"In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense; and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to determine for themselves; that he will put on rather than off, the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his views beyond the present day." - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Libertarianism And Anarchy: The Simple Facts

For hundreds of years, political groups have used language to maneuver around each other. One group, claiming the mantle of “ideological purity,” would become fed up with what they viewed as inconsistency or inaccuracy of the ideas of the main group and split away from it. However, they would continue to call themselves by the same name of the original group in order to preserve their credibility.

This kind of philosophical warfare creates confusion, often intentionally. Classical liberalism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, based on small government and individualism, was gradually perverted into the modern, collectivist, government-obsessed liberalism we hear about today. The fracturing of the original socialist movement into dozens of groups illustrate the point just as well: you have Marxists, communists, Trotskyists, Chomskyites, Lenninists, Stalinists, Maoists, social democrats, liberal socialists, “libertarian” socialists, (misled) anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists, eco-/ethical-/religious-/regional-socialists, national socialists and blah-blah-blah socialists all claiming to be... well, true socialists. It's maddening.

Currently, there is a lot of debate going on in the libertarian and anarchist circles. You have classical liberals, constitutionalists, paleolibertarians, minarchists, anarchists, libertarian anarchists, anarcho-capitalists, left-libertarians, bleeding-heart libertarians, and socialist-libertarians, among others, all claiming to be true libertarians. Likewise; communists, anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists, libertarian anarchists, anarcho-capitalists, voluntaryists, and mutualists all claim to be true anarchists.

The recent attempt by left-/social-/bleeding-heart libertarians to hijack the meaning of the term “libertarianism” is easily resisted if you understand what actual libertarianism is all about: the proper and improper use of force against someone else. The core of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle (NAP): one may not initiate physical force or fraud upon someone else. That's it. Despite what the “thick libertarians” claim, real libertarianism has nothing to do with combating racism, poverty, economic inequality, sexism, or any egalitarian crap like that because doing so requires aggression and force. The bottom line is: if you oppose aggression against people or their property, whether through force, fraud, vandalism, or theft, you are a libertarian.

However, there is an important logical extension of this true libertarianism: anarchism. You can't claim to believe in the NAP yet advocate for exceptions to it such as government-controlled courts, police, armies, emergency services, etc., because government is a monopoly of force. A “government” in a libertarian society could not use force. Without force, a government has no means of paying for itself (through taxation) or enforcing its “laws,” which instead become mere “suggestions.” If a government can't enforce its laws and people are free to choose which ones they follow and which ones to ignore, it's no longer a government but something more like a “mutual defense company,” now reliant on the good will of its voluntary customers. We find ourselves in a state of anarchy, or “no rulers.” Thus, it can be said that anarchism is libertarianism taken to its logical conclusion.

However, even the anarchist community is largely confused. For too long, anarchism has had an absurd and self-defeating anti-private property/collectivist slant to it. Anarchy cannot exist without private property and the NAP. Why? Because if private property does not exist, then you do not own the product of your labor. If you don't own the product of your labor, then you do not own your own body because your labor is your body and mind interacting with the world. If you do not own your own body, then how could you possibly be your own ruler? Instead, since everything is “cooperatively-owned,” you only own one seven-billionth of your own body. One seven-billionth of the house you live in. One seven-billionth of whatever your worked your hands to the bone for, regardless of who else sat around and did absolutely nothing. Therefore, in anti-capitalist anarchism, self-rule is substituted for the tyranny of the majority.

Moreover, as there will obviously be at least some people who object to having everything they own stolen from them and then redistributed, anti-capitalist anarchism necessitates a monopoly of force – government – to enforce itself because it is impossible to enforce collective ownership of all resources without force; otherwise people would be free to keep their property (bodies and all) and do what they please and we'd find ourselves in a libertarian-anarchist/anarcho-capitalist society. This is also the reason why every single “socialist” state that has ever existed has turned into a dictatorial nightmare world.

Like this.
A libertarian-anarchist society, on the other hand, requires no government but instead individual secession from government. No force required. It is interesting to note that while there could indeed be (voluntary) collectives and communes within a libertarian-anarchist society, by definition there could be no libertarian-anarchist community within an anti-capitalist anarchist framework. This fact alone should make the truth clear: one system provides a way for people to live and let live, the other forces individuals to submit themselves to something as vague as “the people” or “the common good.”

To finish, libertarianism and anarchy are so compatible, they're almost synonyms. Almost: one is a moral stance on the proper and improper use of force and the other is a political philosophy. Really, libertarianism and anarchism need each other to exist. Without anarchism, libertarianism is logically inconsistent with its own principles; without libertarianism, anarchism defeats itself by way of its implementation.

Related posts: 
Recommended reading (click to purchase from Amazon.com):  

by Lysander Spooner
by Murray Rothbard

by Lew Rockwell
Please share!


  1. If you can't use force how can you enforce private property?

    1. Thanks for asking! However, I'd like to clarify that the NAP does not prohibit all use of force; it prohibits the aggressive use of force. Libertarianism doesn't equate to pacifism specifically because it allows the use of force in cases of self-defense, or the defense of one's property. But don't take that to mean that you could shoot a man for not picking up after his dog. There a pretty common-sense balance to it.