True Anarchy is Libertarianism, True Libertarianism is Anarchy

Over on the commentator today they have a piece attacking Libertarians for allegedly going to extremes, the extreme mentioned is calling for the legalisation of drugs. While Sam Bowman has more than responded to this point here (in summary only individuals are best placed to know the costs and benefits they will accrue from any action) I wanted to tackle another part of the articles, that libertarianism and anarchy are somehow inconsistent

In the piece Donna Edmunds argues that people don’t act in their best interests, so we can not allow them to have drugs. Libertarians never argue people act in their best interest only their perceived best interest. No one can know their best interest because we can not see the future. I may wish to enter a shop to buy some food as I am hungry, unaware that a car is about to drive into that shop and injure me. Going into the shop was in my perceived best interest, not in my actual best interest.

But back on point, Anarchy not only is perfectly compatible with Libertarianism, it is in my eyes true and consistent Libertarianism. A Libertarian argues that the State has no right to tell others what to do, except when they are harming others. Whilst taking drugs may not be in my best interest it is no business of the state if I take them or not, it is my body I can damage it if I wish.

True Anarchists agree with this in part, they say no one has the right to tell you what to do, except when you are harming others. The main difference being the removal of the word state. Anarchists believe that not only can private companies and individuals perform the services that the state provides to a high standard, often a higher standard, but that also private companies have more justification for doing so. State run business or industry is funded by tax, this tax is taken against peoples will, harming them either through the use of coercion or the threat of coercion. Anarchy is not against the rule of law, it just does not believe you need a state to impose that rule of law. Indeed some Anarchists, myself included, believe that law is something that comes from individuals and so that each person makes their own laws, only applicable to them. (E.g If my law says murder is fine that only applies to people murdering me, murdering others breaks their law and is illegitimate (I struggle to imagine a situation where someone thinks murdering them is OK, but I use it as an extreme example))

So why is true Libertarianism, Anarchy? Well Libertarians seem to see little role for the state, most small state Libertarianism or Minarchists see the state as only providing police forces, others give it a wider scope allowing the state to intervene in some areas but not others. The great Murray Rothbard recalls a discussion with acquaintances who asked him that if a Government is best placed to provide police over private institutions ‘why can’t society also agree to have a government build steel mills and have price controls and whatever?’ He went on to say  ‘At that point I realized the laissez- faire position was terribly inconsistent, and I either had to go on to anarchism or become a statist.’

Anarchy is consistent Libertarianism. It takes every argument that Libertarians use against the big state, against the Lefts desire to interfere in the boardroom, Conservative desires to interfere in the bedroom, Neo-Cons desire to interfere in other countries bedrooms and boardrooms, and applies them to the small state Libertarians advocate. If you are a Natural Rights theorist, or a consequentialist Utilitarian any argument you use against Government, be it unjustified in violating your rights, inefficient and high priced compared to private counterparts or not able to properly know the needs and requirements of individuals, can be applied to any Government or state involvement you suggest. Either you can bite the bullet, say that while you don’t think Government works in other places you just prefer it running the police etc or you have to accept that to be a truly consistent Libertarian, you have to be an Anarchist.

For further reading about Anarchy in regards to law, police etc David Friedman sets out how private courts private law and private police would work beautifully in his book Machinery of Freedom, avaliable to read online


  1. Anarcho Capitalism is fine as a theory, and I would love to live in that world, but is no more likely than pure communism.

    My principle issue with is it that we don’t live in a vacuum. For example, trade agreements are signed between countries, not companies. British companies could not operate abroad if the was no British state.

    You would also have people buying their own justice with personal police forces. The hope that companies would willing cooperate because it’s good for their reputation is wishful thinking at best, and at worst hopelessly naive.

    As I say, I applud the sentiments of anarchism, I really do, but it would descend into warlordism.

    Have you read Jennifer Government? I think you would enjoy it.


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