In this age of definitional relativism it’s difficult to tell people what capitalism is. Most often, when people hear the word Capitalism, they think of what we have today. There’s a lot of fancy words we could ascribe to what we have today and some libertarians try to do so. Alas, with no luck. There’s still capitalism everywhere. There’s Corporatism, over there, there’s State Capitalism, then we have Crony Capitalism (sometimes referred to as Cronyism)… Naturally people will think: “This is all capitalism nonetheless. I hate it and don’t like it. It’s corrupt.” They are right for all of those “capitalisms” stand for some kind of perversions of Capitalism. We cannot ever talk about true capitalism, because it only ever really exists in the underground economy and that one is not popular as well. Naturally people will think: “If it’s underground it’s fishy, therefore it’s got to be illegal and bad. See, how bad capitalism is!” Or about Anarchy, that it is, as they usually say: “this friggin’ anarchy. It’s all about violence and hatred”. Very often they mention that anarchy is “chaos, and warlords would rule over us.” Similarly we cannot speak of true anarchism, because of the images that get into people’s minds when they talk anarchy, because they always associate it with “something underground, therefore illegal, and therefore bad and evil.”
I’ve got to a admit, I’ve made that same arguments in the past, before I “saw the light.” Before I turned libertarian (I didn’t even know I was one in the beginning) I didn’t really think things through and never checked dictionaries, definitions and so on and so forth. But then something happened. Two of my worlds collapsed and I had nothing to lose. I had to rethink everything that ever was and is. I had to throw away everything, all the lies that I’ve believed up until then.
As a Christian I was aware that people constantly wear filtered glasses on their heads. They see the world through filters, through their own personal world view. In order for them and us who are called to share the good news, we need to realize that and use words that they know and are familiar with. We need to remove our filters to, so that we can see the truth as well. We need to put them on in such a way so that they will see an unobstructed truth, so that the truth will shake them and set them free if they let it. Alas, it’s their freedom to either follow the truth or the darkness; to be saved or to stay fallen. As Christian we know it’s vital that no coercion is to be used in the process and that we’re merely messengers.
So what should we libertarians, especially those of us who are first and foremost Christians, do to make people see? We should use their language, understand them and slowly prepare them to remove their filters. Perhaps, just perhaps, some ideas are not filtered through simply because of us formulating the statements differently and not using certain confusing words.
Sure, for some of us it’s very important that we know what capitalism, libertarianism, anarchism, minarchism, etc. mean. We must, however, recognize, that most people don’t have time or will to look up all the fancy words that we use. So my suggestion is that we use the words we know among people for whom we are aware that they know and use those words as well. The same goes to Christians regarding fancy words even such as salvation, denomination, or any other of christianese terms that most people don’t understand, don’t use or are unfamiliar with the concepts thereof.
There are other reasons for not wanting to use terms Capitalist or Anarchist, however. For one, these two terms are so full of emotional charges and all other kinds of (sometimes illegitimate) baggage, that it seems inappropriate to use them. You see, most people do have their identity based on something they grew up with and are familiar with even if they don’t understand it. Living in a State is one, growing up learning bollocks in school is another. And when we unapologetically speak against their perceived identity without any context people are familiar with, most of them will react emotionally; we did just try to shatter their perceived identity very harshly. Not all are like that though. Still, we should keep in mind, that every single one of us has different thought processes and that we as humans will still try to stay comfortable till the very end if possible.
So whether we’re speaking christianese or “libertarianese” we must know when and where there’s a place for that.
So. What about me and my thoughts on Capitalism and Anarchism? As noted the words confuse people. In principle I am all for the absence of a ruler or rather a coercive monopoly on force if you will. In principle I am therefore against (coercive) regulation of people’s behavior, hence in principle I am all for completely free market of ideas, products, etc.
See what I did there? Most people would understand “the long explanation,” including libertarians. That is one of the reasons why I prefer the long way than the short way (which inevitably becomes longer because of confusion on the other side).
Therefore the way to achieve their removal of “filtered glasses” on their heads, through which they see the world is to see it through their eyes first and hence explain it in a long way. I therefore try to avoid the words capitalism and anarchism and start with free unregulated trade and voluntaryism (every interaction ought to be voluntary and none should be coercive – hence voluntaryism). By starting this way it’s easy to explain to people that capitalism is more or less a word that explains free exchange of means of production i.e. capital; and anarchism is actualized in people through non-violent voluntary relations (non-aggression principle) without a violent coercive force above (thereby anarchism). I see this as a much better ways to start off. That’s also why we label ourselves as libertarian and not liberal (because the word liberal, originally meaning those who stand for freedom) has been hijacked).
So let’s do everyone else a favor and explain things with slightly longer terms that everyone (us and everyone else) will most definitely understand.
Thinking about it more, I would also suggest, that Christians can only be anarchist in a worldly way. Let me explain. As Christians we believe that Jesus is our Lord and King. Although He doesn’t use coercion to do pretty much anything (which is one of justifications that some use for using the label anarchist), we do still believe in a God who does “rule” the heavenlies and all of the creation. Even though he is nowhere near any worldly idea of a ruler or a king, He does reign. He doesn’t use violence, he doesn’t use spite, He doesn’t steal, He doesn’t murder and yet He is all-powerful. He is at the same time the King and the Priest, he is at the same time loving and just. And yet, He is the author of our supposed liberty, life, etc. He is a ruler, albeit a completely different (holy) than a worldly one. So in this sense I cannot claim to be a true meta-anarchist, because I do give my life in God’s hands for Him to rule me. While I could say that anarchism would only stipulate this-worldly absence of rulers, I cannot deny that God is the one whom I want to lovingly rule me. And yet at the same time, we have a free will to choose to follow Him or not. Even in this way God is different to any State or power that exists here and now.
Alas, God is a jealous God and the state as a false deity is as well. The difference being that the State does not allow for dissent, nor worship of another power that is greater than itself. Jesus on the other hand gave His life for us freely and invites us without a gun or threat of violence to come to Him. So in regards of words and labels Christians can really only be freely following Jesus and by doing so, we cannot be tied to any earthly power, because we are citizens of another kingdom. We are not anarchist in the strictest, we respect the powers that be but I personally don’t believe we should necessarily obey them. If we are anything we can be libertarian, non-violent, treat people with dignity and thus be voluntaryist in regards to human action and hence be for the freest forms of trade there is. We ought to pay people with respect, dignity and humility when due. That being said, it’s not about the works, but about following Jesus radically and unapologetically.