Some Thoughts on the Anarcho-Capitalism versus Anarchy Controversy

I used to be an anarcho-capitalist. Now, I am an anarchist. There is a huge difference between the two terms.   In this article, I am going to discuss some of the irreconcilable differences between the two by drawing upon my own process of reasoning myself out of the first and into the second.   […]

I used to be an anarcho-capitalist. Now, I am an anarchist. There is a huge difference between the two terms.


In this article, I am going to discuss some of the irreconcilable differences between the two by drawing upon my own process of reasoning myself out of the first and into the second.


One of the first things I noticed is that the word “anarchy” is defined in completely different ways.


Let’s begin by looking at what the word “anarchy” means. In the anthology Reinventing Anarchy, Again, edited by Howard J. Ehrlich in the short essay entitled Why the Black Flag? stresses that anarchy is much more than opposition to the state and government. It certainly begins by mentioning in no uncertain terms that “anarchy” opposes the state: “Black is a mood of anger and outrage at all the hideous crimes against humanity perpetrated in the name of allegiance to one state or another” (31). Then two major additional concepts are added to the definition of the word “anarchy,” namely, (1) the crushing of the human spirit under authoritarian and hierarchic systems, and (2) the creation of new human relationships. The black flag “mourns not only the death of the body but the crippling of the spirit under authoritarian and hierarchic systems” (31, emphasis mine) and fosters and shelters “new forms of human life and relationship on and with this earth” (32, emphasis mine).


To the anarchist, the “crippling of the spirit under authoritarian and hierarchic systems” is a broad concept that means that the anarchist wants to abolish all master-slave type relationships. The Anarchist Writers article entitled A.1 What is anarchism? quotes from “Anthropology and Anarchism” that anarchists “are opposed to what the Mexican anarchist Flores Magon called the ‘sombre trinity—state, capital and the church. Anarchists are thus opposed to both capitalism and to the state, as well as to all forms of religious authority” (emphasis mine). The existence of this “sombre trinity” can be seen in actual practice when looking at James C. Scott’s study of predominantly the Zomia anarchy in his book The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. Scott writes that some anarchist tribes in South America were “termed disparagingly by the Spaniards as peoples ‘without God, law, and king’ (unlike the Inca, Maya, and Aztecs), they were, [French anthropologist Pierre] Clastres saw, rather peoples who had elected to live in a relatively egalitarian social order with chiefs who had little or no power over them” (188, emphasis mine). The parallels between Magon and Scott are exactly the same: “law and king” as “state,” “God” as “church,” and “opposition to capital” as “egalitarian social order.”


Clearly, one could think of other examples of master-slave type relationships in our present society, such as the public education system. For example, John Taylor Gatto, writing in Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, that the modern school system is just a secular version of the church: “in our secular society, school has become a replacement for church, and like church it requires that its teachings must be taken on faith” (17, emphasis mine). The master-slave relationship is self-evident in the teacher-student relationship as expressed by Gatto: “Good students wait for a teacher to tell them what to do” (Dumbing Us Down, 7).


To the anarchist, the fostering and sheltering of “new forms of human life and relationship” is basically a fancy way of saying that anarchists want to create a world based upon equality of power. The idea boils down to preventing the creation of heavily “one-sided” human relationships, i.e., the idea is to create a situation of relatively equal bargaining power. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, for example, in The General Idea of the Revolution, notes that


the social contract should increase the well-being and liberty of every citizen. If any one-sided conditions should slip in; if one part of the citizens should find themselves, by the contract, subordinated and exploited by others, it would no longer be a contract; it would be a fraud, against which annulment might at any time be invoked justly. (114, emphasis mine)


Noam Chomsky puts the point with regard to equality of power and bargaining power rather bluntly when he writes that “the idea of ‘free contract’ between the potentate and his starving subject is a sick joke” (Noam Chomsky Interviewed by Tom Lane, “On Anarchism”).


