Voltairine de Cleyre, Anarcho-Capitalist?

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

William Gillis is putting together a left-oriented (he doesn’t like the term “left” but I can’t think of a better short way to describe it) series of market anarchist pamphlets in PDF form, reprinting various “historical articles from our tradition that highlight our relation to the revolutionary left and explain Market Anarchist theory in general terms.” There’s one in there by me – and how my piece got in there with classics by Murray Rothbard and Voltairine de Cleyre beats me, but I’m not complaining! Check out the first five.

The de Cleyre piece – co-authored with one “Rosa Slobodinsky,” who, according to Shawn Wilbur, was actually Rachelle Slobodinsky Yarros, wife of Victor Yarros – may be especially controversial. It was written while de Cleyre and Slobodinsky were still in their individualist anarchist phase, and represents a defense of individualist anarchism against the anarcho-communist alternative. (De Cleyre later repudiated individualist anarchism, though without embracing the communist version either; instead she came to favour a more pluralistic vision of anarchism where different economic arrangements, whether individualistic or communistic, would coexist. I’m happy to call that view individualist anarchism even if she wasn’t. Slobodinsky’s later “apostasy” was more serious; she seems to have agreed with her husband in renouncing anarchism entirely, or so at least I infer from this write-up, which portrays her as a self-described “half apologetic pragmatist” who “admired the Soviet Union.” Ah well.)

Voltairine de Cleyre The “especially controversial” part comes in the individualists’ willingness to use the term “capitalistic” to describe their system. As I’ve discussed before, anarcho-socialists tend to go ballistic when anarcho-capitalists claim the legacy of individualist anarchists like de Cleyre. (See for example this review – whose author incidentally appears to think that Crispin Sartwell is an anarcho-capitalist!) Yet to the charge, on the part of anarcho-communists, that individualist anarchism amounts to a form of capitalism, de Cleyre and Slobodinsky reply:

Capitalistic Anarchism? Oh, yes, if you choose to call it so. Names are indifferent to me; I am not afraid of bugaboos. Let it be so, then, capitalistic Anarchism.

I can predict the likely reactions from both sides. Anarcho-capitalists will say: “See, de Cleyre was a defender of capitalism after all! So much for those lefty anarchists who told us that the hem of the individualist anarchist tradition was too purely anti-capitalist for us benighted capitalists to touch. Now we have the individualist anarchists’ own word for it that they were happy to be called capitalist anarchists!” And anarcho-socialists will respond: “De Cleyre and Slobodinsky are clearly using the term tongue in cheek! They’re responding to a smear by insisting on talking about substance rather than labels. They’re not really endorsing capitalism the way you pseudo-anarchists do.”

Let me try to say something to moderate both reactions. What the 19th-century individualist anarchists advocated under the name of a “free market” has both similarities with and differences from what the mainstream of 20th-century anarcho-capitalists have advocated under that name. Anarcho-capitalists tend to stress the similarities and ignore the differences; anarcho-socialists tend to stress the differences and ignore the similarities. It would be a mistake on the part of anarcho-capitalists to seize on de Cleyre’s and Slobodinsky’s use of the term “capitalistic Anarchism” to elide the genuine differences that exist between the two traditions. But by the same token, it is a mistake for anarcho-socialists to seize on anarcho-capitalists’ use of the term “capitalism” as though it implied agreement with existing corporatist capitalism.

Rachelle Yarros AKA Rosa SlobodinskyToo often anarcho-socialists have treated anarcho-capitalists’ mere willingness to use the term “capitalism” as though this terminological choice by itself committed anarcho-capitalists to all sorts of awful things incompatible with the anarchist tradition – and this passage from de Cleyre and Slobidinsky is a useful corrective to that tendency. Anarcho-capitalists likewise tend to downplay, while anarcho-socialists tend to exaggerate, the extent to which the individualist anarchists called themselves “socialists” – as though the choice of terminology were the crucial one. (Tucker, for example, tended to use the term “socialism” favourably in his early writings and pejoratively in his later ones; anarcho-capitalists rarely quote the earlier usage and anarcho-socialists rarely quote the later. I myself have pretty much given up using either “socialism” or “capitalism” to mean anything at all, for reasons I explain here.)

