By Chris Shaw
I’ve heard it contended that when it comes to a multiplicitous anarchist social order, where anarcho-communists and anarcho-capitalists could live side by side in their own distinct communities, such an order would be practically impossible due to ancoms refusing to recognise the existence of property relations, as it is assumed ancoms deny the capacity for individual ownership of property as defined in the term “private property”. And because ancap economic theory is defined by a recognition of private property, the two communities could not exist together.
This is based on some erroneous assumptions from the outset. First, that ancoms do not recognise individual property. They do, as do nearly all socialist variants of anarchism. They make a distinction between private property and individual property, with the former being seen as representing the ability to separate production and control by removing the capacity for worker-control. This is an important distinction as ancom economics is based on confederations of production and workers, which if we take Kropotkin’s economic theories, means many small firms and workshops organised together in communities of production and consumption, with value being measured by use and socially necessary labour inputted. Within this, individual property is recognised, but economic property is held in common.
The second assumption is that social borders existing between Ancapistan and Ancomistan are themselves a form of private property. Surely by having something like a private city, with members of it joining by contractual means, there is an inherent recognition of sociality in the realm of property. Or is private property, collectively part of a larger structure developed through voluntary means, now itself a form of private property.
But of course this then twists the concept of private property to the realm of collective ownership, which then messes around with the idea of private property as a fundamental concept of anarcho-capitalism. So either ancaps recognise that borders between communities are socially recognised, and thus a conception of social property which can easily be recognised by communists as compatible with ancom ideas of property.
Or ancaps deny the capability to develop social property, in which case a wide variety of market activities, ranging from venture communists who use joint-stock companies to community land trusts, as well as pooled capital in non-limited liability companies, are denied their existence due to the belief that all property must be private according to individual ownership. But this of course is ridiculous, as humans are naturally social beings and thus will club together to get things done when they want to. It’s as silly as suggesting that market transactions couldn’t exist under anarchism as contractual relations need a government to enforce them. This obviously ignores large reams of history, from merchant trade networks to private law systems, which are anarchist by definition. So long as its voluntary, it can be part of a multivarious anarchist socio-economic order that includes ancoms and ancaps. The borders between them need not be disputed according to erroneous readings of either of these schools’ theories of property.