This article originally appeared on RadicalCapitalist.org.
It’s a common tendency within libertarian/anarchist circles to perpetuate the myth that anti-authoritarianism is a nonpartisan position. The term “anti-authoritarian” has garnered sudden popularity in response to the constant attacks waged by cultural Marxists against free expression, free association, and the Americanesque ideal of an unimpeded pursuit of happiness. The rising numbers of those finding value in the defense of these concepts is encouraging. However, like with any popular uprising, subversive influence will always enter the Kreis. Despite what grandstanding anarcho-centrists would have you believe, anti-authoritarianism is not outside the left/right political paradigm. There are very distinct and definitive philosophical interpretations that determine whether one’s anti-authoritarianism serves to benefit the right or benefit the left.
In general, I like to distinguish the right vs left in very simple terms. That being; the valuing of freedom over equality vs valuing equality over freedom. In this context, I feel the distinguishment is very accurate and relevant. Left libertarians tend to focus more on justifying freedom from social norms or hyper individualism. They see any attempt at instituting behavioral constraints as authoritarian. Unless of course those constraints are aimed against those in opposition to the various dissolute lifestyles they endorse. A notable example of this perspective would be the Agorist.
Agorism, also known as revolutionary market anarchism, seeks to use counter-economics as a means towards creating a society in which all peaceful interactions are legitimized. On face value, this is consistent with libertarian philosophy, but that doesn’t dismiss its overt leftist bias. Agorists appear to prefer the abolition of authority in general rather than simply decentralizing current authoritarian forces from state to private management. Many agorists or left-anarchists seem to share a common disdain for both voluntary and involuntary hierarchy. I noticed this first hand during the Anarchapulco conference in Acapulco, Mexico. During the conference, there was a dispute between an attendee and hotel management which nearly lead to his expulsion from the premises. The attendee in question decided to smoke marijuana on the property, despite the property owners explicit ruling that such action was prohibited. The attendee became defensive and rebellious when approached by the managing staff, arguing that his actions were voluntary and didn’t cause harm. While I agree that smoking marijuana on a private outdoor terrace is completely peaceful, the respect for private property rights should be honored above all else.
Granted this example is anecdotal, but it supports the argument being made. Yes, hotel management telling someone they can’t smoke on the property is an authoritarian dictation, but authority should not be opposed simply because the regulated actor is peaceful. This includes cultural authority as well.
Many left-libertarians use the same anti-authoritarian arguments against allegedly “inconvenient” structures of voluntary authority such as the church, nuclear families, tribes, markets or overall societal norms. This is typically done with the intention of destroying barriers to personal libertine lifestyle preferences. Their intent is to abolish institutions that value judgment and social regulation so that they may enjoy free inconsequential reign to pursue polyamory & psychedelics. Left-libertarians/agorists will often engage in these behaviors/activities, not because they have a genuine personal interest in them, but rather because they’re taboo. Such a mindset indicates a juvenile understanding of and opposition to authority. Moreover, it’s no coincidence that such a stance is akin to the communist belief that any power differential between institutions or individuals is invalid.
The idea of an anti-authoritarian universalism is nothing short of Marxist fantasy. It is a utopian vision that suggests the mere rejection of authority will lead all adherents to peacefully cooperate, coexist and prosper. However, the reality is that within any moralistic framework, statist or otherwise, the preferences of right and left wing philosophy will always conflict and be morally opposed.
Right libertarians recognize that even absent the state, different things will yield different tolerance among different groups. This is the reality of human biodiversity and respecting individuals’ preferences in relation to their private property. To suggest otherwise is to provoke conflict. Libertarians know that an attempt to use the state as a means of discounting the legitimacy of private property rights is aggression and creates violence. What we must also realize is that discounting the legitimacy of private property rights via non-state actions will likewise lead to the same conflict present in a statist context. The ultimate foundation of liberty is private property, not anti-authority.