Against Authority


A Brief History of Anarchist Thought

It is easy to fall into two errors when giving a history of anarchism. First, one is tempted to include various philosophies and movements with anarchistic proclivities, enlarging the scope of anarchism erroneously. Loosely anti-authoritarian sentiment does not constitute anarchism proper. Secondly, one is tempted to exclude writings of people who were not anarchists, or were not anarchists for long or predominantly, even when their thoughts are important in anarchist theory. But the fact is that many minarchists and non-anarchist proponents of liberty were pioneers in anarchist thought, and provide some of the most cogent theory. Here we attempt to steer between both shoals.

Avoiding the first error is easy, since we have defined anarchism fairly stringently as including three anti-statist contentions: 1) No state has legitimate moral authority over the individual (legitimacy); 2) All states are unnecessary or undesirable or immoral (desirability); and 3) All states should be abolished immediately (purity). Thus, we can eliminate the Diggers, Quakers, and Christian Non-Resisters as anarchist movements proper. As for the second shoal, we will include the writings of such people as Edmund Burke and Herbert Spencer, even though the former is widely considered "the father of conservatism" and the latter, in his later days, wavered from his earlier anarchism.

Finally, it will be noted that this history avoids the Eurocentrism of most traditional anarchist histories, along with the accompanying bias toward collectivist economic theories. Anarchism is about political authority - economic theory is secondary, and only relevant insofar as it is the consequence of that political theory. We will not dwell on quaint economic notions at the expense of anti-statist philosophy.

Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)

The first known anarchist essay, A Vindication of Natural Society, was written by Edmund Burke when he was a student. No one knows whether Burke was actually an anarchist when he wrote it. He, like many young students, may have been rebellious, perhaps enough to reach the anarchist beliefs espoused in his essay. Then again, he may have been exercising his argumentative powers by making a serious case opposite to what he believed. Or, he may have been attempting a satire, as he later claimed after his authorship become publicly known while he held a government position. The first hypothesis seems most likely, but we will never know for sure. At any rate, Burke gave a strong and eloquent case against the state, with arguments which are quite convincing to this day. His arguments were repeated in his lifetime by the liberal minarchist William Godwin, and modern arguments condemning the state are little more than repetitions of themes found in Vindication.

The full name of Burke's essay is "A Vindication of Natural Society or, A View of the Miseries and Evils Arising to Mankind from Every Species of Artifical Society." It was first published in 1756 under the name of Lord Bolingbrook, a recently deceased well-known (but controversial) author. He starts by making the distinction between what he calls "natural society" and "artificial society." By this he means voluntary society versus social organization which is imposed, decreed, and/or regimented by external force - in other words, statist society. "Natural" in this context means nothing more than voluntary. Burke is not making any claim about man's nature here, only that it is society "founded in natural Appetites and Instincts, and not in any positive Institution." Burke noted that mankind has "fallen" into artificial, or political society. Then he asks whether this has been beneficial to mankind or not.

Burke then goes into the history of the state, and analyses the results. He notes that statism became a virtual religion, and shows how it has caused more harm than good. Although it provided some relief from the biased judge problem in natural society, artificial society introduces severe problems that overwhelm any possible benefits.

Externally, the state engages in brutal and barbaric wars, causes mass death and destruction, and encourages war technology. He asserts that "all Empires have been cemented in Blood." Burke calculates that States through history have slaughtered roughly seventy times the number of people living in the world. Thus, the violence of states, with war, occupation, slavery, and genocide, dwarfs the sporadic violence of natural society. Burke even attempts an institutional analysis of the state, as later anarchists would do.

These Evils are not accidental. Whoever will take the pains to consider the Nature of Society, will find they result directly from its Constitution. For as Subordination, or in other Words, the Reciprocation of Tyranny, and Slavery, is requisite to support these Societies, the Interest, the Ambition, the Malice, or the Revenge, nay even the Whim and Caprice of one ruling Man among them, is enough to arm all the rest, without any private Views of their own, to the worst and blackest Purposes; and what is at once lamentable and ridiculous, these Wretches engage under those Banners with a Fury greater than if they were animated by Revenge for their own proper Wrongs. - Edmund Burke, A Vindication of Natural Society
He also writes of the "us versus them" mentality which contributes to the violence. Then he moves to the internal problems of statism. He points out, as Lord Acton did so famously later, that power corrupts: "The very Name of a Politician, a Statesman, is sure to cause Terror and Hatred; it has always connected with it the Ideas of Treachery, Cruelty, Fraud and Tyranny," and "this unnatural Power corrupts both the Heart, and the Understanding." He writes that states "frequently infringe the Rules of Justice to support themselves," and lie to support "the reigning Interest," citing "the Dungeons, Whips, Chains, Racks, Gibbets, with which every Society is abundantly stored." Burke, like la Boetie, notes the role of "flatterers" and "favorites." After examining various forms of government, he deduces that they are all worse than anarchy, what he calls natural society.

Anticipating later anarchist economists like Molinari, Burke observes that state court systems, being monopolies, are not very efficient at what they do, and that decreed or legislated law is more capricious than common law or traditional law.

All in all, Burke's essay brings up virtually all the major themes in the case against the state. Later theorists would make a positive case for anarchism - ideas about how a free society could be organized - but as for negative anarchism, the points made in Vindication of Natural Society stand solid to this day.

Josiah Warren

The First Positive Anarchist

Enlightenment thought, combined with the budding industrial revolution, brought on the first positive anarchist theories. The ideas were in the air, so to speak, and several people came up with positive anarchism independently, and roughly about the same time. Chronologically, the first known undisputedly anarchist thinker was Josiah Warren (1798-1874).

Josiah Warren developed his anarchist ideas soon after his participation in Robert Owen's fateful New Harmony utopian community, which lasted from 1825 to 1829. Warren, undaunted by New Harmony's failure, realized that the problem was a lack of respect for individuality; that undue collectivization only brought about discord. Later, Warren created his own communities based on individualism and private property, and a "time store" which traded in labor notes.

Not only is Warren the father of anarchism, but also could fairly be considered the father of socialist economic theory, and perhaps even of geoist land reform. Yet he was little known in his time, and was more an activist than a theoretician, even though he wrote two significant anarchist pieces: Equitable Commerce and True Civilization.

Lest someone challenge the claim that Warren was the first anarchist, we provide the following except published in 1833, seven years before Proudhon's What is Property? essay.

Laws and governments defeat their object. Their professed object is the security and good order of society. But the moment that any such power is erected over one's person or property, that moment he feels insecure and sees that his greatest chance of security is in getting possession of the governing power - in governing, rather than being governed. ... Strife for the attainment of this power, has in all ages up to the present hour produced more confusion, destruction of life and property, and more crimes and intense misery than all other causes put together.

I venture the assertion that the establishing of such powers has been the greatest error of mankind, and that society never will enjoy peace or security until it has done with these barbarisms and acknowledges the inalienable right of every individual to the sovereignty of their own person, time, and property. - Josiah Warren, The Peaceful Revolutionist April 5, 1833, vol. 1, no. 4


Warren based anarchism on the principle of individuality, "the Practice of Mentally Discriminating, Dividing, Separating, Disconnecting Persons, Things, and Events, according to their Individual Peculiarities." He emphasized that different things and different people all have their individual properties, propensities, and qualities, and that the primary mistake of artificial society is that it treats them as the same. For people, this non-recognition of individuality creates conflict and discord. Even in human language, the individuality of people's minds make understanding of even simple phrases and propositions problematic. Even the concept of individuality will be understood differently by different people.

There is no certainty of any written laws, or rules, or institutions, or verbal precepts being understood in the same manner by any number of persons. This Individuality is unconquerable, and therefore rises above all institutions. To require conformity in the appreciation of sentiments, or in the interpretation of language, or uniformity of thought, feeling, or action where there is no natural coincidence, is a fundamental error in human legislation - a madness that would be only equalled by requiring all to possess the same countenance or the same stature.

Individuality thus rising above all prescriptions, all authority, every one, by the very necessities of nature, is raised above, instead of being under institutions based on language. Institutions thus become subordinate to our judgment and subject to our convenience; and the hitherto inverted pyramid of human affairs thus assumes its true position! - Josiah Warren, Equitable Commerce
Thus, harmony is created by recognizing the diversity of people rather than blindly forming groups and associations ("combinations" Warren calls them). The only useful associations are those which recognize the individuality of its members, meaning that they allow members to opt out when/if they no longer see it to their advantage to associate, and strictly limit the degree and personal cost of association.
The directing power, or the lead of every movement must be individual, or there is no lead, no order, nothing but confusion. The lead may be a person or a thing - an idea or a principle; but it must be an Individuality, or it cannot lead; and those who are led must have an individual or similar impulse, and both that and the lead must coincide or harmonize, to insure order and progress. - Josiah Warren, Equitable Commerce

As an example, Warren cites people walking on a sidewalk in a city. Sooner or later someone suggests that everyone might avoid collision by agreeing to walk on the right (or left). Since it is in everyone's interest to avoid collisions, people's interests coincide and thus harmony is achieved. Success, rather than authority, is the regulator. There is no "general will," but rather the interests of individuals that creates such coordination. The problem with political government is that it attempts to create harmony by overriding individual interests by creating unnecessary "combinations." While sometimes expeditious, it is clearly a danger to liberty and individuality.

Disconnecting all interests, and allowing each to be absolute despot or sovereign over his own, at his own cost, is the only solution that is worthy of thought. Good thinkers never committed a more fatal mistake than in expecting harmony from an attempt to overcome individuality, and in trying to make a state or a nation an "Individual!" The individuality of each person is perfectly indestructible! A state or a nation is a multitude of indestructible individualities, and cannot, by any possibility, be converted into any thing else! The horrid consequences of these monstrous and abortive attempts to overcome simple truth and nature, are displayed on every page of the world's melancholy history. - Josiah Warren, Equitable Commerce

Sovereignty of the Individual

To Warren, the fact of human individuality implies the necessity for sovereignty of the individual. "The true basis for society ... is freedom to differ in all things, or the sovereignty of every individual." He points out that liberty, rather than forcing us to differ, on the contrary gives us a chance to take advantage when our interests coincide. It also allows experimentation, so that the best and most harmonious means can be discovered. "The sovereignty of the individual will be found on trial to be indispensable to harmony in every step of social reorganization, and when this is violated or infringed, then that harmony will be sure to be disturbed."

The state does not recognize the principle of individuality, with disasterous consequences.

Individuality was not recognized as the absolute right of every person, and was not known as the great principle of order and harmony. Diversity could only beget enmity where conformity was demanded! ...
How evidently the system had risen above the man! The idea of the absolute inviolability of every person must lead and predominate in any movement, or it will proceed in confusion and end in despair. - Josiah Warren, Equitable Commerce

As we will see, Pierre Proudhon says basically the same thing with his famous phrase, "Liberty, not the daughter, but the mother of order."

Warren emphasizes what would later be called "methodological individualism" by Max Weber and Ludwig von Mises.
If we would have a prosperous state, it must result from the prosperity of the individuals who compose the state. Where every individual is rich, the state will be rich. Where every individual is secure in his person and property, the nation, or state, is secure. Where every individual thrives, there will be a thriving state or nation. Where every individual should do justice, there justice would reign in the state or Nation. Where every Individual should be free, there would be a free state or a free nation. The liberty, freedom, or sovereignty of a state or Nation, must consist of the sovereignty of the individuals who compose the state or Nation. ...

There can be no FREE state or Nation, where every Individual lives UNDER, instead of ABOVE, the customs, laws, and institutions of the state or Nation!! - Josiah Warren, Equitable Commerce

Security of Person and Property

Warren observes that the rationalization for states has been the protection of person and property. Like Burke, he sees the abject failure of states to accomplish this end.

They never have, never will accomplish this professed object; although they have had all the world at their control for thousands of years, they have brought it to a worse condition than that in which they found it, in spite of the immense improvements in mechanism, division of labor, and other elements of civilization to aid them. On the contrary, under the plausible pretext of securing person and property, they have spread wholesale destruction, famine, and wretchedness, in every frightful form over all parts of the earth, where peace and security might otherwise have prevailed. They have shed more blood, committed more murders, tortures, and other frightful crimes in the struggles against each other for the privilege of governing, than society ever would or could have suffered in the total absence of all governments whatever! - Josiah Warren, Equitable Commerce

Warren concludes: "Rulers claim a right to rise above and control the individual, his labor, his trade, his time, and his property, against his own judgment and inclination, while security of person and property cannot consist in anything less than having the supreme government of himself and all his own interests; therefore, security cannot exist under any government whatever."

Anticipating Spencer's Law of Equal Freedom, Warren asserts that recognizing individual sovereignty will bring "the greatest practicable amount of liberty to each individual." Practically, this often means simply avoiding "combinations" when at all possible, and carefully delimiting the power of associations when it is expedient or necessary to combine.

