Criticisms of anarcho-capitalism

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Criticisms of anarcho-capitalism include moral criticisms, pragmatic criticisms, the argument that anarcho-capitalism could not be maintained, and the argument that a society can be anarchist or capitalist, but not both.

Justice and defense[edit]

Some critics argue that anarcho-capitalism turns justice into a commodity; private defense and court firms would favour those who pay more for their services.[1] Randall G. Holcombe argues that defense agencies could form cartels and oppress people without fear of competition.[1]

Philosopher Albert Meltzer argued that since anarcho-capitalism promotes the idea of private armies, it actually supports a "limited State." He contends that it "is only possible to conceive of Anarchism which is free, communistic and offering no economic necessity for repression of countering it."[2]

Robert Nozick argues in Anarchy, State and Utopia that an anarcho-capitalist society would inevitably transform into a minarchist state through the eventual emergence of a monopolistic private defense and judicial agency that no longer faces competition. He argues that anarcho-capitalism results in an unstable system that would not endure in the real world. Paul Birch argues that legal disputes involving several jurisdictions and different legal systems will be too complex and costly. Thus, the largest private protection business in a territory will develop into a natural monopoly.[3]

Negative and positive rights[edit]

Many anarcho-capitalists believe that negative rights should be recognized as legitimate but positive rights should be rejected.[3] — a stance that critics dismiss as unethical or selfish. Some critics, including libertarian socialist Noam Chomsky, reject the distinction between positive and negative rights.[3] He writes: "The idea of "free contract" between the potentate and his starving subject is a sick joke, perhaps worth some moments in an academic seminar exploring the consequences of (in my view, absurd) ideas, but nowhere else."[4]

Economics and property[edit]

Most anarchists argue that certain capitalist transactions are not voluntary, and that maintaining the class structure of a capitalist society requires coercion, which violates anarchist principles.[5] David Graeber noted his skepticism about anarcho-capitalism along the same lines.

To be honest I'm pretty skeptical about the idea of anarcho-capitalism. If a-caps imagine a world divided into property-holding employers and property-less wage laborers, but with no systematic coercive mechanisms ... well, I just can't see how it would work. You always see a-caps saying "if I want to hire someone to pick my tomatoes, how are you going to stop me without using coercion?" Notice how you never see anyone say "if I want to hire myself out to pick someone else's tomatoes, how are you going to stop me?" Historically nobody ever did wage labor like that if they had pretty much ANY other option.[6]

Some critics argue that the anarcho-capitalist concept of voluntary choice ignores constraints due to both human and non-human factors, such as the need for food and shelter, and active restriction of both used and unused resources by those enforcing property claims.[7] Thus, if a person requires employment in order to feed and house himself, the employer-employee relationship cannot be voluntary. Another criticism is that employment is involuntary because the economic system that makes it necessary for some individuals to serve others is supported by the enforcement of coercive private property systems.

Some critics regard private property to either be an aggressive institution or a potentially aggressive one, rather than a defensive one, and thus reject claims that relationships based on unequal private property relations could be voluntary.[8] Some philosophies view any ownership claims on land and natural resources as immoral and illegitimate.[9]

Some critics of anarcho-capitalism who support the concept of private property question how natural resources can be validly converted into private property. Some socialists reject the idea of absentee ownership. Anarcho-capitalists have strong abandonment criteria – one maintains ownership (more or less) until one agrees to trade or gift it. The critics of this view tend to have weaker abandonment criteria; for example, one loses ownership (more or less) when one stops personally using it. Also, the idea of perpetually binding original appropriation is anathema to most types of socialism, as well as any philosophy that takes equal human rights to outcomes or common ownership of land and natural resources as a premise.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Holcombe, Randall G. Government: Unnecessary but Inevitable. 
  2. ^ Meltzer, Albert (2000). Anarchism: Arguments For and Against. AK Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-1873176573. 
  3. ^ a b c d Birch, Paul (1998). "Anarcho-capitalism Dissolves Into City States". Libertarian Alliance. Legal Notes. no. 28: 4. ISSN 0267-7083. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  4. ^ Noam Chomsky on anarcho-capitalism
  5. ^ Iain McKay; et al. (21 January 2010). "Section F - Are 'anarcho'-capitalists really anarchists?". An Anarchist FAQ. Retrieved Aug 21, 2013. 
  6. ^ "I am David Graeber, an anthropologist, activist, anarchist and author of Debt. AMA.". Reddit. Retrieved Aug 21, 2013. 
  7. ^ Friedman, David. "Market Failure: The Case for and Against Government". Do We Need a Government?. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  8. ^ "Anarchism is not a form of capitalism". Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  9. ^ McElroy, Wendy (1995) Intellectual Property: The Late Nineteenth Century Libertarian Debate Libertarian Heritage No. 14 ISBN 1-85637-281-2 Retrieved 24 June 2005

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