Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Anarchy and libertarianism

If you were asked to distinguish between anarchy and libertarianism (are they different?), how would you approach it? From an economic viewpoint or a law and order position? I would start with economics because that is where I see the most massive intrusion by government. This is very apt in view of the "Occupy (fill in blank) Protests" that have sprung up in North American cities over the past few weeks, where economic ignorance abounds.

Whenever I try to explain to someone that a free enterprise economy is self regulating (given a chance), I invariably get asked a series of "what if" type questions. What if an entrepreneur has a monopoly, charges exorbitant prices and rips people off? What if an employer is exploiting his workers with low wages and long hours? Shouldn't government step in and regulate the price, or the hourly wage or do something? My answers range from a curt "no" to a pointless attempt at explaining Austrian Economic theory in 30 seconds. My answers invariably leave the listener thinking that I am an anarchist, even though nothing could be further from the truth. The big problem is, that this disagreement often shuts down any further discussion.
True laissez faire capitalism, the kind advocated by most libertarians, has an uncanny resemblance to anarchy for any one who believes that economies must be regulated, that governments must intercede to control prices and wages; in other words for anyone who advocates a "mixed" economy such as we have. This is true of anyone who is a socialist, or fascist, a Liberal, or Conservative, all of them are statists of some form or other. All would agree that some level of coercion is necessary for governments to function. In general, libertarians don't agree. So it's no accident that the libertarian idea is confused with anarchy. 

The spontaneous order of a free market is as impossible to understand for a brainwashed statist, as evolution by natural selection is for a brainwashed theist. 

Notice I haven't even mentioned the "law and order" aspect of government yet, the statists usually can't get past our economics to even hear about our ideas on a military, police, courts, and justice system that includes restitution.
Virtually all libertarians of my acquaintance including myself are minarchists of some sort, not anarchists

Minarchists believe in limited government, government whose sole purpose is to protect the negative rights of individuals, life, liberty, property, and personal security. These are the rights we were born into or were created by our own individual effort, and to a libertarian these are our only government entitlements. 

Libertarian anarchists believe the state is immoral and they would advocate stateless societies, just voluntary associations without a hierarchy. Doesn't that sound like some regular libertarians you may know? It does to me.   

My point is, there is some difference between a libertarian minarchist and a libertarian anarchist, but I would venture to say they are more similar than most libertarians are to conservative statists.

If we libertarians are attempting to bring about a new world order, one person at a time, then we must include everyone within our fold, anarchists, statists, and collectivists of all stripes, and everything in between. Libertarian persuasion should be universally applied.   

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