Home > General Comment > If You Want to End Poverty, You Should Oppose Poverty Programs

If You Want to End Poverty, You Should Oppose Poverty Programs

Today and tomorrow Washington will publish a host of meaningless, but anxiously awaited, jobs numbers. Indications are these numbers will be unprecedentedly awful by any historical standard, but your expectations will be managed in such a way, that, by the end of the nightly news, you too will view them as at least weakly positive.

So, what does it mean to say the jobs numbers are positive? Are fewer jobs bad when you’re utterly dependent on wage labor? Are more jobs good, when you’re nothing more than a wage slave? Frankly, in my opinion the only good jobs figure is zero, folks: No one has a job; no one has a wage; we are all unemployed. When that makes sense, you’ve figured out the secret of capitalism.

Anti-statists wax eloquent about abolishing the state, but here is a hint: wage slavery is the state.

The number of Marxists who know the state is founded on wage slavery, yet weep when unemployment increases, is shocking. Marxists typically treat any rise in unemployment as if it is the end of the world. The argument made by some silly Marxists is that if we do not demand an end to unemployment we are banking on the resulting mass suffering as a trigger for a revolution.

I’m not buying into that argument. Honestly, to my mind this seems to place us in a bind: to prevent mass suffering from unemployment, we have to promote ever increasing wage slavery. We end up opposing wage slavery only to the extent it does not cause any actual suffering.

By contrast, libertarians of the Austrian type, who oppose any state effort to stabilize the economy, come off looking like cold-blooded savages. In the public mind, to oppose state countercyclical policy intervention, you have to be an Austrian knuckle-dragger, who views society as some Darwinistic nightmare.

Frankly, this predicament is not the least bit satisfying; I don’t want to have to choose between wage slavery and starvation. I’m just thinking out loud about this problem. It seems to me we are not limited to the two choices offered by capital and the state.

I think, we should be prepared to state that, as anti-statists, we would rather starve than live on handouts from the state — fuck the state, and fuck politicians who promise to ease our burden of wage slavery.

Of course, some will argue we are being heartless as @zappdos pointed out graphically on Twitter:

“I’m not sure about that one. Opens up to a myriad of “let them die” moments- they don’t tend to go over well.”

I agree that this position is subject to that interpretation, but @zappdos is only looking at one side of the equation: the dirty little secret of capital is they need unemployment insurance more than we do. Refusing any offer of state aid has a bigger impact on the business cycle than on us — which is why they prefer it.

As @PunkJohnnyCash argued

“Safety nets are to prevent uprising. It’s what @StatelessWonder calls the pressure relief valve.”

I think this is precisely correct. I think we have to call the Democrat/GOP bluff, and demand they end all state welfare of any type. This is a very hard argument to make — one that cannot be made effectively by Austrian knuckle-draggers, because — frankly — they hate working people.

Fundamentally, however, the Austrians are correct: state subsidies of poverty only make it possible for inefficient capitals to exist. Remove state subsidies and these capitals must go belly up, including those devoted to state militarism. The end of these subsidies will be deflationary in the extreme; which is why they were implemented in the first place. Deflation shifts income from profits to wages; inflationary state countercyclical economic policy, does the reverse — it is purposely designed to reduce the purchasing power of wages and increases profits.

We have been fooled for decades into believing state economic policy helps the poor, when, in reality, it only enriches the wealthy and increases poverty. The term “poverty program” is a slick marketing gimmick; ending state welfare programs is the surest way of ending poverty. The argument is extremely bizarre unless you actually understand how poverty programs work. But. think about what food stamps do to subsidize industrial agriculture, and you get some idea of how this program serves only to subsidize Archer Daniels Midland — without in the least ending the scourge of hunger.

I think we should not be embarrassed to call for the end to these programs, and to state they are designed to perpetuate poverty not end it. No doubt, we will get a lot of pushback from progressives, who will rightly point to the results of neoliberal policies since the Reagan administration. I would not disagree with them on this. Exporting industrial capacity has intensified the crisis of poverty. But, logic dictates the state only creates so-called poverty programs by diverting social resources. And, it alone has been responsible for the unequal distribution of social resources in the first place, though its neoloberal “free trade” policies.

The state has purposely created the mass poverty it now pretends to address with its neoliberal policies. Washington has encouraged the export of industrial capacity to the lowest wage nations in the world market, and propose to fix this by offering retraining here. On this basis, it is no surprise neoliberal policies only exacerbates poverty — how could it be otherwise. We should tell them: “Fuck you, sell your iPods to poverty-stricken Chinese peasants, bitches.”

We should not be embarrassed to confront progressives with the patent insanity of their worldview. They will paint anti-statists as heartless insensitive bastards who thrive on hunger and poverty — we need to call them out on this shit. Not once in the past forty years has progressive politics succeeded in reversing the decline in wages and living standards.

We should have no illusions that progressives will be convinced by these arguments. They are fascists ideologues who only see progress measured by the size of the fascist state and its programs.

As @postleftanarchy stated:

“It’s a difficult task. When I try to talk to statists about anarchy they immediately shut down. Either troll me or insult me.”

Another anarchist, @ChuckBaggett, made the progressive argument, when he asked me:

“Would you deny the starving the right to take what they need to eat? Does that sound familiar?”

No. I would not deny this — the problem is that Washington is denying it right now. They are taking supposedly scarce social resources and pouring them into wars of aggression all over the planet. Yet, progressives have been mute about this vile practice to preserve their alliance with the Democrats. The past 40 years has been rule by misdirection: Progressives want to keep our attention on the GOP, while the Democrats voted to export the industrial base of the country through NAFTA and other such “free trade” agreements. They played this role just as they kept our attention on Bush, while the Democrats voted for the Patriot Act, authorized the Bush wars, etc.

I think anti-statists need to give serious thought to opposing all forms of state aid for unemployment and poverty on the right grounds. We need to be able to make the argument not that working people are shiftless welfare recipients, but that the state is deliberately creating poverty. We need to show Washington is engaged in spreading poverty and these “poverty programs” are a fig leaf to cover official state policy.

I am not saying this is an easy argument to make, but it is a necessary one if anti-statism will gain any following. For too long the anti-state message has been abandoned to cranks, racists, and Koch-suckers — we need to change this. The hardest argument to make is why ending unemployment compensation entirely will force the end of all joblessness – if you can’t make that argument, you’re finished. If you cannot make that argument, you have no argument against the state. Unemployment under capitalism is as normal as sunrise — if the only way to deal with it is unemployment compensation and job retraining, it will not be politically possible to abolish the state.

That is a political fact all anti-statists should memorize. Anti-statism is a pipe-dream, if we have no solution to poverty and joblessness, but state programs. I just want to call on all anti-statists to craft their own argument for why the state itself creates poverty. All of our arguments will necessarily be different, but we should have one when confronting silly fucking progressives.

While I was outlining this post, one anarchist, @roastydog interjected that some agorist and mutualist type models focus on non-state support networks. He argued:

“mutual aid networks are the only effective way to tell the State to fuck off without dooming millions to starvation.”

While I do not agree the mutualism is the only alternative to the fascist state, at least mutualism and agorism have thought about how to make an argument for an alternative approach to poverty — something most anti-statists, like, for instance, Marxists, don’t even think about.

Don’t concede the argument to those statist assholes. Don’t let them intimidate you on moral grounds. Shove Obama’s “failures” in their pie holes and watch them choke on that shit. Poverty today would be impossible without the active participation of the state in maintaining and spreading it.

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