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Libertarian Answer Man: Is Libertarianism Synonymous with Anarchism?

Q:

Hello prof. Kinsella. I would like to ask you a quick question. Do you consider libertarian as synonymous with anarcho-capitalist? Obviously there are many libertarians who are more classical liberals, but a libertarian consistent with his premises should be an anarchist, in this sense would he be a synonym for anarcho-capitalist?

Kinsella:

I think that a consistent libertarian is an anarchist, or an anarchist libertarian (a better term than the more loaded and less precise “anarcho-capitalist”). But I think the concept and definition of “libertarian” is broad enough to encompass both minarchists (mini-state-ists) and anarchist libertarians. I view the former as more consistent and the latter as less consistent.
Keep in mind that many of our fellow moderate libertarians–they are barely even minarchists, to tell the truth–don’t extend the same courtesy to us: they do not include anarchists in the set of libertarians. Example: as I wrote here:
“We need to remember that in times past, the assumption was minarchism and anarchists were regarded as the red-headed step-child. Some libertarians define libertarianism so as to exclude anarchists; e.g., most Objectivists (e.g. Adam Mossoff here) and Jeffrey Miron in Libertarianism, From A to Z, who arrogantly and dishonestly and smugly writes: “libertarianism accepts a role for government in a few, limited areas: small government, not anarchy” (see here).”

Q:

Thanks for answering.
 
Certainly “anarcho-capitalist” is a very loaded and imprecise term since there are some ways to interpret “capitalism”, and in that sense “anarchist libertarian” can be more precise and friendly. But if we understand capitalism as a social system based on the explicit recognition of private property, leaving aside other interpretations that become even antagonist, is it correct in that sense to see the (consistent) libertarian as synonymous with anarcho-capitalist?

Kinsella:

Yes. If we understand “capitalism” in this way. As Hoppe does in his A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, e.g. where he writes explicitly:
“Next to the concept of action, property is the most basic category in the social sciences. As a matter of fact, all other concepts to be introduced in this chapter—aggression, contract, capitalism and socialism—are definable in terms of property: aggression being aggression against property, contract being a nonaggressive relationship between property owners, socialism being an institutionalized policy of aggression against property, and capitalism being an institutionalized policy of the recognition of property and contractualism.”
That said, I think capitalism can also refer to something like the current semi-capitalist system, which is of course not fully libertarian. So it depends on what definition one has in mind, which is one reason I tend to prefer the term “anarcho-libertarian.” I personally think that any libertarian society–that is, one in which property rights are widely, consistently, systematically, and institutionally respected–if it is advanced enough (say, one having money) then in the free markets that prevail, it seems almost certain that there would be economic relationships such as employment and “capitalism,” understood as the natural economic structures, relationships, and hierarchies that prevail on the free market. Yet the term “capitalism” only describes one aspect of a free society, and one aspect of the free market, just as “free market” only describes one aspect of a free society (the economic part). So I tend to prefer to use the term anarcho-libertarian now, as I discuss in ch. 24 of my book Legal Foundations of a Free Society.
In any case, in the sense Hoppe means, and that you mean, I would say all libertarians are anarchists, since to be a consistent libertarian you have to oppose all forms of aggression, even that performed by the state; and all actual anarchists are libertarians because if you pretend to be an anarchist but are not a libertarian, that means you don’t oppose aggression, meaning you don’t support property rights, but this means you ultimately support statism since that is what you get when property rights are not institutionally and consistently respected; the state exists only because it does not respect property rights.
So I would say the consistent libertarian is an anarchist and any serious and sincere anarchist is and must be a libertarian, in part because the only basis to oppose the state is that one prefers the libertarian norms the state necessarily violates. Whether this means the term “libertarian” is actually a synonym I am not sure, as I an not a linguist. They seem to have slightly different connotations though I would agree that a consistent libertarian is an anarchist (in particular, an anarcholibertarian) and a (real) anarchist is a libertarian. For example the term libertarian seems broad enough to cover minarchists, even though they we not anarchists; we would say they are not fully consistent libertarians. But you would not describe some minarchist as being a not-fully-consistent anarchist.
My two cents.
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