Market Fundamentalism as a Religion by Chet Gaines


Modern economic theory is presented as a science. Elaborate mathematics and diagrams are employed to derive principles that are assumed to be universal among economic actors, even though the specialized math used is a “dated version” (Keen 6) and such diagrams “often contain outright fallacies” (Keen 14). After a closer examination of the dominant economic theory and its critics, one might come to the conclusion that it is actually a belief system quite similar to a religion, not an actual scientific study. The following definition of religion is given by Clifford Geertz:

 “(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.” (Bowie 20)

It is simple to see that economic theory is a system of symbols, that it establishes moods and motivations, and that it formulates a conception of existence and order. What is less obvious to the casual observer is the aura of factuality economic conceptions are clothed in. The content that follows should assist the reader in understanding how some of that aura operates to create the realism of economic motivation. It is because of this realism that people believe in economic concepts, regardless of the facts, and that belief in turn gives the concepts social power.

 “The belief that economic theory is sound, and that it alone considers ‘the big picture’, is the major reason why economics has gained such an ascendancy over public policy. Economists, we are told, know what is best for society because economic theory knows how a market economy works, and how it can be made to work better, to everyone’s ultimate benefit… If this proposition were true, then economic theory would be clear, unequivocal, unsullied, and empirically verified. It is nothing of the sort.” (Keen 3-4)

First, let’s review the creation story of the monetary market, the birth of money.

 “The story of money for economists always begins with a fantasy world of barter.” (Graeber 23)

The creation story of the monetary market economy lies in the myth of barter economies. Though “no example of a barter economy… has ever been described, let alone the emergence from it of money” and “all available ethnography suggests that there never has been such a thing” (Graeber 29), economists have long insisted that this model of economy led to the use of currency. One of the most well-known, though not the earliest, expressions of this myth comes from the work of Adam Smith, who had a specific motivation for telling the story.

 “For economists, it is in a very real sense the most important story ever told. It was by telling it, in the significant year of 1776, that Adam Smith, professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow, effectively brought the discipline of economics into being… it is, as I say, the great founding myth of the discipline of economics.” (Graeber 24-25)

Though people as early as Aristotle supposed the existence of a barter economy, no one was actually sure of how the transition from barter to monetary economics occurred. The prevailing assumption at Smith’s time was that since governments issued money, the origin of money must have been intertwined with the origin of governments. Smith objected to this notion, preferring the assumption that money and private property predated political institutions. In the process of recording his creation story of money, he created economics.

 “…this story played a crucial role not only in founding the discipline of economics, but in the very idea that there was something called “the economy,” which operated by its own rules, separate from moral or political life, that economists could take as their field of study.” (Graeber 27)

The myth of barter economics never changed, even as more information became available regarding the practices of early economies. In the latter part of the 1800’s Stanley Jevons wrote “what has come to be considered the classic book on the origins of money” (Graeber 29) and borrowed from Smith a hypothetical description of barter in a Native American economy, though accurate descriptions of such economies existed and didn’t match at all what Smith had invented about their culture.

 “Around that same time, missionaries, adventurers, and colonial administrators were fanning out across the world, many bringing copies of Smith’s book with them, expecting to find the land of barter. None ever did.” (Graeber 29)

The myth of the barter economy lives on even today, though economists sometimes avoid claiming it as historical fact by presenting it as a thought exercise. Economic textbooks often invite the reader to “imagine an economy something like today’s, except with no money” then point out that it “would have been decidedly inconvenient” and conclude for the reader that “people must have invented money for the sake of efficiency” (Graeber 23). It is this unyielding attitude in the face of historical data that leads one to question the scientific nature of economic inquiry. Why should our history of money be “precisely backwards” (Graeber 40) with the assumption that economic activity began with barter instead of debt?

 “The existence of credit and debt has always been something of a scandal for economists, since it’s almost impossible to pretend that those lending and borrowing money are acting on purely “economic” motivations (for instance, that a loan to a stranger is the same as a loan to one’s cousin); it seems important, therefore, to begin the story of money in an imaginary world from which credit and debt have been entirely erased.” (Graeber 22)

The story is told without debt so that we can assume the concept of economic motivations to be sound, even though all ethnography suggests otherwise. This violation of economists’ assumption about human behavior leads us to our next economic myth, the rational self-interested actor.

 “In practically no human society examined under controlled conditions have the majority of people consistently behaved selfishly.” (Benkler 14)

The “dominant assumption in Western society about human motivation” has been that “human beings are basically selfish creatures, driven by their own interests” (Benkler 2). The major debate has been not whether this assumption is warranted, but rather how to manage this seemingly intrinsic quality of humans. There have been two basic solutions put forth to this problem: the force of the state, known as the Leviathan, and the magic of the market, or the Invisible Hand. Over time society has alternated between these two solutions, finding one to be appropriate for a while, then reverting back to the other. But before we argue about which mechanism we should use to manage this intrinsic selfishness of ours, we should first question our assumption of self-interest.

