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Capitalism Sucks

When I look at the problems we are facing in modern western societies today they seem to often result from an unhealthy faith in capitalism. If you listen to many people who support the “common wisdom” you might think that there is no question about it: capitalism is the only economic system which works and if you don’t like it you must be a communist who wants to live in a Soviet style socialist dictatorship. Actually, no.

Not many people would want to live in a type of society like that from the Soviet era. But many would say that the society we live in now – where wealth inequality is out of control and the planet’s resources and environment are being thoughtlessly exploited for the benefit of big corporations – also has significant problems.

The problem is that the issue is presented as a false dichotomy: just because a person recognises problems with capitalism doesn’t mean they want to live in a Soviet (or Chinese, or North Korean) style of state instead.

To see why capitalism fails look at the definition of what it actually is. Here are the first few paragraphs from Wikipedia, along with my comments on them…

Quote: Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry, and the means of production are controlled by private owners with the goal of making profits in a market economy.

Comment: And that is the problem. If the primary aim is just making profits then “higher” goals are forgotten. The environment is ignored, social injustice is justified, and longer term research and progress which doesn’t fit in with a short term profit-making strategy is forgotten.

Quote: Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets and wage labor. In a capitalist economy, the parties to a transaction typically determine the prices at which assets, goods, and services are exchanged.

Comment: That phrase “capital accumulation” is one of the sources of the problem. In most countries wealth (and consequently power) is concentrated in certain groups who have accumulated money in the past, often through quite questionable means. Once the accumulation starts it continues without necessarily providing any benefit beyond making that group richer.

Quote: The degree of competition, role of intervention and regulation, and scope of public ownership varies across different models of capitalism. Economists, political economists, and historians have taken different perspectives in their analysis of capitalism and recognized various forms of it in practice. These include laissez-faire capitalism, welfare capitalism and state capitalism; each highlighting varying degrees of dependency on markets, public ownership, and inclusion of social policies. The extent to which different markets are free, as well as the rules defining private property, is a matter of politics and policy.

Comment: So the type of capitalism which a country has is just a result of the political regulations in force. There is little about capitalism which is natural or inevitable. It’s a system which maintains itself because those who get rich through capitalism use the resulting power to reinforce the system which made them rich. In many ways it is just as corrupt as the Soviet socialist system it despises.

Final quote: Many states have what are termed capitalist mixed economies, referring to a mix between planned and market-driven elements. Crony capitalism, is a state of affairs in which insider corruption, nepotism and cartels dominate the system. In Marxian economics this is considered to be the normal state of mature capitalism, while in anarcho-capitalist theory it is considered a political distortion of capital and markets.

Comment: I know that quoting Marx immediately opens you to being labelled a far-left nutter but that’s really just a way to easily dismiss any good points he might have made – and he did make plenty! It seems to me that he is absolutely right: capitalism has clearly reached a point where “insider corruption, nepotism and cartels dominate the system”. Would anyone really deny this?

So while the world has mainly moved to a capitalist economic system and that has resulted in a lot of good (although I would debate how much of that results from economics and business, and how much comes from science and technology) we need to be very aware of the problems inherent in that same system. We can do a lot better but the blind faith that capitalism is the only system worth considering has to go.

I am pleased to say that more people seem to be seeing things the same way as me too. For example, economist Thomas Piketty has mined 200 years worth of data to support the theory that capitalism doesn’t work. Well obviously… that’s what I’ve been saying for years. Capitalism sucks!

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  1. April 22, 2014 at 9:53 am

    “…When I look at the problems we are facing in modern western societies today they seem to often result from an unhealthy faith in capitalism..”

    Capitalism is a respect for private property and voluntary, peaceful exchanges in a free (ie non coercive) market. Therefore what you are essentially saying is: “When I look at the problems we are facing in modern western societies today they seem to often result from an unhealthy faith in peaceful, non coercive human interaction and a respect for property”

    BTW we do not live in a capitalist system today. Key aspects of society are mostly controlled by governments who claim a MONOPOLY on the LEGAL RIGHT to INITIATE FORCE (coerce, assault, kidnap, imprison and steal property) to achieve their aims. What we have is pockets of free market capitalism in an overwhelmingly violent and coercive system.

    The bits of capitalism that we are allowed are the bits that produce all the value and wealth in society …… and the overarching violent coercive government system is what confiscates most of that wealth at gunpoint and directs it towards bigger government and lots of profitable wars and other enterprises (but only profitable for a handful of corporations in bed with government of course).

    “..just because a person recognises problems with capitalism doesn’t mean they want to live in a Soviet (or Chinese, or North Korean) style of state instead….”

    The ONLY alternative to voluntary exchanges in a free market (AKA capitalism) is some sort of violent regime. There is NO OTHER WAY to stop free trade except by pointing guns at people. That is all communism, socialism or western democracy are in reality – a bunch of people in a big building pointing guns at everyone to either prevent them from making voluntary exchanges, or to interfere in those exchanges in some way (usually by saying “Give us 40% …. or else”). If you’re opposed to capitalism then you’re opposed to voluntary interactions and transactions…. which means you’re for a system based on coercion and violence instead.

    “..If the primary aim is just making profits then “higher” goals are forgotten. The environment is ignored, social injustice is justified, and longer term research and progress which doesn’t fit in with a short term profit-making strategy is forgotten…”

    How come? Are you saying those ‘greedy, selfish capitalists’ are incapable of planning for the future… or don’t care about the long term viability of their business? Are you saying capitalists won’t reinvest? Will capitalist loggers not bother to replant trees? Will capitalist farmers sell all their dairy cows for a quick buck and then (when they get back from their round the world cruise) regret it when they have no more means to produce milk?

    People who’s livelihoods rely on a successful long term business (often one that has been painstakingly built up over generations) are FAR MORE likely to respect the environment than a bunch of here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians making policies with ZERO accountability for the outcome 5, 10 or 50 years down the line.

    Also in a truly capitalist system the customer has HUGE power to influence the ethics of the farmer or the logger or the shoe manufacturer. If the consumer doesn’t like the business practices of a certain producer (bad treatment of staff, poor regard for the environment etc) they can just not buy those products and this creates a market for more ethical companies to fill (and make a profit from).

    Governments are precisely what STOPS this natural ‘policing’ of businesses by consumers. WIthout government violence the people who actually OWN the oil companies who recklessly spill millions of gallons of oil into the oceans would be 100% liable for all the damage they cause. They would lose their mansions and helicopter pads to pay for the pollution they cause. Their well established businesses would probably go bankrupt. That’s a lovely lesson for all the other oil companies out considering cutting corners on safety, isn’t it?

    But instead we have governments who force the population at gunpoint to bail out these destructive corporations and their owner’s mansions, chalets Aspen and fleet of jet skis are NEVER at risk. The safety net of government violence is what creates the most polluting and unethical businesses out there. Once you are rich enough to be able to bribe (lobby) government you are effectively immune from all consequences of your unethical behaviour.

