In my last posts critiquing “Anarchism: Arguments for and Against” I pointed out the problem of finding an accurate label for any given political ideology. This especially seems to be a problem for any anarchist views given that there are so many variants that can vastly differ from each other in terms of what each is supposed to implement. The views I happen to hold are no exception to this rule whatsoever.
Anarcho-Capitalist. Market Anarchist. Libertarian Anarchist. Stateless Libertarianism. Free Market Anarchism. Private Property Anarchism. Polycentric Law. Hell, allow us to throw in Agorist while we are at it.
There are so many words that can communicate things that are so similar that it makes me dislike the concept of labels altogether. All of this was so much simpler when I first decided that there was a better option beyond the typical Liberal/Conservative divide. Deciding that maximum freedom in both economic and social issues was something worth pursuing, the term “Libertarian” was an easy label to adopt when I did so in the summer of 2008. Things became much more complicated in mid-fall of that same year.
Boy was that a complicated time in my life. I have no plans to go into great detail here about why, but I will say that coming to the conclusion that government was unnecessary for everyone to live the best lives possible did not make things any simpler. The first term that came to my attention for such a viewpoint was “Anarcho-Capitalism.” Simple enough from what I could tell. “Anarcho” referred to no government and “Capitalism” referred to allowing for private ownership and exchange. Good enough for me I thought.
Shortly after that the term “Market Anarchist” started appearing in some of the material I would read online. Fine, I can deal with synonyms even if they might be confusing to newcomers. While I have read before that Market Anarchist tends to be more opposed to economic hierarchies (CEOs and the like), this label seems to be perfectly interchangeable with Anarcho-Capitalist. If there is a distinction between the two, it appears to be too trivial for most people in the radical Libertarian camp to even care. In my next post I will explain why I favor this term over many others. For now I want to cover terms I do not use.
Libertarian Anarchy is another term that seems to simply be another way of restating what the first two labels I just covered. The only crucial difference lies in what laws would actually be in place. David D. Friedman noted in chapter 31 of his classic book, “The Machinery of Freedom” that Anarcho-Capitalism is not necessarily the same thing as Libertarian Anarchy. In this chapter he notes that private legal systems could lead to laws that are not necessarily Libertarian. Drug prohibition might still exist for example, but those who want such laws in place would have to pay arbitrators and protection services to actually enforce such laws – meaning that any non-Libertarian law would come at a cost to those who promote such laws. This means that an economic incentive would exist for Libertarian law to be the default view – but such law may not be the norm in all cases.
You could say this was the epicenter of the whole “Rothbard vs. Friedman” interpretation of what laws would be in place in the absence of government. The former says we must all agree to Libertarian law and not prohibit victimless crimes in any circumstances while the latter says that whatever laws people are willing to pay for should prevail. I cannot go into detail here about which camp I find myself in, but I will say that in practical terms the resulting differences between the two are probably more trivial than most people would realize.
Needless to say, “Libertarian Anarchy” is not a term I favor in part because “Anarchy” is a term people use to refer to chaos. It almost sounds like a pejorative term if you ask me. “Stateless Libertarianism” also seems a little undesirable as a term due to the fact that the average person may have no idea what the term “Stateless” even refers to. Does this mean no “status” or no government?
All of the terms I have covered in this post are labels I would never see myself using to describe my views. In my next post I want to cover some terms that I do find to be much more favorable and explain why.