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Anarchist Theory FAQ Version 5.2

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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
This is a slightly revised version of my FAQ on anarchist theory. As 
always, comments, criticisms, and corrections will be much appreciated. In 
particular, if you think that any argument or viewpoint has been presented 
weakly or inadequately, please write me at to 
discuss your preferred formulation. 
To view the hypertext version of the FAQ (so the links work), go to 
                            Anarchist Theory FAQ


              Instead of a FAQ, by a Man Too Busy to Write One


                                Bryan Caplan

                                Version 5.2

     I heartily accept the motto, - "That government is best which
     governs least;" and I should like to see it acted up to more
     rapidly and systematically.  Carried out, it finally amounts to
     this, which I also believe, - "That government is best which
     governs not at all;" and when men are prepared for it, that
     will be the kind of government which they will have.

             --Henry David Thoreau,
               "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience"

     Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to
     leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not
     only different, but have different origins ... Society is in
     every state a blessing, but Government, even in its best state,
     is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.

             --Thomas Paine,
               Common Sense

     They [the Marxists] maintain that only a dictatorship -- their
     dictatorship, of course -- can create the will of the people,
     while our answer to this is: No dictatorship can have any other
     aim but that of self-perpetuation, and it can beget only slavery
     in the people tolerating it; freedom can be created only by
     freedom, that is, by a universal rebellion on the part of the
     people and free organization of the toiling masses from the
     bottom up.

             --Mikhail Bakunin,
               Statism and Anarchism

     In existing States a fresh law is looked upon as a remedy for
     evil. Instead of themselves altering what is bad, people begin by
     demanding a law to alter it. If the road between two villages is
     impassable, the peasant says, "There should be a law about parish
     roads." If a park-keeper takes advantage of the want of spirit in
     those who follow him with servile obedience and insults one of
     them, the insulted man says, "There should be a law to enjoin
     more politeness upon the park-keepers." If there is stagnation in
     agriculture or commerce, the husbandman, cattle-breeder, or corn-
     speculator argues, "It is protective legislation which we
     require." Down to the old clothesman there is not one who does
     not demand a law to protect his own little trade. If the employer
     lowers wages or increases the hours of labor, the politician in
     embryo explains, "We must have a law to put all that to rights."
     In short, a law everywhere and for everything! A law about
     fashions, a law about mad dogs, a law about virtue, a law to put
     a stop to all the vices and all the evils which result from human
     indolence and cowardice.

             --Peter Kropotkin,
               "Law and Authority"

     [W]hoever desires liberty, should understand these vital facts,
     viz.: 1. That every man who puts money into the hands of a
     "government" (so called) puts into its hands a sword which will
     be used against himself, to extort more money from him, and also
     to keep him in subjection to its arbitrary will. 2. That those
     who will take his money, without his consent, in the first place,
     will use it for his further robbery and enslavement, if he
     presumes to resist their demands in the future. 3. That it is a
     perfect absurdity to suppose that any body of men would ever take
     a man's money without his consent, for any such object as they
     profess to take it for, viz., that of protecting him; for why
     should they wish to protect him, if he does not wish them to do
     so?... 4. If a man wants "protection," he is competent to make
     his own bargains for it; and nobody has any occasion to rob him,
     in order to "protect" him against his will. 5. That the only
     security men can have for their political liberty, consists in
     their keeping their money in their own pockets, until they have
     assurances, perfectly satisfactory to themselves, that it will be
     used as they wish it to be used, for their benefit, and not for
     their injury. 6. That no government, so called, can reasonably be
     trusted for a moment, or reasonably be supposed to have honest
     purposes in view, any longer than it depends wholly upon
     voluntary support.

             --Lysander Spooner,
               No Treason: the Constitution of No Authority

     If we look at the black record of mass murder, exploitation, and
     tyranny levied on society by governments over the ages, we need
     not be loath to abandon the Leviathan State and ... try freedom.

             --Murray Rothbard,
               For a New Liberty


                             Table of Contents

  1. What is anarchism? What beliefs do anarchists share?
  2. Why should one consider anarchism in the first place?
  3. Don't anarchists favor chaos?
  4. Don't anarchists favor the abolition of the family, property,
     religion, and other social institutions besides the state?
  5. What major subdivisions may be made among anarchists?
  6. Is anarchism the same thing as libertarianism?
  7. Is anarchism the same thing as socialism?
  8. Who are the major anarchist thinkers?
  9. How would left-anarchy work?
 10. How would anarcho-capitalism work?
 11. What criticisms have been made of anarchism?
       a. "An anarchist society, lacking any central coercive authority,
          would quickly degenerate into violent chaos."
       b. The Marxist critique of left-anarchism
       c. The minarchists' attack on anarcho-capitalism
       d. The conservative critique of anarchism
       e. "We are already in a state of anarchy."
 12. What other anarchist viewpoints are there?
 13. What moral justifications have been offered for anarchism?
 14. What are the major debates between anarchists? What are the recurring
       a. "X is not 'true anarchism.'"
       b. "Anarchism of variant X is unstable and will lead to the
          re-emergence of the state."
       c. "In an anarchist society in which both systems X and Y existed, X
          would inevitably outcompete Y."
       d. "Anarchism of type X would be worse than the state."
       e. Etc.
 15. How would anarchists handle the "public goods" problem?
       a. The concept and uses of Pareto optimality in economics
       b. The public goods problem
 16. Are anarchists pacifists?
       a. Tolstoyan absolute pacifism
       b. Pacifism as opposition to war
 17. Have there been any historical examples of anarchist societies?
 18. Isn't anarchism utopian?
 19. Don't anarchists assume that all people are innately virtuous?
 20. Aren't anarchists terrorists?
 21. How might an anarchist society be achieved?
 22. What are some addresses for anarchist World Wide Web sites?
 23. What are some major anarchist writings?


       1. What is anarchism? What beliefs do anarchists share?

          Anarchism is defined by The American Heritage College Dictionary
          as "The theory or doctrine that all forms of government are
          unnecessary, oppressive, and undesirable and should be
          abolished." Anarchism is a negative; it holds that one thing,
          namely government, is bad and should be abolished. Aside from
          this defining tenet, it would be difficult to list any belief
          that all anarchists hold. Just as atheists might support or
          oppose any viewpoint consistent with the non-existence of God,
          anarchists might and indeed do hold the entire range of
          viewpoints consistent with the non-existence of the state.

          As might be expected, different groups of anarchists are
          constantly trying to define anarchists with different views out
          of existence, just as many Christians say that their sect is the
          only "true" Christianity and many socialists say that their
          socialism is the only "true" socialism. This FAQ takes what seems
          to me to be the impartial view that such tactics are pointless
          and merely prevent the debate of substantive issues. (N.B. The
          preceding definition has been criticized a number of times. To
          view my appendix on Defining Anarchism, click here.)

       2. Why should one consider anarchism in the first place?

          Unlike many observers of history, anarchists see a common thread
          behind most of mankind's problems: the state. In the 20th-century
          alone, states have murdered well over 100,000,000 human beings,
          whether in war, concentration camps, or man-made famine. And this
          is merely a continuation of a seemingly endless historical
          pattern: almost from the beginning of recorded history,
          governments have existed. Once they arose, they allowed a ruling
          class to live off the labor of the mass of ordinary people; and
          these ruling classes have generally used their ill-gotten gains
          to build armies and wage war to extend their sphere of influence.
          At the same time, governments have always suppressed unpopular
          minorities, dissent, and the efforts of geniuses and innovators
          to raise humanity to new intellectual, moral, cultural, and
          economic heights. By transferring surplus wealth from producers
          to the state's ruling elite, the state has often strangled any
          incentive for long-run economic growth and thus stifled
          humanity's ascent from poverty; and at the same time the state
          has always used that surplus wealth to cement its power.

          If the state is the proximate cause of so much needless misery
          and cruelty, would it not be desirable to investigate the
          alternatives? Perhaps the state is a necessary evil which we
          cannot eliminate. But perhaps it is rather an unnecessary evil
          which we accept out of inertia when a totally different sort of
          society would be a great improvement.

       3. Don't anarchists favor chaos?

          By definition, anarchists oppose merely government, not order or
          society. "Liberty is the Mother, not the Daughter of Order" wrote
          Proudhon, and most anarchists would be inclined to agree.
          Normally, anarchists demand abolition of the state because they
          think that they have something better to offer, not out of a
          desire for rebellion as such. Or as Kropotkin put it, "No
          destruction of the existing order is possible, if at the time of
          the overthrow, or of the struggle leading to the overthrow, the
          idea of what is to take the place of what is to be destroyed is
          not always present in the mind. Even the theoretical criticism of
          the existing conditions is impossible, unless the critic has in
          mind a more or less distinct picture of what he would have in
          place of the existing state. Consciously or unconsciously, the
          ideal, the conception of something better is forming in the mind
          of everyone who criticizes social institutions."

          There is an anti-intellectual strain in anarchism which favors
          chaos and destruction as an end-in-itself. While possibly a
          majority among people who have called themselves anarchists, this
          is not a prominent strand of thought among those who have
          actually spent time thinking and writing about anarchist theory.

       4. Don't anarchists favor the abolition of the family, property,
          religion, and other social institutions besides the state?

          Some anarchists have favored the abolition of one or more of the
          above, while others have not. To some, all of these are merely
          other forms of oppression and domination. To others, they are the
          vital intermediary institutions which protect us from the state.
          To still others, some of the above are good and others are bad;
          or perhaps they are bad currently, but merit reform.

       5. What major subdivisions may be made among anarchists?

          As should become plain to the reader of alt.society.anarchy or
          alt.anarchism, there are two rather divergent lines of anarchist
          thought. The first is broadly known as "left-anarchism," and
          encompasses anarcho-socialists, anarcho-syndicalists, and
          anarcho-communists. These anarchists believe that in an anarchist
          society, people either would or should abandon or greatly reduce
          the role of private property rights. The economic system would be
          organized around cooperatives, worker-owned firms, and/or
          communes. A key value in this line of anarchist thought is
          egalitarianism, the view that inequalities, especially of wealth
          and power, are undesirable, immoral, and socially contingent.

          The second is broadly known as "anarcho-capitalism." These
          anarchists believe that in an anarchist society, people either
          would or should not only retain private property, but expand it
          to encompass the entire social realm. No anarcho-capitalist has
          ever denied the right of people to voluntarily pool their private
          property and form a cooperative, worker-owned firm, or commune;
          but they also believe that several property, including such
          organizations as corporations, are not only perfectly legitimate
          but likely to be the predominant form of economic organization
          under anarchism. Unlike the left-anarchists, anarcho-capitalists
          generally place little or no value on equality, believing that
          inequalities along all dimensions -- including income and wealth
          -- are not only perfectly legitimate so long as they "come about
          in the right way," but are the natural consequence of human

          A large segment of left-anarchists is extremely skeptical about
          the anarchist credentials of anarcho-capitalists, arguing that
          the anarchist movement has historically been clearly leftist. In
          my own view, it is necessary to re-write a great deal of history
          to maintain this claim. In Carl Landauer's European Socialism: A
          History of Ideas and Movements (published in 1959 before any
          important modern anarcho-capitalist works had been written), this
          great socialist historian notes that:

               To be sure, there is a difference between
               individualistic anarchism and collectivistic or
               communistic anarchism; Bakunin called himself a
               communist anarchist. But the communist anarchists also
               do not acknowledge any right to society to force the
               individual. They differ from the anarchistic
               individualists in their belief that men, if freed from
               coercion, will enter into voluntary associations of a
               communistic type, while the other wing believes that
               the free person will prefer a high degree of isolation.
               The communist anarchists repudiate the right of private
               property which is maintained through the power of the
               state. The individualist anarchists are inclined to
               maintain private property as a necessary condition of
               individual independence, without fully answering the
               question of how property could be maintained without
               courts and police.

          Actually, Tucker and Spooner both wrote about the free market's
          ability to provide legal and protection services, so Landauer's
          remark was not accurate even in 1959. But the interesting point
          is that before the emergence of modern anarcho-capitalism
          Landauer found it necessary to distinguish two strands of
          anarchism, only one of which he considered to be within the broad
          socialist tradition.

       6. Is anarchism the same thing as libertarianism?

          This is actually a complicated question, because the term
          "libertarianism" itself has two very different meanings. In
          Europe in the 19th-century, libertarianism was a popular
          euphemism for left-anarchism. However, the term did not really
          catch on in the United States.

          After World War II, many American-based pro-free-market
          intellectuals opposed to traditional conservatism were seeking
          for a label to describe their position, and eventually picked
          "libertarianism." ("Classical liberalism" and "market liberalism"
          are alternative labels for the same essential position.) The
          result was that in two different political cultures which rarely
          communicated with one another, the term "libertarian" was used in
          two very different ways. At the current time, the American use
          has basically taken over completely in academic political theory
          (probably owing to Nozick's influence), but the European use is
          still popular among many left-anarchist activists in both Europe
          and the U.S.

          The semantic confusion was complicated further when some of the
          early post-war American libertarians determined that the logical
          implication of their view was, in fact, a variant of anarchism.
          They adopted the term "anarcho-capitalism" to differentiate
          themselves from more moderate libertarianism, but were still
          generally happy to identify themselves with the broader
          free-market libertarian movement.

       7. Is anarchism the same thing as socialism?

          If we accept one traditional definition of socialism -- "advocacy
          of government ownership of the means of production" -- it seems
          that anarchists are not socialists by definition. But if by
          socialism we mean something more inclusive, such as "advocacy of
          the strong restriction or abolition of private property," then
          the question becomes more complex.

          Under the second proffered definition, some anarchists are
          socialists, but others are not. Outside of the Anglo- American
          political culture, there has been a long and close historical
          relationship between the more orthodox socialists who advocate a
          socialist government, and the anarchist socialists who desire
          some sort of decentralized, voluntary socialism. The two groups
          both want to severely limit or abolish private property and thus
          both groups fit the second definition of socialism. However, the
          anarchists certainly do not want the government to own the means
          of production, for they don't want government to exist in the
          first place.

