A New Meaning for “Bank Robbers”

BBC News reports that the world’s “big central banks launched plans for co-ordinated action aimed to support the financial system.” Noting that “[b]anks were particular beneficiaries,” the story details the market boost and investor cheers accompanying the news.

The world’s political classes have also largely hailed the move as a sensible step toward avoiding another credit crunch. Again governments and banks operate from “behind closed doors,” making decisions for all of us lowly peasants who just happen to live in their markets.

The big investment banks are usually portrayed as not just representative of, but coextensive with, a free market system. The pair, with all of their glaring grotesqueries and attending crises, are invariably tied to one another, representing greed, exploitation and — quite contradictorily — freedom.

When we erroneously hold too much free market, as typified by Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan, responsible for present economic inequalities and calamities, the solution naturally seems to be more government, more strictures on this apparent state of unbridled freedom.

Hidden within this narrative, however, is a great inconsistency that, though obscured by a powerful elite, summarily dispatches arguments for more coercive authority. The truth is that the financial ruling class operates in nothing even remotely resembling a genuine free market.

In 1885, individualist anarchist Lysander Spooner wrote of “the extent of the robbery practised in this country, by the holders of this monopoly of money,” describing the state as “simply their tool.”

Spooner argued that absent statist intervention on behalf of the banks (“in violation of men’s natural right to make their own contracts”), plutocrats would no longer be able to charge tolls on all productive activity. It was privilege, born of aggression against the individual, that granted the banks their dominant position and made “all the lesser robberies” possible.

Then, as today, those privileges numbered many, ranging from legal tender laws, to licensing and regulatory barriers to competition, all the way to central banks that offer counterfeit money to political favorites. Taken together, these desecrations of peaceful, voluntary society and economies amount to the system we have today, where entire economic systems are ransacked and ruined for the benefit of a tiny elite.

On a fundamental level, the state exists to buttress this machinery of privilege and unfair advantage. For the anarchists who call for one, a “free market” is no more than a phrase used to stand in for the millions of consensual trades and cooperative endeavors that truly free individuals would undertake. This kind of a system couldn’t be more different from the global capitalism that fraudulently passes for a “free market” at present.

One is for equality in rights and authority, the other, for violently forged favoritism, deprivation and extortion. We can neither repair the damage of bankster capitalism nor establish a just and thriving society by entreating the very forces that manufactured this disaster. The answer is a real free market, something that would mean the final extinction of today’s “Too Big to Fail.”

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