Sunday, September 30, 2007

Radical Politics Chart

I made this chart. This chart represents my "political map".

The first thing to notice is that it's divided according to equality and inequality. It's my firm belief that liberty and equality are NOT dichotomous. Liberty is a natural product of equality, and equality is a natural product of liberty. What I mean by "equality" here is "classlessness", the absence of distinct classes.

The axis labeled "means of destruction" can be thought of as "who gets the guns?" or "who controls the state?" If people are to have different levels of decisionmaking power over the use of the guns, then someone subscribing to that belief is a political elitist, a statist of some variety. If you believe that there should be no distinct, perpetual classes of those with power to use violence and those without, then you support political equality.

The axis labeled "means of production" can be thought of us "who decides how to use the tools?" If you believe a few people should control all the tools, and the rest work for those people, then you are in favor of economic inequality. If you believe everybody should (or, if left alone, would) have the power to make decisions about the use of these tools, then you support economic equality, and fall under that category. I want to make it perfectly clear that I don't mean equal distribution of the actual consumer goods, not some worldwide sharing web of altruism, and I don't mean severing the link between work and reward at all or destroying profit motive at all. I also don't mean perfect economic equality, but simply the abolition of distinct economic classes of wealth in society.

Many who call themselves anarcho-capitalists are actually relatively indifferent about economic equality or inequality and take a "whatever the market gives us is good, let's just get there" stance. It isn't my intent to strawman that position, so it should be borne in mind that I would simply call those people "market anarchists", with "anarcho-capitalist" being a more specific type of market anarchist. On this chart, market anarchists belong obviously to the political equality side, but if they make no predictions, they don't belong to either the economic equality or inequality side. They're just agnostic or apathetic, but they happened upon the word "anarcho-capitalism" to describe their beliefs and think it's so perfect that they ruthlessly declare themselves anarcho-capitalists. If you are this kind of market anarchist, I'd recommend considering what you think would happen under anarchism so you can gain a deeper understanding of your own beliefs.

Anarcho-capitalism and agorism are not the same in my view. My use of "anarcho-capitalism" on this chart is to mean a variant of market anarchism that predicts essentially what we have now, minus the government. People looking for these imaginary "job" things, using other people's tools to build other people's property and getting paid according to the best guess of the owner, the market dominated by a few really large firms, a boss-worker relationship being the preferred type of economic organization. Often the Randist theme that big business is America's persecuted minority is present, and an anarcho-capitalist will think of the benevolent good-guy big businessmen being oppressed by the evil altruistic socialist government. Sometimes there's also the implicit idea that some people are just plain fifty times better than most other people, and so they'll naturally get fifty times richer, and there's really no explanation provided for it. Belief in the existence of a class of natural-born elite does conflict with anarchism. That's the kind of thing that I call "anarcho-capitalism". If you want or predict a society as I have just described, then you are an anarcho-capitalist as I have placed it on the chart above.

A quick word about the Austrian School. While I admire the Austrian methodology and most of it's conclusions and reasoning, and I link to it from this blog as an intellectual resource, I don't unquestioningly accept all their conclusions and definitions. Like any group of imperfect people, they make mistakes too. The tendency of Austrians to call whatever they advocate "Capitalism" and to call anything else "Socialism" is one of the places I differ with them. I do my best to avoid creating confusion through the misapplication of labels (as you might notice by my insistence on explaining things every time I label something).

So when I put agorism on the same side as socialism, I do not mean this to be interpreted as agorism being statist, or being anti-market, or being a warm-and-fuzzy altruistic belief in sharing and goodwill, or being anti-property, I mean it to be in favor of economic equality. To borrow an example from Brad Spangler, a radical socialist would call NAFTA "capitalism", whereas a radical capitalist would call NAFTA "socialism", and both would condemn it. On the other hand, I have spoken to self-avowed socialists and self-avowed capitalists who both see an agorist world as I described it to them (worker-entrepreneurs own their own means of production, worker-cooperatives for factories and such, little if any big business, no state, no taxation, and an explanation of the justice system) as something that they would support and like to see happen; my "socialist" friends consider it socialism, my "capitalist" friends consider it capitalism. Please don't get hung up on these words. The capitalist's idea of the capitalism/socialism dichotomy and the socialist's idea of the capitalism/socialism dichotomy probably will differ significantly.

Agorism and libertarian socialism are in the same square. There's some libertarian socialists out there with what I'd consider some really dumb beliefs about money and ownership and power and such, but what qualifies them as libertarian socialist is that they believe in political equality and oppose political elitism, and they believe in economic equality and oppose economic elitism.

Also note that fascism and "state capitalism" (what we have today) are in the same square. Before any radical capitalists chime in to tell me that fascism is actually socialism, and the Nazis were "national socialists", I'm going to remind them that politics is an art of lies, and that calling people whatever descriptor they want to be called irrelevant of the actual meanings of the words (thinking of democrats as democratic, thinking of republicans as supporters of constitutional republic in more than just rhetoric, thinking of national-socialists as actual socialists, etc) is a good way to shoot yourself in the cortex and limit your ability to think straight in relation to these ideas. Fascism isn't socialism. Yes it's collectivist, yes it's anti-free-market, no it's not socialism.

If you've got an opinion or question about my chart or my explanation of it, please leave a comment.


Anonymous Eugene said...

I think your chart is a much needed revision to the World's Smallest Political Quiz by the Advocates for Self-Government. Nice article.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Ineffabelle said...

Very well put!

1:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By your definitions of Agorism vs an-cap, I'm led to believe the only difference you see is in how individuals organize themselves in the absence of a state.

So the difference between the two isn't in morality - both believe in non-aggression for everybody at all times - but rather a difference in how individuals will provide for themselves without a state. Maybe in the absence of a state, the vast majority of people would decide to make their own way in life. And maybe not.

By the morals of both Agorism & An-Caps (so long as I'm understanding Agorism correctly), the two solutions are morally equivalent, because both cases are entirely built upon voluntary consent. I suspect that when such a society arises, there will be a mix of the two, but I don't see how it's any more important than the question of, say, whether there will be more convenience stores due to a lack of zoning ordnances.

It's just a question of what will be, rather than a question of right & wrong.

8:04 AM  

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