“Anarcho-Statism” or “A Critique of Leftist Anarchism”

Introduction: Radical Dramas

Anarch

This is a response to a series of youtube videos made by the leftist anarchist “anarchopac”. The main video in concern can be found here. A number of responses to this user have already been made, my personal favorite being being this one by the youtube user “t3hsauce”.

Now I generally think that it’s foolish to get involved in the never-ending political debates on youtube, but this seems to be a valuable opportunity to discuss many of the flaws in leftist anarchism. Anarchopac seems to accurately represent the views of this ideology towards voluntaryism, so let’s see how his arguments stand up to scrutiny. The brunt anarchopac’s argument can be summed up in the following points:

  1. Anarcho-capitalists are statists because they promote monopoly over law in certain areas. Any piece of private property represents a state because within each area of private property the owner can dictate the laws or rules of that region (it is relevant to note that this is a common reason for leftists anarchists to deny all libertarians the title of “anarchist”).
  2. Anarcho-capitalists primarily oppose the way that a state funds certain projects, not what a state does. Anarchopac specifically points to the police and law.
  3. Anarcho-capitalists also oppose states because they represent ways that law can be controlled through democratic means. This in turn threatens the “private tyrannies” of the capitalists. Capitalists will also always be capable of obtaining greater protection (and presumably have a much greater chance of manipulating law and its enforcement) because they have more money.
  4. (Found in this video) Leftist Anarchists are incapable of being either racist or sexist because the anarchist must deem all hierarchy as negative.

We will see that all of these arguments are flawed, although this should not be taken to mean that they are entirely without merit.

1: Society is Statist

The first argument is ridiculous and compelling at the same time. It seems at first to be a compelling argument for obvious reasons. Even in a world where there are a thousand defense companies as soon moment that I hire a private law enforcement company defend my property than have I not granted that company a monopoly upon law over a geographical area? In this way is anarcho-capitalism realistically just an infinitum of tiny states? In a way, yes they are. The largest problem with this argument is that it renders the words “anarchy” and “statism” practically meaningless.

As an analogy let’s look at the word “disease” which is defined as:

“a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury”

If we apply this term as liberally as we are the term “statism” above then all of us are sick. There’s always something wrong with you, your body, composed of billions upon billions of cells is always fighting off bacteria and infection and it always has something at least slightly wrong with it somewhere. This would imply then that an Olympic gold medalist is “sick” just as someone who is dying of terminal cancer is “sick”; both of them are suffering from disorders which affect their “normal” bodily functions. In this same way both Soviet Russia and the voluntaryist utopia could both be considered statist societies. The comparison may be true in the strictest sense, but it certainly isn’t useful. When I hire a guy to enforce law around my back yard I have created a territorial monopoly upon law enforcement, but is it really useful to compare that to an institution which enforces law over thousands of square miles like Communist Russia? Is it a useful distinction to compare this to an institution which enforces law over hundreds of square miles? What about one which can defy the normal rules of society at will? Comparing voluntaryism to a state causes the term “state” to lose all real meaning. People within the voluntaryist society do not have the power to violently expand their influence, nor to rob the property of others. These powers are reserved for the state.

Army

        Perhaps the most important thing to point out about this definition is that implies that anarchopac himself is a statist. If I were to invade a commune and try to steal everyone’s things then what would happen to me? Would they use violence against me? If not, then I will steal all of their stuff. If they do use violence against me then have they not declared that it is right under the law for them to defend their property? If we use the term “statism” as liberally anarchopac then any law that is not agreed by everyone constitutes a state. This implies left anarchists must rely upon pure utopianism in hopes that no one will ever again use force against his neighbor. So long as we accept realistic human behavior we have to accept “statism” to some degree.

Therefore we can conclude that either leftist anarchists are either “statists” or utopians. The argument is without true relevance.

2: As long as It’s Voluntary

        It’s hard to understand how anarchopac came to believe this point. Anarcho-capitalists are clearly critical of many things which the state does be it credit expansion, anti-drug laws, laws prohibiting the freedom of person and property, war, unjust trials and incarceration laws, laws encroaching upon economic freedoms, and so on. Most of these things are absolutely impossible in the absence of the state (or at least they are perceived to be by voluntaryists. It is true that we could envision a world which would have unjust trials in the absence of the state but voluntaryists present arguments as to why this would not be the case) so of course the easiest way to make this right is to oppose the state itself.

Nonetheless, Voluntaryists are quick to qualify their arguments. When talking to statists voluntaryists have to ensure that they are not associated with “anarchy” with the chaos the public associates the term. They do not think that all things associated with government should go away; they do support roads, security, and welfare of some kind. The largest objection voluntaryists have towards the state is the way that it is funded, but this also allows for incredibly negative side effects. Voluntaryists generally support security which is toned back and respectful of individual rights. For the same reasons they also want roads to be produced based upon a more market and social basis depending on exactly what  people demand, rather than through political tricks. Finally voluntaryists want to scale back and alter welfare so that it is more aimed at solving poverty (through support for working and job training) rather than perpetuating or alleviating this social status.

