[Previous] Binswanger Misquotes Popper | Home | [Next] Psychology Studies Mostly Suck

Voluntarist Left Anarchism Criticisms

Some people imagine a peaceful society, with no government, as an alternative to capitalism.

The idea of non-violent, voluntary anarchism presupposes capitalist premises. Voluntary communal sharing implies I may keep the products of my labor for myself. What I produce is, therefore, my property which no one may take. It’s mine. I can share it, keep it, or trade it. Those are the fundamental rules of laissez-faire capitalist society (aka classical liberal or minarchist society).

If what I produce goes straight to the community when I’d prefer not to share, then that isn’t voluntary.

But, you protest, you imagine a society full of sharing. If may have the same political rules as capitalism, but people will have different ideas and behave differently. The basic rules of capitalism are OK, but people need to be educated about the virtues of sharing, charity and community. Then they’ll make better choices and stop having jobs, bosses, wages, etc. All work will be volunteer work, everything important to someone’s life will be charitably given to them by someone, and we’ll all be happier and quite possibly richer too.

These proposals run into the standard problems of socialism and more.

What is the incentive to work hard, well, or at all? I can choose not to work and I’ll still be provided with plenty by the community. What is the incentive to do dirty jobs? Who will take out the garbage?

When you get rid of the profit motive, won’t people be wasteful, or economize less? How many logs should I use in my fire today? How much should I turn up the heat? How much do I have to want a book or anything else before I should have it? If I can just have as much as I want of whatever I want, I’ll get lots of things I only want a little bit instead of only getting the things which are most important to me. And I’ll ask for cleaning and cooking services to be shared with me instead of doing those things myself, or I’ll let my home become dirty and ask for a new home. I’m not responsible for shared property and the community will give me plenty more, right? Your answer is to rely on the new socialist man who makes altruistic sacrifices to benefit his comrades, right? That approach has never worked in the real world because it has theoretical flaws. Who should sacrifice how much for whom? How are any decisions made? How are disagreements resolved?

How will economic calculation be done? What quantities of what goods should be produced by what methods? How do people know if they’re producing efficiently without profit and loss to guide them? How do they know if a particular use of a good is economically efficient without a price of the good to tell them its value? And how should capital be allocated? What industries should expand? What new inventions should have how much effort put into inventing them?

How is anything organized? There are no more stores? If I want something, I just go around to my neighbors and ask for it until someone has one that they aren’t using? What happens when a factory produces 100,000 shoes? How do they get distributed around the country to the right 100,000 people? And how does the factory know what how many of what size to make, or what colors to make, or what materials to use?

What’s the point anyway? The point of trade is to exchange some goods I value less for some goods I value more. What’s the point of shuffling all the wealth around via charity? Is it so some central planner can decide who gets what? If not, won’t it be chaotic?

And this utopia fails to consider scarce resources. There won’t be plenty of everything to go around. People want more wealth than exists and they always will. There’s always scope to have more and better goods and services.

What happens to the method of voluntary sharing when people have disagreements about the allocation of resources?

When people disagree, given the voluntary nature of society, won’t people keep what they have for themselves instead of sharing it? Won’t disagreements cause reversion to capitalist trade where I share for mutual benefit but don’t give my stuff away? If I think I’m giving away more than I get, I’ll prefer trade. And if anyone is receiving more than they share, then others must be sharing more than they receive. Why is it moral that they have less than they produced for themselves? What’s rational about that? And this way I’m self-reliant and can plan for my future instead of relying on the less predictable production and gifting of others.

So suppose I keep everything I produce. That’s the first thing I’d consider doing. I don’t see how charity is economically efficient to make society richer in general, nor do I see how essentially giving away a bunch of gifts, and receiving a bunch of gifts will do a better job of getting me the right goods and services than if I simply traded for what I want. So anyway, I keep all my property. I receive gifts from generous people and trade with the less generous people. Will the community do anything to stop this? Let’s consider both alternatives.

If the community does nothing to stop me, I simply have more at the expense of others. I have what I produce and what others give me. I expect this to quickly lead to a system of trade with little charity outside the family, similar to what we have today. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. What problem will less voluntary trade, and more voluntary gifts, solve? What will that make better for society in general? If the goal is just to help crippled people who can’t work, or something like that, you can ask for generosity for that specific purpose instead of trying to change the basic economic system for everyone.

If the community stops me, they’ll either use violence (violating the concept of voluntarist anarchism) or they’ll use non-violent methods. The non-violent methods would be e.g. people stop sharing food with me and refuse to trade with me. So essentially society is my boss and I have to please others by working hard enough, and sharing enough, or else they’ll starve me. This is much worse than a boss today because I can’t just switch jobs and get a new boss. And it’s like having many bosses at once – all of society – so there isn’t much consistency about what will please my boss. To prosper I’ll have to make friends in high places. I’ll have to please the leaders and influential people. In short, it’s a status society where I must do politics and social climbing instead of production and trade.