    “..That phrase “capital accumulation” is one of the sources of the problem. In most countries wealth (and consequently power) is concentrated in certain groups who have accumulated money in the past, often through quite questionable means. Once the accumulation starts it continues without necessarily providing any benefit beyond making that group richer….”

    Are you typing that on an Apple computer? Do you own an ipad? In a capitalist system ‘profit’ is how the market REWARDS companies who’s products and services they value. All capitalist transactions are VOLUNTARY and so they must be mutually beneficial (win-win) otherwise we would not CHOOSE to transact. If Apple did not make a profit on their products and accumulate wealth that way they could not use that wealth to do the R&D necessary to produce new and better products every six months.

    If Apple simply accumulated wealth from selling their products and did not reinvest it the quality and innovation of future products would go down or cease altogether. Competition would soon force Apple out of business and they would have to sell up their assets, thus releasing all that accumulated wealth back into the world again.

    So there is really no problem with accumulated wealth in a capitalist system. The problem is when that wealth is accumulated through force or fraud…. and that has everything to do with government’s and nothing directly to do with capitalism. Whether under communism or western democracy the overwhelming majority of ‘questionable’ accumulation of wealth happens because of legalised government violence and fraud (ie laws, regulations and monopolies which are put in place only benefit government and its friends).

    “..There is little about capitalism which is natural or inevitable…”

    It is the ONLY natural system there is. What could be more natural than free, voluntary exchange of goods and services for mutual benefit?

    Capitalism is basically lovemaking (consensual sex for mutual benefit of both parties involved in the transaction). However much sex fails to live up to our expectations there really is no justification for introducing an element of coercion and violence into the equation to ‘fix the problem’. Terms like ‘state capitalism’ really just mean ‘coerced sex’ or ‘sex at gunpoint’ or simply ‘rape’. The words capitalism is snuck in at the end to disguise that coercion and violence. It’s a bit like saying ‘enforced lovemaking’. The word lovemaking is simply a way to distract from the reality that any kind of ‘enforced sex’ = rape.

    The government just love their euphemisms! The word ‘government’ itself is just a euphemism for ‘a bunch of people within a geographical area who claim the monopolistic legal and moral right to initiate force to achieve their objectives’.

    “.. We can do a lot better but the blind faith that capitalism is the only system worth considering has to go…”

    You’re basically saying: we can do a lot better but the blind faith that peaceful, voluntary exchange and a respect for property is the only system worth considering has to go.

    All the problems you describe are the result of legalised coercion,violence and theft. Thanks to well crafted propaganda you mistakenly label this ‘capitalism’ rather than ‘statism’ and so you end up rejecting the solution (a truly capitalist society) and advocating more of the problem (more government coercion, violence and theft) in a very roundabout way – ie without actually saying what you mean in plain language ie “I want the state to point more guns pointed at everybody, push them around even more and steal even more of their property”.

    Advocating for a third party to initiate force against others ON YOUR BEHLAF (as your representatives) is morally no different to pulling out a gun and pointing it at other people in person.

    Two people are engaging in a voluntary transaction for mutual benefit. Whether you like it or not, this is capitalism in action.

    You are observing the transaction. Next to you there is a gun on a table. Behind you is a convenient cage which you can use to put people inside as a punishment for disobeying your orders. If you point the gun at them they will meekly go inside.

    If you’re not prepared to point the gun at them or put them inside the cage for engaging in there ‘evil capitalist’ transaction then you are pro capitalism.

    If you are prpared to point the gun at them and start making demands,

    • April 22, 2014 at 9:56 am

      Agggh! accidentally posted before finishing the last sentence! ;)

      (continued) If you are prepared to point the gun at them and start making demands, then that’s the reality of ‘opposing capitalism’. There is no other way to oppose capitalism except by initiating force against other people.

      (sorry about that – it’ll probably be full of typos as well)

    • April 22, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      Why do you insist on changing definitions? Without changing definitions you cannot say OJB was wrong.
      The definition of capitalism is the private ownership of the means of production see:
      Merriam-Webster
      Oxford Dictionary
      The Free Dictionary

      What you are describing is a free market which is acheivable through a variety of means.

      • April 23, 2014 at 10:08 am

        Private ownership implies nobody has he right to confiscate your property by force or fraud. This has obvious implications, particularly with respect to how governments currently operate.

        Yes I advocate a free (ie non coercive) market. The two go hand in hand. Two ends of the same pole.

        A free market is only achievable one way – by removing all forms of legalised coercion, violence and theft.

      • OJB
        April 23, 2014 at 9:04 pm

        I don’t think anyone wants a society where private ownership is 100% protected. Let me give an example: a rich but insane person owns a nuclear weapon. Should it be confiscated? I think most people (you included) should say yes. So some coercion is always necessary and as long as governments don’t abuse that power I think it is OK. You seem to advocate what is little more than anarchy. It just won’t work in practice.

  2. OJB
    April 22, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Spinning For Difficulty: I’m afraid I really can’t agree with a lot of what you say. I think my main objection is that you defend capitalism on the basis of some ideal theory (which never happens and can never happen) rather than reality. Similar arguments could be made about the theoretical advantages of extreme socialism and they never happen either!

    I disagree that capitalism creates all the value and wealth in society. Value and wealth are created in many ways, most particularly by science and technology, and a case could also be made regarding the arts. Commerce has a place too, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to capitalism.

    Actually yes, I am saying that most greedy capitalist don’t plan for the future and they especially don’t plan for the future in environmentally and socially responsible ways.

    There’s little point on commenting on the rest because it is just pure ideological propaganda. That’s the problem: people can’t see reality and therefore can’t see the huge problems capitalism has. They think an even more extreme version of the same will help. How can it? Capitalism sucks!

    • April 23, 2014 at 10:04 am

      “.. I think my main objection is that you defend capitalism on the basis of some ideal theory (which never happens and can never happen) rather than reality…”

      Not at all. I defend the non aggression principle and property rights on both moral and practical grounds. Adopting the NAP and PR inevitably results in a capitalist society.

      Reality vs ‘it will never happen’ is not a valid argument. We may never be able to completely stop rape from ever occurring, but that is not a valid argument for legalising rape.

      Also capitalism is not a theory. It works very well, when it is allowed to (when government doesn’t interfere). But capitalism is really not a ‘thing’ at all, it is how people interact when nobody has the legal or moral right to coerce or steal.

      Capitalism is equivalent to dating and marriage. Either we accept that people own their bodies and can date/ marry whoever they choose ….. or we advocate coerced or forced dating and marriages of some kind or other controlled by a central agency of force.

      I think we can all agree that having the freedom to date and marry who you want leads to many nightmare dates, regretful one night stands, heartache, unhappy marriages and even domestic abuse and rape. But recognising the potential problems that come with freedom of association and self ownership is not the same as advocating the removal of those freedoms and rights and their replacement with a coercive and violent system run by a central authority.

