On the February 4th edition of Thinkwing Radio (listen here), caller Nick disputed my contention that Libertarianism is just a different flavor of Anarchism.
I have previously posted on my feelings on this subject here.
In defense of his position, he emailed me these references and introductions:
“Kropotkin’s Encyclopedia entry on anarchism is a pretty good explanation of traditional anarchism: “Anarchism”, from The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910.Peter Kropotkin. Understand “neo-liberalism” to mean the dominant economic structure of the planet, characterized by “free trade” agreements, the IMF, the WTO, austerity programs, privatization, and corporate looting of resources.
“Modern anarchism is very much informed by Zapatismo and organized against neo-liberalism. The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle is a clear document on this topic.”
The articles he references are long, and I will admit I have not read them thoroughly, but nothing I have scanned has changed my mind. I am respectfully responding to Nick thusly:
These are long screeds, but my impression from what I’ve scanned is this:
- Anarchists want no government to tell them what to do.
- Libertarians want a government that doesn’t tell them what to do.
To me, this sounds like a distinction without a difference.
Anarchists are considered to be at the extreme left of the leftist/communist/socialist philosophical wing (with which they have nothing in common except that they disagree with individual ownership of resources and means of production.)
Libertarians are considered to be on the far right of the rightwing conservative anti-government wing (with which they actually have very little in common except that they believe in the freedom to accumulate as much as possible of available resources and means of production without any sort of government interference).
Interestingly, the far left socialists require a government to meet their goals. The far right conservatives require a government to protect their acquisition of resources and the means of production.
Other than that, the far, far left and the far, far right mostly agree with each other, more than they agree with the more moderate elements of their respective philosophical wings. Namely, they want to be free to do whatever they want without government telling them what to do.
Essentially, the anarchists are so far left and the libertarians are so far right that they pretty much meet on the other side of the philosophical circle. They agree far more than they disagree. Except, of course, about that niggling little detail of ownership.
So I will re-assert my original position: Libertarianism is just a rebranded version (“version” being the operative word) of Anarchism. They can both be violent in pursuit of their goals. They both want the freedom to do whatever they want without government interference, except for their respective positions that one doesn’t want any government at all, and the other wants a government to protect what they acquire but capable of precious little else.
IMHO, of course.
- #Thinkwing Radio: Weds, FEB. 4 2015, 10PM, @KPFT-FM 90.1 (Houston). TOPIC(s): OPEN FORUM (Incl. Gov. Abbott & ‘liberty’, Barbary States Wars and ransoms, and more . [AUDIO]
- Libertarianism and Anarchism: Twins Separated at Birth?, Posted on October 10, 2010
- “Anarchism”, from The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910.Peter Kropotkin.
- The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle
and here’s where the conversation ended up
Mike’s comments are quoted with “>”
mine are not
> I don’t think you’re being entirely fair. I appreciate that we can agree to disagree, but education doesn’t necessarily lead to agreement.
Uninformed critiques should be called out. I’m sure you’d agree that if someone wanted to critique the tea-party intelligently, they would have to know about:
– Fundamental influences (ie. Ayn Rand of whatever),
– Current books and articles by tea party people, and
– The campaigns currently being waged by tea party people.
If you don’t have much knowledge of the fundamental influences of anarchist thought throughout history, current anarchist books, or current anarchist campaigns then you can’t talk intelligently about anarchism. I sent you the barest introduction (http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives/kropotkin/britanniaanarchy.html) to an ideology that has thousands of books, and at least a dozen essential ones.
You would never base your critique of the tea party on a general impression and hearsay, you are most studious than that. You should have the same standards for yourself about anarchism.
> To perhaps clarify, when I say I scanned the information, that is to say I read chunks and ‘scanned’ other chunks that seemed to go into finer detail of the chunks I read.
ok, a good start
> As for ‘pure’ anarchy, even the Britannica article discusses how people would be ‘free’ to associate with various crafts and interest groups, which becomes a limit on personal freedom unless those groups operate on unanimity or consensus; human beings tend to make those sorts of arrangements short-lived when large numbers of people are involved. One is thus free to feel ‘oppressed’ in a minority, find another group, or strike out on their own. The end result, imho, would be conflict (people being people), or being left to strike out on one’s own, being essentially defenseless against those organized in groups.
