Here I'll explore anarcho-capitalism, debunk strawmen of it, offer legitimate criticisms of it, and offer some insight on what leads people to it. I'm making this article in the interests of increasing understanding between the different part-good factions and hopefully building some bridges.

My background with the ideology is that Ancaps pretty much converted me away from Chaos Anarchism and convinced me to identify as an Ancap for some time (I don't call myself that anymore). I've spent a lot of time in their circles, debated with them, memed with them, and consider them essential allies and mostly friends.

The ideology

As with any ideology, different believers interpret it differently, whether someone counts as an anarcho-capitalist can be up for debate, and there's probably no way of putting it that would be agreeable to all of them. This video might, but gets there by focusing on the common sense corollaries rather than the finer points. In general, anarcho-capitalists believe:

  1. Freedom of association (the right to not interact) is the only real right; other rights are only valid insofar as they follow from it. The sanctity of freedom of association is called self-ownership and entails the non-aggression principle (NAP).

  2. People can acquire private property by homesteading or trade, including of natural resources, and retain exclusive ownership in absence. This exclusive ownership is a corollary of freedom of association.

  3. People have absolute authority over their property; there is nothing they can't do with it as long as they don't violate others' rights. This includes offering permission to use it under a condition of payment, and hence wage labor and rent.

This entails anarchism because government inherently violates property rights.

Ancaps' definition of capitalism is not the existing system. Most point out that the existing balance of power is in many ways a result of government intervention on behalf of corporations in the form of tax subsidies, regulatory capture, occupational licensing (outlawing competition), etc. These things can't be justified by Ancap principles and so they consider them unethical and anti-capitalist.

There's also some qualitative difference in how property rights work between Ancap thought and statist thought; anarcho-capitalists almost always reject intellectual property altogether, since "ideas are not scarce".

Almost all Ancaps are deontologists. David Friedman is a notale consequentialist one, but deontologism is dominant enough that you can safely assume it.

Ancaps who self-identify as right-wing are usually referring mostly to the communist vs capitalist interpretation of left and right. Ancaps usually don't care much about the cultural interpretations of left and right, but you can find both within them.

Ancaps describe themselves as libertarians, but adamantly distinguish themselves from the "Libertarian Party", which they often describe as not really libertarian for not following the principles to their conclusion: anarchism. They also use the label "voluntarist" or "voluntaryist" and "market anarchist".

Strawmen

Derivation and absolutism

Most Ancaps think it's never moral to violate property rights for any reason, You can raise "one person to save the world" and they won't ridicule the hypothetical; they're prepared to stand by no. You can raise "steal to survive" and most will say that they would be disgusted with the person with the food for not helping and refuse to associate with them, but that forcing them to feed the starving person is still completely unethical.

Why would they believe something so crazy? Mostly, because their argument locks them into it. Ancaps generally give some some version of argumentation ethics as their "argument" for why proprtery rights have to be lexically prior to anything else. I've ripped it to shreds here, and Jason Brennan has done so as well.

The definition of 'force'

A common criticism from Ancoms (or those who are somewhere between the two) is that Ancaps claim they want everything to be voluntary, but support employer-employee relationships that are in fact involuntary because it's practically impossible to survive in a capitalist society without working for a capitalist, and draw an equivalency between "choose your boss" and "choose your tyrant". This criticism makes sense in a way because it's true that Ancaps use the words 'voluntary' and 'force' a little differently from how others do. To an Ancap, if you technically had a choice in the metaphysical sense, then it's voluntary, period (unless you were threatened with force, since that means you didn't have a metaphysical choice to not associate).

Arguments often turn out to be severely hampered just by different definitions of voluntary. One can define a word any way one wants as long as one's clear about it, but I do think the Ancap definition is better because it's both an ethically important concept and one that can't easily be represented without that word, but that's exactly why my own moral system treats consent and compassion as separate values either of which can be outweighed by a large enough amount of the other. I find it absolutely insane to think you can't violate property rights to save a life, or even for a smaller need than that (like to save someone from being raped). So my solution is to use the Ancap definition of voluntary but admit that it isn't all there is to ethics, and sometimes it's moral to use involuntary means.

Real anarchists?

Ancaps and Ancoms are always fighting about who's the "real anarchists". Both insist the other is inherently authoritarian and effectively statist. It's really sad to see. What I've noticed from debating with them is the way they define statism:

I define statism to be the idea that some group of people can legitimately change the law. So I consider both of them valid anarchists.

The inconsistency with property mechanics

Ancaps say intellectual property is invalid because ideas are not scarce and so can't be owned. But here's the thing: neither is land use. While land itself is physically scarce, the relevant corollary of scarcity isn't present because someone can generally "trespass" on your land without depriving you of it. If you really believe that it can't violate property rights to benefit from someone's labor without their consent because it doesn't deprive them of it, doesn't that collapse absentee ownership altogether? As long as I can use it without depriving you of it, it's effectively non-scarce, so why can't I trespass, or (insert euphoric Marxist) use your factory equipment without your consent?

I've yet to get a satisfactory answer to this from an Ancap.

I have another disagreement with them on property rights, namely sharing nature, but that's not an inconsistency on their part.

