Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

What exactly is anarcho-capitalism?

+1 vote
edited for tags
asked Sep 7, 2013 by anonymous
edited Jul 15, 2014 by dot
Can anyone provide a definition of Anarchy that is inconsistent with the Anarcho-Capitalist philosophy? Of course, this requires a firm understanding of Anarcho-Capitalism as well as Anarchism.
No gods, no masters. It doesn't get any clearer than that.

5 Answers

+10 votes
it *isn't*.
it doesn't exist. it's a bullshit term cobbled together by some confused people.

answered Sep 7, 2013 by dot (50,470 points)
+6 votes
It's a useless label for a trash pile of (often contradictory and nonsensical) extreme capitalist theory that advocates for the abolition of governance because it interferes with "pure capitalism".

It often bases its ideas on non-existent concepts like "natural law" and some kind of objective moral composition of the universe that is conveniently pulled out of someone's ass.

It designates property ownership as the basis for literally all human interaction ever, to the extent that its concept of personhood revolves around "ownership of the self", which essentially places your entire conscious existence as being equivalent to, say, a shovel. Said existence can then be "voluntarily" sold to whatever entity has hoarded enough property to buy you.

It isn't anything, really. It barely exists outside of a handful of very loud and very confused people on the internet.
answered Sep 7, 2013 by Rice Boy (8,610 points)
why can't i find the last time this question came up? argh.
Adjectives are not arguments. Calling it useless, contradictory, nonsensical, extreme, non-existent, etc. without examples and explanations as to why these adjectives are appropriate adds no value. That said, your answer, adjectives and all, is insufficient. You have not provided a useful critique nor description of what some people call Anarcho-Capitalism. I might provide a useful answer in the future on this site.

@VoluntaryThinker I'd like to hear your response to these criticisms:



@Rice I'm in total agreement with the majority of your post, but your argument against ownership of the individual is awful. Self-ownership is a naive an axiomatic viewpoint on many grounds, but transactions is not one of them. There is nothing exploitative about having the ability to keep or sell your body in comparison to the ability only to keep your body.

"There is nothing exploitative about having the ability to keep or sell your body in comparison to the ability only to keep your body."

that is actually one of the more concise and coherent statements i have seen on the ancap topic. 

however, it belies a perspective that remains trapped in the capitalist mentality. the very concept of "selling your body" (or one's mind, or time, or anything) can only be relevant in a capitalist worldview. it is easy to frame certain neo-liberal ideas in a way that can confuse those that cannot think outside that [capitalist worldview] box; economic freedom == the only freedom. everything is an economic transaction. 

but when money and economic value are not the driving forces of life, there is no concept of selling (anything, including oneself) - it is meaningless. there are no transactions, no (material/monetary) value-based ... anything. there are simply individuals relating as they choose. if i want to expend some of my energy helping you out, i will do so. chances are, i will usually do so only if our relationship includes trust (and i therefore know that you understand the concept of reciprocity). even though i expect nothing in direct return for my helping you, i know that when i need some help, you will likely help me out.

this is a concept that cannot apparently be grasped by so-called ancaps.

well said, funky.

a second to ba@'s sentiment.

'those that cannot think outside that [capitalist worldview] box;'

and this is just the nutshell as to why ancaps cannot grasp the deeper meanings of  'alienation.' far from simply being separated from the fruit of one's labors per marxism, one's time, mind, family life, work life etc., as somehow separable 'property' from one's owner/self comes across as completely unhinged, if not dissociative (if i were to take the dangerous route of a therapeutic analysis, that is).

thanks, baa and af.

maybe this site should be renamed "ongoing refutations of the delusion of anarcho-capitalism"

(with the major subsection: "ongoing explanations of an anarchy not trapped in leftism/socialism")
funky@: Well put; the implication that you are the capitalist owner of your own body and self makes easier for the selling of one's self into the labor market.
+3 votes
A term used by free market fanatics to clothe their extremist liberal philosophy in anarchism's radical, revolutionary chic (without of course taking responsibility for the baggage that comes with it). 'Anarcho-capitalism' is gross misappropriation, pure and simple, it's why there only seems to ever be one conversation between 'anacaps' and everyone else, being had over and over and over again, ad nauseum, rebutting the same bizarre assumptions (like the non aggression principle), misunderstandings and sometimes what feels like disingenuous questions.

Ps. I'm not implying this question is one of those, I'm in fact really glad that we've been given the opportunity to clearly reaffirm, in light of recent discussions, that even taking anarcho-capitalism seriously in the least is painful, embarrassing and unnecessary.
answered Sep 9, 2013 by Yosemite (5,880 points)

this just in: the so-called 'neolithic revolution' (aka 'the agricultural revolution,' 'the rise of civilization,' 'progress') has yet again been linked to an increase, not a decrease, in violence.

