Between Anarchism and Libertarianism
Defining a New Movement

by Jeff Draughn


The following essay has been written to address an increasingly common phenomenon which has emerged in recent years. With the gradual rise of the new Libertarian Party in the public eye, there is a curious tendency to equate the Libertarians to anarchists, or to describe their agenda as being anarchistic in some fashion. As the Libertarians' profile widens, it is likely that this comparison will also increase, but should it? Is this really an appropriate comparison?

No. This essay will try to present documentation comparing the "classical" anarchists, the founders of the movement who operated in Nineteenth Century Europe, and their advocates today, with the founder of the Libertarian philosophy. Upon careful examination, their differences should seem obvious.

Prior to beginning this effort, a few points should be addressed. First, during the course of this paper, numerous passages will be included to illustrate the philosophies of various individuals, in their own words. The final section, in particular, will include several sizable passages from the works of Michael Bakunin, the father of anarchist political philosophy. Due to his eloquent, flamboyant style, his excerpts will be rather lengthy, but, where appropriate, they have been reproduced with very minimal doctoring. In his case, it is the author's opinion that much of Bakunin's rhetorical gifts would be lost should these samples be "cut up" excessively. Fortunately, the passages from the works of Ayn Rand are not terribly lengthy, considering that she seemed to have a much greater gift for succinctness then Bakunin.

Please note, as well, that most of the passages do not use gender inclusive language. The tradition, in 1850 as well as 1970, was to use the word "man" as a metaphor for all members of humanity. Rather than including a (sic) at every transgression, the author asks that the reader pardon the use of the metaphor where it appears.

It is also only fair to state from the beginning the bias of the author. While the purpose of the essay is simply to illuminate the differences between these two groups, the author is far and away more sympathetic to the anarchists then to the Libertarians, and wherever this may be apparent in the presentation, it is not meant to be concealed. The chief objective, nonetheless, is expositional, not polemical. The anarchists would not wish to be mistaken for Libertarians, and the Libertarians would not wish to be mistaken for anarchists. The goal is to help eliminate such mistakes.

I. Mapping the Political Landscape

The political philosophy of anarchism is a peculiar beast, historically misunderstood and often misrepresented, either consciously or inadvertently. To best understand it, one must divine some workable method of comparing it to other political philosophies, but unfortunately the tradition system, the linear graph, seems conspicuously inadequate. The linear graph, or the so-called "political spectrum," allegedly displays the entirety of political options along a single line, from left to right, stretching out from a central point representing "moderate." From there it leads to "liberalism" on the left, until it reaches to "radical liberalism" and "communism," which is the extreme left "fringe." To the right it leads to "conservatism," and finally to a reactionary conservatism" and "fascism," which is the extreme right "fringe." (See Fig. 1).

Fig.1 - Traditional image of political spectrum [Transcriber's note:
linear representation]

Communism  -  Liberalism  -  Moderate  - Conservative  - Fascism

This image offers little in the way of understanding the differences between the "left" and the "right." Indeed, if we compare the Nazi government of 1930's Germany, which is widely considered a good case study in fascism, and compare it with the Bolshevik government of the Soviet Union, widely regarded as a good case study in communism, the obvious totalitarian nature of both political systems may lead us to believe that the two are virtually the same system. And if fascism and communism are nearly identical, why are they so "extremely" separate on the spectrum? Are they actually the same ideology in practice, distinguishable only by the rhetoric employed by the resident "Ministry of Truth?" That would suggest that this linear graph is actually a circle, and that fascism and communism are actually on roughly the same point on the spectrum.

(Fig.2 - common modification of traditional image.) [Transcriber's
Note: Author's Fig. 2 shows the endpoints of Fig. 1 closing into a
circle, making a circular representation, whereby Communism and
Fascism coincide.]

Perhaps fascism and communism are just buzzwords for a single system, totalitarianism. That would seem consistent in that liberalism and conservatism are at opposite poles, but is the polar opposite of totalitarianism something labeled "moderate?" What is the shared ideology of moderates? If totalitarianism endorses a society almost totally controlled by a strong central government, shouldn't its opposite philosophy endorse a society almost completely absent of strong central government? Surely moderates (in our society at least) do not endorse a society without government, which is essentially an anarchist position. Then where does anarchism fit on this spectrum? And where does "libertarianism," as endorsed by the newly formed (U.S.) Libertarian Party, fit on this spectrum?

To answer these questions we must, in short, reject the tradition linear" image, and even the "circular" image of the political spectrum, and examine a new image. For the purposes of this essay, a two- dimensional alternative, borrowed from the good people of Utne Reader, will be used. (endnote l) This alternative spectrum takes as its objective "foundation," its standard, its "yardstick" with which to gauge various ideologies, two primary questions: the question of property ownership, and the question of State control. The graph is composed of two axes, one (left- right) representing the variations of systems of property ownership, the other (top-bottom) representing the variations of State control over society. (See Fig. 3 - the Property/State" Axis)

                         ("Small" or "No Government")
a         Collectivism                                   Privitism
t     (Community Ownership)                        (Individual Ownership)


                            ("Big Government")
 P r o p e r t y--->

The "property" axis varies from total collectivization of property (community control of land and the "means of production") to total privatization of property (individual ownership of land and the "means of production"). The "State" axis varies from total control or eminence of State government (totalitarianism, or centrism ) to total absence or extremely minimal State government (decentralism ). Once these two linear spectrums are combined into a two- dimensional graph, the task of differentiating various political ideologies (at least the so-called "extreme" ones) becomes much easier.