And along with the terminological blinkers come substantive blinkers. You’d never guess, from reading some of the anarcho-capitalists’ attempts to claim the mantle of the individualist anarchists, that most of those individualist anarchists saw the anarchist cause as inextricably bound up with “socialist” causes like worker empowerment and the abolition of the wage system – causes that many anarcho-capitalists in vulgar-libbin’ mode regard as anathema. But then you’d likewise never guess from reading anarcho-socialist critiques of anarcho-capitalism that there have nevertheless been self-described anarcho-capitalists, and prominent ones, who themselves favoured worker empowerment and the abolition of the wage system. All these details call for studying similarities and differences carefully and using the sledgehammer sparingly.

So, how significant is it that a figure like Voltairine de Cleyre was willing to call her position “capitalist”? I say: less than some anarcho-capitalists may be tempted to claim, yet more than some anarcho-socialists may care to admit.

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0 Responses to Voltairine de Cleyre, Anarcho-Capitalist?

  1. Dain November 11, 2007 at 2:31 pm #

    “Is it justice to take from talent to reward incompetency? Is it justice to virtually say that the tool is not to the toiler, nor the product to the producer, but to others? Is it justice to rob toil of incentive? The justice you seek lies not in such injustice, where material equality could only be attained at the dead level of mediocrity.”

    Apparently this individualist anarchist hasn’t grappled with Rawls. Obviously.

    This kind of rhetoric may have seemed self evidently valid in the 19th century, among socialists as well as the bourgeois, but today it would be a dead giveaway that the person speaking is a conservative. “Incompetence”, “Mediocrity”, “Incentive”. If revulsion is the common reaction to notions such as those in the quote above – even if the revolted are being hypocritical as they apply this kind of “bourgeois” attitude to their personal lives – the individualist/market anarchist will lose hearts and minds.

  2. Administrator November 11, 2007 at 7:42 pm #

    Dain — in terms of doctrine (as opposed to rhetorical tone), what in that passage is incompatible with Rawls?

  3. Rich Paul November 11, 2007 at 8:05 pm #

    I’ve never found a good answer to this:

    If “anarcho-socialists” want to have no government, but want to prevent free trade from occurring, how are they going to prevent it? They say they want to abolish the wage system … but what are they going to do, if I believe my best option at some particular point in my life is to work and let somebody else supply the tools? Will they kill me? Will they kill him? Will they imprison us both? Where? Do you intend to have prisons for people who attempt to produce for themselves in your “anarchy? Or will you just steal the fruits of our labor? And if so, what separates disorganized thieves from the organized thieves at the IRS?

    I’m really curious about this. Socialism is about taking power from individuals and giving it to central planners, who then use force, instead of persuasion and reward, to get the individual to follow their edicts. How can any of this be done without a government? The only thing I can envision, which would be akin to socialism but without a government, is massive mob violence against anyone who seems to have an above average ability or willingness to produce.

  4. Miguel Madeira November 11, 2007 at 8:41 pm #

    “They say they want to abolish the wage system … but what are they going to do, if I believe my best option at some particular point in my life is to work and let somebody else supply the tools? Will they kill me? Will they kill him? Will they imprison us both? Where? Do you intend to have prisons for people who attempt to produce for themselves in your “anarchy? Or will you just steal the fruits of our labor?”

    This was already explained in all anarcho-socialist texts: in anarcho-socialism, propert rights of tools owned by a person different from the person who works with the tools are not enforced, i.e., you, as a worker, have the right of “expropriate” these tools from your boss (probably, these fall in the category “Or will you just steal the fruits of our labor?”).

    “And if so, what separates disorganized thieves from the organized thieves at the IRS?”

    The “disorganized”?