Attack the ideas if you'd like, but straw-maning your way through an argument is pathetic.

The advancements made since the stone age cannot be rolled up into one ball and universally condemned as the cause of all the world's problems. Even if violence has increased, it is not because of penicillin, sanitation or x-ray technology.

I want a society where we have the internet, medicine and air travel as well as less violence.

advancing toward what?
IB, your unspoken, and seemingly unexamined, presuppositions have most definitely been advanced within, if not as, your core argument.it's hardly a straw-man i challenge them.

here's an illustration: if i'm a prisoner in a death-camp, and have a choice today of cleaning latrines or playing guitar for the commandant, i'm no less a prisoner of the death-camp in choosing to play guitar. it's the presup of the death-camp,its reality and logic if you will, which must be attacked/resisted, not simply the latrine cleaning or even an attempt to broaden my choices by adding kitchen-duty or blowing the commandant and guards.

and my post wasn't necessarily directed toward you, more of general and timely relevance due today's topic.

Oh man, you're one of those deontological propertarians. Are you a "non-aggression" advocate too? Do you believe in the "non-aggression" principle?

Some libertarians (usually the dimmer internet ones) actually think that the non-aggression principle does argumentative work in favor of a libertarian theory. But it clearly doesn’t. Watch.

Suppose I come on to some piece of ground that you call your land. Suppose I don’t believe people can own land since nobody makes land. So obviously I don’t recognize your claim that this is yours. You then violently attack me and push me off.

What just happened? I say that you just used aggressive violence against me. You say that actually you just used defensive violence against me. So how do we know which kind of violence it is?

You say it is defensive violence because under your theory of entitlement, the land belongs to you. I say it is aggressive violence because under my theory of entitlement, the land does not belong to you. So which is it?

If you have half a brain, you see what is going on. The word “aggression” is just defined as violence used contrary to some theory of entitlement. The word “defense” is just defined as violence used consistent with some theory of entitlement. If there is an underlying dispute about entitlement, talking about aggression versus defense literally tells you nothing.

But instead of realizing that aggression and defense are merely ways of defining violence in relation to a necessarily prior theory of entitlement, many libertarians actually think non-aggression is a theory of entitlement. They think it can tell you who is entitled to what. But clearly it can’t. You can’t figure out what is and isn’t aggression unless you first establish (without any reference to aggression) who is entitled to what.

Let’s use another example. Suppose I go to tax you. My claim is simple. You are not, under my theory of distributive justice, entitled to the amount I am taxing you. It does not belong to you. It belongs to the retired person it is headed to. You then resist. So I use force where necessary to extract the tax.

Now there are two moves you can make here, one makes sense and the other doesn’t. The one that makes sense is to say: this is an unjust tax because the amount being taxed belongs to me, and I am entitled to it. The one that doesn’t make sense and does no argumentative work whatsoever is to say: this is aggression.

The reason it makes no sense is because it does what philosophers call begging the question. Why is taxing you aggression rather than defense? Well it’s aggression because you are entitled to what is being taxed from you (you claim). Fine, I hear that you believe it belongs to you. But I don’t believe it belongs to you. So really when you say it is aggression, you are just assuming as an unstated premise exactly what we are disagreeing about: whether the thing actually belongs to you or not. If I am right about the thing not belonging to you, it’s not aggression. If you are right about it belonging to you, it is.

So calling it aggression when we are disputing whether it belongs to you literally does nothing in the debate. You’ve just restated that you think the thing belongs to you with different words. You didn’t do any argumentative work. You just said the same thing — I am entitled to this thing — again. Non-aggression doesn’t justify any claims regarding entitlement. It’s the reverse: entitlement claims justify your assertions about what is and isn’t non-aggressive.

This means at all times the debate is about who is entitled to what. Aggression and non-aggression literally do nothing for anybody at any time in the debate. But libertarians actually think it is doing stuff for them. It is one of the most obviously failed moves I have ever seen.

Libertarians believe, like basically every other economic justice theory in history, that it is ok to use violence that is consistent with their theory of who is entitled to what (labeled “defense”), but not ok to use violence that is inconsistent with it (labeled “aggression”). But unlike every other theory of economic justice, libertarians are uniquely confused into believing that calling things defense and aggression can give you any insight into who is actually entitled to what in the first place.

To be clear, not all libertarians do this. But a massive chunk of the online, Ron Paul, mouth-breathing crowd does. It’s ridiculous.


