Anarcho-capitalism - Anarcho-capitalism and Other Anarchist Schools

Anarcho-capitalism and Other Anarchist Schools

Some scholars do not consider anarcho-capitalism to be a form of anarchism, while others do. Some communist anarchists argue that anarcho-capitalism is not a form of anarchism because they understand capitalism as being inherently authoritarian. In particular they argue that certain capitalist transactions are not voluntary, and that maintaining the class structure of a capitalist society requires coercion, which is incompatible with an anarchist society.

On the other hand, anarcho-capitalists such as Per Bylund, webmaster of the anarchism without adjectives website, note that the disconnect among non-anarcho-capitalist anarchists is likely the result of an "unfortunate situation of fundamental misinterpretation of anarcho-capitalism." Bylund asks, "How can one from this historical heritage claim to be both anarchist and advocate of the exploitative system of capitalism?" and answers it by pointing out that "no one can, and no one does. There are no anarchists approving of such a system, even anarcho-capitalists (for the most part) do not." Bylund explains this as follows:

Capitalism in the sense of wealth accumulation as a result of oppressive and exploitative wage slavery must be abandoned. The enormous differences between the wealthy and the poor do not only cause tensions in society or personal harm to those exploited, but is essentially unjust. Most, if not all, property of today is generated and amassed through the use of force. This cannot be accepted, and no anarchists accept this state of inequality and injustice.

As a matter of fact, anarcho-capitalists share this view with other anarchists. Murray N. Rothbard, one of the great philosophers of anarcho-capitalism, used a lot of time and effort to define legitimate property and the generation of value, based upon a notion of "natural rights" (see Murray N. Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty). The starting point of Rothbard's argumentation is every man's sovereign and full right to himself and his labor. This is the position of property creation shared by both socialists and classical liberals, and is also the shared position of anarchists of different colors. Even the statist capitalist libertarian Robert Nozick wrote that contemporary property was unjustly accrued and that a free society, to him a "minimalist state," needs to make up with this injustice (see Robert Nozick's "Anarchy, State, Utopia").

Thus it seems anarcho-capitalists agree with Proudhon in that "property is theft," where it is acquired in an illegitimate manner. But they also agree with Proudhon in that "property is liberty" (See Albert Meltzer's short analysis of Proudhon's "property is liberty" in Anarchism: Arguments For and Against, p. 12-13) in the sense that without property, i.e. being robbed of the fruits of one’s actions, one is a slave. Anarcho-capitalists thus advocate the freedom of a stateless society, where each individual has the sovereign right to his body and labor and through this right can pursue his or her own definition of happiness.

Murray N. Rothbard argues that the capitalist system of today is, indeed, not properly anarchistic because it is so often in collusion with the state. According to Rothbard, "what Marx and later writers have done is to lump together two extremely different and even contradictory concepts and actions under the same portmanteau term. These two contradictory concepts are what I would call 'free-market capitalism' on the one hand, and 'state capitalism' on the other."

"The difference between free-market capitalism and state capitalism," writes Rothbard, "is precisely the difference between, on the one hand, peaceful, voluntary exchange, and on the other, violent expropriation." He goes on to point out that he is "very optimistic about the future of free-market capitalism. I’m not optimistic about the future of state capitalism – or rather, I am optimistic, because I think it will eventually come to an end. State capitalism inevitably creates all sorts of problems which become insoluble."

Murray Rothbard maintains that anarcho-capitalism is the only true form of anarchism – the only form of anarchism that could possibly exist in reality, as, he argues, any other form presupposes an authoritarian enforcement of political ideology (redistribution of private property, etc.). In short, while granting that certain non-coercive hierarchies will exist under an anarcho-capitalist system, they will have no real authority except over their own property: a worker existing within such a 'hierarchy' (answerable to management, bosses, etc.) is free at all times to abandon this voluntary 'hierarchy' and (1) create an organization within which he/she is at (or somewhere near) the top of the 'hierarchy' (entrepreneurship), (2) join an existing 'hierarchy' (wherein he/she will likely be lower in the scheme of things), or (3) abandon these hierarchies altogether and join/form a non-hierarchical association such as a cooperative, commune, etc.. Since there will be no taxes, such cooperative organizations (labour unions, communes, voluntary socialist associations wherein the product of the labour and of the capital goods of those who join which they were able to peaceably acquire would be shared amongst all who joined, etc.) would, under anarcho-capitalism, enjoy the freedom to do as they please (provided, of course that they set up their operation on their own -or un-owned- property, in other words so long as they do so without force).

According to this argument, the free market is simply the natural situation that would result from people being free from authority, and entails the establishment of all voluntary associations in society: cooperatives, non-profit organizations (which would, just as today, be funded by individuals for their existence), businesses, etc. (in short, a free market does not equal the end of civil society, which continues to be a critique of anarcho-capitalism). Moreover, anarcho-capitalists (as well as classical liberal minarchists and others) argue that the application of so-called "leftist" anarchist ideals (e.g. the forceful redistribution of wealth from one set of people to another) requires an authoritarian body of some sort that will impose this ideology. Some also argue that human beings are motivated primarily by the fulfillment of their own needs and wants. Thus, to forcefully prevent people from accumulating private capital, which could result in further fulfillment of human desires, there would necessarily be a redistributive organization of some sort which would have the authority to, in essence, exact a tax and re-allocate the resulting resources to a larger group of people. This body would thus inherently have political power and would be nothing short of a state. The difference between such an arrangement and an anarcho-capitalist system is precisely the voluntary nature of organization within anarcho-capitalism contrasted with a centralized ideology and a paired enforcement mechanism which would be necessary under a coercively 'egalitarian'-anarchist system.

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