Rebuttal to ‘Das Kannabis’
Paddy Shannon (Anarcho-Socialism)
Matthew Zink (Socialism)
I am bemused by Das Kannabis’s referral to something called the “prison–industrial complex” and stating that ‘there is a very clear motivation for state governments across America to continue enforcing draconian laws to feed [this] system.’ What motivation would that be?
Undoubtedly prison systems are a nice little earner for those employed in them, but why on earth would governments want to max out the prison population at the cost of their own treasury departments? For the tax? Hardly. If you’re a government paying £100 to a prison, you’re only going to get back a quarter of that in tax, at most. What kind of incentive is a 75% loss?
According to this logic the government should also be encouraging murder sprees, because this increases costs for policing, emergency services, funeral homes, grief counselling and gun suppliers. All sources of tax! But why stop there? The government should also be starting wars daily, because wars are the biggest money-sinks of them all. We do sometimes hear talk of the ‘military-industrial complex’ from people making this very assumption, but fortunately it’s not borne out by day-to-day observation.
Because states often say one thing and do something quite different, it’s not surprising if people are confused about what the state is for, and where it gets its money. The state exists and acts primarily as an executive of the owning class (the 1%) who enshrine their property claims in law, impose coercive rules on workers, and referee disputes among the rich themselves (the UK Brexit fiasco being one such dispute). It’s not workers who need a state, it is the capitalists.
It is not workers who pay for the state either. Again, it is the capitalists. Consider who has all the money? It is not the working class. If workers had any real money, they would not need to work. You might think your income tax is paid by you but it is really paid by your employer, in your name. If income tax was abolished tomorrow, your boss would simply cut your wages by that amount, knowing you could afford it.
So the state belongs to, and is paid for, by the capitalist class. Do capitalists get rich by throwing money away? No, they do not. The money they pay to the state they expect to see put to constructive use, through worker education, scientific research, technology, roads, the expansion of new markets, and so on. Things likely to make money in the future. And they scrutinise government spending carefully, to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth. Any government that imagined its job was to ‘feed the industrial-prison system’ might get a big cheer from the 5% of the ruling class who have investments in prisons, but a giant smack-down from the 95 percent who do not.
The purpose of the state is to make the rich even richer, to keep workers under their heel, and to spend as little, not as much, of its masters’ tax money as possible.