Between Anarchism and Libertarianism: Defining Slightly Different Political Choices I. Mapping the Political Landscape The political philosophy of anarchism is a peculiar beast, historically misunderstood and often misrepresented, either consciously or inadvertently. To best understand it, one must divine some workable method of comparing it to other political philosophies, but unfortunately the tradition system, the linear graph, seems conspicuously inadequate. The linear graph, or the so-called "political spectrum," allegedly displays the entirety of political options along a single line, from left to right, stretching out from a central point representing "moderate." From there it leads to "liberalism" on the left, until it reaches to "radical liberalism" and "communism," which is the extreme left "fringe." To the right it leads to "conservatism," and finally to a reactionary conservatism" and "fascism," which is the extreme right "fringe." (See Fig. 1). Fig.
1 - Traditional image of political spectrum [TN: linear representation] Communism - Liberalism - Moderate - Conservatism - Fascism This image offers little in the way of understanding the differences between the "left" and the "right." Indeed, if we compare the Nazi government of 1930's Germany, which is widely considered a good case study in fascism, and compare it with the Bolshevik government of the Soviet Union, widely regarded as a good case study in communism, the obvious totalitarian nature of both political systems may lead us to believe that the two are virtually the same system. And if fascism and communism are nearly identical, why are they so "extremely" separate on the spectrum Are they actually the same ideology in practice, distinguishable only by the rhetoric employed by the resident "Ministry of Truth" That would suggest that this linear graph is actually a circle and that fascism and communism are actually on roughly the same point on the spectrum. (Fig. 2 - common modification of traditional image. ) [TN: Author's Fig. 2 shows the endpoints of Fig.
1 closing into a circle, making a circular representation, whereby Communism and Fascism coincide. ] Perhaps fascism and communism are just buzzwords for a single system, totalitarianism. That would seem consistent in that liberalism and conservatism are at opposite poles, but is the polar opposite of totalitarianism something labeled "moderate" What is the shared ideology of moderates If totalitarianism endorses a society almost totally controlled by a strong central government, shouldn't its opposite philosophy endorse a society almost completely absent of strong central government Surely moderates (in our society at least) do not endorse a society without government, which is essentially an anarchist position. Then where does anarchism fit on this spectrum And where does "libertarianism," as endorsed by the newly formed (U. S. ) Libertarian Party, fit on this spectrum To answer these questions we must, in short, reject the tradition linear" image, and even the "circular" image of the political spectrum, and examine a new image.
For the purposes of this essay, a two- dimensional alternative, borrowed from the good people of Utne Reader, will be used. 1 This alternative spectrum takes as its objective "foundation," its standard, its "yardstick" with which to gauge various ideologies, two primary questions: the question of property ownership, and the question of State control. The graph is composed of two axes, one (left- right) representing the variations of systems of property ownership, the other (top-bottom) representing the variations of State control over society. Fig. 3 - the Property/State Axis Decentralism S ("Small" or "No Government") t a Collectivism Privat ism t (Community Ownership) (Individual Ownership) e Centralism ("Big Government") P r o p e r t y The "property" axis varies from total collectivization of property (community control of land and the "means of production") to total privatization of property (individual ownership of land and the "means of production"). The "State" axis varies from total control or eminence of State government (totalitarianism) to total absence or extremely minimal State government (decentralism).
Once these two linear spectrum are combined into a two- dimensional graph, the task of differentiating various political ideologies becomes much easier. It also allows us to assign specific meanings to specific terms, terms whose traditional definitions have been all but buried in decades after decades of contradictory usage. It can't be denied that many political terms ("liberal" and "conservative," for example) simply do not have the same strict denotations today that they may have had a century or two ago. Their meanings have changed, evolved, and, in the content of historical analysis, it becomes necessary to clarify their specific meanings if we insist upon using them. Fortunately, clarifying the terms "liberalism" and "conservatism" is unnecessary to this particular essay, but others are indeed necessary.
For the course of this paper, we will assign certain descriptors to designate poles of the "landscape" graph. For instance, the term "socialistic" will be used to describe individuals or doctrines advocating collectivism, or the abolition of private property. Fig. 4 - Descriptive Labels "Libertarian" S ("Small" or "No Government") t a "Socialistic"Capitalistic" t (Community Ownership) (Individual Ownership) e "Authoritarian" ("Big Government") P r o p e r t y-> "Capitalistic" will be used to describe those who defend the right to private property. "Authoritarian" will describe those who advocate a strong State, a powerful central government. And "libertarian" will describe advocates of minimal or nonexistent government power.