 “Perhaps humankind might not be so inherently selfish after all. Though the work of hundreds of scientists, we have begun to see mounting evidence in psychology, organizational sociology, political science, experimental economics, and elsewhere that people are in fact more cooperative and selfless, or at least behave far less selfishly, than most economists and others previously assumed. This isn’t just theory; dozens of field studies have identified cooperative systems, often more stable and effective than equivalent incentive-based ones. Even in the study of human biology, evolutionary biologists and psychologists are now finding neural and possibly genetic evidence of a human predisposition to cooperate. Though it may sound counterintuitive, there is much evidence that evolution may actually favor individuals (and societies that include these individuals) who are driven to cooperate with or help others, even at cost to themselves.” (Benkler 13)

While the presumption of universal selfishness has been shown to be faulty, the dominant economic thinking still reflects this age-old myth about our motivations. This assumption has led to an interesting development over the past few hundred years in economic thinking, the deity-like character known as the Invisible Hand. This concept has its roots in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. In the second chapter of the fourth book, Smith writes about a hypothetical preference for domestic rather than foreign industry. This preference for one’s own nation leads to social gain for the nation as well, which was not part of the original intention of the preference. Smith’s basic claim was that this and other selfish acts can lead to social gain. This is the only place in the entirety of the whole five book series where the Invisible Hand is to be found, and yet it has become a rather prevalent metaphor in discussion of the market, reflecting the larger theme of Wealth of Nations.

 “Smith’s Wealth of Nations argued that because humans are inherently self-interested and human decision making is driven by the rational weighing of costs and benefits, our action in a free market would tend to serve the common good. In other words, in our pursuit of self-interest we would work to fulfill one another’s needs, not because we care about one another’s well-being, but because it is mutually advantageous to do so.” (Benkler 4)

There may be some element of truth in indirectly assisting another through one’s own activities, but should such a mechanism be relied on for social well-being? Faith in the Invisible Hand metaphor has grown to justify all sorts of economic and financial behaviors that demonstrably reduce social well-being. By the close of the twentieth century, a narrower and more exaggerated version of Smith’s self-interested actor had been embraced by economists and business leaders. Unfortunately, when applied incorrect assumptions have real world consequences. Joseph Stiglitz, Chief Economist and Vice-President of the World Bank, has pointed out that time after time economic crises have been “precipitated by economists.” This is in spite of the fact that the economy now “looks a lot more like the economic textbook ideal than did the world of the 1950s” (Keen 2).

 “Though mainstream economics began by assuming that this hedonistic, individualistic approach to analyzing consumer demand was intellectually sound, it ended up proving that it was not.” (Keen 23)

The facts are that we have followed “erroneous beliefs and ways of thinking about human nature” (Benkler 19), and that this model has permeated “not only… the business world or… the markets” (Benkler 10) but every facet of our lives.

 “…our existing social and economic systems – from our hierarchical business models, to our punitive legal system, to our market-based approaches to education – are often designed with the wrong model of who we are, and why we do what we do.” (Benkler 14)

How do we come to these faulty notions of what economic behavior means? And how are such notions maintained? These are learned beliefs that result from specific training in economic theory that has its own versions of mathematics and statistics and that is also “ridden with internal inconsistencies” (Keen 18).

 “Non-economists may criticize the economic representation of a human being as a totally self-interested entity, but they probably expect this economic representation to be internally consistent. It is not.” (Keen 26)

One of the problematic features of economic theory is its ability to “start with some key proposition, and then contradict that proposition at a later stage” (Keen 18). Professor Keen points out in his book Debunking Economics that economic theory assumes consumers to be both unique and identical in their behavior in order to resolve the issue of being “unable to extrapolate” the behavior of an individual into a coherent analysis of “society as the simple sum of its individual members” (Keen 26-27). But if such contradictions are as simple to recognize as Keen makes them sound, then why is it that most students of economics seem not to recognize these contradictions?

 “Unlike many other critiques of economic theory, most mainstream academic economists are aware of this problem, but they pretend that the failure can be managed with a couple of assumptions. Yet the assumptions themselves are so absurd that only someone with a grossly distorted sense of logic could accept them. That grossly distorted sense of logic is acquired in the course of a standard education in economics.” (Keen 27)

Keen explains that “most introductory economics textbooks present a sanitized, uncritical rendition of conventional economic theory” (Keen 5) with conclusions “which would apply if the theory had no logical flaws” (Keen 27). Many only take an introductory course and move on to career oriented courses in accounting, finance or management where these concepts go unchallenged.

The minority of students who do persevere with their economic education learn the techniques of economics analysis “with little to no discussion of whether these techniques are actually intellectually valid.” Critical literature is “simply left out” of the instructional material and students are taught “specious assumptions” that resolve observed contradictions (Keen 5).

