His complete disregard for history, intellectual honesty, and basic reasoning skills should be enough evidence against any society this an-cap dreams of.
An-Cap YouTuber Eric July is an instructive case. He is a libertarian who thinks the state ought not to exist and believes in the idea of anarcho-capitalism, which I have shown to be oxymoronic. The problem with July, and libertarians like him, is I do not believe he could reason his way out of a paper bag, let alone devise a society that does not exist from scratch and one that you should believe offers anything resembling “freedom.”
Below I am going to demonstrate that July is principally inconsistent, is embarrassingly ahistorical, and regularly commits very basic reasoning errors. I will do this in hopes that people who might be fooled into falling into the trap of libertarianism can see there is little reason to support it as the ideology’s main content creators are anything but serious thinkers.
Now, sure he is wildly inconsistent in ways that many people are. Namely, he calls people out for doing the exact same things he does. For example, he will chastise people who use terms like “white supremacist”, “racist,” “nazi” or “sympathizer.” July says that these are “meaningless buzzterms” that bear no significance on anything. He does not prove why they are meaningless when people use them. He just says it. On the other hand, he demonstrably does this with the term “leftist.” He classifies anyone or anything he doesn’t like as leftist. He called Donald Trump a leftist and he called Candace Owens a leftist for saying things he disagrees with (incidentally leftists disagree with too). So it should not require too much thought to understand that if Candace Owens is a leftist, the term leftist should cease to have meaning.
There are those who defend July and say this is not inconsistency but instead he is “using the left’s tactics against them.” But this is actually worse than inconsistency. The problem is July demonstrating what he perceives to be “left tactics” to the point that they become his tactics, he is the same as the people he opposes. Or to quote Obi-Wan, “You have allowed this dark lord to twist your mind, until now, until now you’ve become the very thing you swore to destroy.” Allowing yourself to get gnawed by some insignificant SJW zombie where you then become a zombie yourself, albeit an anti-SJW one, is rather pathetic. So I am actually being generous when I chalk this up to inconsistency.
July also claims he does not obsess over racism. But this is false. He will when it suits his ends, which is to attack leftism. He will malign people he disagrees with in the culture war as a “white” leftist in an attempt to expose them as people who have inherently racist motivations disguised as progressive, egalitarian ones. July also gets rather passionate about characters in comic books that get revised as black characters. This is not a trivial issue for July. He is insulted by the race of comic book characters over, and over, and over again.
Whatever the reason for getting intensely offended over this is less important. The point is that he clearly spends a great deal of time talking about race and the ways he feels it is wrongly used. Leftists do the same. The difference is leftists tend to focus on racism within institutions that seriously threaten black people’s lives. Meanwhile, July cannot get past race and imaginary characters in comic books. Now I won’t tell people what to prioritize but it seems that focusing on the way race has contributed to wealth disparities and homeownership gaps is less of an obsession than table banging at the idea of a fictional Superman getting revised as black in a few comic book squares.
July will also play the racism card where it does not even apply when he wants to make progressives seem racist and hypocritical. For instance, when Trump told four congresswomen of color to “go back to their country,” people rightly condemned Trump for engaging in white nationalist rhetoric. This is because these women are all American citizens (all but one were born in the U.S) but by virtue of what they look like and where they come from, they are illegitimate according to Trump. And this is not surprising given that Trump became politically famous by spreading the racist “birther” conspiracy in attempt to delegitimize the first African-American President.
July made a video in response to this titled “Progressives Tell Me To Move To Africa All The Time.” He argued that when he gets in arguments with people who disagree with libertarianism, they will often tell him to move to a place with little to no taxation like Somalia if he dislikes taxation that much. July then wondered how this was not in and of itself an example of racism. Well, this is easy. First, people say Somalia not Africa in general which matters. Secondly, the reason people tell libertarians who are yelling about taxes to move to Somalia has nothing to do with race.
See, what people are doing is poking holes in what a libertarian considers voluntary. For instance, when someone argues that under capitalism, workers involuntarily accept horrible work conditions and starvation wages, libertarians will respond that they are not forced since they can leave and go somewhere else. So as long as someone is not literally putting a gun to your head, any interaction seems to be voluntary. What people are then pointing out when July says that taxation is theft is that since July can move somewhere else, he is not forced to pay taxes. It is ironically using July’s own terms for what constitutes force and throwing it back at him.
July tried to flip this obvious critique of the hypocrisy in the libertarian conception of voluntariness to a racially motivated critique comparable to what Trump said. If this isn’t a dishonest “obsession” over race where it does not belong I do not know what is.
