The Perverse Ideology of “Anarcho-Capitalism”

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Is it just me, or has there been a sudden resurgence in the popularity of “anarcho-capitalism” lately? Market fundamentalists have a history of parasitically leeching off enlightenment-based ideas (which were originally based on rationality, secularism, liberty, progress and the idea of the social contract) and synthesizing them into their own market-based dogmas. In regards to principles of the enlightenment, the market fundamentalist only take note of two words: “liberty” and “individualism.”

But it’s interesting how these proponents of “liberty” and “individualism” are often silent when it comes to the liberty and individualism of, say, the middle aged factory worker laid off due to his job being outsourced to China or India. Or the full-time waitress with two kids who now must consider getting a third job due to rising inflation of neighborhood grocery prices brought forth by rapid gentrification. Why is it only the liberty and individualism of the “entrepreneur” or business owner that matter?

The notion of “Anarcho-capitalism” is, at best, a laughable hypothetical frivolously pontificated by the dorm-room philosopher, and, at worst, a sociopathic disease that would bring civilization back to the middle ages. The most literal definition of ancap is the complete elimination of the state in favor of individual sovereignty in a “free market.” Similar to the so-called “Libertarians”, the Ancaps claim that “free market” and democracy are mutually inclusive–one necessarily leads to the other. That if we just lessen regulation and let “innovators”, like Mark Cuban and Elon Musk, go about their business unmolested by “big government” then everything would be fine and dandy. That parasitic corporations aren’t a result of capitalism per se, but a result of “corporatism”–after all, the ancaps say, corporations only exist because of government.

I’ll take for granted that ancaps aren’t arguing for the elimination of government completely, that they still understand the necessity of public utilities like roads, bridges, traffic lights, road signs, sewage systems, and so on. If so, then I don’t see what the problem is here with government in general. Aren’t ideal governments supposed to function in such a way as to only intrude on one’s individual freedoms when that freedom threatens the freedom of others? Sorry, but the freedom of a few middle-class individuals to sell and engage in business is not worth the freedom of the majority who are simply looking to survive.

Our current system is one in which those with more capital have more say in the voting process. More than half of America’s population are virtually disenfranchised i.e have zero say on policy decisions. Why? Because of immense lobbying efforts on behalf of big capital. Of course this, according to the ancaps, reinforces their point about “corporatism”–big corporations and monopolies are a result of too much government. The ancaps can’t possibly mean what they imply here, that the way to get rid of big corporate power is to eliminate the very institutions that seek to limit (or at least balance) that power. This line of reasoning isn’t too far off from suggesting that we get rid of drunk driving laws in order to eliminate drunk driving….I mean, what do they expect? That if we got rid of anti-trust laws, that suddenly corporate giants like Microsoft or Apple would stop to ponder and say, “hey, guys, we have way too much power. Let’s stop accumulating so much capital so that the little guy can have a shot.” This is stunningly naive.

More naive is the belief that private healthcare insurance companies would somehow function better without government “intrusion” between you and your doctor. It seems to me that the only thing getting in the way of me and my doctor are, well, private insurance companies….there’s a reason why America has the most expensive inefficient healthcare system in the first place, most of that due to, you guessed it, private insurance companies…

“Government” is mostly a scare word that Ancaps use to associate with totalitarianism, in the vein of Stalin. Big businesses, they say, never sent anyone to the gulags. Perhaps, they should reflect on the abhorrent labor conditions within industrial England in the 19th century that wounded up killing hundreds of men, women, and child laborers. Or the murderous dictatorships, like free-market supporter Augusto Pinochet in Chile, financially backed by American businessmen and Chicago school economists whom so badly wanted to privatize Chilean industries. When talking of totalitarian potentialities, Ancaps seem to have a very narrow understanding of what governments are supposed to do. The all-seeing state apparatuses which they refer to are almost never democratic. If one believes in democracy, one believes in the institution of government.

It’s often said that democracy is linked to the market because one often “votes” with his/her wallet. But what happens when we get rid of the military, a very vital part of the state apparatus as well as the most heavily funded, and replace it with private monopolized military companies? Sure, you and your fellow ancaps can refuse to pay for their services but what happens when those private security companies suggest that perhaps you ought to pay, unless, say, something destructive happens to your home…

I’m willing to grant the market fundamentalists this: markets shouldn’t be banned all together, some markets should exist. But when it comes to institutions that are responsible for the well being of our citizens–healthcare, housing, and education being prime examples–leave that to democratically elected government. And, in the meantime, take the “anarcho” out of “capitalism.” The two utterly contradict one another. As does capitalism and democracy.

