Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Anarcho-capitalism is a branch of libertarian political philosophy which calls for a society without state government, and a form of free market where private property exists (see capitalism). Anarcho-capitalists favor voluntary relationships, which they see as including property rights, rather than involuntary political relationships, such as the territorial monopoly of states. The difference between anarcho-capitalists and other libertarians is largely one of degree: other libertarians, called minarchists, wish to reduce the size and intrusiveness of the state, but unlike anarcho-capitalists, retain vital functions that they believe the private sector cannot adequately provide, like police, courts and the military. Anarcho-capitalism is sometimes referred to as "right-anarchism." 
One of the most important differences between anarcho-capitalists and left anarchists is the former support a right of private property. Anarcho-capitalists don’t believe that people should or will pool all their goods under anarchy, and they believe that the removal of a government will make it possible and desirable to run a society based on contracts and property rights. Also, most anarchists do not believe that the relationship between bosses and employees could be considered voluntary and non-coercive regardless of it being the result of contract.
Anarcho-capitalists oppose coercion, which they, like other libertarians, commonly define as the act of preventing a person from having the willful use of her body or property by employing physical force, the threat of force, or fraud. They do not consider private property enforcement to be initiatory coercion but an act of defense. Anarcho-capitalists believe that property relations between individuals can be voluntary, and favor those relations that they consider voluntary over political relations that they consider involuntary, such as the territorial monopoly of states.
Property and the idea of self-ownership are central to libertarianism and thus to anarcho-capitalism. As a rule, anarcho-capitalists believe that objects are not to be recognized as being legitimately-obtained property unless they have been acquired without coercion (as defined above). If it is considered to be too difficult to locate the original thief and trace the provenance of the object in question (such as the labor of African slaves or the land of Native Americans), originally illegitimate property may be accepted as well. Any action or inaction that is not influenced by any of these three forms of coercion are considered by anarcho-capitalists to be "voluntary." Anarcho-capitalists believe that capitalism is the only system that embraces this philosophy.
Anarcho-capitalism opposes the socialist and communist traditions of anarchism on some foundational issues, one of which is the issue of private property and the authority one can gain from it. While these types of anarchism have historically rejected all property beyond personal possession as an illegitimate form of authority, anarcho-capitalists embrace private property as an essential element of individual liberty. Anarcho-capitalists, like other capitalists, support allowing each individual to amass as much wealth as they are able to acquire or produce. Egalitarian goals are of little or no concern. This allowance is supported without condition — wealth may be accumulated even if the enforcement of property rights denies others access to resources they need to survive. However, anarcho-capitalists believe that becoming wealthy in a capitalist system almost always requires the production of valuable goods and services for society, thereby increasing the wealth of society as well as one's own.
Anarcho-capitalists hold that a modern territorial state by its nature initiates coercion (for example, by implementing taxation), and therefore oppose the existence of such a state and argue that markets and individuals should operate free from this type of interference. If individual liberty is to be defended by an organization, they insist that it be in the form of a private business who sells its services to private individuals rather than a public institution that relies on taxation to fund its operations. Individuals unable to pay for their protection in such a system are left to the auspices of charity. Anarcho-capitalists reject all coercive aggressions of the state, from initiatory war to government monopolies.
Contracts are generally considered the form of private law that would run such a society, sometimes along with a form of common law. It is difficult to predict in advance what sort of societies market forces would produce in absence of state regulation, and there are disputes about this both among anarcho-capitalists and between anarcho-capitalists and their critics.
In addition to rejecting their conception of the initiation of force, some also oppose the use of retaliatory or punitive force, asserting that any use of force beyond self-defense is itself an initiation of force. Regardless, all would allow reliatory or punitive force if the offender had previously agreed through contract to be subject to it in the case that he had violated the liberty of another. Retributive justice (a kind of retaliatory force) is often a component of the contracts they imagine for an anarcho-capitalist society. Some believe prisons or indentured servitude would be justifiable institutions to deal with those who violate anarcho-capitalist property relations, while others believe exile or forced restitution are sufficient.
Anarcho-capitalism has also been called anti-state capitalism, neo-classical liberalism, anarcho-liberalism, voluntaryism, and, critically, free-market fundamentalism. Some note that this system would allow individuals to choose between radically different governments, arguing that anarcho-capitalism would be panarchic. Critics often accuse it of reducing to plutocracy or feudalism in practice.
Classical liberal roots
Classical liberals have long distrusted states and called to limit government power to a minimum. See Liberalism for the history of liberal thought. In the 18th century, liberal revolutionaries in Britain and America had opposed statism without grounding it in theory, while some French economists had theorized it without endorsing it. In the 19th century, a group of classical liberals first explicitly argued to abolish monopoly government, the first being Gustave de Molinari in 1849. He and this new type of anti-state liberal grounded their reasoning on liberal ideals: individual liberty, private property, and natural law.
The anti-state liberal tradition in Europe and the United States continued after Molinari in the early writings of Herbert Spencer, as well as in thinkers such as Paul Émile de Puydt, Auberon Herbert, and Albert Jay Nock.
