F.3 Why do anarcho"-capitalists place little or no value on equality?

Murray Rothbard argued that "the 'rightist' libertarian is not opposed to inequality." [For a New Liberty, p. 47] In contrast, genuine libertarians oppose inequality because it has harmful effects on individual liberty. Part of the reason "anarcho"-capitalism places little or no value on "equality" derives from their definition of that term. "A and B are 'equal,'" Rothbard argued, "if they are identical to each other with respect to a given attribute . . . There is one and only one way, then, in which any two people can really be 'equal' in the fullest sense: they must be identical in all their attributes." He then pointed out the obvious fact that "men are not uniform . . . the species, mankind, is uniquely characterised by a high degree of variety, diversity, differentiation: in short, inequality." [Egalitarianism as a Revolt against Nature and Other Essays, p. 4 and p.5]

In others words, every individual is unique -- something no egalitarian has ever denied. On the basis of this amazing insight, he concludes that equality is impossible (except "equality of rights") and that the attempt to achieve "equality" is a "revolt against nature." The utility of Rothbard's sophistry to the rich and powerful should be obvious as it moves analysis away from the social system we live in and onto biological differences. This means that because we are all unique, the outcome of our actions will not be identical and so social inequality flows from natural differences and not due to the economic system we live under. Inequality of endowment, in this perspective, implies inequality of outcome and so social inequality. As individual differences are a fact of nature, attempts to create a society based on "equality" (i.e. making everyone identical in terms of possessions and so forth) is impossible and "unnatural." That this would be music to the ears of the wealthy should go without saying.

Before continuing, we must note that Rothbard is destroying language to make his point and that he is not the first to abuse language in this particular way. In George Orwell's 1984, the expression "all men are created equal" could be translated into Newspeak "but only in the same sense in which All men are redhaired is a possible Oldspeak sentence. It did not contain a grammatical error, but it expressed a palpable untruth -- i.e. that all men are of equal size, weight, or strength." ["Appendix: The Principles of Newspeak", 1984, p. 246] It is nice to know that "Mr. Libertarian" is stealing ideas from Big Brother, and for the same reason: to make critical thought impossible by restricting the meaning of words.

"Equality," in the context of political discussion, does not mean "identical," it means equality of rights, respect, worth, power and so forth. It does not imply treating everyone identically (for example, expecting an eighty year old man to do identical work as an eighteen violates treating both equally with respect as unique individuals). Needless to say, no anarchist has ever advocated such a notion of equality as being identical. As discussed in section A.2.5, anarchists have always based our arguments on the need for social equality on the fact that, while people are different, we all have the same right to be free and that inequality in wealth produces inequalities of liberty. For anarchists:

"equality does not mean an equal amount but equal opportunity . . . Do not make the mistake of identifying equality in liberty with the forced equality of the convict camp. True anarchist equality implies freedom, not quantity. It does not mean that every one must eat, drink, or wear the same things, do the same work, or live in the same manner. Far from it: the very reverse, in fact. Individual needs and tastes differ, as appetites differ. It is equal opportunity to satisfy them that constitutes true equality. Far from levelling, such equality opens the door for the greatest possible variety of activity and development. For human character is diverse, and only the repression of this free diversity results in levelling, in uniformity and sameness. Free opportunity and acting out your individuality means development of natural dissimilarities and variations. . . . Life in freedom, in anarchy will do more than liberate man merely from his present political and economic bondage. That will be only the first step, the preliminary to a truly human existence." [What is Anarchism?, pp. 164-5]

So it is precisely the diversity of individuals (their uniqueness) which drives the anarchist support for equality, not its denial. Thus anarchists reject the Rothbardian-Newspeak definition of equality as meaningless. No two people are identical and so imposing "identical" equality between them would mean treating them as unequals, i.e. not having equal worth or giving them equal respect as befits them as human beings and fellow unique individuals.

So what should we make of Rothbard's claim? It is tempting just to quote Rousseau when he argued "it is . . . useless to inquire whether there is any essential connection between the two inequalities [social and natural]; for this would be only asking, in other words, whether those who command are necessarily better than those who obey, and if strength of body or of mind, wisdom, or virtue are always found in particular individuals, in proportion to their power or wealth: a question fit perhaps to be discussed by slaves in the hearing of their masters, but highly unbecoming to reasonable and free men in search of the truth." [The Social Contract and Discourses, p. 49] This seems applicable when you see Rothbard proclaim that inequality of individuals will lead to inequalities of income as "each man will tend to earn an income equal to his 'marginal productivity.'" This is because "some men" (and it is always men!) are "more intelligent, others more alert and farsighted, than the remainder of the population" and capitalism will "allow the rise of these natural aristocracies." In fact, for Rothbard, all government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man. [The Logic of Action II, p. 29 and p. 34] But a few more points should be raised.

The uniqueness of individuals has always existed but for the vast majority of human history we have lived in very egalitarian societies. If social inequality did, indeed, flow from natural inequalities then all societies would be marked by it. This is not the case. Indeed, taking a relatively recent example, many visitors to the early United States noted its egalitarian nature, something that soon changed with the rise of capitalism (a rise dependent upon state action, we must add). This implies that the society we live in (its rights framework, the social relationships it generates and so forth) has far more of a decisive impact on inequality than individual differences. Thus certain rights frameworks will tend to magnify "natural" inequalities (assuming that is the source of the initial inequality, rather than, say, violence and force). As Noam Chomsky argues:

"Presumably it is the case that in our 'real world' some combination of attributes is conducive to success in responding to 'the demands of the economic system.' Let us agree, for the sake of discussion, that this combination of attributes is in part a matter of native endowment. Why does this (alleged) fact pose an 'intellectual dilemma' to egalitarians? Note that we can hardly claim much insight into just what the relevant combination of attributes may be . . . One might suppose that some mixture of avarice, selfishness, lack of concern for others, aggressiveness, and similar characteristics play a part in getting ahead and 'making it' in a competitive society based on capitalist principles. . . . Whatever the correct collection of attributes may be, we may ask what follows from the fact, if it is a fact, that some partially inherited combination of attributes tends to material success? All that follows . . . is a comment on our particular social and economic arrangements . . . The egalitarian might respond, in all such cases, that the social order should be changed so that the collection of attributes that tends to bring success no longer do so. He might even argue that in a more decent society, the attributes that now lead to success would be recognised as pathological, and that gentle persuasion might be a proper means to help people to overcome their unfortunate malady." [The Chomsky Reader, p. 190]

So if we change society then the social inequalities we see today would disappear. It is more than probable that natural difference has been long ago been replaced with social inequalities, especially inequalities of property. And as we argue in section F.8 these inequalities of property were initially the result of force, not differences in ability. Thus to claim that social inequality flows from natural differences is false as most social inequality has flown from violence and force. This initial inequality has been magnified by the framework of capitalist property rights and so the inequality within capitalism is far more dependent upon, say, the existence of wage labour rather than "natural" differences between individuals.

