The words “free market” and “capitalism” seem to be equivocal to quite a few anarcho-capitalists. Namely, all of them. Similarly, many socialists dismiss the free market as terminally unfree or an implicit contradiction in terms. This has inspired a great many fruitless arguments wherein the socialist definition of capitalism and the capitalist definition of capitalism (two completely different things) are contrasted in a bout of contrarian confusion. Of course, misunderstandings abound on both sides. Capitalists often assume a socialist policy of centralization, and socialists often assume a capitalist policy of decentralization – two things that in no way entail one another.
In order to proceed with this article, I am forced to define my employment of the ideologies in question. First, capitalism. Capitalism, as I refer to it, is the practice of collecting rent, interest, or profit from someone based upon a claim of ownership.
Socialism, a I refer to it, is the society where every individual is entitled access to the product of their labor. The “market”, as I define it, is simply any place where people congregate to trade the acquired products of their labor, whether those products were acquired justly or unjustly.
Here is the common capitalist objection to Libertarian Socialism – that the positive liberty advocated somehow conflicts with the right of the worker to use the product of their labor. The resolution to this paradox is, “the watch belongs to you, the watch-factory to the people”. What does this mean? It means the factory or farm is controlled “democratically”, and in the most anarchistic way imaginable. There are no quotas, and there is no boss. There is merely an expert on the scene at all times to answer any technical question about production. In this way, anyone who wishes to show up at the farm may exert their labor upon the primitive land to reap their own crop, without being compelled to subject any part of their wealth to some exploitative authority (as would be guaranteed by capitalist employment or purchase). This does not mean that donations to the farm as a whole, or even an individual expert that frequents it, would be banned. It simply means a strict adherence to the principles that:
A. cost is the limit of price
B. labor is the only real cost
Privately owned homes, spaces of personal existence not large enough or fertile enough to qualify as a “means of production” would not be likewise collectivized democratically. The libertarian socialist does not rebel against the private in private property, they rebel against the property (possession used to extract rent, interest, or profit). This allows for what I have termed free market socialism. Another common misrepresentation of socialist motive is the idea that mutually beneficial trade is “capitalistic” or “exploitative”. As long as I’ve been around the anarchist scene, (not that long, but long enough) I’m sure that there are some such misguided socialists out there to which this strawman might apply. But it does not apply to my socialism. If two people, who have justly acquired their possessions wish to trade these possessions, they may. They may even set a time and place for it, making a market.
Now, I can already hear your next question. What definitively qualifies something as a MoP? If, for example, a man were to make himself a hammer through his labor and trade, the hammer would exist as both a product and valid means of production.
The rule is simple – the right of the hammer-maker to access the product of his labor takes precedence. Collectivization in any form must must must must must always be unanimously consensual. In this way, free market socialism is not a “revolutionary” ideology. It is an ideology rooted fundamentally in the doctrine of methodological individualism, which asserts that society as a transcendental meta-organism does not exist. There are only individuals. Before the concerned “social” anarchist misunderstand me, I suggest reviewing the great anarcho-communist Emma Goldman’s immortal treatise “The Individual, Society, And The State”. Even the staunchest collectivists admit some degree of methodological individualism. It is precisely this individualism that entails an opposition to every coercive revolution. Revolutionary anarchists are those anarchists that still harbor the last traces of lust for death on a battlefield, a mystical glory reserved for martyrs and soldiers. A free market socialist believes that if you don’t allow your worst ideological opponent to dance during and through it’s days unscathed, no revolution can be just.
If any questions remain of free market socialism, I will readily answer them at anyone’s sincere behest.