What is Anarcho-Capitalism?
by Ethan Glover, Thu, Jan 01, 2015 - (Edited) Thu, Jan 01, 2015
Anarcho-capitalism is a mix of anarchy and capitalism. I understand that these two things conjure up images of chaos and evil. Anarchy is about a lawless society and capitalism is about greed and taking advantage of people.
Unfortunately, these things have come to be misunderstood. I don’t know how or why, I won’t cry conspiracy. What I do know is that this is not how we anarcho-capitalists see the world.
Many libertarians (anarcho-capitalists fall under this general term) believe in the “non-aggression principle.” It originated with Ayn Rand in “The Virtue of Selfishness,” but most people think of Murray Rothbard as its father.
The NAP (non-aggression principle) says that it is wrong to initiate force on another person or his or her property. This may sound simple, and it is. What makes anarcho-capitalists different is they stick by this principle no matter what.
For example, when someone knocks on your door and tells you that you haven’t paid taxes they might threaten to put you in jail if you don’t. This violates the NAP. This isn’t to say that people shouldn’t pay what they owe. If you agree to pay for something, you should pay for it.
Not paying for something that you agreed to pay for is a clear aggression on someone else’s property. This is where the problem with taxes come in. Some believe in the social contract that says we all agree to play by the governments rules because we are born in its territory. This isn’t good enough for anarcho-capitalists.
You might argue that if I drive on roads, then I must pay for their upkeep. I have no problem with this logic in of itself. What I have a problem with is that I never agreed to the current terms. I understand that I’m going to have to pay for at least the roads that connect to my home.
Why can’t ‘public services’ be private services that you study the prices of before moving? Yes, we can study taxes and look at crime statistics, but do these correlate? Are these statistics and prices direct enough?
As an example, in California, taxes are quite high but its public services are massive failures. It’s true that higher prices don’t always mean better quality. Yet, aren’t higher prices always the solution with government? I think we can all agree that too much money ends up in the pockets of politicians and special interests. That not enough goes towards actual improvement.
Anarcho-capitalists look to capitalism. It created an increase in standards of living of just about everyone. It has helped raise millions out of poverty throughout history. They look at how competition, incentive, and economic calculation has a positive effect on society as a whole. Without sacrificing anyone in the process.
This isn’t to say that big corporate CEO’s are saving the world and we should bow down at their feet. That’s the big misunderstanding of capitalism. Capitalism is just another word for free trade. Maybe most people don’t use capitalism as such. Yet, anarcho-capitalists are always sure to remind people the difference between corporatism and capitalism.
Corporatism is the government using its power to give corporations special privileges. This can be removing legal responsibility of its owners unto the corporation itself. Or giving them a monopoly on their ‘intellectual property.’ Thus not allowing people to do particular things with their property.
When you go to the gas station and buy a drink and some fuel, you’re a capitalist. You’re using your property (money) to trade for someone else’s property (drink and fuel). The idea is that you value what you’re purchasing more than you do your money, otherwise you wouldn’t give it up. Thus, both parties are better off.
This simple idea, when expanded, becomes quite beautiful. Instead of someone forcing you to pay for roads at the threat of prison, you pay for what you agreed to pay for. It’s a greater guarantee that everyone is happy.
This also means that when the issue of war comes up; no one can just decree that the country is at war. (A president.) Sending soldiers in to die. It means that before anyone goes to war, there has to be enough people backing it, enough people willing to put up the money, to make it happen. The same way things work in the free market.
To some, this sounds scary. I ask, is this any different from the original intent of the constitution? Would you disagree that only congress should declare war? Because they represent the people? If so, how is it any different when people are giving their support by their own decision?
Your objection to this might be that it would be impossible to get all the money required to wage a war. To take justice on someone like Osama Bin Laden. Is that the truth of it? How much did it cost to bomb Iraq’s infrastructure when the country had nothing to do with Bin Laden?
The fact is that most of the money spent on the many wars in the Middle East have nothing to do with any aggression on the United States. Hundreds of millions of dollars go into patrolling Iraqi towns under the excuse of protecting its people. People who don’t want the protection. The ‘protection’ that they interpret as harassment.
