Left-wing market anarchism is a strand of free-market anarchism and an individualist anarchist, left-libertarian and libertarian socialist political philosophy and market socialist economic theory stressing the value of radically free markets, termed freed markets to distinguish them from the common conception which these libertarians believe to be riddled with statist and capitalist privileges. Proponents of this approach distinguish themselves from right-libertarians and strongly affirm the classical liberal ideas of self-ownership and free markets while maintaining that taken to their logical conclusions these ideas support anti-capitalist, anti-corporatist, anti-hierarchical and pro-labor positions in economics; anti-imperialism in foreign policy; and thoroughly radical views regarding socio-cultural issues. Key theorists in this area include contemporary scholars such as Kevin Carson, Gary Chartier, Charles W. Johnson, Roderick T. Long, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Sheldon Richman and Brad Spangler.
The genealogy of left-wing market anarchism, sometimes labeled market-oriented or free-market left-libertarianism, overlaps to a significant degree with that of Steiner-Vallentyne left-libertarianism as the roots of that tradition are sketched in the book The Origins of Left-Libertarianism. Carson-Long-style left-libertarianism is rooted in 19th-century mutualism and in the work of figures such as Thomas Hodgskin, French Liberal School thinkers such as Gustave de Molinari and American individualist anarchists such as Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner, among others. Several left-wing market anarchists who come from the left-Rothbardian school or tradition cite Murray Rothbard's homestead principle with approval to support worker cooperatives. While with notable exceptions libertarians in the United States after the heyday of individualist anarchism tended to ally with the political right, relationships between such libertarians and the New Left thrived in the 1960s, laying the groundwork for modern left-wing market anarchism.
Left-wing market anarchism identifies with left-libertarianism, a position which names several related yet distinct approaches to politics, society, culture and political and social theory, stressing both individual freedom and social justice. Unlike right-libertarians, left-libertarians believe that neither claiming nor mixing one's labor with natural resources is enough to generate full private property rights and maintain that all natural resources such as land, oil and gold ought to be held in some egalitarian manner, either unowned or owned collectively. Those left-libertarians who support private property do so under different property norms and theories, or under the condition that recompense is offered to the local or global community.
Mutualism began in 18th-century English and French labour movements before taking an anarchist form associated with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in France and others in the United States. Proudhon proposed spontaneous order, whereby organisation emerges without central authority, a "positive anarchy" where order arises when everybody does "what he wishes and only what he wishes" and where "business transactions alone produce the social order".
Proudhon distinguished between ideal political possibilities and practical governance. For this reason, much in contrast to some of his theoretical statements concerning ultimate spontaneous self-governance, Proudhon was heavily involved in French parliamentary politics and allied himself not with anarchist, but rather with socialist factions of workers movements and in addition to advocating state-protected charters for worker-owned cooperatives he also promoted certain nationalization schemes during his life of public service.
Mutualism is concerned with reciprocity, free association, voluntary contract, federation and credit and currency reform. According to the American mutualist William Batchelder Greene, each worker in the mutualist system would receive "just and exact pay for his work; services equivalent in cost being exchangeable for services equivalent in cost, without profit or discount". Mutualism has been retrospectively characterised as ideologically situated between individualist and collectivist forms of anarchism. Proudhon first characterised his goal as a "third form of society, the synthesis of communism and property".
American individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker identified as a socialist and argued that the elimination of what he called the four monopolies--the land monopoly, the money and banking monopoly, the monopoly powers conferred by patents and the quasi-monopolistic effects of tariffs--would undermine the power of the wealthy and big business, making possible widespread property ownership and higher incomes for ordinary people while minimizing the power of would-be bosses and achieving socialist goals without state action. Tucker influenced and interacted with anarchist contemporaries--including Lysander Spooner, Voltairine de Cleyre, Dyer D. Lum and William B. Greene--who have in various ways influenced later left-libertarian thinking. According to historian James J. Martin, the individualist anarchists were socialists, whose support for the labor theory of value made their libertarian socialist form of mutualism a free-market socialist alternative to both capitalism and Marxism.