In the 1950s, Austrian School economists such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek heavily influenced a new generation of anti-state liberals. Mises's student Murray Rothbard worked to fuse the insights of the Austrian School with classical natural law theory, bringing together European and American traditions and coining the term anarcho-capitalism. Since the 1950s, anarcho-capitalists have been an important if minority part of the libertarian capitalist movement in the US and have been consistent defenders of the liberal tradition.
Influence of American individualist anarchism
The philosophy of some noted American individualist anarchists have been significantly influential in anarcho-capitalists' philosophy. Some of the most noteable figures in this respect include Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker. While these figures do not support every principle that anarcho-capitalists uphold, there are some significant areas of agreement. Of particular importance are the ideas of "self-ownership" and a right to own the product of one's labor (though anarcho-capitalists tend to not agree with individualist anarchists' opposition to profiting from wage labor). These individualists opposed collectivist conceptions of property, in favor of individual private property.
Spooner, in Constitutional law, Relative to Credit, Currency, and Banking supports a "right to acquire property...as one of the natural, inherent, inalienable rights of men - one that is not surrendered to government - one which government has no power to infringe - one which government is bound to respect and secure." In Poverty: Its Illegal Causes and Cure, Spooner supports the freedom of individuals to charge interest for loans free of government regulation. There he says that "All legislative restraints upon the rate of interest, are, therefore,nothing less than arbitrary and tyrannical restraints upon a man's natural capacity amid natural right to hire capital, upon which to bestow his labor." Spooner was staunchly against government interference in private economic matters, and he was particularly vocal in opposing collusion between banks and government. He ran a successful business for a short time called the "American Letter Mail Company" in effort to privatize mail delivery and break the government's coercive monopoly, illustrating his belief in entrepreneurship and that "every man be his own employer or work for himself in a direct way, since working for another resulted in a portion being diverted to the employer." In an advertisement for his mail service he stated support of the right to "free competition."
Benjamin Tucker, though calling himself a "socialist" rejects the modern socialist idea of common ownership of land. Rather than having to do with collective ownership of resources, as it is commonly defined today, he says the foundational claim of socialim is "that labor should be put in possession of its own" (see definitions of socialism). He pronounces, in Liberty that anarchists deny the legitimacy of a collectivist doctrine: "That there is an entity known as the community which is the rightful owner of all land, Anarchists deny. I ...maintain that the community is a non-entity, that it has no existence, and is simply a combination of individuals having no prerogatives beyond those of the individuals themselves." However, Tucker says that "Anarchism undertakes to protect no titles except such as are based on actual occupancy and use" --a position taken by only a minority of anarcho-capitalists. Tucker supports private ownership of all wealth produced by an individual, but inconsistent with proponents of capitalism, claims that an employer a retaining part of that produce as profit is unjustified.
Though these individualists saw an employer's profiting from the labor of an employee as exploitative or "invasive," they would not coercively intervene in a voluntary wage labor employer/employee relationship where profit is retained by the "capitalist," prefering instead to set up alternate forms of business known as "mutualism" where workers retain gain the full value of their production. Individualist Clarence L. Swartz says in What is Mutualism?: "Will the movement prohibit or abolish private property? If it does, it is an enemy of liberty." This is seen by some as, while not in agreement with anarcho-capitalism, compatible with its overarching principles, since anyone who wished could organize mutualist enterprises in an anarcho-capitalist system and engage in free competition. This point about a peaceful coexistence of mutualism and anarcho-capitalism is often made by modern individualist anarchist Wendy McElroy. These individualists also advocated "free banking" where any individual or group of individuals would be allowed to lend money for interest and enter into competition with each other (though advocating a mutualist model for these ventures). This opposition to a "banking monopoly" sits squarely with the anarcho-capitalist advocacy of unrestricted free enterprise.
Early anarcho-capitalists were influenced by individualist critiques of the State and their arguments for the right to ignore or withdraw from it (as, for example, in Lysander Spooner's "No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority," which was widely reprinted in early anarcho-capitalist journals), and they adopted individualist ethical arguments against the use of collectivist reasoning to defend State power or any other use of coercion to subordinate the individual to any external authority claiming to act on behalf of collective interests. Like modern anarcho-capitalists, 19th century individualist anarchists described their economic and political positions as a radicalization of the classical liberal defense of free markets and civil society — Tucker, for example, described anarchism (on his individualist conception) as "consistent Manchesterism"  and anarchists as "unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats" .
Conflicts with traditional anarchism
Anarcho-capitalism rejects most of the socialist and communist traditions of anarchism. There is ongoing controversy as to whether anarcho-capitalism is truly a form of anarchism. Traditional anarchists and other critics of anarcho-capitalism note that it does not seek to abolish power relations that stem from the enforcement of private property, and point out that anarcho-capitalists endorse certain economic hierarchies. Anarcho-capitalists, as well as some traditional individualist anarchists maintain that private property is essential for liberty. All of the original anarchists, including Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Michael Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, Benjamin Tucker, and Rudolf Rocker opposed essential practices consistent with capitalism, though the American school supported a right to private property. Modern individualist anarchist, Wendy McElroy says that the European school of individualist anarchism "are foreign imports that flooded the country like cheap goods during the 19th century."
