Anarcho-capitalism

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The gold-black bisected flag represents anarcho-capitalism or libertarian anarchism

Anarcho-capitalism is a political philosophy that says that governments are not needed but that property rights are needed.

Why anarcho-capitalism is against government[change | change source]

Anarcho-capitalism says that governments are not needed because governments either do not work or are bad.  Governments are said to be bad because they use force to get things done.[1]  Examples of government force include:

Anarcho-capitalists say that society would be better off if the few good things that governments do were instead done on the free market by private individuals, private companies, charities, mutual aid societies, and voluntary unions.[2]  Anarcho-capitalists think that people will still be safe without armies and police that are paid for with taxes.  Anarcho-capitalists say that people will be able to protect themselves by paying people or "private defence agencies" to defend them, or by setting up neighbourhood watches.[3][2][4]  They also think that when people get into fights or arguments about who owns what, people should be able to get together and decide what kind of court to go to and what kind of rules they should be judged by, instead of being forced to go to a court that the government sets up.[3][2]

Meaning[change | change source]

The term anarcho-capitalism was coined by Jarret B. Wollstein.  It is called anarcho-capitalism because it is a mix of (1) the individualist anarchist idea that governments are bad and unnecessary, and (2) the capitalist idea that private property is good when it has been gotten in a legitimate way instead of through force.  Anarcho-capitalists say that the government is a thief,[3] because it takes people's money away against their will.  Governments also keep people from making trades between themselves.

Anarcho-capitalism as a form of libertarianism[change | change source]

Most libertarians are minarchists, which means they think that there needs to be a very small government whose only purpose is to protect people's property.  Anarcho-capitalists are different because they believe society would be better off without any government, even though they are still a kind of libertarian.

Anarcho-capitalism as a form of anarchism[change | change source]

Many classical anarchists don't agree with anarcho-capitalism because they don't think it's force when someone takes someone else's property without permission.  Some anarchists don't even think that anarcho-capitalism counts as a real kind of anarchism.

Like other anarchists, anarcho-capitalists are against the whole idea of hierarchy.  But, unlike other anarchists, anarcho-capitalists do not define hierarchy as something that exists when one person is simply seen as being more important than another person.  In the eyes of the anarcho-capitalist, hierarchy exists when a person is given the authority to use force against a nonviolent person person or that person's legitimate property.  Only when no one is allowed to use force against nonviolent people or their legitimate property are people truly equal.  Only then is hierarchy no more.[5]

Property[change | change source]

Anarcho-capitalists, like other libertarians and classical liberals, only believe property is legitimate when it has been gotten in the right sort of way.  If you steal (take something from someone without her permission), or hire someone to steal on your behalf, or ask the government to steal on your behalf, the property you get is not really yours.  The real owner is still the person or people it belonged to before it was stolen.[3][1]  Anarcho-capitalists say that governments do not legitimately own anything, since governments get all of their wealth through force, including taxation and counterfeiting.[1][2]

In the eyes of anarcho-capitalists, property can only be legitimately gotten in one of three ways.  The first way is through John Locke's "homestead principle," which means that something owned by no one becomes your legitimate property when you "mix your labour" with the thing.[3][1][6]  In other words, if you come across an unowned field, and you start farming it, then the land you farm becomes your property, along with all of the crops you grow.  If someone else comes along and steals all of the crops you worked on growing, that person has committed a form of force called "theft."  The second and third ways to legitimately get property is through voluntary trade or gift.[1]

If someone has gotten something in an illegitimate way, it is not theft to take the thing back, as long as you harm no innocent person in the process.[3][1]

Defence[change | change source]

Some anarcho-capitalists are also anarcho-pacifists, but most anarcho-capitalists are not.  Anarcho-pacifists, like Robert LeFevre, believe one may never use any force at all, not even in self-defence.  Most anarcho-capitalists, however, believe it is okay to use defensive force as long as it is only directed against those who have used non-defensive force, and as long as it is proportional to the non-defensive force.  In other words, one may not legitimately shoot a person for stealing a stick of gum, because shooting someone is a lot more forceful than stealing the gum.[1]

Anarcho-capitalist literature[change | change source]

Nonfiction[change | change source]

The following is a list of some notable nonfiction works discussing anarcho-capitalism.

