Posts tagged Benjamin Tucker

Re: Defining capitalism

Black Bloke:

Interesting that he quotes something by Murray from his pre-anarchist days to “prove” that Murray himself knew that he wasn’t “really” and anarchist.


Actually, if I recall correctly, Rothbard is said to have first become an anarchist in 1950 and the piece mentioned is said to be “from the 1950’s”, so it’s most likely not from before he became a complete anti-statist. That said, anarchists (like any other normal people) change their minds about stuff all of the time. By, at least, the time of the New Banner interview circa 1970(?) he was using the word anarchist to describe himself, if I recall correctly.

For what it’s worth, the article that Anarcho is citing as his critical source (“Are Libertarians ‘Anarchists’?”) is available online from (has been for over a year now), which is almost certainly how he came across it, although, as per the usual AFAQ standards of scholarship when it comes to anarcho-capitalists, he doesn’t link to it. It’s the article in which Rothbard declares himself a “non-archist;” at the time his position was basically what Bob LeFevre was arguing for in the 1960s; that is, he had come out against the monopoly state as such (he explicitly argues against “limited government” in the article, and argues that “the pure libertarian must advocate a society where an individual may voluntarily support none or any police or judicial agency that he deems to be efficient and worthy of his custom”), but chose not to call himself an “Anarchist” because, at the time, he thought that “Anarchism” entailed either coercive collectivization, Proudhonian theories of interest, or Tolstoyan pacifism, all of which he rejected. By 1965 he had changed his mind and was speaking positively of anarchism and anarchists (see for example Liberty and the New Left, from Left and Right 1.2) as examples of libertarian politics, and by 1969 (see for example “Anarcho-Rightism” in Libertarian Forum 1.13) he was definitely using both “anarchism” simpliciter and “anarcho-capitalism” to describe his own views. Of course the big shift had partly to do with the fact that he had broken decisively from the Right and was hanging out with anarchists within the New Left; it also had partly to do with the fact that, based on the textual evidence, he seems to have read a lot more actual anarchist writing in between.


Tucker himself never described himself as a “mutualist.”

I don’t know off the top of my head whether or not Tucker ever specifically used the letters M-U-T-U-A-L-I-S-T as part of a description of his own views, but, just from a quick glance at materials I have on hand for electronic search, I am reminded that Tucker describes the economic principles he subscribes to (specifically, the cost principle and co-operative organization of capital) as “mutualism” and “mutualistic” in Mutualism in the Service of Capital (originally from Liberty, July 16, 1887; reprinted in Instead of a Book).

Re: Feminism and Libertarianism Again


First, I notice that you haven’t answered my question. I mentioned one specific case in which people who advocate a “thick” conception of libertarianism (including Howley, myself, Roderick Long, Wendy McElroy, Hans Hoppe, Chris Sciabarra, Ayn Rand, Benjamin Tucker, Herbert Spencer, and a lot of other people from many different wings of the mvement) often stress the importance of non-coercive cultural phenomena to libertarian politics: cases in which there are important causal preconditions for a flourishing free society. Here it seems that libertarians have strategic reasons for favoring some non-coercive cultural arrangements over other non-coercive cultural arrangements, even though neither arrangement involves an initiation of force against identifiable victims. Do you disagree? If so, why? Or do you agree, but think that strategic commitments are somehow unimportant for libertarians to consider? If so, why?