Certainly these denotations are not necessarily consistent with all their historical uses, but such consistency is an impossibility, and these definitions are not totally divorced from contemporary usage, as shall be seen. With our terms now defined, certain ideologies may be pin- pointed on the graph. In particular, the ideologies of Communism, Fascism, Libertarianism, and Anarchism can be designated. These four political philosophies are particularly important (on this graph at least) because they represent the "corners." By asking how these ideologies stand on the issues of property and centralism, we can place them on the graph.
Fig. 5 - The graphic locations of the four ideologies ANARCHISM LIBERTARIANISM "Libertarian" S ("Small" or "No Government") t a "Socialistic"Capitalistic" t (Community Ownership) (Individual Ownership) e "Authoritarian" ("Big Government") COMMUNISM FASCISM P r o p e r t y II. Toward a Definition of Anarchism To begin this comparison, we are required to come to some consensus as to the actual meaning of the term "anarchism," if for no other reason to determine if its placement on the above "landscape" graph is indeed accurate. A good starting point is the new HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy which, interestingly enough, has two definitions, a "positive connotation" and a "negative connotation:" Anarchism is the social ideology that refuses to accept an authoritarian ruling government. It holds that individuals should organize themselves in any way they wish in order to fulfill their needs and ideals. In this sense anarchism is not to be identified with nihilism but can be seen to have similarities with political libertarianism...
Anarchism is the belief that denies any respect for law and order and actively engages in the promotion of chaos through the destruction of society. It advocates the use of individual terrorism as a means toward advancing the cause of social and political disorganization. Every anarchist who wrote about the theory had to offer their definition, as it was so poorly understood. One of the clearest was offered by Kropotkin in his pamphlet Anarchist Communism, Its Basis and Principles, in which he defines anarchism as "then-government system of socialism... ." In common with all socialists, the anarchists hold that the private ownership of land, capital, and machinery has had its time; that it is condemned to disappear: and that all requisites for production must, and will, become the common property of society, and be managed in common by the producers of wealth. And...
they maintain that the ideal of the political organization of society is a condition of things where the functions of government are reduced to minimum... (and) that the ultimate aim of society is the reduction of the functions of government to nil-that is, to a society without government, to anarchy. 6 A Twentieth Century anarchist, Rudolf Rocker, accepted the socialist definition of the philosophy. In defining anarchism he writes, "Common to all Anarchists is the desire to free society of all political and social coercive institutions which stand in the way of the development of a free humanity." Rocker sees this realization only in actualizing the Liberalist and Socialist traditions of the French Revolution. Convinced that the gallant but "pre-eminently political" concepts of Liberalism and Democracy were "shipwrecked on the realities of the capitalist economic form," Rocker asserts... In common with founders of Socialism, Anarchists demand the abolition of all economic monopolies and the common ownership of the soil and all other means of production, the use of which must be available to all without distinction...
[T]he Anarchists represent the viewpoint that the war against capitalism must be at the same time a war against all institutions of political power, for in history economic exploitation has always gone hand in hand with political and social oppression. The exploitation of man by man and the domination of man over man are inseparable, and each is the condition of the other. 8 III. Modern Libertarianism and Ayn Rand Information on the Libertarian Party is, unfortunately, rather scarce. While allegedly the "third-largest and fastest-growing" political party in the United States, their material is still not readily accessible in the Tallahassee, FL area, and their toll-free telephone number was constantly busy prior to the 1992 Presidential elections. However, a short, one-page pamphlet entitled "Understanding the Libertarian Philosophy" was fortunately available.
(A copy is enclosed with this essay) [TN: another day]. This pamphlet, written by Joseph E. Knight, Libertarian Party Field Organizer, is a succinct attempt at clarifying the core ideology, if not the specific programmatic platform, of the Party. Of course, not much can be said in one page, no matter how small the type. However, there are certain tell-tale "fingerprints" in Mr. Knight's brief account, which may tie it to a larger and more accessible body of work, with which we may fill in some conceptual gaps.