  5. Brad Spangler November 11, 2007 at 9:41 pm #

    A few things…

    I strongly recommend avoiding the term “anarcho-socialist”. To the people you

  6. Brad Spangler November 11, 2007 at 9:49 pm #

    …are attempting to describe, the term typically sounds odd and generally paints you as uninformed in their view. Nobody describes *themself* as an “anarcho-socialist”. Rather, they tend to view the terms “libertarian socialist” and “anarchist” as largely overlapping if not quite completely synonymous (opinions vary), although not all libertarian socialists are anarchists and there are other exceptions in both cases.

    Look, if you insisted on describing automobiles as “wheelo-transporter devices”, people are going to wonder what f***in planet you just dropped in from, and they’d have a point.

  7. Brad Spangler November 11, 2007 at 10:06 pm #


    Secondly, if Tuckerite mutualism is both “libertarian socialism” AND “free-market libertarianism”, then at the very least we have to face the prospect that it’s perfectly legitimate to view Rothbardian market anarchist as “socialism” as well.

    Anarcho-“capitalism”, as an ideology, IS socialism because it answers the social question.

    Anarcho-capitalism, as a movement, IS NOT socialism because it is reformist rather than revolutionary and the anarcho-capitalist thus behaves politically as a de facto classical liberal.

    Yet Rothbard’s contributions to individualist anarchist theory are perfectly legitimate ideas about the nature of a stateless society, and they have astonishingly “anti-capitalist” (anti-“statist monopoly of capital”) implications.

    You can’t credibly say “Tuckerite mutualism is libertarian socialism” while “Rothbardian market anarchism is Capitalism”, and thereby imply that they are worlds apart on the political spectrum when the principal differences are fundamentally rather negligible.

    Those fundamental differences are:

    1) Usufruct property theory versus Rothbardian property theory.
    2) Labor theory of value versus subjective theory of value.

    Both usufruct and Rothbardian property theory are variations on the theme of labor made property as a natural moral phenomenon standing in contrast to fraudulent state awards of property title.

    The labor theory of value came into socialism from “capitalist” economists. Why can’t the subjective theory of value do the same?

    If Tuckerite mutualist anarchism is libertarian socialism, then so is so-called “anarcho-capitalism”. The fundamentals are to similar. Both posit that the stateless free market answers “the social question”.

  8. Mike Erwin November 11, 2007 at 10:09 pm #

    The phrase “abolition of the wage system” has not always historically been understood as “abolition of wages.”

    e.g. Chaplin, “General Strike for Industrial Freedom:”

    “The ultimate aim of the General Strike as regards wages is to give each producer the full product of his labor. The demand for better wages becomes revolutionary only when it is coupled with the demand that the exploitation of labor must cease…”

  9. Brad Spangler November 11, 2007 at 10:19 pm #


    Re: Victor Yarros — Every anti-establishment movement has its sellouts and lamers. There is virtually nothing new under the sun. Dana Rohrabacher, Alan Greenspan, etc.

  10. Rich Paul November 11, 2007 at 11:38 pm #

    Hmmm … small problem.

    When I create wealth, it is always with the intent, sooner or later, of consuming. There is no point in production without consumption. So if I put some of the wealth I created aside, in order to procure tools, machines, buildings, or other needful things to increase my production, I do so because I believe it will increase my ability to consume at some later point in time. If, however, anybody who wants to can just come along and confiscate my productive assets, or capital, then I have no reason to create capital. And without capital, we would all be subsistence farmers, trying to scratch a living from the earth with digging sticks.

    Sorry, the government is impoverishing me just fine … there would be no point in going to all the trouble of abolishing government if in the same stroke, I would be abolishing my ability to maintain a standard of living which allows me to enjoy my newfound freedom.

  11. Dain November 12, 2007 at 12:15 am #

    Well I meant Rawls’ idea that people don’t have a right to utilize their inborn talent without intervention to compel them to “share”. I’m not sure if his difference principle overrides this idea, however. I’m far from a scholar on the guy.

