Yes, “the system of private ownership of the means of production” “has coexisted with all kinds of pro-business privileges from the state”. But of course private property rights are incompatible with the state itself and privileges from the state–which is why Hoppe defines socialism as “an institutionalized interference with or aggression against private property and private property claims”.
I would agree “capitalism” is not the “essence” of the free market, but it is a critical feature of any advanced free market, if by “capitalism” we mean “private ownership of the means of production”. We need some word for “private ownership of the means of production”. What would you propose?
Further, some left-libertarians seem hostile to the idea of “private ownership of the means of production”. It is not the state entanglement with traditional mixed capitalism that they object to, nor is it the word “capitalism”–rather, they oppose “private ownership of the means of production”. They seem to be pro-self-sufficiency, communes, “coops,” “anarcho-syndicalism,” “wild-cat strikes,” quasi-agrarian, to favor “the workers,” etc., and hostile to: industrialism, modernity, the division and specialization of labor, “alienation,” “bossism,” “exploitation of workers,” “absentee ownership,” “landlordism,” “pushing people around,” and so on.
We can quibble over the best word to use to denote “private ownership of the means of production”. This is only a semantic and perhaps strategical/pedagogical issue. I think “capitalism” suffices; but another word would work, such as “Hessenism.” But the only reason I can think of for a left-libertarian to be reluctant to come up with a term we can use is (a) he thinks “private ownership of the means of production” is not a crucial aspect of any advanced free market order; or (b) he thinks, with the anti-private-property leftish “anarchists” that “private ownership of the means of production” (whatever you call it) is incompatible with libertarian-anarchism.
I believe left-libertarians are wrong in at least two respects. First, they are wrong to claim that libertarianism is “left” rather than right. It is neither. (See Walter Block’s “Libertarianism is unique; it belongs neither to the right nor the left: a critique of the views of Long, Holcombe, and Baden on the left, Hoppe, Feser and Paul on the right” .) We are not right, but we are not left, either. Both are equally wrong-headed and mistaken ideas, and the very left-right spectrum is based on fallacious premises. That which is good in leftism is already part of libertarianism. The left-libertarians are right to condemn corporatism and so-called “vulgar” capitalism, but libertarians already do this and know this, as standard plumbline libertarians (see my post Wombatron’s “Why I Am A Left-Libertarian”, noting: “yes we need to be aware that modern day “big business” is not pure; it’s too in bed with the state (as Rothbard, say, recognized long ago in criticizing Rand’s bemoaning of Big Business as being America’s most persecuted minority).”).
There is an implicit assumption that the standard, non-left libertarians are “vulgar” libertarians, but this is rarely stated explicitly nor are names named. But it is implied. For example in the back and forths over Wal-mart and “anarchist” window-breaking. It is not vulgar to admire and favor and defend modern industry and commerce that is based on “private ownership of the means of production.” By praising a profit-making firm that serves customers one does not automatically, implicitly, or even presumptively endorse the state privileges it receives or regulations or policies it may benefit from. By observing how Wal-mart serves the consumer in comparison to the state, one does not endorse state roads or transportation subsidies. One does not even “ignore” the distortions; we normal, Austrian-libertarians are well aware of the manifold ways in which the state distorts and corrupts the market. This is not news to us.
Second, they are wrong insofar as they oppose and criticize as being unlibertarian and unjust, the various catallactic aspects of a libertarian society, such as: division and specialization of labor, firms, (non-state-chartered) “corporations,” bosses, hierarchies, private ownership of the means of production (whatever label you guys will finally let us use for this), international and long-distance trade, industrialism, commerce, profit motive, “absentee ownership,” and the like. Hostility to these views is not libertarian; it is socialist, it is hostile to libertarianism and private property. To the extent “left-libertariansm” holds these views, it is not just an idiosyncratic subset of libertarianism–it is not libertarian at all.
They may succeed in taking “capitalism” from us. We have already lost “liberal.” In my view, we libertarians should not let “libertarianism” be wrested from us too.