8 June, 2012
8 August, 2013
Over the past few years there has been a large growth on youtube of people who refer to themselves as anti-statists. These anti-statists are usually free market capitalists who oppose the state so much that they want a stateless society in which all the previous functions of the state required for capitalism, such as enforcing private property rights, become themselves privatised and just another service offered by the market.
Many of these anti-statists have in turn decided to label themselves as anarcho-capitalists. However, they’re not anarchists in the philosophic sense as I shall explain in this video. This is because being an anarchist is more than just opposing the state, it is about questioning and critiquing the existence of authority and hierarchy in all aspects of society. This is best explained by the fact that there is nothing contradictory about an anti-statist who is a sexist or a racist. There is nothing within the terms of anti-statism that leads to a rejection of sexism and racism. All anti-statism is, is a rejection of the state and nothing more. In comparison to this are anarchists who by definition cannot claim to be anarchists and at the same time be racists or sexists because for them to be so would show them to be supporting an illegitimate and harmful hierarchy.
The difference between anarchists and anti-statists becomes all the more clear when we turn to property. William Godwin, the first philosophic anarchists, argued in his book ‘of property’ that there exist three degrees of property. The first kind is possession of things that we need to live such as food. The second is “the empire to which every man is entitled over the produce of his own industry”, so in essence an individual owns what they produce. And thirdly, “that which occupies the most vigilant attention in the civilized states of Europe. It is a system, in whatever manner established, by which one man enters into the faculty of disposing of the produce of another man’s industry.” This is referring to wage labour in which a capitalist owns what the labour of a worker produces. Godwin argues that the third species of property is in direct contradiction to the second. This is because one cannot at the same time argue that humans own what they produce then argue that in certain scenarios it is not the worker who owns what he produces by his employer. Godwin therefore can be seen to have started the historic tradition among anarchists to criticise private property.
This tradition was continued by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in his masterpiece titled ‘what is property?’. To which Proudhon famously replied “property is robbery”. By this Proudhon meant that there exist two kinds of property, one which protected liberty and another which furthered only tyranny. He drew a distinction, like Godwin, by arguing that possessive property, meaning property that is the result of an individual’s labour and is currently being used and occupied, is legitimate. While rejecting the existence of private property such as the ownership of unused land and consequently also rejecting the existence of rent and interest.
Godwin and Proudhon’s critique of private property can be seen to have it’s orgins in the nature of anarchism itself. This is because what seperates anarchists from anti-statists is that anarchists do not stop of society at the state, instead they continue to criticise whatever forms of hierarchical control they discover in society, such as private property, economic inequality and authoritarian relationships such as those found within firms in which an employer commands his or her employees to do he or she wishes. It is nonsensical to do as the anti-statist does and argue that the state is immoral because it violates individual liberty but not apply the same critical process to authoritarian tyrannical institutions and relationships that flow through modern society. Indeed the anti-statist paradoxically announces his commitment to individual liberty within the public realm, by criticising government, only to them turn a blind eye to the vioaltions of liberty within the private sector. To be an anarchist therefore is to step beyond the realms of anti-statism and understand that authority, hierarchy, domination and inequality must be questioned and halted in all aspects of society, rather than isolation such criticism to the state.
It is because of these fundamental differences between anarchism and anti-statism that anarcho-capitalists cannot refer to themselves as anarchists in any meaningful manner because they fail fundamentally to question authoritarian relationships and authoritarian institutions that exist in society. And it is because of this that there is more to anarchism than anti-statism.
2 July, 2013
2 July, 2013
The debate over whether or not anarcho-capitalists are anarchists is not (or at the very least should not be) a debate over who gets to use an arbitrary collection of noises to refer to their political ideology. This is because individuals could have picked any collection of noises to refer to their political ideology and said noises would have served their task in conveying meaning equally well. Proudhon could just have as equally written “I am a tanarchist” in his book ‘What Is Property’ or the St.Imier International could have proclaimed a ‘tanarchist’ international. The word used to refer to the political ideology is of little interest to me. I am instead concerned with the content of the political ideology and whether or not the content of what we label as anarcho-capitalism is a branch of what we label as anarchism.