As an example of a permissible combination, Warren supposes that twenty people may see a need to build a bridge. There will be costs, and leadership is necessary. Warren suggests that the participants should be allowed to opt out with their portion of the costs returned to them, or that each person voluntarily but permanently invest a specific amount with the full understanding of the risk. Since the investment is a certain specified amount, only property is surrendered, not liberty. As each person's cost is definite and limited, even if it is ultimately lost it does not affect his security. "If each one is himself the supreme judge at all times of the individual case in hand, and is free to act from his own individual estimate of the advantages to be derived to himself or others, as in the above instance, then the natural liberty of the individual is not invaded."

Warren's Economics

In some ways, Warren's economic theory is fine. He accepts and celebrates the advantages of the division of labor, calling it "the richest mine of wealth ever worked by man." He clearly realizes how it helps create wealth and improves the standard of living. He also realizes that exchange is advantageous and necessary to the process.

After asking why so many people are poor, despite "the enormous advantages of division and exchange," he comes to an erroneous answer. Warren believes that virtually all economic problems stem from selling products for more than their cost. He expresses this economic principle as "Cost the Limit of Price," and bases it on a normative version of the Labor Theory of Value. Thus, Warren can justifiably be considered the father of socialist economics. (Not the father of socialism, since Robert Owen was already espousing non-economic arguments for the ideology.)

While Warren was sophisticated enough to worry about equalizing supply and demand, he somehow expected people to engage in occupations and produce amounts of goods and services without what Friedrich Hayek would later refer to as the information function of price. While modern economists would find Warren's economics naive, to say the least, one must realize that he lived before the marginalist revolution, and even Adam Smith and David Ricardo fell for the Labor Theory of Value. At any rate, Warren's facile economics need not detract from his political theories. No doubt to Warren the economic and political theories were complementary, but with our 20-20 hindsight we can separate them.

Warren's advocacy of labor notes as the only just circulation medium is similarly flawed, though we can agree with the political point that monetary experimentation should not be prevented by the state. While Warren was moderately successful using labor-time denominated notes for his "Time Store," Robert Owen failed in a similar but larger experiment in England. Why? Just as we would expect - supply and demand didn't match up. Owen's store accumulated unwanted items and fell short of demanded items, just as any modern economist would predict.

Believing that collecting non-labor profit was vice, Warren opposed interest on loans and rent from land. Although Warren could have made a fortune from selling a 99-year lease on land in what became downtown Cincinnati, he declined to take a profit and gave up the lease. It should be noted that Warren recognized the right to profit from "usary," but hoped that people would voluntarily limit prices to "true cost," i.e. the labor expended on production. This sets him apart from the (mostly European) socialists who would confiscate such profits or dispossess capitalists. Warren was a "peaceful revolutionist" and like later American labor-value individualist anarchists, expected his system to out-compete propertarian capitalism.

It is important to clear up terminology here. While labor-value individualist anarchists like Warren tended to call themselves "socialist" and their system "socialism," these terms did not have the same meaning as today. In the early 19th century, socialism meant nothing more than having a normative plan or idea of how society should be. Later in the 19th century, "socialism" meant opposition to concentration of capital in the hands of a few state-privileged persons. Today, of course, socialism means something quite different - collective ownership of the means of production (capital). Thus, in modern terms, Warren and the classic American individualist anarchists were not socialist, but rather mutualist. Similarly, capitalism meant concentrated state-favored ownership in the 19th century, rather than private ownership of the means of production as it does today. Thus, while the classic individualist anarchist claimed to be against capitalism, in modern terms they supported most aspects of capitalism. In reading 19th century tracts, one must keep these terminological differences constantly in mind.

Warren's economic system came to be known as "mutualism." Mutualism might be considered a hybrid of socialism and capitalism. Like socialism (in the modern sense) it opposes usary - profiting from the labor of others or non-labor means such as the ownership of land. Like capitalism, it opposes collective ownership and supports private property. For natural (non-labor produced) property, mutualism supports possession conventions rather than sticky (Lockean) property conventions.

The French Connection

Meanwhile in France, a young French student with a flair for contrarianism wrote a scathing critique of decreed property. In "What Is Property?" (1841), Pierre Proudhon's answer was "property is robbery." On the surface, this bold claim is contradictory, but what he really means is that property as defined and decreed by the state amounts to robbery, and that property not based on use and possession is unjust. His terminology can be confusing to unwary readers, since he does support unequivocably the type of property he dubbed "possession." Furthermore, he also supports sticky property for the products of labor. Thus, to understand his argument, one must realize that when he writes "property" he really means (in modern terminology) decreed or traditional property. When one realizes that France in Proudhon's time was still suffering under the vestiges of feudalism, his antipathy for "property" is quite understandable. Later in his career, Proudhon switched to more standard terminology and, demonstrating a greater understanding of the issue, came out in support of sticky property.

"Property in its modern form, which appears to be founded, in defiance of any notion of right and good sense, on a double absolutism, may in fact be considered as a triumph of Liberty. For it is born of Liberty, not, as it may first appear, against right, but through the operation of a better understanding of right.

... There is a corollary to this principle that property is the only power that can act as a counterweight to the State, because it shows no reverence for princes, rebels against society and is, in short, anarchist. The corollary is that property, an absolutism within an absolutism, is also an element of division within the State. State power is the kind of power that absorbs everything else into it. If it is allowed to take its own way, all individuality will quickly disappear, swallowed up by the collectivity, and society will sink into communism. Property, on the contrary, is a decentralising force. Being itself an absolute, it is anti despotic and anti-unitary. Property is the basis of any system of federation. This is why property, which is by its nature autocratic, automatically becomes democratic when it forms part of an ordered political society." - Pierre Proudhon, System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty

Elsewhere Proudhon was more succinct, writing "Property is liberty."

Pierre Proudhon
Pierre Proudhon (1809-1865)

Proudhon's use of irony and "contradiction" in his writings, while perhaps stylish in his day, make his writings opaque to modern readers, and probably to readers of his day. Thus, there are two interpretations of his political thought. Socialists claim Proudhon as one of their own, and that he opposed property, except in some limited sense. Propertarians point to his assertion that property is liberty and a bulwark against the state, and see Proudhon as an individualist. At any rate, Proudhon was ambiguous enough so that he is claimed by both collectivists and individualists as one of their own.

Proudhon was quite clear that association for its own sake was to be avoided; he was an ardent anti-communist. He is generally considered the founder of anarchist mutualism, though this is a mistake since Josiah Warren got there first. But there's no doubt that Proudhon was a brilliant theorist, and did more to popularize mutualism than Warren or anyone else in his time. His work was responsible for igniting the anarchist movement, which soon spread from Europe to the rest of the world. Warren's work would perhaps have been relegated to obscurity had not Proudhon brought anarchism to the forefront of radical thought. Proudhon was the first writer to actually call himself an anarchist; before Proudhon "anarchist" was a term of derision. Proudhon's usage changed the meaning of "anarchism" from chaos and anomy to a radical philosophy of liberty.

The idea of spontaneous order (or more accurately emergent order) was worked out by Proudhon. His motto "Liberty, not the daughter, but the mother of order" was used by Benjamin Tucker on the masthead of his anarchist periodical "Liberty."

Proudhon's economics was basically the same as Josiah Warren's. It held that labor was the only proper source of wealth or justification for property, and assumed the Labor Theory of Value in a normative sense. Proudhon, unlike Warren, emphasized the idea of federation, and was generally less averse to associations. Proudhon, like Warren, advocated the use of debt notes denominated in labor time for monetary purposes. While Warren started small and proved the viability of these notes at least on a local level, Proudhon had grander schemes of a national "mutual bank," and never successfully implemented his idea. Ironically for a self-labelled anarchist, Proudhon sought to use the French state as a source of startup capital.

Being working-class himself, a printer by profession, Proudhon tried to appeal to the working people and the proletarian mystique. In his day, "socialism" (so-called) was young and not yet dominated by statists. Proudhon and Karl Marx, friendly early on, soon parted ways due to the incompatability of Proudhon's anti-state and anti-authoritarian core and Marx's proposed capture and use of state power to achieve socialism. This anarchist versus authoritarian socialism schism would continue for half a century, with Bakunin succeeding Proudhon as the libertarian champion.

Proudhon was rather unique among anarchists, in that he was culturally conservative. He opposed equality for women, and was reputedly something of a misogynist. He was very nationalistic about France, and an ardent anti-Semitic. For these and other reasons, the ideological leadership of the anarchist movement in Europe soon changed to the Russian Michael Bakunin, though Proudhon remained the well-respected "godfather" of European anarchism.

Proudhon's anarchist legacy gets mixed marks. Although a great proselytizer, his proclivity for socialist class war notions and his catering to vulgar proletarianism has, in hindsight, given anarchism a bad name. To this day, many associate anarchism with braindead anti-capitalism rather than principled anti-statism. But to be fair, the blame for this should probably fall on his followers and later socialists who drop his name rather than Proudhon himself.

The Economistes

While Proudhon had the anarchist insight that the state was unnecessary and oppressive, he lacked the economic insight that property was both natural and necessary. In effect, he looked at quasi-feudal property arrangements and threw the baby out with the bathwater, rejecting all property (at least in his early formulations.) However, there were contemporaries of Proudhon who were much wiser in this regard. They were the laissez faire economists, the intellectual descendants of the physiocrats Richard Cantillon, Francois Quesnay, and Jean-Baptiste Say. This group collaborated in the Paris Societe des Economistes, and included Frederick Bastiat, Charles Dunoyer, and Gustave de Molinari.

Probably all of these economistes except Molinari were minarchist rather than anarchist. They were, like Henry David Thoreau, evolutionary quasi-anarchists, in that they saw the need for government withering away as people and society advanced.

There can be no question about the implicit anarchism of Comte's and Dunoyer's liberalism. Dunoyer, for example, thought that in the future the state would merely be an appendage of the market and would gradually wither and die as the market expanded. Perfection would be reached when "everyone works and no one governs," and "the maintenance of public safety would no longer demand the intervention of a permanent, special force, the government to this extent disappears." A colleague and fellow liberal, Augustin Thierry, echoed Dunoyer's sentiments when he wrote that "it was in losing their powers that the actions of governments [have] ameliorate[d]" and that, if given a choice between an oppressive state apparatus and "anarchy," he believed that "the excesses of the police are far more fatal than the absence of the police." In Comte's words: "the less [government] makes itself felt, the more the people prosper."

The anarchism of Comte and Dunoyer was dependent on their view of the evolution of societies. Like Molinari, they believed that "as we become more civilized, there is less need for police and courts." - David M. Hart, Gustave de Molinari and the Anti-Statist Liberal Tradition

These ardent anti-statist liberals are of great interest to anarchists, since their analysis does not depend on a monopoly government. On the contrary, virtually everything they have to say can be applied to voluntary security arrangements in a stateless society. One simply has to interpret the word "government" in the broader Jeffersonian/Nockian sense as an association for the protection of rights, rather than in the more common sense of coercive monopoly, i.e. the state. Also, one may have to forgive appeals to the deity in justifying natural law; rationalistic justifications based on empiricism or contractarianism are more convincing to the modern mind, and could easily be substituted.

The economistes improved on anarcho-socialist thought in two ways. As already mentioned, they had a more sophisticated understanding of property. Secondly, they had a much better understanding of law, legal systems, and the production of security. Most anarcho-socialists tended to see all law as decreed law, analogous to their seeing all property as decreed property. Hence, they rejected law lock, stock, and barrel, and considered it an artificial imposition on man. The economistes saw law as perfectly reasonable and natural constraints on conduct necessary for harmonious human interaction. Thus, it was an essential part of natural society. They saw decreed law as a violation of natural law in many cases, of course, but didn't reject law per se.

The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish! If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it. - Frederic Bastiat, The Law
Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) pointed out that law and property preceeded the state, and explained in simple economic terms why property is necessary.
By the application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert them into products, and use them. This process is necessary in order that life may run its appointed course. Life, faculties, production - in other words, individuality, liberty, property - this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place. - Frederic Bastiat, The Law

Observing that people can generally defend their rights more efficiently by associating for mutual aid, Bastiat defined law as collective organization of the individual right of self-defense. He had his own formulation of the Law of Equal Freedom.

Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces? If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all. - Frederic Bastiat, The Law

Bastiat wholeheartedly condemned statist law as a perversion of law. He also explains the motivations and incentives causing this perversion. This can be construed as an economic or psychological institutional analysis of state. This seems quite modern, anticipating the Public Choice school ("greed") and criticisms of well-meaning social engineering ("false philanthropy") so prominent a century later.

The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense. How has this perversion of the law been accomplished? And what have been the results? The law has been perverted by the influence of two entirely different causes: stupid greed and false philanthropy. - Frederic Bastiat, The Law

Anti-statist theoreticians often used historical scenarios to illustrate the conflict theory of the (origin of the) state. This was to counter the Lockian social contract theory, which is superficially elegant but never ever actually occurred. Thus, Willhelm von Humboldt and others explained the origin of the state as a result of banditry upon land-bound agricultural communities. At some point, the bandit gangs realized that plunder could be increased by periodic looting and allowing the villagers to live, as opposed to a one-time killing and pillaging. Thus, the state is explained as sustainable spoliation. Bastiat takes an economist's approach, pointing out the incentives involved.

Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property. But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder. Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain - and since labor is pain in itself - it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it. When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor. It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. ...

Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter - by peaceful or revolutionary means - into the making of laws. According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it. Woe to the nation when this latter purpose prevails among the mass victims of lawful plunder when they, in turn, seize the power to make laws! - Frederic Bastiat, The Law

So we see that Bastiat, in effect, defines the state as the organization of lawful plunder. Franz Oppenheimer, a century later, formalized this definition in his book The State. Bastiat observes that there are three basic choices when faced with this problem of state: either the few can rob the many, everyone rob everyone, or nobody rob anybody. Obviously, he favors the latter solution. Bastiat tells how to recognize legal plunder, and gives some examples.

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simple. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. ...

Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole - with their common aim of legal plunder - constitute [statist] socialism. - Frederic Bastiat, The Law

The bottom line is that the state is incompatible with justice, something with which Bastiat's debate opponent Proudhon would no doubt agree. Thus the minarchist Bastiat expresses a profound anarchist truth.

When justice is organized by law - that is, by force - this excludes the idea of using law (force) to organize any human activity whatever, whether it be labor, charity, agriculture, commerce, industry, education, art, or religion. The organizing by law of any one of these would inevitably destroy the essential organization - justice. For truly, how can we imagine force being used against the liberty of citizens without it also being used against justice, and thus acting against its proper purpose? - Frederic Bastiat, The Law

Unfortunately, Bastiat died before his student and protege Gustave de Molinari presented his seminal anarcho-capitalist paper, The Production of Security, to the Societe des Economistes. We'll never know if that would have pushed Bastiat into the anarchist camp. We do know that the other members of the society resisted Molinari's anarchist thesis. Yet Molinari was simply following the logic of laissez faire - if monopoly was bad for all other goods and services, then it was bad for the production of security.

Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912) starts with the observations of his mentor, and the laissez faire school in general, about society. These same observations about "natural society" have been made by virtually all anarchists, and indeed virtually all classical liberals.

Man experiences a multitude of needs, on whose satisfaction his happiness depends, and whose non-satisfaction entails suffering. Alone and isolated, he could only provide in an incomplete, insufficient manner for these incessant needs. The instinct of sociability brings him together with similar persons, and drives him into communication with them. Therefore, impelled by the self-interest of the individuals thus brought together, a certain division of labor is established, necessarily followed by exchanges. In brief, we see an organization emerge, by means of which man can more completely satisfy his needs than he could living in isolation.

This natural organization is called society.

- Gustave de Molinari, The Production of Security

Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912)

But there is a pressing need "which plays an immense role in the history of humanity, namely the need for security." Molinari then defines government in the broad Jeffersonial/Nockian sense: an "establishment whose object is to guarantee to everyone the peaceful possession of his person and his goods."

He goes on to state the "well-established truth in political economy," that monopolies are not in the interest of consumers. Thus he reached the radical conclusion that shook his fellow economists: "That no government should have the right to prevent another government from going into competition with it, or to require consumers of security to come exclusively to it for this commodity."

In the remainder of his paper, Molinari goes on to argue that government is no exception to the well-established natural law regarding monopoly. Furthermore, the only alternatives to competition among security services are monopoly and [statist] communism, i.e. common ownership. But this latter amounts to a disguised form of monopoly.

Molinari opines that the reason people resist a free market in security is that they believe that society is essentially artificial rather than natural. Thus they think that it is necessary to have legislation and authority to modify, remake, and mold society. This authority either takes the form of rulers and kings, or the form of Rousseau's mythical general will of the nation. According to Molinari, this belief in the general will is the essence of communism.

If there is no unanimity, if there is still dissension after the debate, the majority is in the right, since it comprises the larger number of reasonable individuals. (These individuals are, of course, assumed to be equal, otherwise the whole structure collapses.) Consequently, they insist that the decisions of the majority must become law, and that the minority is obliged to submit to it, even if it is contrary to its most deeply rooted convictions and injures its most precious interests.

That is the theory; but, in practice, does the authority of the decision of the majority really have this irresistible, absolute character as assumed? - Gustave de Molinari, The Production of Security
Molinari answers 'no' of course, and concludes that "the moral foundation of authority is neither as solid nor as wide, under a regime of monopoly or of communism, as it could be under a regime of liberty." Finally, Molinari gives some advantages to competing protection agencies, and how it might function.
Under the rule of free competition, war between the producers of security entirely loses its justification. Why would they make war? To conquer consumers? But the consumers would not allow themselves to be conquered. They would be careful not to allow themselves to be protected by men who would unscrupulously attack the persons and property of their rivals. If some audacious conqueror tried to become dictator, they would immediately call to their aid all the free consumers menaced by this aggression, and they would treat him as he deserved. Just as war is the natural consequence of monopoly, peace us the natural consequence of liberty.

Under a regime of liberty, the natural organization of the security industry would not be different from that of other industries. In small districts a single entrepreneur could suffice. This entrepreneur might leave his business to his son, or sell it to another entrepreneur. In larger districts, one company by itself would bring together enough resources adequately to carry on this important and difficult business. If it were well managed, this company could easily last, and security would last with it. - Gustave de Molinari, The Production of Security

Molinari has thus solved the utopianism problem of the anti-law anarchists. Rather than just wish away aggressive conduct by some individuals, Molinari takes the bull by the horns and shows how the lack of perfection in humanity can be handled while maintaining a free society. He is the first anarcho-capitalist, though his ideas would not be well-known for another century. In the second half of the 20th century, people like Murray Rothbard and David Friedman would take up where Molinari left off.

Lysander Spooner

Lysander Spooner, like Josiah Warren, was one of those American geniuses who developed his thought pretty much independently of others. It was only later in life that he developed close associations with other anarchists, such as Benjamin Tucker, William B. Greene, and other "Boston anarchists." In the classical liberal tradition of Locke, Jefferson, and Paine, Spooner championed natural law as the basis for his political theories.

Spooner was one of those rare persons who became more and more radical as he got older. In his younger days, he was a minarchist, and putting emphasis on the US Constitution and its precedents, the Magna Carta and Common Law. Since he was trained as a lawyer, this is not surprising. However, even in his constitutionist youth, his ultimate appeal was to natural law. Thus, he interpreted the Constitution as a man-made (and therefore flawed) attempt to describe natural law, and rejected the parts of the Constitution that violated this law. The very term "law," according to Spooner, referred not to man-made, decreed, or legislated law, but to higher natural law.

What then is LAW? That law, I mean, which, and which only, judicial tribunals are morally bound, under all circumstances, to declare and sustain? In answering this question, I shall attempt to show that law is an intelligible principle of right, necessarily resulting from the nature of man; and not an arbitrary rule, that can be established by mere will, numbers or power. To determine whether this proposition be correct, we must look at the general signification of the term law.

The true and general meaning of it, is that natural, permanent, unalterable principle, which governs any particular thing or class of things. The principle is strictly a natural one; and the term applies to every natural principle, whether mental, moral or physical. Thus we speak of the laws of mind; meaning thereby those natural, universal and necessary principles, according to which mind acts, or by which it is governed. We speak too of the moral law; which is merely an universal principle of moral obligation, that arises out of the nature of men, and their relations to each other, and to other things and is consequently as unalterable at the nature of men. And it is solely because it is unalterable in its nature, and universal in its application, that it is denominated law. If it were changeable, partial or arbitrary, it would be no law. - Lysander Spooner, The Unconstitutionality of Slavery (1845, 1860)
Lysander Spooner Spooner, like Warren, was an activist. He challenged the US Postal Service monopoly by starting his own mail company, forcing the postage rates down but eventually having to go out of business due to continuous legal harassment. Spooner is probably most famous for his abolitionist activities. He not only offered free legal services to fugitive slaves and those who assisted them, but wrote what was considered the definitive legal analysis: The Unconstitutionality of Slavery. This paper was extremely constroversial even among his fellow abolitionists. William Lloyd Garrison's position was that the Constitution condoned slavery, calling it "a covenant with death and an agreement with hell." Garrison, more anarchist than Spooner at this time, favored secession by northern states so as to avoid having to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. To Garrison, one should not support a state which endorses and enforces slavery. In later years, Spooner would come around to the pure anarchist position that constitutions were merely statist excuses for engaging in "legalized" crime.
The practical difficulty with our government has been, that most of those who have administered it, have taken it for granted that the Constitution, as it is written, was a thing of no importance; that it neither said what it meant, nor meant what it said; that it was gotten up by swindlers, (as many of its authors doubtless were,) who said a great many good things, which they did not mean, and meant a great many bad things, which they dared not say; that these men, under the false pretence of a government resting on the consent of the whole people, designed to entrap them into a government of a part; who should be powerful and fraudulent enough to cheat the weaker portion out of all the good things that were said, but not meant, and subject them to all the bad things that were meant, but not said. ...

The result - and a natural one - has been that we have had governments, State and national, devoted to nearly every grade and species of crime that governments have ever practised upon their victims; and these crimes have culminated in a war that has cost a million of lives; a war carried on, upon one side, for chattel slavery, and on the other for political slavery; upon neither for liberty, justice, or truth. - Lysander Spooner, No Treason (1867-1870)

With admirable integrity and consistency, Spooner criticized both the Civil War and reconstruction, unlike most of his abolitionist colleagues who opportunistically supported the war. He saw both anti-slavery and pro-secessionism as based on the same principle - sovereignty of the individual. He was a scathing abolitionist critic of the Republican party.

The man, who, like the Republican party, consents to the existence of slavery, so long as the slaves are but kept out of his sight, is at heart a tyrant and a brute. And if, at the same time, like the more conspicuous members of that party, he makes loud professions of devotion to liberty and humanity, he thereby just as loudly proclaims himself a hypocrite. And those Republican politicians, who, instead of insisting upon the liberation of the slaves, maintain, under the name of State Rights, the inviolability of the slaveholder’s right of property in his slaves, in the States, and yet claim to be friends of liberty, because they cry, "Keep the slaves where they are;" "No removal of them into the Territories;" "Bring them not into our neighborhood," - are either smitten with stupidity, as with a disease, or, what is more probable, are nothing else than selfish, cowardly, hypocritical, and unprincipled men, who, for the sake of gaining or retaining power, are simply making a useless noise about nothing, with the purpose of diverting men's minds from the true issue, and of thus postponing the inevitable contest, which every honest and brave man ought to be ready and eager to meet at once. - Lysander Spooner, Address of the Free Constitutionalists to the People of the United States (1860).

After the Civil War Spooner started associating with Josiah Warren, Benjamin Tucker and other individualist anarchists, and became a frequent contributor to Tucker's magazine "Liberty." His libertarian classics were serialized, and he elaborated on his philosophy in the grandly titled Natural Law; or The Science of Justice: A Treatise on Natural Law, Natural Justice, Natural Rights, Natural Liberty, and Natural Society; Showing That All Legislation Whatsoever Is An Absurdity, A Usurpation, and A Crime. Part First.(1882). Unfortunately, he never completed this project. Nevertheless, it is perhaps the best theoretical treatment of natural rights anarchist philosophy from the 19th century. This masterful work begins with a simple description of what natural rights are - so different from the strawman Platonic caricature so often put forth by modern utilitarians.

The science of mine and thine - the science of justice - is the science of all human rights; of all a man's rights of person and property; of all his rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is the science which alone can tell any man what he can, and cannot, do; what he can, and cannot, have; what he can, and cannot, say, without infringing the rights of any other person.

It is the science of peace; and the only science of peace; since it is the science which alone can tell us on what conditions mankind can live in peace, or ought to live in peace, with each other.

These conditions are simply these: viz., first, that each man shall do, towards every other, all that justice requires him to do; as, for example, that he shall pay his debts, that he shall return borrowed or stolen property to its owner, and that he shall make reparation for any injury he may have done to the person or property of another.

The second condition is, that each man shall abstain from doing to another, anything which justice forbids him to do; as, for example, that he shall abstain from committing theft, robbery, arson, murder, or any other crime against the person or property of another.

So long as these conditions are fulfilled, men are at peace, and ought to remain at peace, with each other. But when either of these conditions is violated, men are at war. And they must necessarily remain at war until justice is re-established. - Lysander Spooner, Natural Law

Often in literature, writers have pointed out the similarity between banditry and statism. In Common Sense Thomas Paine famously wrote of "William the Conqueror ... a French bastard landing with an armed banditti, and establishing himself king of England against the consent of the natives." St. Augustine cites Alexander the Great's conversation with a captured pirate. Alexander says, "How dare you molest the sea?" The pirate answers, "How dare you molest the whole world? I have a small boat, so I am called a thief and a pirate. You have a navy, so you're called an emperor." Lysander's formulation of this is eloquent and memorable, and perhaps his most quoted passage.

