Thursday, December 27, 2012

Left v. Right Anarchists: Tempest in a Teapot?


The perennial "what's the difference between 'anarcho-capitalists' and 'market anarchists' -- what makes the former 'right-wing' and the latter 'left-wing?'" discussion is kicking up again on Facebook, presumably due to an aside in my latest piece for C4SS:

For those unfamiliar with the terminology, "anarcho-capitalists" are the slightly addled step-siblings of market anarchists (slightly addled because they conflate "capitalism" with free markets, incorrectly positioning themselves on the "right" -- that is, the wrong -- end of the left-right political spectrum).

In thinking about it, I'm very much tempted toward the conclusion that the real difference between right-wing "anarcho-capitalists" and left-wing "market anarchists" is almost entirely rooted in differing predictions of what society will look like when the state is gone.

There are two reasons why I believe right-wing "anarcho-capitalists" are in error where their predictions are concerned:


  1. Because they conflate free markets with "capitalism" (a state-regulated, mixed industrial economy) they mistakenly assume that certain features of actually existing capitalism (e.g. limited liability corporations) would continue to exist and thrive in stateless free markets. "Market anarchists" may also make some erroneous assumptions (e.g. wage labor would diminish or even disappear), but not the same erroneous assumptions.
  2. Their intentional historical rooting of themselves on the "right"  reinforces the previous error. While politically radical, they tend to be culturally conservative "bourgeois libertarians."

So the "rightism" of the "anarcho-capitalists" is largely a function of their mistaking certain features of the status quo for constants. And the "leftism" of the "market anarchists is largely a function of their assuming the opposite.

But when you get right down to it, is the distinction really that important? I mean, we will find out what the stateless society looks like when we get rid of the state, and both groups want to do that, right?

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