 

 

 

 

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The "Political Correctness" Debate Is Dumb

 

The debate over so-called “political correctness” has dominated mainstream political and cultural discourse over the past decade and, frankly, it’s getting tiresome and boring. The debate’s been spearheaded by pundits like Dave Rubin, Tomi Lahren, Ben Shapiro, and many other corporate-state apologists on both the right-left spectrum. On the outset, the “Anti-PC” crowd has some appealing points, though most of it tends to fall on the aphoristic front–people have a right to express their opinions in the name of rational debate, even if it runs the risk of being “offensive.” But is it seriously that big of a deal if, say, Colin Kapernick chooses to kneel down as a sign of protest against police brutality? Or if students at Yale want a former proponent of slavery’s (John C Calhouns) name scrubbed off a residential hall? Will the oceans rise to smother us all in a wave of sexual perversion if, god forbid, transgender or non-binary individuals get to be called what they want to be called? I can’t help but feel that those who spend their days brooding over these so-called “cultural” issues are the real “snowflakes” here.

Those who proclaim to be “victims” of “PC run amok” have very little to lose when compared to actual victims of discrimination run amok. The former might lose the freedom to say “faggot” or “dyke” but that’s about it, whereas the latter might lose the freedom to walk down the halls safely without being called a “faggot” or a “dyke” and be once again reminded of their historic dehumanization and disenfranchisement.  I’m sorry, it just doesn’t really compare. Would one cling on to the “Anti-PC” argument if asked to address a Black person as, well, Black instead of “negro”? No. Thus, I see no reason why people need to get so up in arms over keeping the “Redskins” football team name or calling non-binary gendered person “Zhe.” It takes very little effort to do so. And the fact that some people put so much effort in trying not to says more about them than they’ll ever know. It’s akin to the obnoxious shit stain of a classmate who goes around the schoolyard calling everyone “retard” and then getting mad that nobody wants to play with him.

Overall, the debate over “political correctness” is so frivolous an issue, it’s hardly worth getting one’s panties in a knot over. Where are people like Dave Rubin and Sam Harris’s equivalent outrage over the bigger social issues, such as our country’s immense rate of childhood poverty,  massive wealth inequality, wage and infrastructure stagnation, institutional racism/sexism, our scandalous and savage healthcare system, and the impending environmental catastrophe? Where are all these “Anti-PC” pundits on matters such as the fact that our snake oil salesman of a President has proven thus far to be utterly incapable of remedying any of those above issues, planning to massively cut social spending in favor of an already excessive military budget (in defense of whom I wonder), and a Congress more or less dominated by the interests of the corporate class (and which will continue to be dominated by this class with the appointment of several of Trump’s new cabinet members).

Look, I admit, I occasionally roll my eyes at fellow liberal friends who resort to hyperboles, trying to prove that their opponents come straight from the depths of fascist hell. And it can be annoying. But let’s face it. The main group of people who think “coddled college students” and “political correctness” are the greatest threat to our current stability and democracy are, ironically, those who are probably coddled in their own safe spaces, spaces in which the only permissible idealization of life is a corporate office space with a view. If the Anti-PC people spend half as much time on actual substantiated issues, such as issues which have a real impact on the lives and wellbeing of millions and millions of Americans all across the racial and political spectrum, as they do on “social justice warriors”, then maybe we would be more on the same page. Right now, these people just seem to have nothing else to complain about, which, again, says a lot more about them than they probably realize.

 

 

 

 

"Corporatism" and "Crony Capitalism": Fake Terms

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The term “Capitalism” is often associated with technological innovation, freedom, and prosperity, while “Socialism” is often paired with totalitarianism and primitive collectivization. The central engine that propelled American industry was the free trade of goods and the complete private ownership of industry, it’s often said, and the economic and social ills we face today result from “Corporatism” and/or “Crony Capitalism.” Conservative pundits like Ben Shapiro and Richard M. Salesman go so far as to claim that the modern system is really just “Corporatism”, and that “Crony” is a misnomer propagandistically used by the Progressive Left to sinisterly redefine “Capitalism”, that is “Real Capitalism.”