It also allows us to assign specific meanings to specific terms, terms whose traditional definitions have been all but buried in decades after decades of contradictory usage. It can't be denied that many political terms ("liberal" and "conservative," for example) simply do not have the same strict denotations today that they may have had a century or two ago. Their meanings have changed, evolved, and, in the content of historical analysis, it becomes necessary to clarify their specific meanings if we insist upon using them. Fortunately, clarifying the terms "liberalism" and "conservatism" is unnecessary to this particular essay, but others are indeed necessary. For the course of this paper, we will assign certain descriptors to designate poles of the "landscape" graph. For instance, the term "socialistic" will be used to describe individuals or doctrines advocating collectivism, or the abolition of private property. (See Fig. 4 - Descriptive Labels)

                       ("Small" or "No Government")
a         "Socialistic"                                "Capitalistic"
t     (Community Ownership)                        (Individual Ownership)

                            ("Big Government")
 P r o p e r t y--->

"Capitalistic" will be used to describe those who defend the right to private property. "Authoritarian" will describe those who advocate a strong State, a powerful central government. And "libertarian" will describe advocates of minimal or nonexistent government power. Certainly these denotations are not necessarily consistent with all their historical uses, but such consistency is an impossibility, and these definitions are not totally divorced from contemporary usage, as shall be seen.

With our terms now defined, certain ideologies may be pin- pointed on the graph. In particular, the ideologies of Communism, Fascism, Libertarianism, and Anarchism can be designated. These four political philosophies are particularly important (on this graph at least) because they represent the "corners." By asking how these ideologies stand on the issues of property and centralism, we can place them on the graph. (See Fig. 5 - The graphic locations of the four ideologies)

       ANARCHISM            "Libertarian"        LIBERTARIANISM
                     ("Small" or "No Government")
a         "Socialistic"                       "Capitalistic"
t     (Community Ownership)               (Individual Ownership)

       COMMUNISM           ("Big Government")           FASCISM

 P r o p e r t y--->

For example, Communism, as described by Karl Marx, endorses the usurpation of all property and factories by a strong State, or "collectivism plus centralism." It covers the bottom left corner. Fascism, as practiced by Hitler (in spite of the "socialism" in the NAZI acronym), Mussolini, and most modern "banana republics," has a flourishing privately owned industrial complex operating in collusion with a strong autocratic military regime. Although these industries are often subordinate to the will of the State, typically making weapons and such to keep the mother armies supplied, these corporations are well paid for the goods they produce, and the industries themselves are owned by individuals, not the government. (endnote 2) In other words, fascism is "capitalism plus centralism." Anarchism endorses a collective, community ownership of property and the means of production, and its advocates have often called themselves "libertarian communists" or "stateless socialists," usually to try to differentiate themselves from the Marxists. Clearly, "collectivism plus decentralism."

Finally, this essay will try to clarify that the newly formed Libertarian Party endorses a position of "privatism plus decentralism," the forth and last corner of the graph. Not very much is known about this renegade "third party," but enough is known about them and one of their ideological role models, Ayn Rand, to discern that they believe in the absolute sanctity of private property, the moral soundness of capitalism, and the minimalization of the State.

Today, there is a tendency to associate the Libertarians with anarchism. This is not terribly surprising. The anarchists of the Nineteenth Century were using the term "libertarian" to describe themselves for a long time, and modern anarchists, such as Murray Bookchin, continue to use the term. (endnote 3) And, in a political sense, the two seem complimentary. For instance, they both are staunch advocates of civil rights. For the most part, both groups oppose government censorship of rap music, pornographic magazines and Ray Bradbury novels. They both oppose prohibition of the use or sale of marijuana. They both oppose government regulations of firearms. Neither believes the State should have the authority to decide which god should be prayed to in schools, or which sexual positions are and are not morally permissible. However, under scrutiny, the distinction between anarchists and Libertarians in regards to the property question is substantial, and in this light these two groups are clearly incompatible. To mistake them for one other is obfuscatory, and does neither of them any service.

II. Toward a Definition of Anarchism

To begin this comparison, we are required to come to some consensus as to the actual meaning of the term "anarchism," if for no other reason to determine if its placement on the above "landscape" graph is indeed accurate. A good starting point is the new HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy which, interestingly enough, has two definitions, a "positive connotation" and a "negative connotation:"

"Anarchism is the social ideology that refuses to accept an authoritarian ruling government It holds that individuals should organize themselves in any way they wish in order to fulfill their needs and ideals In this sense anarchism is not to be identified with nihilism but can be seen to have similarities with political libertarianism . . .

"Anarchism is the belief that denies any respect for law and order and actively engages in the promotion of chaos through the destruction of society. It advocates the use of individual terrorism as a means toward advancing the cause of social and political disorganization."

This is a fairly balanced description, although the "positive" definition-is thin at best. Please note that anarchism is compared to "political libertarianism." It is unfortunate that this dictionary did not include a political definition for "libertarianism." The "negative" definition of anarchism essentially captures the mythical paranoid connotation that has been used for over a hundred years. If one bears the word used today, this will almost certainly be its intended meaning.