Many anarcho-capitalists argue that anarcho-capitalism is a successor of American individualist anarchism — as exemplified by 19th century individualists such as Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner. This claim to individualist tradition is rejected by many individualist anarchists themselves however. Though Tucker rejected the idea of common ownership of land in support of private property, he did explicitly denounce "capitalism." Spooner, who, while supporting private ownership of property, business, "free competition," and opposing government intervention in the economy (including restrictions on interest rates), did oppose some significant aspects of capitalism.
Whatever the parallels, however, the ultimate relationship between anarcho-capitalism and traditional anarchists is an adversarial one --most noteabley with the European school of individualist anarchists who opposed private ownership of property. 19th century individualist anarchists identified themselves as socialists, and condemned the common practices of bosses, landlords, and bankers as exploitative. Contemporary individualist anarchists hold that, whatever anarcho-capitalists may have appropriated from the individualist anarchist tradition, their explicit support for capitalism places them outside of the individualist anarchist tradition, and excludes anarcho-capitalism from being a form of anarchism at all. Anarcho-capitalists counter that socialist anarchists are in direct opposition to the American individualist anarchists who supported private property and rejected collectivism. Some of the difficulty here here may be understood as terminological: Some individualist anarchists, such as Tucker, referred to themselves as "socialists" however Tucker says that the foundational claim of socialism was "that labor should be put in possession of its own" --differing from modern definitions of socialism that revolve around opposition to private property. Tucker and Spooner, and others, support a right to private property. Also, anarcho-capitalists typically use the word "capitalism" to mean the free market, i.e., an economic order based entirely on voluntary association, free of intervention from the State, per the common modern definition. Socialist anarchists, on the other hand, typically use "capitalism" to identify a system of specific economic practices prevalent in historical and modern markets. One can be an advocate of capitalism in the first sense without being an advocate of capitalism in the second sense; indeed, some anarcho-capitalists argue that government intervention creates many problems in the "capitalist" marketplace today. On the other hand, there are substantive differences between many modern anarcho-capitalists and the positions of 19th century individualists such as Spooner and Tucker over issues, particularly over the practice of employers not remunerating employees the full produce of their labor. Anarcho-capitalists such as Murray Rothbard have been willing to accept substantially more of the "capitalistic" practices that characterize today's market as acceptable or even desirable features of a stateless free market than the 19th century individualists were — who rejected them, either because they were inefficient and exploitative arrangements that would cease to exist without government protection (such as corporate commerce), would be altered (as a reduction of interest rates without government-protected banking monopolies), or because they were themselves directly coercive (as with the enforcement of absentee landlords' claims to ownership).
In light of these differences, traditional anarchists hold that whatever anarcho-capitalists have gained from their reading of the individualists, they have repudiated essential components of both anarchism in general and individualist anarchism in particular (including not only specific conclusions about practices such as interest, but also underlying premises such as the labor theory of value). Not everyone who would today be described as an "anarcho-capitalist" would disagree — Robert LeFevre, for example, described his position as "autarchy," rejected the identification with anarchism, and criticized Tucker's individualism in particular. Most anarcho-capitalists, on the other hand, emphasize the underlying premises they draw from the 19th century individualists — such as the critique of collectivist justifications for force, the identification of organized coercion as a primary cause of social ills, and the rejection of violence for any purpose other than defense against invasion—and argue that their differences with the nineteenth-century individualists are corrections within a tradition rather than a break from the individualist tradition.
Benjamin Tucker asserts that anyone who opposes private property is not an anarchist. In The New Freewoman, November 15th, 1913: "Anarchism is a word without meaning, unless it includes the liberty of the individual to control his product or whatever his product has brought him through exchange in a free market --that is, private property. Whoever denies private property is of necessity an Archist."
Anarcho-capitalism and the environment
Anarcho-capitalists argue that private property allows people who care for nature to protect whatever is valuable about it. Indeed, they point out, when individuals own a certain portion of a natural ecosystem, that means there is someone who is interested in the preservation of its capital, and someone who can hold people who damage it responsible for torts. Anarcho-capitalists frequently argue that most of the worst-polluted land and water on the planet is government-owned, and claim that this is due to the lack of incentives for good stewardship of government-owned land (putting control of natural resources in the hands of government agents, they argue, effectively creates an externality problem and results in decision-makers far more likely to cut political deals with well-connected corporations than a private owner would). The nationalization of nature by governments, and their delegitimation of homesteading, is thus argued to be one of the primary causes of pollution. One example often cited is the number of wild-life species that were endangered in South Africa while they were administered by the government, some of which now prosper after privatization because farmers and villagers now own them and have interest in their continued existence (as game, tourist attractions, biological capital, etc.). More generally, anarcho-capitalists argue that if any resource is in the hands of people who have disrespect for it, and undervalue it, then a completely free market (including freedom from government monopolization of unclaimed resources) allows people who do respect and value this resource the opportunity to make an exchange for what they value and acquire it for protection or responsible use.