          The anarchists' dispute with the traditional socialists -- a
          dispute best illustrated by the bitter struggle between Karl Marx
          and Mikhail Bakunin for dominance in the 19th-century European
          workers' movement -- has often be described as a disagreement
          over "means." On this interpretation, the socialist anarchists
          and the state-socialists agree that a communal and egalitarian
          society is desirable, but accuse one another of proposing
          ineffective means of attaining it. However, this probably
          understates the conflict, which is also over more fundamental
          values: socialist anarchists emphasize the need for autonomy and
          the evils of authoritarianism, while traditional socialists have
          frequently belittled such concerns as "bourgeois."

          When we turn to the Anglo-American political culture, the        
          story is quite different. Virulent anti-socialist
          anarchism is much more common there, and has been from the early
          19th-century. Great Britain was the home of many intensely
          anti-socialist quasi-anarchistic thinkers of the 19th-century
          such as Auberon Herbert and the early Herbert Spencer. The United
          States has been an even more fertile ground for individualist
          anarchism: during the 19th-century, such figures as Josiah
          Warren, Lysander Spooner , and Benjamin Tucker gained prominence
          for their vision of an anarchism based upon freedom of contract
          and private property. And in the 20th-century, thinkers residing
          within the United States have been the primary developers and
          exporters of anarcho-capitalist theory.

          Still, this geographic division should not be over-stated. The
          French anarchist Proudhon and the German Max Stirner both
          embraced modified forms of individualism; a number of
          left-anarchists (often European immigrants) attained prominence
          in the United States; and Noam Chomsky and Murray Bookchin, two
          of the most influential theorists of modern left-anarchism, both
          reside within the United States.

       8. Who are the major anarchist thinkers?

          The most famous left-anarchists have probably been
          Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin. Pierre Proudhon is
          also often included although his ideas on the desirability of a
          modified form of private property would lead some to exclude him
          from the leftist camp altogether. (Some of Proudhon's other
          heterodoxies include his defense of the right of inheritance and
          his emphasis on the genuine antagonism between state power and
          property rights.) More recent left-anarchists include Emma
          Goldman, Murray Bookchin , and Noam Chomsky.

          Anarcho-capitalism has a much more recent origin in the latter
          half of the 20th century. The two most famous advocates of
          anarcho-capitalism are probably Murray Rothbard and David
          Friedman. There were however some interesting earlier precursors,
          notably the Belgian economist Gustave de Molinari. Two other
          19th-century anarchists who have been adopted by modern
          anarcho-capitalists with a few caveats are Benjamin Tucker and
          Lysander Spooner. (Some left-anarchists contest the adoption, but
          overall Tucker and Spooner probably have much more in            
          common with anarcho-capitalists than with

          More comprehensive listings of anarchist figures may be found in
          a number of broad historical works listed later in the FAQ.

       9. How would left-anarchy work?

          There are many different views on this. Among left- anarchists,
          there are some who imagine returning to a much simpler, even
          pre-industrial, mode of social organization. Others seem to
          intend to maintain modern technology and civilization (perhaps in
          a more environmentally sound manner) but end private ownership of
          the means of production.

          To be replaced with what? Various suggestions have been made.
          Existing firms might simply be turned over to worker ownership,
          and then be subject to the democratic control of the workers.
          This is the anarcho-syndicalist picture: keeping an economy based
          upon a multitude of firms, but with firms owned and managed by
          the workers at each firm. Presumably firms would then strike
          deals with one another to secure needed materials; or perhaps
          firms would continue to pay money wages and sell products to
          consumers. It is unclear how the syndicalist intends to arrange
          for the egalitarian care of the needy, or the provision of
          necessary but unprofitable products. Perhaps it is supposed that
          syndicates would contribute out of social responsibility; others
          have suggested that firms would elect representatives for a
          larger meta-firm organization which would carry out the necessary

          It should be noted that Tom Wetzel disputes my characterization
          of anarcho-syndicalism; he argues that very few
          anarcho-syndicalists ever imagined that workers would simply take
          over their firms, while maintaining the basic features of the
          market economy. Rather, the goal has usually been the
          establishment of an overarching democratic structure, rather than
          a multitude of uncoordinated firm-centered democracies. Or at
          Wetzel states, "Anarcho-syndicalism advocates the development of
          a mass workers' movement based on direct democracy as the vehicle
          for reorganization of the society on the basis of direct workers'
          collective power over social production, thus eliminating the
          domination and exploitation of the producing class by an
          exploiting class. Workers cannot have collective power over the
          system of social production as isolated groups competing in a
          market economy; rather, workers self- management requires
          structures of democratic control over social production and
          public affairs generally. Workers' self- management thus refers,
          not just to self-management of the individual workplace, but of
          the whole system of social production. This requires grassroots
          bodies, such as workers' congresses or conventions, through which
          coordinated policies for the society can be developed in a
          democratic manner. This is proposed as a substitute or
          replacement for the historical nation-state." On this
          interpretation of anarcho-syndicalism, the revolutionary trade
          unions are a means for achieving an anarchist society, rather
          than a proposed basis for social organization under anarchy.

          Many would observe that there is nothing anarchistic about this
          proposal; indeed, names aside, it fits easily into the orthodox
          state-socialist tradition. Bakunin would have probably ridiculed
          such ideas as authoritarian Marxist socialism in disguise, and
          predicted that the leading anarchist revolutionaries would
          swiftly become the new despots. But Wetzel is perhaps right that
          many or even most historical anarcho-syndicalists were
          championing the system outlined in his preceding quotation. He
          goes on to add that "[I]f you look at the concept of 'state' in
          the very abstract way it often is in the social sciences, as in
          Weber's definition, then what the anarcho-syndicalists were
          proposing is not elimination of the state or government, but its
          radical democratization. That was not how anarchists themselves
          spoke about it, but it can be plausibly argued that this is a
          logical consequence of a certain major stream of left-anarchist

          Ronald Fraser's discussion of the ideology of the Spanish
          Anarchists (historically the largest European anarchist movement)
          strongly undermines Wetzel's claim, however. There were two
          well-developed lines of thought, both of which favored the
          abolition of the State in the broad Weberian sense of the word,
          and which did indeed believe that the workers should literally
          have control over their workplaces. After distinguishing the
          rural and the urban tendencies among the Spanish ideologists,
          Fraser explains:

               Common to both tendencies was the idea that the working
               class 'simply' took over factories and workplaces and
               ran them collectively but otherwise as before...
               Underlying this vision of simple continuity was the
               anarcho-syndicalist concept of the revolution not as a
               rupture with, the destruction and replacement of, the
               bourgeois order but as the latter's displacement. The
               taking over of factories and workplaces, however
               violently carried out, was not the beginning of the
               revolution to create a new order but its final goal.
               This view, in turn was conditioned by a particular view
               of the state. Any state (bourgeois or working class)
               was considered an oppressive power tout court - not as
               the organization of a particular class's coercive
               power. The 'state' in consequence, rather than the
               existence of the capitalist mode of production which
               gave rise to its particular form, often appeared as the
               major enemy. The state did not have to be taken,
               crushed, and a new - revolutionary - power established.
               No. If it could be swept away, abolished, everything
               else, including oppression, disappeared. The capitalist
               order was simply displaced by the new-won workers'
               freedom to administer the workplaces they had taken
               over. Self-organized in autonomous communes or in
               all-powerful syndicates, the workers, as the primary
               factor in production, dispensed with the bourgeoisie.
               The consequences of this were seen in the 1936
               Barcelona revolution; capitalist production and market
               relations continued to exist within collectivized

          Overall, the syndicalist is probably the best elaborated of the
          left-anarchist systems. But others in the broader tradition
          imagine individuals forming communes and cooperatives which would
          be less specialized and more self- sufficient than the typical
          one-product-line anarcho- syndicalist firm. These notions are
          often closely linked to the idea of creating a more
          environmentally sound society, in which small and decentralized
          collectives redirect their energies towards a Greener way of

          Many left-anarchists and anarchist sympathizers have also been
          attracted to Guild Socialism in one form or another. Economist
          Roger A. McCain thoughtfully explores Guild Socialism as an
          alternative to both capitalism and the state in "Guild Socialism
          Reconsidered," one of his working papers. To view it, click here.

          Kropotkin's lucid essay "Law and Authority" gives a
          thoughtful presentation of the left-anarchist's view of
          law. Primitive human societies, explains Kropotkin, live by what
          legal thinkers call "customary law": an unwritten but broadly
          understood body of rules and appropriate behavior backed up
          primarily by social pressure. Kropotkin considers this sort of
          behavioral regulation to be unobjectionable, and probably
          consistent with his envisaged anarchist society. But when
          centralized governments codified customary law, they mingled the
          sensible dictates of tribal conscience with governmental
          sanctions for exploitation and injustice. As Kropotkin writes,
          "[L]egislators confounded in one code the two currents of custom
          ... the maxims which represent principles of morality and social
          union wrought out as a result of life in common, and the mandates
          which are meant to ensure external existence to inequality.
          Customs, absolutely essential to the very being of society, are,
          in the code, cleverly intermingled with usages imposed by the
          ruling caste, and both claim equal respect from the crowd. 'Do
          not kill,' says the code, and hastens to add, 'And pay tithes to
          the priest.' 'Do not steal,' says the code, and immediately
          after, 'He who refuses to pay taxes, shall have his hand struck

          So perhaps Kropotkin's ideal society would live under the
          guidance of a reformed customary law stripped of the class
          legislation with which it is now so closely associated. But
          Kropotkin continues to give what appear to be arguments against
          even customary law prohibiting e.g. murder. Almost all violent
          crime is actually caused by poverty and inequality created by
          existing law. A small residual of violent crime might persist,
          but efforts to handle it by legal channels are futile. Why?
          Because punishment has no effect on crime, especially such crimes
          of passion as would survive the abolition of private property.
          Moreover, criminals should not be judged wicked, but rather
          treated as we now treat the sick and disadvantaged.

          Most left-anarchists probably hold to a mix of Kropotkin's fairly
          distinct positions on law and crime. Existing law should be
          replaced by sensible and communitarian customs; and the critic of
          anarchism underestimates the extent to which existing crime is in
          fact a product of the legal system's perpetuation of inequality
          and poverty. And since punishment is not an effective deterrent,
          and criminals are not ultimately responsible for their misdeeds,
          a strictly enforced legal code may be undesirable anyway.

          Some other crucial features of the left-anarchist society are
          quite unclear. Whether dissidents who despised all forms of
          communal living would be permitted to set up their own
          inegalitarian separatist societies is rarely touched upon.
          Occasionally left-anarchists have insisted that small farmers and
          the like would not be forcibly collectivized, but the limits of
          the right to refuse to adopt an egalitarian way of life are
          rarely specified.

      10. How would anarcho-capitalism work?

          Most of the prominent anarcho-capitalist writers have been
          academic economists, and as such have felt it necessary to spell
          out the workings of their preferred society in rather greater
          detail than the left-anarchists have. In order to best grasp the
          anarcho-capitalist position, it is helpful to realize that
          anarcho-capitalists have emerged almost entirely out of the
          modern American libertarian movement, and believe that their view
          is simply a slightly more extreme version of the libertarianism
          propounded by e.g. Robert Nozick.

          FAQs on the broader libertarian movement are widely              
          available on the Net, so we will only give the necessary
          background here. So-called "minarchist" libertarians such as
          Nozick have argued that the largest justified government was one
          which was limited to the protection of individuals and their
          private property against physical invasion; accordingly, they
          favor a government limited to supplying police, courts, a legal
          code, and national defense. This normative theory is closely
          linked to laissez-faire economic theory, according to which
          private property and unregulated competition generally lead to
          both an efficient allocation of resources and (more importantly)
          a high rate of economic progress. While left-anarchists are often
          hostile to "bourgeois economics," anarcho-capitalists hold
          classical economists such as Adam Smith, David Hume, and
          Jean-Baptiste Say in high regard, as well as more modern
          economists such as Joseph Schumpeter, Ludwig von Mises, F.A.
          Hayek, Milton Friedman, George Stigler, and James Buchanan. The
          problem with free-market economists, say the anarcho-capitalists,
          is not that they defend the free market, but merely that their
          defense is too moderate and compromising.

          (Note however that the left-anarchists' low opinion of
          the famous "free-market economists" is not monolithic:
          Noam Chomsky in particular has repeatedly praised some of the
          political insights of Adam Smith. And Peter Kropotkin also had
          good things to say about Smith as both social scientist and
          moralist; Conal Smith explains that "In particular he approved of
          Smith's attempt to apply the scientific method to the study of
          morals and society, his critique of the state in The Wealth of
          Nations, and his theory of human sociability in The Theory of
          Moral Sentiments.")

          Now the anarcho-capitalist essentially turns the minarchist's own
          logic against him, and asks why the remaining functions of the
          state could not be turned over to the free market. And so, the
          anarcho-capitalist imagines that police services could be sold by
          freely competitive firms; that a court system would emerge to
          peacefully arbitrate disputes between firms; and that a sensible
          legal code could be developed through custom, precedent, and
          contract. And in fact, notes the anarcho-capitalist, a great deal
          of modern law (such as the Anglo-American common law) originated
          not in legislatures, but from the decentralized rulings of
          judges. (The anarcho-capitalist shares Kropotkin's interest in
          customary law, but normally believes that it requires extensive
          modernization and articulation.)

          The anarcho-capitalist typically hails modern society's
          increasing reliance on private security guards, gated
          communities, arbitration and mediation, and other demonstrations
          of the free market's ability to supply the defensive and legal
          services normally assumed to be of necessity a government
          monopoly. In his ideal society, these market alternatives to
          government services would take over all legitimate security
          services. One plausible market structure would involve
          individuals subscribing to one of a large number of competing
          police services; these police services would then set up
          contracts or networks for peacefully handling disputes between
          members of each others' agencies. Alternately, police services
          might be "bundled" with housing services, just as landlords often
          bundle water and power with rental housing, and gardening and
          security are today provided to residents in gated communities and
          apartment complexes.

