Today, I celebrate – my home town of Melbourne has recorded zero new infections for the second time since June 9, 2020 and zero deaths. A consecutive day of double zero. My Melbourne band Pressure Drop is planning a live streamed gig soon – our first time playing since March. Details will come when we…
The rise of the “private government”
I have always found it odd (read totally inconsistent) that people rail against government intervention as if it is a blight on our freedom, but ignore the ‘governance’ of workplaces by capital, who seek every way possible to destroy our freedom and initiative unless it is serving to advance their bottom line. We ignore the benefits of collective goods and laws that protect us, but turn a blind eye to the on-going, minute-by-minute, repression in the workplace. I was reminded of this again as I was reading a new book that came out in May 2017 – Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It) – by American philosopher Elizabeth Anderson. She studies that way in which corporate America serves in effect as a “private government” minutely and vicariously controlling our daily working lives yet many of us still accept the construction that this is the ‘free market’ operating. It is when the word ‘free’ loses all meaning. I especially like her use of the term “private government” to reinforce the hypocrisy of the elites and the inconsistency of those (workers included) who call for small ‘government’ as if that is the exemplar of freedom.
In the Introduction (by Stephen Macedo) we read that the book is a:
… call for a radical rethinking of the relationship between private enterprise and the freedom and dignity of workers.
The book is the outcome of two lectures that Elizabeth Anderson delivered at Princeton University in March 2015 under the guise of the Tanner Lectures on Human Values.
Obert Clark Tanner was an American philanthropist and academic who the series is named after said at the inception that he hoped “these lectures will contribute to the intellectual and moral life of mankind”.
The first of the lectures was When the Market was ‘Left’ (March 4, 2015) – argued that:
… the free market political and economic theory – originated as an egalitarian and progressive agenda – as a free society of equals … [but] … in the nineteenth century that free market thinking drifted away from its earlier egalitarian moorings …
The argument is that the “free market egalitarianism” of Adam Smith and Thomas Paine was predicated on their hope that:
… freeing up markets would dramatically expand the ranks of the self-employed, who would exercise talent and judgement in governing their productive activities, independent of micromanaging bosses.
This would be within a social environment where “public education” was expanded and there was (in Paine’s vision set out in his political tract Rights of Man and its sister volume Rights of Man, Part the Second, Combining Principle and Practice ) “a system of universal social insurance, including old-age pensions, survivor benefits and disability payments for families whose members sould not work” and more.
The onset of the Industrial Revolution ended those hopes as:
… opportunities for self-employment shrank dramatically … [and] … dramatically widened the gulf between employers and employees in manufacturing.
This breach between the original conception of a ‘free market’ and the subsequent “reality” created:
… a symbiotic relationship between libertarianism and authoritarianism that blights our political discourse to this day.
In other words, when proponents of the free markets advance their claim that it tantamount to individual liberty and choice they are appealing to a conception that is long dead.
What emerged was anathema to the original conception.
The ‘free market’ construct is a myth that retains some sort of currency in the political debate but has no credibility in intellectual discourse.
The second lecture – Private Government (March 5, 2015) – built on that analysis.
Elizabeth Anderson believes that the evolution of the modern workplace has been a history of dictatorial imposts on the freedom of workers in an environment where corporate lobbying to minimise legislative protections of the same has been fierce.
What has evolved is a web of “arbitrary and unaccountable ‘private governments’ and ‘dictatorship’:
Most workers in the United States are governed by communist dictatorships in their work lives. Usually, those dictatorships have the legal authority to regulate workers’ off-hour lives as well – their political activities, speech, choice of sexual partner, use of recreational drugs, alcohol, smoking, and exercise … most employers exercise this off-hours authority irregularly, arbitrarily, and without warning … only about half of U.S. workers enjoy even partial protection of their off-duty speech from employer meddling.
We might question her terminology “communist”. The sort of dictatorship she is describing doesn’t fall into what I would call a ‘communist’ regime but then that would be quibbling and missing the main point.
The concept of “private government” arises because workers “are subject … to authorities that can order them around and impose sanctions for noncompliance”.