 “However, most students accept these assumptions because their training leaves them both insufficiently literate and insufficiently numerate. Modern-day economics students are insufficiently literate because economics education eschews the study of the history of economic thought. Even a passing acquaintance with this literature exposes the reader to critical perspectives on conventional economic theory – but students today receive no such exposure. They are insufficiently numerate because the material which establishes the intellectual weaknesses of economics is complex. Understanding this literature in its raw form requires an appreciation of some quite difficult areas of mathematics – concepts which require up to two years of undergraduate mathematical training to understand. Curiously, though economists like to intimidate other social scientists with the mathematical rigour of their discipline, most economists do not have this level of mathematical education.” (Keen 5)

Keen goes on to elaborate about the problems of gaining a mathematical education through economics courses. He explains that the math used in economics courses is isolated from current mathematical methods, which would “undermine much of economic theory” (Keen 6) if applied. The reasoning for having separate courses for economic math is to teach specific concepts related to economics not covered in a more general math course, but the problem is that this separation has led to “peculiar versions of mathematics and statistics” (Keen 6) by not keeping up-to-date with modern mathematical methods.

 “Economics students therefore graduate from Masters and PhD programs with an effectively vacuous understanding of economics, no appreciation of the intellectual history of their discipline, and an approach to mathematics which hobbles both their critical understanding of economics, and their ability to appreciate the latest advances in mathematics and other sciences. A minority of these ill-informed students themselves go on to be academic economists, and then repeat the process.” (Keen 6)

The process Keen lays out is more like the training program of a religion than a scientific discipline of skepticism and falsification. Myths like the barter economy and the self-interested actor are encouraged, while the evidence against these concepts goes undigested. These tales function more as cosmologically orienting stories than they do actual principles and laws of the physical universe. Furthermore, fresh views of our economic possibilities are hindered by market dogmatism which maintains the status quo.

A less indoctrinated view of what economics is reveals more than just a few myths, but a new economic paradigm about to unfold. The technology of automation is advancing more than ever, challenging human labor not only physically but also cognitively. Algorithms and robotics are being used to perform tasks once thought to be exclusively in the realm of human labor. The resulting displacement of workers by the automation of labor can be termed technological unemployment, a major factor in our current economic troubles.

 “The ranks of the unemployed and underemployed are growing daily in North America, Europe, and Japan. Even developing nations are facing increasing technological unemployment as transnational companies build state-of-the-art high-tech production facilities all over the world, letting go millions of laborers who can no longer compete with the cost efficiency, quality control, and speed of delivery achieved by automated manufacturing… Life as we know it is being altered in fundamental ways.” (Rifkin 5)

Technological unemployment is often dismissed by market economists as it is generally believed that technological advancement tends to create more jobs than it destroys. This may have been true in the past, where only people’s physical abilities were challenged by automation. However, with modern applications of algorithms, our brainpower is now being challenged as well. It’s not only factory workers that must worry about losing their jobs to automation, but also journalists, lawyers, surgeons, and practically everyone else.

 “We are being swept up into a powerful new technology revolution that offers the promise of a great social transformation, unlike any in history.” (Rifkin 13)

This new level of technology calls for a new level of economic understanding, one recognizing true resource efficiency rather than just market efficiency, which Keen notes “is itself flawed” (Keen 5). Through the application of technological advancements, a greater efficiency can be created resulting in an abundance of resources, a process known as ephemeralization. Since traditional economics defines itself as being concerned only with scarce resources, and since scarcity is a profitable notion, the theory is motivated against creating or recognizing abundance. However, there is a slowly growing appreciation for the abundance that is becoming available through technology, and the efficiency that could result from an abundance based approach, rather than one which assumes scarcity.

For example, a market behavior that could be described as ritualistic is that of ownership. Deeming physical or intellectual items as ‘property’ is an attempt at ensuring protection against scarcity. However, given our current ability to create an abundance of all goods needed to sustain society, does it make sense to create scarcity by artificially restricting access to goods? In other words, the ownership metaphysic is itself inefficient and only exaggerates scarcity. It takes a massive amount of resources to enforce this unnecessary notion. In 2011 there were 9,063,173 property crimes in the United States, compared to just 1,203,564 violent crimes (Disaster Center). If the resources used to prevent the vast majority of crimes were suddenly not needed, how much attention could violent crimes receive? Through automation, an abundance of goods could be created and made available to anyone in need of them, effectively bypassing any need for the concept of property because access itself has been guaranteed by the infrastructure. Direct access to goods also resolves the issue of technological unemployment, as it will be harder and harder to pool money from the market to purchase items necessary for living if unemployment continues to increase.

 “The quickening pace of automation is fast moving the global economy to the day of the workerless factory.” (Rifkin 7-8)

This implies a new concept of economy; a concept not based on human labor, but on individual and social well-being as understood by science.

 “Even some of the most committed economists have conceded that, if economics is to become less of a religion and more of a science, then the foundations of economics should be torn down and replaced.” (Keen 19)

The word “economics” comes from a Greek term meaning “management of a household.” As evidenced by the recent meltdown at Fukushima, externalities recognize no national borders. Our household is the entire planet, and we can only make efficient use of its resources by recognizing it as a single system. There is only one biosphere. What happens to it affects us all. We need to redefine economics so that it actually ensures our total well-being to the greatest degree possible while maintaining an ecological balance. We need a holistic economic theory based on empirical data, not traditional notions.

