Does the label anarcho-capitalist accurately describe any libertarian?

Three reasons the term “anarcho-capitalist” fails

Some libertarians — including some of our best friends — like to call themselves anarcho-capitalists (an-cap for short). But please consider three ways this label fails. 

Failure #1: The word anarchy no longer means what it once did.

Anarchy meant “no ruler” to the ancient Greeks. Many modern libertarians use it the same way. But current usage defines the word as meaning violence, chaos, and lawlessness, largely because of bad things done by left-anarchists. Thus, the word anarchy no longer conveys what these libertarians want it to mean. An effort to restore the original meaning might be worthwhile were it not for….

Failure #2: The word anarchy doesn’t describe what most anarcho-capitalists advocate.

Most “anarcho-capitalists” advocate institutions of non-state governance. Murray Rothbard, the supreme “anarcho-capitalist”, wrote whole books describing such institutions. He favored non-state police, courts, defense agencies, and various companies that impose rules via contract, like Underwriters Laboratories. Those are all institutions of governance. So…

What “anarcho-capitalists” really oppose is not governance, but The State, which operates through aggressive means. If the U.S. “government” decided to only use force defensively (including no taxation and no monopoly), most “anarcho-capitalists” could embrace it. Indeed…

The term anarchist more properly applies to The State, which is indeed violent, chaotic, and lawless (unaccountable).

Failure #3: The label anarcho-capitalism assigns too much importance to capitalism.

The word capitalism describes only the part of the market process that uses savings to expand production. This excludes many other aspects of the market such as trade and prices. It makes no sense to use the name of a part to describe the whole.

Correct labeling

It’s fun to shock and awe people. The term anarcho-capitalism certainly strikes a rebel pose. But after the fun is over, it makes sense in no other way. Labels like voluntaryist and post-statist do a better job and should be preferred.

Jim Babka

About the Author

Jim Babka

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Jim Babka is co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and President of, Inc. He’s an author and former talk show host.
Previously, he was the President of, Inc., defending free press rights all the way to the Supreme Court. He and Susie are the proud, home-schooling parents of three teenagers. He enjoys theology, UFC, target practice, and Tai Chi.

Perry Willis

About the Author

Perry Willis

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Perry Willis is the co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and Downsize DC. He was the National Director of the Libertarian National Committee on two occasions, and ran two Libertarian Party presidential campaigns. He has an extensive background in marketing and fundraising, and has ghost written direct mail appeals for numerous luminaries, including Karl Hess, Ron Paul, Charlton Heston and Harry Browne.

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Show Comments 8


  1. Once again, you hit the nail on the head. Anarchy is the State. Self-rulership is what we desire, except where we come together voluntarily – by individual/personal decision [not “social contract”] – to seek strength in community. If we cannot decide for ourselves what will will and will not participate in we are not even remotely free.

  2. I think that Libertarianism will be a market event. That is, there may be other alternatives available but the libertarian movement has so much more to offer than all of the alternatives. If the government would become ineffective for whatever reason (loss of funds, bankrupt, etc.), the population would feel safer under the “L” umbrella.
    Advantages being not having to defend their choice with violence, Realization that there would be localized free market tools such as neighborhood security and fire protection services, local insurance, means of addressing aggression with use of an arbitrator,
    There are many advantages to the free market, non aggression, way of life. The most important freedom book in my library is The Market for Liberty. It succinctly points out the advantages and means of securing a liberty minded community by intellectual means.


    – Nick

  3. The typical infant human’s first experience of governance arises from our planet’s oldest governing institution: The human family.

    Families generally self-govern. There are regular times and places for meals. There are practices of personal hygiene. One is taught not to urinate or defecate where the family stores it’s food supply. One learns the benefits of cooperation, because one’s elders’ empathy brings comfort while resistance has adverse consequences.

    Are families perfect?

    No more so than individuals.

    Still, the family that self-governs effectively, tends to have fewer adverse interactions with the neighboring families.

    This indicates that if one wants to invest in creating a more-peaceful and orderly planet, the place to start is by assisting families in self-governing more effectively. Using force to intervene, is only a temporary fix, because people must be reminded of the need for personal self-governance, if they are to understand why peace results when we are mindful of what our actions may do to others. In short, teaching self-governance is necessary to create peace. Politics, the organized use of retaliatory force, is not a guarantee of peace.

  4. I think of anarchy as lawlessness. And self proclaimed anarchists tend to have a deep sense of what is right. The lawless ones are those in civil government who abuse and usurp power under the color of law. They hide behind the invisible thin blue line. But alas, the emperor has no close.

  5. 1. Just because someone tries to re define a word. Doesn’t mean the original meaning is not still valid.

    2. If the state dropped it’s claim that it has a legitimate moral right to use violence, then it no longer is the sate but rather a community organization.

    3. Capitalism is a moral principle of ownership. I as an individual own the means of production that I legitimately earned. Capitalism is also the core principle of self ownership as individuals are ultimately the source of all production. When I do something, I have produced something and I am the one who owns it. The value of what I have produced is valued by the market.

    An owner is the entity that has the moral right to ultimately decide what happens to something.

    1. Original meanings do have some value, historically, but current usage provides the current definition. Even so, we are perfectly free to try to change current usage if the benefit is worth the effort. Personally, I don’t see much benefit in trying to change the current definition of anarchy given that there are better words to use, such as voluntaryist and post-statist. But I do recognize that some people like the rebel pose communicated by the words anarchy and anarchist. That has some minor value as a niche use.

      You’re exactly right when you say that The State would cease to be The State if it dropped its claim to be the only legitimate agent of aggressive violence. That is what we’re trying to achieve.

      There are two problems with making ownership the primary definition of capitalism. First, it completely ignores the root of the word, which is capital. Therefore, the definition of capitalism should have something to do with that word. Second, the Marxists argued that the workers create the wealth, not the people who provided the capital. To counter that argument we need to explain what capital is, where it comes from, and its crucial role in the productive process. THis is best done if we talk about the saving, non-consuming, delayed gratification aspects of capital formation. By tying the definition of capitalism to the meaning of capital we are able to point out that anyone who has savings or investments are capitalists. That changes capitalists from being a them, to being an us. If we can achieve that transformation throughout the culture, then we win. If we fail to do that then we will probably lose the linguistic battle, and the political battle with it.

      Thanks for your comment.

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