Rothbard argued that individualist anarchism is different from anarcho-capitalism and other capitalist theories due to the individualist anarchists retaining the labor theory of value and socialist doctrines. The doyen of modern American market-oriented libertarianism, Austrian School economist Murray Rothbard, was initially an enthusiastic partisan of the Old Right, particularly because of its general opposition to war and imperialism. However, Rothbard had long embraced a reading of American history that emphasized the role of elite privilege in shaping legal and political institutions--one that was naturally agreeable to many on the left--and came increasingly in the 1960s to seek alliances on the left--especially with members of the New Left--in light of the Vietnam War, the military draft and the emergence of the Black Power movement.
Working with other radicals like Ronald Radosh and Karl Hess, Rothbard argued that the consensus view of American economic history, according to which a beneficent government has used its power to counter corporate predation, is fundamentally flawed. Rather, he argued, government intervention in the economy has largely benefited established players at the expense of marginalized groups, to the detriment of both liberty and equality. Moreover, the robber baron period, hailed by the right and despised by the left as a heyday of laissez-faire, was not characterized by laissez-faire at all, but it was in fact a time of massive state privilege accorded to capital. In tandem with his emphasis on the intimate connection between state and corporate power, he defended the seizure of corporations dependent on state largesse by workers and others. While Rothbard himself ultimately broke with the left, allying himself instead with the burgeoning paleoconservative movement, that alliance laid the groundwork for modern left-wing market anarchism.
Anti-capitalist libertarianism was the dominant form of libertarianism in the United States through much of the 19th century and early 20th century, but it declined since the mid-to-late 20th century, although it has recently aroused renewed interest in the early 21st century. The Winter 2006 issue of the Journal of Libertarian Studies published by the Mises Institute was dedicated to reviews of Kevin Carson's Studies in Mutualist Political Economy. Drawing on the work of Rothbard during his alliance with the left and on the thought of Hess, some thinkers associated with market-oriented libertarianism came increasingly to identify with the left on a range of issues, including opposition to war, to corporate oligopolies and to state-corporate partnerships as well as an affinity for cultural liberalism. One variety of this kind of libertarianism has been a resurgent mutualism, incorporating modern economic ideas such as marginal utility theory into mutualist theory. Kevin Carson's Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, first published in 2006, helped to stimulate the growth of new-style mutualism, articulating a version of the labor theory of value incorporating ideas drawn from Austrian economics.
While other market-oriented left-libertarians have declined to embrace mutualist views of real property, they share the left-libertarian opposition to corporate hierarchies and wealth concentration. Those left-libertarians have placed particular emphasis on the articulation and defense of a libertarian theory of class and class conflict, although considerable work in this area has been performed by libertarians of other persuasions. The Alliance of the Libertarian Left is a left-wing market anarchist organization that includes a multi-tendency coalition of agorists, geolibertarians, green libertarians, minarchists, mutualists and voluntaryists.
In the 21st century, the Really Really Free Market movement is a horizontally organized collective of individuals who form a temporary market based on an alternative gift economy. The movement aims to counteract capitalism in a proactive way by creating a positive example to challenge the myths of scarcity and competition. The name is a play on words as it is a reinterpretation and re-envisioning of free market, a term which generally refers to an economy of consumerism governed by supply and demand.
The Center for a Stateless Society, or C4SS is a left-wing market anarchist think tank and media center, founded in 2006. It has been recognized as one of the main institutional homes of left-wing market anarchism. Its associates include Senior Fellows Roderick Long and Gary Chartier, and its "Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory" Kevin Carson. Since its founding it has documented more than 2,600 reprints or citations in major news websites and mainstream media. Some of the center's activities include its recurring Mutual Exchange Symposiums on topics such as "Anarchy and Democracy" and "Decentralization and Economic Coordination", and the podcast Mutual Exchange Radio, providing interviews with activists and scholars.
