Anarcho-Communism Criticism, Pt. 1
by Ethan Glover, Thu, Oct 03, 2013 - (Edited) Wed, Jan 10, 2018
15 Questions - Part 2 - Part 3
A few days ago I set out to do the research so that I may do another, but more extended criticism of Anarcho-Socialists. The reason being that they so vehemently believe that all other stateless philosophies are not anarchy and that they alone can claim ownership of the word "anarchism". That is exactly what I searched for. A discussion with "anarchists". I posted 15 questions as a way to get the conversation started so that I may create some follow-ups. What I didn't realize is that I was actually asking those questions to anarcho-communists. You see, apparently, the communists really have taken over. Surprised with the initial results, I went with it. Now here I am writing a criticism, not of anarcho-socialists but of anarcho-communists. It's a good thing too because it is a topic I have never covered. Mostly because I think the philosophy is too obscure to mess with. (Even by my standards.)
Anyways, as always, it is important to develop a common language. Like all of these philosophies, people in it try to redefine very common words in the interest of making themselves look right. From Hamilton's Federalism to Lincoln's Republicanism, to mercantilism and capitalism. These terms get beat up and thrown around as a way to push false political ideologies. But the definitions have really stayed the same. As always you can find proper definitions on my "Commonly Confused Words List" [Discontinued] which uses the most respected and reputable source, the Oxford English Dictionary. Words to note would be hierarchy, anarchy, communism, capitalism, value, money and whatever else appears throughout this article. Quite simply because anarcho-communists have deluded their language so much they have become incapable of defending their philosophy against basic, straightforward questions. Trying to read their answers to different scenarios is like nails against a chalkboard, there is no logic whatsoever.
That is the biggest thing I learned about the anarcho-communists. They are more interested in philosophy than real-world application. They don't care about context, and they don't care if their system works or not. This all seems to be a game to them. They have this hatred for business owners, and they don't even understand, nor do they care to learn about basic economics. When you push the issue they will openly admit to this. So long as they can get rid of what they sometimes call "hierarchy", it doesn't matter to them how things turn out. On the other hand, the anarcho-capitalist lives by certain moral core values. Sometimes a tough question is raised, and I have to think about it and wonder about the weaknesses of my own philosophy. In the end, however, there is always a solution that coincides with morality and sustainability. The anarcho-capitalist cares about real-world application and what works, especially in the long term. The anarcho-communist? Not so much, they just hate what they call "capitalists".
As a note; for the remainder of this article I will leave out the word "anarcho". So anarcho-communist becomes communist, anarcho-socialist becomes socialist, and anarcho-capitalist becomes capitalist. All of these systems are technically possible without government. Although for communism and socialism, communities often rule by vote in which case they do indeed become government. Despite this, I grudgingly accept the possibility, either way, it is not the topic for today. (To those who think I am stubborn, this is a brand new acceptance of mine.)
Is there a difference between hierarchy and authority?
The first question I asked was, "Is there a difference between hierarchy and authority?" I asked this as a way to find out if the communists believe that there is a difference between people of higher standing or better ability and people who use that to abuse others. The answer was a resounding yes. This was entirely surprising to me. Person after person told me that hierarchy is OK, so long as it is not abused. A manager must be on equal footing with the employers. Yet, when you get into other conversation they slowly start to forget that answer and start saying once again that all hierarchy is bad. There were some instances in which they would say hierarchy and authority are different, but one always comes with the other. ..That is until you bring up the idea of teachers, coaches, managers and more experienced employees. In which case hierarchy can be a good thing. (If you're confused already, I understand if you click away right now, it only gets worse). As the conversation continued on hierarchy, I found that the communists do not care in the least bit about the betterment of society so long as they can get rid of capitalism.
With capitalism, they have this idea that anybody who owns a company is exploiting the workers because they are extracting a portion of their income. This, they say is the reason for so much poverty. Of course, they never talk about the current problems with government. If we were to remove just the government, most people would get around 60% more money from the removal of taxes alone. That's not taking into account inflation, the driving up of prices through subsidies, monopolies on key services, and excessive military operations. The communists fail to recognize that the top 1% earners pay 23% of the taxes that support the poor, the top 40% pay 84% of those taxes. The bottom 40% pays 6% and the bottom 20% pays 1% of the taxes that support those in poverty. As is, the more productive people are supporting the less productive which is a communists dream. If they had their way, the rich would be paying 100% tax, except they don't believe in money at all. They believe that, in their system, trade would become useless. They refuse to recognize the idea or the concept of mediums of exchange and insist that money is "fiat". But we will get back to that later.
