The term “voluntarism”, rooted in the word “voluntary” and defined as a philosophy which holds that all human action should be voluntary in nature, has emerged as a replacement for the term “anarcho-capitalism”. The reason is obvious: both “anarchy” and “capitalism” have extremely negative stigmas associated with them, and the term is therefore its own worst enemy. Anarcho-capitalism invites disgust where voluntarism invites curiosity, anarcho-capitalism is immediately tossed aside while voluntarism is given the opportunity to make its case.
Nonetheless, there is no escaping anarchy or capitalism in voluntarism. Capitalism, of course, appears to be almost synonymous with cronyism in today’s lexicon, and so be it – I say throw away the word, created by Marx who intended to imply that “capitalists” and not consumers are the ultimate beneficiaries of the system, and adopt the term “free market” or some other liberty-esque word in its place.
But anarchy has a different problem. Anarchy is technically not inaccurately defined by the masses as “the absence or abolition of government”. In fact, it is that very correct definition that incites fear and repulsion – people immediately picture buildings burning to the ground, thugs looting and killing at will, and society crumbling into an “every man for himself” world war. This image of a never ending riot is unaided by the so-called “anarchists” who show off their disdain for government by defacing property and other acts of violence. If, in fact, anarchy is a world with no rulers, these anarchists claiming rule over others with their violence are committing crimes antithetical to anarchy itself.
Anarchy should not be feared. Murray Rothbard astutely pointed out we are already in a “nation state” anarchy at all times, with no “world government” to arbitrate conflicts between states. Clearly, the world hasn’t collapsed in ruin, and I’d like to continue his analysis to show why pure anarchy would be even less likely to do so. The actual ruling individuals in a state, when they aggress against individuals in another state, rarely bear the consequences of their violence. The United States generals and politicians, for example, have not had to pay for the death of a single innocent life claimed in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, they never will.
In stark contrast, a man committing such an act of violence in anarchy will suffer directly from the ramifications of his actions – often, he puts himself in harm’s way, and he will almost certainly be prosecuted for his crimes. It is clear, then, that in anarchy it is impossible to imagine the state of affairs of today: the killings of a massive scale conducted by state bureaucrats, the corrupt police-state’s incessant violations of human rights, and the universal robbery committed through taxation and inflation. Instead, violence would be small in scale and dealt with decisively by individuals interested in defending their human rights. Such a system is undoubtedly superior to the state.