Power – the amount of control one has over the ability to act on something.
Power is held at the individual level or in groups, and can be manifested internally or externally. Power can also be attained through individual action or collective action. For example, a person or group could acquire power internally from within or they could obtain power from their interaction with the external environment. On the contrary, power can be taken away internally and externally through negative thought patterns and external forces.
Power at the internal or individual level is essential for personal happiness and freedom, while power at the external or collective level is key to highly functional societies that are vastly interconnected. Individual power can be represented by freedom, while collective power can be exemplified by how well society embodies the collective desires. The question is: what type of social structure epitomizes the best design for the maximum amount of inner power mixed with external cohesiveness?
First, it is important to understand that the inner self and the external environment are interrelated to makeup a complete whole. You cannot exist without the environment, therefore one has to think on an individual level as well as an external level in terms of the collective. You affect the environment and the environment affects you. They cannot be separated.
Looking at today’s society, it’s pretty reasonable to claim that the power of the external world is in the hands of a few people, also known as an oligarchy of elite. In fact, the top 1% owns half the world’s wealth. Since the majority of collective power is disproportionately assigned to a select few, the external system is highly centralized in its social decision-making and functionality. Effectively, a small central group predominately makes the world go round.
Society is also highly competitive based on the notion of scarcity. This stems from the perception of an inadequate amount of land and resources to meet the entire populations needs. This notion of scarcity has organized society into a single competitive hierarchical pyramid where central control of power is housed at the top and little to no power is held at the bottom. This creates a predicament; what if the central power held by the few is used towards their own agenda to maximize their own interests? How does society stay cohesive when there is no power at the bottom resulting in a mad competitive scramble to the top?
There is no doubt that this type of system has clear effects on the inner power that people feel. When one group has too much power over other people, and acts unjustly, people consequently feel trapped and angered, leading to depression and violence. Having one central system that wields so much power, insinuates the idea that everyone has the same goal to achieve and that everyone must walk the same path if one is to obtain power. High competition over success in one system that has only a few openings, naturally brings out the predatory instincts of individuals, which can really break down social cohesion. Internally, people begin to identify the external environment as separate from the internal self and therefore, only a chip to be used for personal gain. In many ways it forces people into these behaviors because social success depends on it.
What about a new system in which the individual has expansive freedoms and power, yet people act in a cohesive collective manner out of choice? There is a growing resurgence of people who claim anarcho-capitalism is the most plausible solution to achieve this end. Let’s dive a little deeper into the philosophy behind it.
Anarcho-capitalism stems from two words: anarchy and capitalism. It’s important to make sure one has let go of preconceived ideas about these words and allow themselves to have an open-mind, as the meaning of these two words have been utterly tainted by the perception that people have of them.
Anarchy is a political philosophy stemming from Libertarianism, which is a political philosophy in its own right that is solely based on the concept of optimizing freedom. Anarchy advocates for freedom through self-governed societies with volunteer institutions. Anarchy calls for the abolition of the state and its functions. It is essentially a stateless society, therefore there are no taxes. Anarchy is based on non-hierarchical organizations of people in which no entity has the right to control other entities. Since there is no state, there is no central monopoly on force in the system; a power the state enjoys today. Instead, every action within anarchical societies is done voluntarily without force. In many ways, anarchy is a very decentralized system, which gives people the individual power to self-govern through complete freedom of action. The guiding foundation behind this system is the Non-aggression principle, which is the moral principle that prohibits the initiation of force by one person against another. The whole system is based around this one ethic. It can be argued logically that anarchy, in its purest form, is the freest system, in terms of governmental design for the individual, because the individual is self-governing and all actions are therefore voluntary and not through force.
Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry, and the means of production are privately owned and operated via profit and loss calculation through the price system. In capitalism, private parties determine prices for exchange, not third parties like the state. Prices are usually determined at the equilibrium of supply and demand. In capitalism, people also have the sovereign right to charge whatever they desire and own their own assets, compared to fixed prices and communal ownership. As with anarchy, it can also be argued that capitalism in its purest form is the freest system for individuals due to individuals having direct ownership and control over their own economic actions.
Now this isn’t a perfect world, so there is obviously varying degrees of both anarchism and capitalism. For example, in anarchism some anarchists are minarchists, in that they believe in a small version of the state only to protect individuals from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud. They believe the only necessary social institutions are military, police, courts, fire departments, prison, and executive/legislative branches of federal government. There are also anarcho-communists who advocate for the abolition of the state, capitalism, wages, and private property in favor of common ownership and means of production, direct democracy, and a horizontal network of voluntary associations and worker’s councils with production and consumption based on the guiding principle, “for each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” This represents a volunteer collective of people united around collective needs rather than individual needs.
On the other side, capitalism can range from complete free market capitalism to a broad range of government intervention within. Contrary to popular belief, there are no actual free-market capitalist economies in today’s world. All capitalist economies are mixed economies, having some level of government intervention in the market. Intervention comes in various strategies and in various markets. Some argue that capitalism needs to be controlled because it leads to greed and power consumption; while others argues that the state ruins capitalism by interfering with the natural process of the market.
In many ways, the degree to which one adopts anarchism and capitalism comes down to one’s most basic internal assumption about society: to what degree does one trust people or not? Are people inherently greedy and self-interested or are they cooperative and loving? This very thought pattern at the collective level strongly influences what type of system is most suitable. It often seems that one’s belief is strongly influenced by one’s interaction with the external environment. So why anarcho-capitalism then?
