L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 180, July 1, 2002
Right Wing What?
Exclusive to TLE
I've just finished reading Manuel Miles' rather disturbing article, Right Wing Anarchy: A Dead End (TLE #179, June 24, 2002). Mr. Miles states that, in an attempt to learn more about "right wing anarchism", he has been posting at an "anarcho-capitalist" site.
This is a new one on me. My exposure to right-wingers in the modern American sense usually shows them as being hawkish, nationalistically patriotic, and favoring a paternalistic government that makes sure we all toe some legalistic line - usually laws based on conservative Christian concepts of sin. That's just a little hard to reconcile with most of the anarchocapitalists I know. Especially the one I know best; me. More specifically, while what I am is an individual, I have no problem with being called an anarchocapitalist, and this right-winger label sure doesn't stick to me. Perhaps Mr. Miles has a differing definition of "right wing" that he'd like to share with us.
Or more likely, based upon some of his assertions about anarchocapitalists, he's merely setting up a straw man argument by starting out with fallacious assumption that anarchocapitalism is something that clearly is not. He supports this with characterizations of anarchocapitalists which certainly don't match my personal experience.
He calls us dilettantes who delight in theory, but abhor practicality.
The hard-core anarchocapitalists whom I know are serious realists. They are out in the real world everyday making a living, running businesses, and raising families; all this while operating under basic anarchocapitalistic principles.
Miles also calls anarchocapitalists, "television watchers" as if this were automatically something bad. Well, I must admit: I did buy a television set this year. I even watch it sometimes. But my main objection to television in general doesn't have anything to do with intellectual snobbery that relegates television to the unthinking, illiterate masses. I just consider most programming to be low quality, or focused on topics that don't interest me.
Or I'm simply too busy doing something practical, like earning a living or trying to stay free.
Miles also suggests that we're historically ignorant, though he fails to give any supporting details. Possibly he encountered someone like me, who's been too busy trying to accomplish something real to have read every single book, treatise, and essay which he personally has stocked in his ivory tower. In discussions with people who dismiss anarchocapitalism, I've had my arguments rejected out of hand, because I backed up my ideas with my own real world experience, and on-going real world examples, instead of referencing some obscure Ayn Rand essay. Until libertarian intellectual elite accept that individuals born in the last 50 years can actually have original, valid ideas, libertarianism of any flavor isn't going anywhere.
But historically ignorant? Do some web searches - I suspect you'll come up with some of my articles on various historical periods. My first nationally published work, fifteen years ago, was on medieval European politics. Yep, us dumb anarchocapitalists are an ignorant lot.
Ignorance must be catching. Mr. Miles complains that anarchists don't like government, when the real problem - to him - is statism. He says we equate government with statism, when he believes them to differ. A look a dictionary might help the gentleman. Since - paraphrased from The New Merriam-Webster - a state is people and /or territory organized under a government, and government is the political organization that exerts authority over people in a political unit, the two are pretty much inseparable. Government is a subset of state, which also includes the ruled.
And we object to governments because our experience - and that history we aren't supposed to know about - has shown us that no matter how benign in original intent, all governments grow and seize more and more power, authority, control over the people. American is a textbook example of this; the usurpation of power and shredding of the US Constitution is what dissuaded me from... call it Constitutional minarchy. Having a nice little benevolent government is akin to having just been infected with anthrax; it will get worse. That's the nature of both beasties.
Mr. Miles is unhappy with our supposed ideological bankruptcy. We lack a fancy, formal statement of principles, eloquently drafted on fine parchment. Anarchocapitalists do have an ideology., but I'm guessing that he missed it because he was looking for the wrong thing; he's too busy trying to shoe-horn everyone into convenient Republican-Democrat- Libertarian boxes, and decrying anyone who doesn't fit as invalid, wrong.
Ideology: To quote the title of a friend's book: I just want to be left alone. Or, as one of my own characters says, "You let me be, and I won't have to kill you." Not the words of a psychopath; just an unmistakable statement that we won't put up with coercion. And we believe that everyone has the right to try to improve their lot in an uncoerced free market.
That's it. If you want elaborations, speak to any anarchocapitalistic individual, because beyond that, we all have a few ideas of our own. We don't think everyone has to march lockstep on every topic to be an anarchocapitalist. I think it's simple. Apparently Mr. Miles finds it simplistic.
I find some of his thinking a bit simplistic. He makes the surprising claim that the free market can only provide goods and services - right so far - but not protection from fraud and violence. Somehow he fails to make the mental jump to seeing that protection can be a service. Isn't that what the police claim to be doing, albeit coercively?
Maybe Mr. Miles needs to take a look in his phone book yellow pages under "security". Brinks, Pinkerton's et al are in the business of providing the service of protection. I do it myself on occasion.
