3 Why do anarcho"-capitalists place little or no value on "equality"?

3 Why do anarcho"-capitalists place little or no value on "equality"?

Murray Rothbard argues that "the 'rightist' libertarian is not opposed to inequality." [For a New Liberty, p. 47] In contrast, "leftist" libertarians oppose inequality because it has harmful effects on individual liberty.

Part of the reason "anarcho"-capitalism places little or no value on "equality" derives from their definition of that term. Murray Rothbard defines equality as:

"A and B are 'equal' if they are identical to each other with respect to a given attribute... There is one and only one way, then, in which any two people can really be 'equal' in the fullest sense: they must be identical in all their attributes."

He then points out the obvious fact that "men are not uniform,. . . . the species, mankind, is uniquely characterised by a high degree of variety, diversity, differentiation: in short, inequality." [Egalitarianism as a Revolt against Nature and Other Essays, p. 4, p.5]

In others words, every individual is unique. Something no egalitarian has ever denied. On the basis of this amazing insight, he concludes that equality is impossible (except "equality of rights") and that the attempt to achieve "equality" is a "revolt against nature" -- as if any anarchist had ever advocated such a notion of equality as being identical!

And so, because we are all unique, the outcome of our actions will not be identical and so social inequality flows from natural differences and not due to the economic system we live under. Inequality of endowment implies inequality of outcome and so social inequality. As individual differences are a fact of nature, attempts to create a society based on "equality" (i.e. making everyone identical in terms of possessions and so forth) is impossible and "unnatural."

Before continuing, we must note that Rothbard is destroying language to make his point and that he is not the first to abuse language in this particular way. In George Orwell's 1984, the expression "all men are created equal" could be translated into Newspeak, but it would make as much sense as saying "all men have red hair," an obvious falsehood (see "The Principles of Newspeak" Appendix). It's nice to know that "Mr. Libertarian" is stealing ideas from Big Brother, and for the same reason: to make critical thought impossible by restricting the meaning of words.

"Equality," in the context of political discussion, does not mean "identical," it usually means equality of rights, respect, worth, power and so forth. It does not imply treating everyone identically (for example, expecting an eighty year old man to do identical work to an eighteen violates treating both with respect as unique individuals). For anarchists, as Alexander Berkman writes, "equality does not mean an equal amount but equal opportunity. . . Do not make the mistake of identifying equality in liberty with the forced equality of the convict camp. True anarchist equality implies freedom, not quantity. It does not mean that every one must eat, drink, or wear the same things, do the same work, or live in the same manner. Far from it: the very reverse, in fact. Individual needs and tastes differ, as appetites differ. It is equal opportunity to satisfy them that constitutes true equality. Far from levelling, such equality opens the door for the greatest possible variety of activity and development. For human character is diverse, and only the repression of this free diversity results in levelling, in uniformity and sameness. Free opportunity and acting out your individuality means development of natural dissimilarities and variations. . . . Life in freedom, in anarchy will do more than liberate man merely from his present political and economic bondage. That will be only the first step, the preliminary to a truly human existence." [The ABC of Anarchism, p. 25]

Thus anarchists reject the Rothbardian-Newspeak definition of equality as meaningless within political discussion. No two people are identical and so imposing "identical" equality between them would mean treating them as unequals, i.e. not having equal worth or giving them equal respect as befits them as human beings and fellow unique individuals.

So what should we make of Rothbard's claim? It is tempting just to quote Rousseau when he argued "it is . . . useless to inquire whether there is any essential connection between the two inequalities [social and natural]; for this would be only asking, in other words, whether those who command are necessarily better than those who obey, and if strength of body or of mind, wisdom, or virtue are always found in particular individuals, in proportion to their power or wealth: a question fit perhaps to be discussed by slaves in the hearing of their masters, but highly unbecoming to reasonable and free men in search of the truth." [The Social Contract and Discourses, p. 49] But a few more points should be raised.