Critics of these views argue that when individuals own a certain portion of a natural ecosystem, they may have a variety of interests that conflict with the preservation of that ecosystem. For example, they may wish to destroy it and build something else on that land, or they may wish to exploit its resources rather than preserve the ecosystem in its natural state. Indeed, critics point out that the main driving force in a capitalist system is profit, and that there is usually very little profit to be made in preserving a forest, for example. Opening it up for logging would most likely result in a higher revenue, and thus individuals have an incentive to destroy the natural ecosystem for personal gain. In general, critics argue that the people who value a resource (and who have an interest in purchasing it) tend to value it for the profit it can generate, rather than for any natural beauty. Thus, they claim that the free market approach advocated by anarcho-capitalists would result in all (or most) as-yet unspoiled ecosystems being owned by large businesses with an interest in exploiting them for profit.
Similarly, some people believe that anarcho-capitalism is ill-equipped to manage common resources. For example, owners or managers of factories may choose to pollute the air, rather than voluntarily joining pollution-management agreements. Most libertarians, however, including some anarcho-capitalists, respond that the government is ill-equipped to manage the commons and advocate radical expansions of property rights. See libertarian perspectives on natural resources for more information
Many anarcho-capitalists argue that it is government that creates most of the opportunities for companies to pollute common resources in the first place, by claiming to have sole control over common resources such as national forests, waterways and air quality, and by using ex ante regulation to shield companies from liability for pollution as long as they follow the letter of the rules. Tragedies of the commons would be minimized as people were able to sue environmental offenders in a private arbitration forum for damage to the enjoyment of their own property. (Of course, this raises a second-order free rider problem: how will people harmed by pollution be able to get environmental offenders to agree to a common private arbitrator with them? Whether or not an anarcho-capitalist society would have mechanisms that could effectively bring about arbitration of disputes over damages is a matter of further controversy. Proposed solutions range from refusing to do business with offenders to extracting punitive damages from offenders whom no one will defend because of their offenses. In Medieval Iceland this problem was overcome by treating claims as property capable of homesteading: if an offense can not be checked by a weak entity, a stronger entity can take the case over.
Another common proposal is to treat the right to emit substances into the air as private property owned by someone, but only owned in measurable quantities. Those who may be harmed by emissions would have actions against those who emitted more than their (tradeable) rights allowed, and the parties to such a dispute would then use the usual arbitration system. Such a system, already in existence in some respects, would internalize the costs of pollution. Nonetheless, some regard more thorough reliance upon such schemes as an untested thought experiment that would introduce problems of its own.
Anarcho-capitalism, corporations, and contracts
While anarcho-capitalists believe that private businesses, born out of what they consider voluntary contracts, are the most moral and efficient way to conduct human affairs, they do not support corporations as they are currently supported by governments. Many anarcho-capitalists argue that the traditional government protection of limited liability for corporations is an illegitimate form of protectionism that insulates corporate owners from full responsibility for their actions, and harms those who are denied the right to sue them for damage or debt.
All anarcho-capitalists criticize what they see as government-enforced privileges for corporations in the form of limitations on liability, other subsidies and protectionist barriers to the free movement of people and trade, subsidies and regulations regarding workers and employers, disproportionate protection for official work contracts as opposed to other private contracts, and so on.
To anarcho-capitalists, contracts in general, and employment contracts in particular, are a particular case of voluntary exchange of property (one's time and work, one's goods and capitals, etc.), that individuals may perform. Individuals may take any legitimate steps within their property, including the self-defensive use of force, to protect whatever they have gained from such contracts. On the other hand, they do not deserve any special protection beyond the protection of the peaceful exchange: just because two (or more) individuals agreed something together at some time does not mean they are entitled to any protection from each other, from third parties, or from the accidents of life.
More generally, anarcho-capitalists do not recognize any monopoly authority for declaring any arrangement "official" as opposed to other "unofficial" things. Thus, for anarcho-capitalists, no-one has the rightful authority to enforce special benefits or penalties for "official" arrangements beyond the legal status already given any other private contractual arrangement.
One illustration might be the present debate over same-sex marriage. For anarcho-capitalists, both sides of the debate operate on fundamentally flawed premises. Opponents of same-sex marriage on the Right argue that the State should give special status to the family arrangements of heterosexual couples who enter into an "official" marriage, and inflict special penalties on same-sex couples by refusing to give legal status to their private family arrangements. Liberal advocates of same-sex marriage, on the other hand, argue that both heterosexual and same-sex couples should be allowed to enter into an "official" marriage and gain special benefits from the State. Anarcho-capitalists differ from both positions: they deny the legitimacy of distinguishing between "official" and "unofficial" family arrangements, and argue that no-one should receive special legal benefits. Thus, they argue that in a free society any group of consenting adults have the right to set down a private agreement about family arrangements, and that such private agreement is as good in legal terms as any other.