I can’t help but feel a tinge of blind religious fervor here. Shapiro and others seem to think that historic progress, in way of living standards and overall prosperity for the average human being, have come entirely from private sector imperatives. The so-called “Golden Age of Capitalism”, i.e the 1945 to the early 1970s, is oftentimes used to be proof of this. But, ironically, it was during that period where large scale government intervention programs were most active–the G.I Bill provided millions of Americans with higher education and low cost housing, and the state provided heavy funding for the interstate Highway system as well as the high-tech industry which enabled the creation and evolution of the very computer systems we use today. The list goes on. Yet this escapes the minds of proponents of “Real Capitalism.” Today, most socialized spending is swiftly and pejoratively labeled as “Socialist”, as if all memory of post-WWII social welfare programs had been wiped from societal consciousness, from history itself! Orwell would’ve shivered. And this is why these terms ultimately fail in describing the actual reality of things. They serve as banners for one’s favorite team, a twitter status that reduces all complexity to a few sentences.

Let’s look at the actual definition. Simply, “Capitalism” is the complete private ownership of the means of production and distribution of wealth. “Socialism” is the complete public ownership. Public of course is any institution that utilizes our tax dollars. At best, we can say that almost all modern countries have combined certain aspects of Capitalism with certain aspects of Socialism. In the post-war period, Japan and South Korea heavily subsidized important industries (this was done in order to compete with more economically mature and advanced Western nations at the time), while Europe adopted Keynesian economic policies which also involved government intervention of industry. A “Real Capitalist” system, by way of the complete private ownership of all walks of life, would be neither desirable or sustainable.

The most pure and exaggerated form would indeed be a Mafia-like State. If proponents of “Real Capitalist” systems are serious in their Ayn Rand inspired ideology of the individual right over the collective, then it would follow that they also do not believe in government regulatory structures since oftentimes such “totalitarian” institutions strangle private profit. During England’s Industrial period in the 19th century, business owners, who claimed to be arguing on behalf of their workers, accused government factory inspectors of intruding on their rights to “provide” for their laborers, men, women, and children, by way of 12 hour workdays and dangerously unsanitary factory conditions which would eventually kill thousands. Perhaps the lowering of the work day did in fact come at the expense of the business owner. But was the exploitation utilized by the business owner not at the expense of the laborer, at a much greater expense in fact?

Furthermore, the financial crisis of 2008 was not just “Crony Capitalism” or “Corporatism”, it was Capitalism brought forth to its most pure form. Again, those who relish in the ugly nihilistic cult of Ayn Rand would have to conclude that the 2008 financial crisis was a natural consequence of some people “winning” and others “losing.” The perpetrators did the right thing, ignoring “externality”, which in this case were the savings and pension funds of middle class Americans, and pursuing their own gain, by handing out exorbitant loans that they knew couldn’t be paid back…the economy collapses but well, it’s not our problem…self interest right? The fact is that wealth inequality, which is increasing, is not problematic for the “loser” i.e those who didn’t work hard enough or just didn’t have it in them to be “winners” in the economy, but is problematic for civilization and democracy. That’s why a mixed economy, one that properly balances elements of both Capitalism and Socialism is the only way forward and, as such, perhaps the term Capitalism shouldn’t illicit ideological worship and Socialism shouldn’t have such a nasty misunderstood flavor.

Can't Believe I Actually Miss Obama

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Ok Obama left the White House this morning, handing the keys to the most powerful empire in human history over to a man who has the emotional temperament of honey boo boo and who can’t stand the thought of having anything “small”, who’s, furthermore, bankrupted four of his own companies and refused to pay his own workers, who’s been accused by more than a dozen woman of sexual harassment, who believes Muslims should be banned from the United States and immigrants deported, and who wants to build up our Nukes and reignite the Cold War…shiit.

Obama was a man I’ve always looked on at with a sort of detachment. After all his promises of “hope and change”, the results ended up being slightly underwhelming. Yes, he opened the doors to Cuba, signed the Iranian nuclear deal, gave much needed support to gay, feminist, and minority rights, and may have stopped us from getting into a disastrous, catastrophic war within Syria. But he still signed the key bailout that subsidized the criminal Wall Street plutocrats that tanked the economy, and his drone policies were still extremely murderous (the exact death toll on innocent Yemen civilians are still inconclusive, with some reports estimating the number to be as high as 900… ).

But when compared to a mendacious power-hungry authoritarian fascist with  a reputation for nefarious business dealings, even George W. Bush seems preferable. Jokes aside, it depresses that things might actually get worse.

