Still working to recover. Please don't edit quite yet.


From Anarchopedia
(Redirected from Anarcho-capitalism)
Jump to: navigation, search
Voice of Freedom Radical Podcast logo only.png Echo of Freedom, Radical Podcast has a podcast related to this aticle
Ownership of Self

Anarcho-Capitalism is a movement self-decribing as an individualist anarchist[1] political philosophy that advocates the elimination of the state and the elevation of the individual in a free market. Anarchists that disagree with capitalism see the label as a contradiction in terms, disputing its inclusion in the spectrum of anarchism.

Some anarcho-capitalists are fundamentally against proactive physical coercion; their system has no metanormative opposition to voluntary communism or syndicalism. Others prefer that in an anarcho-capitalist society, law enforcement, courts, any formerly state-provided institutions or services that consumers demanded would be provided by voluntarily-funded or voluntarily-formed organizations, with defense and security being provided by private defense agencies or communal militias rather than through taxation, and where money is privately produced in an open market.

Deontological anarcho-capitalists, such as Murray Rothbard, claim that no state is morally justified, and that the traditional functions of the state thus ought to be provided by voluntary human interaction. Others, such as David Friedman, claim that the state is economically and socially suboptimal and that non-physically coercive human interaction yields greater Marshallian efficiency.

There are some anarcho-capitalists that do not view anarchism as requiring titles, but see it as an attitude with hyphenations merely describing the means by which they seek to attain anarchy; that is, where no human owns any human. In fact, they are more properly described as anarchists and capitalists. For instance, they view debt and monopolization as probabilities that could bring about archism, so anarchists use capitalistic methods to prevent or limit these, including to avoid business with those that do not follow ways to avoid archism, which stems from the idea that "activity produces wealth". For example, some refuse business with companies that are monopolistic or that are developing into a monopoly, and others also refuse trade with those that do not divest to an extent or release debtors every seven years, regardless of how much was owed. Indeed, a few call themselves competists, rather than capitalists, as they view competition as necessary to obtain better products (or capital).


Anarcho-capitalism is a consistent version of capitalism, where coercive public monopolies would no longer exist.

Anarcho-Capitalism embraces the free market, which contrasts with collectivistic anarchist philosophy. It should be noted that most anarcho-capitalists define the words "capitalism," "free market" and "private property" differently from collectivistic anarchists.

  • Capitalism: economic system where production is, at least, originally privately owned, where business decisions and correction are determined through the operation of a free market.
  • Free market: market where all decisions regarding transfer of possessions, including items and services, are voluntary.
  • Private possession (or property): possession gained by the invention of it, by mixing one's labor with unused and unpossessed material or material already owned by that person, by voluntary trade or as a gift.

This difference in terminology is often the basis for controversy.

Though the first self-described anarcho-capitalist was 19th century individualist anarchist Voltarine de Cleyre, anarcho-capitalism as a defined political philosophy did not emerge until the 1950s, coming out of the tradition of classical liberalism, and generally setting itself in contrast to all forms of coercion and collectivism. Murray Rothbard, an Austrian economist influenced by work of individualist anarchists like Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner, is often described as the founder of anarcho-capitalism.

Varying Views on Intellectual Property[edit]

While some Anarcho-capitalists support intellectual property, others oppose it, claiming that intellectual property infringes on physical property. They hold that intellectual property laws "in effect grant the holder the right to control the property and bodies of other people". [1] These anarcho-capitalists consider intellectual property to be equivalent to mercantilism, the system under which monarchs would grant exclusive monopolies to companies in a certain industry or territory.

Jeremy Sapienza, founder writes, "Is there nothing more preposterous than equating intellectual property, whatever the hell that is, with real, personal property?"[2].

Roderick T. Long argues that intellectual property violates the freedom of the speech and of the press: "To enforce copyright laws and the like is to prevent people from making peaceful use of the information they possess. If you have acquired the information legitimately (say, by buying a book), then on what grounds can you be prevented from using it, reproducing it, trading it? Is this not a violation of the freedom of speech and press?" [3]

In cases where anarcho-capitalists support intellectual property, it stems from the idea that property arrives from activity or labor, internal or external not being a subject of debate.

