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What exactly is anarcho-capitalism?

+1 vote
edited for tags
asked Sep 7, 2013 by anonymous
edited Jul 15, 2014 by dot
Sky: so you're undeniably free to initiate violence against those 'arrogant, moralistic' types because you don't like them and their ideas towards a better tomorrow.

It is that approach which justifies the State's monopoly on physical violence which renders ordinary people like me (and most likely the rest of us on this forum(?)) relatively powerless.

How can we argue for re-arming the population if doing so means putting powerful weapons into the hands of people who believe they're free to shoot anyone who irritates them?

Your approach makes even the State's armed extortion racket look relatively virtuous which allows them to perpetuate their unbalanced power monopoly via physical violence. Who's ignoring violence?
I mean I'm free to, it just doesn't seem particularly useful.  I think we may be using free a little differently.  when I say free I mean it is possible for me to respobd that way, I don't mean am free to without consequence.  I have no idea what you mean by free in this instance.
I mean if I had a gun I would be free to shoot anyone who irritates me, providing they were in range.  I don't see how that would be good idea, but anyone with a gun is free to shoot anyone they have a line of site on.  I'm finding it odd that you find this notion so difficult.
Sky: By free I mean 'possible' too. Whilst 'it is always an option for people' in our relatively powerless condition we know that it's a relatively poor option, in relation to the State, in nearly all circumstances at the present time.

Freedom, for me, is about redressing that power imbalance so that the virtually impossible (withdrawing consent from the State without onerous consequence) becomes possible (withdrawing consent from the State and the State having little option but to concede).

I don't find the notion difficult. We're not really discussing whether it's possible to shoot someone with a gun (of course it is). We're discussing whether the power to do so should be in our hands or the State's. You don't 'see how that [shooting someone] would be good idea'. I suggest that the NAP is a good (not absolutely perfect in every imaginable circumstance) approach to whether it is a good idea or not. If you want to break free from the State it is necessary to have a more humane alternative to it that involves your personal, independent judgement. I suggest the NAP is a good starting point as an expression of that alternative. Perhaps others here can improve on it? For me "I would be free to shoot anyone who irritates me, providing they were in range" doesn't appear to, although I appreciate you qualified it with 'I don't see how that would be good idea'.

I don't believe a completely unprincipled power shift would be beneficial. If there is a principle involved it seems reasonable to state what it is not least because most people are conditioned by the State into the mindset that the moment you have the possibility to exercise power you will do so to the detriment of everyone around you.
as long as every individual has their own principles, those principles may (will eventually) conflict with the principles of another. i am totally ok with that, understanding that conflict may result in violence at some point.

when you say "a more humane alternative to it that involves your personal, independent judgement", you seem to be implying that "more humane" is somehow outside of "your personal, independent judgement". if my personal judgement is not what you consider humane, how does that make any sense?

5 Answers

+11 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 (50,990 points)
@dot: correct, but why then your references to @caps in other posts?
perhaps because the term is bullshit, but people use it to self identify?
like how people refer to ancient Persian warriors as Immortals, even though they quite clearly weren't

My experience is that the label 'ancap' has been applied by contributors in this forum, not self-identified by 'ancaps':


For all the an-caps and vegan pacifists out there... ( Nihilist

such as the capitalism that you came here promoting...  (funkyanarchy)

go to an ancap forum... (DonnieDarko)

and http://anarchy101.org/2382/is-any-form-of-money-currency-compatible-with-anarchism:

like every libertarian and ancap i have ever had discussions with, you seem to be convinced that there is common ground where in fact there is none... (funkyanarchy)

i am familiar with the ancap idea of "non-aggression principle"... (funkyanarchy)

a far cry from most of the ancaps ... (funkyanarchy)

hey, mister an-cap, ... (Nihilist)

funky@, you know i share your hostility to ancap ... (dot)

This isn't ancap 101/same old same old ancap phrases.... (Zubaz)

as for a  universal definition of anarchy... anarcho-capitalism...(funkyanarchy)

perhaps you can help me figure out why ancaps/agorists ...(Zubaz)

I suggest people decide if they believe the term is bs they don't use it or if they don't like the ideas they believe it represents they focus on capitalism, not conflating it with anarchy. The conflation is causing the confusion among anyone new to anarchist ideas and hence the question in this thread.

Perhaps objectors to 'ancaps' mis-appropriating (in their view) the term 'anarchy' could rephrase their objections more clearly? e.g.: Why are capitalists attempting to appropriate anarchy? (I don't have permission to ask questions on this forum).

For myself the term is bs because any anarcho-suffix is superfluous. You either think/practice your life according to the idea that you are leaderless and direct your own activities accordingly or you do not. You may consent to be led at any given moment, but you always retain the ability to withdraw that consent (no matter how violently the 'leader' of the day attempts to impose his ideas (communist/capitalist/socialist etc.) upon you).


but to respond further, in that certain people use the word ancap is has developed as an ideology consistent recognizable features, even if those features have very little do to do with  any genuine use of the term anarchy.
why do capitalists try to appropriate anarchy?  well why individuals use it is of little interest to me, probably because they heard it somewhere in conjunction with those recognizable features I talked about, which they obviously liked.  but it functions, at least it ends to me, to recooperate rebellious tendencies and to revive with modern relevant sounding terminology a laissez-faire economic policy that probably wouldn't have the same appeal otherwise.
DNS you can ask questions here, which may or may not be answered, of course. you cannot answer them here (ie you cannot use the answer function that is part of the site).

i have absolutely no interest myself in addressing your concerns about ancap/s, although i have a very mild curiosity about why you're so taken with the issue, and why you choose to address your concern to us.

as for your vaguely stalker-y list, as shinmin said, recognizing that people who call themselves ancaps exist, and that they speak of something called ancap, is not the same as accepting as valid anything they say about their ideas.
Sky:  I agree the term 'ancap' appears to refer to a relatively recently developed ideology by comparison to 'anarchy' alone. However, there is no reason why 'traditional' anarchy should have the 'rights' (for want of a better word) to the word 'anarchy' which, most simply stated, refers to 'leaderless'. Why can't we have free value exchange without 'leaders'?

