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. Only this definition, I argue, properly communicates what a free market really is and only 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”.
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