Anarcho-Capitalism – What Does it Mean for Liberty?
Libertarian opponents of anarchy are attacking a straw man. Their arguments are usually utilitarian in nature and amount to “but anarchy won’t work” or “we need the (things provided by the) state.” But these attacks are confused at best, if not disingenuous. To be an anarchist does not mean you think anarchy will “work” (whatever that means); nor that you predict it will or “can” be achieved. It is possible to be a pessimistic anarchist, after all. To be an anarchist only means that you believe that aggression is not justified, and that states necessarily employ aggression. And, therefore, that states, and the aggression they necessarily employ, are unjustified. It’s quite simple, really. It’s an ethical view, so no surprise it confuses utilitarians.
Accordingly, anyone who is not an anarchist must maintain either: (a) aggression is justified; or (b) states (in particular, minimal states) do not necessarily employ aggression.
Proposition (b) is plainly false. States always tax their citizens, which is a form of aggression. They always outlaw competing defense agencies, which also amounts to aggression. (Not to mention the countless victimless crime laws that they inevitably, and without a single exception in history, enforce on the populace. Why minarchists think minarchy is even possible boggles the mind.)
As for (a), well, socialists and criminals also feel aggression is justified. This does not make it so. Criminals, socialists, and anti-anarchists have yet to show how aggression — the initiation of force against innocent victims — is justified. No surprise; it is not possible to show this. But criminals don’t feel compelled to justify aggression; why should advocates of the state feel compelled to do so?
Conservative and minarchist-libertarian criticism of anarchy on the grounds that it won’t “work” or is not “practical” is just confused. Anarchists don’t (necessarily) predict anarchy will be achieved — I for one don’t think it will. But that does not mean states are justified.
Consider an analogy. Conservatives and libertarians all agree that private crime (murder, robbery, rape) is unjustified, and “should” not occur. Yet no matter how good most men become, there will always be at least some small element who will resort to crime. Crime will always be with us. Yet we still condemn crime and work to reduce it.
Is it logically possible that there could be no crime? Sure. Everyone could voluntarily choose to respect others’ rights. Then there would be no crime. It’s easy to imagine. But given our experience with human nature and interaction, it is safe to say that there will always be crime. Nevertheless, we still proclaim crime to be evil and unjustified, in the face of the inevitability of its recurrence. So to my claim that crime is immoral, it would just be stupid and/or insincere to reply, “but that’s an impractical view” or “but that won’t work,” “since there will always be crime.” The fact that there will always be crime — that not everyone will voluntarily respect others’ rights — does not mean that it’s “impractical” to oppose it; nor does it mean that crime is justified. It does not mean there is some “flaw” in the proposition that crime is wrong.
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