Criticisms of anarcho-capitalism

Criticisms of anarcho-capitalism include moral criticisms, consequentialist criticisms, the criticism that anarcho-capitalism could not be maintained, and the claim that a society can be anarchist or capitalist, but not both.


Moral criticisms

Some critics argue that anarchism is an inherent miscarriage of justice because it turns justice into a commodity, thereby conflating justice with economic power. Another argument is that private defense and court firms would tend to represent the interests of those who pay them enough.[1] Many supporters of the non-aggression principle argue that anarchism is immoral. They argue that it implies that the non-aggression principle is optional because the enforcement of laws is open to competition.[citation needed] Anarcho-capitalists generally argue that government violates the non-aggression principle by its nature because governments use force against those who have not stolen private property, vandalized private property, assaulted anyone, or committed fraud.[2][3]

Some critics argue that anarcho-capitalist ethics do not entail any positive moral obligation to help others in need. Anarcho-capitalists believe in a distinction between negative and positive rights in which negative rights should be recognized as being legitimate, and positive rights rejected.[4] Critics often dismiss this stance as being unethical or selfish, or reject the legitimacy of the distinction between positive and negative rights.[4] Libertarian socialist Noam Chomsky writes: "The idea of "free contract" between the potentate and his starving subject is a sick joke, perhaps worth some moments in an academic seminar exploring the consequences of (in my view, absurd) ideas, but nowhere else."[5] Some critics appeal to an end-state theory of justice, while anarcho-capitalists (and propertarians in general) appeal to an entitlement theory. Other critics regard private property to either be an aggressive institution or a potentially aggressive one, rather than a defensive one, and thus reject claims that relationships based on unequal private property relations could be voluntary.[6]

Anarcho-capitalists consider a choice or action to be "voluntary", in a moral sense, so long as that choice or action is not influenced by coercion or fraud perpetrated by another individual. They believe that maintaining private property claims is always defensive, as long as that property was obtained in a way they believe to be legitimate. They argue that as long as an employee and employer agree to terms, employment is regarded as voluntary regardless of the circumstances of property restriction surrounding it. Some critics say this ignores constraints on action due to both human and nonhuman factors, such as the need for food and shelter, and active restriction of both used and unused resources by those enforcing property claims.[7] Thus, if a person requires employment in order to feed and house himself, it is said that the employer-employee relationship cannot be voluntary, because the employer restricts the use of resources from the employee in such a way that he cannot meet his needs; thus the choice is not an actual choice at all and the agreement in not actually voluntary at all. Other critics argue that employment is involuntary because the distributions of wealth that make it necessary for some individuals to serve others by way of contract are supported by the enforcement of coercive private property systems.

Some critics of anarcho-capitalism who support private property question how natural resources can be validly converted into private property. The second issue is a common objection among socialists who do not believe in absentee ownership. Anarcho-capitalists have strong abandonment criteria – one maintains ownership (more or less) until one agrees to trade or gift it. The critics of this view tend to have weaker abandonment criteria; for example, one loses ownership (more or less) when one stops personally using it. Also, the idea of perpetually binding original appropriation is anathema to most types of socialism, as well as any philosophy that takes equal human rights to outcomes or common ownership of land and natural resources as a premise.[4] There are also philosophies that view any ownership claims on land and natural resources as immoral and illegitimate, thus rejecting anarcho-capitalism as a philosophy that takes private ownership of land as a morally questionable initial premise.[8]

Consequentialist criticisms

Some critics argue that private defense and court firms would tend to represent the interests of those who pay them enough.[9] Some anarchists agree with this argument, but argue that it is futile to eliminate the potential concentration of power by concentrating power in the hands of the state.[10] Many also argue that monopolies tend to be corrupt and inefficient.

Murray Rothbard argued that all government services, including defense, are inefficient because they lack a market-based pricing mechanism regulated by the voluntary decisions of consumers purchasing services that fulfill their highest-priority needs and by investors seeking the most profitable enterprises to invest in. Therefore, the state's monopoly on the use of force is a violation of natural rights. He wrote, "The defense function is the one reserved most jealously by the State. It is vital to the State's existence, for on its monopoly of force depends its ability to exact taxes from the citizens. If citizens were permitted privately owned courts and armies, then they would possess the means to defend themselves against invasive acts by the government as well as by private individuals."[11] In his book Power and Market, he argued that geographically large minarchist states are indifferent from a unified minarchist world monopoly government.[12] Rothbard wrote governments were not inevitable, noting that it often took hundreds of years for aristocrats to set up a state out of anarchy.[13] He also argued that if a minimal state allows individuals to freely secede from the current jurisdiction to join a competing jurisdiction, then it does not by definition constitute a state.[14]