This can be seen from existing society: we see that in workplaces and across industries many, if not most, unique individuals receive identical wages for identical work (although this often is not the case for women and blacks, who receive less wages than male, white workers for identical labour). Similarly, capitalists have deliberately introduced wage inequalities and hierarchies for no other reason that to divide and so rule the workforce (see section D.10). Thus, if we assume egalitarianism is a revolt against nature, then much of capitalist economic life is in such a revolt and when it is not, the "natural" inequalities have usually been imposed artificially by those in power either within the workplace or in society as a whole by means of state intervention, property laws and authoritarian social structures. Moreover, as we indicated in section C.2.5, anarchists have been aware of the collective nature of production within capitalism since Proudhon wrote What is Property? in 1840. Rothbard ignores both the anarchist tradition and reality when he stresses that individual differences produce inequalities of outcome. As an economist with a firmer grasp of the real world put it, the "notion that wages depend on personal skill, as expressed in the value of output, makes no sense in any organisation where production is interdependent and joint -- which is to say it makes no sense in virtually any organisation." [James K. Galbraith, Created Unequal, p. 263]

Thus "natural" differences do not necessarily result in inequality as such nor do such differences have much meaning in an economy marked by joint production. Given a different social system, "natural" differences would be encouraged and celebrated far wider than they are under capitalism (where hierarchy ensures the crushing of individuality rather than its encouragement) without any reduction in social equality. At its most basic, the elimination of hierarchy within the workplace would not only increase freedom but also reduce inequality as the few would not be able to monopolise the decision making process and the fruit of joint productive activity. So the claim that "natural" differences generate social inequalities is question begging in the extreme -- it takes the rights framework of capitalism as a given and ignores the initial source of inequality in property and power. Indeed, inequality of outcome or reward is more likely to be influenced by social conditions rather than individual differences (as would be expected in a society based on wage labour or other forms of exploitation).

Rothbard is at pains to portray egalitarians as driven by envy of the rich. It is hard to credit "envy" as the driving force of the likes of Bakunin and Kropotkin who left the life of wealthy aristocrats to become anarchists, who suffered imprisonment in their struggles for liberty for all rather than an elite. When this is pointed out, the typical right-wing response is to say that this shows that real working class people are not socialists. In other words if you are a working class anarchist then you are driven by envy and if not, if you reject your class background, then you show that socialism is not a working class movement! So driven by this assumption and hatred for socialism Rothbard went so far as to distort Karl Marx's words to fit it into his own ideological position. He stated that "Marx concedes the truth of the charge of anti-communists then and now" that communism was the expression of envy and a desire to reduce all to a common level. Except, of course, Marx did nothing of the kind. In the passages Rothbard presented as evidence for his claims, Marx is critiquing what he termed "crude" communism (the "this type of communism" in the passage Rothbard quoted but clearly did not understand) and it is, therefore, not surprising Marx "clearly did not stress this dark side of communist revolution in the his later writings" as he explicitly rejected this type of communism! For Rothbard, all types of socialism seem to be identical and identified with central planning -- hence his bizarre comment that "Stalin established socialism in the Soviet Union." [The Logic of Action II, pp. 394-5 and p. 200]

Another reason for "anarcho"-capitalist lack of concern for equality is that they think that (to use Robert Nozick's expression) "liberty upsets patterns". It is argued that equality (or any "end-state principle of justice") cannot be "continuously realised without continuous interference with people's lives," i.e. can only be maintained by restricting individual freedom to make exchanges or by taxation of income. [Anarchy, State, and Utopia, pp. 160-3] However, what this argument fails to acknowledge is that inequality also restricts individual freedom and that the capitalist property rights framework is not the only one possible. After all, money is power and inequalities in terms of power easily result in restrictions of liberty and the transformation of the majority into order takers rather than free producers. In other words, once a certain level of inequality is reached property does not promote, but actually conflicts with, the ends which render private property legitimate. As we argue in the next section, inequality can easily led to the situation where self-ownership is used to justify its own negation and so unrestricted property rights will undermine the meaningful self-determination which many people intuitively understand by the term "self-ownership" (i.e., what anarchists would usually call "freedom" rather than self-ownership). Thus private property itself leads to continuous interference with people's lives, as does the enforcement of Nozick's "just" distribution of property and the power that flows from such inequality. Moreover, as many critics have noted Nozick's argument assumes what it sets out to proves. As one put it, while Nozick may "wish to defend capitalist private property rights by insisting that these are founded in basic liberties," in fact he "has produced . . . an argument for unrestricted private property using unrestricted private property, and thus he begs the question he tries to answer." [Andrew Kerhohan, "Capitalism and Self-Ownership", pp. 60-76, Capitalism, Ellen Frankel Paul, Fred D. Miler, Jr, Jeffrey Paul and John Ahrens (eds.), p. 71]

So in response to the claim that equality could only be maintained by continuously interfering with people's lives, anarchists would say that the inequalities produced by capitalist property rights also involve extensive and continuous interference with people's lives. After all, as Bob Black notes "it is apparent that the source of greatest direct duress experienced by the ordinary adult is not the state but rather the business that employs him [or her]. Your foreman or supervisor gives you more or-else orders in a week than the police do in a decade." ["The Libertarian As Conservative", The Abolition of Work and Other Essays, p. 145] For example, a worker employed by a capitalist cannot freely exchange the machines or raw materials they have been provided with to use but Nozick does not class this distribution of "restricted" property rights as infringing liberty (nor does he argue that wage slavery itself restricts freedom, of course). Thus claims that equality involves infringing liberty ignores the fact that inequality also infringes liberty (never mind the significant negative effects of inequality, both of wealth and power, we discussed in section B.1). A reorganisation of society could effectively minimise inequalities by eliminating the major source of such inequalities (wage labour) by self-management. We have no desire to restrict free exchanges (after all, most anarchists desire to see the "gift economy" become a reality sooner or later) but we argue that free exchanges need not involve the unrestricted capitalist property rights Nozick assumes (see section I.5.12 for a discussion of "capitalistic acts" within an anarchist society).

