Flint Jones on Thu, 18 May 2000 22:08:44 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Working for Symantec and a local ISP turn an "anarcho"-capitalistto Libertarian Socialism

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 17 May 2000 16:06:33 -0400 (EDT)
From: Flint Jones <flint@mobtown.org>
To: iu560-l@iww.org
Subject: How an "anarch-capitalist" became a libertarian socialist (fwd)
Resent-Date: Wed, 17 May 2000 13:03:31 -0700
Resent-From: iu560-l@iww.org

Details about one workers transition from being a Mr. Bit, through having
to work for a living in our Industry (Symantec and a local Eugene ISP). 


Date: Thu, 11 May 2000 00:20:23 -0700
From: Chris Wilson <chris@cw0.net>
To: jah@iww.org
Subject: How an "anarch-capitalist" became a libertarian socialist

Hi Jamal,

I'm not sure if you remember me.  We had a friendly conversation a couple years
back.  At that point, I was an "anarcho-capitalist", and I had written a
rebuttal to the Anarchist FAQ on the web.  I thought you might be interested to
know that I'm no longer an "anarcho-capitalist", and that my views are now much
more similiar to yours!

Below, I've included a recent writing of mine that explains why I changed my
political views.  To summarize why I changed my views, principle was always
more important to me than profit or economic efficiency.  I think for many
capitalist types, libertarianism is only incidental to their class interests.
For me, an advocacy of capitalism was always contingent upon the principles
that I advocated.  When I finally came to view my principles as being
inconsistent with my view of property rights, it was the latter that had to
recieve the boot!  I hope you enjoy the story that follows below.



A couple years back, I wrote a rebuttal the section of The Anarchist FAQ that 
covers anarcho-capitalism.  I took the rebuttal down because I didn't have the 
time or inclination to maintain it.  What follows is my story of how I
eventually came to reject "anarcho-capitalism" in its entirety while coming to
embrace libertarian socialism.  This transition took progressed slowly overtime.
Before I graduated college, I expelled my former belief that one could claim
private property rights in land, as it's not a produced good.  Because one who
claims land is placing a restriction upon the liberty of others to use it or to
travel by way of it, the claimant should compensate them by paying a land value
tax to earn exclusive rights to it.

Despite my new Georgist land-socialist views, I still advocated a capitalist
economic system with respect to produced good.  However, I did become much more
critical of corporations, and I became disillusioned with other libertarians
for their lack of focus upon the injustices perpetrated by corporations.  I
wanted to abolish corporate charters, subsidies, intellectual property,
regulatory privelages, land grants, etc., as I considered them violations of
liberty.  If you pressed a right-libertarian about the privilages corporations
receive, they'd usually say, "Oh, well I'm against those", but they would
hardly ever take the initiative in directing any criticism against them.  More
often than not, they'd extol the alleged "virtues" of corporations.

When I first became an "anarcho-capitalist", I thought corporate abuses could
be avoided in an economic realm in which corporations didn't enjoy as many
regulatory privilages.  I initially liked all the "dot coms" and "ecommerce"
companies -- I considered the Internet industry to be one in which free market
principles were respected, contrary to so many other industries.  However, in
the past year, I've seen all these companies become just as ruthless as any
multinational.  I thought that all of the "dot coms" were small because their
industry functioned according to free market principles, but in reality, they
were just small *to begin with*.  Most of them are small no longer.
Furthermore, the more prosperous of these companies are now seeking to benefit
from state privilage, which is evident in the many intellectual property
lawsuits that are currently pending in the ecommerce industry.

When I was discovering this (and becoming a hardcore Linux user in the
process), I was working as a customer service representative in a large
software company called Symantec.  Actually *working*, instead of going to
school, gave me a new respect for organized labor movements.  Additionally, it
gave me an appreciation for the extent to which corporations screw their
customers.  As I spent the next six months working for this producer of buggy
software, I came to the realization that my job involved little more than
covering this company's ass.  All of us learned the most efficient methods to
rationalize and justify Symantec's irresponsible way of doing business when
handling irate customer's each day.  Most other reps bought into Symantec's
rationalizations -- most of the employees, including the supervisors, sincerely
believed that Symantec provides "world class" service to the customers (ha!).
I'm ashamed to say that I bought into *some* of the propaganda as a result of 
searching for ways to pacify irate customers.  However, Symantec eventually 
adopted some nasty new policies which screwed the customers more than ever
before, and these policies were so obviously indefensible that I had to end my
relationship with the company on general principle.  I left completely
disillusioned with corporate culture.

