Refuting “anarcho”-capitalism by means of “anarcho”-capitalism.

Please make this article known to all your anarcho-capitalist friends, Misean idealists, paleo troglodytes, and other profit-lovers.

For example, leading “anarcho”-capitalist Murray Rothbard thundered against the evil of the state, stressing that it “arrogates to itself a monopoly of force, of ultimate decision-making power, over a given territorial area.” Then, in the chapter’s endnote, he quietly admitted that “[o]bviously, in a free society, Smith has the ultimate decision-making power over his own just property, Jones over his, etc.

Opps. How did the editor not pick up that one? But it shows the magical power of the expression “private property” – it can turn the bad (“ultimate decision-making power” over a given area) into the good (“ultimate decision-making power” over a given area). For anarchists, “[t]o demonise state authoritarianism while ignoring identical albeit contract-consecrated subservient arrangements in the large-scale corporations which control the world economy is fetishism at its worst.

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46 thoughts on “Refuting “anarcho”-capitalism by means of “anarcho”-capitalism.

  1. Kevin B August 30 2009 at 0:07

    The way I understand it, anarcho-capitalists are not trying to eliminate “evil” (evil is subjective). They are trying to reduce human conflict.

    They believe that:
    an-cap conflict < statist conflict

    Since conflict is obviously inherent in government, they wish to try anarchy with consenting agreements not to harm each other's person and whatever logical (read: net conflict reducing) extensions thereof.

    Hope that helps.

  2. Francois Tremblay August 30 2009 at 2:05

    I’m quite sure I have no idea what this has to do with the article.

  3. Kevin B August 30 2009 at 2:41

    It sounds as if the author is trying to paint ancaps as crusaders against evil (ie cranks) rather than coercive force. From your own clip:

    “…Murray Rothbard thundered against the evil of the state…”
    “…it can turn the bad … into the good..”
    “…[t]o demonise state authoritarianism…”

    Perhaps the author believes that to be an anarchist one is on a holy crusade, but most ancaps I’ve spoken with see it as a logical means and end.

    Must an anarchist be a holy crusader, stamping out any and all authority like some kind of religious zealot? If so, they should include that in the dictionary, instead of:

    “a theory that regards the absence of all direct or coercive government as a political ideal and that proposes the cooperative and voluntary association of individuals and groups as the principal mode of organized society”

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/anarchy

  4. Francois Tremblay August 30 2009 at 2:47

    I think you are confused. The person who wrote this article is the same person who wrote the famous Anarchist FAQ.

  5. Kevin B August 30 2009 at 3:03

    OK, let me put it bluntly:

    The author sounds like a crank. He makes anarchists look like cranks. And unless he really is a crank, this paper isn’t helping his cause, nor does it help other non-crank anarchists.

    Your page allows for comments on your posts and the articles you refer to, and that was the point of my comment.

  6. Francois Tremblay August 30 2009 at 3:04

    How does the author sound like a crank?

  7. Kevin B August 30 2009 at 3:17

    For one, he spends his precious time attacking his would-be allies because their beliefs are not 100% equal to his, rather than working together toward a common goal.

    Come on. They want to work out a system for minimizing conflict once we’ve reached near-utopian goals, and that system (though voluntary) differs from my vision of perfection, so I must spend hours and hours thinking and talking about it.

    Sounds crankish to me – and certainly impractical.

  8. Francois Tremblay August 30 2009 at 3:18

    You are confused. You and I are not allies. We’re on opposite sides. We’re not working for the same thing. I’m working for the elimination of hierarchies. You’re working for their strengthening.

  9. Kevin B August 30 2009 at 3:28

    Sometimes the only thing that keeps us from greater happiness is a belief.

  10. Francois Tremblay August 30 2009 at 3:42

    First true thing you’ve said so far!

  11. Kevin B August 30 2009 at 3:49

    A thing is only as true as it is useful.

    Wish we could carry this further, but I must be off to bed. It’s nice to end a conversation with some agreement anyway.

    See? Not 100% opposite sides. ;)

  12. Francois Tremblay August 30 2009 at 3:50

    You’re wasting my time right? Good job on ending on some truths, though. It is true that truth and usefulness are two sides of the same coin.

