#Natural Law

No, Ancaps Are Not the Problem

In a recent article on beinglibertarian.com, it was asserted the anarcho-capitalist (ancap) version of libertarianism is a threat to the liberty movement because of its radical purism.  This purism drives more moderate individuals away from the Libertarian Party, and either the anarchists need to get on board with a more pragmatic political agenda, or the Libertarian Party needs to excommunicate these radicals.

All of the anarchists problems stem from their goal for the abolishing of taxation.   The author correctly realizes, if taxation were abolished, the United States would default on its debt causing a horrible economic depression, destruction of the dollar as a unit of currency, and not only would the U.S. default on its debt, but all public spending would come to a halt too.  This would cause unimaginable chaos because all government schools, welfare payments, courts, etc. would cease to operate.

The author does recognize the ancap’s belief that all public goods could be provided on the free market with private competition of courts, police, and schools with welfare being taken over by private charity.  However he believes this is a real world impossibility because without the government their can be no laws, and nobody would respect anybody’s natural rights.  The author states,” [E]ven if you had judges, you would have no laws for them to enforce, for in the absence of government there is no codification of natural rights”.  After this the article ends with a section declaring this to just be the surface problems of anarcho-capitalism.

That was a short summary of the article.  There are many fallacies in the article.  I believe the author does not have a full understanding of anarcho-capitalist theory, but there is something I would like to say myself.

Firstly, I would say that anarcho-capitalism was a terrible name for our movement because it has done much more harm than good.  As soon as someone hears the word anarchy their desire to listen is instantly shut off, and the anarchist is branded a lunatic.  I have written on this topic elsewhere.

Secondly, I do not think it is necessarily the ancap’s message which turns people away, but how the anarchist goes about delivering that message.  As soon as an anarchist says, “The State needs to be abolished,” most people stop listening.  The anarchist needs to put more of a nuance on his message in order to show people that anarcho-capitalism has a deep intellectual tradition rooted in Western Culture.

With that being said, I would like to turn back to critiquing  the article, but I would like to go backwards by first describing the production of law in an ancap society, and then handling the economics question.

Yes, there would be law in an anarcho-capitalist society.  The laws are not derived from any government; they are derived from man’s inherent nature.  These natural laws existed before governments, and they exist even when governments deny these immutable laws.

In the Rothbardian tradition the laws are deduced through a rational system of natural law.  These laws are discovered by man’s reason as he introspects about himself because man, as a specific creature born in a universe of fixed laws, has a certain fixed nature.  For the anarchist the basic realizations about man’s nature are that man has a free will and can determine for himself what he will do with his body, because man must satisfy his needs through labor and natural resources, man has the right to own any natural resource with which he mixes his labor if he is the first user of those natural resources, and he has the right to own any products he makes through the process of production.  Finally, man has the right to freely exchange any of his products for the products of others.  Any aggression or direct threat of aggression against a person or their property is a violation of man’s natural law.

It is from this basic framework that all ancap law is derived.  The next question of course is how would these laws be enforced in an anarchist society.  The author does acknowledge the ancap position that a court system can be provided on a private market, but he thinks this is unrealistic because 1) there is no law to be enforced, and 2) he does not see how the courts would gain legitimacy.

The answer to point one was answered above.  In the ancap society the courts pledge to uphold natural law.  The second question seems more tricky, but upon further inspection it is not.  Why do government courts have legitimacy?  It is because public opinion gives them legitimacy.  If government courts have legitimacy in a statist world why would private courts not have legitimacy in a completely privatized world?  In the ancap society any court or judge who followed a process that is deemed by the customers of the court system to be appropriate, and has a reputation of knowledgeably of the law and fairness,  would be considered legitimate by society.  This is best seen today with private arbitrators.

The anarchist society is not a pacifist society; there is still coercion, but coercion is only against those who have violated natural law and never against the innocent.  The coercion that is used in a society is legitimized because public opinion legitimizes it whether it is a system of public or private courts.

The anarchist is not against rules, but they are against the State; anarcho-capitalist are most against the State’s monopoly privileges of the courts.  Instead anarchists want to eliminate this monopolistic privilege and open up the courts to competition in upholding natural law.  Just like with any other product, abolishing this monopoly will lower the price and increase the quality of justice.

