Property is Theft – and Other Non Sequitors

I am more than willing to bet that anyone that adopts the sort of radical Libertarian thought that I adhere to probably takes plenty of time to research differing ideologies. How else would we even know such esoteric views existed? Here I will present a brief critique of the book, “Anarchism: Arguments for and Against” by Albert Meltzer.


Market anarchy or “anarchy” in any form is far from mainstream. Being one of the few people in the world today that sees that as a bad thing, I decided to take a look at a differing ideology that many conflate with my own: Left Anarchy. Hence my choice to read this book.


Well, then again I am far from certain about what it should be called. I suppose you could say I wanted to take a critical examination of “anarchism” in the collectivist no private property sense, but labels do have their limits. Even I have a hard time deciding whether to call myself an Anarcho-Capitalist, Market Anarchist, Voluntaryist, etc. (I think I prefer them in opposite order).


Nonetheless, this is the book I decided to take a look at:


Anarchism: Arguments for and Against Cover

An Easy Introduction to Left Anarchism


The publisher (AK Press) first came to my attention when it was listed on some liner notes for a Rage Against the Machine Album. Not that I really listen to them these days – or find them to be a good source of information on much – but it caught my attention and years later led me to buy the book pictured above. Concise as it is, it did make some points of contention that I disagree with.


While it may be possible to critique the whole book with ease (only 100 pages or so), a chapter entitled “Inalienable Tenets of Anarchism” is what struck me as the most flawed part of the book. I would argue that this chapter is also the most crucial to the entire book; if the arguments presented there do not hold water, then the descriptions of “how” people would be organized under such arrangements become superflous at best.


Here the book defends five key areas of argument which generally build upon one another:


1. That People are Born Free – This can be right or wrong depending on what semantic interpretation you make.

2. If People are Born Free, Slavery is Murder – I think “partial” murder might be a better conclusion about slavery.

3. As Slavery is Murder, So Property is Theft – Here Meltzer’s case falls apart altogether; more on that in a moment.

4. If Property is Theft, So Government is Tyranny – The conclusion is fine, but not by the premise used to justify it.

5. If Government is Tyranny, Then Anarchy is Liberty – Although partially correct it relies on a false dichotomy.


So far I have covered in summary what I think is right or wrong about the five tenets Meltzer attempts to make the case for. In the next couple weeks I will go into greater detail about each tenet’s truths and drawbacks. In particular I want to make it clear why the claim used by Left Anarchists and many others on the left (property is theft) commits the fallacy of self exclusion, and does not make a clear case against private ownership.


One response to “Property is Theft – and Other Non Sequitors”

  1. […] few weeks ago I made a post that gave a formal overview of the book, “Anarchism: Arguments for and Against.” The […]