We can learn almost as much about the word's meaning by looking at its origins: "from Greek, prefix a, not, the want of, the absence of, the lack of, + archos, a ruler, director, chief, person in charge, commander. The Greek words anarchos, anarchia meant having no government--being without a government." (endnote 4). The strict, original meaning of anarchism was not "no government" per se. Rather, it was "no leader, no ruler." The denotation suggests a condition of non-hierarchy, and this condition of "no one in charge" was considered synonymous with "lack of government." This is significant, in that many anarchists, past and present, have insisted that anarchism is primarily a movement against hierarchy rather than anti-government. Throughout the Nineteenth Century, as anarchist philosophy was being carved by such notables as Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, the focus of their philosophy tended to have three primary targets: 1) the State, 2) the bourgeois, and 3) the Church. Among them there was a solid consensus that these three collective institutions should be abolished in whole, and these were the topics of most of their writings. However, the overarching theory was to forge a society of "liberty, fraternity, equality" for all men and women. Although the term was probably never used, theirs was a philosophy against hierarchy against any inequality of power or privileges between individuals. Bakunin spoke of this when he said, "Do you want to make it impossible for anyone to oppress his fellow- man? Then make sure that no one shall possess power." (endnote 5). While it has always been a latent part of the "revolutionary project," only recently has this broader concept of anti-hierarchy arisen for more specific scrutiny. Nonetheless, the root of this is plainly visible in the Greek roots of the word "anarchy."

Every anarchist who wrote about the theory had to offer their definition, as it was so poorly understood. One of the clearest was offered by Kropotkin in his pamphlet Anarchist Communism, Its Basis and Principles, in which he defines anarchism as "the no- government system of socialism....

"In common with all socialists, the anarchists hold that the private ownership of land, capital, and machinery has had its time; that it is condemned to disappear: and that all requisites for production must, and will, become the common property of society, and be managed in common by the producers of wealth. And...they maintain that the ideal of the political organization of society is a condition of things where the functions of government are reduced to minimum....(and) that the ultimate aim of society is the reduction of the functions of government to nil--that is, to a society without government, to an-archy." (endnote 6)

What is interesting about this exposition is that Kropotkin first explains the socialist, collectivist tenets of anarchism, and then explains the political tenets. In spite of the obvious image of anarchism being primarily an anti-government philosophy, Kropotkin elaborates on the anti-State facets only after establishing the relationship of anarchism to socialism.

This is echoed throughout the literature. Bakunin repeated refers to himself as a socialist, but did renounce "Communism:" "I am not a Communist because Communism unites all the forces of society in the state and becomes absorbed in it; because it inevitably leads to concentration of all property in the hands of the state, while I seek the abolition of the state." (endnote 7) Bakunin had obviously seen fit to let the Marxists have the word "communist," as long as he had the word "anarchist." At this point, Bakunin saw "communism" as synonymous with "state socialism" and "anarchism" as synonymous with "stateless socialism." These are the terms accepted in this essay. Yet, less than fifty years later, Kropotkin was attempting to "take back" the term "communist" as his own.

A Twentieth Century anarchist, Rudolf Rocker, accepted the socialist definition of the philosophy. In defining anarchism he writes, "Common to all Anarchists is the desire to free society of all political and social coercive institutions which stand in the way of the development of a free humanity." Rocker sees this realization only in actualizing the Liberalist and Socialist traditions of the French Revolution. Convinced that the gallant but "pre-eminently political" concepts of Liberalism and Democracy were "shipwrecked on the realities of the capitalist economic form," Rocker asserts . . .

"In common with founders of Socialism, Anarchist demand the abolition of all economic monopolies and the common ownership of the soil and all other means of production, the use of which must be available to all without distinction. . . .(T)he Anarchists represent the viewpoint that the war against capitalism must be at the same time a war against all institutions of political power, for in history economic exploitation has always gone hand in hand with political ant social oppression. The exploitation of man by man and the domination of man over man are inseparable, and each is the condition of the other." (endnote 8)

A more contemporary scholar, Noam Chomsky, head of the Linguistics Department at MIT, has described himself as a "derivative fellow traveler" of anarchist thought, and has endorsed the socialist definition, stating, "I would prefer to think of it as the libertarian left, and. . . can be conceived as a kind of voluntary socialism. . . in the tradition of Bakunin and Kropotkin and others." (endnote 9) Note that Chomsky uses the "libertarian" label to differentiate the anarchists from "non- libertarian" Marxists, who advocate an "involuntary socialism."

While even Chomsky is quick to admit that anarchist thought covers "quite a range of ideas," it is apparent that a strong socialist motif runs through much of the anarchist literature, including the literature of most of its lauded pioneers. With this established, a glance at the Libertarian Party agenda is required for us to make a genuine comparison.

III. Modern Libertarianism and Ayn Rand

Information on the Libertarian Party is, unfortunately, rather scarce. While allegedly the "third-largest and fastest-growing" political party in the United States, their material is still not readily accessible in the Tallahassee, FL area, and their toll-free telephone number was constantly busy prior to the 1992 Presidential elections. However, a short, one-page pamphlet entitled "Understanding the Libertarian Philosophy" was fortunately available. (A copy is enclosed with this essay) [TN: another day]. This pamphlet, written by Joseph E. Knight, Libertarian Party Field Organizer, is a succinct attempt at clarifying the core ideology, if not the specific programmatic platform, of the Party. Of course, not much can be said in one page, no matter how small the type. However, there are certain tell-tale "fingerprints" in Mr. Knight's brief account, which may tie it to a larger and more accessible body of work, with which we may fill in some conceptual gaps.

It has been rumored, though no written proof is available to the author of this essay, that the Libertarian Party is heavily influenced by the Objectivist movement, of which Ayn Rand has emerged as the chief spokesperson. Ayn Rand died in 1982, but she left behind a substantial body of literature, both fictional and expositional, most of which can be sampled at any local bookstore or library. If the Libertarians really are influenced by Rand's work, then an understanding of Rand's objectivism would serve well to clarify the Libertarian "world view." But is there a connection?

