What is Libertarian Anarchy?

When most people hear the word “anarchy,” a very vivid image comes to mind of either chaos or people wearing black bandannas over their faces as they throw improvised bombs or fight with police officers during protests. Or, if they are a little more knowledgeable, they think of the Anarchist Cookbook, a book on how to make explosives (the author eventually repudiated the work).

Unfortunately, anarchy and chaos are often considered to be related or, at the least, similar in their definitions. When ones says that something is in a “state of anarchy,” it is usually not said in joy or happiness, but with sarcasm or dread.

The aim of this site, among other things, is to dispel these misconceptions about what people like myself believe and what it is we are actually advocating. Sadly, I have encountered both online and in person individuals like myself who subscribe to the libertarian philosophy who either have a hard time articulating their beliefs properly or explaining them to others in a way that can be understood.

Although “libertarian” does not evoke nearly the same emotions or conjure up as negative a picture as the word “anarchy” does, it is also not fully understood by many, including those who purportedly subscribe to it. To use them both as a single term requires all the more explanation.

To put it succinctly, libertarianism is a political philosophy that can be summed up by a single rule, known commonly as the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP): No one may act in aggression or in violence against an innocent person. From a moral perspective, it stems from the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them to unto you. As ones does not wish to be murdered or stolen from, so should one not steal or murder another.

Aggression can come in many forms, such as taxes, fines, levies, fees, licenses, eminent domain, zoning, and inflation to name a few; violence, then, can also come in many forms, including conscription and imprisonment for victimless crimes, i.e. crimes that involve no victim but are crimes merely because the law says so.

Anarchy, then, is not the absence of law but of rulers. As history has shown, no matter what civilization or era, political leaders have used authority bestowed to them, in order to enforce just laws, to instead enrich themselves or oppress those underneath them.

Rather than have governments passing and enforcing laws, society under anarchy is governed by private entities that require voluntary cooperation and involvement. This is fundamental to protecting individual rights. While anarchy is regarded as a philosophy void of government, it has government in a privatized sense. Each individual gets to choose who they will delegate authority to, and whenever they wish to they can withdraw that consent and seek out a new authority.

The term “libertarian anarchy” is a combination of both terms to describe the political environment in which its proponents, such as myself, believe is the most logical, practical and moral of any conceivable political system. As the 20th Century proved, all major systems of government have inherent flaws that lead to genocide, oppression, total war, starvation and persecution.

At the heart of libertarian anarchy is the necessity of consent, how it alone determines the legitimacy of authority, and how no modern government outside of an anarchist system can claim legitimacy based on this definition.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. Thus, in order for a government to be legitimate or for it to have just powers, it requires the consent of the people it rules over.

The only way for this to logically work is for this government to receive the consent from each person individually. Legitimacy cannot be determined by popular vote or majority decision. For one, why a majority? Why not require two-thirds majority?

Among other problems, this means in effect that legitimacy of a government is really determined by the people allowed to vote, how many, where they are located, and the boundary size of the government. On top of that, who gets to decide any of this and where does their authority to do so come from?

Perhaps one can see where this leads.

Therefore, the only legitimate government is one which receives consent from all people who are under its authority. All actions have to be voluntary and consensual. As long as they do not violate another person’s rights, no one can be forced to do something against their will.

That, in essence, is libertarian anarchy.

For a much more thorough and scholastic treatment of this subject, I highly recommend Gerard Casey’s Libertarian Anarchy Against the State. Though occasionally, albeit necessarily technical, it is extremely thought-provoking. Casey, a professor from University College Dublin, brilliantly uses deductive reasoning and logic to come to his conclusions as he tears apart all the arguments that justify the existence of the modern state. Most objections to libertarian anarchy are addressed in some manner in this book. 

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11 Responses to What is Libertarian Anarchy?

  1. Pingback: Juan Williams off his rocker on Libertarianism and gun control | The Anarchist Notebook | Libertarian Anarchy

  2. Pingback: Anti-Libertarian Argument Makes Faulty Assumptions: Anarchy is about Rules, Not Rulers | The Anarchist Notebook | Libertarian Anarchy

  3. Pingback: Libertarianism Is Not “Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative” | The Anarchist Notebook | Libertarian Anarchy

  4. Liberty Lover says:

    It is highly unlikely that the US will ever adopt libertarian anarchy. However, I have noticed that more and more people are embracing libertarianism. Are there any movements toward secession or mass exodus with an effort to establish a real libertarian anarchist society?

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    • The Question says:

      The closest thing I’ve seen to an attempt at a free society is the Free State Projects in New Hampshire. There may be others, but I’m not aware of them.

      I share your outlook on the prospect of a libertarian society in America, but something I’ve realized since I first started blogging on the matter is that libertarianism is a political philosophy, not a political system, and so while I highly doubt there will ever be a purely “voluntary society,” the philosophy’s veracity doesn’t require a libertarian society before it can be applied effectively within our current environment, or as a way of explaining the causes of political phenomenons that evade satisfactory explanation by other political philosophies.

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  5. Pingback: Ogni relazione deve essere volontaria! | esercizidiingleseinliberta

  6. P. Philip says:

    Given the positive spin given to capitalism on this blog, I’d say that the person behind it is no an anarchist. True anarchism is resolutely anti-capitalist. There are those who have hijacked the notions of anarchism, and called themselves ‘anarcho-capitalists’ but anarcho-captialism is an oxymoron. Similarly, there are people who call themselves ‘libertarian’ but again the term has been hijacked from the American left, though the term libertarian is still largely associated with the left in Europe. Libertarians in the American context largely champion captialism, which, despite what it’s adherents claim, has no rerdeeming qualities whatsoever. Proponents may well point out that what they call corporatism is the real issue, but the difference between corporatism and capitalism is one of degree. It makes little difference to the worker if they are being exploited by a corportation or by an individual, they are still being exploited. Likewise, state capitalism, (such as existed in the former so called ‘communist’ countries) is corporatism on steroids, the only difference between the captialism so beloved of libertarians is that maybe their form of capitalist is easier for the worker to play off against other small capitallists, a task much harder with the other forms of capitalism. All are poison to workers.

    Anarchism proper is not only anti-state, but anti-capitalist, but is also much more than that. Anarchism is also so much more than just the Non Agression Principle, and is fundamentally based on equality. Anything else is not anarchism. Any system that allows for the exploitation of humans by other humans cannot ever be anarchism.

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    • The Question says:

      How did you come to any of these conclusions you’ve made?

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      • Alex says:

        Really quite easy, he read your blog. Ancarcho-libertarian is another word for capitalist, you are not an anarchistic in any sense of the word.

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      • The Question says:

        Ancarcho-libertarian is another word for capitalist, you are not an anarchistic in any sense of the word.

        Merriam’s Dictionary definition of anarchism:

        a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups

        Which is precisely the philosophy I adhere to and advocate for on this site and on this specific page.

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  7. SomeOtherGuy says:

    “Anarchism proper is not only anti-state, but anti-capitalist”

    Hardly surprising that someone who is clearly a communist wants to frame anarchism as a communist philosophy.

    Some people will just believe what they want to believe about others. Anarchism bears no correlation either positive or negative with capitalism or statism. The concept of no rulers is different to the concept of no rules and certainly has nothing to do with forced equality nor the prevailing economic system.

    Its a false association, which is a logical fallacy, which invalidates the point you were trying to make.

    Like

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