The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: 'Your money, or your life.' And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat. The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful. The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a 'protector,' and that he takes men's money against their will, merely to enable him to 'protect' those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful 'sovereign,' on account of the 'protection' he affords you. He does not keep 'protecting' you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave. - Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of no Authority

Lysander Spooner's economics were weak by today's standards, but not nearly so bad as the economics of Warren, Proudhon, and Tucker. Spooner did not oppose employment ("wage labor"), interest, or rent like these other individualist anarchists. He clearly realized that historical circumstances put laborers in a very bad position, and the state kept them there by the monopolies and privileges it bestowed on the elite, but he never condemned usary per se, and even wrote favorably of it. For example, in Poverty: Its Illegal Causes, and Legal Cure (1846), he came out in opposition to all state restrictions on interest. He saw these restrictions as discrimination against the poor, limiting credit to the wealthy.

Some commentators have misunderstood Spooner's position on employment ("wage labor"), and even gone so far as to take his writings out of context, claiming that he opposed it. In context, however, it is quite clear that he supports the right to employ or be employed. He does decry the historical processes of the past and statist monopolies on capital and land prevalent in his time, conditions which put workers in dire circumstances. To Spooner, free market capitalism is the solution; he wanted the workers to free themselves by out-doing the statist capitalists.

Where Spooner went wrong is in his misunderstanding of monetary economics. He thought that, ceterus paribus, increasing the money supply would reduce interest to zero. Also, his understanding of prices, and the role of price, was naive. Even in his own time, his mistakes were aptly demonstrated by more economically literate libertarians, e.g. Edward Stanwood's article in "Liberty" entitled Mr. Spooner's Island Community.

Politically, Lysander Spooner's ideology was virtually identical to modern anarcho-capitalism; however his pre-marginalist economics background prevented him from reaching the same economic understanding.

In another of his later writings, Spooner discusses an important ethical distinction - the difference between violation of another's rights and personal morality. In Vices Are Not Crimes: A Vindication of Moral Liberty (1875), he argues that while the use of retaliatory or rectificatory force may be justified when someone harms the person or property of another, force is not justified if someone is simply harming himself or his own property. This piece can be considered an elaboration and application of John Stuart Mill's thesis in On Liberty: "That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant." Spooner makes this same point in his logical and legalistic language, and applies it to several examples, in particular temperance and alcohol prohibition. Spooners introduction encapsulates his case.

Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property.

Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another.

Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property.

In vices, the very essence of crime - that is, the design to injure the person or property of another - is wanting.

It is a maxim of the law that there can be no crime without a criminal intent; that is, without the intent to invade the person or property of another. But no one ever practises a vice with any such criminal intent. He practises his vice for his own happiness solely, and not from any malice toward others.

Unless this clear distinction between vices and crimes be made and recognized by the laws, there can be on earth no such thing as individual right, liberty, or property; no such things as the right of one man to the control of his own person and property, and the corresponding and coequal rights of another man to the control of his own person and property.

For a government to declare a vice to be a crime, and to punish it as such, is an attempt to falsify the very nature of things. It is as absurd as it would be to declare truth to be falsehood, or falsehood truth. - Lysander Spooner, Vices Are Not Crimes

The younger group of individualist anarchists, notably Benjamin Tucker, eventually rejected natural rights as the basis for anarchism in favor of Max Stirner's egoism. Unfortunately, by basing their case on expediency rather than a transcendent idea of justice, they sowed the seeds for the decline of anarchism in the early 20th century. Expediency amounted to a slow but inevitable betrayal of anarchism; for any given issue, it may be expedient to resort to statism and authority. To make a cogent case against the state, one must have a firm position outside and independent of the state - one must appeal to a higher law. It would take nearly a century for natural rights to again become "respectable," reasserted in the writings of minarchist Ayn Rand and championed by the "father" of modern anarcho-capitalism, Murray Rothbard.

Michael Bakunin

Meanwhile in Europe, a revolutionary meets Marx and Proudhon and becomes a different type of anarchist. Like Warren and Proudhon, he held the normative labor-value dogma, but his critique of state is articulate and blistering enough to warm the hearts of anarchists everywhere. Like Spooner, Bakunin was a freethinker. Bakunin rejected God as an affront to human dignity and liberty.

If God is, he is necessarily the eternal, supreme, absolute master, and, if such a master exists, man is a slave; now, if he is a slave, neither justice, nor equality, nor fraternity, nor prosperity are possible for him. In vain, flying in the face of good sense and all the teachings of history, do they represent their God as animated by the tenderest love of human liberty: a master, whoever he may be and however liberal he may desire to show himself, remains none the less always a master. His existence necessarily implies the slavery of all that is beneath him. Therefore, if God existed, only in one way could he serve human liberty - by ceasing to exist.

A jealous lover of human liberty, and deeming it the absolute condition of all that we admire and respect in humanity, I reverse the phrase of Voltaire, and say that, if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him. - Michael Bakunin, God and the State (1871)

Also like Spooner, Bakunin recognized the existence of natural law. He defines liberty as the recognition of these laws by an uncoerced mind.

In his relation to natural laws but one liberty is possible to man - that of recognizing and applying them on an ever-extending scale in conformity with the object of collective and individual emancipation or humanization which he pursues. These laws, once recognized, exercise an authority which is never disputed by the mass of men. ...

The liberty of man consists solely in this: that he obeys natural laws because he has himself recognized them as such, and not because they have been externally imposed upon him by any extrinsic will whatever, divine or human, collective or individual. - Michael Bakunin, God and the State

Also like the other anarchists we have seen, Bakunin holds to the conquest theory of the state, as opposed to the contract theory of Rousseau, Locke, and most statist liberals. Like Spooner, he sees the state as the tool of a minority elite enslaving the masses. Bakunin emphasizes the unholy collusion of church and state, and points out that the particular form of state does not alter its essence of privilege by aggression.

The State is an evil but a historically necessary evil, as necessary in the past as its complete extinction will be necessary sooner or later, just as necessary as primitive bestiality and theological divigations were necessary in the past. The State is not society; it is only one of its its historical forms, as brutal as it is abstract in character. Historically, it arose in all countries out of the marriage of violence, rapine, and pillage - in a word, of war and conquest - with the Gods created in succession by the theological fancies of the nations. From its very beginning it has been - and still remains - the divine sanction of brutal force and triumphant iniquity. Even in the most democratic countries, like the United States of America and Switzerland, it is simply the consecration of the privileges of some minority and the actual enslavement of the vast majority. - Michael Bakunin, The Immorality of the State

Perhaps Bakunin's main claim to fame is his role as Marx's arch-nemesis. Both Bakunin and Marx were extreme socialists, i.e. against private property, employment ("wage labor"), and (like their inspiration, Pierre Proudhon) the belief that equality of opportunity and economic condition were compatable with and necessary for liberty. But Marx's socialism was authoritarian; not only did Marx contend that a "dictatorship of the proletariat" was necessary, but he also asserted a necessity for party discipline and uniformity. Bakunin ridiculed the notion that a state could be a transition to statelessness, and warned that if such a dictatorship were ever achieved, it would be just as bad as, and maybe worse, than any other state.

They maintain that only a dictatorship - their dictatorship, of course - can create the will of the people, while our answer to this is: No dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation, and it can beget only slavery in the people tolerating it; freedom can be created only by freedom, that is, by a universal rebellion on the part of the people and free organization of the toiling masses from the bottom up. ...

But according to Mr. Marx, the people not only should not abolish the State, but, on the contrary, they must strengthen and enlarge it, and turn it over to the full disposition of their benefactors, guardians, and teachers - the leaders of the Communist party, meaning Mr. Marx and his friends - who will then liberate them in their own way. They will concentrate all administrative power in their own strong hands, because the ignorant people are in need of a strong guardianship; and they will create a central state bank, which will also control all the commerce, industry, agriculture, and even science. The mass of the people will be divided into two armies, the agricultural and the industrial, under the direct command of the state engineers, who will constitute the new privileged political-scientific class. - Michael Bakunin, Critique of the Marxist Theory of the State (Statism and Anarchy)

In retrospect, looking at what happened in the Soviet Union, Cuba, South Korea, and virtually every place else Marxism was tried, we see that Bakunin was right and quite prescient. Marx was dead wrong about his authoritarian state creating a "new man" and "withering away."

A strong State can have only one solid foundation: military and bureaucratic centralization. The fundamental difference between a monarchy and even the most democratic republic is that in the monarchy, the bureaucrats oppress and rob the people for the benefit of the privileged in the name of the King, and to fill their own coffers; while in the republic the people are robbed and oppressed in the same way for the benefit of the same classes, in the name of "the will of the people" (and to fill the coffers of the democratic bureaucrats). In the republic, the State, which is supposed to be the people, legally organized, stifles and will continue to stifle the real people. But the people will feel no better if the stick with which they are being beaten is labeled "the people's stick. - Michael Bakunin, Some Preconditions for a Social Revolution (Statism and Anarchy)

That last line is an anarchist gem - the ultimate put-down of statist communism.

The most succinct statement of Bakunin's philosophy is the Revolutionary Catechism written in 1866. Most of the essential anarchist themes are present: autonomy of the individual, the right to opt out of any association, and the primacy of man's rights are lucidly presented.

II. Replacing the cult of God by respect and love of humanity, we proclaim human reason as the only criterion of truth; human conscience as the basis of justice; individual and collective freedom as the only source of order in society.

III. Freedom is the absolute right of every adult man and woman to seek no other sanction for their acts than their own conscience and their own reason, being responsible first to themselves and then to the society which they have voluntarily accepted.

IV. It is not true that the freedom of one man is limited by that of other men. Man is really free to the extent that his freedom, fully acknowledged and mirrored by the free consent of his fellowmen, finds confirmation and expansion in their liberty. Man is truly free only among equally free men; the slavery of even one human being violates humanity and negates the freedom of all.

V. The freedom of each is therefore realizable only in the equality of all. The realization of freedom through equality, in principle and in fact, is justice.

VI. If there is one fundamental principle of human morality. it is freedom. To respect the freedom of your fellowman is duty; to love, help, and serve him is virtue.

VII. Absolute rejection of every authority including that which sacrifices freedom for the convenience of the state. Primitive society had no conception of freedom; and as society evolved, before the full awakening of human rationality and freedom, it passed through a stage controlled by human and divine authority. The political and economic structure of society must now be reorganized on the basis of freedom. Henceforth, order in society must result from the greatest possible realization of individual liberty, as well as of liberty on all levels of social organization.

VIII. The political and economic organization of social life must not, as at present, be directed from the summit to the base --the center to the circumference--imposing unity through forced centralization. On the contrary, it must be reorganized to issue from the base to the summit--from the circumference to the center--according to the principles of free association and federation.

IX. Political organization. It is impossible to determine a concrete, universal, and obligatory norm for the internal development and political organization of every nation. The life of each nation is subordinated to a plethora of different historical, geographical, and economic conditions, making it impossible to establish a model of organization equally valid for all. ... However, without certain absolutely essential conditions the practical realization of freedom will be forever impossible.

These conditions are:

A. The abolition of all state religions and all privileged churches, including those partially maintained or supported by state subsidies. Absolute liberty of every religion to build temples to their gods, and to pay and support their priests.

B. The churches considered as religious / corporations must never enjoy the same political rights accorded to the productive associations; nor can they be entrusted with the education of children; for they exist merely to negate morality and liberty and to profit from the lucrative practice of witchcraft.

C. Abolition of monarchy; establishment of a commonwealth.

D. Abolition of classes, ranks, and privileges; absolute equality of political rights for all men and women; universal suffrage. [Not in the state, but in the units of the new society. Note by Max Nettlau]

E. Abolition, dissolution, and moral, political, and economic dismantling of the all-pervasive, regimented, centralized State, the alter ego of the Church, and as such, the permanent cause of the impoverishment, brutalization, and enslavement of the multitude. This naturally entails the following: Abolition of all state universities: public education must be administered only by the communes and free associations. Abolition of the state judiciary: all judges must be elected by the people. Abolition of all criminal, civil, and legal codes now administered in Europe: because the code of liberty can be created only by liberty itself. Abolition of banks and all other institutions of state credit. Abolition of all centralized administration, of the bureaucracy, of all permanent armies and state police.

F. Immediate direct election of all judicial and civil functionaries as well as representatives (national, provincial, and communal delegates) by the universal suffrage of both sexes.

G. The internal reorganization of each country on the basis of the absolute freedom of individuals, of the productive associations, and of the communes. Necessity of recognizing the right of secession: every individual, every association, every commune, every region, every nation has the absolute right to self-determination, to associate or not to associate, to ally themselves with whomever they wish and repudiate their alliances without regard to so-called historic rights [rights consecrated by legal precedent] or the convenience of their neighbors.

H. Individual rights. The right of every man and woman, from birth to adulthood, to complete upkeep, clothes, food, shelter, care, guidance, education (public schools, primary, secondary, higher education, artistic, industrial, and scientific), all at the expense of society.

