Tag Archives | Anarchy

Molinari Review 1.1: What Lies Within?

[cross-posted at C4SS and BHL]

The Molinari Institute (the parent organization of the Center for a Stateless Society) is proud to announce the publication of the first issue of our new interdisciplinary, open-access, libertarian academic journal, the Molinari Review, edited by yours truly, and dedicated to publishing scholarship, sympathetic or critical, in and on the libertarian tradition, very broadly understood. (See our original call for papers.)

You can order a copy here:

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It should also be available, now or shortly, on other regional versions of Amazon. And later on it’ll be available from our website as a free PDF download (because copyright restrictions are evil).


So what’s in it?

In “The Right to Privacy Is Tocquevillean, Not Lockean: Why It MattersJulio Rodman argues that traditional libertarian concerns with non-aggression, property rights, and negative liberty fail to capture the nature of our concern with privacy. Drawing on insights from Tocqueville and Foucault, Rodman suggests that privacy is primarily a matter, not of freedom from interference, but of freedom from observation, particularly accusatory observation.

In “Libertarianism and Privilege,” Billy Christmas charges that right-wing libertarians underestimate the extent and significance of harmful relations of privilege in society (including, but not limited to, class and gender privilege) because they misapply their own principles in focusing on proximate coercion to the exclusion of more indirect forms of coercion; but, he argues, broadening the lens of libertarian inquiry reveals that libertarian principles are more powerful tools for the analysis of privilege than privilege theorists generally suppose.

In “Capitalism, Free Enterprise, and Progress: Partners or Adversaries?,” Darian Nayfeld Worden interrogates traditional narratives of the Industrial Revolution. Distinguishing between capitalism (understood as a separation between labour and ownership/management) and free enterprise, Nayfeld Worden maintains that the rise of capitalism historically was in large part the result of a suppression of free enterprise, and that thanks to state intervention, the working-class benefited far less from industrialisation and technological innovation than they might otherwise have done.

In “Turning the Tables: The Pathologies and Unrealized Promise of Libertarianism,” Gus diZerega contends that libertarians misunderstand and misapply their own key concepts, leading them to embrace an atomistic vision of society, and to overvalue the market while undervaluing empathy and democracy. (Look for a reply or two in our next issue.)

Finally, Nathan Goodman reviews Queering Anarchism: Addressing and Undressing Power and Desire, an anthology edited by C. B. Daring, J. Rogue, Deric Shannon, and Abbey Volcano. Goodman praises the book for its illumination of many aspects of the intersection between anarchist tradition and the LGBTQ community, with particular emphasis on the tension between LGBTQ activists who seek to dismantle oppressive institutions and those who merely seek inclusion within them; but in the area of economics, he finds its authors to be too quick to dismiss the free market or to equate it with the prevailing regime of corporatist privilege.

Want to order a copy? See the ordering information above.

Want to contribute an article to an upcoming issue? Head to the journal’s webpage.

Want to support this project financially? Make a donation to the Molinari Institute General Fund.

Remembering the Paris Commune

[cross-posted at C4SS and BHL]

This month marks the 145th anniversary of the violent suppression of the Paris Commune by the French national government.

The Paris Commune remains a potent symbol for many people – though what exactly it symbolizes is a matter of dispute. To conservatives, the Commune stands for a reign of terror and mob rule. For many radicals, including anarchists and Marxists (even though at the time, Marx himself opposed the Commune as a “desperate folly” and urged would-be insurrectionists to work within the system), it signifies a community that importantly prefigures their own preferred social and political systems.


The Commune wasn’t quite any of these things. While it bears responsibility for some foolish decisions (such as trying to relieve bakers of their long hours by forbidding them to work at night, which is a bit like trying to cure a disease by punishing anyone who shows symptoms of it) and some wicked decisions (most notably, executing the noncombatant hostages), on the whole the Commune behaved in a rather moderate and restrained fashion, and was far from being the sanguinary monster of conservative nightmares. (To the Communards’ credit, they were reluctant to kill the hostages, and so waited until the last possible moment to do so. To their discredit, that means that by the time they did kill them, it was an act of pure spite that no longer had even the thin justification of a strategic purpose.) The invasion and massacre instituted by the national government at Versailles in May 1871 to put down the Communards’ insurrection has far more claim to be described as a reign of terror than anything the Commune itself did.

While it certainly has inspired anarchists and attracted their sympathy (Louise Michel being the most prominent anarchist figure to emerge from the movement), the Commune was not in any real sense an anarchist project. Yes, it was a working-class insurrection, but one aimed at establishing, and one that did in fact establish, a government. And unsurprisingly, that government did (as we’ve seen) some of the stupid and unjust things that governments tend to do (though the regime that ended up suppressing it was guilty of far worse).

Nor can the Marxists plausibly claim the Commune as a precursor. While generally statist-left-leaning in their policies, most leaders of the Commune had no interest in abolishing private property; as Marx himself noted, “the majority of the Commune was in no sense socialist.” The term “Commune” refers not to communism but to the independent mercantile cities, called “communes,” that flourished in Europe at the end of the medieval period. In that respect, the Paris Commune was fundamentally a secessionist movement; the Communards sought to make Paris into a self-governing political entity separate from the rest of France.

What anarchists tend to like about secessionist movements is their thrust toward political decentralization; what anarchists tend to dislike about them is their frequent concomitants of nationalism, parochialism, and isolationism. By those criteria, the Paris Commune scores fairly well, in that it did not seek to sever economic or cultural ties with the rest of the world; on the contrary, foreigners were eligible to be elected, and were in fact elected, to the governing council, on the theory that “the flag of the Commune is the flag of the World Republic.”

For all its flaws, the Paris Commune deserves anarchist respect as an example of cosmopolitan secessionism and working-class revolution. In honor of the Commune, I’ve translated “Paris, Free City,” a piece by Jules Vallès (1832-1885), one of the intellectual leaders of the Commune, from the early days of the rebellion’s initial success. It appeared in his periodical Le Cri du Peuple (“The Cry of the People”) on 22 March 1871. As will be apparent, Vallès is no anarchist; what anarchist could speak so cheerfully of “mayors [being] named and magistrates elected”? But in his secessionism, his enthusiasm for commerce, his distinction between an exploitative and a non-exploitative bourgeoisie, and his selecting the Hanseatic League as a model to emulate, he seems closer to anarchism – particularly market anarchism – than to Marxism.

Paris, Free City

To the bourgeoisie of Paris

There exists the working bourgeoisie and the parasitic bourgeoisie.

The one that the Cri du Peuple attacks, that its editors have consistently attacked and are still attacking, is the do-nothing one, the one that buys and sells positions and makes politics into a business.

A herd of windbags, a crowd of ambitious men, a breeding-ground for sub-prefects and state councilors.

The one, also, that that does not produce, that plunders; [The translation in Voices of the Paris Commune has: “They produce nothing but froth.” This is a misunderstanding of écumer, which in this context refers to piracy.] that raids, by means of shadowy banking schemes or shameless stock-market speculations, the profits made by those who bear the burdens — speculators without shame, who rob the poor and lend to kings, who played dice on the drum of Transnonain or 2 December, [The author refers to the massacre of insurgents by the National Guard in the Rue Transnonain on 14 April 1834, and Louis Napoléon’s bloody coup d’état on 2 December 1851.] and are already imagining how to play their hand upon the cadaver of the bloodied fatherland.


But there is a working bourgeoisie, this one honest and valiant; it goes down to the workshop wearing a cap, traipses in wooden shoes through the mud of factories, remains through cold and heat at its counter or its offices; in its small shop or its large factory, behind the windows of a shop or the walls of a manufactory: it inhales dust and smoke, skins and burns itself at the workbench or the forge, puts its hands to the work, has its eye on the task; it is, through its courage and even its anxieties, the sister of the proletariat.

For it has its anxieties, its risks of bankruptcy, its days when bills come due. There is not a fortune today that is secure, thanks precisely to the clumsiness and provocations of these parasites who need trouble and agitation to live. Nothing is stable: today’s boss becomes tomorrow’s heavy labourer, and graduates see their coats worn to rags.

How many I know, among the established or well dressed, who are beset by worries as the poor are, who sometimes wonder what will become of their children, and who would trade all their chances of happiness and gain for the certainty of a modest labour and an old age without tears!

It is this whole world of workers, fearing ruin or unemployment, that constitutes Paris – the great Paris. – Why should we not extend to one another our hands, above these miseries of man and citizen, and why, in this solemn moment, should we not try, once and for all, to wrest the country, where each is brother to the other through effort and danger, from this eternal uncertainty that allows adventurers always to succeed, and requires honest people always to tremble and suffer!

Fraternity was queen the other day before the cannons and under the bright sun. It must remain queen, and Paris must take a solemn decision – a decision that will be a good one, and will have its day in history, only if it avoids both civil war and the resumption of war against the victorious Bismarck. [Voices of the Paris Commune gets this precisely wrong: “if it manages to avoid civil war and returns to the war against the victorious Bismarck.” This is not a possible translation of si elle évite la guerre civile et le retour de la guerre avec Bismark vainqueur; besides, if Vallès were calling here for renewed conflict with Prussia, why would he be proposing to “submit to everything” in the next paragraph, and why would he be advocating a negotiated peace with the Prussians a few paragraphs later?]

We are prepared, for our part, to impose nothing, to submit to everything, within the dolorous circle of fatality – on the sole condition that the freedom of Paris remains safe, and that the flag of the Republic shelter, in an independent city, a courageous populace of workers.

Denizens of the working-class districts and bourgeois alike: a few hundred years ago, in the very Germany from which came the cannons that have thundered at us, four towns declared themselves free cities; [The four founding members of the Hanseatic League: Lübeck, Brunswick, Köln, and Danzig.] they were, for centuries, great and proud, rich and calm: in every corner of the world one could hear their activity, and they cast merchandise and gold on every shore! …..

Well then! to undo, other than by the sabre, the Gordian knot in which our recent misfortunes have been tangled, there is but one message to give:


Let us negotiate immediately, through the intermediary of the elected representatives of the people, with the government of Versailles for the status quo without struggle, and with the Prussians for the settlement of indemnities.

No blood is shed, the cannons remain cold, the barracks close, and the workshops reopen, work resumes.

Work resumes! this is the inflexible necessity, the supreme desire. Let us come to an agreement in order that everyone, tomorrow, may recover his livelihood. Citizens of every class and every rank, this is salvation!

Paris, free city, returns to work.

This secession saves the provinces from their fear and the working-class districts from famine.

Bordeaux has said: Down with Paris!

We, for our part, cry at one and the same time: Long live France and long live Paris! and we commit ourselves never more to extend toward this France who calumniates us an arm that she believed to be menacing.

Between Montrouge and Montmartre [Southern and northern districts of Paris, respectively.] will always beat, come what may, the heart of the old fatherland, which we will always love, and which will return to us in spite of everything.

Moreover, some towns – precisely those that the moderates fear – will likewise be able to negotiate in order to live free, and to constitute the great federation of republican cities.

To those who fear that they should suffer from isolation, we respond that there are no frontiers high enough to prevent labour from crossing them, industry from razing them, commerce from boring through them.

Labour! – towns with high chimneys that spew the smoke of factories, with large workshops and long counters, fertile cities do not die! Even rustics would not kill their hens that lay golden eggs.

Paris, having a flag of her own, can no longer be defamed or menaced, and she remains the skillful seeker, the happy finder, who invents beautiful designs and great instruments, who will be forever implored to put her stamp on that this metal or that fabric, on this toy or that weapon, on this goblet or that basin, on the paste for a porcelain vessel or the silk for a gown!

She will remain the master and the king.


No more bloodshed! rifles at rest: mayors are named and magistrates elected. And then to work! to work! The bell sounds for labour and not for combat.


A Blast From 1837

Here’s an early (pre-Spencer) statement of the law of equal freedom and/or non-aggression principle:

[N]o movement can be permanently successful among progressive minds which stops short of a full and complete recognition of the entire liberty of the individual, so long as the action coming from such liberty trespasses upon neither the person or [sic] property of another.

Particularly interesting is its source: an 1837 publication of the First International; see details here. (The article is about Josiah Warren, but the quotation is not from Warren; in fact Warren wanted to make it less libertarian by including a right to one’s “reputation,” i.e., to the contents of other people’s minds.)


I am an idiot. Of course the First International didn’t exist in 1837. And so of course this quotation is from 1873, and so of course it’s not pre-Spencer.

Panarchist Anthology Published

[cross-posted at C4SS and BHL]

A new anthology titled Panarchy: Political Theories of Non-Territorial States, edited by Aviezer Tucker and Gian Piero de Bellis, has been released by Routledge.


The concept of panarchy comes from an 1860 work of that title by the Belgian botanist and political economist Paul Émile de Puydt (1810-1891). The essence of his panarchist proposal is that people should be free to choose the political regime under which they will live without having to relocate to a different territory. The new anthology assembles a number of sources, both historical and contemporary, developing this idea.

The editors define panarchism as “a normative political meta-theory that advocates non-territorial states founded on actual social contracts that are explicitly negotiated and signed between states and their prospective citizens.” (p. 1) This characterisation, with its call for explicitly signed contracts, is a somewhat narrower use of the term than is common in contemporary anarchist circles, or at least those in which I move. John Zube, who has done more than anyone to popularise the concept, defines it a bit less rigidly as the “realization of as many different and autonomous communities as are wanted by volunteers for themselves, all non-territorially coexisting … yet separated from each other by personal laws, administrations and jurisdictions ….” (quoted on p. 90)

If one’s standard for political legitimacy is efficiency, wouldn’t the competition of multiple systems within the same jurisdiction be more efficient, for familiar economic reasons, than the imposition of a single model? If one’s standard is what rational agents could consent to, why not support a system in which everyone gets the system they actually consent to? After all, part of the point of the hypothetical consent stories that have dominated contemporary political philosophy is the assumption that actual consent could never be unanimous – an assumption that panarchism shows how to circumvent. If the worry is that competing systems within the same territory would be unworkable, a number of the pieces in the volume point out how, in Aviezer Tucker’s words, “there have been many historically functioning models of mixed, overlapping, and extra-territorial … jurisdictions” (p. 148) – or, in Richard C. B. Johnsson’s formulation, for most of human history “laws followed the persons, not the territory.” (p. 207)

The various contributions to the volume make a fascinating and, to me, compelling case. (Self-promotion alert: I have a chapter in the book, one of my pieces from the 1990s advocating “virtual cantons.” In the interests of further disclosure, one of the editors, Tucker, is a friend; I recall with fondness a long hike with him down Prague’s Petřín Hill, in the course of which his daughter learned to walk.)

Left-libertarians should be warned, however, about occasional passages that will make their jaws drop, such as Max Borders’ cheery assurance that “if police are cruising your neighborhood, you’ll benefit” (p. 174), or Michael Gibson’s equally cheery assurance that large corporations, despite their “visibly dictatorial” structure, are “not poorly behaved at all.” (p. 167) Perhaps these writers are from a parallel universe?

Amazon currently lists the print edition of the book at over $100, and the Kindle edition at over $50. So I can’t in good conscience urge anyone to buy the volume. Urging you to recommend it to your local academic library is another matter, however.

In what follows I address three more specific issues.

Panarchism and Anarchism

Is panarchism a form of anarchism? Certainly it’s often so regarded. De Puydt himself appears to have envisioned a monopoly apparatus administering the various social contracts, but more recent panarchists have generally dispensed with this element; and even de Puydt included “Proudhon’s anarchy” on the list of political options among which citizens could choose (though how the nonexistence of the monopoly apparatus could be one of the options offered by the monopoly apparatus is something of a mystery).

While granting that the distinction may, at least in some cases, be “semantic rather than substantive,” Tucker is inclined to distinguish anarchism from panarchism, for the following reasons. (Incidentally, Tucker takes anarcho-capitalism in particular to accept some notion of territorial sovereignty, which seems to me to be in most cases a misinterpretation.) To begin with, panarchism demands “voluntarism … in the choice of social contracts,” but has “nothing to say about the contents of contracts,” which “may be highly coercive”; thus while anarchists typically reject “states and institutions that are based on authority, hierarchy, domination, and coercion,” panarchy as Tucker conceives it allows people to contract into “states with coercive powers” that “force their citizens to do things they do not want,” and even licenses a “Hobbesian social contract” in which citizens “give up all their civil rights in return for the state’s guarantee of physical safety.” (p. 9)

Judging from this passage, Tucker does not appear to countenance the idea of inalienable rights – that is, rights that cannot be surrendered in contract. But this is not a point on which panarchists are unanimous. Michael Rozeff, in his contribution to the volume, writes that those who “choose a Government” can “choose to leave a Government.”

They need only retain the option to exit in their choice of government. But persons actually cannot give up that option. They cannot voluntarily give up their wills. (p. 91)

De Puydt himself took an intermediate position between complete freedom of exit and irrevocable self-alienation:

I do not suggest one should be free to change one’s government at any time, causing it to go bankrupt. For this sort of contract between states and citizens one must prescribe a minimum term, say one year. (p. 34)

But if one takes the Rozeffian option of complete freedom of exit, then it’s not clear that the anarchist has any reason to reject the legitimacy of contracting oneself into a dictatorship, since a dictatorship that one can leave at any time is merely like bondage using safe words. A slave with a safe word is no slave at all. And the idea of free experimentation with different systems of rules has been embraced by many anarchists, of both communist and market varieties. (On this point, see Kevin Carson’s recent C4SS study Anarchists Without Adjectives: The Origins of a Movement.)

More broadly, for Tucker anarchism and panarchism must be at odds, because panarchism allows people to “associate and dissociate with states voluntarily,” while anarchism “opposes the very existence of states.” (p. 12) For those accustomed to the Weberian definition of the state as a territorial monopoly of force, this might seem puzzling; if the political entities that panarchists advocate are not territorial monopolies, why call them “states,” or suppose that the anarchist rejection of states must apply to them?

Part of the reason, it seems, is that Tucker does not accept the Weberian definition. He writes:

The Greek polis was essentially a structure of people united by law, not by a relation to a territory. When the Greeks colonized, the future state, the polis, its hierarchical political structure, had already existed on the ship, before a favorable precise site was chosen. (p148)

This is a fair point; but I’d want to make two caveats. First, while the Greek polis may not have been a territorial monopoly, it was certainly a monopoly (over a given population); and second, it always ended up in fact claiming and exercising jurisdiction over a particular territory. In both respects it resembles modern states in a way that competing panarchist regimes do not.

In reply, Tucker would presumably point to the “division of power between the church, the king, and the vassals” in medieval Europe, as well as the “extra-territorial arrangements of mixed sovereignty … in the Ottoman and Chinese empires” (p. 149), as examples of (things we call) states that were not monopolies, territorial or otherwise. Again, a fair point; but I would still insist that these states they were much more like territorial monopolies than are the regimes that panarchists propose. People born into a medieval king’s territory often had a choice as to whether to use a royal court, a manorial court, an ecclesiastical court, or a merchant court, but for the most part they had no choice as to whether or not to be subject in general to the king’s authority. The Ottomans allowed Christians to be governed by Christian rather than Muslim law, but this was a grant of privilege from a territorial ruler who determined the content of the concession. And so on.

In short, then, I would resist calling the panarchist’s political regimes “states”; and I have no problem regarding panarchism, at least in its modern form, as a species of anarchism.

Neglected Precursors

The contributors to the volume identify a number of historical precursors to their ideas. One is de Puydt’s countryman Gustave de Molinari, whose 1849 proposal for competing security agencies is included; another is the anarchist historian Max Nettlau, whose 1909 essay on the subject is also included. Another example, a surprise to me, is Moritz Schlick, the founder of logical positivism. (p. 12) Sadly, his work on the subject – unfinished since, as Tucker rather euphemistically puts it, Schlick “died prematurely” (he was shot by a disgruntled student) – is not included.

