The oasis of free slaves

The Chebika oasis
Image by Bartek Kuzia via Flickr

Mr Jones was lucky enough to have acquired his little estate and farm before the nuclear war ravaged the world’s ecosystem and made the surrounding area into a brutal desert. His land managed to survive due to his luck, being on top of an undergound river and far from any major cities.
Mr Jones and his family was however left to fend on their own. They couldn’t toil the whole farm of course but they could certainly feed themselves and raise some animals.

With civilization destroyed as we know it, along with the major productive capabilities, slavery once again become the norm. Slavers quickly rounded up people who could not defend themselves and gave them away in exchange for food and other products. Eventually some dared the desert in a caravan, losing a few slaves in the process and reached his farm. Mr Jones became the proud owner of slaves.

He didn’t have to do much to maintain them. He simply made them build a shack for themselves and every day he would send them out to the fields to work the land, tend the animals or build new items in the workshop that he could sell to the slavers. He and his family would supervise them to avoid them making weapons to attack them or conspiring with each other.

This situation was very profitable to Mr Jones and soon his little farm had become an oasis of civilization. “The last bastion” he liked to call it. He became very wealthy through trading with caravans who came to his land for food which now he had ample due to his new productive force. He got more slaves and even got some slaves who got extra benefits and policed the others. All was going perfectly.

But Mr. Jones was still distraught. Before the war, the concept of slavery was abhorent to all but now he was the owner of all these people. But what could he do? If he didn’t buy them, the slavers would have simply let them die in the desert to cut their losses. And since he bought them with wealth he produced with the sweat of his back, shouldn’t they make up for his loss? And anyway, he wasn’t a cruel master at all. Almost no whipping.

But he still did not like it, something was gnawing his conscience when the thought of slavery enterred his mind. It was at this point that he bought an old book from one of the caravans which explained a lot of nice concepts. Liberty, justice, human rights. It was written by some Von Mises person.

All of this struck a chord with Mr. Jones. This was the solution he was looking to his moral issues with slavery. He knew in his gut that liberty was a unalienable human right that he shouldn’t have taken away from those people. How could he have been so blind? If he didn’t make up for this, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself.

So the very next day, he gathered all his slaves and made an announcement. ‘I grant you all your freedom’ he proclaimed after a short rhetoric introduction. ‘I have looked into my heart and discovered that it is not fair that I take away your human right to liberty through force. From now on, you are free to leave at any point you wish. If you do wish to remain here, you’re welcome as I will need some workers to take the place of those who leave.’ Now it was time to show how magnanimus he had become. ‘I will first of all give all of you some extra money to repay for the time as slaves, We can use bottlecaps for that since noone can make new ones anymore. If you decide to work for me, I will pay you all 100bc per month.’

And so, Mr Jones freed his slaves and his conscience. Finally he could rest certain he was not denying anyone’s right. He of course had to make them pay rent to stay on his land and he thought that 50bc per person was a good enough price. He also made his food quite affordable to them, it came to just about 40bc per month per person which even left people 10bc to save and sometime buy one of the products of his workshop.

He know he made the right decision almost immediately. Everyone decided to stay and work for him voluntarily! Nobody decided to dare the desert and that just proves how good an offer he had made to them. He could now not worry about supervising them at all and he could simply sit in his home and enjoy life. The products and well deserved profits were coming on their own now.

Everyone was free and doing what they chose to. The free market had thriumphed at last.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Egalitarianism VS Freedom

Black and Red Star of Anarcho-Syndicalism

In my recent conversation with a…err…”political moderate”, a fundamental difference in opinions surfaced which I think is what caused most of the friction. Specifically it is the classic collision that occurs between a free market libertarian and a Libertarian Socialist.

Our conversation started with me explaining if I am a supporter of personal freedoms and very soon I was being drilled on why I support them but I don’t support the freedom of people to amass capital. Even as I was explaining that such freedom creates inequality and exploitation I was indirectly being accused of hypocrisy (which was incidentally a trigger point to take this publicly).

There was a tacit understanding by my opponent that I was somehow as supportive of (the same type of) freedom as he was and thus, by not supporting economic freedom I was being hypocritical. Indeed, thinking about the way this conversation took place I get the impression tha Oolon was attempting to make me realize this perceived dissonance in my opinion and thus abandon such views.

However what Oolon and generally libertarians do not understand is that for me (and I guess for the rest of the left-libertarian movement – feel free to correct me on this) it is not liberty (or more accurately, negative liberty) that is my highest value or priority, it is egalitarianism or positive liberty and while I do consider negative liberty as a worthy goal and will be willing to cooperate with free market libertarians to achieve it, it will definitely take the back seat when it conflicts with egalitarianism.

Libertarians love to scream “bloody oppression” when such views are expressed and this is what really gets me annoyed. I can only take so many accusations that “I am trying to force my morality on others” or that I am trying to take away freedoms when I am attempting to achieve the exact opposite: Promote the most freedom for the largest amount of people.

Thus our fundamental difference once again comes down to the classic Egalitarianism VS Freedom or Positive VS Negative Liberty and if we are to have any meaningful discussion, it is this part that we need to argue for the rest of our argument stems from it.

There is no point in expressing my opinion on one policy and have the libertarian exclaim “Aha! But you’re taking away my freedom.” I.Don’t.Care. By allowing you that freedom it would mean that inequality would once again occur and people would suffer as a result. I do not care for your repugnant beliefs that the people are not entitled to escape suffering and if you call me authoritarian one more time I will smack you.

Our freedoms need already to be curtailed in some aspects in order to have a working society. Thus, among others, you do not have the freedom to pay people below the minimum wage and you do not have the freedom to freely pollute your own property. And finally, you do not have the freedom to relinquish your own freedom.

Incidentally this is similar to the classic disagreement between the BSD Licenses and GNU GPL. The BSDs are always accusing the Free Software movement that they are not as free as them because they do not allow the freedom to take away the freedom. GPL is about providing positive freedom while BSD is about proviging negative freedom. The type of freedom that BSD espouses is what enabled Microsoft to get and then grip the market with their Active Directory implementation of LDAP & Kerberos.

It is in a similar way that negative liberty is abused, even without the initiation of force. This is what free market libertarians fail to consider. Things like monopolies, worker exploitation etc are the results and they end up hurting everyone.

On the other hand, what Egalitarianism is about, is not making all people achieve the same (which is again a misunderstanding of the concept) but allowing all people the same freedoms no matter their abilities or social standing. Egalitarianism is not about putting overachievers down, but rather in making sure that inequality is not created because of it.

For example, it is of not unfair if a person making 1M a year is taxed at 80% in order to enable people making 20K to be taxed 10%. The former is still filthy rich and the later can have a comfortable life without struggling for subsistence.

But why is egalitarianism of higher priority than freedom? Because through egalitarianism people truly have a choice in their lives. It allows people to do what they do best even if under capitalism that is not profitable. It makes people happier and it allows people to discard fear which further serves as a catalyst for discarding religion. And most importantly, it is self-sustaining.

When people learn to cooperate in this manner it is difficult for it to change. Cooperative people have already the necessary mentality to unite and oppose creeping inequality and authoritarianism. Free Market Libertarians OTOH, classically with a “Every man for himself” mentality, are doomed to play the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

So dear libertarians and political moderates, if you’re going to debate me on such issues you’re better trying to convince me why Negative liberty is superior to Egalitarianism. Anything else can only end in frustration.