Have we ever had that kind of freedom? Long ago, maybe, when society was tribes of hunter gatherers and where small groups of people likely saw one another as they saw themselves.
Whatever the answers, in this post, I offer reasons why Copiosis is the best answer to the An-Cap idealized society. First, I also explore seven reasons why capitalism can’t even get close to the freedom and sovereignty I think Anarco-Capitalists want.
First, a confession: I had to look up “anarcho-capitalism” because I’d never heard of it before. Thank goodness for Wikipedia:
Anarcho-capitalism is a political philosophy that advocates the elimination of political government—which distorts market signals, breeds corruption, and institutionalizes monopoly—in favor of individual sovereignty, open markets (laissez-faire capitalism) and absence of invasive private property policies. Anarcho-capitalists believe that in the absence of statute (law by decree or legislation), society would improve itself through the discipline of the free market (or what its proponents describe as a “voluntary society”)
Given this definition, I’m not surprised An-Caps believe unfettered capitalism can make real their ideal society. It is after all the most successful economic system we’ve seen so far. Resource Based Economies (RBEs) offer an ideal society An-Caps may believe in. They don’t offer wealth-building opportunities, though. Perhaps An-Caps look askance at RBEs for this reason.
Can we make An-Cap with capitalism?—For all its success, capitalism (free markets) can’t make An-Cap societies a reality. Here’s why.
Creating free(er) markets within capitalism has never worked. Nearly every attempt to create unfettered, free markets in capitalism results in people cheating and gaming the system, requiring government to step in.
I have personal experience with this. In the 90s I was the spokesperson for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the federal power marketing agency operating the huge Northwest electricity transmission grid. BPA was at the center of electric-utility deregulation encouraged by Enron and other private power marketers at the time. As the spokesperson for the agency I saw first hand as market competitors and individual power brokers, as well as employees in some major and minor private utilities, used all kinds of arguably unethical means to enrich themselves. This included manipulating electricity supplies so severely it caused blackouts in the southwestern U.S.
The game-playing was obvious inside BPA—we were in the middle of it all. Whole cities suffered, individuals died due to extreme heat, and many utilities paid far more for their electricity during peak periods than they otherwise would have had this experiment not happened.
The same things are happening as our country’s prison systems, military, and education systems are deregulated. An-Caps might say if markets were allowed to follow their natural course, these problems would go away over time. That may be true. I believe the reason why government steps in is no one (consumers especially) wants to experience the painful early stages. Nor does anyone really know how long it would take for things to stabilize, if they ever would.
I don’t believe they ever would. Why? Capitalism relies on money. Capitalism and money work together creating perverse incentives that motivate people to take advantage of each other.
Capitalism, even in a true free market devoid of government intervention, relies on two-way transactions, which are unstable because sellers always face a conflict of interest. The seller depends on getting the buyer’s money, money she believe she deserves. Sellers are motivated to do everything they can get away with to get what they deserve, including playing on fears and other emotions, manufacturing desire, making things that don’t last, and offering unnecessary services.
I owned a rare breed of cat some years ago. I paid a lot of money for that cat and lovingly cared for it from the time it was a kitten until it died two years later. The cat suffered from early onset renal failure which was typical in the species of cat I purchased. The breeder omitted this important information. Unaware that there was no way to fix this problem, I relied on veterinarians to make my ailing cat better. They offered one diagnostic after another, amounting to a nearly $3,000 vet bill which produced no solution. I had to put the cat to sleep, costing me even more.
In a better system, vets would be honest. Vets I dealt with could have said “Perry, your cat has a problem that this breed often experiences. There’s no point trying to spend money to fix the problem. Best to cut your losses.”
Capitalism provides little incentive for this kind of honesty. Why would a vet offer such an explanation when she can earn thousands from distraught owners who don’t want to lose their pets? I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences. Unfortunately (for buyers) sellers can and do profit from dishonesty. They also benefit from knowledge, which brings me to my next point:
Unequal power in the form of knowledge—Sellers are experts in their field. Their customers usually aren’t. Over time, sellers’ knowledge builds, increasing their advantage in two-way transactions.
For years I owned a luxury German car. As it aged, more and more things needed fixing. Mounting repair bills caused me to question keeping this car. I asked my mechanic (at a reputable non-dealership whom I trusted) multiple times whether I should sell it. I figured he’d give me sound advice as he had served me for many years. His response was “I’m sure this is the last visit you’ll have to make in a while.”
That didn’t happen. Fed up with paying a lot of money to these guys, I asked for a complete five-year service history including the total amount I had spent. Rather than the answer I requested, told me in “cents-per-mile” how much I had spent. That amount didn’t sound so bad. But I didn’t ask for a cents-per-mile answer. I wanted the total amount. The total I had spent fixing that car could have paid for a brand new Honda!
I know what you’re thinking, which is my next reason why capitalism won’t create an An-Cap ideal world:
Caveat emptor!—Bernie Madoff, Enron, Arthur Andersen, payday-loan and rent-to-own companies, my mechanic, and my veterinarian all illustrate why buyers must beware. The incentive to cheat, defraud, and withhold vital information for profit is too strong an incentive to ignore. For the seller, unequal power equals profits. No matter how aware you are as a buyer, you’re always at the mercy of the seller’s superior knowledge.
The transferability of money—Money has so many problems, I’m frankly (mildly) surprised it has remained around so long. I’m referring to any kind of money, not just the dollar or the pound, and I include Bitcoin among the nefarious instruments. The fact that you can transfer money from one person to another is a huge problem because it sanctions any method the seller can get away with to get your money. Really smart people know if your emotions are enflamed, you’ll part with your money more easily. Everyone from armed robbers to charity call-center workers know this and succeed using people’s emotions against them. So long as money is transferrable, you must be on guard. So long as you are at a knowledge disadvantage, you must beware. So long as a seller must get your money to prosper, you must be wary. Being on guard, worried if you’ve been had, if you got a good deal, even if it is subtle, is not being free, is it?