As with corporations, anarcho-capitalists assert that a private agreement between two or more parties does not place a duty on anyone else and that, rather, private individuals have every right to choose for themselves whether or not to smile upon the family arrangements that particular consenting adults make. Thus, the owner of an insurance company that disagrees with same-sex marriages should not be forced to extend benefits to same-sex partners; on the other hand, the owner of an insurance company who endorses same-sex marriages has every right to extend benefits to same-sex partners that he wishes. Gay liberation activists are free to boycott the first provider and support the second provider; Christian conservatives are free to boycott the second and support the first. The same principle applies to all other providers of goods and services, as well as employers and employees. Anarcho-capitalists argue that no restrictions should be imposed on their choice of customers, business partners, employees, etc. For example, an employer with racist views should be allowed to hire people based on racial standards, and a shopkeeper with very strong views for (or against) a certain religion should be allowed to refuse the entry of people with other religious views into his shop.
Anarcho-capitalists have very widely differing social views, ranging from the conservative and sometimes religious paleolibertarians to moderate and extreme social libertarians. As such, they tend to disagree about which of these arrangements are best. What they don't disagree about is which of these communities ought to be legal — assuming that they do not interfere with the property claims of other communities, they should all be allowed in a free society. Most anarcho-capitalists expect that different communities will tend to coalesce around different social norms and attitudes; within these communities, more common forms of private arrangements will have more extensive jurisprudence than less common forms, and thus lower enforcement costs, which might make some arrangements more common than others. The only important political issue, however, is that people are free from the threat of "illegitimate" violence no matter which community they live in, and that they can freely move from one community to another (if they have the resources to do so, that is). As long as that is the case, there may be many arguments about fairness or virtue, but there are no arguments of legality.
Anarcho-capitalism and violence
Anarcho-capitalists, like classical liberals in general, argue that the use of violence should be restricted to defense of property and self-defense of person. A few anarcho-capitalists are outright pacifists, but most defend the right to use force in defense of person or property against criminal acts, and many argue that the defensive use of force may include revolutionary violence against tyrannical regimes or even war against dangerous imperialist or terrorist foreign states. However, even though they might approve of violence as legitimate in certain cases; even though they may concede that governments, having monopolized the means of violence, are the ones who currently are to enact this violence; they believe that governments should yield this monopoly of violence, and let individuals organize freely to better handle such situations. One prominent example of such mixed feelings is the admiration that many anarcho-capitalists express for the American Revolution. Many anarcho-capitalists see the American Revolution as the legitimate act of individuals working together to fight against tyrannical restrictions of their liberties, but also sharply criticize the Revolutionaries for the some of the means used — taxes, conscription, inflationary money — and the limitations of the result achieved — a system involving a government.
However, whether or not a given group of anarcho-capitalists thinks that forceful resistance and revolutionary violence are legitimate, the vast majority of anarcho-capitalists think that gradual change through education and modification of public opinion are more reasonable as a strategy. The use of force is seen as a dangerous tool at best, and violent insurrection is usually seen as a last resort. Some anarcho-capitalists argue for a third option: simply circumventing the State by working to found a libertarian society in some territory uncontrolled by the state.
Criticisms of anarcho-capitalism
Anarcho-capitalism being a radical development of liberalism, the same general arguments for and against liberalism, laissez-faire capitalism and capitalism usually apply, except as regards the justice system, in which anarcho-capitalism is more specific and differs from the classical liberal tradition.
A common misunderstanding about liberalism in general, and anarcho-capitalism in particular, is to consider them as economic or political theories. They are not. They are theories of Law — of what is or isn't legitimate to do. This in particular is used to refute the affirmations according to which today's society or any society is already libertarian, since everyone is ultimately free to obey or disobey and chooses to abide by the rules of the system: indeed, libertarians have a theory of "natural law", i.e. law as it should be; and as long as positive law (law as it is acknowledged) doesn't match natural law, the society is not libertarian. In particular, the right of anyone to secede from a government he considers unfit should be respected (see secession and urban secession). If not, then non-cooperation is morally justified (see civil disobedience).
Parallel arguments are made by other movements with a similar belief in the existence of natural law, but a different conception of what that law implies for human behavior. For instance, the green movement contains a strong strain of green anarchism with a concept of natural law based on the science of ecology, and more minimalist advocates of eco-anarchism. The convergence between these movements and tenets of syndicalism and anarcho-capitalism leads some to observe that green politics can sometimes be libertarian, and some political positions, e.g. the green tax shift, resemble measures advised by libertarians and anarcho-capitalists. Such measures, very broadly stated, tend to degrade special status of debt (which takes a strong state to guarantee and collect) but sees profit as the basis of prosperity.
This common strength of movements with different concepts of natural law is one of the main arguments for anarcho-capitalism: it accommodates much diversity.
However they see diversity or biodiversity as a value, there is some role accepted by most anarcho-capitalists for strong centralization of some powers, particularly if those are achieved by persuasion and good service , and restricting centralized power would put restrictions on property rights.
