Anarcho-Capitalism & Stateless Society

I’ve been watching some videos on the Youtube channel Freedomain Radio. The guy who makes the video I guess is in favor of an anarcho-capitalist stateless society… which basically just seems like an extreme version of conservative libertarianism (a government so small it’s non-existent).  I got involved in a discussion in the comments of the first video and so listened to the second video to understand his perspective on stateless society.

(As an aside, I found the ending of the first video amusing.  The guy stared into the camera trying to look stern, and it reminded me of my friends dad when we were kids.  My friend’s dad would shuffle into the room… shoulders slumped and belly sticking out… and, trying to look mean, he’d grumble, “Who drank my pop? Someone owes me 50 cents.”  It was, to say the least, hard to keep a straight face.  That was my emotional response to the righteous moralizing of the guy in the video.)

I’m truly perplexed why someone can be so critical of the government and yet have blind faith in capitalism.  This kind of libertarian talks about the ‘free market’ as almost a religious ideal.  In the entire history of civilization, a stateless free market has never existed on the largescale.  I added “on the largescale” because I believe such a thing might be possible on the smallscale such as in an isolated intentional community or in an isolated hunter-gatherer tribe.  I agree with Derrick Jensen that largescale modern civilization inevitably leads to oppression… or all the evidence points to this being an inevitability since there are no couter-examples that weren’t quickly crushed.

The only way to create a stateless society would be to overthrow every government which would lead to mass famine and death.  During this process, a group of people worldwide would have to systematically destroy all technology and all infrastructure.  The survivors would return to either the lifestyle of small agrarian villages or hunter-gatherer tribes.  Then and only then might a free market stateless society exist.

I actually agree with many of the criticisms pro-capitalist libertarians have of government.  My only difference is that I don’t look to scapegoat a single group.  The entire system is the problem.  If US citizens overthrew their state returning to a simpler localized governance, then some other state government (Russia or China) would conquer our then defenseless citizenry and impose a new state.  Or another possibility is that, if all government regulation and protection was dismantled, the transnational corporations would either create a new government in place of the old or make themselves into a new privatized fascist government.

This seems obvious to me.  The problem isn’t in some external force or institution.  The problem is human nature itself or rather human nature gone awry because of the problematic nature of modern society in general.  Humans simply aren’t evolved for such unnatural conditions.  If we want to elicit the moral impulses of the human species, we have to re-create the natural conditions under which human nature evolved.

The reason I felt drawn into debating the anarcho-capitalists in the comment section is that some of them seemed fairly intelligent.  They’re perfectly logical people and even are capable of supporting their arguments with evidence, but their vision of a stateless society seems like just another utopia.  Why do they believe so strongly in something that has never existed?  How is that any different than religious faith?

The guy who makes the videos does have some other videos that are quite insightful about human nature (which I wrote about in my post Victimization: Culture & Education).  He is cynical about our present society which he blames on the government, but he is idealistic about human nature.  He thinks that if the external constraints were removed and the psychological shackles were overcome, then people would manifest their inherent morality and there would be peace on earth… or something like that.  His criticisms are righteous and I agree with them to a large extent.  

However, I’m not sure why he thinks capitalism is the natural state of the human species.  If he just stopped at where his evidence-based criticism ends, then his argument would be reasonable; but he wants to go beyond the mere evidence.  I find myself annoyed whenever I’m confronted by self-certainty that verges on that of the True Believer.  Even though he is a bit too intelligent and rational to be an unabashed True Believer, he comes awfully close to it.  History is filled with True Believers who overthrew the oppressive government only to put in place a new government that was just as oppressive.

So, I took all of this seriously and wanted to learn more.  I visited a website one person recommended (Ludwig Von Mises Institute).  The person thought I couldn’t possibly disagree with him once I properly informed myself.  I didn’t take insult.  It’s possible that I could be completely wrong.  I looked around the website, read a few articles and watched a video.  It turned out not to be anything I hadn’t seen before.  It was just the typical ideas one hears from libertarians and anarchists.  As for libertarianism, I prefer Noam Chomsky… who was mentioned some on the Mises website.  These conservative anarcho-capitalists, of course, were of mixed opinion about Chomsky’s libertarian socialism.  Their criticisms of him wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before.  Chomsky is closer to my position in being critical of both state power and capitalist power.

I watched some other Youtube videos on ‘stateless society’.  The following video interested me just because of the comment section where I noticed some criticisms that were in line with Derrick Jensen’s thinking.

There was one commenter who caught my attention: mcc1789.  His criticisms went to the heart of the matter and no other commenter even attempted to refute his argument.

Ok, but what about vertical oligopolies and monopolies, as MettaliarYanto says in his response? Also, what prevents a “monopoly of force in a given area” your definition of the state?

