L.A. Liberty

A Libertarian in Leftywood

I just returned home from trick or treating with my family and my oldest daughter’s friends (and their families).

The first thing she did when she got to her room was tip her bucket over to soak up her bounty. So I grabbed my youngest daughter’s bucket (which is really my wife’s since the young one is still breast feeding) and dumped out its contents nearby to compare.

Now, like any other toddler, my oldest daughter loves candy. She’s particularly fond of Tootsie Pops, M&Ms, and lollipops. She also seems to have no interest in Almond Joy or Skittles.

So when she saw that her sister’s pile had some of the candy she liked, she of course asked for them. I then explained that she’d have to swap out some of her candy so her sister (or rather, mom) doesn’t lose candy, as that wouldn’t be fair. 

Then, the negotiations began. She quickly came to learn she’d be willing to give up multiple Almond Joys for just one Tootsie Pop. There was also no limit to the number of Skittles bags I could offer for her to give up just a single bag of M&Ms. And she couldn’t care less if I told her that a thousand chocolatiers labored dozens of hours to make just one Almond Joy.

So at three years old, my princess understands something that eludes Marxists everywhere: value is subjective.

Anarchy may be difficult for some to grasp in the details, and may have manifold variations, but conceptually it is simple: no state. All voluntary associations that emerge from this straightforward pre-condition should thus be allowed.

The collectivist-anarchists add to the abolition of the state a second pre-condition: the abolition of private property. They have consequently aligned themselves with leftist statists, notably in the recent (current?) “Occupy Wall Street” protests, in attacking what I consider to be the symptom instead of the disease:

Unfortunately those most likely to participate in this protest on Wall Street have no interest in understanding the root cause. They would rather address the symptom because to acknowledge the disease would mean a dismantling of their worldview… a worldview in which the state is the great patron, just master, and wise equalizer of all things. In other words, to accept the truth is to rightly acknowledge the state as the evil, bumbling monopolizer of force and destroyer of prosperity and peace that lords over each and every one of our lives.

Uneasy alliances are of course sometimes useful for achieving a greater goal. I’ve been deemed hypocritical for simultaneously championing against statism while participating in active support for Ron Paul. The difference is, however, that unlike the state-expanding leftists whom the collectivist-anarchists align themselves with, Ron Paul actually would make practical changes in shrinking and minimizing the state. In other words, my alliance carries us in the right direction: less state not more. As a father, I have an urgency to pursue all avenues of dismantling the state - from within and without - that I can. Further, Ron Paul serves as a facilitator of educating the masses on individual liberty and self-reliance - a sine qua non to establishing the voluntaryist ideal. Ron Paul is not the solution, of course; no one person is. A voluntary “society” of self-owning, self-governing, sovereign individuals is the goal, and as long as the state persists, liberty remains curbed. As I’ve said: “Ron Paul [is] the next best thing to smashing the state.” 

Such alliances aside, the solutions some communal-property (or objective-value) anarchists propose merely replace the state with some other leviathan, some other forceful entity demanding non-subjective offsets to some perceived negative reciprocity. And an anarchy that has a foundational premise as “you may do what you wish, except trade your time in a manner of your choosing” (ie. keep the fruits of your labor) must, then, establish an enforcer of this inherently unnatural condition.

I’ve written about this previously:

“[While] anarcho-syndicalists,” “anarcho-communists,” “anarcho-socialists” [and other such] anarchists may genuinely advocate statelessness, they do not concern themselves with absolute self-ownership. If aggression comes from the collective (instead of a state), then it may be permissible. They demand - and will enforce - certain obligations and reciprocity. These anarchists oppose voluntary associations when they don’t fit a certain ideal (such as employer/employee, or investor/laborer) - and are willing to quash them if necessary. 

The bottom line is this: Anarchy simply means “without rulers,” or widely understood simply as “no state.” The extension of this should be that if none of us are ruled - or owned - by anyone else, then we rule and own ourselves. If we own ourselves, no one else has authority to aggress against us. Not only is this a peaceful idea, it promotes progress, self-reliance, efficiency, innovation, wealth-creation, happiness through meeting demands, etc. Anarchy is statelessness, not lawlessness. Anarchy is not chaos, it is emergent, consensual, non-centrally-planned order. And not having “rulers” doesn’t mean we don’t have bosses or other hierarchical sociological structures, it simply means that all associations must be voluntarily consented to by all parties. This is what I believe as an anarcho-capitalist / voluntaryist…

So the protests on Wall Street are illustrative of this disconnect. The protesters are right, of course, to deplore much of Wall Street and the myriad ways it uses force to achieve its goals without our voluntary consent, the ways it uses us to protect themselves from their own failures. But Wall Street cannot do any of this without its protector, the state, using its monopoly on force. And if these anarchists truly wish to smash the state yet focus their attention only on the wards of the state (eg. Wall Street) - they’re doing it wrong. They eschew logic when they ignore the true state-crony power structure. Wall Street can only get away with the atrocities it does because the state allows and compels it to.