    A better quote in the pamphlet to cite for my point about Rawls would have been this:

    COMM: “When I see that you are enjoying things which I cannot hope to get, what think you will be my feelings toward you? Shall I not envy you, as the poor do the rich today.”

    INDV: “Why, will you hate a man because he has finer eyes or better health than you? Do you want to demolish a person’s manuscript because he excels you in penmanship?”

  12. Rich Paul November 12, 2007 at 12:18 am #

    Actually, there is one thing I’m unclear on which might mitigate my earlier words. It is said that “the society” would not enforce contracts for labor. The question is, when my former helper showed up to confiscate my tools and equipment, and reduce me to beggary, would there be an organized force to prevent me from protecting myself against him? Would there be an organization with special power to force me to submit, or would it just be a matter of whether I or my former employee were quicker with a gun?

    One of they annoying things about a state, is that when the enslave of impoverish you, they expect you not to resist. I suppose I could tolerate a society in which there was no help in resisting, so long as it was not so organized as to make self-defense impossible.

  13. Administrator November 12, 2007 at 1:13 am #


    Nobody describes *themself* as an “anarcho-socialist”.

    Well, that’s true, but that’s because most anarcho-socialists don’t recognise anarcho-capitalists as genuine anarchists, so they would think “anarcho-socialist” redundant.

    Analogously, most trinitarian Christians wouldn’t call themselves “trinitarian Christians” because they’d think the adjective superfluous, since they don’t regard non-trinitarian Christians as genuine Christians.

  14. william November 12, 2007 at 4:09 am #


    Despite whatever you may hear on the FAQ, the majority of “social” Anarchists I know are actually quite distanced from the term “socialism” and WOULDN’T self-apply it or even really consider it redundant.

    It’s cliche and not entirely true, but the movement today at least sees itself as split evenly between Red and Green Anarchists. Most Reds would consider anarchism and “socialism” redundant, most Greens never use it and would be a little weirded out to hear it applied to them.

    In practice the great Red/Green split isn’t anywhere as neat as everyone makes it out to be. Between the hugely varying schools, cultures and tendencies that make up the Anarchist Social Movement (my polite way of saying “non ancaps” since the ancaps while sometimes connected to Anarchism in Theory and Discourse, are clearly not a part of the actual Anarchist *Movement* and don’t even have their own *Movement*) I’d say about 35% would freely associate with the term “socialist.” And that’s looking at the movement globally, which tends to favor Syndicalism outside the Anglosphere and Eastern Europe. In America I’d say that percentage would be far lower. Insurrectionary Anarchism, Post-Leftism, Green Anarchism, Anarcha-Feminism, Post-Anarchism, Anarcho-Primitivism, Classical Individualist Anarchism, and the general feeling of Anarchism-Without-Adjectives… “Anarcho-Socialist” beyond sounding really strange and an indicator that the speaker has no idea what he’s talking about, would generally be taken derogatorily.

  15. william November 12, 2007 at 4:31 am #

    -“If “anarcho-socialists” want to have no government, but want to prevent free trade from occurring, how are they going to prevent it?”

    We don’t.

    Free association is the foundation of ALL schools of Anarchism.

    The critique of “trade” is two fold:

    1) That the current opportunities for “trade” are coercive or framed within coercive conditions. So we need to abolish those coercive conditions (ie equalize wealth so that everyone can start over).

    2) That “trade” in its present form has a psychological underpinning that is corruptive and destructive. Leading to commodification, greed and other things that will make a culture of liberty impossible.

    -“They say they want to abolish the wage system … but what are they going to do, if I believe my best option at some particular point in my life is to work and let somebody else supply the tools?”

    They want to create a world where you will never feel forced into a situation where you HAVE to take orders in order to survive because there are no other options. They would create other options in the form of cooperatives, unions, communes and collectives. If you want to hire your friend to roof your house or have someone apprentice under you, that’s perfectly acceptable.