          The underlying idea is that contrary to popular belief, private
          police would have strong incentives to be peaceful and respect
          individual rights. For first of all, failure to peacefully
          arbitrate will yield to jointly destructive warfare, which will
          be bad for profits. Second, firms will want to develop long- term
          business relationships, and hence be willing to negotiate in good
          faith to insure their long-term profitability. And third,
          aggressive firms would be likely to attract only high-risk
          clients and thus suffer from extraordinarily high costs (a
          problem parallel to the well-known "adverse selection problem" in
          e.g. medical insurance -- the problem being that high-risk people
          are especially likely to seek insurance, which drives up the
          price when riskiness is hard for the insurer to discern or if
          regulation requires a uniform price regardless of risk).
          Anarcho-capitalists generally give little credence to the view
          that their "private police agencies" would be equivalent to
          today's Mafia -- the cost advantages of open, legitimate business
          would make "criminal police" uncompetitive. As David Friedman
          explains in The Machinery of Freedom, "Perhaps the best way to
          see why anarcho-capitalism would be so much more peaceful than
          our present system is by analogy. Consider our world as it would
          be if the cost of moving from one country to another were zero.
          Everyone lives in a housetrailer and speaks the same language.
          One day, the president of France announces that because of
          troubles with neighboring countries, new military taxes are being
          levied and conscription will begin shortly. The next morning the
          president of France finds himself ruling a peaceful but empty
          landscape, the population having been reduced to himself, three
          generals, and twenty-seven war correspondents."

          (Moreover, anarcho-capitalists argue, the Mafia can only thrive
          in the artificial market niche created by the prohibition of
          alcohol, drugs, prostitution, gambling, and other victimless
          crimes. Mafia gangs might kill each other over turf, but
          liquor-store owners generally do not.)

          Unlike some left-anarchists, the anarcho-capitalist has no
          objection to punishing criminals; and he finds the former's claim
          that punishment does not deter crime to be the height of naivete.
          Traditional punishment might be meted out after a conviction by a
          neutral arbitrator; or a system of monetary restitution (probably
          in conjunction with a prison factory system) might exist instead.
          A convicted criminal would owe his victim compensation, and would
          be forced to work until he paid off his debt. Overall,
          anarcho-capitalists probably lean more towards the
          restitutionalist rather than the pure retributivist position.

          Probably the main division between the                           
          anarcho-capitalists stems from the apparent differences
          between Rothbard's natural-law anarchism, and David Friedman's
          more economistic approach. Rothbard puts more emphasis on the
          need for a generally recognized libertarian legal code (which he
          thinks could be developed fairly easily by purification of the
          Anglo-American common law), whereas Friedman focuses more
          intently on the possibility of plural legal systems co-existing
          and responding to the consumer demands of different elements of
          the population. The difference, however, is probably over-stated.
          Rothbard believes that it is legitimate for consumer demand to
          determine the philosophically neutral content of the law, such as
          legal procedure, as well as technical issues of property right
          definition such as water law, mining law, etc. And Friedman
          admits that "focal points" including prevalent norms are likely
          to circumscribe and somewhat standardize the menu of available
          legal codes.

          Critics of anarcho-capitalism sometimes assume that communal or
          worker-owned firms would be penalized or prohibited in an
          anarcho-capitalist society. It would be more accurate to state
          that while individuals would be free to voluntarily form
          communitarian organizations, the anarcho- capitalist simply
          doubts that they would be widespread or prevalent. However, in
          theory an "anarcho-capitalist" society might be filled with
          nothing but communes or worker- owned firms, so long as these
          associations were formed voluntarily (i.e., individuals joined
          voluntarily and capital was obtained with the consent of the
          owners) and individuals retained the right to exit and set up
          corporations or other profit-making, individualistic firms.

          On other issues, the anarcho-capitalist differs little if at all
          from the more moderate libertarian. Services should be privatized
          and opened to free competition; regulation of personal AND
          economic behavior should be done away with. Poverty would be
          handled by work and responsibility for those able to care for
          themselves, and voluntary charity for those who cannot.
          (Libertarians hasten to add that a deregulated economy would
          greatly increase the economic opportunities of the poor, and
          elimination of taxation would lead to a large increase in
          charitable giving.)

          For a detailed discussion of the economics of privatization of
          dispute resolution, rule creation, and enforcement, see my "The
          Economics of Non-State Legal Systems," which is archived with my
          other economics writings.

      11. What criticisms have been made of anarchism?

          Anarchism of various breeds has been criticized from an extremely
          wide range of perspectives. State-socialists, classical liberals,
          and conservatives have each on occasion examined anarchist
          theorists and found them wanting. After considering the unifying
          argument endorsed by virtually all of the critics of anarchism,
          we shall turn to the more specific attacks of Marxist, moderate
          libertarian, and conservative lineage.

            a. "An anarchist society, lacking any central coercive
               authority, would quickly degenerate into violent chaos."

               The most common criticism, shared by the entire
               range of critics, is basically that anarchism would
               swiftly degenerate into a chaotic Hobbesian war of
               all-against-all. Thus the communist Friedrich Engels wonders
               "[H]ow these people propose to run a factory, operate a
               railway or steer a ship without having in the last resort
               one deciding will, without single management, they of course
               do not tell us." He continues: "The authority of the
               majority over the minority also ceases. Every individual and
               every community is autonomous; but as to how society, even
               of only two people, is possible unless each gives up some of
               his autonomy, Bakunin again maintains silence." And
               his autonomy, Bakunin again maintains silence." And
               similarly, the classical liberal Ludwig von Mises           
               states that "An anarchistic society would be exposed
               to the mercy of every individual. Society cannot exist if
               the majority is not ready to hinder, by the application or
               threat of violent action, minorities from destroying the
               social order. This power is vested in the state or

               Or to consider a perhaps less ideological writer,
               Thomas Hobbes implicitly criticizes anarchist theory
               when he explains that "Hereby it is manifest, that during
               the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in
               awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre; and
               such a warre, as is of every man, against every man." Hobbes
               goes on to add that "It may peradventure be thought, there
               was never such a time, nor condition of warre as this; and I
               believe it was never generally so, over all the world: but
               there are many places, where they live so now. For the
               savage people in many places of America, except the
               government of small Families, the concord whereof dependeth
               on naturall lust, have no government at all; and live at
               this day in that brutish manner, as I said before." Since it
               is in the interest of the strong to take what they want from
               the weak, the absence of government lead inexorably to
               widespread violence and the prevention or destruction of
               civilization itself.

               Anarchists of all varieties would reject this argument;
               sometimes claiming that the critic misunderstands their
               position, other times that the critic's assumptions are too
               pessimistic. Kropotkin, for example, would seriously dispute
               the claim that war is the natural state of ungoverned human
               beings; like many other species of animals, cooperation is
               more common, natural, and likely. Left- anarchists generally
               would normally object that these criticisms rest upon
               contingent cultural assumptions arising from a competitive
               scarcity economy. Replace these institutions with humane and
               egalitarian ones; then poverty, the cause of crime and
               aggression, would greatly decrease. Finally, many left-
               anarchists envisage cooperatives and communes adopting and
               enforcing rules of appropriate conduct for those who wish to

               The anarcho-capitalist would likely protest that the critic
               misunderstands his view: he does believe that police and
               laws are necessary and desirable, and merely holds that they
               could be supplied by the free market rather than government.
               More fundamentally, he doubts the game- theoretic
               underpinnings of Hobbes' argument, for it ignores the
               likelihood that aggressive individuals or firms will provoke
               retaliation. Just as territorial animals fight when
               defending their territory, but yield when confronted on the
               territory of another animal, rational self-interested
               individuals and firms would usually find aggression a
               dangerous and unprofitable practice. In terms of game
               theory, the anarcho-capitalist thinks that Hobbes' situation
               is a Hawk-Dove game rather than a Prisoners' Dilemma. (In
               the Prisoners' Dilemma, war/non-cooperation would be a
               strictly dominant strategy; in a Hawk-Dove game there is
               normally a mixed-strategy equilibrium in which
               cooperation/peace is the norm but a small percentage of
               players continue to play war/non-cooperation.) Self-
               interested police firms would gladly make long-term
               arbitration contracts with each other to avoid mutually
               destructive bloodshed.

               (To view an excellent short related essay on anarchism and
               game theory, click here.)

            b. The Marxist critique of left-anarchism

               One of the most famous attacks on anarchism was             
               launched by Karl Marx during his battles with
               Proudhon and Bakunin. The ultimate result of this protracted
               battle of words was to split the 19th-century workers'
               movement into two distinct factions. In the 20th century,
               the war of words ended in blows: while Marxist-Leninists
               sometimes cooperated with anarchists during the early stages
               of the Russian and Spanish revolutions, violent struggle
               between them was the rule rather than the exception.
               between them was the rule rather than the exception.
               There were at least three distinct arguments that
               Marx aimed at his anarchist opponents.

               First: the development of socialism had to follow a
               particular historical course, whereas the anarchists
               mistakenly believed that it could be created by force of
               will alone. "A radical social revolution is connected with
               certain historical conditions of economic development; the
               latter are its presupposition. Therefore it is possible only
               where the industrial proletariat, together with capitalist
               production, occupies at least a substantial place in the
               mass of the people." Marx continues: "He [Bakunin]
               understands absolutely nothing about social revolution ...
               For him economic requisites do not exist...He wants a
               European social revolution, resting on the economic
               foundation of capitalist production, to take place on the
               level of the Russian or Slavic agricultural and pastoral
               peoples ... Will power and not economic conditions is the
               basis for his social revolution." Proudhon, according to
               Marx, suffered from the same ignorance of history and its
               laws: "M. Proudhon, incapable of following the real movement
               of history, produces a phantasmagoria which presumptuously
               claims to be dialectical ... From his point of view man is
               only the instrument of which the idea or the eternal reason
               makes use in order to unfold itself." This particular
               argument is probably of historical interest only, in light
               of the gross inaccuracy of Marx's prediction of the path of
               future civilization; although perhaps the general claim that
               social progression has material presuppositions retains some

               Second, Marx ridiculed Bakunin's claim that a socialist
               government would become a new despotism by socialist
               intellectuals. In light of the prophetic accuracy of
               Bakunin's prediction in this area, Marx's reply is almost
               ironic: "Under collective ownership the so-called people's
               will disappears to make way for the real will of the
               cooperative." It is on this point that most left-anarchists
               reasonably claim complete vindication; just as Bakunin
               predicted, the Marxist "dictatorship of the proletariat"
               swiftly became a ruthless "dictatorship over the

               Finally, Marx stated that the anarchists erroneously
               believed that the government supported the capitalist system
               rather than the other way around. In consequence, they were
               attacking the wrong target and diverting the workers'
               movement from its proper course. Engels delineated the
               Marxist and left-anarchist positions quite well: "Bakunin
               maintains that it is the state which has created capital,
               that the capitalist has his capital only by the grace of the
               state. As, therefore, the state is the chief evil, it is
               above all the state which must be done away with and then
               capitalism will go to blazes of itself. We, on the contrary,
               say: Do away with capital, the concentration of the means of
               production in the hands of the few, and the state will fall
               of itself." The left-anarchist would probably accept this as
               a fair assessment of their disagreement with the Marxists,
               but point out how in many historical cases since (and
               before) Marx's time governments have steered their countries
               towards very different aims and policies, whereas
               capitalists are often fairly adaptive and passive.

            c. The minarchists' attack on anarcho-capitalism

               Probably the earliest minarchist attack on anarcho-         
               capitalism may be found in Ayn Rand's essay "The
               Nature of Government." ("Minarchism" designates the advocacy
               of a "minimal" or nightwatchman state, supplying only
               police, courts, a legal system, and national defense.) Her
               critique contained four essential arguments. The first
               essentially repeated Hobbes' view that society without
               government would collapse into violent chaos. The second was
               that anarcho-capitalist police firms would turn to war as
               soon as a dispute broke out between individuals employing
               different protection agencies: "[S]uppose Mr. Smith, a
               customer of Government A, suspects that his next-door
               neighbor, Mr. Jones, a customer of Government B, has robbed
               him; a squad of Police A proceeds to Mr. Jones' house and is
               met at the door by a squad of Police B, who declare that
               they do not recognize the authority of Government A. What
               happens then? You take it from there." Her third argument
               was that anarcho-capitalism was an expression of an
               irrational subjectivist epistemology which would allow each
               person to decide for himself or herself whether the use of
               physical force was justified. Finally, her fourth argument
               was that anarcho-capitalism would lack an objective legal
               code (meaning, presumably, both publicly known and morally

               Rand's arguments were answered at length in Roy
               Childs' "Objectivism and the State: An Open Letter
               to Ayn Rand," which tried to convince her that only the
               anarcho-capitalist position was consistent with her view
               that the initiation of force was immoral. In brief, Childs
               argued that like other free-market institutions, private
               police would have economic incentives to perform their tasks
               peacefully and efficiently: police would negotiate
               arbitration agreements in advance precisely to avoid the
               kind of stand-off that Rand feared, and an objective legal
               code could be developed by free-market judges. Childs
               strongly contested Rand's claim that anarcho-capitalism had
               any relation to irrationalism; an individual could be
               rational or irrational in his judgment to use defensive
               violence, just as a government could be rational or
               irrational in its judgment to do so. As Childs queried, "By
               what epistemological criterion is an individual's action
               classified as 'arbitrary,' while that of a group of
               individuals is somehow 'objective'?"

               Robert Nozick launched the other famous attempt to          
               refute the anarcho-capitalist on libertarian
               grounds. Basically, Nozick argued that the supply of police
               and legal services was a geographic natural monopoly, and
               that therefore a state would emerge by the "invisible hand"
               processes of the market itself. The details of his argument
               are rather complex: Nozick postulated a right, strongly
               contested by other libertarians, to prohibit activities
               which were exceptionally risky to others; he then added that
               the persons whose actions were so prohibited were entitled
               to compensation. Using these two principles, Nozick claimed
               that the dominant protection agency in a region could
               justifiably prohibit competition on the grounds that it was
               "too risky," and therefore become an "ultra-minimal state."
               But at this point, it would be obligated to compensate
               consumers who were prohibited from purchasing competitors'
               services, so it would do so in kind by giving them access to
               its own police and legal services -- thereby becoming a
               minimal state. And none of these steps, according to Nozick,
               violates libertarian rights.