Socialist critics argue that the freedoms supported by anarcho-capitalists extend to exploitative economic practices, and necessitate that people compete in order to survive. Socialist anarchists, sometimes called left anarchists by pro-capitalists, do not always consider anarcho-capitalism to be a form of anarchism. Anarcho-capitalists are not seen by them as a part of the traditional anarchist movement seen in the Spanish Revolution, May 1968 in France, or the Ukrainean uprising against the Bolsheviks under Nestor Makhno. All of these historical movements, and others, have allegedly been distinctly anti-capitalist.
Many criticisms of anarcho-capitalism apply more broadly to all libertarians, and can be found in the Libertarianism article.
Neither natural law nor utility
Criticism of anarcho-capitalism can focus on either of its two variants, or on the elements they share. The Natural Law approach encounters criticism from those who maintain that human beings cannot be considered property, even their own, and/or that private property in general is illegitimate (or immoral), or that private ownership of natural resources is so in particular. Natural Law anarcho-capitalism is also criticized by those who have a different view on what exactly is "natural law", and by those who believe that natural laws or rights do not exist (i.e. that laws and rights are a human invention, a product of human society).
The idea that people have the right to own the result of their work, which anarcho-capitalists champion after their own fashion, is differently-championed by a number of different political movements. For example, many branches of socialism hold that capitalism is unjust precisely because the workers have a right to own the results of their labor and because capitalism denies them this right (since the result of a worker's labor becomes the property of the businessman who hired him). Some critics of capitalism also argue that, while one has the right to own one's own labor, no such right exists in the case of natural resources; and since natural resources are ultimately required in the construction of any object, it can be concluded that all property is illegitimate.
Criticism of the utilitarian anarcho-capitalist approach argues that anarcho-capitalism does not maximize utility; indeed, most critics contend that it would fall far short of that goal. This kind of criticism comes from a variety of different political views and ideologies, and different critics have different views on which other system does or would do a better job of bringing the greatest benefits to the greatest number of people.
Defense agencies and monopoly
One of the most common criticisms of anarcho-capitalist prescriptions is that, in practice, the free market "defensive agencies" that they envision providing defense services will collapse into monopoly governments, creating (at best) local governments controlled by market wealth in the place of larger constitutional governments. This amounts to arguing either (a) that governments represent natural monopolies rather than coercive monopolies on the defensive use of force, (b) that anarcho-capitalism will make it more likely for coercive monopolies (in the form of local plutocracies) to form, or (c) that the distinction between natural and coercive monopolies is either specious or insufficient in determining whether or not an institution is legitimate. Considering the merits or demerits of this charge requires a consideration of the anarcho-capitalist understanding of monopoly.
Austrian School economists are not opposed to natural monopolies (or de facto monopolies, in which a company happens to currently be the only provider of some service due); rather, they are opposed only to coercive monopolies (or de jure monopolies, in which a company or a cartel of companies is guaranteed a monopoly through the use of political force). Because they see monopolies as inefficient, they also argue that monopolies can exist only transiently without government backing before the market opens up to competitors for economic reasons. In Austrian School view the market is an open process and argue that "natural monopoly" or "market failure" can be solved by the market itself. Most anarcho-capitalists do not fear the emergence of local monopolies or oligopolies, even in the "justice market", as long as the individual right to secede and choose a new defense agency, or start a new one yourself, is respected.
Anarcho-capitalists do not advocate the use of political force to prevent monopolies or break them up, but may support economic actions against natural monopolies that abuse their market position, such as boycotts and worker strikes.
Critics note that the above arguments do not explain why the state emerged in the first place and why anarcho-capitalist societies have not already outcompeted state societies, if anarcho-capitalism is superior in all aspects including defence. How an anarcho-capitalist society would defend itself against a state aggressor is unclear, especially as the state could ally itself with some of anarcho-capitalist organizations.
Anarcho-capitalist also seem to think that their society would have little internal violence. But piracy, military imperialism, and slavery can be very profitable. The rational economic decision for some of the organizations with strong military power would be to exploit organizations with weak military power. The anarcho-capitalist here seems to use a much criticized defense by socialists, human nature will change and anarcho-captitalists will not violate the rights of others even if it would be in their economical interest to do so.
Private defense agencies and coercion
Another related argument, characteristic of anarchists, is to deny the claim that natural monopolies cannot be coercive. This view holds that capitalist defense agencies and the owners who employ them would constitute de facto monopoly governments in themselves due both to the economic powers they hold and their exclusive right to legitimate defense of those properties they claim. Proponents of this view say that a cooperative group which sets to enforce its claims in such a manner, without accounting for the active involvement of dissenting parties, would amount to the very same monopoly on violence that anarcho-capitalists claim to reject.
Anarchists reject all forms of hierarchy as coercive, and seek to build direct democracy in all sectors of society including the economy. To them, ownership of productive property as a formula for control of economics is inherently unjust in that it guarantees a hierarchy by its very nature.
