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ApÃ©ndice A - Anarquismo y anarco-capitalismo
|Este artÃculo se estÃ¡ redactanto, por lo que puede estar incompleto. Si usted desea colaborar en Ã©l, la comunidad de Anarcopedia le estarÃ¡ agradecida.|
La razÃ³n de que exista este apÃ©ndice es para explicar por quÃ© el llamado anarco-capitalismo es una falacia. Aunque este tema ya fue tratado en la secciÃ³n F, pensamos que era preciso crear este apÃ©ndice para actualizar y sistematizar nuestra crÃtica de las "FAQ de la teorÃa anarquista", de Bryan Caplan. Las FAQ de Caplan constituyen el principal intento de dar algo asÃ como una justificaciÃ³n al oxÃmoron del anarco-capitalismo, y es por esto que es necesario explicar por medio de estas FAQ las falencias de esta tentativa.
Como se probarÃ¡, las FAQ de Caplan fallan en su intento de sostener que el anarco-capitalismo puede ser considerado parte del movimiento anarquista, y de hecho, sus lineamientos implican la re-escritura de la historia. Este apÃ©ndice comprende dos partes: una respuesta a la publicaciÃ³n mÃ¡s reciente de las FAQ de Caplan (v. 5.2), y una respuesta mÃ¡s antigua, a la versiÃ³n 4.1.1 (originalmente la secciÃ³n F.10 de las FAQ). La introducciÃ³n a la respuesta a la versiÃ³n 4.1.1 ya indica lo que la mayorÃa de los anarquistas piensan de las FAQ de Caplan y sus presunciones de "objetividad", por lo cual no lo repitiremos aquÃ.
Decidimos incluir esas rÃ©plicas en un apÃ©ndice dado que son en realidad un aÃ±adido del cuerpo principal de las FAQ. Aquellos interesados en saber por quÃ© el pensamiento de Caplan es falaz pueden explorar este apÃ©ndice; y quienes se interesan por la polÃtica anarquista pueden leer las FAQ sin tener que leer ademÃ¡s las discusiones entre anarquistas y capitalistas.
Debemos, quizÃ¡, agradecer a Caplan por darnos la oportunidad de explicar las ideas de personas como Proudhon y Tucker, permitiendo que, a travÃ©s de sus citas, lleguemos a una mayor audiencia para indicar que el anarquismo, en todas sus formas, es opuesto al capitalismo tanto hoy como ayer y maÃ±ana.
- 1 Respuestas a los errores y distorsiones de las "FAQ de la teorÃa anarquista" versiÃ³n 5.2 de Bryan Caplan
- 1.1 Anarquistas Individualistas y el movimiento socialista.
- 1.2 Â¿Por quÃ© la definiciÃ³n que Caplan da al socialismo es errÃ³nea?
- 1.3 Â¿Proudhon era socialista o capitalista?
- 1.4 La Propiedad segÃºn Tucker, Comunismo y Socialismo.
- 1.5 Anarquismo y anarco-capitalismo
- 1.6 ApÃ©ndice: Definiendo Anarquismo
- 2 Respuestas a los errores y distorsiones de las "FAQ de la teorÃa anarquista" versiÃ³n 4.1.1 de Bryan Caplan
Respuestas a los errores y distorsiones de las "FAQ de la teorÃa anarquista" versiÃ³n 5.2 de Bryan Caplan
|Este artÃculo se estÃ¡ redactanto, por lo que puede estar incompleto. Si usted desea colaborar en Ã©l, la comunidad de Anarcopedia le estarÃ¡ agradecida.|
Caplan, in his FAQ, attempts to rewrite anarchist history by trying to claim that the individualist anarchists were forerunners of the so-called "anarcho-capitalist" school. However, as is so often the case with Caplan's FAQ, nothing could be further from the truth.
In section 5 (What major subdivisions may be made among anarchists?) of his FAQ, Caplan writes that:
"A large segment of left-anarchists is extremely sceptical about the anarchist credentials of anarcho-capitalists, arguing that the anarchist movement has historically been clearly leftist. In my own view, it is necessary to re-write a great deal of history to maintain this claim."
He quotes Carl Landauer's European Socialism: A History of Ideas and Movements as evidence:
"To be sure, there is a difference between individualistic anarchism and collectivistic or communistic anarchism; Bakunin called himself a communist anarchist. But the communist anarchists also do not acknowledge any right to society to force the individual. They differ from the anarchistic individualists in their belief that men, if freed from coercion, will enter into voluntary associations of a communistic type, while the other wing believes that the free person will prefer a high degree of isolation. The communist anarchists repudiate the right of private property which is maintained through the power of the state. The individualist anarchists are inclined to maintain private property as a necessary condition of individual independence, without fully answering the question of how property could be maintained without courts and police."
Caplan goes on to state that "the interesting point is that before the emergence of modern anarcho-capitalism Landauer found it necessary to distinguish two strands of anarchism, only one of which he considered to be within the broad socialist tradition."
However, what Caplan seems to ignore is that both individualist and social anarchists agree that there is a difference between the two schools of anarchist thought! Some insight. Of course, Caplan tries to suggest that Landauer's non-discussion of the individualist anarchists is somehow "evidence" that their ideas are not socialistic. Firstly, Landauer's book is about European Socialism. Individualist anarchism was almost exclusively based in America and so hardly falls within the book's subject area. Secondly, from the index Kropotkin is mentioned on two pages (one of which a footnote). Does that mean Kropotkin was not a socialist? Of course not. It seems likely, therefore, that Landauer is using the common Marxist terminology of defining Marxism as Socialism, while calling other parts of the wider socialist movement by their self-proclaimed names of anarchism, syndicalism and so on. Hardly surprising that Kropotkin is hardly mentioned in a history of "Socialism" (i.e. Marxism).
As noted above, both schools of anarchism knew there was a difference between their ideas. Kropotkin and Tucker, for example, both distinguished between two types of anarchism as well as two types of socialism. Thus Caplan's "interesting point" is just a banality, a common fact which anyone with a basic familiarity of anarchist history would know. Kropotkin in his justly famous essay on Anarchism for The Encyclopaedia Britannica also found it necessary to distinguish two strands of anarchism. As regards Caplan's claims that only one of these strands of anarchism is "within the broad socialist tradition" all we can say is that both Kropotkin and Tucker considered their ideas and movement to be part of the broader socialist tradition. According to an expert on Individualist Anarchism, Tucker "looked upon anarchism as a branch of the general socialist movement" [James J. Martin, Men Against the State, pp. 226-7]. Other writers on Individualist Anarchism have noted the same fact (for example, Tucker "definitely thought of himself a socialist" [William O. Reichart, Partisans of Freedom: A Study in American Anarchism, p. 156]). As evidence of the anti-socialist nature of individualist anarchism, Caplan's interpretation of Landauer's words is fundamentally nonsense. If you look at the writings of people like Tucker you will see that they called themselves socialists and considered themselves part of the wider socialist movement. No one familiar with Tucker's works could overlook this fact.
Interestingly, Landauer includes Proudhon in his history and states that he was "the most profound thinker among pre-Marxian socialists." [p. 67] Given that Caplan elsewhere in his FAQ tries to co-opt Proudhon into the "anarcho"-capitalist school as well as Tucker, his citing of Landauer seems particularly dishonest. Landauer presents Proudhon's ideas in some depth in his work within a chapter headed "The three Anticapitalistic Movements." Indeed, he starts his discussion of Proudhon's ideas with the words "In France, post-Utopian socialism begins with Peter Joseph Proudhon." [p. 59] Given that both Kropotkin and Tucker indicated that Individualist Anarchism followed Proudhon's economic and political ideas the fact that Landauer states that Proudhon was a socialist implies that Individualist Anarchism is also socialist (or "Leftist" to use Caplan's term).
Tucker and the other individualist anarchists considered themselves as followers of Proudhon's ideas (as did Bakunin and Kropotkin). For example, Tucker stated that his journal Liberty was "brought into existence as a direct consequence of the teachings of Proudhon" and "lives principally to spread them." [cited by Paul Avrich in his "Introduction" to Proudhon and his "Bank of the People" by Charles A. Dana]
Obviously Landauer considered Proudhon a socialist and if Individualist Anarchism follows Proudhon's ideas then it, too, must be socialist.
Unsurprisingly, then, Tucker also considered himself a socialist. To state the obvious, Tucker and Bakunin both shared Proudhon's opposition to private property (in the capitalist sense of the word), although Tucker confused this opposition (and possibly the casual reader) by talking about possession as "property."
So, it appears that Caplan is the one trying to rewrite histor
Perhaps the problem lies with Caplan's "definition" of socialism. In section 7 (Is anarchism the same thing as socialism?) he states:
"If we accept one traditional definition of socialism -- 'advocacy of government ownership of the means of production' -- it seems that anarchists are not socialists by definition. But if by socialism we mean something more inclusive, such as 'advocacy of the strong restriction or abolition of private property,' then the question becomes more complex."
Which are hardly traditional definitions of socialism unless you are ignorant of socialist ideas! By definition one, Bakunin and Kropotkin are not socialists. As far as definition two goes, all anarchists were opposed to (capitalist) private property and argued for its abolition and its replacement with possession. The actual forms of possession differed from between anarchist schools of thought, but the common aim to end private property (capitalism) was still there. To quote Dana, in a pamphlet called "a really intelligent, forceful, and sympathetic account of mutual banking" by Tucker, individualist anarchists desire to "destroy the tyranny of capital,- that is, of property" by mutual credit. [Charles A. Dana, Proudhon and his "Bank of the People", p. 46]
Interestingly, this second definition of socialism brings to light a contradiction in Caplan's account. Elsewhere in the FAQ he notes that Proudhon had "ideas on the desirability of a modified form of private property." In fact, Proudhon did desire to restrict private property to that of possession, as Caplan himself seems aware. In other words, even taking his own definitions we find that Proudhon would be considered a socialist! Indeed, according to Proudhon, "all accumulated capital is collective property, no one may be its exclusive owner." [Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 44] Thus Jeremy Jennings' summary of the anarchist position on private property:
"The point to stress is that all anarchists [including Spooner and Tucker], and not only those wedded to the predominant twentieth-century strain of anarchist communism have been critical of private property to the extent that it was a source of hierarchy and privilege."
He goes on to state that anarchists like Tucker and Spooner "agreed with the proposition that property was legitimate only insofar as it embraced no more than the total product of individual labour." ["Anarchism", Contemporary Political Ideologies, Roger Eatwell and Anthony Wright (eds.), p. 132]
The idea that socialism can be defined as state ownership or even opposition to, or "abolition" of, all forms of property is not one which is historically accurate for all forms of socialism. Obviously communist-anarchists and syndicalists would dismiss out of hand the identification of socialism as state ownership, as would Individualist Anarchists like Tucker and Joseph Labadie. As for opposition or abolition of all forms of "private property" as defining socialism, such a position would have surprised communist-anarchists like Kropotkin (and, obviously, such self-proclaimed socialists as Tucker and Labadie).
For example, in Act for Yourselves Kropotkin explicitly states that a peasant "who is in possession of just the amount of land he can cultivate" would not be expropriated in an anarchist revolution. Similarly for the family "inhabiting a house which affords them just enough space . . . considered necessary for that number of people" and the artisan "working with their own tools or handloom" would be left alone [pp. 104-5]. He makes the same point in The Conquest of Bread [p. 61] Thus, like Proudhon, Kropotkin replaces private property with possession as the former is "theft" (i.e. it allows exploitation, which "indicate[s] the scope of Expropriation" namely "to everything that enables any man [or woman]. . . to appropriate the product of other's toil" [The Conquest of Bread, p. 61])
Even Marx and Engels did not define socialism in terms of the abolition of all forms of "private property." Like anarchists, they distinguished between that property which allows exploitation to occur and that which did not. Looking at the Communist Manifesto we find them arguing that the "distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property" and that "Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriation." Moreover, they correctly note that "property" has meant different things at different times and that the "abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of Communism" as "[a]ll property relations in the past have continually been subject to historical change consequent upon the change in historical conditions." As an example, they argue that the French Revolution "abolished feudal property in favour of bourgeois property." [The Manifesto of the Communist Party]
Which means that the idea that socialism means abolishing "private property" is only true for those kinds of property that are used to exploit the labour of others. Nicholas Walter sums up the anarchist position when he wrote that anarchists "are in favour of the private property which cannot be used by one person to exploit another." Reinventing Anarchy, p. 49] In other words, property which is no longer truly private as it is used by those who do not own it. In effect, the key point of Proudhon's What is Property?, namely the difference between possession and property. Which means that rather than desire the abolition of all forms of "private property," socialists (of all kinds, libertarian and authoritarian) desire the abolition of a specific kind of property, namely that kind which allows the exploitation and domination of others. To ignore this distinction is to paint a very misleading picture of what socialism stands for.
This leaves the "the strong restriction . . . of private property" definition of socialism. Here Caplan is on stronger ground. Unfortunately, by using that definition the Individualist Anarchists, like the Social Anarchists, are included in socialist camp, a conclusion he is trying to avoid. As every anarchist shares Proudhon's analysis that "property is theft" and that possession would be the basis of anarchism, it means that every anarchist is a socialist (as Labadie always claimed). This includes Tucker and the other Individualist Anarchists. For example, Joseph Labadie stated that "the two great sub-divisions of Socialists" (anarchists and State Socialists) both "agree that the resources of nature -- land, mines, and so forth -- should not be held as private property and subject to being held by the individual for speculative purposes, that use of these things shall be the only valid title, and that each person has an equal right to the use of all these things. They all agree that the present social system is one composed of a class of slaves and a class of masters, and that justice is impossible under such conditions." [What is Socialism?] Tucker himself argued that the anarchists' "occupancy and use" title to land and other scare material would involve a change (and, in effect, "restriction") of current (i.e. capitalist) property rights:
"It will be seen from this definition that Anarchistic property concerns only products. But anything is a product upon which human labour has been expended. It should be stated, however, that in the case of land, or of any other material the supply of which is so limited that all cannot hold it in unlimited quantities, Anarchism undertakes to protect no titles except such as are based on actual occupancy and use." [Instead of a Book, p. 61]
"no advocate of occupancy and use believes that it can be put in force until as a theory it has been accepted as generally . . . seen and accepted as is the prevailing theory of ordinary private property." [Occupancy and Use versus the Single Tax]
So, as can be seen, Individualist Anarchism rejected important aspects of capitalist property rights. Given that the Individualist Anarchists were writing at a time when agriculture was still the largest source of employment this position on land is much more significant than it first appears. In effect, Tucker and the other American Anarchists were advocating a massive and fundamental change in property-rights, in the social relationships they generated and in American society. This is, in other words, a very "strong restriction" in capitalist property rights (and it is this type of property Caplan is referring to, rather than "property" in the abstract).
However, such a "definition" of socialism as "restricting" private property is flawed as it does not really reflect anarchist ideas on the subject. Anarchists, in effect, reject the simplistic analysis that because a society (or thinker) accepts "property" that it (or he/she) is capitalistic. This is for two reasons. Firstly, the term "property" has been used to describe a wide range of situations and institutions. Thus Tucker used the term "property" to describe a society in which capitalist property rights were not enforced. Secondly, and far more importantly, concentrating on "property" rights in the abstract ignores the social relationships it generates. Freedom is product of social interaction, not one of isolation. This means that the social relationships generated in a given society are the key to evaluating it -- not whether it has "property" or not. To look at "property" in the abstract is to ignore people and the relationships they create between each other. And it is these relationships which determine whether they are free or not (and so exploited or not). Caplan's use of the anti-property rights "definition" of socialism avoids the central issue of freedom, of whether a given society generates oppression and exploitation or not. By looking at "property" Caplan ignores liberty, a strange but unsurprising position for a self-proclaimed "libertarian" to take.
Thus both of Caplan's "definitions" of socialism are lacking. A "traditional" one of government ownership is hardly that and the one based on "property" rights avoids the key issue while, in its own way, includes all the anarchists in the socialist camp (something Caplan, we are sure, did not intend).