The theme of Knight's pamphlet is primarily the "proper role of government in a free society." An explication of the pamphlet is unnecessary, as the pamphlet is included with this essay and should be examined by the reader [TN: Write: The Libertarian Party, 1528 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C., 20003, or call (202) 543-1988 or (800) 682-1776]. What follows is a comparison of certain particularly important passages of the pamphlet and certain pertinent statements from the writings of Ayn Rand:

"Government is the use of force. To govern means to control. The use of force is implicit in the definition of control.... [Therefore,] the question becomes, "What is the proper use of force in a free society?"

"[A] government holds a legal monopoly on the we of physical force... The nature of governmental action is: coercive action." (endnote 10)

Note the similarity of these two definitions. The latter was taken from a transcript of a lecture given by Rand in 1961, and later published as an essay entitled "America's Persecuted Minority: Big Business." Consider another example:

"Libertarians are, by definition, those who oppose the initiation of force. . . . Opposition to the INITIATION of force (the NON- COERCION PRINCIPLE) is the essence of libertarian philosophy."

"The basic Principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may INITIATE "he use of physical force against others." (endnote 11)

Again, please note the striking similarity of language. Samples are bountiful:

" freedom is the absense of the initiation of force. "

"Freedom. . . has only one meaning: the absence of physical coercion." (endnote 12)

"The proper role of government (force) in a free society then, is to defend and/or retaliate against those who initiate force."

"The only proper purpose of government is to protect man 's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man's self- defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. " (endnote 13)

"In a free society, you have property rights.... In a free society, you have personal rights.... Property rights and personal rights are really the same. Personal rights are based on property rights because you own your life, your body, and your mind."

"The right to life is the source of all rights--and the right to property is their only implementation. without property rights, no other rights are possible." (endnote 14)

All the uncited passages above are taken from Mr. Knight's pamphlet. All of the cited passages are taken from various essays authored by Ayn Rand. When compared, these paired excerpts read like paraphrases of each other. Note the similar language, the repetition of key phrases ("initiation of force," "coercion"), and particularly the shared emphasis on property rights. This list could continue, but the point is made. Almost all of the concepts expressed in this pamphlet were originally expressed, albeit in fragments, by Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivism, between twenty to thirty years ago. It therefore seems reasonable to suggest that, if the "Libertarian Philosophy" as defined by the Party Field Organizer, is borrowed almost verbatim from the writings of Ayn Rand, then the Libertarian Party probably shares other ideas with Rand on topics not elaborated on in this specific pamphlet. Thus, by comparing Rand's ideas to the ideas of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century anarchists, we may be able to derive a semi-accurate assessment of the differences between the modern Libertarians and the anarchists.

Please note. The comparison of Knight to Rand was not an effort to criticize the Libertarians by suggesting their ideas aren't "original," or that they're "expropriating" Rand's concepts improperly, or even that they may be concealing the relationship of their platform to Objectivism. On the contrary, it is unknown to the author, due to factors previously mentioned, whether the Libertarians conceal or proudly acknowledge this relationship. The sole purpose of the comparison was to establish the mere existence of this relationship, as no other sources were available.

IV. Between Ayn Rand and Anarchism

In placing the Objectivist/Libertarians on the "landscape" graph, we must find their answer to the two premier questions: What about property, and what about the State? The answer, for the most part, has already been given. In economic terms, Rand has never been subtle in her beliefs; they are obvious at a glance. Among her publications are such titles as Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and The Virtue of Selfishness. Many of these texts are compilations of essays whose titles include: "Notes on the History of American Free Enterprise," "The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus," and the above mentioned "America's Persecuted Minority: Big Business." (endnote 15) She has described herself as a "radical for capitalism," and describes her Objectivist movement as trying to supply "that philosophical base which capitalism did not have and without which it was doomed to perish. . ." (endnote 16) Rand has elaborated at length on capitalist theory:

"[TN:italics until word 'owned'] Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned...The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man's rational nature, that it protects man's survival !qua man, and that its ruling principle is justice.'' (endnote 17)

While the Libertarian pamphlet never mentions the word "capitalism" per se, their avowed "commitment to free enterprise" and the equation of personal rights with property rights is perfectly in sync with Rand's theories, and strongly connote an advocacy of capitalism.

With the "property question" clearly answered, what about the State? "When I say 'capitalism,' I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism--with a separation of state and economics. " (endnote 18) The single legitimate role of tbe State, then, is to protect citizens from the "initiators of force," either by "defensive" or "retaliatory force." Both Rand and Knight acknowledge a "proper role" of the State, but give it only one function: Coercive force, controlled by an "objective" code of law, defending citizens and property from any transgressors.Thus, on these terms, Objectivism/Libertarianism would appear to fit the definition of "privatism plus decentralism," or "libertarian capitalism," as delineated by the top-right corner of the "landscape" graph.

On this basis, the differences between anarchism and Objectivism seem rather obvious: While both groups endorse a society with minimal State power (although both Rand and Knight admit the State has a "proper role," albeit limited, in contrast to the anarchist's desire for complete elimination of the State), in an economic sense they are diametrical opposites. Rand sees capitalism as being the only just system for society, while the anarchists (or, at least, the anarcho- communists) see capitalism as enslavement. The anarchists endorse a system of socialism sans State, while Rand sees "socialism" as being institutionalized theft and tyranny.