Overall a very good platform, but there are a couple of questionable points. It would appear that point B is incompatable with anarchism, as coercion seems to be implied. However, maybe Bakunin intended some non-aggressive means for preventing churches from offering educational services, such as boycott and moral suasion.

Point H is a rather blatant inconsistency. The weakness of socialist anarchism becomes apparent - the glaring contradiction between liberty and equality (of conditions or result). How can people enjoy self-ownership, unqualified disposition of their persons and property, and at the same time others be guaranteed benefits of food, guidance, education, etc. at the expense of others. There seem to be only two possibilities: Either man must be coerced, or there must occur a fundamental change in the nature of man, or at least a sufficient number. Apparently Bakunin made this latter utopian assumption - one of the fatal errors of classical anarchism mentioned in the introduction. Realistically, people are not so pliable as to be molded by the wishful thinking of utopians. As for the other possibility of some people getting plundered to provide the benefits, we let Frederic Bastiat tell why this is mistaken.

The second half of your program will destroy the first. In fact, it is impossible for me to separate the word fraternity [or equality] from the word voluntary. I cannot possibly understand how fraternity can be legally enforced without liberty being legally destroyed, and thus justice being legally trampled underfoot. ...

He is struck by the spectacle of the inequality that he sees. He deplores the deprivations which are the lot of so many of our brothers, deprivations which appear to be even sadder when contrasted with luxury and wealth. ... Since all persons seek well-being and perfection, would not a condition of justice be sufficient to cause the greatest efforts toward progress, and the greatest possible equality that is compatible with individual responsibility? Would not this be in accord with the concept of individual responsibility ... that mankind may have the choice between vice and virtue, and the resulting punishment and reward? But the politician [or socialist] never gives this a thought. His mind turns to organizations, combinations, and arrangements - legal or apparently legal. He attempts to remedy the evil by increasing and perpetuating the very thing that caused the evil in the first place: legal plunder. - Frederic Bastiat, The Law

In short, it would take a state to force some people to supply the "rights" (properly: benefits) referred to in point H. As Ayn Rand said, "There is no such thing as the right to enslave."

Bakunin is usually given some blame for the terroristic violence which occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He wrote in Letters to a Frenchman on the Present Crisis that "we must spread our principles, not with words but with deeds, for this is the most popular, the most potent, and the most irresistible form of propaganda." Thus, while Bakunin was an eloquent critic of the state, his economics was crude and his support for "propaganda of the deed" (terrorism) probably did more harm than good for anarchism as a movement.

Bakunin is the originator of collectivist anarchism and revolutionary anarchism. While the previous anarchists we've examined have favored an evolutionary approach, with means such as education and moral suasion and building freedom through creation of parallel structures, Bakunin believed that violent and sudden revolution could create a free society. The Russian Revolution would discredit that notion; that and other experiences demonstrate quite convincingly that people, after a revolution, will act according to their experience and simply set up another state. After the Russian Revolution, the Reds simply killed the bothersome anarchists and blithely set up their dictatorship.

This does not mean that a revolution can never work, but it indicates that, unless enough people have rejected the paradigm of statism and are able to self-govern, it is unlikely to have the desired result of statelessness. And if people have rejected the legitimacy of state and are already utilizing voluntary alternatives, violent revolution is unnecessary. The state has already withered away without major violence, by people "merely willing to be free" as la Boétie put it - and letting it topple on its own.

The Prince and the Christian

Peter Kropotkin was a prince in the Czarist regime, well-schooled and privileged, who became a soldier and later a geologist. His keen intellect made him an outstanding scientist; he made breakthrough discoveries in Asian geology, and contributions to the theory of evolution. However, in the area of political theory, he contributed little more than a polemic of agitation. He did repeat the critique of state that theorists from Burke to Bakunin had elucidated. Like other anarchists, he could savage the state, and the various futile attempts to limit the state.

America is just the country that shows how all the written guarantees in the world for freedom are no protection against tyranny and oppression of the worst kind. There the politician has come to be looked upon as the very scum of society. - Peter Kropotkin

Like other anti-statists, such as Jefferson before him and Albert Jay Nock after him, Kropotkin differentiated between "government" and "state."

The State idea means something quite different from the idea of government. It not only includes the existence of a power situated above society, but also of a territorial concentration as well as the concentration in the hands of a few of many functions in the life of societies. It implies some new relationships between members of society which did not exist before the formation of the State. A whole mechanism of legislation and of policing has to be developed in order to subject some classes to the domination of others.

This distinction, which at first sight might not be obvious, emerges especially when one studies the origins of the State. - Peter Kropotkin, The State: Its Historic Role

Kropotkin's account of the origin of the state was basically the same as the conquest theories we've already covered. His revolutionary theory is also unoriginal - largely warmed-over Bakunite revolution-worship. His naive faith that the flow of rich people's blood will somehow, magically, make everything okay and lead to a stateless society of equality and material plenty was even more utopian than Bakunin. His belief that if the educated privileged would only intermingle with poor people, and "organize" the inferior masses in some vague unspecified way, then a free society would materialize, gives an impression of elitist altruism mixed with mysticism.

The question "What is to be done?" is naturally put.

The answer is easy.

Leave this environment in which you are placed and where it is the fashion to say that the people are nothing but a lot of brutes; come among these people - and the answer will come of itself.

You will see that everywhere, in England as well as in France, in Germany as well as in Italy, in Russia as welt as in the United States, everywhere where there is a privileged and an oppressed class, there is a tremendous work going on in the midst of the working class, whose object is to break down forever the slavery enforced by the capitalist feudality and to lay the foundation of a society established on the basis of justice and equality. It is no longer enough for the man of the people today to pour forth his complaints in one of those songs whose melody breaks your heart, such as were sung by the serfs of the eleventh century, and are still sung by the Slav peasant; he labors with his fellow toilers for the enfranchisement, with the knowledge of what he is doing, and against every obstacle put in his way.

His thoughts are constantly exercised in considering what should be done in order that life, instead of being a curse for three-fourths of mankind, may be a real enjoyment for all. He takes up the hardest problems of sociology and tries to solve them by his good sense, his spirit of observation, his hard experience. In order to come to an understanding with others as miserable as himself, he seeks to form groups, to organize. He forms societies, maintained with difficulty by small contributions; he tries to make terms with his fellows beyond the frontier; and he prepares the days when wars between peoples shall be impossible, far better than the frothy philanthropists who now potter with the fad of universal peace. In order to know what his brothers are doing, to have a closer connection with them, to elaborate his ideas and pass them around, he maintains - but at the price of what privations, what ceaseless efforts! - his working press. At length, when the hour has come, he rises, reddening the pavements and the barricades with his blood, he bounds forward to conquer those liberties which the rich and powerful will afterward know how to corrupt and to turn against him again. - Peter Kropotkin, An Appeal to the Young (1880)

It is unfortunate that Kropotkin's intellectual descendants, the anarcho-communists, rejected the strongest part of Bakunin's analysis, the anti-statism, and emphasized the weakest part, poor economics and self-immolating altruism in the name of "humanity." Kropotkin stressed this altruism, writing extensively about "mutual aid," but interpreted it as a negative-sum game. In other words, he saw mutual aid as non-profit selfless altruism; he seemed to have no clue about the insight of the individual anarchists - that social interaction could be a win-win situation. The modern notion of free markets, and trade being beneficial ex ante to both parties in a transaction, while understood by Warren, Spooner, and Tucker, were apparently beyond the pale of Prince Kropotkin.

Kropotkin was one of the originators of the mistaken notion that anarchism opposes social hierarchies of all types, rather than only imposed, coercive hierarchies. This rejection of voluntary leadership and natural hierarchies have continued to this day, much like the terrorism of "propaganda of the deed," in giving anarchism a bad name.

That is why Anarchy, when it works to destroy authority in all its aspects, when it demands the abrogation of laws and the abolition of the mechanism that serves to impose them, when it refuses all hierarchical organization and preaches free agreement - at the same time strives to maintain and enlarge the precious kernel of social customs without which no human or animal society can exist. - Peter Kropotkin, Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Ideal (1896)

Another idiosyncrasy of Kropotkin was his idealization of the mir - the russian peasant village society. In this regard, he anticipated the late 20th century anarcho-primitivists. While Kropotkin was so conservative and reactionary as to want to return to pre-feudal agrarianism, primitivists want to go back even farther - to hunter-gatherer days. These anarcho-primitivists apparently don't know (or don't care) that the objective conditions for the hunter-gatherer lifestyle required human populations to be as sparse as the bear population. To return to such a society would require the elimination of over 98% of humanity. While this could happen by nuclear or biological apocalypse, this does not seem a reasonable basis for social activism!

Leo Tolstoy was the first Christian anarchist. He was an aristocrat, born into a family of Czarist Russian nobility, who became a famous novelist. His fictional masterpieces were War and Peace and Anna Karenina.

He is noted for his pacifism as well as his anarchism. His most notable pacifist-anarchist work is The Kingdom of God is Within You. Although there were quasi-anarchist pacifists which preceeded him, such as Anne Hutchinson in the 1600s and the Non-Resisters of the early 1800s, Tolstoy was the first known full-fledged anarchist in this Christian tradition.

Tolstoy was a supporter of geoism, and kept a photo of Henry George on his desk. His description of the state was apt: "Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us," he wrote. He had a novelist's gift of phrase.

I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means - except by getting off his back. - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace Leo Tolstoy

He had a huge influence on Mahatma Gandhi, so his legacy goes on. To this day, Tolstoy is popular among adherents of non-violence and Christian anti-war activists.

Men need only understand this, they need only cease to trouble themselves about the general external conditions in which they are not free, and devote one-hundredth part of the energy they waste on those material things to that in which they are free, to the recognition and realization of the truth which is before them, and to the liberation of themselves and others from deception and hypocrisy, and, without effort or conflict, there would be an end at once of the false organization of life which makes men miserable, and threatens them with worse calamities in the future. And then the kingdom of God would be realized, or at least that first stage of it for which men are ready now by the degree of development of their conscience. - Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You

Tolstoy's pacifism (as opposed to non-aggression) and theism (most anarchists are free-thinkers if not outright atheists) are unusual in anarchist thought. Yet such ideas are certainly compatible with opposition to state. Furthermore, as Gandhi proved, non-violent resistance can be an effective means for social change.

Benjamin Tucker

Benjamin Tucker was a synthesizer and popularizer of individualist anarchist thought. He combined the American liberal anti-statism of Jefferson, Paine, and Thoreau, Warren's sovereignty of the individual, the natural law and libertarian logic of Spooner, the liberal minarchism of Herbert Spencer, the free banking of Proudhon and William B. Green and Spooner, and later the egoism Max Stirner. With such eclectic tastes, he was tolerant of other anarchist views, as he had to be as editor and publisher of the longest-running English-language anarchist periodical. Yet, he demanded logically consistent "plumb-line" anarchism; as Voltairine de Cleyre wrote, Tucker could "send his fine hard shafts among friends and foes with icy impartiality, hitting swift and cutting keen - and ever ready to nail a traitor."

Tucker became familiar with American individualist anarchism when he was a student at MIT in 1872, after Ezra Heywood introduced him to William B. Greene and Josiah Warren. He went on to translate Proudhon's What is Property? and Max Stirner's The Ego and His Own into English, and published articles by anarchists from all over the world in his periodical Liberty. There were ongoing discussions of intellectual property, natural rights vs. egoism, and other theoretical issues, as well as reviews of anti-statist literature.

The purpose of Liberty, boiled down to its ultimate essence, is the abolition of authority. Liberty denies the authority of anybody's god to bind those who do not accept it through persuasion and natural selection. Liberty denies the authority of anybody's State to bind those who do not lend voluntary allegiance to it. Liberty denies the authority of anybody's 'public opinion', 'social custom', 'consensus of the competent', and every other fashionable or scholarly despot, to step between the individual and his free option in all things. - Benjamin Tucker, "Liberty"

Liberty lasted for 27 years, from 1881 to 1908, when Tucker's print shop tragically burned down. He published authors ranging from Herbert Spencer and Auberon Herbert, to George Bernard Shaw and Frederick Nietzsche, in addition to articles by his cohorts Victor Yarros, Lysander Spooner and William B. Greene. A list of his contributors is a who's who of anarchism of the time.

Tucker explained what anarchism was and was not, rejecting the legal utopian view that protection agencies and laws were unnecessary. In this important sense, he agreed with Molinari and those who would later be called anarcho-capitalists.

Anarchism means no government, but it does not mean no laws and no coercion. This may seem paradoxical, but the paradox vanishes when the Anarchist definition of government is kept in view. Anarchists oppose government, not because they disbelieve in punishment of crime and resistance to aggression, but because they disbelieve in compulsory protection. Protection and taxation without consent is itself invasion; hence Anarchism favors a system of voluntary taxation and protection. - Benjamin Tucker, "Liberty"

In a later essay, State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree, And Wherein They Differ, he gave his definition of anarchism: "The doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations, and that the State should be abolished."