Kevin Carson describes his politics as on "the outer fringes of both free market libertarianism and socialism". He has identified the work of Benjamin Tucker, Thomas Hodgskin, Ralph Borsodi, Paul Goodman, Lewis Mumford, Elinor Ostrom, Peter Kropotkin and Ivan Illich as sources of inspiration for his approach to politics and economics. In addition to individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker's "big four" monopolies (land, money, tariffs and patents), Carson argues that the state has also transferred wealth to the wealthy by subsidizing organizational centralization in the form of transportation and communication subsidies. He believes that Tucker overlooked this issue due to Tucker's focus on individual market transactions whereas Carson also focuses on organizational issues. The theoretical sections of Studies in Mutualist Political Economy are presented as an attempt to integrate marginalist critiques into the labor theory of value.
Carson has also been highly critical of intellectual property. The primary focus of his most recent work has been decentralized manufacturing and the informal and household economies. In response to claims that he uses the term capitalism incorrectly, Carson says he is deliberately choosing to resurrect what he claims to be an old definition of the term in order to "make a point". He claims that "the term 'capitalism,' as it was originally used, did not refer to a free market, but to a type of statist class system in which capitalists controlled the state and the state intervened in the market on their behalf".
Carson holds that "capitalism, arising as a new class society directly from the old class society of the Middle Ages, was founded on an act of robbery as massive as the earlier feudal conquest of the land. It has been sustained to the present by continual state intervention to protect its system of privilege without which its survival is unimaginable". Carson argues that in a truly laissez-faire system, the ability to extract a profit from labor and capital would be negligible. Carson coined the pejorative term vulgar libertarianism, a phrase that describes the use of a free market rhetoric in defense of corporate capitalism and economic inequality. According to Carson, it is derived from the term vulgar political economy, a phrase which Karl Marx described as an economic order that "deliberately becomes increasingly apologetic and makes strenuous attempts to talk out of existence the ideas which contain the contradictions [existing in economic life]".
Gary Chartier offers an understanding of property rights as contingent yet tightly constrained social strategies, reflective of the importance of multiple, overlapping rationales for separate ownership and of natural law principles of practical reasonableness, defending robust but non-absolute protections for these rights in a manner similar to that employed by David Hume. This account is distinguished both from Lockean and neo-Lockean views which deduce property rights from the idea of self-ownership and from consequentialist accounts that might license widespread ad hoc interference with the possessions of groups and individuals. Chartier uses this account to ground a clear statement of the natural law basis for the view that solidaristic wealth redistribution by individual persons is often morally required, but as a response by individuals and grass-roots networks to particular circumstances rather than as a state-driven attempt to achieve a particular distributive pattern. He advances detailed arguments for workplace democracy rooted in such natural law principles as subsidiarity, defending it as morally desirable and as a likely outcome of the elimination of injustice rather than as something to be mandated by the state. He discusses natural law approaches to land reform and to the occupation of factories by workers.
Chartier objects on natural law grounds to intellectual property protections, drawing on his theory of property rights more generally and develops a general natural law account of boycotts. He has argued that proponents of genuinely freed markets should explicitly reject capitalism and identify with the global anti-capitalist movement while emphasizing that the abuses the anti-capitalist movement highlights result from state-tolerated violence and state-secured privilege rather than from voluntary cooperation and exchange. According to Chartier, "it makes sense for [left-libertarians] to name what they oppose "capitalism." Doing so [...] ensures that advocates of freedom aren't confused with people who use market rhetoric to prop up an unjust status quo, and expresses solidarity between defenders of freed markets and workers - as well as ordinary people around the world who use "capitalism" as a short-hand label for the world-system that constrains their freedom and stunts their lives".