Although I favored free markets, I did so because I considered them to be
necessitated by the principles that I held.  However, around the time that I
quit working at Symantec, it finally truely sunk in that businesses could *care
less* about principles.  The questions "Is it right?" or "Is it just?" do not
even enter the minds of the decision makers of capitalist organisations.
Principles were beside the point, in their eyes.  Although I was a
right-libertarian, I held the views that I did because I genuinely believed that
they followed logically from the principle of self-government, which I
advocated.  Even though I knew that *many* capitalist businesses were lacking
in any principle whatsoever, it was very disheartening to learn over time that 
this fact applies to *most* businesses.

A week after I left Symantec, I got lucky and snagged a job providing tech
support at a local ISP in Eugene.  I thought to myself that this company would 
be fundamentally different, considering that it's a local business instead of a
corporation.  While I do greatly prefer working for the ISP to working for the
mega-software giant, it quickly became obvious to me that the motivations and
principles (or lack thereof) of the president and major shareholders of the ISP
are no different from that of any corporate capitalist.  Although this is
currently a smaller company,  our president has his eyes on dominating the
entire state.  We've already begun buying up small local ISP's throughout the
state of Oregon, and it's for certain that we'll eventually move away from
offering fast and personalized service.  Employees would prefer to serve Eugene
alone.  The engineers won't need to take day trips across the state to make
fixes as a result of there being no employees in other locations, tech support
reps won't have to deal with irate customers who are angry that there are no
employees to solve problems in areas other than Eugene.  But who cares about 
being accountable to employees or customers when you can become another 
Earthlink or Transport Logic?

I've graduated from tech support to a more advanced position within the
company, and I have no plans on leaving anytime soon.  However, acquiring this
position at this local company made me seriously consider my commitment to
capitalism in any form.

Throughout the past few months, I've been carefully studying the views of the
"socialist anarchists".  (Of course, my view now is that the term "socialist
anarchist" is a redundancy, and "anarcho-capitalist" an oxymoron.)  I was still
a libertarian -- the moral principles that I advocated were no different from
what they were before.  However, I no longer believed that they entailed a
capitalistic scheme of property rights.  Before, I was of the opinion that one
could enter into a morally binding agreement that requires the sacrifice of 
one's liberty in exchange for a wage.  My position was that a worker would be 
committing fraud against the employer if he attempted to retain rights to the 
full product of his labor.  My argument was that if an employer has a 
legitimate prior claim ("legitimate", referring to anything acquired through 
free exchange, production or gift) upon capital being used, then he has the 
right to dictate its terms of use.  The laborer doesn't have the right to 
anything more than what the capitalist agrees to give, just like the 
capitalist doesn't have the right to take anything more than what the laborer 
agrees to give.  (Of course, I didn't realize in my early "anarcho-capitalist" 
days that capitalists almost always demand more than what the worker initially 
agrees to give ;) 

The position that separates my new political philosophy from the one that I
formerly held can be summarized as follows: One cannot enter into morally
binding agreements that restrict one's liberty to be self-governing.  It has
always been my view that one cannot be bound by an agreement to be a slave.
Although one can enter into a contract that mandates one to serve as a slave,
one should be considered free to cease honoring that contract at any time.
However, I now apply this principle to wage slavery in addition to chattel 
slavery.  When I was working out my views regarding this issue, I decided to 
simply my decision by subjecting myself to the following thought experiment: 
Jones is a individual who has zero access to capital, which excludes him from 
being self-employed.  He must must find somebody who will share access to 
capital if he is to continue to eat.  Fortunately, Smith has plenty of capital,
and is willing to share it -- under certain conditions of course.  Smith says 
to Jones that he can use Smith's capital to produce, *provided* that Jones 
engages in 90% of the productivity while Smith engages in 10%.  Also, Jones 
will only receive 10% of the revenues despite all of his hard work, while 
Smith gets to keep 90% for his hoggish self.  Jones agrees to these conditions 
because he has no other option.  The question is: Is Jones morally bound by 
his agreement to allow Smith to keep 8 in 9 parts of what what Jones produces?