“[I]f one starts a private town, on land whose acquisition did not and does not violate the Lockean proviso [of non-aggression], persons who chose to move there or later remain there would have no right to a say in how the town was run, unless it was granted to them by the decision procedures for the town which the owner had established.” [Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, p. 270] Is that not such a monopoly, i.e. state, if private?
 
Is that not such a monopoly, i.e. state, if private? Contracts that employees signed could have provisions forbidding strikes, organizing, etc., agreeing to pay for police, courts, doctors, stores and militaries hired by the employer.
 
Company towns had every feature which anarcho-capitalists propose, private police, courts, military, etc. Company rules were law. Buying at the company store was required by their contracts. If they sturck or formed a union, they were fired and evicted instantly. The contracts were entered voluntarily, in your sense. Since rights can be waived, exactly what stops this? The British East India Co. was its own state, ruling for centuries. Same with King Leopold’s Congo, run by his corporation.
 
“Each mining camp was a feudal dominion, with the company acting as lord and master. Every camp had a marshal, a law enforcement officer paid by the company. The ‘laws’ were the company’s rules. Curfews were imposed, ‘suspicious’ strangers were not allowed to visit the homes, the company store had a monopoly on goods sold in the camp.
 
The doctor was a company doctor, the schoolteachers hired by the company . . . Political power in Colorado rested in the hands of those who held economic power. This meant that the authority of Colorado Fuel & Iron and other mine operators was virtually supreme . . . Company officials were appointed as election judges. Company-dominated coroners and judges prevented injured employees from collecting damages.” [The Colorado Coal Strike, 1913-14, pp. 9-11]

Derrick Jensen uses the exact same argument with similar examples in his book The Culture of Make Believe.  I was happy someone went to the effort of typing up such perfect quotes.  I was feeling too lazy to do it myself.

As the commenter clearly points out, anarcho-capitalism has already existed in the towns owned by mining companies.  The problem isn’t in creating a privatized government.  That is easy to do if there is no strong state government to regulate against it.  The obvious failure is that this leads to fascism and not freedom.

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9 Responses

  1. Thank you for posting these videos — I might not be quite as naïve about the power of corporations as you think, you might want to check out my free books on anarchy, available on my website at http://www.freedomainradio.com/free :)

    • Hello Stefan.

      Yeah. I didn’t think you were simplemindedly naive. I was partly just giving a general response to pro-capitalist arguments I’ve heard recently. Some of them are naive and some of them have validity.

      I’m sorry if I portrayed you as naive in this post. I did have a negative response to your recent video on AGW. You seemed too self-certain for my taste. I tend to feel less certain about the issue. I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t think others know what the answer is.

      I accept that some version of a ‘stateless society’ could possibly work, but I just haven’t seen the hard data and the real-world examples to back it up. The only stateless solution that makes even the slightest sense to me is that of Derrick Jensen, but his vision of the downfall of civilization isn’t exactly inspiring.

      I’m cynical. I tend to see all proposed solutions as naive. But if everyone was as cynical as me, then civilization probably would collapse. :)

      As for your general perspective, I find it quite fascinating. I really appreciated the videos you did on child abuse. Your intelligence really shows through in those videos and you don’t seem naive at all.

      Cheers,
      Ben

    • I hope you return, Stefan.

      The examples of mining towns seem like strong criticism of anarcho-capitalism. In a stateless society, how would we avoid capitalist fiefdoms? This is the sticking point for me. If there was a reasonable answer to this question, then I might agree to that anarcho-capitalism has merit.

      You say you’re not naive. I’m willing to accept that claim at face value.

      The problem is that I haven’t yet seen an anarcho-capitalist fully confront the dillemma of capitalist abuse of power. If you’re not naive, then where is the evidence? I’ve offered real world examples of how anarcho-capitalism fails. Other than smallscale tradtional cultures, I haven’t yet seen any real world examples of anarcho-capitalism succeeding. Are you proposing that we return to the lifestyle of agrarian villages or hunter-gatherer tribes?

      • I already posed the problem of capitalist feudalism to Stefan Molyneux. The fact that he’s acting like this is a non-issue or pretending it’s the first time he heard it indicates to me he’s lying. He’s no better than any religious preacher. You tell him the facts, ask him the hard questions, and he never quite answers them.

        Worse, his followers will answer these questions. One reply I got was “When a private land owner gains this much power over his tenants, he becomes a government and thus loses his right to the land he worked to hard to obtain.” If this does not fly in the face of everything they believe in, thus indicating the true nature of their “belief” in anarcho-capitalism, I do not know what does.

        • I’ve come to the same conclusion as you. After watching many of his videos and interacting in the comments sections, it became apparent to me that no ancap was able or willing to intelligently, rationally and fairly respond to these questions and criticisms.