I must add that the hierarchical nature of organized religion has been and will remain one target for anarchists’ enmity. In the Philosophy of Atheism, anarchist Emma Goldman attacks both God and theism because they both represent “power” to “rule over” mankind: “Gods in their individual function are not half as pernicious as the principle of theism which represents the belief in a super-natural, or even omnipotent, power to rule the earth and man upon it.” Moreover, consider the tirade made by American individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker with regard to religion:


In religion they are atheistic as far as their own opinions are concerned, for they look upon divine authority and the religious sanction of morality as the chief pretexts put forward by the privileged classes for the exercise of human authority. “If God exists,” said Proudhon, “he is man’s enemy.” And in contrast to Voltaire’s famous epigram, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him,” the great Russian Nihilist, Mikhail Bakunin, placed this antithetical proposition: “If God existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.” But although, viewing the divine hierarchy as a contradiction of Anarchy, they do not believe in it, the Anarchists none the less firmly believe in the liberty to believe in it. (Individual Liberty, 20-21, emphasis mine)


In addition, Kropotkin stresses his wish to see supernatural theology come to an end. I mention this because this seems to be one subtle but important difference between anarchy and anarcho-capitalism, as I will explain in more detail later. “Kropotkin, the best-known anarchist writer,” in the opinion of Nicolas Walter, “was a child of the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution…[and] was particularly concerned with the development of a secular system of ethics which replaced supernatural theology with natural biology” (Anarchism and Religion, emphasis mine).


Moreover, if we look briefly at a psychological profile of your typical atheist, we see that there is some sort of correlation between anarchism and atheism. According to Nicolas Walter’s Anarchism and Religion, “there have been few serious studies on anarchist psychology, but those that do exist agree that the first step on the way to anarchism is frequently the rejection of religion.” Of course, this is not to say that every anarchist must necessarily be an atheist since “there are plenty of exceptions to this rule,” according to Walter. Other studies, as reported by The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, “Atheists—A Psychological Profile,” demonstrate a strong link between “political radicalism” and atheism. “The correlation between rejection of religious beliefs and radical political views for individuals has been clearly demonstrated in several studies…the degree of political radicalism was directly related to the degree of irreligiosity” (304, emphasis mine). To put it bluntly, “self-identified atheists were more radical than self-identified agnostics” (304).


To summarize, the word “anarchy” means:


  1. Opposition to the State and Government [rulers rule and subjects submit]
  2. Opposition to Capital [bosses order and employees obey orders]
  3. Opposition to the Church and all other forms of Religious Authority [priests “reveal” god’s word and believers obey to the word]
  4. Opposition to All Relationships consisting of Inequality of Power or Privilege
  5. Support for New Human Relationships based upon Equality of Power


Now, let me try to compare and contrast the word “anarchy” as I have defined it above with the word “anarcho-capitalism to see what kind of relationship exists between these two words. In order to keep this article as brief as possible I will pick two of the five criteria for discussion purposes, i.e., to compare anarchy to anarcho-capitalism. Maybe some other time I will address the other issues in more detail.


Opposition to Capital


The direct way to address this would be to say simply this: since anarcho-capitalism supports capital then obviously it can’t be anarchy based on the definition that I am using. But I do not want to be so terse as to just dismiss this entire issue this abruptly. I want to explain a bit more about what is going on in the minds of anarchists when they profess a strong opposition to capitalism.


To begin, let us look at the symbolism of anarchy. Briefly, the images stand for the struggle of the working class who are in a situation of utter distress because of unemployment and poverty. The flags stand for the anger and bitterness of the underclass, and have their origins rooted in incidents of street rebellions where they were basically makeshifts. The colors usually associated with anarchy—black and red—represent blood with black specifically referring to dry blood according to Jason Wehling and his article Anarchism and the History of the Black Flag. Following Wehling, the black flag is the “symbol of the workers’ misery and as an expression of their anger and bitterness.” In the article Why the Black Flag, found in Ehrlich’s Reinventing Anarchy, Again, the idea of the anguished and tormented worker is extended beyond the idea of rebellion in the streets. There is a strong symbolic link between the black and how the black flag “mourns the millions of brain cells blacked out with never a chance to light up the world” (31-32). Chomsky says the same thing in less symbolic language when he writes in an article entitled The Relevance of Anarcho-Syndicalism in his book Chomsky on Anarchism that “as long as individuals are compelled to rent themselves on the market to those who are willing to hire them, as long as their role in production is simply that of ancillary tools, then there are striking elements of coercion and oppression” (134). Similarly, in Chomsky’s Notes on Anarchism in the same book mentioned previously, the idea of “alienated labor” is tied into the black flag, which mourns over the millions of dead brain cells caused by the nature of work itself—and hence the relationship between capital and labor. Chomsky citing Marx in this case mentions that alienated labor “casts some of the workers back into a barbarous kind of work and turns others into machines” (122).