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Arguing that vast disparities in wealth and social influence result from the use of force and especially state power to steal and engross land and acquire and maintain special privileges, members of this thought typically urge the abolition of the state. They judge that in a stateless society the kinds of privileges secured by the state will be absent and injustices perpetrated or tolerated by the state can be rectified. These left-libertarians rejects "what critics call "atomistic individualism". With freed markets, they argue that "it is we collectively who decide who controls the means of production", leading to "a society in which free, voluntary, and peaceful cooperation ultimately controls the means of production for the good of all people". According to libertarian scholar Sheldon Richman, left-libertarians "favor worker solidarity vis-à-vis bosses, support poor people's squatting on government or abandoned property, and prefer that corporate privileges be repealed before the regulatory restrictions on how those privileges may be exercised", seeing Walmart as a "symbol of corporate favoritism" which is "supported by highway subsidies and eminent domain", viewing "the fictive personhood of the limited-liability corporation with suspicion" and "doubt[ing] that Third World sweatshops would be the "best alternative" in the absence of government manipulation". These left-libertarians "tend to eschew electoral politics, having little confidence in strategies that work through the government. They prefer to develop alternative institutions and methods of working around the state".
Gary Chartier has joined Kevin Carson, Charles W. Johnson and others (echoing the language of Stephen Pearl Andrews, William Batchelder Greene, Thomas Hodgskin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker and Josiah Warren, among others) in maintaining that because of its heritage and its emancipatory goals and potential, radical market anarchism should be seen by its proponents and by others as part of the socialist tradition and that market anarchists can and should call themselves socialists.
While adopting familiar libertarian views, including opposition to civil liberties violations, drug prohibition, gun control, imperialism and war, left-libertarians are more likely than most self-identified libertarians to take more distinctively leftist stances on issues as diverse as class, egalitarianism, environmentalism, feminism, gender, immigration, imperialism, race, sexuality and war. Contemporary free-market left-libertarians show markedly more sympathy than American mainstream libertarians or paleolibertarians towards various cultural movements which challenge non-governmental relations of power. Left-libertarians such as Long and Johnson have called for a recovery of the 19th-century alliance with libertarian feminism and radical liberalism.
There is also a tendency to support labor struggles. Kevin Carson has praised individualist anarchist Dyer Lum's fusion of individualist economics with radical labor activism as "creative" and described him as "more significant than any in the Boston group". Roderick T. Long is an advocate of "build[ing] worker solidarity. On the one hand, this means formal organisation, including unionization - but I'm not talking about the prevailing model of "business unions," [...] but real unions, the old-fashioned kind, committed to the working class and not just union members, and interested in worker autonomy, not government patronage". In particular, Long has described the situation as such:
[T]he present status of unions as governmentally privileged labor cartels is in large part the result of legislation supported by big business, inasmuch as the corporate elite found unions less threatening as regulated junior partners in the corporate régime, playing on its terms, than as independent actors. After all, the achievements, much heralded by the Left, which unions won in their heyday, such as the weekend and the eight-hour day, were won primarily by market means, often over strong government resistance; likewise, the most notable victories of unions in recent years have been won mainly by unofficial, disapproved unions, without violence of either the governmental or freelance variety, and outside of the traditional labor-law establishment. By contrast, the influence of mainstream unions has been steadily declining ever since they accepted the devil's bargain of "help" from big-daddy government, with all the regulatory strings that go with it. Thus when left-wingers complain that unions are in decline and that workers are disempowered on the job, they're complaining about a situation created and sustained by government - and once again, we should be pointing that out to them.
Left-wing market anarchism does not have any strict agreement what constitutes legitimate property titles. Arguments have been made for Georgist, homestead, Lockean mutualist, neo-Lockean and utilitarian approaches to determining legitimate property claims. Those discrepancies are resolved through deliberation mechanisms like the polycentric law. They also recognize the importance of property held and managed in common as a way of maintaining common goods.