With a basic legal framework in mind we can now tackle the economic problems.  In the article, it is claimed that an ancap society would never reach the levels of prosperity that current American society has reached.  I believe the author says this because he assumes protection of private property would be impossible.  But we have seen above that there would be law, and private courts and police forces would be legitimized because of public opinion.  With private property rights protected there is no reason to believe that an ancap society would not be able to reach the current level of prosperity and even to exceed it.

Another concern is that all public spending would cease including roads, schools, welfare, etc. But there is no reason to expect these functions not to be preformed by entrepreneurs.  The roads and schools in a community do not simply disappear without a government, so why could these public goods not be privatized and run more efficiently?

Finally, the author mentions the U.S. debt problem by stating it would be impossible for the United States to pay off their 20 trillion dollar debt if there were no taxation.  This default on the debt would cause a terrible economic depression and the destruction of the dollar as a currency.

I do agree the repudiation of the debt would bring economic hardship because the massive U.S. debt bubble would pop, but this is an event that many economist already agree will happen.  In any case the politicians will not do anything about the debt until it finally come crashing down.  Either way the solution to the debt problem is not more debt.

Furthermore, the popping of the debt bubble is necessary since it will liquidate previous malinvestments due to earlier central bank policies, and this will allow for a more efficient allocation of resources and higher standards of living.  The adjustment phase (depression) would be relatively short in the absence of government since prices would be allowed to fluctuate freely and resources would go to their highest demand just as during the depression of 1920-21.

And what of the dollar, where does this come into play?  While it may be true the dollar could be destroyed in the ancap society, this should be celebrated not feared.  No anarchist wants to see the dollar continue to be used as a unit of currency because it is a fiat currency manipulated by the Federal Reserve.  In fact, in the anarchist society, once legal tender laws are repealed, the dollar would probably lose its standing as a major currency anyway.  The massive inflation this author predicts would only accelerate this trend as the population moved toward a more stable currencies like precious metals or cyrptocurrencies.

Adopting a stable currency has positive economic side effects.  It eliminates national currencies manipulated by central banks allowing for a universal commodity money to expand across the globe making economic calculation more efficient, and hard monies under a system of free money are more difficult to inflate eliminating the cycle of boom and bust we see in our modern economies.

At the end of the article it is claimed anarcho-capitalism is utopian just like Marxist Socialism.  Anarcho-capitalism though is actually the complete opposite of utopian.  No ancap has ever claimed that crime would vanish under an ancap social system.  What makes the Marxist a utopian is his belief that in order for the socialist paradise to be achieved the nature of man has to change which is impossible.  Ancaps do not make this argument.  The ancap society is the only society which takes man’s nature and builds a legal code on this nature and a series of institutions to uphold that legal code.

In fact, libertarians that want limited government are the utopians.  Most politicians attempt to limit governments with constitutions, but how can a constitution limit government when the government is given sole power to interpret its powers?  Also the State is in control of its own limitations through the court system.  This system of constitutions generally inhibits the minority in power from exercising the checks on government.

Finally, I will say a few words about the purism of anarcho-capitalism.  Purism is what the ancap community needs because it is a purist ideal which keeps the ideology on a straight and consistent path.  Yes, it is good to be pragmatic in the sense of delivering our message to the masses in a calm and rational way that , and by being pragmatic by working with other groups to push the idea of secession to create an independent ancap society.

Yet this is not the pragmatism pushed for in the article.  The author wants a more Beltway Libertarianism of working within the federal government to get minor tax cuts and other little reprieves from the State.  That would be nice if it would actually work.  This “Fabian” strategy only works for increasing the State not repealing it.  The author claims the ancap takeover of libertarianism was relatively recent.  If that were so why did Libertarian pragmatism not make any progresses before the ancaps took over?

To conclude, there is one point where the author and I agree.  We both see the need for a seperation between mainstream libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism.  Whereas he sees the libertarian movement being taken over by the ancaps; most ancaps believe that the libertarian movement is being taken over by leftist statist.  A split between the two factions would allow for our movement to not be fettered to the growing statist dominance of the Beltway Libertarians.


Why Propertarians Can Work with Anybody

Secession is a word which has an intense negative connotation in the minds of the American public.  Up until recently just the thought of secession was liable to make somebody be labeled as a traitor to America and a racist.  But it is interesting times we live in, and the idea of secession is no longer so quickly shot down.

