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Criticisms of anarcho-capitalism

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Title: Criticisms of anarcho-capitalism  
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Subject: Anarcho-capitalism, Crime insurance, Aggression insurance, Taxation as slavery, Patri Friedman
Collection: Anarcho-Capitalism, Criticisms by Ideology
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Criticisms of anarcho-capitalism

Criticisms of anarcho-capitalism include moral criticisms, pragmatic criticisms, the argument that anarcho-capitalism could not be maintained, and the argument that a society can be anarchist or capitalist, but not both.


  • Justice and defense 1
  • Rights and freedom 2
  • Economics and property 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Justice and defense

Some critics argue that anarcho-capitalism turns justice into a commodity; private defense and court firms would favour those who pay more for their services.[1] Randall G. Holcombe argues that defense agencies could form cartels and oppress people without fear of competition.[1] Philosopher Albert Meltzer argued that since anarcho-capitalism promotes the idea of private armies, it actually supports a "limited State." He contends that it "is only possible to conceive of Anarchism which is free, communistic and offering no economic necessity for repression of countering it."[2]

Robert Nozick argues in Anarchy, State and Utopia that an anarcho-capitalist society would inevitably transform into a minarchist state through the eventual emergence of a monopolistic private defense and judicial agency that no longer faces competition. He argues that anarcho-capitalism results in an unstable system that would not endure in the real world. Paul Birch argues that legal disputes involving several jurisdictions and different legal systems will be too complex and costly. Thus, the largest private protection business in a territory will develop into a natural monopoly.[3]

Rights and freedom

Many anarcho-capitalists believe that negative rights should be recognized as legitimate but positive rights should be rejected.[3] — a stance that critics dismiss as unethical or selfish. Some critics, including Noam Chomsky, reject the distinction between positive and negative rights.[3]

Noam Chomsky said, "Anarcho-capitalism, in my opinion, is a doctrinal system which, if ever implemented, would lead to forms of tyranny and oppression that have few counterparts in human history. There isn't the slightest possibility that its (in my view, horrendous) ideas would be implemented, because they would quickly destroy any society that made this colossal error. The idea of "free contract" between the potentate and his starving subject is a sick joke, perhaps worth some moments in an academic seminar exploring the consequences of (in my view, absurd) ideas, but nowhere else".[4]

Economics and property

Most anarchists argue that certain capitalist transactions are not voluntary, and that maintaining the class structure of a capitalist society requires coercion, which violates anarchist principles.[5] David Graeber noted his skepticism about anarcho-capitalism along the same lines.

To be honest I'm pretty skeptical about the idea of anarcho-capitalism. If a-caps imagine a world divided into property-holding employers and property-less wage laborers, but with no systematic coercive mechanisms ... well, I just can't see how it would work. You always see a-caps saying "if I want to hire someone to pick my tomatoes, how are you going to stop me without using coercion?" Notice how you never see anyone say "if I want to hire myself out to pick someone else's tomatoes, how are you going to stop me?" Historically nobody ever did wage labor like that if they had pretty much ANY other option.[6]

Some critics argue that the anarcho-capitalist concept of voluntary choice ignores constraints due to both human and non-human factors, such as the need for food and shelter, and active restriction of both used and unused resources by those enforcing property claims.[7] Thus, if a person requires employment in order to feed and house himself, the employer-employee relationship cannot be voluntary. Another criticism is that employment is involuntary because the economic system that makes it necessary for some individuals to serve others is supported by the enforcement of coercive private property systems.

Some critics regard private property to either be an aggressive institution or a potentially aggressive one, rather than a defensive one, and thus reject claims that relationships based on unequal private property relations could be voluntary.[8] Some philosophies view any ownership claims on land and natural resources as immoral and illegitimate.[9]

Some libertarian critics of anarcho-capitalism who support the full privatization of capital, such as geolibertarians, argue that land and the raw materials of nature remain a distinct factor of production and cannot be justly converted to private property because they are not products of human labor. Some socialists, including other market anarchists such as mutualists, adamantly oppose absentee ownership. Anarcho-capitalists have strong abandonment criteria—one maintains ownership (more or less) until one agrees to trade or gift it. Anti-state critics of this view tend to have comparatively weak abandonment criteria; for example, one loses ownership (more or less) when one stops personally occupying and using it. Also, the idea of perpetually binding original appropriation is anathema to socialism and traditional schools of anarchism, as well as to any moral or economic philosophy that takes equal natural rights to land and the earth's resources as a premise.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b Holcombe, Randall G. "Government: Unnecessary but Inevitable" (PDF). 
  2. ^ Meltzer, Albert (2000). Anarchism: Arguments For and Against.  
  3. ^ a b c d  
  4. ^
  5. ^ Iain McKay; et al. (21 January 2010). "Section F - Are 'anarcho'-capitalists really anarchists?".  
  6. ^ "I am David Graeber, an anthropologist, activist, anarchist and author of Debt. AMA.".  
  7. ^  
  8. ^ "Anarchism is not a form of capitalism". Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  9. ^ McElroy, Wendy (1995) Intellectual Property: The Late Nineteenth Century Libertarian Debate Libertarian Heritage No. 14 ISBN 1-85637-281-2 Retrieved 24 June 2005

External links

  • Anarcho-Capitalism vs. Individualist Anarchism
  • Jeff Draughn's Between Anarchism and Libertarianism: Defining a New Movement is a contemporary social anarchist critique of anarcho-capitalism
  • The "Critiques Of Libertarianism" website contains critiques of both libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism.
  • Anarcho-Capitalism: Opposing_Views at DMOZ
  • Ecology or "anarcho" capitalism by Ian MacSaorsa
  • Anarcho-Hucksters
  • The New Right and Anarcho-capitalism from Chapter 36 of "Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism" by Peter Marshall
  • Peter Sabatini's Libertarianism: Bogus Anarchy
  • Robert J. Binidotto's The Contradiction in Anarchism
  • Paul Birch's A Fatal Instability in Anarcho-Capitalism? and Anarcho-Capitalism Dissolves into City States
  • Tony Hollick's Impossibility of anarcho-capitalism
  •'s rejection of the anarchist title
  • A short selection by Leonard Peikoff, Ayn Rand's self-proclaimed intellectual heir, concerning anarchism
  • The Anarcho-Libertarian Utopia – A Critique by Drieu Godefridi (Hayek Institute)
  • An Objectivist Refutation of Anarcho-Capitalism
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