24, 2013 at 22:46

    To link back to OP, libertarian socialism is a pretty decent endpoint for lots, because it allows you to look at markets and say: ‘those solve an important problem’, but also be open-minded and dare to care about the things that seem bad to most ordinary people. To the extent that the left are not authoritarian, they are pretty much right on about all of this stuff (e.g. environment, localism, structural inequality by sex and race). The things they aren’t right about have right-wing libertarian answers (e.g. money, education, gun crime), but even these are pretty weak. The important thing, however, is to combine the best of both worlds.

    None of the problems I list above have a breath of a chance of a solution under our current system, in my opinion. The only possible world in which they do have solutions, I think, is a thoroughly networked, community-based one.

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