Some people imagine a peaceful society, with no government, as an alternative to capitalism.
The idea of non-violent, voluntary anarchism presupposes capitalist premises. Voluntary communal sharing implies I may keep the products of my labor for myself. What I produce is, therefore, my property which no one may take. It’s mine. I can share it, keep it, or trade it. Those are the fundamental rules of laissez-faire capitalist society (aka classical liberal or minarchist society).
If what I produce goes straight to the community when I’d prefer not to share, then that isn’t voluntary.
But, you protest, you imagine a society full of sharing. If may have the same political rules as capitalism, but people will have different ideas and behave differently. The basic rules of capitalism are OK, but people need to be educated about the virtues of sharing, charity and community. Then they’ll make better choices and stop having jobs, bosses, wages, etc. All work will be volunteer work, everything important to someone’s life will be charitably given to them by someone, and we’ll all be happier and quite possibly richer too.
These proposals run into the standard problems of socialism and more.
What is the incentive to work hard, well, or at all? I can choose not to work and I’ll still be provided with plenty by the community. What is the incentive to do dirty jobs? Who will take out the garbage?
When you get rid of the profit motive, won’t people be wasteful, or economize less? How many logs should I use in my fire today? How much should I turn up the heat? How much do I have to want a book or anything else before I should have it? If I can just have as much as I want of whatever I want, I’ll get lots of things I only want a little bit instead of only getting the things which are most important to me. And I’ll ask for cleaning and cooking services to be shared with me instead of doing those things myself, or I’ll let my home become dirty and ask for a new home. I’m not responsible for shared property and the community will give me plenty more, right? Your answer is to rely on the new socialist man who makes altruistic sacrifices to benefit his comrades, right? That approach has never worked in the real world because it has theoretical flaws. Who should sacrifice how much for whom? How are any decisions made? How are disagreements resolved?
How will economic calculation be done? What quantities of what goods should be produced by what methods? How do people know if they’re producing efficiently without profit and loss to guide them? How do they know if a particular use of a good is economically efficient without a price of the good to tell them its value? And how should capital be allocated? What industries should expand? What new inventions should have how much effort put into inventing them?
How is anything organized? There are no more stores? If I want something, I just go around to my neighbors and ask for it until someone has one that they aren’t using? What happens when a factory produces 100,000 shoes? How do they get distributed around the country to the right 100,000 people? And how does the factory know what how many of what size to make, or what colors to make, or what materials to use?
What’s the point anyway? The point of trade is to exchange some goods I value less for some goods I value more. What’s the point of shuffling all the wealth around via charity? Is it so some central planner can decide who gets what? If not, won’t it be chaotic?
And this utopia fails to consider scarce resources. There won’t be plenty of everything to go around. People want more wealth than exists and they always will. There’s always scope to have more and better goods and services.
What happens to the method of voluntary sharing when people have disagreements about the allocation of resources?
When people disagree, given the voluntary nature of society, won’t people keep what they have for themselves instead of sharing it? Won’t disagreements cause reversion to capitalist trade where I share for mutual benefit but don’t give my stuff away? If I think I’m giving away more than I get, I’ll prefer trade. And if anyone is receiving more than they share, then others must be sharing more than they receive. Why is it moral that they have less than they produced for themselves? What’s rational about that? And this way I’m self-reliant and can plan for my future instead of relying on the less predictable production and gifting of others.
So suppose I keep everything I produce. That’s the first thing I’d consider doing. I don’t see how charity is economically efficient to make society richer in general, nor do I see how essentially giving away a bunch of gifts, and receiving a bunch of gifts will do a better job of getting me the right goods and services than if I simply traded for what I want. So anyway, I keep all my property. I receive gifts from generous people and trade with the less generous people. Will the community do anything to stop this? Let’s consider both alternatives.
If the community does nothing to stop me, I simply have more at the expense of others. I have what I produce and what others give me. I expect this to quickly lead to a system of trade with little charity outside the family, similar to what we have today. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. What problem will less voluntary trade, and more voluntary gifts, solve? What will that make better for society in general? If the goal is just to help crippled people who can’t work, or something like that, you can ask for generosity for that specific purpose instead of trying to change the basic economic system for everyone.
If the community stops me, they’ll either use violence (violating the concept of voluntarist anarchism) or they’ll use non-violent methods. The non-violent methods would be e.g. people stop sharing food with me and refuse to trade with me. So essentially society is my boss and I have to please others by working hard enough, and sharing enough, or else they’ll starve me. This is much worse than a boss today because I can’t just switch jobs and get a new boss. And it’s like having many bosses at once – all of society – so there isn’t much consistency about what will please my boss. To prosper I’ll have to make friends in high places. I’ll have to please the leaders and influential people. In short, it’s a status society where I must do politics and social climbing instead of production and trade.