Now contrast that with the symbolism of anarcho-capitalism. I want to quote Murray N Rothbard’s book The Betrayal of the American Right at length in order to highlight a number of differences in the symbolism between anarchy and anarcho-capitalism. Here, Rothbard recounts the historical story of the first public unveiling of the black-and-gold flag of anarcho-capitalism:


In the winter of 1963-64, Le Fevre organized a winter-and-spring long “Phrontistery” at Colorado to pave the way for transforming Freedom School into a Rampart College. To the Phrontistery flocked some of the nation’s leading young libertarians, including Smith, Gaskins, Jackman, Peter Blake, and Mike Helm, many of whom formed for the first time in public an aggressive “Rothbardian” block that stunned the visiting conservative and laissez-faire dignitaries who had been invited to teach there. For the first time in public some of the group also unfurled the “black-and-gold flag,” the colors of which we had all decided best represented anarcho-capitalism: black as the classic color of anarchism and gold as the color of capitalism and hard money. (188, emphasis mine)


Now contrast Rothbard’s flag unraveling story with the historical stories of the unraveling of the flags of anarchy. It is Jason Wehling in his article Anarchism and the History of the Black Flag who puts it best:


This may have been enough for the starving and unemployed to pick up the black flag in revolt. In fact, one could quickly get a hold of a piece of red or black cloth in a riot…An improvised rebel flag raised in a riot was likely to be of just one color. (emphasis mine)


Let me summarize the striking differences :


  1. Rothbard’s flag was planned ahead of time. “We had all decided [that the black-and-gold flag] best represented anarcho-capitalism.” In Wehling’s account, the black and red pieces of cloth—since they were literally pieces of cloth covered in blood—became “improvised rebel flags.” In other words, contrary to Rothbard’s deliberately planned flag, the anarchist flag was a spur-of-the-moment spontaneous thing.
  2. Notice also that the situations are completely different. In Rothbard’s story we have a bunch of people attending some sort of college gathering of conservative and laissez-faire dignitaries. This obviously is very different from a bunch of starving and unemployed people taking part in a bloody riot.
  3. The gold color symbolizes both capitalism and hard money. I suspect that our starving and unemployed anarchists have rather limited stockpiles of gold in their possession at the time of their riots in the streets.
  4. Notice also the practical versus theoretical difference that exists between these two stories. Rothbard’s story is about teaching at a college. If you were to read the rest of Wehling’s article you will see stories about how the anarchists will raid bakeries for food. The anarchist stories are very down-to-earth and pragmatic in nature.


Can one find any plausible way to reconcile these two divergent stories? How can we juxtapose the color black, which symbolizes starving and unemployed workers rebelling against both their alienating labor and their miserable lives, with the color gold, which symbolizes the rich, i.e., capitalism, and hard money, i.e., something that the poor don’t usually have?