It has been rumored, though no written proof is available to the author of this essay, that the Libertarian Party is heavily influenced by the Objectivist movement, of which Ayn Rand has emerged as the chief spokesperson. Ayn Rand died in 1982, but she left behind a substantial body of literature, both fictional and expositional, most of which can be sampled at any local bookstore or library. If the Libertarians really are influenced by Rand's work, then an understanding of Rand's objectivism would serve well to clarify the Libertarian "world view." But is there a connection The theme of Knight's pamphlet is primarily the "proper role of government in a free society." An explication of the pamphlet is unnecessary, as the pamphlet is included with this essay and should be examined by the reader [TN: Write: The Libertarian Party, 1528 Pennsylvania Ave. , Washington, D. C. , 20003, or call (202) 543-1988 or (800) 682-1776].
What follows is a comparison of certain particularly important passages of the pamphlet and certain pertinent statements from the writings of Ayn Rand: Government is the use of force. To govern means to control. The use of force is implicit in the definition of control... [Therefore, ] the question becomes, "What is the proper use of force in a free society [A] government holds a legal monopoly on the we of physical force... The nature of governmental action is: coercive action. 10 Freedom...
has only one meaning: the absence of physical coercion. 12 The proper role of government (force) in a free society then, is to defend and / or retaliate against those who initiate force. The only proper purpose of government is to protect man 's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man's self- defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. 13 In a free society, you have property rights... In a free society, you have personal rights...
Property rights and personal rights are really the same. Personal rights are based on property rights because you own your life, your body, and your mind. The right to life is the source of all rights-and the right to property is their only implementation. without property rights, no other rights are possible. 14 All of the passages are taken from various essays authored by Ayn Rand and Richard Knight. When compared, these paired excerpts read like paraphrases of each other.
V. Society, Individualism, and Inheritance To better understand the differences between the anarchists and the Objectivist/Libertarians, it is necessary to dig deeper than simply their "soundbites" on the proper role of the State and their bandying of the terms "socialism" and "capitalism." While our "landscape" graph can accurately contrast different ideologies on the basis of these two important issues, it cannot help us understand the philosophical foundation of these political and economic positions. That is a much more complicated process, an dan adequate appraisal of the philosophies of anarchism and Objectivism cannot be made in merely a few typed pages. But it maybe possible to highlight certain particulars that most clearly contrast each other, thereby granting us a glimpse of the root differences between these two schools of thought. The most glaring example of this is the concepts of individualism and society. Individualism is the keystone of Objectivist philosophy, and it pervades all other conclusions.
"[E]very man... must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self- interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life." 25 Rand's image of humanity is rooted in the "classical liberal" view, in the tradition of John Locke, which sees all people as absolute individual entities, whose only effect on one another is comparable to "billiard balls" randomly colliding and altering the otherwise linear course of their independent lives. Attempting to coexist among each other, people are forced, by overcrowding or whatever, to enter into a Rousseau-esque "social contract," a State, which guarantees security to all its citizens atthe price of a "little" sacrificed freedom. The goal of individuals now is to reap the fruits of their labor, with their rightfully purchased land, and try to keep the State's tax of liberty" to an unobtrusive minimum. To Ayn Rand, there are no rights but individual rights, and "a group...
has no rights other than the individual rights of its members." 26 Bakunin addressed these issues a century earlier, dismissing Rousseau's "social contract" as a "terrible nonsense,"a pernicious fiction." He defined humanity more broadly. "Man is not only the most individual being on earth, but also the most social." 27 Neither of these qualities can be ignored or dismissed. Bakunin described every human being as being the product of an environment, both natural and social, and as such, unable to escape the social element of their existence. "Man does not choose society; on the contrary, he is the product of the latter." 28 Through education, the values of a society or community are transferred to the next generation, thus all original ideas and concepts are produced on the foundation of what society has transmitted to its members. Here we see the starkest contrast between Objectivism and anarchism. Rand denies the value of society: Mankind is not an entity, an organism, or a coral bush.