This workplace despotism leads her to conclude that “Libertarians and free market economists and politicians wrongly equate ‘freedom’ with private enterprise, ignoring the reality that for most workers, employment in large firms brings with it subjection to arbitrary power that extends beyond their work lives”.
It is clear that “the security of private property depends on a strong state” but then “so too do many forms of freedom”.
In an interview relating to her book – Where Despots Rule (June 29, 2017), Elizabeth Anderson noted that:
The history of democracy is the history of movements to make government a public thing; that is, to make it the business of the governed – transparent to them, attentive to their interests, accountable to the public.
Private government is rule by authorities who tell the governed that the rules to which they are subject are none of their business, that they aren’t entitled to know about how their government operates, that they have no standing to insist that their interests be taken into account in how they are governed, that their rulers are not accountable to them.
By US law, the default constitution of the workplace is a private government, rather than a public one. Managers run a government that is kept private from the workers they govern.
In her book, she cites examples of the extent to which capital micromanages the workforce. One case is where toilet breaks are curtailed and workers are required to wear nappies while they work to soak up the urine.
Her argument, while US-centric, generalises to workplaces around the world, although the web of legislated protections of workers differs across different nations.
The Anglo-world, in particular, has been at the forefront of dismantling worker protections and allowing these “private governments” to increase in power.
The problem, however, is not new.
Essentially, Karl Marx was the first writer to put the concept of “private government” into historical context.
He clearly understood that the concept of a ‘market’ is a social construct with embedded power relations.
The ‘labour market’ is where workers and capital meet to determine nominal wage rates and employment.
However, the concept of a market for ‘labour’ is somewhat of a misnomer because if we try to analyse the transactions that occur in this arena in terms of a simple exchange of use values essential insights into the operations of the economy are obscured.
In what way can we differentiate the ‘labour market’ from markets for goods and services?
The standard mainstream economics textbook analysis of the labour market, which dominates the public debate when it comes to discussions about unemployment, welfare payments, the impact of taxation etc, makes no distinction between exchanges between labour and capital and the use by firms of other productive inputs.
Many years ago (around 1968), the then Economics editor of The Financial Times, Samuel Brittain made this statement, which reflects the viewpoint still held by most economists today:
If the price of bananas is kept too high in relation to the price required to balance supply and demand there will be a surplus of bananas. If the price of bananas is below the market clearing price there will be a shortage. The same applies to labour. If the price – i.e. the wage – is too high there will be a surplus of workers, i.e. unemployment. If it is kept too low there will be a shortage of workers … Workers do sell their services just as banana producers sell their bananas.
In other words, the essential insights into how the labour market operated could be gleaned by studying any market exchange.
The ‘free market’ proponents use this flawed logic to assert that the advancement of freedom requires less government legislation about wages and conditions and more control over trade unions etc who seek to undermine the ‘freedom’ of the worker to negotiate, one-on-one with their employers.
Many people buy this flawed logic.
In 1974, American sociologist Harry Braverman noted that the characteristic feature of capitalism was that the workers only sell their capacity to work (referred to by Karl Marx as “labour power”) to the capitalist in what we now term to be the labour market.
Workers are not typically enslaved under capitalism (in the meaning of the word ‘slavery’) nor do they sell what we might call labour services.
Following Marx, Braverman argued that the major challenge facing the capital is to ensure the ‘labour power’ they purchase becomes a flow of ‘labour services’ (or simply labour). This observation suggests that the capitalist firm faces a control problem pertaining to how the managers extract work from the potential they have bought.
Braverman wrote (pages 57-58):
When he buys labor time, the outcome is far from being either so certain or so definite that it can be reckoned away, with precision in advance. This is merely an expression of the fact that the portion of his capital expended on labour power is the “variable” portion, which undergoes an increase in the process of production; for him the question is how great that increase will be. It thus becomes essential for the capitalist that control over the labor process pass from the hands of the worker into his own. This transition presents itself in history as the progressive alienation of the process of production from the worker; to the capitalist, it presents itself as the problem of management.
[Reference: Braverman, H. (1974) Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974).]
