'Start with empathy. Continue with utility. Improve with analysis. Optimize with love.' -Jonathon Colman

Debunking Anarcho-Capitalism

by Ethan Glover, Fri, Sep 27, 2013 - (Edited) Fri, Sep 27, 2013

Ah yes, yet another person wants to take a crack at "debunking" the wide and open philosophy of anarcho-capitalism. This is one of the reasons I created this site, to clarify these all too common misconceptions. When building my now locked down, but maybe future project "Liberty Resource Directory" I made a few responses to videos against anarcho-capitalism, and it inevitably led me here. The video is a short six minutes chalked full of misunderstandings and "wtf moments". For your entertainment, here is "Debunking Anarcho-Capitalism".

Right off the bat he gets straight to my biggest pet peeve and, in fact, half the video is heart wrenching for me. If only... if only he'd open up a dictionary. Since creating the "Commonly Confused Words List" [Discontinued] I have referenced it in every single post and I will continue to reference it until people get a clue. Anarchy is a state in which each individual has absolute power over themselves. "Anarchon" is an old and obsolete root word that isn't used today. Capitalism is a system in which wealth is held privately, and prices are determined by the free market. When someone claims that these two words are incompatible they've been spending too much time on the internet listening to amateurs make poor arguments. Amateurs breed amateurs folks... Ok, sorry. I'll be nice from here on out. Let's get to the real arguments.

Ain't No Equality Without Distribution

The first argument is that there those who have property and money and those who don't. There are also people who can create money and people who can't, and that those who have the money control the people.

First we have to consider Pareto's Law, which says at the most natural state is when 20% of the population holds 80% of the wealth. This is a reality that has existed throughout time and something that appears everywhere, even outside of economics. That's not to say that wealth is like some piece of the pie, and that everyone can only have a certain percentage. That's not a proper way to look at it. People create money by taking natural resources and creating products that they can trade. Through mutual trade, ie. trading things that you value less for things you value more, wealth is created. When you add in the fact that money is nothing more than a trade good (gold to be specific), money is "created" by mining. Wealth is created by the trade of that gold. Bankers create money through illegal government backed processes. When you deposit money into their bank they can loan out 10x that amount. That's not actually money they are creating, it is literally numbers on a computer. Just stuff they typed in. The people who really create money are those who work and create value for others.

When the government creates fiat and creates a monopoly on what is to be considered money, that is a problem to complain about. It prints more cash than there is a demand for, gives high paychecks to the bankers and deludes the value of the dollar. The people who can "create" money are nothing more than gangs. In a system of capitalism, this is not allowed. Simply because fake money would not be accepted in stores. When the government doesn't force this system on people they inevitably stop using it.

Capitalists must make their customers happy in order to gain more money. They must make their employees happy. They can't "rule" over people when all transactions are voluntary. In fact, if we once again go back to our basic english definitions we see that the definition of a capitalist is a person who possesses capital assets. A capital asset is just something for the purpose of continued use like land, machinery or a cell phone. Capitalist has become synonymous with "entrepreneurs" for those who aren't paying attention. In reality, a capitalist is just someone who owns property. What we are really talking about in a "capitalist system", is simply trade. I trade my labor for money freely.

Even if we ignore all these factors and just look at the argument being made. It is saying that because there are people who have money and people who don't, that there are people who can create money, and because "AnCapistan" would be ruled by capitalists, because of all that, anarchy and capitalism can't mix. The argument creates a loose definition of "ruler" (also available on the list) and runs with it.

Ruler, Ruler, Ruler

The word "ruler" is really the only conclusion of this whole video and we'll see that moving on. The poster claims that because I rule myself, there can be no system without rulers; and because nature rules nature, there can be no rulers. This isn't a real argument and not worth even mentioning, but I'll mention it anyways. Taking the word "ruler" and giving it a non-political context does not change the political aspects of anarcho-capitalism. It is these kinds of arguments that don't even touch theory, but instead nitpick at the magical thing called "language" that really gets to me. I make sure to always have definitions straight as a way to make language clear and to make sure the conversation stays on track and really gets to the down and dirty. This... this idea of ruling yourself, while it is true, means nothing. Anarcho-capitalism doesn't reject leadership or voluntary "rulers" but instead aims for the freedom to choose. Again, looking back at the definition, it is an ideology based on the freedom to own private property and the rejection of governmental authority. Authority is the word this video should be focusing on, not "ruler".

That is of course dismissing the fact that it shouldn't be concentrated on words, but rather the practical implementation that anarcho-capitalists speak of. Using ambiguous words to debunk an ideology is cowardly. We've gone from not understanding basic english to blatantly abusing it.

Voluntary, Schmoluntary

My favorite argument is that because not all voluntary interactions are good, the non-aggression principle is bunk. I think the video is seriously assuming that all interactions are attacks. I mean... how else would that sentence make sense in any way? Being nice...

First, paedophilia being legal. This is actually a good point to bring up, the only good point in the entire video. Of course, paedophilia is a state of mind, it is not an action, let's assume he's talking about sex with minors. It may be that any legal ages would become a little more lax, and things would be decided on a case by case basis. That is not to say it is OK to take advantage of those of limited mental capacity in a world without government. Ultimately the parents are still responsible for their child's well being to include their mental and physical state. When a child has sex with an older person it damages them in many different ways. This is an assault and punishable by law. Proper views on this have been developed since Murray Rothbard's limited writings.

However, we go from that argument to... what about feudalism? I like the claim that is was a, "100% voluntary system" and that it had a "degree of government enforcement". Unfortunately, when I looked up "100%" in the dictionary I couldn't find anything, so I guess he wins...

