Q: What is capitalism?
A: Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production.
a) PRIVATE: Owned by an individual, at least originally. The individual can join with other individuals to collectively own property, but the right to ownership by the collective derives from the original ownership by the individuals who compose it.
b) OWNERSHIP: The individual is not merely 'taking care of' the property. He has not been granted a trust to use it 'in the public good'. He is not an 'administrator'. He owns it. He can do as he likes with it, limited only by the fact he doesn't own other people's property. (I can't dump my toxic waste on your land, because you own your land. I can't bury my knife in your back, because I don't own your back.)
c) MEANS OF PRODUCTION: What is the fundamental means of production? The individual human mind and body. Who is the only rightful owner of an individual's mind and body? THAT INDIVIDUAL HIMSELF. Any system which denies ownership of the self, such as slavery, is inherently anti-capitalistic and should be fought by all capitalists. Any system which preaches that the individual belongs to the state, or to society, or to the world, is a system which preaches slavery, and should be fought by all.
Further, in a capitalist society, there are NO LIMITS ON THE NATURE OF THE CONTRACTS WHICH MAY BE MADE BETWEEN CONSENTING ADULTS. Any society which limits such contracts is, to the extent it limits them, not a capitalist society. If I cannot sell you drugs, or pornography, or seditious literature, then I am not living in a capitalist society (assuming you are an adult). If I cannot use my own property to express any views I wish, from 'Workers of the world, unite!' to 'Kill the Jews', then I am not living in a capitalist society. (And if you can compel me to express a view, I am likewise not living in a capitalist society.)
What most people think of as capitalism -- stocks, bonds, white men in suits, etc -- is just a minor visible manifestation of the above ethical principles. If you don't have those basic principles, you don't have capitalism. If they don't apply to everyone, regardless of birth status, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc -- you don't have capitalism.
Q: What is the role of government in a capitalist society?
A: Basically, there is none. Government is inherently coercive (thus violating the 'consensual' portion of the definition), and can only exist by seizing some property by force (thus violating 'ownership'). If there is any role for the State in a capitalist society, it is as an arbiter and enforcer of contracts -- it has no role in determining the content of them.
Q: But I thought anarchists were communists?
A: Some are. Some aren't. The leftists have almost completely buried right-anarchy from the public view. Thanks to the Internet, though, the tradition is being revived. I recently found an exceptional set of classic anarchocapitalist/individualist-anarchist writings at http://www.math.ku.dk/~buhl/Library/. This has Spooner, Bastiat, Childs, and lots more good stuff. Enjoy!
Further, one of the best modern writers of libertarian/anarchist SF is online! He is L. Neil Smith, and he's dead bril. Read his essays. His main concern is gun rights, and he has a lot of good things to say on the subject. My only minor gripe with him would be that he still seems to believe that political action is useful. I'd like to believe he's right, but frankly, I'm quite convinced that reform within the bounds of the political system is simply no longer feasible.
The Liberty Manifesto by P.J.O'Rourke, who is one of the best political commentators alive. This page will link you back to an unofficial P.J. page, which is quite nice, contains just enough text to be interesting and not violate copyright (IMO), and will do until he gets a page of his own.
Q: Isn't democracy good?
A: What, you read all my quotes and still dare to ask me that? What are you, dense? No, democracy is not good. At best, you can claim democracy is a means to an end -- that end being liberty. What has happened over the past few centuries, however, is that democracy has become an end in itself -- it doesn't matter what government does, or who it does it to, so long as it is done 'democratically'.
Democracy, in many ways, is worse than out-and-out tyranny -- because the people are deluded into thinking they are free.
Further, there is no tyranny in history that was not, in fact, supported de facto, if not de jure, by 'the people'. No tyrant rules or can rule by decree. All tyrants need the support of a massive infrastructure of thugs and hooligans, and the tacit support of 'the little people'. Look at the great tyrannies of the 20th century -- National Socialist Germany, the USSR, the People's Republic of China, and many more. All of them emphasize the collective, the group, the mob -- in other words, 'The People'. All of them made great shows of mass rallies, parades, arenas, public works, public schools, public housing, public health care, public this, public that. The great mass of the people knew what was happening, knew who was being slaughtered and enslaved, and the great mass of the people didn't care --because it wasn't happening to them.