The capitalist, of course, answers, "Yes", and I probably once would have given
the same answer, even though I knew such an arrangement would be grossly
unfair.  My answer to the question now is a resounding "NO!"  Smith is not
entitled to 90% of the revenues under these circumstances.  That entitlement
belongs to Jones, and Jones is in no way obligated to let Smith hoard it all to

Thus, my transition to libertarian socialism is complete.

I still consider myself an individualist anarchist, of course.  I'm most
attracted to the ideas of Tucker and Proudhon, although I find the works of
Kropotkin, Bakunin, Mallatesta, Rocker, etc to be very valuable as well.  I
don't see the individualist and collectivist varieties of anarchism as being
mutually exclusive anyway.  Under anarchism, nobody would be forced to join a
commune or a federation.  If one wished to be self-employed as an artisan or
to join a collective that competes freely within a market-based mutualist
economic framework, one would be free to do so.  I don't get along well with
groups in the first place, so I consider my preference for individualist
anarchism to be just that -- a preference.

I live in Eugene, Oregon, which you probably know is a hotbed of anarchist
political activity.  (Even on mainstream national news, numerous references
were made to "those Eugene anarchists" ;-)  I watch the public access cable
shows that these guys broadcast, which are interesting, but I'm not certain
that I have a place in the local anarchist movement.  From what I've 
experienced, most Eugene anarchists tend to favor the "anarcho-primitivism" of 
local writer John Zerzan -- the movement seems to be very strongly influenced 
by excessive hippie'ism.  Although I don't have any problems with hippies, I'
m not one of them -- not by a long shot -- and I don't get along very well 
with many of them.  Plus, I *like* technology.  While I agree that technology 
often develops in such a way that allows authoritarians to oppress us more 
efficiently, I don't think that this necessarily need be the case.  For 
example, I hold that the Internet can have liberatory effects upon society and 
individuals.  I also do not agree with the notion that industrial production 
must necessitate ecological destruction -- It shouldn't, provided that 
producers internalize their own costs.

I also don't like the fact that many anarchists in Eugene consider the act of
throwing a brick through a merchant's window to be legitimate political action.
When the group of "anarchists" ransacked a McDonald's in London during the May
Day protests, I'm certain that the employees were fearing for their lives at
the time.  Yes, McDonald's is evil, as are many of the companies that face
property destruction during these protests.  However, it's not anarchist to
terrorize members of the working class as they work their slave jobs at 
corporate fast food venues.  One would think that anarchists would wish to lend
their support to the workers at these establishments, as opposed to frightening
them to death by bursting in wearing ski masks and hoods.  It was also my
impression that anarchists wish the workers to acquire control over their means
of production, not to have it destroyed.

However, I know that the anarchist/autonomist community here in Eugene and
throughout the world in general is diverse, and it's not necessary to get along
with everybody.  Plus, I know that I have far more in common with the
countercultural types here in Eugene than I ever will with the members of the
capitalist class, even if I spend a large portion of my time each day in front
of a computer instead of engaging in tree-occupation tactics in local
forestlands.  Anarchism is about people empowering themselves in ways best
suited to their personalities and livelihoods.  I think it would be cool to
provide free shell (SSH) access on my machine to people within the local
community who would like to set up web sites or email lists that focus upon
causes or interests that are important to them.  As one of the more tech savvy
anarchists in Eugene, maybe I should take advantage of an opportunity to
demonstrate to the luddites around here that computers can be used for purposes
that aren't authoritarian (and that, in fact, they can be used for purposes
that are quite anti-authoritarian).

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