Author: Murray N. Rothbard[change | change source]

An outline of how an anarcho-capitalist society could work.
Originally written as one long book, it was published as two separate works because the publishers feared the second half seemed too radical.  This is Rothbard's magnum opus.
Moral justification of a free society.
An essay explaining the left-wing origins of anarcho-libertarian thought.

Author: David Friedman[change | change source]

An explanation of why the results of anarchism are better for society than the results of statism.

Author: Michael Huemer[change | change source]

A long defense of philosophical and political anarchism.

Authors: Linda and Morris Tannehill[change | change source]

Classic explanation of how private defence agencies will protect people, private arbitration will settle disputes, and private insurance would discourage war in a free market

Author Hans-Hermann Hoppe[change | change source]

Author: Frédéric Bastiat[change | change source]

Radical classical liberalism that influenced anarcho-capitalism.

Author: Bruce L. Benson[change | change source]

Authors: James Dale Davidson & William Rees-Mogg[change | change source]

  • The Sovereign Individual
Historians look at technology and its implications.

Author: Auberon Herbert[change | change source]

Author: Albert Jay Nock[change | change source]

Nock takes Franz Oppenheimer's positions and applies them to early U. S. history

Author: Samuel Edward Konkin, III[change | change source]

Explains how agorism can be used to bring about a market anarchy.

Author: Stefan Molyneux[change | change source]

Author: Herbert Spencer[change | change source]

Includes the essay "The Right to Ignore the State."  Spencer was not an anarcho-capitalist, however many of his ideas, including the Law of Equal Freedom, influenced modern anarcho-capitalism.

Author: George H. Smith[change | change source]

Looks at the role of justice agencies.

Author: Edward P. Stringham[change | change source]

Author: Robert Paul Wolff[change | change source]

An influential defence of anarchism within philosophy today.  Wolff is not an anarcho-capitalist and has said he does not agree with this interpretation of his work.  He instead favours social anarchism; however, his book is often cited by anarcho-capitalists.

Fiction[change | change source]

Anarcho-capitalism has been looked at in certain works of literature, particularly science fiction.  An early example is Robert A. Heinlein's 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, in which he explores what he calls "rational anarchism."  A contemporary anarcho-capitalistic work of science fiction is John C. Wright's The Golden Age.

In The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson, the Discordian Society, headed by the character Hagbard Celine, is anarcho-capitalist.  The manifesto of the society in the novel, "Never Whistle While You're Pissing," contains Celine's Laws, three laws regarding government and social interaction.

Cyberpunk and postcyberpunk authors have been interested by the idea of the breakdown of the government.  Some stories of Vernor Vinge, including Marooned in Realtime and Conquest by Default, feature anarcho-capitalist societies, sometimes made to look good, and sometimes not.[7]  Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, Max Barry's Jennifer Government, Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and L. Neil Smith's The Probability Broach all explore anarcho-capitalist ideas.  Anarchy in cyberpunk fiction ranges from the very bad to the very good.[8][9]

Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution series looks at the future results of the breakdown of today's political systems during a revolution.  The second novel of the series, The Stone Canal, deals with an anarcho-capitalist society and looks at issues of self-ownership, privatisation of police and courts of law, and the results of a contractual society.

In Matt Stone's (Richard D. Fuerle) novelette On the Steppes of Central Asia,[10] an American graduate student is invited to work for a newspaper in Mongolia, and finds out that the Mongolian society is stateless in a way similar to anarcho-capitalism.  The novelette was originally written to advertise Fuerle's 1986 economics book, The Pure Logic of Choice.[11]

J. Neil Schulman's novel Alongside Night shows a society using agorism to successfully becoming a market anarchist society.

Sharper Security: A Sovereign Security Company Novel, part of a series by Thomas Sewell, is "set a couple of decades into the near-future with a liberty view of society based on individual choice and free market economics"[12] and shows a society where individuals hire a security company to protect and insure them from crime.  The security companies are sovereign, but customers are free to switch between them.  They behave as a combination of insurance/underwriting and para-military police forces.  Anarcho-capitalist themes in the book include a look at what would happen if sovereign immunity is not forced onto people, and a look at privately-owned road systems, a laissez-faire market, and competing currencies.