Tucker held Warren's cost the limit of price version of the labor theory of value. That is, he opposed "usury," by which he meant interest on loans, rent on land and houses, and profit from the labor of others. But he was ardently free market, and upheld the right of contract. Thus, while he opposed usury as a vice (in Spoonerian terms), it was not a crime. No one should "invade" voluntary employment, rent-taking, or interest-taking; the individual right to contract should not be violated. This contrasted with the European anarcho-socialist revolutionary types, who generally favored expropriation. Tucker decried and denounced the violence and terrorism of "propaganda by the deed," which permeated the anarcho-socialist mindset of the time. Except in extreme circumstances, such as in Czarist Russia, he considered such violence both immoral and counter-productive.

Like Bakunin, Tucker opposed state socialism. Tucker called his own anarchist philosophy "scientific anarchism," and considered it to be a form of socialism. However, he used an outdated definition of socialism; by the modern definition (socialism as collective ownership of the means of production) he was not socialist. On the contrary, he was pro-capitalist - if you take capitalism to mean an economic system permitting private ownership of the means of production.

As far as we know, Warren and Spooner never called themselves socialist. Both supported private ownership of the means of production. Warren used "cost is the limit of price" economics, but Spooner did not. Spooner supported interest, land ownership, and employment, so he was basically an anarcho-capitalist. Some web pages are misleading on this, quoting Spooner out of context.* Virtually all anarcho-capitalists prefer individual entrepreneurship to employment - this preferrence does not make someone anti-capitalist or socialist. Nor does someone claiming that "labor shall be put in possession of its own" (Tucker's notion of socialism) make one a socialist in the modern sense - anarcho-capitalists would totally agree. The issue is not whether one has a right to the fruits of their labor, but whether one has the right to sell this "fruit" in advance.

Of course, those who define capitalism and socialism differently will come to their own conclusions. Perhaps Tucker's system, with some aspects of socialism (labor theory of value) and some aspects of capitalism (pro private property and pro free market) would best be called propertarian (or individualist) mutualism.

It is not competition, but monopoly, that deprives labor of its product. Wages, inheritance, gifts, and gambling aside, every process by which we acquire wealth, rests upon a monopoly, a prohibition, a denial of liberty. Interest and rent of buildings rest on the banking monopoly, the prohibition of competition in finance, the denial of the liberty to issue currency; ground rent rests on the land monopoly, the denial of the liberty to use vacant land; profits in excess of wages rest upon the tariff and patent monopolies, the prohibition or limitation of competition in the industries and arts. - Benjamin Tucker, Why I Am An Anarchist (1892)

Other than the treatment of unused land, Tucker's economics works out in practice to the same thing as anarcho-capitalism. Whether a free market would result in zero or positive interest rates is academic. Anarcho-capitalism is essentially Spooner/Tucker anarchism updated with modern marginalist economic theory.

Tucker's theory of property did differ from Spooner's in one important regard: Tucker denied the validity of intellectual property. Tucker contended that, for something to be valid property, it had to be economically scarce. Scarcity, in this context, means exclusivity - that a good used by one person excluded it from being used in the same way at the same time by others. A bicycle or land can only be used by a limited number of people, so might be property. An idea, invention, novel or song could be used by many, at the same time, without restricting others' use, therefore it was not valid property. This validity of IP argument continues among anarcho-capitalists to this day.

Voltairine de Cleyre

Voltairine de Cleyre was a radical feminist, talented writer and speaker, and articulate anarchist, unfortunately little known because of her relatively short life. Emma Goldman called her, "the most gifted and brilliant anarchist woman America ever produced." She gave lectures and wrote essays on such topics as Sex Slavery (the ownership of husbands over their wives) and why They Who Marry Do Ill (advocating boycott of legal marriage), in addition to anarchist history and theory. De Cleyre based her anarchism on the anti-state liberal American tradition, with Thomas Paine and Henry David Thoreau as major inspirations. She was also strongly influenced by Mary Wollstonecraft and Clarence Darrow. Voltairine was a freethinker, and was even named after Voltaire, the famous French freethinker and writer.

Voltairine's could excortiate the state as eloquently as anyone. Her prose was devastating, her poetry sublime.

Majority rule is both impossible and undesirable; that any government, no matter what its forms, will be manipulated by a very small minority, as the development of the States and United States governments has strikingly proved; that candidates will loudly profess allegiance to platforms before elections, which as officials in power they will openly disregard, to do as they please; and that even if the majority will could be imposed, it would also be subversive of equal liberty, which may be best secured by leaving to the voluntary association of those interested in the management of matters of common concern, without coercion of the uninterested or the opposed. - Voltairine de Cleyre, Anarchism & American Traditions

De Cleyre was obviously quite realistic when it came to the incentives of politicians. She was quite aware also that constitutions were a sham, and no real restriction on the state in the long run. Like Jefferson, she saw clearly that the judiciary could interpret words on paper in any way they like, and as part of the state, had the power-grabbing incentive to do it.

And yet even in the very days of the prophets, even with their own consent, the first concession to this later tyranny was made. It was made when the Constitution was made; and the Constitution was made chiefly because of the demands of Commerce. Thus it was at the outset a merchant's machine, which the other interests of the country, the land and labor interests, even then foreboded would destroy their liberties. In vain their jealousy of its central power made enact the first twelve amendments. In vain they endeavored to set bounds over which the federal power dare not trench. In vain they enacted into general law the freedom of speech, of the press, of assemblage and petition. All of these things we see ridden roughshod upon every day, and have so seen with more or less intermission since the beginning of the nineteenth century. At this day, every police lieutenant considers himself, and rightly so, as more powerful than the General Law of the Union. - Voltairine de Cleyre, Anarchism & American Traditions

She, along with other American anarchists, and contrary to most European-influenced anarchists who tended to be anti-propertarian, saw that a free market and propertarianism were profoundly anarchist.

Anarchism declares that private enterprise, whether individual or cooperative, is equal to all the undertakings of society. And it quotes the particular two instances, Education and Commerce, which the governments of the States and of the United States have undertaken to manage and regulate, as the very two which in operation have done more to destroy American freedom and equality, to warp and distort American tradition, to make of government a mighty engine of tyranny, than any other cause, save the unforeseen developments of Manufacture. - Voltairine de Cleyre, Anarchism & American Traditions

The main problem with the economy according to de Cleyre was size - things were too big, centralized, and bloated. In a free market, i.e. without government monopolies and intervention, she saw economies of scale largely disappearing. There would be more goods produced on a small scale and distributed locally. She anticipated the "small is beautiful" ideas of Leopold Kohr.

If, on the other hand, the tendency of invention to simplify, enabling the advantages of machinery to be combined with smaller aggregations of workers, shall also follow its own logic, the great manufacturing plants will break up, population will go after the fragments, and there will be seen not indeed the hard, self-sustaining, isolated pioneer communities of early America, but thousands of small communities stretching along the lines of transportation, each producing very largely for its own needs, able to rely upon itself, and therefore able to be independent. For the same rule holds good for societies as for individuals - those may be free who are able to make their own living. - Voltairine de Cleyre, Anarchism & American Traditions

Voltairine de Cleyre considered the main problems with America to be:
  • state intervention in commerce
  • state-controlled education
  • military interventionism
  • growth of state debt and government offices
  • a failed judiciary
  • overly centralized and interdependent communities

About the growing statism of the United States, her conclusion was devastating, and her explanation for the slide into authoritarianism incontrovertible.

And now, what has Anarchism to say to all this, this bankruptcy of republicanism, this modern empire that has grown up on the ruins of our early freedom? We say this, that the sin our fathers sinned was that they did not trust liberty wholly. They thought it possible to compromise between liberty and government, believing the latter to be "a necessary evil," and the moment the compromise was made, the whole misbegotten monster of our present tyranny began to grow. Instruments which are set up to safeguard rights become the very whip with which the free are struck. - Voltairine de Cleyre, Anarchism & American Traditions

De Cleyre was perhaps the first anarcha-feminist, intensely concerned with asserting full individual rights for woman. This was no doubt shocking at a time when women could not own property, and were legally chattel of their husbands. She wrote and lectured in support of Moses Harman, a hero of individualist feminism. Harman was imprisoned under the Comstock laws for publishing birth control information and discussing sexual issues in his anarchist periodical "Lucifer, the Light Bearer." Here is Voltairine's cutting commentary of the obscenity charges and Harman's tormentors.

He looked, this obscenist looked with clear eyes into this ill-got thing you call morality, sealed with the seal of marriage, and saw in it the consummation of immorality, impurity, and injustice. He beheld every married woman what she is, a bonded slave, who takes her master's name, her master's bread, her master's commands, and serves her master's passion; who passes through the ordeal of pregnancy and the throes of travail at his dictation, not at her desire; who can control no property, not even her own body, without his consent, and from whose straining arms the children she bears may be torn at his pleasure, or willed away while they are yet unborn. It is said the English language has a sweeter word than any other - home. But Moses Harman looked beneath the word and saw the fact - a prison more horrible than that where he is sitting now, whose corridors radiate over all the earth, and with so many cells, that none may count them.

Yes, our masters! The earth is a prison, the marriage-bed is a cell, women are the prisoners, and you are the keepers!

He saw, this corruptionist, how in those cells are perpetrated such outrages as are enough to make the cold sweat stand upon the forehead, and the nails clench, and the teeth set, and the lips grow white in agony and hatred. And he saw too how from those cells might none come forth to break her fetters, how no slave dare cry out, how all these murders are done quietly, beneath the shelter-shadow of home, and sanctified by the angelic benediction of a piece of paper, within the silence-shade of a marriage certificate, Adultery and Rape stalk freely and at ease. - Voltairine de Cleyre, Sex Slavery

Moses Harman - feminist hero

Initially de Cleyre sided with Tucker's individualists against the anti-propertarian anarchists. Contrasting herself with Emma Goldman, a communist anarchist who looked to Bakunin and Kropotkin as adepts, she wrote:

Miss Goldman is a communist; I am an individualist. She wishes to destroy the right of property, I wish to assert it. I make my war upon privilege and authority, whereby the right of property, the true right in that which is proper to the individual, is annihilated. She believes that co-operation would entirely supplant competition; I hold that competition in one form or another will always exist, and that it is highly desirable it should. But whether she or I be right, or both of us be wrong, of one thing I am sure; the spirit which animates Emma Goldman is the only one which will emancipate the slave from his slavery, the tyrant from his tyranny - the spirit which is willing to dare and suffer. - Voltairine de Cleyre, In Defense Of Emma Goldman (1894)

Note Voltairine's tolerance, even while she disagrees. Later in life, de Cleyre would become an "anarchist without adjectives," hoping to focus all anarchists on the core anti-statism, rather than getting caught up in the schisms of economic sectarianism.

Socialism and Communism both demand a degree of joint effort and administration which would beget more regulation than is wholly consistent with ideal Anarchism; Individualism and Mutualism, resting upon property, involve a development of the private policeman not at all compatible with my notion of freedom. ... I no longer label myself otherwise than as 'Anarchist' simply. - Voltairine de Cleyre, The Making of an Anarchist

Movements and Class Warfare

The terrorism of "propaganda of the deed" had a terrible backlash that basically killed anarchism for nearly half a century. In the United States, the assassination of McKinley and subsequent anarchist deportation laws, the popular hatred for "bomb-throwing anarchists," and antipathy for immigrants (who filled the ranks of violent socialist anarchist groups) led to Tucker's immigration to France and Emma Goldman's deportation to Russia. The anarchists, both individualist and socialist, had been effectively dispersed by 1920, and thoughtful proponents of anarchism became almost extinct.

There did remain some labor movements which called themselves anarchist. In Spain, there was the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT); in the US there were the "Wobblies" - the International Workers of the World. But these were not authentic anarchist groups in the strict sense - they were socialist pro-labor groups with some anti-statist proclivities. They had Bakunite revolutionary anti-capitalist sentiment and stressed the class-war paradigm, but were weak on the fundamental principle of anarchism - opposition to the state. Indeed, these groups were not above using state power to achieve their ends, endorsing political candidates, and using Marxian means that Bakunin would have abhorred.

On the other hand, internally these organizations tended to favor "rank and file" bottom-up organization, and they were relatively less politically oriented than the more mainstream unions of the time. They were much more likely to engage in direct action rather than beg or petition rulers. Thus, while these movements and groups could not be called anarchist, failing to satisfy the third anti-statist criteria in our definition, they could reasonably be considered quasi-anarchist.

The most prominent and popular movement was anarcho-syndicalism. Ardently anti-capitalist, they expoused the divisive collectivist class-war mythology, wherein individuals, by virtue of simply falling into a conceptual class, are deemed to have certain fixed interests. Such stereotyping is certainly not conducive to critical thinking, and it is questionable whether it is even good propaganda.

Anarcha-feminist Wendy McElroy analyzed the weakness class warfare analysis (in the context of gender feminism) as follows.