These skewed visions can be partially attributed to a confusion over definitions, that age-old problem which we are even now struggling to remedy. For instance, Rand doesn't use the same general definition of socialism as theNineteenth Century anarchists like Bakunin or Kropotkin. Indeed, she takes theBolshevik and Nazi "socialist" systems at face value, fully accepting their terms,defined by the realities of their policies. The result is her equation of "socialism, "communism," and "fascism" as all being identical in essence, all three of which she encompasses under a single new term, "statism." "Government control of a country's economy. . . rests on the basic principle of statism, the principle that man's life belongs to the state." (endnote 19) Rand's term, "statism," is synonymous with the general descriptor, "authoritarian" or "centralist," which we use with the "landscape" graph. Rand, however, describes socialism in a strictly authoritarian sense. "A statist system--whether of a communist, fascist, Nazi, socialist or 'welfare' type--is based on the . . . government's unlimited power, which means: on the rule of brute force." (endnote 20) She did admit that fascism differed from socialism in that, under a fascist system, "citizens retain the responsibilities of owning property," while under socialism they do not. However, she thought this difference was insignificant because, in spite of private ownership, "the government holds total power over its use and disposal." (endnote 21) However, she apparently had no concept of a non-statist socialism.

Which is not to say she was an anarchist, or that she was totally ignorant of anarchism. She once wrote that, "Anarchy, as a political concept, is a naive floating abstraction: . . . a society without an organized government would be at the mercy of the first criminal who came along and who would precipitate it into the chaos of gang warfare." (endnote 22) Still, while she addresses "anarchy," she does not repudiate it as a system of stateless socialism, only as a state of lawlessness and "gang warfare," a society of land-owning individuals without the "policeman" that is government, a scene reminiscent of present-day Somalia [TN:this essay pre-dates the U.S. Invasion of Somalia]. She never indulges in a systematic critique of anarchist thought. This isn't too surprising, since anarchism, by its nature, has been an historically repressed movement. While the ideology of "State socialism" received pronounced attention and credibility in some scholarly circles after the Bolshevik Revolution put a large geographic fraction of the globe under its doctrine, anarchism has never had such a massive successful project to put it in the intellectual "limelight." Therefore, as its proponents are buried in the "dustbin of history," its primary tenets are increasingly forgotten and/or misunderstood. It is therefore, expected that Rand would see socialism strictly in the terms of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin, who "won," at least temporarily. Consider, too, that Rand was born to a wealthy family in St. Petersburg in 1905, and she was forced to flee to the Crimea with her family at the age of twelve. It is not unreasonable to suspect that she had an axe to grind with the Russian Communists, who "stole" her family's land and possessions. Nonetheless, she denounced absolute statelessness, and she denounced, invariably, any restriction to individual ownership of land. It would be foolish to hypothesize that the combination of these two tenets would have had any appeal to her. It likely would have been double anathema.

It is interesting that she also condemned "libertarians," or at least some group to whom she attributed that label. In 1971, she wrote

"For the record, I shall repeat what I have said many times before: I do not join or endorse any political group or movement. More specifically, I disapprove of, disagree with and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so- called "hippies of the right," who attempt to snare the younger of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy ant advocates of anarchism. Anyone offering such a combination confesses his inability to understand either." (endnote 23)

One of her colleagues, Harry Binswanger, elaborated on this in 1981,

"[T]he 'libertarians' are tying capitalism to the whim- worshipping subjectivism and chaos of anarchy. To cooperate with [this] group is to betray capitalism, reason, and one's own future." (endnote 23)

Are the "libertarians" of 1971 and 1981, whom Rand and Binswanger so viscerally condemn, the same Libertarians who produced the pamphlet explaining the "libertarian philosophy," utilizing so many of Rand's ideas? Was Andre Marrou a "hippy of the right," advocating a mix of capitalism and anarchy? What would Ayn Rand think of the '92 Libertarian Party?

Knight's pamphlet explicitly mimics Rand's repeated assertions of the need of some government, so the Libertarians don't sound like "anarchists" of any brand. The line seems pretty clearly drawn. Still, regardless of what Rand would think of a political party trying to get into office to help implement some of her ideals, the fact remains that the Libertarians are obviously influenced by her work, and so she is a convenient lens with which to examine them.

V. Society, Individualism, and Inheritance

To better understand the differences between the anarchists and the Objectivists/Libertarians, it is necessary to dig deeper than simply their "soundbites" on the proper role of the State and their bandying of the terms "socialism" and "capitalism." While our "landscape" graph can accurately contrast different ideologies on the basis of these two important issues, it cannot help us understand the philosophical foundation of these political and economic positions. That is a much more complicated process, and an adequate appraisal of the philosophies of anarchism and Objectivism cannot be made in merely a few typed pages. But it may be possible to highlight certain particulars that most clearly contrast each other, thereby granting us a glimpse of the root differences between these two schools of thought.