Second, rather than responding to this question, at all, you have simply repeated a set of completely unsupported definitional claims. I don’t know what expertise or authority you think you have that would justify these from-the-mountaintop declarations. It certainly has nothing to do with the history of the word “libertarian” (or the French “libertaire,” from which “libertarian” was derived). The word has meant all kinds of different things throughout its history: it was originally coined by Joseph Dejacque as a euphemism for anarchistic socialism (which is still the primary use of the term in Europe); it has been used as a general contrast term for “authoritarianism”; American free marketeers and Constitutionalists started using it as a replacement term for “classical liberal” in the mid-20th century; about a decade later, a few (e.g. Murray Rothbard, later on Walter Block) started using it to specifically describe an axiomatic ethico-political system deriving from the non-aggression principle. The last of these definitions is the only one that systematically excludes consideration of any social question other than those having to do with the legitimate use of force. Some other meanings of the term (e.g. the understanding of “libertarianism” as more or less synonymous with “classical liberalism”) tend to minimize but not do away with other considerations; others (e.g. the identification of libertarianism with anti-authoritarianism or anarchism specifically) tend to put quite a bit of attention on broader questions about the desirability of different non-coercive social structures. You can find out some of the history behind these kinds of debates from books like Chris Sciabarra’s Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical and Total Freedom; I already linked an article of my own (from FEE’s The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty) which discusses some of the philosophical aspects of the debate and mentions some of the history of debates within the movement along the way. Of course you’re under no obligation to agree with me on the matter (lots of libertarians don’t–Walter Block, for example, has recently written against “thick” conceptions of libertarianism) but the position is certainly out there, and has been out there for a good century and a half or so, and it’s a bit much for you to simply hand down unsupported declarations about the “definition” of libertarianism (as if there were a single uncontested definition!).

Third, you make the following specific claim about what Kery Howley has been doing in her posts on libertarianism and feminism: “her line of argument isn’t an attempt to characterize certain social pressure as immoral and to encourage libertarians to speak out against them (which is fine and I agree), rather she is simply trying to expand the definition of coercive force to fit her pet issues. It’s intellectual lazy at best, and dishonest at worst.”

As far as I can tell, this characterization of what Kerry has done in her posts is completely inaccurate. It’s an accurate description of the position Todd Seavey dishonestly attributed to her, but has nothing to do with what she says here, and nothing to do with what she says in “Libertarian Feminism versus Monarchist Anarchism,” in which she explicitly states that, while certain forms of misogyny may operate through “social pressure” rather than coercive force, “No thinking libertarian is only concerned with coercion; most of us worry just as much about conformity and passivity.” (That last sentence is, in fact, the only time in either post in which she mentions coercion at all — to deny that all of her concerns as a libertarian have to do with coercion.) For Seavey, and then you, to repeatedly claim that she is trying to describe purely verbal misogyny as “literally coercive” (Seavey) or “trying to expand the definition of coercive force to fit her pet issues” (you), when she states in so many words that her position is exactly the opposite, that she’s concerned with these so-called “pet issues” even though they do not involve the use of coercion — and then to have you, to crown all, accuse her of intellectual laziness or dishonesty on the basis of this up-is-down, black-is-white strawman of her position — is something that is utterly outrageous. I wish I could call it extraordinary, but in fact it is my experience that there is nothing extraordinary of feminists being treated with this kind of dismissive contempt and indifference as to basic accuracy about their stated positions.

Re: Socioeconomic Creationism

For example, if some have much more wealth than others, the socioeconomic creationist believes that this is the product of government policies specifically designed to transfer wealth from the many to the few, rather than the natural result of market transactions between people of disparate abilities and preferences.

Well. Isn’t it empirically true that there are specific government policies which, either through design or through unintended consequences, tend to profit the rich, hinder and impoverish the poor, or do both at the same time? If you doubt it, I can name some examples.

Can you think of any actual examples of people who fall back on the claim that poverty is substantially caused by government policies, rather than by voluntary market forces, who do so because they’re simply unable to understand how spontaneous orders work? Every proponent of such a claim that I can think of (Kevin Carson, Roderick Long, Brad Spangler, Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, Gabriel Kolko…) is relatively clear on the notion of spontaneous order; they get to the conclusion that government policies cause poverty not by explanatory default, but rather because they can point to a bunch of concrete examples of government policies that really do this.

In my experience, most of the real “socioeconomic creationists” with regard to wealth, tend to attribute poverty to tightly coordinated conspiracies (“international bankers” and the like), or else to the personal greed and vices of individual business people, not to structural factors like government policy.

If the average man makes more than the average woman, the socioeconomic creationist concludes that this must be due to the misogynistic oppression of women, rather than the natural outcome of men and women having different preferences, opportunity costs, and/or abilities.