Opposition to the Church and Religious Authority


In the beginning, to allude to the famous Genesis story, was the economic “Garden of Eden” with its story of “original sin” as preached by the prophet Adam Smith. The devil, the tempter in the form of the snake, is of course Karl Marx. Marx pointed out that Smith’s “mythical” story of the so-called “original appropriation” is the political economic version of the “mythical” Adam and Eve story of eating the forbidden fruit:


Marx rejected [Adam] Smith’s otherworldly conception of previous accumulation. He chided Smith for attempting to explain the present existence of class by reference to a mythical past that lies beyond our ability to challenge it. Marx insisted, “Primitive accumulation plays approximately the same role in political economy as original sin does in theology.” Marx’s analogy is apt. Both original sin and original accumulation divert our attention away from the present to a mythical past, which supposedly explains the misfortunes that people suffer today. (Michael Perelman, The Invention of Capitalism, 25, emphasis mine)


  • Mythical pasts and mythical stories that go against the factual evidence
  • Theological constructions such as “original sin”
  • Diverting and Distracting


What is going on here? It seems to me that anarcho-capitalism—i.e., anti-statist capitalism—is based on religion and theology and that this dependence is foundational, meaning that one cannot remove this component of anarcho-capitalism and expect it to still exist.


I first started to form this thesis some time ago when I inadvertently stumbled across a book on the Mises webpage entitled The School of Salamanca by Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson. If you look into this on the Mises webpage, it is easy to demonstrate that the Austrian school seems to openly admit that they are borrowing ideas from theologians and priests. For example, Jerzy Strzelecki wrote an article on the Mises webpage entitled The School of Salamanca Saw This Coming in which he writes:


For about 100 years, there has existed at the center of the world economy one institution pretending to be able to solve the very same epistemological problem that the Spanish theologians considered unsolvable by human minds…the arguments of both schools of thought—the School of Salamanca on the one hand and the Austrian school of economics on the other—are powerful critiques against the central banks’ role…for the priests writing in Spain, to regulate the interest rate through a centralized authority would be to presume that one man could know that of which only God has certain knowledge. (emphasis mine)


To me, favorable statements of this nature by the anarcho-capitalists with regard to their economic origins got me thinking. This seems so strange!  Didn’t the famous anarchist Mikhail Bakunin say that “a boss in heaven is the best excuse for a boss on earth, therefore if God did exist, he would have to be abolished”? It is easy, I think, to interpret “boss” as meaning not only “government rulers” but also “economic rulers,” i.e., bosses as in “employers of labor.” Moreover, why are some of Rothbard’s critics labeling his economics a form of religion? For instance The Anarchist Writers cite D. N. Winch’s review of Rothbard’s book and come to this conclusion:


The main point of the book is to show that the never-never land of the perfectly free market economy represents the best of all conceivable worlds giving maximum satisfaction to all participants. Whatever is, is right in the free market…It would appear that Professor Rothbard’s book is more akin to systematic theology than economics…its real interest belongs to the student of the sociology of religion. (Why do anarcho-capitalists place little or no value on equality, emphasis mine)


One possible explanation for why the anarcho-capitalists might want to use “mythical” stories—this “theological/economic approach” to which Marx objected, is to obscure parts of the history that they do not like or to obscure parts of the history that contradict the story that they want to sell to the public.


Take for example, the fascinating book entitled The Jesus Mysteries: Was the Original Jesus a Pagan God by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. They explain how mystery religions “work,” i.e., how they are structured. Since Christianity originated as a mystery religion, the book by Freke and Gandy may be of some use for analyzing the nature of anarcho-capitalism. A mystery cult has an “inner” mystery and an “outer” mystery and initiates move through the various stages to achieve some higher “spiritual law.” This does sound eerily similar to Rothbard’s scheme of “natural law,” which I will talk about later. Freke and Gandy begin by citing Origen.


The right method [doesn’t that remind you of the Austrian school and how they are always talking about their “right method” of the a priori], according to Origen, is to understand the three levels on which scripture works. The lowest level is the obvious literal interpretation. The next level, for ‘one who has advanced somewhat,’ is an allegorical level which edifies the soul. The final level, which reveals Gnosis, is for ‘one who is perfected by the spiritual law.’ Origen taught that through following this threefold path, the Christian initiate progresses from faith to Gnosis.