Many anarcho-capitalists argue that private defense and court agencies would have to have a good reputation in order to stay in business. Furthermore, Linda & Morris Tannehill argue that no coercive monopoly of force can arise on a truly free market and that a government's citizenry can’t desert them in favor of a competent protection and defense agency.[15] In response, Randall G. Holcombe argues that defense agencies could form cartels and oppress people without fear of competition.[16] Some anarchists concede this point and respond that one cannot justify a concentration of power out of a fear of a concentration of power, and that a market system is the best checks and balances system.[17]

Criticism of the concept

Robert Nozick argued in Anarchy, State and Utopia that anarchism would inevitably transform into a minarchist state, even without violating any of its own non-aggression principles, through the eventual emergence of a single locally dominant private defense and judicial agency that it is in everyone's interests to align with, because other agencies are unable to effectively compete against the advantages of the agency with majority coverage. Therefore, he thought that, even to the extent that the anarchist theory is correct, it results in an unstable system that would not endure in the real world. Paul Birch argues that as in the world today, legal disputes involving several jurisdictions and different legal system will be many times more complex and costly to resolve than disputes involving only one legal system. Thus, the largest private protection business in a territory will have lower costs since it will have more internal disputes and will out-compete those private protection business with more external disputes in the territory. In effect, according to Birch, protection business in territory is a natural monopoly.[4]

Some scholars do not consider anarcho-capitalism to be a form of anarchism, while others do. Many communist anarchists argue that anarcho-capitalism is not a form of anarchism due to their understanding of capitalism as inherently authoritarian. In particular, they argue that certain capitalist transactions are not voluntary, and that maintaining the class structure of a capitalist society requires coercion, which is incompatible with an anarchist society.

See also


  1. ^ Holcombe, Randall G. Government: Unnecessary but Inevitable. 
  2. ^ Long, Roderick, Market Anarchism as Constitutionalism, Molinari Institute.
  3. ^ Plauché, Geoffrey Allan (2006). On the Social Contract and the Persistence of Anarchy, American Political Science Association, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University).
  4. ^ a b c d Birch, Paul (1998). "Anarcho-capitalism Dissolves Into City States". Libertarian Alliance. Legal Notes no. 28: 4. ISSN 0267-7083. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  5. ^ Noam Chomsky on anarcho-capitalism
  6. ^ "Anarchism is not a form of capitalism". Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  7. ^ Friedman, David. "Market Failure: The Case for and Against Government". Do We Need a Government?. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  8. ^ McElroy, Wendy (1995) Intellectual Property: The Late Nineteenth Century Libertarian Debate Libertarian Heritage No. 14 ISBN 1-85637-281-2 Retrieved 24 June 2005
  9. ^ Holcombe, Randall G. Government: Unnecessary but Inevitable. 
  10. ^ For a New Liberty, Murray N. Rothbard
  11. ^ y (March 18, 2004). "The Myth of Efficient Government Service". 
  12. ^ Murray Rothbard. Power and Market: Defense services on the Free Market. p. 1051. "It is all the more curious, incidentally, that while laissez-faireists should by the logic of their position, be ardent believers in a single, unified world government, so that no one will live in a state of “anarchy” in relation to anyone else, they almost never are." 
  13. ^ Murray Rothbard. Power and Market: Defense services on the Free Market. p. 1054. "In the purely free-market society, a would-be criminal police or judiciary would find it very difficult to take power, since there would be no organized State apparatus to seize and use as the instrumentality of command. To create such an instrumentality de novo is very difficult, and, indeed, almost impossible; historically, it took State rulers centuries to establish a functioning State apparatus. Furthermore, the purely free-market, stateless society would contain within itself a system of built-in “checks and balances” that would make it almost impossible for such organized crime to succeed." 
  14. ^ Murray Rothbard. Power and Market: Defense services on the Free Market. p. 1051. "But, of course, if each person may secede from government, we have virtually arrived at the purely free society, where defense is supplied along with all other services by the free market and where the invasive State has ceased to exist." 
  15. ^ Linda & Morris Tannehill. The Market for Liberty, p. 81.
  16. ^ Holcombe, Randall G.. Government: Unnecessary but Inevitable. 
  17. ^ For a New Liberty, Murray N. Rothbard

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