In my early search for truth, both Philosophical and Political, I was a young person, among many, who stumbled on the Political Philosophy of Libertarianism; in this case, the Molyneux-brand of Libertarianism. In other words, I was an Anarcho-Capitalist (AnCap for short.) Many AnCaps do not like to be defined by the conclusion of ‘Anarchy’ so prefer to be called ‘Voluntarists,’ the idea here being that an Anarcho-Capitalist society is based on purely Voluntary actions. Anarcho-Capitalism is the destination, while Voluntarism is the transportation.
I was compelled by the Philosophy of Voluntarism. I read Murray Rothbard, Von Mises, Ayn Rand, and even Molyneux’s own original works. I felt I had finally found the Philosophy that made sense of the world, and that showed me who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. I could boil everything down to the dialectic of Collectivism Vs. Individualism. I had found the missing link to objective morality in the non-aggression principle (NAP.)
So what is it?
AnCaps believe that the State (the Government) is a mechanism by which tyrants coerce and enslave humanity through the means of taxation, to put it simply. Institutions, such as public schooling and the military-industrial complex, are tools by which this system is propagated. With the help of fiat currency, central banking, and cronyism, the State is an all powerful, omnipresent force pulling the strings and rolling the die in the game of human control.
Minarchists, such as Ayn Rand (Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum) and Ron Paul, subscribe to the same principles but believe the State should exist on a very minimal level, fulfilling essential roles only (such as National Security and Border Control.) They basically promote the idea that the Government shouldn’t really govern anything, (I believe the English language has a word this.) However, as many AnCaps have outlined, due to the oppressive apparatus of the State which invades all areas of society; with its brain washing in public schools, its dependence-trap of the welfare state, and its curtailment of the machinations of Democracy via endless propaganda from State-funded media: The State is determined to always grow in size. By definition, the State is a self-perpetuating Autocracy owned and run by the ruling elite. An unstoppable Leviathan.
Essentially, AnCaps advocate for the abolition of the State. They deem it as an immoral entity, violating the Non-Aggression-Principle by taxing the public, and stunting (if not completely preventing) economic flourishment through the means of needless regulation and vacuous government programs and institutions.
Without the State (AnCaps claim) the free market would dictate how society is formed, meaning everything would be more efficient. Small businesses could exist and thrive without being burdened by minimum wage laws and excessive permits. Corporations would not be able to form oppressive monopolies because there’d be no Crony-Capitalist state. Private healthcare would become cheap and affordable for everyone as the market would only allow the most cost-effective and competitive system to survive. The market could provide everything that the government does, except it would be more efficient. Sounds perfect right?
Despite how compelling this ideology is, it has some issues. For example:
1). Property rights are not absolute
The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) forms the entire basis for morality under Anarcho-Capitalism. What is deemed immoral is the initiation of “force” against someone, or their property. Under this principle, “force” is permissible only when defending yourself against those who initiate this “force.” An example of the initiation of force would be trespassing onto somebody’s property.
With the above in mind, consider the following scenario: Imagine you are walking down the street. It’s night time with nobody around, and through the window of a home you are passing, you see a small child, maybe even a baby, left inside the home and clearly neglected. This child has been left there for days on end, abandoned, and emaciated from starvation. The child does not own the property but is the only one inside. It becomes clear that this child is gradually dying. What will you do?
If you decide to break in and save the child, then you have just violated the property rights of the house owner. You have just initiated force under the NAP, and are now acting immorally under Voluntarism. Despite all this, you would be completely justified in doing so. Yes, this scenario is unlikely, but a million such examples can be used in its place to demonstrate how fallible the NAP is for a foundation of morality. If you try to argue that the property owner is the one who is actually initiating force against the child, then you have to consider my next point very closely.
2). Free market participation isn’t ‘Voluntary.’
When an infant is in the womb, they have no choice whether to be there or not. When the baby is born, and in the child’s formative years, they are completely dependent on their parents or guardians. They don’t voluntarily live where they live, or who they live with, let alone decide what they’re having for dinner or how many toys they can have. In a sense, their parents are coercing their child non-stop, in an uncountable number of ways.
Is it immoral to raise children? Of course not. The children have no means by which they can provide for, and look after, themselves without their parents’ constant care and protection. If we can agree, then, that children don’t have total autonomy in their lives, and that this is a necessary thing, can we consider that absolute autonomy in all instances is not necessarily good?
When the child grows into an adult, they must now look after themselves. They now have to feed themselves, work, pay the bills, etc. The idea that this adult can feasibly just go and live in the wild and exist totally outside of the Capitalist system is absurd as well as utopian nonsense.
There has to be some element of force or coercion in trade. If I’m starving to death and I have to work for a corporation in order to earn money so I can buy food: can my actions be called Voluntary? Yes, I can choose to some extent how I go about getting my money, but ultimately I still have to do it.If you believe, despite all this, that participation in the free market system is a totally voluntary act, free of coercion, then examine my final point.
If you believe, despite all this, that participation in the free market system is a totally voluntary act, free of coercion, then examine my final point.
3). The “tax is theft” thing.
In every facet of life, we have rules. Every club has its etiquette, every company has its code of conduct, and every contract has its terms of agreement. If, as defined by AnCaps, engaging in the free market system is a voluntary act; in other words, if it is something you are totally in control of and have the autonomy to decide to do (or not to do,) then by that very definition you are not forced or coerced into paying any tax.
Taxation cannot be “theft” if you are deciding, voluntarily, to engage in the system that entails taxation. You are simply following the rules by paying your taxes. In fact, if you are the one who chose to engage in such a voluntary system, and you are the one who decides not to pay the fee which is required take part in such a system, then you are the one committing theft. You cannot drive to another state on a road which you don’t own, then deny paying the toll fee for it. You’re the one who decided to use that road. You are the one who decided to engage in the system, and to take advantage of all the other luxuries of commerce.
As a Voluntarist, if you believe that you can decide not to exist in the market system, then you don’t have to. By your very definition it is a privilege, not some unalienable right. Sorry to burst anyone’s self-indulgent bubble.
These are just some of the problematic ideas that exist in Libertarian thought. As with every other proposed system solution, just look at the talking heads.