Anarcho-“Capitalism” is Impossible

By Anna Morgenstern

Center for a Stateless Society

Many anarchists of various stripes have made the claim that anarcho-capitalists aren’t really anarchists because anarchism entails anti-capitalism. I happen to think this is actually backwards. If they genuinely wish to eliminate the state, they are anarchists, but they aren’t really capitalists, no matter how much they want to claim they are.

People calling themselves “anarcho-capitalists” usually want to define “capitalism” as the same thing as a free market, and “socialism” as state intervention against such. But what then is a free market? If you mean simply all voluntary transactions that occur without state interference, then it’s a circular and redundant definition.  In that case, all anarchists are “anarcho-capitalists”, even the most die-hard anarcho-syndicalist.

Defining capitalism as a system of private property is equally problematic, because where would you draw the line between private and public? Under a state, state property is considered “public” but as an anarchist, you know that’s a sham. It’s private property owned by a group that calls themselves the State. Whether something is owned by 10 people or 10 million doesn’t make it more or less “private”.

Going a bit deeper, there may be issues about how property rights are defined, and the nature of ownership between different sorts of anarchists.  Obviously, anarcho-capitalists do not want the government to decide who owns what property. So even at their hardest of hard-core propertarianism, they are still effectively anarchists; they just have a different idea of how an anarchist society will organize itself.

But the focus on goals, I think, is very much over-emphasized in anarchist communities, at the expense of looking at means. Goals sometimes lead people toward certain means, but it is the means that determine results, not the goals. And if the anarcho-capitalists follow anarchist means, the results will be anarchy, not some impossible “anarcho-capitalism”.

Anarchy does not mean social utopia, it means a society where there is no privileged authority. There will still be social evils to be dealt with under anarchy. But anarchy is an important step toward fighting those evils without giving birth to all new ones.


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