Questions for Gary Chartier:

Commentary for the Molinari Society’s 2010 Author Meets Critics Session

by Kevin A. Carson

1. You have identified yourself as a libertarian and a market anarchist, and participate in a loosely organized left-libertarian community in which Murray Rothbard’s version of natural law philosophy is one of the primary influences. The new classical natural law philosophy in EJNL shares common Aristotelian roots with Rothbard’s natural law philosophy, but differs a great deal in the particulars. Can you give your views on the mutual compatibility of these differing versions of natural law, and in particular on what the new classical natural law has to say about principles (like self-ownership and nonaggression) which are viewed as axiomatic by the market anarchist community?

2. A number of the rights you specify in EJNL (especially those which fall into the conventional category of positive rights, insofar as they involve a right to positive conditions conducive to self-actualization) seem to go beyond a framework of negative rights strictly deducible from self-ownership and nonaggression. Is the conflict real, or only apparent?

3. You advocate, in particular, a set of legal guarantees that protect against racial and sexual discrimination and arbitrary dismissal, and provide – among other things – for a degree of worker representation in enterprise decision-making processes that would probably cause most mainstream libertarian advocates of free markets and private property to reach for their guns. To what extent do you see such rules as rooted, 1) in the basic libertarian law code governing an entire contiguous territory, versus 2) in the bylaws of voluntary associations?

4a. What are your background assumptions regarding the types of voluntary associations likely to predominate in a post-state society? Do you see membership in extended family compounds, neighborhood cohousing units, intentional communities, lodges and other mutual aid networks, villages with land governed by common rights, etc., as the norm for most people in such a society? And do you see the guarantee of economic security through minimal safety nets, guarantees of a defined share of common land, etc., as the likely norm for such communities?

4b. By way of comparison, in rural villages under anarchist control in Spain, the norm was for the peasant commune to organize some agricultural functions communally for the village lands as a whole, to allocate family shares of the common land from one year to the next, and to tie certain mutual aid provisions to membership in the commune. But individuals or families that preferred to take their aliquot share of the village land and work it entirely separately were free to do so – even if it was perceived as a rather eccentric and anti-social thing to do. Likewise, in Ursula LeGuin’s anarcho-communist society of Anarres, propertarian hermits were free to possess their own individual property and to organize commercial operations of buying and selling with other consenting individuals. Do you see this as a model for a post-state society in which voluntary communal institutions and gift economies are the norm?

5. What, in your opinion, does all this say about the prevailing market anarchist (and a fortiori anarcho-capitalist) vision of a post-state society, which implicitly assumes that most functions will be organized through conventional for-profit business firms? Is there any reason to believe that, in a society based on individual self-ownership and voluntary association between consenting individuals, most social organization will take the form of atomized individuals interacting through the cash nexus? Is there any reason, other than the unfortunate affinity too many conventional libertarians have for a model of society organized around commercial firms, that business firms should be regarded as more “natural” or “libertarian” forms of voluntary association than the kinds of communal institutions Pyotr Kropotkin described in the villages and free towns of Europe?

Kevin A. Carson
Center for a Stateless Society