      Neither marriage or capitalism are ‘perfect’ and nobody is saying they are. But having either interfered with (or outright controlled by) a central authority with the legal right to initiate force and confiscate property is the worst possible idea imaginable. It is the equivalent of solving the problem of rape by giving a small group a monopoly on the legal right to commit rape. That is basically what you are advocating in a roundabout way.

      “..Similar arguments could be made about the theoretical advantages of extreme socialism and they never happen either!..”

      Socialism is an inherently violent system – it cannot function without a violent central authority to forcefully confiscate and redistribute property. It has nothing in common with capitalism.

      “..Value and wealth are created in many ways..”

      I would argue value and wealth are created only one way: by humans investing time and energy into creating things of value to themselves or other people. Capitalism essentially ‘gets out of the way’ of that process. Every other system seeks to parasite of this human productivity in some way, and enjoy the free lunch.

      “…Actually yes, I am saying that most greedy capitalist don’t plan for the future and they especially don’t plan for the future in environmentally and socially responsible ways….”

      I would tend to agree, but with the caveat that this is only true IF THEY THINK THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH IT. Businesses that cannot rely on government support (government violence) to bail them out or isolate them from the free market WILL act for short term gains – what have they to lose?

      Government itself is the ultimate festival of short term planning which is full of here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians passing laws and regulations which will affect society for generations to come. And the revolving door between government and big business pretty much defines government as a tool (a weapon) of big business which enables them to act like mafias, but completely legally.

      “…There’s little point on commenting on the rest because it is just pure ideological propaganda..”

      That’s not an argument.

      “…That’s the problem: people can’t see reality and therefore can’t see the huge problems capitalism has…”

      Neither is that.

      “..They think an even more extreme version of the same will help. How can it? ..”

      The idea of taking a stance to it’s most extreme conclusion is actually a very good test.

      If more violent and coercive interference is a good idea then let’s have more of it then. Let government ‘regulate’ every aspect of our lives by force. Let them point even more guns at he living and the unborn and watch how society and the economy improves!

      The idea that we can give one group in society the monopolistic legal right to initiate force and violate property rights and that this group will somehow look after our best interests, rather than just take the ball and run with it (until society collapses in a bloodbath of wars, debt and social dysfunction) is – I humbly suggest – the most ludicrous, deluded and dangerous utopian fantasy there has ever been.

      I bet you would not dare give your neighbour control over your credit card or your car…… yet you advocate (and in fact demand) total strangers control the entire economy, the infrastructure, half of everyone’s earnings, trade/ industry, the military, the police, key public services, the court system, education and you believe they won’t take the ball and run with it…. even though that’s very obviously what they are doing.

      “..Capitalism sucks!..”

      Again, that’s not a valid argument.

      • OJB
        April 23, 2014 at 10:53 am

        OK, this is standard libertarian dogma. I’ve heard it all before. Superficially it sounds fine but it would never work in practice. And the theoretical basis of libertarianism has very little to do with any existing or even potential form of capitalism anyway.

        Forget the analogy with sex would you? Just stick to the topic and stop trying to introduce this emotive and invalid argument.

        The great libertarian dream (or nightmare in reality) always promises freedom from oppression and violence but all it really does its transfer that oppression from a legitimately elected government to a far worse and uncontrolled corporate elite. It’s hard to imagine anything much worse!

        The ultimate tool of capitalism, the share market, is a classic example of short term thinking. Most people invest using incredibly short-sighted and ignorant criteria. We could never allow our whole society to work that way.

        Most democratic governments seem to provide a fairly reasonable and stable social environment for their citizens. The main problems seem to come from corporate involvement yet you want to give them more power. I think libertarianism is the ultimate utopian fantasy, not the democratic system we have now.

        Most modern nations use a representative democracy. We all realise these are far from perfect but at least we get to elect which bunch of immoral self-centered scumbags are in control. If we left it to an untrustworthy plutocracy which wasn’t even elected how would we be better off?

        You’re right “capitalism sucks” isn’t an argument, I was engaging in a rhetorical point to show that nothing you had said had changed anything.

  3. OJB
    April 23, 2014 at 12:17 am

    nrkatalyst: Yes, I specifically specified what capitalism is by quoting the Wikipedia definition. But maybe it’s even more useful to look at how capitalism works in practice rather than in the theory that so many libertarians and other supporters think is reality.

    It may be that capitalism is the best system we have, but rants like that from Spinning For Difficulty above, which ignore its obvious faults and blame all of the problems on government “violence”, are just ridiculous, ideological claptrap.

    • April 23, 2014 at 10:29 am

      “..But maybe it’s even more useful to look at how capitalism works in practice rather than in the theory that so many libertarians and other supporters think is reality…”

      We do not have capitalist system today. We have pockets of capitalism only, in a system which is overwhelmingly dominated by government’s monopoly on legalised coercion, violence and theft.

      You cannot use current reality (a non capitalist system) as an argument for the failings of capitalism. That is like looking at a society where slavery is still legal and using that as an argument against abolition of slavery. (“Abolition doesn’t work….. look – there are slaves everywhere!”)

      “..It may be that capitalism is the best system we have…”

      We do not have capitalist system today.

      “..but rants like that from Spinning For Difficulty above, which ignore its obvious faults and blame all of the problems on government “violence”, are just ridiculous, ideological claptrap…”

      Using words like ‘ridiculous’, ‘ideological’ ‘claptrap’ do not make an argument. You have to explain WHY my comment is all of those things to make it into an argument.

      You seem to be implying the government does NOT initiate force (threats of violence and actual violence) to achieve its objectives.

      As you must surely agree, definitions matter. A government is defined as ‘a group within a specified geographical area who claim and violently defend their monopolistic legal and moral right to initiate force to achieve their objectives’.

      Do you have any problem with that definition? Do you accept the government DOES in fact use violence (and lots of it) to achieve its objectives?

      There’s really no point in discussing capitalism/ government control if you do not even know what a government is at the most fundamental level.

      • OJB
        April 23, 2014 at 11:07 am

        We don’t have a “pure” capitalist system (by your definition) because it would never work and every practical, sensible person knows this. The fact that the “partial” capitalist system we already have causes so many problems should be a sign that the fact that we will never have a pure one is a good thing!

        I can’t see how your analogy with slavery works. it’s more like this: if we had a society where we had some slavery and we didn’t like it your argument would be that we don’t have enough and we would be better off if everyone was a slave.

        Words like “legalised coercion”, “violence and theft”, and “the legal right to commit rape” do not make an argument either. Since you started it, I thought that was the game we were playing!

        I can’t find your definition of the word “government” in any credible source. Sure if you make up your own definitions you can prove any point, but let’s stick to factual definitions we all agree on.

  4. OJB
    April 23, 2014 at 11:26 am

    And one other point. I appreciate the effort you have put into the discussion on this subject but it is hard to evaluate the good and bad points you might be making when you put so much into each comment. Why not concentrate on one point at a time, maybe the most critical one to your political belief system, and deal with that?

