What unprecedented times we’re living in, and how ripe they are for freedom! As leviathan states worldwide continue to oppress “their” peoples, defiance of the state becomes more widespread. In the U.S., I have never seen such rampant dissatisfaction with the cosmetic changes that occur every couple of years; the changing of figure heads and perpetuation of legal plunder, kidnapping, murder, monetary inflation, and all the rest of the run-of-the-mill state activities.
In fact, there may never have been such widespread interest in libertarian philosophy as there is now, especially that of the most heretofore radical sort: anarchism. People who have traditionally defined themselves in accordance to sundry typical memes in the past are beginning to realize that the problems we face are more fundamental. They are questioning conventional knowledge, becoming receptive to voluntary solutions to societal problems outside the realm of the coercive state. In particular, the non-aggression principle, the cornerstone of all libertarian thought, has spread like wildfire.
As the yearning for liberty becomes ubiquitous and the loathing of the state as an institution (not just the current lot of thugs) grows, it is important that anarchists dedicated to spreading the message of freedom; of non-aggression, self-ownership, and peace, remain intellectually engaged. An age-old debate that has resurfaced in a major way lately is that between various anarchist sects; particularly the so-called anarcho-capitalists and anarcho-socialists. There are divisions within anarchist circles that threaten the liberty movement. For instance, “anarchists” in Europe have wrought significant destruction and attached the anarchist descriptor to violence. Discussion of the minutiae of various hyphenated anarchist monikers is not necessary; it is sufficient to address what anarchism is, from a perspective of liberty, and what it is not. The qualifier, “from a perspective of liberty” is important; there are those who purportedly advocate freedom while actually (sometimes unknowingly) promoting new forms of servitude outside the realm of the state.
Karl Hess made brilliant points in regards to what anarchism is in Anarchism Without Hyphens:
There is only one kind of anarchist. Not two. Just one. An anarchist, the only kind, as defined by the long tradition and literature of the position itself, is a person in opposition to authority imposed through the hierarchical power of the state. The only expansion of this that seems to me to be reasonable is to say that an anarchist stands in opposition to any imposed authority. An anarchist is a voluntarist.
And further description:
They spring from a single seed, no matter the flowering of their ideas. The seed is liberty. And that is all it is. It is not a socialist seed. It is not a capitalist seed. It is not a mystical seed. It is not a determinist seed. It is simply a statement. We can be free. After that it’s all choice and chance. Anarchism, liberty, does not tell you a thing about how free people will behave or what arrangements they will make. It simply says that people have the capacity to make arrangements. Anarchism is not normative. It does not say how to be free. It says only that freedom, liberty, can exist.
Hess’s points are among the most germane and valid one is likely to happen upon on the subject of what anarchism truly is; yet the essay does not address the metaphysical implications of so called anarchists who do proscribe various voluntary potentialities of a free society. Namely, the anarcho-socialists and anarcho-communists have a propensity to reject outright the notions of private property and even currency. While this is not the place to address those issues in detail, it should be said that rejection of currency and property on the part of these “anarchists” is a rejection of means and tools by which individuals may well seek (voluntarily) to arrange communities, trade, et cetera. They may not. Freedom is the modus operandi.
It is also notable that the anarcho-communist vision is a completely viable one within the anarcho-capitalist vision. No advocate of market-anarchism I have ever encountered would think of any attempt at forbidding voluntary communist communities from operating as they wish. The onus is on those communities to enlist as many people as possible who are willing to work for the benefit of their brethren at the probable expense of their own well being.
Conversely, one will most often find the anarcho-communist adamantly opposed to the anarcho-capitalist and his preferred (as opposed to demanded) methodologies. Armed with Krypotkinisms, they will cite wages and property as examples of enslavement, and inevitably echo the long-heard and worn out grievances against free and fair trade that essentially equate to grievances against reality (e.g., working as a necessary part of life). In a recent discussion, an anarcho-(collectivist??) said the following:
The instant someone is compelled to accept your terms because you own a piece of productive capital that they need (the realistic basis of any moderately likely system that a rational person might describe as “capitalist”) you have violated the definition of anarchism.
Put aside the undefined term, “productive capital” for a moment. The statement may be true, yet the context of the discussion was in the context of a free society. Where is the compulsion? The compulsion, in the view of many, is in the fact that production requires work, and that all work is not created equal. I own myself, and therefore own my time. In a free society, I may perform my work for the benefit of others, for an agreed upon amount of accepted currency, or for popsicles as far as anyone else should be concerned. Yet, the view of many who call themselves anarchists is that an exchange, however voluntary, that does not apparently pass as being good for the communal effort, is an example of “wage slavery.”
Rothbard alluded to anarcho-communists in The Libertarian Forum:
Beneath a thin veneer of libertarian rhetoric there lies the same compulsory and coercive collectivist that we have encountered all too often in the last two centuries. Scratch a left-wing “anarchist” and you will find a coercive egalitarian despot…
Freedom loving individuals who embrace Anarchy in the sense described by Hess, who simply believe that freedom is possible and man can achieve it without a coercive state, must be wary of those who prohibit various potentialities in their envisioned “free” world. Anarchy does not suppose to know what voluntary arrangements will be made; only that they can be made and that that true prosperity is born of freedom and peace.