George Walford: Anarchy and an Anarch

From time to time we have discussed the group favouring extension of the principles and methods of the market. In IC 20 there was a piece entitled Friedman or Free Men? which discussed some of the ideas put forward by Milton Friedman, and in 1976 there was issued The Ideology of Freedom, a paper based on the book The Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman (son of Milton). One particular intriguing thing about this group is that some of them call themselves Anarcho-Capitalists, claiming to support both capitalism and anarchism. In the terms of systematic ideology they are trying to unite two major ideologies standing well apart in the range. As The Ideology of Freedom put it, David Friedman tries to have one foot in each camp, and they are so far apart he is likely to injure himself in the attempt.

That paper was, as it said, about Anarcho-Capitalism, and having since got to know more about this and its background we find it to be only one thin strand in a larger skein, the Libertarian Alliances. (Which is itself one section of standard, parastatic Liberalism). Anarcho-Capitalism is not a movement of substance, it seems to be little more than an appearance of the idiosyncrasy often displayed by individual people and small groups. With the main body of the Libertarian Alliance there are none of the problems raised by the association of capitalism with anarchism; it is a straightforward parastatic group or movement, holding views close to those put forward by Milton Friedman rather than by David, the views discussed in IC 20.

The leaflet entitled “Introducing the Libertarian Alliance” sets forward these principles:

The right of all persons to life, liberty and justly acquired property.

The voluntary exchange of all goods and services.

Each individual’s liberty to pursue his or her chosen lifestyle and to promote it by peaceful persuasion, but not to impose it forcibly on anyone else.

Elimination of coercive intervention by the state, the foremost violator of liberty.

After these Principles follows the declaration: For Life, Liberty and Property.

This leaflet is radically different in approach and “flavour” from publications of the groups calling themselves anarchists in the sense Bakunin and Kropotkin used the term. This is the wording of an anarchist poster now before us:

No War. No Ayatollah. No Shah. No President. No Nationalism. No Militarism. No Ideology. No Religion. No God. No State. No Leaders. No Followers. Destroy that which destroys you.

The leaflet issued by the Alliance calls for the abolition only of specified activities now undertaken by government, not of government itself, and thereby shows the organisation not to be anarchist in the standard meaning of that term. The principles declared on the cover call for “Elimination of coercive intervention by the state, the foremost violator of liberty.” They do not call, as anarchist principles do, for the elimination of the state.

The Libertarian Alliance favours operation of society, to a greater extent than at present, by the methods of the market, that is to say, by buying and selling. This is an arguable position but it does mean, as was shown in IC 20, that a freedom highly valued by a great many people, the freedom to take what one wants without paying for it, has to be suppressed. Whether the suppression is to be performed by government police or private security forces is not likely to appear, to those who value this freedom, as much more than a technicality.

The Libertarian Alliance, we have to conclude, supports the imposition of control, it favours an -archy rather than anarchy.

from Ideological Commentary 22, January 1986.