Sandy Sandfort's, Scott Bieser's, and Lee Oaks's Webcomic, Escape from Terra, looks at a market anarchist society living on Ceres and its interaction with the violent statist society on Terra.[13]

See also[change | change source]

Anarcho-capitalist or libertarian anarchist symbols include the gold-black bisected flag, the Libertatis Æquilibritas, the Voluntary V, and other anarchist symbols like the Circle A and the black flag.
A revolutionary form of libertarian anarchism that says we should fight the state through what it calls "counter-economics."  Agorists include Samuel Edward Konkin, III and Brad Spangler.
An anarcho-pacifist is a type of libertarian that believes that no force is ever legitimate, not even in self defence.  Although Robert LeFevre did not call himself an "anarcho-pacifist" (or even an "anarchist"), he was one.
A viewpoint that holds that the things that happen in an economy are a result of the way individuals act and interact with one another.  The Austrian School of economics stresses the "subjective theory of value" (the idea that things do not have value in and of themselves, things only have "value" insofar as people believe things are valuable to them), the "economic calculation problem" (the idea that a socialist state cannot calculate how to best divvy up scarce things because one needs a price system to make those calculations and because a price system only comes about when people compete to own things, including capital goods), and the Austrian business cycle theory (the view that the business cycle is a result of "monetary inflation" (changes in the amount of money in the economy) causing "malinvestment" (bad investing)).  These views lead Austrian School economists to say that most or all government interference in the economy causes problems for society, and most anarcho-capitalists are students of the Austrian School.  Austrian School anarchists include Murray N. Rothbard and Robert P. Murphy.
Another word for libertarian anarchism.  It means "self-rule."  Robert LeFevre used this word to describe himself.
Anarcho-capitalism is a form of individualist anarchism, although not every individualist anarchists wants to be called an anarcho-capitalist.  Individualist anarchists who avoid calling themselves capitalists include Lysander Spooner, Benjamin R. Tucker, and Brad Spangler.  Some, such as Tucker and Spangler, go so far as to call themselves socialists.
Libertarian anarchists who believe that a free market system will lead to more equality, not less.  They are often very open to ideas such as "worker self-management" and feminism.  Left-libertarians include Benjamin R. Tucker and Roderick T. Long.
A society with no state.
Another term for libertarian anarchism.  Voluntaryists believe that only voluntary actions are legitimate.  This means that all government force is illegitimate.  The first libertarian to call himself a voluntaryist was Auberon Herbert.

Notes[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (New York and London: New York University Press, 1982 [1998])
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Linda & Morris Tannehill, The Market for Liberty (Fox & Wilkes, 1970 [1984])
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, 2nd. ed., (Auburn, AL: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1973, 1978 [2006])
  4. Gustave de Molinari, "The Production of Security," (Center for Libertarian Studies, 1849 [1977])
  5. Roderick T. Long, "Equality: The Unknown Ideal," Mises Daily, The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 16 October 2001
  6. John Locke, Second Treatise on Government.
  7. Henry, Jim. "Reviews by Jim Henry: Vernor Vinge". http://jimhenry.conlang.org/review/vinge_v.htm. Retrieved Mar 17, 2011.
  8. Godwin, Mike; Neal Stephenson (February 2005). "Neal Stephenson's Past, Present, and Future; The author of the widely praised Baroque Cycle on science, markets, and post-9/11 America" (print article). Reason (magazine). Archived from the original on 10 August 2007. http://www.reason.com/news/show/36481.html. Retrieved 11 August 2007.
  9. Roblimo; Neal Stephenson (20 October 2004). "Neal Stephenson Responds With Wit and Humor" (email exchange). Slashdot. http://interviews.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/10/20/1518217. Retrieved 11 August 2007.
  10. "On the Steppes of Central Asia". http://www.anarchism.net/steppes.htm. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
  11. "The Pure Logic of Choice". http://www.purelogic.us/. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
  12. "Sharper Security Series". Catallaxy Media. http://catallaxymedia.com/SharperSecurity. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  13. "Big Head Press – Thoughtful Stories, Graphic Novels Online And In Print – Escape From Terra – by Sandy Sandfort, Scott Bieser, Leila Del Duca and Lee Oaks!". Escape From Terra. Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. http://www.escapefromterra.com/. Retrieved 22 April 2011.