Elliot Temple on December 6, 2019

Messages (22)

Incentives is the wrong enphasis

>What is the incentive to work hard, well, or at all?

The incentive is still there, people still want to work and create and have nice stuff. People act for other reasons than just maximizing income, even the dirty jobs people know someone has to do it. It's a really bad idea(socialism) because it is not letting people try solutions and value things for themselves.


Jorge at 7:47 AM on December 7, 2019 | #14743 | reply | quote

#14743 If there are a million people in society, you get 1 part in 1 million of what you produce. That incentive rounds to zero.


Anonymous at 11:58 AM on December 7, 2019 | #14744 | reply | quote

At the end of the day there is clearly a fundamental disagreement on human nature going on here. As someone who is quite close to being an anarcho-primitivist, I am optimistic about human nature, which is why I don't believe that in a natural society anyone would ever "prefer not to share" or refuse to make altruistic sacrifices to help their comrades.

It is only in our modern, horrible and deeply sickened society that human nature is warped and people become, on a surface level anyway, greedy and unreasonable.

On work, the idea is that in a sane society, work wouldn't exist. People would only do things voluntarily, whereas doing them in exchange for the money you need to survive is *not* voluntary, it's wage slavery.

Work or coercion, or "incentive", isn't necessary for a human society to flourish. The only incentive you need to do things is the joy that they naturally bring. No job should be unpleasant. If any of the jobs, like taking out the garbage, are unpleasant, then they shouldn't exist. Our garbage shouldn't be disgusting, or in any case should be enjoyable to get rid of.

Factories that produce 100,000 shoes shouldn't exist. No beautiful or even functional shoe can ever be created in such a setting.

The correct answer to a lot of the questions you ask (like how many logs to use or which industries to expand) is in practice always obvious to any sane individual, which is why there is no serious disagreement about these matters in any sane society.

Resources aren't scarce in the natural world, they are made scarce by capitalism.

Trade always arouses suspicion and is an inherently confrontational practice. That is why a gift economy is much better. And if, rarely, someone like you comes along and keeps everything for themselves, that's fine. Because people like you are incredibly rare in any sane/natural/healthy/good society.


Anonymous at 9:32 AM on December 8, 2019 | #14752 | reply | quote

> The idea of non-violent, voluntary anarchism presupposes capitalist premises. Voluntary communal sharing implies I may keep the products of my labor for myself. What I produce is, therefore, my property which no one may take. It’s mine. I can share it, keep it, or trade it.

Why does voluntary communal sharing imply that you may keep the products of your labor? This is presuming a particular notion of property, but property is just a social construct, there is no law of physics which says that anything "belongs" to anyone.

A different society could have a different notion of what belongs to who, or may not have the notion of property at all, so you can't just presume that an anarchist society would have rules that would allow you to keep the products of your labor for yourself. Under different rules of property, trying to keep the products of your labor for yourself could be considered a form of violence, just like trying to take someone else's property under capitalism.


Anonymous at 8:13 AM on December 9, 2019 | #14763 | reply | quote

> Why does voluntary communal sharing imply that you may keep the products of your labor?

Can you define in what sense the "sharing" would be "voluntary" if people have no choice in the matter, no option to keep stuff?


Anonymous at 9:47 AM on December 9, 2019 | #14765 | reply | quote

#14765

Under a different system of property there would be no sense in which the products of your labor were "yours" to begin with, so whether or not to keep it wouldn't be your choice to make. In the same way that, under capitalism, you have no say about what someone else does with whatever they own.


Anonymous at 10:43 AM on December 9, 2019 | #14766 | reply | quote

Individuals are the entities that think and produce things. Any system of "property" which doesn't account for that sounds like a system of rationalized plunder.


Anonymous at 10:50 AM on December 9, 2019 | #14767 | reply | quote

> Why does voluntary communal sharing imply that you may keep the products of your labor? This is presuming a particular notion of property, but property is just a social construct, there is no law of physics which says that anything "belongs" to anyone.

This is the stolen concept issue which is a lot of why I wrote the post. If you reject the liberal/capitalist concept of "voluntary", then you should use a different word and define what you mean. don't pretend it's a "voluntary" system in the standard sense (that I may do something but also I have the option not to do it, my choice). if the sharing is automatic b/c the products of my labor are never mine to make decisions about, then i'm not voluntarily sharing them, something else is going on.


curi at 1:46 PM on December 9, 2019 | #14769 | reply | quote

> At the end of the day there is clearly a fundamental disagreement on human nature going on here. As someone who is quite close to being an anarcho-primitivist, I am optimistic about human nature, which is why I don't believe that in a natural society anyone would ever "prefer not to share" or refuse to make altruistic sacrifices to help their comrades.