The belief is that a social system designed around individual freedom naturally breeds collective cohesion in society. It’s the belief that no one should have control over you, and that people have the natural-born right to act in complete autonomy as long as they abide by the non-aggression principle. It’s the belief that people don’t need rulers because individual freedom manifests collective love. Anarcho-capitalists argue that people become violent, depressed, and corrupt due to the implementation of a strong central system (state), which impedes heavily on individual freedom. Essentially, negative actions are heavily influenced by faulty external systems. When people are forced to act in a way that is not in accordance with their inner beliefs, then instinctively negative actions come to surface as inner power is threatened. Force has the propensity for causing chaos. This is why everything in anarcho-capitalism that is done through volunteer action and not by force, so as not to impede on inner power.
Anarcho-capitalists believe the concept of a state naturally breeds corruption and inequality, due to its monopoly over power and control. Unsurprisingly, powerful interests cling toward it to benefit themselves. Over time, anarcho-capitalists believe this distorts the market because government aided cartels form and come to dominate the market due to unfair advantages. This naturally brings centralization of power as the state becomes more like an entity with the personal agenda of attaining more power for the few, and less like a fair, unbiased democracy for all. They believe this propensity for corruption limits individual power and as the central system grows larger, personal identity becomes centralized around the same image and goals. A metaphorical monoculture.
This does not mean that collectives will not form. Of course they will, but it will just happen through voluntary agreement of mutual interests. Anarcho-capitalists argue that anarco-capitalism is the best overarching system because all other systems of volunteerism can exist peacefully within it, being that it is so free and open. For example, anarcho-communist communities can exist within this framework because it is merely a community in which a collective of individuals voluntarily decided to share resources and distribute them based upon need. Some people may choose that route, and there is nothing wrong with it. However, a collective system as the overarching system for society seems troublesome in that some people may not agree with how the collective distribution of resources is being done. This could lead to tension between people and the emergence of power struggles, as some people feel they don’t have full individual autonomy and are not getting out what they put in.
People naturally have the argument that anarcho-capitalism will lead to chaos or that it will just create more greedy capitalism, similar to what we have today. However, this might not necessarily be true because without government interference like subsidies, easy loan acquirement, and unjust laws that strongly favor the top of the pyramid, it would be much harder to gain advantage over smaller competitors. It’s especially questionable whether the corrupt central institutions can hold up when one takes away the enormous, unjust monopoly the Federal Reserve and its affiliates have over the control of the money supply. Another major factor is the fact that there would be no taxes, so the central government will have no power. There would be no central power force to protect the operation, and it will have greater financial flexibility for consumers and producers. This could lead to a collapse of the central system.
People don’t often take into consideration how inequality has forced consumers into participating in the central system. In a highly centralized system that is distributed unequally, consumers are often trapped into buying from the large corporations, even if they’re against them ethically, because there is a lack of viable competitors and a lack of cash in people’s wallets. It’s very hard in this system for a large majority of people to align economic decisions with personal ethics and morals. However, in a decentralized anarchical system, there is an increased power for consumers as well as increased competition amongst producers. Crony corporations will find it hard to compete and find cheap labor, as buyers have more autonomy to align ethics with purchasing and workers with have greater bargaining power, because increased competition allows them to jump aboard somewhere else if slave wages are paid.
This is the essential component to an anarcho-capitalist system, individual freedom leads moral action. The belief is that increased autonomy leads to stronger, more ethical action since people are naturally loving and cooperative in the right systems. Since there is no system to fall back on and no system to guide you, people will be incentivized to connect with each other voluntarily because people need each other to survive and naturally want to connect. Those who deceive and use people, will likely not be invited into volunteer associations and shunned from communities. In anarcho-capitalism, people must take direct responsibility for their actions. With great power comes great responsibility, therefore an individual’s reputation will be paramount in a future anarcho-capitalist society. With increased technology and the rapid spread of information, it will be much harder to escape the lies and deceit one could get away with before the dawn of the Internet. At the same time, it will increase individual capability of self-sustainability as well as elevated levels of transparency in the external environment.
This is just a brief introduction into the philosophical reasoning behind anarcho-capitalism. There is so much that has yet to be explored, such as how a transition would happen, what types of laws there might be, who would have access to limited non-renewable resources, and how disputes would be settled, to name a few. Much research and debate is needed to hash out the details, all of which will be covered in subsequent articles. The point however, is for people to begin to think outside the box, and really ask the question of what true freedom really is. It should encourage people to look at society today and ask themselves if it is truly free. Can there be too much freedom? Does society need rulers or a state? This all depends on the choice an individual makes between love and fear. In the current system, fear is easy to see because the system breeds fear out of design. When considering this, picturing a free alternative society cannot be done with the same thoughts one has about society today because a new society will undoubtedly revolve around different concepts and values.
Nevertheless, the philosophical question still remains: does a totally free system like anarcho-capitalism produce the highest ceiling for both internal power/individual sovereignty and external power/collective cohesiveness? If not, to what degree should freedom be limited? I don’t know the answer just yet, so the verdict is still out. What I do know is that it’s time to start talking and evolve the conversation.
“It must be remembered that a vast majority of mankind’s history has been spent living under the rule of tyrants and authoritarians. The ideas of Liberty are very new when you consider the big picture. By contrast, various forms of socialism and fascism have been adopted over and over again. Be wary of those who try to present these old and tired ideas as something new and exciting. Liberty and free markets are the way forward if we truly desire peace and prosperity.”
– Ron Paul
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