I originally posted this as a comment on Strike the Root!, but thought it relevant enough to be posted here as a full entry unto itself. It might be easier to understand it if you read it in context in the entry “Socialism Defined”. This comment in response to another comment which is very much anti-capitalism.
However, it’s important to consider the value of the land owner to the worker. If the worker were solely responsible for taking care of the land, machinery, and other tools of the trade, then that worker would be far less productive.
Let’s muse upon this. In the ideal situation, the worker creates something of value to others. He continues doing so, using his own equipment, land, and resources. He receives in its entirety all earnings from his labor, and uses those earnings to invest in more land, equipment, and resources. His investment provides income to no one, because he is doing everything himself. He is a producer, not a consumer.
He realizes that if he pays another person to gather resources, to construct equipment, to prepare land, he can spend more time producing the actual product himself. So, he sacrifices a portion of his earnings in exchange for a needed product or service.
He continues to realize the value of relying on others to do the tasks he’d rather not do (vendors) so that he can spend more time doing what he does want to do.
Eventually, he arrives at the point where the only things he does for his enterprise are coordinate these vendors and produce his product. He’s able to find a balance between the earnings he keeps for himself (profits) and the earnings he sacrifices (expenses) so that he can spend the optimal amount of time producing a product.
As in any industry, he’s bound to encounter both competitors and aspiring competitors. He proposes this to them: “I’ll reduce your expenses by permitting you to use my resources. You get more profit because you can spend more time producing and less time coordinating vendors. All I ask in return is a small portion of your profits, as I act as a vendor because I coordinate vendors, and I do the things you’d rather not do, such as care for the equipment, facilities, and land, and I actually sell the product.”
Our man has his first employee, and has become management. In another way, the employee is also the employer, because, in a way, the employee pays the employer to provide the equipment, land, and resources so that the employee can produce the product.
This carries on ad infinitum until our man has become The Man, because he spends more time coordinating vendors and managing employees than actually producing a product. Should not he be compensated for his work coordinating these vendors and selling the product?
The key here is that all of this interaction is willing. If at any point any person is wholly unwilling, it becomes slavery.
Government works similarly. Citizens, or, really, signatories of some agreement forming a government, federation, coalition, or other such body of people, sacrifice a portion of their earnings so that they can pay a vendor to do the things they don’t want to do. These things include caring for the land of the government, and the equipment and resources required to do so. Laws became necessary to protect the rights of citizens from abrogation by other citizens (and, arguably, the choice deities for the realm) and to ensure that the commons of the government fall not into tragedy (see Tragedy of the Commons).
The people who provide these services are vendors to the government. We call them firefighters and law enforcement (police, code enforcers, etc.).
The factor differentiating our man’s enterprise from our model government is that government need not generate a profit. It is merely a cost center financed by those who willingly and gladly pay to have others take care of the things they’d rather not do. In this way, the government is the employee of the citizens, and the government may employ citizens who are vendors.
There’s another observation to be made here: the government is only paying its vendors/employees in return for a service. Also, the citizens are willingly sacrificing a portion of their earnings in order to finance their government, which employs willing vendors, who provide a product (or a service) to the government.
The government can only spend as much of these earnings as it has, but it can request that citizens contribute more. Citizens who are willing contribute more, those who are not willing voice their opinion. Both sides look to the original agreement and successive laws for direction and decide who gets their way: the government or the citizens. If the government gets its way, citizens must contribute more or cease participation in the government.
You can see the problem here. Our laws have been written so that it’s impossible to leave the government because of a disagreement. Instead, we subject ourselves to this oppression, contribute more of our earnings, and hope that we can alter the government so as to reduce the contributions, by an outright reduction or a reduction in the use of vendors employed by the government, thus a reduction in the services which the government provides to the citizens.
The “exploitation of the worker” occurs when The Man takes more than his share and does not provide sufficient value to the employee, and the employee is unwilling or unable to right the situation, or feels that there is nothing wrong with the arrangement when outside observers disagree. It’s a tragedy of capitalism caused by greed, a human factor which can only be controlled through education of moral values (religious and non-religious, although the former seems to be easier to use) and self-determination.
The “exploitation of the citizen”, their sentiment that taxes are thievery, occurs similarly to exploitation of the worker: the citizen is unwilling or unable to right the situation, or feels that there is nothing wrong with government when outside observers disagree.
Fortunately, the government of the United States is set up in a way in which the citizens employ a vendor who represents their interests in the government–a representative and/or senator. Like our man’s enterprise, if the citizens do not like the product of that vendor (here, laws which care for the lands, equipment, and resources of the government, and protect the rights of the citizens), they can choose a different vendor.
Unfortunately, altruism plays a larger factor in government than in our man’s enterprise. If the man realizes that a portion of his business is failing, he can choose to stop producing the product (see the argument of the square wheel versus the round wheel). The government does not have a product, and thus has nothing which it can or needs to stop producing.
However, if the citizens decide that they want to provide vendors with earnings without that vendor having provided any service or product to the government, and direct the government to ask citizens to contribute more of their earnings in order to compensate these vendors who have provided no value through a product or service, these citizens and their government are edging toward socialism.
The justification is that these vendors, who are likely citizens with who are unable or unwilling to provide a service or produce a product, are of value to the citizens or government on some inexplicable, immeasurable level: altruism.
This is all well and good, until a citizen decides that a vendor is not of value and should not receive earnings, as the vendor has provided no value to the citizen, even by proxy of the government.
Our modern government has grown to a size where “exploitation of the citizen” is commonplace because of the peoples’ unwillingness, inability to let their voice be heard; to choose a new vendor who represents their interests and philosophies. They’ve lost hope. Because of this, they call their government thieves, because the government takes valuables from unwilling contributors and redistributes those valuables to those who are unable or unwilling to provide some value in measurable terms.