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Anarchy and Capital Punishment

September 25, 2010

After reading about Teresa Lewis here, I wanted an anarchist perspective on capital punishment. I turned to my friend, Oliver, to give me some insight on how an anarchist would approach the issue of capital punishment. I asked him if Ms. Lewis’s actions of killing her husband and step-son were a result of the society in which we live.

One thing I have to question is whether or not taking Ms. Lewis’s life will bring closure to the family and friends of the victims. I am in no way defending what Ms. Lewis did, but did killing her really take away the pain?

Here is Oliver’s response to my request:

Cops don’t catch criminals; prison isn’t for prisoners.

Why do they have cops at Oktoberfest? Not to catch people pissing on trees but to be a visual deterrent. When people see the cops they notice that they do not want to engage in non-socially accepted behavior because they process the cause and effect in their head and decide not to piss on trees because cops are there.

Why don’t you commit crimes? Because you know how rotten going to jail would be.

I think the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure holds to the capital punishment process. Killing a few people for doing something really rotten like this lady did, and how many people will you shock into never exhibiting behavior like it?

Anarchist see this whole situation as the resulting sickness of a poisoned society. The advertising, conspicuous consumption, greed, consumerism, capitalism, competitive lifestyle we live in causes great stress on people; a perpetual manufactured unobtainable happiness.

We are forced into a world we did not want, and the enclosure movement made us dependent on wage labor for survival. The producers got to shape what goods were available on the one end and had control over us to command and shape our labor to these ends.

The owner/capitalist/landlord tells us what to make and therefore what to buy. We are trapped in a circuit; a primitive neoclassical approach could look like this. The loanlord (ha, a newly formed funny invented term with too much truth), or landlord, forces you to use your labor making only beets and chickens. With your wage you can only buy beets and chickens, while the landlord sets your wages and sets the prices of beets and chickens.

Now extrapolate this and build up a huge and complicated web that produces mass transfers and inefficiencies. Going from one land/loan lord to another is complicated. Just remember how tough it is to change jobs or industries in today’s economy. And just how different is any fast food, most are relatively identical burgers, or Mexican which is also just beef and cheese in a different style of bread? They’re either faux or false choices and options.

You are right; post-Taylorism makes any job quite similar.

So how do you really break out of this cycle, except with deviant behavior? You simply must break something if you are trapped.

Anarchist-based societies are fundamentally opposed and the polar opposite to this trapping quality of society. Anarchy is almost a true opposite from the idea of property ownership, or ownership in general. Think about it, most types of ownership in society are based on laws or documents created out of thin air. People trade paper and words for items.

Anarchists allow people to have things. I will take your plow if you are a rancher. But why would you have a plow? I would not take your plow if you were a farmer.

Think of Marx’s ideas, or Veblen’s, on use-value versus essentially made-up value.  American society on the whole produces and consumes nothing based on real-use value. It only minds the financial system and the modification of goods values.

“I am an anarcho-primitivist.” You can rarely take something like capital punishment and making statements without looking at how and why we got to this place where human nature has been perverted into wanting things that have no-use value (money), such as Gucci jewelry and Fendi handbags.

An anarchist like myself would say this about this woman’s story. Why is it surprising when we look at the previous things society has done on a path dependent nature with these types of existing perversions?

Practicality predicts this, and it seems sad because it is not our ideal world, but it is a world where we have made sacrifices that we won’t re-negotiate, so we are forced to accept these things.

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