I don't think our disagreement is about human nature. I think it's about economics and knowledge.

> Factories that produce 100,000 shoes shouldn't exist. No beautiful or even functional shoe can ever be created in such a setting.

I don't think you understand the economic consequences of what you're saying, which I think are e.g. billions fewer people being alive. Because your approach is so dramatically worse at creating the wealth needed to support human life.

> The correct answer to a lot of the questions you ask (like how many logs to use or which industries to expand) is in practice always obvious to any sane individual, which is why there is no serious disagreement about these matters in any sane society.

The idea that the truth is obvious, as a solution to economic coordination problems, is utterly naive.

> Resources aren't scarce in the natural world, they are made scarce by capitalism.

This again is not a disagreement about human nature. It's ignorance of economics. You don't know what the word "scarce" means or how economists think or what they've figured out.

Your hostility to trade, similarly, indicates you don't understand the purpose or value of the division of labor, or how trade/exchange of some sort is a necessary corollary of the division of labor.


curi at 1:53 PM on December 9, 2019 | #14770 | reply | quote

hmm yes, I am probably opposed to the division of labour, come to think of it. however I do not consider it an important topic

admittedly your view of human nature doesn't seem to be quite as bad as many capitalists and modern people in general. I can't quite put my finger on you and who you are...


Anonymous at 2:45 PM on December 9, 2019 | #14771 | reply | quote

#14771 I'm an Objectivist and classical liberal. Re division of labor, here is an explanation of its value from an Objectivist + Austrian economist:

https://mises.org/library/capitalism-treatise-economics

> **The Multiplication of Knowledge**

>

> To understand how the division of labor represents a multiplication of the knowledge used in production, it is only necessary to realize that in a division-of-labor society, such as our own, there are as many distinct bodies of knowledge used in production as there are distinct specializations and subspecializations of employment. Steel producers, for example, have a different body of knowledge from that of auto producers. Wheat farmers have a different body of knowledge from both of these and even from that of other farmers, such as vegetable growers or dairy farmers. The bodies of knowledge of all such specializations enter into the process of production in a division-of-labor society, and each individual is enabled to obtain products reflecting the total of such knowledge. Thus, steel producers give the benefit of their knowledge to the whole rest of society; in return, they are able to receive from the rest of society the benefit of the specialized knowledge held by all other categories of producers. And so it is with the members of every specialization.

>

> This is a result of enormous importance, and its significance needs to be carefully considered. What a division-of-labor society represents is *the organization of the* *same total sum of human brain power in a way that enables it to store and use vastly more knowledge than would otherwise be possible.*

>

> To grasp this point fully, we must consider the contrasting case of a non-division-of-labor society, such as exists in most of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In those areas, where the overwhelming majority of people live as virtually self-sufficient farmers, each family knows essentially what all the others know about production. To confirm this fact, one might imagine an effort to compile all the knowledge entering into production in such places. One might imagine a corps of interviewers who obtain a grant from the U.S. government to go out and write down all that the rural farm families of these areas know about production. After interviewing the first such family in each area, very little additional information would be gained from interviewing the hundreds of millions of other such families. What this means, in essence, is that the sum total of the knowledge used in production in a non-division-of-labor society is limited to what the brain of just one or two individuals can hold. Any one farmer, or farmer plus his wife, in those areas holds practically all of the knowledge that is used in production in the entire society.

>

> To put it mildly, such a situation is a case of wasteful duplication. It is the wasteful duplication of the mental contents of the human brain—the wasteful use of man’s ability to store and use knowledge. In this respect and in this sense, a division-of-labor society is indispensable to the efficient use of the human mind in production. To the degree that production is divided into separate specializations, with separate bodies of knowledge, the same total of human brain power is enabled to store and use more knowledge, to the benefit of each and every individual member of that society. This is the meaning of the proposition that the division of labor represents the multiplication of the knowledge used in production. It multiplies such knowledge to the degree that specializations and specialized bodies of knowledge exist. And it multiplies correspondingly the benefits that man is able to derive from the use of his mind.

>

> The enlarged body of knowledge that a division-of-labor society makes possible is the precondition for producing products and adopting methods of production that require more knowledge than any one person, family, village, or tribe can possess. To illustrate this fact and be able to appreciate its importance, let us consider the amount of knowledge required to produce a relatively simple product, such as a ballpoint pen, which almost everyone uses practically every day in our society.

