Who Shaves the Barber?

Left Market Anarchism | WSB #47

July 3, 2018

Political philosophy begins with the question: who should have political authority and why? Anarchism answers: no one. Popular mythology tells us this is synonymous with chaos and disorder, but there are many reasons to doubt this must be so. In this episode, I argue that anarchism - properly understood - is in fact the correct answer to the problem of political authority; it is the only answer that avoids unjust hierarchies, provides for individual and social freedom, and optimizes for general welfare. This is because, in a word, society is best seen (and run) as a web, not as a pyramid.

Much of my focus is on specifying what I mean by anarchism, and which version of anarchism I'm arguing for. Specifically, I argue that the notion of a free market - again, properly understood - is at the heart of anarchism. At the same time, I argue against "capitalism" as being a confused and rather unhelpful notion, quite removed from the notion of a free market. I also argue against popular libertarian approaches to free markets and anarchism, such as the so-called "non-aggression principle" and property rights. Instead, I zero in on a notion of free market defined as a cultural norm in which monopolies are viewed as unacceptable. This definition, I argue, properly communicates what a free market really is and it provides the necessary conditions for a free and prosperous society. It is, at the same time, a maximally permissive definition: it requires no particular views on interpersonal ethics or lifestyle, and is as compatible with (for example) communism as it is with more familiar notions of "free markets".

Visit http://williamnava.com or more info!

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!


"'Capitalism' and 'socialism' are anti-concepts" (Roderick Long, video)
"Market Anarchism as Constitutionalism" (Roderick Long)
Pressing the Button (website)

Topics discussed:

0:20 - Intro and disclaimers
5:09 - The question of political authority
7:49 - "The will of the people" justification
12:19 - Resource allocation and "a web, not a pyramid"
14:49 - Unjust hierarchies: the state, capitalism, and others
21:48 - What is capitalism?
26:33 - What is a free market?
31:05 - Against free markets as non-aggression
36:23 - Against free markets as property rights
40:04 - Free markets as anti-monopoly cultural norm
42:35 - Competition as the source of regulation
48:18 - Property rights compatible tyranny
52:44 - Cultural norms
56:12 - Scale, weakness, communism
1:01:50 - More on monopoly, hierarchy, and coordination
1:07:32 - Objections: social order, market regulation, collusion
1:12:44 - Objections: public goods, externalities, defense
1:20:46 - Objections: rent & interest, natural monopolies, epistemic conservatism
1:25:01 - Objections: utopian, people are evil
1:26:26 - Competition as cooperation