  13. Brainpolice August 30 2009 at 10:50

    I think the article makes a number of crucial points.

  14. Roderick T. Long August 30 2009 at 12:13

    The quoted argument seems to amount to: if it’s wrong for other people to control the fruits of your labour, it’s wrong for you to control the fruits of your labour. Sounds like a non sequitur to me.

  15. Francois Tremblay August 30 2009 at 15:19

    It’s the capitalists that don’t want us to control the fruits of our labour. Are you a capitalist?

  16. Kevin B August 30 2009 at 15:56

    “control the fruits of your labour”

    More like nobody controls anything and everyone just gets along, man.

    It smells like a hippie movement. Where’s Cartman when you need him? lol

  17. Francois Tremblay August 30 2009 at 15:58

    Funny, I tell you what it’s really about and you deny that it is. We want people to control the fruits of their labour. And you reply by saying that I believe no one should control anything.

    Go away, troll.

  18. Anonymous August 30 2009 at 16:13

    “More like nobody controls anything and everyone just gets along, man.

    It smells like a hippie movement. Where’s Cartman when you need him? lol”

    It seems obvious that you’re strawmanning. That’s not anyone’s position, it’s a caricature.

  19. Brainpolice August 30 2009 at 16:19

    “The quoted argument seems to amount to: if it’s wrong for other people to control the fruits of your labour, it’s wrong for you to control the fruits of your labour. Sounds like a non sequitur to me.”

    I didn’t interpret it that way. I think what it’s getting at is something like this: if you claim to oppose “ultimate decision-making power over a given area”, it is inconsistent to suddenly support it on the grounds that the property was aquired voluntarily. In other words, it’s trying to say that the ancap objection to the state could be turned around against the ancap’s normative position on property, which could theoretically justify the same thing as the state.

  20. Kevin B August 30 2009 at 16:29

    “It seems obvious that you’re strawmanning.”

    Don’t be so quick to assume. We’re supposed to suspend judgement, right?

    That people of the world will just get along – that’s how you come across. I said that the article SOUNDS crankish. It does.

    Given human nature, how on earth could scarce resources be allocated without private property? Most humans WANT private property. And you can’t educate that out of them any more than you can educate them into having wings.

  21. Francois Tremblay August 30 2009 at 16:33

    “Given human nature, how on earth could scarce resources be allocated without private property?”

    Possession, of course. What the fuck did you think?

    Separating scarce resources from society is immoral, because it necessarily attacks someone else’s capacity to gain them. It is more moral, albeit still stupid, to grab non-scarce resources for oneself, because doing so hurts no one else.

  22. Kevin B August 30 2009 at 16:40

    “Separating scarce resources from society is immoral, because it necessarily attacks someone else’s capacity to gain them.”

    But the moment something is taken up, it is no longer available to other persons’ uses. It sounds like you want to eat your cake and have it too.

    And on a side note, do you believe in morality? Like right and wrong? I had you figured as more of a pragmatist.

  23. Francois Tremblay August 30 2009 at 16:43

    Me, a pragmatist? Have you ever read my blog? If you had, you’d know how deeply wrong that is.

  24. Kevin B August 30 2009 at 16:47

    I found your blog for the first time last night. You had a hint of pragmatism when you agreed with me earlier regarding beliefs and truth. Pragmatic beliefs, those are.

  25. Francois Tremblay August 30 2009 at 16:49

    You seem to be sadly mistaken about pretty much everything, including the implications of your own truths.

  26. Kevin B August 30 2009 at 16:54

    You should read Pragmatism, by William James. It’s right there.

    Don’t feel bad about it. It keeps the mind limber.

  27. Francois Tremblay August 30 2009 at 16:56

    I am not interested in bankrupt ideologies, and my reading list is too long already. Sorry.

