Imagine you spent your entire life with a gun to your head. Your antagonist took whatever they wanted from you from you whenever they pleased, told you what life styles were and weren’t acceptable and worst of all told you this was all for your own good and even expected you to thank them. According to anarchists, you are already living such a life. In school most of us are only taught about anarchism in the sense that it represents some sort of form of social decay or disorder, and not the actual political philosophy itself. However, to truly make informed political decisions it is important to not only understand the perspective of your political allies, but (arguably more importantly) the perspective of your adversaries as well. Or, to put it in a more unbiased manner, one must see all sides of an issue. And an unprejudiced look at the political philosophy of Anarchy reveals that it represents not a state of bedlam, but rather the highest form of harmony.
Anarchism is the most extreme form of libertarianism. To understand anarchism, we must first understand libertarian theory, namely the libertarian principle of non-aggression. The principle of non-aggression, sometimes called the anti-coercion principle, states that one must not, under any circumstance other than self-defense, use any form of violence (or aggression) against another human being. This is a philosophy many are familiar with without even realizing it. It is fair to say that most healthy, sane people would agree on the principle of non-aggression. Yet this principle is seemingly exclusive to libertarianism and its many schools of thought. That is because what separates libertarianism from other political philosophies is that it takes the theory of non-aggression and applies it to all human interactions. When this is done with a consistent thought process, many seemingly innocent exchanges reveal themselves to be quite aggressive indeed, and the majority of them are between governments and citizens- and the citizens tend not to be the aggressors.
Lets take something as simple and ordinary as paying taxes and break it down: Everyone pays taxes, but no one likes to. The reason people pay taxes is so that they wont go to jail. Because if you don’t pay taxes, you will be forced at gunpoint by an officer of the law to go to jail, and if you do not comply, you will be shot. Though we do not directly think to ourselves “I had better pay my taxes so I don’t get shot!” it is very obvious that we are only paying taxes because we are being forced to. Yes, some amount of your tax money does benefit you. The government does provide goods and services to it’s people. But many taxpayers do not see the benefits of their hard earned money. Most people pay roughly 30% of their money to income tax, 10% to sales tax and another 10% to miscellaneous taxes such as homeowners’ tax and IRS penalties. None of these taxes existed 100 years ago when we were arguably the most prosperous nation in the world, had no national debt and had the strongest middle class in history. It is obvious that money has been spent very inefficiently by the government and does little service to the people. But all that set aside, even if the government was some sort of infallibly efficient spending machine that distributed tax money properly and every citizen benefited, the ethics of taxation would still be questionable so long as it forces people to take part in its process. That is because it doesn’t matter how much of our tax money actually benefits us, or if we even believe any of it benefits us at all. The bottom line is the action is not voluntary, and therefor it is an act of aggression on behalf of one party. It truly is frightening to conceptualize that the only reason we give money to our government happens to be the same reason we give money to a criminals on the streets. It has nothing to do with whether or not we believe it is the right decision. We are simply out gunned.
Stefan Molyneux, an anarchist guru at youtube.com/stefbot draws an interesting parallel in one of his video blogs. He claims that giving money for a good or service or even to charity is like sexuality. When done voluntarily it is one of the most beautiful acts of human cooperation. But when one party is being forced into it by another party, it is one of the most heinous, vicious deeds.
A libertarian would argue that to be against one form of violence, one must be against all forms of violence. It doesn’t matter whether or not the aggressor is working for their own self interest, the government or a gang (though some might say that’s redundant).
So what separates libertarianism from anarchy? Both philosophies are very dedicated to the principle of non-aggression and self-ownership. What’s the difference? The difference is Libertarianism calls for a drastically smaller government and Anarchism calls for the total annihilation of government in all its forms.
Anarchism also separates itself from libertarianism in that libertarianism is heavily centered around the idea of a free market and private property (i.e. laissez-faire capitalism) yet in the words of Anarchy’s founding father Pierre-Joseph Proudhon “property is theft”. According to the philosophy of anarchy, everyone is equally entitled to the world and all of its resources. It is wrong to claim any of these things as your own- they belong to all. This is in some ways similar to Marxist philosophies as it calls for a more equal distribution of wealth not offered by the free market. With many Anarchist maintaining different theories on how resources should be handled, there is no set answer to the question of how an anarchist society issues goods, and many see the entire as conundrum as a contradiction. How can a society with no government distribute resources by any other means than the free market?