But that isn't really a free market. The government police have a gov- protected monopoly. As a cop, I could carry a gun anywhere. I could shoot a person in the back as he ran away (it was even in the job description). I could pull people over and arrest them.
As a private security officer, I might be required to get a license to operate at all. There was a whole slew of places I couldn't carry any firearm. If I shot anyone, my weapon would more than likely be confiscated, and I'd face charges. If I shot someone in the back, the charge would be murder. If I followed standard police procedures in detaining someone, the charge would be kidnapping. All this despite the fact that I had more formal training and experience than the average cop with whom I'd worked.
On the other hand, when private security companies were allowed to operate in a gov-monopoly free open market they were frighteningly - to would be criminals - effective. Wells-Fargo and Pinkerton's had impressive reputations in the nineteenth century West. For that matter, frontier sheriffs in towns that hadn't been federalized yet, were commonly hired by voluntary citizens associations. Not governments.
On a personal note, I've never been saved from violence by a cop. I have saved my own butt a few times. Self defense is a basic biological function. A rabbit being stalked by a wolf doesn't dial 911; neither should you.
As for national defense, quite aside from the militia concept, and the fact that the US - for example - has something like forty percent of the world's supply of small arms (a probably low estimate based on the silly notion that guns only last twenty years) in the hands of around one hundred million private individuals - maybe Mr. Miles never heard of mercenaries. An old historical concept; quite popular in medieval and Renaissance Italy.
Mr. Miles also ridicules a concept that I know is popular with some anarchocapitalists, though hardly all of us: Gulching. As in Galt's Gulch. It's a fun idea that exemplifies the common "leave me alone" attitude, and demonstrates that unlike some people, if the rest of the world doesn't want to do things our way, we aren't going to force them. What the man misses, though, is that we like to discuss it and keep our options open, but have for now filed it away in the impractical drawer.
Related to gulching is our alleged belief us starry-eyed dreamers think that if we just went into space, we good establish our anarchocapitalist Utopia out there somewhere. Whereas us surprisingly practical anarchocapitalists know darned well that we'll have to be pretty far along in establishing that utopia here before we'll even be able to make the big exodus to "out there".
I'm not sure how Mr. Miles managed to lump all anarchocapitalists in with "Assassination Politics". I'll do some checking, but I'm not aware that Bell ever claimed to be an anarchocapitalist. And to my mind, as described, Assassination Politics violates the no-coercion principle, for me personally exemplified by the Nonaggression Principle.
And then there's Miles' truly peculiar assertion that anarchocapitalists "Endorse and vote for right wing statists".
I have never heard anyone known to me to be an anarchocapitalist advocate voting for a "right wing statist". Generally, we don't think too highly of voting at all. I have heard folks advocate voting to get a right wing statist out of office. Personally, I don't think much of the idea; too easy to fall into the mobocracy trap, and it usually doesn't work. In the US, an incumbent pretty much stays in office as long as he wants, thanks to the voting laws that incumbents wrote.
Miles claim of our anti-immigrant position is right in there with the voting claim - in the Twilight Zone. I favor open borders. I've published articles calling for open borders and immigration. I know others with a personal interest in - and support of - open borders.
And life bless 'im, the man claims we'll re-institute feudalism if we let private security companies compete for the business of private individuals. He offers no examples, but claims that this is how modern nations got their start. I do hope he'll elaborate. The closest to this I can see was the effect the Condotteries (mercenaries) had in Italy. Unfortunately, that makes a poor example because the mercenaries were hired by city-state governments, paid with the proceeds of taxation and other forms of theft, and generally used so that the locals government could keep its own troops available to keep its subjects in line, while the mercs found new subjects to tax.
I suppose the idea that, an anarchocapitalist culture once established, the gov-hating anarchists would then hire Brinks to form a nation-state all over again is possible. In some alternate reality not accessible by Confederate broach. But it sure sounds unlikely.
Mr. Miles summarizes by informing us that right wing anarchism - which he has conveniently, and bizarrely defined as anarchocapitalism - has nothing to offer libertarians. This is because "At heart, most right wing anarchists are right wing statists." I have no doubt that having been completely wrong about everything that anarchocapitalists are, he's wrong on this. We offer freedom.
Mr. Miles claims that he learned all these fascinatingly fubared facts from an anarchocapitalist website. I'd love to have the URL, assuming it's even attached to this planet's Internet. Because what he claims to have seen as anarchocapitalists there has nothing to do with reality.
For some sites on this world's Internet that are anarchocapitalistic check out:
Doing Freedom! Magazine
Liberty Round Table
or even my own Samizdat (even though some of my old Constitutionalist
tendencies still show)
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