Anarchy and socialism sound like drastically opposing idiologies… and frankly, they are, but they have significant similarities that are often overlooked. The biggest one is motivation.
Why are you socialist? In my personal experience, anyone I’ve ever asked about the subject has told me they are socialist because they feel it is the system most likely to help others. They feel that capitalism is too selfish, and that we need to take care of each other. I personally feel the same way. I don’t feel that it is my obligation to help others, but like you, I do feel a compulsion in that direction. If I stopped my train of thought there, I would probably also be socialist. On the surface that is it’s entire goal. The fastest route to helping the poor is to take money from everyone who has it, and share it with those who don’t. If I were being honest, I’d also say that this is true. Taking from one person and giving to another is the fastest solution. It’s also the worst.
Consider the people living on native reserves in Canada. I’ve written about this before but to summarize, the socialist behaviour towards these groups of people has harmed them more than it’s helped. Money is taken from other Canadians and handed to those living on the reserves. The end result is actually devastating to those who are receiving the money. It conditions them to behave in ways that are against the socialist interest, and even their own interests.
Now obviously, that’s a pretty big blanket statement, but you’ll find the reserves that don’t fit that description are more the exception than the rule.
So if we care about the poor what should we do to help them? Just handing them money obviously isn’t helping. Well, what happens if we stop giving them money. Without that income, someone without money would need to work in order to gain money. That sounds simple enough, so let’s follow that idea and see where it takes us.
First of all, there’s this big blind spot everyone seems to have when it comes to making money, and that’s self-employment. You don’t need to be employed to have an income. If you’re able to make things, or you have a talent in some area, there’s a good chance you could just go out and profit from it. The socialist concern about this is that competition should be controlled. The idea of a big company putting a little company out of business is unpleasant, so because of that and other reasons, business ownership should be regulated. These regulations actually cost money and are very complicated to deal with. Without a relevant education and startup capital, starting a business is nearly impossible. Again, the socialist solution to help these people actually ensures they will not succeed. Eliminate these laws, and the poor will have the option to fend for themselves.
Self-employment isn’t an option for everyone. Many will need or prefer getting a job. The two biggest obstacles to getting a good income are education and experience. If you have neither of these then you can still get work as an “unskilled labourer”, but at this point, the employer won’t value your work very much. The natural socialist solution to this is to force the employer to pay more than the labour is worth by implementing a minimum wage. It seems to make sense on the surface. This way, the employer will make a little less, but the employee will make enough to live off.
It’s not that easy though. Let’s say I run a factory and I want to pay someone $3/hour to sweep the floors. By keeping the floors clean, I’ve been able to calculate that the efficiency gain profits me about $4/hour. It’s clearly worth it for me to pay that $3/hour if someone is willing to do it. But now a new minimum wage law comes into play and I am told I have to pay at least $5/hour to an employee regardless of what they profit me. Well, now I actually lose money by paying someone to sweep the floors. I don’t give the sweeper a raise. I’m forced to fire him, and buy some Roombas.
But who on earth would ever work for $3/hour? You can’t live off of that!
First point, not all employees are concerned about a livable wage. High school students often work at low paying part time jobs, that would be far too little to live off, but that doesn’t matter. It gives them some money to spend, and some employment experience they’ll be able to use later.
How much money do college students pay for their education? What are they getting an education for? The education is a way to increase the individual’s value to an employer. As mentioned above, another way to increase your value to an employer is through experience. So while one individual is paying out for an education, another person can be earning money while gaining experience. It’s probably more valuable than some other non-monetary benefits gained from some employers, like health benefits and vacation time, as it increases your value and increases your future earning potential. While the sweeper may only be getting $3/hour, they’ll be able to leverage that experience into a better paying job in the future. A minimum wage actually makes getting that experience harder, if not impossible, forcing them into the education solution which costs them money that we’ve already determined they don’t have.
The end result is people who actually can’t earn any money because of a flawed system that was designed to help them.
This has all been about unintentional implications socialism has on the poor, but we haven’t even pointed out the fact that it creates more poor people.
The simplest way to see this is to consider a single rational person who sees a system that gives them two options. You can either spend each day working hard and creating profits for yourself and others, or you can simply benefit from the labour of others. A socialist system incentivizes abuse of the system. Rationally looking at it, it would make sense for people to choose not to work. It’s the path of least resistance.
This pattern continues to harm the economy. With fewer people working, the number of people that can be taxed is decreased, so the amount of taxes taken from each individual must increase. This then further incentivizes people to stop working, since they get less and less benefit from it as time goes on. It eventually becomes more profitable to stop working. Obviously, this system would collapse given enough time.
Your emotional desire to see people given the best chance at success in life cannot be fulfilled by the state. It can be fulfilled by anarchy though. Even if we simply said that the best thing for everyone is to just leave everyone else alone to take care of themselves, that would be better than the harm we’d be doing with socialism. But that’s not what anarchy is saying. Anarchy says, we shouldn’t be forcing people to do anything. It’s that use of force that causes so much trouble. If we want to help others, we should help others! Let’s help find jobs for the unemployed, and get them set up with charitable organizations that can help them survive in the meantime. Let’s help educate people on managing finances and ways to live off less money. Let’s make it more socially acceptable for adults to get a roommate. None of this requires any force, and lets us satisfy our craving to see people taken care of.
I’m betting you’re more anarchist than you thought. You just haven’t realized it yet. 🙂