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The Joy of Sweatshops

A historically-challenged anarcho-capitalist (okay, that should go without saying) decided to take some of his precious time trying to educate me about the real world and why unregulated capitalism is soooo wonderful. I would like you to especially take note of this “Libertarian’s” laughably insincere concern for the poor sweatshop-less people of Cambodia.

Okay–now that you’ve had your say, will you listen to a staunch anarcho-capitalist? If yes, I would like to start you off with a great article from (of all places) Nick Kristof at the New York Times, entitled “Where Sweatshops Are a Dream.” Watch the video attached, read the article, and ask me questions if you wish.

But just remember a few maxims underpinning libertarian thought: 1) Poverty cannot be cured through force of arms or government decree–only by independent business. 2) Wealth is the foundation for all businesses except multinational conglomerates with sweet government contracts. Redistribution hurts everyone _except_ the Monsantos and Halliburtons. 3) The only power governments have military, and the only money they have is other people’s money. 4) Subsidizing an enterprise with ‘government’ money is no different than when identity thieves buy jet-skis with your credit card–it’s theft, pure and simple.

Next time you want to talk about capitalism being about “controlling and hurting other people,” remember that capitalism is the only thing keeping you from living a terribly harsh subsistence-agrarian lifestyle, such as the vast majority of humans on this planet must endure. Perhaps if the mother of that article had been in a more capitalist country, her son wouldn’t have been backed over by a garbage truck looking for scrap plastic. It’s rather hypocritical to mock the very thing that allows you and I to maintain such an expensive and comfortable existence, isn’t it?

This is my response.

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to educate me on the harsh reality (which apparently you inhabit 24/7) outside of my little utopian fairytale. I have a few humble comments about your enlightening and historically-accurate interpretation of how the world works. First, I’ll start with your list:

1) Poverty cannot be cured through force of arms or business—which continue to exacerbate it—or government decree, though that can make a huge difference. Poverty can only be cured by local communities taking responsibility for their people’s welfare.

2) Wealth is the foundation of all businesses. Period. Multinational conglomerates may have sweet government contracts, but that is still wealth. The problem with our system isn’t whether or not businesses are founded on wealth; it is that wealth in this economy is based on wage labour and the exploitation of the poor. Redistribution doesn’t “hurt” anyone. If I tell a child to share a toy with their friend, is that hurting them?

3) The only power that Objectivists want governments to have are through the military and criminal law. These are the two reasons why governments are so dangerous in the first place. Take away the military and criminal law, and all they can do is serve the people. You essentially have an anarchist society.

4) Subsidizing an already enormous enterprise through government money is completely unnecessary, but that’s what gets subsidies. Subsidizing a small business gives them the leverage they need in a competitive environment. Otherwise, the most ruthless competitors (AKA the ones that exploit humans and the environment the most) would have the upper hand…as they do today. So wouldn’t taking subsidies away from large corporations even the playing field? Yes, in the same way that cutting my hair would me closer to the height of an infant.

Aww yes, those poor people living in landfills. That must be because they aren’t working in wonderful sweatshops! Please learn a little history. Have those people been living in landfills for hundreds of years? Are they the People of the Landfill, whose simple culture has been waiting forever for a chance to work sixteen hours a day absorbing toxins through the air and passing out from exhaustion? Or is it perhaps related to the industrial revolution, or Western countries ravaging Third-World nations’ resources at the expense of the majority of the people on Earth? Such a simplistic view of labour is reserved only for the economist (who is taught from a young age to have tunnel-vision and accept economics as a “hard science”), and the Objectivist (who agrees with Rand that Native Americans deserved to be destroyed due to their primitive economic systems). That’s exactly how this mess started: Westerners destroyed the land that other societies lived on, and massacred indigenous people, so now they cannot hunt and gather or develop small farms; instead they must become intentional slaves.

Perhaps if you wish to understand the real reason why Cambodians are in such a bad way they’re willing to work in sweat shops, you will read this.

And now for my favourite: Capitalism is keeping us from living a “terribly harsh” subsistence-agrarian lifestyle. Let’s look at that for a second, shall we? People who live subsistence lives tend to be the happiest, most fulfilled people in the world. If African nations still used subsistence agriculture, they wouldn’t have any of the problems they have today (as a result of their subsistence lifestyles being forcefully transformed into cash-cropping and exports-based agriculture). No, the harsh existence that most people on this planet endure is directly caused by capitalism and imperialism, and is due to the fact that subsistence living has been all but destroyed globally. I hope that one day everyone will realize that the only way to combat poverty and environmental destruction is to grow your own food.

By the way, I live in an ecovillage community. We grow our own food here. We look after each other. And—whaddaya know!—we like it.

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The Third Sector

My obnoxiously neoliberal economics professor once argued with me about workers’ collectives. We were talking about water privatisation in Cochabamba, Bolivia. She argued that despite the fact that it took 1/4 of the residents’ paychecks and left them starving, water privatisation was “better for the people” in the long run. Ignoring, for a second, that this was a ridiculously patronizing and paternalistic viewpoint and naive beyond belief, I told her about how the people had taken over the water system there and formed a collective. By doing so, the people of Cochabamba had essentially stolen the water supply from the large corporation that had bought it, but had also defied the government that had given the water supply to that corporation in the first place.