          As for Molyneux, I came away seeing him as a wannabe cult leader or something akin to that. He wants a following more than he wants truth. He is a True Believer, the kind of person it is best to ignore as much as possible. The only problem is that he can possibly cause great harm to his followers if he takes the guru role too far.

          The answer given you by one of his followers is interesting. Who is to decide the land owner has gained too much power? The land owner controls the police/military, the courts, the stores, the housing, the schools and the land that all of this is built on. You couldn’t escape this land owner. Even if you tried to escape, where would you escape to? All the surrounding land would also be owned by other fiefdom land owners, maybe all of them equally as tyrannical or worse. If the the system can be abused to create such oppression, why not simply get rid of the entire system through revolution?

  2. Benjamin Steele, Asking how a society would work under statelessness is like asking back in the days what would the slaves do when they are set free.

    All states in their core foundation are governed through the initiation of violence (taxation, cartelization, etc.) What you are basically asking is how would a society organize itself without violence at its core. Do you really want me to answer that? I mean it seems obvious.

    There is no reason for a society not to prosper without a state just as there is surely no reason for a family to prosper without an abusive father.

    Oh and for your information, here’s a few documentations of historical examples of anarchy without chaos: http://libertariannation.org/b/history.htm

    • Thanks for sharing the link. I am very curious about anarchism and I don’t dismiss it out of hand. However, I am a liberal and so I’m more persuaded by anarchism as presented by Chomsky and Derrick Jensen.

      I haven’t looked through the examples at the link, but I probably will eventually when I have some free time. Of the examples I’m familiar with, I don’t know about a contemporary example of anarchism that has been implemented with a large concentrated population. There are some intentional communities that seem to work, but they’ve only been proven to work on the small scale.

      However, I’m open to learning about new examples. I do think anarchism may be possible on the large scale some time in the future. As society and technology develops, all kinds of things might become possible. People might become more free. On the other hand, capitalism has led to technological innovation that allows those in power (whether of big business or big governemnt) to control populations even easier.

      Anything is possible. That is my primary point. I’m not against anarchism in principle. But, to be honest, it is an ideal not much different than many other ideals. We can’t predict the future. My criticism is directed at those who make detailed proposals of how society should operate. There is no reason to think that anarcho-capitalism will be more likely to work than anarcho-socialism… or if any form of anarchism will ever be made a reality on the large scale.

      This is why I like Noam Chomsky and Derrick Jensen. Both have said that we can’t and shouldn’t try to predict the best form of social/political organization. Anyone who wants freedom has to accept that an anarchist system would evolve naturally by those working on the ground in very specific situations. It will manifest different for different groups in different places.

      I don’t like ideologues who think they’ve got everything figured out. This is why I feel particularly critical of Stefan Molyneux. When dealing with complex issues, intellectual humility is the best attitude.

  3. [...] http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/anarcho-capitalism-stateless-society/ Ok, but what about vertical oligopolies and monopolies, as MettaliarYanto says in his response? Also, what prevents a “monopoly of force in a given area” your definition of the state? “[I]f one starts a private town, on land whose acquisition did not and does not violate the Lockean proviso [of non-aggression], persons who chose to move there or later remain there would have no right to a say in how the town was run, unless it was granted to them by the decision procedures for the town which the owner had established.” [Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, p. 270] Is that not such a monopoly, i.e. state, if private? Is that not such a monopoly, i.e. state, if private? Contracts that employees signed could have provisions forbidding strikes, organizing, etc., agreeing to pay for police, courts, doctors, stores and militaries hired by the employer. Company towns had every feature which anarcho-capitalists propose, private police, courts, military, etc. Company rules were law. Buying at the company store was required by their contracts. If they sturck or formed a union, they were fired and evicted instantly. The contracts were entered voluntarily, in your sense. Since rights can be waived, exactly what stops this? The British East India Co. was its own state, ruling for centuries. Same with King Leopold’s Congo, run by his corporation. “Each mining camp was a feudal dominion, with the company acting as lord and master. Every camp had a marshal, a law enforcement officer paid by the company. The ‘laws’ were the company’s rules. Curfews were imposed, ‘suspicious’ strangers were not allowed to visit the homes, the company store had a monopoly on goods sold in the camp. The doctor was a company doctor, the schoolteachers hired by the company . . . Political power in Colorado rested in the hands of those who held economic power. This meant that the authority of Colorado Fuel & Iron and other mine operators was virtually supreme . . . Company officials were appointed as election judges. Company-dominated coroners and judges prevented injured employees from collecting damages.” [The Colorado Coal Strike, 1913-14, pp. 9-11] [...]

  4. [...] don’t like) and there are many negative examples like the following (from my post Anarcho-Capitalism & Stateless Society): “Each mining camp was a feudal dominion, with the company acting as lord and master. Every [...]

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