Liberty, Capitalism, and Anarchy

by oracleofreason

No debate has taken place in the libertarian movement more than the minarchy-anarchy debate. It is almost a given that at some point in their exchanges, libertarians will debate on which political position is the correct one usually leading into whether or not it is moral to vote. Most likely any such debate on the topic will also include the argument from anarchists that government is the root of all evil.

Rather than debate the merits of their assertion, anarchist libertarians will instead resort to Orwellian means refusing to identify that they follow consistency as intrinsic rather than grounded in reality. The term minarchism is attributed by Samuel Konkin III in which he used minarchist as a way to smear libertarians who subscribed to limited government. Anarchists also insult minarchists with the term limited statists. But are they?

Anarchists assert that since government is a monopoly on force that it is only in an anarchistic society that the true exchange of goods and services can be achieved. Their rejection of government is based on the premise that it is the only entity that can use force against citizens for the enforcement of taxation, restriction of trade and personal freedoms, and creation of monopolies and unfair competition via charters, grants, and subsidies.

While it is true that in a free society government has a monopoly on force a proper government (like what is seen in the United States) protects individual rights according to objective, philosophically validated procedures from its constitution down to its laws and regulations. Reality and man’s nature require a government to protect us against any kind of physical aggression including also the right to self defense in the event access to government courts or police is not available.

The major flaw in anarchist thought is their overall claim that governments always violate the very rights they are created to defend. Therefore, as logic would suggest that governments must be abolished. Furthermore, they see laissez-faire capitalism (rather than individual rights) as the foundation of a free and industrialized society.

What anarchist libertarians also fail to identify is the difference between anarchism and capitalism. While anarchism is the absence or abolition of government, capitalism is an extension of individualism that recognizes man’s right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness (i.e. individual rights). What guarantees individual rights in a capitalistic society entails having a government that has objective laws and a legal system along with consistent, easy to understand legal procedures and rules of evidence. This is the legal structure the United States and many Westernized countries have.

To the best of my knowledge, the existence of contradictory laws, customs and rules are things anarchists still have not adequately addressed. For example, whose laws shall prevail in a contract dispute or case involving an act of fraud? What standards shall be followed to determine the applicable procedures that should govern a particular case? In disputes involving a Muslim who subscribes to Sharia Law and non-Muslim which person’s legal system will govern it? Can the non-Muslim petition for a change of jurisprudence if they would prefer the case litigated elsewhere? What will be the court that will give the final decision should neither party agree with another court’s conclusion? How would conflicting jurisprudence among different legal systems be worked out? By what standards would conflicts be resolved?

Anarchism not only lacks specifics but is also a form of faith grounded in a rejection of order, objectivity and justice. By default Anarchism results in giving a blank check for organized gangs and other groups to take advantage of a state-less order so that groups with ulterior motives can impose their will on others with little means to stop them. This also includes groups (such as communists and Islamists) who oppose the very things libertarians stand for. As far as Islamists and communists are concerned, the right to bear arms, free speech or even individual rights overall would be put on the chopping block in order to sacrifice man to the needs of their collective will.

In the real world Islamists have openly stated their desire to stone, kill or enslave infidels (i.e. non-Muslims). This also includes communist and socialist groups who help them and subscribe to a similar, extreme anti-life philosophy. There is no guarantee that these groups would not seek to impose their will on the rest of us should there not be a government erected in order to stop them. The beneficence of the market can never work among men whose intent is evil.

Furthermore and hypothetically speaking, there is also nothing to stop a terrorist who hates capitalism and freedom from intentionally infecting themselves with a deadly strain of a virus (such as typhoid or tuberculosis) in order to spread it among the populace of an anarchist libertarian enclave resulting in its destruction. You can make the argument that an armed citizenry can halt such a person from doing so but by the time patient zero is identified it will be too late. The way things are now in order for a foreigner to enter the U.S. or any other country for business or leisure, the person in question is screened by government agents which is another example of how government protects people from force and fraud. If the person knowingly attempts to enter said country has a criminal background or has an infectious health condition they are quarantined until their background or health is cleared up or, rightly, sent back to their country of origin if it is determined the person or people in question pose a threat to the rights of the innocent.

The end result of anarchism isn’t just the rejection of objectivity and justice or the embracement of whim-worship, as author and Objectivist Amber Pawlik rightly points out it also makes man shift his primary ability from production to protection. She elaborates further by stating:

Man qua man lives solely by means of production. It is morally imperative that a proper political-economic system is in line with man’s method of survival. It is thus that a government should exist, whose sole purpose is to protect the private property of men. It is imperative that a government exist, ensuring man that he can live in freedom: free to produce, build, and achieve, without any fear of what his neighbors might to do those things that he has produced, built, and achieved. An individual should not have to worry about defending his property.

Instead of defending anarchism, anarchist libertarians should check their premise when it comes to what they advocate. It is one thing if anarchists would rather not vote because the candidates in question that are running don’t meet their ethical standards or prefer to use market-based solutions to government services (such as private security or arbitration companies) in their dealings with others. However, if Somalia’s experiment with anarchism is any example, anarchists cannot claim the moral high ground nor that their ideas are a true reflection or embracement of justice and civilization.

A proper constitution (like as seen in the United States) does not impose coercive demands on the citizens, or authorize the government to violate their rights. Rather, it treats man’s rights as negative requiring government agents to protect individual rights, while in a general sense leaving people free to go about their affairs. With this in mind I often wonder why anarchists object to government when such an arrangement that I describe above is neither coercive or immoral.

As author Robert Bidinotto correctly points out anarcho-capitalism really is a demand for the right to secede from the judgments of other people concerning the validity of one’s own use of force while simultaneously denying that there is a basic need to subject any use of force to objective — that is, socially demonstrable — standards. In other words, anarchist libertarian reliance on market forces is really an excuse for them wanting to choose their morality while, simultaneously rejecting any semblance of justice and objectivity.

By default anarchists treat competition and the initiation of force as rights in and of themselves. But no such rights exist and a proper understanding of the nature and source of individual rights and how they are implemented negates any idea that anarchism as an ideal or proper extension of liberty. The non-aggression principle does not negate government and, in turn, does not inherently contradict actual individual rights. Relations among humans is contextual and in the tradition of other libertarian thinkers Ayn Rand conjured it up as an ethic in Objectivism with government being a natural extension of her thought in order to protect an individual’s ability to live and prosper.

The only contradiction is on the part of anarcho-capitalists since it is obvious they want to have their cake and eat it too demanding recognition of their liberty, while eliminating the only means of rationally determining when an individual’s rights have been violated and being able to do anything about it. If libertarians value consistency over objectivity then anarchism is logically not too far around the corner. However, consistency is the only thing for which anarchists claim victory.