The takeaway that I got from this first question is that communists only hate hierarchy when it serves their purposes. When asked to define it and apply it to all situations, this simple concept becomes shaky for them. They do reject authority as most capitalists do. The capitalist recognizes that nobody in any position has any supremacy over others. The difference in thinking I see between capitalists and communists is that capitalists are not afraid of their bosses and are willing to see reason. While most government-supported CEO's of top banking companies may be immoral people committing various crimes simply because they are allowed to by government, the average boss is not that way. In fact, 9 times out of 10, bosses and managers don't make all that much more than the regular employee with less responsibility and accountability. It is certainly not an amount to fuss over considering they often do more work, take on more stress and take on more risk. That brings us to the second question.
Can management ever be a legitimate job that provides a use?
With the exception of a small minority, I got a yes answer from this question also. Once again surprising me, and once again this led to many contradictions. The communists recognized through examples and through specific questions that management serves a good purpose. But once they get away from the subject they start to slip into the mode of assuming that they are unnecessary and do not produce any "value", which is another concept they reject anyway. When asking for a summary of their beliefs you will be told that capitalists do not produce anything. Conversely, the delivery man, customer service, and teacher do. The distinction is not who is producing something but, once again, the fear of bosses. Managers and owners both provide valuable services much like the delivery man and teacher.
The fact that I have to go over the following things is childish, but then again, we are dealing with communists. (Skip the next paragraph if you are not 10 years old, or you are not a communist.) Some of a managers and owners duties include; setting goals and deciding what needs to be done for each group as a way to manage the bigger picture, organizes large tasks into smaller, more manageable activities and finds the people who are most fit to get these things done, he motivates employees to do their best and directs communication between employees and different groups. The manager looks at performances, analyzes what needs to be done in what time frames and helps things move along appropriately. He helps develop the knowledge of employees, usually, the manager obtains his job by knowing a lot and doing well in lower positions; therefore, he is often better equipped to help those who are struggling. The manager will also do the hiring and firing as a way to build a team that can best accomplish the goals of the company and wants of the customer. They often have to manage financial actions and transactions too, dealing in trade with other companies, large clients, and distribution. Managers play a very important "fixer" role in fixing odd problems that come up that employees are unsure of, they act as the go-to guy and hold the ultimate responsibility of the risks in making large decisions that may affect the business. Managers who have bosses above them such as regional and national act as a buffer between the big bosses and the employee. They take ultimate responsibility and are much easier to deal with because they are there and understand the local problems that are being dealt with. Finally, and the communists can even appreciate this one, managers must develop good trusting relationships with their peers, as in the employees they work with. They must do the same with heads of other departments as a way to manage the bigger picture properly. They must be sociable and have good communication skills in order to manage effectively.
If we expand all this simplicity and apply it to real-world jobs, we find that leadership is necessary. For example, with police and military (obviously private) it is beneficial to have a rank structure and be able to execute missions without question or voting what to do next. If someone disagrees with an order in the moment, they must do it anyway because that friction or disagreement can get people killed. The surgery room is no place to be saying, "Yeah, you know what? I don't like doing it this way, and nobody can stop me from trying something new." For those who think this is unrealistic, they have not worked in many places. Young and arrogant professionals often decide to change things up because they think they know better but lack the experience to know they are making things worse. In these cases, a system of hierarchy is absolutely needed. A figure capable of telling people what to do is very important. As another example, if I ever needed to hire a lawyer I would have to recognize that he knows the law better than I do. If he tells me not to say something, I need to recognize that he is saying that for a reason. It is in my best interest to allow him to have some control over my actions. This is what the communists fear in the capitalist system. People taking jobs under management in which others can tell them what to do. Even though they are usually in a reasonable position to do so.
But again, the communist would agree with these points. That the manager/owner provides a valuable service and that sometimes hierarchy and even limited authority (as in unquestioning obedience) is necessary, especially for critical jobs at critical moments. When it comes to whom I work for, what responsibilities I take on and what I am willing to put up with; I have the ultimate decision, and if I do something that harms others I hold responsibility. The simple reason being that I own myself and am in control of my own actions. I may be restricted in what I do at work, but I do have a real choice in how to deal with that. From that, we move to question number three.
How do you tell the difference between what is property and what isn't?
The answers to this one were amazing, astounding, they were all over the place to the extent where I honestly believe they were just guessing. The only consistent answer I could come up with is that property is entirely arbitrary and decided in the moment. If you are actively using something, that is private property. Yet, for what they consider being a "personal" item such as a toothbrush it is undeniably and always private property. Even when not being used. The idea may seem simple when it comes to roommates sharing a common area and sometimes even food, but to put this into a societal view is reckless. Just because you believe something is yours, doesn't mean everyone else in the world agrees. Without some sort of standard, without recognition of what property is, you can not avoid constant battles over what does and does not belong to individuals.