Lysander Spooner, who supported copyright and patents, wrote in his THE LAW OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY; OR AN ESSAY ON THE RIGHT OF AUTHORS AND INVENTORS TO A PERPETUAL PROPERTY IN THEIR IDEAS [4]: "man's ideas are his property. They are his for enjoyment, and his for use. Other men do not own his ideas. He has a right, as against all other men, to absolute dominion over his ideas....So absolute is the author’s right of dominion over his ideas that he may forbid their being communicated even by human voice if he so pleases". [5]

Murray Rothbard, a defender of copyright but not patents, claimed, "Let us consider copyright. A man writes a book or composes music. When he publishes the book or sheet of music, he imprints on the first page the word “copyright.” This indicates that any man who agrees to purchase this product also agrees as part of the exchange not to recopy or reproduce this work for sale. In other words, the author does not sell his property out­right to the buyer; he sells it on condition that the buyer not reproduce it for sale. Since the buyer does not buy the property outright, but only on this condition, any infringement of the con­tract by him or a subsequent buyer is implicit theft and would be treated accordingly on the free market. The copyright is there­fore a logical device of property right on the free market....and this copyright would be per­petual, not limited to a certain number of years. Obviously, to be fully the property of an individual, a good has to be perma­nently and perpetually the property of the man and his heirs and assigns". [6]

In Linda and Morris Tannehill's "The Market for Liberty", they supported intellectual property in a number of ways. In their advocacy of private property, they state, "A man’s life is made up of time, so when he invests his time in material or intellectual property (ideas) he is investing parts of his life, thereby making that property an extension of his life." [7] In Chapter 7, they mention how free courts would be used to help an inventor in a conflict with "Handy-Dandy Kitchen Gadget". [8]

The debate over intellectual property among anarcho-capitalists is still on-going.

Wage Labor[edit]

Anarcho-capitalists state that an employer-employee relationship may be a mutually profitable form of voluntary association. They resent government as a parasite that corrupts, biases, impedes and distorts what would otherwise be peaceful fair and free associations.

Anarcho-capitalists consider that in consenting to a contract, that each party was free to refuse, the contract is voluntary and therefore legitimate and beneficial, claiming any external power that attempts to prevent such relationship is itself an oppression.

Anarcho-capitalists argue that, no matter what social organization may or may not exist, social organizations will never eliminate the basic human requirement to work in order to support themselves. Therefore an objection based on a constraint that cannot be overcome is useless to argue about and not a rational objection at all. Additionally, they argue that while someone may not be able to refuse to work in general, one has the largest diversity on the free market with regard to their employers or beginning their own business operation. What matters is that no given employer/employee contract be coercive. Thus, anarcho-capitalists believe that an individual may choose to work in any manner they wish, be it for a wage or for some other means of payment, so long as there is no coercion involved.

Criticism of Anarcho-capitalism[edit]

Freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice and Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality.” ~ Mihail Bakunin
Some collectivist anarchist criticism of anarcho-capitalism resembles criticism of mainstream libertarianism

Anarcho-capitalism is a view that departs from collectivistic anarchist theories in that it regards coercive public entities as unnecessary and harmful to human society, but embraces capitalist economics. Anarcho-capitalism contradicts collectivist anarchism, an anti-capitalist philosophy. Anarcho-capitalism is often considered a paradox by collectivistic anarchists, and vice-versa.

Collectivist anarchists purport that there is no form of capitalism that does not rely on the concentration of wealth and the existence of private property, and the need for defense of this property through public or private coercion. They claim that James Donald and Bryan Caplan have attempted (in the 1990s) to frame their arguments in language and documents that appear to be legitimate, because they use certain key phrases and structure and some author's attempts to have some connection to scholarly circles with anarchist legitimacy.

Another major problem alleged by collectivist anarchists against the ideology of anarcho-capitalism is substitution of 'opportunity' for 'freedom', in the philosophical discourse. They professes that anarcho-capitalism ignores the need to maintain the balance of freedoms, balance between positive and negative freedoms, as well as balance between freedoms of different individuals. Concentrating on a select few, anarcho-capitalists show how opportunities allowed to those few are lessened by socialism and thus conclude that socialism is unable to be free. This argument is dominant in the areas where state socialism has been a major ideology gaining or competing for dominance and happens as a result of the dominance of individualistic element in the rebellion.

Another profound criticism of Anarcho-capitalism is that it relies on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of Capitalism and its present and historical relation to the state. Study of history and indeed archaeology demonstrate that far from being in opposition, the state and Capitalism are intrinsically linked and formed together historically speaking. Historical and archaeological evidence demonstrate that prior to the development of the state and government, markets did not exist, at least not in any shape resembling that of capitalist mode of production.

Anarcho-capitalist criticism of socialism[edit]

Taken from the Anarcho Capitalist FAQ. All of these points are answered from the socialist side on the Check your premises-Blog.

"What are the myths of socialism?"

