19 October 2013

The New Left-Right Paradigm?

discussion between Adam Kokesh and Peter Joseph earlier this year inspired me to look deeper into the exchange taking place between The Zeitgeist Movement and Liberty Movement. As can be seen in this Abby Martin interview (watch@22:50), I am not the only noticing this division within the greater movement--that is, the movement against our dominant system today and one for more sustainable alternatives.

To stimulate further discussion, I hosted a debate called 'What Social System Best Serves Humankind'. The debaters were Victor Pross and Matt Berkowitz, two outspoken Vancouver locals advocating for Anarcho-Capitalism and for a Resource Based Economy, respectively. Witnessed from the event page activity alone (which peaked at 1000+ posts/ day), my efforts together with Matt and Victor's definitely stoked the fire for further discussion. But a serious question remains: Given these efforts, what progress has been made? Where do we stand since the debate? Though the post-debate survey I conducted is not statistically representative, perhaps the results below can provide some insight in regards to these questions.

A few months after my debate, two of the biggest proponents of their respective "camps" - Peter Joseph (creator of the Zeitgeist films) and Stefan Molyneux (a Free-Market Anarchist) - faced off in a spirited exchange. Both men followed up with post-debate analysis and commentary, which you can find here(<S.M.), (P.J.>)here and here. Sadly, it appears that for the time being, friends are 'off' between Peter and Stefan. But despite ties being cut between these two heavy hitters, other voices continue to add to the debate (e.g., AnCapChase's critical response).

Still, anything close to a resolution has been hard to come by between the two debating wings. This, I think, is due to a fundamental disagreement over The Root Cause of society's problems. Advocates of each position tend to talk past each other because they come from incompatible starting points for social critique. There is also a tendency of both parties to use like terms (e.g., the free-market) with definitions that vary according to . It is clear that while dialogue continues between loyal AnCaps and RBE advocates, many find the prospect of living and working together unlikely if not impossible.

To review each position:
AnCaps condemn the state or anybody that maintains illegitimate control over others. Coercive (forceful) authority is argued to be illegitimate and immoral because it has not come about voluntarily. Most of society's institutions have been hijacked by the state and the perpetual violence witnessed throughout society is argued to be an in/direct effect of this party that retains its monopoly on violence. By disempowering institutions of violence, fraud and theft, AnCaps wish for the world to realize the promise that a 'true' free-market is capable of offering society.

To be clear, The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM) also dislikes the 'state', as defined above. Similar to AnCaps, they await its demise along with the inevitable collapse of the fiat-based financial system. But compared to AnCaps, Zeitgeist advocates view the state as just another symptom of capitalism, or 'an outgrowth' of the market as Peter Joseph puts it. So long as the capitalist market system exists, eliminating the state will not eliminate people's exploitative mindset. In other words, even if the state - as we know it - were no more, humanity would find other ways to oppress each other because of how the competitive system we live in has socialized us. 
TZM proposes a revolutionary alternative argued to be well within humanity's reach: the implementation of a global non-competitive economy, namely a Resource Based Economy (aka Natural Law Economy). The egoless scientific method would be used to solve many problems we've been told are political when in reality, they have technical solutions. Utilizing a systems approach to map and distribute the Earth's available resources, the basic needs of everyone (clean water, food, shelter) would be met first and foremost, eliminating the need for useless and wasteful jobs and as a result giving humanity more time to enjoy life and pursue our interests sustainably. 


By engaging myself in this debate, I have changed from an audience member to actively becoming part of the discussion. In so doing, I have asked myself if what I'm experiencing is the formation of a New Left-Right paradigm: a rehashed schism between collective and individual rights, socialism and capitalism, hierarchy versus egalitarianism (without a nationalist distraction). 

But it's imperative to realize that both sides agree on principles of non-violence, equality and efficiency. Wouldn't it then prove useful to establish a list of other issues and initiatives that members of both camps can agree on, and work from there? 

While always stressing the importance of critical thinking, I think we should remain respectful of all positions that, at their core, aim to achieve the greatest possible prosperity for a humanity faced with collapse. There is plenty of room for others, such as Left libertarians, to join the conversation and strike a balance between AnCap and RBE factions. The implementation of many proposed alternatives are already possible. It's now time to make them part of a workable reality. Surely some solidarity can be found in how we assist in laying our corrupted system to rest and transition into a society of higher-consciousness. 

[last edit: Aug 17, 2014] 

To date, one of the more civil conversations between TZM and AnCap: Neil Kiernan and Mike Shanklin

Also recommended:
Libertarian Socialist Critique of TZM


  1. Pretty well said. We need more cooperation and less ego. Also, I wouldn't call a state a state, states aren't states, towns aren't towns. They're legally registered as corporations... I was befuddled when for the first time in my life I noticed that the local arena, which sports the crest of the town had "corporation of forestville" in it. Yeah, I never noticed before being aware of that 1933 government to corporation switch thing, jaw-dropping moment.

  2. Thanks for hosting the debate. The rift between anarcho-capitalists and the Zeitgeist Movement is nothing new and the friction between Peter Joseph and Stefan Molyneux was charging for a long time. Ever since Zeitgeist Addendum (2008) came out an-caps jumped into gear and virtually came running over to Zeitgeist videos, well, every day till now really claiming how mistaken we were (to put it diplomatically).

    There are some fundamental differences which should become obvious to the objective researcher. An-caps want a marketplace where they individually can gain an advantage through trading other matters being less important. Zeitgeist or RBE advocates claim we no longer need to the market and that every human need can be fulfilled using science, technology and automation.

    That would mean collaborating instead of competing. I'm a Zeitgeist supporter since 2009 and I was just dumbfounded at how much resistance 'our' message got. Being European the political spectrum is also somewhat different not to mention culture itself. Decoded, for a lot of an-caps, liberty means maximizing money, property and wealth. Yet they set no limits or restrictions on it. Which in turn means that much resources can wind up in the hands of a few and if you look at the wealth inequality in the U.S. you'll immediately find confirmation.

    Take away the state and this process continues. The wealthy 1% who lobbies the state right now for their own interests will simply go on in an anarcho-capitalist society. Thinking they will behave or don't consolidate their power is beyond naive. An-caps want a competition but seem to forget that this generates winners and losers. Take away healthcare or other social programs then some of these people will perish. Yet this what an-caps advocate, paying for someone else's medical bills is force and socialism.

    They talk about the Non Aggression Principle like it's some holy code to live by but if a person is deprived, sick or starving in the market with no help in sight they are going to do those things necessary to survive. In absolute survival the market rules don't count anymore. If you're a wealthy an-cap and you own land the size of Texas and thousands are starving just outside your border while you're eating steaks and corn, you're going to go... The N.A.P. makes way for the S.P., the Survival Principle. Seeing how so many an-caps are U.S. based I reckon they want a modernized version of the Wild West.

    Where common ground might be found between an-caps and RBE proponents is that human needs have to be fulfilled first. If people are starving, they are going to raid your farm. As simple as that. And with the debt crises, technological unemployment and the limited amount of oil in the ground the market is going to change dramatically. Time to expand our horizon.

  3. Interesting dialogue, though the discourse doesn't seem to take two elements into account: human nature and the extremely diverse points of departure any community has regarding shaping a society's model. To wit, a single mother (and the reason for her being single) will have very different expectations from a world order, be she in Ashgabad, Sumgait, Chicoutimi, Bogota, kirkeneas, etc. Local values, history, levels of education, communication tools shape views of the future and future world models more than philosophies.

  4. do you censor comments? i thought you an-caps were all about free speech