Over at the Anagorist Blog, my post on left-libertarianism is referenced and the author makes an insightful comment:
“Simply put, the difference between left-libertarians and anarcho-capitalists is one of style, not substance. The left-libertarian definition of capitalism is exactly equal to the anarcho-capitalist (and also, increasingly, tea party) definition of corporatism, and the left-libertarian definition of free market is exactly equal to the anarcho-capitalist definition of capitalism. They both hold the so-called non-aggression principle not only as non-negotiable, but as the central feature of their ideology; the necessary and sufficient condition from which the rest of either left-libertarian or anarcho-capitalist theory can be derived.”
I felt compelled to comment:
“This is very well stated and nails big point of what I was getting at in my piece criticizing free market “left-libertarians”. The typical ancap will distinguish capitalism and corporatism. The left-libertarian in the style of C4SS typically serves a similar function in the way they try to distinguish “the free market” from capitalism. Because for the most part what the ancap means by “capitalism” is the same thing, loaded with much the same ideological stuff, as what the left-lib means by “the freed market”. Most people of both groups will still hold steadfast to the same basic principles: self-ownership and property rights, the market as the pursuit of self-interest creating mutual benefit and social good, the state as the aggressor on the market, and so on.”
To expound, the main economic difference is that free market left-libertarians concede that corporatism is a form of capitalism and try to disassociate themselves from the word capitalism, while standard anarcho-capitalists proudly weild the word capitalism and deny that corporatism is a form of capitalism. At the same time, many if not most left-libertarians hold to much the same basic ideas and rhetoric about the market and property as anarcho-capitalists. Often, they can be seen as trying to shoehorn various radical ideas into more or less anarcho-capitalist terms. This is why I often perceive them as either confused or even engaging in a bit of appropriation.
From personal experience, some of the people who were involved with left-libertarianism some years ago who experimented with ideas ended up moving on to something else, something that just isn’t libertarianism. But your average young online left-libertarian is initially someone who comes from an anarcho-capitalist background or a background in the general American libertarian movement, who has become curious about the left and radicalism. I think it’s relevant to note how that may color perspective, when you have people approaching the left who are ingrained in the beliefs touted by pro-capitalist libertarian organizations.
Left-libertarianism often has the pretense of engaging in a kind of synthesis or reconciliation. But this typically is done in such a way that keeps the core of free market libertarianism safe, and almost never in a way that forces the libertarian to seriously re-examine and perhaps discard some of their beliefs. Or rather, they never face the issues standing in the way of a synthesis. My contention is that if one seriously rolls with critical analysis of capitalism and alternative radical views, one’s core libertarian beliefs necessarily start to dissolve. There really is no reconciliation of the sort that left-libertarians seem to want. They would have to give up on the mythos of the market to have a coherant position. But they want to have their cake and eat it too.
While left-libertarians would like to think that they are being witty and shoving a counter-intuitive truth in our faces by using rhetoric like “free market anti-capitalism”, they really are demonstrating a lack of critical engagement with their own ideas. While it is true that some left-libertarians may make a few genuine deviations, overall they tout the general free market libertarian line (perhaps tailored in such a way as to be a bit edgy) that is well deserving of the criticism it gets. Anarcho-capitalism-with-a-heart-for-the-poor deserves a special kind of criticism for its absurdity.