Tuesday, 4 September 2018

The right-wing trolls who are so ignorant they don't even understand the capitalist system they're defending

Almost every time I post a link explaining that Another Angry Voice is run on the Pay as You Feel principle I get a load of right-wing trolls trying to argue that by raising money in voluntary subscriptions I'm somehow guilty of "capitalism" and therefore a hypocrite.

In this article I'm going to explain why this argument is such a demonstration of cack-brained ignorance.

What is Pay as You Feel?

Pay as You Feel is a heterodox pricing strategy that gives the customer freedom over what they want to pay for the product.

There are many variant Pay as You Feel strategies. Many set the minimum price as absolutely free, however other variants can use a set price range, or a minimum price point (these strategies that make sense if the product is a material item with fixed production costs).

I use the absolute version of Pay as You Feel, essentially giving away all of my work for free, and relying on the good nature of a small percentage of readers who appreciate its value enough to set up subscriptions or make one-off donations to help keep me writing articles and producing infographics.

What is capitalism?

Capitalism is not just a synonym for trade, it's a specific form of trade based on the private ownership of the means of production, wage labour, orthodox price systems, and competitive markets, all of which contribute to the core purpose of wealth accumulation by the capitalist class.

There are many criticisms of the capitalist system including social inequality, exploitation, inefficient use of resources, unfair distribution of wealth, unfair competition (monopolies, oligopolies, price fixing, insider trading, cartels, corruption ...), regulatory capture, profiteering, and environmental degradation. 

However the basic principle is that the capitalist class owns the means of production, and uses wage labour and resources in order to generate profits.

Why Pay as You Feel isn't capitalism

Just think about it. How many corporations have you ever seen giving away their products totally for free, indefinitely, with the hope that a small percentage of people actually bother to pay for what they know could just have for free?

The idea that Pay as You Feel is somehow a capitalist enterprise because it involves making money is absolutely nonsensical, because if a wildly unorthodox pricing model like Pay as You Feel falls into their description of capitalism, it's pretty damned clear that the person defining Pay as You Feel as capitalism is ignorantly using the word capitalism as a euphemism for literally all forms of trade.

Pay as You Feel is an alternative to capitalism

The worst thing about this ignorant conflation of Pay as You Feel and capitalism is that heterodox strategies like Pay as You Feel actually represent alternatives to the capitalist way of doing things.

The orthodox way of running a blog in a capitalist system involves stuff like covering the website in adverts in order to raise advertising revenue, posting sponsored advertorials, including clickbait links at the bottom of each article, or putting up a paywall in order to get people to buy subscriptions at a fixed price.

The decision to eschew all of these fundraising options and rely solely on Pay as You Feel donations is clearly an unorthodox approach, but it comes with one very clear benefit. The writer using it maximises their editorial freedom because they can write whatever they like without the risk of pissing off the advertisers.

The idea of sacrificing revenue on a point of principle is about as far from the profit maximisation of capitalist enterprise as it's possible to get, yet still the right-wing trolls keep rolling up to argue that I'm a terrible hypocrite because Pay as You Feel is supposedly exactly the same as capitalism.

Isn't it wonderfully convenient for them that by adopting such a wide definition of capitalism that it encompasses all alternative forms of trade, only people who live in primitive mud huts in completely money-free societies have the freedom to criticise any of the excesses of the modern capitalist system without facing the charge of hypocrisy?


Since the late 1970s the political right have ripped apart the post-war consensus and pushed a radical form of deregulated, speculative, profit-maximising version of capitalism based on the absurd neoliberal notion that all humans are rational self-serving beings with a primary function of maximising their own self-interest.

Instead of building their economic models to reflect the reality of human society, the hard-right have spent the last four decades trying to remodel society to fit their crackpot economic models.

The fact that a pricing strategy like Pay as You Feel actually works is an absolute demonstration that their 'greed is a virtue' mentality is wrong, because if everyone was just a greedy self-serving economic being, there's no way that anyone would ever voluntarily pay money for a service that they could take for free.

That Pay as You Feel works at all is a clear demonstration that the effort to define human beings as self-serving economic units is utter nonsense, and that people often defy their own economic best interests if they believe there's a higher purpose than just maximising their own personal wealth and status.

If the neoliberal capitalists were right, Pay as You Feel would be a completely unworkable model. But here I am, a demonstration that heterodox economic ideas can work, yet the unthinking drones who support the hard-right neoliberal ideology have somehow turned this demonstration that the ideology they defend is flawed, into an accusation that I'm a capitalist and a hypocrite!

Are they really that stupid?

Image credit: Matt Bors
The answer, unfortunately is yes. A lot of people really are this stupid.

Take Louise Mensch who argued that it's illegitimate for anyone to ever protest against the worst excesses of the capitalist system if they've ever drunk coffee at Starbucks!

The same idiotic and absolutist argument in reverse is that anyone born in an NHS hospital, or who has ever used public roads must be a total hypocrite to believe in anything other than the public ownership of everything.

Then there's the idiots who try to argue that it's hypocritical to support socialism on the Internet because the mobile phone/laptop you're using was produced by capitalists.

The same idiotic and absolutist argument in reverse is that the development of the Internet relied on publicly funded research, and much of the technology in smartphones and laptops was developed with public funds too, therefore anyone who uses the Internet to argue against communist public ownership of everything is a hypocrite.

Why is ignorance so commonplace?

One of the main reasons ignorance is so commonplace is that the education system doesn't even cover the basics of politics and economics, meaning the only people who understand the absolute basic building blocks of political and economic debate are the 7% of the population who went to private fee-paying schools where these subjects are taught, or those of us who studied politics and economics of our own volition.

The right-wing propaganda rags have taken advantage of this widespread political and economic ignorance in order to push absurdly biased interpretations of political terms.

Therefore in the mind of a tabloid rote learner "socialism" means taking other people's money or class envy instead of public ownership of core infrastructure and services, and "capitalism" is used as a synonym for business or trade rather than a specific form of trade which relies on wage labour, the private ownership of the means of production, and orthodox pricing systems.

So when a right-winger rocks up to a Pay as You Feel blog to make the accusation that 'you're raising money therefore you're a capitalist', they're actually demonstrating their own ignorance of the capitalist system that they're so vehemently defending!

Keeping the lower orders in such a state of ignorance that they actually defend the system that represses them out of sheer ignorance of the basics of political and economic debate is the whole art of Conservative politics.

The Tories and the hard-right propaganda barons that own the vast majority UK news outlets deliberately keep people so stupid and misinformed that they'll actively fight against their own class interests, and continually attack anything that varies from the hard-right neoliberal orthodoxy.

And that's why you get smug right-wing idiots wilfully demonstrating their ignorance of what capitalism actually is, in order to vehemently defend the capitalist system that they clearly don't even understand!

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Please take the time to check out Matt Bors' excellent work here.

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