I suggest you open the book and read the rest of this section, plus some other relevant ones (look at the table of contents and index).


curi at 3:45 PM on December 9, 2019 | #14772 | reply | quote

#14765

> At the end of the day there is clearly a fundamental disagreement on human nature going on here. As someone who is quite close to being an anarcho-primitivist, I am optimistic about human nature, which is why I don't believe that in a natural society anyone would ever "prefer not to share" or refuse to make altruistic sacrifices to help their comrades.

You're asuming that in all cases "sharing" is the right choice.Sharing is not a universal answer to to the problem of who should use what and how. You're also confusing living in a better world (one in which there's more of the good stuff) with living in a world full of people behaving in a fetichised way you think makes them good in "nature".

It doesn't look like you at least undertand our position.I'll leave you and curi this link: https://youtu.be/jY7jO9qvtDk it's one of the best rebutals to critics of capitalism I know of. It's a bit long but it's like it was made to answer you directly. If after watching it you still have substancial criticism of liberalism then this conversation could go somewhere, because right now you are making to much basic philosophical mistakes.


Jorge at 8:52 PM on December 9, 2019 | #14773 | reply | quote

#14752 Just curious - where did you get your ideas? Who are the philosophers you admire and why?


Anonymous at 10:29 PM on December 9, 2019 | #14774 | reply | quote

#14774 The "Objectivism" I mentioned in that comment is a philosophy. And from the blog sidebar:

> Philosopher & classical liberal. I like Ayn Rand, Karl Popper, William Godwin & Ludwig von Mises.

See also http://fallibleideas.com/books


curi at 10:32 PM on December 9, 2019 | #14775 | reply | quote

#14775 My questions in #14774 were directed at #14752, the person who said:

> As someone who is quite close to being an anarcho-primitivist, I am optimistic about human nature, which is why I don't believe that in a natural society anyone would ever "prefer not to share" or refuse to make altruistic sacrifices to help their comrades.

I confused things by signing as "Anonymous". Apologies.


Another Anon at 11:35 PM on December 9, 2019 | #14776 | reply | quote

#14776 My mistake. I saw the 2 on the end of the comment number, matching the second most recent comment, my #14772, but I but didn't realize the tens digit had also changed.


curi at 11:38 PM on December 9, 2019 | #14777 | reply | quote

I already agreed with most (or a lot) of what he says by the time I came across him, but this guy is great:

https://expressiveegg.org/portfolio/33-myths-of-the-system/

His worldview is pretty much diametrically opposed to Elliot's I think. Yet strangely I have also been somewhat interested in Elliot's views on things and have been following this website for a long time.


Anonymous at 2:07 AM on December 10, 2019 | #14778 | reply | quote

#14763

> Under different rules of property, trying to keep the products of your labor for yourself could be considered a form of violence, just like trying to take someone else's property under capitalism.

Being considered violence (by a society) and actually being violence are different things.

In some societies, having sex with ones wife against her will is considered sex not rape. They are wrong. It is rape.

Some leftists say speech can be violence. Speech is never violence.


Anonymous at 2:23 AM on December 10, 2019 | #14779 | reply | quote

#14763

Seriously watch this video https://youtu.be/jY7jO9qvtDk it explains why even in “utopia” for socialists, people would still have private property and trade. You’re not the first to make this argument(that if we where “altruists” we’d be socialists)philosopher G.A Cohen did it in a little popular book called Why not socialism? just before he died. The video is a response to it by Georgetown philosopher Jason Brennan.


Jorge at 7:21 AM on December 10, 2019 | #14780 | reply | quote

#14780 I watched it btw. I thought it was pretty good. The beginning with the stats was less interesting, the argument about making comparisons with equally moral societies was more interesting. Most of the Q&A was less interesting again.

Brennan is a bit of a middle of the road squishy guy who doesn't believe in full capitalism, not a really serious heavy weight thinker by my standards. He's a semi-normal guy instead of someone who is super into ideas and truth seeking. Considering the speaker is someone like that's, it's quite a good video. He's quite reasonable and effective for a kinda conventional guy who compromises some.


curi at 12:24 PM on December 10, 2019 | #14781 | reply | quote

#14781

I think I regard him a better philsopher than you do. I personally find most defenders of capitalism to be very bad arguers. They don't even understand their positions very well, and even less the positions of the critics. Brennan does, and he calls out on their bullshit(of the critics and defenders alike).

That said I do think outside of the political philsophy of capitalism Brennan is weak. E.g he wrote an entire book bashing democracy without considering Popper. And like you say he compromises on some opinions.


Jorge at 11:12 AM on December 11, 2019 | #14792 | reply | quote

Let me put it another way that maybe you'll agree with: IMO Brennan is not on Mises' level. It's not close. They aren't similar.


curi at 11:13 AM on December 11, 2019 | #14793 | reply | quote

(This is an unmoderated discussion forum. Discussion info.)