Hypocritical Critics of Government

Many Libertarians and Tea Party protesters like to claim that taxation is theft. The idea is that the Federal government does nothing to earn that money. It just takes our hard earned cash and then takes credit for redistributing the wealth. So, no value is added. This argument is so weak as to be laughable.

First, of course value is added. The Federal government adds the following values: oversight and regulation; services and goods provided or guaranteed (e.g., public roads, internet, public schools, state universities, utilities, military, police, emergency services, postal service, medicare, medicaid, disability, 40 hr work week, overtime, safe working conditions, child labor laws, abolition of slavery, Constitutional rights and freedoms, jury of your peers, etc); and on and on. Yes, the government redistributes wealth in doing all of this. So?

One response is that, no matter how good the benefits may seem, taxation is still theft.

One argument is that we have no choice in being taxed, we aren’t freely giving to the government. My response is that each of us is as free to leave the country as we are to leave our jobs. In some countries, people aren’t free to just leave, but that isn’t so in the United States. You can seek citizenship or asylum in another country. You can disappear into the wilderness and no IRS agent will track you down in the wilderness.

The other argument is that, even if we are free to give taxes or free to leave this society that is funded by taxes, the government still hasn’t earned the money it redistributes. Just because politicians provide services and goods that keep the public happy, it doesn’t mean politicians have the right to our money in the first place. Why not have a voluntary tax? To be honest, it’s as voluntary as your job. If you don’t pay your taxes, there are legal consequences. If you don’t show up for work, there are consequences as well. Did your employer earn your labor? No. We live in a society where we are forced to work or else be homeless, and the opportunities for self-employment are few and difficult (with most small businesses failing because our capitalist system favors big businesses).

Similar to the politician, what does the owner or CEO of an international corporation do to earn so far beyond the worker who actually makes things in the factory? Nothing tangible, for sure. Also, what does the international corporation do to earn the resources it takes from nature which took thousands or millions of years to form? Nothing. Like the politician, they just took it. Why has it been standard practice for both corporations to swindle land from the indigenous or else terrorize them into leaving? Didn’t the indigenous people earn those natural resources for having lived there for thousands of years?

Why is it that those who criticize taxation tend to do so in defense of capitalism and often even big business? If you think the actions of politicians is unfair, then to be fair you should also consider unfair the actions of business owners, CEOs and upper management. To be honest, it’s the workers who actually make things, who keep the economy going. In the past, prior to capitalism as we now know it, the person who made things was the typically same person who sold it and profited from it.

If government is theft, then capitalism is even greater theft. Politicians make relative little money as politicians, but business owners and CEOs make massive amounts of money. The only reason politicians do the bidding of corporations (i.e., owners and CEOs) is because politicians know they have highly profitable corporate jobs waiting for them (as lobbyists to encourage other politicians to further do the bidding of corporations).

So, there ya go. One can still criticize the government for not being perfectly fair, but if you don’t apply the same criticisms to capitalism you’re a hypocrite. Of course, many (specifically Libertarians) will gladly admit our capitalist system is imperfect and unfair, but they’ll make the unfounded claim that it’s not real capitalism, it’s not a free market. Well, it’s the only capitalism we’ve ever had. Yes, there has been an occasional experiment to implement a different capitalist system, but no such experiment has been implemented on the largescale and the experiments on the smallscale don’t tend to last long. If you’re going to defend capitalism based on an ideal, then it’s hypocritical to criticize those who defend our democratic government based on their own ideals.

I covered all the possibilities I could think of, but no doubt the pro-capitalist/anti-government types would have further arguments about why their idea/ideal is better than the ideas/ideals of everyone else.

Anarcho-Capitalism & Stateless Society

I’ve been watching some videos on the Youtube channel Freedomain Radio. The guy who makes the video I guess is in favor of an anarcho-capitalist stateless society… which basically just seems like an extreme version of conservative libertarianism (a government so small it’s non-existent).  I got involved in a discussion in the comments of the first video and so listened to the second video to understand his perspective on stateless society.

(As an aside, I found the ending of the first video amusing.  The guy stared into the camera trying to look stern, and it reminded me of my friends dad when we were kids.  My friend’s dad would shuffle into the room… shoulders slumped and belly sticking out… and, trying to look mean, he’d grumble, “Who drank my pop? Someone owes me 50 cents.”  It was, to say the least, hard to keep a straight face.  That was my emotional response to the righteous moralizing of the guy in the video.)

I’m truly perplexed why someone can be so critical of the government and yet have blind faith in capitalism.  This kind of libertarian talks about the ‘free market’ as almost a religious ideal.  In the entire history of civilization, a stateless free market has never existed on the largescale.  I added “on the largescale” because I believe such a thing might be possible on the smallscale such as in an isolated intentional community or in an isolated hunter-gatherer tribe.  I agree with Derrick Jensen that largescale modern civilization inevitably leads to oppression… or all the evidence points to this being an inevitability since there are no couter-examples that weren’t quickly crushed.

The only way to create a stateless society would be to overthrow every government which would lead to mass famine and death.  During this process, a group of people worldwide would have to systematically destroy all technology and all infrastructure.  The survivors would return to either the lifestyle of small agrarian villages or hunter-gatherer tribes.  Then and only then might a free market stateless society exist.

