Brad Spangler disscusses “the case for understanding free market anarchism as ‘socialism‘ and the status quo we oppose as ‘capitalism‘”.14 Mar 2010 |

I’ve previously pointed out, and continue to, that Benjamin Tucker made a persuasive case that free market anarchism is best understood as a variety of socialism in his essay “State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree and Wherein They Differ“. I’ve also made the point that Tucker’s case is by no means contingent on the labor theory of value being a part of the particular formulation of market anarchist doctrine in question. Nor is it contingent upon his later rejection of natural rights for egoism or his use of Proudhon’s usufruct ownership standard (as opposed to modern Rothbardian property theory). Completely freeing markets of state granted privilege, subsidy and restraint of competition answers the social question. We’re socialists.

Additionally, I’ve pointed out how leading so-called “anarcho-capitalist” thinkers such as Hans-Hermann Hoppe acknowledge that the Marxist critique of the status quo is “essentially correct”. I’ve also explained numerous times in informal settings that this hostility of ours to the status quo can and ought to be described as opposing “capitalism”—because capitalism can be understood as state-driven monopolization of capital. Note carefully that it’s not that we only object to monopolization of capital when it’s state-driven. Rather, Rothbardian theory indicates that forming and maintaining an exploitative monopoly of any sort must be a state-driven process.

Now, some or all of these arguments are often rejected out of hand by my libertarian comrades. Verily, with horror. Or, rather, the various points of argument are seldom specifically rejected, let alone refuted—but the conclusion that they add up to, that we are socialists dedicated to the overthrow of capitalism, is dismissed on the basis that it’s incompatible with our existing narrative, rather than our body of theory. We’re used to thinking of ourselves as “capitalists” in the sense of advocacy of a completely free market economy. In this sense “capitalism” is held forth as an unrealized ideal fundamentally at odds with the oppressive status quo. The principal problem with this line of thinking is that the Cold War is over and we lost. When I say “we”, in this case, I mean “radical free market libertarians” rather than the Soviet communists. For an entire lifetime, American civilization was barraged with propaganda from both proponents and opponents of “capitalism” that the American status quo was “capitalism”. When attempting to explain a stateless free market as “capitalism”, besides everything else you need to persuade and convince people of you also face the additional burden of trying to convince people to reject the incredibly deeply ingrained notion that the status quo is “capitalism”. We lost the Cold War. Asserting that the U.S. is not “capitalist” will be regarded as an absurdity.

Libertarian acceptance of the “we’re capitalists and statism is socialism” narrative can be seen as a tribalistic or ceremonial sharing of stories with those we have hoped to influence. A shared mythology makes a tribe. Libertarian theory advocates free markets and it’s irrefutable. On the other hand, libertarian mythology attempts to describe a particular vision of American history as a falling from “capitalist” grace into the burning, sulfurous pit of “socialism”. As a consequence, the more radical critiques of the status quo and history that libertarian theory enables tend to be de-emphasized in the interests of not merely making reformist political alliances, but implicitly appealing to a shared historical narrative to emphasize aspects of libertarianism that (it is hoped) will be found more convincing by those with a right wing mindset. The problem with that approach is that if we, as a movement, are to reject reformism as a strategy and turn toward revolution, we must recognize that the conservative temperament is ill-suited to joining a revolutionary cadre.

We talk about taxes when we should be talking about the revolutionary redistribution of property.

Brad Spangler is the director of the Center for a Stateless Society and publishes a blog:

  1. […] Spangler, director of the Center for a Stateless Society, has contested in the more forward manner that market anarchists of the self-proclaimed agorist, voluntaryist and […]

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