Left-wing market anarchists state diverse views concerning the path to elimination of the state. This strand of left-libertarianism tends to be rooted either in the mutualist economics conceptualized by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, American individualist anarchism, or in a left-wing interpretation or extension of the thought of Murray Rothbard.
Some of these libertarians follow Rothbard and other natural rights theorists and cite the non-aggression axiom as the basis for their economic systems while others follow David D. Friedman and base it on consequentialist ethical theories. These left-Rothbardian libertarians consider private property rights to be individual natural rights deriving from the primary right of self-ownership. Like Rothbard, they endorse the use of any tactic to bring about market anarchy so long as it does not contradict their libertarian moral principles.
Benjamin Tucker originally subscribed to the idea of land ownership associated with mutualism which does not grant that this creates property in land, but rather holds that when people customarily use given land and in some versions goods other people should respect that use or possession. Unlike with property, ownership is no longer recognized when that use stops. Under mutualism, there would be no market in land that is not in use. The mutualist theory holds that the stopping of use or occupying land reverts it to the commons or to an unowned condition and makes it available for anyone that wishes to use it. Tucker would later abandon natural rights theory and argued that land ownership is legitimately transferred through force unless specified otherwise by contracts: "Man's only right to land is his might over it. If his neighbor is mightier than he and takes the land from him, then the land is his neighbor's, until the latter is dispossessed by one mightier still". He expected that individuals would come to the realization that the "occupancy and use" was a "generally trustworthy guiding principle of action" and that individuals would likely contract to an occupancy and use policy.
Classical liberal John Locke argues that as people apply their labor to unowned resources, they make those resources their property. For Locke, there are only two legitimate ways people can acquire new property, namely by mixing their labor with unowned resources or by voluntary trade for created goods. In accordance with Locke's philosophy, Rothbardian free-market anarchists believe that property may only originate by being the product of labor and that its ownership may only legitimately change as a result of exchange or gift. They derive this homestead principle from what they call the principle of self-ownership. Locke had a proviso which says that the appropriator of resources must leave "enough and as good in common to others", but Murray Rothbard's followers do not agree with this proviso, believing instead that the individual may originally appropriate as much as she wishes through the application of her labor and that property thus acquired remains hers until she chooses otherwise, terming this as neo-Lockean.
Anarcho-capitalists see this as consistent with their opposition to initiatory coercion since only land which is not already owned can be taken without compensation. If something is unowned, there is no person against whom the original appropriator is initiating coercion. They do not think that a claim of and by itself can create ownership, but rather that the application of one's labor to the unowned object as for example beginning to farm unowned land. They accept voluntary forms of common ownership, meaning property open to all individuals to access. Samuel Edward Konkin III, the founder of agorism and the Movement of the Libertarian Left, was also a Rothbardian and is considered a prominent figure within the modern left-libertarian movement in the United States. Konkin considered himself to be to the left of Rothbard.
Although anarcho-capitalism has been regarded by some as a form of individualist anarchism, individualist anarchism is largely socialistic. Rothbard argued that individualist anarchism is different from anarcho-capitalism and other capitalist theories due to the individualist anarchists retaining the labor theory of value and socialist doctrines. Many writers deny that anarcho-capitalism is a form of anarchism at all, or that capitalism itself is compatible with anarchism.
Left libertarians regard each of us as full self-owners. However, they differ from what we generally understand by the term libertarian in denying the right to private property. We own ourselves, but we do not own nature, at least not as individuals. Left libertarians embrace the view that all natural resources, land, oil, gold, and so on should be held collectively. To the extent that individuals make use of these commonly owned goods, they must do so only with the permission of society, a permission granted only under the proviso that a certain payment for their use be made to society at large.
The notion of anarchy in politics is just as rational and positive as any other. It means that once industrial functions have taken over from political functions, then business transactions alone produce the social order.