This is where the philosophy of anarcho-capitalism comes in. Anarcho-capitalism could be called the bastard child of Libertarianism and Anarchy. Neither ideology want’s to accept it. It is sometimes called “Right-Anarchism” (Though according to Wikipedia, Anarchist and Libertarians alike reject this term, claiming the “Right-Left” political spectrum to be useless and tedious.) Essentially it states that because pure capitalism or laissez-faire is not an economic system, rather the lack of one. When no economic regulations are present, capitalism is the only kind of economy that can exist. Is is the default. There for, in a society without government, there can only be capitalism.
This confuses some people as many think laissez-faire capitalism and American capitalism to be the same thing. Though America’s economy was intended to be a free market system, over the years numerous regulations and special taxes have made it into what is called a “mixed economy”- a system with elements of both a free market, and a command economy (defined by Encyclopedia Britannica as an economic system in which the means of production are publicly owned).
Before we go any further, lets point out the elephant in the room. Without government, who builds the roads and bridges and school? The question may be difficult to answer at first, but upon realizing that roads and bridges and schools all existed long before the US government, the questions begins to seem kind of silly and the answer obvious: private companies. Take a privatized road system for example: the consumer would have to pay a little extra to get on the road every day, but they wouldn’t be paying half of your money to taxes every month, and they would only be paying for the road on the days you chose to use it. Only people who pay for it can use it and only people who use it have to pay for it. Now what about schools? Anarcho-capitalism could never work because everyone would have to send their child to a private school, and private school would be far too expensive, right? Well, not exactly. Before the first public schools opened, private school was much more affordable. Once the government became involved in education, not only did fewer people go to private school, but the government took more money from its citizens so even the people who would still prefer a private school couldn’t afford one. Because not as many people were patronizing the non-government run schools, they had to raise their prices to stay open, and that’s the way its been ever since. Also, in a privatized school system there is no controversy over what students are learning. Parents who want their child in an abstinence only sex education program can send them to a school with one. Young Earth creationists wouldn’t have to send their children to schools that taught evolution. Because the bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what is or isn’t scientifically accurate. People should have the freedom to raise their children however they want, and that includes determining what their child learns in school.
Interestingly enough if it were one large private company that had taken over the school system and forced everyone else out of business, the operation would be labeled as a monopoly and the company would be sued. Yet when the government monopolizes an industry, its acceptable to us. Just like it’s acceptable to us when the government steals, rapes and murders.
Perhaps this begs the question as to whether or not this system breads a selfish society. Yes, anarcho-Capitalism holds people accountable only for themselves, but does that mean they really wouldn’t help others? Doubtful. Charities exited long before our government did, and private charities do more for human welfare around the world than our government, unless, of course, you consider dropping bombs democracy on every Godless country in the Middle East to be for the good of humanity. And besides, wanting to keep what you earn and spend it on your own accord isn’t selfish. It seems silly to judge someone for wanting to retain the fruits of their labor.
Anarcho-capitalism is certainly an interesting topic to discuss, however, in the end, such a system is not sustainable. As soon as our hopelessly corrupt government was dismantled a new government would be built by a different set of criminals in its place and the cycle would continue. To truly fight the injustices and atrocities committed by government, the goal should be to shrink the government to a size where it is large enough to defend us from foreign invaders but not large enough to defend itself from us if it becomes unjust, not to dismantle it completely. Some regulation of business may be necessary at some points, but it important to maintain moderation. We must avoid extremes on all ends of things. But the view that government can be evil and should be held accountable on the same level as the rest of us is not extreme. It is the doctrine upon which this great nation was founded. Many people are all too willing to trade freedom for convenience or safety, and even if this is only done in small amounts, it is still dangerous. Yes, hard-core libertarians and anarcho-capitalist can be annoying when they call out seemingly innocent things as socialism or tyranny, but it is important to be thankful for them as well as all other radicals, as equal pulling from all extremes is what keeps us in the middle.