Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.

2/17/2005

Right-wing anarchists???

Until very recently, I was only vaguely aware that right-wing anarchists -- or "anarcho-capitalists" -- even existed. For me, "anarchism" has always meant an ideology that was grounded in leftist principles (even though most anarchists would probably disagree with this characterization -- both the "ideology" and the "leftist" part). Specifically, I always associated anarchism with the abolition of property, or at least the capitalist conception of property, as well as a strong opposition to capitalism itself. Emma Goldman would be the paradigm anarchist of this kind.

Left-anarchism (or "anarcho-syndicalism" or whatever you want to call it) has a distinguished intellectual history; in addition to Goldman, its advocates have included Noam Chomsky, Leo Tolstoy, Peter Kripotkin, Murray Bookchin, and others. I myself have sharp anarchist sympathies, though I have yet to arrive at a definitive politcal philosophy.

But right-wing anarcho-capitalism might just be in the running for looniest ideology out there. What brought this peculiar philosophy to my attention was a post by Jackie Passey, and the reaction from the folks at Catallarchy (the same site that outed Libertarian Girl). Jackie, in advocating a tax scheme based on property taxes (and not income/sales) which I commented on earlier, justified taxing property on the grounds that the state is what makes property rights possible:

I prefer real property taxes to other kinds of taxes for a variety of reasons: 1. You can’t have property without government. I distinguish here between property and possession. Property is knowing that when you come home, your house is still your house. Possession is having to worry about armed thugs taking it over while you’re out and not being able to do anything about it. I get into arguments with my anarchist friends about where property comes from, but as I’ve studied development economics and institutions its clear that the functions of property very much rest on the legal institutions created to define and support property rights.

The anarcho-capitalists at Catallarchy didn't much like the notion that property rights are grounded in state authority, though:


It is not clear that anglosphere property rights institutions arose from government. In fact, Anglo-Saxon customary law seems to have been outside of the purview of anything we would associate with a government. Nor is property rights in Middle Ages Iceland dependent or derived from government - there was not anything we would recognize as a government in existence. Early American West settlements existed prior to the active managent of the U.S. government, and had a thorough set of property rights institutions independent of federal law.

...

Yes, many social institutions must exist in order to have any meaningful ownership of anything, but these institutions do not need to be provided by coercive monopoly, or provided for by taxes.


One problem with the examples cited here is that they all involve the relatively simple notion of ownership of land; you claimed the land, and, most importantly, used it, and it was "yours." However, the contemporary concept of property is much more robust than this.

Another is that the anarcho-capitalists are coming very close to making a distinction without a difference. The writer here is admitting that "many social institutions" must exist for property rights to exist, but insists that neither the state nor taxes is necessary to provide the relevant institutions.

However, it's extremely hard to understand how there could be an institution that could enforce property rights without having the ability to resort to force if necessary. The commenters at Catallarchy seem to advocate two "solutions" to this problem. One is to arrange privately for the securing of your property -- in other words, hiring somebody to enforce your right to your property. The other is to defend it yourself, apparently by stocking up on weapons or something.

The first option leads to something very much like a state; the only difference is that there might be more than one coercive institution. It's hard to see how, exactly, this is desirable.

It is true that taxes are not absolutely required for the existence of an institution that would secure property rights; however, that institution is going to have to obtain funds somehow. The anarcho-capitalists would have us privately contract with said institution. But if this happens, the enforcement of property rights will not be homogenous; it makes sense to think that a private organization would offer a higher level of protection to, or simply would go to greater lenghts to protect those who, were able to provide them with more money. Folks who couldn't meet a minimum would presumably be shit out of luck.

I don't understand how such a society is one that would be preferable to the vision of the Left, where everyone's rights are guaranteed equally.

A private organization with the power to enforce property rights is just a state going by another name. In fact, this is what the state as it stands today essentially is. For the most part, governments exist not to enforce the will of the people, nor to protect their individual liberties, but rather to preserve the status quo for the wealthy by creating a system that will keep the behavior of individuals in line and thereby coerce them to recognize the property rights of the wealthy.


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