An Anarchist’s Perspective on the Fiscal Cliff Fiasco

Both houses of Congress have voted in favor of the fiscal cliff deal. Many people, especially those who identify as conservatives, are in an uproar after it was announced that the House Republicans caved on the matter. For those who have been paying attention the deal involves both tax and spending increases. This may appear odd to people since the inclusion of both tax and spending increases seems to oppose to goal of stopping this country from falling off of the fiscal cliff. For those who understand the nature of the state this outcome was all but guaranteed. In order to understand the fiscal cliff deal one must first understand the function of the state.

People are raised to believe that the purpose of the state involves defending the people from foreign and domestic threats, building and maintaining infrastructure, caring for those who have nowhere else to turn, etc. As an anarchist I see the state differently. The true purpose of the state is to redistribute wealth from the general populace to the politically well-connected. Every supposed purpose of the state I listed is really a thinly veiled cover for wealth redistribution.

The true purpose of police officers is to act as direct state expropriators. Notice that a majority of offenses one can be punished for involve no victims. Speeding tickets, parking tickets, fines for possessing verboten drugs, etc. are victimless crimes that involve the payment of money from offenders to the state. Even the prison system is nothing more than a special form of subsidy in the form of slave labor. Federal prisoners are generally “employed” by Federal Prison Industries, more commonly known as UNICOR. UNICOR is a government owned corporation that produces goods and services for the federal government. All federal agencies, with the exception of the Department of Defense, are legally required to source all needed goods and services through UNICOR unless UNICOR is unable to provide it or gives permission to the federal agencie to seek an alternate provider. Private prisons are another form of subsidy. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison industry in the country, uses prisoners to provide goods and services to at extremely cheap prices. The police, through enforcing jailable offenses, provide both UNICOR and private companies like CCA with a source of extremely cheap labor. Both corporations enjoy a benefit over other domestic providers of goods and services since neither is obligated to follow labor laws such as paying workers a minimum wage. Effectively wealth, in the form of labor, is being transfered from prisoners to entities like UNICOR and CCA. The state’s courts have also ruled that the police are not obligate to provide protection, further invalidating any claim that their primary purpose is the defense of individuals from domestic threats.

What about the military? Isn’t the primary purpose of the military to defend the populace of a state from foreign threats? No. The primary purpose of the military is to expand the realm in which the state can expropriate from. Consider the Mexican-American War, which broke out when the United States annexed Texas. Even though the war was justified by the claim that Texas needed to be protected after annexation the results of the war demonstrate the true purpose. By the conclusion of the war the United States claimed ownership over previously held Mexican territories including New Mexico and California, which was a stated goal of then President James Polk. The Spanish-American War was another example of early American expansionism. During the Cuban Revolution the United States sent it’s battleship Maine to Havana Harbor under the guise of protecting American interests. After arriving in Havana Harbor the Maine sank after a mysterious explosion. Even though a board of inquiry was unable to determine the cause of the explosions it was blamed on Spain and used to justify the Spanish-American War. By the end of the war the United States held temporary control over Cuba and permanent control over Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Today’s wars are no different. Under the guise of fighting terrorism the United States occupies a great deal of the Middle East, which has vast oil deposits. In addition to oil Afghanistan holds a great deal of lithium. Beyond natural resources the United States also hands out contracts to politically connect security and construction companies. The former is claimed to be necessary to protect people in the war-torn regions, even though the contractors have continuously harmed the people of those regions [PDF], and the former is claimed to be necessary to rebuild the countries after the initial invasions. Whether through expansion of territory, and thus an increase of tax victims, or through transfers of wealth from foreigners to domestic individuals and organizations the military exists primarily to expropriate wealth.

Infrastructure is another form of wealth redistribution. By claiming jurisdiction over the construction and maintenance of roads, power lines, water pipes, etc. the state grants itself the power to grant monopolies to entities involved in those respective utilities. Furthermore the cost of constructing and maintaining infrastructure can be socialized. Consider the power grid. If somebody wanted to provide power they would also be required to provide a mechanism to transfer power from their power production facilities to their customers. This means individual power companies would be required to not only build and maintain power production facilities but also build and maintain transference infrastructure such as power lines. In locations where the state lays claim over building and maintaining power lines they transfer associated costs from power providers to the general populace. Furthermore by claiming authority over power lines the state is able to protect politically connect power providers from competition. When the only allowed way to transfer power from a power production facility to customers is through state controlled power lines free competition cannot exist. Only power providers granted permission by the state to use the power lines are able to provide customers with electricity.