There has always been a small secessionist current in America stretching all the way back to The War of 1812 when New England threatened to secede over the war with England.  Finally, in 1860 the South decided to use its right to leave, and by mid 1861 eleven states had left the Union to form the Confederate States of America.  Since in the minds of most Americans the war was solely about slavery, and due to the fact that the South lost the war that followed their secession, secession has been ridiculed by both Left and Right in America ever since.

It is not in the scope of this post to debate the causes of the War Between the States.  If this is what you are interested in I would refer the reader to Dr. Thomas Woods’s 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, for a brief discussion on the topic.  On the legality of secession I recommend Dr. Woods’s book Nullification.

For the purposes of this post, I am assuming that secession is legal due to the compact theory of the United States’ Constitution, and that secession is morally consistent with natural law.  Here I am simply stating that secession has become much more accepted in the mind’s of people across the United States, and that Propertarians can use this new sentiment to further their own political goals.

It was in 2008, with the election of Obama and the subsequent increase in the polarization of American politics, when secession started to gain much more currency with many conservatives, especially with the passing of Obamacare.  As usual this push from conservatives was met with nothing but smear tactics from the Left calling the conservatives racists, white supremacists, and whatever other terrible word they can come up with.

This all changed in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump.  All of a sudden the Left started to sing a radically different tune by actually calling for secession!  This has been most clearly evident by the stunning popularity of the Calexit movement.  With the leftist’s sudden change of heart, instead of calling them a bunch of hypocrites, which they are, Propertarians should be celebrating and encouraging such a development.

Secession is good for all those who are involved, especially with the current political polarization.  Nobody should be ruled by a government they do not consent to.  Secession can allow for all parties to go their separate ways in peace, and for local communities to take control over their own affairs.  If a very leftist California wants to secede and create a society with government healthcare, unrestricted immigration, a lavish welfare state, etc. let them.  All of this can be achieved by Californians through secession, and none of what California does would affect the conservative states.  In fact, it would help the conservative states by removing the power California once held over them through the central government.

Of course it is not only states which should be allowed to secede.  There are many secessionist movements within states, like Washington and Colorado for example.  In these states the larger cities, Seattle and Denver respectively, are much more leftist than the rural counties of each state causing the conservative counties to want to form their own states.  Why should these localities not be allowed their sovereignty if it is the will of the people?

On a national scale, decentralization is the main goal of the Propertarian Party, and decentralization is most effectively achieved through secession.  This why the Propertarians are able to work with both the Left and Right of the American political spectrum, especially since this simple goal is now being embraced by both sides.  Let us take advantage of the situation to educate the public about the good of secession, and to help and encourage those secessionist movement already in motion, so that we may be able to have our own Propertarian society.

Short History of Propertarianism

Propertarianism has a long, rich, and beautiful history and intellectual tradition.  In fact, the movement began to develop all the way back at the start of Western Civilization in the city states of ancient Greece.  It was in Greece, particularly Athens, where man started to develop the idea that man should be protected from the arbitrary will of government.  In addition, many Greek philosophers held to the idea that all matter had a certain specific nature that it was bound to follow.  Importantly, this idea of an inherent nature was extended to man, and thus the idea of a natural law was born.

Many of these Greek ideas are adopted by the Roman Republic, but it is not until the fall of the Empire and the rise of the feudal system of the Middle Ages when Propertarianism becomes much more developed.  The development actually came from the Catholic Church, as show by Thomas Woods in his book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.  Many great theologians, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, developed and greatly expand the natural rights doctrine that they learned from the writings of the ancient world.  Much more innovative was the Church’s teachings on economics, particularly from the school at Salamanca.  This monks developed modern economics long before Adam Smith had thought of the concepts.  Another seperate monk who developed economic theory, especially monetary theory, was Nicole Oresme. Due to the influence of the Church, these economic and philisophical theories became quite wide spread in parts of Europe allowing for the seeds of Propertarianism to be sown in the Old Continent.