The amorality of money—Money doesn’t care how it’s used. It can be used in many ways. You pay someone to cheat another. It can be used to fund all kinds of anti-freedom industries from human-trafficking to child pornography to peddling addictive drugs, leaving millions of people decidedly un-free. Money’s amorality allows governments, or certain organizations within government, to use it to conduct macro-scale anti-freedom campaigns (wars, covert government destabilizations, and more) free from oversight. As was demonstrated by the Volkswagen scandal, people will willingly cheat to obtain other people’s money. Money and government go hand in hand by the way. It is very difficult to have one without the other. So long as money’s amorality and transferability motivates cheating, someone must reign in the cheats. Monetary exchange therefore requires government. I think An-Caps agree: It’s hard to have government and be free.
Market externalities—Capitalism creates externalities so obscene, the only reason I think humanity accepts them is because it believes they are unavoidable. Crime, pollution, poverty, homelessness, destitution, exploitation, wealth inequality are just a few. None of these, in my opinion, can exist simultaneously with freedom. If you’re worried about becoming poor, homeless, exploited, or worried about the poor, exploited, or homeless coming to take your stuff, you’re not free. Capitalism cannot solve these problems because they are inherent in the system itself.
Unbridled greed—Capitalism motivates some people to do whatever they can get away with to get other people’s money. It is how one accumulates wealth in capitalism. Wealth accumulation, therefore, requires ever-creative ways to get other people to give you their money. This wouldn’t be so bad if money were not amoral and were not transferrable between people. But capitalism with money’s incentives spur a level of desire for other people’s money, a desire so great that people become numb to the effects their behaviors have on other people. I think that’s a problem.
The need to earn a living—Since nearly everything you need to keep your body alive requires money, you must invest your otherwise free time working to “earn” those things. It’s not practical for people to choose not to work. Choosing not to work would be an expression of freedom. So in capitalism, you can’t chose not to work and thrive at the same time. It’s hard to see how a system requiring you to work can simultaneously enable freedom.
Want Anarcho-Capitalism? You want Copiosis—What’s interesting about Copiosis, viewed in light of Wikipedia’s definition, is how it delivers everything An-Caps are looking for. Its inherent design eliminates all the issues above, while creating a context for people to fully exercise their freedom. Let’s take a look by dismantling Wikipedia’s definition.
Individual sovereignty—In Copiosis no one tells anyone what to do or not do. You’re free to behave the way you wish. There are no laws regulating markets because markets are well managed by the net-benefit algorithm, administered by the Copiosis Organization. You therefore have supreme authority over yourself and your property. How you interact with others, how you use your property, is up to you.
Understand, though, this sovereignty comes with enormous responsibility, responsibility hardly anyone must face today, particularly in their work activities. So while you may choose not to work, you will likely still thrive as far as basic necessities are concerned. If you’re wanting to enjoy fantastic luxuries that Copiosis enables, you’re not likely to if you’re not making people and the planet better off.
Open markets—No one directs, regulates, or restricts what you can offer to others, nor does anyone restrict how much you can be rewarded. The net-benefit algorithm is open source so everyone knows the criteria that must be met to build wealth. The algorithm is designed to inspire creators to make increasingly fantastic products and services that simultaneously protect—or better yet, enhance—the environment. If you disagree with how the algorithm works, you can have an influence over that, but your rationale better be sound.
The Copiosis market is open to anyone who has something to offer. Since there are no barriers to anything, competition is illogical—you prosper when you cooperate with others, not compete against them. The market also is open to anyone who wants to consume anything. There are no prices in capitalist terms, yet producers control how much reward a person must have to obtain their creations. This control does not influence how much wealth a producer can accumulate—the algorithm does, so there is no conflict of interest between buyers and sellers.
Absence of invasive private property policies—All property in Copiosis is privately owned. This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the innovation, but also a powerful concept allowing things to get done much faster and more efficiently than it does today. “Privately owned” in Copiosis is not the same as it is in capitalism. In Copiosis, private property means property “managed by a single individual who decides how best to employ that property to benefit people and the planet.” What motivates property owners to “do the right thing?” Their desire to build wealth. The only way to build wealth in Copiosis is to satisfy people while preserving the environment.
The absence of laws—There are no laws or statutes to speak of in a full blown Copiosis society. We’re not completely sure what our innovation does to the Justice System in terms of laws and statutes. We are sure the people within that system and their behavior change radically. No longer are people paid for putting people in jail or enforcing laws. They are rewarded by making people safe. This new form of justice makes laws and statutes irrelevant. But we need to investigate this further as we move further along our transition strategy.
Improved society through the free market—Other than a full-blown RBE, which I have explained already is an impractical solution, Copiosis is the only socioeconomic innovation which creates world-wide, massive, and rapid improvements in society through a 100-percent freely operating market. The market has no barriers to entry thrown up by competitors trying to preserve market share. There are no patents. Producers’ raw materials and capital goods are provided to them at no cost (including labor) allowing these people and their cooperative teams everything they need to create new and better products and services.
I hope you’re getting an idea that Copiosis offers something unique. This post was not intended to answer all questions it might provoke. If you’re interested in reading more about Copiosis, you should check out this post, as well as our transition plan. This video also offers a 5-minute overview of how the innovation works. Posting a question in the comments section will generate an answer, or you can join the conversation on Facebook.
An-Caps seriously wanting to see their Xanadu, where freedom and sovereignty are available to anyone, should learn more about Copiosis. Should it resonate, you might want to share it with others.