Rothbard, ironically, is aware of the fact that inequality restricts freedom for the many. As he put it "inequality of control" is an "inevitable corollary of freedom" for in any organisation "there will always be a minority of people who will rise to the position of leaders and others who will remain as followers in the rank and file." [Op. Cit., p. 30] To requote Bob Black: "Some people giving orders and others obeying them: this is the essence of servitude." [Op. Cit., p. 147] Perhaps if Rothbard had spent some time in a workplace rather than in a tenured academic post he may have realised that bosses are rarely the natural elite he thought they were. Like the factory owner Engels, he was blissfully unaware that it is the self-activity of the non-"elite" on the shop floor (the product of which the boss monopolises) that keeps the whole hierarchical structure going (as we discuss in section H.4.4, the work to rule -- were workers do exactly what the boss orders them to do -- is a devastating weapon in the class struggle). It does seem somewhat ironic that the anti-Marxist Rothbard should has recourse to the same argument as Engels in order to refute the anarchist case for freedom within association! It should also be mentioned that Black has also recognised this, noting that right-"libertarianism" and mainstream Marxism "are as different as Coke and Pepsi when it comes to consecrating class society and the source of its power, work. Only upon the firm foundation of factory fascism and office oligarchy do libertarians and Leninists dare to debate the trivial issues dividing them." [Op. Cit., p. 146]

So, as Rothbard admits, inequality produces a class system and authoritarian social relationships which are rooted in ownership and control of private property. These produce specific areas of conflict over liberty, a fact of life which Rothbard (like other "anarcho"-capitalists) is keen to deny as we discuss in section F.3.2. Thus, for anarchists, the "anarcho"-capitalist opposition to equality misses the point and is extremely question begging. Anarchists do not desire to make people "identical" (which would be impossible and a total denial of liberty and equality) but to make the social relationships between individuals equal in power. In other words, they desire a situation where people interact together without institutionalised power or hierarchy and are influenced by each other "naturally," in proportion to how the (individual) differences between (social) equals are applicable in a given context. To quote Michael Bakunin, "[t]he greatest intelligence would not be equal to a comprehension of the whole. Thence results . . . the necessity of the division and association of labour. I receive and I give -- such is human life. Each directs and is directed in his turn. Therefore there is no fixed and constant authority, but a continual exchange of mutual, temporary, and, above all, voluntary authority and subordination." [God and the State, p. 33]

Such an environment can only exist within self-managed associations, for capitalism (i.e. wage labour) creates very specific relations and institutions of authority. It is for this reason anarchists are socialists. In other words, anarchists support equality precisely because we recognise that everyone is unique. If we are serious about "equality of rights" or "equal freedom" then conditions must be such that people can enjoy these rights and liberties. If we assume the right to develop one's capacities to the fullest, for example, then inequality of resources and so power within society destroys that right simply because most people do not have the means to freely exercise their capacities (they are subject to the authority of the boss, for example, during work hours).

So, in direct contrast to anarchism, right-"libertarianism" is unconcerned about any form of equality except "equality of rights". This blinds them to the realities of life; in particular, the impact of economic and social power on individuals within society and the social relationships of domination they create. Individuals may be "equal" before the law and in rights, but they may not be free due to the influence of social inequality, the relationships it creates and how it affects the law and the ability of the oppressed to use it. Because of this, all anarchists insist that equality is essential for freedom, including those in the Individualist Anarchist tradition the "anarcho"-capitalist tries to co-opt ("Spooner and Godwin insist that inequality corrupts freedom. Their anarchism is directed as much against inequality as against tyranny" and so "[w]hile sympathetic to Spooner's individualist anarchism, they [Rothbard and David Friedman] fail to notice or conveniently overlook its egalitarian implications." [Stephen L. Newman, Liberalism at Wit's End, p. 74 and p. 76]). Without social equality, individual freedom is so restricted that it becomes a mockery (essentially limiting freedom of the majority to choosing which master will govern them rather than being free).

Of course, by defining "equality" in such a restrictive manner, Rothbard's own ideology is proved to be nonsense. As L.A. Rollins notes, "Libertarianism, the advocacy of 'free society' in which people enjoy 'equal freedom' and 'equal rights,' is actually a specific form of egalitarianism. As such, Libertarianism itself is a revolt against nature. If people, by their very biological nature, are unequal in all the attributes necessary to achieving, and preserving 'freedom' and 'rights' . . . then there is no way that people can enjoy 'equal freedom' or 'equal rights'. If a free society is conceived as a society of 'equal freedom,' then there ain't no such thing as 'a free society'." [The Myth of Natural Law, p. 36] Under capitalism, freedom is a commodity like everything else. The more money you have, the greater your freedom. "Equal" freedom, in the Newspeak-Rothbardian sense, cannot exist! As for "equality before the law", its clear that such a hope is always dashed against the rocks of wealth and market power. As far as rights go, of course, both the rich and the poor have an "equal right" to sleep under a bridge (assuming the bridge's owner agrees of course!); but the owner of the bridge and the homeless have different rights, and so they cannot be said to have "equal rights" in the Newspeak-Rothbardian sense either. Needless to say, poor and rich will not "equally" use the "right" to sleep under a bridge, either.

As Bob Black observed: "The time of your life is the one commodity you can sell but never buy back. Murray Rothbard thinks egalitarianism is a revolt against nature, but his day is 24 hours long, just like everybody else's." [Op. Cit., p. 147]

By twisting the language of political debate, the vast differences in power in capitalist society can be "blamed" not on an unjust and authoritarian system but on "biology" (we are all unique individuals, after all). Unlike genes (although biotechnology corporations are working on this, too!), human society can be changed, by the individuals who comprise it, to reflect the basic features we all share in common -- our humanity, our ability to think and feel, and our need for freedom.

F.3.1 Why is this disregard for equality important?