On top of being wildly inconsistent, it seems July has absolutely no perception of history. Last year, we got into a twitter debate about the causes of the 2008 Financial Crisis. July predictably blamed the Federal Government. More specifically, the Federal Reserve for lowering interest rates. I charitably conceded that lowering the fed funds rate will incentivize investors to look for assets with higher returns and they liked the returns from residential mortgages. However, I observed to him that this does not force investors to commit securities fraud by selling bond protection without having the money to cover the bond in the case of a default. This was a crucial part of the collapse in 2008 and was done through a completely unregulated market called Credit Default Swaps. July simply denied that Credit Default Swaps existed:
Now it is one thing to put disproportionate blame on the government. I expect him to as a libertarian. But it is another to respond when challenged on this view to simply deny history. At the time of Lehman Brother’s collapse, there was more money invested in the Credit Default Swap market than almost every pool. This played a massive part in Lehman’s collapse since $400 billion out of $600 billion in debt was covered by CDS, and the bank’s insurer, American Insurance Group, lacked the funds to cover it due to it’s behavior in this unregulated market. But this contradicts his view that markets are good and governments are bad. I just did not think he would go so far as to deny facts and history to maintain that view.
Aside from being terrible at understanding history, July has very poor reasoning skills. Another twitter debate we had is a good example. This time we went back and forth about health care which I asked him how a healthcare system in his world would work without massive amounts of people dying because they cannot afford care. Eric maintained that if a hospital decided that their emergency room would not turn people away, they would just be in debt afterwards. I then pointed out that the U.S has laws against that now and thousands still die due to lack of insurance. After that, I showed him his healthcare system would logically lead to less liberties because people would get denied health services due to an inability to pay for it and ultimately die or become enslaved in debt. July responded with this:
Apparently arguing against a healthcare system where people get denied because they are too poor and arguing against the ability of a business to deny service to customers is the same thing to him. I honestly can’t tell if he actually has the comprehension skills of a toddler or if he is being dishonest (or both). This is not a complicated claim: Healthcare should not be a service where access is contingent upon your ability to pay for it. This claim is not related, in any way, to forcing any business to do anything. It is the system that denies people who are poor, not people. It’s not like doctors and nurses turn people away because they want to flex their freedom card. It’s because we have a system that bases your access to healthcare on whether you have vast amounts of money readily available. This is a system which severely limits freedoms. But July can’t refute this. So he has to make up objections like arguing against this system is akin to forcing a restaurant to serve that disruptive half-naked man who ignored the ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service’ sign.
Moreover, he would not address the implications of his argument. If we did away with free market healthcare, what freedoms would health care providers then lose? In other words, what sense of freedom is he suggesting I am arguing against? In countries with universal healthcare, no one is denied and doctors are free to practice medicine as they see fit. No provider is forced to engage in this service. This also leads to more freedom on behalf of the citizenry of that country. I guess he believes that since I am arguing against “free” market healthcare that I must be arguing against freedom because the word free is in “free” market healthcare. This would be a childish equivocation that would only work if you attempted it in a stand-up comedy special.
Like the far-right, white nationalist podcaster Stefan Molyneux, Eric July frequently proclaims a tweet aimed at him as not “being an argument.” Also like Molyneux, who confused basic logic concepts in his book, July should be the last person to judge whether something is an argument or not. (leaving aside that saying “not an argument” is, in fact, not an argument). But I say this because July has very poor reasoning skills that leads him to make many arguments that just do not follow, as demonstrated above with the false dichotomy about freedom and healthcare and a blatant equivocation with the word “free.”
The clearest instance where he demonstrates poor reasoning is in his video, “YES… Nazis Are Socialist!” In this insufferable 36 minute video, July sets out to illustrate that Nazis are indeed socialists. This is a rather bold historical claim that he makes with absolutely no sources. And if that didn’t make you skeptical enough, don’t worry! Along with no sources of his own, July also dismisses the overwhelming academic consensus among historians who come to completely opposite conclusions as Marxist propaganda which is… pretty convenient since this includes virtually ALL research on the topic. Great! I guess you can hand wave away mainstream academics when you’re… Eric July? You know, just a basic espoused libertarian with no credentials. He starts out with an attempt to refute the objection that Nazis weren’t socialist since Nazis were killing and jailing socialists. July says,
“This is why I find it odd people claim Nazis can’t be socialist because they killed some other socialists. That’s rather meaningless because socialists have always been at odds.”
