“The ‘ideal’ social interaction, in ‘anarcho’ capitalist terms, is that of prostitution. Prostitution, e.g., selling your services for an anticipated monetary gain, is the highest definition of ‘anarcho’ capitalist ‘empowerment’, amazingly. The ability to sell yourself to whomever you want is the ‘anarcho’ capitalist idea of ‘freedom’.” ~ Daibhidh, Anarcho-Hucksters: There is Nothing Anarchistic about Capitalism
Freedom = Money?
Daibhidh’s scathing criticism of libertarianism and market anarchism over at The Anarchist Library, although heavy on ‘sarcasm’ and pitched in a tone approaching the shrieking hyperbole of an indignant church mouse, raises a pertinent question about the advent of laissez-faire capitalism: will the amount of freedom one experiences in one’s life be relative to the amount of money one has?
The crux of his argument is based on the straw man that anarcho-capitalists are only interested in the removal of the State insomuch as it interferes in the amount of profit they are making, and that if an an-cap society would still require courts, defense firms and property rights, than it would innately be exploitative and produce top-down, hierarchical oppression with more in common with a fascist corporatocracy than even democracy, let alone anarchism in its unhyphenated form.
The vision of a truly free market, unfettered by the interference of the State, opens opportunities for not only increased liberty, but also increased oppression. To quote Mikhail Bakunin – “If there is a State there is domination, and in turn there is slavery.” Dabhidh’s argument is driven by the correct belief that even without a State, there can be domination, and therefore liberty is not guaranteed by Statelessness alone.
In a fount of fonts, he spumes: “Anarchists … don’t think there should BE any bosses. Everyone pulls their fair share of the collective social burden of day-to-day living. And, while everyone works, the distinction between this and typical capitalist drudgery is that, in anarchy, you’d be working for your own needs, rather than for the profit of another! As such, you wouldn’t have to put in 40+ hour weeks lining the pockets of whoever owns the company you work for (or servicing your clients’ needs).”
The above statement reveals some flaws in his analysis. Apart from the viewpoint that by working for a collective social burden, you are working for the benefit of another, under idealized anarcho-capitalism people would be working for their own profit, as well as the profit of another, in the spirit of mutualism and cooperation, rather than under the current capitalist system which operates principally on coercion and power dominance – the bosses suck the profits and keep the majority under heel. As there exists now, there will be groups of peoples (like the Mafia, or McDonald’s) who do not abide by the principle of non-violence, or that of mutual aid. Will the market unfettered be able to deal with them? At least, one would hope more successfully than our current State has been able to.
All Work Should Be Voluntary
Let us examine his analogy of the prostitute. If the ideal social relationship is akin to sex work, then let us explore the highest ideal of that relationship. First, remove its derogatory connotations and express the position more neutrally as ‘sex worker’. Secondly, remove the criminality of the practice, as would be done in a Stateless society, where everyone is free to contract however they like. Then, a sex worker is an independent businessperson working without coercion, offering goods or services in exchange for money. Without a boss, or pimp, they are free to work as little or as much as they like. They can pick and choose their clients and can dictate the terms of their exchanges (“service their clients’ needs”) to mutual satisfaction. Above all, the sex worker’s method of earning income is generally agreed to be pleasurable, as all forms of work should be. As Bob Black discusses in The Abolition of Work, all work should be voluntary, enjoyable, and possess a ludic (playful) quality. Sex has these three qualities. At least good sex does.
But then, if the market in desirable sexual partners for financial exchange shrinks, or becomes glutted with other workers, then the freedom to choose may diminish. Is the sex worker then forced to have sex with people for the money, rather than out of desire for mutual exchange? This is where his ratio of money to freedom rears its’ head.
In such instances, the sex worker could diversify their sources of income, or work harder at creating themselves a niche, or becoming the best, most sought after sex worker in town. Whichever way, the response would be determined by the market: unprofitable sex workers would have to change professions, or perish, whilst the profitable ones flourish. One option may be that the worker enters into a business partnership with a colleague, boss or pimp, whose services include a guaranteed number of clients, correct motivation, or professional support, but if this relationship is entered into willingly, without coercion, then it is arguably still a matter of personal choice, rather than exploitation.
Daibhidh’s and many dogmatic anarchists’ real objection is the seeming embodiment of the tenets of survival of the fittest. For many, it seems inhumane that some people are born to lose, are incapable of competing, or just plain unlucky.
As he brays in sweeping generalities: “Laissez-faire capitalists don’t particularly care what happens to people; despite their lofty declarations about liberty and freedom, their actions put the lie to them. They say, ‘nobody FORCES you to work for somebody else’, but if you don’t have your own capital reserve (like most of us), what choice do you have? You must work or starve!”
I thought he just said “everyone works” under anarchism – but we can all agree there are alternatives to working in order to produce or acquire food. Dabhidh seems to forget, as many do, that in any and every society, people will always show compassion for their fellow humans, and find ways of helping them, in the spirit of mutual aid – a quality that Kropotkin professes to be so intimately woven with the evolution of humanity that “it has been maintained by mankind up to the present time, notwithstanding all vicissitudes of history”. If your business is poorly run, and unprofitable, then it will fail. If you’re not good in bed, you probably don’t become a successful sex worker. That doesn’t mean you cease to be human, or that people won’t help you, or that there won’t be other opportunities for advancement.
Mutual Aid = Mutual Struggle
This leads us back to a lesson from anarcho-syndicalism that is still valid for an-caps. An individual is consistently at the mercy of the mob, yet can attain greater strength through solidarity with others. The sex worker in question could align themselves with others in the same profession or locality and form a firm (I avoid saying union or syndicate to avoid associations there). In fact, this would be a natural occurrence in anarcho-capitalism, the creation of groups of affiliated peoples with common interests, and therefore greater ability to defend their rights and properties against the unscrupulous – think Cosa Nostra or Triads, or more simply, the boss/pimp.
To get Biblical, consider: ‘Love of money is the root of all evil.’ Not money itself. Like any system, money can be used for benefit or harm, for self or others. Anarcho-capitalism, for myself, is a hybrid, the bastard love-child of our present system and our dreams of how it might be better. Like all children, it is impossible to fully predict how they will grow up, but we can do our utmost to work with them here and today to instill values and duties that will be of benefit to them and other people in the future.
In a Stateless world, there will still be mobsters and McDonald’s, but there will also be a fantastic cabaret of free-associating anarchs and organizations building for genuine liberty and interdependence, rather than exploitation and dominance. What is key in this is that we retain our humanity, our criticality, and avoid becoming as blindly dogmatic as Daibhidh. As the man Kropotkin said: “Sociability is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle… mutual aid is as much a law of animal life as mutual struggle.”