Traditional anarchism/Questions

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I do not know all that much about traditional anarchism, but I would like to learn.

I find it fairly easy to envision the social systems proposed by laissez-faire capitalists (minarchists) and anarcho-capitalists. I find it fairly easy to envisionthe social systems proposed by communists or socialists (central planning and all that). I do not know, though, what is meant by the claim to be opposed to all hierarchy or social structure.

Perhaps a concrete example will illustrate what I do not understand. At home, I have a television. Let's suppose that you do not have a television at your home, and that you want one. Suppose further that you decide to take mine. What happens?

Lassez-faire capitalists say that I should call the cops. Anarcho-capitalists say that I should call my private defense agency. Communists generally are not opposed to personal property (just private ownership of the means of production, which we can suppose my television is not), so I guess they would say to call the cops, too.

I ask this in all sincerity, because I do not know the answer.


You report him to whatever cooperatives you and he belong to. Acting in an unethical and immoral manner can have a wide range of repercussions. Human beings are naturally interdependent and anarcho-syndicalists use these interdependencies without recourse to an artificial hierarchy like the justice system or police.


I'm trying to explore how this differs from anarchocapitalism, exactly. DavidFriedman would answer my question in exactly the same way as you have, as far as I know.


Then he is not an anarcho-capitalist.

As far as I know, he is the anarcho-capitalist.

Anarcho-capitalism is based on formal rules and absolute property rights. Humans are treated as objects and the "marketplace" rules supreme. Anarchism is not based on formal rules but on democratic control. It is not possible under anarchism for a person to surrender, transfer or sell their rights. If working in a cooperative gains you the right to participate politically (eg, by voting) then this right is inalienable (ie, non-transferable). Under anarcho-capitalism, everything is mere property and not a right at all so it is possible for you to (be forced to) sell all of your property away (eg, in order to avoid starvation). This leads only to totalitarianism.

A classic argument against cooperatives by anarcho-capitalists is precisely that it is irrational to have all one's stock in one company (your own) and so workers would seek to spread their risk by diversifying their stock portfolio. Of course, this is precisely what Anarchism makes impossible. In order to lessen your cooperative's risk of failure, people are forced to engage in mutual aid. Mutual aid is direct and transparent, one human to another, or one cooperative to another. The workings of the stock market is completely opaque and anything but direct. The stock market is also completely artificial.

Anarchists and socialists in general operate under a completely different mindset from capitalists and other right-wingers. An anarchist would ask whether it was fair for you to be deprived of the use of your television. A capitalist would ask whether it was fair for your television to be taken away from you. Anarchists are concerned about outcome whereas the right-wingers are only concerned that your neighbour did not obey the law and submit himself to the authority of some arbitrary rule system. Right-wing notions of justice are bureaucratic in nature.

The difference underlying different political ideologies are psychological. The right-winger seeks a well-ordered system which degrades people to the status of objects and society to the status of a machine. They find security in that. Whether they're the ruler of the world or a beggar living in squalor doesn't matter so much as that there be a rigid system with well-defined rules. Left-wingers are appalled at this scenario and usually seek to change it by putting themselves in power and playing benevolent dictator. They're just as obsessed with having a well-defined system as the right-wingers, just that instead of the rules being to their benefit they are concerned that the rules should be in others' benefit. Anarchists want to annihilate the system completely and replace it with humanistic relationships.

Under anarcho-capitalism, you go to your protection agency (which you may or may not have depending on whether you're wealthy enough to afford one) and they look at your contract. Under anarchism, you go to your co-workers and colleagues and they ask themselves whether you're a total asshole who deserves to lose his TV. They don't help you because of some contractual obligation, because it's written somewhere in some big book that they have to do this whether they want to or not. They do it because they like you and have sympathy for you, or because they pity you, or even just because people have to stick together if they don't want the world to be a living hell.

It is extremely common nowadays to think of humans as machines and of society as a machine as well. One's body isn't a holistic whole, it's just some machine with certain capabilities and requirements. If the blood sugar level is below the design specifications then people increase their sugar intake. If it seems to wear out then they go to a mechanic in a white lab coat who'll do a yearly inspection and may order some maintenance work. People don't have friends anymore, they have colleagues and acquaintances. They no longer speak, they communicate, like computers. They no longer move under their own power and control by walking or cycling, they are transported from point to point by self-propelled tin cans inside of which they are strapped and buckled.

People are not machines and they shouldn't be treated as such. Contracts, laws, bylaws are all so much junk that degrades human beings. They are the basis of anarcho-capitalism and what make it fundamentally anti-human. Markets are not "natural". Laws are not "natural". They are profoundly artificial, through and through. When David Friedman says that it is "natural" for people to have their choice of protection firm, he's speaking in a context (the contracts and laws that make a market) in which the term 'natural' ceases to have any meaning. The situation is so thoroughly artificial that nothing could possibly be natural anymore.

The anarchist conception of the ideal society is intuitionistic and can't deviate much from an equally intuitive conception of justice. The anarcho-capitalist's conception of the ideal society is formal and systematic. And somewhere in their analysis, the anarcho-capitalists have screwed up.

A better example than the theft of a television, is the appropriation of a handgun. Suppose my neighbour has a handgun and while he is away I break into his house, take it then destroy it. A handgun is a possession but it is not a legitimate possession. If my neighbour goes to my cooperative to complain about my behaviour, I will defend myself by pointing out that the only purpose of a handgun is to murder people. In all likelihood, neither my nor his cooperative will have any objection to my behaviour. It may even inspire other to act likewise. Supposing that my cooperative had a problem then I might simply move to another, saner, cooperative. The same thing would occur on the level of cooperatives in the broader society. And it is extremely likely that the medical coops (which I presume are against guns) would triumph over gun coops, since the former provide a valued service to society while the latter do not.

Under anarcho-syndicalism, the situation is very different. If I stole a gun and destroyed a gun from someone then I would face some hostile protection agency. Since this agency uses guns, they are unlikely to be sympathetic to my case. And since police are authoritarian in nature and mindset then they would not be sympathetic to an anarchist who "took the law into his own hands". Even if this were not the case, even if they approve of my behaviour, they would still be obligated to retaliate against me. This is why anarcho-syndicalism justice is bureaucratic in nature. The difference between a protection agency performing a service for a client and a cooperative helping out a peer is also important and illustrates why anarcho-capitalism is fundamentally authoritarian.

I hope the above isn't too polemic. If it did then I did not mean it to. This is simply the only way I know of to express my point of view. -- RichardKulisz

You have expressed yourself very well. I've just decided that you don't know anything at all about anarcho-capitalism.  :-)