We are finally going to start to overlap a bit into economics (no…don’t leave!)! Fear not; I will make economics clear for all who approached that class in high school or college with dread. In this particular post, however, we’re just dipping our toes in; we’re not jumping headlong in just yet. Hold out for that.
Here is the liberty vs. totalitarianism continuum again, with one modification:
Of course, you noticed that I replaced the word liberty with anarcho-capitalism. I already introduced you to that term in the previous post, but in this post I am going to specifically add a few more items that need to be fleshed out going forward.
First, a few more comments on anarchy. Having just begun my school year as a teacher, I asked my students in American Government what they thought of anarchy. The usual responses are somewhat predictable: a state of chaos, dog-eat-dog, lawlessness, et cetera.
Arguments about implications aside, that is not what anarchy is. Anarchy, as I said before, is merely a condition of statelessness—the absolute void of a state.
Now, to get into the more economic terms. What are capitalism and socialism? We hear these terms thrown around all the time: Hillary Clinton wants to save us from the ills of capitalism. Bernie Sanders is a self-proclaimed socialist. Venezuela, Sweden and Denmark are all socialist. The U.S. and Hong Kong are capitalist.
The fact of the matter is, Venezuela and Sweden are worlds apart in terms of economic policy. (And we’ll clear up this very specifically in time.) In many respects, so are the U.S. and Hong Kong. So what do these terms really mean?
Let’s go old-school here for a moment (bear with me!) and get a Merriam-Webster definition for each:
Capitalism is “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods…and by prices, production and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.” (*)
Socialism, in contrast, is “any of various and political theories advocating collective or government ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” (*)
I am not 100% satisfied with these definitions and further clarifications are necessary, I think; that will be the attention of the remainder of this and the next several posts. For now, let us revisit the idea of anarcho-capitalism: a state in which the market has absolutely no infringement from any state. Everything—the resources, the means of production, the production process, and the distribution process—is owned by individuals.
As one proceeds from right to left on the continuum, they move steadily closer toward totalitarianism. This progression is a steady increase in socialism—a steady increase in the influence of government in the market economy. Every movement left from a state of absolute anarcho-capitalism is an increase in socialism to some extent, that is (at risk of redundancy), an increase in government control over any or all of each of the following: the resources, the means of production, the production process, and the distribution process.
Therefore, socialism is not a “point” on the continuum, but a range. Still, this bears a bit of pragmatic qualification. Calling Venezuela a socialist country is certainly more true than calling the U.S. a socialist country, even though both have elements of socialism, one much more than the other. To be sure, I will utilize the practical, generalized definition of socialism as a description of nations, but I think understanding the range associated with the term is needed first.
And of course, at the far left we find ourselves in the condition in which the state has absolute control (there is no economic freedom). This was virtually the case of Soviet Russia under Stalin, as much as his secret police could enforce it. (An estimated 4 million Soviet Ukrainians died of starvation from 1932-1934, as it was Soviet policy to grow the food in the fertile Ukraine and transport it to the industrial workers is Russia.)
To conclude, let’s take one more look at the reverse direction. As one moves from left to right, we find an alternative increase in capitalism and incremental freedom.
The whole point here is that socialism and capitalism operate on a range, or along the continuum, between anarcho-capitalism and totalitarianism.
Naturally, the diligent reader will note that this discussion necessarily has an economic focus at the neglect of social, ethical, fiscal or other issues. That’s all coming up.
(* provides the link to the original source)