Why Anarchists and Libertarians Can’t Get Along 8

A reader writes:

“Very thought-provoking posts today, Keith (and great talk with Antony from the other day, on the state as aberration).

I agree that it’s a shame how wide the gap is between lefty anarchists and an-caps (and each camp’s fellow travelers). My feeling is a lot of that can be chalked up to the larger red/blue culture war trap, as well as quite a few instances where (if one looks closely) both sides are basically agreeing but merely prioritizing different issues to such an extent that they end up misreading one another as mortal enemies, rather than potential allies. Both view the other’s potential success as empowering what they deem to be the worst elements in the society (corporations, racists, and social conservatives on the one side; radical SJWs, communists/socialists, and immigrants/cultural aliens [sometimes explicitly non-whites and Muslims] on the other). There is also, of course, the simple communication problem of various groups using seemingly mutually unintelligible political languages each laden with their own wonky terms and ideological histories.

I think it was during that talk with Antony that you mentioned how the red and blue tribes have difficulty conceiving of separation of culture and state (to perhaps the same degree that people in Europe centuries ago had difficulty conceiving of separation of church and state). I’d never thought of it quite in those terms before, but that seems very accurate. The ironic flipside of that reality is that various ostensibly anti-state camps fall into the same trap: they want anarchism with red values, or blue values, and can’t tolerate the thought of co-existence with anarchists who’d want to arrange their societies differently than they themselves would. They’re still, as you put it, universalists. With the predictable end result that too many in the various anti-state groups, despite what they may theorize or envision for some idealized future — in practice just end up throwing their lot in with either the Republicans or Democrats as the lesser of two evils (as they see it), and are thus neutralized and incorporated back into the statist fold.

As someone who came of age at the height of the so-called libertarian moment in the late 2000s/early 2010s, it’s been disappointing and disheartening watching the an-cap/libertarian sphere implode and dissipate, with many getting sucked into the alt-right (or at least, against the SJWs), some into the SJW left (or at least, against the alt-right), and probably not a few just disengaging entirely. That’s not to say the libertarian sphere has necessarily shrunk a huge amount (though admittedly I myself am not too involved in it anymore), but it’s clear that the energy and passion (and numbers of activist-type youth, frankly) are much greater among both the rising progressive movement and the alt-right/alt-right adjacent disgruntled mobs. Neither of which I have much faith in to move us toward anything resembling a freer society.

By and large, they each seem to just want to gain hold of the cudgel of the state to beat the other, out of fear of being beaten themselves should the other get it before they do (in other words, politics as usual). And that fear limits their vision for what could be possible.

There are some silver linings. I’ve noticed that a few people in the progressive camp seem to be genuinely anti-war/anti-empire (supporters of Tulsi, Mike Gravel, and the more radical left supporters of Bernie). They do exist. But will it be enough in comparison to the mountain of progressives who are either apathetic about empire or enthusiastic supporters of it (under the guise of humanitarianism and “anti-fascism”)? Probably not. And of course, as you’ve pointed out, Bernie’s foreign policy views and priorities are problematic at best. He has spoken out strongly against US support for Saudi Arabia and the Likud government, so that’s a plus. But Obama as a candidate was also against the Iraq War and Gitmo.

Things could get interesting if both Tulsi and Gravel end up on the debate stage. But both could also be easily discredited in the eyes of most Western leftists (and in the case of Gravel, much of the public at large). Oh, Tulsi hated gays and likes Assad? Gravel is a 9/11 truther? Conversation over. It’s unfortunate, and it says a lot that that’s where we’re at.


  1. “I agree that it’s a shame how wide the gap is between lefty anarchists and an-caps (and each camp’s fellow travelers).”

    I am an an-cap (anarcho-capitalist”)
    However, I should repeat that I don’t like the term “capitalism”: I much prefer the term “free-market”.
    “Capitalism” can be considered analogous to “crowd-sourced capital”. That’s all it is, and all it should be. It was an advance in the late 1700’s, which in principle allowed anyone to invest his assets (capital) into businesses. They were called “Joint-stock companies”.

    Capitalism is an aspect of “Free market”: If you have a truly free market, then nobody can stop people from forming companies through crowd-sourced capital investment.

    • Good point.

      As the term “Capitalism” was coined by Marx it has always been problematic.

      “The problem with capitalism is it was named by its enemies” – Hayek

  2. “Both view the other’s potential success as empowering what they deem to be the worst elements in the society (corporations, racists, and social conservatives on the one side; radical SJWs, communists/socialists, and immigrants/cultural aliens [sometimes explicitly non-whites and Muslims] on the other).”

    Well, I’m basically an “an-cap” (although I prefer other terms, like “free market anarchist” or “libertarian anarchist”), and yet, I don’t necessarily find either list of bogeymen to be all that much worse than the other.

    Yes, I despise SJWs and communists, but I have nothing at all against immigrants. I’ve known a lot of them. Some I’ve liked, some I haven’t, but that’s true of any large group of people.

    Meanwhile, I’m not a big fan of corporations, racists or hardcore social conservatives, but in a free society (i.e. one without a state), I don’t think any of those groups would act as a significant threat to liberty.

    Specifically, corporations are fine in theory. The only reason they suck in practice is because most of them are in bed with the state. Stripped of their state-granted subsidies and privileges, they would have to do what every other business does, which is produce desired goods and services at reasonable prices, or else they would go out of business. If that’s all they did, I don’t see what the problem would be.

    And while I’m neither a racist nor a hardcore social conservative, if those who are wish to form their own communities and exclude those they find undesirable, I see no problem with that. I wouldn’t want to live in those communities, but for those that would, more power to them. As long as they don’t try to force their way of life on others, where’s the harm?

    And at least in theory, the same holds true for SJWs and communists. If they want to form their own communities, and as long as they don’t try to force their beliefs on others, I have no problem with that. However, in practice, I would be extremely surprised if they would accept that kind of arrangement, since forcing their beliefs on others seems to be part and parcel of their basic philosophy.

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