In modern terms, the firm agrees to pay a wage to the worker for a given working day (which itself might vary according to various rules). At that point in the exchange the firm has purchases the labour power, which is the capacity to work. No actual labour services have been purchased in that transaction.
The task of management then is to organise, muster and deploy that labour power in a controlled way to ensure that for the time the worker has agreed to work they are delivering the desired flow of labour services to the firm.
It is in that way that the firm ensures they produce enough output from the labour power purchased, which upon sale, will return the funds outlayed on wages (and other materials the workers use) and leave a sufficient residual – profits – which will satisfy the objectives of the owners of the firm.
A study of the modern labour market therefore has to be conducted within the context of the primacy of managerial control and the need for the capitalist firm to maximise the flow of labour they gain from the labour power they purchase.
We might ask as American sociologist Michael Burawoy did in 1978:
Why is control necessary?
The answer is to be found in the observation that the objectives of workers and firms are rarely – substantively – the same. Marx considered the relations between those who sell labour power (the workers) and those who buy it (the capitalists) to be fundamentally “antagonistic” or adversarial.
We might summarise this basic conflict by assuming that workers will typically desire to be pay more for working less and capitalists want to pay the least for the most flow of labour services.
We could frame this tension in more complex ways and, indeed, Marx and his followers have done that.
Everything firms do is to maintain their control function or their capacity as purchasers of labour power.
In terms of the ‘bananas’ analogy, Marx noted that we seek ‘use values’ when we enter market exchanges. In the bananas market, I might enter the shop hand over money to the fruit merchant and then we, respectively, consume the “use value” of the transaction (me the banana, the fruit shop the money) after the transaction is over.
There is a separation of the “use value” and the “exchange value” (the price) in a simple commodity exchange.
But in the labour market exchange, the worker is forces to produce “use value” for the employer (the flow of labour power) as part of the transaction. There is no separation.
This, in the context of conflictual motivations (class conflict) sets up the need for these “private governments” that Elizabeth Anderson elaborates upon.
In that context, Micheal Burawoy suggests that:
… the essence of capitalist control can only be understood through comparison with a noncapitalist mode of production.
[Reference: Burawoy, M. (1978) ‘Towards a Marxist Theory of the Labour Process: Braverman and Beyond’, Politics & Society, 8, 3-23. If you have access to Sage Publications you can download the Full Paper.]
By which he means that to understand the true nature of the capitalist labour market a student has to have some appreciation of historical arrangements for labour prior to the onset of capitalism.
His main comparison is in detailing the transition from Feudalism to Capitalism. His comparison between these two systems of production allows us to highlight the differences and the purposes of these differences in relation to the basic challenge of capitalism – to extract labour services from purchased labour power in a conflictual context.
Under feudal relations, the worker (a serf) tills the land their lord has provided them with for some part of the week. They are allowed to consume the production that arises from that work. This production allows the serf to survive and provide for their family.
For the remaining days in the week, the serf tills the lord’s land and all of the labour expended can be considered surplus to that required to maintain the survival of the serf and his/her family. The goods and services produced in this part of the week are expropriated by the Lord for his/her own use.
Burawoy noted the crucial characteristics of this system of production are that:
- Necessary labour (that required to maintain survival of the worker) and surplus labour are separated in both time and space.
- The serfs have possession of their own means of subsistence as they work – that is, they farm and consume their own product.
- Serfs undertake this work independent of the lord.
- Surplus labour (that is, the work expended on the Lord’s own land) is transparent and the lord expropriates it through extraeconomic means (that is, by dint of his status in the system as lord).
The contrast to the capitalist mode of production, which in historical terms succeeded the feudal system is stark. The essential characteristics of that system are:
- The necessary and surplus labour are not separated in space and time. The worker appears to work say an 8-hour day for a certain hourly wage, which blurs the distinction between the two types of labour.
- The workers do not possess the means of production and hence the means of subsistence. A defining feature of capitalism is that the capitalist owns the productive means and the worker, while free to choose which capitalist to work for, has to work to survive. Survival requires the worker agree to work for, say 8 hours to get the wage which might be equivalent to 5 hours of production.
