From Rothbard to Red

Article by PunkJohnnyCash.

How A Right Libertarian Anarcho- Capitalist came to reject Capitalism and embrace Libertarian Socialism.

I was a rather conservative libertarian, not a libertarian in the classical sense but in the sense of the current popular definition of libertarian in the United States. I always toyed with the idea of anarchism but failed to see how it could work. It was the ‘anarcho-capitalist’ philosophies I discovered that helped me to reject a state, but I still clung to ‘Capitalism’ as an answer. I would reach anarchism from the perspective of an ‘anarcho-capitalism’. Rothbard still influences me to this day.

There is still some value in what he said and value in much of this right libertarianism, it just fails to take their conclusions all the way. They often stop at just accepting wage labor as an accepted norm because it is the accepted norm of the current system. They do not take ownership of the product of their labor all the way.

I was always told that capitalism was liberty and freedom. I bought into the lies of the purity of the market. It seemed that every problem was instantly solved on the market, and if it was not solved then it was justified. The problem I continued to have was that I found that too often hierarchy was defended with the market. I saw that I was giving up one state for another. It did not have the name ‘state’ but it was essentially functioning as the state. Capital was the new gun and rulers would continue to dictate our lives. I began to see that I would still have the product of my labor stolen by my rulers. This time instead of a President or a Governor it would be a CEO, instead of a congress or a parliament it would be a board of directors and instead of handing over ones wealth as a tax, It would never even be given to the worker.

The same structure of central planning so many in the Mises or Cato crowds seemed to oppose in the state was completely acceptable within a corporate sphere. The only change was that there would most likely be more rulers, an infestation of hierarchy profiting from the product of anothers’ labor never actually producing themselves, simply claiming ownership of the product of the workers labor through the exploitation of wage labor.

Just as the Capitalist like state claims to care for the citizen or employee. Both profit by the theft of the wealth of the product of the workers labor. One uses paper from the bank one uses paper from congress. I came to realize that in reality I was accepting the norms of the current State Capitalist system without realizing it. The state is not the only parasitic entity of hierarchy and control. By withholding the wealth of the workers production the Capitalist is now able to use basic resources and needs as the coercive tool to obtain power over the workers. As I came to realize this I began to see it in my daily life. I started to see it at my workplace and others around me being dominated by this form of hierarchical control.The ideas that somehow a free market on it’s own would end this or create a better condition I began to see as laughable at best. No, I can not look to a ruler to create a better condition for myself or others. We must have control of our labor, our resources and futures.

It was the works of Emma Goldman, Rudolf Rocker and Pierre J. Proudhon that helped me to distance myself from this vulgar libertarianism to true liberation from state and capitalism.

Anarchism is a definite intellectual current of social thought, whose adherents advocate the abolition of economic monopolies and of all political and social coercive institutions within society. In place of the capitalist economic order, Anarchists would have a free association of all productive forces based upon cooperative labour, which would have for its sole purpose the satisfying of the necessary requirements of every member of society.

-Rudolf Rocker

As I saw more and more that the libertarian right was fine with racism, sexism and other hierarchies I began to realize that I misunderstood what the libertarian right truly was. The apologetics for the current hierarchies and rules of society was a major part in their belief. The basic concept that is held by many is that somehow people wish to be in submission to rulers in some sort therefore they will not stop them. Instead of attacking the whole system and the root of hierarchy and dominance over others they have simply placed all blame on elected officials and turned a blind eye to their own privileged and the privileges of gender, race and capitalism.

Anarchy is “No Rulers” it is “Power To The People”.

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8 replies »

  1. I have come across this article before and well I am in agreement with some of the author’s points, I also think that a fair amount of it is simply a “convert syndrome” by that I mean how people who have a converted from a previous belief system be it a religion, an ideology, or some other view will see their former beliefs in the most extreme negative light, this is something I have seen in the areas I mentioned. I have seen this in the past few years with many ex-ancaps who have become libsocs. I myself started out as a right-libertarian then became introduced to classical anarchist thought, but I never saw the right-libertarians as evil incarnate and I still count Rothbard as a major influence. I think that both right and left strands of libertarianism have strong and weak points and that both sides should be open to learning from the other.

    As for Rothbard himself, I actually think that if Rothbard had stayed on the trajectory that he was on in the mid-60’s, the views that he would have arrived at would not have been that dissimilar to libertarian socialism. Take this article from 1965, “Liberty and the new left” http://mises.org/journals/lar/pdfs/1_2/1_2_4.pdf where Rothbard shows some enthusiasm for participatory democracy and consensus decision making as well as worker’s self management. The arguments that he makes for these things are almost exactly the kinds of arguments that social anarchists make. Unfortunately, Rothbard would reject these ideas within a space of a few years penning one his best known essays “Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature” just over half a decade later.

  2. There are many proto fascists right and left.

    Abandon capitalism and socialism from your schema of liberty.

    Accept that individualist and collectivist organziaton could both flourish.

    And once again the bdsm enthusiast in me rejects your call for complete abrogation of hierarchy. Voluntary, to be sure, but my hands have been on many a throat and many have been on mine. There will always be an emergent hierarchy. That doesn’t mean I don’t hate forced hierarchy.

  3. Libsoc criticism of ancap is still mostly a bizzare strawman that seems to have no understanding of competition to me, but recent developments in debates have sort of turned me away from ancap even though for a while I was pretty enthusiastic about it even though ive been an ansoc/market socialist/mutualist for a while. Spawktalk on Youtube made vids attacking alot of common ancap assumptions about what would happen, and there’s been a debate you can observe on Fringeelements’s channel about ancap defense, both are very revealing and thorough critiques of ancap. And am I the only ansoc that seems to not be so terrified of voluntary hierarchies like workplaces on an equitable, free and open mutualist market? It must be mostly because I absorbed the very intellectually detailed ancap arguments better than, say, Bakunin’s work.

  4. dan,

    Each to his (or her) own, but I think it is simply fallacious to equate voluntary practices for pleasure to what is often defended as natural hierarchy. The reality is that most of the people who defend hierarchy in principle do not bother to make the distinction between voluntary and non-voluntary forms because it is not important to them. Murray Rothbard was unusual in that case because he did make such a distinction. Some things considered to be voluntary hierarchy by many ancaps are anything but. Also, I happen to think that hierarchy is far more associated with collectivism than with individualism and I happen to think that can be empirically verified.

  5. There’s no reason anarcho-syndicalist enterprises or any type of collectivist organization can’t exist in a free market. Private enterprise does not, by default, oppress people since in a free market you have no artificial limits on access to productive property. I hate capitalism too, but these kinds of arguments from the Left don’t hold much ground in criticizing the market.

  6. I try to not even use the terms “capitalism” or “socialism” anymore given the way the meaning of these has become so twisted. And terms like “agorism,” “mutualism,” “distributism,” or “syndicalism” sounds bizarre or esoteric to most people. I like the phrase “alternative economics” better because it sounds hip, contemporary, progressive. Everything is “alternative” nowdays, music, fashion, even radical right-wing politics, lol. Plus, we have a lot of historical as well as contemporary examples to draw on when explaining our ideas:


  7. “. I like the phrase “alternative economics” better because it sounds hip, contemporary, progressive.”

    Man, that’s a damn good idea. Also, “cooperative economics” or “economic democracy” works pretty well, too. At least from my experience. I’m even starting to give up “free market socialist” or “market anarchist” because I really don’t want to spend significant parts of a conversation with potential ally talking about my marginal ideology.

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