So what would be a useful definition of socialism? From our discussion on property we can instantly reject Caplan's biased and simplistic starting points. In fact, a definition of socialism which most socialists would agree with would be one that stated that "the whole produce of labour ought to belong to the labourer" (to use words Thomas Hodgskin, an early English socialist, from his essay Labour Defended against the Claims of Capital). Tucker stated that "the bottom claim of Socialism" was "that labour should be put in possession of its own," that "the natural wage of labour is its product" (see his essay State Socialism and Anarchism). This definition also found favour with Kropotkin who stated that socialism "in its wide, generic, and true sense" was an "effort to abolish the exploitation of labour by capital." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 169]
From this position, socialists soon realised that (to again quote Kropotkin) "the only guarantee not to by robbed of the fruits of your labour is to possess the instruments of labour." [The Conquest of Bread, p. 145] Because of this socialism also could be defined as "the workers shall own the means of production," as this automatically meant that the product would go to the producer, and, in fact, this could also be a definition of socialism most socialists would agree with. The form of this ownership, however, differed from socialist tendency to socialist tendency (some, like Proudhon, proposed co-operative associations, others like Kropotkin communal ownership, others like the Social Democrats state ownership and so on). Moreover, as the economy changed in the 19th century, so did socialist ideas. Murray Bookchin gives a good summary of this process:
"Th[e] growing shift from artisanal to an industrial economy gave rise to a gradual but major shift in socialism itself. For the artisan, socialism meant producers' co-operatives composed of men who worked together in small shared collectivist associations . . . For the industrial proletarian, by contrast, socialism came to mean the formation of a mass organisation that gave factory workers the collective power to expropriate a plant that no single worker could properly own. . . They advocated public ownership of the means of production, whether by the state or by the working class organised in trade unions." [The Third Revolution, vol. 2, p. 262]
So, in this evolution of socialism we can place the various brands of anarchism. Individualist anarchism is clearly a form of artisanal socialism (which reflects its American roots) while communist anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism are forms of industrial (or proletarian) socialism (which reflects its roots in Europe). Proudhon's mutualism bridges these extremes, advocating as it does artisan socialism for small-scale industry and agriculture and co-operative associations for large-scale industry (which reflects the state of the French economy in the 1840s to 1860s). The common feature of all these forms of anarchism is opposition to usury and the notion that "workers shall own the means of production." Or, in Proudhon's words, "abolition of the proletariat." [Op. Cit., p. 179] As one expert on Proudhon points out, Proudhon's support for "association" (or "associative socialism") "anticipated all those later movements" which demanded "that the economy be controlled neither by private enterprise nor by the state . . . but by the producers" such as "the revolutionary syndicalists" and "the students of 1968." [K. Steven Vincent, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism, p. 165] "Industrial Democracy must. . . succeed Industrial Feudalism," to again quote Proudhon. [Op. Cit., p. 167]
Thus the common agreement between all socialists was that capitalism was based upon exploitation and wage slavery, that workers did not have access to the means of production and so had to sell themselves to the class that did. Thus we find Individualist Anarchists arguing that the whole produce of labour ought to belong to the labourer and opposing the exploitation of labour by capital. To use Tucker's own words:
"the fact that one class of men are dependent for their living upon the sale of their labour, while another class of men are relieved of the necessity of labour by being legally privileged to sell something that is not labour. . . . And to such a state of things I am as much opposed as any one. But the minute you remove privilege . . . every man will be a labourer exchanging with fellow-labourers . . . What Anarchistic-Socialism aims to abolish is usury . . . it wants to deprive capital of its reward." [Instead of a Book, p. 404]
By ending wage labour, anarchist socialism would ensure "The land to the cultivator. The mine to the miner. The tool to the labourer. The product to the producer" and so "everyone [would] be a proprietor" and so there would be "no more proletaires" (in the words of Ernest Lesigne, quoted favourably by Tucker as part of what he called a "summary exposition of Socialism from the standpoint of Anarchism" [Op. Cit., p. 17, p. 16]). Wage labour, and so capitalism, would be no more and "the product [would go] to the producer." The Individualist Anarchists, as Wm. Gary Kline correctly points out, "expected a society of largely self-employed workmen with no significant disparity of wealth between any of them." [The Individualist Anarchists, p. 104] In other words, the "abolition of the proletariat" as desired by Proudhon.
Therefore, like all socialists, Tucker wanted to end usury, ensure the "product to the producer" and this meant workers owning and controlling the means of production they used ("no more proletaires"). He aimed to do this by reforming capitalism away by creating mutual banks and other co-operatives (he notes that Individualist Anarchists followed Proudhon, who "would individualise and associate" the productive and distributive forces in society [as quoted by James J. Martin, Men Against the State, p. 228]). Here is Kropotkin on Proudhon's reformist mutualist-socialism:
"When he proclaimed in his first memoir on property that 'Property is theft', he meant only property in its present, Roman-law, sense of 'right of use and abuse'; in property-rights, on the other hand, understood in the limited sense of possession, he saw the best protection against the encroachments of the state. At the same time he did not want violently to dispossess the present owners of land, dwelling-houses, mines, factories and so on. He preferred to attain the same end by rendering capital incapable of earning interest." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlet's, pp. 290-1 -- emphasis added]
In other words, like all anarchists, Proudhon desired to see a society without capitalists and wage slaves ("the same end") but achieved by different means. When Proudhon wrote to Karl Marx in 1846 he made the same point:
"through Political Economy we must turn the theory of Property against Property in such a way as to create what you German socialists call community and which for the moment I will only go so far as calling liberty or equality." [Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 151]
In other words, Proudhon shared the common aim of all socialists (namely to abolish capitalism, wage labour and exploitation) but disagreed with the means. As can be seen, Tucker placed himself squarely in this tradition and so could (and did) call himself a socialist. Little wonder Joseph Labadie often said that "All anarchists are socialists, but not all socialists are anarchists." That Caplan tries to ignore this aspect of Individualist Anarchism in an attempt to co-opt it into "anarcho"-capitalism indicates well that his FAQ is not an objective or neutral work.
Caplan states that the "United States has been an even more fertile ground for individualist anarchism: during the 19th-century, such figures as Josiah Warren, Lysander Spooner, and Benjamin Tucker gained prominence for their vision of an anarchism based upon freedom of contract and private property."
However, as indicated, Tucker and Spooner did not support private property in the capitalist sense of the word and Kropotkin and Bakunin, no less than Tucker and Spooner, supported free agreement between individuals and groups. What does that prove? That Caplan seems more interested in the words Tucker and Proudhon used rather than the meanings they attached to them. Hardly convincing.
Perhaps Caplan should consider Proudhon's words on the subject of socialism:
"Modern Socialism was not founded as a sect or church; it has seen a number of different schools." [Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 177]
If he did perhaps he would who see that the Individualist Anarchists were a school of socialism, given their opposition to exploitation and the desire to see its end via their political, economic and social ideas.
In section 8 (Who are the major anarchist thinkers?), Caplan tries his best to claim that Proudhon was not really a socialist at all. He states that "Pierre[-Joseph] Proudhon is also often included [as a "left anarchist"] although his ideas on the desirability of a modified form of private property would lead some to exclude him from the leftist camp altogether."
"Some" of which group? Other anarchists, like Bakunin and Kropotkin? Obviously not -- Bakunin claimed that "Proudhon was the master of us all." According to George Woodcock Kropotkin was one of Proudhon's "confessed disciples." Perhaps that makes Bakunin and Kropotkin proto-capitalists? Obviously not. What about Tucker? He called Proudhon "the father of the Anarchistic school of Socialism." [Instead of a Book, p. 381] And, as we noted above, the socialist historian Carl Launder considered Proudhon a socialist, as did the noted British socialist G.D.H. Cole in his History of Socialist Thought (and in fact called him one of the "major prophets of Socialism."). What about Marx and Engels, surely they would be able to say if he was a socialist or not? According to Engels, Proudhon was "the Socialist of the small peasant and master-craftsman." [Marx and Engels, Selected Works, p. 260]
In fact, the only "left" (i.e. social) anarchist of note who seems to place Proudhon outside of the "leftist" (i.e. anarchist) camp is Murray Bookchin. In the second volume of The Third Revolution Bookchin argues that "Proudhon was no socialist" simply because he favoured "private property." [p. 39] However, he does note the "one moral provision [that] distinguished the Proudhonist contract from the capitalist contract" namely "it abjured profit and exploitation." [Op. Cit., pp. 40-41] -- which, of course, places him in the socialist tradition (see last section). Unfortunately, Bookchin fails to acknowledge this or that Proudhon was totally opposed to wage labour along with usury, which, again, instantly places him in ranks of socialism (see, for example, the General Idea of the Revolution, p. 98, pp. 215-6 and pp. 221-2, and his opposition to state control of capital as being "more wage slavery" and, instead, urging whatever capital required collective labour to be "democratically organised workers' associations" [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 62]).
Bookchin (on page 78) quotes Proudhon as arguing that "association" was "a protest against the wage system" which suggests that Bookchin's claims that Proudhonian "analysis minimised the social relations embodied in the capitalist market and industry" [p. 180] is false. Given that wage labour is the unique social relationship within capitalism, it is clear from Proudhon's works that he did not "minimise" the social relations created by capitalism, rather the opposite. Proudhon's opposition to wage labour clearly shows that he focused on the key social relation which capitalism creates -- namely the one of domination of the worker by the capitalist.
Bookchin does mention that Proudhon was "obliged in 1851, in the wake of the associationist ferment of 1848 and after, to acknowledge that association of some sort was unavoidable for large-scale enterprises." [p. 78] However, Proudhon's support of industrial democracy pre-dates 1851 by some 11 years. He stated in What is Property? that he "preach[ed] emancipation to the proletaires; association to the labourers" and that "leaders" within industry "must be chosen from the labourers by the labourers themselves." [p. 137 and p. 414] It is significant that the first work to call itself anarchist opposed property along with the state, exploitation along with oppression and supported self-management against hierarchical relationships within production ("anarcho"-capitalists take note!). Proudhon also called for "democratically organised workers' associations" to run large-scale industry in his 1848 Election Manifesto. [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 62] Given that Bookchin considers as "authentic artisanal socialists" those who called for collective ownership of the means of production, but "exempted from collectivisation the peasantry" [p. 4] we have to conclude that Proudhon was such an "authentic" artisanal socialist! Indeed, at one point Bookchin mentions the "individualistic artisanal socialism of Proudhon" [p. 258] which suggests a somewhat confused approach to Proudhon's ideas!
In effect, Bookchin makes the same mistake as Caplan; but, unlike Caplan, he should know better. Rather than not being a socialist, Proudhon is obviously an example of what Bookchin himself calls "artisanal socialism" (as Marx and Engels recongised). Indeed, he notes that Proudhon was its "most famous advocate" and that "nearly all so-called 'utopian' socialists, even [Robert] Owen -- the most labour-orientated -- as well as Proudhon -- essentially sought the equitable distribution of property." [p. 273] Given Proudhon's opposition to wage labour and capitalist property and his support for industrial democracy as an alternative, Bookchin's position is untenable -- he confuses socialism with communism, rejecting as socialist all views which are not communism (a position he shares with right-libertarians).
He did not always hold this position, though. He writes in The Spanish Anarchists that:
"Proudhon envisions a free society as one in which small craftsmen, peasants, and collectively owned industrial enterprises negotiate and contract with each other to satisfy their material needs. Exploitation is brought to an end. . . Although these views involve a break with capitalism, by no means can they be regarded as communist ideas. . ." [p. 18]
In contrast to some of Bookchin's comments (and Caplan) K. Steven Vincent is correct to argue that, for Proudhon, justice "applied to the economy was associative socialism" and so Proudhon is squarely in the socialist camp [Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism, p. 228].
However, perhaps all these "leftists" are wrong (bar Bookchin, who is wrong, at least some of the time). Perhaps they just did not understand what socialism actually is (and as Proudhon stated "I am socialist" [Selected Writing of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 195] and described himself as a socialist many times this also applies to Proudhon himself!). So the question arises, did Proudhon support private property in the capitalist sense of the word? The answer is no. To quote George Woodcock summary of Proudhon's ideas on this subject we find:
"He [Proudhon] was denouncing the property of a man who uses it to exploit the labour of others, without an effort on his own part, property distinguished by interest and rent, by the impositions of the non-producer on the producer. Towards property regarded as 'possession,' the right of a man to control his dwelling and the land and tools he needs to live, Proudhon had no hostility; indeed he regarded it as the cornerstone of liberty." ["On Proudhon's 'What is Property?'", The Raven No. 31, pp. 208-9]
George Crowder makes the same point:
"The ownership he opposes is basically that which is unearned . . . including such things as interest on loans and income from rent. This is contrasted with ownership rights in those goods either produced by the work of the owner or necessary for that work, for example his dwelling-house, land and tools. Proudhon initially refers to legitimate rights of ownership of these goods as 'possession,' and although in his latter work he calls this 'property,' the conceptual distinction remains the same." [Classical Anarchism, pp. 85-86]
Indeed, according to Proudhon himself, the "accumulation of capital and instrument is what the capitalist owes to the producer, but he never pays him for it. It is this fraudulent deprivation which causes the poverty of the worker, the opulence of the idle and the inequality of their conditions. And it is this, above all, which has so aptly been called the exploitation of man by man." [Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 43]
He called his ideas on possession a "third form of society, the synthesis of communism and property" and calls it "liberty." [The Anarchist Reader, p. 68]. He even goes so far as to say that property "by its despotism and encroachment, soon proves itself oppressive and anti-social." [Op. Cit., p. 67] Opposing private property he thought that "all accumulated capital is collective property, no one may be its exclusive owner." Indeed, he considered the aim of his economic reforms "was to rescue the working masses from capitalist exploitation." [Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 44, p. 80]
In other words, Proudhon considered capitalist property to be the source of exploitation and oppression and he opposed it. He explicitly contrasts his ideas to that of capitalist property and rejects it as a means of ensuring liberty.
Caplan goes on to claim that "[s]ome of Proudhon's other heterodoxies include his defence of the right of inheritance and his emphasis on the genuine antagonism between state power and property rights."
However, this is a common anarchist position. Anarchists are well aware that possession is a source of independence within capitalism and so should be supported. As Albert Meltzer puts it:
"All present systems of ownership mean that some are deprived of the fruits of their labour. It is true that, in a competitive society, only the possession of independent means enables one to be free of the economy (that is what Proudhon meant when, addressing himself to the self-employed artisan, he said 'property is liberty', which seems at first sight a contradiction with his dictum that it was theft)"[Anarchism: Arguments For and Against, pp. 12-13]
Malatesta makes the same point:
"Our opponents . . . are in the habit of justifying the right to private property by stating that property is the condition and guarantee of liberty.
"And we agree with them. Do we not say repeatedly that poverty is slavery?
"But then why do we oppose them?
"The reason is clear: in reality the property that they defend is capitalist property. . . which therefore depends on the existence of a class of the disinherited and dispossessed, forced to sell their labour to the property owners for a wage below its real value. . . This means that workers are subjected to a kind of slavery." [The Anarchist Revolution, p. 113]
As does Kropotkin:
"the only guarantee not to be robbed of the fruits of your labour is to possess the instruments of labour. . . man really produces most when he works in freedom, when he has a certain choice in his occupations, when he has no overseer to impede him, and lastly, when he sees his work bringing profit to him and to others who work like him, but bringing in little to idlers." [The Conquest of Bread, p. 145]
Perhaps this makes these three well known anarcho-communists "really" proto-"anarcho"-capitalists as well? Obviously not. Instead of wondering if his ideas on what socialism is are wrong, he tries to rewrite history to fit the anarchist movement into his capitalist ideas of what anarchism, socialism and whatever are actually like.
In addition, we must point out that Proudhon's "emphasis on the genuine antagonism between state power and property rights" came from his later writings, in which he argued that property rights were required to control state power. In other words, this "heterodoxy" came from a period in which Proudhon did not think that state could be abolished and so "property is the only power that can act as a counterweight to the State." [Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 140] Of course, this "later" Proudhon also acknowledged that property was "an absolutism within an absolutism," "by nature autocratic" and that its "politics could be summed up in a single word," namely "exploitation." [p. 141, p. 140, p. 134]
Moreover, Proudhon argues that "spread[ing] it more equally and establish[ing] it more firmly in society" is the means by which "property" "becomes a guarantee of liberty and keeps the State on an even keel." [p. 133, p. 140] In other words, rather than "property" as such limiting the state, it is "property" divided equally through society which is the key, without concentrations of economic power and inequality which would result in exploitation and oppression. Therefore, "[s]imple justice. . . requires that equal division of land shall not only operate at the outset. If there is to be no abuse, it must be maintained from generation to generation." [Op. Cit., p. 141, p. 133, p. 130].
Interestingly, one of Proudhon's "other heterodoxies" Caplan does not mention is his belief that "property" was required not only to defend people against the state, but also capitalism. He saw society dividing into "two classes, one of employed workers, the other of property-owners, capitalists, entrepreneurs." He thus recognised that capitalism was just as oppressive as the state and that it assured "the victory of the strong over the weak, of those who property over those who own nothing." [as quoted by Alan Ritter, The Political Thought of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 121] Thus Proudhon's argument that "property is liberty" is directed not only against the state, but also against social inequality and concentrations of economic power and wealth.
Indeed, he considered that "companies of capitalists" were the "exploiters of the bodies and souls of their wage earners" and an outrage on "human dignity and personality." Instead of wage labour he thought that the "industry to be operated, the work to be done, are the common and indivisible property of all the participant workers." In other words, self-management and workers' control. In this way there would be "no more government of man by man, by means of accumulation of capital" and the "social republic" established. Hence his support for co-operatives:
"The importance of their work lies not in their petty union interests, but in their denial of the rule of capitalists, usurers, and governments, which the first [French] revolution left undisturbed. Afterwards, when they have conquered the political lie. . . the groups of workers should take over the great departments of industry which are their natural inheritance." [cited in Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, E. Hymans, pp. 190-1, and Anarchism, George Woodcock, p. 110, 112]
In other words, a socialist society as workers would no longer be separated from the means of production and they would control their own work (the "abolition of the proletariat," to use Proudhon's expression). This would mean recognising that "the right to products is exclusive - jus in re; the right to means is common - jus ad rem" [cited by Woodcock, Anarchism, p. 96] which would lead to self-management:
"In democratising us, revolution has launched us on the path of industrial democracy." [Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 63]
As Woodcock points out, in Proudhon's "picture of the ideal society of the ideal society it is this predominance of the small proprietor, the peasant or artisan, that immediately impresses one" with "the creation of co-operative associations for the running of factories and railways." ["On Proudhon's 'What is Property?'", Op. Cit., p. 209, p. 210]
All of which hardly supports Caplan's attempts to portray Proudhon as "really" a capitalist all along. Indeed, the "later" Proudhon's support for protectionism [Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 187], the "fixing after amicable discussion of a maximum and minimum profit margin," "the organising of regulating societies" and that mutualism would "regulate the market" [Op. Cit., p. 70] and his obvious awareness of economic power and that capitalism exploited and oppressed the wage-worker suggests that rather than leading some to exclude Proudhon from the "leftist camp" altogether, it is a case of excluding him utterly from the "rightist camp" (i.e. "anarcho"-capitalism). Therefore Caplan's attempt to claim (co-opt would be better) Proudhon for "anarcho"-capitalism indicates how far Caplan will twist (or ignore) the evidence. As would quickly become obvious when reading his work, Proudhon would (to use Caplan's words) "normally classify government, property, hierarchical organisations . . . as 'rulership.'"