The fact of the matter is that all of us -- whether capitalist or socialist, statist or anarchist -- employ some form of violence to hold up our preferred social order. "Defensive violence" and "aggressive violence" are merely apples and oranges; they are adjectives, used in accordance to one's own subjective moral standpoint they have employed: without supporting arguments, they cannot and will not accomplish anything at all.


Anyway, on to my critiques of anarcho-capitalism in particular. They will be expressed in question-format to alleviate the appearance of loaded language and controversial terminology.


1. Where is the rationality behind self-ownership? I've never seen an actual argument in its favor apart from Molyneux's (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPR4lGVLtNo) which can be refuted quite easily (http://philosophylines.com/2014/01/04/stefan-molyneux-too-scared-to-respond-to-these-arguments-re-self-ownershiphomesteading-2/).

2. What guarantee is there that homesteading will allocate land and resources on the basis of their most productive usage, or most dire need?

The homesteading principle is fundamentally flawed on a number of grounds. Firstly, it totally ignores marginal and collusive revenue. What incentive is there to lower the price of a good if the only threshold in your way is that of your competitors? The only prerequisite to succeeding in the market is undercutting your competition, who may be fundamentally unable to drop their prices even further.

Secondly, what's to stop competitors from colluding? If the revenue is right (which it usually is) what's to stop two capitalists from joining together, and raising the price roof to six times of what it was before?

Last but not least, it hasn't fucking happened! Land in this country was acquired through genocidal conquest, not fucking homesteading!

3. If society doesn't get a say in how resources are allocated and distributed (an-caps seem to against taxation, if I'm correct) who does? Who decides how much labor has to be mixed with an object before it can become "mine"?

4. Isn't the NAP essentially a rule of the minority, exactly the kind of thing you dread? By creating rules & laws (propertarian ones) that cannot be nullified by any sort of collective agreement or overriding, aren't you essentially creating a "dictatorship by the non-aggressors"? And before you say "no it isnt bcuz nonagresion is nonforce" please read the above paragraphs (on non-aggression.) The fact of the matter is that almost all of us (except for pacifists) require some form of violence to uphold our preferred social order.

5. How on earth is property "voluntary" in any sense of the word? I love it when right-Voluntaryists accuse me of not letting people "disassociate with my communism" when in fact their entire theory is based upon the idea of forcing their property laws down other people's throats without their permission.

6. How are you going to uphold unequal economic relations without a state? What's going to stop me from encroaching on your private property rights?

+3 votes

Not much. I'm going to use what I think is a great description of the basis of so-called 'anarcho-capitalism' I found elsewhere online. I believe the author went by 'phoenix_insurgent' on Reddit's anarchism subreddit, which I read occasionally. I thought it worth saving and sharing here:


In my evaluation, ancaps have a religious-style view of capitalism and they react to fact-based criticism in the ways you would expect religious fanatics to respond. They have an origin myth (two guys on an island), a fall from grace (the evil state shows up and ruins everything) and a redemption, "second coming" myth (the state is slain and paradise returns). Of course, anyone who has studied capitalism know that's all bullshit, but don't expect ancaps to be experts on capitalism. They are not. Indeed, they basically have not to be in order to continue to maintain their beliefs.

Anyhow, towards defending this mythology, they have a particular nomenclature that redefines things to maintain the circular loop that is their a priori, axiomatic worldview. Think of how the ancap redefines capitalism to mean "voluntary exchange." This is a stupid fucking definition of capitalism, obviously, but what it does is remove capitalism from reality, so that any criticism of actually-existing or historical capitalism can be safely bypassed with a no true Scottsdman fallacy. Basically, this is how they selectively embrace or reject aspects of capitalism in real life. If they like it, it's the free market. If they don't like it, it's the state. Beyond that, on the rare occasion that they do acknowledge the reality of capitalism as experienced by people, they just invoke a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, and tell us that past does not determine present and that through some magical process that no one yet knows, capitalism can be disentangled from its best friend, the state.
Their philosophy rejects facts in favor of logically-consistent thought experiment. The problem with this, of course, is made evident by the example of the murder mystery novel. A murder mystery novel must be consistent above everything else. But, when we finish reading a murder mystery novel, no one thinks an actual murder has taken place. Well, except for the ancap. Since it's logically consistent, it must be true.

answered Aug 15, 2015 by AmorFati (7,400 points)
+1 vote
It's a textbook oxymoron used by people who treat capitalism and money as a religion.

An Anarchy FAQ has a section totally devoted to explaining it and why it's so nonsensical.

answered Aug 16, 2015 by MrEniena (570 points)
edited Aug 16, 2015 by MrEniena