As I have touched on in a previous article, one of my missions of late has been to bridge the gap between the progressive/socialist left, the libertarian/capitalist right, and the growing anarchist/agorist movements of anti-statists. On the surface this seems to be an impossible task, as they all appear to be fundamentally opposed to each other, representing a ticking time bomb of disagreements just waiting to explode.
However, I firmly believe that there is a lot more common ground beneath the surface that all sides can agree upon, which could serve as the substance needed to lay some type of mutual foundation. If we can locate these overlapping interests and unite around them, we might just have a shot at dismantling the crooked socioeconomic system that is so blatantly obvious to anyone with even remotely open eyes.
I theorize that many of the differences that arise between the three, primarily come down to the perception of words, rather than actual ideological beliefs. It’s as if the underlying substance that we all desire is the same, but the name each of us use to articulate this substance is different. While I do contend that there are some theoretical differences amongst the different schools of thought that might not be easily reconcilable, I still think there are enough interconnections amongst the ideologies to build a united front, where all three can operate within the same space.
In order to bridge the divide, it’s paramount that we breakdown the common buzzwords that often divide us, such as capitalism, socialism, government, and anarchism. It’s not the words that are the problem; it’s the fact that we all define and perceive these words to represent different ideas. Hopefully by understanding the differences in the perceptions each of us hold for these certain buzzwords, we can transcend the linguistic barriers that divide us and grasp the mutual substance lying just beyond.
I ask that you please temporarily put aside your emotional and/or intellectual beliefs surrounding the different buzzwords and their definitions; and instead, just focus on seeing the words through an objective lens. By observing the words objectively, we can begin to see the way in which other people view things, which can lead to mutual understandings and bridges, as opposed to the standard divide and conquer that goes on today. If you really want peace and change, you will at least entertain the thoughts of others.
Economics is one of the major issues that divides the left and right; and in particular, the idea of capitalism. We have all been in one of those discussions about capitalism, where both sides go back and forth, often talking over each other and stirring up strong emotions, which frequently results in nothing but disagreement. However, what we often fail to understand is that people’s fundamental perception of the word capitalism is different, which means that the left and right often define the word in different ways.
The right end of the political spectrum tends to define capitalism as nothing more than voluntary free trade amongst people in society. This is often articulated as free market capitalism or laissez-faire capitalism, and is mostly favored by Libertarians, Anarcho-capitalists, and even Republicans. Through their lens, they see capitalism as more of a technical definition meaning free markets and economies controlled by the individuals that make it up, rather than economics controlled and/or managed by the state.
The left end of the political spectrum tends to define capitalism as a system where the state intervenes in the market on behalf of capitalists to create artificial scarcity, enact entry barriers, and enforce monopolies/cartels, so capitalists can collect rents from the middle and lower classes. Most people on the left see the crony capitalists that run rampant all over society like vultures, free from prosecution, and equate this unjust dominance as the capitalist’s takeover of the state. The left’s definition of capitalism is more of a historical definition, which is rooted in the original perception of what the word capitalism meant. Those who see capitalism in this light often perceive it unfavorably, which in society is represented most often by Progressives, Socialists, Communists, Anarcho-communists, and even Democrats.
I will contend on behalf of the right that there are still many on the left who do not understand the real value of free markets, with some even claiming that free markets themselves are dangerous to society. They often equate them with elite dominance, but don’t realize that beneath the surface, most elite capitalists are only filthy rich because of their alliance with the state. This alliance with the state is what creates artificial oligarchies and immense vertical hierarchy within society. Most markets are not even close to free, so in that sense we have state controlled markets that are leading to exploitation by the elite.
I will also contend on behalf of the left that many on the right claim to be free market, yet still advocate for the use of the state, which is not a true free market. This is where the term capitalism seems to originate in terms of the way the left views it. Originally, many didn’t view capitalism as a term used to define free markets amongst the people, but instead, viewed capitalism as a new mechanism that the feudal elites crafted to stifle the actual peer-to-peer free market that was forming. This mechanism of capitalism imposed rents on the peasant class, created artificial scarcity in the market, erected false entry barriers for competitors, and drove the underclasses into the cities/factories to work for slave labor. They even mandated movement restrictions amongst the citizens, which prohibited people from moving around the country to find better opportunities. Through state intervention, individual craftsmen found it impossible to compete with the likes of big business, which were almost always connected to the state. This was clearly not a free market.
