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July 31st, 2008 by Joseph Carpenter

Guest post by Joseph Carpenter.

This post will be more personal than others on EmbraceUnity – Edward and I have often written in a collective voice, and I want it to be made clear that this in no way reflects the opinions of Edward or EmbraceUnity in general.

In the past few months it has become increasingly clear to me that my dedication to socialism in general and Marxism in particular (historical materialism to be really particular) is unfounded. Furthermore, any sort of compromise position such as social democracy, state capitalism, or corporatism all seem to be misguided as well. The primary focus of my politics has always been personal liberty – a freedom both political and economic in nature. However, I have always felt that political freedom, while important, pales in comparison to economic freedom – if one is economically free it almost naturally follows that one is politically free. From the time I was sixteen until very recently it seemed that the best way to achieve economic freedom was non-violent anarchist socialism.

This idea is so alien to me now that I can barely remember the reasons for why I chose this system. I vaguely recall that I postulated that the only type of economic freedom that matters was relative economic freedom. If one was more free than another, then there really wasn’t true freedom, especially if someone came about their wealth in ways that primarily involved luck – inheritance, for instance.cheap jumpers for sale

I now believe I was wrong. Without a central authority (a board of economic planners), socialism cannot work on a large scale, and large scales make possible incredible advances in technology. Anarchist socialism is out when it comes to bettering the human condition. And examples of the failures of planned economies are endless and I have grown tired of making excuses for them. In the end, the USSR was an experiment in socialism that failed for many reasons, but fundamentally there was one deficiency in the system, that being there was no effective way to gauge what and how much was needed to be produced (here I borrow from the Austrian School). There were far too many surpluses and shortages that went on for far too long, which to me is unacceptable for two reasons. First, it is a huge waste of resources and time. Second, and more importantly, it caused a large amount of suffering in people. The free market, on the other (invisible) hand, naturally fixes surpluses and shortages – people still suffer in a free market, it is definitely true, but one would have to be willfully ignorant of the facts to suggest that there is less suffering under a planned economy.

I also dislike state socialism in principle. There is an underlying assumption in it that the economic planners somehow know better what people will need and want than the people themselves. To me, this idea is extremely elitist and classist – the two things that drove me away from capitalism in the first place. Under a free market, people have a mechanism to rebuff the controllers, and that is simply not paying for the good. If a monopoly exists on the good, at least there doesn’t have to be in principle – a different firm could theoretically pop up. Under a planned economy, nothing of the sort exists; people would have to turn to the black market which can subject them to punishment by the controllers. A monopoly under capitalism is better than a monopoly under state socialism. People, then, are more free under a free market, even if there are differing degrees of freedom between the people, at least in theory. Even in theory, under state socialism there is no economic freedom.

But why does this dissuade me from welfare systems or state capitalism? Once you have accepted the free market, you have accepted the idea of the existence of private property. I have often searched for some ontological proof of the existence of private property and have found none. However, I now accept that private property does exist in some form simply because it needs to exist for a free market to exist, which I have decided is better for the welfare of the people than a planned economy. Consider it an utilitarian argument. Private property now in existence, any sort of redistribution of the property via the state is simply theft, which undermines the market. Some thefts need to occur for a market to function – taxes need to be collected for a government to exist in order to punish lawbreakers without bias (after all, if it were up to private businesses to punish lawbreakers they would simply punish people that affected the business the most, which would result in a loss of competition and a loss of what makes free markets extremely beneficial. Anarcho-capitalism is just as foolish as anarcho-socialism). However, when a government decides that a wealthy person “will not miss the money more than a poor person will benefit from it,” the government is stating that it cares not that people, through their individual economic actions, have affectively decided the wealth of every person; that the government knows better than its people. This is no better than the elistism and classism of state socialism and no better than theft from the wealthy.

I will try to stay away from the tired argument that the wealthy are mostly the suppliers of goods and are the most productive citizens, but hey, they are much more productive than the wealthy under state socialism, if only by the virtue that their money has grown by investing in businesses that are productive and are supplying the wants of the people.

I won’t touch on the issue of the Federal Reserve at this time, but I do have much to say about it.

I do, however, still consider myself to be a transhumanist. I feel that the free market is the only way to develop technology – a truly free market devoid of intellectual property laws and trade secrets (more on intellectual property law being a barrier to innovation later). And, when scarcity is abolished, there will be no need of capitalism or socialism – both imperfect systems as they still both lead to great suffering.

Until then, I am going to pick the lesser of the two evils.

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