I actually agree with many of the criticisms pro-capitalist libertarians have of government.  My only difference is that I don’t look to scapegoat a single group.  The entire system is the problem.  If US citizens overthrew their state returning to a simpler localized governance, then some other state government (Russia or China) would conquer our then defenseless citizenry and impose a new state.  Or another possibility is that, if all government regulation and protection was dismantled, the transnational corporations would either create a new government in place of the old or make themselves into a new privatized fascist government.

This seems obvious to me.  The problem isn’t in some external force or institution.  The problem is human nature itself or rather human nature gone awry because of the problematic nature of modern society in general.  Humans simply aren’t evolved for such unnatural conditions.  If we want to elicit the moral impulses of the human species, we have to re-create the natural conditions under which human nature evolved.

The reason I felt drawn into debating the anarcho-capitalists in the comment section is that some of them seemed fairly intelligent.  They’re perfectly logical people and even are capable of supporting their arguments with evidence, but their vision of a stateless society seems like just another utopia.  Why do they believe so strongly in something that has never existed?  How is that any different than religious faith?

The guy who makes the videos does have some other videos that are quite insightful about human nature (which I wrote about in my post Victimization: Culture & Education).  He is cynical about our present society which he blames on the government, but he is idealistic about human nature.  He thinks that if the external constraints were removed and the psychological shackles were overcome, then people would manifest their inherent morality and there would be peace on earth… or something like that.  His criticisms are righteous and I agree with them to a large extent.  

However, I’m not sure why he thinks capitalism is the natural state of the human species.  If he just stopped at where his evidence-based criticism ends, then his argument would be reasonable; but he wants to go beyond the mere evidence.  I find myself annoyed whenever I’m confronted by self-certainty that verges on that of the True Believer.  Even though he is a bit too intelligent and rational to be an unabashed True Believer, he comes awfully close to it.  History is filled with True Believers who overthrew the oppressive government only to put in place a new government that was just as oppressive.

So, I took all of this seriously and wanted to learn more.  I visited a website one person recommended (Ludwig Von Mises Institute).  The person thought I couldn’t possibly disagree with him once I properly informed myself.  I didn’t take insult.  It’s possible that I could be completely wrong.  I looked around the website, read a few articles and watched a video.  It turned out not to be anything I hadn’t seen before.  It was just the typical ideas one hears from libertarians and anarchists.  As for libertarianism, I prefer Noam Chomsky… who was mentioned some on the Mises website.  These conservative anarcho-capitalists, of course, were of mixed opinion about Chomsky’s libertarian socialism.  Their criticisms of him wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before.  Chomsky is closer to my position in being critical of both state power and capitalist power.

I watched some other Youtube videos on ‘stateless society’.  The following video interested me just because of the comment section where I noticed some criticisms that were in line with Derrick Jensen’s thinking.

There was one commenter who caught my attention: mcc1789.  His criticisms went to the heart of the matter and no other commenter even attempted to refute his argument.

Ok, but what about vertical oligopolies and monopolies, as MettaliarYanto says in his response? Also, what prevents a “monopoly of force in a given area” your definition of the state?

“[I]f one starts a private town, on land whose acquisition did not and does not violate the Lockean proviso [of non-aggression], persons who chose to move there or later remain there would have no right to a say in how the town was run, unless it was granted to them by the decision procedures for the town which the owner had established.” [Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, p. 270] Is that not such a monopoly, i.e. state, if private?
 
Is that not such a monopoly, i.e. state, if private? Contracts that employees signed could have provisions forbidding strikes, organizing, etc., agreeing to pay for police, courts, doctors, stores and militaries hired by the employer.
 
Company towns had every feature which anarcho-capitalists propose, private police, courts, military, etc. Company rules were law. Buying at the company store was required by their contracts. If they sturck or formed a union, they were fired and evicted instantly. The contracts were entered voluntarily, in your sense. Since rights can be waived, exactly what stops this? The British East India Co. was its own state, ruling for centuries. Same with King Leopold’s Congo, run by his corporation.
 
“Each mining camp was a feudal dominion, with the company acting as lord and master. Every camp had a marshal, a law enforcement officer paid by the company. The ‘laws’ were the company’s rules. Curfews were imposed, ‘suspicious’ strangers were not allowed to visit the homes, the company store had a monopoly on goods sold in the camp.
 
The doctor was a company doctor, the schoolteachers hired by the company . . . Political power in Colorado rested in the hands of those who held economic power. This meant that the authority of Colorado Fuel & Iron and other mine operators was virtually supreme . . . Company officials were appointed as election judges. Company-dominated coroners and judges prevented injured employees from collecting damages.” [The Colorado Coal Strike, 1913-14, pp. 9-11]

Derrick Jensen uses the exact same argument with similar examples in his book The Culture of Make Believe.  I was happy someone went to the effort of typing up such perfect quotes.  I was feeling too lazy to do it myself.

As the commenter clearly points out, anarcho-capitalism has already existed in the towns owned by mining companies.  The problem isn’t in creating a privatized government.  That is easy to do if there is no strong state government to regulate against it.  The obvious failure is that this leads to fascism and not freedom.