The uniqueness of individuals has always existed but for the vast majority of human history we have lived in very egalitarian societies. If social inequality did, indeed, flow from natural inequalities then all societies would be marked by it. This is not the case. Indeed, taking a relatively recent example, many visitors to the early United States noted its egalitarian nature, something that soon changed with the rise of wage labour and industrial capitalism (a rise dependent upon state action, we must add, -- see section 8). This implies that the society we live in (its rights framework, the social relationships it generates and so forth) has a far more of a decisive impact on inequality than individual differences. Thus certain rights frameworks will tend to magnify "natural" inequalities (assuming that is the source of the initial inequality, rather than, say, violence and force). As Noam Chomsky argues:

"Presumably it is the case that in our 'real world' some combination of attributes is conducive to success in responding to 'the demands of the economic system' . . . One might suppose that some mixture of avarice, selfishness, lack of concern for others, aggressiveness, and similar characteristics play a part in getting ahead [in capitalism]. . . Whatever the correct collection of attributes may be, we may ask what follows from the fact, if it is a fact, that some partially inherited combination of attributes tends to material success? All that follows . . . is a comment on our particular social and economic arrangements . . . The egalitarian might responds, in all such cases, that the social order should be changes so that the collection of attributes that tends to bring success no longer do so . . . " [The Chomsky Reader, p. 190]

So, perhaps, if we change society then the social inequalities we see today would disappear. It is more than probable that natural difference has been long ago been replaced with social inequalities, especially inequalities of property (which will tend to increase, rather than decrease, inequality). And as we argue in section 8 these inequalities of property were initially the result of force, not differences in ability. Thus to claim that social inequality flows from natural differences is false as most social inequality has flown from violence and force. This initial inequality has been magnified by the framework of capitalist property rights and so the inequality within capitalism is far more dependent upon, say, the existence of wage labour, rather than "natural" differences between individuals.

If we look at capitalism, we see that in workplaces and across industries many, if not most, unique individuals receive identical wages for identical work (although this often is not the case for women and blacks, who receive less wages than male, white workers). Similarly, capitalists have deliberately introduced wage inequalities and hierarchies for no other reason that to divide (and so rule) the workforce (see section D.10). Thus, if we assume egalitarianism is a revolt against nature, then much of capitalist economic life is in such a revolt (and when it is not, the "natural" inequalities have been imposed artificially by those in power).

Thus "natural" differences do not necessarily result in inequality as such. Given a different social system, "natural" differences would be encouraged and celebrated far wider than they are under capitalism (where, as we argued in section B.1, hierarchy ensures the crushing of individuality rather than its encouragement) without any change in social equality. The claim that "natural" differences generates social inequalities is question begging in the extreme -- it takes the rights framework of society as a given and ignores the initial source of inequality in property and power. Indeed, inequality of outcome or reward is more likely to be influenced by social conditions rather than individual differences (as would be the case in a society based on wage labour or other forms of exploitation).

Another reason for "anarcho"-capitalist lack of concern for equality is that they think that "liberty upsets patterns" (see section 2.5, for example). It is argued that equality can only be maintained by restricting individual freedom to make exchanges or by taxation of income. However, what this argument fails to acknowledge is that inequality also restricts individual freedom (see next section, for example) and that the capitalist property rights framework is not the only one possible. After all, money is power and inequalities in terms of power easily result in restrictions of liberty and the transformation of the majority into order takers rather than free producers. In other words, once a certain level of inequality is reached, property does not promote, but actually conflicts with, the ends which render private property legitimate. Moreover, Nozick (in his "liberty upsets patterns" argument) "has produced . . . an argument for unrestricted private property using unrestricted private property, and thus he begs the question he tries to answer." [Andrew Kerhohan, "Capitalism and Self-Ownership", from Capitalism, p. 71] For example, a worker employed by a capitalist cannot freely exchange the machines or raw materials they have been provided with to use but Nozick does not class this distribution of "restricted" property rights as infringing liberty (nor does he argue that wage slavery itself restricts freedom, of course).