    -“Will they kill me? Will they kill him? Will they imprison us both?”

    Oh, yes. Obviously.


    Siberia, Comrade.

    -“Do you intend to have prisons for people who attempt to produce for themselves in your “anarchy?””

    Hell no. Hermits and individualist producers are and have always been encouraged by even the most extreme of Anarcho-communists. They just figure that most people will want to join a coop and that working together as equals will be preferable to the vast majority.

    -“Or will you just steal the fruits of our labor?”

    I might nip a couple french fries off your plate when you’re not looking.

    -“And if so, what separates disorganized thieves from the organized thieves at the IRS?”

    We wear ratty clothes. Duh.

    -“I’m really curious about this. Socialism is about taking power from individuals and giving it to central planners, who then use force, instead of persuasion and reward, to get the individual to follow their edicts.”

    I may throw such accusations at my friends when I’m feeling like being a dick, but NO ANARCHIST ACTUALLY SUBSCRIBES TO THAT. If they call themselves “socialist” they mean it in the sense that being social and working together with others is a good thing, and that we should look out for the common welfare.


    -“How can any of this be done without a government? The only thing I can envision, which would be akin to socialism but without a government, is massive mob violence against anyone who seems to have an above average ability or willingness to produce.”

    Oh, yeah! Lynch mobs!

  16. william November 12, 2007 at 4:52 am #

    “The question is, when my former helper showed up to confiscate my tools and equipment, and reduce me to beggary…”

    Wouldn’t happen. I know of no Anarchist–no matter how many punk rock patches they may wear–who would ever be down with that.

    If you’re a CEO and you “have” a dozen factories under Corporate State Capitalism, they’d turn the factories over to the workers and on-the-floor administrators who ran them. If you tried to continue ordering about the workers or imposing your will on the factories, there’d probably be some collective force applied to evict you and your cops.

    If you’re a boss of a small business then they’d try to talk to you and work out some new form of more equal and fair workplace democracy. People from the rest of the community would mediate.

    A man who truly did build his business with the sweat of his brow alone and didn’t benefit at all (or even significantly) from the unfair conditions of State Capitalism would almost certainly be left alone. In the instances where Anarchism has taken root this has almost always been the case.

    But if you insisted on imposing working conditions that were generally considered unfair you’d find yourself a dinosaur unable to network with anyone else. The other communes and coops wouldn’t really be interested and workers would expect to get far more equal wages to your own.

    The real issue at hand is that few Anarchists think the current wages being paid workers are fair. That those with money and power have colluded together to create a general atmosphere of coercion and control that has impeded those born in want for centuries.

    If you worked at a mill for a decade and barely made enough to eat, while the owner had caviar then the Anarchists see something seriously wrong with this and would claim that you are owed serious BACK PAYMENTS. And while you could obtain these by making off with one of the owner’s limos, they feel it would be far more productive and a far better investment to make off with the entire factory you’ve been slaving in with your fellow workers.

    The owner’s not going to be reduced to starvation (like you were) but neither is he going to be allowed to retain all the things he got away with stealing when the cops were in his pocket.

  17. Brad Spangler November 12, 2007 at 5:45 am #


    Regarding: “…but that’s because most anarcho-socialists don’t recognise anarcho-capitalists as genuine anarchists”

    I assumed you were aware that this is old news to me. I’ve been on the anarcho-“capitalist” end of the debate and I’m still fundamentally a Rothbardian. My contention is NOT that anarcho-capitalism is not anarchism, but that anarcho-capitalism is incorrectly named.

    Look, the “capitalistic” anarchism de Cleyre was talking about is the Tuckerite doctrine — mutualism. If mutualism is “libertarian socialism”, then so is Rothbardian market anarchism.