    Here’s something I would like to know about a pure libertarian system: how would its rules be enforced? A private police force? Or is there still room for government to control that aspect of society. Either way I see big problems for your argument.

  5. April 28, 2014 at 11:32 am

    “..OK, this is standard libertarian dogma. I’ve heard it all before. Superficially it sounds fine but it would never work in practice…”

    There are two basic arguments for the non aggression principle and a respect for property rights (the foundation of a truly capitalist society).

    1. The moral argument (it’s immoral to coerce, hit, steal etc and so we should not legitimise these behaviours)
    2. The practical argument (legitimising acts of coercion, violence and theft always leads to social breakdown, tyranny, war etc)

    You seem to agree that the initiation of force and theft are immoral, and yet you say it is unrealistic to fully ‘de-legitimise’ these behaviours in society. Currently they are ALREADY not legitimate behaviours for everybody EXCEPT people in government. Only government claims the legal/ moral right to initiate force and steal property.

    To oppose coercion and theft in society, while also demanding society be fundamentally based on legalised coercion and theft is completely irrational.

    “..Forget the analogy with sex would you? Just stick to the topic and stop trying to introduce this emotive and invalid argument…”

    Rape is violation of the non-aggression principle and a form of theft. The same can be said of taxation (or any other government action). On what basis is one more any more ’emotive’ than the other?

    If you comply with the will of a rapist he / she won’t pull a knife or gun on you. The same is true of our relationship to government. But if you don’t hand over half your earnings to the people in government they will (after making numerous threats) eventually send hired thugs in matching blue costumes armed with tasers, clubs and guns to kidnap you and put you in a cage. If you attempt to defend yourself and your family from their aggression (or attempt to escape the cage) they will probably mow you down in a hail of bullets.

    How is government’s fundamental disrespect for everyone’s property rights somehow less emotive than rape? They both seem pretty emotive to me. On what basis do you judge them as different?

    I would suggest you object to the rape analogy NOT because it is emotive or invalid, but because it is relatively free from propaganda in our western culture. Without the propaganda we can easily see why this is an example of the initiation of force, and that it is immoral – and wholly objectionable (AKA emotive). It’s a no-brainer.

    If we’d been bombarded by endless propaganda about the need to ‘regulate’ and ‘manage’ sex, and if there was a huge overblown flag waving ceremony where communities ‘voted’ for which man should get to marry this year’s crop of fair maidens I guarantee you would consider it normal and acceptable. Especially if forcing men onto young women was portrayed as a *solution* to the problem of rape! (“But if marriages weren’t arranged – relationships would just descend into a state of anarchy!”)

    Of course in the west we VALUE the complete anarchy we enjoy with respect to sex and relationships. And even with the threat of rape we all realise that a system of forced marriage overseen by an agency of legalised coercion would just give one group a monopoly on the right to commit rape, which hardly any kind of solution!

    So sexual relationships is an example where you fully support the principles of anarchy. And that is the reason why you call it ’emotive’ …. you want to make this example ‘off limits’ in the discussion because it exposes your support for the principles of anarchy – in the absence of propaganda.

    “..The great libertarian dream (or nightmare in reality) always promises freedom from oppression and violence but all it really does its transfer that oppression from a legitimately elected government to a far worse and uncontrolled corporate elite…”

    Nope. Principles are principles, they are not promises. The principle of property rights are not a promise that you won’t ever be mugged or have your house burgled. And the fact that you might be mugged or have your house burgled does not mean we should just reject the principles of property rights. Accepting and supporting ‘property rights’ is not a utopian fantasy that nobody will ever be stolen from again.

    Either you argue against principles, or you don’t. Depicting principles as unrealistic promises is not a valid argument against principles. Principles are not promises.

    Rejecting the notion that the initiation of force and theft can ever be legitimate behaviour is NOT a promise that people won’t still try to coerce, kill or rob you. It merely establishes that their behaviour is immoral, and unacceptable to you (not legitimate). The more people who think this way the more socially unacceptable that behaviour becomes. The more socially unacceptable that behaviour becomes the higher the risks are for people attempting to behave that way (ie the risk of negative consequences).

    Here is real world example from history….. rejecting the notion that the enslaving black people can ever be legitimate behaviour is NOT a promise that people won’t still try to enslave black people. It merely establishes that their behaviour is immoral, and unacceptable to you (not legitimate). The more people who think this way the more socially unacceptable that behaviour becomes. The more socially unacceptable that behaviour becomes the higher the risks are for people attempting to enslave black people (ie the risk of negative consequences).

    When enslaving black people was considered morally acceptable there were virtually no risks (no negative consequences) to enslaving black people. As more and more people started to acknowledge the immorality of enslaving black people it became increasingly more risky (costly) to enslave black people. These days most people find the idea of enslaving black people totally immoral, and that creates a social stigma against it. And that means the risks of enslaving black people so are so high virtually nobody attempts it. The negative consequences (the costs) far outweigh any potential benefits.

    I challenge you to argue against the logic which says that the people in government would stop initiating force and stealing property IF enough people accepted the idea of applying basic moral rules to the people in government (don’t hit, don’t steal). It is clear that if enough people applied basic moral rules to government the benefits they currently enjoy would soon be outweighed by the negative consequences (costs) result from public condemnation, and action stemming from that condemnation.

    It’s the same pattern we’ve seen throughout history. First a moral rule is established. Next there is a period of resistance to that moral rule by those who currently benefit the most from violating that moral rule. Then eventually, as that moral rule is fully adopted and applied, the people who fought against it reluctantly stop behaving immorally (because the costs become too high) …… and after just a couple of generations nobody can even comprehend a society where that behaviour was ever considered morally acceptable.

    We’ve seen this play out with slavery, women’s (lack of) legal status, putting children up chimneys, advertising cigarettes on TV, racial segregation and other discrimination, burning witches etc etc.

    So I really don’t understand what your objection is. You seem to be saying it is *practically unrealistic* to imagine that (a) arguing for a more moral society and (b) winning people over to your argument would ever achieve a more moral society in reality …. but all the evidence and logic tells us that is always what DOES happen.

    The only valid debate therefore is not one of practicalities, but simply of morality. Perhaps YOU want people to violate basic moral rules for YOUR benefit ….. but do YOU have the right to demand such a thing?

    If the government decided to suddenly bow to mounting public pressure and start respecting property rights, stop initiating force and let capitalism function freely would YOU object to this?

    And more importantly would you OPPOSE this?

    Which is to say, in the absence of government coercion and theft, would you be prepared to find another way to impose your will onto others BY FORCE, either in person or via another third party agency of violence acting on your behalf? (‘government mark II’)

    I suggest you would NOT – even if you had no moral standards. You would not because the risks of behaving that way (essentially behaving like a terrorist) would now be simply too high. Just as the risks of trying to capture slaves and set up a cotton plantation these days are also too high. The costs now outweigh any potential benefits to be had.