I expanded the conversation into cars, which the communists mostly agree is not private property, unless it is being currently used of course. That is, it can't be taken from you on your way to work. But what about when you park it? Is it no longer yours? The communists say no, upon this expansion they say that private property is what the community recognizes as yours. Or what they recognize that you use on a consistent basis. What community? This theory can not possibly expand to and apply to everyone in an entire city or even town. "Thief's", who don't care but simply take what they want in the moment without consideration of others, (especially in the communist society) would LOVE this. First hand experience showed me that, in the military, the standard of theft comes down to, "If it wasn't secured, it deserved to be stolen." To the communist it is, "If everyone didn't know you used that car, it deserved to be stolen." Although, to be fair, they wouldn't say it like that. Instead they may try to claim that, in their society, there is no such thing as scarcity and that there would be no point in stealing. (Note that they NEVER make any appeal to law or dispute resolution.)
Stealing is not always done for money. It can be done for things like thrills or spite/revenge. The communist provides no answer to this but instead talks in circles about how in their society, people would think different, act different and be overall "better people". Any belief system that aims to change the psychological foundations of how people act and think should be avoided at all costs. (I'm looking at you Zeitgeist Movement.) That being said, scarcity will always exist. It is only natural that when a species finds a lot of resources, becomes well fed and comfortable, they start to have more children. Humans are not exempt from these natural processes. For example, when the United States donates to third world countries it allows them to grow beyond what they are capable of sustaining. (Hi, /r/badeconomics, how are you today?) The solution in these cases is not to give them food, but instead, the people of those countries must be willing to find ways to dismantle the governments that oppress them and steal from them. If dismantling is an impossibility, doing everything you can to ignore it and avoid it is an alternative. If a free society actually existed, it might be willing to help those countries out through voluntary funding. Finally, without government and without arbitrary borders the free market becomes open to the world.
The point of all of this is to say that scarcity is inevitable. You can't just assume people will only produce what they need and no more. They will always go for more when the option is available until they become restricted by something, anything. Without a recognition of property, this all leads to the Tragedy of the Commons.
Without ownership, there is no need to take care of what is around you. The communist answer to this? Somebody will clean up, eventually, when it gets bad enough, trust me, people don't like to live in filth. Except, when they get comfortable, when things degrade over time, they simply get used to it.
Moving on I wanted to find out how payments are made and how communists measure how much each person is contributing. Silly me, value is for capitalists!
Should everyone get equal pay?
As with all the answers I received, it came down to rebellion rather than practicality. Anger at the man rather than an understanding of the real world. A jealousy of the rich, pointing at high-level criminals, rather than the people who have done more for society, given back more and produced more for others than they can imagine. The answer to this question? Get rid of all pay and all currency. Don't measure the value of how much people work and just wing it. The next question is based on value so I'll stick just to pay for now. When I asked the communists about the natural occurrence of mediums of exchange, most of them say that trade is OK, just unnecessary. This is basically saying that anytime you need something you should just be able to go to the store and grab it. As long as you are doing some kind of work, any kind of work, you have free access to anything and everything. They also say that if your neighbor has something that they aren't using, you should just be able to ask for it and get it. Again, this is great for roommates, but it doesn't work in the real world.
First, you must have a way to measure the value of how much each individual is earning. The standard capitalist practice uses wages that are based on market demand for a particular skill. Some communists say this is unnecessary, and that people will just make things whenever there is a scarcity. If somebody wants something, they can just go make it. Except this ignores complex items such as computers and even the pencil. The communist says that these things should just be made by 3d printers. Of course, I don't know how a 3d printer can make graphite, erasers, gold and silver, but hey to each his own, right? The point is there are some things that can not be made by a single individual or group of individuals. In fact, the same is true for most items we know today. People can't just make what they want, unless we are to all live a "primal lifestyle" organization is needed. This kind of organization isn't going to happen without a medium of exchange, something that everybody can obtain that everybody wants. Why would I help in building children RC cars if I could just pick a couple of fruit off of a community fruit tree and call it a day? So long as there is food, water, and some kind of shelter, why would anyone worry about modern technology? Especially when it means higher education that requires a tremendous amount of work and an extraordinary level of dedication to advancement.
