The Life of Julia Under Anarchy

As a toddler Julia will begin a twenty-odd-year sentence in institutions designed to process her into a “human resource”: Someone encultured to view the existing institutional framework and power structure as natural and inevitable, who trusts and obeys the state and takes its self-justifications at face value. Someone who takes orders from authority figures behind desks, and has been trained — at taxpayer expense — in the skills employers want in their human resources. Both Obama and Romney enthusiastically support the need for this school-to-HR treadmill to “maintain global competitiveness.”

Once Julia comes off the human resources assembly line, she’ll look for work in an economy where most employment opportunities are controlled by hierarchical, authoritarian institutions. She’ll spend her work life selling her labor in a system designed to minimize the competition employers face from self-employment — in which the state’s avowed macroeconomic policy is to keep the bargaining power of labor (aka “inflationary pressure”) within manageable bounds.

If she tries to escape the reservation, she’ll confront a host of state-enforced artificial scarcities whose main effect is to make the means of production artificially expensive for labor, and impose artificial entry costs and overhead on self-employment. Until Julia turns 65, she’ll exist in a system where wage labor is the only alternative for all but the rich. The President, Democrat or Republican, will accept the basic presupposition of the “jobs culture” as a fact of nature.

Under market anarchy, Julia would live in a society where education was self-organized by her neighbors, her studies were shaped by her needs rather than those of future employers, and economic power was distributed and decentralized. She’d spend her working life in a market without entry barriers to using her skills in self-employment or in a cooperative shop, and where if she did consider wage employment she’d encounter potential employers as an equal rather than as a commodity pre-shaped to their needs.

As a consumer, Julia will pay prices consisting largely of rents on artificial scarcity enforced by the state. She’ll spend $200 for proprietary software CDs that cost $5 to print out, and pay a 2000% markup on medications under patent. She’ll buy sneakers with a $195 brand-name premium over the $5 the sweatshop charged to make them, and a camera whose price comes mainly from embedded patent rents rather than actual parts and labor. She’ll pay a markup of about 20% as the result of price-fixing on goods manufactured in oligopoly industries.

Local goods and services will be far more expensive because of zoning laws that protect brick-and-mortar shops by requiring the rental of commercial space as a condition of doing business, high licensing fees, and regulatory codes that criminalize small-batch production by mandating industrial-scale machinery. Both Obama and Romney strongly support all these policies.

Under market anarchy, there’d be no state-enforced cartels, entry barriers, or artificial scarcity. Competition would drive the prices Julia pays down to the actual cost of production. Julia would far more easily purchase home-grown, -baked, and -sewn goods, as well as unlicensed daycare and cab service — all of which would involve near-zero overhead because they were provided out of her neighbors’ homes with ordinary household capital goods they already owned.

Whether Julia buys or rents her home, the price of the land it sits on reflects enormous tracts of vacant and unimproved land being held out of use by state policy, so that landlords are protected from competition. Neither Obama nor Romney can even imagine an alternative to this state of affairs.

Under market anarchy, there would be no enforceable title to vacant and unimproved land. Competition from freely available vacant land would reduce landlord rent, driving down Julia’s housing costs.

Throughout her life, Julia’s travels in the United States will be restricted by an internal passport system in which boarding a plane, and soon maybe a train or bus, will require submission to being either scanned or groped. Her phone and Internet history and her purchases will be constantly monitored by a government for which the Fourth Amendment is a quaint relic of history. Every business where she shops will be spying on her for the government. She’ll be liable to indefinite detention without charge, or perhaps even murder by drone, based on an arbitrary and unilateral finding that she’s a “terrorist.” If there were ever any lingering hopes that the party controlling the presidency would make a difference in this regard, Obama dashed them long ago.

Under market anarchy … Well, you get the idea.

Under either party, Julia will be a means to the ends of people utterly unaccountable to her, a tool for enriching a ruling class. Under anarchy, Julia will be an end in her own right, free to build any life she chooses in peaceful cooperation with her neighbors.

Translations for this article:

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory