Anarchism/Anti-State

Benjamin Tucker on Anarcho-Capitalism

By Charles Johnson

Center for a Stateless Society

The following article was written by Charles Johnson and published on his Rad Geek People’s Daily, December 1, 2007.

Well, kind of.

Obviously Benjamin Tucker had no direct opinions about “anarcho-capitalism,” because the term was not even coined until many years after his death, and several decades after his retirement from radical politics. But Tucker did have quite a bit to say about the relationships among anarchism, socialism, and capitalism, and it may be worth having a look at it.

The question’s interesting partly as a matter of historical curiosity, but partly also because it may help shed some light on an old argument which has mostly produced heat. There are certain groups of anti-capitalist anarchists — most of them communist or collectivist anarchists — who tend to start spitting fire when pro-capitalist anti-statists like Murray Rothbard or David Friedman describe themselves as “anarcho-capitalists,” or identify their position as a form of “anarchism” simpliciter, or identify anarcho-capitalism as a close relation of the free-market individualist anarchism of Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, Victor Yarros, et al. The locus classicus of the fire-spitting on the web is of course Section F and Section G of the “social anarchist” Anarchist FAQ; if that’s not where you’re encountering the debate, you’re almost certain to hear it get cited repeatedly anyway. At this point a heated debate soon follows over whether anarcho-capitalism is a genuine form of anarchism, or an unrelated form of right-wing anti-statism being fraudulently passed off as anarchism. The debate often focuses in on the notion of an anarchist tradition, and the argument turns to the question of (1) whether a pro-capitalist position is or is not incompatible with essential and continuous elements of that tradition; and (2) whether anarcho-capitalism is a legitimate part of that tradition or an independent and basically alien ideology that has just nicked some terminology and a couple slogans from traditional anarchism. And this is where the individualist anarchists get dragged into the fight.

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Categories: Anarchism/Anti-State

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