To summarise, Proudhon was a socialist and Caplan's attempts to rewrite anarchist and socialist history fails. Proudhon was the fountainhead for both wings of the anarchist movement and What is Property? "embraces the core of nineteenth century anarchism. . . [bar support for revolution] all the rest of later anarchism is there, spoken or implied: the conception of a free society united by association, of workers controlling the means of production. . . [this book] remains the foundation on which the whole edifice of nineteenth century anarchist theory was to be constructed." [Op. Cit., p. 210]
Little wonder Bakunin stated that his ideas were Proudhonism "widely developed and pushed to these, its final consequences." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 198]
La Propiedad segÃºn Tucker, Comunismo y Socialismo.
That Tucker called himself a socialist is quickly seen from Instead of A Book or any of the books written about Tucker and his ideas. That Caplan seeks to deny this means that either Caplan has not looked at either Instead of a Book or the secondary literature (with obvious implications for the accuracy of his FAQ) or he decided to ignore these facts in favour of his own ideologically tainted version of history (again with obvious implications for the accuracy and objectivity of his FAQ).
Caplan, in an attempt to deny the obvious, quotes Tucker from 1887 as follows in section 14 (What are the major debates between anarchists? What are the recurring arguments?):
"It will probably surprise many who know nothing of Proudhon save his declaration that 'property is robbery' to learn that he was perhaps the most vigorous hater of Communism that ever lived on this planet. But the apparent inconsistency vanishes when you read his book and find that by property he means simply legally privileged wealth or the power of usury, and not at all the possession by the labourer of his products."
You will instantly notice that Proudhon does not mean by property "the possession of the labourer of his products." However, Proudhon did include in his definition of "property" the possession of the capital to steal profits from the work of the labourers. As is clear from the quote, Tucker and Proudhon was opposed to capitalist property ("the power of usury"). From Caplan's own evidence he proves that Tucker was not a capitalist!
But lets quote Tucker on what he meant by "usury":
"There are three forms of usury, interest on money, rent on land and houses, and profit in exchange. Whoever is in receipt of any of these is a usurer." [cited in Men against the State by James J. Martin, p. 208]
Which can hardly be claimed as being the words of a person who supports capitalism!
And we should note that Tucker considered both government and capital oppressive. He argued that anarchism meant "the restriction of power to self and the abolition of power over others. Government makes itself felt alike in country and in city, capital has its usurious grip on the farm as surely as on the workshop and the oppressions and exactions of neither government nor capital can be avoided by migration." [Instead of a Book, p. 114]
And, we may add, since when was socialism identical to communism? Perhaps Caplan should actually read Proudhon and the anarchist critique of private property before writing such nonsense? We have indicated Proudhon's ideas above and will not repeat ourselves. However, it is interesting that this passes as "evidence" of "anti-socialism" for Caplan, indicating that he does not know what socialism or anarchism actually is. To state the obvious, you can be a hater of "communism" and still be a socialist!
So this, his one attempt to prove that Tucker, Spooner and even Proudhon were really capitalists by quoting the actual people involved is a failure.
He asserts that for any claim that "anarcho"-capitalism is not anarchist is wrong because "the factual supporting arguments are often incorrect. For example, despite a popular claim that socialism and anarchism have been inextricably linked since the inception of the anarchist movement, many 19th-century anarchists, not only Americans such as Tucker and Spooner, but even Europeans like Proudhon, were ardently in favour of private property (merely believing that some existing sorts of property were illegitimate, without opposing private property as such)."
The facts supporting the claim of anarchists being socialists, however, are not "incorrect." It is Caplan's assumption that socialism is against all forms of "property" which is wrong. To state the obvious, socialism does not equal communism (and anarcho-communists support the rights of workers to own their own means of production if they do not wish to join communist communes -- see above). Thus Proudhon was renown as the leading French Socialist theorist when he was alive. His ideas were widely known in the socialist movement and in many ways his economic theories were similar to the ideas of such well known early socialists as Robert Owen and William Thompson. As Kropotkin notes:
"It is worth noticing that French mutualism had its precursor in England, in William Thompson, who began by mutualism before he became a communist, and in his followers John Gray (A Lecture on Human Happiness, 1825; The Social System, 1831) and J. F. Bray (Labour's Wrongs and Labour's Remedy, 1839)." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 291]
Perhaps Caplan will now claim Robert Owen and William Thompson as capitalists?
Tucker called himself a socialist on many different occasions and stated that there were "two schools of Socialistic thought . . . State Socialism and Anarchism." And stated in very clear terms that:
"liberty insists on Socialism. . . - true Socialism, Anarchistic Socialism: the prevalence on earth of Liberty, Equality, and Solidarity." [Instead of a Book, p. 363]
And like all socialists, he opposed capitalism (i.e. usury and wage slavery) and wished that "there should be no more proletaires." [see the essay "State Socialism and Anarchism" in Instead of a Book, p. 17]
Caplan, of course, is well aware of Tucker's opinions on the subject of capitalism and private property. In section 13 (What moral justifications have been offered for anarchism?) he writes:
"Still other anarchists, such as Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker as well as Proudhon, have argued that anarchism would abolish the exploitation inherent in interest and rent simply by means of free competition. In their view, only labour income is legitimate, and an important piece of the case for anarchism is that without government-imposed monopolies, non-labour income would be driven to zero by market forces. It is unclear, however, if they regard this as merely a desirable side effect, or if they would reject anarchism if they learned that the predicted economic effect thereof would not actually occur."
Firstly, we must point that Proudhon, Tucker and Spooner considered profits to be exploitative as well as interest and rent. Hence we find Tucker arguing that a "just distribution of the products of labour is to be obtained by destroying all sources of income except labour. These sources may be summed up in one word, -- usury; and the three principle forms of usury are interest, rent and profit." [Instead of a Book, p. 474] To ignore the fact that Tucker also considered profit as exploitative seems strange, to say the least, when presenting an account of his ideas.
Secondly, rather than it being "unclear" whether the end of usury was "merely a desirable side effect" of anarchism, the opposite is the case. Anyone reading Tucker (or Proudhon) would quickly see that their politics were formulated with the express aim of ending usury. Just one example from hundreds:
"Liberty will abolish interest; it will abolish profit; it will abolish monopolistic rent; it will abolish taxation; it will abolish the exploitation of labour; it will abolish all means whereby any labourer can be deprived of any of his product." [Instead of a Book, p. 347]
While it is fair to wonder whether these economic effects would result from the application of Tucker's ideas, it is distinctly incorrect to claim that the end of usury was considered in any way as a "desirable side effect" of them. Rather, in their eyes, the end of usury was one of the aims of Individualist Anarchism, as can be clearly seen. As Wm. Gary Kline points out in his excellent account of Individualist Anarchism:
"the American anarchists exposed the tension existing in liberal thought between private property and the ideal of equal access. The Individualist Anarchists were, at least, aware that existing conditions were far from ideal, that the system itself worked against the majority of individuals in their efforts to attain its promises. Lack of capital, the means to creation and accumulation of wealth, usually doomed a labourer to a life of exploitation. This the anarchists knew and they abhorred such a system." [The Individualist Anarchists, p. 102]
This is part of the reason why they considered themselves socialists and, equally as important, they were considered socialists by other socialists such as Kropotkin and Rocker. The Individualist Anarchists, as can be seen, fit very easily into Kropotkin's comments that "the anarchists, in common with all socialists. . . maintain that the now prevailing system of private ownership in land, and our capitalist production for the sake of profits, represent a monopoly which runs against both the principles of justice and the dictates of utility." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 285] Given that they considered profits as usury and proposed "occupancy and use" in place of the prevailing land ownership rights they are obviously socialists.
That the end of usury was considered a clear aim of his politics explains Tucker's 1911 postscript to his famous essay "State Socialism and Anarchism" in which he argues that "concentrated capital" itself was a barrier towards anarchy. He argued that the "trust is now a monster which. . . even the freest competition, could it be instituted, would be unable to destroy." While, in an earlier period, big business "needed the money monopoly for its sustenance and its growth" its size now ensured that it "sees in the money monopoly a convenience, to be sure, but no longer a necessity. It can do without it." This meant that the way was now "not so clear." Indeed, he argued that the problem of the trusts "must be grappled with for a time solely by forces political or revolutionary" as the trust had moved beyond the reach of "economic forces" simply due to the concentration of resources in its hands. ["Postscript" to State Socialism and Anarchism]
If the end of "usury" was considered a "side-effect" rather than an objective, then the problems of the trusts and economic inequality/power ("enormous concentration of wealth") would not have been an issue. That the fact of economic power was obviously considered a hindrance to anarchy suggests the end of usury was a key aim, an aim which "free competition" in the abstract could not achieve. Rather than take the "anarcho"-capitalist position that massive inequality did not affect "free competition" or individual liberty, Tucker obviously thought it did and, therefore, "free competition" (and so the abolition of the public state) in conditions of massive inequality would not create an anarchist society.
By trying to relegate an aim to a "side-effect," Caplan distorts the ideas of Tucker. Indeed, his comments on trusts, "concentrated capital" and the "enormous concentration of wealth" indicates how far Individualist Anarchism is from "anarcho"-capitalism (which dismisses the question of economic power Tucker raises out of hand). It also indicates the unity of political and economic ideas, with Tucker being aware that without a suitable economic basis individual freedom was meaningless. That an economy (like capitalism) with massive inequalities in wealth and so power was not such a basis is obvious from Tucker's comments.
Thirdly, what did Tucker consider as a government-imposed monopoly? Private property, particularly in land! As he states "Anarchism undertakes to protect no titles except such as are based upon actual occupancy and use" and that anarchism "means the abolition of landlordism and the annihilation of rent." [Instead of a Book, p. 61, p. 300] This, to state the obvious, is a restriction on "private property" (in the capitalist sense), which, if we use Caplan's definition of socialism, means that Tucker was obviously part of the "Leftist camp" (i.e. socialist camp). In other words, Tucker considered capitalism as the product of statism while socialism (libertarian of course) would be the product of anarchy.
So, Caplan's historical argument to support his notion that anarchism is simply anti-government fails. Anarchism, in all its many forms, have distinct economic as well as political ideas and these cannot be parted without loosing what makes anarchism unique. In particular, Caplan's attempt to portray Proudhon as an example of a "pure" anti-government anarchism also fails, and so his attempt to co-opt Tucker and Spooner also fails (as noted, Tucker cannot be classed as a "pure" anti-government anarchist either). If Proudhon was a socialist, then it follows that his self-proclaimed followers will also be socialists -- and, unsurprisingly, Tucker called himself a socialist and considered anarchism as part of the wider socialist movement.
"Like Proudhon, Tucker was an 'un-marxian socialist'" [William O. Reichart, Partisans of Freedom: A Study in American Anarchism, p. 157]
Anarquismo y anarco-capitalismo
aplan tries to build upon the non-existent foundation of Tucker's and Proudhon's "capitalism" by stating that:
"Nor did an ardent anarcho-communist like Kropotkin deny Proudhon or even Tucker the title of 'anarchist.' In his Modern Science and Anarchism, Kropotkin discusses not only Proudhon but 'the American anarchist individualists who were represented in the fifties by S.P. Andrews and W. Greene, later on by Lysander Spooner, and now are represented by Benjamin Tucker, the well-known editor of the New York Liberty.' Similarly in his article on anarchism for the 1910 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Kropotkin again freely mentions the American individualist anarchists, including 'Benjamin Tucker, whose journal Liberty was started in 1881 and whose conceptions are a combination of those of Proudhon with those of Herbert Spencer.'"
There is a nice historical irony in Caplan's attempts to use Kropotkin to prove the historical validity of "anarcho"-capitalism. This is because while Kropotkin was happy to include Tucker into the anarchist movement, Tucker often claimed that an anarchist could not be a communist! In State Socialism and Anarchism he stated that anarchism was "an ideal utterly inconsistent with that of those Communists who falsely call themselves Anarchists while at the same time advocating a regime of Archism fully as despotic as that of the State Socialists themselves." ["State Socialism and Anarchism", Instead of a Book, pp. 15-16]
While modern social anarchists follow Kropotkin in not denying Proudhon or Tucker as anarchists, we do deny the anarchist title to supporters of capitalism. Why? Simply because anarchism as a political movement (as opposed to a dictionary definition) has always been anti-capitalist and against capitalist wage slavery, exploitation and oppression. In other words, anarchism (in all its forms) has always been associated with specific political and economic ideas. Both Tucker and Kropotkin defined their anarchism as an opposition to both state and capitalism. To quote Tucker on the subject:
"Liberty insists. . . [on] the abolition of the State and the abolition of usury; on no more government of man by man, and no more exploitation of man by man." [cited in Native American Anarchism - A Study of Left-Wing American Individualism by Eunice Schuster, p. 140]
Kropotkin defined anarchism as "the no-government system of socialism." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 46] Malatesta argued that "when [people] sought to overthrow both State and property -- then it was anarchy was born" and, like Tucker, aimed for "the complete destruction of the domination and exploitation of man by man." [Life and Ideas, p. 19, pp. 22-28] Indeed every leading anarchist theorist defined anarchism as opposition to government and exploitation. Thus Brain Morris' excellent summary:
"Another criticism of anarchism is that it has a narrow view of politics: that it sees the state as the fount of all evil, ignoring other aspects of social and economic life. This is a misrepresentation of anarchism. It partly derives from the way anarchism has been defined [in dictionaries, for example], and partly because Marxist historians have tried to exclude anarchism from the broader socialist movement. But when one examines the writings of classical anarchists. . . as well as the character of anarchist movements. . . it is clearly evident that it has never had this limited vision. It has always challenged all forms of authority and exploitation, and has been equally critical of capitalism and religion as it has been of the state." ["Anthropology and Anarchism," Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed no. 45, p. 40]
Therefore anarchism was never purely a political concept, but always combined an opposition to oppression with an opposition to exploitation. Little wonder, then, that both strands of anarchism have declared themselves "socialist" and so it is "conceptually and historically misleading" to "create a dichotomy between socialism and anarchism." [Brian Morris, Op. Cit., p. 39] Needless to say, anarchists oppose state socialism just as much as they oppose capitalism. All of which means that anarchism and capitalism are two different political ideas with specific (and opposed) meanings -- to deny these meanings by uniting the two terms creates an oxymoron, one that denies the history and the development of ideas as well as the whole history of the anarchist movement itself.
As Kropotkin knew Proudhon to be an anti-capitalist, a socialist (but not a communist) it is hardly surprising that he mentions him. Again, Caplan's attempt to provide historical evidence for a "right-wing" anarchism fails. Funny that the followers of Kropotkin are now defending individualist anarchism from the attempted "adoption" by supporters of capitalism! That in itself should be enough to indicate Caplan's attempt to use Kropotkin to give credence to "anarcho"-capitalist co-option of Proudhon, Tucker and Spooner fails.
Interestingly, Caplan admits that "anarcho"-capitalism has recent origins. In section 8 (Who are the major anarchist thinkers?) he states:
"Anarcho-capitalism has a much more recent origin in the latter half of the 20th century. The two most famous advocates of anarcho-capitalism are probably Murray Rothbard and David Friedman. There were however some interesting earlier precursors, notably the Belgian economist Gustave de Molinari. Two other 19th-century anarchists who have been adopted by modern anarcho-capitalists with a few caveats are Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner. (Some left-anarchists contest the adoption, but overall Tucker and Spooner probably have much more in common with anarcho-capitalists than with left-anarchists.)"
Firstly, as he states, Tucker and Spooner have been "adopted" by the "anarcho"-capitalist school. Being dead they have little chance to protest such an adoption, but it is clear that they considered themselves as socialists, against capitalism (it may be claimed that Spooner never called himself a socialist, but then again he never called himself an anarchist either; it is his strong opposition to wage labour that places him in the socialist camp). Secondly, Caplan lets the cat out the bag by noting that this "adoption" involved a few warnings - more specifically, the attempt to rubbish or ignore the underlying socio-economic ideas of Tucker and Spooner and the obvious anti-capitalist nature of their vision of a free society.
Individualist anarchists are, indeed, more similar to classical liberals than social anarchists. Similarly, social anarchists are more similar to Marxists than Individualist anarchists. But neither statement means that Individualist anarchists are capitalists, or social anarchists are state socialists. It just means some of their ideas overlap -- and we must point out that Individualist anarchist ideas overlap with Marxist ones, and social anarchist ones with liberal ones (indeed, one interesting overlap between Marxism and Individualist Anarchism can be seen from Marx's comment that abolishing interest and inter-bearing capital "means the abolition of capital and of capitalist production itself." [Theories of Surplus Value, vol. 3, p. 472] Given that Individualist Anarchism aimed to abolish interest (along with rent and profit) it would suggest, from a Marxist position, that it is a socialist theory).
