Transcending Anarcho-semantics (freed market types)

[cross-posted at Brainpolice at The Mises Community]

There is a reoccuring problem that occurs within internal libertarian and anarchist discourse that I like to call the anarcho-semantics problem. The anarcho-semantics problem most often occurs in discussions and debates between socialist oriented anarchists and free market libertarians, in which there is a massive communication barrier and consequentially endless misunderstandings. The meanings attached to terms such as capitalism, socialism, libertarianism and anarchism vary significantly, and consequentially discourse often devolves into confused flame wars between partisan camps. Both similiarities and distinctions between various partisan camps are blurred, and confused multi-identity complexes may emerge. Each respective camp has its own esoteric language and specific choice of associations.

Those who identify as socialist or collectivist tend to think that laissez-faire economics is merely apologetics for rich or privileged elites, and thus they tend to close their minds to it from the start. As they understand it, capitalism is an inherently authoritarian system that creates negative conditions for workers and people of meager means. Thus, anyone identifying as capitalist is assumed to be defending such negative conditions and various groups of rich or privileged elites. As a consequence, they may tend to bait those who identify as capitalist or individualist into defending such things. Furthermore, any attempt to create a link between laissez-faire economics and anarchism is viewed as a contradiction in terms, and thus those who do flirt with such a combination are demonized.

In response to such attacks, those who identify as capitalist or individualist tend to function in a number of ways. Some of them truly are apologists for the conditions and privileges in question, and thus they don’t even need to be baited into playing such a role. This role is known as vulgar libertarianism. Others do not have such intentions but allow themselves to be baited on and off into playing such a role. This is vulgar libertarianism in a less overt sense in that the person is being baited. And still yet others have no such intentions and have no choice but to repeatedly attempt to clarify what their position actually is and that they actually do not favor or defend the conditions and privileges in question.

The fine tuned individualist quite likely actually opposes the very same privileges and negative conditions that the collectivist or socialist does, only they approach it from a different angle and use different terminology. However, the general tendency in political discourse is for even these people to be attacked as if they defend such things, consequentially erecting a gigantic straw man of their position. They have no choice but to continually clarify that a genuinely free market, as they define and understand it, should not be conflated with the status quo. But the naive socialist or collectivist types continue to mistakenly act as if laissez-faire is the status quo, and hence continues to point the finger at all laissez-faire advocates to blame them for the status quo, which becomes a propaganda tool.

Those who identify as capitalist or individualist tend to think that socialism is an inherently authoritarian system that creatives negative conditions and special privileges. From their perspective, socialists merely engage in apologetics for government controls on people’s private lives. Socialism and government control are essentially the same thing in their worldview. Thus, anyone identifying as socialist is assumed to be defending such government controls. As a consequence, they may tend to bait those who identify as socialist or collectivist into defending such things, including the dictatorships and violent actions that have been perpetuated in the name of socialism or collectivism. Furthermore, any attempt to create a link between socialism and libertarianism is viewed as a contradiction in terms, and thus those who do flirt with such a combination are demonized.

In response to such attacks, those who identify as socialist or collectivist tend to function in a number of ways. Some of them truly are apologists for virtual absolute government control and historical acts of overt violence perpetuated in the name of socialism, and thus they don’t even need to be baited into playing such a role. Others do not necessarily have such intentions but nonetheless allow themselves to be baited on and off into playing such a role. And still yet others have no such intentions and have no choice but to repeatedly attempt to clarify what their position actually is and that they actually do not favor government control or any kind of overt violence.

The fine tuned collectivist quite likely actually opposes the very same government control and overt violence that the capitalist or individualist does, only they approach it from a different angle and use different terminology. However, the general tendency in political discourse is for even these people to be attacked as if they defend such things, consequentially erecting a gigantic straw man of their position. They have no choice but to continually clarify that a genuinely socialistic society, as they define and understand it, should not be conflated with the status quo or much of anything that most people would call socialism in name. But the partisan capitalist and vulgar libertarian types continues to point the finger at all socialists or collectivists to blame them for the status quo and accuse them advocating a return to the same methods that the Soviet Union used, which becomes a propaganda tool.

What one finds interesting upon a nuanced analysis is that the most honest and honorable people from both of the capitalistic and socialistic camps tend to overlap in their desired ends. They actually share many goals, such as the improvement of living standards for the masses, general prosperity, peace and cooperation. But the warped nature of the contemporary political spectrum has skewed and polarized their associations and alliances, pitting them against eachother while pushing them into alliances with groups that theoretically are their political enemies. Thus we free market libertarians allying with conservatives and libertarian socialists allying with marxists and leninists. And we see libertarian socialists spending more time on propaganda campaigns against market anarchists than they spend critisizing authoritarian socialists and actual conservatives.

When the semantic ambiguities and partisan misunderstandings are whittled away, what one is left with is mostly a diverse group of people with commonly good intentons who happen to use entirely different terminology and conceptual angles to describe, support and oppose what is practically the exact same set of things, and beyond this it boils down to little more than a matter of personal preferance. They’re all opposed to the status quo and the negative conditions and special privileges that are associated with it. The concepts and systems that they use to describe what they support and oppose varies, but the essential content of the matter is surpisingly similar. This is not necessarily to say that they are completely identical, but by the very least they are nowhere near as far apart as the semantics and contemporary politics involved would suggest.

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