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Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Mistakes Anarchists Make

There are a lot of phony anarchists on the Internet. The label "anarchist" covers a wide range of philosophies. I consider agorism to be the most sophisticated form of anarchy. Other forms of anarchy say "The state is evil!" but don't give a specific action plan for HOW to go about replacing monopolistic government. So far, I haven't found anyone claiming to be an "agorist" who's faking it, but that may change if the term gains widespread use.

There are a lot of common false arguments that anarchists make.

Private property is evil!

Private property was actually a great invention. There are other problems that cause people to draw the false conclusion that private property is evil. First, most property in the present is actually stolen property. Second, the government should not have a monopoly for enforcing property rights.

In the present, all property is technically owned by the government. Nobody has "full allodial title" to their land. If you don't pay property taxes, eventually people with guns will show up and kick you off your land. The red market claims the right to kick you off your land, via "eminent domain". The red market claims the ability to restrict what you can build on your land, via zoning restrictions and building permit requirements. (Of course, you should not build something so large that you obstruct your neighbor's view, but that's a separate issue.)

If you realize "all property is technically owned by the government", that means that "all property is technically unowned property". Obviously, if you own a 1-family house, your property claim is the strongest of anyone. What about tenants in an apartment building? Whose ownership claim is stronger, the tenants' or the landlord's? Most real estate investors heavily use mortgages and leverage. Mortgage rates are around 6%, while inflation really is 15%. That means that landlords are receiving a massive government subsidy in the form of negative real interest rates. If the landlord's ownership claim derives from a government subsidy, is his ownership claim legitimate?

The same argument applies to large corporate farms. Whose ownership claim is stronger: the corporation and its shareholders, or the people who actually work the land?

Another problem with private property is that the government has a monopoly on the enforcement of property rights. Suppose I am a small manufacturer that sells a product in a large retailer. Suppose I get in a dispute over $100,000 with that retailer. It probably is impractical for me to sue. I would pay more than $100,000 in legal fees, the dispute would take years, and there's no guarantee I would win. In practice, I would probably write off the $100,000 as a loss and move on.

The problem is that government courts have an unaccountable monopoly. Large corporations love the fact that government courts are incredibly inefficient, because it raises the cost of settling disputes with them. If someone violates my property rights, my only recourse is in a government court.

Private property is responsible for many of the advances of civilization. In the present, I get to keep less than 50% of the fruits of my labor, but it's still enough incentive for me to keep working.

Contracts are evil.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being able to form a contract. Private contracts are as important as private property as one of the great inventions at all times. One problem is that the government should not have a monopoly on enforcing contracts. The other problem is that the state distorts the market so much that contracts aren't really freely entered.

If you have a dispute involving a contract, your only recourse is a government court. Some employers are inserting "mandatory arbitration" agreements into their employment contract. Who would give up a potential job offer over a "mandatory arbitration" clause? The problem is that the arbitrators know that they are chosen by the employers, and tend to make employer-friendly decisions. An arbitrator who made the "wrong" types of decisions won't be invited to hear further cases. Further, individuals are expected to hire an attorney for arbitration hearings.

There's a principle that says "adhesion contracts aren't valid". An adhesion contract is a contract where one party isn't really in a fair negotiating position. Most contracts the average person will enter are really adhesion contracts.

Government violence distorts the labor market in favor of large corporate employers. Most people aren't in an equal bargaining position when it comes to negotiating employment terms. Most job offers are "take it or leave it".

In a true free market, courts would sometimes look at a contract and say "The terms are so ridiculous that we can't call this a valid contract."

If I riot and protest, the government will change its behavior.

This has to be one of the stupidest arguments I've ever seen. The government is never going to change any policy of substance due to a protest or rally. Occasionally, trivial concessions are granted, which usually have the effect of INCREASING government power.

The problem is that the red market sends spies to infiltrate all citizen activist groups. Once your protest group gets beyond a certain size, it's practically guaranteed that policemen have infiltrated it. Agorism gets around this problem by working primarily in secret, outside the view of the government. A distributed decision-making structure also beats the dictatorship structure most groups use.

Anarchists should destroy government property.

This is another thing that seems incredibly stupid and pointless to me. The correct attitude of an anarchist should be "What the government does is irrelevant". A true anarchist would try to arrange his affairs with minimal government involvement.

The problem is that anarchists are portrayed as evil by mainstream media sources. That's why I prefer to call myself "agorist" instead of "anarchist". Agorism has a much more precisely defined meaning. All I want is a free market! When I was in school, I was told that the USA had a free market. I feel cheated!

I should live out of dumpsters to avoid supporting the evil state.

This is silly. Why should I be forced to sacrifice my own lifestyle, in order to fight the state? Agorism, if implemented properly, allows you to avoid supporting the red market and have a decent lifestyle and the same time. If you're working primarily off-the-books and avoiding income taxes, then you aren't supporting the bad guys.


M. Ottemark said...

I don't many (authentic) anarchists consider institutions or certain kinds of behaviours as evil - but they do have much going when they argue that one must look behind the larger social machinations that lead to a certain system being enforced, oppressing the working class.

Francois Tremblay said...

Hey FSK, remember that today is your deadline for posting the Carnival. Just reminding you.

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