The most glaring example of this is the concepts of individualism and society. Individualism is the keystone of Objectivist philosophy, and it pervades all other conclusions. "[E]very man . . . must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self- interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life." (endnote 25) Rand's image of humanity is rooted in the "classical liberal" view, in the tradition of John Locke, which sees all people as absolute individual entities, whose only effect on one another is comparable to "billiard balls" randomly colliding and altering the otherwise linear course of their independent lives. Attempting to coexist among each other, people are forced, by overcrowding or whatever, to enter into a Rousseau-esque "social contract," a State, which guarantees security to all its citizens at the price of a "little" sacrificed freedom. The goal of individuals now is to reap the fruits of their labor, with their rightfully purchased land, and try to keep the State's tax of liberty" to an unobtrusive minimum. To Ayn Rand, there are no rights but individual rights, and "a group . . . has no rights other than the individual rights of its members." (endnote 26)

Bakunin addressed these issues a century earlier, dismissing Rousseau's "social contract" as a "terrible nonsense," "a pernicious fiction." He defined humanity more broadly. "Man is not only the most individual being on earth, but also the most social." (endnote 27) Neither of these qualities can be ignored or dismissed. Bakunin described every human being as being the product of an environment, both natural and social, and as such, unable to escape the social element of their existence. "Man does not choose society; on the contrary, he is the product of the latter." (endnote 28) Through education, the values of a society or community are transferred to the next generation, thus all original ideas and concepts are produced on the foundation of what society has transmitted to its members.

Here we see the starkest contrast between Objectivism and anarchism. Rand denies the value of society:

"Mankind is not an entity, an organism, or a coral bush. The entity involved in production and trade is man. It is with the study of man--not of the loose aggregate known as 'community'--that any science of the humanities has to begin....

"A great deal may be learned about society by studying man: but this process cannot be reversed: nothing can be learned about man by studying society- -by studying the inter-relationships of entities one has never identified or defined." (endnote 27) [TN: endnotes 28-29 missing, suggesting author's deletion of some material]

Rand's repudiation of the importance of society is echoed repeatedly:

"Man gains enormous values from dealing with other men; living in a human society is his proper way of life--but only on certain conditions. Man is not a lone wolf and he is not a social animal. He is a contractual animal." (endnote 30)

In Rand's paradigm, "society" is merely a bundle of individuals who interact with one another when convenience requires it. Cooperation takes place on the basis of strict mutual self-interest, and typically on a "contractual" basis, such as employment. "Culture" is merely the sum total of ideas among a mass of individuals whose general acceptance is dominant over other "dissident" ideas. These definitions are dry and stoic only because the truly important unit of human society is the isolate human being, whose "creative faculty cannot be given or received, shared or borrowed." (endnote 31)

Bakunin offers an elaborate renunciation of this image:

"[E]verything that lives, does so under the categorical condition of decisively interfering in the life of someone else....

The worse it is for those who are so ignorant of the natural and social law of human solidarity that they deem possible or even desirable the absolute independence of individuals in regard to one another. To will it is to will the disappearance of society.... All men, even the most intelligent and strongest are at every instant of their lives the producers and the product. Freedom itself, the freedom of every man, is the ever-renewed effect of the great mass of physical. intellectual, and moral influonces to which this man is subjected by the people surrounding him and the environment in which he was born and in which he passed his whole life.

To wish to escape this influence in the name of some . . . self- sufficient and absolutely egoistical freedom. is to aim toward non- being.

To do away with this reciprocal influence is tantamount to death. And in demanding the freedom of the masses we do not intend to do away with natural influences to which man is subjected by individuals and groups. All we want is to do away with is factitious. legitimized influences. to do away with the priviledges in exerting influence." (endnote 32)

What does Bakunin mean by "privileges of influence?" He means, in general, hierarchies of power, and in specific, the political leaders who control the State, the ministers who control the Church, and of course, the capitalists who own and thereby control all capital, land, and the means of production. The premier issue that Bakunin addresses in his work, which Rand explicitly denies in hers, is that of economic exploitation. Rand does not believe exploitation is possible in "free trade" capitalism, so long as there is no physical force involved in the process. She is explicit:

"Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion. It does not mean freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide men with automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state--and nothing else!" (endnote 33)

Note the juxtaposition of "landlord," "employer," and the "laws of nature," the implication being that all three are an inevitability. And again, please note the sole emphasis on active physical force. "What is the basic, the essential, the crucial principle that differentiates freedom from slavery? It is the principle of voluntary action versus physical coercion or compulsion." (endnote 34) Rand's assumption is that, so long as there are no chains around one's ankles and no state requiring labor by threat of punishment, then labor is optional and workers are free.

"A right cannot be violated except by physical force. One man cannot deprive another of his life nor enslave him, Whenever a man is made to act without his own free, personal, individual, voluntary consent-- his right has been violated." (endnote 35)

To the anarchists, this is preposterous. Once a State has been established, and most of the country's capital privatized, the threat of physical force is no longer necessary to coerce workers into accepting jobs, even with low pay and poor conditions. To use Rand's tern, "initial force" has already taken place, by those who now have capital against those who do not. Bakunin described the conditions which make "voluntary" labor and illusion:

"Juridically they are equal; but economically the worker is the serf of the capitalist . . . thereby the worker sells his person ant his liberty for a given time. The worker is in the position of a serf because this terrible threat of starvation which daily hangs over his head and over his family, will force him to accept any conditions imposed by the gainful calculations of the capitalist, the industrialist, the employer.... The worker always has the right to leave his employer, but has he the means to do so? No, he does it in order to sell himself to another employer. He is driven to it by the same hunger which forces him to sell himself to the first employer.