Works Cited

Benkler, Yochai. The penguin and the leviathan: How cooperation triumphs over self-interest. New York: Random House, 2011. Print.

Bowie, Fiona. The Anthropology of Religion. 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell, 2006. Print.

Disaster Center. “United States Crime Rates 1960 – 2011.” The Disaster Center. Web. 24 Nov 2012.

Graeber, David. Debt, The First 5,000 Years. Melville House Pub, 2012. 20. Print.

Keen, Steve. Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor of the Social Sciences. New York: Zed Books, 2003. Print.

Rifkin, Jeremy. The end of work. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin a member of Penguin Group, 1995. Print.


The Socioeconomic Guardians of Scarcity by Hagbard Celine33


We live on a planet with finite resources, however scarcity is relative to the way we manage those resources. “Scarcity” as a condition is artificial in the 21stcentury. Scarcity is artificial in the sense that it literally has to be enforced by a socioeconomic system of structural and behavioral authoritarianism. To quote the sociologist Philip Slater “Inequality, originally a consequence of scarcity, is now a means of creating artificial scarcities.” Anti-authoritarians have traditionally defined themselves as opposed to socioeconomic hierarchy. However, by defining oneself as opposed to socioeconomic hierarchy, one is really saying that they want free association as a means to organize society. Free association means freedom to associate, freedom from association, as well as freedom within the association(decision making power being held by people within an association, as well as equality of voting power for people within associations). The words “free association” mean nothing if there is not an environmental context that allows for such behavior/systems to prosper via meeting people’s needs and minimizing abuse. Under capitalism, the necessities of life are commodified. However if food/water/shelter/energy can be commodified, humans can be commodified. Capitalism is the buying and selling of people forced into contracts due to economic conditions of artificial scarcity. The state serves as the enforcer class of the economic warfare inherent in capitalism (protecting the upper classes from the lower classes). The state is based on the selective application of law and punishment. We reflect values of our social and economic systems which are interconnected. Rather than punishing people for reacting to a system that deprives people of their needs and creates abuse, we should focus our energy towards prevention/education/restraint of those harming others IF we want to create a non authoritarian society. Capitalism and the state are both different yet interconnected incarnations of authoritarian top down organization that inhibit well being and protect scarcity.

Capitalism is an authoritarian economic system, based on private property rights (the private ownership of the means of production) and economic competition in a market system. This creates a network of top down organizations that people are forced into by market pressures in order to survive. If we want to stop theft we need to meet people’s needs (which can’t be done in an economic system where scarcity in regards to the basic necessities of life keeps the economy going). Freedom from association is meaningless when your options are starve or associate within an association where there is no freedom within the association. To quote Noam Chomsky, “The idea of “free contract” between the potentate and his starving subject is a sick joke, perhaps worth some moments in an academic seminar exploring the consequences of (in my view, absurd) ideas, but nowhere else.” Capitalism is antithetical to free association, for the contracts that are occurring within capitalism are based on unnecessary work for a boss or suffer economic conditions; especially unnecessary given that we live in an age where the majority of labor relevant to meeting human needs can be automated. Denying the necessities of life to anyone turns life into a privilege instead of a right.

We live in a system where 85 people have more wealth than 3.5 billion people. Around 20,000 people die a day from starvation. Somewhere between 30–50% of food humans produce on the planet is not eaten. In 1976 a study done on structural violence (avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs from hierarchical socioeconomic structures) found that 18 million people die a year from structural violence (and wealth inequality has doubled since then). David Pimentel’s research shows that 1.2 Billion people lack access to clean water, 57% of people are malnourished, and Around 40% of deaths on this planet are from water/air/soil pollution. Yet we have the resources and technology to meet everyone’s needs. We have clean energy technology such as wind/wave/solar/tidal/geothermal energy. We have the knowledge of hydroponic/aeroponic/aquaponic skyscrapers to ensure free clean food for all. We have the technology to purify water via water desalinization and rain water collection and purification. Then there is hemp which has thousands of industrial uses including eco friendly plastics/paper/housing/clothes/etc. We have 3d printing, and contour crafting which is the 3d printing of buildings. We can combine 3d printing with open collaborative design defined by the website as a process that “involves applying principles from the remarkable free and open-source software movement that provides a powerful new way to design physical objects, machines and systems. All information involved in creating the object or system is made available on the Internet – such as text, drawings, photographs and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) models – so that other people can freely re-create it, or help contribute to its further evolution.” We have the knowledge of using techniques like mycorestoration, which is “the use of fungi to repair or restore the weakened immune systems of environments” definition given by Paul Stamets in his book Mycelium Running. We have Maglev train technology for transportation, making transportation faster, more resource efficient and more energy efficient than current outdated modes of transport. Then there is the internet and the educational resources that it provides. And last but not least our ability to automate the vast majority of toil. You cannot argue with the fact that this technology exists, which is why our technical reality is consistently sidestepped by most people who critique post scarcity economics. This technology exists, but it is not being fully implemented because of inhibiting factors. It is important to note that “the scientific method applied to social concern” is a process constantly changing with new relevant information/technology.

