Howdy. My name is Cole Gentles, and I am a free market anarchist (libertarian anarchist… voluntarist… anarcho-capitalist… whatever you want to call it).
EEK! AN ANARCHIST!!!
Not so shockingly, this makes political, philosophical, and even economic discussions with most people… well… contentious, to say the least. It doesn’t matter if it’s with someone on the left or right of the political spectrum. It usually starts out with them making some point about how fucked up things are in, for instance, the health care system. I usually agree with them, and we’re off to a deceptively good start.
If the discussion continues long enough, at some point the other person inevitably states that they support government intervention in the market to some degree. Whether it’s something more politically divisive, a massive intervention like a centralized, government run health care system, or something more general that seemingly every sane person agrees upon, like government regulation of medicine or state mandated licensure of doctors.
I disagree with them. They give a bit more of a reason for their position. I counter their reasoning. They counter my counter. I counter their counter of my counter. They counter my… well, you get the point. Eventually the discussion usually devolves to a point where they become exacerbated with me and ask, almost as if it’s meant to be rhetorical, if I believe in any government at all.
“No,” I reply.
Their response is usually some mixture of horror and ad hominem attacks. I’m usually called terribly naive and immature (I’m innocent of the former charge, but admittedly pretty guilty of the later), and it’s usually assumed that I have not thought very hard about the consequences of not having a government (I have, in fact. Very, very hard). In addition, a statement is pretty much always made that without rules and law and order, their would be chaos.
RULES. NOT RULERS.
Now, I very much agree with them on the last part. Without rules and laws there would probably be chaos. It would be a society I would most certainly not want to live in. However, anarchy is not the absence of rules. It is the absence of rulers. That is an extremely important distinction. In this regard, a libertarian anarchist is simply someone who believes that, just as with any other good or service that people consider desirable, free markets are better suited at providing laws and legal systems which serve the wants and needs of consumers of those goods and services more effectively, efficiently, and responsively than centralized, bureaucratic institutions, and that those laws and legal systems would tend to be more just in every respect.
ANTI-VIOLENCE = ANTI-GOVERNMENT
All that said, the fundamental guiding principle for many, if not most, libertarian anarchists is that initiating physical aggression against otherwise peacefully acting individuals is unjust. This is based on a profound understanding of, and respect for, individual rights. That, of course, begs the question: how am I defining individual rights? I will attempt to lay out my general position on this over the next two or three posts in the coming weeks to provide a basis on which all of my other positions are derived, including this one: One can not be consistently, truly, anti-violence (in the sense of initiating physical coercion against peaceful individuals), while also being for government (in their current form) on any level. Being as, to the best of my knowledge, no government has ever been established by obtaining the voluntary consent of every individual in the territory it claims authority over, and has therefore always been imposed on some percentage of the population without their consent, the two positions are inherently at odds. Modern state governments are institutions that have acquired and maintained their perceived authority and pursued their ends not through persuasion, but through the threat of physical coercion.
It is my view, therefore, that if society is ever to get to a point where there is as little violent conflict as is possible between human beings (note I didn’t say ‘no violent conflict is possible’… I am not a utopian), it must allow itself to be organized around institutions that are established through persuasion and voluntary cooperation, not institutions that have been established and maintained through physical coercion.