The pseudo-history of Jesus’ life was an essential part of the Outer Mysteries of Christianity, which were designed to attract new would-be initiates, so the Gnostics did not necessarily deny the historicity of the gospels. But any literal interpretation of the Jesus story was only the first step presented to spiritual beginners. The true meaning of this myth was revealed to initiates in the secret Inner Mysteries. (157-58, emphasis mine)


In other words, one first creates a “mythical” outer mystery—a pseudo-history—in order to attract new recruits thus swelling your ranks. Furthermore, one only reveals the true “inner mysteries” to a few, the “insiders” of your cult. This is basically the thesis of Freke and Gandy for understanding modern day Christianity—virtually all Christians know the “outer” mystery of their religion such as Jesus riding on a donkey or his crucifixion and literal body resurrection. However, very few of the Christians know the “inner” mystery of their religion mainly because it got suppressed and covered up for political reasons mainly. I suspect that a similar thing is going on with the modern day anarcho-capitalists.

I began this section by citing Karl Marx. What was Marx saying? He begins with the Christian story of original sin. This is obviously a “mythic” story in order to “initiate” new Christians into their cult. The Christians have to have this story in order to explain why Jesus came along in history to die on the cross and to save them. Then Marx says, this is exactly what Adam Smith is doing when he creates a “mythic” history for capitalism. This “mythic” history of capitalism—this “outer” mystery—is convenient because it gives the capitalist apologists an attractive history to present to the new initiates. Michael Perelman, in The Invention of Capitalism puts this bluntly (I add the inner/outer interpretation part to what Perelman says):


  • Outer Mystery. According to [Adam] Smith, economic development progressed through the voluntary acts of the participants. (26)
  • Inner Mystery. Marx, in contrast, believed that “capital comes dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” (26)

In other words, what my Facebook wall and twitter feed are full of is the “outer” mystery of the wonderful “voluntary” world of capitalism. The “inner mystery” with its authoritarian nature is what is being hidden from all the new recruits.


I see parallels between the “right method” of the mystery cult leading to a “pseudo-history” meant to attract new initiates so that some of the better initiated will eventually come to see the higher “spiritual law” and the Austrian “right method” of the a priori leading to a “pseudo-history” of capitalism meant to attract new initiates to the school so that they will eventually come to see the higher “natural law” of Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty.


This process is illustrated by Stephen A Zarlenga in his article A Refutation of Menger’s Theory of the “Origin of Money.” Menger is of course one of the great Founding Fathers of the Austrian School of Economics. Zarlenga begins by “investigating the temple cult-monetary link, [and notes that] Bernard Laum’s Hieleges Geld (Holy Gold) was published in 1924” (11). Laum then comments directly on the Austrian school’s theory of the origin of money, the theory proposed by Menger (11).  Using the “right method,” Menger comes to a “market origin” theory for explaining the origins of money; the facts contradict this claim:


The theorist claims general validity for his deductive statements, because he has come to his result in the ‘exact’ way. The historian is more modest. He will not assert that Menger’s theory never and nowhere materialized in reality. Had the ‘homo oeconomicus’ of today appeared in the world 3,000 years ago, he would have certainly invented money according to Menger’s rationalist principles. I only claim that the historical origin of money does not correspond with this theory…according to our researches money is a creature of the religious-political legal rights system. (11, emphasis mine)


In seems like what just happened is that Menger, using his “right methods,” created a pseudo-history of the origins of money. This pseudo-history is the “outer mystery” because it comes to the useful conclusion that money originated by the “market process.” In other words, it is completely consistent with what Adam Smith claims, namely, “voluntary acts of the participants.” This then is what I hear all the time on both Facebook and twitter from the “rank-and-file” anarcho-capitalists—capitalism is awesome because of the voluntary and mutually beneficial exchanges it produces! And of course, socialism sucks!


In the Adam Smith versus Karl Marx discussion, the capitalists’ “outer mystery” of the origins of capitalism in “voluntary acts of the participants” is meant to hide the brutal and coercive origins that forced people into wage labor, the “inner mystery” of capitalism. Similarly, the Menger versus Laum discussion has the capitalist revealing the “outer mystery” of the origins of money in “voluntary acts of the participants” in order to hide the facts on the ground that suggest an institutional origin—a religious institutional origin of money, the “inner mystery of money.”


