Politics & Media
Nov 29, 2023, 06:28AM

Thankful But Not Stupid

You can be an anarcho-capitalist and concede market problems.

Javier milei 800x450.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

With last week seeing both Thanksgiving and the election of an anarcho-capitalist president—Argentina’s Milei—now might be a good time to assure a wary world that we anarcho-capitalists are aware of the market’s imperfections and of the many controversies a market-fearing world wants resolved, whether about food supplies, wealth, God, media, the treatment of indigenous peoples, or other important matters that may have crossed your mind over an otherwise relaxing weekend.

First, one need not be, like President Milei, a superhero-mimicking, rock-performing, religion-bashing, pro-immigration, government-eliminating, socialist-hating sex consultant to be an anarcho-capitalist—though it probably can’t hurt. One merely needs to have noticed that whatever problems humanity has, from poverty to the need for construction projects, they’re more easily and effectively solved without government than by waiting for government—which is always theft, force, and groupthink—to fix them.

Treat individuals as if the law shouldn’t touch them so long as they refrain from using the bodies or property of others against those others’ will. They will then naturally trade or collaborate to satisfy wants and solve problems, including problems of complex social coordination.

There’s no reason that observing and admiring that process has to result in callousness towards life’s losers, either, and if any anarcho-capitalists you meet suggest that it should, they do a disservice to their own philosophy and to the rest of us who seek to promulgate it. They hand easy propaganda material to the anti-market left and the anti-materialist right.

Luckily, once the idea of anarcho-capitalism becomes part of common discourse—even without yet being fully instituted anywhere—it quickly starts to look like the practical, conflict-settling, misery-avoiding philosophy toward which other philosophical factions have been fumbling all these centuries. Thoughtful political discussants can and should start treating anarcho-capitalism as the point of historical and intellectual convergence, not some outlier phenomenon on the fringes of the left, the right, the center, liberalism, or even libertarianism or anarchism.

Preserve what’s best about any of those philosophies while clearing away the encrusting nonsense, and you’ll find yourself an adherent of anarcho-capitalism, plain and simple.

You own your body and your property, and no one should seize them without your permission. Centuries of war, regulation, taxation, economic inefficiency, tyranny, and nonsense fall away once we admit it. Wisdom leads to the abolition of the state—even the abolition of borders so long as individuals are permitted to shore up their own property lines—and the rest of political history fades to become an overlong prelude. (Catholicism couldn’t stop an anarcho-capitalist’s triumph in Argentina either, so why not choose this time to ditch religion, the ultimate imaginary cosmic tyranny, as well? Time to let people be free—and sane—at last.)

To be sure, the market has its dangers—not the ones critics usually cite but dangers nonetheless: homogeneous company towns, ruthlessness, egomaniacs and chaos-agents who don’t care about kindness, bigshots’ hardball tactics like burying people in lawsuits, the constant gaudy spectacle of idiots failing upwards, and the infuriating tendency of sycophants everywhere to smile kindly on rich people’s projects even if they’re inane and inferior to poor people’s projects. Too, capitalists may tend toward thinking, like bad scientists, that everything worthwhile is quantifiable, which may lead to nebulous, mysterious things such as art occasionally being given short shrift.

I see all those problems and don’t pooh-pooh them. But overcome them without resorting to the state, that’s all I ask. And if you do, you're still an anarcho-capitalist, I'm pleased to inform you, even if you never took an interest in making a profit or out-competing others. How many of the nuanced market problems noted in the prior paragraph has the government even tried to address, after all, and do you really think good things would follow if it did? Government can barely deliver mail, never mind put the soul in order or direct charity where it’s most needed.

Let’s stop banging our heads against the wall as a species and try freedom. And one last note of warning: much of the insistence that we must keep doing things the authoritarian, coercive, collectivist way will come from people who tell you that they know on some level anarcho-capitalism would be better but think that maintaining current political coalitions is tactically necessary. Well, those temporary coalitions and all their anti-freedom projects tend to become permanent. I’ve been watching that happen for decades now, and others watched that dispiriting process for millennia before me.

Don’t keep falling for it—and in the short term, don’t fall for all the grifting, corruption, and intellectual dishonesty that inevitably accompany the cynical task of coalition maintenance, sleaze (and overhead) disguised as “necessary” compromise. That way lies... the same place we are now.

But enough politics: Each week next month, this column will do a little charitable culture enhancement by explaining how to save each of society’s four nerdiest franchises from stagnation—Marvel, Star Trek, Star Wars, and the DC Universe. Until the real world is fixed, we may need them. Cosplay-loving Milei is just one man, and it will take time to expand the team.

Todd Seavey is the author of Libertarianism for Beginners and is on X at @ToddSeavey


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