- The capitalist controls the work process and the worker has to provide labour services within that control system.
- The surplus labour is conjectural – that is, there is no extraeconomic authority based on feudal politics, social position etc to ensure that surplus production occurs. The creation and expropriation of surplus labour becomes an economic struggle that unfolds within the workplace
All of this is going on within the labour market. Every day, workers are producing goods and services which consumers and firms desire, but in doing so they are producing both necessary and surplus labour.
The production of surplus labour, which manifests as profits if the surplus value embodied in these goods and services is successfully sold, maintains the capitalist social relations. It allows the owner of capital to retain his/her position of power and at the same time ensures the worker has to return each day in order to survive.
Under feudalism, the lord remains so as a consequence of the manorial politics (the extraeconomic means) irrespective of the surplus output.
The final point to appreciate in this overview is that the hidden nature of the surplus labour under capitalism creates the need for managerial control, which aims to ensure that surplus value is created but that the system does not make it obvious that workers are working longer than necessary to maintain their existing living standards.
There have been some great analyses of the evolution of this controlling function.
Marglin wrote the 1974 classic article – What do bosses do? which undermined the neo-classical theory of the firm. You can also read the 1975 follow-up – What Do Bosses Do? Part II.
The brilliant research by Stephen Marglin which came out in 1974 – What Do Bosses Do?: The Origins and Functions of Hierarchy in Capitalist Production – shows that the rise of factory production and the division of labour that came with it:
… was the result of a search not for a technologically superior organization of work, but for an organization which guaranteed to the entrepreneur an essential role in the production process, as integrator of the separate efforts of his workers into a marketable product …
Likewise, the origin and success of the factory lay not in technological superiority, but in the substitution of the capitalist’s for the worker’s control of the work process and the quantity of output, in the change in the workman’s choice from one of how much to work and produce, based on his relative preferences for leisure and goods, to one of whether or not to work at all, which of course is hardly much of a choice.
[Reference: Stephen Marglin (1974) ‘What Do Bosses Do? the Origins and Functions of Hierarchy in Capitalist Production, Part I.’, The Review of Radical Political Economics, 6(2), 60-112.]
See also Marglin’s 1975 follow-up – What Do Bosses Do? Part II.
Similarly, the wonderful article – The Origin of Job Structures in the Steel Industry – by Katherine Stone and published in 1973 is worth being acquainted with.
It was part of an overall research program that several economists and related disciplines were pursuing as part of the radical economics that was being developed at Harvard and Amherst in the early 1970s.
One of the major strands of this research was to understand labour market segmentation and how labour market structure, job hierarchies, wage incentive systems and more are used by the employers (as agents of capital) to maintain control over the workforce and extract as much surplus value (and hopefully profits) as they can.
It challenged much of the extant literature which had claimed that factory production and later organisational changes within firms were technology-driven and therefore more efficient. The Harvard radicals found that to be unsustainable given the evidence.
They also eschewed the progressive idea that solving poverty was just about eliminating bad, low pay jobs, an idea which had currency in that era. They showed that the bad jobs were functional in terms of the class struggle within capitalism and gave the firms a buffer which allowed them to cope with fluctuating demand for their products.
It also allowed them to maintain a relatively stable, high paid segment (primary labour market) which served management and was kept docile via hierarchical incentives etc. I was reminded of this literature when I read a recent paper from Dutch-based researchers on the way firms have evolved in the neo-liberal era of precarious work.
[Reference: Stone, K. (1973) ‘The Origin of Job Structures in the Steel Industry’, Radical America, 7(6), November-December, 19-66.]
Please read my blogs for more discussion on these studies:
1. Capitalists shooting their own feet – destroy trust and layer management.
2. Rejecting the TINA mantra and the second ‘Gilded Age’.
What interested me about Elizabeth Anderson’s book was how she extends this notion of control into all aspects of the workers’ lives.
Capital has gone further than Marx would have ever envisaged in tying down the free will of the workforce.