               There have been literally dozens of anarchist attacks on
               Nozick's derivation of the minimal state. To begin with, no
               state arose in the manner Nozick describes, so all existing
               states are illegitimate and still merit abolition. Secondly,
               anarcho-capitalists dispute Nozick's assumption that defense
               is a natural monopoly, noting that the modern security guard
               and arbitration industries are extremely decentralized and
               competitive. Finally, they reject Nozick's principles of
               risk and compensation, charging that they lead directly to
               the despotism of preventive law.

            d. The conservative critique of anarchism

               The conservative critique of anarchism is much less
               developed, but can be teased out of the writings of
               such authors as Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, and Ernest van
               den Haag. (Interestingly, Burke scholars are still debating
               whether the early Burke's quasi-anarchistic A Vindication of
               Natural Society was a serious work or a subtle satire.)

               Burke would probably say that, like other radical
               ideologues, the anarchists place far too much reliance on
               their imperfect reason and not enough on the accumulated
               wisdom of tradition. Society functions because we have
               gradually evolved a system of workable rules. It seems
               certain that Burke would apply his critique of the French
               revolutionaries with equal force to the anarchists: "They
               have no respect for the wisdom of others; but they pay it
               off by a very full measure of confidence in their own. With
               them it is a sufficient motive to destroy an old scheme of
               things, because it is an old one. As to the new, they are in
               no sort of fear with regard to the duration of a building
               run up in haste; because duration is no object to those who
               think little or nothing has been done before their time, and
               who place all their hopes in discovery." To attempt to
               replace the wisdom of the ages with a priori theories of
               justice is sure to lead to disaster, because functional
               policies must be judicious compromises between important
               competing ends. Or in Burke's words, "The science of
               constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it, or reforming
               it, is, like every other experimental science, not to be
               taught a priori. Nor is it a short experience that can
               instruct us in that practical science; because the real
               effects of moral causes are not always immediate." The
               probable result of any attempt to realize anarchist
               principles would be a brief period of revolutionary zeal,
               followed by chaos and social breakdown resulting from the
               impracticality of the revolutionary policies, and finally
               ending in a brutal dictator winning widespread support by
               simply restoring order and rebuilding the people's sense of
               social stability.

               Many anarchists would in fact accept Burke's critique of
               violent revolution, which is why they favor advancing their
               views gradually through education and nonviolent protest. In
               fact, Bakunin's analysis of Marxism as the ideology (i.e.,
               rationalization for the class interests of) middle-class
               intellectuals in fact differs little from Burke's analysis:
               Bakunin, like Burke, perceived that no matter how oppressive
               the current system may be, there are always power-hungry
               individuals who favor violent revolution as their most
               practical route to absolute power. Their protests against
               actual injustices must be seen in light of their ultimate
               aim of imposing even more ruthless despotism upon the

               On other issues, anarchists would disagree strongly with
               several of Burke's claims. Many forms of misery stem from
               the blind adherence to tradition; and rational thinking has
               sparked countless improvements in human society ever since
               the decline of traditional despotism. Moreover, anarchists
               do not propose to do away with valuable traditions, but
               simply request evidence that particular traditions are
               valuable before they lend them their support. And what is to
               be done when -- as is usually the case -- a society harbors
               a wide range of mutually incompatible traditions?

               Anarchists might also object that the Burkean analysis
               relies too heavily upon tradition as a result rather than a
               process. Cultural evolution may constantly weed out foolish
               ideas and practices, but it hardly follows that such follies
               have already perished; for the state to defend tradition is
               to strangle the competitive process which tends to make
               tradition sensible. As Vincent Cook explains: "[I]t is
               precisely because wisdom has to be accumulated in
               incremental steps that it cannot be centrally planned by any
               single political or religious authority, contrary to the
               aspirations of conservatives and collectivists alike. While
               the collectivists are indeed guilty of trying to
               rationalistically reconstruct society in defiance of
               tradition (a valid criticism of left-anarchists),
               conservatives on the other hand are guilty of trying to
               freeze old traditions in place. Conservatives have forgotten
               that the process of wisdom accumulation is an on-going one,
               and instead have opted for the notion that some existing
               body of traditions (usually Judeo-Christian) already
               represent social perfection."

               Russell Kirk, noted Burke scholar, has written a            
               brief critique of the modern libertarian movement.
               (Another conservative, Ernest van den Haag, wrote a
               lengthier essay with a similar theme and perspective.) In
               all likelihood, Kirk would apply many (but not all) of the
               same arguments to left-anarchists.

               Kirk faults the libertarians (and when he discusses
               "libertarians" he usually seems to have the anarcho-
               capitalists in mind) on at least six counts. First, they
               deny the existence of a "transcendent moral order." Second,
               order is prior to liberty, and liberty is possible only
               after government establishes a constitutional order. Third,
               libertarians assume that self-interest is the only possible
               social bond, ignoring the broader communitarian vision of
               human nature found in both the Aristotelian and Judeo-
               Christian traditions. Fourth, libertarians erroneously
               assume that human beings are naturally good or at least
               perfectible. Fifth, the libertarian foolishly attacks the
               state as such, rather than merely its abuses. Sixth and
               last, the libertarian is an arrogant egoist who disregards
               valuable ancient beliefs and customs.

               Left-anarchists would perhaps agree with Kirk on points
               three and six. So if Kirk were to expand his attack on
               anarchism to encompass the left-anarchists as well, he might
               acquit them of these two charges. The remaining four,
               however, Kirk would probably apply equally to anarchists of
               both varieties.

               How would anarchists reply to Kirk's criticisms? On the
               "moral transcendence" issue, they would point out there have
               been religious as well as non-religious anarchists; and
               moreover, many non-religious anarchists still embrace moral
               objectivism (notably anarchists in the broader natural law
               tradition). Most anarchists would deny that they make self-
               interest the only possible social bond; and even those who
               would affirm this (such as anarcho-capitalists influenced by
               Ayn Rand) have a broad conception of self-interest
               consistent with the Aristotelian tradition.

               As to the priority of order over liberty, many anarchists
               influenced by e.g. Kropotkin would reply that as with other
               animal species, order and cooperation emerge as a result,
               not a consequence of freedom; while anarcho- capitalists
               would probably refer Kirk to the theorists of "spontaneous
               order" such as Hayek, Hume, Smith, and even Edmund Burke

               The FAQ addresses the questions of human perfectibility and
               utopianism in sections 20 and 21. As for Kirk's final point,
               most anarchists would reply that they happily accept
               valuable customs and traditions, but believe that they have
               shown that some ancient practices and institutions -- above
               all, the state --have no value whatever.

            e. "We are already in a state of anarchy."

               Under anarchy, it is conceivable that e.g. a brutal gang
               might use its superior might to coerce everyone else to do
               as they wish. With nothing more powerful than the gang,
               there would (definitionally) be nothing to stop them. But
               how does this differ from what we have now? Governments rule
               because they have the might to maintain their power; in
               short, because there is no superior agency to restrain them.
               Hence, reason some critics of anarchism, the goal of
               anarchists is futile because we are already in a state of

               This argument is confused on several levels.

               First, it covertly defines anarchy as unrestrained rule of
               the strongest, which is hardly what most anarchists have in
               mind. (Moreover, it overlooks the definitional differences
               between government and other forms of organized aggression;
               Weber in particular noted that governments claim a monopoly
               over the legitimate use of force in a given geographical
               region.) In fact, while anarchism is logically compatible
               with any viewpoint which rejects the existence of the state,
               there have been extremely few (perhaps no) anarchists who
               combined their advocacy of anarchism with support for
               domination by those most skilled in violence.

               Second, it seems to assume that all that particular
               anarchists advocate is the abolition of the state; but as we
               have seen, anarchism is normally combined with additional
               normative views about what ought to replace the state. Thus,
               most anarchist theorists believe more than merely that the
               state should not exist; they also believe that e.g. society
               should be based upon voluntary communes, or upon strict
               private property rights, etc.

               Third, the argument sometimes confuses a definitional with a
               causal claim. It is one thing to argue that anarchy would
               lead to the rule by the strongest; this is a causal claim
               about the likely results of the attempt to create an
               anarchist society. It is another thing entirely to argue
               that anarchy means rule by the strongest. This is simply a
               linguistic confusion, best illustrated by noting that under
               this definition anarchy and the state are logically

               A related but more sophisticated argument, generally leveled
               against anarcho- capitalists, runs as follows. If competing
               protection agencies could prevent the establishment of an
               abusive, dominant firm, while don't they do so now? In
               short, if market checks against the abuse of power actually
               worked, we wouldn't have a state in the first place.

               There are two basic replies to this argument. First of all,
               it completely ignores the ideological factor. Anarcho-
               capitalists are thinking of how competing firms would
               prevent the rise of abusive protection monopolists in a
               society where most people don't support the existence of
               such a monopolist. It is one thing to suppress a "criminal
               firm" when it stands condemned by public opinion and the
               values internalized by that firm's employees; it is another
               thing entirely to suppress our current "criminal firms"
               (i.e., governments) when qua institution enjoy the
               overwhelming support of the populace and the state's
               enforcers believe in their own cause. When a governing class
               loses confidence in its own legitimacy -- from the Ancien
               Regime in France to the Communist Party in the USSR -- it
               becomes vulnerable and weak. Market checks on government
               could indeed establish an anarchist society if the
               self-confidence of the governing class were severely eroded
               by anarchist ideas.

               Secondly, the critique ignores the possibility of multiple
               social equilibria. If everyone drives on the right side of
               the road, isolated attempts to switch to the left side will
               be dangerous and probably unsuccessful. But if everyone
               drives on the left side of the road, the same danger exists
               for those who believe that the right side is superior and
               plan to act on their believe. Similarly, it is quite
               possible that given that a government exists, the existence
               of government is a stable equilibrium; but if a system of
               competitive protection firms existed, that too would be a
               stable equilibrium. In short, just because one equilibrium
               exists and is stable doesn't mean that it is the only
               possible equilibrium. Why then is the state so pervasive if
               it is just one possible equilibrium? The superiority of this
               equilibrium is one possible explanation; but it could also
               be due to ideology, or an inheritance from our barbarous

      12. What other anarchist viewpoints are there?

          There is definitely another strand of anarchist thought,
          although it is far vaguer and less propositional than the
          views thus far explicated. For some, "anarchist" is just a
          declaration of rebellion against rules and authority of any kind.
          There is little attempt made here to explain how society would
          work without government; and perhaps there is little conviction
          that it could do so. This sort of anarchism is more of an
          attitude or emotion -- a feeling that the corrupt world of today
          should go down in flames, without any definite view about what if
          anything would be preferable and possible. For want of a better
          term, I would call this "emotivist anarchism," whose most
          prominent exponent is almost certainly Max Stirner (although to
          be fair to Stirner he did briefly outline his vision for the
          replacement of existing society by a "Union of Egoists").

          For the emotivist anarchist, opposition to the state is just a
          special case of his or her opposition to almost everything: the
          family, traditional art, bourgeois culture, comfortable
          middle-aged people, the British monarchy, etc. This position,
          when articulated, is often difficult to understand, for it seems
          to seek destruction without any suggestion or argument that
          anything else would be preferable. Closely linked to emotivist
          anarchism, though sometimes a little more theoretical, is
          nihilist anarchism. The anarcho-nihilists combine the emotivist's
          opposition to virtually all forms of order with radical
          subjectivist moral and epistemological theory.

          To see Tracy Harms' criticism of my treatment of Stirner, egoism,
          and nihilism, click here.

          Related to emotivist anarchism is a second strand of less
          intellectual, more emotional anarchist thought. It has been
          called by some "moral anarchism." This view again feels that
          existing statist society is bad; but rather than lay out any
          comprehensive plans for its abolition, this sort of anarchist
          sticks to more immediate reforms. Anarchism of this sort is a
          kind of ideal dream, which is beautiful and inspiring to
          contemplate while we pursue more concrete aims.

          The emotivist anarchist often focuses on action and disdains
          theorizing. In contrast, another breed of anarchists, known as
          "philosophical anarchists," see few practical implications of
          their intellectual position. Best represented by Robert Paul
          Wolff, philosophical anarchism simply denies that the state's
          orders as such can confer any legitimacy whatever. Each
          individual must exercise his moral autonomy to judge right and
          wrong for himself, irrespective of the state's decrees. However,
          insofar as the state's decrees accord with one's private
          conscience, there is no need to change one's behavior. A position
          like Wolff's says, in essence, that the rational person cannot
          and must not offer the blind obedience to authority that
          governments often seem to demand; but this insight need not spark
          any political action if one's government's decrees are not
          unusually immoral.

          Yet another faction, strongly influenced by Leo Tolstoy, refer to
          themselves as "Christian anarchists." (Tolstoy avoided the term
          "anarchist," probably because of its association with violence
          and terrorism in the minds of contemporary Russians.) Drawing on
          the Gospels' themes of nonviolence and the equality of all human
          beings, these anarchists condemn government as contrary to
          Christian teaching. Tolstoy particularly emphasized the
          immorality of war, military service, and patriotism, challenging
          Christians to live up to the radical implications of their faith
          by withdrawing their support from all three of these evils.
          Tolstoy's essay "Patriotism, or Peace?" is particularly notable
          for its early attack upon nationalism and the bloodshed that
          usually accompanies it.