The only reason that America has not fallen (wholly) into that trap is because the founders made this a very undemocratic nation. The Bill of Rights is a slap in the face of 'the people', an assault on their right to do whatever the hell they want to whoever the hell they want (which is the essence of democracy -- unrestrained mob rule). How does it begin? Congress shall make no law. (Pity it doesn't end there, too.) In other words, the people cannot vote to censor books, ban religions, strip others of their rights -- because that power is denied to the government. If this country ever becomes a democracy, then load your rifle, encrypt your data, and wait for the revolution.
Q: How does ownership of property begin? Doesn't everyone own everything?
A: Nature is by default unowned. Ownership begins by creating value from raw nature -- by turning a field into a farm, a tree into a cabin, a mountain into a mine. By creating value from raw resources, you establish initial ownership.
Q: But most of the property currently 'owned' was taken from its original owners by force -- often many times over.
A: Sadly, true. But I don't see how repeating the process is any solution. Most of the 'stolen' property has had enough value added again to it, over enough time, that meaningful ownership does rest with the current owners. And, even if this is not the case, locating the original 'owners' is just about impossible. Anyone who thinks there will be no justice until all the world is given back to its original owners is hereby invited to found a 'Normans Out Of England' movement, and get back to me when the Saxons have their land back. Then we'll discuss the trendier, politically correct cases. 'Kay? (Of course, the Saxons took it from someone else, probably the Picts...)
Or to summarize: We can't all go back to Olduvai Gorge where we came from. Deal with it.
Q: You say 'deal with it' a lot.
A: Yes. Reality, I hate to tell you, doesn't bend itself to our wishes. Reality is what is. As was noted on MST3K, "Crap in one hand, wish in the other, and see what piles up first." You might wish all the past injustices could be corrected, but they can't be. The only thing we can do it try to prevent any more injustices. And, further, there is only one reality. There is no 'bourgeois' reality, no 'feminist' reality, no 'Third World' reality. Reality is reality is reality. It isn't open to debate or appeal. There is no higher court.
Q: Some people would say you are insensitive to the needs of oppressed people.
A: They'd be wrong. I'm insensitive, period. I scored a perfect 100 on the Thinking/Feeling axis of the Meyers/Briggs test. (I'm an INTP, if anyone cares.) My childhood idol was Mr. Spock. (Also, Dr. Smith from 'Lost in Space', Gollum from 'The Hobbit', Scrooge (before he reformed) and the Grinch (ditto).)
Q: What about censorship?
A: It cannot exist, by definition, in a capitalist society. If any outside force can prevent you from using your property to communicate your views, then, you no longer have ownership of your property, thus, you are no longer living in a capitalist society.
Q: The newspaper won't print my letter to the editor proving that the Trilateral Commission is secretly fluoridating our drinking water to make us taste better to the 'Grays'. I've been censored!
A: No, you haven't been. You don't own the newspaper -- thus, you cannot claim a right to have your views published at their expense. Start your own paper.
Q: Shouldn't children be protected from pornography?
A: Frankly, I don't think so, nor do I care. Parents have a right to raise their children as they see fit. Evolutionary pressure will filter out the bad memes, over time. But any law or policy designed to 'protect children' at the expense of the rights of adults is not to be tolerated. The liberties of free adults must take precedence over the 'protection' of children.
Q: What about the right to bear arms?
A: An absolute right. Let there be no doubt:The primary reason for the right to bear arms is not defense against crime, not hunting, but defense against the State. If the people as a whole do not possess the means to overthrow the State, the State may rule without fear. What good does 'democracy' do, when there is no means to make the rulers obey the result of the vote? (Not that democracy is anything to write home about, see above).