She documents the widening oppression of these “private governments” where (see Interview) workers are not only “Being humiliated, harassed, and abused by managers” and are “subject to dangerous work conditions” but are also (among other things):
… being penalized for off-duty conduct that has nothing to do with on-the-job responsibilities, being pressured to support management’s political causes …
In Australia, there are regular cases of workers being sacked for putting something up on their social media site.
There is all this talk about protecting “the brand” yet workers do not share in the largesse associated with “the brand”.
One shortcoming of the book is that her analysis tends to focus on low-paid, factory workers and service sector workers. She fails to capture the way in which the previously protected, primary labour markets (see above) are increasingly fragment (contracting out, outsourcing etc) and the control of such workers extended through micromanagement.
An example of this?
Just work in an Australian university these days!
I will extend this work some more when I come to consider trends in low-wage work and the intervention of ‘private welfare agencies’.
There is a good article in the Jacobin Magazine last week (June 30, 2017) – Cleaning Toilets for Jesus – in this regard.
The series so far
This is a further part of a series I am writing as background to my next book with Joan Muysken analysing the Future of Work. More instalments will come as the research process unfolds.
The series so far:
2. Employment as a human right.
3. The rise of the “private government”.
The blogs in these series should be considered working notes rather than self-contained topics. Ultimately, they will be edited into the final manuscript of my next book due in 2018. The book will likely be published by Edward Elgar (UK).
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2017 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.
This Post Has 16 Comments
Great overview of the issues.
“t also allowed them to maintain a relatively stable, high paid segment (primary labour market) which served management and was kept docile via hierarchical incentives etc.”
Like I’m reading Orwell’s 1984 again. Brilliantly insightful.
Very interesting and informative, as always.
BTW, this article discussing the Alternative Models of Ownership paper (a report to John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey) might interest you:
Full paper here:
The article talks about ideas which have been brought up in some of your relatively recent blog posts, such as the case for nationalisation, democratic control over the economy, and a progressive concept of efficiency, which the paper calls a ‘radical notion of efficiency’:
“A key change in the campaign and manifesto, one expressed in slightly different terms by Corbyn and McDonnell, is the centrality of a radical notion of efficiency, understood not as allocative efficiency determined by market mechanisms but as the economy’s ability to satisfy human needs. There is also, crucially, an effort to expand upon what counts as a human need. This notion of efficiency is notable in McDonnell’s conclusion to the ‘Labour stands with you’ broadcast - that ‘a fairer society is happier, more united, more efficient’ - and in Corbyn’s regular criticisms of the inefficiency of a society which wastes so many people’s talents.”
Just as competition among producers is good for consumers and competition among landlords is good for tenants, so competition among employers should be good for employees. However, if the demand for jobs exceeds their supply, then employers are in the driver’s seat. A very effective way to increase the power of employees is to have a full-employment policy. Another way is to curb the growth of labor supply through a very restrictive immigration policy.
‘..call for a radical rethinking of the relationship between private enterprise and the freedom and dignity of workers.’
Richard Wolff is doing a great job in promoting ‘democracy in the workplace’. he doesn’t have an MMT perspective but is good at the social issues and a great speaker.
It’s not only the workers workplace that has become like a private government. In this age of actual governments becoming elite controlled duopoly’s we have arrived at private government in the broad sense. There is another word for such governments.
A thing about the modern world that many people don’t understand is that, from a legal perspective, a corporation is a government entity. Corporations are birthed by the grant of a charter from the sovereign. Their governmental nature was never in dispute in the 18th century. Indeed, some of the American colonies themselves (e.g. Virginia, Massachusetts) were corporate charters. It was well understood that corporations were arms of the sovereign. After US independence, there was great skepticism of corporations given the colonies’ experience with how the King of Great Britain wielded them (the Boston Tea Party was a protest against that). Business enterprises were individual enterprises, and they died with the individuals who ran them. Gradually in the 19th century, American states began utilizing corporations, but very cautiously. Their powers and objective were specifically delineated, and they were reserved for accomplishing public purposes, like building a bridge. Their charters required them to act in the public interest. Their existence would end when the specified public objective was accomplished. They were ways the state governments could leverage private capital to accomplish a public end and no more. Corporate charters would be revoked if they were deemed to overstep them. Over time, corporations became normalized and the restrictions placed on them in their charters fell away. But they are still creatures of government, each and every one of them.