So in response to the claim that equality could only be maintained by continuously interfering with people's lives, anarchists would say that the inequalities produced by capitalist property rights also involve extensive and continuous interference with people's lives. After all, as Bob Black notes "[y]our foreman or supervisor gives you more or-else orders in a week than the police do in a decade" nevermind the other effects of inequality such as stress, ill health and so on [Libertarian as Conservative]. Thus claims that equality involves infringing liberty ignores the fact that inequality also infringes liberty. A reorganisation of society could effectively minimise inequalities by eliminating the major source of such inequalities (wage labour) by self-management (see section I.5.12 for a discussion of "capitalistic acts" within an anarchist society). We have no desire to restrict free exchanges (after all, most anarchists desire to see the "gift economy" become a reality sooner or later) but we argue that free exchanges need not involve the unrestricted property rights Nozick assumes. As we argue in sections 2 and 3.1, inequality can easily led to the situation where self-ownership is used to justify its own negation and so unrestricted property rights may undermine the meaningful self-determination (what anarchists would usually call "freedom" rather than self-ownership) which many people intuitively understand by the term "self-ownership".

Thus, for anarchists, the "anarcho"-capitalist opposition to equality misses the point and is extremely question begging. Anarchists do not desire to make humanity "identical" (which would be impossible and a total denial of liberty and equality) but to make the social relationships between individuals equal in power. In other words, they desire a situation where people interact together without institutionalised power or hierarchy and are influenced by each other "naturally," in proportion to how the (individual) differences between (social) equals are applicable in a given context. To quote Michael Bakunin, "[t]he greatest intelligence would not be equal to a comprehension of the whole. Thence results. . . the necessity of the division and association of labour. I receive and I give -- such is human life. Each directs and is directed in his turn. Therefore there is no fixed and constant authority, but a continual exchange of mutual, temporary, and, above all, voluntary authority and subordination." [God and the State, p. 33]

Such an environment can only exist within self-managed associations, for capitalism (i.e. wage labour) creates very specific relations and institutions of authority. It is for this reason anarchists are socialists (i.e. opposed to wage labour, the existence of a proletariat or working class). In other words, anarchists support equality precisely because we recognise that everyone is unique. If we are serious about "equality of rights" or "equal freedom" then conditions must be such that people can enjoy these rights and liberties. If we assume the right to develop one's capacities to the fullest, for example, then inequality of resources and so power within society destroys that right simply because people do not have the means to freely exercise their capacities (they are subject to the authority of the boss, for example, during work hours).

So, in direct contrast to anarchism, right-Libertarianism is unconcerned about any form of equality except "equality of rights". This blinds them to the realities of life; in particular, the impact of economic and social power on individuals within society and the social relationships of domination they create. Individuals may be "equal" before the law and in rights, but they may not be free due to the influence of social inequality, the relationships it creates and how it affects the law and the ability of the oppressed to use it. Because of this, all anarchists insist that equality is essential for freedom, including those in the Individualist Anarchist tradition the "anarcho"-capitalist tries to co-opt -- "Spooner and Godwin insist that inequality corrupts freedom. Their anarchism is directed as much against inequality as against tyranny" and "[w]hile sympathetic to Spooner's individualist anarchism, they [Rothbard and David Friedman] fail to notice or conveniently overlook its egalitarian implications." [Stephen L. Newman, Liberalism at Wit's End, p. 74, p. 76]

Why equality is important is discussed more fully in the next section. Here we just stress that without social equality, individual freedom is so restricted that it becomes a mockery (essentially limiting freedom of the majority to choosing which employer will govern them rather than being free within and outside work).