Simply because a disregard for equality soon ends with liberty for the majority being negated in many important ways. Most "anarcho"-capitalists and right-Libertarians deny (or at best ignore) market power. Rothbard, for example, claims that economic power does not exist under capitalism; what people call "economic power" is "simply the right under freedom to refuse to make an exchange" and so the concept is meaningless. [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 222]

However, the fact is that there are substantial power centres in society (and so are the source of hierarchical power and authoritarian social relations) which are not the state. As Elisee Reclus put it, the "power of kings and emperors has limits, but that of wealth has none at all. The dollar is the master of masters." Thus wealth is a source of power as "the essential thing" under capitalism "is to train oneself to pursue monetary gain, with the goal of commanding others by means of the omnipotence of money. One's power increases in direct proportion to one's economic resources." [quoted by John P. Clark and Camille Martin (eds.), Anarchy, Geography, Modernity, p. 95 and pp. 96-7] Thus the central fallacy of "anarcho"-capitalism is the (unstated) assumption that the various actors within an economy have relatively equal power. This assumption has been noted by many readers of their works. For example, Peter Marshall notes that "'anarcho-capitalists' like Murray Rothbard assume individuals would have equal bargaining power in a [capitalist] market-based society." [Demanding the Impossible, p. 46] George Walford also makes this point in his comments on David Friedman's The Machinery of Freedom:

"The private ownership envisaged by the anarcho-capitalists would be very different from that which we know. It is hardly going too far to say that while the one is nasty, the other would be nice. In anarcho-capitalism there would be no National Insurance, no Social Security, no National Health Service and not even anything corresponding to the Poor Laws; there would be no public safety-nets at all. It would be a rigorously competitive society: work, beg or die. But as one reads on, learning that each individual would have to buy, personally, all goods and services needed, not only food, clothing and shelter but also education, medicine, sanitation, justice, police, all forms of security and insurance, even permission to use the streets (for these also would be privately owned), as one reads about all this a curious feature emerges: everybody always has enough money to buy all these things.

"There are no public casualty wards or hospitals or hospices, but neither is there anybody dying in the streets. There is no public educational system but no uneducated children, no public police service but nobody unable to buy the services of an efficient security firm, no public law but nobody unable to buy the use of a private legal system. Neither is there anybody able to buy much more than anybody else; no person or group possesses economic power over others.

"No explanation is offered. The anarcho-capitalists simply take it for granted that in their favoured society, although it possesses no machinery for restraining competition (for this would need to exercise authority over the competitors and it is an anarcho- capitalist society) competition would not be carried to the point where anybody actually suffered from it. While proclaiming their system to be a competitive one, in which private interest rules unchecked, they show it operating as a co-operative one, in which no person or group profits at the cost of another." [On the Capitalist Anarchists]

This assumption of (relative) equality comes to the fore in Murray Rothbard's "Homesteading" concept of property (discussed in section F.4.1). "Homesteading" paints a picture of individuals and families going into the wilderness to make a home for themselves, fighting against the elements and so forth. It does not invoke the idea of transnational corporations employing tens of thousands of people or a population without land, resources and selling their labour to others. Rothbard as noted argued that economic power does not exist (at least under capitalism, as we saw in section F.1 he does make -- highly illogical -- exceptions). Similarly, David Friedman's example of a pro-death penalty and anti-death penalty "defence" firm coming to an agreement (see section F.6.3) implicitly assumes that the firms have equal bargaining powers and resources -- if not, then the bargaining process would be very one-sided and the smaller company would think twice before taking on the larger one in battle (the likely outcome if they cannot come to an agreement on this issue) and so compromise.

However, the right-"libertarian" denial of market power is unsurprising. The "necessity, not the redundancy, of the assumption about natural equality is required "if the inherent problems of contract theory are not to become too obvious." If some individuals are assumed to have significantly more power are more capable than others, and if they are always self-interested, then a contract that creates equal partners is impossible -- the pact will establish an association of masters and servants. Needless to say, the strong will present the contract as being to the advantage of both: the strong no longer have to labour (and become rich, i.e. even stronger) and the weak receive an income and so do not starve. [Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract, p. 61] So if freedom is considered as a function of ownership then it is very clear that individuals lacking property (outside their own body, of course) lose effective control over their own person and labour (which was, least we forget, the basis of their equal natural rights). When ones bargaining power is weak (which is typically the case in the labour market) exchanges tend to magnify inequalities of wealth and power over time rather than working towards an equalisation.

In other words, "contract" need not replace power if the bargaining position and wealth of the would-be contractors are not equal (for, if the bargainers had equal power it is doubtful they would agree to sell control of their liberty/labour to another). This means that "power" and "market" are not antithetical terms. While, in an abstract sense, all market relations are voluntary in practice this is not the case within a capitalist market. A large company has a comparative advantage over smaller ones, communities and individual workers which will definitely shape the outcome of any contract. For example, a large company or rich person will have access to more funds and so stretch out litigations and strikes until their opponents resources are exhausted. Or, if a company is polluting the environment, the local community may put up with the damage caused out of fear that the industry (which it depends upon) would relocate to another area. If members of the community did sue, then the company would be merely exercising its property rights when it threatened to move to another location. In such circumstances, the community would "freely" consent to its conditions or face massive economic and social disruption. And, similarly, "the landlords' agents who threatened to discharge agricultural workers and tenants who failed to vote the reactionary ticket" in the 1936 Spanish election were just exercising their legitimate property rights when they threatened working people and their families with economic uncertainty and distress. [Murray Bookchin, The Spanish Anarchists, p. 260]

If we take the labour market, it is clear that the "buyers" and "sellers" of labour power are rarely on an equal footing (if they were, then capitalism would soon go into crisis -- see section C.7). As we stressed in section C.9, under capitalism competition in labour markets is typically skewed in favour of employers. Thus the ability to refuse an exchange weighs most heavily on one class than another and so ensures that "free exchange" works to ensure the domination (and so exploitation) of one by the other. Inequality in the market ensures that the decisions of the majority of people within it are shaped in accordance with that needs of the powerful, not the needs of all. It was for this reason, for example, that the Individual Anarchist J.K. Ingalls opposed Henry George's proposal of nationalising the land. Ingalls was well aware that the rich could outbid the poor for leases on land and so the dispossession of the working class would continue.

The market, therefore, does not end power or unfreedom -- they are still there, but in different forms. And for an exchange to be truly voluntary, both parties must have equal power to accept, reject, or influence its terms. Unfortunately, these conditions are rarely meet on the labour market or within the capitalist market in general. Thus Rothbard's argument that economic power does not exist fails to acknowledge that the rich can out-bid the poor for resources and that a corporation generally has greater ability to refuse a contract (with an individual, union or community) than vice versa (and that the impact of such a refusal is such that it will encourage the others involved to compromise far sooner). In such circumstances, formally free individuals will have to "consent" to be unfree in order to survive. Looking at the tread-mill of modern capitalism, at what we end up tolerating for the sake of earning enough money to survive it comes as no surprise that anarchists have asked whether the market is serving us or are we serving it (and, of course, those who have positions of power within it).