Of course, maybe Marx is wrong and Adam Smith is right, and maybe Laum is wrong and Menger is right. Who has interpreted history correctly? What makes me think that Marx and Laum are probably right and my mystery cult approach is right as well is how the end game is all about revealing the “inner mystery” only to some people. It took me a lot of digging to find out about the bloody origins of capitalism and the fact that contradictory evidence exists to Menger’s theory. This “inner mystery” is some sort of “spiritual” law in the realm of mystery cults, or to follow the analogy, what the anarcho-capitalists call “natural law.” This “natural law” aspect of anarcho-capitalism in the Rothbardian tradition is what makes me think that the anarcho-capitalist scheme probably needs to be explained in terms of a cult. There is some sort of “inner mystery” that very few are supposed to know about.


My guess is that the “inner mystery” is the use of natural law theory to justify absolute property rights because this is actually an extremely authoritarian message. In the realm of mystery cults, this would be like saying to someone: you know all those stories you heard about Jesus doing this and doing that? Well, none of that really happened. Now, let’s talk about what is “really” going on here.


I started to ask myself that very same question, what is “really” going on here? It bothered me so much that following Hoppe comes to the conclusion in Democracy: The God that Failed that the anarcho-capitalist private defense firms would be insurance companies. “The advantages of having insurance agencies provide security and protection are as follows,” writes Hoppe (281). To me this seems extremely suspicious. You are telling me that my bank, Toronto-Dominion Bank, which happens to own my insurance company, TD Insurance, should be providing me with police protection? And, you are telling me that this arrangement of banker owned private police forces is a “law of nature”—some sort of analogy to a great “spiritual law” of a mystery cult?


The fundamental problem seems to be that the anarcho-capitalists seem to think that they have found some sort of universal truth or objective truth and so they are right and the debate is over. The parallels with trying to debate a fundamentalist Christian should be fairly obviously. But let me point out a few pertinent points that I think illustrate the weakness of trying to smuggle back in religion in order to justify absolute property rights.


The first point is that the “right method” of the Austrian school, their a priori method, is suspect. I pointed this out earlier with the historical evidence about the origins of money contradicting Menger’s “exact” method—theory contradicts the facts on the ground even if the theory is derived used the Austrian method. This contradiction is made even more apparent by Lord Keynes (the blogger) with respect to the fact that there are actually multiple systems of praxeology and they come to completely contradictory conclusions. We do have one system of praxeology that supports capitalism and another one that supports Marxism:


Another problem for Misesian economics is that it is not the only praxeological system. The fact is that there are a number of other systems of thought that are (allegedly) derived by deduction from universally true axioms. How do we choose between such systems? For example, Marxists like M. Hollis and E. J. Nell have proposed a system using deduction from (allegedly) universally true axioms in their book Rational Economic Man (1975). Their system is the antithesis of Mises’s Austrian economics, but supposedly arrives at laws which are universally true. (emphasis mine)


Are the “universally true” laws of capitalism the true rules or are the “universally true” laws of Marxism the true rules? I seriously doubt that both can be simultaneously true, so which is it? Or are neither true? The same thing can be said of “natural law” or “natural rights.” Will the one true universal one please stand up and make itself know? (This is the same thing atheists say. Would the one true god actually appear out of the shadows and let us know which one of the thousands of contenders for the crown is the real deal). This point was made by Michael Perelman in The Invention of Capitalism where he writes that


Only two years after the publication of The Wealth of Nations, a suggestion to free the indentured servants of Pennsylvania elicited stern response from the legislature, which insisted that “all apprentices and servants are the property of their masters and mistresses, and every mode of depriving such masters and mistresses of their Property is a Violation of the Rights of Mankind.” (248, emphasis mine)


So, just after Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, an attempt was made to free the slaves—people held as property—but this idea was rebuked because it “violated” the alleged rights of mankind. Apparently, following this sick line of reasoning, there is a natural right to own other human beings as property. The Anarchist Writers in an article entitled What is the myth of “Natural Law” states bluntly that “such a ‘theory’ of ‘natural law’ was used to justify slavery—yes, slaves are human but they have ‘different natures’ than their masters and so slavery is okay.”