The just price doctrine and cost-price theories of value.

The medieval notion of just price permeates socialist thought. It holds that there is a intrinsic price of a good, regardless of people's wants, needs and desires, or supply and demand. In the industrial-era form of this doctrine, the value of a good is deemed to be equal to the cost of production, usually in terms of labor time expended (see labor theory of value below). This cost-price notion was refuted in the 1800s by the marginalist revolution in economics, but nevertheless many socialists remain mired in this. The marginalist economists, notably the Austrian School, consider value to be subjective. It depends on each person and his or her particular situation and values. In the desert, one may prefer a cup of water to a diamond.

The labor theory of value.

The labor theory of value (LTV) is the cost-price doctrine which holds that all value springs from labor. In other words, it purports that land, capital and entrepreneurship are all non-productive, and can impute no value to a good (except insofar as they represent past labor.) The general invalidity of all just price doctrines has already been noted. The modern (marginalist) thought is that value is not determined by cost at all, but by the subjective preferences of the buyers interacting with the available quantity of the good in question. This is known as the subjective theory of value. Even on it's own intrinsic price terms, the LTV fails to account for factors of production other than labor. Standard counter-examples abound, e.g. No matter how much time you spend producing mud-pies, they are still worthless; A fresh bottle of wine gains value simply by aging; and so on. It is possible to formulate a purely descriptive LTV, which uses labor time as the measure of the productivity of land and capital, as Kevin Carson does in part 1 of his book Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, however the usefulness of this is dubious, and the temptation to slide into the prescriptive interpretation is enormous, as Carson does without justification in part 2 of the same book.

Curiously, this interpretation of the LTV is refuted in the Critique of the Gotha Program by Marx in 1890(!) [2]

The exploitation theory.

An exploitation theory is any theory which purports to justify the claim that one "class" exploits another. In socialist theory, the claim is that a capitalist class exploits a proletarian class. Most exploitation theories are based on the antiquated LTV notion described above. Other socialists realize the weakness of this argument, and base their exploitation theory on unequal negotiating positions. While this latter approach may explain outcomes of bargaining, it evades the relevant issue - whether the trade was voluntary. Thus this approach also fails to support the claim that (so-called) "exploitation" is undesirable or unethical.

Note that even stipulating the "creationist" LTV, the socialist argument is insufficient for proving exploitation. It lacks an explanation of why workers voluntarily exchanging labor time for wages is exploitative. Bohm-Bawerk of the Austrian school of economics showed long ago (1884 in "Exploitation Theories") that profit from wages could be explained by interest on advanced pay, i.e. workers getting paid prior to their produce being sold.

Denial of scarcity (property, money).

This is a favorite of utopian socialists. The purpose of property is to solve the scarcity problem - that man's desires exceed available goods. This myth simply assumes away scarcity, as if this human condition was merely an effect of a particular property system rather than a fact of reality and human nature. The socialist denial of the validity of property involves an internal contradiction and much resulting "double-think." E.g. Proudhon writes that he's against contract property, but for possession property; yet he refuses to acknowledge that his "possession" is a type of property.

Another naive denial of scarcity is the claim of some socialists that a modern society can get along without money. Hayek made a living by refuting that view: in short, an economy needs the informational function of money to balance supply and demand. Without the amalgamation of the desires and preferences of the producers and consumers into price, chaos results. Shortages and surpluses abound when the communication of preferences is prevented or co-opted by rulers. Money is simply and ultimately the most liquid commodity in a market. There will always be a most liquid commodity in any market; ergo, there will be something used as money."

The obvious counter to this is that capitalists have a similarly naiive belief in the failings of human nature, believing that the animal nature underlying it is paramount and can at best be appeased with large amounts of EVERYTHING. Even if all human reason and willpower is set aside, the fact that humans represent the pinnacle of mammalian evolution, and mammals the pinnacle of animal evolution, and that mammals are most succinctly described as animals that take care of their own, still completely evades capitalists.