When US courts began bestowing rights to corporations, this represented an overturning of the American revolutionary ideal of popular sovereignty. It bestowed rights on the government, as against the people collectively, making the government (in the form of the corporation) one of inherent sovereignty rather than popular sovereignty. The modern US is a kind of dispersed autocracy in which the government–in its form as corporation–rules supreme over the people, who are not allowed any vote in how they operate.
Around thirty years ago, western governments began talking of good governance/good government — a few years later there was a joint committee of US, Canadian and British diplomats (maybe Aussies and Kiwis too) which sought to develop joint language.
At first, the British and Canadian diplomats pushed simply for “good government,” an expression used in law to express the legitimate objects of legislative powers conferred by statute. As Wikipedia says, the phrase “peace, order, and good government” appears in many Imperial Acts of Parliament and Letters Patent, most notably the constitutions of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia and, formerly, New Zealand and South Africa.
US diplomats balked at the notion that government could be good (this was under Reagan/Bush senior), although governing the ship of state is no different really than governance of it. But, good governance was preferred, and, though it was perhaps not explicitly said at the time, “governance” was promoted to provide a guiding framework, as the Wall came down, for the planned expansion of “private government.” It should be remembered, as well, that good governance extends to “civil society organizations,” so it also supports the operation of those para-public not-for-profit organizations that benefit from what Bill has elsewhere discussed as elements of the “unemployment industry.”
Get the money and influence of neo-liberal lobbyists and vested interests out of politics as these forces have siezed effective control over our democracies and governments. Public funding of election campaigning, tighter regulation of elections and of the conduct of elected representatives, more democratic representation such as proportional representation that exists in Tasmania, NZ and Germany, a balanced, truthful and relevant mass media and an informed and engaged electorate are all necessary to restore democratic control over governments and throughout all parts of society.
“more democratic representation such as proportional representation”
Proportional representation has little to do with democracy. PR actually puts far too much power into the hands of politicians and minority groups who have, almost by definition, failed to learn how to compromise and build a consensus.
The whole point of ‘parties’ is that individuals form a coalition *before* the election so that people know exactly what they are voting for. A working system encourages two coalitions to form with opposing visions before a vote, and deliberately sidelines everybody else as they have not learned how to persuade, influence, co-operate, consensus build or compromise.
PR is about weakening the power of the government so that it cannot override corporate power. It’s sold on the ‘fairness’ angle that appeals to emotion, not reason.
If you want government to be any use, you have to give it the power and stand the risk of that. The alternative is you give the power to corporations.
In response to Neil’s previous comment.
The idea of proportional representation is that it is indeed proportional. If a party such as the Australian Greens receive 10% of the vote they would ideally receive 10% of the seats of the lower house of parliament instead of 1% of the seats as now, that arises due to their widely dispersed vote. The National Party on the other hand with 5% of the vote has 10% of the seats due to a very concentrated vote in regional areas. Doesn’t sound very democratic to me? Coalitions and alliances can form before or after elections and will sink or swim depending on how they perform.
New Zealand and Germany do no not seem to suffer the adverse consequences of coalitions you mention with their Mixed Member Proportional voting system. In New Zealand the Greens and Labour have even formed an alliance in readiness for the next national election.
First past the post voting for electoral divisions or seats, even if improved by allowing preference allocations, favours the development of a two party(or coalition) system that has traditionally attempted to attract the same swinging voters in the most marginal seats leading to a ‘no real choice’ duopoly as we currently have in Australia. Such ‘stability’ of political choices has made the task of lobbyists easier and both halves of the duopoly in my opinion have largely become corrupt neo-liberal servants of sections of the affluent elite.