I’ve never doubted Obama’s integrity; he seemed genuine in his attempts to want to create a more “benign” United States. And he would probably be an awesome dude to have a beer with. But I also thought of him as somebody who never had a clear stance or moral vision. I haven’t read his memoir “Audacity of Hope” yet, but my gut tells me he actually believed in, well, the “audacity” of hope, which is refreshing in an age of puerile angsty nihilism. It’s refreshing to have had a president that understands that if we as a people want a more just, moral society, we alone are the only ones that can will it into being. This requires unrelenting hope in the face of insurmountable odds. Yet, a part of me also thinks he didn’t have the revolutionary passion to really want to change “the system” (not in the way Bernie Sanders did) or really understood the imploding nature of a debt-based economy.

Still, I’ll certainly miss having someone who’s at least somewhat conscious of the nature of the system’s problems (Obama) than someone who has no clue of what and where the problem even exists (Trump).

Nationalism and Race Pride: Remnants of Tribalism That's Never Gone Away For Some Reason

A reignited theme in American politics today seems to be that of pride: pride in where one hails from, pride in what ethnic or religious group they belong to, pride in what color their skin is. Next to religious fundamentalism, nationalism and race pride have always been mankind’s most irrational source of self-security, a way to literally make one feel better about themselves in a deceptive way. A common maxim is that if one has to keep telling themselves or everyone around them how happy, proud, or amazing they are, then chances are they probably aren’t any of those things. One hears it everywhere: Latino pride, Asian pride, White pride, the worst and most dangerously ubiquitous being “American pride” or American “exceptionalism.”

On the outset, such notions of pride might seem benign and, on certain occasions, even necessary in empowering the ostracized and socially alienated. But, ultimately, even in cases like what we have in America today, in which people of color are finally getting their voices heard in oppressive power structures, this empowerment could all be done without all the “pride” stuff. It’s one thing to, for instance, promote Asian-Americans to accept and find human worth in themselves, to not feel insecure about their masculinity or femininity in spite of how they’re caricatured in Hollywood or T.V. It’s quite another to proclaim that Asian-Americans are inherently harder working in their self-preservation than other minority groups.

Furthermore, why should I feel pride about being born into something? I can’t help it if I was born Chinese, or Irish, or Black. It’s akin to the “gym participation” medals handed out to kids at my old elementary school. We didn’t “earn” anything to be worthy of pride. This argument is, of course, not original. But like many lies we like to tell ourselves, identity pride is something that hasn’t seemed to have vanished despite our growing awareness and the interconnectedness of the world around us. The problem of this provincialist mentality goes far beyond the silly insecure cheerleading of the self.

I don’t think I would be conjecturing too obtusely when I say that nationalism and race pride has probably played a major role in almost every significant human injustice in regards to civilizations–from imperialist conquests to genocide to the oppression of a class. Why? Well, because, by its very definition, nationalism and race pride promotes human detachment. It makes one consider his/her own upbringing as unique when it is not, and refuses to allow one to enter the shoes of someone vastly different in culture and upbringing then their own.

The most dire consequences of this line of thinking can be best exemplified by America’s participation in the Cold War. Though many Americans will agree that many of our actions in the Cold War were indeed a “mistake” (from our genocidal bombings raids in Southeast Asia to our sponsoring of terrorist death squads in South America), they’re not willing to concede that it was a crime against humanity of gargantuan proportions. When one brings up the inescapable facts that America had supported right-wing fascist regimes that slaughtered helpless villagers–down from Pinochet in Chile, D’Aubuisson in El Salvador, to the Contras in Nicaragua  and Suharto in Indonesia–the response usually tends to be that those deaths were collateral damage. We didn’t mean to kill them. We were just trying to stop the barbarous, cancerous spread of Communism–which, in the case of Chile and Nicaragua, happened to be left-wing socialist regimes that tried to, for example, install milk programs for children and create a more participatory election system. But nevermind that, they’re communist so all that is bullshit.

What’s this have to do with nationalism? Or in this specific case, American nationalism? Everything. Even on a citizenship level, we think of ourselves as noble warriors for “freedom” (or to put it more accurately, brave heroic consumers with rights). And it might indeed be the case that we certainly don’t mean any harm. But when hundreds of thousands of tortured, raped, and murdered men, women, and children  are labeled as “collateral damage” in pursuit of a cause that didn’t seem to serve any humane purpose in the first place other than maintaining an economic sphere of influence, how can that be justified? How is that not imperialism in its most traditional pure form? We now begin to see the disturbing correlation between tribalistic pride and tribalistic conquest.

A mentor of mine once told me that you should live your life in a way in which if everyone else lived like you, the world would be ok. Would the world be ok if everyone thought that where they come from, what group they were born into, just somehow made them prophetically superior? We know what world that would look like and it’s the one we live in now.