What does it mean to be an anarcho-capitalist? In order to understand that, one must understand what anarcho-capitalism is.
What is Anarcho-Capitalism?
The best definition I found was on the Mises.org wiki:
Anarcho-capitalism is a libertarian and individualist anarchist political philosophy that advocates the elimination of the state in favor of individual sovereignty in a free market.
There's a great deal to unpack in that definition so I also suggest the following YouTube video by Bryan Caplan for a 4min broader explanation including some examples.
I was apolitical growing up. I couldn't care less about politics and I couldn't stand when politics would come up in discussion. I was raised in a Republican household. Republicans were the party of free enterprise and and lower taxes, and the Democrats were for more government control and higher taxes, therefore Republicans were good and Democrats were bad. I suspect my parents held more nuanced views than that but I don't recall ever hearing anything positive spoken about a Democrat.
That binary position stuck until I became interested in politics and the political process in the wake of the housing bust and healthcare reform discussions in 2008-2009. By that point I had become a father of two and that had begun to change my perspective. Starting to pay attention to these things also had me revisiting some of the things I questioned growing up. The thing that ate at me the most was the Great Depression. We spent a great deal of time on that period in high school but what was never adequately explained was how FDR and the Federal Government solved the Great Depression. The history books talked about the New Deal and the WPA and all the government programs FDR launched and how great they were and how fantastic he was, then World War II happened and that was it. After the war ends it's right to the 50's.
Researching that topic was the flashpoint in my journey to becoming anti-state. It began with Thomas Sowell's articles on how FDR actually made the Great Depression worse. From there I took what I learned about economics in college and augmented it with other teachings of Sowell, Milton Friedman and others. I was exploring libertariansim in general and found a minarchism to be the most appropriate label for my beliefs. I still believed the State was necessary for some services; after all who would build the roads? Reason Magazine became a website I visited almost daily. Stumbling onto Mises.org and Murray Rothbard's writings, however, changed all that.
The non-aggression principle is the logical foundation upon which libertarianism is based. Essentially, the NAP is an ethical stance that aggression (outside of self-defense) is morally wrong. That concept should be familiar to most as it's found in many religions. For example, in Christianity it's a variation of The Golden Rule.
The writings of Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard and many others were a huge influence in learning to apply the NAP consistently. Occupational licensing laws, anti-vice laws (drugs, gambling, prostitution, etc...), minimum wage laws and so on, while seemingly well-intentioned, are all violations of the NAP (setting aside that from an economic perspective they're counterproductive) and therefore must be rejected as illegitimate.
Government is the Problem
Once you start to peel back those first layers you begin to see the insidious nature of those and many other laws, and how they're used by both Republicans and Democrats for control. You also begin to see how everything the State does is manipulative and coercive, and how the State uses political parties as a means to distract and divide. A population that's too busy fighting each other is not paying attention to the real villain. Consider that no matter which party is the majority party in Washington, government always gets bigger and more corrupt, and we in turn suffer. Obama was supposed to bring hope and change and claimed his administration would err on the side of being transparent. He prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all other Presidents in US history combined. His record on war is just as bad. He authorized more drone strikes in just his first year in office than G.W. Bush's entire presidency. Republicans whined about spending and deficits when Obama was in office but both Bush and Trump passed spending bills with massive spending and unending deficits.
Tom Woods sums it up quite nicely in this short video:
I Understand Capitalism, but Anarchy Though?
Anarchy comes from midieval Latin, an- meaning without and arhkos- meaning ruler. Anarchy at its core is an environment without rulers. It has become a term many (most?) people negatively associate with chaos and lawlessness and a society filled with wanton violence, which is the result of years and years of repetition by the government education system. It should shock no one that central rulers would be instilling fear and doubt of a system in which they are rendered unnecessary. The reality is quite different, however, and once you stop to think about it, you'll see we already experience bits of anarchy every day.
No Rulers Doesn't Mean No Rules
Society is already full of social norms and customs that don't require laws, police, courts and prison to enforce.
- Shaking hands when you meet someone
- Appropriate attire for an environment
- Saying please and thank you
- Going to the back of the line
Humans are social creatures and want to be accepted. The social pressure to conform to a set of acceptable behavioral standards will get people to comply or risk being cast out of the group.
On top of social customs there are formal rules people must follow regarding how we act on the property of others, but again there are no laws or police involvement. For example, there are rules of your house that residents and visitors must abide by. When you attend a sporting event you may be subjected to a bag search or other security measures. Restaurants may have certain dress code requirements for entry. The list goes on and on.
For anyone interested in seeing how law without government could work, I suggest this 10min video by Man Against The State
But Anarcho-Capitalism isn't Practical/Possible!
If I were to tell you I believe we should have a society free of murders, you wouldn't respond by telling me that belief isn't practical therefore we shouldn't bother trying, right? I don't believe in a State-less society because of its practicality, I believe in it because it's moral. I believe people should be allowed to make voluntary arrangements with other consenting individuals and we all should be allowed to act as we wish so long as we do not harm others.
Alright, Maybe I Want to Learn More. Where do I Start?
This post was not meant to be a deep dive into the ideology. If you are interested in learning more, you can't go wrong starting with Anatomy of the State by Murray Rothbard. It's a relatively short, free read over at Mises.org. I also suggest poking around YouTube, and reading/listening to Tom Woods. That should be more than enough to get you started down the rabbit hole and give you a solid foundation for further exploration.