So inequality cannot be easily dismissed. As Max Stirner pointed out, free competition "is not 'free,' because I lack the things for competition." Due to this basic inequality of wealth (of "things") we find that "[u]nder the regime of the commonality the labourers always fall into the hands of the possessors . . . of the capitalists, therefore. The labourer cannot realise on his labour to the extent of the value that it has for the customer . . . The capitalist has the greatest profit from it." [The Ego and Its Own, p. 262 and p. 115] It is interesting to note that even Stirner recognised that capitalism results in exploitation and that its roots lie in inequalities in property and so power. And we may add that value the labourer does not "realise" goes into the hands of the capitalists, who invest it in more "things" and which consolidates and increases their advantage in "free" competition. To quote Stephan L. Newman:

"Another disquieting aspect of the libertarians' refusal to acknowledge power in the market is their failure to confront the tension between freedom and autonomy. . . Wage labour under capitalism is, of course, formally free labour. No one is forced to work at gun point. Economic circumstance, however, often has the effect of force; it compels the relatively poor to accept work under conditions dictated by owners and managers. The individual worker retains freedom [i.e. negative liberty] but loses autonomy [positive liberty]." [Liberalism at Wit's End, pp. 122-123]

If we consider "equality before the law" it is obvious that this also has limitations in an (materially) unequal society. Brian Morris notes that for Ayn Rand, "[u]nder capitalism . . . politics (state) and economics (capitalism) are separated . . . This, of course, is pure ideology, for Rand's justification of the state is that it 'protects' private property, that is, it supports and upholds the economic power of capitalists by coercive means." [Ecology & Anarchism, p. 189] The same can be said of "anarcho"-capitalism and its "protection agencies" and "general libertarian law code." If within a society a few own all the resources and the majority are dispossessed, then any law code which protects private property automatically empowers the owning class. Workers will always be initiating force if they rebel against their bosses or act against the code and so equality before the law" reflects and reinforces inequality of power and wealth. This means that a system of property rights protects the liberties of some people in a way which gives them an unacceptable degree of power over others. And this critique cannot be met merely by reaffirming the rights in question, we have to assess the relative importance of the various kinds of liberty and other values we hold dear.

Therefore right-"libertarian" disregard for equality is important because it allows "anarcho"-capitalism to ignore many important restrictions of freedom in society. In addition, it allows them to brush over the negative effects of their system by painting an unreal picture of a capitalist society without vast extremes of wealth and power (indeed, they often construe capitalist society in terms of an ideal -- namely artisan production -- that is pre-capitalist and whose social basis has been eroded by capitalist development). Inequality shapes the decisions we have available and what ones we make:

"An 'incentive' is always available in conditions of substantial social inequality that ensure that the 'weak' enter into a contract. When social inequality prevails, questions arise about what counts as voluntary entry into a contract. This is why socialists and feminists have focused on the conditions of entry into the employment contract and the marriage contract. Men and women . . . are now juridically free and equal citizens, but, in unequal social conditions, the possibility cannot be ruled out that some or many contracts create relationships that bear uncomfortable resemblances to a slave contract." [Carole Pateman, Op. Cit., p. 62]

This ideological confusion of right-libertarianism can also be seen from their opposition to taxation. On the one hand, they argue that taxation is wrong because it takes money from those who "earn" it and gives it to the poor. On the other hand, "free market" capitalism is assumed to be a more equal society! If taxation takes from the rich and gives to the poor, how will "anarcho"-capitalism be more egalitarian? That equalisation mechanism would be gone (of course, it could be claimed that all great riches are purely the result of state intervention skewing the "free market" but that places all their "rags to riches" stories in a strange position). Thus we have a problem: either we have relative equality or we do not. Either we have riches, and so market power, or we do not. And its clear from the likes of Rothbard, "anarcho"-capitalism will not be without its millionaires (there is, according to him, apparently nothing un-libertarian about "hierarchy, wage-work, granting of funds by libertarian millionaires, and a libertarian party" [quoted by Black, Op. Cit., p. 142]). And so we are left with market power and so extensive unfreedom.

Thus, for a ideology that denounces egalitarianism as a "revolt against nature" it is pretty funny that they paint a picture of "anarcho"-capitalism as a society of (relative) equals. In other words, their propaganda is based on something that has never existed, and never will: an egalitarian capitalist society. Without the implicit assumption of equality which underlies their rhetoric then the obvious limitations of their vision of "liberty" become too obvious. Any real laissez-faire capitalism would be unequal and "those who have wealth and power would only increase their privileges, while the weak and poor would go to the wall . . . Right-wing libertarians merely want freedom for themselves to protect their privileges and to exploit others." [Peter Marshall, Op. Cit., p. 653]

F.3.2 Can there be harmony of interests in an unequal society?

Like the right-liberalism it is derived from, "anarcho"-capitalism is based on the concept of "harmony of interests" which was advanced by the likes of Frédéric Bastiat in the 19th century and Rothbard's mentor Ludwig von Mises in the 20th. For Rothbard, "all classes live in harmony through the voluntary exchange of goods and services that mutually benefits them all." This meant that capitalists and workers have no antagonistic class interests [Classical Economics: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, Vol. 2, p. 380 and p. 382]

For Rothbard, class interest and conflict does not exist within capitalism, except when it is supported by state power. It was, he asserted, "fallacious to employ such terms as 'class interests' or 'class conflict' in discussing the market economy." This was because of two things: "harmony of interests of different groups" and "lack of homogeneity among the interests of any one social class." It is only in "relation to state action that the interests of different men become welded into 'classes'." This means that the "homogeneity emerges from the interventions of the government into society." [Conceived in Liberty, vol. 1, p. 261] So, in other words, class conflict is impossible under capitalism because of the wonderful coincidence that there are, simultaneously, both common interests between individuals and classes and lack of any!