Anarchism vs. private property
Private property and freedom
Anarcho-capitalists and American individualist anarchists are the only groups to claim the title anarchist while expressly embracing private property and capital. Given this, many anarchists have questioned the legitimacy of the title "anarcho-capitalist", claiming that anarchism is essentially antithetical to capital relations due to their perception that capitalism inhibits individual freedom. Because these forms of anarchism originally arose, in part, to decry capital relations, anarchists of many different factions have a diverse set of arguments against property (which some distinguish from possession). All of these arguments, some of which occupy the space of several books, would thus apply as arguments against anarcho-capitalism. One brief example is that socialist anarchists do not consider property to be an institution that allows free relations between individuals. Rather, they consider private property to be an institution enforced of privilege, in much the same way that anarcho-capitalists believe that corporate welfare is enforced priviledge. As such, socialist anarchists consider many claims to the "defense" of property to be aggression, a form of coercive violence used to oppress non-owners.
Some of these conflicts are the result of debates over fundamental perspectives on issues of social organization, justice systems , property, self-defense, and so on. Many anarchists approach these from a socialist standpoint, whereas anarcho-capitalists consider any kind of collectivist politic as oppression of the political minority by the political majority. In response, anarchists tend to argue that anarcho-capitalism would involve the oppression of the political majority by the economic minority, and that collectives based on consensus would by definition not be able to oppress a political minority.
Other anarchists, like the individualists, are also wary of collectivist arguments, but critique anarcho-capitalism on other grounds. For example, some individualists argue from the labor theory of value to conclude that capital enforcement, and thus the institutions of rent and interest, are destructive of free market relations and thus involuntary. Others argue that wage labor is exploitative and thus incompatible with individual freedom. Still others, like the egoists, deny the validity of property claims altogether, arguing that they are mere "spooks", nothing more than figments of the mind that serve no essential purpose.
These debates, in turn, are often seen as fruitless by anarchists who view the "left-right spectrum" as an irreconcilable and artificial abstraction that simply institutionalizes debate about an existing property rights system, as opposed to examining the life-purposes fulfilled by such entities. One such example is "Greens and Libertarians: the Yin and Yang of our political future", in which Dan Sullivan , a Libertarian from the United States, explores common attitudes about monopoly and draws a new bottom-to-top spectrum, claiming that the Green and Libertarian political movements disagreed on the appropriate scale of solutions, but that they generally saw many of the same problems and disdained left-right arguments. The common belief in natural law made it at least possible to debate differences amiably, in a way that the traditional worker-manager divide did not permit.
The incompatibility of differing private property ideals
Anarcho-capitalism assumes property is a well defined and unambiguous concept. Critics, however, point out that the interpretation of property differs from society to society depending on the cultural, historical and technological circumstances. For example, before invention of the printing press the concept of copyright did not exist. Ownership of children (child labour) on the other hand was considered legitimate in Victorian times. Usury was considered immoral for much of medieval history. Many modern anarcho-capitalists would disagree with the above ideas, according to what they view as natural law or utilitarianism common to all human beings. That stance is to some extent arbitrary however because it simply reflects the modern day legal consensus in the West, a consensus enforced by a state monopoly.
In an anarcho-capitalist society individuals would, in the absence of an absolute authority on law, be tempted to mold the definition of property to suit their own needs. For example, someone could attempt to declare that they own the oxygen in a given area in an attempt to charge people for breathing it, in the same way that necessities like water or arable land are often restricted from those who require them. Critics say that legal chaos would ensue as people constantly redefine their terms and different cultural groups accuse each other of theft.
Technological limitations of private property
In a knowledge society information is likely to be the most economically relevant type of capital. Tangible goods (land,labour,energy) will still play a role, albeit a minor one in this post scarcity society. In a knowledge society communication technology is also likely to be highly advanced. In practise, excluding individuals from access to information will prove difficult, unless technological restrictions are imposed by some form of authoritarian government. An example are ad hoc wireless peer to peer networks. Unless an authority imposes a ban on transmitting in a certain frequency, people are free to use those networks to acquire information (such as software, music, movies, and books) anonymously, with little chance of being caught.
In the hypothetical anarcho-capitalist knowledge society individuals would be free to develop communication technologies without technological constraints (such as DRM), as constraints require a legal monopoly. Certain groups within this society would probably try to introduce constraints, but technology would still be developed outside those groups and competitive pressures would mean unconstrained technology would eventually leak back in. Enforcement of property rights would become impractical, and in a post scarcity society the very idea property itself would become meaningless. The anarcho-capitalist society would therefore mutate into de facto technological anarchism , or otherwise it would be forced to set up an authoritarian regime to uphold the concept of property artificially.
Certain critics like the Free Culture and Open society movements argue that, in technological societies, extreme forms of capitalism are too restrictive on intellectual property rights and therefore hostile to innovation and freedom of expression. They argue that intellectual property rights must balance the interests of creators with those of society. In their view, any form of creation builds on the work of previous creators (culture) and therefore can never be fully "owned" by an individual creator.
The free rider problem
Minarchist and statist critics often argue that the free rider problem makes anarcho-capitalism (and, by extension, any anti-statist political system) fundamentally unworkable in modern societies. They typically argue that there are some vital goods or services — such as civil or military defense, management of common environmental resources, or the provision of public goods such as roads or lighthouses — that cannot be effectively delivered without the backing of a government exercising effective territorial control, and so that abolishing the State as anarcho-capitalists demand will either lead to catastrophe or to the eventual re-establishment of monopoly governments as a necessary means to solving the coordination problems that the abolition of the State created.
