Quoting Marxo-capitalists out of context?

I've been meaning to reply to this more formerly than I have in the past (as I could not post a comment, I made one at Shawn Wilber's blog). As the wikipedia entry on "An Anarchist FAQ" (AFAQ) mentions it, I thought it would be best to address this claim.

Brad Spangler, in a post entitled Market anarchism as stigmergic socialism argues that AFAQ quotes the founder of "anarcho"-capitalism, Murray Rothbard, "out of context". He

"As an aside, the Anarchist FAQ touches on this matter . . . In a criticism of Friedmanite utilitarianism, Rothbard explains the problem of utilitarianism lacking an anti-state theory of property (unlike his own natural law approach). The FAQ offers an out of context excerpt from a passage that appears to give the impression that Rothbard was arguing in favor of tyranny, when in fact he was doing the exact opposite (in highlighting the shortcomings of the utilitarian approach)."

The FAQ is quoted as follows (from the unrevised section F.1):

"Even worse, the possibility that private property can result in worse violations of individual freedom (at least of workers) than the state of its citizens was implicitly acknowledged by Rothbard. He uses as a hypothetical example a country whose King is threatened by a rising “libertarian” movement. The King responses by “employ[ing] a cunning stratagem,” namely he “proclaims his government to be dissolved, but just before doing so he arbitrarily parcels out the entire land area of his kingdom to the ‘ownership’ of himself and his relatives.” Rather than taxes, his subjects now pay rent and he can “regulate to regulate the lives of all the people who presume to live on” his property as he sees fit."

Spangler states "that part of the Anarchist FAQ critique would appear to lead to an inaccurate perception of what Rothbard was arguing for." Before reading Spangler's post I had assumed that if you quote someone saying something is a "cunning stratagem" then it is obvious that they do not agree with it! I have to admit to being at a lose that someone could think that I was suggesting that Rothbard agreed with this "cunning stratagem". Still, my assumption was wrong. I therefore made it explicit when I revised that section that Rothbard rejected said "cunning stratagem". I still consider this simply stating the bloody obvious, but best to ensure that claims of quoting out of context are squashed -- particularly as I hate it when opponents of anarchism do it to us!

I should also note that I added this quote initially to show that even Rothbard, at times, could admit that private property could be more oppressive than the state, particularly as (as he himself noted) the landlord/capitalist is sovereign on their property. Rather than a desire to "quote out of context", this quote was added to show another self-contradictory notion of Rothbard. Like all ideologues, he could not see the obvious implications for his own ideology of some of his own critiques of the state. It seems that the term "private property" dulls the mind for some...

Anyway, when I revised section F.1 I clarified what was meant, ensuring that it was clear he opposed said "cunning stratagem" while stressing that Rothbard admitted that the hierarchies associated with private property could be as, if not more, oppressive than those of the state.

Finally, I should state that the notion that Rothbardian "anarcho"-capitalism can be described as "a new variety of socialism," "a stigmergic socialism", is simply staggering. By no stretch of the imagination can that ideology be considered socialist. Rothbard spent a great deal of time defending profits, interest and rent -- not to mention the hierarchies associated with wage labour and landlordism. He even considered "hierarchy" as one of "a whole slew of institutions necessary to the triumph of liberty" (the others included organization, "wage-work, granting of funds by libertarian millionaires, and a libertarian political party."

As discussed in AFAQ (section G) the individualist anarchists were socialists because they were against non-labour income, considering profit, interest and rent as exploitation. Their system aimed to abolish it by means of non-capitalist markets. Whether this form of market socialism would actually achieve its goals is a valid question, but Rothbard did not share that aim. And, as Spangler admits, calling Rothbard "a visionary socialist" would "admittedly cause him fits."

Spangler seems to want to (con)fuse individualist anarchism and "anarcho"-capitalism into a one theory, called "market anarchism." Personally, this is a term I dislike precisely because it confuses genuine individualist anarchism with "anarcho"-capitalism. While there are some similarities, it would be a crying shame to merge a genuinely radical alternative to capitalism with an ideology which defends that exploitative and oppressive system.

It is no coincidence that individualist anarchism found its home in the broader labour and socialist movements while “anarcho”-capitalism views these with distain. Nor is it a coincidence that the main influences on individualist anarchism were the labour, monetary and land reform movements plus the economics of Proudhon and other socialists while, for “anarcho”-capitalism, it is “Austrian” economists which developed, in part, precisely to combat such popular reform movements. This leads to fundamentally different analyses, strategies and aims which show beyond doubt that the two cannot be confused. The individualist anarchists did not support capitalism nor can be considered as forerunners of “anarcho”-capitalism in any more than the most superficial terms.

Finally, I must note that Rothbard was at pains to argue for a Libertarian political party. So perhaps his ideology would be better termed “Marxo-capitalism”? After all, Rothbard urged its followers to organise into a political party and utilise “political action” to seize the state which would, in turn, dissolve into “anarchy”. As he put it: "I see no other conceivable strategy for the achievement of liberty than political action." (Konkin on Libertarian Strategy)

Where have we heard that before? Who mocked anarchists like Proudhon and Bakunin for refusing to take part in "political action" and who suggested that by this action the state could be seized, reformed and finally disappear? Why, Marx and Engels! Given this, it would be false to state that “anarcho”-capitalism keeps the politics of individualist anarchism but rejects its economics. Rather, it keeps the politics of Marxism but rejects its economics.

Now, will "Marxo-capitalism" take off as the correct name for "anarcho"-capitalism? Or should we stick with anarcho-statism?

well, that has been done -- back to more interesting and fruitful things...

And perhaps I should note that volume 1 of the FAQ (section A to F, plus the appendix on the symbols of Anarchy) will be officially launched in August, in Glasgow. Now back to revising the section on Marxism...


What many seem to forget is

What many seem to forget is that agorism is not a political or economic system, it is a tactic much like syndicalism. Agorism can indeed be a tactic used towards socialist means. Counter economics in general can be seen as a great tactic. Everyone from your local food co-op to your local black market cannabis dealer are part of the counter-economy and help to promote a variety of functions from promoting worker control over the means of production to defunding the state through tax evasion. A tactic is only as good as those who use it though. I for one believe we need more socialist agorists.

What many seem to forget is

What many seem to forget is that agorism is not a political or economic system, it is a tactic much like syndicalism.

Rothbard, the focus of this blog, very much had a political-economic system in mind -- "anarcho"-capitalism. This is a fundamentally authoritarian system, based on rule by the property-owner. That is, it is not anarchist -- as Rothbard himself, ironically, shows by the quoted passages and many others:


Agorism can indeed be a tactic used towards socialist means. Counter economics in general can be seen as a great tactic.

If "agorism" simply mean creating alternative economic forms I doubt many would disagree -- but it is not.

A tactic is only as good as those who use it though. I for one believe we need more socialist agorists.

We do need socialists to create alternative social-economic institutions -- co-operatives, etc. -- and socialists have been doing that from the start of the socialist movement. I would not call it "agorism" though.

lol this is a confusing

lol this is a confusing article but i think anarcho-statism is a better name for something like Noam Chomsky's view of the state and Agorism (which is not anarcho-capitalism) could very conceivably be called socialism

Chomsky is an anarchist --

Chomsky is an anarchist -- his position on tactics in the here-and-now is driven, I think, by a realistic view of how the working class has suffered over three decades of defeats.

So, in terms of say the current attempts at austerity, I fail to see how any self-proclaimed anarchist could side with the state and support attacks on its subjects. This implies that sensible anarchists will side with the ruled against the rulers and so create a spirit of revolt which had then fight the state for genuine anarchist goals by anarchist means.


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