You do not need to be an anarchist or other socialist to see that this argument is nonsense. Adam Smith, for example, simply recorded reality when he noted that workers and bosses have "interests [which] are by no means the same. The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little as possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter to lower the wages of labour." [The Wealth of Nations, p. 58] The state, Smith recognised, was a key means by which the property owning class maintained their position in society. As such, it reflects economic class conflict and interests and does not create it (this is not to suggest that economic class is the only form of social hierarchy of course, just an extremely important one). American workers, unlike Rothbard, were all too aware of the truth in Smith's analysis. For example, one group argued in 1840 that the bosses "hold us then at their mercy, and make us work solely for their profit . . . The capitalist has no other interest in us, than to get as much labour out of us as possible. We are hired men, and hired men, like hired horses, have no souls." Thus "their interests as capitalist, and ours as labourers, are directly opposite" and "in the nature of things, hostile, and irreconcilable." [quoted by Christopher L. Tomlins, Law, Labor, and Ideology in the Early American Republic, p. 10] Then there is Alexander Berkman's analysis:

"It is easy to understand why the masters don't want you to be organised, why they are afraid of a real labour union. They know very well that a strong, fighting union can compel higher wages and better conditions, which means less profit for the plutocrats. That is why they do everything in their power to stop labour from organising . . .

"The masters have found a very effective way to paralyse the strength of organised labour. They have persuaded the workers that they have the same interests as the employers . . . and what is good for the employer is also good for his employees . . . If your interests are the same as those of your boss, then why should you fight him? That is what they tell you . . . It is good for the industrial magnates to have their workers believe [this] . . . [as they] will not think of fighting their masters for better conditions, but they will be patient and wait till the employer can 'share his prosperity' with them . . . If you listen to your exploiters and their mouthpieces you will be 'good' and consider only the interests of your masters . . . but no one cares about your interests . . . 'Don't be selfish,' they admonish you, while the boss is getting rich by your being good and unselfish. And they laugh in their sleeves and thank the Lord that you are such an idiot.

"But . . . the interests of capital and labour are not the same. No greater lie was ever invented than the so-called 'identity of interests' . . . It is clear that . . . they are entirely opposite, in fact antagonistic to each other." [What is Anarchism?, pp. 74-5]

That Rothbard denies this says a lot about the power of ideology.

Rothbard was clear what unions do, namely limit the authority of the boss and ensure that workers keep more of the surplus value they produce. As he put it, unions "attempt to persuade workers that they can better their lot at the expense of the employer. Consequently, they invariably attempt as much as possible to establish work rules that hinder management's directives . . . In other words, instead of agreeing to submit to the work orders of management in exchange for his pay, the worker now set up not only minimum wages, but also work rules without which they refuse to work." This will "lower output." [The Logic of Action II, p. 40 and p. 41] Notice the assumption, that the income of and authority of the boss are sacrosanct.

For Rothbard, unions lower productivity and harm profits because they contest the authority of the boss to do what they like on their property (apparently, laissez-faire was not applicable for working class people during working hours). Yet this implicitly acknowledges that there are conflicts of interests between workers and bosses. It does not take too much thought to discover possible conflicts of interests which could arise between workers who seek to maximise their wages and minimise their labour and bosses who seek to minimise their wage costs and maximise the output their workers produce. It could be argued that if workers do win this conflict of interests then their bosses will go out of business and so they harm themselves by not obeying their industrial masters. The rational worker, in this perspective, would be the one who best understood that his or her interests have become the same as the interests of the boss because his or her prosperity will depend on how well their firm is doing. In such cases, they will put the interest of the firm before their own and not hinder the boss by questioning their authority. If that is the case, then "harmony of interests" simply translates as "bosses know best" and "do what you are told" -- and such obedience is a fine "harmony" for the order giver we are sure!

So the interesting thing is that Rothbard's perspective produces a distinctly servile conclusion. If workers do not have a conflict of interests with their bosses then, obviously, the logical thing for the employee is to do whatever their boss orders them to do. By serving their master, they automatically benefit themselves. In contrast, anarchists have rejected such a position. For example, William Godwin rejected capitalist private property precisely because of the "spirit of oppression, the spirit of servility, and the spirit of fraud" it produced. [An Enquiry into Political Justice, p. 732]

Moreover, we should note that Rothbard's diatribe against unions also implicitly acknowledges the socialist critique of capitalism which stresses that it is being subject to the authority of boss during work hours which makes exploitation possible (see section C.2). If wages represented the workers' "marginal" contribution to production, bosses would not need to ensure their orders were followed. So any real boss fights unions precisely because they limit their ability to extract as much product as possible from the worker for the agreed wage. As such, the hierarchical social relations within the workplace ensure that there are no "harmony of interests" as the key to a successful capitalist firm is to minimise wage costs in order to maximise profits. It should also be noted that Rothbard has recourse to another concept "Austrian" economists claims to reject during his anti-union comments. Somewhat ironically, he appeals to equilibrium analysis as, apparently, "wage rates on the non-union labour market will always tend toward equilibrium in a smooth and harmonious manner" (in another essay, he opines that "in the Austrian tradition . . . the entrepreneur harmoniously adjusts the economy in the direction of equilibrium"). [Op. Cit., p. 41 and p. 234] True, he does not say that the wages will reach equilibrium (and what stops them, unless, in part, it is the actions of entrepreneurs disrupting the economy?) however, it is strange that the labour market can approximate a situation which Austrian economists claim does not exist! However, as noted in section C.1.6 this fiction is required to hide the obvious economic power of the boss class under capitalism.

Somewhat ironically, given his claims of "harmony of interests," Rothbard was well aware that landlords and capitalists have always used the state to further their interests. However, he preferred to call this "mercentilism" rather than capitalism. As such, it is amusing to read his short article "Mercentilism: A Lesson for Our Times?" as it closely parallels Marx's classic account of "Primitive Accumulation" contained in volume 1 of Capital. [Rothbard, Op. Cit., pp. 43-55] The key difference is that Rothbard simply refused to see this state action as creating the necessary preconditions for his beloved capitalism nor does it seem to impact on his mantra of "harmony of interests" between classes. In spite of documenting exactly how the capitalist and landlord class used the state to enrich themselves at the expense of the working class, he refuses to consider how this refutes any claim of "harmony of interests" between exploiter and exploited.

