Degree, not kind

The difference between the totalitarian nightmare of the nation state and the totalitarian nightmare of the business establishment is one of degree, not kind. OK, the latter is more voluntary than the former, making it a lesser of two evils. Always some careerist or other sucker-upper to the business establishment will describe the employment relationship as “nobody’s holding a gun to your head.” Fine, but in very few countries is anyone holding a gun to your head saying you can’t emigrate (the few that still lock their citizens in, I’m sure, are counterbalanced globally by coercive private sector phenomena like human trafficking). Oh, the cost of emigrating is many times higher than that of getting a job elsewhere? Of course it is, but still a matter of degree not kind. More telling, there isn’t a square inch on the planet that isn’t part of some nation state’s sovereign territory. Which demonstrates what? That there’s at best small comfort in having more than one choice of ways to be pushed around by force, or by its evil brother called persuasion, who I’ll concede for now is an evil little brother rather than an evil twin brother.

No, take that back. In a world in which politicians fear lobbyists far more than they do voters, persuasion is the evil big brother of force. Anyone, in today’s world, certainly in today’s America, who believes that there’s more de-facto political power in government than there is in business, or even who believes axiomatically that everything conceivably negative that a business might do is enabled by government (this means you, left-styled libertarians), is someone who has taken sides with the most powerful tier of society, is someone who is speaking power to truth, is someone who is striking at the symbol, rather than the source, of authority.

I hate the state, and I hate commerce even more.

About n8chz

पृथ्वी की उच्च किराया जिले में उद्यमिता कौशल अभाव
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6 Responses to Degree, not kind

  1. Dave from C4SS says:

    “Anyone, in today’s world, certainly in today’s America, who believes that there’s more de-facto political power in government than there is in business, or even who believes axiomatically that everything conceivably negative that a business might do is enabled by government (this means you, left-styled libertarians), is someone who has taken sides with the most powerful tier of society, is someone who is speaking power to truth, is someone who is striking at the symbol, rather than the source, of authority.”

    I think its up for grabs which entity has more power on any given day. Perhaps it depends on the situation. But you are right to challenge the assumption that government obviously has more power over society and that commerce would be rendered benign in a theoretical stateless environment. As I’ve said before, most people face more coercion from their employers than they ever will from cops, judges or politicians.

    Like Marx, I tend to believe that states are an expression of the social/economic relations prevalent in a given society. My economic ideas sort of drift back and forth between mutualism and syndicalism, I suppose. I am not unconditionally anti-market, but I am skeptical as to whether markets would be appropriate for many aspects of life. For instance, I am very wary of markets for healthcare, housing, public safety and any number of public services. The need for basics like shelter and safety should not be contingent on how much you have in the bank (mutual or otherwise ; ) ).

    But what about other aspects of our lives that are less crucial to survival? A corner restaurant or pub. A theater or something in the hospitality sector. If the essentials of life are free or at least cheap, would it really be a problem if some of these kinds of establishments engage in some market activity?

    I’d be interested to know what you think. And thanks for your interesting and challenging posts on C4SS. As someone who has moved fairly recently libertarian socialist territory, I find your ideas educational.

    • n8chz says:

      OK, this particular post came from one of my “hard anagorist” moods, which is a deviation from my normally “soft anagorist” attitude. Some things that lead me to believe (in America today) the business sector is more powerful than the public sector:

      1. Independence from business interests seems impossible for policymakers to achieve, with the possible exception of independently wealthy politicians such as Michael Bloomberg or political candidates such as H. Ross Perot. who of course are members of the ruling class to start with. Put another way, a political career—like any other means of personal support, economic activity, potentially world-influencing project—has to have a “business model” that is “monetized.”

      2. The “overton window,” or range of politically feasible outcomes in America, clearly exclude any form of economic populism. For better or for worse, “single payer” was “off the table” before legislative horse-trading even began for “health care reform.” I’m saying this not to endorse single payer, but to point out that business interests determine the boundaries of public policy discussion. Globally, the range of political discussion is narrowed by multilateral trade treaties that make tariffs and economic regulation into treaty violations, let alone decisions by in-theory sovereign nation states to implement a “mixed economy.”

      Some things that lead me to believe that government is more powerful than business:

      1. Financial footprint: It’s easy to point out that some businesses are larger than some nation states, but comparing the largest business (by most measures, probably ExxonMobil) with the (financially) largest government (the United States), the latter is clearly about an order of magnitude larger in many measures of financial bigness, such as number of employees, amount of expenditures, cost of capital, etc. There’s a case that government (at least of the United States) weilds more “market power” than business. But I question whether the large financial footprint of the nation state is more than cancelled out by the tactical disadvantages of imposed by the deliberative process of government.

      2. Coercion: While I’m not willing to frame it as the political issue, clearly it is a political issue. While the business sector can’t be described as entirely civilian (and the government can’t realistically be described as having a de facto “monopoly of force”), clearly no business, and probably no combination of businesses, commands comparable military resources. But with government, at least in theory, there is, as pointed out above, a deliberate process for policy making, due process rights and rights of appeal for accused persons. Business (including small business) is usually a top-down hierarchy when it comes to policy. While termination with cause and even worker blacklisting are technically noncoercive and the worker is technically “free to go elsewhere,” I am not convinced that the relative freedom of “exit” offered by employment relative to citizenship, and even the relative coercivity of punishments meted out by the state, is not more than cancelled out by the summary and largely non-negotiable nature of business decisions adverse to individuals.

    • n8chz says:

      But what about other aspects of our lives that are less crucial to survival? A corner restaurant or pub. A theater or something in the hospitality sector. If the essentials of life are free or at least cheap, would it really be a problem if some of these kinds of establishments engage in some market activity?

      It shouldn’t be. I discussed issues of this type a bit here. Being an anticommercial anti-authoritarian, my goal is not to abolish the market, but to obviate it.

  2. Poor Richard says:

    States, commercial institutions, NGOs, etc. are constantly locked in struggles over turf and power and the citizen is the beneficiary, the intended victim, or the collateral damage depending on her particular circumstances, often a matter of accident rather than plan.

    Among the limbs, organs, tissues, and cells of society, which is the bigger brother or the lesser evil? There is no answer. The system is too dynamic and synergistic for that kind of analysis. But I think that no organization, institution, state, etc. is inherently evil in and of itself — but the aggregation of its people make it so.

    So my question is: Which comes first — bad culture or bad people?

    “We have met the enemy and he is us.” — Walt Kelly, Pogo

    “The etiology is psychiatric.” — Helen Caldicott

    “Physician, heal thyself.” — Luke 4:23

    I don’t mean to be glib, but I suspect that one reason that thousands of years of political and economic theory, argument, and conflict have produced so little progress is that politics is no better substitute for science than religion was. I would trade the entire body of existing political and economic theory for what we have learned in the past few years of neuropsychology and game theory (e.g. behavioral economics, neuroeconomics, etc.). But science influences society only as much as it informs individual people and In most cases those people are elites with strong existing biases and agendas.

    I think we argue about political and economic theories mostly because we don;t know what else to do. It is really a form of intellectual recreation or entertainment to which we falsely attribute a more serious or noble purpose. We think we are problem solving. Maybe. But I think real problem solving is more like starting a coop, collective, experimental community, or even an urban garden.

  3. Mike Huben says:

    “More telling, there isn’t a square inch on the planet that isn’t part of some nation state’s sovereign territory.”

    Not true at all. There is a significant portion of Antarctica that is unclaimed by any nation. Somalia is not a nation-state. And of course there are also international waters.

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