Globalization: privatizing the world, one resource at a time.
Globalization: privatizing the world, one resource at a time.

My professor smiled and said, “so you’re saying privatisation is bad for the people? But what is a collective? Is it public?”
I stupidly answered, “no.”
And there it was; she had proven herself right with her bullshit polarisation of private vs. public. I was too furious at the time to bother debating any further, but had I had energy to think, I would have simply said, “there are not only two sectors.” At the time, however, I didn’t know that there was a name for the Third Sector.

Collectivisation is not private ownership. For one, many workers’ collectives (or cooperatives, as they are sometimes called) are not interested in profit maximisation. Stock is only owned by workers, and this is not traded for profit. Collectives generally use direct democracy for decision-making and rotational jobs and leadership, to keep power evenly spread. There are many other differences between corporations and collectives, which can be seen here.

Collectives are the ultimate exercise of democracy. They are literally by the people and for the people and are not imprisoned by our culture’s hierarchical power structures. If someone found out I was against the private sector, they would assume I was a socialist. And they would be correct. Since collectives are not governments or run by governments, nor are they corporations or simple nonprofits, they are inherently anarcho-syndicalist or libertarian socialist in nature. Even non-libertarian forms of socialism favour collectives, as collectives make up a large part of a socialist society.

When people argue in favour of the private sector, they are arguing for giving power to corporations and for the rights of markets to govern society. They may even argue for the nonprofit industry and use the tired example of charities; how they work so much better than any governmental social system (ahem. Bullshit!). But they would never argue in favour of collectives, and certainly not collectives taking control from private corporations. If somebody argues in favour of collectives, they are not economic liberals, they are not laissez-faire capitalists, and they are not pro-privatisation.

In addition, my dear economics professor, if you are arguing that privatisation will help a country out in the long run, your argument has nothing to do with collectives. You are expecting a Reaganomic trickle-down effect that is simply not a characteristic of collectives. Collectives serve the people at the grassroots level, give power directly to the workers, and do not provide economic growth for a country at all as they represent more of a closed system with no profit and therefore no emphasis on increasing capital and investments. I assure you, your buddy corporations would be very unhappy to hear your simplistic definition of the private sector, and how you are not bothered by the fact that the little people rose up and stole (legally speaking) the water supply of Cochabomba from a large corporation.

Back to the First World’s ridiculously patronising ideas about how to “help” the Third World, I have to say I am so far unimpressed. We managed to fuck these countries straight to hell, then we order them to “fix” themselves the way we say or we won’t give them back any of the resources we stole from them! Yes, we are doing them a great favour by forcing them to develop the same way we have. After all, our industrial society is the best way to go, despite the fact that we’re destroying the environment, 1/7 of the population of the world is hungry, child abuse, racism, and sexism are rampant, and the Third World would not do what we tell them to if they had any choice in the matter.

Willkommen

Global warming. Immunisation. Evolution. Human nature. Economics. Population growth. These are just a few of the things we hear about all the time, along with the applicable misconceptions. It’s amazing how much bullshit is out there – and I’m here to tell you that you’re being fooled! Myths are propagated by people and organisations with everything to lose if people know the truth. Vigorously researched scientific and empirical data make up the foundations of these issues, yet people are still most likely to believe that which is repeated the most. Here, I’ll show you:

Global warming isn’t happening. Global warming isn’t happening.

Global warming isn’t anthropogenic. Global warming isn’t anthropogenic.

CO2 is not a greenhouse gas. CO2 is not a greenhouse gas.

Global warming will make the world a better place. Global warming will make the world a better place.

See? Now you believe it all, even though some of the bullshit contradicts itself so much, anyone with their head on straight will see through your argument. It’s like a hypnotist dangling a watch in front of your face:

  • Immunisation doesn’t do anything. Immunisation is detrimental to people’s health. Immunisation causes the very disease it’s supposed to protect you against.
  • Evolution is false. Evolution is God’s way of testing your faith in Him. Evolution has not been scientifically “proven.” Microevolution is true but macroevolution is false. There has to be an intelligence in the design, otherwise why do we think flowers are so pretty?
  • Capitalism is the only economic system that works. Capitalism is working right now. Free trade helps developing nations. Sweatshops provide economic stability that otherwise wouldn’t exist in those regions.
  • Population growth is the biggest disaster of our time. Population growth is why resources are being depleted so much. The Earth’s carrying capacity is directly related to population growth.
  • Humans are naturally violent. Humans are naturally greedy and only look out for themselves. Humans are naturally polygamous. Humans have inherent dominion over the natural world.

And the list goes on and on. Those are just a sample of some of the bullshit that will be covered in this here blog. I will attempt to address as many of the bullshit arguments as possible. If you have heard another argument that is relevant to a specific post, feel free to add it in a comment.