So, if we accept Kropotkin's summary that Individualist Anarchism ideas are "partly those of Proudhon, but party those of Herbert Spencer" [Kropotkins' Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 173], what the "anarcho"-capitalist school is trying to is to ignore the Proudhonian (i.e. socialist) aspect of their theories. However, that just leaves Spencer and Spencer was not an anarchist, but a right-wing Libertarian, a supporter of capitalism (a "champion of the capitalistic class" as Tucker put it). In other words, to ignore the socialist aspect of Individualist Anarchism (or anarchism in general) is to reduce it to liberalism, an extreme version of liberalism, but liberalism nevertheless -- and liberalism is not anarchism. To reduce anarchism so is to destroy what makes anarchism a unique political theory and movement:
"anarchism does derive from liberalism and socialism both historically and ideologically . . . In a sense, anarchists always remain liberals and socialists, and whenever they reject what is good in either they betray anarchism itself . . . We are liberals but more so, and socialists but more so." [Nicholas Walter, Reinventing Anarchy, p. 44]
In other words, "anarcho"-capitalism is a development of ideas which have little in common with anarchism. Jeremy Jennings, in his overview of anarchist theory and history, agrees:
"It is hard not to conclude that these ideas ["anarcho"-capitalism] -- with roots deep in classical liberalism -- are described as anarchist only on the basis of a misunderstanding of what anarchism is." [Contemporary Political Ideologies, Roger Eatwell and Anthony Wright (eds.), p. 142]
Barbara Goodwin also agrees that the "anarcho"-capitalists' "true place is in the group of right-wing libertarians" not in anarchism [Using Political Ideas, p. 148]. Indeed, that "anarcho"-capitalism is an off-shoot of classical liberalism is a position Murray Rothbard would agree with, as he states that right-wing Libertarians constitute "the vanguard of classical liberalism." [quoted by Ulrike Heider, Anarchism: Left, Right and Green, p. 95] Unfortunately for this perspective anarchism is not liberalism and liberalism is not anarchism. And equally as unfortunate (this time for the anarchist movement!) "anarcho"-capitalism "is judged to be anarchism largely because some anarcho-capitalists say they are 'anarchists' and because they criticise the State." [Peter Sabatini, Social Anarchism, no. 23, p. 100] However, being opposed to the state is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being an anarchist (as can be seen from the history of the anarchist movement). Brian Morris puts it well when he writes:
"The term anarchy comes from the Greek, and essentially means 'no ruler.' Anarchists are people who reject all forms of government or coercive authority, all forms of hierarchy and domination. They are therefore 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. But anarchists also seek to establish or bring about by varying means, a condition of anarchy, that is, a decentralised society without coercive institutions, a society organised through a federation of voluntary associations. Contemporary 'right-wing' libertarians . . . who are often described as 'anarchocapitalists' and who fervently defend capitalism, are not in any real sense anarchists." [Op. Cit., p. 38]
Rather than call themselves by a name which reflects their origins in liberalism (and not anarchism), the "anarcho"-capitalists have instead seen fit to try and appropriate the name of anarchism and, in order to do so, ignore key aspects of anarchist theory in the process. Little wonder, then, they try and prove their anarchist credentials via dictionary definitions rather than from the anarchist movement itself (see next section).
Caplan's attempt in his FAQ is an example to ignore individualist anarchist theory and history. Ignored is any attempt to understand their ideas on property and instead Caplan just concentrates on the fact they use the word. Caplan also ignores:
# their many statements on being socialists and part of the wider socialist movement. # their opposition to capitalist property-rights in land and other scarce resources. # their recognition that capitalism was based on usury and that it was exploitation. # their attacks on government and capital, rather than just government. # their support for strikes and other forms of direct action by workers to secure the full product of their labour.
In fact, the only things considered useful seems to be the individualist anarchist's support for free agreement (something Kropotkin also agreed with) and their use of the word "property." But even a cursory investigation indicates the non-capitalist nature of their ideas on property and the socialistic nature of their theories.
Perhaps Caplan should ponder these words of Kropotkin supporters of the "individualist anarchism of the American Proudhonians . . . soon realise that the individualisation they so highly praise is not attainable by individual efforts, and . . . abandon the ranks of the anarchists, and are driven into the liberal individualism of the classical economist." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 297]
Caplan seems to confuse the end of the ending place of ex-anarchists with their starting point. As can be seen from his attempt to co-opt Proudhon, Spooner and Tucker he has to ignore their ideas and rewrite history.
ApÃ©ndice: Definiendo Anarquismo
In his Appendix "Defining Anarchism" we find that Caplan attempts to defend his dictionary definition of anarchism. He does this by attempting to refute two arguments, The Philological Argument and the Historical Argument.
Taking each in turn we find:
Caplan's definition of "The Philological Argument" is as follows:
"Several critics have noted the origin of the term 'anarchy,' which derives from the Greek 'arkhos,' meaning 'ruler,' and the prefix an-,' meaning 'without.' It is therefore suggested that in my definition the word 'government' should be replaced with the word 'domination' or 'rulership'; thus re-written, it would then read: 'The theory or doctrine that all forms of rulership are unnecessary, oppressive, and undesirable and should be abolished.'"
Caplan replies by stating that:
"This is all good and well, so long as we realise that various groups of anarchists will radically disagree about what is or is not an instance of 'rulership.'"
However, in order to refute this argument by this method, he has to ignore his own methodology. A dictionary definition of ruler is "a person who rules by authority." and "rule" is defined as "to have authoritative control over people" or "to keep (a person or feeling etc.) under control, to dominate" [The Oxford Study Dictionary]
Hierarchy by its very nature is a form of rulership (hier-archy) and is so opposed by anarchists. Capitalism is based upon wage labour, in which a worker follows the rules of their boss. This is obviously a form of hierarchy, of domination. Almost all people (excluding die-hard supporters of capitalism) would agree that being told what to do, when to do and how to do by a boss is a form of rulership. Anarchists, therefore, argue that "economic exploitation and political domination . . . [are] two continually interacting aspects of the same thing -- the subjection of man by man." [Errico Malatesta, Life and Ideas, p. 147] Rocker made the same point, arguing that the "exploitation of man by man and the domination of man over man are inseparable, and each is the condition of the other." [Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 18]
Thus Caplan is ignoring the meaning of words to state that "on its own terms this argument fails to exclude anarcho-capitalists" because they define rulership to exclude most forms of archy! Hardly convincing.
Strangely enough, "anarcho"-capitalist icon Murray Rothbard actually provides evidence that the anarchist position is correct. He argues that the state "arrogates to itself a monopoly of force, of ultimate decision-making power, over a given area territorial area." [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 170] This is obviously a form of rulership. However, he also argues that "[o]bviously, in a free society, Smith has the ultimate decision-making power over his own just property, Jones over his, etc." [Op. Cit., p. 173] Which, to state the obvious, means that both the state and property is marked by an "ultimate decision-making power" over a given territory. The only "difference" is that Rothbard claims the former is "just" (i.e. "justly" acquired) and the latter is "unjust" (i.e. acquired by force). In reality of course, the modern distribution of property is just as much a product of past force as is the modern state. In other words, the current property owners have acquired their property in the same unjust fashion as the state has its. If one is valid, so is the other. Rothbard (and "anarcho"-capitalists in general) are trying to have it both ways.
Rothbard goes on to show why statism and private property are essentially the same thing:
"If the State may be said too properly own its territory, then it is proper for it to make rules for everyone who presumes to live in that area. It can legitimately seize or control private property because there is no private property in its area, because it really owns the entire land surface. So long as the State permits its subjects to leave its territory, then, it can be said to act as does any other owner who sets down rules for people living on his property." [Op. Cit., p. 170]
Of course Rothbard does not draw the obvious conclusion. He wants to maintain that the state is bad and property is good while drawing attention to their obvious similarities! Ultimately Rothbard is exposing the bankruptcy of his own politics and analysis. According to Rothbard, something can look like a state (i.e. have the "ultimate decision-making power" over an area) and act like a state (i.e. "make rules for everyone" who lives in an area, i.e. govern them) but not be a state. This not a viable position for obvious reasons.
Thus to claim, as Caplan does, that property does not generate "rulership" is obviously nonsense. Not only does it ignore the dictionary definition of rulership (which, let us not forget, is Caplan's own methodology) as well as commonsense, it obviously ignores what the two institutions have in common. If the state is to be condemned as "rulership" then so must property -- for reasons, ironically enough, Rothbard makes clear!
Caplan's critique of the "Philological Argument" fails because he tries to deny that the social relationship between worker and capitalist and tenant and landlord is based upon archy, when it obviously is. To quote Proudhon, considered by Tucker as "the Anarchist par excellence," the employee "is subordinated, exploited: his permanent condition is one of obedience." Without "association" (i.e. co-operative workplaces, workers' self-management) there would be "two industrial castes of masters and wage-workers which is repugnant to a free and democratic society," castes "related as subordinates and superiors." [The General Idea of the Revolution, p. 216]
Moving on, Caplan defines the Historical Argument as:
"A second popular argument states that historically, the term 'anarchism' has been clearly linked with anarcho-socialists, anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists, and other enemies of the capitalist system. Hence, the term 'anarcho-capitalism' is a strange oxymoron which only demonstrates ignorance of the anarchist tradition."
He argues that "even if we were to accept the premise of this argument -- to wit, that the meaning of a word is somehow determined by its historical usage -- the conclusion would not follow because the minor premise is wrong. It is simply not true that from its earliest history, all anarchists were opponents of private property, free markets, and so on."
Firstly, anarchism is not just a word, but a political idea and movement and so the word used in a political context is associated with a given body of ideas. You cannot use the word to describe something which has little or nothing in common with that body of ideas. You cannot call Marxism "anarchism" simply because they share the anarchist opposition to capitalist exploitation and aim for a stateless society, for example.
Secondly, it is true that anarchists like Tucker were not against the free market, but they did not consider capitalism to be defined by the free market but by exploitation and wage labour (as do all socialists). In this they share a common ground with Market Socialists who, like Tucker and Proudhon, do not equate socialism with opposition to the market or capitalism with the "free market." The idea that socialists oppose "private property, free markets, and so on" is just an assumption by Caplan. Proudhon, for example, was not opposed to competition, "property" (in the sense of possession) and markets but during his lifetime and up to the present date he is acknowledged as a socialist, indeed one of the greatest in French (if not European) history. Similarly we find Rudolf Rocker writing that the Individualist Anarchists "all agree on the point that man be given the full reward of his labour and recognised in this right the economic basis of all personal liberty. They regard free competition . . . as something inherent in human nature . . . They answered the socialists of other schools [emphasis added] who saw in free competition one of the destructive elements of capitalistic society that the evil lies in the fact that today we have too little rather than too much competition." [quoted by Herbert Read, A One-Man Manifesto, p. 147] Rocker obviously considered support for free markets as compatible with socialism. In other words, Caplan's assumption that all socialists oppose free markets, competition and so on is simply false -- as can be seen from the history of the socialist movement. What socialists do oppose is capitalist exploitation -- socialism "in its wide, generic, and true sense" was an "effort to abolish the exploitation of labour by capital." [Peter Kropotkin, Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 169] In this sense the Individualist Anarchists are obviously socialists, as Tucker and Labadie constantly pointed out.
In addition, as we have proved elsewhere, Tucker was opposed to capitalist private property just as much as Kropotkin was. Moreover, it is clear from Tucker's works that he considered himself an enemy of the capitalist system and called himself a socialist. Thus Caplan's attempt to judge the historical argument on its own merits fails because he has to rewrite history to do so.
Caplan is right to state that the meaning of words change over time, but this does not mean we should run to use dictionary definitions. Dictionaries rarely express political ideas well - for example, most dictionaries define the word "anarchy" as "chaos" and "disorder." Does that mean anarchists aim to create chaos? Of course not. Therefore, Caplan's attempt to use dictionary definitions is selective and ultimately useless - anarchism as a political movement cannot be expressed by dictionary definitions and any attempt to do so means to ignore history.
The problems in using dictionary definitions to describe political ideas can best be seen from the definition of the word "Socialism." According to the Oxford Study Dictionary Socialism is "a political and economic theory advocating that land, resources, and the chief industries should be owned and managed by the State." The Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, conversely, defines socialism as "any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or government ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods."
Clearly the latter source has a more accurate definition of socialism than the former, by allowing for "collective" versus solely "State" control of productive means. Which definition would be better? It depends on the person involved. A Marxist, for example, could prefer the first one simply to exclude anarchism from the socialist movement, something they have continually tried to do. A right-libertarian could, again, prefer the first, for obvious reasons. Anarchists would prefer the second, again for obvious reasons. However neither definition does justice to the wide range of ideas that have described themselves as socialist.
Using dictionaries as the basis of defining political movements ensures that one's views depend on which dictionary one uses, and when it was written, and so on. This is why they are not the best means of resolving disputes -- if resolution of disputes is, in fact, your goal.
Both Kropotkin and Tucker stated that they were socialists and that anarchism was socialistic. If we take the common modern meaning of the word as state ownership as the valid one then Tucker and Kropotkin are not socialists and no form of anarchism is socialist. This is obviously nonsense and it shows the limitations of using dictionary definitions on political theories.
Therefore Caplan's attempt to justify using the dictionary definition fails. Firstly, because the definitions used would depend which dictionary you use. Secondly, dictionary definitions cannot capture the ins and outs of a political theory or its ideas on wider subjects.
Ironically enough, Caplan is repeating an attempt made by State Socialists to deny Individualist Anarchism its socialist title (see "Socialism and the Lexicographers" in Instead of a Book). In reply to this attempt, Tucker noted that:
"The makers of dictionaries are dependent upon specialists for their definitions. A specialist's definition may be true or it may be erroneous. But its truth cannot be increased or its error diminished by its acceptance by the lexicographer. Each definition must stand on its own merits." [Instead of a Book, p. 369]
And Tucker provided many quotes from other dictionaries to refute the attempt by the State Socialists to define Individualist Anarchism outside the Socialist movement. He also notes that any person trying such a method will "find that the Anarchistic Socialists are not to be stripped of one half of their title by the mere dictum of the last lexicographer." [Op. Cit., p. 365]
Caplan should take note. His technique been tried before and it failed then and it will fail again for the same reasons.
As far as his case against the Historical Argument goes, this is equally as flawed. Caplan states that:
"Before the Protestant Reformation, the word 'Christian,' had referred almost entirely to Catholics (as well as adherents of the Orthodox Church) for about one thousand years. Does this reveal any linguistic confusion on the part of Lutherans, Calvinists, and so on, when they called themselves 'Christians'? Of course not. It merely reveals that a word's historical usage does not determine its meaning."
However, as analogies go this is pretty pathetic. Both the Protestants and Catholics followed the teachings of Christ but had different interpretations of it. As such they could both be considered Christians - followers of the Bible. In the case of anarchism, there are two main groupings - individualist and social. Both Tucker and Bakunin claimed to follow, apply and develop Proudhon's ideas (and share his opposition to both state and capitalism) and so are part of the anarchist tradition.
The anarchist movement was based upon applying the core ideas of Proudhon (his anti-statism and socialism) and developing them in the same spirit, and these ideas find their roots in socialist history and theory. For example, William Godwin was claimed as an anarchist after his death by the movement because of his opposition to both state and private property, something all anarchists oppose. Similarly, Max Stirner's opposition to both state and capitalist property places him within the anarchist tradition.
Given that we find fascists and Nazis calling themselves "republicans," "democrats," even "liberals" it is worthwhile remembering that the names of political theories are defined not by who use them, but by the ideas associated with the name. In other words, a fascist cannot call themselves a "liberal" any more than a capitalist can call themselves an "anarchist." To state, as Caplan does, that the historical usage of a word does not determine its meaning results in utter confusion and the end of meaningful political debate. If the historical usage of a name is meaningless will we soon see fascists as well as capitalists calling themselves anarchists? In other words, the label "anarcho-capitalism" is a misnomer, pure and simple, as all anarchists have opposed capitalism as an authoritarian system based upon exploitation and wage slavery.
To ignore the historical usage of a word means to ignore what the movement that used that word stood for. Thus, if Caplan is correct, an organisation calling itself the "Libertarian National Socialist Party," for example, can rightly call itself libertarian for "a word's historical usage does not determine its meaning." Given that right-libertarians in the USA have tried to steal the name "libertarian" from anarchists and anarchist influenced socialists, such a perspective on Caplan's part makes perfect sense. How ironic that a movement that defends private property so strongly continually tries to steal names from other political tendencies.
Perhaps a better analogy for the conflict between anarchism and "anarcho"- capitalism would be between Satanists and Christians. Would we consider as Christian a Satanist grouping claiming to be Christian? A grouping that rejects everything that Christians believe but who like the name? Of course not. Neither would we consider as a right-libertarian someone who is against the free market or someone as a Marxist who supports capitalism. However, that is what Caplan and other "anarcho"-capitalists want us to do with anarchism.
Both social and individualist anarchists defined their ideas in terms of both political (abolition of the state) and economic (abolition of exploitation) ideas. Kropotkin defined anarchism as "the no-government form of socialism" while Tucker insisted that anarchism was "the abolition of the State and the abolition of usury." In this they followed Proudhon who stated that "[w]e do not admit the government of man by man any more than the exploitation of man by man." [quoted by Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible, p. 245]
In other words, a political movement's economic ideas are just as much a part of its theories as their political ideas. Any attempt to consider one in isolation from the other kills what defines the theory and makes it unique. And, ultimately, any such attempt, is a lie:
"[classical liberalism] is in theory a kind of anarchy without socialism, and therefore simply a lie, for freedom is impossible without equality, and real anarchy cannot exist without solidarity, without socialism." [Errico Malatesta, Anarchy, p. 46]
Therefore Caplan's case against the Historical Argument also fails - "anarcho-capitalism" is a misnomer because anarchism has always, in all its forms, opposed capitalism. Denying and re-writing history is hardly a means of refuting the historical argument.
Caplan ends by stating:
"Let us designate anarchism (1) anarchism as you define it. Let us designate anarchism (2) anarchism as I and the American Heritage College Dictionary define it. This is a FAQ about anarchism (2)."
Note that here we see again how the dictionary is a very poor foundation upon to base an argument. Again using Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, we find under "anarchist" - "one who rebels against any authority, established order, or ruling power." This definition is very close to that which "traditional" anarchists have - which is the basis for our own opposition to the notion that anarchism is merely rebellion against State authority.
Clearly this definition is at odds with Caplan's own view; is Webster's then wrong, and Caplan's view right? Which view is backed by the theory and history of the movement? Surely that should be the basis of who is part of the anarchist tradition and movement and who is not? Rather than do this, Caplan and other "anarcho"-capitalists rush to the dictionary (well, those that do not define anarchy as "disorder"). This is for a reason as anarchism as a political movement as always been explicitly anti-capitalist and so the term "anarcho"-capitalism is an oxymoron.
What Caplan fails to even comprehend is that his choices are false. Anarchism can be designated in two ways:
(1). Anarchism as you define it (2). Anarchism as the anarchist movement defines it and finds expression in the theories developed by that movement.