We have the technology and the resources to live in harmony with the global ecosystem and each other, but socioeconomic hierarchy prevents this technical reality from being actuated. For scarcity is a precondition of profit. The more scarce a specific resource/good/service is, the more one can sell the resource/good/service for. And this means an access abundance of a particular resource such as shelter or food is actually bad for profit maximization (which is the law of capitalism). Scarcity is literally reinforced due to the basic incentive system inherit within the market. Throwing a moral imposition of non violence onto an economic system that is based on the artificial scarcity of the basic necessities of life is about as much good as the laws “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not steal”. Historically, rulers who enforce “thou shalt not kill/steal laws” tend to be exempt from their own laws. These verbal/written proclamations do nothing to alleviate the root causes of murder and theft. People consistently conflate a law with conditions that actually prevent authoritarian behavior. There often needs to be other rules in place to allow other rules to be followed. Ethical behavior we wish to see needs to be reinforced by other rules. Authoritarian behavior is tied to a dialogue of unmet needs/abuse/ignorance/malevolence and the systems that enforce unmet needs/abuse/ignorance/malevolence. There is an attempt to trow the moral imposition of “thou shalt not privately own the means of production” on to the market by mutualists. And when worker owned co-operatives exist in a market, they must be subservient to market pressures such as cost efficiency and competition. The best way to maximize money within a market system is to privately own the means of production and extract surplus value from workers. Worker ownership over the means of production can exist to certain degrees within a market system, but the very incentives of a market system reward private ownership over the means of production.

All ideas have been given to us by our environment. We are standing on the shoulders of giants who have stood upon the shoulders of giants who have stood upon the shoulders of giants. Yet we fight over the fruits of labor given to us by dead and living humans. Private property is not based on needs, nor is it based on use. Private property is based on privately owning/managing that which others use. Personal property(items intended for personal use) involves claims to that which one uses, whereas private property  involves ownership claims to that which is used by others. If you don’t want people to steal the ___ you are using from you, declaring ___ your property does not stop theft. If you want to stop theft you need to create an access abundance of the necessities of life. The way we manage our resources needs to be based on needs, use, gift, and environmental concern rather than centralization of economic/political power if wellbeing is our end goal. And from the viewpoint of wanting to meet human needs and adhere to ecological principles, the more we share resources in library-esque access centers the better. And of course we are dependent upon our global ecosystem. If we destroy our global ecosystem through the inefficient and violent use of resources, we destroy the foundation we are dependent upon.

When society deprives any community or individual of the necessities of life, there is a form of violence happening. When society commodifies the bare necessities of life, they are commodifying human beings, whose labor can be bought and sold. Underneath the pseudo-philosophical rationalizations for capitalism is a defense of wage slavery. For if your labor is for sale then you are for sale. To conflate capitalism with free association is to ignore the context that the market transaction occurs within (which is a context of the artificial scarcity of the necessities of life). And to ignore the context is to ignore reality altogether. Market pressures force people to join associations they do not want to join, and force people to stay in associations they want to leave, and any decision making power given to workers can be vetoed by the upper levels of the hierarchy. Capitalism is not about meeting our demands with supply, it is about maximizing profit (which enforces artificial scarcity). Capitalism is nothing more than well dressed economic warfare backed up by the physical warfare of the state. Within the quest to maximize profit is the very incentive structure that would inevitably create the state or some institution that performs the same functions as the state (for the state protects the privatized commons with violence, protects the rich from the poor, allows corporations to avoid liability, and the state applies “the law” selectively which makes those who control the state exempt from the state’s laws). When market economists use the term “Efficiency” they are speaking of cost efficiency, which is a phrase that really means “maximize profit at every level of production”. This really translates to “maximize profit” at the expense of liberatory technical potential and life whenever possible. Underlying our current ecological crisis is an outdated hierarchical socioeconomic structure. Cost efficiency/economic growth are better measurements of ecocide than efficient use of finite resources. It might be resource efficient and technically possible for us to give everyone on the planet a clean energy supply/houses/clean food free of monetary charge but that does not maximize profit, and under capitalism profit must be prioritized above human needs. The root problems aren’t the microcosms of corruption we see, but socioeconomic hierarchy itself. However the microcosms of corruption often help to reinforce/accentuate the system that created such corruption. We must critique and abolish branches of corruption, but we ought to also critique and abolish root causes.

