Two local activists and thinkers, Abel Tomlinson and Hogeye Bill, have written about their own takes on libertarianism for the Free Weekly. Abel writes on libertarian socialism, Bill on libertarian capitalism. I thank them both for the opportunity to republish their work here!
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
We live in a cage that prevents sincere freedom and justice, and ultimately deeper democracy and peace. The bars of this cage are comprised of power hierarchies, which divide people into classes and countries that childishly wage endless, costly wars. Consequently, this locks up the highest potential for humanity by constraining our psychologies, relationships, and peaceful socioeconomic evolution.
When speaking of politics, the core issue is power. The question becomes: is power concentrated in the hands of one person or a few people in de facto dictatorship? This applies not just to political power, but also centralized economic power in the form of dictatorial private corporations.
Clearly, wealth is power. In our system of extreme inequality, the wealthiest few have far more power to buy property resources, politicians, elections, laws and entire governments. That is oligarchy, and a 2014 Princeton study found this is what we have, not democracy.
Dismantling power imbalances, and building something with deeper freedom and justice, has been the aim of libertarian socialism since the Enlightenment, from Godwin to Chomsky. Institutions targeted for dissolution are the coercive state, the oppressive security apparatus for the wealthiest few, and capitalism itself, which inherently generates vast inequality and injustice.
This rich philosophical tradition of more traditional anarchism has largely remained hidden from Americans by information gatekeepers. Few teachers, politicians or media institutions intelligently mention it. Despite capitalist and communist distortions creating manifold misunderstandings, the historical fact remains that libertarian socialism has always meant a highly organized system where people govern themselves, without rulers.
Philosopher Rudolph Rocker wrote, “(Anarchism is) a definite trend in the historical development of mankind, which…strives for the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life. (Anarchists would replace political and capitalistic economic dictatorships that divide) every country into hostile classes internally, and externally…into hostile nations; (causing) open antagonism and by their ceaseless warfare keep the communal social life in continual convulsions.”
Importantly, we have examples of libertarian socialism succeeding. In addition to thousands of functional worker co-operatives globally, examine the 1936 Spanish Revolution. Anarchists took over considerable regions of Spain, arguably the best modern example of true civilization, before communists, fascists and capitalists crushed them.
George Orwell described the Spanish Revolution well: “(The) normal motives of civilized life—snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc… ceased to exist…class-division of society (disappeared and) no one owned anyone else as his master. (There was) a feeling of having suddenly emerged into an era of equality and freedom. Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine.”
As in Spain, this more evolved order must be organized based on smaller organic units of power, such as democratized workplaces, villages and neighborhoods. According to Dunbar’s Number, derived from measuring the neocortex ratio of primates, the ideal unit is approximately 150 people.
These smaller units would make local decisions, and elect representatives that can be immediately recalled in a global federation. Collective, federated decision-making is essential for peace and fearless disarmament. A more just system of wealth and property decentralization would also vastly reduce or eliminate crime.
A federated architecture would also protect the most vital human needs of clean water and healthy soil for food production, the most fundamental basis of a sane, sustainable economy. Indeed, capitalist destruction of soil and water is the most unsustainable and violently impoverishing human activity. Soil takes thousands of years to form, so its ruin promises reverberation for millennia and untold generations. Even “progressive” Fayetteville endlessly paves paradise for parking lots, in the words of Joni Mitchell.
To evolve beyond the destructive dominator paradigm, the dictatorial state and capitalist corporations must be replaced. However, other hierarchies demand dissolution as well, including patriarchy, racial supremacy, Nature domination and middle man religion. Christian Anarchists took steps on the latter, with Leo Tolstoy’s Kingdom of God is Within being a foundational document, inspiring Gandhi, Dr. King and the Berrigan brothers.
Ultimately, the current system is a chaotic house of cards that must transform or crumble. An evolutionary social vision is mandatory to alter the structures threatening our survival, particularly in terms of climate change and nuclear war. These problems go deeper than Trump, since both Wall Street war parties sell bombs to dictators, and profit from war and environmental holocaust.
People speak of Trump not representing our values, but the reality is, mainstream American culture has none. He is the unmasked face of the corporatist empire where money is the American idol, where profit matters more than human life. It is painfully unjust, disgusting and embarrassingly cruel when capitalist tycoons drown in money while workers struggle to afford medicine, pay rent and feed their children. Trump is the American mirror.
