Those who’ve been reading my posts here for the year and a half or so that I’ve been making them (an impressive feat which I don’t necessarily recommend) may have gleaned that I’m more of a minarchist libertarian than an anarcho-capitalist. Yes, I very much appreciate Rothbard et al. — read and learn from their works, and agree with many of their ideas, etc. — but I’m not totally on board. Nonetheless, YAL bloggers fortunately make up a broad spectrum of libertarianism, no doubt representing variations of anti-government thought on all sides of my own position, which is awesome and makes for a much, much better blog.
Anyway, enough prologue. This morning I read this article by Dan McCarthy on his blog at TAC. McCarthy (also not an an-cap) questions what he sees as some underlying egalitarian assumptions in anarcho-capitalism:
If the ghost of Murray Rothbard pressed a magic button and made the state disappear tomorrow, the result would not look like a Lockean state of nature, or even Nozick’s picture of a highly developed state of nature in which property and protective associations and whatnot exist….All the social power and leverage built up by groups that have benefited from or manipulated the state would still exist, and the reservoirs of wealth in these groups could readily be applied to creating a new justice system that would serve the same de facto ruling class as exists now.
The anarcho-capitalists aren’t unaware of the difficulties here, and Murray Rothbard and Walter Block at least have talked about the need to rearrange property rights in accordance with their theory work. They would do this by restoring property that has been confiscated by or unjustly privatized by the state to its true legitimate (by Lockean lights) owners….Even as a theoretical exercise, these considerations have always seemed to me to be a glaring weakness in theoretical anarcho-capitalism. Redistributing property generations removed from its legitimate owners is a recipe for strife, regardless of how perfectly just you imagine your tribunal (and the rights theory behind it) might be.
None of this is an argument in favor of the state as we have it; rather, it seems to me that my anarcho-capitalist friends should examine more closely the egalitarian assumptions embedded within their own theorya…
This is something I’ve vaguely considered before, if not put into so cogent a critique. So my anarcho-capitalist friends (I’m looking at you, Matt Cockerill), what do you think? I don’t want to start an unfriendly debate here; I just think that (while I haven’t decided if I agree with all of them) McCarthy makes some good points in his post and I’d like to know how you’d respond. (I also think that YAL commenters, by and large, tend to be so extremely civil and thoughtful that a good discussion can happen. Hopefully I’m right.)Published in