Class warfare: what is a class? A class is nothing more than an arbitrary grouping of people or things that share common characteristics that is useful to whoever is defining the category. For example, a researcher studying drug addiction might break his research subjects into classes of heroine-users and cocaine-users. A class can be defined by almost any shared characteristic: hair color, sexual orientation, deodorant use...

By contrast, radical feminism doesn't say that there are some issues on which men and women differ or should be approached differently. It says there is a fundamental class conflict based on gender. It says that men and women do not share the same basic human needs politically such as freedom of speech or the protection of private property. The two genders do not have the same political interests. This is like the doctor saying that the two sexes do not have the same biological needs. Thus, what many of us would consider to be a basic human right - such as freedom of speech - becomes a tool by which men oppress women. ...

The idea of class conflict is widely associated with Karl Marx, who popularized it. He said that people were either workers or capitalists. In short, he divided up humanity by looking at their relationship to the means of production and said that the two classes that resulted were inevitably and irresolvably at war. He made a further claim. The political interests of every worker were the same, just as the political interests of every capitalist were the same. And this was true whether or not any particular person or capitalist knew it to be the case.

Radical feminism consciously adapted this theory to produce "post-Marxist feminism." Gender - not your relationship to the means of production - became the sorting point by which humanity is divided into two classes with antagonistic political interests. The political interests of every woman are the same, just as the political interests of every man are the same. And this was true whether or not the individuals involved know it to be the case. Thus, radical feminists can level accusations of "rapist" at a man who has never harmed a woman - at a man who has protected a woman from attack - simply because he is male. As a male, he benefits from the "rape culture" - also known as patriarchy - because he shares the same political interest as all other men.

If this class analysis makes no sense to you - welcome to my world.
- Wendy McElroy, Liberty for Women

Wendy McElroy, a theorist and activist concerned with individualist feminism as opposed to classist "gender feminism," cites the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises in making a distinction between caste and class. A class is an arbitrary conceptual grouping, while a caste is a set of people enjoying special legal privileges, and often legal barriers to entry into the group. If there are legal statutes or policemen preventing the exercise of rights for some group, such as the right to contract, hold property, or engage in certain activities or occupations, then one may properly speak of a caste. If there are no such legal barriers, then speaking of "class interests" generally has little or no basis or coherant meaning.

In The Free and Prosperous Commonwealth, Mises defined a status society as one "constituted not of citizens with equal rights, but divided into ranks vest with different duties and prerogatives..."

It was under a caste system, not a class one, that necessary conflicts arose between legal categories of people who were accorded different privileges and disabilities. Thus, the phrase 'class warfare' is a mistaken one: it should be 'caste warfare'. Moreover, so-called 'class warfare' contains further confusion. For example, the phrase usually assumes that there is an "identity of interests among the members of the separate classes." Yet, as Mises explained in The Free and Prosperous Commonwealth, a common identity does not necessarily mean a common interests since individual members of a class will tend to give their own individual interests priority. Ironically, this may well lead to competition among 'class' members, rather than commonality. - Wendy McElroy, Mises' Legacy to Feminism

The Rebirth of Anarchism

From 1920 through the 50s anarchist philosophy was sparse. There were a few notable minarchists and quasi-anarchists, such as H. L. Menchen, Franz Oppenheimer, and Leopold Kohr. Albert Jay Nock was an "Old Right" anarchist, as was Frank Chodorov. And there was Robert LeFevre. The year 1943 heralded things to come. Three radical libertarian books, all by women, broke the fascist ice of the New Deal. These were The God of the Machine by Isabelle Patterson, The Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane, and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Suddenly libertarianism was no longer warmed over 19th century class struggle bromides. It was now, finally, expressed clearly as a free market, radical capitalist libertarianism. Americans rediscovered what Voltairine de Cleyre had told them half a century earlier - that libertarian capitalism and individual rights were an American tradition.

Does man have a right to exist for his own sake - or is he born in bondage, as an indentured servant who must keep buying his life by serving the tribe but can never acquire it free and clear?

This is the first question to answer. The rest is consequences and practical implementations. The basic issue is only: Is man free?

In mankind's history, capitalism is the only system that answers: Yes.

Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.

The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. - Ayn Rand, What is Capitalism? Published 1965

Now capitalism was out of the closet; never again could reasonable people claim that liberty and capitalism were incompatable. On the contrary, "capitalism is the fullest expression of anarchism, and anarchism is the fullest expression of capitalism." (Rothbard)

Murray Rothbard

"Mr. Libertarian" Murray Rothbard (1926 - 1995) was trained in mathematics and economics at Columbia University in New York. Through the Foundation for Economic Education, he met Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, and was particularly influenced by Mises book Human Action, published in 1949. Rothbard, immersed in laissez faire economics, soon came to realize that the logic led inevitably to anarchism. Like Molinari, he reasoned that, if monopoly was bad for every other good or service, then it was bad for the provision of protection services, i.e. government. Rothbard published his comprehensive economic tome, Man, Economy, and State, in 1962.

Rothbard's anarchism, which he dubbed "anarcho-capitalism," took the anti-statism of the earlier American Individualist anarchists, but buttressed it with modern economics, thus eliminating its Achilles heel. No longer was scarcity wished away; no longer was money crankism to be part of anarchism. Austrian economic theory saw to that. No longer was the demagogic class warfare of greedy capitalists versus exploited poor used to bamboozle ignorant masses; if the notion of class was used at all, it was to denote producers versus parasites, with laborers and entrepreneurs and capitalists all part of the producing class. The parasites were the rulers, their flatterers and agents, and the corporations and special interests who bought favors.

On the free market, everyone earns according to his productive value in satisfying consumer desires. Under statist distribution, everyone earns in proportion to the amount he can plunder from the producers. - Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State

Rothbard's definition of state was a combination of Weber's and Oppenheimer's. The state was a geographic monopoly of force, but also the organization of legalized plunder.

Briefly, the State is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered but by coercion.
Elaborating, he underlines the parasitic nature of the state. Like Bastiat, he notes that production was a prerequisite for statist spoliation.
The State, in the words of Oppenheimer, is the "organization of the political means"; it is the systematization of the predatory process over a given territory. For crime, at best, is sporadic and uncertain; the parasitism is ephemeral, and the coercive, parasitic lifeline may be cut off at any time by the resistance of the victims. The State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively "peaceful" the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society. Since production must always precede predation, the free market is anterior to the State. - Murray N. Rothbard, The Anatomy of the State

Rothbard ridiculed the notion that "we are the state." This was like saying the Jews in Nazi Germany who were murdered in concentration camps had actually committed suicide. Like anarchists before him, he rejected the contract theory of state in favor of the conquest theory. Rothbard's explanation of how states came to be is more general and plausible than Spooner's, but says basically the same thing.

The State has never been created by a "social contract"; it has always been born in conquest and exploitation. The classic paradigm was a conquering tribe pausing in its time-honored method of looting and murdering a conquered tribe, to realize that the time-span of plunder would be longer and more secure, and the situation more pleasant, if the conquered tribe were allowed to live and produce, with the conquerors settling among them as rulers exacting a steady annual tribute. - Murray N. Rothbard, The Anatomy of the State

Like Spooner, Rothbard based his anarchism on natural rights - but not in any mystical or religious sense. Like the French economistes had done a century earlier, and Ayn Rand had done in her novel Atlas Shrugged, Rothbard saw rights as coming from observable characteristics of homo sapiens and the nature of human action. This praxeological analysis of man argued that liberty was a necessary condition for his living and florishing.

Man is born naked into the world, and needing to use his mind to learn how to take the resources given him by nature, and to transform them (for example, by investment in "capital") into shapes and forms and places where the resources can be used for the satisfaction of his wants and the advancement of his standard of living. The only way by which man can do this is by the use of his mind and energy to transform resources ("production") and to exchange these products for products created by others. Man has found that, through the process of voluntary, mutual exchange, the productivity and hence, the living standards of all participants in exchange may increase enormously. The only "natural" course for man to survive and to attain wealth, therefore, is by using his mind and energy to engage in the production-and-exchange process. He does this, first, by finding natural resources, and then by transforming them (by "mixing his labor" with them, as Locke puts it), to make them his individual property, and then by exchanging this property for the similarly obtained property of others. The social path dictated by the requirements of man's nature, therefore, is the path of "property rights" and the "free market" of gift or exchange of such rights. - Murray N. Rothbard, The Anatomy of the State

Following la Boétie, Rothbard knew that, after the initial force establishing rule, states rely on the support of the majority of its subjects. He pointed out that this support "need not be active enthusiasm; it may well be passive resignation." This support was secured by vested economic interests. This included not only government functionaries, but in favored economic entities, such as the military industrial complex and various favored interests and corporations. The mystique of legitimacy was also maintained by ideology. While in the distant past this ideological indoctrinization had been done by a cozy alliance of church and state, Rothbard saw that in modern times that function was served by "intellectual" opinion molders, doing what Noam Chomsky famously called "Manufacturing Consent."

Since it is precisely a molding of opinion that the State most desperately needs, the basis for age-old alliance between the State and the intellectuals becomes clear. It is evident that the State needs the intellectuals; it is not so evident why intellectuals need the State. Put simply, we may state that the intellectual's livelihood in the free market is never too secure; for the intellectual must depend on the values and choices of the masses of his fellow men, and it is precisely characteristic of the masses that they are generally uninterested in intellectual matters. The State, on the other hand, is willing to offer the intellectuals a secure and permanent berth in the State apparatus; and thus a secure income and the panoply of prestige. For the intellectuals will be handsomely rewarded for the important function they perform for the State rulers, of which group they now become a part. - Murray N. Rothbard, The Anatomy of the State

Arguments used by state intellectuals:
  1. the state rulers are great and wise - divine right, scientific experts
  2. rule by the extent government is inevitable, absolutely necessary
  3. instill fear - criminality, terrorists, immorality, foreign invasion
  4. identify the state with the territory it rules - exploit natural love of community and homeland
  5. tradition - use longevity of rule to justify more rule, inevitable "social forces"
  6. deprecate the individual and exalt the collectivity of society
  7. induce guilt - service to state rather than "selfish greed"

Rothbard was particularly concerned with the state's use of war to increase its power. He saw that taxes, conscription, regulation, and the ranks of people employed by, or otherwise dependent on the state increased during wartime (and other crises), and once the crisis was over, rarely if ever diminished to pre-crisis levels. This is what Robert Higgs called "the ratchet effect" in his masterful book Crisis and Leviathan.

War and revolution, as the two basic threats, invariably arouse in the State rulers their maximum efforts and maximum propaganda among the people. As stated above, any way must always be used to mobilize the people to come to the State's defense in the belief that they are defending themselves. The fallacy of the idea becomes evident when conscription is wielded against those who refuse to "defend" themselves and are, therefore, forced into joining the State's military band: needless to add, no "defense" is permitted them against this act of "their own" State.

In war, State power is pushed to its ultimate, and, under the slogans of "defense" and "emergency," it can impose a tyranny upon the public such as might be openly resisted in time of peace. War thus provides many benefits to a State, and indeed every modern war has brought to the warring peoples a permanent legacy of increased State burdens upon society. War, moreover, provides to a State tempting opportunities for conquest of land areas over which it may exercise its monopoly of force. Randolph Bourne was certainly correct when he wrote that "war is the health of the State," but to any particular State a war may spell either health or grave injury. - Murray N. Rothbard, The Anatomy of the State

The fallacy of notions like "collective security" and "police actions" were ruthlessly exposed by Rothbard. His anti-war activism brought together "left" and "right" in opposition to US military intervention in Vietnam.

The rhetoric came out of the Wilsonian collective security ideology, which was: if you see armies crossing frontiers somewhere, this constitutes aggression. It means that in the same sense as if he sees Jones beating up Smith on the street, the policeman on the block rushes to his defense, and so therefore the United States and the United Nations become the policemen rushing to defend the victim. ...

In the case of States, you have a completely different situation because this ideology assumes that the Waldavian State and Ruritanian State are somehow the rightful owners of all their territory, just as Jones owns his watch and Smith does, too, and then Smith beats Jones up or takes his watch away from him, this is aggression. The analogy then becomes, if Ruritania invades Waldavia, this means that Waldavian territory, Waldavian property, rightful property, has been taken away from them by the Ruritanian aggressor.

Now the point is for the libertarian that none of these States have any rightful property, that the Ruritanian government does not properly and justly own the entire land area of the country - the property should be owned by individual citizens, the State apparatus has then no title, no just claim. - Murray Rothbard, interview by "Reason" magazine

In addition to his economic and political writings, Rothbard also wrote about history. He looked beneath the "victor's history" of government schools and court intellectuals, usually finding the true story to be quite different from the conventional "wisdom." His view of history was that of an eternal struggle between liberty and authority, a "race between state power and social power." His "revisionist" history of colonial and revolutionary USAmerica was presented in a four volume set Conceived in Liberty. His books on the history of economic thought are also notable.