How exactly anarchopac can claim that anarcho-capitalists don’t care about the way that much of the state functions is baffling. He seems to have done a decent amount of research on the subject, so it’s unclear how he could have missed such a common aspect of the ideology.

images

        It should also be clear to any observer exactly what anarchopac is does here. He seems to scoff at the idea that the only effective difference between anarcho-capitalists and their minarchist cousins is the way in which they intend to fund their “states”. Even if this were the sole difference, it is still a large one. It is similar to looking at rape and sex and saying that there isn’t much difference. One was consented to and the other one was involuntary. So what? It results in the same thing doesn’t it?

If a “state” is consented to and it is providing what people want then it’s rather hard to call that an evil state of affairs. If the state is invading someone’s property (and even leftist anarchists accept some forms of private property) then then it is hard not to say that this is a negative thing.

3: Private Virtues and Democratic Tyrannies

        There are a lot of different aspects to this point since it depends mostly upon a combination of implicit lines of reasoning which are common in leftist anarchism.

        A preliminary observation needs to be made here: Libertarians aren’t usually rich. Sure, many of them are wealthy or middle class, but there are also a fair number of “poor” libertarians (if such a word can be rightfully used in industrialized nations). Most people advocating for anarcho-capitalism are not the sorts of individuals who have “private tyrannies”, nor are they the people who own large factories or industrial concerns. While this claim isn’t explicitly made by anarchopac, it’s nonetheless important to note that most libertarians believe that anarcho-capitalism won’t harm most poor or middle class people. Instead they believe that anarcho-capitalism will help almost everyone in society. Ironically the only people who would stand to lose in the long term if society was smoothly transitioned into an anarcho-capitalistic system (besides politicians) would be the rich. Without the state to prop up and protect many of the large businesses in existence today from competition the rich would have to continually take steps to innovate and keep up with competitors. Their “private tyrannies” would be continually threatened by its fickle and frugal customers. In the free market the rich would have enough trouble defending their businesses from competitors; we scarcely need to have them worrying about defending their physical property as well!

Poverty

        The truth in this line of reasoning is that in some cases anarcho-capitalists do fear democratic action. While “t3hsauce” does do a good job of explaining why democracy is usually negative, it’s important to try to show some of the inherently foolish aspects of democracy. Something can scarcely be considered  good just because over half of all people want it. Democracy should not a prori be considered a value, and we will see that this is even the case even from a leftist anarchist perspective. Merely because the majority wants something cannot make it good. Why should a majority vote be a virtue while private ownership is a vice?

No good man supports democracy, instead they support what they believe to be right. If the democratic system will lead to freedom and peaceful interactions then the voluntaryist will be the sternest democrat. If this is not the case then he will support other means to promote freedom.

The leftist anarchist accusations of “private tyrannies” are also ridiculous. The workplace is an area where people go to do reasonably unpleasant things in return for a wage. It is not someplace where individuals go to skip around and have a wonderful time. While many people do enjoy or even love their jobs the reason that they work where they do and as long as they do is almost entirely based upon what they receive in return for their labor. If what laborers or the normal person truly desire is to work in a commune and have democratic control over the workplace then they will spontaneously organize into horizontal capitalist-less firms. They will accept lower wages in exchange for higher living conditions and this will mean that the syndicate or commune will be able to provide its products at lower prices and undercut capitalists. If democratic control over the production process is actually entirely superior to a capitalist one then this would not only mean that the commune could provide lower prices but also higher money wages to its workers as well. If the leftist anarchist is correct in his assertions then he should be cheering for anarcho-capitalism just as much as any libertarian.Capitalism

Property signals boundaries of control for individuals within society. In the absence of property there can be no stable or peaceful society. In the modern day the state acts as the de facto property owner within a country. This contrasts itself with the polycentric and completely free system of voluntaryism. This is the antidote to tyranny, not its embodiment.

By this same token we should not be concerned that the rich would be able to purchase more defense in a voluntaryist society. Without the sacred cows of the state, the will of the majority, and nationalism the usual reasons for fighting and oppression go straight out the window. While there will always be those who are wicked enough to unrightfully aggress against others, these people will be fewer when they have no moral excuse for their crimes and when the fundamental law of society opposes them. More ethically inclined defense and law agencies will be able to attract customers by protecting them from abuse and any non-profit defense agency will be able to come about through popular support and funding. There are any number of “checks and balances” which are inherent in the voluntaryist society, and therefore we need not fear abuse by the rich.

4: A Natural Hierarchy

Proudhon

        This is the most flawed of all of anarchopac’s arguments. Not only is it absurd to argue that all hierarchy is necessarily negative but leftist anarchists actually fail adhere to this principle consistently.