Of course, by defining "equality" in such a restrictive manner, Rothbard's own ideology is proved to be nonsense. As L.A. Rollins notes, "Libertarianism, the advocacy of 'free society' in which people enjoy 'equal freedom' and 'equal rights,' is actually a specific form of egalitarianism. As such, Libertarianism itself is a revolt against nature. If people, by their very biological nature, are unequal in all the attributes necessary to achieving, and preserving 'freedom' and 'rights'. . . then there is no way that people can enjoy 'equal freedom' or 'equal rights'. If a free society is conceived as a society of 'equal freedom,' then there ain't no such thing as 'a free society'." [The Myth of Natural Law, p. 36]

Under capitalism, freedom is a commodity like everything else. The more money you have, the greater your freedom. "Equal" freedom, in the Newspeak-Rothbardian sense, cannot exist! As for "equality before the law", its clear that such a hope is always dashed against the rocks of wealth and market power (see next section for more on this). As far as rights go, of course, both the rich and the poor have an "equal right" to sleep under a bridge (assuming the bridge's owner agrees of course!); but the owner of the bridge and the homeless have different rights, and so they cannot be said to have "equal rights" in the Newspeak-Rothbardian sense either. Needless to say, poor and rich will not "equally" use the "right" to sleep under a bridge, either.

Bob Black observes in The Libertarian as Conservative that "[t]he time of your life is the one commodity you can sell but never buy back. Murray Rothbard thinks egalitarianism is a revolt against nature, but his day is 24 hours long, just like everybody else's."

By twisting the language of political debate, the vast differences in power in capitalist society can be "blamed" not on an unjust and authoritarian system but on "biology" (we are all unique individuals, after all). Unlike genes (although biotechnology corporations are working on this, too!), human society can be changed, by the individuals who comprise it, to reflect the basic features we all share in common -- our humanity, our ability to think and feel, and our need for freedom.

3.1 Why is this disregard for equality important?

Simply because a disregard for equality soon ends with liberty for the majority being negated in many important ways. Most "anarcho"-capitalists and right-Libertarians deny (or at best ignore) market power. Rothbard, for example, claims that economic power does not exist; what people call "economic power" is "simply the right under freedom to refuse to make an exchange" [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 222] and so the concept is meaningless.

However, the fact is that there are substantial power centres in society (and so are the source of hierarchical power and authoritarian social relations) which are not the state. The central fallacy of "anarcho"-capitalism is the (unstated) assumption that the various actors within an economy have relatively equal power. This assumption has been noted by many readers of their works. For example, Peter Marshall notes that "'anarcho-capitalists' like Murray Rothbard assume individuals would have equal bargaining power in a [capitalist] market-based society" [Demanding the Impossible, p. 46] George Walford also makes this clear in his comments on David Friedman's The Machinery of Freedom:

"The private ownership envisages by the anarcho-capitalists would be very different from that which we know. It is hardly going too far to say that while the one is nasty, the other would be nice. In anarcho-capitalism there would be no National Insurance, no Social Security, no National Health Service and not even anything corresponding to the Poor Laws; there would be no public safety-nets at all. It would be a rigorously competitive society: work, beg or die. But as one reads on, learning that each individual would have to buy, personally, all goods and services needed, not only food, clothing and shelter but also education, medicine, sanitation, justice, police, all forms of security and insurance, even permission to use the streets (for these also would be privately owned), as one reads about all this a curious feature emerges: everybody always has enough money to buy all these things.

"There are no public casual wards or hospitals or hospices, but neither is there anybody dying in the streets. There is no public educational system but no uneducated children, no public police service but nobody unable to buy the services of an efficient security firm, no public law but nobody unable to buy the use of a private legal system. Neither is there anybody able to buy much more than anybody else; no person or group possesses economic power over others.

