Recently I read a post by the group Being Classically Liberal (the post has since been removed) about why the author rejects the philosophy of Anarcho-Capitalism. While I don’t require people to consider themselves to be Anarchists to consider them philosophical/economic allies, I believe that their reasoning is based on misconceptions and skewed perspectives, so I would like to address their points here. Point-by-point:

  •  “The non-aggression principle is lacking in terms of morality (letting parents starve their babies is acceptable).” 

There are actually two misconceptions that should be addressed regarding this point. The first is the notion that subscription to non-aggression principle is necessarily an Anarcho-Capitalist requirement. With the rise of the Austrian Anarchists following the Ron Paul Revolution, this has become the majority of Anarcho-Capitalists today, but there are many consequentialist Libertarians who arrive at Anarchy for practical means. This point is only worth mentioning because rejection of the NAP is not in itself a rejection of Anarcho-Capitalism. However, as I do personally subscribe to the Principle of Non-Aggression, I think the second point is more worth addressing, and that’s the parenthetical example of a parent being legally allowed to let their child starve because obligating them to the maintenance of the child’s well-being would require an aggression. There is no source given for this point on the original BCL post (though very recently Austin Peterson gave this singular reason for his rejection of Anarchy). The original source, however, is Murray Rothbard’s work “The Ethics of Liberty.” In it, Rothbard writes, “This rule allows us to solve such vexing questions as: should a parent have the right to allow a deformed baby to die (e.g., by not feeding it)? The answer is of course yes.” He goes on to explain that by logical extension, this would apply to any baby. What is not mentioned, however, is that in the very same paragraph he addresses the more important point that in a Libertarian society, the existence of a free baby market would lead to less neglect than we actually see with legal protocols in place to prevent it. Further in the chapter, Rothbard writes:

“For we must realize that there is a market for children now, but that since the government prohibits sale of children at a price, the parents may now only give their children away to a licensed adoption agency free of charge. This means that we now indeed have a child-market, but that the government enforces a maximum price control of zero, and restricts the market to a few privileged and therefore monopolistic agencies . . . . In fact, we find a large unsatisfied demand by adults and couples for children, along with a large number of surplus and unwanted babies neglected or maltreated by their parents. Allowing a free market in children would eliminate this imbalance, and would allow for an allocation of babies and children away from parents who dislike or do not care for their children, and toward foster parents who deeply desire such children.”

Rather than viewing the issues in the one-sided perspective of “the NAP would allow parents to starve their children to death,” you should consider the perspective that Anarcho-Capitalists merely have no faith that abstract legality will do anything to prevent such an action (and this is something we know to be true, considering it and even more egregious breaches of the law in the case of child care still commonly occur). Consequentially, however, economic theory suggests that child neglect should be less severe in an Anarcho-Capitalist society with the absence of such laws (it is also worth pointing out that as long as the existence of government remains, laws against actions such as murder, theft, child abuse, rape, etc. are not exactly the ones that Anarchists are clamoring to repeal). [1] The BCL author goes on to write:

  •  Like value, morality is subjective. The NAP is no more moral than a philosophy of forced equality objectively. However, subjectively, people hold different principles and morales [sic] in higher regard than others. 

Yes, morality is subjective. But believing in the NAP explicitly would mean that you do NOT believe in forcing somebody else to believe in the NAP. It does, however, mean that you – according to your personal, subjective morality – have the right to defend yourself against somebody who is initiating aggressive action against you. For instance, if you morally believe that it is your obligation to punch somebody who makes eye contact with you based on your subjective morality, it is morally permissible for me to defend myself from your punch based on my morally subjective belief in the NAP. Returning to the very first point I made, not every Anarcho-Capitalist even believes in the NAP, and at least the majority of us choose not to concern ourselves with people who hold different beliefs as long as they aren’t aggressing against us. In broader terms, however, the Non-Aggression principle is not much different than Christianity’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself” or the nearly universal “Golden Rule” that appears in varying forms in numerous religions. In short, the NAP is not universally accepted, but the basic implications that it carries with it are about as close to universal moral principles that you can find.

  • It is unclear whether or not Ancap societies would have more efficient solutions than government for problems such as air and water pollution, natural monopolies, etc. 