Q: But won't that lead to armed mobs running loose in the streets?
A: Have you looked outside lately? We already have armed mobs running loose in the street -- hordes of thugs gaudily dressed in their gang colors, regularly harassing innocent bystanders, beating up anyone they don't like, and shooting people even as they flee -- but enough about the police. The unlicensed criminals are even worse. It's easy to be tough, when you have a gun -- and no one else does. Currently, most guns are in the hands of criminals or the agents of the State -- the two classes of people who should not be trusted with them. No person, having decided to embark upon a life of crime, was stopped from doing so because owning a gun would be against the law! Once you've decided to rob, rape, murder, or run for public office, a trivial thing like gun laws won't stop you from carrying out your evil plans.
However, the knowledge you stand a better-than-average chance of getting shot, will. (Unless you're a loony, but there is no way to be safe against loonies -- all laws or social customs are made under the assumption of general sanity.)
It was recently pointed out to me by a reader that Vermont has unlimited concealed carry privileges, and that the image summoned up by Vermont is not armed mobs, but maple syrup. Now, granted, I *loathe* maple syrup, but very few Vermonters are killed in drive-by syrupings.
Q: Shouldn't society care for (pet cause of the month)?
A: Society shouldn't care for anybody, and can't, because society doesn't exist. Individual people exist. If you want to care for (pet cause of the month), be my guest.
Q: What's wrong with caring for people?
A: It depends on who you're caring for, and why. But the issue isn't "Should one person care for another?". The issue is: "Should society be permitted to compel people to care for one another?" Of course not. If you attach any moral weight to compassion (I don't), you will agree that compassion by coercion has no moral value. Unlike political power, compassion does not flow from the barrel of a gun. State-mandated compassion produces, not love for ones fellow man, but hatred and resentment. The breakdown of 'basic civility' and the rise of the welfare state occur concurrently.
This was further driven home to me by the recent rise of beggars who concoct extended reasons for their current state of need. Many now wear signs reading 'Car broke down, must fix, only need $50.00, wife and baby desperate'. Perhaps some of those with such signs are honest. But due to the welfare state, we tend to assume all of those in need of money are committing some form of scam. Why? The welfare system removes the moral responsibility (if you feel you have one) to alleviate suffering from the individual. Why give a quarter to a beggar? Aren't your taxes already going to provide them with homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and the like? Are there no workhouses? Thus, in order to win favor, the beggars must pretend to be those for whom the instruments of state charity do not apply.
But, of course, you can't verify each one's claims. So you give to no one, and you grow progressively more hardened towards any claims of need.
Those who engage in such fraud do more than simply rook a few rubes -- there's no great immorality in taking advantage of truly excessive stupidity. Rather, by turning compassion into the means by which one is defrauded, rather than the means by which one becomes closer to ones fellow man, they turn virtue (if you believe compassion to be a virtue) into vice. 'Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.', goes the saying, and few wish to be fooled twice.
There was a time, not all that long ago, when those reduced to begging for sustenance at least acknowledged they were living solely off the goodwill of others, and realized their only means of payment was goodwill in return. Now, however, the welfare state and decades of 'progressive' social thought has created a class of people who believe they have the right to live by the labor of another, and, if someone does not give them money voluntarily, they are morally justified in siezing it by force or fraud. Liberal commentators love to laugh whenever a conservative blames the welfare system for a particularly well-publicized crime, but the morality of welfare and the morality of theft is identical -- the belief that a need for something translates into a right to it.
Q: It seems to me that you're just advocating selfishness and greed!
A: Took you this long to figure it out, huh? What happened, you ended up here while looking for the Nekkid Wimmin page? Yeah, that's right, I'm advocating selfishness and greed. Greed is good. No, scratch that -- Greed is God -- if by 'God' you mean the source of all that is good, the source of all creation and progress. If it wasn't for Greed, and his two cousins Laziness and Selfishness, we'd still be picking fleas out of each others hair and flinging dung at passing lions.