Critics such as Robert Nozick, for example, have pointed out that it seems difficult for a stateless society to avoid free rider problems in defense; it is impossible for a defense agency to stop a missile from blowing up its customers without also preventing the same missile from blowing up the non-customers who live nearby; thus people could rationally choose not to pay the defense agency, on the assumption that enough other people will pay for it. But (these critics argue), that quickly creates a situation in which it is economically rational for each individual person to make a decision to benefit from the defense agency while withdrawing from paying for its services, leaving anyone who tries to provide effective defense without the funds to do so — unless it can somehow convince everyone in a territorial region to pay (in which case it succeeds by effectively re-creating a minarchist state).
Anarcho-capitalists frequently respond to the criticism by pointing out that the arguments directed by minarchists against non-governmental provision of defense are similar if not identical in form to the arguments directed against minarchists by those who favor government funding of roads, lighthouses, education, and other public goods. Similarly, they point out that free rider problems for defense already exist today, as states provide defense not only for their tax-paying citizens but also for children, visitors, and others who either don't pay taxes at all or receive more tax funds from the government than they pay in. Of course, these replies do not refute the free rider argument against anarcho-capitalism; but they do show that if there is a problem here, it's not a problem peculiar to anarcho-capitalism itself, and whatever arguments are given to show (for example) that lighthouses can be effectively provided without government intervention are likely to also show that defense can be as well.
Many anarcho-capitalists also endorse alternative means of defense (such as volunteer citizen militias in place of a large standing army) and suggest that without a government to engage in international power politics or modern large-scale overseas wars, there will be much less need to provide for military defense in the first place.
The development of the internet and cryptographic methods raises a new possibility for unregulated trades on the internet (or 'in cyberspace') called crypto-anarchism. Pseudonymous communication allows services, especially information services (e.g. consulting, translation, programming, etc.), to be provided without revealing the physical identity of the person providing a service in exchange for anonymous electronic money. Also available are private money alternatives . As laws can not be enforced without knowing the identity of people, the relevant laws become irrelevant. As even the nationality of the individuals is unknown, it is not even clear which country's laws will be ignored. Also, in the case of private money, taxation becomes problematic. In a sense, 'cyberspace' can be regarded as an independent territory. Crypto-anarchism is still in its infancy, and it is not clear how closely it will resemble libertarianism, anarchism, or anarcho-capitalism.
Main article: Anarcho-capitalist literature
- Anarchism.Net sells books
- Ancapistan Network comes with an ancap start-up, articles and links
- Anti-State.com, has one of the more active forums and infrequent theoretical and practical articles.
- Bertrand Lemennicier, a renowned French anarcho-capitalist economist and his links (English and French)
- Cuthhyra is a resource promoting anarcho-capitalism through essays, humour, quotes, links and more.
- Bryan Caplan's "Anarchism Theory FAQ" is written from the perspective of an anarcho-capitalist.
- LewRockwell.com is a widely read anarcho-capitalist news site with a Catholic slant.
- Panarchy, another way of considering things that is considered by some ultimately equivalent to anarcho-capitalism.
- David Hart's Gustave De Molinari And The Anti-Statist Liberal Tradition
- Liberalia, an anarcho-capitalist site
- The contrast of anarcho-capitalist and individualist anarchism is a matter of some debate. For one anarcho-capitalist view, see A Brief Introduction to Philosophical Anarchism.
- Samizdata is a group blog by "...a varied group [ that includes ] wild-eyed anarcho-capitalists"
- Strike The Root is an anarcho-capitalist news site with an atheistic slant.
- The Statrix is an anarcho-capitalist blog themed on the movie The Matrix
- Why I Call Myself A Free Market Anarchist And Why I Am One by Brian Miklethwait
- The "Critiques Of Libertarianism" website contains critiques of both libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism.
- Within libertarianism, anarcho-capitalism is contrasted with minarchism. Criticisms of anarcho-capitalism by minarchists include Robert J. Binidotto's The Contradiction in Anarchism, and Paul Birch's A Fatal Instability in Anarcho-Capitalism? and Anarcho-Capitalism Dissolves into City States.
- Anarchist critiques of anarcho-capitalism include Section F of the Anarchist FAQ and Jeff Draughn's Between Anarchism and Libertarianism: Defining a New Movement.
- Fake Anarchists and Libertarians
- Collection of critical articles
- Anarchy and Invention: How Does Somalia's Private Sector Cope Without Government? (PDF version) Something resembling rudimentary anarcho-capitalism is developing organically in Somalia HTML version
- Telecoms thriving in lawless Somalia Somali telecommunications infrastructure without government.
- American Anarchism 19th Century Individualist Anarchists influence on Anarcho-Capitalism
- American Liberal-Anarchism from The Conquest of Power, by Albert Weisbord
- Anarchist law
- Anarcho-capitalist terminology and symbolism
- classical liberalism
- Free market
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