Within the liberty movement there remains a wide range of philosophical beliefs. You have Constitutional Conservatives such as Rand Paul who believe in government that stays within Constitutional limits. There are minarchist libertarians who believe in libertarian ideals in general but still see a small government as a necessary evil that should be tasked with providing basic services such as police, fire department, and military defense from overseas invaders. Economist Ludwig Von Mises and author Ayn Rand, two of the most influential figures for many libertarians, can be included in this group. And then there is the most controversial and and oft-maligned group – the anarcho-capitalists.
The above paragraph essentially describes my philosophical journey. I grew up in a Republican household with a general belief in small government, evolved into a minarchist libertarian and eventually came to describe myself as a full-blown anarcho-capitalist. Anarcho-capitalism takes libertarianism and the non-aggression principle to its logical conclusion – that the very existence of The State itself, at any size or level, is immoral.
So what does the term “anarcho-capitalism” actually mean? Let’s break it down. First we have the term anarchy, most often associated with images of window smashing and riots in the streets. Essentially all the term “anarchy” means is “without rulers”. If one believes that a man or woman owns his or her own body and life, anarchy is the logical extension of that belief. Then we have another term that has become maligned in recent years – capitalism. This essentially describes an economic system based on the concept of private ownership of the means of production in an economy. Combine them both and you get anarcho-capitalism – the concept of a society with no government whatosever where all goods and services – including those most in today’s society presume only government can deliver such as security, law and order, etc – are provided by private industry.
When making an argument in favor of a certain philosophy it is important to have a principled foundation of beliefs in order to defend that philosophy. This is why anarcho-capitalism, in my view, is the only truly libertarian position one can take and remain philosophically consistent. If one can argue that big government is bad but small goverment is ok, then can’t the same arguments in favor of small government be used to justify the bigger government in principle? This is not to say that an anarcho-capitalist believes government can or should be wiped out overnight and that everything would be hunky dorey. Any sort of incremental progress towards lessening the scope of government should rightfully be seen as progress. But in order to effectively argue for that progress one needs to have a solid principled belief to support it. If the argument is merely that small government is “more efficient”, it can be countered by any sort of statistics that might show the larger government can also be more efficient. But when the argument is a moral one, it can only be countered through attempts to refute that moral and not just through simple “cost vs. benefit” analysis.
There are of course many common objections to anarcho-capitalism. “There would be riots in the streets!” “Without the military we’d all be speaking German right now!” “The mafia would take over and run everything!” And of course my favorite – “Who would build the roads?????” And admittedly it can be difficult to articulate well thought out responses to some of these objections. In order to help form better arguments, I recently enrolled in an online course offered by the Mises Academy on Anarcho-Capitalism taught by economist and author of [amazon_link id=”B001DC6JB8″ target=”_blank” ]”Chaos Theory”[/amazon_link], Robert Murphy. The course focuses on presenting the positive case for anarcho-capitalism as well as refuting many common arguments against it.
I know not everyone will read everything Murray Rothbard has ever written or take entire courses on anarcho-capitalism. Therefore I’ve decided to start a weekly (ish) series as I go through the course giving brief summaries of certain topics in order to help interested readers – and perhaps even my fellow authors – better understand the arguments againts the State and for anarcho-capitalism.
We’ll start off next week by looking at the concepts of Private Law! Stay tuned!