If we look at the black record of mass murder, exploitation, and tyranny levied on society by governments over the ages, we need not be loath to abandon the Leviathan State and ... try freedom. - Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty

Rothbard has two excellent introductory books to libertarianism. For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto is the more accessible and popular book with an outline of theory and applications to modern day issues. For those with a more academic bent, The Ethics of Liberty gives a more detailed explanation and justification of the philosophy of Liberty. Both are available online.


David Friedman

The other great modern luminary of anarcho-capitalism is David D. Friedman. Also an economist by training, Friedman takes a value-free consequentialist approach to the subject rather than Rothbards natural rights approach. Not that Friedman is amoral by any means - he certainly has libertarian values - but feels that insofar as convincing others that a free society is better, a descriptive explanation is more efficacious. People that don't consider natural rights to exist, or are skeptical of any consensus about morality, may be convinced by practical economic results. Rothbard and Friedman could be considered the modern analogy to Spooner and Tucker.

Friedman points out that a free society may not be libertarian, but he believes that it would have a bias for libertarianism. For example, while people will vote for various restrictions of the liberty of others when the cost is borne to the general public, they are less likely to do so when they bear due share of the costs. He gives marijuana prohibition as an example: Given a costless choice "should we allow people to smoke pot," they may say "yes," but putting the question as "would you pay an extra $200 a year to prevent others from smoking pot" the answer may well be "no."

The economic aspects of law is of particular interest to Friedman. He has written much on market-generated law, the efficiency of law, and historical examples of non-statist law such as the "Thing" system of classical Iceland.

Friedman's book The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism (1971) is a classic of libertarian literature. It is both an immanently entertaining economics book and a mind-opening view of the anarchist idea.

The purpose of this book is to persuade you that a libertarian society would be both free and attractive, that the institutions of private property are the machinery of freedom, making it possible, in a complicated and interdependent world, for each person to pursue his life as he sees fit." - David Friedman, introduction to Machinery of Freedom
In an earlier chapter ("The Anarchist Alternative") we gave an extensive Friedman quote from this book about how PDAs (private defense associations) might work in a stateless society. The book also covers many other aspects of the "machinery" of a free society, and even meta-economic points concerning the applicability of economic analysis. For example, he aptly points out the economic utopianism of socialism.
Most varieties of socialism implicitly assume unanimous agreement on goals. Everyone works for the glory of the nation, the common good, or whatever, and everyone agrees, at least in some general sense, on what that goal means. The economic problem, traditionally defined as the problem of allocating limited resources to diverse ends, does not exist; economics is reduced to the "engineering" problem of how best to use the available resources to achieve the common end.

The organization of a capitalist society implicitly assumes that different people have different ends and that the institutions of the society must allow for that difference.

This is one of the things behind the socialist claim that capitalism emphasizes competition whereas socialism emphasizes cooperation; it is one of the reasons why socialism seems, in the abstract, to be such an attractive system. If we all have different ends, we are, in a certain sense, in conflict with each other; each of us wishes to have the limited resources available used for his ends. The institution of private property allows for cooperation within that competition; we trade with each other in order that each may best use his resources to his ends, but the fundamental conflict of ends remains. Does this mean that socialism is better? No more than the desirability of sunny weather means that women should always wear bikinis or that men should never carry umbrellas.

There is a difference between what institutions allow and what they require. If in a capitalist society everyone is convinced of the desirability of one common goal, there is nothing in the structure of capitalist institutions to prevent them from cooperating to attain it. Capitalism allows for a conflict of ends; it does not require it.

Socialism does not allow for it. This does not mean that if we set up socialist institutions everyone will instantly have the same ends. The experiment has been tried; they do not. It means rather that a socialist society will work only if people do have the same ends. If they do not it will collapse or, worse, develop, as did the Soviet Union, into a monstrous parody of socialist ideals. - David Friedman, Machinery of Freedom

Friedman always seems to have a brilliantly clever spin on any given topic. For example, take the question of immigration: consistent libertarians have to oppose any state restrictions on freedom of travel. So long as you are not trespassing, no one should forcibly make you leave. Some minarchist libertarians, however, have argued that given the existing welfare system, restricting immigration is permissable. Friedman, in his value-free economic manner, answers this.
The redistributionist tendencies of modern states are an argument against free immigration, but also an argument for it. The argument against takes the level of redistribution as given and points out its effect on who migrates where and why. The other half of the argument reverses the causation by considering the effect of migration on levels of redistribution. The harder it is for people to move from one country to another, the more attractive redistributional policies are. The possibility of redistribution tends to increase inefficient migration, but the possibility of migration tends to decrease inefficient redistribution.

Consider a government in a world of free migration, trying to decide whether to increase or decrease the level of welfare. Giving people money may be politically attractive, but collecting the taxes to pay for it is not. A ten percent increase in levels will attract indigents from abroad, swell the welfare rolls, and increase costs by much more than ten percent. A ten percent decrease will cause some indigents presently on welfare to migrate to countries with more generous policies, reducing costs by much more than ten percent. The existence of easy migration makes welfare state policies less attractive, with the result that levels of redistribution are likely to be lower. - David Friedman, Welfare and Immigration - the Other Half of the Argument

Since moral arguments are so often unconvincing to others, Friedman's utilitarian approach is attractive even to died-in-the-wool natural lawyers. Suppose someone is totally unfazed by an appeal to the Law of Equal Freedom or the Non-Aggression Principle. Perhaps this aphorism will make an impression.

The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations. - David Friedman, Machinery of Freedom

Summary and Timeline

Here is a chart showing influences, explicit and implicit, in anarchist thought:


Various categorizations of types of anarchism are shown at the top of the chart. The individualist-collectivist distinction refers to economics and social organization, in particular whether some sort of private property (sticky or possession) is favored, or collective/corporate ownership is preferred. Most "movement" anarchism has been collectivist, as appeals to rip-off wealthier people are alway popular. In terms of political philosophy, however, collectivism is rather rigid and reactionary. The decline of statist socialism in the late 20th century symbolized by the devolution of the USSR reflected poorly on the anti-statist varieties also. Both command economies and gift economies suffer from the same practical flaws - no one knows what people want. The information function of pricing, from the highest level of capital goods to end-user consumer goods, needs a market to function, and private property to make markets.

The "anti-capitalist" and "capitalist" division should be taken with a grain of salt, since these are loaded terms. As we saw, the mutualists have elements of both socialism and capitalism. With our more exact terminology and analysis, we rated possession property as more propertarian than anti-propertarian. Nevertheless, mutualists generally self-label as "anti-capitalist," since they do oppose usury (interest, rent, and profit) in a weak sense; they'd allow it as a right but disapprove of it and hope it "goes away."

Of course, in this short survey we cannot do justice to all the people who have contributed to anarchist thought. And by favoring those theorists who have relevance today, and whose shoulders we stand upon, we have ignored many notable figures in the collectivist camp. By concentrating on ideas instead of movements, we have ignored many significant anarchist events, parties, and organization which played a part in history, such as the Spanish Civil War, the "Internationals," and so on. These are amply covered elsewhere.

The four main economic schools have been already discussed, with the exception of geoism. Geoism used to be called "Georgism" after it's founder and proselytizer, Henry George. It was originally, and still is, mainly a minarchist rather than anarchist philosophy. It's adherents are sometimes called "single-taxers," since they believe that the only morally justifiable tax is a tax on land (interpreted as all natural resources.)


Geoists believe that, since natural resources were not created by man, they cannot be rightfully owned. Thus, land is to be held "in common" or by the world forever. This does not include, however, crops grown on land or structures built on land. Since "everyone," even the yet to be born, owns the land, then individual users of land should pay rent to "everyone." Most geoists, being minarchist, say the land-rent should go to the state. Geoanarchists say it should go to the community, not a state, apparently meaning groups and associations having some objective relationship with the natural resource in question. E.g. the streams and aquifers should belong to the people living in the watershed; so they should receive the rent.

The most significant geoanarchist theorists were probably Albert Jay Nock and Frank Chodorov. While geoism may not be a major school of anarchism, it has had significant influence on other schools. Both mutualists and anarcho-capitalists (e.g. agorists) often appeal to geoist theory, especially with respect to environmental concerns such as the watershed example above. Green and eco-anarchists do so extensively.

Timeline of Modern Anarchism

1756 First anarchist essay.
General critique of statism.
Edmund Burke A Vindication of Natural Society
1793 First anarchist treatise.
First positive theory.
William Godwin An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice
1833 First anarchist. Josiah Warren The Peaceful Revolutionist (1833),
True Civilization (1863)
1840 First self-described anarchist. Pierre Proudhon What is Property?
1844 Egoist quasi-anarchist. Max Stirner The Ego and Its Own
1849 First anarcho-capitalist. Gustave de Molinari The Production of Security
1866 First anarcho-socialist. Michael Bakunin Revolutionary Catechism
1867 Individualist anarchist,
natural law theorist.
Lysander Spooner No Treason (1867),
Natural Law (1882)
1886 Individualist anarchist publisher. Benjamin Tucker State Socialism and Anarchism
1902 First anarcho-communist. Peter Kropotkin Mutual Aid
1973 First modern anarcho-capitalist. Murray Rothbard For a New Liberty (1973),
The Ethics of Liberty (1982)

Political Ideology Map

Anarcho-socialism is in the upper left and anarcho-capitalism the upper right. The vertical dimension represents the extent of government; the horizontal dimension represents legal fiction of property ownership - more precisely, the degree of propertarianism. Both "socialism" and "capitalism" have statist and anti-statist variants. The placement of persons and parties on this graph are approximate, and open to debate.

The Future of Anarchism

As history is a struggle between liberty and authority, my prognosis is based on how current technological and political factors favor one or the other.

I think that technology, on the whole, favors liberty. This is based on the expectation that computers, the internet, and strong cryptography are strongly favorable to individualism, due to the enhancement of privacy (in the form of anonymity and pseudonymity) in productive and financial life.

For the past half millennium or so, the state has had the technological advantage. Inventions created at mid-millennium - the press and the perfection of gunpowder weapons - caused the rise of centralized states. The nature of gunpowder weapons is that violence can be mass-produced. Whoever can produce the most firepower wins, largely regardless of expense or efficiency. The Gutenberg press and later improvement in printing augmented and accelerated this effect. In earlier times, there were dialects for each local region, and motivating large masses of people was extremely difficult. For example, France had dozens of dialects in the middle ages. After printing became cheap, Parisian French became standard.

The synergy between cheap guns and standard language allowed rulers to raise large armies and train them to kill on a level never before seen. Brute force changed from a few rich guys who could afford war horses and armor, to hoards of cheaply trained and armed soldiers. In economic terms, the return on force increased tremendously. As a result, the world saw the rise of nation-states, with the bigger ones, or at least the ones who could throw more wealth into munitions and muster more troops, winning out. Centralized power had its day.

Industrialization also favored centralization. Factories and roads and mass-production required more centralization than pre-industrial agriculture and crafts. Central governments built roads to every household's door, all the better to control, tax, and conscript. Orwell's 1984 became fact.

But with the invention and subsequent availability of computer technology and the internet, combined with public key cryptography, the tide shifted. At the very least, it allows knowledge workers unbind themselves from the land. Programmers, web designers, architects, and engineers can work from anywhere in the world, using a laptop computer as an office. Communications can be conducted over the internet, with encryption making it truly private. Digital currency is pseudononymous and secure. Suddenly one can converse and trade, while avoiding government agents who would control or rob you. The beauty of strong crypto is this: all the tanks in the world cannot bust PGP. Even if states find a way to break any given crypto system, it's too expensive to try. Besides, you can simply switch to the next great system. Finally, the return on force is sinking like a stone.

The new revolution of power ... is liberating individuals at the expense of the twentieth-century nation-state. Innovations that alter the logic of violence in unprecedented ways are transforming the boundaries within which the future must lie. ... You stand at the threshold of the most sweeping revolution in history. Faster than all but a few now imagine, microprocessing will subvert and destroy the nation-state, creating new forms of social organization in the process. - James Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg, The Sovereign Individual

The political manifestation of this is devolution - the decentralization of power from the few centralized entities to the many dispersed entities and individuals. We see the trend already in the increasing number of political entities. The Soviet Union devolved in 1991, resulting in a dozen new protection providers. Yugoslavia also devolved into Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosevo, and Montenegro. The number of entities continues to increase. This is a wonderful trend for anarchists! Obviously, the more political entities there are, the smaller they are.

But they are still states, you say. This is where we utilize our knowledge of panarchy. There is a continuum from immigration to migration to voting with your feet to shopping for the best PDA. As more and more entities compete for citizen-taxpayers, these formerly ruled people become customers. In short, political entities can be expected to evolve, through competition, into PDAs, and citizens evolve into customers. This is not the evolutionary anarchism that Godwin or Thoreau predicted, but it will do nicely!

One major benchmark will be the breakup of the USEmpire. Already its bloated theft and redistribution system, and more importantly, its imperial overstretch, is obvious. Its trillion dollar deficit, financed by monetary inflation, is not sustainable. Hyperinflation of the dollar is foreseeable, perhaps imminent. The devolution of the US will be every bit as good for freedom as the devolution of the USSR was.


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