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Reblogged:Tragically, John Galton Got His Utopia

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An "anarcho-capitalist" calling himself John Galton -- in imitation of the hero of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged -- recently met a violent end in Acapulco. Unfortunately, a piece about the incident in the Daily Beast completely misses the significance of the story, starting with the headline: "John Galton Wanted Libertarian Paradise in 'Anarchapulco.' He Got Bullets Instead."

As is too often the case these days, the person covering the story is about as unclear about the difference between anarchy and capitalism as this murder victim tragically was:

acapulco.jpg
Nice, but no capitalist paradise. (Image by n3otr3x, via Pixabay (license).)
Anarcho-capitalists ("ancaps") believe in dismantling the state and allowing unchecked [sic] capitalism to govern the world in its place. Even within the small anarchist world, ancaps are fringe. Anarchists typically describe their movement as inherently anti-capitalist. Their philosophy describes anarchy as the rejection of hierarchical structures, which they say capitalism enforces. Anarcho-capitalists, meanwhile, see money as a liberating force. They promote a variety of libertarian causes like using cryptocurrency, legalizing all drugs, and privatizing all public institutions like courts and roads. The movement reveres the novelist Ayn Rand, whose work outlines a philosophy of radical selfishness and individualism. Her best-known character, an idealized capitalist named John Galt, appears to have inspired Galton's name.
As Objectivist philosopher Harry Binswanger once succinctly argued, Ayn Rand actually rejected anarchy for good reason, and maintained that government -- properly limited in scope to the protection of individual rights -- is necessary for capitalism. Binswanger starts off by indicating the fundamental error in the "anarcho-capitalist" position:
As it says next to my picture, I defend laissez-faire capitalism. "Anti-government" is the term Leftists use to smear this position. And, amazingly, some calling themselves "libertarians" are indeed anti-government across the board; they argue for what they call "anarcho-capitalism."

"Free competition works so well for everything else," these anarchists say, "why not for governmental services, too?"

But that argument comes from an anti-capitalist premise. Like the Marxists, who prate about "exploitation" and "wage slavery," the anarchists are ignoring the crucial, fundamental, life-and-death difference between trade and force.
Binswanger elaborates on this far better than I can, and deserves to be read in full. But I would be remiss not to mention his later thought experiment regarding what the anarcho-capitalist position means when put into practice:
The attempt to invoke individual rights to justify "competing" with the government collapses at the first attempt to concretize what it would mean in reality. Picture a band of strangers marching down Main Street, submachine guns at the ready. When confronted by the police, the leader of the band announces: "Me and the boys are only here to see that justice is done, so you have no right to interfere with us." According to the anarchists, in such a confrontation the police are morally bound to withdraw, on pain of betraying the rights of self-defense and free trade.

...

Bear in mind that, in fact, those who would be granted the right to enforce their own notions of justice include Leftists who consider government intervention in the economy to be retaliation against business activities that the leftists claim is "economic force." It would include Palestinian terrorists who claim that random slaughter is "retaliation" against "Zionist imperialism." It would include those who hold abortion to be murder and bomb abortion clinics as "retaliation" in defense of the "rights" of the unborn, and Islamists who clamor to let "Sharia law" operate within Western nations.
So, no, John Galton did not get bullets "instead" of his big-L Libertarian (and, in fact, non-capitalist utopia): He got the bullets that come with it. May his tragic end move others (and not just anarchists) to a more deliberate consideration of the nature and purpose of government.

It is not capitalism that needs to be kept in check, but the ability of men to initiate force in violation of the rights of each other. In anarchism, it is easier for individuals and small gangs to do this. But in many other social systems, such as we see now in Venezuela, unchecked government acts like an organized crime syndicate. (It does to a lesser degree in our mixed economy, which is inherently prone to becoming more government-controlled over time and so is not truly an alternative.) Anarchy and dictatorship are not opposites in that respect, but two sides of the same coin. Their opposite, capitalism, which includes underappreciated and necessary checks on government power, is not to blame here. Indeed, were actual capitalism truly "unchecked" here or in Acapulco, this man might not have been a fugitive from the law in the first place. And, be it because the United States was freer or Acapulco not a pocket of near-anarchy, he could well have been alive today.

-- CAV

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