"Thus the "worker's liberty . . . is only a theoretical freedom. lacking any means for its possible realization. ant consequently it is only a fictitious liberty. an utter falsehood. The truth is that the whole life of the worker is simply a continuous and dismaying succession of terms of serfdom--"voluntary from the juridical point of view but compulsory from an economic sense--broken up by momentarily brief interludes of freedom accompanied by starvation; in other words, it is real slavery" (endnote 36)

Rand sees an actual "equality of opportunity" in existence, at least in American society, and she paints a picture of labor sans exploitation, i.e. individual labor, production by individual hands utilizing resources gained from private property. For example, "Man has to work and produce in order to support his life. He has to support his life by his own effort and by the guidance of his own mind." Also, "without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave." (endnote 37) Interestingly, Bakunin would likely agree with this latter statement, that laborers who produce goods for the benefit of others are "slaves," or, in fact, "serfs." Bakunin, however, suggested that this was the standard condition in most of industrialist/capitalist Europe. Bakunin wrote of the numerous ironies inherent in the capitalist system. For instance, in spite of all their labor, "the masses will never come to own property," and therefore "their labor does not emancipate and ennoble them, for, all their labor not withstanding, they are condemned to remain eternally without property...." In reality, labor is not a measure of property ownership, for the common worker is perpetually unable to save enough money to purchase property. Indeed, Bakunin saw the very opposite as being true. "We see that the richest property owners . . . are precisely those who work the least or who do not work at all." Actually, he clarifies this by saying that the wealthy classes do, in fact, work, but not the "productive labor" of the proletariat masses. Rather, theirs is a different kind of work, the "labor of exploitation," the business of trade and investment, the "labor" of increasing private capital with the products of other's "productive" labor.

"It is evident to anyone who is not blind about this matter that productive labor creates wealth and yields the producers only misery, and it is only non-productive, exploiting labor that yields property.... !What is property, what is capital in their present form? For the capitalist and the property owner they mean the power and the right, guaranteed by the State, to live without working. And since neither property nor capital produces anything when not fertilized by labor--that means the power and the right to live by exploiting the work of someone else. The right to exploit the work of those who possess neither property nor capital and who thus are forced to sell their productive power to the lucky owners of both.

"Hence it follows that so long as property and capital exist on the one hand. and labor on the other hand, the first constituting the bourgeois class and the other the proletariat, the worker will be the slave and the bourgeois the master." (endnote 38)

If economic exploitation is inevitable so long as some "lucky owners" possess the means necessary to live fruitful lives, what is this "luck" attributable to? Why do some "individuals" have an advantage over others? "[W]hat is it that separates property and capital from labor? What distinguishes the classes economically and politically from one another, what destroys equality and perpetuates inequality, the privilege of the few and the slavery of the many? It is the right of inheritance." (endnote 39) To Bakunin, this is a lynchpin. The right of inheritance is the factor which allows massive concentrations of property and capital to accumulate, not in the hands of isolate individuals, as Rand would endorse, but rather, along family lines, constituting a transgenerational gathering of wealth, granting each lucky recipient the legal right to acquire more wealth by way of luxurious "exploitative labor," and exempting him/her from gritty, menial "productive labor." Bakunin saw this as nothing less than "the very basis of the juridical family and the State," and thus the abolition of inheritance was imperative to establishing a genuine Stateless society. In fact,

"The only thing that the State can and must do . . . is gradually to modify the right of inheritance so as to achieve its complete abolition as soon as possible. . . . We claim that this right will necessarily have to be abolished because as long as inheritance lasts, there will be hereditary economic inequality--not the natural inequality of individuals, but the artificial inequality of classes--which will necessarily continue to be expressed in hereditary inequality of the development and cultivation of intelligence and will remain the source and sanction of all political and social inequality." (endnote 40)

While Bakunin had no problem with sentimental inheritance, that is, "objects of slight value which . . . have personal meaning." His concern was for any "substantial [capital] inheritance" which would allow heirs the "possibility of living without working." (endnote 41) All other property would be collectivized by the community, and made available to all its members and "productive associations." This would probably constitute "theft" in the Objectivist paradigm, but Bakunin examines its justice:

"Will this abolition be just?

"A man, we are told, has acquired through his labor several tens or hundreds of thousands of francs, 8 million, and he will not have the right to leave them as an inheritance to his children! Is this not an attack on natural right, is this not unjust plunder?

"[I]t has been proven 8 thousand times that an isolated worker cannot produce much more than what he consumes. We challenge any real worker, any worker who does not enjoy a single privilege, to amass tens or hundreds of thousands of francs, or millions! That would be quite impossible. Therefore, if some individuals in present- day society do acquire such great sums, it is not by their labor that they do so but by their privilege, that is, by a juridically legalized injustice. And since a person inevitably takes from others whatever he does not gain from his own, we have the right to say that all such profits are thefts of collective labor, committed by a few privileged individuals with the sanction of the State and under its protection." (endnote 42)

In other words, if a thief died and willed his "ill-gotten gain" to his children, would the children have a right to the stolen property? Not legally. So if "property is theft," to borrow Proudhon's quip, and the fruit of exploited labor is simply legal theft, then the only factor giving the children of a deceased capitalist a right to inherit the "booty" is the law, the State. As Bakunin wrote, "Ghosts should not rule and oppress this world, which belongs only to the living."

What is Ayn Rand's response to this? Unfortunately, she has no response. The Ayn Rand Lexicon, an alphabetized glossary of quotations of Rand on myriad topics, published after her death, has no entry on inheritance rights, and nowhere, in all of her elaborate and occasionally repetitious descriptions of the virtue of property does she mention the issue of inheritance, neither to endorse it nor condemn it. But what would she say? If she were consistent to her doctrine of individualism and independent achievement, she would logically condemn it. After all, if an individual were to be given an abundance of land from a deceased parent, then they would have an advantage over their neighbors, an advantage which they did nothing directly to earn. They would be reaping the fruits of collective labor, to a limited degree, that is, the collective labor of numerous ancestors, whose horde of property grows along familial lines, giving each generation an even greater advantage. There is nothing "independent" or "individual" about investing a parents "hard-eared" money.