To quote Alfie Kohn “The more “means interdependent” the task, the more cooperation helps. In some instances, it is claimed, competition may produce better results—but only if the task is simple and not interdependent at all.” Economic Competition is inherent to capitalism, yet competition is inferior to cooperation in regards to task completion (and under capitalism the task is maximize profit). This is why there are certain degrees of cooperation even within hierarchies or amongst financial and political elites. The market is able to channel cooperation into competition. Competition does not just happen between competing businesses. The buyer/seller relationship is a form of competition, for the seller is trying to maximize profit and the buyer is trying to minimize cost. The employer/employee relationship is a form of competition, for the employer and employee haggle over the cost of the employee’s labor. Quoting Alfie Kohn’s summary of David and Roger Johnson’s meta analysis on competition vs cooperation: “65 studies found that cooperation promotes higher achievement than competition, 8 found the reverse, and 36 found no statistically significant difference. Cooperation promoted higher achievement than independent work in 108 studies, while 6 found the reverse, and 42 found no difference. The superiority of cooperation held for all subject areas and all age groups.” The idea that society needs competition (and the punishment/reward system inherent in competition) in order to be productive is completely backwards. Competition also enforces scarcity. Quoting Alfie Kohn again, “Structural competition usually involves the comparison of several individuals in such a way that only one of them can be the best. The competition itself sets the goal, which is to win; scarcity is thereby created out of nothing.”. Competition is based on punishing the losers and rewarding the winner (or winners). Which brings me to a quote by the former director of Harvard’s “Center for the Study of Violence” Dr. James Gilligan,“Punishment is the most powerful provoker of violence that we’ve yet discovered”. Capitalism punishes people for being victimized by capitalism. And the inability of many to trace the symptoms back to root causes leads parts of our society to blame victims of the system rather than the system itself. And this socioeconomic punishment only causes more violence which creates more punishment. In order to solve the problem of violence we need to look at violence from the perspective of “preventative medicine” rather than symptom suppression.

Capitalism is based on plutocracy concealed under the clever disguise of “voting with your money”. Under capitalism everyone votes with unequal amounts of money (and there is inequality in regards to how much people make per hour). “Philosophical” Capitalists will often criticize democracy as if it is a monolithic term that only has authoritarian forms ignoring participatory democracy based on freedom of/from/within within associations (based on free association but not necessarily consensus). And by freedom I do not mean freedom from context such as various definitions of free will, nor do I mean the freedom to exploit others and freedom to perform acts of ecocide. I mean freedom FROM structural violence, behavioral violence, and freedom from ecocide(and various other ‘liberatory freedoms’ such as the freedom to have power with people instead of power over people). In the realm of the representative based systems, there is a form of pseudo democracy where we are given the choice to vote on rulers but not given the freedom from having a political ownership class. Ignorance of participatory democracy and any kind of anti authoritarian solutions to capitalism serves the status quo, influencing people to think that the only alternative to capitalism is some other authoritarian system such as Leninism/Stalinism/Maoism/etc. Saying that our options are either the state or the market is a classic false duality fallacy.

To quote David Graeber, “This is the great trap of the twentieth century: on one side is the logic of the market, where we like to imagine we all start out as individuals who don’t owe each other anything. On the other is the logic of the state, where we all begin with a debt we can never truly pay. We are constantly told that they are opposites and that between them they contain the only real human possibilities. But it’s a false dichotomy.” We are given a false duality in our current socioeconomic conversation, that the only way to run society is some ratio of statist/capitalist control. However at the heart of statecraft/capitalism is authoritarian top down organization. The feedback loop of hierarchy/ignorance/scarcity is at the root of the current socioeconomic system. We cannot solve violent top down social organization through violent top down social organization (and thinking that we can is tautological). The state/market duality is really just a more sophisticated form of the republicrat/demopublican duality and it serves the purpose of tranquilizing any actual solutions to socioeconomic hierarchy.

The state is a monopoly on the use of legal violence in a given territory based on centralization of decision making power. Obviously such an institution is antithetical to a liberatory society. The state includes administrators (politicians) and enforcers (such as the police and the military). The state, like capitalism, is based on socioeconomic hierarchy. The state includes a governor class and a governed class. At the end of the day capitalism and the state complete each other, like the most romantic of lovers. Capitalism controls the state, and the state controls capitalism. Where does one begin and where does the other end? For the police are the physical extension of intra-national economic warfare, and the army is the physical extension of international economic warfare. Here is an Adam Smith quote that explains the romance between the state and capitalism, “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” Within a system of economic hierarchy and class warfare, there are going to be inevitable rebellions from those who have no property towards those who do have property. The state is what helps protect the inherent instability within a system of perpetual economic warfare. So according to the great priest of capitalism (Adam Smith), capitalism requires a monopoly on the use of legal violence in order to maintain it. A relatively recent University of Hawaii study found that democide (which is the murder of people by states) in the 20th century killed over 250 million people. The state is a product and co-creator of structural violence that requires behavioral violence as a mechanism to enforce the privatization of the commons. The political representatives in a statist society are for sale just like any other commodity. Political representatives in the pseudo democratic regimes like the United States serve as a middle man between people and their ideas. This is not true bottom up organization, for people vote on who has centralized decision making power. Subtract the structural violence from the state, and the state ceases to exist (or as Kropotkin said “It is authoritarian or it ceases to be the State.”). Capitalism needs some institution that performs the same function of the state (protection of private property) in order to function (so there is really no such thing as stateless capitalism, for stateless capitalists merely advocate completely privatized states((or states that dont pretend to represent anyhing or anyone but their private owners))). “Stateless capitalists” talk about how they want to privatize the police/the army/nuclear bombs/courts/and all bathrooms/and even have a free market of buying and selling starving children. Besides those solutions being absurd, they merely recreate the state under a separate name. The state is not authoritarian because it is influenced by capitalism and nor is capitalism an authoritarian system because it is influenced by the state. The state and capitalism are both structurally violent on their own, however state power and capitalist power tend to merge due to the basic power consolidation tendency of both systems. Not only are markets in love with states, but states are also in love with markets. This romance is mutual. For the market forces the subjects of the state to feed/clothe/house themselves by competing amongst each other for survival. The state and the market aren’t just married, they are practically inseparable forms of authoritarianism that work together to centralize decision making power. The worker is exploited by bosses and shareholders at work, exploited by the landlord at home, and exploited by the state through taxation. When the state takes money from owners of the means of production, the state is really taking the spoils taken from workers by private owners, guaranteed to the state for maintaining the system that allows for such conditions to exist in the first place. This is taken into consideration by private owners and worked into their general strategy for profit maximization.