          Finally, many leftist and progressive movements have an anarchist
          interpretation and anarchist advocates. For example, a faction of
          feminists, calling themselves "anarcha- feminists" exists. The
          feminists, calling themselves "anarcha- feminists" exists. The
          Green and environmentalist movements also have strong            
          anarchist wings which blend opposition to the state and
          defense of the environment. Their primary theoretician is
          probably Murray Bookchin, who (lately) advocates a society of
          small and fairly autarchic localities. As Bookchin explains, "the
          anarchist concepts of a balanced community, a face-to-face
          democracy, a humanistic technology and a decentralized society --
          these rich libertarian concepts -- are not only desirable, they
          are also necessary." Institutions such as the town meeting of
          classical democratic theory point the way to a radical
          reorganization of society, in which small environmentally
          concerned townships regularly meet to discuss and vote upon their
          communities' production and broader aims. Doubtlessly there are
          many other fusions between anarchism and progressive causes, and
          more spring up as new concerns develop.

      13. What moral justifications have been offered for anarchism?

          Again, there are a great many answers which have been offered.
          Some anarchists, such as the emotivist and (paradoxically) the
          moral anarchists have little interest in high-level moral theory.
          But this has been of great interest to the more intellectual
          sorts of anarchists.

          One popular argument for anarchism is that it is the only way for
          true socialism to exist. State-socialism is unable to actually
          establish human equality; instead it simply creating a new ruling
          class. Bakunin prophetically predicted the results of socialists
          seizing control of the state when he wrote that the socialist
          elite would form a "new class" which would be "the most
          aristocratic, despotic, arrogant, and contemptuous of all
          regimes." Elsewhere Bakunin wrote that "[F]reedom without
          Socialism is privilege and injustice, ... Socialism without
          freedom is slavery and brutality." Of course, socialism itself
          has been defended on both deontological and utilitarian grounds,
          and there is no need to repeat these here.

          On the other hand, anarcho-capitalists have argued that only
          under anarchism can the Lockean rights to person and property so
          loudly championed by more moderate libertarians be fully
          respected. Any attempt to impose a monopolistic government
          necessarily prevents competing police and judicial services from
          providing a legitimate service; moreover, so long as government
          exists taxation will persist. The government's claim to defend
          private property is thus quite ironic, for the state, in
          Rothbard's words, is "an institution that presumes to 'defend'
          person and property by itself subsisting on the unilateral
          coercion against private property known as taxation." Other
          anarcho- capitalists such as David Friedman find these arguments
          from natural Lockean rights unconvincing, and instead take up the
          task of trying to show that Adam Smith's utilitarian case for
          free-market capitalism applies just as well to free markets in
          defense services, making the state useless as well as dangerous.

          Still other anarchists, such as Lysander Spooner and Benjamin
          Tucker as well as Proudhon, have argued that anarchism would
          abolish the exploitation inherent in interest and rent simply by
          means of free competition. In their view, only labor income is
          legitimate, and an important piece of the case for anarchism is
          that without government-imposed monopolies, non-labor income
          would be driven to zero by market forces. It is unclear, however,
          if they regard this as merely a desirable side effect, or if they
          would reject anarchism if they learned that the predicted
          economic effect thereof would not actually occur. (Other
          individualist anarchists have argued that contrary to Spooner and
          Tucker, free banking would lead to a much lower rate of inflation
          than we experience today; that rent and interest are not due to
          "monopoly" but to scarcity of land and loanable funds; and that
          there is no moral distinction between labor and rental or
          interest income, all of which depend upon a mixture of scarcity,
          demand, luck, and effort.)

          A basic moral intuition that probably anarchists of all varieties
          share is simply that no one has the right to rule another person.
          The interpretation of "rulership," however, varies: left
          anarchists tend to see the employer-employee relationship as one
          of rulership, and anarcho-capitalists are often dubious of the
          claim that envisaged anarchists communes would be democratic and
          hence voluntary. A closely related moral intuition, again widely
          shared by all sorts of anarchists, is that each person should
          exercise personal autonomy, or self-rule. One should question
          authority, and make up one's mind for oneself rather than simply
          following the herd. Again, the interpretation of "personal
          autonomy" varies: the left-anarchist sees the employer-employee
          relationship as inherently violating personal autonomy, whereas
          the anarcho-capitalist is more likely to see personal autonomy
          disappearing in the commune or collective, regardless of how
          democratically they run themselves.

      14. What are the major debates between anarchists? What are the
          recurring arguments?

          Without a doubt, the most repeated debate among modern anarchists
          is fought between the left-anarchists on one side and the
          anarcho-capitalists on the other. Of course, there are occasional
          debates between different left-anarchist factions, but probably
          most of them would be content with an anarchist society populated
          by some mixture of communes, worker-controlled firms, and
          cooperatives. And similarly there are a few internal debates
          between anarcho- capitalists, notably the tension between
          Rothbard's natural law anarcho-capitalism and David Friedman's
          more economistic anarcho-capitalism. But it is the debate between
          the left-anarchists and the anarcho-capitalists which is the most
          fundamental and the most acrimonious. There are many sub-debates
          within this wider genre, which we will now consider.

            a. "X is not 'true anarchism.'"

               One of the least fruitful of these sub-debates is the
               frequent attempt of one side to define the other out of
               existence ("You are not truly an anarchist, for anarchists
               must favor [abolition of private property, atheism,
               Christianity, etc.]") In addition to being a trivial issue,
               the factual supporting arguments are often incorrect. For
               example, despite a popular claim that socialism and
               anarchism have been inextricably linked since the inception
               of the anarchist movement, many 19th-century anarchists, not
               only Americans such as Tucker and Spooner, but even
               Europeans like Proudhon, were ardently in favor of private
               property (merely believing that some existing sorts of
               property were illegitimate, without opposing private
               property as such).

               As Benjamin Tucker wrote in 1887, "It will probably
               surprise many who know nothing of Proudhon save his
               declaration that 'property is robbery' to learn that he was
               perhaps the most vigorous hater of Communism that ever lived
               on this planet. But the apparent inconsistency vanishes when
               you read his book and find that by property he means simply
               legally privileged wealth or the power of usury, and not at
               all the possession by the laborer of his products."

               Nor did an ardent anarcho-communist like Kropotkin deny
               Proudhon or even Tucker the title of "anarchist." In his
               Modern Science and Anarchism, Kropotkin discusses not only
               Proudhon but "the American anarchist individualists who were
               represented in the fifties by S.P. Andrews and W. Greene,
               later on by Lysander Spooner, and now are represented by
               Benjamin Tucker, the well-known editor of the New York
               Liberty." Similarly in his article on anarchism for the 1910
               edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Kropotkin again
               freely mentions the American individualist anarchists,
               including "Benjamin Tucker, whose journal Liberty was
               started in 1881 and whose conceptions are a combination of
               those of Proudhon with those of Herbert Spencer."

            b. "Anarchism of variant X is unstable and will lead to the
               re-emergence of the state."

               A more substantive variation is to argue that the opposing
               anarchism would be unstable and lead to the swift re-
               emergence of government. Thus, the left-anarchists often
               argue that the defense corporations envisaged by anarcho-
               capitalists would war with one another until one came out as
               the new government; or else they would collude to establish
               themselves as the new capitalist oligarchs. As Noam Chomsky
               says in an interview with Ulrike Heider, "The predatory
               forces of the market would destroy society, would destroy
               community, and destroy the workforce. Nothing would be left
               except people hating each other and fighting each other."
               Anarcho-capitalists reply that this grossly underestimates
               the degree of competition likely to prevail in the defense
               industry; that war is likely to be very unprofitable and
               dangerous, and is more likely to be provoked by ideology
               than sober profit-maximization; and that economic theory and
               economic history show that collusion is quite difficult to

               Anarcho-capitalists for their part accuse the
               left-anarchists of intending to impose their communal vision
               upon everyone; since everyone will not go along voluntarily,
               a government will be needed to impose it. Lest we think that
               this argument is a recent invention, it is interesting to
               find that essentially this argument raged in the 19th-
               century anarchist movement as well. In John MacKay's The
               Anarchists, we see the essential dialogue between
               individualist and collectivist anarchism has a longer
               history than one might think:

                    "Would you, in the system of society which you
                    call 'free Communism' prevent individuals from
                    exchanging their labor among themselves by means
                    of their own medium of exchange? And further:
                    Would you prevent them from occupying land for the
                    purpose of personal use?"... [The] question was
                    not to be escaped. If he answered "Yes!" he
                    admitted that society had the right of control
                    over the individual and threw overboard the
                    autonomy of the individual which he had always
                    zealously defended; if on the other hand he
                    answered "No!" he admitted the right of private
                    property which he had just denied so emphatically
                    ... Then he answered "In Anarchy any number of men
                    must have the right of forming a voluntary
                    association, and so realizing their ideas in
                    practice. Nor can I understand how any one could
                    justly be driven from the land and house which he
                    uses and occupies ... [E]very serious man must
                    declare himself: for Socialism, and thereby for
                    force and against liberty, or for Anarchism, and
                    thereby for liberty and against force."

               There have been several left-anarchist replies. One is to
               readily agree that dissenters would have the right to not
               join a commune, with the proviso that they must not employ
               others or otherwise exploit them. Another is to claim that
               anarchism will change (or cease to warp) human attitudes so
               that they will be more communitarian and less
               individualistic. Finally, some argue that this is simply
               another sophistical argument for giving the rich and
               powerful the liberty to take away the liberty of everyone

            c. "In an anarchist society in which both systems X and Y
               existed, X would inevitably outcompete Y."

               Again, this argument has been made from several
               perspectives. Left-anarchists have argued that if workers
               had the genuine option to work for a capitalist employer, or
               else work for themselves in a worker cooperative, virtually
               all workers would choose the latter. Moreover, workers in a
               worker-managed firm would have higher morale and greater
               incentive to work hard compared with workers who just worked
               for the benefit of their employer. Hence, capitalists would
               be unable to pay their workers wages competitive with the
               wages of the labor-managed firm, and by force of competition
               would gradually vanish.

               Anarcho-capitalists find that the argument works in
               precisely the opposite direction. For what is a worker-owned
               firm if not a firm in which the workers jointly hold all of
               the stock? Now this is a peculiarly irrational portfolio to
               hold, because it means that workers would, in effect, put
               all their eggs in one basket; if their firm does well, they
               grow rich, but if their firm goes bankrupt, they lose
               everything. It would make much more sense for workers to
               exchange their shares in their own firm to buy shares in
               other firms in order to insure themselves against risk.
               Thus, the probable result of worker-owned firms with
               negotiable shares would be that workers would readily and
               advantageously sell off most of their shares in their own
               firm in order to diversify their portfolios. The end result
               is likely to be the standard form of capitalist
               organization, in which workers receive a fixed payment for
               their services and the owners of the firms' shares earn the
               variable profits. Of course, alienation of shares could be
               banned, but this appears to do nothing except force workers
               to live with enormous financial risk. None of this shows
               that worker-owned firms could not persist if the workers
               were so ideologically committed to worker control that their
               greater productivity outweighed the riskiness of the
               workers' situation; but anarcho-capitalists doubt very much
               that such intense ideology would prevail in more than a
               small portion of the population. Indeed, they expect that
               the egalitarian norms and security from dismissal that
               left-anarchists typically favor would grossly undermine
               everyone's incentive to work hard and kill abler workers'
               desire for advancement.

               Some anarcho-capitalists go further and argue that
               inequality would swiftly re-emerge in an anarcho-syndicalist
               economy. Workers would treat their jobs as a sort of
               property right, and would refuse to hire new workers on
               equal terms because doing so would dilute the current
               workers' shares in the firm's profits. The probable result
               would be that an elite class of workers in capital-intensive
               firms would exploit new entrants into the work force much as
               capitalists allegedly do today. As evidence, they point to
               existing "worker-controlled" firms such as law firms --
               normally they consist of two tiers of workers, one of which
               both works and owns the firm ("the partners"), while the
               remainder are simply employees ("the associates" as well as
               the secretaries, clerks, etc.)

            d. "Anarchism of type X would be worse than the state."

               To the left-anarchist, the society envisaged by the anarcho-
               capitalists often seems far worse than what we have now. For
               it is precisely to the inequality, exploitation, and tyranny
               of modern capitalism that they object, and rather than
               abolishing it the anarcho-capitalist proposes to unleash its
               worst features and destroy its safety net. Noam Chomsky, for
               instance, has suggested that anarcho-capitalists focus
               incorrectly on state domination, failing to recognize the
               underlying principle of opposition to all domination,
               including the employer-employee relationship. Overall, since
               anarcho-capitalism relies heavily on laissez-faire economic
               theory, and since left-anarchists see no validity to
               laissez-faire economic theory, it seems to the latter that
               anarcho-capitalism would be a practical disaster. Left-
               anarchists often equate anarcho-capitalism with social
               Darwinism and even fascism, arguing that the cruel idea of
               "survival of the fittest" underlies them all.

               The anarcho-capitalist, in turn, often suspects that the
               left- anarchist's world would be worse than the world of
               today. Under anarcho-capitalism, individuals would still
               have every right to voluntarily pool their property to form
               communes, worker-controlled firms, and cooperatives; they
               would simply be unable to force dissenters to join them.
               Since this fact rarely impresses the left-anarchist, the
               anarcho-capitalist often concludes that the left-anarchist
               will not be satisfied with freedom for his preferred
               lifestyle; he wants to force his communal lifestyle on
               everyone. Not only would this be a gross denial of human
               freedom, but it would (according to the anarcho-capitalist)
               be likely to have disastrous effects on economic incentives,
               and swiftly lead humanity into miserable poverty. The
               anarcho-capitalist is also frequently disturbed by the
               opposition to all order sometimes voiced by left-anarchists;
               for he feels that only coerced order is bad and welcomes the
               promotion of an orderly society by voluntary means.
               Similarly, the left-anarchists' occasional short time
               horizon, emphasis on immediate satisfaction, and low regard
               for work (which can be seen in a number of authors strongly
               influenced by emotivist anarchism) frighten the
               anarcho-capitalist considerably.

            e. Etc.

               A large number of arguments that go back and forth basically
               duplicate the standard socialist vs. capitalist debate. The
               need or lack thereof for incentives, security, equality,
               regulation, protection of the environment, and so on are
               debated extensively on other sources on the Net, and there
               are several FAQs which discuss these issues from a variety
               of viewpoints. FAQs on the broader libertarian movement are
               frequently posted on alt.individualism,
               alt.politics.libertarian, and talk.politics.libertarian.
               FAQs on socialism similarly appear from time to time on
               alt.politics.radical-left and Related
               FAQs sometimes appear on talk.politics.theory. Hence, we
               will spend no further space on these broader issues which
               are amply addressed elsewhere.