  28. You August 30 2009 at 21:01

    The author of this article seems to be forgetting that capitalists signed a contract with the earth (after they created it in six days) making it their personal playground in perpetuity, and so the rest of us are just their guests. While the rest of us have to work in order to survive (this being a result of man’s nature and of reality) they are thereby exempt from this requirement. So if we want to live in their world, we have to get their permission, otherwise it’s not voluntary, and therefore evil. If we don’t let them control us, we’ll be violating the material structure of reality itself, and we’ll inadvertently create a black hole, causing the universe to implode.

  29. David Gendron August 31 2009 at 11:13

    “They believe that:

    an-cap conflict < statist conflict"

    Kevin, I believe in that but I think also that:

    anarchist conflict < an-cap conflict < statist conflict

  30. David Gendron August 31 2009 at 11:27

    “You are confused. You and I are not allies. We’re on opposite sides. We’re not working for the same thing. I’m working for the elimination of hierarchies. You’re working for their strengthening.”

    In the hierarchy debate, I agree. But in general, ancaps and anarchists are allies in the large majority of issues.

  31. David Gendron August 31 2009 at 11:28

    “It is, therefore, useful to give a short explanation of why “anarcho”-capitalism should be called “anarcho-statism” to better show its inherent contradictions. ”

    Hummm, I agree but I don’t think this is the only form of anarcho-statism. In fact, some anarcho-communists are way more statists than ancaps.

  32. David Gendron August 31 2009 at 15:11

    Thank you for the link, François! The more I read and re-read this, the more I agree with him.

    The only problem with this, for me right now (maybe I’ll find something else later), is that anarcho-capitalism is not the only kind of Anarcho-statism and the author dissmisses that.

  33. Francois Tremblay August 31 2009 at 15:12

    Yes, that is also true.

  34. David Gendron August 31 2009 at 15:16

    But the hierarchy-profit-property flaws of the ancaps are a major issue in the Anarchist community, though.

  35. Dr. Q September 2 2009 at 21:39

    Your views have changed so much since you published “But Who Will Build The Roads?” DO you plan on ever updating it or writing a new book to clarify your current positions?

  36. Francois Tremblay September 2 2009 at 21:49

    No, I am not planning on doing so. I will eventually write a different book.

  37. Francois Tremblay September 2 2009 at 21:50

    Just to be clear, I don’t intend to write a new book in order to clarify my position. I intend to write a book on different issues.

  38. steve September 5 2009 at 14:06

    Are you saying private ownership is not a sufficient condition for exercising ”ultimate decision-making power” over certain property? Could you please explain that and/or offer an alternative?

    cheers

  39. Francois Tremblay September 5 2009 at 14:46

    “Are you saying private ownership is not a sufficient condition for exercising ”ultimate decision-making power” over certain property?”

    That is correct. Ownership is not necessarily property.

    “Could you please explain that and/or offer an alternative?”

    See question 14.

  40. steve September 5 2009 at 15:01

    “Ownership is not necessarily property.”

    I don’t really understand this sentence. I don’t think that one would ever say “ownership” IS “property”. But I would say that the condition of “ownership”, or being in a state of “ownership” implies, or necessitates the EXISTENCE of property. Is that what you dispute?

  41. Francois Tremblay September 5 2009 at 15:03

    I don’t need to “dispute” it, because it is factually incorrect. There are two recognized states of ownership: property and possession. Property includes the right of abuse and possession does not. These are all established judicial facts.

  42. steve September 5 2009 at 15:54

    Ok. “Property” is one of two mutually exclusive conditions required under a “state of ownership”. A “state of ownership” can exist without “property”. I can either own in a state of “property” OR I can own in a state of “possession.” I will nose around a bit more on your site to help me better grasp the definition of these terms. Cheers.

  43. Francois Tremblay September 5 2009 at 15:56

    I already told you. Check question 14.

  44. steve September 5 2009 at 15:59

    I read it! :). Check your use of the word ‘own’.

  45. Francois Tremblay September 5 2009 at 17:14

    I very clearly stated:

    “Any conception of ownership which is not ultimate or absolute is necessarily not property.”

  46. [...] rulers over that land. Although they refuse to see this pretty direct deduction (but to be fair, even Rothbard was too blinded by his pro-property bias to see it), it is clear that the voluntaryists who hold to this ideology have nothing to do with [...]

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