    So in reality there is really no valid argument against capitalism, because capitalism is not an imposition, nor is it really a ‘system’. It is merely the natural result of NOT legitimising the initiation of force and NOT legitimising the violation of property rights.

    To actively oppose capitalism *requires* you to initiate force/ theft against somebody. Thus to oppose capitalism is immoral by the most basic moral standards which define any civilised society.

    “… The great libertarian dream (or nightmare in reality) always promises freedom from oppression and violence but all it really does its transfer that oppression from a legitimately elected government to a far worse and uncontrolled corporate elite….”

    Once you have accepted the concept of property rights there can be no such thing as a ‘legitimately elected government’ because everything a government does is based on violating property rights. A ‘legitimate slave owner’ was one who conformed to all the laws of his day, but that did not make his behaviour legitimate to those who objected to slavery.

    Also, in a society which respects property right (not to mention the non aggression principle) there can obviously be no such thing as ‘corporations’ either. A ‘corporation’ is an EFFECT of government’s LEGAL RIGHT to initiate force and steal property. If society no longer accepted government’s right to behave in this way then corporations would no longer exist. Instead corporations would simply become ordinary businesses – and they would have to take on all the risks and costs of using coercion and theft THEMSELVES.

    If (for example) a corporation wanted to bail itself out it would have to literally hire its own army of ‘bail out enforcers’ to knock on everyone’s doors and demand money at gunpoint.

    This would obviously never happen due to the insane costs of hiring your own army (and the fact that nobody is going to want to join it), but even if they attempted this it would only last about five minutes before the army of ‘bail out enforcers’ were all shot in the legs by homeowners with guns and everybody stopped trading with that business – causing them to collapse immediately.

    In summation, your main argument against a free capitalistic society is that something resembling a government might form and take over. This is (a) a valid and compelling argument AGAINST governments, even if you didn’t realise it (b) not possible because by definition a society which has de-legitimised government’s coercion and theft has de-legitimised coercion and theft full stop. Therefore the costs of behaving in this way for anybody else (any would-be government replacement) will always be too high relative to any potential benefits.

    In a truly capitalistic society any business that starts behaving even a fraction as bad as today’s governments or corporations would immediately find itself going out of business. So where’s the incentive to act that way?

    *In a truly capitalist society greed serves to encourage positive, constructive and moral behaviour, rather than negative, destructive and immoral behaviour.*

    In simple terms, businesses in a truly capitalist society would have to act like men and women in the dating scene…… always trying to please the other party in order to get what they want (sex, a relationship, a free dinner etc).

    Greed + moral standards (force and theft are NOT considered legitimate behaviour) = positive, constructive moral behaviour

    Greed + immoral standards (force and theft ARE considered legitimate behaviour) = negative, destructive immoral behaviour

    Greed is the one part of this equation which we cannot ever change. It is precisely because humans are inclined towards greed (self service, survival etc) that we MUST have basic moral rules – and apply those rules to everybody so that negative, immoral and destructive behaviour becomes MORE COSLY (and thus less attractive) than positive, moral and constructive behaviour.

    This is not utopian dreaming, this is just basic logic.

  6. OJB
    April 28, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Wow, so much opinion presented as fact. Would you *please* try to make one point at a time. Do you think pure quantity of information can substitute for quality? Let me pick out a few points to comment on…

    Re: How is government’s fundamental disrespect for everyone’s property rights somehow less emotive than rape? They both seem pretty emotive to me. On what basis do you judge them as different?

    What fundamental disrespect is this? Governments create and enforce laws which maintain property rights. Are you continuing with the tired old inanity that taxation is theft? And if you cannot see that rape is a more emotive action than taxation then I think you really have been reading too much Ayn Rand!

    Re: To actively oppose capitalism *requires* you to initiate force/theft against somebody. Thus to oppose capitalism is immoral by the most basic moral standards which define any civilised society.

    Capitalism (n): an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.

    In what way is opposing this particular economic model immoral and how does it involve force or theft? Surely opposing a system where the primary aim is making maximum profit for yourself (ie being greedy) is moral? And I should say I don’t completely oppose it, I think there is room for some elements of capitalism in an ideal society.

    Re: In a truly capitalistic society any business that starts behaving even a fraction as bad as today’s governments or corporations would immediately find itself going out of business. So where’s the incentive to act that way?

    The worst behaviour in our current society is exactly because we have too much capitalism. It is capitalist greed which destroys the environment, forces living conditions down, exploits foreign labour, and results in millions of deaths per year. We need less of this, not more.

    If you want to continue this discussion would you please post comments, questions, or rebuttals one at a time instead of throwing so much into each comment. Also please answer the question about who does the law enforcement under a pure “capitalist” system. Oh, and read my latest blog entry “the Libertarian Dream”. I wrote it with you in mind!

  7. April 28, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    “..Words like “legalised coercion”, “violence and theft”, and “the legal right to commit rape” do not make an argument either. .”

    I agree. They are just accurate descriptions of human actions. You have to establish accurate descriptions first before you can debate the moral/ practical arguments for these actions.

    The main problem in these kinds of issues is that the language we use to debate them is full of euphemisms, double speak and incredibly vague terms.

    Using precise language is only an argument in the sense that once the situation is precisely described the answer is usually glaringly (and annoyingly!) obvious to all (even if they try to deny it).

    Is it wrong to celebrate your national identity, promote your culture and protect your homeland from outside threats? Of course not. Therefore Nazism was a wonderful thing! :)

    But if we describe Nazism in more precise (and some might argue ’emotive’) language such as ‘putting jews, gays and gypsies into concentration camps’ then Nazism is seen in a whole new light.

    In a sense using more precise does all the arguing for you (assuming we all agree that putting people in concentration camps is not acceptable behaviour). But using precise language is not the actual argument, it just exposes the argument.

    Most issues are actually very simple and usually boil down to whether or not force or theft is being committed. Language is often used as a smokescreen or a distraction to obscure reality, and stop us from every encountering these ‘no-brainer’ issues.

    “..I can’t find your definition of the word “government” in any credible source…”

    But can you find any fault with my definition of government?

    You know, you could have said “That definition of government is clear, concise and absolutely valid – and the fact that it does not appear in any source puts their credibility into question” ;)

    But seriously, can you find any fault with that definition or not?

    (definition of government: government is a group of people within a given geographical area who claim and violently defend a monopoly on the legal and moral right to initiate force to achieve their objectives)

    “..Sure if you make up your own definitions you can prove any point, but let’s stick to factual definitions we all agree on….”

    …said the white man to the black slave (who made the silly mistake of defining himself as ‘free’)

    “..Here’s something I would like to know about a pure libertarian system: how would its rules be enforced? A private police force? Or is there still room for government to control that aspect of society. Either way I see big problems for your argument….”

