January 2009 - Posts

Mikhail Bakunin and Collectivist Anarchism

Mikhail Bakunin was the Russian father of the strain of anarchism known as collectivist anarchism. He was initially loosely associated with both Karl Marx and Pierre Joseph Proudhon, and eventually he developed anarcho-collectivism using both of them as influences while deviating from them both at the same time. Bakunin's anarcho-collectivism, which wasn't completely developed until towards the end of Bakunin's life, differs from mutualism and individualist anarchism in certain significant ways, but it also differs from Marxist communism in certain ways as well. While it does call for collective worker ownership of the means of production, Bakunin's anarcho-collectivism is more along the lines of a half-way point towards communism since it still allows the renumeration of labor.

However, there are certainly some similarities between communism and Bakunin's ideas. Like the communists, Bakunin emphasized anti-theism. He reversed Voltaire's quote that "if god did not exist, it would be necessary to invent" him to "if god really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him". And like the communists, Bakunin had a materialist basis for his philosophy, which makes his economic analysis similar to that of Marx. The Russian, Polish and generally pan-slavic cultural context that Bakunin was working with was primarily a reaction to the royal or noble classes which were much more prevailent in such a context than in America and certain parts of Europe at the time. This helps explain the cultural trends towards collectivism that took place around Bakunin.

But beyond this, Bakunin was actually a critic of Marx. He rejected the notion of a "dictatorship of the proletariet" and supported the notion of decentralization or federalism, and hence there is supposed to be free association between the communes in an anarcho-collectivist society. While the goals between anarcho-collectivism and Marxism were quite similar, Bakunin fundamentally clashed with the Marxist communists over questions of strategy, rejecting formal political strategy in favor of a more social form of revolution and what he called "the propaganda of the deed". However, some controversy exists over the degree to which Bakunin's notion of "the propaganda of the deed" is dangerous and has been used to justify violence, and individualist anarchists tended to shy away from the revolutionary methods of many collectivist anarchists.

Bakunin is known to have been a strong supporter of the Paris Commune of 1871, which was surpressed by the French government. Bakunin persisted in favoring social revolution over political strategies, which eventually lead him to be purged by Marx from The First International. The difference between Marx and Bakunin over how to go about reaching their mutually held goals became irreconcilable. Bakunin thought that Marx's strategies would just lead to another despotism, which turned out to be a wise foresight. He strongly opposed the idea of seizing the power of the state as a method of revolution. In this regaurd, Bakunin must be credited as the first thinker to effectively try to depoliticize communism.

Bakunin's historical significance in anarchism more or less represents the planting of the seeds for all forthcoming collectivistic variants of anarchism such as anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism. At the same time, it must be said that he also represents the initial cause of a fragmenting of communism between Marxist and anarchistic strains. In either case, Bakunin was most definitely a key figure in the history of anarchism.

Gustave De Molinari and The Production of Security

Gustave De Molinari was a radical classical liberal associated with Frederic Bastiat and the French liberal school of economics. In his work "The Production of Security", Molinari was the first economist to propose the possibility of free competition for the production of security, which had been an untouched matter by laissez-faire economists up until this point. Frederic Bastiat, who was a fairly radical classical liberal economist for his time, initially was tempted to disagree with Molinari on this point, but when he was on his deathbed not long after the release of "The Production of Security" apparently he aknowledged that Molinari was the continuer of his work.

Molinari did not see any reason why economists should argue for free competition in all sorts of areas or industries, and then suddenly create a gigantic caviat for the production of security and arbitration. If there should be consumer choice and free entry to the provision of all sorts of products and services such as food, clothing, shelter and all sorts of types of industries, then why not security and arbitration? If there should be no legal monopoly on such things, why wouldn't this also apply to security and arbitration? Molinari came to oppose both "monopoly and communism" in any industry. In other words, he opposed both state and absolute communal control of industry, viewing free competition as the alternative.

Many contemporary free market anarchists consider Molinari to at least be a proto-anarchist, since he had technically surpassed the formal concept of "limited government" from an economic perspective. By the very least, what Molinari realized is a necessary component of market anarchism. Laissez-faire economists prior to Molinari simply did not question the state production of security or arbitration itelf. With this being aknowledged, Molinari never formally called himself an anarchist, but he did become associated with the movement known as panarchism, which tends to favor pluralism and legal aterritorialism. The degree to which panarchism is even distinguishable from anarchism without adjectives is debatable.

While he is not the most well-known historical figure, Molinari more or less represents the final conclusion of the French liberal school of economics and the first thinker to formally propose free competition in the production of security. In this regaurd, Molinari does have historical significance as a precursor to free market anarchism. Molinari's work was also circulated in America and partially praised by the individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker, who favored free competition in the production of security himself. The revival of Molinari as a key figure is partially due to Murray Rothbard highlighting him and writting an editor's preface or foreward to the most recent English edition of "The Production of Security".

To an extent, the significance of Molinari's contribution has alot to do with how early on in time it was that he initially made it. "The Production of Security" was released in 1849, and the idea of free competition for the production of security was largely absent from laissez-faire economists throughout the rest of the century. Even the early leaders of the Austrian school of economics did not really touch the question. In fact, it more or less wasn't until the time of Murray Rothbard that a laissez-faire economist would meaningfully press the issue of free competition in the production of security. With this historical understanding, Molinari was quite radical for his time and he definitely has significance.

Benjamin Tucker: American Anarchist

Benjamin Tucker was arguably the leading figure of individualist anarchism in America in the 19th century. He was the editor and chief of the classic anarchist periodical "Liberty", which involved many key figures in early individualist anarchism such as Lysander Spooner, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Auberon Herbert, Joshua Ingalls and Victor Yarros. Tucker once half-jokingly said that anarchists are just unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats. Tucker's influences ranged from Proudhon to Max Stirner. In fact, he was the first person to have translated Max Stirner's "The Ego And His Own" and Proudhon's "What Is Property?" in America. He also was an early American translator of Friedrich Neitzsche's works prior to H.L. Mencken.

Tucker highlighted and opposed what he called "the four monopolies": the land monopoly, the money monopoly, the patent monopoly and the tariff monopoly. Hence, Tucker opposed institutional absentee landlordism, central banking, intellectual property law and international protectionism. He thought that various state interventions created and sustained monopolies and artifically concentrated capital. Tucker did not normatively oppose wage labor, but he thought that genuine free competition would improve the wage system and make the difference between wages and the alternatives start to become nullified or indistinguishable. He thought that large-scale institutional landlordism is dependant on state interventions. While he held some geoist or quasi-geoist views on land, he did not propose any kind of land value tax like the Goergists do.

Tucker also explicitly advocated voluntary defense institutions as an alternative to the state. Like Proudhon, while Tucker is classified as a socialist, he contextually supported private or individual property. While Tucker supported voluntary labor organization, he also opposed labor legislation. He was opposed to state-backed union bureaucracries and in favor of more organic worker organization. In Tucker's view, the labor legislation was only a reactionary and ultimately reformist measure added on top of the initial pro-capital legislation. The solution was to eliminate the initial pro-capital legislation and industrial welfare or to counteract it through voluntary social organization, not to favor or use the power of the state in misguided although perhaps well-intended attempts at philanthropy. Tucker rejected communism and even many of the popular trends in the more general movement of socialism, of which Tucker was a part for a while.

Tucker's earlier anarchism made use of natural rights philosophy, but eventually he came to adopt an egoist position influenced by Max Stirner, which does away with any formal concept of rights and ethics and justice. This change of Tucker's could be seen as a transition into what some today may classify as "post-left" anarchism. Tucker's egoist variant of individualist anarchism is in some ways a philosophical drifting away from classical liberalism and socialism. In either case, individualist anarchism split from that point onwards between natural rights proponents and egoists. This egoism was also partially picked up by other anarchist factions, even some anarcho-communists. In either case, Tucker's egoism lead him to take some positions that horrified some of his fellow natural rights proponents, and it could be argued that this is a factor responsible for the initial individualist anarchist movement fragmenting.

Tucker's influence on the history of anarchism and libertarian thought is notable. Murray Rothbard was a fan of Tucker's, despite some mild criticism of Tucker's enonomics in an article he wrote from the 1970's. In fact, the only significant thing that separates Tucker's classic individualist anarchism from Murray Rothbard's initial "anarcho-capitalism" is that Tucker favored a labor theory of value, while Rothbard integrated individualist anarchism with austrian economics. During the 60's and early 70's, arguably Rothbard classified as a classic individualist anarchist in some ways and was considered to be an individualist anarchist, only he was effectively trying to revive individualist anarchism in a different historical and cultural context. Tucker's legacy is also carried on by modern mutualists and individualist anarchists such as Kevin Carson. In either case, it is clear that modern market anarchism is dependant on the pre-existing history of individualist anarchism, which sets up its foundation, and the significance of Tucker's role as a leader of individualist anarchism in the 19th century is clear.

The Evolution Of Herbert Spencer

The British philosopher Herbert Spencer was a vital player in the developement of theories of evolution in the 19th century. It's important to note that Spencer was one of the first proponents of the theory of socio-cultural evolution, and social darwinism is a more specific thing than socio-cultural evolution. The kind of evolution that Spencer talked about is broader than biological evolution and is actually not darwinian in nature, but actually closer to lamarkianism. Spencer actually proposed the concept of socio-cultural evolution a number of years prior to Darwin's release of "Origin of Species" and the method and scope of his work differs from Darwin's.

Sometimes Spencer has been unfairly mischaracterized as a proto-nazi or proto-fascist, but this doesn't betray any genuine understanding of Spencer's political views. Herbert Spencer was a radical classical liberal who could easily be construed as a proto-anarchist. To be sure, Spencer was a utilitarian of sorts, but of a different variety than his contemporaries. Spencer was an individualist utilitarian. Compared to the views of most people during the period, Spencer's early views were actually relatively egalitarian. His notions of socio-cultural evolution lead him to take an organic and historically-based view of societies, and this eventually lead him even to the point of having the chapter "The Right To Ignore The State" in his book "Social Statics", which was removed in later editions. In either case, Spencer's philosophy lead him to oppose the political norms of his day, especially the "greatest good for the greatest number" maxim.

At first, the anarchistic conclusions of his evolutionary theory was speculative in nature. Spencer speculated about social evolution necessitating a level of independance and decentralization that effectively makes the state obsolete as a social organ. In this sense, Spencer entered a period of being a "philosophical anarchist" and it is worthwhile to speculate if he may have technically counted as an anarchist at one point, despite never formally calling himself an anarchist. In either case, some of Spencer's ideas did end up influencing the individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker, and Proudhon's notion of spontaneous order and the social organism may at least indirectly be linked to Spencer's social evolutionary ideas in some ways. However, Benjamin Tucker later charged Spencer with drifting towards moderation and conservatism in his later years as a result of disillusionment, which Murray Rothbard retrospectively seemed to have agreed with to a degree as well.

Social evolutionary theory may have some gradualist implications, since one is working with long periods of time. To be sure, Spencer's philosophy of history is very different from Marx's. While Marx analized history through the lense of his class theory, Spencer was more broadly working within the sphere of social interaction rather than specializing in or limited to class analysis. While Spencer does speak of social organisms or social organs, he does this while remaining true to methodological individualism. Spencer analized history from the perspective of cooperation, contract and production vs. brute force, coercion and authoritarianism. Spencer favored social evolution towards a society based on contract, cooperation and production. He favored an industrial society rather than a militant one.

What understandably disillusioned Spencer later in life is that it became clear that history was not consistantly progressing in such a direction. Society was becoming both militant and industrial. Fascism and Marxism were on the rise and classical liberalism was fragmenting. Hence, Spencer's retreat into a conservative pessemism. Of course, this isn't to underwrite Spencer's earlier radicalism, which had anarchistic implications and has been influential on libertarians over the years. Spencer had some very keen insights into the nature of social interaction and the history of social organization, and he practically invented the basis for theories of socio-cultural evoltion. Hence, Spencer definitely has significance in the history of ideas.

Lysander Spooner: Libertarian Hero

The American individualist anarchist Lysander Spooner was one of the last natural law philosophers of the 19th century, and his crowning achievement is arguably the total demolition of the myth of the social contract. Spooner applied a libertarian theory of natural law to the United States Constitution that lead him to reject the authority of the constitution, leading to his radical work "No Treason: Constitution of No Authority", in which he applied common sense standards of justice and contract law to political institutions that delegitimized them. Spooner proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the state is not genuinely based on consent, that the standard social contract and democratic arguments for the sovereignty of the state is a fraud.

Spooner was also a slavery abolitionist and a strong supporter of the principle of individual secession, which goes hand in hand. While maintaining a radical opposition to slavery, he simultaneously opposed the concept of "the union" and opposed the civil war. He more or less accused the northern states of only reforming and expanding slavery, although he wasn't necessarily completely sympathetic to the confederacy either. Furthermore, he tried to outcompete the government in mail delivery and got shut down by the government. Another notable feature of Spooner is that he explicitly took the position that vices are not crimes, coinciding with the standard libertarian opposition to prohibition laws and authoritarian forms of social planning. While Spooner may have a legalistic aura, his legalism was not statist in nature and he more fundamentally was working with ethics when it comes down to it.

Spooner was loosely associated with the individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker and the periodical "Liberty". While in the grand scheme of things Spooner's political philosophy was similar to that of other individualist anarchists, it could be said that his approach to property appears to have a distinctively neo-lockean element to it, although Spooner is actually claimed to be a libertarian socialist by some. In either case, some genuine dividing lines did emerge as Benjamin Tucker adopted an egoist position under the influence of the work of Max Stirner, which philosophically clashes with Spooner's natural law position. Spooner was a strong advocate of "natural rights", while a Stirnerite egoism rejects the very concept of "right". So in a certain sense, from that point onward individualist anarchism can be seen as splitting between natural rights proponents and egoists, with Spooner remaining on the natural rights side.

Spooner could be viewed as the first political theorist to take natural law philosophy to the conclusion of anarchism. While Proudhon had of course already come to the conclusion of anarchism, his approach wasn't necessarily a strict natural law philosophy. The earliest natural law philosophies actually justified political absolutism. It wasn't until guys like Locke and Jefferson that it began to meaningfully take a more liberal character, justifying limits on political institutions. But all of these natural law approaches prior to that of Spooner ultimately justified state sovereignty on the grounds of some kind of social contract concept. Spooner took natural law philosophy to its logical conclusion by demonstrating that it is impossible for any state to genuinely be contractual as a state qua state, that all currently existing states must be illegitimate by the standards of natural law. Even Locke invoked the concept of the social contract being undoable, but he didn't take this far enough.

In a sense, Spooner can be seen as merely continueing the Jeffersonian project. The views of some of the later natural law philosophers and classical liberals such as Jefferson and Paine was arguably proto-anarchist in nature. "Philosophical anarchism" was common among the more radical American liberals and heavy emphasis was placed on decentralization. But they always ultimately maintained a pragmatic support for a minimal level of government. Spooner was the first natural law philosopher to overcome this limit, arguably representing the culmination of natural law philosophy. The developement of natural law philosophy in America more or less ends with Spooner, until Murray Rothbard picked it up around a century later and drew heavily on Spooner as a referance.

Spooner has a unique place in the history of anarchism and is worthy of it.

Remembering Proudhon

Many contemporary libertarians may be mystified at Proudhon being considered a libertarian, but Proudhon was undoubtably the first genuinely libertarian socialist. Proudhon's political philosophy represents a synthesis of sorts between classical liberalism and socialism, without yielding any ground to authoritarian strains of socialism, which eventually resulted in his anarchism. Proudhon was critical of both capitalism and communism, and was generally an opponent of absolutism, making heavy use of the mechanisms of synthesis and deconstruction, which obviously is at least partially Hegelian in nature. His political philosophy arguably became more radical as he aged, leading him to take more of a refined view on property.

The initial form of anarchism that Proudhon set the basis for, mutualism, predates anarcho-collectivism and anarcho-communism by a number decades and significantly differs from them in certain ways. Proudhon and Marx had certain fairly significant disagreements, leading Marx to more or less dismiss him as a "petty burgousie individualist". Unlike Marx and the communists, Proudhon did not advocate purely collective ownership or even worker ownership as an absolute norm. His idea was more along the lines of individual worker ownership of the means of production (I.E. I own my own tools, therefore I don't need to rent your tools). He also advocated cooperative management, but always in a context that allows for individual liberty. Proudhon supported the notions free contract and free competition, only placing more emphasis on cooperative forms of organization than many classical liberals.

Proudhon was most certainly an individualist in many ways, with the theme of "individual sovereignty" running strongly throughout his work. While he rejected the vulgar collectivism of the communists, he synthesized individualism with themes of social cooperation, which is to say that he steered clear of atomism. Proudhon envisioned a free society and the process of working towards such a society as a "spontaneous order" that is emergant from the free interactions of individuals. At the same time, he rejected utopianism and romanticism and he appears to have held a fairly pluralistic attitude with regaurd to what such a spontaneous order entails. The vision is always realistic in that it's not some kind of uniform model for the entire society.

It's important to note that mutualism (and its culmination within individualist anarchism) does not normatively or absolutely oppose wage labor, rent and interest per se. These things may contextually be opposed as a consequence of political authority and it may speculate about a trend towards such things starting to diminish in conditions of free competition, but they are not opposed on an absolute normative ethical level as in often the case with communism, syndicalism and collectivism. A mutualist qua mutualist cannot advocate arbitrary violence to oppose such things. Something more along the lines of agorism makes sense as a strategy for mutualists. Proudhon was skeptical towards traditional methods of revolution.

Proudhon's analysis of property is far more subtle and complicated than a first-reading or face-value-reading of his writtings may reveal. A statement such as "Property is theft", followed by seemingly contradicting statements such as "Property is impossible" and "Property is liberty" is likely to confuse the reader. To a degree, Proudhon is probably being rhetorical and is purposefully trying to intimidate the reader or grab their attention. But a more in-depth look reveals that he is quite creatively making use of synthesis and antithesis here, and a more clear meaning is revealed with this understanding. These statements are contextual and part of a process of synthesis and antithesis, not to be interpreted as absolutes.

What Proudhon is most strongly challenging is the arbitrary legal title to property, property as a legal construct that indeed is historically tracable back to theft in many ways. Property as a state legal construct often is the state doling out a privilege to the property that it initially stole. During Proudhon's time, many of the old legal private property titles that used to belong to the noble class and the feudal landlords had not completely been abandoned or abolished, and in the process of transformation into more modern capitalism, this privilege was slowly being transfered to a new industrial managerial class in bed with the state. Proudhon was more keenly aware of this than most of his collegues and associates.

There is also a context in which Proudon was very much in favor of private or individual property, viewing it as an indispensible counterweight to the state. Unlike the communists, Proudhon had no inherent problem with money, exchange and buisiness. The Marxist aesthetic distain for just about anything that has to do with commerence is nowhere to be found in him. Proudhon's vision of socialism was more along the lines of individual proprietorship, small cooperative buisinesses and unions of artisans. When not exploitative and when not an a monstrous scale, Proudhon supported more small-scale examples of what would be considered private property by contemporary free market anarchists.

Proudhon has been indispensibly influential on the history of anarchism, particularly individualist anarchism. The actual continuation of Proudhon's work was done by the early individualist anarchists such as Benjamin Tucker (prior to his transformation into a Stirnerite egoist), while the anarcho-collectivism of Bakunin and the anarcho-communism of Kropotkin significantly differed from this trend in certain ways. Some anarcho-communists were even lead to dismiss Proudhon from the anarchist tradition as just "a liberal disguised as a socialist". The rise of anarcho-collectivism and anarcho-communism has a notaby different cultural context, centered around Russia and somewhat detached from classical liberalism. Proudhon, on the other hand, was much more exposed to the classical liberalism of the French and Americans.

This isn't necessarily to completely dismiss figures such as Bakunin and Kropotkin out of hand, but to be clear about differences between the direction anarchism took from their standpoint vs. the standpoint of Proudhon and the individualists, as it was definitely the American individualist anarchists such as Josiah Warren and Benjamin Tucker who picked up where Proudhon left off. While Kroptkin arguably took anarchism in a direction that made it closer to Marxism, the individualist anarchists took it in a more individualistic direction or generally steered clear of such collectivistic tendencies. Over time, the individualists tended to come to reject the particular revolutionary methods of the collectivists and ventured to produce some fairly scathing criticisms of anarcho-communism.

Factional griping aside, Proudhon's legacy remains as the first formal anarchist and one who presented a political philosophy that can help bridge the gap between free market oriented thought and the anti-authoritarian left. I think that he is definitely important enough on both a historical and philosophical level that all libertarians should familiarize themselves with him to one degree or another.

Struggling With Max Stirner

I have a great amount of respect for the near-forgotten figure Max Stirner. His ill-famed "The Ego and His Own" is probably the most radical, thought provoking and challenging writting that I have ever read. Not only did Stirner explicitly take an egoist position, question the very foundation of morality and critisize modern liberal secularism as not going far enough numerous decades before Neitzsche (and arguably manage to be even more radical than Neitzsche), but he did this as what many think is meant to be the logical completion of Hegel's project and during the same period as and loosely being associated through academia to Karl Marx and Engels.

The "young Hegelians" or "left-hegelians" such as Ludwig Feurbach and Karl Marx all had interacted with Stirner on a personal level in Academia prior to the release of "The Ego and His Own", and from their own perspectives they were trying to surpass Hegel. These young Hegelians came to take an explicitly atheist position, hence aschewing all of the overtly religious elements from the Hegelian project and shifting the emphasis more towards man or humanity. The end result tended towards some kind of secular humanism, and eventually communism as proposed by Marx and Engels (although the communism of Engels was arguably less collectivistic than that of Marx).

Stirner was a student of Hegel himself and passively participated in some of the interactions that took place among the left-hegelians. When he formally released "The Ego and His Own" it greatly shocked many of his collegues, since it took the Hegelian project in an entirely different direction and quite explicitly critisized the left-hegelians as only replacing the old godhead with a new one. Stirner did not critisize the left-hegelians on the grounds of their atheism, but on the grounds that they still cling to concepts that function in the same way as religion. From Stirner's perspective, they had not followed the logical progression far enough. The modern secular liberal had destroyed the basis for an incorporeal god but then proceeded to divinize earthly things and "humanity" in the abstract. In short, the cloak of power had only been secularized, not eliminated. The higher cause of the god had been functionally replaced with the higher cause of the state, the nation, humanity and all sorts of abstract concepts.

This realization of Stirner's and the period during which he realized it is not a trivial matter. Stirner's criticism applies about just as much to contemporary secularism now as it did when he wrote about it. Furthermore, the implications of what Stirner realized is more far reaching than a criticism of secular humanism, it has immense epistemological implications. Stirner effectively denied transcendentalism and rationalism long before anyone classified as a post-modernist did and he reached the conclusion of what by the very least is a strong nominalism using an egoist framework. Stirner had technically surpassed the entire enlightenment project by proclaiming that we should not be ruled by concepts. The enlightenment and secular humanist emphasis on the mind, from his perspective, was just as filled with "spooks" as religion. This is really just an extension on the phenomenology of mind.

While Stirner has been influential in one way or another on many anarchists (ranging from Benjamin Tucker to Emma Goldman) due to his rejection of the state and some of the aspects or implications of his egoism, he also rejected "morality", at least "morality with a big M", and critisized anarchists such as Proudhon for still clinging to morality. To be sure, Stirner seems to put the anarchist on a somewhat higher level because the anarchist doesn't accept the arbitrary authority of the law while the typical secular humanity or liberal still does, but he nonetheless critisized anarchism on the grounds that it still ultimately clung to a human-based morality. This is the point at which I personally start to struggle with Stirner, for while my own views on secular humanism and modern liberalism mirror his in many ways and I'm intrigued by the directions he took the phenomenology of mind, I am an ethical anarchist. That being said, the extent to which Stirner may really be an ethical nihilist is debatable.

Stirner also rejected the traditional notion of revolution, although this was actually picked up and adopted by many individualist anarchists. Certainly not all anarchists believe in violent revolution, revolution for its own sake or at least revolution in the same of a mere change of the seat of power (state-democratic revolution, if you will). So it's questionable wether this criticism should be interpreted to apply to all anarchists per se or wether the criticism is limited to anarchists. There are plenty of people who advocate violent and state-democratic revolutions who are not anarchists and most certainly only wish to change the seat of power, and there are plenty of anarchists who take either a pacifist stance or are generally not comfortable with the traditional method of revolution. If anything, Stirner's criticism could be applied as an anarchist criticism of political libertarianism.

If Proudhon is considered the first formal anarchist, Stirner is definitely the first formal egoist. To be sure, due to the implications of Stirner's phenomenology, Stirner was not an ethical egoist along the lines of Ayn Rand. There are different types of egoism, ranging from nihilist egoism to psychological egoism to ethical egoism. Nonetheless, it seems undoubtable that Stirner has been indispensibly influential on egoism in general, and he must have at least indirectly influenced Neitszche and Ayn Rand in one way or another. Whether or not Neitszche ever read Stirner (and even if he plagiarized him) is a controversy that hasn't been given a rest and has often been pushed under a rug, but I think it's rather undeniable given the historical period and academic connections that Neitszche must have read Stirner's "The Ego and His Own" at once point or another, and some studies have collected some fairly compelling evidence that he must have.

Stirner is not an easy person to classify. While he appears to very strongly oppose communism, democracy and humanism, there is no evidence to indicate that he was necessarily any more supportive of capitalism, conservatism and traditionalism. A knee-jerk response to Stirner from your average secular liberal may be to misunderstand him in such a way, but this is mostly due to cultural cliches and misunderstandings about egoism and individualism. But if anything, Stirner has surpassed all of these things from an egoist framework and as a consequence of his phenomeology. It is also possible for Stirner to be misunderstood as presenting a religious argument against atheism, but this kind of misunderstanding is only an affirmation of Stirner's criticisms of secular humanism.

The reason why Stirner has been pushed under the rug as a philosopher and figure in general, beyond the mere radicalness of his ideas by itself, largely has to do with Marx's own attempts to counter Stirner and all Marxist and post-marxist scholars more or less accepting Marx's line on Stirner. Marx obviously saw Stirner as a threat to his own project, and effectively denounced Stirner as a "petty burgouesie individualist". Very little criticism was directly aimed at Stirner's ideas, it was more of an emotional or knee-jerk reaction. The philosophical community in large part was either silent or dismissive of "The Ego and His Own". It was clearly far too radical for its time and even our time. But it's a shame that the reaction to Stirner has been to marginalize and ignore him, relegating him to a tiny little footnote in history. I highly suggest that anyone, anarchist or otherwise, read "The Ego and His Own" to challenge themselves and perhaps seek inspiration. Stirner most definitely is not irrelevant, and perhaps will become increasingly more relevant over time.

On Amoralist Anarchism

I've been a part of numerous online social networks or general social groups online that contains some amoralist anarchists, who either are former libertarian anarchists who have come to reject libertarianism or they are anarchists who rejected libertarianism from the get-go and reached the conclusion of anarchism from a completely different conceptual framework.

On the most personal level, the youtuber D4Shawn and the persona formerly known as Stodles (who now runs this website) are the two amoralist anarchists that I've interacted with most. D4Shawn used to be a libertarian anarchist, and made a separate channel one day trying to approach anarchism from a more utilitarian or relativistic perspective, which has recently devolved into an ethical nihilism. Stodles never was a libertarian, he jumped straight from white nationalism to anarchism, which created some confusion about his position along the way.

Both Stodles and D4Shawn philosophically reject libertarianism while still prefering anarchism. D4Shawn effectively claims that ethics is completely useless metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, and thinks that we should be speaking in purely preferential terms. Stodles even appears to go so far as to imply that any conception of ethics inherently leads to rulership. On the other hand, both of them practically take positions that may very well tend towards libertarian anarchism, but it is functionally a mere statement of preferance from their perspective. This starts to hint at the complications that leads me to see this approach as silly.

While these amoralists may philosophicaly reject libertarianism, they essentially practically support it and they cannot completely avoid value-laden terminology. So while they may loudly proclaim their opposition to ethical principles and rights-concepts until they are blue in the face, they ultimately would like to live their lives in a way consistant with certain ethical principles and rights-concepts. While, unlike Stefan Molyneux, I am not argueing that this by itself proves those ethical principles and rights-concepts, it certainly gives reason for pause when comparing one's behavior to one's philosophy and may hint at a need to reanalyze the moral-practical dichotomy.

Anarchism is indistinguishable from anomie if there is an ethical vacuum. There is no such thing as a society in an ethical vacuum. Even if one concedes to the existance of some kind of subjectivity, I don't think it logically follows that ethics is completely useless and irrelevant. An anarchist society either cannot conceptually be an anarchist society to begin with or will not last as an anarchist society for long if its philosophical and cultural norms deliberately undermine it. So it doesn't make sense to act like anarchism is compatible with any set of values or to act as if all values are equal.

Various ethical principles can undermine anarchism, help foster it and widen its scope. Furthermore, merely having an ethical principle, wether it's sensible or not, doesn't necessarily lead to the use of violence to enforce it. Questions of the use of violence inherently are ethical questions themselves, and the behavior of an individual doesn't always align with their philosophy. There really is no such thing as a person who has no ethical considerations, and this includes self-proclaimed ethical nihilists and various post-modernists. Noone can really divorce themselves from goals, reasons for goals and means towards goals.

Such things almost always have a reason. It makes no sense to proclaim that you favor a society in which rulership is normatively shunned, and then say you have no real reason for it other than preferance. To borrow Molyneuxian terminology, that reduces it to the level of "I like ice cream". Surely, a cause such as anarchism is not at the level of "I like ice cream". If one is putting foreward anarchism as a goal, surely one must explain why it is your goal beyond a mere appeal to the fact that your do favor the goal. It makes no sense to have a goal, and then proclaim neutrality as soon as the question of its foundation and application comes up.

So, by the very least, this ethical nihilism is highly impractical. If taken to its extremes, one is simply advocating anomie. If one is more practical about it, one is nonetheless sort of advocating both anarchy and anomie at once. On one hand, I think there's a sense in which this ethical nihilism is harmless, since the ethical nihilist may practically take a libertarian type of position anyways and most people aren't going to practically take ethical nihilism seriously. On the other hand, it poses a threat to libertarian anarchism to the extent that it encourages people to either think that anarchism is a pandora's box compatible with any set of values or to ultimately reject libertarian values in the name of putting on a facade of neutrality.

More On The Problems Of A Thin Libertarianism

A number of years ago, Walter Block wrote this article, in which he claims, "libertarianism is a theory concerned with the justified use of aggression, or violence, based on property rights, not morality". I find this claim to be incredibly perplexing because, to my knowledge, questions of the justified use of aggression and property rights inherently are moral questions. Why wouldn't they be? Individual liberty and property rights are ethical norms, and the process of clearly defining them requires a social philosophy. It seems to me that Walter Block is actually not being Rothbardian enough, given that Rothbard explicitly denounced taking a purely legalistic and utilitarian approach to libertarianism. That's why he wrote "The Ethics of Liberty", essentially as a protractor for libertarianism as a social philosophy.

To act as if libertarianism is neutral to morality would be misleading. Libertarianism is not a purely legalistic theory or a legal system, it is a social philosophy that functions as a guide for evaluating legal systems and as a pretext for legal systems. Once the libertarian pretext for a legal system is established, that's when there's a cut off point beyond which there is pluralism or neutrality. But one cannot just conceptually superimpose whatever kind of legal system one wants onto libertarianism, as if it's completely arbitrary. Libertarianism as a social philosophy provides a clear criteria for establishing a legal system; the legal system cannot undermine the ethical norms or it is inconsistant. Libertarianism cannot rationally be bundled with values or preferances that directly or indirectly contradict it, such as an authoritarian legal framework.

In short, Walter Block is conceptually putting the cart before the horse. A libertarian ethical framework provides the context for a legitimate legal system. A legitimate legal system does not create that context, that context must be established prior to the formation of any legal system. Individual sovereignty is not a principle that only applies after a legal system has been established. The non-aggression principle is not a floating abstraction and contextless axoim that somehow constitutes a legal system. It is a very specific principle that has a specific relationship to other ethical concepts and a specific definition of its terms. It requires a more integrated theory of interpersonal ethics to be made clear, otherwise it's reduced to meaninglessness.

Putting The NAP In Its Proper Context

I contend that the non-aggression principle is not a contextless axoim and it requires a specific definition of the difference between genuine self-defense and the initiation of violence. There is a grave problem that thin libertarianism and plumb-line libertarianism runs into, which is that the non-aggression principle has to be properly specified and taken into its proper context relative to other more specific principles or values. Otherwise, one's conception of libertarianism may start to undermine itself by either assuming values that contradict the NAP or through vagueness in the definition of what constitutes the initiation of violence.

For example, I would contend that the value of revenge and the traditional concept of punishment inherently undermines and violates the NAP. I consider them to constitute justifications for ex-post-facto violence, which is a particular form of the initiation of violence. I would also contend that an absolutist view in favor of violence in defense of property rights undermines and violates the NAP because it justifies pre-emptive violence on the mere grounds that someone is on your property. So I think that genuine self-defense has to be clearly distinguished from pre-emptive and ex-post-facto violence, and the context for genuine self-defense is an actual threat to one's life.

The absolutist view, in contrast, is completely arbitrary because anyone at any time can just go "hey, you're on my property" and cap someone. But merely being on someone's property is an arbitrary reason to justify the initiation of force. You need more of a specific context than just "there is someone on my property". The "punishment" of being shot to death isn't even remotely proportional to the crime of trespassing or loitering. Compared to life vs. death, tresspassing and loitering is a fairly minor matter. It certainly does not merit arbitrarily shooting people unless the people truly do present an overt threat of force.

Furthermore, I reject the idea that being on someone else's property means you forfeit your right to life and liberty. It might mean that you have an incentive to generally cooperate, compromise and abstain from infringement, but not that you lose all of your rights all of a sudden. A theory of property rights that overtly undermines the right to life and liberty needs to be fixed, otherwise it is going to be hopelessly inconsistant, even sinking to the level of justifying what are clear cases of assault and murder. Clearly, a consistant theory of rights has to uphold all of the rights, not misdefine rights to the point where one's alleged defense of one right inherently violates another right in the overall network of rights-concepts.

While Objectivists may tend to have a more integrated social philosophy than thin libertarians, Objectivists also fail to put the NAP in it's proper context, since at least the Piekoff-influenced Objectivists openly justify pre-emptive violence on the largest scale possible in the form of the invasive military apparatus, and there is a degree to which Rand was wishy washy on questions of American imperialism and she definitely seemed to throw a bit of a bone to the political right on questions of foreign policy. The problem with this interpretation of the NAP is that it totally turns a blind eye to the mass-death of innocent bystanders in the crossfire of conflict between nation-states. Scruples over private military proposals aside, thin libertarians actually tend to be pretty good on these sort of questions.

Where thin libertarians tend to fail most, however, is in the realm of pre-emptive violence on a smaller scale, in the context of individual private property owners. It's at this point that thin libertarianism may carve a possible path towards vulgar libertarianism, with the baggage of advocacy of the alleged right of property owners to arbitrarily shoot alleged tresspassers and justifications for feudal or quasi-feudal landlordism. These kind of libertarians tend to treat property rights as axoimatic, and effectively they trump life and liberty in their framework. The tendency is to act as if property rights grants completely arbitrary or absolute decision-making power over other people who are on or make use of your property.

This is problematic because it creates tension with the more fundamental principles involved in individual sovereignty. The fact that I'm on someone's property or the fact that I may technically be capable of leaving someone's property does not mean that literally whatever they decide to do to me is inherently justified. The decision-making power that property rights grants a person should not be completely arbitrary, since it always must be put into the context of consistantly respecting other people's rights. Being on someone else's property should not imply that you are their defacto slave or no longer deserve to live, only that one probably has to compromise with the owner in order to make use of the property. Owning property should not logically grant someone completely absolute and unilaterial decision-making power over other people.

So if views on the NAP or the use of violence in general could be put on a spectrum or organized, I'd categorize it like this: (1) Pacifism - All violence is unjustified, including self-defense (2) Thick Libertarianism - The initiation of violence is unjustified, self-defense is justified when there is an actual threat to life (3) Thin Libertarianism - The initiation of violence is unjustified, except in defense of property rights, which is to be categorized as self-defense (4) Objectivism - The initiation of violence is unjustified, except when it is rational "retaliation" (I.E. ex-post-facto or pre-emptive violence is justified), which is to be categorized as self-defense. The problem with both elements of Objectivism and thin libertarianism is that they smuggle in initiations of force by miscategorizing them as self-defense. The thick libertarian option seems the most rational.

Children and The Family

The question of children's rights and familial authority is often regaurded as a grey area for libertarians, as it remains an issue of contention. I generally take a fairly anti-authoritarian view on the matter. While I think that Murray Rothbard's views on children's rights that he expressed in "The Ethics of Liberty" is an improvement over a more traditional conservative view, I ultimately do not find it to be entirely sufficient. In this regaurd, I genuinely think that Stefan Molyneux has provided a more rational libertarian view on children's rights and familial authority than Rothbard and this is his most significant contribution to libertarianism, although my own view is not identical to his.

On a normative ethical level I contend that the non-aggression principle applies to children just as much as it applies to adults and on a psychological level I contend that the imposition of any kind of physical violence is not necessary to raise a healthy child. I do not think that the consistant application of the non-aggression principle to children should be controversial, but apparently it is controversial, especially among many of the more culturally conservative libertarians. I see no reason why child abuse should be considered any more legitimate than adult abuse. That being said, I wouldn't necessarily want to blur the lines between a few light spankings and something more overt and egregious. But I still nonetheless would contend that spankings are not necessary to raise a healthy child.

Furthermore, for some of the exact same reasons behind why I oppose the state, I do not think that the mere fact that a child lives in their parent's household or the mere fact that they have a biological connection to their parents that this grants the parents the right to initiate violence and have completely arbitrary authority over every single aspect of their lives, nor does it mean that the child has an unchosen positive obligation to their parents. Even the capability of the child to run away is not a sufficient justification for whatever their parents do to them, and it is at this point that Rothbard's expressed views on children's rights starts to fail, since the love it or leave it argument is no more legitimate for parental authority than it is for a state.

In Rothbard's view, the child gains their rights as soon as they express the capability to run away. In my view, the child already has rights, it's just that their circumstances limit their ability to express them, particularly because of their dependance on their parents. This dependance is more understandable the earlier in childhood it is, but in either case it does not mean that the child has no rights. I do not think that children are the defacto slaves of their parents until they move out or get a job. In my view, parents are not owners of their children so much as caretakers. In a normative ethical sense, the child cannot be owned by anyone. Noone can be.

I think that families should be voluntary. The fact of the matter is that not all families are voluntary, which is part of why a conservative view on the family doesn't make sense, since it broadly assumes the benevolence of "the family" as such. But I think that it is just as ridiculous to be "pro-family" as an absolute as it would to be "anti-family" as an absolute. The context that is missing from both absolutes is the actual behavior of the family members and the consequential way in which the family is structured. A family can be generally healthy or abusive and parental authority could be nurturing or arbitrary.

I see no more reason to treat parents or family members as having intrinsic authority than to treat nations, states or corporations as having intrinsic authority. I don't believe in intrinsic authority or intrinsic value of any kind. I think that a transcendental concept of the family is just as irrational as a transcendental concept of society. Parents and family members should be judged as individuals and associate freely. An individual should always have the choice to disassociate with parents or family, as there is no intrinsic obligation. Otherwise, the family can be structured as a form of slavery, which sets up the basis for the authorian tribe when blown up on a somewhat larger scale and devolved.

The family, when it is voluntary, is the simplest anarchistic form of government, and it definitely deserves praise in such a context. However, when the family functions as an authoritarian institution, it is precisely what plants the seeds for the more large-scale forms of authoritarianism such as the state that libertarians commonly critisize. The initial breach of liberty always starts small-scale, at the level of the family and the immediately surrounding community. The logical and historical outgrowth of an authoritarian family structure is the authoritarian tribal system and monarchy. It is not a mere coincidence that monarchies are based on familial lines, and a tribe is essentially just a large extended family.

Another interesting point to consider is that in a sense authoritarian political ideology could be thought of as viewing political institutions as a surrogate family, so there is an important psychological element to all of this. While this tendency may not always be completely overt, it is nonetheless a fairly obvious connection. People may tend to want the state to play a paternal or maternal role because they feel that either they themselves or others in society are missing or in need of such a role or out of a feeling of obligation that can be traced back to a familial root. Likewise, the powermongering of various individuals can often be traced back to a familial root. As long as one doesn't dive head first into fruedian absurdity, I think such an analysis can make a lot of sense and be very useful.

Revising Self-ownership

In various articles in the past I have made a monist objection to a dualistic concept of self-ownership due to the problems that an absolute mind/body dichotomy leads to. To summarize the problem: who exactly is it that is doing the owning? If I own it, then it is not me. If I am owned, than I am not the owner. One cannot be both the owned and the owner at the same time. Using the analogy that the mind owns the body doesn't really work because the mind is also part of the body. There is a coherant whole in reality, the mind and body are not metaphysically detached to the point where we can treat them as completely independant entities.

Hence, the way in which libertarians commonly put foreward the concept of self-ownership is flawed and must be revised to what is really meant by the concept, I.E. individual sovereignty, which is an ethical concept rather than a descriptive one. The problem is that when libertarians argue for self-ownership, they tend to treat it as if it was descriptive. So they will put foreward an argument along the lines of what Hans Hoppe's argumentation ethics and Stefan Molyneux's UPB would put foreward: that by virtue of you argueing and generally purposefully acting, you implicitly aknowledge self-ownership. But this is to totally confuse an is with an ought, or descriptive ethics and normative ethics.

It goes so far as to completely conflate categories of philosophy and definitions, as this reduces to an attempt to make a metaphysical argument for self-ownership. "Individual sovereignty" is really what is usually meant by the term self-ownership, but it is also often used as a sort of mix of different concepts like conciousness, free will and individual sovereignty. This is the sense in which I think the self-contradiction argument starts to fall apart, because conciousness or free will by themselves, while they are a necessary condition for personal sovereignty, are not the same thing as the ethical right of personal sovereignty. So the argument may apply to those who deny conciousness and free will, but it is ultimately erroneous to characterize arguements against self-ownership and property rights as necessarily being in denial of conciousness or free will. In this way, I think that self-ownership has a danger of being used as a package deal concept.

What's in dispute is not necessarily conciousness or free will, I.E. the capacity to have individual sovereignty as opposed to the substance of having individual sovereignty itself, what's in dispute is a specific ethical theory or principle. Therefore it does not make any sense to put foreward purely descriptive arguments as if they justify a particular ethical premise by themselves. Proving that someone has conciosness and free will is simply not a sufficient proof by itself for the ethical right of individual sovereignty, and neither is the mere fact that individual sovereignty is internally consistant as a concept (although half the problem here is that libertarians themselves aren't always internally consistant in their definition or use of the concept).