Rothbard rightly notes that mercantilism involved the "use of the state to cripple or prohibit one's competition." This applies to both foreign capitalists and to the working class who are, of course, competitors in terms of how income is divided. Unlike Marx, he simply failed to see how mercantilist policies were instrumental for building an industrial economy and creating a proletariat. Thus he thunders against mercantilism for "lowering interest rates artificially" and promoting inflation which "did not benefit the poor" as "wages habitually lagged behind the rise in prices." He describes the "desperate attempts by the ruling classes to coerce wages below their market rates." Somewhat ironically, given the "anarcho"-capitalist opposition to legal holidays, he noted the mercantilists "dislike of holidays, by which the 'nation' was deprived of certain amounts of labour; the desire of the individual worker for leisure was never considered worthy of note." So why were such "bad" economic laws imposed? Simply because the landlords and capitalists were in charge of the state. As Rothbard notes, "this was clearly legislation for the benefit of the feudal landlords and to the detriment of the workers" while Parliament "was heavily landlord-dominated." In Massachusetts the upper house consisted "of the wealthiest merchants and landowners." The mercantilists, he notes but does not ponder, "were frankly interested in exploiting [the workers'] labour to the utmost." [Op. Cit., p. 44, p. 46, p. 47, p. 51, p. 48, p. 51, p. 47, p. 54 and p. 47] Yet these policies made perfect sense from their class perspective, they were essential for maximising a surplus (profits) which was subsequently invested in developing industry. As such, they were very successful and laid the foundation for the industrial capitalism of the 19th century. The key change between mercantilism and capitalism proper is that economic power is greater as the working class has been successfully dispossessed from the means of life and, as such, political power need not be appealed to as often and can appear, in rhetoric at least, defensive.

Discussing attempts by employers in Massachusetts in 1670 and 1672 to get the state to enforce a maximum wage Rothbard opined that there "seemed to be no understanding of how wages are set in an unhampered market." [Conceived in Liberty, vol. 2, p. 18] On the contrary, dear professor, the employers were perfectly aware of how wages were set in a market where workers have the upper hand and, consequently, sought to use the state to hamper the market. As they have constantly done since the dawn of capitalism as, unlike certain economists, they are fully aware of the truth of "harmony of interests" and acted accordingly. As we document in section F.8, the history of capitalism is filled with the capitalist class using the state to enforce the kind of "harmony of interests" which masters have always sought -- obedience. This statist intervention has continued to this day as, in practice, the capitalist class has never totally relied on economic power to enforce its rule due to the instability of the capitalist market -- see section C.7 -- as well as the destructive effects of market forces on society and the desire to bolster its position in the economy at the expense of the working class -- see section D.1. That the history and current practice of capitalism was not sufficient to dispel Rothbard of his "harmony of interests" position is significant. But, as Rothbard was always at pains to stress as a good "Austrian" economist, empirical testing does not prove or disprove a theory and so the history and practice of capitalism matters little when evaluating the pros and cons of that system (unless its history confirms Rothbard's ideology then he does make numerous empirical statements).

For Rothbard, the obvious class based need for such policies is missing. Instead, we get the pathetic comment that only "certain" merchants and manufacturers "benefited from these mercantilist laws." [The Logic of Action II, p. 44] He applied this same myopic perspective to "actually existing" capitalism as well, of course, lamenting the use of the state by certain capitalists as the product of economic ignorance and/or special interests specific to the capitalists in question. He simply could not see the forest for the trees. This is hardly a myopia limited to Rothbard. Bastiat formulated his "harmony of interests" theory precisely when the class struggle between workers and capitalists had become a threat to the social order, when socialist ideas of all kinds (including anarchism, which Bastiat explicitly opposed) were spreading and the labour movement was organising illegally due to state bans in most countries. As such, he was propagating the notion that workers and bosses had interests in common when, in practice, it was most obviously the case they had not. What "harmony" that did exist was due to state repression of the labour movement, itself a strange necessity if labour and capital did share interests.

The history of capitalism causes problems within "anarcho"-capitalism as it claims that everyone benefits from market exchanges and that this, not coercion, produces faster economic growth. If this is the case, then why did some individuals reject the market in order to enrich themselves by political means and, logically, impoverish themselves in the long run (and it has been an extremely long run)? And why have the economically dominant class generally also been the ones to control the state? After all, if there are no class interests or conflict then why has the property owning classes always sought state aid to skew the economy in its interests? If the classes did have harmonious interests then they would have no need to bolster their position nor would they seek to. Yet state policy has always reflected the needs of the property-owning elite -- subject to pressures from below, of course (as Rothbard rather lamely notes, without pondering the obvious implications, the "peasantry and the urban labourers and artisans were never able to control the state apparatus and were therefore at the bottom of the state-organised pyramid and exploited by the ruling groups." [Conceived in Liberty, vol. 1, p. 260]). It is no coincidence that the working classes have not been able to control the state nor that legislation is "grossly the favourer of the rich against the poor." [William Godwin, Op. Cit., p. 93] They are the ones passing the laws, after all. This long and continuing anti-labour intervention in the market does, though, place Rothbard's opinion that government is a conspiracy against the superior man in a new light!

So when right-"libertarians" assert that there are "harmony of interests" between classes in an unhampered market, anarchists simply reply by pointing out that the very fact we have a "hampered" market shows that no such thing exists within capitalism. It will be argued, of course, that the right-"libertarian" is against state intervention for the capitalists (beyond defending their property which is a significant use of state power in and of itself) and that their political ideas aim to stop it. Which is true (and why a revolution would be needed to implement it!). However, the very fact that the capitalist class has habitually turned to the state to bolster its economic power is precisely the issue as it shows that the right-"libertarian" harmony of interests (on which they place so much stress as the foundation of their new order) simply does not exist. If it did, then the property owning class would never have turned to the state in the first place nor would it have tolerated "certain" of its members doing so.

If there were harmony of interests between classes, then the bosses would not turn to death squads to kill rebel workers as they have habitually done (and it should be stressed that libertarian union organisers have been assassinated by bosses and their vigilantes, including the lynching of IWW members and business organised death squads against CNT members in Barcelona). This use of private and public violence should not be surprising, for, at the very least, as Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magon noted, there can be no real fraternity between classes "because the possessing class is always disposed to perpetuate the economic, political, and social system that guarantees it the tranquil enjoyment of its plunders, while the working class makes efforts to destroy this iniquitous system." [Dreams of Freedom, p. 139]

Rothbard's obvious hatred of unions and strikes can be explained by his ideological commitment to the "harmony of interests." This is because strikes and the need of working class people to organise gives the lie to the doctrine of "harmony of interests" between masters and workers that apologists for capitalism like Rothbard suggested underlay industrial relations. Worse, they give credibility to the notion that there exists opposed interests between classes. Strangely, Rothbard himself provides more than enough evidence to refute his own dogmas when he investigates state intervention on the market.