Well, first, I have a semantic quibble. Though adjectives are grammatical descriptors of nouns, what most actually mean - since the branches of anarchy are typically refered to as “anarcho-communism” or “anarcho-capitalism” and so on - is ‘Anarachy without Suffixes,’ but that doesn’t quite have the same assonant ring to it.

As to the question: I have no problem with those who wish to find ideological anti-state purity through identifying themselves this way. Problem is, the suffixes (or adjectives) are necessary to avert confusion.

"Anarchy" has an unfortunate negative connotation of chaos. Most think of people like the current rioters in London, who are simply criminals and have no philosophical connection to the ideology. Often, these so-called anarchists who tend to wreak havoc at G20 events and the like cry out for more state involvement in their lives through wealth distribution, ecological concerns, union protections, etc. Also, these miscreants promote the idea - through their actions - that anarchy is violence, when truly it should simply mean peace (freedom from state aggression). So, if educating the ignorant masses matters, then omitting qualifiers could make such advances difficult.

For example, capitalism has two separate, legitimate meanings that have little to do with one another. So when I discuss “capitalism,” I specify either “crony capitalism” / “state capitalism” / “corporatism” or “laissez faire” / “free-market capitalism.” Language matters, and to not specify allows people to attach an unintended meaning.

Relatedly, to most who don’t simply shrug off “anarchy” as chaos, “anarchy” typically tends to imply “anarcho-syndicalism” or “anarcho-communism” or “anarcho-socialism.” And while these anarchists may genuinely advocate statelessness, they do not concern themselves with absolute self-ownership. If aggression comes from the collective (instead of a state), then it may be permissible. They demand - and will enforce - certain obligations and reciprocity. These anarchists oppose voluntary associations when they don’t fit a certain ideal (such as employer/employee, or investor/laborer) - and are willing to quash them if necessary. 

The bottom line is this: Anarchy simply means “without rulers,”  or widely understood simply as “no state.” The extension of this should be that if none of us are ruled - or owned - by anyone else, then we rule and own ourselves. If we own ourselves, no one else has authority to aggress against us. Not only is this a peaceful idea, it promotes progress, self-reliance, efficiency, innovation, wealth-creation, happiness through meeting demands, etc. Anarchy is statelessness, not lawlessness. Anarchy is not chaos, it is emergent, consensual, non-centrally-planned order. And not having “rulers” doesn’t mean we don’t have bosses or other hierarchical sociological structures, it simply means that all associations must be voluntarily consented to by all parties. This is what I believe as an anarcho-capitalist / voluntaryist - but alas none of this is what comes to mind when most people hear the word “anarchist.” 

I’ve touched on this perceived etymological taint before:

[N]o term is perfectly clean. … “Anarchist” has a number of meanings, some of them directly contradictory. Murray Rothbard, the quintessential anarcho-capitalist, even offered up “nonarchist” as an alternative.

This is why my blog’s subhead is “A Libertarian in Leftywood.” Not only do I admittedly succumb to alliteration, I feel that, to the average person, “libertarian” better reflects my views than “anarchist” (even though I am indeed an anti-statist). Reason being: it makes more sense to be ideologically aligned with the range of libertarians (“voluntaryists/anarcho-capitalists” on one side and “minarchists”/”classical liberals” on the other) than with non-suffixed anarchists whom most deny human nature by advocating collectivism, waging “class warfare,” and subscribing to the labor theory of value. Plus, if the “libertarian” label is good enough for Lew Rockwell, whom no one would confuse with a statist, then it’s good enough for me.

My wife doesn’t love - value - our second daughter any less because she was in labor for less time than the first one.

Problems with the Cost Theory of Value →

By explaining final retail prices through the cost of making the goods, the cost theory implies that economic value is an objective property of physical items that flows from resources into the goods that they produce. In contrast, the subjective value theory of Menger and others starts with the valuation of consumer goods and works its way back through the prices of labor and other inputs accordingly. …

Although the cost theory of value provided a coherent explanation of the long-run relationship between prices and costs for reproducible goods, it was not an adequate theory of market price determination. The marginal, subjectivist approach pioneered by Carl Menger and others is far superior…

Related: my post on The Calculation Problem and Price Theory

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