Caplan chooses anarchism (1) and so denies the whole history of the anarchist movement. Anarchism is not a word, it is a political theory with a long history which dictionaries cannot cover. Therefore any attempt to define anarchism by such means is deeply flawed and ultimately fails.
That Caplan's position is ultimately false can be seen from the "anarcho"-capitalists themselves. In many dictionaries anarchy is defined as "disorder," "a state of lawlessness" and so on. Strangely enough, no "anarcho"-capitalist ever uses these dictionary definitions of "anarchy"! Thus appeals to dictionaries are just as much a case of defining anarchism as you desire as not using dictionaries. Far better to look at the history and traditions of the anarchist movement itself, seek out its common features and apply those as criteria to those seeking to include themselves in the movement. As can be seen, "anarcho"-capitalism fails this test and, therefore, are not part of the anarchist movement. Far better for us all if they pick a new label to call themselves rather than steal our name.
Although most anarchists disagree on many things, the denial of its history is not one of them.
Respuestas a los errores y distorsiones de las "FAQ de la teorÃa anarquista" versiÃ³n 4.1.1 de Bryan Caplan
here have been a few "anarchist" FAQ's produced before. Bryan Caplan's anarchism FAQ is one of the more recent. While appearing to be a "neutral" statement of anarchist ideas, it is actually in large part an "anarcho"-capitalist FAQ. This can be seen by the fact that anarchist ideas (which he calls "left-anarchist") are given less than half the available space while "anarcho"-capitalist dogma makes up the majority of it. Considering that anarchism has been around far longer than "anarcho"-capitalism and is the bigger and better established movement, this is surprising. Even his use of the term "left anarchist" is strange as it is never used by anarchists and ignores the fact that Individualist Anarchists like Tucker called themselves "socialists" and considered themselves part of the wider socialist movement. For anarchists, the expression "left anarchist" is meaningless as all anarchists are anti-capitalist. Thus the terms used to describe each "school" in his FAQ are biased (those whom Caplan calls "Left anarchists" do not use that term, usually preferring "social anarchist" to distinguish themselves from individualist anarchists like Tucker).
Caplan also frames the debate only around issues which he is comfortable with. For example, when discussing "left anarchist" ideas he states that "A key value in this line of anarchist thought is egalitarianism, the view that inequalities, especially of wealth and power, are undesirable, immoral, and socially contingent." This, however, is not why anarchists are egalitarians. Anarchists oppose inequalities because they undermine and restrict individual and social freedom.
Taking another example, under the question, "How would left-anarchy work?", Caplan fails to spell out some of the really obvious forms of anarchist thought. For example, the works of Bookchin, Kropotkin, Bakunin and Proudhon are not discussed in any detail. His vague and confusing prose would seem to reflect the amount of thought that he has put into it. Being an "anarcho"-capitalist, Caplan concentrates on the economic aspect of anarchism and ignores its communal side. The economic aspect of anarchism he discusses is anarcho-syndicalism and tries to contrast the confederated economic system explained by one anarcho-syndicalist with Bakunin's opposition to Marxism. Unfortunately for Caplan, Bakunin is the source of anarcho-syndicalism's ideas on a confederation of self-managed workplaces running the economy. Therefore, to state that "many" anarchists "have been very sceptical of setting up any overall political structure, even a democratic one, and focused instead on direct worker control at the factory level" is simply false. The idea of direct local control within a confederated whole is a common thread through anarchist theory and activity, as any anarchist could tell you.
Lastly, we must note that after Caplan posted his FAQ to the "anarchy-list," many of the anarchists on that list presented numerous critiques of the "anarcho"-capitalist theories and of the ideas (falsely) attributed to social anarchists in the FAQ, which he chose to ignore (that he was aware of these postings is asserted by the fact he e-mailed one of the authors of this FAQ on the issue that anarchists never used or use the term "left-anarchist" to describe social anarchism. He replied by arguing that the term "left-anarchist" had been used by Michel Foucault, who never claimed to be an anarchist, in one of his private letters! Strangely, he never posted his FAQ to the list again).
Therefore, as can be seen from these few examples, Caplan's "FAQ" is blatantly biased towards "anarcho-capitalism" and based on the mis-characterisations and the dis-emphasis on some of the most important issues between "anarcho-capitalists" and anarchists. It is clear that his viewpoint is anything but impartial.
This section will highlight some of the many errors and distortions in that FAQ. Numbers in square brackets refer to the corresponding sections Caplan's FAQ.
Â¿Es el anarquismo puramente negativo?
. Caplan, consulting his American Heritage Dictionary, claims: "Anarchism is a negative; it holds that one thing, namely government, is bad and should be abolished. Aside from this defining tenet, it would be difficult to list any belief that all anarchists hold."
The last sentence is ridiculous. If we look at the works of Tucker, Kropotkin, Proudhon and Bakunin (for example) we discover that we can, indeed list one more "belief that all anarchists hold." This is opposition to exploitation, to usury (i.e. profits, interest and rent). For example, Tucker argued that "Liberty insists. . . [on] the abolition of the State and the abolition of usury; on no more government of man by man, and no more exploitation of man by man." [cited in Native American Anarchism - A Study of Left-Wing American Individualism by Eunice Schuster, p. 140] Such a position is one that Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin would agree with.
In other words, anarchists hold two beliefs -- opposition to government and opposition to exploitation. Any person which rejects either of these positions cannot be part of the anarchist movement. In other words, an anarchist must be against capitalism in order to be a true anarchist.
Moreover it is not at all difficult to find a more fundamental "defining tenet" of anarchism. We can do so merely by analysing the term "an-archy," which is composed of the Greek words an, meaning "no" or "without," and arche, meaning literally "a ruler," but more generally referring to the principle of rulership, i.e. hierarchical authority. Hence an anarchist is someone who advocates abolishing the principle of hierarchical authority -- not just in government but in all institutions and social relations.
Anarchists oppose the principle of hierarchical authority because it is the basis of domination, which is not only degrading in itself but generally leads to exploitation and all the social evils which follow from exploitation, from poverty, hunger and homelessness to class struggle and armed conflict.
Because anarchists oppose hierarchical authority, domination, and exploitation, they naturally seek to eliminate all hierarchies, as the very purpose of hierarchy is to facilitate the domination and (usually) exploitation of subordinates.
The reason anarchists oppose government, then, is because government is one manifestation of the evils of hierarchical authority, domination, and exploitation. But the capitalist workplace is another. In fact, the capitalist workplace is where most people have their most frequent and unpleasant encounters with these evils. Hence workers' control -- the elimination of the hierarchical workplace through democratic self-management -- has been central to the agenda of classical and contemporary anarchism from the 19th century to the present. Indeed, anarchism was born out of the struggle of workers against capitalist exploitation.
To accept Caplan's definition of anarchism, however, would mean that anarchists' historical struggle for workers' self-management has never been a "genuine" anarchist activity. This is clearly a reductio ad absurdum of that definition.
Caplan has confused a necessary condition with a sufficient condition. Opposition to government is a necessary condition of anarchism, but not a sufficient one. To put it differently, all anarchists oppose government, but opposition to government does not automatically make one an anarchist. To be an anarchist one must oppose government for anarchist reasons and be opposed to all other forms of hierarchical structure.
To understand why let use look to capitalist property. Murray Rothbard argues that "[o]bviously, in a free society, Smith has the ultimate decision-making power over his own just property, Jones over his, etc." [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 173] Defence firms would be employed to enforce those decisions (i.e. laws and rules). No real disagreement there. What is illuminating is Rothbard's comments that the state "arrogates to itself a monopoly of force, of ultimate decision-making power, over a given area territorial area" [Op. Cit. , p. 170] Which, to state the obvious, means that both the state and property is marked by an "ultimate decision-making power" over their territory. The only "difference" is that Rothbard claims the former is "just" (i.e. "justly" acquired) and the latter is "unjust" (i.e. acquired by force). In reality of course, the modern distribution of property is just as much a product of past force as is the modern state. In other words, the current property owners have acquired their property in the same unjust fashion as the state has its. If one is valid, so is the other. Rothbard (and "anarcho"-capitalists in general) are trying to have it both ways.
Rothbard goes on to show why statism and private property are essentially the same thing:
"If the State may be said too properly own its territory, then it is proper for it to make rules for everyone who presumes to live in that area. It can legitimately seize or control private property because there is no private property in its area, because it really owns the entire land surface. So long as the State permits its subjects to leave its territory, then, it can be said to act as does any other owner who sets down rules for people living on his property." [Op. Cit., p. 170]
Of course Rothbard does not draw the obvious conclusion. He wants to maintain that the state is bad and property is good while drawing attention to their obvious similarities! Ultimately Rothbard is exposing the bankruptcy of his own politics and analysis. According to Rothbard, something can look like a state (i.e. have the "ultimate decision-making power" over an area) and act like a state (i.e. "make rules for everyone" who lives in an area, i.e. govern them) but not be a state. This not a viable position for obvious reasons.
In capitalism, property and possession are opposites -- as Proudhon argued in What is Property?. Under possession, the "property" owner exercises "ultimate decision-making power" over themselves as no-one else uses the resource in question. This is non-hierarchical. Under capitalism, however, use and ownership are divided. Landlords and capitalists give others access to their property while retaining power over it and so the people who use it. This is by nature hierarchical. Little wonder Noam Chomsky argued that a "consistent anarchist must oppose private ownership of the means of production and the wage slavery which is a component of this system as incompatible with the principle that labour must be freely undertaken and under the control of the producer." ["Notes on Anarchism", For Reasons of State, p. 158]
Thus a true anarchist must oppose both state and capitalism as they generate the same hierarchical social relationships (as recognised by Rothbard but apparently subjected to "doublethink"). As "anarcho"-capitalists do not oppose capitalist property they cannot be anarchists -- they support a very specific form of archy, that of the capitalist/landlord over working class people.
Self-styled "anarcho"-capitalists do not oppose government for anarchist reasons. That is, they oppose it not because it is a manifestation of hierarchical authority, but because government authority often conflicts with capitalists' authority over the enterprises they control. By getting rid of government with its minimum wage laws, health and safety requirements, union rights laws, environmental standards, child labour laws, and other inconveniences, capitalists would have even more power to exploit workers than they already do. These consequences of "anarcho"-capitalism are diametrically opposed to the historically central objective of the anarchist movement, which is to eliminate capitalist exploitation.
We must conclude, then, that "anarcho"-capitalists are not anarchists at all. In reality they are capitalists posing as anarchists in order to attract support for their laissez-faire economic project from those who are angry at government. This scam is only possible on the basis of the misunderstanding perpetrated by Caplan: that anarchism means nothing more than opposition to government.
Better definitions of anarchism can be found in other reference works. For example, in Grollier's Online Encyclopedia we read: "Anarchism rejects all forms of hierarchical authority, social and economic as well as political." According to this more historically and etymologically accurate definition, "anarcho"-capitalism is not a form of anarchism, since it does not reject hierarchical authority in the economic sphere (which has been the area of prime concern to anarchists since day one). Hence it is bogus anarchism.
Anarquismo e Igualdad
[5.] On the question "What major subdivisions may be made among anarchists?" Caplan writes:
"Unlike the left-anarchists, anarcho-capitalists generally place little or no value on equality, believing that inequalities along all dimensions -- including income and wealth -- are not only perfectly legitimate so long as they 'come about in the right way,' but are the natural consequence of human freedom."
This statement is not inaccurate as a characterisation of "anarcho"-capitalist ideas, but its implications need to be made clear. "Anarcho"-capitalists generally place little or no value on equality -- particularly economic equality -- because they know that under their system, where capitalists would be completely free to exploit workers to the hilt, wealth and income inequalities would become even greater than they are now. Thus their references to "human freedom" as the way in which such inequalities would allegedly come about means "freedom of capitalists to exploit workers;" it does not mean "freedom of workers from capitalist exploitation."
But "freedom to exploit workers" has historically been the objective only of capitalists, not anarchists. Therefore, "anarcho"-capitalism again shows itself to be nothing more than capitalism attempting to pass itself off as part of the anarchist movement -- a movement that has been dedicated since its inception to the destruction of capitalism! One would have to look hard to find a more audacious fraud.
As we argue in section F.2.1, the claim that inequalities are irrelevant if they "come about the right way" ignores the reality of freedom and what is required to be free. To see way we have to repeat part of our argument from that section and look at Murray Rothbard's (a leading "anarcho"-capitalist icon) analysis of the situation after the abolition of serfdom in Russia and slavery in America. He writes:
"The bodies of the oppressed were freed, but the property which they had worked and eminently deserved to own, remained in the hands of their former oppressors. With economic power thus remaining in their hands, the former lords soon found themselves virtual masters once more of what were now free tenants or farm labourers. The serfs and slaves had tasted freedom, but had been cruelly derived of its fruits." [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 74]
However, contrast this with Rothbard's (and Caplan's) claims that if market forces ("voluntary exchanges") result in the creation of free tenants or wage-labourers then these labourers and tenants are free (see, for example, The Ethics of Liberty, pp. 221-2 on why "economic power" within capitalism does not, in fact, exist). But the labourers dispossessed by market forces are in exactly the same situation as the former serfs and slaves. Rothbard sees the obvious "economic power" in the later case, but denies it in the former. But the conditions of the people in question are identical and it is these conditions that horrify us and create social relationships because on subordination, authority and oppression rather than freedom. It is only ideology that stops Rothbard and Caplan drawing the obvious conclusion -- identical conditions produce identical social relationships and so if the formally "free" ex-serfs are subject to "economic power" and "masters" then so are the formally "free" labourers within capitalism! Both sets of workers may be formally free, but their circumstances are such that they are "free" to "consent" to sell their freedom to others (i.e. economic power produces relationships of domination and unfreedom between formally free individuals).
Thus inequalities that "come about in the right way" restrict freedom just as much as inequalities that do not. If the latter restricts liberty and generate oppressive and exploitative social relationships then so do the former. Thus, if we are serious about individuality liberty (rather than property) we must look at inequalities and what generate them.
One last thing. Caplan states that inequalities in capitalism are "the natural consequence of human freedom." They are not, unless you subscribe to the idea that capitalist property rights are the basis of human freedom. However, the assumption that capitalist property rights are the best means to defend individual liberty can be easily seen to be flawed just from the example of the ex-slaves and ex-serfs we have just described. Inequalities resulting from "voluntary exchanges" in the capitalist market can and do result in the denial of freedom, thus suggesting that "property" and liberty are not natural consequences of each other.
To state the obvious, private property (rather than possession) means that the non-property owner can gain access to the resource in question only when they agree to submit to the property owner's authority (and pay tribute for the privilege of being bossed about). This aspect of property (rightly called "despotism" by Proudhon) is one which right-libertarians continually fail to highlight when they defend it as the paradigm of liberty.
[7.] In this section ("Is anarchism the same thing as socialism?") Caplan writes:
"Outside of the Anglo-American political culture, there has been a long and close historical relationship between the more orthodox socialists who advocate a socialist government, and the anarchist socialists who desire some sort of decentralised, voluntary socialism. The two groups both want to severely limit or abolish private property..."
For Caplan to claim that anarchism is not the same thing as socialism, he has to ignore anarchist history. For example, the Individualist anarchists called themselves "socialists," as did social anarchists. Indeed, Individualist Anarchists like Joseph Labadie stated that "Anarchism is voluntary socialism" [Anarchism: What it is and What it is Not) and wanted to limit private property in many ways (for example, "the resources of nature -- land, mines, and so forth -- should not be held as private property and subject to being held by the individual for speculative purposes, that use of these things shall be the only valid title, and that each person has an equal right to the use of all these things." [What is Socialism?]). Therefore, within the "Anglo-American political culture," all types of anarchists considered themselves part of the socialist movement. This can be seen not only from Kropotkin's or Bakunin's work, but also in Tucker's (see Instead of a Book). So to claim that the "Anglo-American" anarchists did not have "a long and close historical relationship" with the wider socialist movement is simply false.
The statement that anarchists want to severely limit or abolish "private property" is misleading if it is not further explained. For the way it stands, it sounds like anarchism is just another form of coercive "state" (i.e. a political entity that forcibly prevents people from owning private property), whereas this is far from the case.
Firstly, anarchists are not against "private property" in the sense personal belongings. "Anarchists," points out Nicholas Walter, "are in favour of the private property which cannot be used by one person to exploit another -- those personal possessions which we accumulate from childhood and which become part of ours." ["About Anarchism", in Reinventing Anarchy, p. 49] Kropotkin makes the anarchist position clear when he wrote that we "do not want to rob any one of his coat" but expropriation "must apply to everything that enables any man [or woman] -- by he financier, mill owner, or landlord -- to appropriate the product of others' toil." [The Conquest of Bread, p. 61]
In effect, Caplan is confusing two very different kinds of "private property", of which one rests on usefulness to an individual, the other on the employment (and so exploitation) of the labour of others. The latter produces social relations of domination between individuals, while the former is a relationship between people and things. As Proudhon argued, possession becomes property only when it also serves as means of exploitation and subjection of other people. But failing to distinguish these radically different forms of "private property" Caplan distorts the anarchist position.
Secondly, it is not that anarchists want to pass laws making private property (in the second, exploitative, sense) illegal. Rather they want to restructure society in such a way that the means of production are freely available for workers to use. This does not mean "anarchist police" standing around with guns to prohibit people from owning private property. Rather, it means dismantling the coercive state agencies that make private property possible, i.e., the departments of real police who now stand around with guns protecting private property.
