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A critique of Libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism. watch

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    Found a really good critique of Libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism on infoshop, the whole article is here.

    What do "anarcho"-capitalists mean by freedom?


    For "anarcho"-capitalists, the concept of freedom is limited to the idea of "freedom from." For them, freedom means simply freedom from the "initiation of force," or the "non-aggression against anyone's person and property." [Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty, p. 23] The notion that real freedom must combine both freedom "to" and freedom "from" is missing in their ideology, as is the social context of the so-called freedom they defend.

    Before continuing, it is useful to quote Alan Haworth when he notes that "[i]n fact, it is surprising how little close attention the concept of freedom receives from libertarian writers. Once again Anarchy, State, and Utopia is a case in point. The word 'freedom' doesn't even appear in the index. The word 'liberty' appears, but only to refer the reader to the 'Wilt Chamberlain' passage. In a supposedly 'libertarian' work, this is more than surprising. It is truly remarkable." [Anti-Libertarianism, p. 95] Why this is the case can be seen from how the right-"libertarian" defines freedom.

    In right-"libertarian" and "anarcho"-capitalist ideology, freedom is considered to be a product of property. As Murray Rothbard puts it, "the libertarian defines the concept of 'freedom' or 'liberty'. . .[as a] condition in which a person's ownership rights in his body and his legitimate material property rights are not invaded, are not aggressed against. . . . Freedom and unrestricted property rights go hand in hand." [Op. Cit., p.41]

    This definition has some problems, however. In such a society, one cannot (legitimately) do anything with or on another's property if the owner prohibits it. This means that an individual's only guaranteed freedom is determined by the amount of property that he or she owns. This has the consequence that someone with no property has no guaranteed freedom at all (beyond, of course, the freedom not to be murdered or otherwise harmed by the deliberate acts of others). In other words, a distribution of property is a distribution of freedom, as the right-"libertarians" themselves define it. It strikes anarchists as strange that an ideology that claims to be committed to promoting freedom entails the conclusion that some people should be more free than others. Yet this is the logical implication of their view, which raises a serious doubt as to whether "anarcho"-capitalists are actually interested in freedom at all.

    Looking at Rothbard's definition of "liberty" quoted above, we can see that freedom is actually no longer considered to be a fundamental, independent concept. Instead, freedom is a derivative of something more fundamental, namely the "legitimate rights" of an individual, which are identified as property rights. In other words, given that "anarcho"-capitalists and right-"libertarians" in general consider the right to property as "absolute," it follows that freedom and property become one and the same. This suggests an alternative name for the right Libertarian, namely "Propertarian." And, needless to say, if we do not accept the right-libertarians' view of what constitutes "legitimate rights," then their claim to be defenders of liberty is weak.

    Another important implication of this "liberty as property" concept is that it produces a strangely alienated concept of freedom. Liberty, as we noted, is no longer considered absolute, but a derivative of property -- which has the important consequence that you can "sell" your liberty and still be considered free by the ideology. This concept of liberty is usually termed "self-ownership." But, to state the obvious, I do not "own" myself, as if were an object somehow separable from my subjectivity -- I am myself (see section B.4.2). However, the concept of "self-ownership" is handy for justifying various forms of domination and oppression -- for by agreeing (usually under the force of circumstances, we must note) to certain contracts, an individual can "sell" (or rent out) themselves to others (for example, when workers sell their labour power to capitalists on the "free market"). In effect, "self-ownership" becomes the means of justifying treating people as objects -- ironically, the very thing the concept was created to stop! As anarchist L. Susan Brown notes, "[a]t the moment an individual 'sells' labour power to another, he/she loses self-determination and instead is treated as a subjectless instrument for the fulfilment of another's will." [The Politics of Individualism, p. 4]