If there really is a natural law, and this natural law says that one human can own another human because of some alleged property right, then I can see the thesis being made that anarcho-capitalism’s “inner mystery” is slavery of some sort. If this is a “natural law” then how can it ever possibly change? There can’t be two separate “natural laws,” one for the 1770s and another for the 2010s because if “natural law” can change with the times then it is hardly some immutable law or some universal truth. If natural laws are immutable then this 1770 “right of mankind” to own other people must still be at work in 2013. Maybe the people in the 1770s were mistaken. They thought that they had discovered natural law but they were wrong. It is sort of like the episode on the Simpsons with alcohol prohibition. First, the town rulers read the parchment and it said that alcohol was illegal in Springfield, punishable by catapult. Then, when the Beer Baron, aka Homer Simpson, was about to be catapulted for his illegal alcohol production in his basement bathtubs, the one old guy discovered “more lines” to the parchment. Then, they released Homer. So maybe that is what Murray Rothbard did. Maybe he “discovered more lines” to the natural law parchment—ones that prohibit slavery but still allow for absolute property rights in everything else. The obvious objection then becomes “what if Murray Rothbard has misinterpreted natural law as well.” Maybe natural law, much like the praxeology example I gave earlier, also has a Marxist version with its own Marxist “natural laws.” Except, of course, these Marxist “natural laws” say that private property is against nature and it must be expropriated immediately. Now, based on “natural rights” and “natural law,” the communists can claim Murray Rothbard as their ally. Thank you Murray for proving natural law theory for us! Now give me all of your property (i.e., any factors of production) that you own! Politics certainly does make for some strange bed fellows!


Concluding Remarks


A rather famous anarchist, Daniel Guérin, begins his epic book No Gods, No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism with, in part, this brilliant passage about what anarchy really is.  He stresses exactly what I have stressed, no masters, i.e., no capital or no employers, and no religion or no Gods:


In July 1896, the libertarians of Bordeaux issued a manifesto in which they eulogized “the beauty of the libertarian ideal of Neither God nor Master.” A little later, Sebastien Faure, writing in Le Libertaire of August 8-14 that year, declared: “Blanqui’s catch-phrase, Neither God nor Master, cannot be dissected, but must be embraced in its entirety…Alexandre Flandin shouted from the gallery in the Palais Bourbon: “Anarchists strive to implement the motto Neither God nor Master.” (2, emphasis mine)


Based on my analysis, I conclude that anarcho-capitalism is neither anarchist nor libertarian.


On the question of religion, the anarcho-capitalist plan is some sort of religious cult. My guess is that it was designed this way in order to make it more marketable for Christian Americans. This makes it inherently authoritarian or hierarchical (i.e., there is in this Christian scheme a divine pecking order, see Psalm 8:5); thus, it must be ruled out of bounds. If the general tendency is for anarchists to be atheists then there is no reason for them to buy into the natural law anarcho-capitalist idea. This point is made forcefully by Lord Keynes (the blogger) in his blog entitled Economics and Ethics: A Brief Survey:


When natural law theory was taken up by Christian theologians, they simply substituted the Christian god for the gods of the Greek and Romans. In the early modern period, rationalist European philosophers like Grotius tried to defend natural law theory by removing God and the previous supernatural justification for it. However, in doing so, they destroyed the only convincing explanation for belief in natural law. Thus anyone who accepts an atheistic and naturalistic scientific view of the universe, and who rejects all religion, has no reason to believe in natural law or natural rights. (emphasis mine)


On the question of “masters” or capitalists, or employers, or black-and-gold flags versus black-and-red flags, the anarcho-capitalists have clearly sided with the masters. They claim to oppose masters when the masters come in the name of the State, but they have no problem in accepting private masters who get to be the lords over their private property.


So all I can say is that anarcho-capitalism is something very different from anarchy.






Neil M Tokar

March 17, 2013

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario




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