Once that occurs, anarchists maintain that capitalism would be impossible, since capitalism is essentially a monopoly of the means of production, which can only be maintained by organised coercion. For suppose that in an anarchist society someone (call him Bob) somehow acquires certain machinery needed to produce widgets (a doubtful supposition if widget-making machines are very expensive, as there will be little wealth disparity in an anarchist society). And suppose Bob offers to let workers with widget-making skills use his machines if they will pay him "rent," i.e. allow him to appropriate a certain amount of the value embodied in the widgets they produce. The workers will simply refuse, choosing instead to join a widget-making collective where they have free access to widget-making machinery, thus preventing Bob from living parasitically on their labour. Thus Kropotkin:
"Everywhere you will find that the wealth of the wealthy springs from the poverty of the poor. That is why an anarchist society need not fear the advent of a Rothschild [or any other millionaire] who would settle in its midst. If every member of the community knows that after a few hours of productive toil he [or she] will have a right to all the pleasures that civilisation procures, and to those deeper sources of enjoyment which art and science offer to all who seek them, he [or she] will not sell his strength. . . No one will volunteer to work for the enrichment of your Rothschild." [Op. Cit., p. 61]
In this scenario, private property was "abolished," but not through coercion. Indeed, it was precisely the abolition of organised coercion that allowed private property to be abolished.
El anarquismo y sus disidentes
[9.] On the question "How would left-anarchy work?" Caplan writes:
"Some other crucial features of the left-anarchist society are quite unclear. Whether dissidents who despised all forms of communal living would be permitted to set up their own inegalitarian separatist societies is rarely touched upon. Occasionally left-anarchists have insisted that small farmers and the like would not be forcibly collectivised, but the limits of the right to refuse to adopt an egalitarian way of life are rarely specified."
This is a straw man. "Left" (i.e. real) anarchist theory clearly implies and explicitly states the answer to these questions.
Firstly, on the issue of "separatist" societies. Anarchist thinkers have always acknowledged that there would be multitude of different communities after a revolution (and not just Caplan's "inegalitarian" ones). Marx, for example, mocked Bakunin for arguing that only revolutionary communes would federate together and that this would not claim any right to govern others (see Bakunin's "Letter to Albert Richards", Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 179] Kropotkin stated that "the point attained in the socialisation of wealth will not be everywhere the same" and "[s]ide by side with the revolutionised communes . . . places would remain in an expectant attitude, and would go on living on the Individualist system." [The Conquest of Bread, p. 81] While he was hopeful that "everywhere [would be] more or less Socialism" he recognised that the revolution would not conform to "any particular rule" and would differ in different areas -- "in one country State Socialist, in another Federation" and so on. [Op. Cit., p. 82] Malatesta made the same point, arguing that "after the revolution" there would be "relations between anarchist groupings and those living under some kind of authority, between communist collectives and those living in an individualistic way." This is because anarchism "cannot be imposed". [Life and Ideas, p. 173, p. 21]
Needless to say, these "separatist societies" (which may or may not be "inegalitarian") would not be anarchist societies. If a group of people wanted to set up a capitalist, Marxist, Georgist or whatever kind of community then their right would be respected (although, of course, anarchists would seek to convince those who live in such a regime of the benefits of anarchism!). As Malatesta pointed out, "free and voluntary communism is ironical if one has not the right and the possibility to live in a different regime, collectivist, mutualist, individualist -- as one wishes, always on condition that there is no oppression or exploitation of other" as "it is clear that all, and only, those ways of life which respect freedom, and recognise that each individual has an equal right to the means of production and to the full enjoyment of the product of his own labour, have anything in common with anarchism." [Op. Cit., p. 103 and p. 33]
Ultimately, "it is not a question of right and wrong; it is a question of freedom for everybody. . . None can judge with certainty who is right and who is wrong, who is nearest to the truth, or which is the best way to achieve the greatest good for each and everyone. Freedom coupled with experience, is the only way of discovering the truth and what is best; and there can be no freedom if there is the denial of the freedom to err." [Op. Cit., p. 49]
Secondly, regarding "dissidents" who wanted to set up their own "inegalitarian separatist societies," if the term "inegalitarian" implies economic inequalities due to private property, the answer is that private property requires some kind of state, if not a public state then private security forces ("private-state capitalism"), as advocated by "anarcho"-capitalists, in order to protect private property. Therefore, "anarcho"-capitalists are asking if an anarchist society will allow the existence of states. Of course, in the territory that used to be claimed by a nation state a whole host of communities and societies will spring up -- but that does not make the non-anarchist ones anarchist!
Thus suppose that in a hypothetical libertarian socialist society, Bob tries to set up private security forces to protect certain means of production, e.g. farmland. By the hypothesis, if Bob merely wanted to work the land himself, there would be no reason for him go to the trouble of creating a private state to guard it, because use-rights guarantee that he has free access to the productive assets he needs to make a living. Thus, the only plausible reason Bob could have for claiming and guarding more farmland than he could use himself would be a desire to create a monopoly of land in order to exact tribute from others for the privilege of using it. But this would be an attempt to set up a system of feudal exploitation in the midst of a free community. Thus the community is justified in disarming this would-be parasite and ignoring his claims to "own" more land than he can use himself.
In other words, there is no "right" to adopt an "inegalitarian way of life" within a libertarian community, since such a right would have to be enforced by the creation of a coercive system of enslavement, which would mean the end of the "libertarian" community. To the contrary, the members of such a community have a right, guaranteed by "the people in arms," to resist such attempts to enslave them.
The statement that "left" anarchists have "occasionally" insisted that small farmers and the like would not be forcibly collectivised is a distortion of the facts. No responsible left libertarian advocates forced collectivisation, i.e. compelling others to join collectives. Self-employment is always an option. This can be seen from Bakunin's works [Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 200], Kropotkin's [The Conquest of Bread, p. 61 and Act for Yourselves, pp. 104-5] and Malatesta's [Life and Ideas, p. 99, p. 103]. So the anarchist opposition to forced collectivisation has always existed and, for anyone familiar with the ideas of social anarchism, very well know. Thus during the Spanish Revolution, small farmers who did not wish to join collective farms were allowed to keep as much land as they could work themselves. After perceiving the advantages of collectives, however, many joined them voluntarily (see Sam Dolgoff, ed., The Anarchist Collectives).
To claim that social anarchists "occasionally" oppose forced collectivisation is a smear, pure and simple, with little basis in anarchist activity and even less in anarchist theory. Anyone remotely familiar with the literature could not make such a mistake.
Finally, we should point out that under "anarcho"-capitalism there would be, according to Murray Rothbard, a "basic libertarian law code." Which means that under "anarcho"-capitalism, "egalitarian" communities could only come about within a "inegalitarian" legal framework! Thus, given that everything would be privatised, dissenters could only experiment if they could afford it and accepted the legal system based on ] capitalist property rights (and, of course, survive the competition of capitalist companies within the capitalist framework). As we have argued in sections B.4, F.3 and F.10, the capitalist market is not a level playing field -- which hinders experimentation. In other words, "anarcho"-capitalists has the abstract right to experiment (within the capitalist laws) but hinders the possibility to live under other regimes. And, we must point out, why should we have to pay the stealers of the earth for the privilege to life our own lives? Caplan, in effect, ignores the barriers to experimentation in his system while distorting the anarchist position.
Â¿CÃ³mo funcionarÃa e anarco-capitalismo?
[10.] This section (How would anarcho-capitalism work?) contains Caplan's summary of arguments for "anarcho"-capitalism, which he describes as an offshoot of Libertarianism. Thus:
"So-called 'minarchist' libertarians such as Nozick have argued that the largest justified government was one which was limited to the protection of individuals and their private property against physical invasion; accordingly, they favour a government limited to supplying police, courts, a legal code, and national defence."
The first thing to note about this argument is that it is stated in such a way as to prejudice the reader against the left-libertarian critique of private property. The minarchist right-"libertarian," it is said, only wants to protect individuals and their private property against "physical invasion." But, because of the loose way in which the term "property" is generally used, the "private property" of most "individuals" is commonly thought of as personal possessions, i.e. cars, houses, clothing, etc. (For the left-libertarian distinction between private property and possessions, see B.3.1.) Therefore the argument makes it appear that right libertarians are in favour of protecting personal possessions whereas left-libertarians are not, thus conjuring up a world where, for example, there would be no protection against one's house being "physically invaded" by an intruder or a stranger stealing the shirt off one's back!
By lumping the protection of "individuals" together with the protection of their "private property," the argument implies that right libertarians are concerned with the welfare of the vast majority of the population, whereas in reality, the vast majority of "individuals" do not own any private property (i.e. means of production) -- only a handful of capitalists do. Moreover, these capitalists use their private property to exploit the working class, leading to impoverishment, alienation, etc., and thus damaging most individuals rather than "protecting" them.
Caplan goes on:
"This normative theory is closely linked to laissez-faire economic theory, according to which private property and unregulated competition generally lead to both an efficient allocation of resources and (more importantly) a high rate of economic progress."
Caplan does not mention the obvious problems with this "theory," e.g. that during the heyday of laissez-faire capitalism in the US there was vast wealth disparity, with an enormous mass of impoverished people living in slums in the major cities -- hardly an "efficient" allocation of resources or an example of "progress." Of course, if one defines "efficiency" as "the most effective means of exploiting the working class" and "progress" as "a high rate of profit for investors," then the conclusion of the "theory" does indeed follow.
And let us not forget that it is general equilibrium theory which predicts that unregulated competition will produce an efficient allocation of resources. However, as we noted in section C.1, such a model has little to do with any real economy. This means that there is no real reason to assume an efficient outcome of capitalist economies. Concentrations of economic power and wealth can easily skew outcomes to favour the haves over the have-nots (as history again and again shows).
Moreover, the capitalism can easily lead to resources being allocated to the most profitable uses rather than those which are most needed by individuals. A classic example is in the case of famines. Amartya Sen (who won the 1998 Nobel Prize for economics) developed an "entitlement" approach to the study of famine. This approach starts with the insight that having food available in a country or region does not mean everyone living there is "entitled" to it. In market economies, people are entitled to food according to their ability to produce it for themselves or to pay or swap for it. In capitalist economies, most people are entitled to food only if they can sell their labour/liberty to those who own the means of life (which increases the economic insecurity of wage workers).
If some group loses its entitlement to food, whether there is a decline in the available supply or not, a famine can occur. This may seem obvious, yet before - and after - Sen, famine studies have remained fixated on the drop in food available instead of whether specific social groups are entitled to it. Thus even a relatively success economy can price workers out of the food market (a depressed economy brings the contradiction between need and profit -- use value and exchange value -- even more to the forefront). This "pricing out" can occur especially if food can get higher prices (and so profits) elsewhere -- for example the Irish famine of 1848 and sub-Saharan famines of the 1980s saw food being exported from famine areas to areas where it could fetch a higher price. In other words, market forces can skew resource allocation away from where it is most needed to where it can generate a profit. As anarchist George Barret noted decades before Sen:
"Today the scramble is to compete for the greatest profits. If there is more profit to be made in satisfying my lady's passing whim than there is in feeding hungry children, then competition brings us in feverish haste to supply the former, whilst cold charity or the poor law can supply the latter, or leave it unsupplied, just as it feels disposed. That is how it works out." [Objectives to Anarchism]
In other words, inequality skews resource allocation towards the wealthy. While such a situation may be "efficient allocation of resources" from the perspective of the capitalist, it is hardly so from a social perspective (i.e. one that considers all individual needs rather than "effective demand").
Furthermore, if we look at the stock market (a key aspect of any capitalist system) we discover a strong tendencies against the efficient allocation of resources. The stock market often experiences "bubbles" and becomes significantly over-valued. An inflated stock market badly distorts investment decisions. For example, if Internet companies are wildly over-valued then the sale of shares of new Internet companies or the providing of start-up capital will drain away savings that could be more productively used elsewhere. The real economy will pay a heavy price from such misdirected investment and, more importantly, resources are not efficiency allocated as the stock market skews resources into the apparently more profitable areas and away from where they could be used to satisfy other needs.
The stock market is also a source of other inefficiencies. Supporters of "free-market" capitalism always argued that the Stalinist system of central planning created a perverse set of incentives to managers. In effect, the system penalised honest managers and encouraged the flow of dis-information. This lead to information being distorted and resources inefficiently allocated and wasted. Unfortunately the stock market also creates its own set of perverse responses and mis-information. Doug Henwood argues that "something like a prisoners' dilemma prevails in relations between managers and the stock market. Even if participants are aware of an upward bias to earnings estimates, and even if they correct for it, managers still have an incentive to try and fool the market. If you tell the truth, your accurate estimates will be marked down by a sceptical market. So its entirely rational for managers to boost profits in the short term, either through accounting gimmickry or by making only investments with quick paybacks." He goes on to note that "[i]f the markets see high costs as bad, and low costs as good, then firms may shun expensive investments because they will be taken as signs of managerial incompetence. Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, the stock market rewarded firms announcing write-offs and mass firings -- a bulimic strategy of management -- since the cost cutting was seen as contributing rather quickly to profits. Firms and economies can't get richer by starving themselves, but stock market investors can get richer when the companies they own go hungry. As for the long term, well, that's someone else's problem." [Wall Street, p. 171]
This means that resources are allocated to short term projects, those that enrich the investors now rather than produce long term growth and benefits later. This results in slower and more unstable investment than less market centred economies, as well as greater instability over the business cycle [Op. Cit., pp. 174-5] Thus the claim that capitalism results in the "efficient" allocation of resources is only true if we assume "efficient" equals highest profits for capitalists. As Henwood summarises, "the US financial system performs dismally at its advertised task, that of efficiently directing society's savings towards their optimal investment pursuits. The system is stupefyingly expensive, gives terrible signals, and has surprisingly little to do with real investment." [Op. Cit., p. 3]
Moreover, the claim that laissez-faire economies produce a high rate of economic progress can be questioned on the empirical evidence available. For example, from the 1970s onwards there has been a strong tendency towards economic deregulation. However, this tendency has been associated with a slow down of economic growth. For example, "[g]rowth rates, investment rates and productivity rates are all lower now than in the [Keynesian post-war] Golden Age, and there is evidence that the trend rate of growth -- the underlying growth rate -- has also decreased." Before the Thatcher pro-market reforms, the British economy grew by 2.4% in the 1970s. After Thatcher's election in 1979, growth decreased to 2% in the 1980s and to 1.2% in the 1990s. In the USA, we find a similar pattern. Growth was 4.4% in the 1960s, 3.2% in the 1970s, 2.8% in the 1980s and 1.9% in the first half of the 1990s [Larry Elliot and Dan Atkinson, The Age of Insecurity, p. 236]. Moreover, in terms of inflation-adjusted GDP per capita and productivity, the US had the worse performance out of the US, UK, Japan, Italy, France, Canada and Australia between 1970 and 1995 [Marc-Anfre Pigeon and L. Randall Wray, Demand Constraints and Economic Growth]. Given that the US is usually considered the most laissez-faire out of these 7 countries, Caplan's claim of high progress for deregulated systems seems at odds with this evidence.
As far as technological innovation goes, it is also not clear that deregulation has aided that process. Much of our modern technology owns its origins to the US Pentagon system, in which public money is provided to companies for military R&D purposes. Once the technology has been proven viable, the companies involved can sell their public subsidised products for private profit. The computer industry (as we point out in section J.4.7) is a classic example of this -- indeed it is unlikely whether we would have computers or the internet if we had waited for capitalists to development them. So whether a totally deregulated capitalism would have as high a rate of technological progress is a moot point.
So, it seems likely that it is only the assumption that the free capitalist market will generate "an efficient allocation of resources and (more importantly) a high rate of economic progress." Empirical evidence points the other way -- namely, that state aided capitalism provides an approximation of these claims. Indeed, if we look at the example of the British Empire (which pursued a strong free trade and laissez-faire policy over the areas it had invaded) we can that the opposite may be true. After 25 prosperous years of fast growth (3.5 per cent), after 1873 Britain had 40 years of slow growth (1.5 per cent), the last 14 years of which were the worse -- with productivity declining, GDP stagnant and home investment halved. [Nicholas Kaldor, Further Essays on Applied Economics, p. 239] In comparison, those countries which embraced protectionism (such as Germany and the USA) industrialised successfully and become competitors with the UK. Indeed, these new competitors grew in time to be efficient competitors of Britain not only in foreign markets but also in Britain's home market. The result was that "for fifty years Britain's GDP grew very slowly relative to the more successful of the newer industrialised countries, who overtook her, one after another, in the volume of manufacturing production and in exports and finally in real income per head." [Op. Cit., p. xxvi] Indeed, "America's growth and productivity rates were higher when tariffs were steep than when they came down." [Larry Elliot and Dan Atkinson, Op. Cit., p. 277]
It is possible to explain almost everything that has ever happened in the world economy as evidence not of the failure of markets but rather of what happens when markets are not able to operate freely. Indeed, this is the right-libertarian position in a nut shell. However, it does seem strange that movements towards increased freedom for markets produce worse results than the old, more regulated, way. Similarly it seems strange that the country that embraced laissez-faire and free trade (Britain) did worse than those which embraced protectionism (USA, Germany, etc.).
It could always be argued that the protectionist countries had embraced free trade their economies would have done even better. This is, of course, a possibility -- if somewhat unlikely. After all, the argument for laissez-faire and free trade is that it benefits all parties, even if it is embraced unilaterally. That Britain obviously did not benefit suggests a flaw in the theory (and that no country has industrialised without protectionism suggests likewise). Unfortunately, free-market capitalist economics lends itself to a mind frame that ensures that nothing could happen in the real world that would could ever change its supporters minds about anything.
Free trade, it could be argued, benefits only those who have established themselves in the market -- that is, have market power. Thus Britain could initially benefit from free trade as it was the only industrialised nation (and even its early industrialisation cannot be divorced from its initial mercantilist policies). This position of strength allowed them to dominate and destroy possible competitors (as Kaldor points out, "[w]here the British succeeded in gaining free entry for its goods. . . it had disastrous effects on local manufactures and employment." [Op. Cit., p. xxvi]). This would revert the other country back towards agriculture, an industry with diminishing returns to scale (manufacturing, in contrast, has increasing returns) and ensure Britain's position of power.
