Anarchism is a political philosophy and sociopolitical movement that stands in opposition to imposed authority. The primary forms of such authority specifically targeted by the movement are the state, capitalism and other hierarchical institutions.
Anarchists assert that the burden of proof is upon those who claim authority over others, and that if that authority cannot be justified, it is illegitimate and should be dismantled.
Why do anarchists oppose the state?
The state is an entity that claims absolute sovereignty over a specified geographical area, maintains forced monopolies on certain services within that territory, and derives its income coercively through taxation.
Despite the mysticism of “consent of the governed” or any number of other justifications for the state, it is a coercive institution by definition. If it had the consent of the governed, it would not need to threaten forced property confiscation or prison time for failure to pay taxes, nor would it threaten such for any competition to its monopolized services (police, courts, defense, etc.). As a hierarchical institution, there are necessarily entities within it that are answerable to none, despite the rhetoric of “checks and balances”.
Since its authority cannot be justified and since it is responsible for more bloodshed and suffering than any other human institution, anarchists advocate for the abolition of the state.
Why do anarchists oppose capitalism?
Anarchism is sometimes referred to as libertarian socialism. This is not to be confused with state socialism, the economic system employed by so-called “communist states” such as the Soviet Union, Cuba and North Korea. In these states, the means of production were/are owned and controlled by the state. In libertarian socialism, the means of production are commonly owned; control is managed cooperatively based on occupancy and use.
Under capitalism, the means of production are privately owned and controlled. This means that the capitalist property owner maintains monopolistic control over a territory and everything within it, threatening violence for resistance. The capitalist demands a portion of the fruits of the labor of anyone he permits to work his land. All this he does whether he occupies or uses the property himself or not. In other words, the territory of the capitalist property owner is a de facto state, and a monarchical one at that.
The capitalist is able to deny the rights and liberty of anyone within his territory. As stated by An Anarchist FAQ, those who do not own property “have only the freedom to sell their liberty to those who do own private property. If I am evicted from one piece of private property, where can I go? Nowhere, unless another owner agrees to allow me access to their piece of private property. This means that everywhere I can stand is a place where I have no right to stand without permission and, as a consequence, I exist only by the sufferance of the property owning elite. Hence Proudhon: ‘Just as the commoner once held his land by the munificence and condescension of the lord, so to-day the working-man holds his labour by the condescension and necessities of the master and proprietor.’”
Note that anarchists define capitalism as private ownership and control of the means of production, not as “free exchange” or “the free market” as others may. Anarchists do not oppose free exchange, nor do we oppose personal property that one occupies and uses. Anarchists oppose artificial and exploitative property arrangements, such as land monopolies, exploitative use of means of production, absentee landlordism, intellectual property, etc.
Because the capitalist exercises authority over others and is not able to justify this authority without the backing of the state, anarchists advocate for the abolition of capitalism, just as mercantilism and feudalism before it.
Anarchism without adjectives
Within the philosophy and the movement, there are many differences in theory (such as individualism vs. social anarchism) and practice (such as market anarchism vs. anarcho-communism). One of the key characteristics of anarchism is that there is no central authority to which theorists may refer, so the differences and various schools of thought within the philosophy are evidence of its vibrance and diversity rather than a lack of unity.
Utah Liberty Alliance advocates and discusses a wide range of ideas and viewpoints within this spectrum and practices a culture of inclusion in this respect. Our writers may differ and even contradict each other at times, and we encourage respectful and lively discussion when this occurs.
Utah Liberty Alliance seeks to bring about a free society through journalism and activism, starting right here at home.
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