    You have it all back to front. You first must agree to acknowledge certain rules. Then you build your social structure around those rules.

    A free voluntary society does not enforce rules against coercion and theft ….. a free society IS THE RESULT of recognising and enforcing rules against coercion and theft. A subtle but important distinction.

    Here’s another subtle but important distinction…. government’s do not enforce rules. Governments enforce their monopolistic right to VIOLATE rules. Naturally, when you enforce a monopoly on doing X you must stop other people from doing X. But that is not the same as outlawing X.

    “Nobody can rape the women of this village – and we will enforce that rule”
    “Nobody can rape the women of this village except us – and we will enforce that rule”

    Do you see the difference?

    Do you agree these are two good basic rules to start out with when organising a society?

    1. The initiation of force is against the rules
    2. Theft is against the rules

    If you agree, then you must object to ANY organisation which claims the right to violate those rules – even if the call themselves ‘government’.

    There is nothing about enforcing the non-aggression principle or property rights which require you to VIOLATE the non-aggression principle or property rights!

    So any government, or police force or court system is perfectly fine as long as they do not violate the rules they are supposed to be enforcing. If they do they are no longer legitimate. If a doctor kills his patients he is no longer a legitimate doctor. If a policeman robs people or beats people up for no reason he is no longer a legitimate policeman. If a government steals half our wages at gunpoint or coerces people or murders them or tortures them it is no longer a legitimate government.

    This is not rocket science.

    A ‘law’ just means a condition or a demand backed by the willingness to use force. There is nothing automatically moral or legitimate or rational about a law. All laws must be judged against a separate scale of morality, legitimacy and rationality which exists outside of government and has nothing to do with government ‘authority’. We all get this. Rounding up the jews was the law in nazi Germany, but that law was obviously not legitimate, or moral or rational. The correct thing to do when faced with an immoral, irrational and destructive law is to disobey it.

    So we all agree that laws (and thus governments) must be servants to the higher authority of morality and rationality. Intellectually we all get this. Governments (or their voters) can’t just make up laws, and if they do make up laws which violate basic morality and rationality they are not legitimate laws. And in those cases the moral / rational thing to do is to DISOBEY those laws and DISOBEY government.

    Everyone accepts this as true on an intellectual level ….. and yet NOBODY applies these principles in real life.

    This is because as children we are also taught a completely contradictory idea. We are taught that to disobey government and its laws is AUTOMATICALLY IMMORAL, even if those laws are themselves immoral. We are taught that if ‘government’ tells you to do something which is immoral it is immoral to disobey and moral to obey. But if anybody else tells you to do the same thing it is immoral to obey and moral to disobey.

    This is the fundamental contradiction which is tearing society apart and destroying the planet.

    99% of the murder, mayhem, death, destruction, persecution, torture and misery of the last century would have been avoided if people had simply DISOBEYED laws and commands from ‘authority’ which were obviously immoral, irrational and therefore not legitimate.

    So really, it DOESN’T MATTER who enforces laws, courts, private property, public safety and public health. What matters is that everyone agrees that moral/ rational rules ALWAYS trump immoral/ irrational laws, and their enforcement.

    And so if society applies the two most basic moral rules (it’s immoral to initiate force, and it’s immoral to steal) what happens is that government can still offer its services in policing, courts (dispute resolution), education, defence, infrastructure etc….. but it cannot claim a VIOLENT MONOPOLY on the provision of those services, it cannot operate WITHOUT PROPER CONTRACTS, and it cannot demand funding at gunpoint.

    This would mean anybody else would be free to compete with government in providing policing, home security, defence, dispute resolution services etc. All the usual dangers of corruption apply, but the difference is that a purely capitalist system is ten billion times more ‘democratic’ than any government system.

    If your private police force just sit on their ass eating doughnuts all day – or if they start beating up black kids or acting as paid thugs for big business – then as a service provider UNDER CONTRACT with you they can be held accountable. As a last resort you can simply declare the contract violated, withdraw your funding and switch to a better police service.

    Have you ever seen mobile phone operators beating up black people, sitting on their asses, or failing to deliver new and innovative mobile phones? Of course not – and this is because in a free market/ capitalist environment if they ever did act like that they’d go out of business in a few months.

    There is simply no moral OR practical justification for having ANY services operating as a violent monopoly – and especially not important key services like police or the court system!

    The deluded utopian fantasy is imagining you can have a service like the police or the courts run by only one group – give them a legal right to fund themselves using guns and operate without any contracts and then expect they won’t just take the ball and run with it… that is as mad as it gets. And that’s the situation now, and it’s never been any different. So logically, empirically and morally there really is no argument for doing things this way.

    And as technology keeps getting more powerful, the consequences of not applying basic moral rules to society keep getting more and more devastating.

  8. OJB
    April 28, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Again, piles of the same old unproved opinions, repeated over and over again. Do you think anybody really wants to read this stuff? My advice: keep it short, to the point, and above all: accurate!

    An accurate description of some of the precise activities of Nazis has nothing to do with being emotive. Your deliberately imprecise descriptions of government are just the opposite of this.

    Your description of government is nonsense. Only extreme libertarians use it. It’s not accurate, it is deliberately misleading, and once you use that definition you naturally arrive at an unworkable, extreme ideology like the one you have.

    So you refuse to answer the question about law enforcement. You just write many lines of confused pseudo-philosophical drivel. No surprises there.

    Your main contention seems to be that a privately run system (law, government, whatever) which doesn’t act morally would “go out of business” but if the main reason for such a service existing is to make money for its shareholders why should it do anything more than just that, using whatever methods, moral or immoral, are at its disposal?

    That is certainly what we see in many examples of corporate behaviour today. Yet instead of tightening the rules to prevent the worst excesses of these companies you want to give them even more freedom to destroy society and the environment. Weird logic… libertarian logic!

  9. April 29, 2014 at 7:27 am

    “…Are you continuing with the tired old inanity that taxation is theft?…”

    That’s not an argument.

    Taxation can only be one of three things….. commerce, charity or theft.

    If it was commerce it would be called ‘commerce’ and government would be a ‘service provider’ (or a bunch of them) operating in the marketplace. We’d all expect government service providers to operate using proper legally binding T&C and two way contracts, just like we do for all other service providers in the commercial sector. We’d also expect (and demand) the right to CHOOSE whether or not to use government services or some other service provider. We would not tolerate the government pointing guns at us and telling us we must use their services, and we must pay for them (even if we don’t use them), otherwise they will put us in a cage. This is not acceptable behaviour in the commercial sector. So taxation is NOT commerce.

    If it was charity we’d all be donating our taxes and we’d be under no obligation to pay them. So obviously taxation is not charity either.

    Taxation fits the category ‘theft’ because taxes are taken from us by force, with the very real threat of being put inside a cage if we don’t pay up (and shot if we resist that threat).

