Capitalists and coercion

From: J. Hughes (
Date: Wed Oct 04 2000 - 09:02:06 MDT

As fascinating as the debate has been between Speer as the sole authority
on Nazi economic policy, versus the enormous body of academic research on
the precise degree of capitalist/financier/industrialist complicity in the
rise and rule of the Nazis, it really misses my point.

Capitalism as a system has always required coercion, i.e. governments,
simply to exist, if only to enforce contracts. And as attractive as the
libertarian fantasy of reducing governance to simply the enforcement of
contracts might seem, real-existing capitalism, dominated by various kinds
of capitalists in alliance with various kinds of military thugs, fascist
thugs, liberal democratic polities, and all the other forces of modern
politics - real capitalists have always used the coercive aparatus of the
State in far more extensive ways than libertarians would like. Which is why
very few capitalists have ever been consistent libertarians.

Capitalists are by definition interested in making profit, not in
maximizing the greatest good through libertarian or democratic social
policy. Different groups of capitalists respond to the economic and
political terrains they face in different ways. Sometimes things are so
dire they think their best bets are with backing military dictators,
religious zealots, and racist demoagogues in order to squash trade unions
and leftist parties. Sometimes they think backing democratic or even
populist politicians is the best way to stabilize their economies, achieve
social peace, fund education, health and other social investments important
for a healthy workforce, etc. But in the end, the "bottom line" for people
who control finance and industrial capital, i.e. the owning classes, is
what will make profit, and maintain and reproduce their wealth.

Libertarian policy, such as a laissez-faire attitude towards monopolies or
dropping prescriptive control of drugs, in many cases has been been as
violently opposed as social democratic policy by real-existing capitalists
in real-existing capitalism, precisely because it threatens the
profit-making of existing capitalists. To define slavery and slave camp
labor as not really capitalist since it involves coercion, therefore, is
absurd. Coercive labor, which includes killing labor organizers,
union-busting, and so on, is not libertarian or democratic, but is
definitely capitalist.

Finally, as for the equation of social democracy with Communism and Nazism
because the Nazis appropriated some aspects of socialist symbology and
policy, thats just silly. First, the Nazis rounded up and executed hundreds
of thousands of socialists, communists and trade unionists. Secondly, the
Communists rounded up and executed hundreds of thousands of social
democrats and trade unionists. And thats because they had diametrically
opposed social policy goals:

Nazis: Europe/world united under the leadership of a German,
racial-nationalist one-party state, with corporatist, but nonetheless
privately owned, economy.

Communists: World united under a set of one-party communist states with
state-owned industry

Social democracy: Independent multi-party, democratic countries with mixed

Anyone who tries to tell you these three social systems were basically same
thing because they weren't anarcho-capitalism isn't contributing
meaningfully to the conversation.

Dr. J. Hughes
Changesurfer Radio

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