This lack of pay and the idea of just grabbing what you want anytime you want is entirely wasteful. The communists often complain about the wastefulness of capitalists, pointing to figures of how much the United States throws away every year. Except, consumerism is not synonymous with capitalism, it is instead synonymous with Krugerism and how the U.S. government handles economics. When the federal reserve keeps interest rates close to 0% and inflates the currency it is in peoples best interest to spend rather than save. If not, the price for what they want will only get higher. That being said, when people must save money they are much more likely to buy what they need and stick with it as long as they can. When they can just grab the new item at any time? To hell with it, just throw away your week-old clothes and get the newest fashion! Of course, according to some communists I don't think there would be any fashion at all. About half of the communists I talked to agreed that instead of pay, people should get rations of food and get access to the standard car. They say that this can get rid of both obesity and classes. (Because driving a high priced car means belonging to a higher class of course.) Again, this is something their answers wavered on and once they were presented with a challenge; the follow-up questions were often ignored, the subject was changed, or they just repeated themselves while refusing to expand into real-world application. So to solve the issue of waste, communism inevitably leads to the strict control of what people eat, drive, wear etc. Etc. Tell me how this isn't government again? Of course rations mean value, and that is another voodoo word in the communist world.
How do you measure the value of what everyone contributes?
This is the question that led to the most counterclockwise conversations (that is both circular and backwards). It is the one that I never got any sort of answer to. Well, I suppose I didn't get much of an answer to anything. But this is the one that annoyed me the most and the one I drilled and drilled only to be met with more and more disappointment. The communist does not believe in value because he wishes people to be equal. He wishes to force equality on people when it simply does not exist. Some people work harder, produce more and are simply worth more. You can't escape this fact. My follow up questions never led to anything to help further my understanding of communism, and why people choose it as a philosophy. The more specific I got the more resistance and anger I was met with. This is the question that led to a bad taste in my mouth about communism and all communists. The question comes down to, "How do you deal with lazy people?" The capitalist says those who do not work may find help among Churches, donations, families and charitable organizations, but ultimately these things are usually temporary. Those who refuse to do anything at all can starve. That's not to say people who have fallen on hard times wouldn't have plenty of chances to do something to get their life together. The communist has a similar answer except for those who do nothing at all, they say scarcity doesn't exist in their world so the system can support an infinite amount of people who refuse to work. Some believe that those who do not work at all would inevitably starve and be rejected access to stores. Except, they can't explain how stores know who is and who isn't working without some sort of rations card. They may say that those who work should have a "union card" for proof of work. Except, everybody has access to all factories and can just walk in and start working at any time. The factories are not property, and the communists claim that no one should be denied the right to work. So 1 day of work or even 1 hour of work (long enough to get your card) can lead to free everything for the duration of the expiration date on that card. The only realistic solution here is rations based on how many hours a person works. This is exactly the same as working for money in the capitalist system, which does not support fiat money, but instead real tangible goods that are exchangeable down the line.
This system of no value, as I have noted, can only lead to society-wide laziness, mass scarcity and total collapse. This is the question that communists must get down and really look at. When I was a Libertarian, I clung to the Constitution like a bible. I even carried a personalized copy in my breast pocket next to my heart at all times. Eventually though, I had to look at the ideas of taxes with a serious eye. I said, "I'm all for shutting down all government organization except those of justice and military, but these things exist on the backs of theft, I know that." When looking at it with a critical eye I was able to use reason to find a moral answer. I did the same not long ago on children's rights. I couldn't see the logic of parents having responsibility over their children when they are human beings too, but I knew it was wrong and I knew it didn't work, so I asked and found out about "peaceful parenting". An even shorter period of time ago, (all three of these things have happened in the span of less than a year) I couldn't understand the argument against IP. I knew artists are capable of making money without it, but is it OK? Once I thought it through and considered the ideas of how theft and social contracts are two totally different things, I found reason.
Many communists openly admitted to me that they recognize their system doesn't work. It's not like Libertarians who say it isn't perfect, no they say they know it doesn't work, and it is about getting rid of capitalism and hierarchy, which they believe is wrong. They reject the adults right to choose and live their life as they see fit. They think that when two people, an entrepreneur and a person looking to use their skills for money without risk, both with different time preferences, to make a mutual contract that makes each of them happy, is a crime. Yet they oppose the drug war? When they say that capitalism harms people, they are seeing limited cases. They are seeing the crack babies and addicts while ignoring the extraordinary benefits of marijuana. Capitalism is of course not a drug. It is defined by free trade and private ownership. Not by government corporations, waste and abuse. Just because crimes exist in the capitalist world, crimes that are often supported by our corrupt legal system, does not mean that is what capitalism is.
End of Part 1
This article is not finished. I have 10 more questions to go, and it seems this will be a three-parter. I hate to put this all out at once and expect it to be read. It is worth noting that the communists I talked to were fairly respectful until they found out I was an AnCap and started making assumptions. I did not make any assumptions of their philosophy. I stayed as respectful as possible until one single individual pushed me (thanks to that last question) and made confrontation inevitable. I recognize that what I learned from this group is not 100% representative. I did my best to consensualize and consider all answers but to be honest things were so all over the place that I found this to be very difficult.