"The direct use of physical force is so poor a solution to the problem of limited resources that it is commonly employed only by small children and great nations." - David Friedman

"Because the free market system is so weak politically, the forms of capitalism that are experienced in many countries are very far from the ideal. They are a corrupted version, in which powerful interests prevent competition from playing its natural, healthy role." - Raghuram G. Rajan

"A robust capitalism would help us to reap all the dynamic, wealth-generating energies that Marx wrote about and only the faux Marxists today deny or deplore." - Jagdish Bhagwati

"Critics of anarcho-capitalism sometimes assume that communal or worker-owned firms would be penalized or prohibited in an anarcho-capitalist society. It would be more accurate to state that while individuals would be free to voluntarily form communitarian organizations, the anarcho-capitalist simply doubts that they would be widespread or prevalent. However, in theory an "anarcho-capitalist" society might be filled with nothing but communes or worker-owned firms, so long as these associations were formed voluntarily." - Bryan Caplan

"Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed." - Mahatma Gandhi

"Miss Goldman is a communist; I am an individualist. She wishes to destroy the right of property, I wish to assert it. I make my war upon privilege and authority, whereby the right of property, the true right in that which is proper to the individual, is annihilated. She believes that co-operation would entirely supplant competition; I hold that competition in one form or another will always exist, and that it is highly desirable it should." - Voltairine de Cleyre, In Defense of Emma Goldman and the Right of Expropriation

"Capitalistic Anarchism? Oh, yes, if you choose to call it so. Names are indifferent to me; I am not afraid of bugaboos. Let it be so, then, capitalistic Anarchism." - Voltairine de Cleyre

"I should say that when people talk about capitalism it's a bit of a joke. There's no such thing. No country, no business class, has ever been willing to subject itself to the free market, free market discipline. Free markets are for others. Like, the Third World is the Third World because they had free markets rammed down their throat. Meanwhile, the enlightened states, England, the United States, others, resorted to massive state intervention to protect private power, and still do. That's right up to the present. I mean, the Reagan administration for example was the most protectionist in post-war American history. Virtually the entire dynamic economy in the United States is based crucially on state initiative and intervention: computers, the internet, telecommunication, automation, pharmaceutical, you just name it. Run through it, and you find massive ripoffs of the public, meaning, a system in which under one guise or another the public pays the costs and takes the risks, and profit is privatized. That's very remote from a free market. Free market is like what India had to suffer for a couple hundred years, and most of the rest of the Third World." - Noam Chomsky (Talk titled "Sovereignty and World Order" at Kansas State University, September 20, 1999)

"Ideologies fight over the best solution to our problems. Capitalism is the recognition that this one best answer does not exist. Capitalism says that all peaceful ideas, projects and systems are welcome. It says "we don’t know the one best way," so people have to decide themselves what might be best for them, what kind of ideas and dreams they want to realise and what kinds of goods and services they should or shouldn't consume. You are free to try anything so long as you don’t use force against other people or force them to pay for your projects. Capitalism is the system that leaves the economic decisions to the people, instead of the system." - Johan Norberg, former left-anarchist with the Anarchist Front

"Capitalism is the fullest expression of anarchism, and anarchism is the fullest expression of capitalism." - Murray Rothbard

"Without property there is no free personal life. Without property there is no power to act. The man who treads on strange ground, touches strange property at every movement he makes is not a free man. And the word 'property' must be taken literally as ownership, or, as we say to-day, private property. Without private property there is no freedom." - Emil Brunner

"The purchaser draws boundaries, fences himself in, and says, “This is mine; each one by himself, each one for himself.” Here, then, is a piece of land upon which, henceforth, no one has a right to step, save the proprietor and his friends; which can benefit nobody, save the proprietor and his servants. Let these sales multiply, and soon the people — who have been neither able nor willing to sell, and who have received none of the proceeds of the sale — will have nowhere to rest, no place of shelter, no ground to till. They will die of hunger at the proprietor’s door, on the edge of that property which was their birthright; and the proprietor, watching them die, will exclaim, “So perish idlers and vagrants!”" - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (Ch. III: "Labor as the Efficient Cause of the Domain of Property")

"Property is robbery!" - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution"

"It will probably surprise many who know nothing of Proudhon save his declaration that 'property is robbery' to learn that he was perhaps the most vigorous hater of Communism that ever lived on this planet. But the apparent inconsistency vanishes when you read his book and find that by 'property' he means simply legally privileged wealth or power of usury, and not at all the possession of by the laborer of his products." - Benjamin Tucker

"Private property is the greatest revolutionary force which exists, with an unequaled capacity for setting itself against authority... and the principal function of private property within the political system is to act as a counterweight to the power of the State, and by so doing to insure the liberty of the individual." - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Theory of Property

External links[edit]

Anarcho-capitalist links[edit]

Criticism of Anarcho-capitalism[edit]


  • Adams, Ian. 2002. Political Ideology Today. p. 135. Manchester University Press; Ostergaard, Geoffrey. 2003. Anarchism. In W. Outwaite (Ed.), The Blackwell Dictionary of Modern Social Thought. p. 14. Blackwell Publishing