It was in the coastal free cities of Medeval Europe where these ideas took their deepest roots.  The chaos of the breakup of the Roman Empire allowed for a system where government control in the cities was relatively weak.  Naturally theses cities were where the manufactures and merchants gathered, and this class was able to amass much wealth through industrial production and free trade, eventually allowing them to break away completely from the feudal lords.  Once the cities were free from the feudal lords they jealously guarded their new found liberty.  The ideology of the free cities were based on the natural rights of life, liberty, and property that the Catholic Church had made popular.  They realized it was the principles of natural law and the free market economy which gave them their freedom from governments and their prosperity.

The cities were not perfect though.  Many guilds operated like labor unions hampering the labor market and trampling the rights of individuals.  In addition, many cities fought among themselves, most notably Venice and Genoa.

Sadly though, as the feudal lords became absolute monarchs and aristocratic rule broke down, the free cities lost their independence, and this independence was replaced by a strong mercantilism regime restricting trade and progress.  But this does not mean it was the end for the liberty movement.  As the free cities started to lose their independence, a new secular trend in thinking was beginning to emerge.  It was started by John Locke and his Two Treaties on Government.  With this book the ideology of liberalism took shape, and it is thanks to liberalism, and the work it did to reduce the size and scope of government, that the Industrial Revolution occurred which has allowed for an ever increasing rise in the standard of living despite an explosion of population.

Western Europe, particularly England, was obsessed by liberalism by 1800s.  Liberalism was allowing unheard of freedoms and social mobility.  Europe produced some of its greatest thinkers.  Some of the names on this long list include: Frederic Bastiat, Lord John Acton, Jean Baptist Say, Richard Cobden, Gustave de Molinari, who gave the first thought to a propertarian society in his “The Production of Security”, and many others.  By the mid of the 19th century liberalism reached its height.

After the 1850s, Classical Liberalism has been in one long retreat.  New statist ideologies like Marx’s “scientific socialism” and all manners of interventionism gained sympathy from the people. This does not mean however that propertarian thinking went by the wayside.  The darkest yet one of the most productive times for Propertarianism was from World War I through World War II.  During this time statist activist and ideologies were what had almost all the intellectual backing.  Turn of the century Progressivism had the wide support of the people.  It was during this time that the suffrage was expanded, the direct election of senators was passed, the income tax was passed, the New Deal programs came about, Prohibition was passed, and the Federal Reserve System was created.

Despite all the darkness there was light.  Ludwig von Mises, one of the greatest economist and sociologist of the 20th century, and a small group of followers were still writing books and laying the foundations of Propertarinsim.  It is thanks to Mises, and his work like Human Action and Socialism, that we have a modern and fully developed Propertarian tradition.

Despite all of his contributions, Mises was not a complete Propertarian he was a Classical Liberal, it was his student Murray Rothbard who took this intellectual tradition to its logical conclusion.  Rothbard wrote the most complete propertarian economic treaties in his Man, Economy, and State.  He also wrote the most complete propertarian manifesto called For a New Liberty.  Rothbard was an extremely talented, well read, and productive person.  He wrote an extraordinary amount of work.  He covered many topics from a propertarian view including economics, politics, sociology, history, and even sports.

The most recent chapter in Propertarianism is the work of Dr. Hans Hermann Hoppe.  Hoppe was a student of Murray Rothbard, and some of his greatest contributions have been argumentation ethics, his constant attacks on pubic goods, and his sociological work on the state.  Hoppe has also contributed in the way of propertarian strategy most shown in his “What Must be Done”, and he has also demonstrated the importance to the right for a thick libertarianism.  To spread these ideas, Hoppe formed the Property and Freedom society which is the leading propertarian institute and think tank.

The current state of the Propertarian movement is very disorganized.  At the moment the movement is more a theoretical movement waiting to be shown to the oppressed masses.  There are so many good propertarian thinkers, writers, and activist, but what they all need is to be brought together into one organization in order to start making practical and principled change to the United States’ political landscape.  This is exactly what this website is intended to do.  It is to provide an organization to unite the propertarian movement into one united front, and to provide assistance whenever and wherever it is needed in order to educate the masses and gain political power to create the free and just society.

The purpose of this very very brief outline of propertarian history was to show that propertarianism did not simply emerge out of a vacuum nor is it a relatively new or ad hoc ideology.  It is a very rich tradition with its roots stretching back thousands of years ago, and it has been developed all the way to the present day by some of the greatest thinkers the world has ever known.