Statecraft involves the argument from authority and /or non authority fallacy (which are fallacies that conflate experts or non experts in a field with evidence). Politicians do not know what is best because they are politicians. As we have witnessed in the controversial Milgram experiment, a shocking amount of participants were willing to electrocute someone to a point that would cause extreme harm because they were told to do so by a person in a lab coat. In the realm of the state people apply a double standard towards political representatives and the police who are not bounded by the laws they administer. The state is an institution that is defined by gratuitous violence yet enforces thou shalt not kill laws (selectively). If we want to maximize well being, then we need to subtract the state, subtract capitalism, subtract the market, subtract sexism, subtract racism, and all other forms of bigotry from society(systemic or behavorial), and use technology to automate the means of production and base production and distribution on human needs and environmental concern. We need highly organized non authoritarian communities that check and balance liberatory technical potential with ecological principles at every stage of production. We need highly organized decentralized yet federated communities that harmonize the individual and the collective and the environment, rather than states. An important difference between a state and a community is that states are necessarily authoritarian whereas communities are not necessarily authoritarian. Part of how the state survives is through people conflating the will of the state with the will of the community the state governs and claims to represent.

One important guardian of scarcity is the belief system that socioeconomic hierarchy is human nature. Private property, states and other forms of socioeconomic hierarchy are not inevitable institutions that arise when there are multiple people. Quoting Dr. James Gilligan, “Violence is not universal. It is not symmetrically distributed throughout the human race. There is a huge variation in the amount of violence in different societies. There are some societies that have virtually no violence. There are others that destroy themselves.” Competition and Behavioral Violence are reactions to environmental conditions, and mechanisms for survival under certain environmental conditions (for example under capitalism people are forced to compete with each other for jobs in order to survive). However different contexts bring about varied mechanisms for survival including behaviors such as free association, cooperation and even pan empathy. Quoting Robert Sapolsky, “It is virtually impossible to understand how biology works outside the context of environment.” Our true human nature is to adapt to our nurture. We are not genetically determined towards socioeconomic hierarchy. Quoting Gabor Mate, “The genetic argument is simply a cop-out which allows us to ignore the social and economic and political factors that, in fact, underlie many troublesome behaviors.” This leaves us with the question: what contexts incentivize mutual aid and compassion, and which contexts incentivize parasitic competitive behavior? Mutual Aid and competition can be seen as survival strategies that can be reinforced and even eliminated depending on the environment. And to what extent are we able to share and give when we are under perpetual threats of absolute or relative deprivation of resources? To what extent can we build a library society when the market surrounding the library society creates the incentive to steal from the commons and the sell the stolen resources?

To hoard resources to the point where you are harming other individuals/collectives by creating artificial scarcity is to recreate a system of abuse since scarcity/unmet needs and socioeconomic hierarchy/unmet needs/abuse are interconnected. Take 10,000 vegan pacifists and put them on an island with no food resources and watch a culture of peace turn into a culture of cannibalism. Our actions are reactions to context, which is why it is absurd to enforce moral laws upon a system that creates the incentive to break such laws.