      15. How would anarchists handle the "public goods" problem?

          Modern neoclassical (or "mainstream") economists -- especially
          those associated with theoretical welfare economics -- have
          several important arguments for the necessity or desirability of
          government. Out of all of these, the so-called "public goods"
          problem is surely the most frequently voiced. In fact, many
          academics consider it a rigorous justification for the existence
          and limits of the state. Anarcho-capitalists are often very
          familiar with this line of thought and spend considerable time
          trying to refute it; left- anarchists are generally less
          interested, but it is still useful to see how the left-anarchist
          might respond.

          We will begin by explaining the concept of Pareto                
          optimality, show how the Pareto criterion is used to
          justify state action, and then examine how anarchists might
          object to the underlying assumptions of these economic
          justifications for the state. After exploring the general
          critique, we will turn to the problem of public goods (and the
          closely related externalities issue). After showing how many
          economists believe that these problems necessitate government
          action, we will consider how left-anarchists and
          anarcho-capitalists might reply.

            a. The concept and uses of Pareto optimality in economics

               The most widely-used concept in theoretical welfare
               economics is "Pareto optimality" (also known as "Pareto
               efficiency"). An allocation is Pareto-optimal iff it is
               impossible to make at least one person better off without
               making anyone else worse off; a Pareto improvement is a
               change in an allocation which makes someone better off
               without making anyone else worse off. As Hal Varian's
               Microeconomic Analysis explains, "[A] Pareto efficient
               allocation is one for which each agent is as well off as
               possible, given the utilities of the other agents." "Better"
               and "worse" are based purely upon subjective preferences
               which can be summarized in a "utility function," or ordinal
               numerical index of preference satisfaction.

               While initially it might seem that every situation is
               necessarily Pareto optimal, this is not the case. True, if
               the only good is food, and each agent wants as much food as
               possible, then every distribution is Pareto optimal. But if
               half of the agents own food and the other half own clothes,
               the distribution will not necessarily be Pareto optimal,
               since each agent might prefer either more food and fewer
               clothes or vice versa.

               Normally, economists would expect agents to voluntarily
               trade in any situation which is not Pareto optimal; but
               neoclassical theorists have considered a number of
               situations in which trade would be a difficult route to
               Pareto optimality. For example, suppose that each agent is
               so afraid of the other that they avoid each other, even
               though they could both benefit from interaction. What they
               need is an independent and powerful organization to e.g.
               protect both agents from each other so that they can reach a
               Pareto-optimal allocation. What they need, in short, is the
               state. While economists' examples are usually more
               elaborate, the basic intuition is that government is
               necessary to satisfy the seemingly uncontroversial principle
               of Pareto optimality.

               Anarchists of all sorts would immediately object that the
               very existence of deontological anarchists shows that Pareto
               optimality can never justify state action. If even the
               slightest increase in the level of state activity
               incompensably harms the deontological anarchist, then
               obviously it is never true that state action can make some
               people better off without making any others worse off.
               Moreover, virtually all government action makes some people
               better off and other people worse off, so plainly the
               pursuit of Pareto improvements has little to do with what
               real governments do.

               Due to these difficulties, in practice economists
               must base their judgments upon the far more
               controversial judgments of cost-benefit analysis. (In the
               works of Richard Posner, this economistic cost-benefit
               approach to policy decisions is called
               "wealth-maximization"; a common synonym is "Kaldor-Hicks
               efficiency.") With cost-benefit analysis, there is no
               pretense made that government policy enjoys unanimous
               approval. Thus, it is open to the many objections frequently
               made to e.g. utilitarianism; moreover, since cost-benefit
               analysis is based upon agents' willingness to pay, rather
               than on agents' utility, it runs into even more moral
               paradoxes than utilitarianism typically does.

               In the final analysis, welfare economists' attempt to
               provide a value-free or at least value-minimal justification
               of the state fails quite badly. Nevertheless, economic
               analysis may still inform more substantive moral theories:
               Pareto optimality, for example, is a necessary but not
               sufficient condition for a utilitarian justification of the

            b. The public goods problem

               The "public goods" argument is certainly the most popular
               economic argument for the state. It allegedly shows that the
               existence of government can be Pareto optimal, and that the
               non-existence of the state cannot be Pareto optimal; or at
               least, it shows that the existence of government is
               justifiable on cost-benefit grounds. Supposedly, there exist
               important services, such as national defense, which benefit
               people whether they pay for them or not. The result is that
               selfish agents refuse to contribute, leading to disaster.
               The only way to solve this problem is to coerce the
               beneficiaries to raise the funds to supply the needed good.
               In order for this coercion to work, it needs to be
               monopolized by a single agency, the state.

               Public goods arguments have been made not only for national
               defense, but for police, roads, education, R&D, scientific
               research, and many other goods and services. The essential
               definitional feature of public goods is "non-
               excludability"; because the benefits cannot be limited to
               contributors, there is no incentive to contribute. (A second
               definitional characteristic often attributed to public goods
               is "non-rivalrousness"; my own view is that this second
               attribute just confuses the issue, since without the non-
               excludability problem, non-rivalrousness would merely be
               another instance of the ubiquitous practice of pricing above
               marginal cost.)

               The concept of externalities is very closely connected to
               the concept of public goods; the main difference is that
               economists usually think of externalities as being both
               "positive" (e.g. R&D spill-overs) and "negative" (e.g.
               pollution), whereas they usually don't discuss "public
               bads." In any case, again we have the problem that agents
               perform actions which harm or benefit other people, and the
               harm/benefit is "non-excludable." Victims of negative
               externalities can't feasibly charge polluters a fee for
               suffering, and beneficiaries of positive externalities can't
               feasibly be charged for their enjoyment. Government is
               supposed to be necessary to correct this inefficiency. (As
               usual, it is the inefficiency rather than the injustice that
               economists focus upon.)

               Left-anarchists and anarcho-capitalists would probably have
               remarkably similar replies to this argument, although
               doubtlessly the tone and emphasis would vary.

               Objection #1: The behavorial assumptions of public goods
               theory are false.

               It is simply not true that people always act in their narrow
               self-interest. Charity exists, and there is no reason to
               think that the charitable impulse might not be cultivated to
               handle public goods problems voluntarily on an adequate
               basis. Nor need charity as such be the only motive: in
               Social Contract, Free Ride, Anthony de Jasay lays out an
               "ethics turnpike" of possible voluntary solutions to serious
               public goods problems, moving from motivation from high
               moral principles, to "tribal" motivations, to economic
               motivations. As de Jasay writes, "On the map of the Ethics
               Turnpike ... three main segments are marked off according to
               the basic type of person most likely to find his congenial
               exit along it. The first segment is primarily for the type
               who fears God or acts as if he did. The second segment has
               exits to suit those who are not indifferent to how some or
               all their fellow men are faring, and who value only that
               (but not all that) which people want for themselves or for
               others. The third is for homo oeconomicus, maximizing a
               narrowly defined utility that varies only with the money's
               worth of his own payoffs."

               In short, much of the public goods problem is an artificial
               creation of economists' unrealistic assumptions about human
               nature. Anarchists would surely disagree among themselves
               about human nature, but almost all would agree that there is
               more to the human character than Hobbesian self-interest.
               Some people may be amoral, but most are not. Moreover,
               charitable impulses can even give incentives to uncharitable
               people to behave fairly. If the public boycotts products of
               polluters, the polluters may find that it is cheaper to
               clean up their act than lose the public's business.

               Interestingly, many economists have experimentally tested
               the predictions of public goods theory. (Typically, these
               experiments involve groups of human subjects playing for
               real money.) The almost universal result is that the central
               prediction of public goods theory (i.e., that no one will
               voluntarily contribute to the production of a public good)
               is totally false. While the level of contributions rarely
               equals the Pareto-optimal level, it never even approaches
               the zero- provision level that public goods theory predicts.
               Summarizing the experimental literature, Douglas Davis and
               Charles Holt write "[S]ubjects rather persistently
               contributed 40 to 60 percent of their token endowments to
               the group exchange, far in excess of the 0 percent
               contributions rate..." Subsequent experiments examined the
               conditions under which voluntary provision is most
               successful; see Davis and Holt's Experimental Economics for

               Objection #2: Government is not the only possible way to
               provide public goods.

               Even if individuals act in their narrow self-interest, it is
               not true that government is the only way to manage public
               goods and externalities problems. Why couldn't a left-
               anarchist commune or an anarcho-capitalist police firm do
               the job that the neoclassical economist assumes must be
               delegated to the government? The left-anarchist would
               probably be particularly insistent on this point, since most
               economists usually assume that government and the market are
               the only ways to do things. But thriving, voluntary
               communities might build roads, regulate pollution, and take
               over other important tasks now handled by government.

               Anarcho-capitalists, for their part, would happily agree:
               while they usually look to the market as a first solution,
               they appreciate other kinds of voluntary organizations too:
               fraternal societies, clubs, family, etc. But
               anarcho-capitalists would probably note that left-anarchists
               overlook the ways that the market might take over government
               services -- indeed, malls and gated communities show how
               roads, security, and externalities can be handled by
               contract rather than coercion.

               Objection #3: Public goods are rarer than you might think.

               Anarcho-capitalists would emphasize that a large number of
               alleged "public goods" and "externalities" could easily be
               handled privately by for-profit business if only the
               government would allow the definition of private property
               rights. If ranchers over-graze the commons, why not
               privatize the commons? If fishermen over-fish the oceans,
               why not parcel out large strips of the ocean by longitude
               and latitude to for profit-making aquaculture? And why is
               education supposed to create externalities any more than any
               other sort of investment? Similarly, many sorts of
               externalities are now handled with private property rights.
               Tort law, for example, can give people an incentive to take
               the lives and property of others into account when they take

               Objection #4: Externalities are a result of the
               profit-oriented mentality which would be tamed in an
               anarchist society.

               Left-anarchists would emphasize that many externalities are
               caused by the profit-seeking system which the state
               supports. Firms pollute because it is cheaper than producing
               cleanly; but anarcho-syndicalist firms could pursue many
               aims besides profit. In a way, the state- capitalist system
               creates the problem of externalities by basing all decisions
               upon profit, and then claims that we need the state to
               protect us from the very results of this profit-oriented
               decision-making process.

               While few left-anarchists are familiar with the experimental
               economics literature, it offers some support for this
               general approach. In particular, many experiments have shown
               that subjects' concern for fairness weakens many of the
               harsh predictions of standard economic analysis of
               externalities and bargaining.

               Objection #5: The public goods problem is unavoidable.

               Perhaps most fundamentally: government is not a             
               solution to the public goods problem, but rather the
               primary instance of the problem. If you create a government
               to solve your public goods problems, you merely create a new
               public goods problem: the public good of restraining and
               checking the government from abusing its power. "[I]t is
               wholly owing to the constitution of the people, and not to
               the constitution of the government, that the crown is not as
               oppressive in England as in Turkey," wrote Thomas Paine; but
               what material incentive is there for individuals to help
               develop a vigilant national character? After all, surely it
               is a rare individual who appreciably affects the national
               culture during his or her lifetime.

               To rely upon democracy as a counter-balance simply assumes
               away the public goods problem. After all, intelligent,
               informed voting is a public good; everyone benefits if the
               electorate reaches wise political judgments, but there is no
               personal, material incentive to "invest" in political
               information, since the same result will (almost certainly)
               happen whether you inform yourself or not. It should be no
               surprise that people know vastly more about their jobs than
               about their government. Many economists seem to be aware of
               this difficulty; in particular, public choice theory in
               economics emphasizes the externalities inherent in
               government action. But a double standard persists: while
               non-governmental externalities must be corrected by the
               state, we simply have to quietly endure the externalities
               inherent in political process.

               Since there is no incentive to monitor the government,
               democracies must rely upon voluntary donations of
               intelligence and virtue. Because good government depends
               upon these voluntary donations, the public goods argument
               for government falls apart. Either unpaid virtue can make
               government work, in which case government isn't necessary to
               solve the public goods problem; or unpaid virtue is
               insufficient to make government work, in which case the
               government cannot be trusted to solve the public goods

               David Friedman has a particularly striking argument
               which goes one step further. Under governmental
               institutions, he explains, good law is a public good and bad
               law is a private good. That is, there is little direct
               personal incentive to lobby for laws that benefit everyone,
               but a strong personal incentive to lobby for laws that
               benefit special interests at the expense of everyone else.
               In contrast, under anarcho-capitalist institutions, good law
               is a private good and bad law is a public good. That is, by
               patronizing a firm which protects oneself, one reinforces
               the existence of socially beneficial law; but there is
               little incentive to "lobby" for the re-introduction of
               government. As Friedman explains, "Good law is still
               expensive - I must spend time and money determining which
               protection agency will best serve me - but having decided
               what I want, I get what I pay for. The benefit of my wise
               purchase goes to me, so I have an incentive to purchase
               wisely. It is now the person who wishes to reintroduce
               government who is caught in a public goods problem. He
               cannot abolish anarchy and reintroduce government for
               himself alone; he must do it for everyone or for no one. If
               he does it for everyone, he himself gets but a tiny fraction
               of the 'benefit' he expects the reintroduction of government
               to provide."

      16. Are anarchists pacifists?

          Again, this is a complicated question because "pacifism" has at
          least two distinct meanings. It may mean "opposition to all
          violence," or it may mean "opposition to all war (i.e., organized
          violent conflict between governments)." Some anarchists are
          pacifists in the first sense; a very large majority of anarchists
          are pacifists in the weaker, second sense.

            a. Tolstoyan absolute pacifism

               The primary anarchistic inspiration for pacifism in         
               the first sense is probably Leo Tolstoy. Drawing his
               themes from the Gospels, Tolstoy argued that violence is
               always wrong, including defensive violence. This naturally
               leads Tolstoy to bitterly denounce warfare as well, but what
               is distinctive here is opposition to violence as such,
               whether offensive or defensive. Moreover, the stricture
               against defensive violence would appear to rule out not only
               retribution against criminals, but self-defense against an
               imminent attack.

