14A006 Hyphenated Anarchism by Jim Davies, 4/29/2014     


It's the first thing learned by Freedom Academy students:  each individual person owns himself or herself, by right.

From that undeniable premise, or axiom, it follows directly that everyone has the right not to be ruled, and hence that nobody has any right to rule anyone else. Consequently all forms of rule (monarchy, theocracy, slavery, plutocracy, democracy....) are repugnant to human nature. Government is the root of all evil. Obligations arising from voluntarily entered, explicit contracts are fine and will, in the coming free society, be commonplace; but not any obligations imposed without such prior agreement. My A Vision of Liberty describes how that will probably work out.

Since the word "anarchy" means "absence of rule" it's a good word to describe that kind of society, despite the baggage with which its enemies have tried to load it. The question explored here is: does that word need any addition, any hyphenation? - as in for example anarcho-capitalist, anarcho-syndicalist, anarcho-communist?

A short answer is "no". All that's really needed is to clarify that all government is unwanted. What forms of agreement subsequently follow can well be debated; I think my Vision book is the best of its kind, but the nature of freedom is to be hard to predict and nobody is infallible - so, things could be different.

But not if they involve force, or obligations imposed by some kind of ruler.

Capitalism, as I understand the word, does not do that - so I predict it will characterize the agreements free people make with each other. But today the word has two contradictory meanings, so we must pause to define it. One is the kind of state capitalism that prevails today, and which is better called "fascism"; business enterprises are owned and operated by honest people called shareholders, but they are governed by a network of rules imposed by government. Even the company structure itself is allowed to exist only by government permit. Government favors one firm with legislation to help, and hurts another with laws that hinder; and government, though not a shareholder, confiscates half of any profits while companies donate lavishly to both candidates for every election race so as to encourage favorable legislation. Campaign finance laws are finessed so as to prevent that being called "bribery."

This arrangement involves a high degree of interdependency, so that it's hard to tell which is the dog, and which is the tail; it's not surprising that many people think that big business is controlling government, rather than vice versa. Understandably, if that were truly what "capitalism" means, it has no place being linked with any word about freedom.

However that's not at all what I think "capitalism" means. Instead, my understanding is that a person works, exchanging his (100%-owned) labor for some property, such as money. Much of that he spends on living expenses, but some he saves for future use; that saved money is called "capital." In due course he invests that capital in his business so as to produce more for the same labor; for example if he's a farmer he buys a tractor to replace an ox. Then, producing and selling more, he can save more capital, and repeats the cycle so as to become wealthy.

He may choose to invest his saved capital not just in his own farm or business, but in that of someone else; he "buys shares" in another enterprise, and takes some of its profits in return. Always, though, he places his own capital at risk, and enjoys or suffers the outcome.

That's capitalism, and it is perfectly consistent with freedom; therefore, to clarify that in my opinion that's the kind of society we will shortly see, I may call myself an anararcho-capitalist, or AnCap for short. What, though, of the others?

Syndicalists foresee that after government has expired the workers in a business will take control and manage it - effectively becoming shareholders, paying themselves a higher wage and dividing the profits among themselves. I've no problem with employee-run firms, but I do question the process by which they became owners; did they pool their saved capital and buy out the existing owner? (Fine, if so.) Or did they turn up one Monday morning and tell the existing owner to hand over all his share certificates? In that case they would be ruling him, forcing him to do something he would obviously not agree to do voluntarily. One cannot simultaneously believe in non-rule, and rule; hence "anarcho-syndicalist" is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

Similarly communists hold that all property should be held in common, and set out to abolish private property; that has been tried exhaustively and is well known to be disastrous. It's attractive at first sight - the early settlers or pilgrims in America practiced it after landing - but once again, we must ask how, exactly, ownership of all stuff is to be transferred from existing owners to the common pool. I can see no answer to that, other than by using force, imposing rule.  "Anarcho-communist" is therefore another oxymoron. It is impossible simultaneously to own one self and one's labor and its products, and not to own them; that would be an absolute contradiction. A is not non-A.

The zero government society will come only after nobody is left who is willing to work for government, and that will happen only after everyone has graduated from the Freedom Academy (or one like it) and no such graduate will initiate force on someone else; such un-natural and contradictory linkings of non-rule with rule will therefore not occur.

Meanwhile, a hyphen is an innocent piece of punctuation. It deserves not to be injured or disgraced by making the term on its left oppose the term on its right.

What the coming free society
will probably be like
How freedom
was lost
How it is being
The go-to site for an
overview of a free society
Freedom's prerequisite:
Nothing else is needed
Nothing less will do
What every bureaucrat needs to know