The use of protection, however, sheltered the home industries of other countries and gave them the foothold required to compete with Britain. In addition, Britains continual adherence to free trade meant that a lot of new industries (such as chemical and electrical ones) could not be properly established. This combination contributed to free trade leading to stunted growth, in stark contrast to the arguments of neo-classical economics.
Of course, we will be accused of supporting protectionism by recounting these facts. That is not the case, as protectionism is used as a means of "proletarianising" a nation (as we discuss in section F.8). Rather we are presenting evidence to refute a claim that deregulated capitalism will lead to higher growth. Thus, we suggest, the history of "actually existing" capitalism indicates that Caplan's claim that deregulated capitalism will result "a high rate of economic progress" may be little more than an assumption. True, it is an assumption of neo-classical economics, but empirical evidence suggests that assumption is as unfounded as the rest of that theory.
Next we get to the meat of the defence of "anarcho"-capitalism:
"Now the anarcho-capitalist essentially turns the minarchist's own logic against him, and asks why the remaining functions of the state could not be turned over to the free market. And so, the anarcho-capitalist imagines that police services could be sold by freely competitive firms; that a court system would emerge to peacefully arbitrate disputes between firms; and that a sensible legal code could be developed through custom, precedent, and contract."
Indeed, the functions in question could certainly be turned over to the "free" market, as was done in certain areas of the US during the 19th century, e.g. the coal towns that were virtually owned by private coal companies. We have already discussed the negative impact of that experiment on the working class in section F.6.2. Our objection is not that such privatisation cannot be done, but that it is an error to call it a form of anarchism. In reality it is an extreme form of laissez-faire capitalism, which is the exact opposite of anarchism. The defence of private power by private police is hardly a move towards the end of authority, nor are collections of private states an example of anarchism.
Indeed, that "anarcho"-capitalism does not desire the end of the state, just a change in its form, can be seen from Caplan's own arguments. He states that "the remaining functions of the state" should be "turned over to the free market." Thus the state (and its functions, primarily the defence of capitalist property rights) is privatised and not, in fact, abolished. In effect, the "anarcho"-capitalist seeks to abolish the state by calling it something else.
"The anarcho-capitalist typically hails modern society's increasing reliance on private security guards, gated communities, arbitration and mediation, and other demonstrations of the free market's ability to supply the defensive and legal services normally assumed to be of necessity a government monopoly."
It is questionable that "modern society" as such has increased its reliance on "private security guards, gated communities" and so on. Rather, it is the wealthy who have increased their reliance on these forms of private defence. Indeed it is strange to hear a right-libertarian even use the term "society" as, according to that ideology, society does not exist! Perhaps the term "society" is used to hide the class nature of these developments? As for "gated communities" it is clear that their inhabitants would object if the rest of society gated themselves from them! But such is the logic of such developments -- but the gated communities want it both ways. They seek to exclude the rest of society from their communities while expected to be given access to that society. Needless to say, Caplan fails to see that liberty for the rich can mean oppression for the working class -- "we who belong to the proletaire class, property excommunicates us!" [Proudhon, What is Property?, p. 105]
That the law code of the state is being defended by private companies is hardly a step towards anarchy. This indicates exactly why an "anarcho"- capitalist system will be a collection of private states united around a common, capitalistic, and hierarchical law code. In addition, this system does not abolish the monopoly of government over society represented by the "general libertarian law code," nor the monopoly of power that owners have over their property and those who use it. The difference between public and private statism is that the boss can select which law enforcement agents will enforce his or her power.
The threat to freedom and justice for the working class is clear. The thug-like nature of many private security guards enforcing private power is well documented. For example, the beating of protesters by "private cops" is a common sight in anti-motorway campaigns or when animal right activists attempt to disrupt fox hunts. The shooting of strikers during strikes occurred during the peak period of American laissez-faire capitalism. However, as most forms of protest involve the violation of "absolute" property rights, the "justice" system under "anarcho"-capitalism would undoubtedly fine the victims of such attacks by private cops.
It is also interesting that the "anarcho"-capitalist "hails" what are actually symptoms of social breakdown under capitalism. With increasing wealth disparity, poverty, and chronic high unemployment, society is becoming polarised into those who can afford to live in secure, gated communities and those who cannot. The latter are increasingly marginalised in ghettos and poor neighbourhoods where drug-dealing, prostitution, and theft become main forms of livelihood, with gangs offering a feudalistic type of "protection" to those who join or pay tribute to them. Under "anarcho"-capitalism, the only change would be that drug-dealing and prostitution would be legalised and gangs could start calling themselves "defence companies."
"In his ideal society, these market alternatives to government services would take over all legitimate security services. One plausible market structure would involve individuals subscribing to one of a large number of competing police services; these police services would then set up contracts or networks for peacefully handling disputes between members of each others' agencies. Alternately, police services might be 'bundled' with housing services, just as landlords often bundle water and power with rental housing, and gardening and security are today provided to residents in gated communities and apartment complexes."
This is a scenario designed with the upper classes in mind and a few working class people, i.e. those with some property (for example, a house) -- sometimes labelled the "middle class". But under capitalism, the tendency toward capital concentration leads to increasing wealth polarisation, which means a shrinking "middle class" (i.e. working class with decent jobs and their own homes) and a growing "underclass" (i.e. working class people without a decent job). Ironically enough, America (with one of the most laissez-faire capitalist systems) is also the Western nation with the smallest "middle class" and wealth concentration has steadily increased since the 1970s. Thus the number of people who could afford to buy protection and "justice" from the best companies would continually decrease. For this reason there would be a growing number of people at the mercy of the rich and powerful, particularly when it comes to matters concerning employment, which is the main way in which the poor would be victimised by the rich and powerful (as is indeed the case now).
Of course, if landlords do "bundle" police services in their contracts this means that they are determining the monopoly of force over the property in question. Tenants would "consent" to the police force and the laws of the landlord in exactly the same way emigrants "consent" to the laws and government of, say, the USA when they move there. Rather than show the difference between statism and capitalism, Caplan has indicated their essential commonality. For the proletarian, property is but another form of state. For this reason anarchists would agree with Rousseau when he wrote that:
"That a rich and powerful man, having acquired immense possessions in lands, should impose laws on those who want to establish themselves there, and that he should only allow them to do so on condition that they accept his supreme authority and obey all his wishes; that, I can still conceive. But how can I conceive such a treaty, which presupposes anterior rights, could be the first foundation of law? Would not this tyrannical act contain a double usurpation: that on the ownership of the land and that on the liberty of the inhabitants?" [The Social Contract and Discourses, p. 285]
"The underlying idea is that contrary to popular belief, private police would have strong incentives to be peaceful and respect individual rights. For first of all, failure to peacefully arbitrate will yield to jointly destructive warfare, which will be bad for profits. Second, firms will want to develop long-term business relationships, and hence be willing to negotiate in good faith to insure their long-term profitability. And third, aggressive firms would be likely to attract only high-risk clients and thus suffer from extraordinarily high costs (a problem parallel to the well-known 'adverse selection problem' in e.g. medical insurance -- the problem being that high-risk people are especially likely to seek insurance, which drives up the price when riskiness is hard for the insurer to discern or if regulation requires a uniform price regardless of risk)."
The theory that "failure to peacefully arbitrate will yield to jointly destructive warfare, which will be bad for profits" can be faulted in two ways. Firstly, if warfare would be bad for profits, what is to stop a large "defence association" from ignoring a smaller one's claim? If warfare were "bad for business," it would be even worse for a small company without the capital to survive a conflict, which could give big "defence associations" the leverage to force compliance with their business interests. Price wars are often bad for business, but companies sometimes start them if they think they can win. Needless to say, demand would exist for such a service (unless you assume a transformation in the "human nature" generated by capitalism -- an unlikely situation and one "anarcho"-capitalists usually deny is required for their system to work). Secondly -- and this is equally, if not more, likely -- a "balance of power" method to stop warfare has little to recommend it from history. This can be seen from the First World War and feudal society.
What the "anarcho"-capitalist is describing is essentially a system of "industrial feudalism" wherein people contract for "protection" with armed gangs of their choice. Feudal societies have never been known to be peaceful, even though war is always "unprofitable" for one side or the other or both. The argument fails to consider that "defence companies," whether they be called police forces, paramilitaries or full-blown armies, tend to attract the "martial" type of authoritarian personality, and that this type of "macho" personality thrives on and finds its reason for existence in armed conflict and other forms of interpersonal violence and intimidation. Hence feudal society is continually wracked by battles between the forces of opposing warlords, because such conflicts allow the combatants a chance to "prove their manhood," vent their aggression, obtain honours and titles, advance in the ranks, obtain spoils, etc. The "anarcho" capitalist has given no reason why warfare among legalised gangs would not continue under industrial feudalism, except the extremely lame reason that it would not be profitable -- a reason that has never prevented war in any known feudal society.
It should be noted that the above is not an argument from "original sin." Feudal societies are characterised by conflict between opposing "protection agencies" not because of the innate depravity of human beings but because of a social structure based on private property and hierarchy, which brings out the latent capacities for violence, domination, greed, etc. that humans have by creating a financial incentive to be so. But this is not to say that a different social structure would not bring out latent capacities for much different qualities like sharing, peaceableness, and co-operation, which human beings also have. In fact, as Kropotkin argued in Mutual Aid and as recent anthropologists have confirmed in greater detail, ancient societies based on communal ownership of productive assets and little social hierarchy were basically peaceful, with no signs of warfare for thousands of years.
However, let us assume that such a competitive system does actually work as described. Caplan, in effect, argues that competition will generate co-operation. This is due to the nature of the market in question -- defence (and so peace) is dependent on firms working together as the commodity "peace" cannot be supplied by one firm. However, this co-operation does not, for some reason, become collusion between the firms in question. According to "anarcho"-capitalists this competitive system not only produces co-operation, it excludes "defence" firms making agreements to fix monopoly profits (i.e. co-operation that benefits the firms in question). Why does the market produce beneficial co-operation to everyone but not collusion for the firms in question? Collusion is when firms have "business relationships" and "negotiate in good faith" to insure their profitability by agreeing not to compete aggressively against each other in order to exploit the market. Obviously in "anarcho"-capitalism the firms in question only use their powers good!
Needless to say, the "anarcho"-capitalist will object and argue that competition will ensure that collusion will not occur. However, given that co-operation is required between all firms in order to provide the commodity "peace" this places the "anarcho"-capitalist in a bind. As Caplan notes, "aggressive" firms are "likely to attract only high-risk clients and thus suffer from extraordinarily high costs." From the perspective of the colluding firms, a new entry into their market is, by definition, aggressive. If the colluding firms do not co-operate with the new competitor, then it will suffer from "extraordinarily high costs" and either go out of business or join the co-operators. If the new entry could survive in the face of the colluding firms hostility then so could "bad" defence firms, ones that ignored the market standards.
So the "anarcho"-capitalist faces two options. Either an "aggressive" firm cannot survive or it can. If it cannot then the very reason why it cannot ensures that collusion is built into the market and while the system is peaceful it is based on an effective monopoly of colluding firms who charge monopoly profits. This, in effect, is a state under the "anarcho"-capitalist's definition as a property owner cannot freely select their own "protection" -- they are limited to the firms (and laws) provided by the co-operating firms. Or an "aggressive" firm can survive, violence is commonplace and chaos ensures.
Caplan's passing reference to the "adverse selection problem" in medical insurance suggests another problem with "anarcho"-capitalism. The problem is that high-risk people are especially likely to seek protection, which drives up the price for, as "anarcho"-capitalists themselves note, areas with high crime levels "will be bad for profits," as hardware and personnel costs will be correspondingly higher. This means that the price for "protection" in areas which need it most will be far higher than for areas which do not need it. As poor areas are generally more crime afflicted than rich areas, "anarcho"-capitalism may see vast sections of the population not able to afford "protection" (just as they may not be about to afford health care and other essential services). Indeed, "protection services" which try to provide cheap services to "high-risk" areas will be at an competitive disadvantage in relation to those who do not, as the "high-risk" areas will hurt profits and companies without "high-risk" "customers" could undercut those that have.
"Anarcho-capitalists generally give little credence to the view that their 'private police agencies' would be equivalent to today's Mafia -- the cost advantages of open, legitimate business would make 'criminal police' uncompetitive. (Moreover, they argue, the Mafia can only thrive in the artificial market niche created by the prohibition of alcohol, drugs, prostitution, gambling, and other victimless crimes. Mafia gangs might kill each other over turf, but liquor-store owners generally do not.)"
As we have pointed out in section F.6, the "Mafia" objection to "anarcho"-capitalist defence companies is a red herring. The biggest problem would not be "criminal police" but the fact that working people and tenants would subject to the rules, power and laws of the property owners, the rich would be able to buy better police protection and "justice" than the poor and that the "general" law code these companies would defend would be slanted towards the interests and power of the capitalist class (defending capitalist property rights and the proprietors power). And as we also noted, such a system has already been tried in 19th-century and early 20th America, with the result that the rich reduced the working class to a serf-like existence, capitalist production undermined independent producers (to the annoyance of individualist anarchists at the time), and the result was the emergence of the corporate America that "anarcho"-capitalists say they oppose.
Caplan argues that "liquor-store owners" do not generally kill each other over turf. This is true (but then again they do not have access to their own private cops currently so perhaps this could change). But the company owners who created their own private police forces and armies in America's past did allow their goons to attack and murder union organisers and strikers. Let us look at Henry Ford's Service Department (private police force) in action:
"In 1932 a hunger march of the unemployed was planned to march up to the gates of the Ford plant at Dearborn. . . The machine guns of the Dearborn police and the Ford Motor Company's Service Department killed [four] and wounded over a score of others. . . Ford was fundamentally and entirely opposed to trade unions. The idea of working men questioning his prerogatives as an owner was outrageous. . . [T]he River Rouge plant. . . was dominated by the autocratic regime of Bennett's service men. Bennett . . organise[d] and train[ed] the three and a half thousand private policemen employed by Ford. His task was to maintain discipline amongst the work force, protect Ford's property [and power], and prevent unionisation. . . Frank Murphy, the mayor of Detroit, claimed that 'Henry Ford employs some of the worst gangsters in our city.' The claim was well based. Ford's Service Department policed the gates of his plants, infiltrated emergent groups of union activists, posed as workers to spy on men on the line. . . Under this tyranny the Ford worker had no security, no rights. So much so that any information about the state of things within the plant could only be freely obtained from ex-Ford workers." [Huw Beynon, Working for Ford, pp. 29-30]
The private police attacked women workers handing out pro-union handbills and gave them "a serve beating." At Kansas and Dallas "similar beatings were handed out to the union men." [Op. Cit., p. 34] This use of private police to control the work force was not unique. General Motors "spent one million dollars on espionage, employing fourteen detective agencies and two hundred spies at one time [between 1933 and 1936]. The Pinkerton Detective Agency found anti-unionism its most lucrative activity." [Op. Cit., p. 32] We must also note that the Pinkerton's had been selling their private police services for decades before the 1930s. In the 1870s, they had infiltrated and destroyed the Molly Maguires (a secret organisation Irish miners had developed to fight the coal bosses). For over 60 years the Pinkerton Detective Agency had "specialised in providing spies, agent provocateurs, and private armed forces for employers combating labour organisations." By 1892 it "had provided its services for management in seventy major labour disputes, and its 2 000 active agents and 30 000 reserves totalled more than the standing army of the nation." [Jeremy Brecher, Strike!, p. 9 and p. 55] With this force available, little wonder unions found it so hard to survive in the USA. Given that unions could be considered as "defence" agencies for workers, this suggests a picture of how "anarcho"-capitalism may work in practice.
It could be argued that, in the end, the union was recognised by the Ford company. However, this occurred after the New Deal was in place (which helped the process), after years of illegal activity (by definition union activism on Ford property was an illegal act) and extremely militant strikes. Given that the union agreement occurred nearly 40 years after Ford was formed and in a legal situation violently at odds with "anarcho"-capitalism (or even minimal statist capitalism), we would be justified in wondering if unionisation would ever have occurred at Ford and if Ford's private police state would ever have been reformed.
Of course, from an "anarcho"-capitalist perspective the only limitation in the Ford workers' liberty was the fact they had to pay taxes to the US government. The regime at Ford could not restrict their liberty as no one forced them to work for the company. Needless to say, an "anarcho"-capitalist would reject out of hand the argument that no-one forced the citizen to entry or remain in the USA and so they consented to taxation, the government's laws and so on.
This is more than a history lesson. Such private police forces are on the rise again (see "Armed and Dangerous: Private Police on the March" by Mike Zielinski, Covert Action Quarterly, no. 54, Fall, 1995 for example). This system of private police (as demonstrated by Ford) is just one of the hidden aspects of Caplan's comment that the "anarcho"-capitalist "typically hails modern society's increasing reliance on private security guards. . . and other demonstrations of the free market's ability to supply the defensive and legal services normally assumed to be of necessity a government monopoly."
Needless to say, private police states are not a step forward in anarchist eyes.
"Unlike some left-anarchists, the anarcho-capitalist has no objection to punishing criminals; and he finds the former's claim that punishment does not deter crime to be the height of naivete. Traditional punishment might be meted out after a conviction by a neutral arbitrator; or a system of monetary restitution (probably in conjunction with a prison factory system) might exist instead."
Let us note first that in disputes between the capitalist class and the working class, there would be no "neutral arbitrator," because the rich would either own the arbitration company or influence/control it through the power of the purse (see section F.6). In addition, "successful" arbitrators would also be wealthy, therefore making neutrality even more unlikely. Moreover, given that the laws the "neutral arbitrator" would be using are based on capitalist property rights, the powers and privileges of the owner are built into the system from the start.
Second, the left-libertarian critique of punishment does not rest, as "anarcho"-capitalists claim, on the naive view that intimidation and coercion aren't effective in controlling behaviour. Rather, it rests on the premise that capitalist societies produce large numbers of criminals, whereas societies based on equality and community ownership of productive assets do not.
