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Anarchists aren't just scruffy Starbucks-bashers  
and bandana-wearers.  Anarcho-Capitalists believe  
we'll all have freedom in a world where... 
Congress Shall 
Make No Law
David Barnes • October 2000

While tedious speakers at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles tried to explain how the government will fix every problem, Rage Against the Machine was holding a protest concert outside. It was intended to let everyone know that the Democrats’ boring, white fascist empire would crumble underneath the force of “democracy in the streets.” The protesters were a motley crew of Communists, Greens and anarchists. People are fairly familiar with the first two, because they are remarkable similar.  Many Yalies have swooned for Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate for president, and his socialist project. Anarcho-syndicalists, or anarcho-socialists, however, represent a very different strain of Leftism.  
     Anarcho-syndicalists describe themselves as the modern heirs of Socialism and Liberalism. This is true only in that they have Socialist goals which they attempt to mask with the ideals of liberalism. The Socialist believes that central control of the economy is essential for efficient production to be efficient, and that the capitalist class system is the primary enemy of the workers. Liberals want to remove government imposed barriers that inhibit voluntary interactions.  
     The central tenet of anarcho-socialism is that authority of any type is inherently destructive. Thus society must be free from coercion of any kind. Coercion, as they understand it, comes from any institution: the Church, the State, or the Family. The only just organizations are voluntary collections of workers—trade unions or syndicates. 
This can be contrasted with another strain of anarchy, called free-market anarchism, voluntaryism, or, more commonly, anarcho-capitalism. This is the anarchy of the Right. The only similarity between the anarchy of the protesters and anarcho-capitalism is that they both understand  the State as little more than institutionalized violence. 
     Anarcho-capitalists spring from a tradition of property rights and individualism. Individuals acting freely will lead society towards an order in which consumers’ needs are met. While this is easily seen to work in standard exchanges of goods, many are skeptical that people can shop around to find the best police protection and judicial systems. The anarchist wants to replace government force with choice. Collectivists want this to be democratic choice, and capitalists want individual choice. 
Archists, those who believe that the State is a necessary part of society, criticize this system as exalting choice as the ultimate value, and say that this philosophy will dissolve the family and every other institution. 
Many institutions in our society encourage public virtue without government enforcement. Until Statists can show which virtues require State enforcement, there is no reason that an anarchist society would be necessarily less virtuous than our current society, which does not seem to be a terribly high standard. While capitalism differs from other systems in that it is entirely based on freely arranged, mutually beneficial exchanges, it relies on hierarchical institutions to stabilize society in a way that is alien to anarchists of the Left, and which is rapidly becoming alien to our current Statist culture. While each anarchist has his own views on which institutions should be encouraged and which others should be done away with, they all should agree that coercive force is not an acceptable means of interaction between institutions and those who have not chosen to be a part of them. Under an anarcho-capitalist system, people would be allowed to sign away any and all of their rights, if people were willing to create a real social contract and start the State anew. In this way, anarcho-capitalism envelops anarcho-syndicalism, in that it accounts for some people’s desire to form small collectives. Anarcho-capitalists, however, will not force the rest of society to do so as well. 
     Anarcho-syndicalists have an inconsistent view of the role of force. They reject any authority and hierarchy, and therefore reject force. This is impossible politically, because either way, someone must enforce property rights (in the first case) or democratic rights (in the second). This is why every possible anarcho-syndicalist outline for change requires some type of force, which anarchists call “Direct Action.”  
Since the two major strains of anarchist thought differ from each other so radically, it is more useful to compare them to the current system than to each other. Right now, the State controls most aspects of our lives, albeit many of them indirectly. The State tinkers with the value of your money through the Federal Reserve. It subsidizes those industries favored by the powerful legislators and interests. It forces people to help the poor inefficiently, no less. An anarchic system would be even more highly ordered than our own, but the order would be adopted because of  pressures applied by individuals desiring free trade.  
This means that it is nearly impossible to predict the course of the future. Each industry will develop in its own organic manner, and it is nigh impossible to predict the manner of this development. The best we can do is to investigate models which work well under the current system and could be easily adjusted to fit an anarchic world. 
     The first step towards comprehending anarcho-capitalism is to understand that taxation is theft. It is very difficult to define taxation in a way in which it cannot also be used to describe an act of theft. Taxation is one group of people demanding that another group pay their salaries. It is tribute paid to our masters in Washington. In exchange, for our tribute, various services might be provided. Over millennia, people have come to view the government as more legitimate that the band of robbers it was in the beginning; this lets the government thieves pretend that our tributes are voluntary. Just because some people pay taxes willingly does not mean we all do, and any attempt at tax collection is always backed up with the force of armed compulsion.  
     Those who willingly pay their taxes usually do so because they believe the government is providing services that they require. People do require roads, police protection, and a legal framework under which to live. However, it is not at all clear that only the government can provide these things. 
Privatizing roads is one possible first step of the anarchist revolution. When people are in control of the streets on which they live, they will take care to maintain them in order to facilitate travel to and from their businesses and homes.  
     Under the current system, the people petition the State to maintain its property which they must use. But there is obviously a very interested segment of the population who would take on the job of upkeep. 