               This Tolstoyan theme appears most strongly in the writings
               of Christian anarchists and pacifist anarchists, but it pops
               up quite frequently within the broader left-anarchist
               tradition. For example, Kropotkin looked upon criminals with
               pity rather than contempt, and argued that love and
               forgiveness rather than punishment was the only moral
               reaction to criminal behavior. With the self-described
               Christian and pacifist anarchists, the Tolstoyan position is
               a firm conviction; within the broader left-anarchist
               tradition, it would be better described as a tendency or
               general attitude.

               Some left-anarchists and virtually all anarcho-capitalists
               would strongly disagree with Tolstoy's absolute opposition
               to violence. (The only anarcho-capitalist to ever indicate
               agreement with the Tolstoyan position was probably Robert
               LeFevre.) Left-anarchist critics include the advocates of
               revolutionary terrorism or "propaganda by the deed"
               (discussed in section 22), as well as more moderate anti-
               Tolstoyans who merely uphold the right to use violence for
               self-defense. Of course, their definition of "self-defense"
               might very well include using violence to hinder immoral
               state actions or the functioning of the capitalist system.

               The anarcho-capitalist critique of Tolstoyan pacifism is

               distinguishes between initiatory force against person or
               property (which he views as wrong), and retaliatory force
               (which he views as acceptable and possibly meritorious). The
               anarcho-capitalist condemns the state precisely because it
               institutionalizes the initiation of force within society.
               Criminals do the same, differing only in their lack of
               perceived legitimacy. In principle, both "private" criminals
               and the "public" criminals who run the government may be
               both resisted and punished. While it may be imprudent or
               counter-productive to openly resist state authority (just as
               it might be foolish to resist a gang of well- armed
               mobsters), there is a right to do so.

            b. Pacifism as opposition to war

               Almost all anarchists, in contrast, would agree in their
               condemnation of warfare, i.e., violent conflict between
               governments. Left-anarchists and anarcho-capitalists both
               look upon wars as grotesque struggles between ruling elites
               who treat the lives of "their own" people as expendable and
               the lives of the "other side's" people as worthless. It is
               here that anarchism's strong distinction between society and
               the state becomes clearest: whereas most people see war as a
               struggle between societies, anarchists think that war is
               actually a battle between governments which greatly harms
               even the society whose government is victorious. What is
               most pernicious about nationalist ideology is that is makes
               the members of society identify their interests with those
               of their government, when in fact their interests are not
               merely different but in conflict. In short, anarchists of
               both sorts would readily accede to Randolph Bourne's remark
               that "War is the health of the state."

               Left-anarchists' opposition to war is quite similar
               to the general condemnation of war expressed by more
               mainstream international socialists. On this view, war is
               created by capitalism, in particular the struggle for access
               to markets in the Third World. "Workingmen have no country"
               and should refuse to support these intra-capitalist
               struggles; why should they pay the dire cost of war when
               victory will merely leave them more oppressed and exploited
               than before? Moreover, while Western democracies often
               advocate war in the name of justice and humanitarianism, the
               aim and/or end result is to defend traditional
               authoritarianism and destroy the lives of millions of
               innocent people. Within the Western democracies, the left-
               anarchist's hatred for war is often intensified by some
               sense of sympathy for indigenous revolutionary movements.
               While these movements are often state-socialist in intent,
               the left- anarchist often believes that these movements are
               less bad than the traditional authoritarianism against which
               they struggle. Moreover, the West's policy of propping up
               local dictators leads relatively non-authoritarian socialist
               movements to increasing degrees of totalitarianism. Noam
               Chomsky is almost certainly the most influential
               representative of the left-anarchist approach to foreign
               policy: He sees a consistent pattern of the United States
               proclaiming devotion to human rights while supporting
               dictatorships by any means necessary.

               The anarcho-capitalist critique of war is similar in many
               ways to e.g. Chomsky's analysis, but has a different lineage
               and emphasis. As can be seen particularly in Murray
               Rothbard's writings, the anarcho-capitalist view of war
               draws heavily upon both the anti-war classical liberals of
               the 18th and 19th centuries, and the long-standing American
               isolationist tradition. Early classical liberal theorists
               such as Adam Smith,Richard Cobden, and John Bright (and
               later Norman Angell) argued that warfare was caused by
               mercantilism, by the prevailing alliance between governments
               and their favored business elites. The solution, in their
               view, was to end the incestuous connection between business
               and government. The American isolationists were probably
               influenced by this broader classical liberal tradition, but
               placed more emphasis on the idea that foreign wars were at
               best a silly distraction, and at worst a rationalization for
               tyranny. Both views argued that "balance of power" politics
               lead inevitably to endless warfare and unrestrained military

               Building upon these two interrelated traditions, anarcho-
               capitalists have built a multi-layered attack upon warfare.
               Firstly, modern war particularly deserves moral condemnation
               (according to libertarian rights theory) for the widespread
               murderous attacks upon innocent civilians -- whether by bomb
               or starvation blockade. Secondly, the wars waged by the
               Western democracies in the 20th- century had disastrous,
               unforeseen consequences: World War I paved the way for
               Communist, fascist, and Nazi totalitarianism; and World War
               II, by creating power vacuums in Europe and Asia, turned
               over a billion human beings to Stalinist despotism. The
               anarcho-capitalist sees these results as predictable rather
               than merely accidental: just as rulers' hubris leads them to
               try to improve the free- market economy, only to find that
               in their ignorance they have wrecked terrible harm, so too
               does the "fatal conceit" of the national security advisor
               lead Western democracies to spend billions of dollars and
               millions of lives before he finds that he has inadvertently
               paved the way for totalitarianism. The anarcho-capitalist's
               third point against war is that its only sure result is to
               aid the domestic expansion of state power; and predictably,
               when wars end, the state's power never contracts to its
               original limits.

      17. Have there been any historical examples of anarchist societies?

          There have probably been no societies which fully satisfy any
          anarchists' ethical ideals, but there have been a number of
          suggestive examples.

          Left-anarchists most often cite the anarchist communes of the
          Spanish Civil War as examples of viable anarchist societies. The
          role of the Spanish anarchists in the Spanish Civil War has
          perhaps generated more debate on alt.society.anarchy than any
          other historical issue. Since this FAQ is concerned primarily
          with theoretical rather than purely historical questions, the
          reader will have to search elsewhere for a detailed discussion.
          Suffice it to say that left-anarchists generally believe that:
          (a) The Spanish anarchist political organizations and unions
          began and remained democratic throughout the war; (b) That a
          majority of the citizenry in areas controlled by the anarchists
          was sympathetic to the anarchist movement; (c) That workers
          directly controlled factories and businesses that they
          expropriated, rather than being subject to strict control by
          anarchist leaders; and (d) That the farm collectives in the
          anarchist-controlled regions were largely voluntary, and rarely
          exerted coercive pressure against small farmers who refused to
          join. In contrast, anarcho-capitalist critics such as James
          Donald normally maintain that: (a) The Spanish anarchist
          political organizations and unions, even if they were initially
          democratic, quickly transformed into dictatorial oligarchies with
          democratic trappings once the war started; (b) That the Spanish
          anarchists, even if they initially enjoyed popular support,
          quickly forfeited it with their abuse of power; (c) That in many
          or most cases, "worker" control meant dictatorial control by the
          anarchist elite; and (d) That the farm collectivizations in
          anarchist-controlled regions were usually coercively formed,
          totalitarian for their duration, and marked by a purely nominal
          right to remain outside the collective (since non-joining farmers
          were seriously penalized in a number of ways). For a reply to
          James Donald's piece, click here.

          For my own account of the controversy regarding the Spanish
          Anarchists, see The Anarcho-Statists of Spain: An Historical,
          Economic, and Philosophical Analysis of Spanish Anarchism. For a
          reply to my piece, click here.

          Israeli kibbutzim have also been admired as working examples of
          voluntary socialism. Kropotkin and Bakunin held up the mir, the
          traditional communal farming system in rural Russia, as
          suggestive of the organization and values which would be
          expressed in an anarchist society. Various experimental
          communities have also laid claim to socialist anarchist

          Anarcho-capitalists' favorite example, in contrast, is medieval
          Iceland. David Friedman has written extensively on the
          competitive supply of defense services and anarchistic character
          of a much-neglected period of Iceland's history. Left-anarchists
          have occasionally criticized Friedman's work on medieval Iceland,
          but overall this debate is much sketchier than the debate over
          the Spanish Civil War. See Is Medieval Iceland an example of
          "anarcho"-capitalism working in practice?; for David Friedman's
          reply to an earlier draft of this piece , click here.

          A long stretch of medieval Irish history has also been claimed to
          have pronounced anarcho-capitalist features. Other
          anarcho-capitalists have argued that the American "Wild West"
          offers an excellent illustration of anarcho-capitalist
          institutions springing up only to be later suppressed and crowded
          out by government. Anarcho- capitalists also often note that
          while the United States has never been an anarchist society by
          any stretch of the imagination, that before the 20th-century the
          United States came closer to their pure laissez-faire ideals than
          any other society in history. America's colonial and
          revolutionary period especially interests them. Murray Rothbard
          in particular published a four-volume history of the colonial and
          revolutionary eras, finding delight in a brief period of
          Pennsylvania's history when the state government virtually
          dissolved itself due to lack of interest. (An unpublished fifth
          volume in the series defended the "weak" Articles of the
          Confederation against the strong, centralized state established
          by the U.S. Constitution.)

          One case that has inspired both sorts of anarchists is that of
          the free cities of medieval Europe. The first weak link in the
          chain of feudalism, these free cities became Europe's centers of
          economic development, trade, art, and culture. They provided a
          haven for runaway serfs, who could often legally gain their
          freedom if they avoided re-capture for a year and a day. And they
          offer many examples of how people can form mutual-aid
          associations for protection, insurance, and community. Of course,
          left-anarchists and anarcho-capitalists take a somewhat different
          perspective on the free cities: the former emphasize the
          communitarian and egalitarian concerns of the free cities, while
          the latter point to the relatively unregulated nature of their
          markets and the wide range of services (often including defense,
          security, and legal services) which were provided privately or
          semi-privately. Kropotkin's Mutual Aid contains an extensive
          discussion of the free cities of medieval Europe;
          anarcho-capitalists have written less on the subject, but
          strongly praise the historical treatments in Henri Pirenne's
          Medieval Cities and Harold Berman's Law and Revolution.

          The Enclopedia Brittanica article on Anarchism gives at best a
          cursory summary of anarchist theory, but does contain useful
          information on the history of left-anarchist political and labor
          movements. Click here to view the article.

      18. Isn't anarchism utopian?

          Utopianism is perhaps the most popular criticism made of
          anarchism. In an atypically uncharitable passage in his European
          Socialism, socialist historian Carl Landauer states:

               There is certainly one truth in anarchistic beliefs:
               Every large organization contains an element of veiled
               or open force, and every kind of force is an evil, if
               we consider its effects on the human character. But is
               it not the lesser evil? Can we dispense with force?
               When this question is clearly put, the case for
               anarchism seems extremely weak. It is true, that the
               experiment of an entirely forceless society have never
               been made. But such evidence as we have does not
               indicate that ill intentions will cease to exist if
               repressive force disappears, and it is clear enough
               that one ill-intentioned person can upset a large part
               of society if there is no repressive force. The fact
               that some intelligent and highly idealistic men and
               women have believed and still believe in anarchism
               shows that there is a type of sectarianism which
               accepts a belief in spite of, or perhaps because of,
               its apparent absurdity.

          As we have seen, however, virtually all anarcho-capitalists and
          many left-anarchists accept the use of force in some
          circumstances. Landauer's remark would be better directed at
          absolute pacifists rather than anarchists in general.

          Anarchists' supposed unwillingness to use force in any
          circumstance is only one reason why they have been widely
          perceived as utopian. Sometimes the utopian charge is trivial;
          if, for example, any radical change is labelled "utopian." If on
          the other hand "utopian" simply means that anarchism could work
          if and only if all people were virtuous, and thus in practice
          would lead to the imposition of new forms of oppression, then the
          question is more interesting. Interesting, because this is more
          or less the charge that different types of anarchists frequently
          bring against each other.

          To the left-anarchist, for example, anarcho-capitalism is based
          upon a truly fantastic picture of economics, in which free
          competition somehow leads to prosperity and freedom for all. To
          them, the anarcho-capitalists' vision of "economic harmonies" and
          the workings of the "invisible hand" are at best unlikely, and
          probably impossible. Hence, in a sense they accuse the
          anarcho-capitalists of utopianism.

          The anarcho-capitalists charge the left-anarchists similarly. For
          the latter imagine that somehow a communitarian society could
          exist without forcible repression of dissenting individualists;
          think that incentives for production would not be impaired by
          enforced equality; and confusedly equate local democracy with
          freedom. Moreover, they generally have no explanation for how
          crime would be prevented or what safeguards would prevent the
          rise of a new ruling elite. For the anarcho-capitalist, the
          left-anarchist is again hopelessly utopian.

          But in any case, probably most anarchists would offer a similar
          reply to the charge that they are utopians. Namely: what is truly
          utopian is to imagine that somehow the government can hold
          massive power without turning it to monstrous ends. As Rothbard
          succinctly puts it: "the man who puts all the guns and all the
          decision-making power into the hands of the central government
          and then says, 'Limit yourself'; it is he who is truly the
          impractical utopian." Is not the whole history of the 20th
          century an endless list of examples of governments easily
          breaking the weak bonds placed upon their ability to oppress and
          even murder as they see fit?

      19. Don't anarchists assume that all people are innately virtuous?

          This is a perfectly reasonable question, for it is indeed the
          case that some anarchists expect a remarkable change in human
          nature to follow (or precede?) the establishment of an anarchist
          society. This assumption partially explains the frequent lack of
          explanation of how an anarchist society would handle crime,
          dissenting individualists, and so on.