"No explanation is offered. The anarcho-capitalists simply take it for granted that in their favoured society, although it possesses no machinery for restraining competition (for this would need to exercise authority over the competitors and it is an anarcho- capitalist society) competition would not be carried to the point where anybody actually suffered from it. While proclaiming their system to be a competitive one, in which private interest rules unchecked, they show it operating as a co-operative one, in which no person or group profits at the cost of another." [On the Capitalist Anarchists]

This assumption of (relative) equality comes to the fore in Murray Rothbard's "Homesteading" concept of property (discussed in section 4.1). "Homesteading" paints a picture of individuals and families doing into the wilderness to make a home for themselves, fighting against the elements and so forth. It does not invoke the idea of transnational corporations employing tens of thousands of people or a population without land, resources and selling their labour to others. Indeed, Rothbard argues that economic power does not exist (at least under capitalism; as we saw in section 2.1 he does make -- highly illogical -- exceptions). Similarly, David Friedman's example of a pro-death penalty and anti-death penalty "defence" firm coming to an agreement (see section 6.3) assumes that the firms have equal bargaining powers and resources -- if not, then the bargaining process would be very one-sided and the smaller company would think twice before taking on the larger one in battle (the likely outcome if they cannot come to an agreement on this issue) and so compromise.

However, the right-libertarian denial of market power is unsurprising. The necessity, not the redundancy, of equality is required if the inherent problems of contract are not to become too obvious. If some individuals are assumed to have significantly more power than others, and if they are always self-interested, then a contract that creates equal partners is impossible -- the pact will establish an association of masters and servants. Needless to say, the strong will present the contract as being to the advantage of both: the strong no longer have to labour (and become rich, i.e. even stronger) and the weak receive an income and so do not starve.

If freedom is considered as a function of ownership then it is very clear that individuals lacking property (outside their own body, of course) loses effective control over their own person and labour (which was, lets not forget, the basis of their equal natural rights). When ones bargaining power is weak (which is typically the case in the labour market) exchanges tend to magnify inequalities of wealth and power over time rather than working towards an equalisation.

In other words, "contract" need not replace power if the bargaining position and wealth of the would-be contractors are not equal (for, if the bargainers had equal power it is doubtful they would agree to sell control of their liberty/time to another). This means that "power" and "market" are not antithetical terms. While, in an abstract sense, all market relations are voluntary in practice this is not the case within a capitalist market. For example, a large company has a comparative advantage over small ones and communities which will definitely shape the outcome of any contract. For example, a large company or rich person will have access to more funds and so stretch out litigations and strikes until their opponents resources are exhausted. Or, if a local company is polluting the environment, the local community may put up with the damage caused out of fear that the industry (which it depends upon) would relocate to another area. If members of the community did sue, then the company would be merely exercising its property rights when it threatened to move to another location. In such circumstances, the community would "freely" consent to its conditions or face massive economic and social disruption. And, similarly, "the landlords' agents who threaten to discharge agricultural workers and tenants who failed to vote the reactionary ticket" in the 1936 Spanish election were just exercising their legitimate property rights when they threatened working people and their families with economic uncertainty and distress. [Murray Bookchin, The Spanish Anarchists, p. 260]

If we take the labour market, it is clear that the "buyers" and "sellers" of labour power are rarely on an equal footing (if they were, then capitalism would soon go into crisis -- see section 10.2). In fact, competition "in labour markets is typically skewed in favour of employers: it is a buyer's market. And in a buyer's, it is the sellers who compromise." [Juliet B. Schor, The Overworked American, p. 129] Thus the ability to refuse an exchange weights most heavily on one class than another and so ensures that "free exchange" works to ensure the domination (and so exploitation) of one party by the other.

Inequality in the market ensures that the decisions of the majority of within it are shaped in accordance with that needs of the powerful, not the needs of all. It was for this reason that the Individual Anarchist J.K. Ingalls opposed Henry George's proposal of nationalising the land. Ingalls was well aware that the rich could outbid the poor for leases on land and so the dispossession of the working classes would continue.

The market, therefore, does not end power or unfreedom -- they are still there, but in different forms. And for an exchange to be truly voluntary, both parties must have equal power to accept, reject, or influence its terms. Unfortunately, these conditions are rarely meet on the labour market or within the capitalist market in general. Thus Rothbard's argument that economic power does not exist fails to acknowledge that the rich can out-bid the poor for resources and that a corporation generally has greater ability to refuse a contract (with an individual, union or community) than vice versa (and that the impact of such a refusal is such that it will encourage the others involved to "compromise" far sooner). And in such circumstances, formally free individuals will have to "consent" to be unfree in order to survive.