If you haven’t noticed already, the problem here is that both sides are saying the same thing. If we are to take the definition from those on the right, that capitalism is nothing more than voluntary free trade amongst people, then I would say I agree with capitalism. Likewise, if we are to take the definition of those on the left, that capitalism is state intervention in society on behalf of the elite capitalists to maintain control over the workers, then I would agree and say that I am anti-capitalist. So what we have here is different perceptions of the word capitalism, one technical and one historical, which are causing a schism amongst different ideological groups in society. They are both against state-capitalism and in favor of free markets for the people, which in the proper sense, is anarchism.
One of the other major issues that divide the left and right is the definition of socialism, which is always viewed as the anti-thesis or sworn enemy of capitalism. However, upon further research it seems that socialism is really not that different from capitalism, depending upon your definition of the word.
From the right’s perspective, socialism is seen as the coercive control of society through the use of government, aka the central planning of society. From this viewpoint, socialism is when the government controls some of the major functions of society to create order, rather than the people creating order in society through the use of free and voluntary markets. One of the major arguments of the right, is that having a large throne of power that centrally controls society is not only dangerous and prone to massive corruption, but is inefficient and cannot meet the needs of the people effectively, compared to a free agora.
From the left’s perspective, at least in the classic liberal sense, socialism is seen as a design to society where workers are in control of the economy, and collectively they own the means of production in society. This is a very different approach to socialism than state socialism, which is when the state owns the entire means of production in society and dictates who gets what. The classic liberal definition comes from the fact that many people became aware of the build up of an elite business class through the use of the state, which preys on the workers in society and maintains dominance. In the classic approach, society is better designed when it is highly decentralized, where workers collectively own the institutions in society and collectively run society as they see fit. Some of the concepts in a socialist society include: worker owned companies, collective communes, voluntary organizations, soft money principles like local currencies, and direct democracies through voluntary participation.
I will contend that state socialism is not an ideology that I subscribe to at all, and it seems that neither free market advocates nor liberal socialists subscribe to it either. So it is very important to recognize that the utilization of the state to achieve socialist ends is statism, is not true socialism. In fact, it could very well be argued that state socialism and state capitalism are almost one in the same, in that they both are centrally controlled by the state, which results in the rise of an elite class that comes to dominate and control society. It’s also clear that neither of them represent true freedom in society.
So when we look at both side’s interpretations of the word socialism, it does seems that both are correct again. If we take the right’s definition of socialism as central planning by the state, then yes I am anti-socialist. However, if we take the left’s definition of socialism as control of society by the people, then yes I am a socialist. In fact, the whole idea of a decentralized, anti-capitalistic model where capitalists couldn’t exploit workers was originally thought to be the product of the free market itself. Basically, when it comes to reproducible goods, the theory was that free markets would cause prices to go way down due to competition, which meant capitalists would find it harder to screw over workers since workers have far more leverage to either go independent or find a competitor. Socialism was more so thought of as a long-term trend in the free market, not as a mandatory, state enforced concept. Basically, they theorized that free-market means would eventually lead to socialist ends.
One of the last major dividers of people in society is government; as in people’s perception of its definition and its function within society. Government has long been a main topic of discussion in society, with some advocating for little to no government, others advocating for large government, and many more falling somewhere in the middle. The problem however, is that many of us differ not because of major ideological differences, although those do exist, but because of differing perceptions of what government means.
Let’s first discuss the most prominent position taken by the majority of people in society, and that is those who advocate for the existence of a state. This view is held by both mainstream parties (Republicans and Democrats) and even Libertarians who advocate for a small state. Especially amongst the main two parties of society, the idea of government stems from people’s fear of other people; meaning many people don’t trust that other’s will act in accordance with good ethical behavior. Ultimately, it’s viewing people as bad and animalistic with their instincts, so in that regard, we must have a state in order to structure society in a way that can be controlled and kept “safe.”