You seem to be presupposing that “misogynistic oppression of women” and “spontaneous order” are two mutually exclusive explanations of the situation. But why make that claim? There’s nothing in the concept of a spontaneous order that requires that all spontaneous orders be benign. It may be that if certain kinds of ignorance, folly, or vice are widely distributed throughout the population, then lots of little individual acts of stupidity or evil will, without the design of the participants, add up to a large-scale, malign spontaneous order that goes beyond the intentions of the participants.

“Preferences, opportunity costs, and/or abilities” aren’t the only factors that can contribute to the individual decisions from which a spontaneous order emerges. And not all “preferences, opportunity costs, and/or abilities” are independent of prevalent prejudices and traditions, either.

Re: P.J. Proudhon – Reaction causes Revolution

Well, one way is just by distinguishing the terms “anarchistic socialism” and “state socialism.” Francis Tandy (a follower of Tucker) used the term “voluntary socialism.” Today, Kevin Carson likes to use the term “free market anti-capitalism”.

If more than two or three words are needed, you can explain that, even though most people today use “socialism” to refer only to state socialists, anarchistic socialism has been around as part of the socialist movement longer than Marxism and Social Democracy have, and that anarchistic socialism is based on the idea that workers should own the means of production, either individually or as part of voluntary associations, rather than the government owning the means of production, as state socialists suggest. You might also point interested parties to Benjamin Tucker’s essay, “State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree and Wherein They Differ,” which explicitly mentions Proudhon and his ideas, and is, I think, one of the finest discussions of the distinction ever put to paper.

Re: P.J. Proudhon – Reaction causes Revolution


Well. Proudhon certainly was a Socialist by his own definition of the term, and by the definition of the term that was widely in use at the time amongst other people who called themselves Socialists. In the General Idea, he flatly states that Socialism is “the new name for the Revolution,” and also that “But an idea cannot perish. It is born again, always from its contradictory. Let Rousseau triumph: his glory of a moment will be but the more detested. While waiting for the theoretical and practical deduction of the Contractual Idea, complete trial of the principle of authority will serve for the education of Humanity. From the fulness of this political evolution, we finally arise the opposite hypothesis: Government, exhausting itself, will give birth to Socialism as its historic sequel.”

If many people who use the word “Socialism” today think that it implies something incompatible with Proudhon’s views (e.g. government expropriation of the means of production, or central economic planning by the state), that hardly settles the question of whether or not Proudhon should be called a Socialist. Those people may be using the word incorrectly or confusedly. Or they may be using it as part of an ideological package-deal, which should be combated rather than pandered to. I for one see no reason why the views of Karl Marx, Eduard Bernstein, V.I. Lenin, or whoever you like have a better claim to the word “Socialism” than the views of Proudhon, or other anarchistic socialists, such as Josiah Warren, Benjamin Tucker, Victor Yarros, et al. Proudhon came to both the term and the movement years before Karl Marx ever did, and there is an old and continuing tradition of anarchistic socialism that rejects, root and branch, the Marxist disaster of State monopoly and State planning.

Many people today misunderstand what the word “anarchist” means; they think that an anarchist is someone who advocates riot and social disorder. Nothing could be further from the views that Proudhon was referring to when he called himself an “anarchist.” Does that mean we should go around saying, “Proudhon was by no means an Anarchist, at least not in the modern definition of the term”? No, of course not. What we should do is correct the misconceptions that people have about the meaning of the term “Anarchism.”


… big thinkers like Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Ayn Rand, and the like …

May I suggest that Thomas Jefferson be excluded from consideration, along with any other so-called “liberal” or “libertarian” who unrepentantly presumed to dominate his fellow human beings and force them into an abject condition of chattel slavery?

As for genuinely libertarian heroes, off the top of my head, I’d like to recommend Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Frederick Douglass, Sarah Moore Grimké, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lysander Spooner, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Ezra Heywood, Angela Tilton Heywood, Benjamin Tucker, William Graham Sumner, Mark Twain, Dyer Lum, Voltairine de Cleyre, Emma Goldman, Randolph Bourne, Murray Rothbard, Karl Hess, and Samuel E. Konkin III.

For what it’s worth, to-day is the 200th birthday of Lysander Spooner, one of America’s foremost radical libertarian heroes.