As Max Stirner pointed out in the 1840s, free competition "is not 'free,' because I lack the things for competition." [The Ego and Its Own, p. 262] Due to this basic inequality of wealth (of "things") we find that "[u]nder the regime of the commonality the labourers always fall into the hands of the possessors . . . of the capitalists, therefore. The labourer cannot realise on his labour to the extent of the value that it has for the customer." [Op. Cit., p. 115] Its interesting to note that even Stirner recognises that capitalism results in exploitation. And we may add that value the labourer does not "realise" goes into the hands of the capitalists, who invest it in more "things" and which consolidates and increases their advantage in "free" competition.

To quote Stephan L. Newman:

"Another disquieting aspect of the libertarians' refusal to acknowledge power in the market is their failure to confront the tension between freedom and autonomy. . . Wage labour under capitalism is, of course, formally free labour. No one is forced to work at gun point. Economic circumstance, however, often has the effect of force; it compels the relatively poor to accept work under conditions dictated by owners and managers. The individual worker retains freedom [i.e. negative liberty] but loses autonomy [positive liberty]." [Liberalism at Wit's End, pp. 122-123]

(As an aside, we should point out that the full Stirner quote cited above is "[u]nder the regime of the commonality the labourers always fall into the hands of the possessors, of those who have at their disposal some bit of the state domains (and everything possessible in State domain belongs to the State and is only a fief of the individual), especially money and land; of the capitalists, therefore. The labourer cannot realise on his labour to the extent of the value that it has for the customer."

It could be argued that we misrepresenting Stirner by truncating the quote, but we feel that such a claim this is incorrect. Its clear from his book that Stirner is considering the "minimal" state ("The State is a - commoners' State . . . It protects man . . .according to whether the rights entrusted to him by the State are enjoyed and managed in accordance with the will, that is, laws, of the State." The State "looks on indifferently as one grows poor and the other rich, unruffled by this alternation. As individuals they are really equal before its face." [Op. Cit., p. 115, p. 252]). As "anarcho"-capitalists consider their system to be one of rights and laws (particularly property rights), we feel that its fair to generalise Stirner's comments into capitalism as such as opposed to "minimum state" capitalism. If we replace "State" by "libertarian law code" you will see what we mean. We have included this aside before any right-libertarians claim that we are misrepresenting Stirner' argument.)

If we consider "equality before the law" it is obvious that this also has limitations in an (materially) unequal society. Brian Morris notes that for Ayn Rand, "[u]nder capitalism . . . politics (state) and economics (capitalism) are separated . . . This, of course, is pure ideology, for Rand's justification of the state is that it 'protects' private property, that is, it supports and upholds the economic power of capitalists by coercive means." [Ecology & Anarchism, p. 189] The same can be said of "anarcho"-capitalism and its "protection agencies" and "general libertarian law code." If within a society a few own all the resources and the majority are dispossessed, then any law code which protects private property automatically empowers the owning class. Workers will always be initiating force if act against the code and so "equality before the law" reinforces inequality of power and wealth.

This means that a system of property rights protects the liberties of some people in a way which gives them an unacceptable degree of power over others. And this cannot be met merely by reaffirming the rights in question, we have to assess the relative importance of various kinds of liberty and other values we how dear.

Therefore right-libertarian disregard for equality is important because it allows "anarcho"-capitalism to ignore many important restrictions of freedom in society. In addition, it allows them to brush over the negative effects of their system by painting an unreal picture of a capitalist society without vast extremes of wealth and power (indeed, they often construe capitalist society in terms of an ideal -- namely artisan production -- that is really pre-capitalist and whose social basis has been eroded by capitalist development). Inequality shapes the decisions we have available and what ones we make:

"An 'incentive' is always available in conditions of substantial social inequality that ensure that the 'weak' enter into a contract. When social inequality prevails, questions arises about what counts as voluntary entry into a contract . . . Men and women . . . are now juridically free and equal citizens, but, in unequal social conditions, the possibility cannot be ruled out that some or many contracts create relationships that bear uncomfortable resemblances to a slave contract." [Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract, p. 62]

This ideological confusion of right-libertarianism can also be seen from their opposition to taxation. On the one hand, they argue that taxation is wrong because it takes money from those who "earn" it and gives it to the poor. On the other hand, "free market" capitalism is assumed to be a more equal society! If taxation takes from the rich and gives to the poor, how will "anarcho"-capitalism be more egalitarian? That equalisation mechanism would be gone (of course, it could be claimed that all great riches are purely the result of state intervention skewing the "free market" but that places all their "rags to riches" stories in a strange position). Thus we have a problem, either we have relative equality or we do not. Either we have riches, and so market power, or we do not. And its clear from the likes of Rothbard, "anarcho"-capitalism will not be without its millionaires (there is, after all, apparently nothing un-libertarian about "organisation, hierarchy, wage-work, granting of funds by libertarian millionaires, and a libertarian party"). And so we are left with market power and so extensive unfreedom.

Thus, for a ideology that denounces egalitarianism as a "revolt against nature" it is pretty funny that they paint a picture of "anarcho"-capitalism as a society of (relative) equals. In other words, their propaganda is based on something that has never existed, and never will, namely an egalitarian capitalist society.

3.2 But what about "anarcho"-capitalist support for charity?

Yes, while being blind to impact of inequality in terms of economic and social power and influence, most right-libertarians do argue that the very poor could depend on charity in their system. But such a recognition of poverty does not reflect an awareness of the need for equality or the impact of inequality on the agreements we make. Quite the reverse in fact, as the existence of extensive inequality is assumed -- after all, in a society of relative equals, poverty would not exist, nor would charity be needed.

Ignoring the fact that their ideology hardly promotes a charitable perspective, we will raise four points. Firstly, charity will not be enough to countermand the existence and impact of vast inequalities of wealth (and so power). Secondly, it will be likely that charities will be concerned with "improving" the moral quality of the poor and so will divide them into the "deserving" (i.e. obedient) and "undeserving" (i.e. rebellious) poor. Charity will be forthcoming to the former, those who agree to busy-bodies sticking their noses into their lives. In this way charity could become another tool of economic and social power (see Oscar Wilde's The Soul of Man Under Socialism for more on charity). Thirdly, it is unlikely that charity will be able to replace all the social spending conducted by the state -- to do so would require a ten-fold increase in charitable donations (and given that most right-libertarians denounce the government for making them pay taxes to help the poor, it seems unlikely that they will turn round and increase the amount they give). And, lastly, charity is an implicate recognition that, under capitalism, no one has the right of life -- its a privilege you have to pay for. That in itself is enough to reject the charity option. And, of course, in a system designed to secure the life and liberty of each person, how can it be deemed acceptable to leave the life and protection of even one individual to the charitable whims of others? (Perhaps it will be argued that individual's have the right to life, but not a right to be a parasite. This ignores the fact some people cannot work -- babies and some handicapped people -- and that, in a functioning capitalist economy, many people cannot find work all the time. Is it this recognition of that babies cannot work that prompts many right-libertarians to turn them into property? Of course, rich folk who have never done a days work in their lives are never classed as parasites, even if they inherited all their money). All things considered, little wonder that Proudhon argued that:

"Even charitable institutions serve the ends of those in authority marvellously well.

"Charity is the strongest chain by which privilege and the Government, bound to protect them, holds down the lower classes. With charity, sweeter to the heart of men, more intelligible to the poor man than the abstruse laws of Political Economy, one may dispense with justice." [General Idea of the Revolution, pp. 69-70]

As noted, the right-libertarian (passing) acknowledgement of poverty does not mean that they recognise the existence of market power. They never ask themselves how can someone be free if their social situation is such that they are drowning in a see of usury and have to sell their labour (and so liberty) to survive.

  


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