War is a much different thing than justice. Imagine a drug kingpin orders the murder of a group of kids who saw something they shouldn’t have seen. Is it right to bomb the city he lives in and take away all its residents rights? How is it different when the U.S. destroys a country and barges into its resident’s homes? Without warrants, and without accusations of any crime?
Anarcho-capitalists argue for private justice systems. The kind that we have seen throughout history in countries like Ireland, Iceland, and even Somalia. They argue that these systems are more efficient and moral.
A country that works through voluntary trade; one that does not place sanctions on, or play politics with, other countries, makes few enemies. It can also handle its internal difficulties without issue.
What if, despite low odds, a foreign gang terrorizes an anarcho-capitalist society? Despite its neutral nature? (No one bothers Sweden.) It is possible to work with that countries government to find justice. If it is impossible, it is not out of the question to use small covert operations. There is no need to destroy several countries to find one person, no matter what you believe about ‘intelligence.’
On the off chance that a country invades an anarcho-capitalist society, the argument is where do they invade? There is no capital city, no leader to take. There is no flag to capture. The UN had a lot of trouble taking Somalia over (with the help of many countries) because there was no central dictator to take. What people in the U.S. refer to as “warlords” are private protection agencies. They defended their people and property. Without any central authority calling the shots.
Sure, every time the UN backed out, many “warlords” fought for control over anything the UN took over. Yet, things always settled back down into relative peace. More peace than Somalia had ever experienced under government.
I don’t want to get into too many details on one topic. You asked what anarcho-capitalism is, you didn’t ask for a rant on private legal systems. It’s just that I feel like this is the hardest thing to get around.
You might be wondering who would build the roads, who would inspect your food, who would make sure what you’re buying is safe, etc. These are all legitimate questions, and I would never say any of them are stupid.
The anarcho-capitalist answer is quite simple. The government has a monopoly on these things; we propose to take that monopoly away. Instead of you depending on one company (the government), you get to choose. Instead of voting for “representatives,” you get to choose your own “representatives.” By extension, other people choose their own.
Moral arguments aside, this sounds like a sweet deal to me.
I’m sure you still have plenty of questions and objections. I only ask that you take a second to consider it for yourself. Any self-respecting anarcho-capitalist should love the chance to answer any questions you may have. Yet, anarcho-capitalism isn’t hard to explain.
Consider for a moment that government doesn’t exist and isn’t an option. How would you solve the issue? You don’t have to build the roads yourself, but maybe as an entrepreneur, you could come up with something? Fuel tax currently pays for roads; why not ask any gas stations or businesses that you would be willing to connect roads to, to pay a fee? After all, you’d be responsible for most of their business.
Easy. What does the government do now? How can you transfer that to the free market? That simple change moves the transaction from force, to voluntary.
Of course, don’t stop there. There are no government rules to restrict what you can try. Only the customer tells you what you can and can’t do by way of their support. So long as you don’t hurt anyone, you can try anything. Maybe you say that any person driving on your road has to register and carry a GPS device. Travelers pay by mile.
Anyone who uses your road without permission are subject to police who can pull him or her over and issue him or her a ticket. Not paying that ticket later (or on the spot) is a trespassing violation condemnable in court.
We anarcho-capitalists have gone over every scenario. Roads, wars, utilities, water monopolies, predatory pricing, child abuse, global warming. There’s an answer for anything you can throw at us.
The thing about anarcho-capitalists is that we never just say, “That should be illegal.” These kinds of reactions aren’t possible in a world of anarchy. Every solution must have a logical reason, there must be an incentive to make it happen, and it must not use force.
Maybe you think this sounds difficult or impossible, but I assure you it’s not. I only ask that the next time you consider anarcho-capitalism, don’t wave it away as some naïve dream. Anarcho-capitalism is a real philosophy with real examples based on real facts.
Anarcho-capitalism is well studied and established in the literature. We only need the chance to give it a shot.
You don’t have to agree with it, or think what it says is correct. I just ask that you treat it with the respect that I hope I’ve treated you. Please try to see anarcho-capitalism as the serious philosophy it is, because that’s how we treat it. At least, give it consideration. Don’t ignore it.