People on the right, such as anarcho-capitalists and libertarians (technically they are from the left but most people confuse them) tend to view government as a monopoly on force in society and therefore coercive in nature. They often argue that having a big and powerful throne of power that can dictate control over large portions of society will always be a breeding ground for corruption and violence in society. While some do still support small forms of governments, many others advocate for the privatization of many government’s function, such as protection (police), community infrastructure (roads, school, water), and medical services (doctors, hospitals).
People on the left tend to view government more as the voluntary and democratic will of the people. Their argument is that if the market were truly free, then decentralized pockets of voluntary collectives would form and these collectives would cultivate some type of organization that would resemble small forms of government. In a sense, they view it as a natural function of the society/market, as opposed to a forced upon structure commonly referred to as the state. So really they are voluntarists who believe that the market will lead to the buildup of some type of voluntary government.
What I find interesting here is that forced upon government seems to be frowned upon by almost all sides, even statists. I would strongly argue, that most statists are actually for voluntarism theoretically, and opposed to mandatory government. Many are just confused because they think they already have voluntary government through so-called “democracy.”
What is also interesting is that the left and right both seem to want voluntary organization within society. The only difference is that the right wants to call it spontaneous organization and refer to naturally forming collectives as voluntary organizations or voluntary associations, whereas those on the left tend to just refer to naturally forming collectives through spontaneous order as government. Now obviously there are those who simply want a large state, but I think most are actually looking for a government of people to rule through free association. Let’s not let that underlining truth get lost when discussing the idea of government with different people in society.
This wouldn’t be complete without discussing the word anarchism, which remains an extreme buzzword that is highly misunderstood within society, still to this day. Just articulating the word can bring up a whole host of bad connotations from various belief systems. While there are different sides of the coin when it comes to anarchism, such as anarcho-capitalists (right) vs. anarcho-communists (left), the main divide within society comes not from within the anarchism camp, but between those who believe in the state (statists) and those who don’t believe in the state (anarchists).
Many statists hear the word anarchy and immediately imagine a world with no rules or structure that is dominated by elite interests, and where violence is allowed to run amok with no consequences. Honestly, this is the general consensus for most people within society, despite probably having never researched the topic before. This view has been breed into the minds of people for quite some time, as anarchism is the most dangerous ideology to those who value and profit from the use of the state. Just like I articulated above, the state is not just government, but those who control the government, which more often than not, is the elite. In reality, we should build a bridge between those on the right who hate government and those on the left who hate crony capitalism, and just refer to the parasitical combination of the two as the super-state.
To rid the world of the super-state, anarchism seems to be one of the foundational cures that must be implemented in order to change the world. The definition of anarchism, according to most anarchists, is the free association between free beings of life in the universe. The foundational structure keeping the whole thing together is the non-aggression principal, which states that beings cannot initiate unlawful force against other beings. Contrary to popular belief, anarchism has rules, structures, and maybe even governments; but the only difference is that these social blueprints are voluntarily agreed upon, not initiated by force.
What’s amazing about anarchism is that it is so flexible and diverse, since every being is free and exchange is voluntary. What the people create from there is anyone’s guess. Literally the possibilities are endless and having such diversity plays right into the natural diversity that exists everywhere within the universe. It’s so very important that those of us who fully understand anarchism are able to properly articulate it to the masses. It’s not just a philosophy about social structure, but goes even deeper, to being a philosophy about life and how to think. Having an open mind is the definition of true anarchism.
My hope is that people will begin to open their minds to the idea that many of the key words that trigger us, are not really as divisive as we might think. Most of us seem to want freedom, but we just express it in different ways. If we start to think dialectically and see the world through the eyes and words of others, we might discover that beneath these linguistic barriers are genuine hearts and minds filled with love. Freedom is love, so the hope is that soon the collective consciousness of humanity will find this frequency of love to bring about freedom and peace. Proper communication of ideas is probably a good place to start.
Peace. Love. Anarchy