There is clear evidence that the State is not a solution to the issues of pollution. Governments, in fact, are far greater polluters than even the worst private entity that has ever existed (and why not, considering they can and do exempt themselves from their own anti-pollution laws?). While pollution in some form will always exist, even under the state apparatus, the typical Classically Liberal solution to pollution is going to revolve around private property rights. This is, of course, true: as the concept of the Tragedy of the Commons demonstrates, people are far more likely to maintain their own private property than they are “public” property. A privately owned lake retains a higher value if it is not soiled with chemicals and industrial waste. Does the auther honestly believe that private property owners in the absence of government would pollute more than governments? That certainly would be no easy achievement. From a Public Relations perspective, firms are held privately accountable for their pollution as well. Just as with any firm, a business that pollutes can face the wrath of the market in the form of customers doing businesses with competitors (these penalties will be far more noticeable for companies who don’t get government subsidies and special privileges, as well). In the case of accidental pollution, such as oil spills and chemical spills, there’s an immediate penalty in the form of lost profits regardless. Thus, the market is perfectly capable of regulating reasonable environmental standards through a system of profit-and-loss, just as with anything else. Governments, on the other hand, use these issues as an excuse to nationalize environmentally controversial industries such as oil, ignore their own rules, and then claim sovereign immunity when they make a mistake, and fund any clean-up programs with tax-dollars, so that nobody responsible is ever actually held accountable. [2] A government that merely enforces reasonable environmental regulations without violating environmental standards themselves is at least as non-existent and fantastical as anarchy is argued to be. Even where a country appears to be more environmentally friendly, we find government-created negative externalities that would not exist in a purely free market. For example, Sweden’s government has so successfully pushed recycling programs that the country now has to import garbage from neighboring countries to meet the demand for the natural gas energy that garbage produces. [3] Monopolies are far easier to tackle from the Anarcho-Capitalist perspective. If you are against monopolies, then that is one of the best reasons to be an anarchist in that the government itself exercises monopoly power in everything that it does. Nearly every private business with monopoly power only has such power due to government privileges. It is nearly impossible to find an actual example of a “natural monopoly” – the De Beers Diamond Cartel is probably the closest existing example of a natural monopoly (it is not a pure monopoly, but it holds monopoly power with the largest market share). However, unlike government monopolies, even this power is volatile. De Beers’ market share was as high as 90% in 1980 and fell to a mere 40% by 2012, while diamonds have more commonly been circulating outside of the De Beers distribution channels. [4] Even where natural monopoly power is obtained (a pure monopoly – meaning 100% market share has never, to my knowledge, existed outside of government) it is very difficult to maintain without government help. Government monopoly, however, is ever present and holds powers no other monopoly has – the power to exercise violence with impunity – to maintain its monopoly status.

  • There is NO empirical evidence which suggests that anarchy will improve economic or social outcomes in a developed country like the United States.

From the moral philosophy of anarchism, this is a non-issue as it does nothing to address the morality of government actions such as taxation. This is purely a consequentialist point about the uncertainty of anarchism from the point of economic efficiency. In the strictest sense, it is true that there is no definitive evidence proving anarchism – but this is for the very same reason that there is no definitive evidence disproving anarchism: namely, there are no existing anarchist states (there have been small pockets of civilizations throughout history that could be considered anarchist, but they are difficult to compare economically to a modern, Western society). What we can find evidence to, however, is a distinct correlation between a reduction of government and a higher degree of economic prosperity – a correlation that BCL, of course, will commonly point to when advocating their belief in limited government. The fallacy here is a basic assumption that at some level, the trend must reverse direction, despite the established pattern. In the world of mainstream economics, this misconception is solidified by the fallacious use of Gross Domestic Product as the metric for measuring prosperity (it technically only measures production without any indication of the value of what is produced). As BCL’s writer stated in the previous point, value is subjective. Understanding that point as he does, it follows logically that the government spending aspect of GDP (which is calculated as the sum of Consumer and Producer goods, government spending, and Net Exports) reflects not an addition but rather a reduction in prosperity because government spending necessarily represents resources utilized in areas that in no way reflect their most valued use, according to the consumer (after all, that would require the government to spend tax dollars on EXACTLY what people would have bought anyway, distributing those goods to the EXACT people who would have bought them, and to accomplish this all without using any resources on the establishment of the bureaucracy needed to facilitate this in the first place). If value is subjective (a point BCL and I agree on), then even if GDP falls as a result of such a significant reduction in government spending, this would actually indicate an increase in prosperity in that resources were used in the way valued most highly by the people paying for them, which can never be the case under government. This, in fact, is why the recession years of 1946-47, when government spending was dramatically reduced, we saw unprecedented rises in the Middle Class standard of living. [5] If prosperity can at all be maximized through anything other than an Anarcho-Capitalist pure free market, then value is definitively NOT subjective. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]