The argument for this is that societies based on private property and hierarchy inevitably lead to a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots, with the latter sunk in poverty, alienation, resentment, anger, and hopelessness, while at the same time such societies promote greed, ambition, ruthlessness, deceit, and other aspects of competitive individualism that destroy communal values like sharing, co-operation, and mutual aid. Thus in capitalist societies, the vast majority of "crime" turns out to be so-called "crimes against property," which can be traced to poverty and the grossly unfair distribution of wealth. Where the top one percent of the population controls more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, it is no wonder that a considerable number of those on the bottom should try to recoup illegally some of the mal-distributed wealth they cannot obtain legally. (In this they are encouraged by the bad example of the ruling class, whose parasitic ways of making a living would be classified as criminal if the mechanisms for defining "criminal behaviour" were not controlled by the ruling class itself.) And most of the remaining "crimes against persons" can be traced to the alienation, dehumanisation, frustration, rage, and other negative emotions produced by the inhumane and unjust economic system.
Thus it is only in our societies like ours, with their wholesale manufacture of many different kinds of criminals, that punishment appears to be the only possible way to discourage "crime." From the left-libertarian perspective, however, the punitive approach is a band-aid measure that does not get to the real root of the problem -- a problem that lies in the structure of the system itself. The real solution is the creation of a non-hierarchical society based on communal ownership of productive assets, which, by eliminating poverty and the other negative effects of capitalism, would greatly reduce the incidence of criminal behaviour and so the need for punitive countermeasures.
Finally, two more points on private prisons. Firstly, as to the desirability of a "prison factory system," we will merely note that, given the capitalist principle of "grow-or-die," if punishing crime becomes a business, one can be sure that those who profit from it will find ways to ensure that the "criminal" population keeps expanding at a rate sufficient to maintain a high rate of profit and growth. After all, the logic of a "prison factory system" is self-defeating. If the aim of prison is to deter crime (as some claim) and if a private prison system will meet that aim, then a successful private prison system will stop crime, which, in turn, will put them out of business! Thus a "prison factory system" cannot aim to be efficient (i.e. stop crime).
Secondly, Caplan does not mention the effect of prison labour on the wages, job conditions and market position of workers. Having a sizeable proportion of the working population labouring in prison would have a serious impact on the bargaining power of workers. How could workers outside of prison compete with such a regime of labour discipline without submitting to prison-like conditions themselves? Unsurprisingly, US history again presents some insight into this. As Noam Chomsky notes, the "rapid industrial development in the southeastern region [of America] a century ago was based on (Black) convict labour, leased to the highest bidder." Chomsky quotes expert Alex Lichtenstein comments that Southern Industrialists pointed out that convict labour was "more reliable and productive than free labour" and that it overcomes the problem of labour turnover and instability. It also "remove[d] all danger and cost of strikes" and that it lowers wages for "free labour" (i.e. wage labour). The US Bureau of Labor reported that "mine owners [in Alabama] say they could not work at a profit without the lowering effect in wages of convict-labour competition." [The Umbrella of US Power, p. 32] v Needless to say, Caplan fails to mention this aspect of "anarcho"-capitalism (just as he fails to mention the example of Ford's private police state). Perhaps an "anarcho"-capitalist will say that prison labour will be less productive than wage labour and so workers have little to fear, but this makes little sense. If wage labour is more productive then prison labour will not find a market (and then what for the prisoners? Will profit-maximising companies really invest in an industry with such high over-heads as maintaining prisoners for free?). Thus it seems more than likely that any "prison-factory system" will be as productive as the surrounding wage-labour ones, thus forcing down their wages and the conditions of labour. For capitalists this would be ideal, however for the vast majority a different conclusion must be drawn.
"Probably the main division between the anarcho-capitalists stems from the apparent differences between Rothbard's natural-law anarchism, and David Friedman's more economistic approach. Rothbard puts more emphasis on the need for a generally recognised libertarian legal code (which he thinks could be developed fairly easily by purification of the Anglo-American common law), whereas Friedman focuses more intently on the possibility of plural legal systems co-existing and responding to the consumer demands of different elements of the population. The difference, however, is probably overstated. Rothbard believes that it is legitimate for consumer demand to determine the philosophically neutral content of the law, such as legal procedure, as well as technical issues of property right definition such as water law, mining law, etc. And Friedman admits that 'focal points' including prevalent norms are likely to circumscribe and somewhat standardise the menu of available legal codes."
The argument that "consumer demand" would determine a "philosophically neutral" content of the law cannot be sustained. Any law code will reflect the philosophy of those who create it. Under "anarcho"-capitalism, as we have noted (see section F.6), the values of the capitalist rich will be dominant and will shape the law code and justice system, as they do now, only more so. The law code will therefore continue to give priority to the protection of private property over human values; those who have the most money will continue being able to hire the best lawyers; and the best (i.e. most highly paid) judges will be inclined to side with the wealthy and to rule in their interests, out of class loyalty (and personal interests).
Moreover, given that the law code exists to protect capitalist property rights, how can it be "philosophically neutral" with that basis? How would "competing" property frameworks co-exist? If a defence agency allowed squatting and another (hired by the property owner) did not, there is no way (bar force) a conflict could be resolved. Then the firm with the most resources would win. "Anarcho"-capitalism, in effect, smuggles into the foundation of their system a distinctly non-neutral philosophy, namely capitalism. Those who reject such a basis may end up sharing the fate of tribal peoples who rejected that system of property rights, for example, the Native Americans.
In other words, in terms of outcome the whole system would favour capitalist values and so not be "philosophically neutral. The law would be favourable to employers rather than workers, manufacturers rather than consumers, and landlords rather than tenants. Indeed, from the "anarcho"-capitalist perspective the rules that benefit employers, landlords and manufacturers (as passed by progressive legislatures or enforced by direct action) simply define liberty and property rights whereas the rules that benefit workers, tenants and consumers are simply an interference with liberty. The rules one likes, in other words, are the foundations of sacred property rights (and so "liberty," as least for the capitalist and landlord), those one does not like are meddlesome regulation. This is a very handy trick and would not be worth mentioning if it was not so commonplace in right-libertarian theory.
We should leave aside the fantasy that the law under "anarcho"-capitalism is a politically neutral set of universal rules deduced from particular cases and free from a particular instrumental or class agenda.
"Critics of anarcho-capitalism sometimes assume that communal or worker-owned firms would be penalised or prohibited in an anarcho-capitalist society. It would be more accurate to state that while individuals would be free to voluntarily form communitarian organisations, the anarcho-capitalist simply doubts that they would be widespread or prevalent."
There is good reason for this doubt. Worker co-operatives would not be widespread or prevalent in an "anarcho"-capitalist society for the same reason that they are not widespread or prevalent now: namely, that the socio-economic, legal, and political systems would be structured in such as way as to automatically discourage their growth.
As we explain in more detail in J.5.12, the reason why there are not more producer co-operatives is structural, based on the fact that co-operatives have a tendency to grow at a slower rate than capitalist firms. This is a good thing if one's primary concern is, say, protecting the environment, but fatal if one is trying to survive in a competitive capitalist environment.
Under capitalism, successful competition for profits is the fundamental fact of economic survival. This means that banks and private investors seeking the highest returns on their investments will favour those companies that grow the fastest. Under such conditions, capitalist firms will attract more investment capital, allowing them to buy more productivity-enhancing technology and thus to sell their products more cheaply than co-operatives. Hence there will be pressure on the co-operatives to compete more effectively by adopting the same cost-cutting and profit-enhancing measures as capitalist firms. Such measures will include the deskilling of workers; squeezing as much "productivity" as is humanly possible from them; and a system of pay differentials in which the majority of workers receive low wages while the bulk of profits are reinvested in technology upgrades and other capital expansion that keeps pace with capitalist firms. But this means that in a capitalist environment, there tend to be few practical advantages for workers in collective ownership of the firms in which they work.
This problem can only be solved by eliminating private property and the coercive statist mechanisms required to protect it (including private states masquerading as "protection companies"), because this is the only way to eliminate competition for profits as the driving force of economic activity. In a libertarian socialist environment, federated associations of workers in co-operative enterprises would co-ordinate production for use rather than profit, thus eliminating the competitive basis of the economy and so also the "grow-or-die" principle which now puts co-operatives at a fatal economic disadvantage. (For more on how such an economy would be organised and operated, as well as answers to objections, see section I.)
And let us not forget what is implied by Caplan's statement that the "anarcho"-capitalist does not think that co-operative holding of "property" "would be widespread or prevalent." It means that the vast majority would be subject to the power, authority and laws of the property owner and so would not govern themselves. In other words, it would a system of private statism rather than anarchy.
"However, in theory an 'anarcho-capitalist' society might be filled with nothing but communes or worker-owned firms, so long as these associations were formed voluntarily (i.e., individuals joined voluntarily and capital was obtained with the consent of the owners) and individuals retained the right to exit and set up corporations or other profit-making, individualistic firms."
It's interesting that the "anarcho"-capitalists are willing to allow workers to set up "voluntary" co-operatives so long as the conditions are retained which ensure that such co-operatives will have difficulty surviving (i.e. private property and private states), but they are unwilling to allow workers to set up co-operatives under conditions that would ensure their success (i.e. the absence of private property and private states). This reflects the usual vacuousness of the right-libertarian concepts of "freedom" and "voluntarism."
In other words, these worker-owned firms would exist in and be subject to the same capitalist "general libertarian law code" and work in the same capitalist market as the rest of society. So, not only are these co-operatives subject to capitalist market forces, they exist and operate in a society defined by capitalist laws. As discussed in section F.2, such disregard for the social context of human action shows up the "anarcho" capitalist's disregard for meaningful liberty.
All Caplan is arguing here is that as long as people remain within the (capitalist) "law code," they can do whatever they like. However, what determines the amount of coercion required in a society is the extent to which people are willing to accept the rules imposed on them. This is as true of an "anarcho"-capitalist society as it is of any other. In other words, if more and more people reject the basic assumptions of capitalism, the more coercion against anarchistic tendencies will be required. Saying that people would be free to experiment under "anarcho"-capitalist law (if they can afford it, of course) does not address the issue of changes in social awareness (caused, by example, by class struggle) which can make such "laws" redundant. So, when all is said and done, "anarcho"-capitalism just states that as long as you accept their rules, you are free to do what you like.
How generous of them!
Needless to say, Caplan like most (if not all) "anarcho"-capitalists assume that the current property owners are entitled to their property. However, as John Stuart Mill pointed out over 100 years ago, the "social arrangements" existing today "commenced from a distribution of property which was the result, not of a just partition, or acquisition by industry, but of conquest and violence . . . [and] the system still retains many and large traces of its origin." [Principles of Political Economy, p. 15] Given that (as we point out in section F.2.3) Murray Rothbard argues that the state cannot be claimed to own its territory simply because it did not acquire its property in a "just" manner, this suggests that "anarcho"-capitalism cannot actually argue against the state. After all, property owners today cannot be said to have received their property "justly" and if they are entitled to it so is the state to its "property"!
But as is so often the case, property owners are exempt from the analysis the state is subjected to by "anarcho"-capitalists. The state and property owners may do the same thing (such as ban freedom of speech and association or regulate individual behaviour) but only the state is condemned by "anarcho"-capitalism.
"On other issues, the anarcho-capitalist differs little if at all from the more moderate libertarian. Services should be privatised and opened to free competition; regulation of personal AND economic behaviour should be done away with."
The "anarcho"-capitalist's professed desire to "do away" with the "regulation" of economic behaviour is entirely disingenuous. For, by giving capitalists the ability to protect their exploitative monopolies of social capital by the use of coercive private states, one is thereby "regulating" the economy in the strongest possible way, i.e. ensuring that it will be channelled in certain directions rather than others. For example, one is guaranteeing that production will be for profit rather than use; that there will consequently be runaway growth and an endless devouring of nature based on the principle of "grow or die;" and that the alienation and deskilling of the workforce will continue. What the "anarcho"-capitalist really means by "doing away with the regulation of economic behaviour" is that ordinary people will have even less opportunity than now to democratically control the rapacious behaviour of capitalists. Needless to say, the "regulation of personal" behaviour would not be done away with in the workplace, where the authority of the bosses would still exist and you would have follow their petty rules and regulations.
Moreover, regardless of "anarcho"-capitalist claims, they do not, in fact, support civil liberties or oppose "regulation" of personal behaviour as such. Rather, they support property owners suppressing civil liberties on their property and the regulation of personal behaviour by employers and landlords. This they argue is a valid expression of property rights. Indeed, any attempts to allow workers civil liberties or restrict employers demands on workers by state or union action is denounced as a violation of "liberty" (i.e. the power of the property owner). Those subject to the denial of civil liberties or the regulation of their personal behaviour by landlords or employees can "love it or leave it." Of course, the same can be said to any objector to state oppression -- and frequently is. This denial of civil liberties can be seen from these words by Murray Rothbard:
"[I]n the profoundest sense there are no rights but property rights . . . Freedom of speech is supposed to mean the right of everyone to say whatever he likes. But the neglected question is: Where? Where does a man have this right? He certainly does not have it on property on which he is trespassing. In short, he has this right only either on his own property or on the property of someone who has agreed, as a gift or in a rental contract, to allow him in the premises. In fact, then, there is no such thing as a separate 'right to free speech'; there is only a man's property right: the right to do as he wills with his own or to make voluntary agreements with other property owners." [Murray Rothbard, Power and Market, p. 176]
Of course, Rothbard fails to see that for the property-less such a regime implies no rights whatsoever. It also means the effective end of free speech and free association as the property owner can censor those on their property (such as workers or tenants) and ban their organisations (such as unions). Of course, in his example Rothbard looks at the "trespasser," not the wage worker or the tenant (two far more common examples in any modern society). Rothbard is proposing the dictatorship of the property owner and the end of civil liberties and equal rights (as property is unequally distributed). He gives this utter denial of liberty an Orwellian twist by proclaiming the end of civil liberties by property rights as "a new liberty." Perhaps for the property-owner, but not the wage worker -- "We who belong to the proletaire class, property excommunicates us!" [Proudhon, What is Property?, p. 137]
In effect, right-Libertarians do not care how many restrictions are placed on you as long as it is not the government doing it. Of course it will be claimed that workers and tenants "consent" to these controls (although they reject the notion that citizens "consent" to government controls by not leaving their state). Here the libertarian case is so disingenuous as to be offensive. There is no symmetry in the situations facing workers and firms. To the worker, the loss of a job is often far more of a threat than the loss of one worker is to the firm. The reality of economic power leads people to contract into situations that, although they are indeed the "best" arrangements of those available, are nonetheless miserable. In any real economy -- and, remember, the right-libertarian economy lacks any social safety net, making workers' positions more insecure than now -- the right-libertarian denial of economic power is a delusion.
Unlike anarchist theory, right-libertarian theory provides no rationale to protest private power (or even state power if we accept the notion that the state owns its territory). Relations of domination and subjection are valid expressions of liberty in their system and, perversely, attempts to resist authority (by strikes, unions, resistance) are deemed "initiations of force" upon the oppressor! In contrast, anarchist theory provides a strong rationale for resisting private and public domination. Such domination violates freedom and any free association which dominates any within it violates the basis of that association in self-assumed obligation (see section A.2.11). Thus Proudhon:
"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 by invoked justly." [The General Idea of the Revolution, p. 114]
Caplan's claim that right libertarians oppose regulation of individual behaviour is simply not true. They just oppose state regulation while supporting private regulation wholeheartedly. Anarchists, in contrast, reject both public and private domination.
"Poverty would be handled by work and responsibility for those able to care for themselves, and voluntary charity for those who cannot. (Libertarians hasten to add that a deregulated economy would greatly increase the economic opportunities of the poor, and elimination of taxation would lead to a large increase in charitable giving.)"
Notice the implication that poverty is now caused by laziness and irresponsibility rather than by the inevitable workings of an economic system that requires a large "reserve army of the unemployed" as a condition of profitability. The continuous "boom" economy of "anarcho"-capitalist fantasies is simply incompatible with the fundamental principles of capitalism. To re-quote Michael Kalecki (from section B.4.4), "[l]asting full employment is not at all to [the] liking [of business leaders]. The workers would 'get out of hand' and the 'captains of industry' would be anxious 'to teach them a lesson'" as "'discipline in the factories' and `political stability' are more appreciated by business leaders than profits. Their class interest tells them that lasting full employment is unsound from their point of view and that unemployment is an integral part of the 'normal' capitalist system.". See section C.7 ("What causes the capitalist business cycle?") for a fuller discussion of this point.
In addition, the claims that a "deregulated economy" would benefit the poor do not have much empirical evidence to back them up. If we look at the last quarter of the twentieth century we discover that a more deregulated economy has lead to massive increases in inequality and poverty. If a movement towards a deregulated economy has had the opposite effect than that predicted by Caplan, why should a totally deregulated economy have the opposite effect. It is a bit like claiming that while adding black paint to grey makes it more black, adding the whole tin will make it white!
The reason for increased inequality and poverty as a result of increased deregulation is simple. A "free exchange" between two people will benefit the stronger party. This is obvious as the economy is marked by power, regardless of "anarcho"-capitalist claims, and any "free exchange" will reflect difference in power. Moreover, a series of such exchanges will have an accumulative effect, with the results of previous exchanges bolstering the position of the stronger party in the current exchange.
Moreover, the claim that removing taxation will increase donations to charity is someone strange. We doubt that the rich who object to money being taken from them to pay for welfare will increase the amount of money they give to others if taxation was abolished. As Peter Sabatini points out, "anarcho"-capitalists "constantly rant and shriek about how the government, or the rabble, hinders their Lockean right to amass capital." [Social Anarchism, no. 23, p.101] Caplan seems to expect them to turn over a new leaf and give more to that same rabble!CategorÃa:ApÃ©ndices