A few weeks ago I made a post that gave a formal overview of the book, “Anarchism: Arguments for and Against.” The main highlight of that post was describing the five tenets that the book defended which were characteristic of Collectivist Anarchism.**
Out of the five tenets, the one which I concluded was the least solid was perhaps the most critical of them all – at least when it comes to establishing collectivist anarchy as superior to anything that supports private ownership. The tenet is as follows: “As Slavery is Murder, so Property is Theft.” To really grasp why this is a logical impossibility, one must define the terms used in this statement.
Theft is the taking of property without the owner’s consent. For theft to even be a possible action in the first place, one must recognize that property is valid. Without property, there can be no theft in the first place. The self-refuting tenet of the book is the perfect example of what analytic philosophers call the fallacy of self exclusion. It involves making a statement that undermines one of the premises it relies upon.
Some additional examples of this could potentially include, “language is meaningless” (that statement undermines itself by using what it claims to be meaningless – namely language) or “art is the only means of communication” (so if that is the case, that sentence communicated nothing because it does not appear to be art). All of those statements contain a claim that undermines the sentence as a whole – making them self refuting in the process.
In short, if this is what distinguishes collectivist anarchism from various forms of anarchy that allow for private ownership of goods, then I think it can be safely said that the logical case for it is completely non-existent. Aside from this tenet in the book, there is another aspect of left-anarchy that undermines itself.
Anarchy is widely known to be the rejection of authoritarian rule. Demarcating when something no longer authoritarian would vary depending on the definition, but imposing a means of association upon those that do not wish to operate under it sure sounds authoritarian to me. Someone might argue that free markets “impose” values upon those who take part in it, but these are simply values that prohibit initiating force upon others. No theft, no assault, no murder, etc. If this is “authoritarian” then so is any other system one could possibly imagine that prohibits aggression.
To illustrate with a simple example why I hold that collectivist anarchists are far more authoritarian than Voluntaryists, consider the following questions: Would a left-anarchist allow people to associate via free market means? In other words, would they allow people to trade goods and labor when both parties desire to do so, or would they require that they change residency for this to happen?
I suspect the answer to the first is no, and the latter would be the case for the second question. Any system that says you must leave your residence in order to “opt out” presumes that whoever is promoting it has rightful authority over the populace in question. In that sense, I would argue that the anarchy defended in the book, “Anarchism: Arguments for and Against” promotes precisely what it claims to be against – namely authority over what other people may do.
**Fortunately for this post, I actually have a name for what the book advocated. That will definitely save a lot of trouble describing what I am referring to from this point on.