    Given that workers are paid to obey, you really have to wonder which planet Murray Rothbard was on when he argued that a person's "labour service is alienable, but his will is not" and that he "cannot alienate his will, more particularly his control over his own mind and body." He contrasts private property and self-ownership by arguing that "[a]ll physical property owned by a person is alienable . . . I can give away or sell to another person my shoes, my house, my car, my money, etc. But there are certain vital things which, in natural fact and in the nature of man, are inalienable . . . [his] will and control over his own person are inalienable." [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 40, p. 135 and pp. 134-5] Yet "labour services" are unlike the private possessions Rothbard lists as being alienable. As we argued in section B.1 a person's "labour services" and "will" cannot be divided -- if you sell your labour services, you also have to give control of your body and mind to another person. If a worker does not obey the commands of her employer, she is fired. That Rothbard denied this indicates a total lack of common-sense. Perhaps Rothbard would have argued that as the worker can quit at any time she does not really alienate their will (this seems to be his case against slave contracts -- see section F.2.2). But this ignores the fact that between the signing and breaking of the contract and during work hours (and perhaps outside work hours, if the boss has mandatory drug testing or will fire workers who attend union or anarchist meetings or those who have an "unnatural" sexuality and so on) the worker does alienate his will and body. In the words of Rudolf Rocker, "under the realities of the capitalist economic form . . . there can . . . be no talk of a 'right over one's own person,' for that ends when one is compelled to submit to the economic dictation of another if he does not want to starve." [Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 10]

    Another article shows how what libertarians really advocate, is not the removal of the state, but actually the creation of many private states.

    I think its always been obvious that when libertarians talk of freedom, it has merely been freedom for the rich, and that there opposition to the state is merely based on the fact that they dont want to have there pursuit of wealth interfeared with. What they fail to note is that for a free market system to exist a state must exist, because without the repressive state mechanism such as a police force etc (even if privately provided it is still a mechanism of state control) then there would be nothing protecting them and their property.
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    Thank you for this. I have often struggled with the paradox that Libertarianism actually gives rise to very unfree situations and builds in the basis for further deviation of freedom (namely inequality but aslo, as you mentioned, the right of people to exclude others for pathetic reasons - 'I won't hire because she's lesbian' etc).

    However, arising from this critique (and the tone it was written in) is a socialistic/communitarian 'no-property' line. To follow this through completely, you must negate property and aspire to some kind of Utopia which (I'll take as accepted - please dispute if not so) is unnatainable. There is some freedom to be gained from property (indeed, much) as well as beneficial societal outcomes from the mixed economy. If we are to accept that freedom does not derive from property, we must (I believe) accept concurrently that freedom can be gained from it.

    For example, I think that it is right (free, beneficial...) that someone may open a private school or hospital even though this will bestow privelege and inequality. Whilst property does not trump everything, we must work within a property-led framework
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    I would say it is attainable, you only have to look at the kibutzim in Isreal, or the anarchist movement in spain before the civil war, or the Zapatista autonomous communities in Chiapas, that communitarian society is a realistic posibility.

    On property, i think a distinction should be made between private and personal property, for example housing. Under a capitalistic system, you are not really free unless you own your house. Whilst in a comunal society, all property would be held in common, housing would be considered personal property, to the extent that you would be free to use your home as you wish as long as it doesnt unjustly deny liberty to others.
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    As a finite, and often scarce, resource, private property both creates freedom (for those who own) and takes it away (for those who don't). I'm not suggesting that private property can be done away with very easily but it clearly does represent a big spanner in the works of any claim libertarianism might make to the idea of liberty and freedom from force trumping all other considerations.
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    I give it about 15 minutes before DrunkHamster turns up and lays into this :p:
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    (even if privately provided it is still a mechanism of state control) then there would be nothing protecting them and their property.
    How is it a mechanism of state control if its privately owned?
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    (Original post by Tory Dan)
    How is it a mechanism of state control if its privately owned?
    Private property laws are enforced by the state (the state allows private property to exist via legislation and engages in its protection via the police, bearing in mind that the vast majority of crimes are against property).
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    (Original post by Tory Dan)
    How is it a mechanism of state control if its privately owned?
    Because the market requires a state in order to exist, what a completely right-libertarian society would do is create many private state aparatus, each competeing based on price. The role is still the same, to control the workers, protect the capitalist class and their property, and to protect the state.
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    (Original post by Andy the Anarchist)
    Private property laws are enforced by the state (the state allows private property to exist via legislation and engages in its protection via the police, bearing in mind that the vast majority of crimes are against property).
    Yes but property rights come from natural rights and ultimately if you want to go into it God. In a libertarian world people would pay for private security or defend property themselves as there would be no tyrannical laws on guns or self defence, this negates any sort of state interference.
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    Thanks for the thread, but I thought it was pretty obvious that Libertarianism/Anarcho-Capitalism are both stupid ideologies? On the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, it's also nice to point out that in an anarchist state nothing as great as a moon landing could ever be achieved.
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    (Original post by Tory Dan)
    Yes but property rights come from natural rights and ultimately if you want to go into it God. In a libertarian world people would pay for private security or defend property themselves as there would be no tyrannical laws on guns or self defence, this negates any sort of state interference.
    If you want to prove that God exists and that he approves of private property, be my guest. :p:

    I seem to believe that Jesus required his followers to abandon their property before they could be considered Christians, but oh well.