The entity involved in production and trade is man. It is with the study of man - not of the loose aggregate known as "community" - that any science of the humanities has to begin... A great deal may be learned about society by studying man; but this process cannot be reversed: nothing can be learned about man by studying society - by studying the inter-relationships of entities one has never identified or defined. 29 Rand's repudiation of the importance of society is echoed repeatedly: Man gains enormous values from dealing with other men; living in a human society is his proper way of life - but only on certain conditions.
Man is not a lone wolf and he is not a social animal. He is a contractual animal. 30 In Rand's paradigm, "society" is merely a bundle of individuals who interact with one another when convenience requires it. Cooperation takes place on the basis of strict mutual self-interest, and typically on a "contractual" basis, such as employment." Culture" is merely the sum total of ideas among a mass of individuals whose general acceptance is dominant over other " dissident" ideas.
These definitions are dry and stoic only because the truly important unit of human society is the isolate human being, whose "creative faculty cannot be given or received, shared or borrowed." 31 Bakunin offers an elaborate renunciation of this image: [E]very thing that lives, does so under the categorical condition of decisively interfering in the life of someone else... The worse it is for those who are so ignorant of the natural and social law of human solidarity that they deem possible or even desirable the absolute independence of individuals in regard to one another. To will it is to will the disappearance of society... All men, even the most intelligent and strongest are at every instant of their lives the producers and the product. Freedom itself, the freedom of every man, is the ever-renewed effect of the great mass of physical.
intellectual, and moral influences to which this man is subjected by the people surrounding him and the environment in which he was born and in which he passed his whole life. To wish to escape this influence in the name of some... self-sufficient and absolutely egoistical freedom. is to aim toward non-being. To do away with this reciprocal influence is tantamount to death. And in demanding the freedom of the masses we do not intend to do away with natural influences to which man is subjected by individuals and groups.
All we want is to do away with is factitious. legitimized influences. to do away with the privileges in exerting influence. 32 What does Bakunin mean by "privileges of influence" He means, in general, hierarchies of power, and in specific, the political leaders who control the State, the ministers who control the Church, and of course, the capitalists who own and thereby control all capital, land, and the means of production. The premier issue that Bakunin addresses in his work, which Rand explicitly denies in hers, is that of economic exploitation. Rand does not believe exploitation is possible in "free trade" capitalism, so long as there i sno physical force involved in the process.
She is explicit: Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion. It does not mean freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide men with automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state - and nothing else! 33 Note the juxtaposition of "landlord,"employer," and the "laws of nature," the implication being that all three are an inevitability. And again, please note the sole emphasis on active physical force. "What is the basic, the essential, the crucial principle that differentiates freedom from slavery It is the principle of voluntary action versus physical coercion or compulsion." 34 Rand " s assumption is that, so long as there are no chains around one's ankles and no state requiring labor by threat of punishment, then labor is optional and workers are free. A right cannot be violated except by physical force.
One man cannot deprive another of his life nor enslave him, Whenever a man is made to act without his own free, personal, individual, voluntary consent - his right has been violated. 35 To the anarchists, this is preposterous. Once a State has been established, and most of the country's capital privatized, the threat of physical force is no longer necessary to coerce workers into accepting jobs, even with low pay and poor conditions. To useRand's tern, "initial force" has already taken place, by those who now have capital against those who do not. Bakunin described the conditions which make "voluntary" labor and illusion: Juridically they are equal; but economically the worker is the serf of the capitalist... thereby the worker sells his person ant his liberty for a given time.
The worker is in the position of a serf because this terrible threat of starvation which daily hangs over his head and over his family, will force him to accept any conditions imposed by the gainful calculations of the capitalist, the industrialist, the employer... The worker always has the right to leave his employer, but has he the means to do so No, he does it in order to sell himself to another employer. He is driven to it by the same hunger which forces him to sell himself to the first employer. [I]t has been proven 8 thousand times that an isolated worker cannot produce much more than what he consumes. We challenge any real worker, any worker who does not enjoy a single privilege, to amass tens or hundreds of thousands of francs, or millions! That would be quite impossible. Therefore, if some individuals in present-day society do acquire such great sums, it is not by their labor that they do so but by their privilege, that is, by a juridically legalized injustice.