    So why doesn’t the government jut call taxes ‘theft’? Why did they invent a special word for it? The answer is probably that most people don’t like the idea of being stolen from. Government theft is ‘taxation’ in the same way that government torture is ‘enhanced interrogation’.

    Now, the fact that you seem to be denying taxation is theft suggests you agree that theft is unacceptable behaviour. It is a dishonest and terrible defence because taxation obviously fits the definition of theft perfectly. A more honest defence would be to admit taxation was theft, and that it was immoral, but argue that it is somehow necessary for some reason (it isn’t, but at least that’s an honest argument).

    But to argue that taxation is not theft is absurd. Nobody can deny the force used to extract taxation. If you don’t pay you WILL be kidnapped and put inside a cage – and if you defend yourself from this aggression you WILL be shot.

    So the only possible way taxation could not be theft is if we don’t own our property, or the labour we invested in acquiring that property. In other words if we don’t own ourselves. And so if you are arguing that taxation is not theft you are arguing that we do not own ourselves and that we belong – at least in part – to the government. And that defines us as slaves. So you are really arguing that we are slaves. That’s the only conceivable way taxation cannot be theft.

    But of course slavery itself does not exist. Slavery is just a form of violence and of theft in itself. A slave is just someone who’s labour is being violently stolen from them. So either the government steals our person/ labour in which case the taxation already belongs to them, or we are free human beings and the government steals the product of our labour – our property.

    Either way it’s theft.

    If you can provide an actual argument as to why taxation is not theft then let’s hear it. (Just saying ‘Ayn Rand’ is not an argument).

    What specifically is your argument for taxes NOT being theft?

    • OJB
      April 29, 2014 at 8:14 am

      Taxation is not theft. Taxation is a payment made in return for a variety of services just like I have to pay for services from private companies. Don’t want to pay income tax to the government? Then don’t make any income. Don’t want to pay a private company for internet access? Then don’t get a connection. It’s not as different as you try to make it look.

      This nonsense about being put in a cage and shot is just ridiculous. You make yourself look like a complete mindless zealot. Plenty of people can’t pay tax and very few get jailed and none that I know of have been shot (at least here in my country, but we don’t have the same insane gun culture as the US).

      Definitions: theft (noun) the action or crime of stealing [not very useful, so…] steal (verb) take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.

      Doesn’t sound like tax to me. Tax is legal and most people give permission to be taxed even thought they would probably prefer not to pay it. But they would prefer not to pay for lots of things which are over-priced by private companies too.

      So there you go: taxation clearly isn’t theft. You are wrong. Do you concede this argument now?

      • May 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm

        OK let me try to clarify your basic argument …..

        “…Taxation is not theft. Taxation is a payment made in return for a variety of services just like I have to pay for services from private companies….”

        1. You agree that theft is immoral and socially unacceptable
        2. But you argue that taxation is NOT theft because it is a form of commerce.

        Commerce.

        Based on voluntary, two way, negotiated, legally binding contracts
        Cannot force services and products onto people without their consent
        Cannot monopolise the provision of services and products
        Cannot initiate force (point guns at people)

        Taxation/ government

        Based on the threat or use of force instead of voluntary, two way, negotiated, legally binding contracts
        Does force services and products onto people without their consent
        Does monopolise the provision of services and products
        Does initiate force (point guns at people)

        Despite these fundamental differences you argue that taxation IS a form of commerce. And that’s the basis of your entire argument as to why taxation is not theft (which you admit is immoral and unacceptable)

        Is that a fair summary of your argument for the legitimacy of taxation? I just want to be clear what your argument actually is.

      • OJB
        May 5, 2014 at 2:22 am

        Not sure if taxation is necessarily commerce, but even if it is I don’t know if I accept your definition of commerce anyway. Also, please stop talking about this “point of a gun” nonsense, unless you can provide details of how many people are held up or shot as a result of not paying taxes.

  10. April 29, 2014 at 7:45 am

    “…Surely opposing a system where the primary aim is making maximum profit for yourself (ie being greedy) is moral? …”

    There is nothing immoral about making a profit or being motivated to make a profit (AKA being greedy). Making a profit is only immoral if you resort to immoral behaviour (theft, coercion, deceit, fraud etc) in order to make a profit.

    As long as force/ fraud/ theft is not part of the equation profit is how we CHOOSE to REWARD businesses who’s products and services we value and appreciate. It’s also how we CHOOSE to INVEST in them (for our own future benefit as much as theirs).

    Nobody is forcing you to buy an ipad. You are free to make your own ipad (which would cost you millions of dollars). If you CHOOSE instead to buy one from apple how can that be immoral?

    If apple sold its ipads at cost then they could never make enough money to develop the next generation of gizmos, or provide ongoing support for its current gizmos. This is not in apple’s interests or their consumer’s interests. And the only way to prevent apple pricing their products above cost or to prevent consumers CHOOSING to buy them at that price is to INITIATE FORCE against apple or their consumers (ie point guns at them) ….. which is immoral.

    • OJB
      April 29, 2014 at 8:42 am

      I think being greedy is immoral because there is a limited amount of resource/money to be distributed to everyone. The more one person accumulates the less there is for others. After a certain point accumulating more *is* just immoral.

      You are right that I own an iPad, and an iPhone, and many Mac computers. But I don’t really have a choice but pay Apple’s inflated prices. My job is in IT and I have to own these devices. It’s like I’m being *forced* into paying for them. Almost as if Apple is (metaphorically) pointing a gun at me!

      • May 4, 2014 at 6:07 pm

        “..But I don’t really have a choice but pay Apple’s inflated prices. …”

        They are not inflated prices. They are the cheapest possible prices. Try designing and building your own ipad. Try hiring for a bunch of nerds to design and build an ipad for you. Try ANY strategy you like and see if you can end up with the equivalent of an ipad in your hands for less than it costs to buy an ipad from apple.

        Nobody is forcing you to buy an ipad or any apple product. Nobody is forcing you to buy a car or a toothbrush. You are free to use a horse, a notepad and pen, a fax machine and chew on a stick to clean your teeth.

        The reason why you CHOOSE to buy apple products, a car, and a toothbrush is because it is in YOUR selfish interests to do so.

        Buying an apple ipad profits you far more than it profits apple.

        If it didn’t benefit you to buy those products then you wouldn’t have CHOSEN to buy those products.

        “..It’s like I’m being *forced* into paying for them. Almost as if Apple is (metaphorically) pointing a gun at me!..”

        No it’s not. If you’ve ever had a gun pointed at you you’d know that it is absolutely nothing like shopping for gadgets. Grow up.

      • OJB
        May 5, 2014 at 2:28 am

        Apple’s price aren’t inflated? They are certainly not the “cheapest possible prices”. Why do you make statements like this which aren’t true and can easily be shown to be false?

        There are plenty of places where production costs of Apple products can be found and we know their approximate R&D costs. A large part of the cost of Apple products is pure profit.

        And here’s your “gun pointing” junk again. Please stick to reality. How many people have guns pointed at them each year because of tax problems?

