Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Right Wing Fable Examined

When I was a youngster someone (an adult, of course) told me that if all the world's wealth was divided equally, in a few years it would be back in the hands of the present owners. The implication being, the vast majority were too stupid and incompetent to handle wealth and minority ownership was justified. Thus, a hierarchy of ownership and exploitation is a virtual natural law. Some time ago, I came upon a varient of this tale. Ten people are marooned on a South Sea island. After a while, one of the ten ends up owning all the coconut palms and the other nine are working for him.
The South Sea fable begs the question. How and why would this state of affairs come about? The story is told, but there is no explanation given of how this would happen in a practical sense. Let's consider the possibilities;
The "entrepreneur" gathers more coconuts than all the others combined, forcing the rest to bend to his wishes in order to eat. But in the real world of desert island survival, everyone capable of doing so, gathers as many coconuts as the group needs. In the real world of survival people pool the food supply, not grab it all for themselves. Anyone who sought to monopolize the food supply would be considered a danger to the group and would be expelled or killed.
Maybe our "entrepreneur" is a good organizer or knows best how to gather and process coconuts. The rest of the group will be pleased with his skills and respect him for them, but some of them have other important skills as well, and no one will allow themselves to be placed in servitude because of such talents.
If hard work and skill are not the answer, then perhaps trickery. Maybe Mr Would-be Desert Island Capitalist has a deck of cards, and wins the coconuts in a game. Who though, is going to force the payment of the debt? The losers could simply tell him to go to hell.
The entrepreneur plainly lacks a means of enforcement. Suppose he has a revolver in his pocket and imposes his domination that way. Problem is, he has to sleep. And as soon as he does, his cause is lost. He needs a police force or army to impose his monopoly control of the food supply and thus his domination of his fellow castaways.
He could then convince several castaways to go in with him and be his muscle. In return they can share the fruit of the remainder's labour. But it is still seven against three. The rulers must always be together for protection and at least one of them must always be awake. Inevitably, they are separated. One of them gets up at night to pee and never comes back, his head bashed in with a rock. Now there are only two left. At some point, even if armed, they will be taken out by the majority. While the dominating minority can attempt to use force to achieve its ends, if in trouble, it has no state to call on. If for example, a village in Canada successfully expelled its major land owner, he could call on government forces to come to his aid and restore his domination. Not so on a desert island.
What the fable really shows is that class domination and exploitation come not through superior intelligence or hard work, but though the force and violence of the state. There can be no real dominators in a stateless society. If someone attempts to bully or exploit one's fellows, he can be ostracized or killed without fear of retaliation. In the worst case scenario, where a violent minority threatens them, people could simply pick up and move elsewhere, since land possession in stateless societies is usually based on usufruct principles. Try any of these alternatives in a statist system and you have the army and police on your back and you end up in prison or dead.
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