Every ruling class seeks to deny that it has interests separate from the people under it. Significantly those who deny class struggle the most are usually those who practice it the most (for example, Mussolini, Pinochet and Thatcher all proclaimed the end of class struggle while, in America, the Republican-right denounces anyone who points out the results of their class war on the working class as advocating "class war"). The elite has long been aware, as Black Nationalist Steve Biko put it, that the "most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." Defenders of slavery and serfdom presented it as god's will and that the master's duty was to treat the slave well just as the slave's duty was to obey (while, of course, blaming the slave if the master did not hold up his side of the covenant). So every hierarchical system has its own version of the "harmony of interests" position and each hierarchical society which replaces the last mocks the previous incarnations of it while, at the same time, solemnly announcing that this society truly does have harmony of interests as its founding principle. Capitalism is no exception, with many economists repeating the mantra that every boss has proclaimed from the dawn of time, namely that workers and their masters have common interests. As usual, it is worthwhile to quote Rothbard on this matter. He (rightly) takes to task a defender of the slave master's version of "harmony of interests" and, in so doing, exposes the role of economics under capitalism. To quote Rothbard:

"The increasing alienation of the slaves and the servants led . . . the oligarchy to try to win their allegiance by rationalising their ordeal as somehow natural, righteous, and divine. So have tyrants always tried to dupe their subjects into approving -- or at least remaining resigned to -- their fate . . . Servants, according to the emphatically non-servant [Reverend Samuel] Willard, were duty-bound to revere and obey their masters, to serve them diligently and cheerfully, and to be patient and submissive even to the cruellest master. A convenient ideology indeed for the masters! . . . All the subjects must do, in short, was to surrender their natural born gift of freedom and independence, to subject themselves completely to the whims and commands of others, who could then be blindly trusted to 'take care' of them permanently . . . 

"Despite the myths of ideology and the threats of the whip, servants and slaves found many ways of protest and rebellion. Masters were continually denouncing servants for being disobedient, sullen, and lazy." [Conceived in Liberty, vol. 2, pp. 18-19]

Change Reverend Samuel Willard to the emphatically non-worker Professor Murray Rothbard and we have a very succinct definition of the role his economics plays within capitalism. There are differences. The key one was that while Willard wanted permanent servitude, Rothbard sought a temporary form and allowed the worker to change masters. While Willard turned to the whip and the state, Rothbard turned to absolute private property and the capitalist market to ensure that workers had to sell their liberty to the boss class (unsurprisingly, as Willard lived in an economy whose workers had access to land and tools while in Rothbard's time the class monopolisation of the means of life was complete and workers have little alternative but to sell their liberty to the owning class).

Rothbard did not seek to ban unions and strikes. He argued that his system of absolute property rights would simply make it nearly impossible for unions to organise or for any form of collective action to succeed. Even basic picketing would be impossible for, as Rothbard noted many a time, the pavement outside the workplace would be owned by the boss who would be as unlikely to allow picketing as he would allow a union. Thus we would have private property and economic power making collective struggle de facto illegal rather than the de jure illegality which the state has so enacted on behalf of the capitalists. As he put it, while unions were "theoretically compatible with the existence of a purely free market" he doubted that it would be possible as unions relied on the state to be "neutral" and tolerate their activities as they "acquire almost all their power through the wielding of force, specifically force against strike-beakers and against the property of employers." [The Logic of Action II, p. 41] Thus we find right-"libertarians" in favour of "defensive" violence (i.e., that limited to defending the property and power of the capitalists and landlords) while denouncing as violence any action of those subjected to it.

Rothbard, of course, allowed workers to leave their employment in order to seek another job if they felt exploited. Yet for all his obvious hatred of unions and strikes, Rothbard does not ask the most basic question -- if there is not clash of interests between labour and capital then why do unions even exist and why do bosses always resist them (often brutally)? And why has capital always turned to the state to bolster its position in the labour market? If there were really harmony of interests between classes then capital would not have turned repeatedly to the state to crush the labour movement. For anarchists, the reasons are obvious as is why the bosses always deny any clash of interests for "it is to the interests of capital to keep the workers from understanding that they are wage slaves. The 'identity of interest'; swindle is one of the means of doing it . . . All those who profit from wage slavery are interested in keeping up the system, and all of them naturally try to prevent the workers from understanding the situation." [Berkman, Op. Cit., p. 77]

Rothbard's vociferous anti-unionism and his obvious desire to make any form of collective action by workers impossible in practice if not in law shows how economics has replaced religion as a control mechanism. In any hierarchical system it makes sense for the masters to indoctrinate the servant class with such self-serving nonsense but only capitalists have the advantage that it is proclaimed a "science" rather than, say, a religion. Yet even here, the parallels are close. As Colin Ward noted in passing, the "so-called Libertarianism of the political Right" is simply "the worship of the market economy." [Talking Anarchy, p. 76] So while Willard appealed to god as the basis of his natural order, Rothbard appeal to "science" was nothing of the kind given the ideological apriorism of "Austrian" economics. As a particularly scathing reviewer of one of his economics books rightly put it, the "main point of the book is to show that the never-never land of the perfectly free market economy represents the best of all conceivable worlds giving maximum satisfaction to all participants. Whatever is, is right in the free market . . . It would appear that Professor Rothbard's book is more akin to systematic theology than economics . . . its real interest belongs to the student of the sociology of religion." [D.N. Winch, The Economic Journal, vol. 74, No. 294, pp. 481-2]

To conclude, it is best to quote Emma Goldman's biting dismissal of the right-liberal individualism that Rothbard's ideology is just another form of. She rightly attacked that "'rugged individualism' which is only a masked attempt to repress and defeat the individual and his individuality. So-called Individualism is the social and economic laissez-faire: the exploitation of the masses by classes by means of trickery, spiritual debasement and systematic indoctrination of the servile spirit . . . That corrupt and perverse 'individualism' is the strait-jacket of individuality . . . This 'rugged individualism' has inevitably resulted in the greatest modern slavery, the crassest class distinctions . . . 'Rugged individualism' has meant all the 'individualism' for the masters, while the people are regimented into a slave caste to serve a handful of self-seeking 'supermen' . . . [and] in whose name political tyranny and social oppression are defended and held up as virtues while every aspiration and attempt of man to gain freedom and social opportunity to live is denounced as . . . evil in the name of that same individualism." [Red Emma Speaks, p. 112]

So, to conclude. Both the history and current practice of capitalism shows that there can be no harmony of interests in an unequal society. Anyone who claims otherwise has not been paying attention.