When everyone owns the road immediately surrounding his property, the cost will be shared only by those who will somehow make use of this road, as opposed to the current system under which everyone pays for it through taxation. Businesses will modify their prices to offset the costs and homeowners will regain control of the money they save on municipal taxes. All the stores on a street may enter into co-operatives to fund road repairs by themselves, or they may lease the road to a separate firm which minimizes its costs by owning a network of roads. Whichever method ends up being adopted by the majority of people is impossible to predict, and is largely irrelevant. The important fact is that the most successful model to keep the roads well maintained, and the consumers happy, will win out. 
     Once people can own their own roads, they will need someone to protect those roads. As most corporations use private security forces to protect their office buildings and gated communities, rent-a-cops will likely be most effective at policing privately owned streets. Individuals could decide exactly how much they are willing to pay for whatever level of protection they like. This also allows people to change security providers when the protections promised them is insufficient or the security guards do not act properly, as opposed to the current police state in which the populace has little recourse when the police are either ineffective or excessively brutal.  This would probably result in the formation of various protection agencies to meet the demand for safety. 
     When the police are privatized, courts are not far behind.  There are already thousands of private arbiters who can settle matters between corporations without the red tape of the judicial system. Arbiters are effective because each side consents to the judgment of the court beforehand. This means that there is no lengthy appeals system, and that each side can be better assured of a fair deal, because they can examine each judge thoroughly beforehand. Under our current system, judges are arbitrarily assigned to each case, even though they might have little knowledge of the circumstances of the case. For example, the judge assigned to the Microsoft anti-trust case had almost no knowledge of basic differences between Microsoft and Apple. In a privatized system, “justice consumers” might well select knowledgeable judges with a reputation for impartiality.  
     Without an overarching body of laws to regulate the system, some might think that society will degrade into chaos. Anarchists believe that this will not happen as long as a majority of the population prefers peaceful co-existence to the state of nature. Different agencies would enter into agreements with one another in order to provide a framework for resolution of any disputes which might occur in the future. As long as people will want their protection agency to avoid war (which jacks up the agency’s prices), they will only sign on to those which have such arrangements and will abide by them.  
The anarcho-syndicalist road to serfdom begins in a general strike where all of the working men grind the wheels of production to a halt until the workers can take control of their factories. Everyone will have a common claim to everything, because private property is the basis of exploitation. Anarcho-syndicalists view property as theft, while anarcho-capitalists practically hold property as sacred.  
     An individual’s right to his own property is the foundation for any coherent system of rights. Without a right to personal property, it is difficult to justify to self-ownership, in the sense that each person should be able to make his own decisions. Anarcho-syndicalists do not seem to believe in such self-ownership. In their worker’s paradise, everyone votes on everything that happens.  If someone wants to switch jobs, the other workers vote on it. Imagine a system under which one’s co-workers could vote to fire whomever they please whenever they please. Workers will form factions in order to vote their enemies out of the factory and to get their allies into positions of power on the worker’s congresses. Promotions will be based on political favors instead of hard work. No one will be sure of their position and their ability to work in whatever job they please will vanish. 
     Under the anarcho-capitalist model expounded by Murray Rothbard, everything usually understood under the context of human rights is founded on property rights.  From where do we get freedom of speech? Anyone can say whatever they please on their own property, or anyone else’s as long as they have permission.  From where do people get the right to freely assemble? Anyone can protest on privately held roads once they get permission of the owners.  
     When property is publicly owned, both sides of an issue have conflicting and equally valid claims about how to use the property. Sometimes people want to hold a protest on very busy intersections and block off traffic, but the businesses around the area know that this will cause problems. Both groups have valid claims. Anarcho-capitalists solve the problem by giving control of the streets to those who use them the most, those who live and work on them. These businessmen can make their own conclusions about the merits of each protest and decide accordingly. The existence of clearly defined guidelines is one of the most important factors for a stable society. In a system based on contracts and a firm understanding of property rights, people are best able to make plans for the future, because they know that no government policy can be suddenly changed and no law can be selectively enforced. 
     The various groups protesting in Los Angeles had one thing in common, even if they won’t admit it; a hatred of real freedom. What the Left actually wants people to have is not freedom but power. And an increase in someone’s power is usually a decrease in someone else’s freedom. Anarcho-syndicalists want to give people freedom to work without evil capitalist coercion, but this is only possible by restricting other people’s freedom. If someone wants to work in any particular job, an anarcho-syndicalist would want to force other people to not try to compete for that job. If you think employees never use force to get their way, remember that people have been attacked for crossing picket lines. 
     Freedom is based entirely on voluntary associations. These voluntary associations can take the form of economic dealing (trading value for value) or social exchanges (like a marriage vow). There are two options for human interaction; contractual, freely chosen arrangements or arrangements based on force. Every State throughout history has relied on force to influence its subjects.  
     These two different “anarchist” pictures of a possible society are both based on political philosophies radically different from the republican democracy of our current society. Anarcho-capitalism, however, will look remarkably similar to America. Your day could be exactly the same as it is now; you would just get higher quality services at lower prices than what we usually get from the government. An anarcho-syndicalist world would look just like Soviet Russia was supposed to. The only justification for life would be providing for the collective. The anarcho-syndicalist world would be an attempt to revive the worst regime in history.  

—David Barnes is a sophomore in Branford College

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