Exactly, this is a realization that most anarchists had over the last century when anarchism was further refined. For a person who just wants a working definition, use this: anarchists seek to reduce power hierarchies. Of course, they don’t all agree about how to do so. Any anarchist who thought simply getting rid of government would solve things (at this point when corporations and international financial institutions are at least as powerful as governments) would be a fool. Like knocking down strawmen, debating positions held by fools is a weak goal. Instead you should be seeking to understand what the great thinkers within anarchism are presenting.
> These groups, by the way, would have to be hierarchical in some form to function over time. Isn’t this a form of nascent government?
Sure, the Zapatistas, which are the clearest example of an anti-hierarchy government is still a government and still has hierarchies within it. The thing that makes it anti-hierarchical is not that they have overcome hierarchy, it is that they are constantly re-evaluating based on attempting to reduce hierarchies. To give you an example, the Zapatistas don’t have equal female and male participation in government. They know this is a problem and are working on it. They know it won’t be solved tomorrow. They are in it for the long haul. To this issue and any others, the Zapatistas say, “the struggle continues.”
> Again imho, Anarchism is as practical as Communism. Each assumes that people will respond peacefully and rationally in an ideal world, but we never live in an ideal world. People are timid or aggressive or greedy or generous or narcissistic or hedonistic or sociopathic, and or any of dozens of other personality permutations.
I think the book you should read on this topic would be “Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology” by David Graeber. It is essential that you stop assuming you can dismiss concerns you have about anarchism or anything else without reading how anarchists address those exact same concerns. Anarchists are not politicians with talking points, they have open wide ranging discussions and get into philosophical questions constantly. Many are intellectuals and writers. So, try not to come off like you think that there are no coherent answers to these questions. Anarchists have been debating and writing about these concerns for hundreds of years. There are the classics (anarchism.net/books.htm), and the modern books (akpress.org and anarchistbookfair.net), but the general point here is that if you aren’t familiar with any of the material, starting from a place of being dismissive is insulting to the Pacifica audience. As journalists and opinion writers, we should start off from a place of acknowledging what we don’t know.
You and I are familiar with the generic talking-points that people use to dismiss Pacificans. People will say, “the problem with Pacifica Radio is that freedom isn’t free, and there are some truly evil people on this planet who only understand violence.” To anarchists you would come off as just as dismissive and uninformed.
> Human history shows that some form of hierarchy is ‘the natural order’ of things. Human societies virtually always end up there.
Some anarchists would agree.
> I believe that your freedom ends at the tip of my nose, so to speak, and vice versa. Our actions affect each other, and government in an ideal world (there’s that phrase again) helps to negotiate the boundaries of your freedom versus mine.
> In principal, I belief in a certain degree of socialism. Prisons, armed forces and schools should be publicly owned and financed. I’d be willing to look at publicly owned banks, hospitals and utilities. The devil is always in the details, and corruption will occur whether these things are publicly owned or privately owned; each has advantages and disadvantages. Over time, the preferability of one kind of ownership over the other will vary on some of these things like banks and utilities. The pendulum always swings.
Some anarchists also would agree about that. That is to say that many anarchists are anarco socialist (ie. it wouldn’t be odd to see anarchists marching for universal health care).
> Perhaps a threat of socialization can keep some of these institutions more honest. In the absence of the threat, I think corruption is more likely. Only the law then provides a check on them, and the laws have been only weakly enforced.
> So how far apart are we?
Philosophically you probably would have many agreements with most anarchists, though you aren’t familiar with the material, terminology, and history yet. However, it is essential that you understand that being dismissive of political movements you haven’t even studied is a widespread practice that serves the status quo. If you agree with me that imperialism, resource looting, war, pollution, climate change, etc. is currently destroying natural beauty, well-being, biodiversity, and sustainability, then you should agree that it is Pacifica’s role to consider and present alternatives seriously, studiously, and respectfully.
[From Mike: Nick later added this closing remark, which I think is helpful:] “Libertarians, even “left” ones, are against government coercion, war, the drug war, the police state, etc. However, they usually promote capitalist solutions. They’re against coercion, but don’t acknowledge the coercion of markets. It’s true that the US government is too often telling Americans what to do, but this level of coercion doesn’t compare with what free markets do to those who make our food, clothes, buildings, labor, technology, and etc. Libertarians are so concerned that they are being oppressed, that they fail to notice those they are oppressing.”
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