In order for non authoritarian societies to exist, we need to meet everyone’s needs and minimize abuse/ignorance/malevolence. To create and enforce artificial scarcity is to create and enforce unmet needs and abuse. Yet the market forces us to act in ecocidal ways such as hoarding resources we barely use in order to have access to those resources, or forcing us to use the petro fascist economy in order to have access to relevant mobility, or forcing us to buy cost efficient goods (rather than resource efficient goods) through economic incentive, etc. Conspicuous consumption is a phrase that is used to define consumption for the sake of status rather than utility. It is a defining characteristic of the modern day market (especially the upper classes). If we subtracted this learned behavior from society, our global demand would go down immensely. But there is an incentive within the market to maximize this parasitic behavior, for maximizing consumption for the sake of status is a great way to maximize profit. The value system at the heart of conspicuous consumption is the exact opposite of the value system at the heart of post scarcity economics. Conspicuous consumption is both a result of scarcity based economics, and a mechanism that perpetuates scarcity. If we subtract conspicuous consumption from our society, while applying technology to meet the needs of humans and the environment that we are dependent upon, we can reach a post scarcity society. If people think they are entitled to have all of California as a backyard or other absurd demands such as 5 mansions and 5 cars we cannot (as much as that would be efficient in regards to market efficiency which shows how antithetical the market is to sustainability).

An important characteristic of a hierarchical socioeconomic model is the fact that some people can have the most absurd wants fulfilled while some people are denied their basic needs. Which ever routes can make the most money get priority. And unfortunately there is not a lot of money to be made in free food/free water/free energy/free shelter for everyone (not that there aren’t steps we can take within the current cage of state/capitalist power, just that the entire point of the hierarchical socioeconomic model is to make sure those steps aren’t made without resistance. To what extent can we build a new world within the shell of the old world when the old world prevents the new world from existing? That being said we still need to create the new world within the shell of the old to whatever extent is possible within the current socioeconomic context). Whether we live in a pure state economy or a pure capitalist economy, or some awkward form of love between the two, the same underlying problem of socioeconomic hierarchy persists.

Violent top down organization is damaging to collective and individual well being. For example, violent top down organization creates extreme stress especially within members of the lower castes. This extreme stress causes brain damage amongst other externalities such as increased risk of heart disease and cancer . Paraphrasing Richard Wilkinson’s research, bigger income gaps within economic hierarchies lead to more child conflict, more homicide, more imprisonment, less trust, more drug abuse, more infant mortality, more mental illness, and a decreased life expectancy. And since we are all interdependent upon each other and our environment this winds up harming all of society. So from a purely naturalistic standpoint the governed/governor relationship, the employee/employer relationship, the rich/poor relationship and other forms of socioeconomic hierarchy cause harm. To Quote Albert Einstein: “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” Which leads us to the question: What form of authority is legitimate? The philosopher Bakunin says “Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or engineer.” And most importantly the real authority is the scientific method and the natural laws we are all bounded by. Quoting Bakunin again “in recognizing absolute science as the only absolute authority, we in no way compromise our liberty.” Not only do we not compromise our liberty by accepting the scientific method as our authority, we extend our liberty (for the scientific method can tell us what causes well being/suffering). We need legitimate authority rather than authoritarian social relations.

When we understand that our behavior has environmental context we start to look at the world realizing that there is no person to blame, for it is to incorrect and counterproductive to blame someone for reacting to environmental stimuli. From no blame we can move into pan empathy, and from pan empathy comes the desire to maximize the well being/intelligence/compassion of all people. And there are certain rules we can follow to ensure contexts that minimize harm and maximize well being (such as lack of socioeconomic hierarchy, and the use of liberatory technology). Lack of socioeconomic hierarchy doesn’t mean uniformity nor does it mean chaos. It means differences in abilities unified by liberatory social organization.

Capitalism puts maximizing profit for some before the needs of all. Capitalism puts maximizing profit before human wellbeing, and before liberatory technical potential leading to artificial scarcity of the basic necessities of life, minimizing well being and forcing people into positions of economic servitude in order to survive. The state maximizes profit through rigging the market. Yet when you look closer the market creates the incentive system to rig the market, so the market isn’t being rigged at all (for breaking rules set up within or outside of the market in order to maximize profit is a natural outgrowth of the incentives within the market. The one rule that does not get broken is the law that governs the invisible hand which is “maximize profit”). Capitalism leads to inevitable class warfare because of economic inequality and the unmet needs/abuse/psychosocial stress/death/malevolence/ignorance economic inequality creates. The state then serves the function of protecting the rich from the poor. The state and capitalism are interconnected systems used to privatize the commons via state owned property, private property, and enforcement thereof. Capitalist power and state power merge via venn diagram (due to the power consolidation tendency inherent in socioeconomic hierarchy). All ratios of statist/capitalist power minimize well being via structural/behavioral violence (although some ratios provide comfier cages than others). Statecraft vs. capitalism serves as a false duality that distracts us from options such as post scarcity economics/libertarian municipalism. “Statecraft vs capitalism” is also an incorrect lens to view the world from because the state and capitalism are interconnected (for capitalism needs a state to enforce private property laws). We have the technology to automate the vast majority of toil yet it is not being implemented because human wage slaves are sometimes cheaper than automating a particular chore (for now). Within the market we compete with each other and our technology for labor in order to survive, while scarcity of resources/goods/services creates profit. When our technology is applied towards human needs and environmental concern rather than the maximization of profit the centralization of power we will be able to maximize well being and minimize suffering.