However, if she condemned inheritance, then, considering her background, she would be severely violating her own past, and likewise, her self-interest. While her theories may be flawed, she was no idiot. The fact that she never mentioned the topic of inheritance suggests, not that it never crossed her mind, but rather, that she had no serious ideological problems with it. If she properly saw it as a violation of the Objectivist ideal, she would likely have devoted an entire essay to condemning it. Instead it is conspicuously absent from her tenets. We therefore do not know how she would have responded to Bakunin's program. But it would have been intriguing, no doubt.

VI. Conclusion

There has, of late, been a profound confusion in the minds of many, who have mistakenly described the Libertarian Party as being "anarchist." It has been the aim of this essay to clarify the specific nature of this erroneous comparison.

This confusion, however, is interesting, in and of itself. It is rooted in this society's general acceptance, as an objective reality, the presence of a fairly powerful state. We, the American public, have been lulled into accepting an image of politics wherein we see our options only as "moderate democracy," "extremist dictatorship," or "chaotic anarchy." Government, to the average American, is a bit like the porridge that Goldilocks sampled in the house of the three bears: "too much government," "not enough government," or "just the right amount of government." "We're losing the ability to differentiate between politics and economics, and what different governments really stand for. This is not simply sad, it's dangerous.

The Libertarian Party is seen as anarchistic only because, today any group which advocates a drastic reduction in State power of any kind, regardless of economic policy, is interpreted as "anarchist." This would not have happened a century ago, in Europe or America. These subtleties were much more clearly understood and delineated. They knew the difference between anarchism, (State) communism, and Libertarian (laissez-faire) capitalism. The differences were important back then. Now we are out of practice, and it is difficult to distinguish them. It is the sincere wish of the author that the "landscape" graph will help facilitate the reattunement necessary to recognize the genuine positions of present and future political/economic groups. The author has personally found this graph invaluable in that regard.

Bakunin once wrote that, "Liberty without socialism is privilege and injustice, and that socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." (endnote 43) It has been the goal of the author to illustrate that, in Bakunin's words, the Libertarian Party represents "liberty without socialism," and therefore, "privilege and injustice." The final assessment is ultimately yours.


1. Utne Reader, No. 48; Nov./Dec. 1991. The center fold for this issue included a multi-colored display entitled "The American Political Landscape: An Alternative View." No specific authors were cited. It should be noted that the version presented in this essay has been substantially modified and expanded, and all modifications are strictly the product of the author.

2. More often than not, the industrial complex of a fascist state is often composed of foreign corporations. This is particularly the case in most "Third World" nations, where the relationship to foreign investors and domestic fascism is seen as having "imperialististic" or "colonialistic" implications.

3. Bookchin, Murray; The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy, N.Y: Black Rose, Rev. 1991, p. liv. Bookchin refers to his theory of Social Ecology as "Libertarian Municipalism."

4. Angeles, Peter A.; The HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy, Second Edition, N.Y: HarperPerennial, 1992, pp. 11-12.

5. Maximoff, G. P. (Ed.); The Political Philosophy of Bakunin: Scientific Anarchism, N.Y: Free Press, l953, p. 271.

6. Baldwin, Roger N.(Ed.); Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, N.Y: Benjamin Blom, 1927, p. 46.

7. Rocker, Rudolf; Anarco-Syndicalism, London: Phoenix Press, 1938, pp. l4- 15.

8. Ibid., p. 18.

9. Chomsky, Noam; Radical Priorities, Montreal, Canada: Black Rose, 1981, p.245

10. Rand, Ayn; Capitism. The Unknown Ideal, N.Y: Signet 1946, p.46.

11. Binswanger, Harry (Ed.); The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z, N.Y: Meridian, 1986, p.363.

12. Rand, op. cit.

13. Binswanger, op. cit., 190

14. Ibid., p. 388.

15. All of these essays are published in Rand, op. cit.

16. Binswanger, op. cit., p. 95.

17. Rand, op.cit., pp. 19-20.

18. Binswanger, op. cit., p. 57.

19. Rand, op. cit., p. 192.

20. Binswanger, op. cit., p. 475.

21. Ibid., p. 163.

22. Ibid.,p.21.

23. Ibid., p. 253.

24. Ibid., p. 254.

25. Ibid., p. 344.

26. Ibid.,p.218.

27. Lehning, Arther (Ed.); Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, London: Jonathan Cape, 1973.

28. Maximoff, op. cit., p. 157

29. Binswanger, op. cit., pp. 218-9.

30. Ibid., p. 214.

31. Ibid.,p.218.

32. Maximoff, op. cit., pp. 167-8.

33. Rand, op. cit.. p. 192.

34. Ibid., p. 46.

35. Binswanger, op. cit., p. 215

36. Maximoff, op. cit., p. 188.

37. Binswanger, op. cit., pp. 388-9.

38. Maximoff, op. cit., pp. 179-81.

39. Cutler, Robert M. (Ed.); From Out of the Dustbin Bakunin's Basic Writing's 1869-1871, Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1985, p. 126.

40. Lehning, op. cit., p. 109.

41. Cutler, op. cit., p. 127.

42. Ibid., p. 129.

43. Lehning, op. cit., p. 110.


Library of Liberty

Library of Liberty