It should be noted that historically leftist anarchist theory is in no way devoid of hierarchy or racism. Two of the clear fathers of leftist anarchism Mikhail Bakunin and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon are both guilty of anti-Semitism. Furthermore Proudhon spoke in favor of patriarchy while Bakunin was an outspoken nationalist. Were these two anarchist thinkers not really anarchists?

Bakunin

        Just as strange is that there’s nothing inherently within the leftist platform which is anti-hierarchical. Let’s say that a syndicate consists primarily of males and that these males are extremely sexist. If these males vote to restrict women’s freedom to work within the syndicate then it is clear that the leftist anarchist cannot inherently object to this state of affairs. He is bound by his fetish for democracy to accept that since the majority of workers believe that something should be the case that therefore it is right. The same goes for any commune or household. It would seem that there’s nothing forcing anyone within the world of the leftist anarchist to be a leftist anarchist.

Indeed we find that spontaneous and continually reoccurring hierarchy is inherent to the “anarchist” vision. Whenever a vote takes place that isn’t unanimous then one side is declared the victor over the other side. Did I win the vote or lose it? If I win then I get to impose my views on others while if I lose others get to impose their will on me. This is a hierarchy. One group is in control while one group is being controlled. Therefore even a perfectly horizontal system ends in hierarchy. Leftist anarchists are not anarchists; only anti-statists.

Finally we get into the subject of whether or not hierarchy is necessarily negative. The answer is clearly that it isn’t. There is no reason why a male being the head of the household is necessarily bad, nor is one group wishing to break away and disassociate from another group. Individuals are of different talents, temperaments, and abilities. Voluntaryists therefore accept that people will wish to live in different ways. Perhaps men are more fit to head families and work while women are more fit for child care. Perhaps the exact opposite is true and there should be a lot more househusbands. The voluntaryist doesn’t have the audacity to argue that he necessarily knows the truth of the matter, and it is for this reasons that he allows each individual to decide for himself or herself.

Leftist anarchism’s supposed prescriptions towards horizontal relationships are ludicrous. A genius is more likely to be fit to organize an industrial concern than a mentally handicapped person is. Am I a wicked elitist for saying this? In advocating that hierarchy is necessarily bad the leftist anarchist ultimately turns his back on the very cornerstone of civilization: the division of labor. Individuals are not equal in their ability to run a company; nor are they equal in the societal roles they are capable of filling.

While all human interactions must remain voluntary, what is ultimately needed to foster human happiness upon this planet is to provide the right of infinite secession which will lead to a greater number of choices for everyone. Let each person decide for themselves if hierarchy is negative or not, rather than some leftist anarchist thinker who has all of society mapped out in his mind.

Society

Conclusion: What’s In a Name?

Ultimately it’s unimportant whether or not voluntaryism is a type of anarchism in the strict sense of the word. Regardless of what the system really is, it is clearly far more decentralized, free, prosperous, and “anarchic” than modern statist societies. Voluntaryism allows for the greatest degree of freedom which can be granted within human society while still allowing for some sort of order and peace. What is important is understanding the implicit absurdities in the leftist anarchist arguments which are classically levied against the voluntaryist system.

If communism, syndicalism, egalitarianism, and democracy are all as natural and positive as anarchopac and the radical left claim, then they should be happy to remove the state and allow society to spontaneously flow into its “natural” shape. Let’s stop playing these name games and work towards disbanding the state. Then we will see how free people truly wish to live their lives.

Choice

-Neodoxy

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4 thoughts on ““Anarcho-Statism” or “A Critique of Leftist Anarchism”

  1. Bad Mirror 12/15/2012 at 16:31 Reply

    Hey. Enjoyed your article. I’d be interested in your take on democratic budgeting. http://badmirrortv.blogspot.com/2011/05/common-sense-v20.html

    I see it as a tool that can be used to get from point A to B in regards to voluntarily funding the public services we want.

  2. wheylous 12/16/2012 at 08:51 Reply

    Nice article!

    “thousands of square miles like Communist Russia”

    You young child you. Try 8.65 *million* square miles :P

    “these people will be fewer when they have no moral excuse for their crimes and when the fundamental law of society opposes them.”

    This is extremely true, and it is related to what Hasnas talks about in the Myth of the Rule of Law. Once businesses stop hiding behind the skirts of government legitimacy, any aggressive action they take will be simply seen as what normal civilians would be charged with if they committed the same aggression.

    “Finally we get into the subject of whether or not hierarchy is necessarily negative. The answer is clearly that it isn’t.”

    According to their FAQ, they think that there are things called “natural hierarchies” which are allowable. The problem being that I’ve never seen these natural hierarchies actually defined. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

  3. AristippusofCyrene 12/17/2012 at 18:36 Reply

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