And since a person inevitably takes from others whatever he does not gain from his own, we have the right to say that all such profits are thefts of collective labor, committed by a few privileged individuals with the sanction of the State and under its protection. 42 In other words, if a thief died and willed his "ill-gotten gain" to his children, would the children have a right to the stolen property Not legally. So if "property is theft," to borrow Proudhon's quip, and the fruit of exploited labor is simply legal theft, then the only factor giving the children of a deceased capitalist a right to inherit the "booty" is the law, the State. As Bakunin wrote, "Ghosts should not rule and oppress this world, which belongs only to the living." What is Ayn Rand's response to this Unfortunately, she has no response. The Ayn Rand Lexicon, an alphabetized glossary of quotations of Rand on myriad topics, published after her death, has no entry on inheritance rights, and nowhere, in all of her elaborate and occasionally repetitious descriptions of the virtue of property does she mention the issue of inheritance, neither to endorse it nor condemn it. But what would she say If she were consistent to her doctrine of individualism and independent achievement, she would logically condemn it.
After all, if an individual were to be given an abundance of land from a deceased parent, then they would have an advantage over their neighbors, an advantage which they did nothing directly to earn. They would be reaping the fruits of collective labor, to a limited degree, that is, the collective labor of numerous ancestors, whose horde of property grows along familial lines, giving each generation an even greater advantage. There is nothing "independent" or " individual" about investing a parent's "hard-earned" money. However, if she condemned inheritance, then, considering her background, she would be severely violating her own past, and likewise, her self-interest. While her theories may be flawed, she was no idiot. The fact that she never mentioned the topic of inheritance suggests, not that it never crossed her mind, but rather, that she had no serious ideological problems with it.
If she properly saw it as a violation of the Objectivist ideal, she would likely have devoted an entire essay to condemning it. Instead it is conspicuously absent from her tenets. We therefore do not know how she would have responded to Bakunin's program. But it would have been intriguing, no doubt. VI. Conclusion There has, of late, been a profound confusion in the minds of many, who have mistakenly described the Libertarian Party as being " anarchist." It has been the aim of this essay to clarify the specific nature of this erroneous comparison.
This confusion, however, is interesting, in and of itself. It is rooted in this society's general acceptance, as an objective reality, the presence of a fairly powerful state. We, the American public, have been lulled into accepting an image of politics wherein we see our options only as "moderate democracy,"extremist dictatorship," or "chaotic anarchy." Government, to the average American, isa bit like the porridge that Goldilocks sampled in the house of the three bears: "too much government,"not enough government," or " just the right amount of government."We " re losing the ability to differentiate between politics and economics, and what different governments really stand for. This is not simply sad, it's dangerous. The Libertarian Party is seen as anarchistic only because, today any group which advocates a drastic reduction in State power of any kind, regardless of economic policy, is interpreted as "anarchist." This would not have happened a century ago, in Europe or America.
These subtleties were much more clearly understood and delineated. They knew the difference between anarchism, (State) communism, and Libertarian (laissez-faire) capitalism. The differences were important back then. Now we are out of practice, and it is difficult to distinguish them.
It is the sincere wish of the author that the "landscape" graph will help facilitate there attunement necessary to recognize the genuine positions of present and future political / economic groups. The author has personally found this graph invaluable in that regard. Bakunin once wrote that, "[L]liberty without socialism is privilege and injustice, and that socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." 43 It has been the goal of the author to illustrate that, in Bakunin's words, the Libertarian Party represents "liberty without socialism," and therefore, "privilege and injustice." Endnotes 1. Utne Reader, No. 48; Nov. /Dec.
1991. The centerfold for this issue included a multi-colored display entitled "The American Political Landscape: An Alternative View." No specific authors were cited. It should be noted that the version presented in this essay has been substantially modified and expanded, and all modifications are strictly the product of the author. 2. More often than not, the industrial complex of a fascist state is often composed of foreign corporations. This is particularly the case in most "Third World" nations, where the relationship to foreign investors and domestic fascism is seen as having " imperialististic" or "colonialist ic" implications.
3. Bookchin, Murray; The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy, N. Y: Black Rose, Rev. 1991, p. liv. Bookchin refers to his theory of Social Ecology as "Libertarian Municipal ism." 4.
Angeles, Peter A. ; The HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy, Second Edition, N. Y: Harper Perennial, 1992, pp. 11-12.
5. Maxim off, G. P. (Ed. ); The Political Philo.