I shall begin by making some elementary remarks on the philosophy of language. Each word in any human language functions as a tool that is used to do something or perform some job in communication or internal thought. Different words perform different kinds of jobs in a language: nouns perform one kind, pronouns another and so on. The word ‘fish’ does one kind of job, ‘fishiness’ another. We know the meaning of a word when we know exactly what job it does, that is to say what function it has in the language in question. We know what function a word performs when we know the rule for its use – by which I mean the conditions under which the word is to be used. Such conditions allow us to determine when a word is applicable or not applicable.
In order to know what the rule for the use of a word is we must outline the defining characteristics of the thing we are defining. A defining characteristic of a thing is a characteristic in the absence of which the word would not be applicable to the thing. To illustrate this, a defining characteristic of a square is that it has four sides since nothing can be a square unless it has four sides. However, having sides that are greater than ten inches is not a defining characteristic of a square because something can be a square and have sides that are smaller than ten inches. The basic point being that if the same word would not apply if the thing lacked the characteristic it follows that the characteristic is defining while if the same word would apply in the absence of the characteristic it follows that the characteristic it is merely accompanying.
A word designates the sum of the characteristics a thing must have for the word to apply to it. The word ‘square’ designates the characteristics of being a plane figure, having four equal straight sides and having four right angles. Each defining characteristic is necessary for something being a square and together they are jointly sufficient for something being a square.
The debate over whether or not anarcho-capitalism is a branch of anarchism is therefore a debate over the defining characteristics of anarchism and therefore the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions of anarchism.
I understand the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions of anarchism to be as follows:
(1) belief in the freedom and autonomy of the individual
(2) the opposition to unjust and/or unnecessary forms of authority
(3) the opposition to unjust and/or unnecessary forms of hierarchy be it forms of organisation or ways of relating with others.
This is because unjust and unnecessary forms of authority and forms of hierarchy infringe upon the freedom and the autonomy of the individual.
(2) and (3) in turn entail
(4) Opposition to the state
(5) Opposition to private property and therefore capitalism which is defined as the economic system in which the means of production are privately owned. By private property is meant property based on absentee ownership which is not intended for direct personal use such as an entire factory or thousands of acres of land. Anarchists do accept personal property which is property intended for direct personal use such as a person’s house, clothing and furniture.
(6) Opposition to the oppression of others in virtue of race, sex, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, disability and so on.
It may be remarked that (6) is not a defining characteristic since Proudhon was a sexist and Bakunin an anti-Semite yet they were anarchists. To which I respond that since (6) is entailed by (2) and (3) it follows that Proudhon and Bakunin were merely inconsistent in the application of their principles rather than it being the case that (6) is not entailed by anarchist principles.
I shall now outline the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions of anarcho-capitalism
(1) Belief in the individual’s right to private property. Included in this is one’s ownership of one’s body alongside property intended for both direct personal use and property not intended for direct personal use.
(1) is generally justified either by natural rights theory or the good consequences of private property
(2) The freedom of the individual which is understand purely in terms of (1) – that is to say in terms of the enforcement or violation of private property.
(3) Opposition to anything which violates (2) and therefore (1)
(4) Opposition to the state which violates (1) and therefore (2) via taxation, regulation and so on.
Having made the different defining characteristics of anarchism and anarcho-capitalism explicit, we can clearly see that they are very much distinct political ideologies. It is true that the two political ideologies both reject the state for ethical reasons but they do so for very different reasons. Anarchism rejects the state in virtue of a rejection of hierarchy and authority grounded in a belief of the freedom and autonomy of the individual while anarcho-capitalism rejects the state because it violates the freedom of the individual as grounded in the individual’s right to private property.
To say that anarchism is more than anti-statism is simple to note that anarchism has multiple necessary conditions and that meeting the condition of anti-statism is not sufficient for something to be a form of anarchism.
Therefore, anarcho-capitalists are not anarchists since they meet only the defining characteristic of anti-statism. To repeat they do not meet the defining characteristics of the opposition to unjust and/or unnecessary forms of authority, the opposition to unjust and/or unnecessary forms of hierarchy, opposition to private property and therefore capitalism and lastly opposition to the oppression of others in virtue of race, sex, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, disability and so on.
To conclude, anarcho-capitalists are not anarchists because anarchism is more than anti-statism.