Anarchy has traditionally identified far more with the Left than the Right and hence the sense that it has been misappropriated among some. But today we live in a world of 'left wing fascism' (Hilary Clinton(?)). For those who want to be 'leaderless' anarchy (from the Greek root) seems a most appropriate term. I'm no 'capitalist' - I don't work hand in glove with the State like Richard Branson or Elon Musk so 'ancap' is entirely inappropriate and to self-identify with it would involve constantly defending from irrelevant straw-man arguments.

I identify as agorist, voluntaryist and/or consentualist. I could use those labels but hardly anyone in normal life has the slightest idea what they mean (although I don't mind being labelled those things here).
Dot: It's difficult to take a stand if you don't know where you stand. We're manipulated into that condition by the education and media systems primarily in a broadly divide and conquer approach. The hope, from our 'leaders' perspective, is that we'll spend so much time arguing about what a genuine anarchist is etc. that we won't notice that the real power remains in their hands and we'll continue to be led by them. Any particular group at any particular moment might come to the conclusion that it can initiate violence relating to it's beliefs and into that space the State will re-create itself. Either by violently suppressing that group or effectively becoming that group and violently suppressing everyone else. Taxation is just an indirect way of achieving this with a relatively good PR front.

I see anarchism as a possible way to break that cycle because it, more than most political philosophies, questions the idea of 'leadership' and 'authority' in the first place. An anarchy forum appears to be a most appropriate place to have that debate, especially when there appears to be strong differences of opinion and/or confusion about  how being 'leaderless' should manifest itself or even what it means.

As l pointed out in the earlier post the 'concerns about ancaps' appear to be coming from other contributors, not me.

There may be people who call themselves ancaps but I'm not one of them. I cannot speak for them. Have I said that by mentioning 'ancaps' anyone has therefore 'accept[ed] as valid anything they say about their ideas.'?

Sky: I posited the question "Why are capitalists attempting to appropriate anarchy?" as an illustration of how the conflation of the two ideologies could be separated more clearly than simply referring to 'ancaps' (I do accept that there are people out there who self-identify as 'ancaps' and that has created confusion). I wasn't trying to address that question directly in this thread (but I think it's a reasonable question for anyone to ask).

+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 (8,670 points)
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.
@RiceBoy: You state that it's  a 'useless label' but then go on to ascribe all kinds of properties/ideas to it which start to lend it credence. I understand that whatever this label thinks it represents you don't agree with but the question relates to what anarcho-capitalism is and I suggest that stopping at 'useless label' (as dot, effectively, did) would have said it all.
+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)
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?


The 'argumentative work' is a negative assertion that someone is not entitled as a function of the initiation of violence. The NAP doesn't attempt to determine who is positively entitled to what. That is still an important debate, of course. But whatever the conclusion the principle still stands. You can persuade me that I am/am not entitled to X and I may/may not hand it over as a result (I may not, even if I agree that I'm not entitled to it). But you are still not entitled to take X via physical violence. That should always be something that occurs as a very last resort, not the first resort as it is for the State. Giving up on the principle because there may, on rare occasions, be outlier cases when nothing other than physical violence can settle a dispute and therefore embracing aggressive violence via the State as a normal part of daily life makes no sense to me (other than that we've been conditioned to believe it makes sense). At least this way round the violence is only visited upon those who are unable to resolve it in any other way and not on everyone by default.

Why is taxing you aggression rather than defence? Because it implies violently enforcing your beliefs about entitlement.

Initiating violence due to your beliefs regarding entitlement does no argumentative work either, unless you believe 'might is right'.

Ideally the proposer will make the argument to the point at which no violence is necessary because the other side is sufficiently persuaded to accommodate the conflict without violence. Something we all do, all the time.

Which forms of violence do you employ to hold up your preferred social order?

Due to the massive imbalance of power between the State and the individuals within it, the State has little need for 'supporting arguments'. Flimsy excuses are more than enough (e.g. Iraq). When they use aggressive violence to tax they accomplish great things from their perspective (e.g. launch wars). Giving up the belief in being entitled to aggressive violence (having to go out and initiate against another is a clue your arguments are not persuasive), is a small sacrifice for most  people and a huge loss for the State.

1. Sorry - your refutation link broken, unable to follow up.

2. What supporting arguments do you have that would resolve conflicts relating to land allocation and resources?

3. We do. Individually (and collectively via a free market).

4. The NAP could be any kind of 'rule' you can think of. Whatever it is though, it won't matter because it won't be violently initiated against you (unlike tax). You require some form of violence to uphold your preferred social order (if you answered above). I only require defensive violence to uphold mine.

5.  'forcing ... property [or any other] laws down other people's throats without their permission' is exactly what the NAP does not do.

6. To clarify, you are for the State? I will stop you from encroaching on my 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