The psychology

One of the core appeals of NAP purism is its simplicity. It promises to answer basically all questions about ethics with a single sweeping answer.

In one reddit argument, a proponent raised the point that "The reason morals are necessary is to resolve conflicts". For a moment there, I thought that was insightful. That day I first saw the lure of argumentation ethics. It makes sense. It's elegant. It would be so satisfying to believe that.

But on closer inspection, that destroys the whole point. As soon as you say the words "the reason morals are necessary ...", you imply that morals are something we make up to achieve our goals, which destroys the whole concept of morals. If morals themselves are a means to an end, then there are no morals.

The danger of logic

Ancaps are a great example of what might be a way deeper insight I'm starting to have: logic is dangerous. A misguided loyalty to "logic" can lead you to some very dark places ideologically.

Ancaps have their "logic" showing that aggression is never okay period, and they'll follow this anywhere. Since the logic is so clear and vindictive to them, it starts to replace their conscience as a moral compass. And the bigger the disparity gets, the more I suspect they decide that their "conscience" is just biased emotions and not even a reliabale moral compass. Almost no Ancap makes any reference to conscience anywhere. They don't believe in it anymore. To them, adherence to self-ownership has become the definition of good.

So naturally they lose any sympathy they might've had for "what if I have to use aggression to survive" arguments. With no caveats, homesteading and property ethics gain a shocking aesthetic resemblance to might-makes-right: you're entitled to whatever you can acquire, basically, and nothing else, with only the one caveat that you can't use initiatory force.

Nullus Maximus is the best example of what this can do to someone. He regularly talks about how "every man is entitled to whatever he can capture and hold, nothing more and nothing less", and in this comment replying to an Ancom, he literally says "If people are too incompetent to homestead anything and die as a result, then good riddance. Natural selection eliminates the unfit.". He sees the aesthetic resemblance to might-makes-right, and he likes it. That's the really horrifying thing. When you let "logic" distort your mind for long enough, you can come to positively like what it does to you.

Another terrible consequence you can see on them is how this absolutist loyalty to self-ownership drives them away from being able to make any moral judgements of peaceful actions. The better Ancaps realize that it's legitimate for them to think an action is bad even if it's peaceful (and thus 'ethical'), but others seem to really want to hide from that concept.

So what the hell's with the "alt-right"?

A common accusation is the "libertarian to alt-right pipeline". Most libertarians of course deny such a thing exists, and understandably so, but I've seen it myself.

TLDR: it's mostly reactance and groupthink, and frustration with other Ancaps having a myopia in their judgement of revolution.

And I hate talking about the "alt-right" as it legitimizes the term that's so often weaponized as a smear against libertarians, but there's something real it refers to, and many Ancaps become it. When I talk about the alt-right I'm talking about a loose faction defined by:

I'd say alt-right sympathies are partly an infection Ancaps contract from culture battling liberals. When you mostly deal with people who want to use the state to enforce their ideas of social justice and equality, and you know the state is evil, it's easy to feel that social justice and equality are the problem too, that they're somehow inherently linked with statism. When you hate someone so much, you want to disagree with them on everything you can. They can't just be wrong about enforcement. They have to be wrong about their goals too. They have to be wrong about everything. No one likes the feeling of agreeing with someone they hate.

The other factor of causation I've noticed is feeling alone in the realization that defensive violence against state agents is a requirement to ultimately end the state. Most Anarchists aren't on board with that - they try desperately, and succeed, to convince themselves that agorism will somehow eventually just make the state go away. In fact, some "libertarian" organizations even ban you for advocating self-defense. This one I feel really bad about because it's totally libertarians' fault. Most alt-right transformees I've seen are people who realized that "violence" has to be the last phase of any attempt to end the state, and the rest of the libertarian community wrongly rejected them. Cast out from what seemed like the smallest circle with the sharpest ideas about liberty for having too sharp ideas about liberty, it's not too surprising that they turn to more violent ideas.

And of course once an Ancap starts to develop alt-right sympathies, they see those farther fallen from grace in a more positive light and let their guard down around them. Those who fall an inch are dragged down much farther by those already more steeped in it.

Stonetoss is an example of an alt-right transformee. His scariest comic is this one seemingly arguing that libertarians have to use the state to crush leftists out of self-defense. I can genuinely see how a former libertarian would get to that now.

Whenever an Ancap mentions Antifa, rest assured they'll portray them as a terrorist organization with no redeeming traits and seem to have little basis for thinking so. This happens even without any alt-right transformation (I've seen Filthy Heretic talk about them), but it gets more intense; Nullus Maximus published an article basically giving the state advice on crushing Antifa. Note "13-15" in that article.

It's so tragic. That guy taught me so much about the virtues of markets. I admired him so much when I first found his site as a Chaos Anarchist. I don't know how much of his fascistic tendencies were out there back then that I didn't come across. But I think I witnessed his fall from libertarianism. I followed him on Twitter for a while. It's gotten to a point where the guy is just infatuated with the imagery of monarchy (verbatim tweet: "A democratic state is an assault on private property. A monarchic state is private property.") and retweets Nazis like Nick Fuentes. I'll say it without reservation now: Nullus Maximus is a fascist and a threat to libertarianism.



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