Money, weapons, and power: a response
Ashley’s recent post about the challenges of being transgendered in Weapons Of Mass Destruction Part I deserves a proper response. I intend to respond to Part II separately in an upcoming post. She writes:
It seems to me that we Transgendered, as a group, are not overly prosperous. Oh, I know that some of us are, but they seem to be the exceptions.
She goes on to relate some stories about the economic hardships of various transgendered people she has known – hardships that come about because certain people shun the transgendered. In the stories, their employers fire them or refuse to promote them. Then she states that society “uses money as a weapon against the transgendered”:
Think about it. Money is the perfect weapon. You can’t exist in this world of ours without it. And to get it you have to work. Deny access to work, you deny access to money.
At first I assumed she was speaking figuratively. I soon discovered she wasn’t. First she cites Marx and then attempts to use historical references to support her thesis:
If Marx is right (and I think he is) those in control of the society would, of necessity, use money to control the others.
Let’s look at history.
In ancient Rome the Patrician class used money to control the Plebian class (which was vastly larger and potentially dangerous). Keep them poor. Give them the bare means for subsistence (bread) and distraction to keep them occupied (circuses).
Here, her confusion becomes apparent.
What is money?
Let’s start with Money:
Money is used as an intermediary for trade, in order to avoid the inefficiencies of a barter system, which are sometimes referred to as the ‘double coincidence of wants problem’. Such usage is termed a medium of exchange.
Money may also be used as a store of value, although whether our fiat currency system allows such a usage is highly debatable. The important point here is that money is a tool used to trade wealth. It provides an easy way to exchange what you have produced for what others have produced.
This point is critical – the whole reason for money to exist is trade. If you want what someone has produced, you offer them an amount of money representing the amount of your own labor you are willing to trade for that item. This is a completely voluntary relationship. If you don’t want what they have to trade, then you don’t trade your money to them. If they think their goods are worth more than the amount you’re willing to trade, they refuse to sell to you. The transaction does not occur unless both parties agree to it voluntarily.
What is a weapon?
Back to Weapon:
A weapon is a tool used to apply or threaten to apply a force in combat
A weapon is what someone uses when they don’t care to come to a mutual agreement. When someone wants the fruits of your labor without having to convince you to trade it voluntarily, that’s when they use a weapon. A weapon is used to physically harm you so that you hand over your money or the fruits of your labor against your will.
Money only comes into existence once a society has reached a certain level of civilization. Weapons, on the other hand, have been used by brutes since at least prehistoric times. They’ve been used to take food or land from others, to rape, and to kill. Weapons are used to apply physical force, which is the opposite of voluntary trade.
What is power?
Now let’s return to Ashley’s first history reference. She asserts that in ancient Rome, the Patrician class used money to control the Plebeian class by keeping them poor. So it sounds like the Patricians just refused to trade with the Plebeians, and that’s how they kept them poor? They just refused to hire them for work or buy goods from them? Not quite.
The Patrician class was able to keep the Plebeians poor by exercising political power. Only Patricians were allowed to run for political office, so the entire Roman Senate was Patrician. Initially, Plebeians were not even allowed to know the laws being enforced against them.
Clearly, money was not the tool of control – it was political power. The nature of political power is the power of physical force. Government has a legal monopoly on the use of physical force to achieve its ends. This was the weapon used to keep the Plebeians poor.
Now let’s continue with Ashley’s other examples:
What was the Spanish Inquisition really about? It was about purging the wealthy Spanish Jewish class from the nation (and stripping them of their wealth to boot).
So was money the ‘weapon’ used to achieve the Spanish Inquisition? Of course not. They didn’t pay the Jews to leave, and if they had you could hardly call money a weapon. The government set up a way to legally torture and kill them – with real weapons. Once again, political power – physical force – was the tool used to take their wealth.
The Spanish conquest of South America? It was about enslaving an entire people (talk about marginalizing) so they could steal their gold and silver.
This is another example of a government using ‘legal’ physical force against a group of people. Money was the object, but not the weapon.
The colonization of North America? That was about stealing an entire continent from the Native Americans. (To them, the land was the wealth.) And then, to control them, they were herded onto barren reservations and left with no skills or opportunities to survive or prosper in this strange new world that had replaced theirs.
Ashley continues making the same mistake over and over again. Stealing is an act of force. It’s the opposite of trading. The settlers didn’t get the land by refusing to trade with the Native Americans – they used physical force to drive them off of it, with the backing of a government.
Every new minority immigrant group that ever came to this country? Forced to take all the menial low-paying jobs nobody else will do. (My God! There goes the neighborhood!)
That almost seems kind. These days we seem to want to throw immigrants right back out of the country. In any case, a menial low-paying job is appropriate for an immigrant who has no skills, but even a skilled immigrant can have trouble getting a good job thanks to all the laws that have been passed to make it harder for them – laws that make licenses, certifications, degrees, etc, from other countries worthless here. This is, again, political power at work.
And then there’s the most heinous, calculated, blood-chilling and cynical example of all: the Nazis and the Holocaust they perpetrated against an entire people. They methodically passed laws denying German Jews access to work and stripping them of their financial assets.
Exactly! Here Ashley hits the nail on the head without even realizing it. The Nazis used the government’s monopoly on physical force to take the wealth of the Jews, and eventually to march them into gas chambers. The weapon being used here is physical force – and not just physical force on an individual level, but the legalized force of government coercion.
Money is not a weapon; it is a tool of voluntary trade.
The difference should be obvious at this point. If you’re still confused, try to imagine using money to force someone to do something. Now imagine using a gun to do so. See the difference?
So what exactly is Ashley complaining about? She is complaining that some people refuse to enter into voluntary trades with the transgendered (refuse to hire them). This is certainly true, but it is not the same as using physical force against them. This is where the line is drawn between freedom and tyranny.
Refusing to enter into trades with people we disapprove of is something free people do every day. For instance, I wouldn’t use a dating site that grudgingly accepts gays after having lawsuits filed against them. I might avoid businesses owned by Mormons or companies who don’t offer same-sex benefits. It is my right as a free individual to choose who I will and won’t associate with. They are free to live their lives as they see fit, and I am free to live mine as I see fit, without either of us exerting physical force against the other. This is the nature of individual freedom.
Meanwhile, many groups use the government to take my money against my will. Through the wonders of government coercion, I fund all sorts of businesses, charities, projects, schools, and wars I disagree with. If I don’t pay for them, people with guns come and take me to jail. Some people are thrown in jail just for smoking marijuana, or trading sex for money, or any number of other victimless crimes that only involve two adults engaged in voluntary trade. This is the nature of tyranny.
I would certainly encourage Ashley and any other transgendered to put themselves out there and convince people to hire them by making rational arguments, changing minds, and setting a good example. Even better, start your own businesses and compete with the bastards that wouldn’t hire you.
But don’t confuse the exercising of freedom with the exercising of political power. If you can’t tell freedom from tyranny, you’re likely to trade the former for the latter. We have precious little freedom left as it is.
Bill posts at the gaycapitalist.com, a blog about politics, economics, philosophy, and more.
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