    Look, ususfruct and LTV are not themselves enough, IMO, to create a gulf between what is essentially versions 1.0 and 2.0 of the same ideas (Tucker > Rothbard). Usufruct and LTV don’t themselves alone make mutualism “libertarian socialism”. Rather, 100% “free land, free money and free competition” do because as a package they answer the social question. Yet Rothbardian market anarchism, despite its differences with the Tucker doctrine, SHARES variations on that “Holy Trinity” (as it is referenced in the de Cleyre / Slobodinsky article).

    Free Land? Rothbardian property theory, check!

    Free money? Rothbard was an ardent proponent of free banking. Check!

    Free competition? Rothbard, as you know, favored 100% free competition in all industries, most notably the provision of law and security. Check!

    Rothbard was a socialist for the same reasons Tucker was a socialist.

    Furthermore, there’s EVEN somewhat of a precedent for considering Rothbard (and hard-core Rothbardians) “socialist” in the sense that “anarchism is libertarian socialism”. Stirner is typically recognized as an anarchist despite having been critical of anarchists in his day and not calling himslef one.

  18. Gene Callahan November 12, 2007 at 7:11 am #

    “Rothbard was an ardent proponent of free banking.”

    In that he equated it with fraud?

  19. Brad Spangler November 12, 2007 at 8:29 am #

    re: “”How can any of this be done without a government?”

    It can’t, and that’s a good thing. There are other definitions of “socialism”.

    Socialism without government, i.e. “libertarian socialism”?

    Yes, it’s called “civil society” and it’s a social agenda rather than a political agenda. If you’re a free-market libertarian you’re already in favor of it, you just aren’t accustomed to thinking of it as “socialism”.

    As Proudhon noted, the social revolution is undermined if it comes through a political revolution.

    This has nothing to do with the Misesean definition of “socialism”. You don’t have to accept the Misesean definition of “socialism” in order to make use of Mises fundamental economic insights.

  20. Brad Spangler November 12, 2007 at 8:39 am #


    Rothbard favored a 100% free market in banking.

  21. Brad Spangler November 12, 2007 at 8:53 am #

    Rothbard’s opinion as a professional economist, namely that he saw mutualist banking as inflationary, can and ought to be considered distinct from his “political” thought (i.e. the circumstances when use of force is or isn’t justified).

    “But my main quarrel with the Spooner-Tucker doctrine is not. political but economic…”

  22. Administrator November 12, 2007 at 12:00 pm #

    To Brad: yes, but Rothbard also thought (wrongly in my view) that fractional-reserve banking was a rights-violation, a form of fraud, even if the customers were fully informed. It wasn’t just an economic view.

    To Gene: but I don’t think “free banking” necessarily implies fractional-reserve banking (some Rothbardians, for example, talk about ‘100% reserve free banking’), so I don’t think it’s false to call Rothbard a proponent of free banking.

    To everybody: more replies to come, I promise!

  23. Brad Spangler November 12, 2007 at 2:51 pm #


    I happen to share your disagreement with Rothbard about fractional reserve banking in a free market being, in and of itself, fraud — that is, provided that the banker doesn’t present themselves as anything other than a fractional reserve bank.


    A labor backed currency wouldn’t be fractional reserve banking if it was 100% backed by actual labor contracts sufficient to cover all labor notes issued.

    Rothbard’s sole mention of “fraud” in his essay on the Spooner-Tucker doctrine was in reference to any currency not backed by gold or silver IF it calls itself a “dollar”. Clearly, the Ithaca Hour, for example, doesn’t fit this standard of fraud either.

    Now, my thoughts on “mutual banking” vary depending on what exactly one means by the term. I happen to like credit unions. I’m not particularly convinced that a labor backed currency would be a good business model for a currency issuer, with gold being the clear favorite in my opinion. But all those personal opinions have nothing to do with my political opinion on whether or not mutual banking is compatible with the legal code of a stateless free market society. Clearly it is, unless a particular scheme has some criminal aspect.

    That’s the market for you. Diverse preferences are largely accomodated, to the extent it is economically feasible. You don’t have to understand or like it. Personally, I’ve always found the ongoing popularity of the Chia Pet(tm) rather disturbing.

