People calling themselves “anarcho-capitalists” usually want to define “capitalism” as the same thing as a free market, and “socialism” as state intervention against such. But what then is a free market? If you mean simply all voluntary transactions that occur without state interference, then it’s a circular and redundant definition. In that case, all anarchists are “anarcho-capitalists”, even the most die-hard anarcho-syndicalist.
Defining capitalism as a system of private property is equally problematic, because where would you draw the line between private and public? Under a state, state property is considered “public” but as an anarchist, you know that’s a sham. It’s private property owned by a group that calls themselves the State. Whether something is owned by 10 people or 10 million doesn’t make it more or less “private”. (...)
[T]hat mass accumulation and concentration of capital is impossible under anarchism, has several aspects.
One big one is that the cost of protecting property rises dramatically as the amount of property owned increases, without a state. This is something that rarely gets examined by libertarians, but it’s crucial.
One reason for this is that large scale property ownership is never all geographically massed. A billionaire doesn’t have all his property in one small geographic area. In fact, this sort of absentee-ownership is necessary to become a billionaire in the first place. Most super-wealthy own stock in large corporations that have many factories, retail outlets, offices and the like all over the place. Leaving aside whether joint-stock companies are even likely in anarchy for now, this geographical dispersion means that the cost of protecting all of this property is enormous. Not only because of the sheer number of guardians necessary, but because one must pay those guardians enough that they don’t just decide to take over the local outlet. You could hire guardians to watch the guardians, but that in itself becomes a new problem…
But the property needs to be protected not only from domestic trespassers, but from foreign invasion as well. Let us imagine that an anarcho-capitalist society does manage to form, Ancapistan, if we will. Next to Ancapistan is a statist capitalist nation, let us call it Aynrandia. Well, the Aynrandians decide “hmm, Ancapistan lacks a state to protect its citizens. We should take over and give them one, for their own good of course.” At this point the billionaires in Ancapistan must either capitulate, welcome the Aynrandians, and Ancapistan is no more, or they must raise a private army to repel the Aynrandians. Not only will the second option be ridiculously expensive, for the reasons I’ve outlined above, but a lot of property will get destroyed if the Aynrandians decide to engage in modern total warfare. Ahh but what about all the middle class people in Ancapistan, won’t they form a militia to defend themselves? Well yes, but they won’t form a militia to defend a bunch of billionaires’ property.
The anarcho-capitalists often have a nonsensical rosy picture of the boss-worker relationship that has no basis in reality. Almost no one wakes up and goes in to work thinking “thank the heavens for my wonderful boss, who was kind enough to employ a loser like me”. When external invasion arrives, the middle classes will defend themselves and their own property. But they’re not going to risk their lives for Wal-mart without getting a piece of the action.
So, due to the rising cost of protecting property, there comes a threshold level, where accumulating more capital becomes economically inefficient, simply in terms of guarding the property. Police and military protection is the biggest subsidy that the State gives to the rich. In some sense the Objectivists are correct that capitalism requires a government to protect private property. (...)
What is likely, judging from history, is that something like a private syndicalism would arise, where owners of value-producing property would lease it out to organizations of workers, simply because it would be easier for them than trying to hire people on a semi-permanent basis.
Mining was organized like this for quite a while, for instance, until the advent of bank-financed joint stock mining companies, which bought out most of the prospector/owners in the 1800s.
So we see, even assuming an “anarcho-capitalist” property regime, anything recognizable as “capitalism” to anyone else could not exist. In fact the society would look a lot like what “anarcho-socialists” think of as “socialism”. Not exactly like it, but much closer than anything they’d imagine as capitalism.
However, under anarchism, even such a strict property regime is not guaranteed. There is no way to impose it on a community that wants to operate a different way. I predict there will lots of different communities and systems that will compete for people to live in them and whatever seems to work the best will tend to spread. There’s nothing the anarcho-capitalists could do to prevent people from agreeing to treat property in a more fluid or communal manner than they’d prefer. Nor is there anything the anarcho-socialists could do to prevent a community from organizing property in a more rigid or individualistic manner than they’d prefer.
For, just as anarcho-capitalism is impossible, anarcho-socialism is also impossible, depending on how you define things.