In this new series, I use examples from real interactions I’ve had with people to illustrate how flawed thinking shows up in these frequent conversations. The idea is to help you identify bad thinking in yourself and others. To be clear, I am not suggesting that I am a perfect “thinker,” so it is very possible that I will make mistakes from time to time. That’s where I count on you, dear reader to stay alert. I just might throw in some bad thinking on purpose to see if you’re paying attention.
Please enjoy “Bad Thinkers #1: Capitalism is Collectivism.”
This is my response to a post from a private Facebook group on Anarchist philosophies. The author of this post is a self-described Anarcho-Communist speaking against Anarcho-Capitalists.
The Original Post
The following is the original post in all its unedited glory. This way there is no confusion as to whether I took something out of context or manipulated his ideas in any way.
Just because you don't understand something doesn't make it "collectivist". Capitalism is collectivist. A business is me submitting my labor and my authority to my boss. A free market means I agree to submit myself to the mob rule of how a market should be ran. Theoretical communism (with lower case c) has been noted to be a hyper individualistic idea if it was put in practice. It's a world where everything is free that you can get your hands on. There is no reason to submit oneself to a master for your needs. You can be your own boss in communism.
This is so full of flawed thinking, it’s not even funny. Let’s begin!
“Just because you don't understand something doesn't make it "collectivist."” — There is way too much assumption going on in this statement for it to be a true one. It’s quite insulting too. The author presumes he comes from the position of knowing and his opponent is uneducated.
“Capitalism is collectivist.” — A simple look at the definitions of both prove this point to be not only incorrect, but contradictory. The key phrases are, “private or corporate ownership of capital goods” (capitalism) vs “control of the means of production and distribution by the people collectively” (collectivism). See also the part of the definition of “collectivism” where it says, “the opposite of individualism.”
“A business is me submitting my labor and my authority to my boss.” — Also incorrect. A business is “an organization or economic system where goods and services are exchanged for one another or for money.” There is no “submission.” It is a voluntary exchange of monetary value for (in this case) your services (labor). Also, the second part, where he suggests you are submitting your “authority” to your boss, is incorrect. Whenever I hire someone, I am actually depending or counting on someone’s authority in whatever particular task I am hiring them for. If I hire a plumber, I am actually the one submitting to his authority in the arena of plumbing; not the other way around. Most importantly, we both have a choice to “do business” with one another.
“A free market means I agree to submit myself to the mob rule of how a market should be ran.” — I’m not 100% certain the original author actually looked up definitions before he started spouting this incoherent crap. According to this description of free markets, “free markets are characterized by a spontaneous and decentralized order of arrangements through which individuals make economic decisions.” Last time I checked, “decentralized” and “individual” is the opposite of a “mob.” By the author’s description, in a free market, who is the “mob?” Is it the customers making purchasing decisions? No, they’re not a mob because they are comprised of individuals making individual decisions and transactions. They are not all coming together to decide the price of goods/services and then purchasing according to their final decision.
“Theoretical communism“ — How is “Theoretical communism” different from just plain “communism?” Adding the word “Theoretical” to the beginning of terms does not change anything. Be wary of this as you read through news articles. Biased journalists attempt this trick all the time; adding adjectives to sway their readers toward their particular biases.
“Theoretical communism has been noted to be a hyper individualistic idea” — Grammatically, it should have been “hyper-individualistic,” but I digress. The real problem here is that there is no known definition or description that describes communism as hyper-individualistic. Some source material would have been great in this particular case, but the author provided none.
“It's a world where everything is free that you can get your hands on.” — First of all, there is no such thing as free. Whenever you have the illusion of free, there is nothing more expensive than free. And besides, this idea is mathematically impossible to achieve. It’s an incredibly destructive, winner-take-all, nihilistic version of anarchism that comes straight out of Hollywood films. I challenge the author to show me a world in which this is even remotely applicable to reality; an extraordinary claim. The burden-of-proof is on the original author since extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence/proof.
“There is no reason to submit oneself to a master for your needs.” — By the very definition of communism, one absolutely must submit oneself to a master for his/her needs. Society overall must submit to a master for its needs. That master is the government/state (which is why anarcho-communism is an oxymoron). Communism: “A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy, and a single (often authoritarian) party holds power.”
“You can be your own boss in communism.” — Again, by the very definition of communism, you cannot be your own boss. You PLUS everyone else is your boss; collectively. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I’m starting to get a sense that the author doesn’t know the difference between socialism and communism.
As you can tell, there were some pretty blatant and obvious conflicts in terms and ideas in the author’s statement. Ones that were simply untrue based on the most basic definitions of certain words. You’ll notice examples like this come up time and time again during discussions. The author is verbally acute and, therefore, able to string together words that sound impressive and knowledgeable. This is commonly known as “sophistry.”
This is why it’s important to break down someone’s thoughts line-by-line to discover the obvious contradictions.
Do you have any examples of a discussion in which the person is just wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on what exactly? Send examples to firstname.lastname@example.org and I might use your example in a future installment of Bad Thinkers.