    Religion being the bulwark of privilege, who would've thought :rolleyes:
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    (Original post by Jaager)
    In right-"libertarian" and "anarcho"-capitalist ideology, freedom is considered to be a product of property. As Murray Rothbard puts it, "the libertarian defines the concept of 'freedom' or 'liberty'. . .[as a] condition in which a person's ownership rights in his body and his legitimate material property rights are not invaded, are not aggressed against. . . . Freedom and unrestricted property rights go hand in hand." [Op. Cit., p.41]
    They do indeed go hand in hand, but to say "freedom is considered to be a product of property" is an absolute nonsense and something which you have completely failed to justify.

    This definition has some problems, however. In such a society, one cannot (legitimately) do anything with or on another's property if the owner prohibits it. This means that an individual's only guaranteed freedom is determined by the amount of property that he or she owns.
    To be 'free' doesn't mean that you should have rights to what you have not earned. I may be free, but that doesn't give me any standing to, say, take someone's money because it would give me greater options in life.

    Considering the socialist and the lefty recognise no legitimate private property rights and thus no property-based freedom whatsoever, it seems rather rich of them to criticise the fact that some people may not have those freedoms in a Libertarian society.

    In other words, given that "anarcho"-capitalists and right-"libertarians" in general consider the right to property as "absolute"
    I don't think that's true of all Libertarians at all.

    This concept of liberty is usually termed "self-ownership." But, to state the obvious, I do not "own" myself, as if were an object somehow separable from my subjectivity -- I am myself (see section B.4.2).
    You are yourself of course, but that does not exclude the concept of self-ownership. Which is a very important point in any liberal ideology: that someone is entitled to be himself, has rights independent of reference to any other individual, has an entitlement to the fruits of his labour and so forth.

    As anarchist L. Susan Brown notes, "[a]t the moment an individual 'sells' labour power to another, he/she loses self-determination and instead is treated as a subjectless instrument for the fulfilment of another's will." [The Politics of Individualism, p. 4]
    So she's never had a job?

    No, a person always has absolute freedom in a libertarian society to self-determine. But yes, in exchange for someone's money one must fulfil that other person's will. That is not an alienation, simply an acceptance of two separate wills meeting for mutual satisfaction: the fundamental basis of contract.

    if you sell your labour services, you also have to give control of your body and mind to another person. If a worker does not obey the commands of her employer, she is fired.
    Precisely - and that ability to withdraw from such a relationship and end it if the will becomes lacking is what separates the human mind from an object.

    -------------------------------------

    (Original post by Janos_D)
    Thank you for this. I have often struggled with the paradox that Libertarianism actually gives rise to very unfree situations and builds in the basis for further deviation of freedom (namely inequality but aslo, as you mentioned, the right of people to exclude others for pathetic reasons - 'I won't hire because she's lesbian' etc).
    I'm afraid I don't see how that could possibly be seen as an 'unfree situation'.
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    (Original post by Andy the Anarchist)
    If you want to prove that God exists and that he approves of private property, be my guest. :p:

    I seem to believe that Jesus required his followers to abandon their property before they could be considered Christians, but oh well.

    Religion being the bulwark of privilege, who would've thought :rolleyes:
    Lolz, its just to do with the fact I've done Medieval Politic Theory this past year which relates how in regards to property due to the original sin.
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    (Original post by Xerophelistica)
    Thanks for the thread, but I thought it was pretty obvious that Libertarianism/Anarcho-Capitalism are both stupid ideologies? On the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, it's also nice to point out that in an anarchist state nothing as great as a moon landing could ever be achieved.
    They do seem stupid ideologies, but they have a strong internal consistency.

