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Anarchism and private property

There is a great divide among the traditions of anarchism about the question of private property and economic organization.

Socialists vs Capitalists

  • Libertarian socialists consider that private property is an illegitimate fiction enforced by the State, and that beyond "personal possession" of immediate goods no property should exist.

  • Anarcho-capitalists consider that private property emerges from natural law, and is a paradigmatic way to respect individual rights, to solve and avoid conflict, and to promote creation.

  • Libertarian socialists propose that beyond personal possession, all resources should be collectively managed, particularly capital goods used as means of economic production.

  • Anarcho-capitalists think that any property that is not consumed immediately is a capital, so that capital goods and means of production are in no way particular.

  • Libertarian socialists consider that employer-employee relationship is based on coercion by the employer. They think that oppressive government backing is what makes such thing possible.

  • Anarcho-capitalists, think that an employer-employee relationship is basically an elaborate and mutually profitable form of voluntary association. They resent government as a parasite that corrupts, biases, impedes and distorts what would otherwise be peaceful fair and free associations.

  • Libertarian socialists claim that such oppression should be prevented, even if oppressed employees are passively consenting, out of weakness and ignorance.

  • Anarcho-capitalists consider that the consent to a contract that each party was free to refuse is evidence and guarantee that the contract is legitimate and beneficial. They claim that any external power capable of preventing such relationship is itself an oppression to be fought.

  • Libertarian socialists believe that all forms of hierarchy must be eliminated.

  • Anarcho-capitalists believe that all forms of coercion must be eliminated, but that apparent hierarchy is no coercion, as long as it reflects a freely-entered-into contract.

  • Anarcho-socialists counter that as no ordinary person (as opposed to someone who is independently wealthy) can refuse to work, so there is no freedom involved in the negotiation of a contract with an employer (the "weakness and ignorance" referred to above, or the wage slave concept referred to in socialist literature).

  • Anarcho-capitalists in return argue that, no matter what social organization may or may not exist, social organizations will never eliminate the basic human requirement to work in order to support themselves. Therefore an objection based on a constraint that cannot be overcome is useless to argue about, and not a rational objection at all. They also argue that while someone may not be able to refuse to work in general, one has the largest choice of employers with the diversity of a free market economy, and that what matters is that no given employer/employee contract in particular be coercive.

In the end, both socialist anarchists and anarcho-capitalists consider the other group as deeply misled, and that the other group's notion of "anarchy" is not real anarchy, but government in disguise, rejecting the name, but keeping the concept. Thus, socialist anarchists and anarcho-capitalists don't generally engage in any form of co-operation, despite what might appear to be a mutual goal: both groups want to get rid of the state, but they have opposite opinions of what characterizes the state. On the other hand anarchists of each kind share a lot of literature and cooperate with the non-anarchists in their respective socialist and classical liberal traditions.

See also:

Other anarchist traditions with respect to private property

Anarchists of other traditions vary in their appreciation of the respective socialist and classical liberal arguments above.

Some of them will consistently side with some of the above arguments, thus adopting the socialist or classical liberal tradition, though without forcibly doing it formally.

Some will mildly side with some of the arguments above, though without considering them a defining stance for their flavor of anarchism, and will consider the question as secondary.

Some do not care about this debate, and consider it a waste of time; they think that by getting rid of government, such problems find a natural solution.



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