Roads and highways are yet another form of subsidy. What good is a business if either customers are unable to to get to the business’s location or the business is unable to deliver goods and services from its location to customers’? If the state didn’t build and maintain road infrastructure the costs would likely fall upon businesses as they have a vested interest in connecting their locations to the locations of their customers. Since businesses want to reduce costs they would likely find more innovative methods of connecting their locations to their customers’ locations. Easy methods of reducing connection costs may range from simply building their businesses closer to residential neighborhoods to constructing of more efficient delivery methods. During the early years of the United States the transportation method built and maintained by private entities was rail [PDF]. By granting the state power over the construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure the involved costs were socialized over the general populace. Another beneficial side-effect of granting transportation infrastructure authority to the state, at least for the politically connected, was protection from competition. When the state claimed authority over transportation infrastructure it also claimed authority over regulating what can be transported on that infrastructure. Many goods restricted from being transfered on roads and highways must be produced locally and those local producers enjoy protection from distant competitors. In the end the state’s claim in the realm of building and maintaining infrastructure is another redistribution of wealth, primarily from the general populace to private businesses.

What about caring for those who have nowhere else to turn? Surly that is one rightful duty of a state. How could redistribution occur under the guise of helping the sick or poor? Unfortunately the history of state welfare is a history of expropriation. Consider the voluntary mechanisms employed by societies to care for the sick and poor when the state is uninvolved in welfare. Before the United States government entered the welfare market the sick and poor were primarily cared for through charity and mutual aid. People, realizing the benefits of helping those in need, found efficient and effective methods of providing education, healthcare, and other desired services to those without means of obtaining them otherwise. Around the turn of the century the state created the American Medical Association (AMA) and demanded all medical schools be certified by the association. The AMA, being run by doctors, had a vested interest in creating an artificial shortage in the number of doctors. If there are less doctors the prices that can be asked by current doctors increases. By 1918 the number of medical schools dropped 51 percent from it’s highest point in 1904. This drop is attributable to the the AMA ruling so many medical schools as being insufficient to train medical personell. Wealth was expropriated by the state from the general populace to approved doctors by reducing competition in the medical field. From those apparently innocuous beginnings the state has continued to increase its power in the welfare market. The Affordable Care Act redistributes wealth from the general populace to health insurance companies by mandating every American buy health insurance. Since increased health coverage doesn’t increase health care nothing is improved in the overall healthcare market, wealth was merely redistributed from the general populace to health insurance companies.

Knowing this the fiscal cliff deal makes sense. While the state hid the fiscal cliff deal under the guise of saving an already weakened economy the truth is far more insidious. The actual purpose of the fiscal cliff deal was to increase the state’s rate of expropriation in a manner that ensured compliance from the general populace. If the state merely raised taxes the people would be less likely to comply. On the other hand if the state raises taxes after getting the general populace to believe the alternative would be much worse people are more likely to comply. It’s similar to plea deals offered to individuals accused of criminal offenses. Usually the accused is offered a far more lenient sentence if they forgo a jury trial by admitting guilt. For example, instead of paying a $10,000 fine and spending 10 years in prison the accused is offered a $5,000 fine and 2 years in prison followed by 3 years of parole. This offer is very appealing to somebody facing the state’s capacity for violence and they are apt to accept it whether they were guilty of the misdeed or not. Such a deal is also desirable to the state as they forgo the expensive of a court battle. Court battles not only require the state to pay lawyers and collect evidence, they also tie up the court, which would be more productively used threatening another accused individual. During this fiscal cliff fiasco we’ve been told that the alternative to any deal would be a completely destroyed economy. A completely destroyed economy, according to the state, would lead to another Great Depression. Since the people believe the alternative to the fiscal cliff deal, which includes tax increases, is starvation they are more willing to comply with the increased rate of expropriation. In the end, just like a plea deal, the fiscal cliff theatre allows the state to expropriate more wealth with less work since the populace is more apt to comply and the need for direct state force is reduced.

Blame for the fiscal cliff deal is being thrown everywhere. Self-described fiscal conservatives are blaming the Republicans for caving instead of demanding spending cuts. Blaming the Republicans or Democrats for the fiscal cliff deal fails to address the root of the problem, which is the state itself. The fiscal cliff deal, that is to say the redistribution of wealth through increased taxation and spending, is the entire purpose of the state. Both Republicans and Democrats are agents of the state and therefore have a vested interest in increasing state expropriation. With a proper understanding of the state this outcome was easily predicted. In fact the only way one could believe any actual fight was occurring between the Republicans and Democrats over this deal are those who don’t fully understand the nature and purpose of the state.