Seriously, I'm pretty sure the claim here is that voluntary free labor is bad. Or that simply working for food and shelter is bad, never mind this is one of the things that helped make slavery in the U.S. obsolete. That's like saying internships should be illegal. Or helping your grandma around the house on the weekends is bad. If someone agrees to work for free, let 'em be. They probably have their reasons. Interns do it for the experience when they have none and really aren't worth the pay. Of course, many interns today (such as in my field) can get paid $20/hr. The classification of "internship" is just a way to get around firing laws, but that's not what we're talking about. There is nothing wrong with 'feudalism' in theory, so long as it is not forced.

Next on the list... prostitution! Oh no! The evil prostitutes are destroying society! Every point about "ethics" here, is not ethics at all, it's just small minded opinion. Ethics goes a little deeper than the topic of prostitution. When this child talks about ethics, he is actively telling grown adults that they may not do with their lives what they want to do. (See anything wrong with this picture?)

Let's see what else... company stores and company towns are bad? Eh... again, everybody's got to fit into your narrow minded view of what is and isn't right. Don't let responsible adults make their own decisions because you know best, right? Skip! Let's see... OH! A good one... almost... well... comparatively.

Sweatshop labor. Yes, because if children were allowed to work they'd all be forced to work in sweatshops for 10c an hour. They would be beat and harassed and live horrible terrible lives. The image of children working in sweatshops comes from countries with heavy government regulation that creates the unavoidable environment of poverty. If those kids weren't working, the family would starve. If they had a choice don't you think they'd be in school? It's not that they're not allowed or that they are slaves, they just don't have the money, and it's because of government regulation and theft. If the U.S. was as poor as those nations, do you think most people would give a damn about child labor laws? Absolutely not.

In a free society, there is nothing wrong with kids working, but business owners don't want them to work in terrible conditions. Even if they did, there'd be no incentive for the children to do so. You have to look at supply and demand, where would they be wanted? Candy stores, toy stores, maybe learning a craft under supervision. Would you deny children these great opportunities because you saw some kids in a sweatshop on TV once? You have to look at everything from all sides. The crime isn't working. The crime is slavery and abuse.

Theft Isn't Coercive When You Can Run

If you don't love it, leave it. How many times can one man refer another to bitbutter?

The original video claims that the government is not coercive simply because you can move and live under another government... which isn't coercive because you can always move to the other and when you've tried them all? Well, it's not coercive because you can return to the original government which is not coercive.

The government actively steals money from people at the point of a gun, and this video wants to compare that to the employer/employee relationship? In a free society, one can start a business or make and sell products without intervention. This is a real option to "opt out". Not only that but (and don't tell the anarcho-socialists that I'm bringing this up) there are great co-op companies out there that do not have management but instead collective management.

Yes, the government can make it hard for you to leave the area and an employer can make it hard for you to find other work. To be fair, these things are not nearly on the same level. The world is large, and there are millions of employers, a simple bad reputation from one man can only follow you so far. That being said, this is why it is important to learn how to be polite and respectful to those you have contracts with. If I agree to sell my car to someone and agree to payments, and then found out later that that guy is an asshole, I'm going to practice a little bit of cordiality. He is not harming me... he's just kind of a dick. It happens, why do anything to make it worse?

Just to recap, because I know people will forget, there are a lot of solutions to the rare and odd case of a bad stalker employer. Keep trying and don't put him as a reference, consider creating your own business, join a co-op, and be respectful to everyone, society can bite you in the ass sometimes, and its good to have friends.

Owning is Theft

Even though I just created that title myself the idea of "Owning is Theft", makes me laugh. The video claims that the act of homesteading is inherently contradictory to the non-aggression principle because the ownership of land is coercive. Homesteading is the act of claiming land of your own. Land that is unused by anyone else. You can't homestead something that is actively under use. If a lot of people are using the same land, but no one claims any ownership, you can't just come in and stick a flag in it. The fact that it is already being used means it's off limits to be taken. So when the video says that homesteading is theft from the "rest of the population" it is entirely wrong.

Then there is the claim that the defense of ones own property is coercive... Yes, yes it is. The video has this way of attacking the rhetoric of anarcho-capitalism because the creator doesn't understand the philosophy. The word coercive isn't some sort of double oogey boogey concept that can't be used. While the Oxford english dictionary may not provide a definition for the non-aggression principle, the Mises Institute does:

The non-aggression principle (also called the non-aggression axiom, or the anti-coercion or zero aggression principle or non-initiation of force) is an ethical stance which asserts that "aggression" is inherently illegitimate. "Aggression" is defined as the "initiation" of physical force against persons or property, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property. In contrast to pacifism, the non-aggression principle does not preclude violent self-defense.

Note that it addresses "aggression" not "coercion"? Aggression being defined as an unprovoked attack. And see that it does not preclude violent self-defense? That means the forceful removal of someone off my property is legitimate according to the non-aggression principle.

Then there is the final claim, that homesteading makes slavery OK. Let's ignore the fact that a "homestead" only applies to lands and homes and just assume it applies to "everything". The video fails to realize that each individual is the owner of themselves. No, slavery is not OK for the simple fact that it is not mutual. You can't own another person because they already own themselves...

Conclusions

As I said before, this poorly made video makes a whole lot of attacks on rhetoric and words because the creator does not understand anarcho-capitalism in the least bit. It makes a lot of baseless assumptions about anarcho-capitalism and aims to attack it without first researching it. When debunking the debunker is as easy as looking up words in the dictionary, there's something majorly wrong with the thought process of the debunker. All to often I get arguments from people who just want a little drama and they do not care about learning at all. I would love to see a serious discussion against anarcho-capitalism but as of yet everything I have responded to has been baseless attacks. This one being the worst and most ignorant.