Minor parties have struggled to obtain lower house seats even with substantial percentages of the total vote and have generally withered away over time as they have not been able to exert much political influence and thereby deliver for their voters, apart from the Senate especially when the ruling government doesn’t have a majority. The Australian Senate however does have proportional voting within each State’s equal allocation of seats. The Australian Democrats suffered this fate but the Greens are still holding on.
As I see it, a true multi party proportional political system better reflects the voters intent and with an informed electorate should eventually deliver better more representative governments, even if the nature of coalitions is likely to be a bit less stable.
If you want government to be any use, it has to truly represent the will of the electorate, warts and all, and not just be a choice between two parties effectively controlled by the corporations.
The link included here “See also Marglin’s 1975 follow-up – What Do Bosses Do? Part II.” is not working.
Dear GrkStav (at 2017/07/17 at 7:04 pm)
Thanks very much for the scrutiny.
I have now found the most recent link for the article and edited the post to reflect that.
‘Essentially, Karl Marx was the first writer to put the concept of “private government” into historical context.’
Only if you ignore Proudhon, who noted that “property is despotism” in 1840… Indeed, genuine libertarians have been noting the private hierarchies associated with property since we coined the term “libertarian” in 1857:
Sadly, “libertarian” has been stolen by the right to defend the private hierarchies anarchists opposed from the start.
I’m glad you mentioned Feudalism.
How about this for an idea.
Each person upon reaching working age has a choice, either to operate under a market system, or under a feudal system (or if they can’t choose one of these, they can always head off to the socialist camp).
If they so choose to operate under a market system they accept the risks that come with it, but also get to keep the rewards, which is wealth. All wealth, being rights (claims) against others will only ever exist against other market participants and their property. This is the whole point of capitalism, it’s a game which some love to play, whereas others (like me) do not like to play. If you’re not good at competing you would never choose this option, however, you would have to accept you can’t have the rewards which come with it (i.e. wealth in the form of private property). Big choice I know, but mature people should be able to make this choice.
If they so choose to operate under a feudal system, then the community as a whole is the lord so to speak; in other words, the community owns the land, dwelling, tools etc that those on the land need to operate the land and whatever else they may do on that land, and those on the land simply manage it like a custodian. I would expand this even further and suggest that the custodian would not necessarily be a farmer, they may be an artist, scientist, musician, religious person, etc..the key difference here is that the custodian does not trade/exchange/compete nor sell their labours – they simply give away what they produce less what it takes to meet needs. It is assumed of course that a lord back in the feudal times would provide tools and other means by which to ensure their serfs were capable of actually producing whatever it was they produced. For instance, if the serf couldn’t work the soil without tools, its the duty of the lord to provide them. Extrapolate this into every other field – if the custodian is an artist by nature, then whatever they need to produce that art the community must provide, and they would gladly do so. (and besides, they could never argue that it comes at tax-payers expense either now could they, but even if it did they should be grateful)
Of course, there is also the socialist option and just choose welfare or job guarantees etc.
Now, out of the three which would you choose? I would choose the 2nd in a heartbeat – I love farming, I also love music, science, religious studies, and I also happen to love math, but none of these things can I do for money, as money always ruins my love for them..as such the world is missing out on the best gifts I can offer this world because as society stands today, it only sees value in what I can sell for money. I also know there is a growing movement worldwide with people looking toward the same type of thing…this movement are not scared of hard work, what they are fed up with is all the political childish debates centered around some assumption that we all want to own our own little house and have savings in the bank and the payment for this great dream is to work in a soul destroying job. I love work and so do many other people, we just hate doing it for money and we’re willing to give up the so-called dream of owning a home and having a retirement fund if we get to choose what that work is and not have to do it for money.
I also know many people who would not choose the 2nd option. There temperaments are better suited to the high risk/reward nature of money and property, and what’s more, these people are the more likely to create and invent the technologies which benefit all of us. Society as a whole needs these types to be able to flourish – the worst thing we can do is become envious of them and then start over-crowding the capitalist (or better yet, the private property, treat everything as a commodity mindset) sand box.
I see this 2nd option as being the best way to smooth out the horrible costs that are and have been created for centuries now by this need to force everyone to treat human needs as commodities.