There are other precursors that might have been mentioned in the book, but are not. Perhaps the earliest panarchist proposal, albeit made in jest, occurs in Aristophanes’ Acharnians, whose central protagonist, an Athenian citizen, claims the right to decide his own foreign policy, both military and economic, rather than following that of Athens as a whole. A less favorable treatment occurs in Plato’s Republic, in which Athens is described, rather implausibly, as a “supermarket of constitutions” where each citizen can live under whatever regime he likes, regardless of what choice his fellow-ciitzens make. (On panarchist ideas in Aristophanes and Plato, see my recent essay on the subject.)

Another unnoted panarchist precursor is the German idealist Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who defended a right of individual secession in his not-yet-fully-translated 1793 tract Contribution to the Rectification of the Public’s Judgment of the French Revolution. But this is perhaps an unwelcome precursor, given the work’s repulsive – and rhetorically self-defeating – antisemitism. (Rhetorically self-defeating, because Fichte’s ostensible aim in mentioning the Jews is to point to them as a successful example of a non-territorial political community, and so his immediately taking the opportunity to indulge in an antisemitic rant hardly aids his purpose.)

The idea of individual secession was revived independently by Herbert Spencer in his 1850 Social Statics, specifically in his chapter “The Right to Ignore the State” – though while he allows citizens to sever relations with their former state without a change of territory, he does not envision the possibility of their signing up with a competing service provider.

Much closer is the American individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker, who in 1887 wrote:

There are many more than five or six Churches in England, and it frequently happens that members of several of them live in the same house. There are many more than five or six insurance companies in England, and it is by no means uncommon for members of the same family to insure their lives and goods against accident or fire in different companies. Does any harm come of it? Why, then, should there not be a considerable number of defensive associations in England, in which people, even members of the same family, might insure their lives and goods against murderers or thieves?

(Tucker incidentally takes the side of Rozeff against his homonym on the question of inalienability, maintaining that “no man can make himself so much a slave as to forfeit the right to issue his own emancipation proclamation.”) Tucker’s disciple Stephen Byington agreed, pointing to the fact that in Kansas City, the state line “runs right through the edge of the city, among popular streets,” so that “[m]en who live on the same street are subject to different laws.” (Byington also mentions the exemptions for Christians in Muslim countries.) Another Tucker disciple, Francis Tandy, held similar views.

Economic Justice

There is one objection to panarchism that I suspect will be widely raised, especially by Rawlsian liberals, and I don’t think it gets much discussion in the book. That objection is that panarchism is economically unfair.

”You want a redistributive state?” Rich Ralph asks Poor Petunia. “Go ahead and sign up for one. But my rich friends and I are all going to sign up for something else. Have fun redistributing wealth among your impoverished pals, but count us out.”

At this point the Rawlsian liberal says: “Look, Ralph: you and your rich friends, and Petunia and her poor friends, have all been part of the same society-wide cooperative endeavor for mutual advantage; they’ve brought you your caviar nachos, you’ve paid their salaries, and so on. We need to ask whether the fruits of that cooperation are being fairly distributed, or whether the situation has been objectionably exploitative. For you to simply pull out and thus declare yourself exempt from the redistributive laws that Petunia and her friends want to pass is rather too much like a thief declaring that he’s going to sign up with a regime that says theft is okay (or at least that theft by members of that regime against members of other regimes is okay) so he’s not bound by the anti-theft laws that his victims want to pass. You can secede from their authority, but they can’t secede from the externalities you’re dumping on them.”

There are a number of different ways that a panarchist could respond to the Rawlsian liberal, but I suspect the most effective would be to show, along the lines that left-libertarians have suggested, that it’s precisely the absence of panarchy (or in other words, the presence of a monopoly state) that is chiefly responsible for the economic disparity with which the Rawlsian is concerned. However, this would require taking sides on issues that at least some panarchists seem to want to remain neutral on, such as the comparative merits of left-libertarian and right-libertarian economic analysis.

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