    You don't even need to go as far as the moon - none of modern science would be sustained or indeed high speed and efficient rail (think France), in fact I am sure that a libertarian society would be almost as backwards as a communal one :p:
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    (Original post by L i b)
    They do indeed go hand in hand, but to say "freedom is considered to be a product of property" is an absolute nonsense and something which you have completely failed to justify.

    .
    The opportunity to exercise freedom is a product of wealth in a purely libertarian society - and wealth creates wealth, so people are born with fewer and fewer opportunities to exercise freedom
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    A few points in response to the OP:

    - Self-ownership can also be seen as individual sovereignty. Look at it this way, the fact that human beings control ourselves comes from our physiology and psychology. Saying "I own myself" is just another way of saying "no other force has dominion over me".

    - While libertarians support a market economy, this is not necessarily synonymous with capitalism as we know it today. Libertarians would hold no issue with communes, or other collectivised groups, existing in a libertarian society.
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    (Original post by Janos_D)
    The opportunity to exercise freedom is a product of wealth in a purely libertarian society - and wealth creates wealth, so people are born with fewer and fewer opportunities to exercise freedom
    I simply do not accept the first statement in that argument, and you've made no attempt to justify it. I can be entirely free and self-determining without private property. However as in any system, one must be of use to others in order to create options in life - that is not about freedom, but about what one can legitimately take from others. Even in a completely property-free world, the very same would be true: in such a world, someone who was completely unskilled would still not be given a job as, say, a surgeon. Is that a limitation on his freedom? Of course not.

    Moreover, to take the property-free perspective supported by the OP: that is to deny everyone the right to any "freedom" (as he wishes to put it) which comes about from the ownership of property.
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    (Original post by L i b)
    I simply do not accept the first statement in that argument, and you've made no attempt to justify it. I can be entirely free and self-determining without private property. However as in any system, one must be of use to others in order to create options in life - that is not about freedom, but about what one can legitimately take from others. Even in a completely property-free world, the very same would be true: in such a world, someone who was completely unskilled would still not be given a job as, say, a surgeon. Is that a limitation on his freedom? Of course not.
    But if someone was not given the opportunity to train as a surgeon - because his parents were (for the sake of argument) talentless layabouts, despite him having much potential - then not only his freedom, but other people's (who would benefit from his treatment - or perhaps a discovery he makes) would be curtailed. This is why I support free education - which only the state can provide on a universal basis.

    Furthermore, this person would then perpetuate the cycle of lack of opportunities for his children because he failed to get a job that was well paid.

    If you define freedom as 'what would happen if nobody did anything' then libertarianism, tautologically, promotes freedom. But I do not think that that is an adequate definition of freedom

    Moreover, to take the property-free perspective supported by the OP: that is to deny everyone the right to any "freedom" (as he wishes to put it) which comes about from the ownership of property.
    and I think he is misguided there.
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    (Original post by L i b)
    I'm afraid I don't see how that could possibly be seen as an 'unfree situation'.

    Although the bulk of your critisisms of the points raised article actually ignored most of what was writen, e.g. you say you have the freedom to withdraw from the employer/employee relationship. however there is no freedom here because to do so would mean that the individual would be choosing poverty, the choice between wage slavery and starvation, isnt really a choice...

    So you dont see how refusing to employ someone based on sexuality is unfree? What about thinking of the womans rights rather than simply the employers, what about her right to employment?
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    (Original post by Andy the Anarchist)
    Private property laws are enforced by the state (the state allows private property to exist via legislation and engages in its protection via the police, bearing in mind that the vast majority of crimes are against property).
    Well if you are going to say that state enforcement of something that encourages 'freedom from' the state is also, in a way, authoritarian, you are falling into the same paradox that mathematicians in the early 20th century were having problems understanding: If you were to classify things by whether or not they belonged to at least one 'set' (or 'group' of numbers) or not, then you would on one side have things which do belong to special groups, and on the other have things which don't. But then those things which don't belong to a special set are themselves a group, or set, of numbers, which contradicts their definition.

    You are saying that state laws that encourage freedom from the state and from public ownership do themselves intrude on individual rights because they are state laws. You have to draw the line somewhere.

    You say that acting upon these laws using the police and so on is state control, but if those things were not present, then what exactly would there be to defend the individual rights which are so important in libertarianism?
 
 
 
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