The Anti-Social Socialist: How Do We Rent Our Lives?

How Do We Rent Our Lives? by The Anti-Social Socialist

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“The radical capitalist social revolution in which sovereignty in economic affairs passed from the community as a whole into the hands of special class of masters often remote from production, a group alien to the producers.” — Norman Ware

by The Anti-Social Socialist
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Originally published October 15, 2019
March 2, 2021

The Bewildered Herd on Oct 2, 2019


“Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.” — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

In 1958 Isaiah Berlin described negative liberty as the freedom from outside interference and positive liberty as the freedom to achieve your goals.

To understand the differences, let’s look at slaves, who were free in the negative sense, after the Emancipation Proclamation. The Reconstruction Amendments and laws that were passed granted former slaves political freedom but they had no means of survival on their own. They had no land, no money and no resources. Historian John Green said, regarding their new freedom but lack of opportunity:

“That question of what it really means to be free in a system of free market capitalism has proven to be very complicated indeed.” — John Green

These two different understandings of liberty are what divide socialists and American libertarians. American libertarians believe you are free in the absence of outside influences, in other words you’re no one’s slave; while socialists believe you are free if you have the ability to live as your own master.

Capitalism is based off depriving people of the right to control their own lives. To look at the birth of industrial capitalism we must first understand Enclosure. Enclosure was a measure passed by the state legally barring people from their land. Denying peasants access to communal resources meant the ability of workers to own their own means of production decreased over time and eventually they had nothing to sell but their labor.

The free people, liberated by classical liberalism, resisted the conversion to wage slavery prefering even vagrancy to this new form of control. So the new moneyed classes then turned to the state to criminalize poverty and not allow the public to use land without paying the ruling class in the form of permits and/or taxes. Labor historian Norman Ware writes:

“The radical capitalist social revolution in which sovereignty in economic affairs passed from the community as a whole into the hands of special class of masters often remote from production, a group alien to the producers.” — Norman Ware

We are still feeling the effects of Enclosure today. It’s one of the reasons there has been a long history of criminalizing marijuana while tobacco has been legal or, why our society is powered by fossil fuels instead of renewable energy. Tobacco and oil are difficult to cultivate and extract. They take upfront investment, capital, machinery and networks of distribution. In other words, a lot of people can extract wealth from the process even though they contribute nothing to it.

Meanwhile, marijuana is a weed you can easily grown on your own property and once solar panels are on your roof, the sun’s energy is yours to harness. The reason these things are not allowed is because the ruling class cannot make money off of them.

The capitalist version of the free market, which isn’t free at all, deprives the population of their own means of subsistence and creates a web of sophisticated forms of control where one must pay rent to in order to survive. Take the example of the automobile. When it was invented it was supposed to free us, and for a time it did. But soon everything became specifically designed for it until you couldn’t even go to the grocery store without one.

Once it became mandatory, licenses were required, insurance needed, loans for purchasing, registration became a must, drug testing and physicals. In short, with very few exceptions, cars became mandatory for societal participation. In other words, you’re constantly paying people for freedom. The same is true with the capitalist free market, albeit on a much larger and more invasive scale.

Before the industrial revolution, farmers and artisans would produce for themselves and sell any excess in the market. But after depriving people of their own means of survival, workers were forced to subordinate themselves to capitalists and capitalists were forced to subordinate themselves to the market. As a result, producing for the market became the populations’ all-consuming task. Anarcho-communist Petr Kropotikin wrote, in his masterpiece The Conquest of Bread:

“So the poor wretches swarm over the baron’s lands, making roads, draining marshes, building villages. In nine years he begins to tax them. Five years later he increases the rent. Then he doubles it. The peasant accepts these new conditions because he cannot find better ones elsewhere; and little by little, with the aid of laws made by the barons, the poverty of the peasant becomes the source of the landlord’s wealth.”

In other words, The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord, the steam mill society with the industrial capitalist.

Today, everything has become private property or state property. There is nowhere you can live without having to pay a landlord or government rent. One is forced to accept the conditions of capitalists and the government or to die of hunger. Those who own property exploit those who do not because they have no access to the resources they need to survive, forcing them to sell their labor to others.

The amount of wealth one produces is constantly being appropriated by the government in the form of increasing taxation, or the capitalist in the form of stagnating or declining wages and the ever increasing army of middle managers.

For 250 thousand years, human beings were preoccupied with their own survival. It was only after the agricultural revolution and the surplus of goods that came with it, that allowed human beings to be able to pursue other avenues like science, medicine and inventions through collective learning, all of which have greatly improved our standard of living.

But this surplus is no longer shared. We have no say in what is done with the wealth we produce. It is concentrated into the hands of a few forcing the rest of us to toil precariously in order to squeeze out a meager existence. But imagine the leaps forward we could make if people’s needs were met through positive liberty.

There is more than enough to go around, but the capitalist class uses artificial scarcity to keep us in a humble state of dependence. Of course, there is work that needs to be done if new technology, developed on the taxpayer’s dime, doubled productivity for a factory that employs 100 workers, in a sane society, workers would go from working 40 hours a week to working 20 hours a week. But our irrational, for-profit capitalist system instead leaves 50 people without jobs thus placing them in competition with the other workers and driving down wages at taxpayer expense.

If people didn’t have to rent their lives to enrich others, if our basic needs were met, if people had access to the means of their own survival, if there was positive liberty, imagine the great leaps forward we could make as a species by great minds that are currently preoccupied with their own survival. Historian of science Stephen Jay Ghould writes:

“I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” — Stephen Jay Gould

From the archives:

The Anti-Social Socialist: What was the Trilateral Commission?

Plutocracy I-V (must-see)

The Anti-Social Socialist: What is the Connection Between Narcissism and Capitalism?

The Anti-Social Socialist: What is Wage Slavery?

How Capitalism Controls You by The Anti-Social Socialist

Chris Hedges: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed