In Defense of "Radical Politics"

Due to a number of recent events of small-scale violence done in the name of politics, a media hysteria has apparently started to develope over what is labeled as "radical politics". To be sure, the events that the media has reacted to are certainly tragic and I oppose the views and acts in question. However, the blanket use of the category of "radical politics" is problematic. It begs the question of what "radical politics" is supposed to be contrasted from ("moderate politics" or "mainstream politics"?). The way that the term is used in the media, it seems to essentially signify and constitute a blanket dismissal of anything that is outside of the underlying consensus of mainstream centrist politics - and mainstream politics is indeed inherently centrist and conservative in the sense of being resistant to any meaningful structural or systematic change.

"Radical politics" is also generally meant to signify random acts of violence, but it would be misleading to conflate "views outside the mainstream" with random acts of violence per se, especially to conflate anti-governmental sentiments with violence. It is problematic to hype up random acts of violence or what's now being called "domestic terrorism" by implying a causal relation between holding views that are outside of the mainstream and supporting or engaging in random acts of violence. Furthermore, it is not as if mainstream politics is non-violent when one considers the policies and methods of control that exist at the institutional level. The democratic process might be nominally non-violent in a sense, but in truth mainstream politics is a matter of institutional violence. It is misleading to contrast small-scale acts of violence by citizens with the presumption of a peaceful system, which cloaks violence at the institutional level.

There is nothing inherently wrong with holding political views that are outside of the mainstream, and it may often actually be a virtue to do so. What matters is not whether or not one's views are within the mainstream, but what the quality and validity of such views are, taken on their own merits. The way that the media tends to talk about "radical politics", one gets the impression that it serves the function of reinforcing a certain bias against views that are not within the narrow confines of centrist precedent on the basis of ad populum logic - it is a discouragement of large-scale and structural-level changes and criticisms of the system. While the random acts of violence commited by various fringe groups are not to be condoned, neither should they be seized upon as an oppurtunity to politisize the matter and function as a blanket condemnation of "radical politics" (which does not just include the various wrong-headed groups associated with such acts of violence, but peaceful and sensible political groups outside of the mainstream).

Insurrection vs. Pacifism: A False Dillema

There is a general traditional strategic split among anarchists between insurrectionary anarchism and pacifist anarchism. Insurrection is generally associated with either individual or public violent revolution, although if one wants to be specific it is etymologically linked closely with the concept of an "insurgent", and an "insurgency" could be seen as a spontaneous defensive response to an initial invasion by a political and/or military power (like the "insurgency" in Iraq, for example). On the other hand, pacifist anarchists completely reject any degree or kind of violence, likely viewing it as inconsistent and hypocritical, and this is more than just a strategic question for absolutist pacifists because they reject self-defense as a matter of principle.

However, it would be decieving to assume that these are the only two possible options. Reasonable arguments could be given against both of them and they could be constrasted from an explicitly "libertarian anarchism" that makes a clear distinction between defense and arbitrary violence. On one hand, pacifism can be criticized on the grounds that it doesn't make any room for defense and it consequentially leaves one in a submissive position relative to power; rulers aren't likely to just voluntarily give up their power, especially when there isn't even a moderate threat of resistance. On the other hand, the traditional violent revolution can be critisized on the grounds that it threatens to undermine the end that it is a means towards and often just leads to a vangaurd state; arbitrary violence contradicts the principles that one is "fighting for" to begin with and is not likely to lead to the goal of a free society.

For a hasty insurrectionist, violence is the first resort, while for a libertarian anarchist, violence is more of a last resort of defense in comparison (there is a difference between defending yourself in the face of a police state and simply taking people out arbitrarily), and the kind of measures supported by some insurrectionists definitely crosses well over the line of defense and into the realm of assassination and rioting. From a libertarian perspective, it is hard to see how simply storming city hall and shooting the place up like it's Duke Nukem is reasonable or consistent. Aside from the possible horrors that may be endorsed by an insurrectionist as a means, the main problem that an insurrectionist faces is the question of how to avoid the phenomenon of the revoltionists becoming the new power center. Instead of "the new society in the shell of the old", there are valid concerns about "the new power center in the shell of the old". While insurrectionary anarchism is contrasted from marxist vangaurd statism on a certain level, there still may be a context in which such a distinction essentially breaks down.

The conundrum of the pacifist is sort of the opposite one: namely, that when it does come down to a question of defending oneself in the face of aggression, pacifism constrains the individual to the point of powerlessness. There are certain situations in which peaceful resistance will simply be crushed with violence, and in this sense pacifism is simply suicidal as a strategy. While the argument that anarchism could only work if everyone in the world agreed or if everyone was perfectly peaceful is not valid, it may be valid as an argument against pacifism in the sense that pacifism offers no real means to counter violence when it comes down to the nitty gritty of situations in which people use violence; that is, it could be viewed as giving carte blanch power to those who do use violence precisely because organized resistance to it is prohibited to everyone else (by their own code even).

With that being said, this should not be construed to imply that violence is necessarily the only way to counter power - I think that is too pessemistic and Hobbesian of a view. There are numerous non-violent ways to counter power that can potentially have an effect, particularly if one is focusing on the long-term. At a meta level, the most basic of these ways to combat power is a matter of philosophy and ideas, by not allowing the ideological constructs of power to hold weight for you and to spread the demystification of such ideological constructs. On another level, another way to combat power is through a myriad of forms of civil disobedience, which can potentially be effective if the proper precautions are taken. There *is* a certain extent that there's a sense in which power is dependant on compliance or asequiesance, and power can be sterilized sometimes through sheer lack of consensus and compliance. And to put the matter in positive terms, one can combat power through association to foster competition with power and more of a degree of self-reliance that lessens one's unchosen dependancies on power.

However, one shouldn't take too idealistic of a view of the matter either. Power does not dissapear overnight and in some sense anarchism is inherently a long-term project. The traditional notion of revolution can be critisized for precisely this reason, I.E. that it naively expects a singular violent uprising to dissolve power. It doesn't really work that way. On the other hand, the notion of a purely peaceful process seems naive when one considers the likelyhood (or lack thereof) of those in power to cooperating with those who wish to dismantle their power. When it actually does come down to one being explicitly threatened with violence, it seems like violent resistance is essentially the only way to counter it, and a pacifist is simply a sitting duck in such situations for the obvious reasons already mentioned. This is why a "3rd way" makes more sense than either pacifism or insurrectionism.

The matter could be thought of in terms of an anarchist contextualization of Neitzsche's dichotomy between "master morality" and "slave morality". One could say that the masses tend to embrace and follow a "slave morality" that restrains them from engaging in self-assertion while those in power tend to embrace and follow a "master morality" that gives them free reign of self-assertion (although there is a sense in which this does not absolutely hold - there are people in power who genuinely believe in a "slave morality" but are working within an institution of "master morality", and not all of "the masses" believe in a strict "slave morality"), and the combined effect of this is that "slave morality" actually has the function of enabling the master class in that it tends to render the masses powerless by virtue of their own moral dogma.

But I would say then that the purpose should not be to expand "master morality" to everyone but to overcome and transcend both "slave morality" and "master morality". By analogy, pacifism is "slave morality" and insurrectionism is "slave morality" manifested as "master morality". In the context of the state, something like state-socialism could be seen as "slave morality manifested as master morality". The problem isn't restricted to "slave morality" but to the dualistic paradigm itself. "Master morality" as it is actually generally manifested in politics is an outwardly-oriented form of self-assertion in the sense of dominating the lives of others, which is not the same thing as a more inward form of self-assertion in the sense of genuine self-improvement or concern with one's long-range interest. So I would say that both "slave morality" and "master morality" suffer from the same fundamental problem; they are both, in some sense, not "properly egoistic".

The Anarchism and Minarchism Blur

Usually if I talk about minarchism I'm going to essentially bash it and promote anarchism against it. This is to be expected, since I am an anarchist. But I would like to point out a certain sense in which I think that the conflict between anarchists and minarchists may be at least somewhat of a misnomer or even a false dichotomy. In particular, I think that there is a sense in which anarchists are defacto governmentalists and at least some minarchists are more or less closet anarchists or anarchists in denial.

To be clear, I'm more specifically refering to libertarian anarchism and libertarian minarchism, which is to say that both of them essentially share the same basic libertarian premises with regard to interpersonal relations such as freedom of association and individual sovereignty. And by minarchism I do not refer to any old vaguely "small government" philosophy, but specifically to what I would call "radical minarchism" or a strictly "bare bones" view of government. I am approaching this from the assumption that both libertarian anarchism and libertarian minarchism share the same basic premises.

Assuming that both more or less have the same underlying premises, the basic difference that distinguishes them can be thought of simply in terms of what conclusions are reached from those premises. At a basic level, libertarian minarchism proposes that the initiation of the use of force is wrong and concludes that we should have a government that is limited to the point at which it does not initiate the use of force, while libertarian anarchism proposes that the initiation of the use of force is wrong and concludes that we should have no government.

So here we arrive at the basic conflict between "limited government" and "no government". At this point, an interesting question that arises is the extent to which the disagreement between these two ultimate conclusions revolve around nothing more than semantics over the word "government". The minarchist tends to define "government" in a way that leaves open the possibility of having a government that does not initiate force, while the anarchist tends to define "government" as inherently involving the initiation of force.

While the minarchist proposes the ideal of a government that does not initiate force, often the anarchist responds to this by claiming that it wouldn't be a government then if it doesn't initiate force. Hence, if the minarchist truly is consistently opposed to the initiation of force (and this includes the tricky and radical part of opposing taxation and coercive barriers to competition), they are in some sense defacto anarchists and their "government" is little more than a homeowners association or some sort of voluntary mutual protection agency. This is part of the cognitive dissonance that tends to turn minarchists into anarchists.

Others prefer to make a formal distinction between "state" and "government". I have never personally been particularly comfortable with this distinction because I see a certain risk of "the state" merely being snuck in through the back door under the label "government". Nonetheless, if we are to make such a distinction, this seems to make the minarchist vs. anarchist conflict even more semantic in nature, to the point at which some "minarchists" may in fact be advocating a form of "government" that would be acceptable to an anarchist and some "anarchists" may in fact be advocating a form of "government" or at leasting advocating an idea that is compatible in theory with certain forms of "government".

Indeed, anarchists (except perhaps at the fringes of primitivism) tend to clarify that they are not opposed to social organization itself and they favor a basic standard of justice. If the term "government" is concieved of as merely refering to any sort of social organization and basic reasonable rules for interpersonal relations, then anarchists are defacto governmentalists precisely because they are not anti-social-organization-in-itself. In backing away from that position, and probably with a lot of annoyance at constantly being misrepresented via cultural stereotypes, anarchists inevitably are forced to make a distinction between voluntary social organization and "the state" as they understand it.

And so therein lies the interesting rub: a radical minarchist tends to advocate a "government" or "state" as defined specifically in terms of voluntary social organization (at which point, from the anarchist's perspective, it is no "state" at all), while an anarchist tends to advocate a "stateless society" in terms of voluntary social organization (and it ultimately makes no practical difference whether or not you slap the word "government" on to it). So it seems to be the case that if voluntary social organization in general is what the common goal is, then there may very well be little to no meaningful difference between these positions beyond personal semantics.

Of course, by no means do I intend to argue that all minarchists are closet anarchists by definition. Quite frankly, in my judgement the vast majority of minarchists significantly fall short of consistently favoring voluntary social organization, partially because the way things have been traditionally done is often taken for granted and people easily get sucked into reformism. So while libertarian minarchists may have a proto-anarchist political philosophy, in practise they often tow a more moderate line in which they defend the existing reality of "government" - which is to say a "government" that initiates the use of force in some way. Either the minarchist is blinded to the force or pragmatically endorses some level of it.

There are many minarchists who make glaring exceptions to their principles that are big no-no's from an anarchist perspective. For example, libertarian anarchists are opposed to taxation, while many minarchists (despite reoccuring quasi-anarchistic vocal opposition to the concept of taxation) asquience to the need for at least some limited form and rate of taxation (Rand was an exception to this, but she still clung to a doctrine of violent retribution theory and supported violence used to crush competitors of her "objectivist government", hence falling short of anarchism; but screw her, despite her influence she wasn't exactly a "libertarian" anyways).

But in all honesty, some of the exact same problems that tend to plague minarchism plague certain individuals and segments within the anarchist movement as well. Let's be crude about this: at least *some* self-proclaimed anarchists are either closet statists or implicitly statist without realizing it, and this problem can be found in all segments of the anarchist movement ranging from anarcho-communism to anarcho-capitalism. Anarchists do face a certain danger of merely taking the form of social organization that they previously have been biased towards and renaming it something else or merely sticking the word "voluntary" next to it or merely proposing a more localized version of the exact same thing. Certain self-proclaimed anarchists are, at best, minarchists that are a bit more radical than the rest.

It also works the other way around: at least *some* self-proclaimed minarchists are essentially advocating anarchism and are probably accused of being anarchists a lot (hell, I was accused of being an anarchist by people when I was a minarchist, and I used to back down from the accusation while still flirting with anarchism but not fully embracing it). When one is proclaiming that "taxation is theft" and referencing Lysander Spooner to reject the authority of the constitution while simultaneously clinging to minarchism, one probably has some cognitive dissonance to resolve. It makes sense why so many libertarian anarchists used to be minarchists; they resolved their cognitive dissonance, which pushed them into anarchism.

While I am most certainly biased (and for good reason, not mere prejudice) towards anarchism, looking back at the evolution of where my head is at makes me see some senses in which the distinction between anarchism and minarchism may not be as wide as a black and white analysis may imply and I can say that "I used to be in that position". I've found that anarchy, as a practical matter, is in some sense merely a different paradigm of "governance". Furthermore, the internal conflicts among anarchists helps illuminate the fact that anarchism is in some sense very concerned with social organization, since a lot of the conflicts revolve around the compatability of certain forms of social organization with libertarian principles.

I have not set out to prove that anarchism and minarchism in general are necessarily indistinguishable, but merely to provide some food for thought that perhaps there may be a certain point at which the lines blur a bit, at least depending on the kind of minarchism that one encounters. Sometimes you might scratch a minarchist and find an anarchist inside, and sometimes you might scratch an anarchist and find a rather extreme authoritarian inside (*cough* curse the Hoppe cult!). The details of political ideas and the relationship between ideas in political philosophy can be rather complex sometimes. Perhaps we should be more sensitive of subtleties.

On Contradictions Between Philosophy and Action

Another problem that I see with the attempt to prove "self-ownership" and "property rights" as an a priori axoim that is inherently established by the act of argumentation (as Hans Hoppe's argumentation ethics seems to essentially be) is that a contradiction between one's philosophy and one's actions does not constitute a "proof" or "disproof" of a given philosophy in and of itself. It may be proof that the person in question is being hypocritical, but that doesn't necessarily disprove what they are argueing. This is also a problem with Stefan Molyneux's "UPB".

Someone could concievably argue in favor of liberty while violating the liberty of others in their lives or argue in favor of tyranny while mostly being benign towards others on a personal level. But consistency between one's philosophy and one's actions is not a proper measure of "truth", it is the measure of hypocrisy and dishonesty. A hypocrit could theoretically have valid arguments, while an honest person could theoretically have invalid arguments. A man's honesty and integrity, strictly speaking, is not the measure of the "truth" of his statements, it is question of the character and style of a person. There is no absolute correlation between the truth value of a proposition and the character of the person who makes the proposition.

It also doesn't seem to make much sense to posit that what you believe is inherently presupposed by everyone else. Someone could concievably sincerely believe that "slavery is moral" or "morality doesn't matter" and they could concieavly argue those premises without necessarily contradicting themselves. People do not necessarily presuppose your premises by argueing. And even if the behavior of argueing in some sense contradicts what they are argueing, that is does not inherently nullify their argument. One has to explain why their argument is false, and the fact that someone's behavior is hypocritical does not constitute an explaination, it only begs the question and is not directly relevant to the person's argument as such.

What a curiosity: the presupposition that your presuppositions are presupposed by everyone else! What circular logic such an a priori intrinsicism ends up being. By argueing with you, I implicitly prove you correct? Do people not realize how abusable such a method is? One could theoretically use it to justify just about anything, since it essentially means that one's premises are simply assumed to be absolute and universal truths without actually having to explain why. Hence, one can avoid questions and criticisms of one's premises by simply brushing them off as inherently being disproven upon utterance, while you yourself have not argumentatively demonstrated the case for your premises. Noone should take that seriously.

Do slaves have "self-ownership"?

I'd like to extend on my criticism of Hoppe's argumentation ethics by concretizing the point about the difference between "self-ownership" as it is used ontologically and "self-ownership" as it is used ethically. I realize that this point has been made in one way or another by others before me, but I am putting it in my own words and using my own conceptual framework to express it.

If all one really means by "self-ownership" is the capacity to purposefully act (and this capacity, at best, is all that "argumentation ethics" proves), then slaves must be said to have "self-ownership", since even though they are slaves their basic nature as human beings has not changed and therefore they retain the capacity to purposefully act despite being a slave. Liberty does not merely mean that someone has the capacity to purposefully act, it more specifically entails that their sphere of action is not infringed upon. A slave has the capacity to purposefully act, but their sphere of action is significantly limited by their master.

This is the problem with trying to prove "self-ownership" by treating it as an ontological given upon the act of argumentation. A slave completely retains the basic capacity to argue and act in general. Presumably, their state of slavery does not eliminate their will. And yet it would be absurd to proclaim that a slave proves that they have rights by engaging in argumentation. They could argue until they are blue in the face, but their rights would still be restricted by their master. In this sense, people are not "inherently free", otherwise there would be absolutely no point in proclaiming that people should be free in the first place.

The slave argues not because they have rights (and by "have rights" I mean their actualization, not "having rights" in the more basic sense of an ought), but because either their master gives them the permission to argue or they manage to argue in spite of their master's control. In terms of the actualization of rights, the slave does not have rights, or at least not completely. And in terms of rights purely as a prescription, the fact that the slave argues by itself does not does not "prove" the validity of rights as a prescription. But if argumentation ethics is to be taken seriously and applied consistent, we would have to say that the slave is "free" and implicitly proves that they have rights by arguing. Surely this is nonsensical if not outrageous.

Clearly, the fact that people engage in argumentation is not sufficient in and of itself to prove that people have rights. For in all times and all places, people who do not completely have rights have engaged in argumentation! Upon them engaging in argumentation, it is not implicitly proven that they have a certain set of rights that is consistent with a specifically libertarian social theory. To treat rights as some sort of inherent ontological fact in this way is to confuse what the meaning and purpose of rights is to begin with. The purpose of a theory of rights is not to prove some sort of ontological characteristic that people inherently have, for rights are ethical norms and not merely descriptive traits. At best, they can only sensibly be treated descriptively upon their realization as ethical norms or as a description of such ethical norms as such.

What's strange about Hoppe's argumentation ethics is that it appears to be attempting to make an "ontological proof" of libertarianism. Unfortunately, there is no such ontological proof, because libertarianism is not an ontological fact. "Liberty", strictly speaking, is not some sort of "natural state" that we cannot possibly escape any more than "tyranny" is such a "natural state". Argumentation ethics seems like a naturalistic fallacy because it treats liberty as if it an intrinsic quality of all humans. Perhaps all people have the capacity for liberty, but the realization of liberty as such is not intrinsic.

Furthermore, the attempt to derive a specific notion of rights and the general premise that people should have liberty from such an assumption of intrinsic ontology inherently is fallacious and bumps into the most obvious sense of the is-ought dichotomy. If liberty is some sort of intrinsic quality in this way, then there is no rational reason to argue that we should have liberty. An "ethics of liberty" would henceforth be completely pointless. On the other hand, if liberty is some sort of capacity that has not yet been fully realized, if liberty is prescriptive in nature and hence constitutes an ethical norm, then it makes no sense whatsoever to appeal to liberty as an intrinsic ontological fact, for in this context it is a goal that has not yet been realized (and hence in this sense it simply is not a "fact").

On The Psychology and Language of Power

The language of contemporary politics, and of politics in general, is fascinating to me. Mainstream politics, particularly in the media, seems to be filled with deceptive and meaningless verbiage. There are a lot of buzzwords meant to spark an emotional reaction in people, and the meaning of certain terms has flip-flopped to almost their polar opposite over the course of the decades and centuries (for example, the term liberalism used to signify a dedication to individual liberty, while in contemporary politics it is almost completely detached from its original meaning, and simply means someone associated with the Democratic party or someone with a vague set of ideas associated with "the left"). There are also a lot of false dichotomies that try to force us to choose between two irrational positions (liberal/conservative, republican/democrat, capitalist/socialist, and so on).

Political power, particularly in our modern sham democracies, seems to be dependant on such an abuse of language in order to control the ideological atmosphere. Political identity is largely constructed on the basis of preconcieved and ill-defined terms. Political philosophy is not discussed in any significant manner, everything is more or less reduced to a matter of petty identity politics. It's all about appealing to cultural preferances. The appeal to emotion and short-term or more petty personal interests is common. And words that typically have a positive connotation are used to get people to support politicians and win them over to certain specific ideologies. Even a perfectly good word like "freedom" can be used as a weapon to justify tyranny.

George Bush and Dick Cheney are perfect examples of this, with their justification of mass-violence in the name of freedom. I favor freedom, but it doesn't follow that I should favor them and their policies. Barack Obama is another example of this, with his justification for his authority by appealing to "hope" and "change". I have hope and want change, but it doesn't follow that I should favor Obama and his policies. These are perfect examples of the abuse of language as a weapon. I can have totally irrational premises, and bully someone with phrases such as "the truth", "morality", "the good", "the people", "the workers", "personal responsibility", and so on, as my authority to get them to agree or comply with me.

Consequentially, modern politics seems to have devolved into a confusing haze of words and signs that don't have much of a context or any significant content to them. Power elites can justify just about anything they want in the name of good-sounding things. And even then, sometimes the assumption that these good-sounding things are so good in the grand scheme of things isn't quite accurate. Appeals to things like national entity and altruism are essentially meaningless to me. So I come to reject even many of the phrases and concepts that are relied on. I reject the implicit assumptions of mainstream politics, and am unfortunately lead into a cynical attitude when I see the masses hooray for such things.

Being somewhat of an adherant of analytical philosophy, clarity is an important thing to me, and it seems like most political language completely undermines clarity. Everything breaks down into vast overgeneralizations and arbitrary categories that noone could possibly fit into as an absolute. Assumptions are made about people's beliefs based on a few terms they use, which ends up being a strawman. For example, if I talk about "free markets", some might assume I'm just some sort of Republican or conservative. I'm actually very hostile to conservatism. Or if I express concerns about corporate power and racism, some might assume I'm some kind of Marxist and politically correct. I'm actually very hostile to Marx. In a sense, mainstream politics has stolen perfectly good words and taken them out of context. In another sense, it has invented new words that we are forced to accept as a way to categorize ourselves. This confusion has to stop. Clarity is called for.


There recently has been a lot of discussion and debate among libertarians online about self-ownership, rights, responsibility, voluntary slavery and inalienability. I think that this has helped reveal some significant flaws in the way that certain libertarians approach such matters, especially as it relates to Walter Block's ideas. In essence, what the issue boils down to is wether or not rights and responsibilities are alienable or not, or if alienation is possible or consistant with libertarianism. By alienation I do not refer to the Marxist notion of alienation, but the separation of certain things from the self in a more literal sense. As I have said before, a dualistic concept of self-ownership is an incoherant concept because it tries to alienate the mind or will from the body, and this simply cannot be done, hence why Walter Block's notion of "voluntary slavery" is incoherant and contradictary. I have explained in quite a bit of detail why this is in past blog posts.

But the issue apparently is even more far reaching than this. Some people have been taking the viewpoint that rights and responsibilities are actually commodities to be bought and sold on a free market. I think this stems from taking metaphors (such as self-ownership) too literally and not fully understanding what inalienable rights means, which leads some people to take what amounts to ridiculous positions that blatantly violate basic notions of personal responsibility and individual sovereignty. Not only is it impossible to alienate the mind or will from the body, but as a consequence of this, you cannot alienate someone's responsibility as an individual as if it something that can be transfered to someone else through contract. Nor is someone's actual person a commodity to be bought and sold on a free market, as that is precisely what chattel slavery is. If libertarians really want to take such a position, they must realize that the ultimate consequence is the total elimination of any coherant meaning for rights and responsibilities in libertarianism.

One can concievably sign a contract that says that someone else is responsible for their actions, but this contract would not change the actual causal reality of responsibility, which remains in the metaphorical court of the actual people who are human actors in a given scenario. If someone murders someone else, for example, it doesn't matter if they have made a contract that delegates responsibility for their murder to someone else, they are still the murderer. Such a contract is fraudulent with regaurd to their actual behavior. The idea that criminals can be exempted for responsibility for their crimes through contract eliminates a good deal of the meaning of justice. While I myself do place a lot of emphasis on the restitution of victims, I do not accept the notion that the criminal actors in a given scenario can delegate their responsibility for restitution to someone else. This is because you cannot alienate responsibility from someone, as you cannot alienate their will and the causal reality of the scenario is that they are the ones who commited the given act in question.

I think that a lot of this also generally stems for improper concept formation or a lack of understanding of the proper order of concepts. The old saying goes "life, liberty and property", and it is in this order for a good reason. A problem I often run into is that some people appear to act as if property is primary or axoimatic at the expense of life and liberty. But a coherant theory of rights does not place property above life and liberty, property is contextual to respecting the right to life and liberty. Property rights does not grant one a legitimate right to violate someone else's right to life and liberty, and it is a grave error to conceptualize literally everything, such as personhood and responsibility, as a property right. The idea that personhood is a property right to be bought and sold is part of the very basis for slavery of all kinds, and you cannot argue for a notion of "voluntary slavery" without destroying the inalienability of rights. Trying to turn literally everything into a propertarian question is to nonsensically expand the concept of property to absurdity.

While freedom of contract is a vital component of libertarianism, it is does not supercede people's inalienable rights. There is such thing as a fraudulent or criminal contract, and a perpetual contract that is enforced onto someone against their explicit consent into the future or as a 3rd party not directly privy to the contract is fraudulent and the basis for gross rights violations, including the coercive social contract. All contracts must have a way to get out of them, even if there are conditions or consequences for opting out of a contract such as dealing with withstanding debts. A perpetual contract that you cannot possibly get out of regaurdless of your will is a significant part of the very basis for the coercive social contract, and there is a huge differance beween the delegation of the enforcement of rights to a 3rd party and the delegation of the rights themselves. If contracts are a method by which one can legitimately lose all of their rights, then rights essentially lose their meaning as something to consistantly apply to recognize in people.

Wether they realize it or not, those who advocate notions of justice that rely on an alienation of the mind, will, responsibility and rights from the self are undermining the entire basis for individual liberty. The very premises that they are using can be used against the entire libertarian notion of justice and as a way to legitimize political institutions or policies that libertarians normally would oppose. So it turns out that this is actually an extremely important issue to clarify. It is based on some fairly fundamental philosophical misnomers that threaten to undermine the entire libertarian project, despite the good intentions of some proponents of such misnomers. If this issue is not properly clarified, I fear that libertarianism can be used to push for abominable notions of justice that commodifies rights and responsibilities. But rights and responsibilities are not commodities in any rational theory of justice.

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.

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