We must peer into the mirror, and ignite a revolution in the mind, as Krishnamurti insisted. Begin with a few leaves, some beautiful ideas, and a then a spark. From there, breathe life into this fire until it is a raging revolutionary inferno, impossible to extinguish.
Social evolution is a developing child, first an infant, then toddler, and now selfish warring juveniles. A Newer World awaits adult cage free humanity.
I hope to explain what libertarian capitalism is, and what anarcho-capitalism is. Government has two main aspects – extent and purpose. Extent – how much violence power it wields – can be gauged by how much a government taxes, spends, incarcerates, and so on. Anarchists, by definition, reject all government violence-power in principle, preferring voluntary cooperation.
Anarchists believe that all the good things that government currently produces, such as courts, police, roads, and education, can be done better and more morally by voluntary society – “the market.” Anarcho-capitalists believe that private property (by entitlement, not decree) is generally the best way to solve the scarcity problem peacefully. This belief makes us “capitalist.” We favor out-competing government, not violent revolution, and work on projects such as private education (online learning) private money (crypto currency,) private courts, and private police firms. (Would citizens of Ferguson choose a belligerent all-white police patrol in a freed market with competing companies?)
Libertarian capitalists want an economy based on free markets and private property. Free markets, to us, mean no government intervention whatsoever – no subsidies, cartelizing regulations, or licensure. We make a clear distinction between market capitalists and crony capitalists. Like our libertarian socialist cohorts, we strongly oppose corporatism, which is collusion between government and favored “crony” firms. If government is involved, it is not libertarian capitalism.
Anarcho-capitalists are the radicals – we want no compulsory government whatsoever. More centrist libertarian capitalists are called “minarchists” since they want a minimal State limited to courts, police, and national defense. Redistribution and social engineering are not valid functions of government.
Libertarians see mainstream media as offering a false dichotomy between statist socialism and statist capitalism. Free market solutions are off their radar. To mainstream media, a treaty creating a trade cartel is a “free trade agreement!” Similarly, we are offered the choice between nationalized medicine and fascist medicine, with no mention of the free market alternative. Libertarians want people to consider voluntary alternatives to the “government gun.”
Some libertarian capitalist positions:
1) Anti-war and anti-imperialist. We oppose military intervention in foreign countries. Minarchists want a defense-only military, or no standing army at all. Anarcho-capitalists would rely for defense on insurance firms, guerrilla warfare, militias, and the lack of incentive to attack peaceful trading partners. Free markets create an automatic constituency for peace.
2) We are against neo-liberalism and other efforts of governments to control, regulate, or capture international trade. Trade should be voluntary, not enforced by governments. We oppose the corporatocracy; States should not be loan sharks to developing nations.
3) We are against corporatism. We think large corporations would mostly disappear in a freed market, lacking the government subsidies that give them advantages and create barriers for competition.
4) Employment is incidental to capitalism. It is fine so long as it is voluntary. We look forward to a time when everyone is an individual entrepreneur, cooperating with other producers as equal traders. (Here we disagree with libertarian socialists. We think employment is okay but sub-optimal; they think it is evil “wage slavery.”)
5) Anarcho-capitalists want voluntary society to prevail, and take over all (legitimate) functions that the state now does. Anarcho-socialists, our counterparts, concur.
Libertarianism, in essence, is about moving humanity away from the coercive rule of authorities, and toward a society where all activities are voluntary. Libertarian capitalists predict that, in a stateless society, many/most people will opt for some type of private property. Libertarian socialists think that many/most people will opt for some type of collective property. In a stateless society these wouldn’t conflict; there is ample scope for experimentation in freedom.
Most libertarians hold a non-aggression ethic – that one should not initiate force (violence) against others. Libertarians (as such) are not pacifists; we believe in self-defense, but the initiation of force is criminal. Most people agree with this non-aggression presumption in their personal lives, but statists give government a free pass. E.g. People who would never demand money from their neighbor at gunpoint, think nothing of voting for their government to do just that. Government, to statists, is above human morality. Libertarians, in contrast, hold everyone to the same moral standard.
Abel is a libertarian socialist, so he shares my belief in limited government. When he speaks against capitalism, keep in mind that he defines “capitalism” as only the statist type, corporatism. In past discussions he didn’t address libertarian capitalism at all. But listen to him! Libertarian socialists have a very good critique of statist capitalism. Libertarian capitalists agree with his analysis of capitalism perverted by government. We hate Pinochet and fascism, too. The kind of capitalism libertarian capitalists favor is no-government free market capitalism – the separation of economics and State.