He then goes on for, I kid you not, 16 and a half minutes, pointing out instances in history where socialists have attacked each other from Marx and Proudhon to the USSR. And I hate to burst his bubble here but this is NOT a valid argument in response to that objection. This argument rests on the fallacy of the undistributed middle. To see why consider the structural form of his argument.
Premise 1: Historically, Socialists have always fought socialists.
Premise 2: Nazis fought socialists.
Conclusion: Therefore, Nazis were socialist
This is by definition an invalid argument. We can look at another example of this fallacy.
Premise 1: All water bottles are made of plastic
Premise 2: Children’s toys are made of plastic
Conclusion: Therefore, water bottles are children’s toys
The problem with these arguments is that the conclusions do not follow from the premises even if the conclusion has the potential to be true. The only thing the argument tells us here is that water bottles and children’s toys are both made of plastic but it tells us nothing about how they are related. Similarly with July’s argument. Just because Nazis and Socialists have both fought socialists, this tell us nothing about a potential connection between Nazis and Socialism. I don’t even need to investigate every historical claim he made in the first half of his video for accuracy because the whole segment is a complete non-sequitur.
The clear difference implied when people reject the idea that Nazis are socialist since they were killing and fighting socialists and actual socialists fighting each other is that Nazis attacked socialists for being socialist, as I will explain below. Whereas Proudhon and Marx disagreed about the specifics of social revolution as two critics of capitalism and private property (see Proudhon’s “Property is Theft”). So July needs to demonstrate that Nazis in fact do deserve the socialist label with an actual reason, a valid argument. We will take a look at some of his reasons and we will see that his claims are just as vapid as this specious argument.
His case for why Nazis were socialist can be summed up like this: The Nazi party and Hitler prioritized the common good over the individual. They were anti-capitalist and the privatization in Germany was not real privatization because the state heavily regulated output and implemented price and wage controls. Furthermore, Hitler purged dissenters and political opponents just like Stalin in the USSR. The state was in complete control of the economy with central planners deciding what and how things were produced. This was socialism.
Now, this tells us that the government was rather totalitarian, but does it tell us about socialism as it’s commonly understood? Not at all. Socialism is to be understood as a democratic or workers‘ control over the means of production. One thing that should be obvious from the start is that socialism is NOT authoritarianism. If there is an authoritarian state that simply exists to prop up corporate leaders, in what world would any socialist tag on to that? What’s more, if we look at the evidence it is found that this is exactly what Nazi Germany was. The small anti-capitalist strand of Nazism was quickly defeated after the “Night of the Long Knives.” After, industrialist leaders contributed more than two million Reichsmarks to the Nazi election fund after Hitler made concessions to business, small and large, that their property would be protected from organized labor and communism.
When Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, after running on an anti-left, anti- jewish platform, he swiftly began fulfilling his promises to business leaders. “Most of 1933 was spent persecuting socialists and communists, liquidating their parties, incarcerating and in numerous cases killing their leadership and rank-and-file members.” By early 1933, trade unions had been destroyed. Hitler felt that it was the left (trade unions and Jews) that betrayed Germany during WWI and he vowed that organized labor would never stop the rise of their national-racial “revolution.” And I don’t think I need to go into the belief in the superior Aryan race and the Nazi Party’s feelings toward Jews.
If we look at the economy, we have an even more anti-socialist example. A capitalist class was always served and their interest were prioritized over the working-class. Private property and freedom of contract were always respected for them under the Nazis, even during the war years. You see, Hitler felt that the industrialists “worked their way to the top by their own abilities, and this proof of their capacity – a capacity only displayed by a higher race – gives them the right to lead.” Therefore, in Nazi Germany, you had a macroeconomic policy where many state-owned enterprises were handed back to private hands. Maxine Sweezy’s, The Structure of the Nazi Economy, showed the Nazis paid back industrialists who supported Hitler’s accession to power and his economic policies “by restoring to private capitalism a number of monopolies held or controlled by the state”
Sweeny hypothesizes a reason for the reprivatization scheme under the Nazis which was “that one of the main objectives for the privatization policy was to stimulate the propensity to save, since a war economy required low levels of private consumption. High levels of savings were thought to depend on inequality of income, which would be increased by inequality of wealth. This, according to Sweezy “was thus secured by ‘reprivatization’…. The practical significance of the transference of government enterprises into private hands was thus that the capitalist class continued to serve as a vessel for the accumulation of income.”