          The belief in innate human virtue is normally found only among
          left-anarchist thinkers, but of course it does not follow, nor is
          it true, that all left-anarchist thinkers believe in humanity's
          innate human virtue.

          Anarcho-capitalists have a very different picture of human
          nature. While they normally believe that people have a strong
          capacity for virtuous action (and it is to people's moral sense
          that they frequently appeal when they favor the abolition of the
          state), they believe that it is wise and necessary to cement
          moral virtue with material incentives. Capitalism's system of
          unequal wages, profits and losses, rent and interest, is not only
          morally justified but vitally necessary for the preservation and
          expansion of the economy. In short, anarcho-capitalists believe
          in and indeed must depend on some reasonable level of human
          morality, but prefer to rely on material incentives when
          feasible. (Similarly, they morally condemn crime and believe that
          most people have no desire to commit crimes, but strongly favor
          some sort of criminal justice system to deter the truly amoral.)

      20. Aren't anarchists terrorists?

          Aren't statists terrorists? Well, some of the them are; in fact,
          the overwhelming majority of non-governmental groups who murder
          and destroy property for political aims believe that government
          ought to exist (and that they ought to run it). And just as the
          existence of such statist terrorists is a poor argument for
          anarchism, the existence of anarchist terrorists is a poor
          argument against anarchism. For any idea whatever, there will
          always be those who advocate advancing it by violence.

          It is however true that around the turn of the century, a certain
          segment of anarchists advocated what they called "propaganda by
          the deed." Several heads of state were assassinated by
          anarchists, along with businessmen, industrialists,
          stock-brokers, and so on. One of the most famous instances was
          when the young Alexander Berkman tried to murder the steel
          industrialist Henry Frick. During this era, the left-anarchists
          were divided as to the permissibility of terrorism; but of course
          many strongly opposed it. And individualist anarchists such as
          Benjamin Tucker almost always saw terrorist activities as both
          counter-productive and immoral when innocents were injured (as
          they often were).

          The basic argument of the advocates of "propaganda by the deed"
          was that anarchist terrorism would provoke governments -- even
          avowedly liberal and democratic governments -- to resort to
          increasingly harsh measures to restore order. As governments'
          ruthlessness increased, their "true colors" would appear for all
          to see, leading to more immediate results than mere education and
          theorizing. As E.V. Zenker notes in his Anarchism: A Criticism
          and History of the Anarchist Theory, a number of Western
          governments were driven to adopt anti-terrorist laws as a result
          of anarchist terrorism. (Zenker goes on to note that Great
          Britain remained true to its liberal heritage by refusing to
          punish individuals merely for espousing anarchist ideas.) But as
          one might expect, contrary to the terrorists' hopes, it was the
          reputation of anarchism -- peaceful and violent alike -- which
          suffered rather than the reputation of the state.

          Undoubtedly the most famous modern terrorist in the tradition of
          "propaganda by the deed" is the so-called Unabomber, who
          explicitly labels himself an anarchist in his now-famous
          manifesto. In his manifesto, the Unabomber makes relatively
          little attempt to link himself to any particular figures in the
          anarchist tradition, but professes familiarity and general
          agreement with the anarchistic wing of the radical
          environmentalist movement. A large proportion of this
          wide-ranging manifesto criticizes environmentalists' cooperation
          with socialists, minority rights activists, and other broadly
          left-wing groups; the point of this criticism is not of course to
          propose an alliance with conservatives, but to reject alliance
          with people who fail to reject technology as such. The more
          positive portion of the manifesto argues that freedom and
          technology are inherently incompatible, and outlines a program
          for the destruction of both modern industry and the scientific
          knowledge necessary to sustain it.

          The large majority of anarchists -- especially in modern         
          times -- fervently oppose the killing of innocents on
          purely moral grounds (just as most non-anarchists presumably do,
          though anarchists would often classify those killed in war as
          murder victims of the state). Nonviolence and pacifism now
          inspire far more anarchist thinkers than visions of random
          terror. Anarchists from many different perspectives have been
          inspired by the writings of the 16th-century Frenchman Etienne de
          la Boetie, whose quasi-anarchistic The Discourse of Voluntary
          Servitude spelled out a detailed theory of nonviolent revolution.
          La Boetie explained that since governments depend upon the
          widespread belief in their legitimacy in order to rule, despotism
          could be peacefully overthrown by refusing to cooperate with the
          state. Henry David Thoreau influenced many nonviolent protest
          movements with a similar theme in "On the Duty of Civil
          Disobedience." As Thoreau put it: "If the alternative is to keep
          all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State
          will not hesitate which to choose." The success of the nonviolent
          anti-communist revolutions lends new support to the tactical
          insight of la Boetie and Thoreau.

          But anarchists have a more instrumental reason to oppose the use
          of violence. Terrorism has been very effective in establishing
          new and more oppressive regimes; but it is nearly impossible to
          find any instance where terrorism led to greater freedom. For the
          natural instinct of the populace is to rally to support its
          government when terrorism is on the rise; so terrorism normally
          leads to greater brutality and tighter regulation by the existing
          state. And when terrorism succeeds in destroying an existing
          government, it merely creates a power vacuum without
          fundamentally changing anyone's mind about the nature of power.
          The predictable result is that a new state, worse than its
          predecessor, will swiftly appear to fill the void. Thus, the
          importance of using nonviolent tactics to advance anarchist ideas
          is hard to overstate.

      21. How might an anarchist society be achieved?

          On one level, most modern anarchists agree fully that
          education and persuasion are the most effective way to
          move society towards their ultimate destination. There is the
          conviction that "ideas matter"; that the state exists because
          most people honestly and firmly believe that the state is just,
          necessary, and beneficial, despite a few drawbacks. Winston
          Churchill famously remarked that, "It has been said that
          democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others
          that have been tried." The anarchist's goal is to disprove
          Churchill's claim: to show that contrary to popular belief,
          Western democracy is not only bad but inferior to a very
          different but realistic alternative.

          Aside from this, the similarity between anarchist approaches
          breaks down. In particular, what should the "transitional" phase
          look like? Anarcho-capitalists generally see every reduction in
          government power and activity as a step in the right direction.
          In consequence, they usually support any measure to deregulate,
          repeal laws, and cut taxation and spending (naturally with the
          caveat that the cuts do not go nearly far enough). Similarly,
          they can only hail the spread of the underground economy or
          "black market," tax evasion, and other acts of defiance against
          unjust laws.

          The desirable transitional path for the left-anarchist is more
          problematic. It is hard to support expansion of the state when it
          is the state that one opposes so fervently. And yet, it is
          difficult to advocate the abolition of e.g. welfare programs when
          they are an important means of subsistence for the oppressed
          lower classes of capitalist society. Perhaps the most viable
          intermediate step would be to expand the voluntary alternatives
          to capitalist society: voluntary communes, cooperatives,
          worker-owned firms, or whatever else free people might establish
          to fulfill their own needs while they enlighten others.

      22. What are some addresses for anarchist World Wide Web sites?

          To begin with, there is my homepage at:
             + Bryan Caplan Archives

               I keep the list of addresses short because the sites
               provided allow easy access to a large number of related

               Some starting points for discussion of left-anarchism are:

             + Anarchist Archives
               The best page of its type, in my view.

             + Prominent Anarchists and Left-Libertarians

             + The Portland Anarchist Web Page

             + An Anarchy Page

             + Anarchist Yearbook -- Phoenix Press

             + Spunk Press Catalog

             + Critiques of Libertarianism

             + Burn

             + All About Anarchism

               Some starting points for discussion of anarcho-capitalism


             + James Donald's Liberty Page

             + Institute for Humane Studies

             + Niels Buhl Homepage

             + Libertarian Web Page

             + International Society for Individual Liberty

             + Libertarian Alliance

             + David Friedman Homepage

               There are several other anarchism FAQs available on the web.
               None of them are to my complete satisfaction; among other
               failings, they normally either ignore anarcho-capitalism
               entirely, or attack a straw man version thereof, and thus do
               little to clarify the most heated of the net-related
               debates. On the positive side, these other FAQs often have
               much more historical information than mine does. See for


               There does exist a FAQ written by Roger McCain on
               libertarian socialism and left-anarchism of markedly higher
               quality than the preceding five. It is archived at:

               A new, highly detailed FAQ from a left-anarchist perspective
               has recently been set up, ostensibly in celebration of the
               60th anniversary of the Spanish Revolution. It is available

               My FAQ is beginning to amass its share of critics who prefer
               to write full-length replies. Those that I am aware of are:
             + Rebuttal to the Anarchism FAQ of Bryan Caplan by Lamont

             + Replies to Some Errors and Distortions in Bryan Caplan's
               Anarchist Theory FAQ version 4.1.1

               My only comment is that it is simply untrue that I have
               ignored criticisms of my FAQ. There are numerous points I
               have altered or expanded it due to criticism I have
               received; and when I disagree with a critic's claim, I
               frequently ask permission to quote their reservations
               verbatim in the next revision. It is however true that I
               only respond to private e-mail criticisms; attacks simply
               posted to Usenet are unlikely to come to my attention.

          To my knowledge there is no page which contains a broad survey
          along the lines of this FAQ. However, these sources in
          combination should give a good picture of the wide range of
          anarchist opinion, along with more information on history and
          current events which I chose not to discuss in detail herein.
          Examination of these sites can also give a reasonable picture of
          how left-anarchism and anarcho- capitalism intellectually relate
          to the broader progressive and libertarian movements,

      23. What are some major anarchist writings?

          This list is by no means intended to be exhaustive; nor does
          inclusion here necessarily indicate that the work is of
          particularly high quality. In particular, both Heider's and
          Marshall's works contain a number of embarrassing factual errors.
          (Some of the more glaring errors from Marshall's Demanding the
          Impossible appear to have been corrected in this linked exerpt.)

          Particularly well-written and canonical expressions of different
          anarchist theories are noted with an asterisk (*). Broad surveys
          of anarchism are noted with a number sign (#).

             + Mihail Bakunin. God and the State
             + * Mikhail Bakunin. The Political Philosophy of Bakunin
             + Mikhail Bakunin. Statism and Anarchy
             + Bruce Benson. The Enterprise of Law: Justice without the
             + Alexander Berkman. The ABC of Anarchism
             + Etienne de la Boetie. The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude
               (also published as The Politics of Obedience: the Discourse
               of Voluntary Servitude)
             + Burnett Bolloten. The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and
             + Murray Bookchin. Post-Scarcity Anarchism
             + Frank Brooks, ed. The Individualist Anarchists: An Anthology
               of Liberty (1881-1908)
             + Roy Childs. Liberty Against Power
             + Frank Chodorov. Fugitive Essays
             + Noam Chomsky. American Power and the New Mandarins
             + Noam Chomsky. The Chomsky Reader
             + Tyler Cowen, ed. The Theory of Market Failure (also
               published as Public Goods and Market Failures)
             + Douglas Davis and Charles Holt. Experimental Economics
             + Ronald Fraser. Blood of Spain: An Oral History of the
               Spanish Civil War
             + * David Friedman. The Machinery of Freedom
             + William Godwin. The Anarchist Writings of William Godwin
             + Emma Goldman. Anarchism and Other Essays
             + *# Daniel Guerin. Anarchism: From Theory to Practice
             + # Ulrike Heider. Anarchism: Left, Right, and Green
             + Hans-Hermann Hoppe. A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism
             + Anthony de Jasay. Social Contract, Free Ride
             + Leonard Krimerman and Lewis Perry, eds. Patterns of Anarchy
             + * Peter Kropotkin. The Essential Kropotkin
             + Peter Kropotkin. Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution
             + * Carl Landauer. European Socialism: A History of Ideas and
             + Bruno Leoni. Freedom and the Law
             + Wendy McElroy. Freedom, Feminism, and the State
             + # Peter Marshall. Demanding the Impossible: A History of
             + James Martin. Men Against the State: The Expositors of
               Individualist Anarchism in America, 1827-1908
             + Gustave de Molinari. "The Production of Security"
             + Albert Jay Nock. Our Enemy the State
             + Albert Jay Nock. The State of the Union
             + Robert Nozick. Anarchy, State, and Utopia
             + Franz Oppenheimer. The State
             + David Osterfeld. Freedom, Society, and the State : An
               Investigation into the Possibility of Society without
             + *# J. Roland Pennock and John W. Chapman, eds. Anarchism,
               Nomos vol.19
             + Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. What is Property?
             + Murray Rothbard. Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature
             + Murray Rothbard. The Ethics of Liberty
             + * Murray Rothbard. For a New Liberty
             + Murray Rothbard. Power and Market
             + David Schmidtz. The Limits of Government: An Essay on the
               Public Goods Argument
             + Lysander Spooner. The Lysander Spooner Reader
             + * Lysander Spooner. No Treason: The Constitution of No
             + Max Stirner. The Ego and Its Own
             + Morris and Linda Tannehill. The Market for Liberty
             + Henry David Thoreau. The Portable Thoreau
             + Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy on Civil Disobedience and Non- Violence
             + Benjamin Tucker. Instead of a Book, by a Man Too Busy to
               Write One
             + Gordon Tullock, ed. Further Explorations in the Theory of
             + Robert Paul Wolff. In Defence of Anarchism
             + # George Woodcock. Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas
               and Movements
             + # E.V. Zenker. Anarchism: A Criticism and History of the
               Anarchist Theory


     For comments, suggestions, corrections, etc., write Thanks to Fabio Rojas, James Donald, David
     Friedman, Robert Vienneau, Ken Steube, Ben Haller, Vincent Cook, Bill
     Woolsey, Conal Smith, Jim Kalb, Chris Faatz, J. Shamlin, Keith Lynch,
     Rose Lucas, Bruce Baechler, Jim Cook, Jack Jansen, Tom Wetzel, Steve
     Koval, Brent Jass, Tracy Harms, Ian Goddard, and I.M. McKay for
     helpful advice or other assistance.

     Return to Bryan Caplan Homepage

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