  11. April 29, 2014 at 7:48 am

    “…The worst behaviour in our current society is exactly because we have too much capitalism. It is capitalist greed which destroys the environment, forces living conditions down, exploits foreign labour, and results in millions of deaths per year. We need less of this, not more….”

    Can you provide SPECIFIC examples of what you are referring to please?

    • OJB
      April 29, 2014 at 8:16 am

      Yes. Tobacco companies killing millions so they can make greater profits. Oil companies saving a few dollars and causing massive environmental damage. Logging companies operating in countries without strong regulations and devastating the environment. Need I go on?

  12. April 29, 2014 at 8:01 am

    “..Also please answer the question about who does the law enforcement under a pure “capitalist” system. …”

    I already did. Nobody has the right to monopolise the provision of services like policing by force. Everyone has the right to set themselves up as a private security / policing service. Policing is just another service industry.

    Imagine the government has a violent monopoly on mobile phones, which it forces us to pay for via ‘phone taxes’.

    Now imagine I am proposing the government should NOT have a violent monopoly on the provision of mobile phones and networks. Then you ask me who ‘who does the provision of mobile phones under a pure “capitalist” system”.

    My answer would be “Anyone should be free to set themselves up as a provider of mobile phones and services”. Obviously I cannot predict the formation of Vodaphone, Orange, O2 (or whoever) in advance can I? So if policing was de-monoplised I imagine all sorts of entrepreneurs would set up policing services and offer them to consumers …… and the most efficient, capable, customer orientated, ethical, cheap, trustworthy ones would tend to get our business.

    Does that answer your question?

    • OJB
      April 29, 2014 at 8:19 am

      So anyone can set themselves up as a private police force? Can’t you see that is practically anarchy? We’re talking about the real world here, not libertarian cloud cuckoo land!

      Who makes the decisions about what is legal and illegal, what the penalties for crimes are, and how prisoners should be treated?

      • May 4, 2014 at 6:11 pm

        “..So anyone can set themselves up as a private police force? Can’t you see that is practically anarchy?…”

        No it IS anarchy in every sense of he word. Anarchy means RULES. It is the only society which can have RULES. Anarchy is order, statism is chaos and disorder (rulers).

        “..Who makes the decisions about what is legal and illegal, what the penalties for crimes are, and how prisoners should be treated?..”

        People do. Who else?

        In the current system you have no say in what is legal or illegal or how prisoners should be treated (or even who gets put in jail). Instead a small cabal have a violent monopoly on deciding these things.

        And there’s nothing you can do to stop them. Just look at history, or watch the news.

      • OJB
        May 5, 2014 at 4:04 am

        I dislike rules as much as anyone else (read this blog and you sill see that) but we have to be realistic when we propose alternative systems. I think your anarchistic/libertarian system would end up creating a society where most people are far more repressed that they are under our current democracy. And please remember, I am talking about what would happen in the real world, not in some libertarian theory!

        Without some detail on how the people would establish and maintain these rules it’s hard to comment on how practical your idea is. Note that in a representative democracy, such as we (theoretically) have now the politicians are there to carry out our wishes. Doesn’t always happen does it? Because reality is never quite the same as theory.

  13. April 29, 2014 at 8:05 am

    “.. Your description of government is nonsense. Only extreme libertarians use it. It’s not accurate, it is deliberately misleading, and once you use that definition you naturally arrive at an unworkable, extreme ideology like the one you have….”

    In what way is it ‘inaccurate’ or ‘nonsense’?

    Just saying it’s ‘inaccurate’ or ‘nonsense’ is not a valid argument.

    Can you be specific and name one thing about my definition of government which is inaccurate or non-sensical?

    • OJB
      April 29, 2014 at 8:20 am

      If you want to use a definition of a word then get it from a recognised dictionary. You can’t create your own definitions just to suit a political ideology.

  14. April 29, 2014 at 8:41 am

    “..Your main contention seems to be that a privately run system (law, government, whatever) which doesn’t act morally would “go out of business” but if the main reason for such a service existing is to make money for its shareholders why should it do anything more than just that, using whatever methods, moral or immoral, are at its disposal?.”

    That was not really the main thrust of my argument.

    My argument is that LEGALISED VIOLENCE AND THEFT is what allows businesses (typically large corporations) to ACT IMMORALLY and DESTRUCTIVELY and get away with it.

    LEGALISED VIOLENCE AND THEFT is what shields immoral and destructive businesses from the NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES of that immoral and destructive behaviour.

    WITHOUT that protective shield of legalised violence and theft those businesses would be vulnerable to the negative consequences of their immoral and destructive behaviour.

    Imagine two businesses which both provide banking services and drill for oil.

    Business A is a corporation which is protected by government’s LEGAL RIGHT to initiate force and steal. As such they know that if they gamble away all their investors’ money in shady financial transactions the government will FORCE everyone at gunpoint to bail them out. And if they recklessly drill for oil – putting profits about safety and the environment – and they end up spilling trillions of tons of oil into the ocean the government will bail them out once again. None of the corporation’s owners and investors jobs, wealth, houses, golf courses or private resort islands are actually at risk from their immoral and destructive behaviour. Their association with government (an agency of legalised coercion and theft) provides them with almost total immunity from personal loss. All negative consequences of their immoral and destructive behaviour is transferred to the general population, by government at gunpoint, and completely legally.

    Business B is a business which is NOT protected by government’s LEGAL RIGHT to initiate force and steal. As such they know that if they act immorally or destructively they will put their business at risk and if the business goes down they will personally LOSE EVERYTHING. Investors who lost their life saving will personally come after them. If they spill a bunch of oil they will be forced to mop it up. etc etc.

    Now, you tell me which business is going to be motivated to act morally and responsibly and which is going to be tempted to act immorally and destructively.

    • OJB
      April 29, 2014 at 9:38 am

      You seem to think that acting immorally inevitably leads to negative business consequences. This clearly isn’t true although it might do in some cases. In most cases taking shortcuts, engaging in shady deals, and treating people and the environment with contempt leads to greater profits. Think about it: if you were mining for gold for example, would you return more to your shareholders by just extracting the gold and leaving the site as it was, or spending a lot extra on returning it to a natural state?

  15. May 16, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    No real Democracy has ever been allowed to expand in any modern nation, because of one old dark age mentality rule “whom ever has the gold rules” this is very unfortunate, for my country USA which legally is a Republic or hands of the few rule & control plus ownership! Real Democracy would oppose all of this with co-ownership plus direct rule & control by all citizens.

  16. OJB
    May 17, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Thank you for that. I totally agree. Giving the business sector, and especially corporations, too much freedom just allows them to use their power to control everyone else. What libertarians don’t realise is that their search for freedom would inevitably end up with the complete opposite: a virtual slave economy controlled by a few rich corporations and individuals which the majority would have zero control over. Whatever faults there are with current governments they would be trivial in comparison to that nightmare!

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