There were hardly any nationalizations of formerly private firms during the Third Reich and not many enterprises newly created as state-run firms either. This is not comparable to the Soviet Union. Investment decisions in industry were influenced by state regulation, but the initiative generally remained with the enterprises. There was no central planning of the level or the composition of investment. German professor Christoph Buchheim notes “that also is true for price setting, for there existed numerous exceptions to the rule of fixed prices which led to considerable price increases and very handsome profits for firms which were in the position to exploit the opportunity of getting extra rations of raw materials.”
Furthermore, Dr. Jacques R. Pauwels writes that “In Nazi Germany, real wages indeed declined rapidly, while profits increased correspondingly, but there were no labour problems worth mentioning, for any attempt to organize a strike immediately triggered an armed response by the Gestapo, resulting in arrests and dismissals. This was the case in GM’s Opel factory in Rüsselsheim in June 1936. As the Thuringian teacher and anti-fascist resistance member Otto Jenssen wrote after the war, Germany’s corporate leaders were happy ‘that fear for the concentration camp made the German workers as meek as lapdogs.'”
So here we have an authoritarian government that is pro-corporate and favored the capitalist class. A government that puts stock into racial superiority and hypernationalism. A government which also went out of it’s way to violently suppress any prospect of a workers’ socialist revolution. Hitler himself thought that workers wanted nothing but “bread and amusement” and instead wanted a “picked number for a new ruling class.” Workers could not be trusted because they were burdened by “humanitarian feelings” such as the feeling that a professed racially superior class doesn’t have the right to rule over others. In what sense is this socialist? This sounds like a right-wing capitalist dictatorship to me.
But the truth is Nazis were neither free-market capitalist nor socialist. It was a fascist dictatorship with highly specific goals and would use capitalist investment, protect industrialists at the expense of the working class, or use state direction when necessary to reach those goals. Government intervention in the economy is not exclusive to socialism. Neither is prioritizing the collective over the individual. In capitalist economies, you submit your individual will to the common interests of whatever corporate behemoth you rent yourself out to everyday (Kind of like this). By this line of thinking, all countries are socialist then. Even though Nazi Germany was fascist, July says you cannot “deny the socialism just because the end game doesn’t consist of what you initially desired.” If by socialism, he just means “state intervention in the economy,” no one denies that. But this means he then cannot deny the preservation of private profit, the suppression of organized labor, and the extolled capitalist class then. Trying to cling to the charge that Nazis were socialists given this would probably get you laughed out of the room though.
Although I wonder what is the point to go out of one’s way to make this ahistorical claim? For example, I do not need to try and claim Nazis were capitalist to undermine capitalism. On the other hand, Eric can’t do this. See, July, being a libertarian, can’t reconcile the ways his ideal society is incoherent and would lead to much less freedom. He also can’t refute the ways in which policies actual socialists advocate would improve the lives of people and thus lead to greater individual freedoms. As a result, he has to fabricate a connection between something horrible like Nazism and socialism in hopes you will imagine the atrocities of the Third Reich forthcoming whenever someone mentions Medicare-For-All. Someone is engaging in propaganda here and it is not those “Marxist” professors.
It’s astonishing how he does not understand how he is exposing his intellectual cowardice and cynicism. It’s to the point that his deductions are so shallow as to be childish. He (1) takes one property of Nazi Germany he thinks is exclusive to socialism, namely, government intervention in the economy, then (2) extrapolates that property to connect Nazis and Socialists. I could do one better. I could take 2, even more relevant, properties of Nazi Germany which was (1) the total opposition to democracy, which is antithetical to any meaningful socialist tradition, and (2) the belief that a capitalist class was fit to rule over others. Then, given July’s views on democracy and his belief that a capitalist class ought to rule over others, I could argue he has more in common with Nazis than any socialist does. Hence anarcho-capitalism is fascist! Checkmate, Libertarians! *sigh* Being dishonest like this could be fun but I also like to sleep at night.
Someone could ask though, “why dedicate your time to Eric July? Why expect decent reasoning from him? He is just another internet asshole who has amassed a following by regurgitating goofy slogans like “taxation is theft.?” And I would say because he is harmful to any honest political discourse. When you completely ignore history, and oppose struggles for justice by making poorly reasoned arguments against things that will clearly help people in their lives but try to do it in the name of freedom, you are only serving to hurt people. I do not think they should be able to get away with all this unchecked. More of us should engage with people like Eric July. We should expose them, poke holes in their invalid conclusions, and attempt to drag persuadable people away from their toxic ideology. All for the goal of creating a better world.