  24. Rich Paul November 12, 2007 at 7:43 pm #

    Gene Callahan said,
    November 12, 2007 at 7:11 am

    “Rothbard was an ardent proponent of free banking.”
    In that he equated it with fraud?

    There was a specific practice in banking which Rothbard considered fraudulent. This is fractional reserve banking.

    If you own a grain elevator, and store grain for others, and issue warehouse receipts, you are in a business very similar to banking. You are in the business of storing something of value, and providing access to the owners when the time comes. Your warehouse receipts, if they are “bearer” receipts, and can be redeemed by anyone who uses them, are equivalent to paper money. Your customers are not guaranteed that they will receive the same grain which they deposited when they come to collect, but they are guaranteed to be able to collect equivalent grain upon demand.

    All of this is good. You are in an honest business, have a good reputation, and making money. But what happens if you decide that since your receipts are traded as if they were the commodity itself, and since you always have some inventory stored (and matching outstanding receipts), you can print up some fake receipts and sell them yourself? At this point, you have committed embezzlement or fraud, depending on the details.

    What are the economic effects of your fraud? Your fake receipts create ‘phantom grain’, which does not really exist. This depresses the price of the grain, because the apparent supply is no longer equal to the actual supply … but the market price is determined by the intersection of the apparent supply curve and the apparent demand curve … since nobody is aware of what the actual curves are. At some point, if you do this enough, somebody will come to cash a receipt when there is no grain in your elevator. That person, when frustrated in his attempt to collect his property, will alert probably alert the police. Your other customers will rush to try to get their grain back, or as much of it as actually exists. Potential customers will choose to take their business to somebody honest, and thus you will have little inflow of grain to ‘make good’ your embezzlement. At this point, the price of grain will revert to it’s normal price, as consumers and investors learn the real conditions of the grain market.

    This has actually happened in America, and the operators of the grain elevators were considered to have committed criminal acts.

    This is exactly equivalent to fractional reserve banking, except that bankers have been granted the legal privilege to commit this fraud with impunity. The effects on the price of money are identical. But when the commodity in question is that commodity which a society has chosen to use as money, whether it is gold or fiat scrap paper, the effects can be disastrous. This is why there was a business cycle even before the Federal Reserve came along, and made our entire money system fraudulent.

    When the value of money is depressed by an apparent increase in supply, the economy goes into a “boom” condition, as lots of people invest in things that they would know were unprofitable if they knew the true state of the money supply. As they do this, people make money, wages rise, and asset prices rise, and everything looks prosperous. But the prosperity is illusory, and eventually there are bank runs. At this point, the banks have to curtail their new lending activity, in order to try to become liquid, and they also find themselves making many loans to each other. The apparent money supply of the society contracts. Prices drop, wages drop, businesses which invested badly cease to exist, and production is rearranged into a condition which matches reality. This is a painful, but needed, process. It was called a depression until the Great Depression, and after that they started calling it a recession.

    Of course the Great Depression was caused by the Federal Reserve, which did pretty much the same thing on a huge scale. This gave us both the roaring twenties and the Depression. Other examples of the Federal Reserve’s mischief include the “dot.com” boom and bust, the housing boom and bust, and the fact that people no longer save money, since the rate of interest so rarely exceeds the actual (not the government reported) rate of inflation.

    Karl Marx said that if you want to destroy a capitalist economy, you must debauch their currency. In America, he is getting his wish, and all the misery which accompanies it, in spades. If productivity were still what it was in his day, with these insane policies in effect, there would be actual famine. Luckily, capitalism has advanced toward a level of productivity which allows almost universal prosperity, in spite of government interventions into the market.


  1. paxx:blog » Blog Archive » Anarcho-”Kapitalismus” vs. Anarcho-”Sozialismus”? - November 11, 2007

    […] Ohne grossen Kommentar verweise ich mal wieder auf einen Blogbeitrag von Roderick Long: “ Voltairine de Cleyre, Anarcho-Capitalist?” […]

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