There is a common charge against voluntaryists and anarcho-capitalists that what we are advocating for is not “true anarchism” because we denounce the vilification of private property and voluntary association and, to their chagrin, embrace it. They point to our willingness to have voluntary hierarchies (such as the relationship between an employer and employee) and argue that true and pure anarchism is the eventual abolishment of any and all hierarchical relationships. This is rooted in the left anarchists desire for equality; a desire that makes their dream of a stateless and property-less society impossible when one follows their ideology to its logical conclusions.
In the end, these anti-hierarchical advocates are just as much for hierarchies than anyone else. In fact, they are worse than most because they inevitably demand a coercive one.
Let us first talk about a hierarchical relationship that anarcho-capitalists have no issue with: an employer-employee relationship. This relationship is hierarchical in nature as the employer gives direction to the employee as to how to apply their labor. The employer profits off of the employee’s labor and it is at this point where the left anarchist points with their accusatory finger that exploitation is occurring. Precisely. Economics is all about exploitation. There are two fundamental principles in economics that make this ok. The first is that all individuals act. This is the Human Action Axiom. It states that all individuals engage in action towards the fulfillment of the ends they value. They economize the scarce means within their control towards the fulfillment of these ends (these ends being perceived uneasiness they wish to satisfy). Many left anarchists acknowledge this principle and seek to refute it a number of different ways under the guise of “logic” and “reason”. What they fail to understand is that the Action Axiom is a synthetic a priori proposition. It is true, not by the meaning of the words per se but by whether or not the synthetic a priori proposition conforms to the way the world is. In this case, it is easily verified that all individuals act towards the fulfillment of ends. If humans did not act or did not need to act, the world would be paradise and everything we would need would be readily available for us when we needed or desired it. It is clear that this is not the human relationship to the real world and that scarcity exists which necessitates action.
Not only that, but the left anarchist, in trying to refute the Action Axiom relies on it as a reality in the real world in order to make their case. Why is that? Because engaging in debate in an attempt to refute it is an action with a desired purpose in the mind of the actor; the refutation of the Action Axiom. It is poor argumentation to use the very principle you are arguing against in its own refutation. This can only mean that the Action Axiom is true and correct and accurately corresponds to reality.
The second economic principle is that, along with people taking action towards the fulfillment of ends, individuals vary in their preferences. I would prefer to have a turkey sandwich for lunch. My friend would prefer soup. We are both seeking to ease a perceived uneasiness (hunger) but our preferences cause us to apply different means towards the achievement of this end. Even the ends can vary among individuals though. One person can shun all material possessions because they value spiritual enlightenment above anything else. Another person embraces materialism because they enjoy a high standard of living and modern amenities while caring little for spiritual enlightenment. The disagreement between voluntaryists and left anarchists is itself a disagreement about preferences. Voluntaryists prefer individual freedom over equality among means. Left anarchists prefer equality above individual freedom. By engaging us in debate, they prove this second fact about humans and reality; that all of us vary in our preferences.
This brings us back to our employer-employee hierarchical relationship. This is a relationship that does not involve coercion. In fact, the employee can disassociate with their employer and sell their labor to another should a better opportunity arise. This is because there is a trade that is occurring. The employer is exchanging money in the way of wages in order to contract out the labor of the employee (who voluntarily agreed to the wages paid). This is because the employer has different preferences than the employee and both are taking action in order to fulfill their desired ends. The employee agrees to the wages offered by the employer because they value the wage more than their time and labor. The employer pays the employee because they value the labor and time of the employee more than the wages paid. After this exchange, both actors walk away from the transaction better off and it is the left anarchists aversion to inequality that keeps them from seeing this. This peaceful and voluntary trade occurred precisely because their was unequal value attached to the items involved in the trade by the actors. It is inequity in these subjective valuations (as they relate to the actors preferences) that allow both to trade peacefully towards the satisfaction they desire.
At this point the left anarchist would raise the question of the perceived injustice of choosing between “poverty wages” and starvation. But this does not mean that this person facing this choice is being violently coerced by their employer and to conflate these ideas is to be intellectually dishonest. If the left anarchist has an issue with this scenario, they need to be angry at reality and scarcity, not the employer offering a mutually beneficial trade. Since employers themselves are attempting to ease perceived uneasiness by applying a scarce means like money paid in wages toward labor, they are competing with each other and are therefore forced to pay market prices on the labor of employees. They are then not able to charge “poverty wages” to employees since other employers are willing to hire labor at market prices. Firms that pay out poor wages either must raise their wages and compete for labor like everyone else or go out of business.
The problem with the left anarchists is that their economic solutions cannot compete with what we have just laid out. It cannot compete because it does not conform with reality in any way. The abolishment of private property means that individuals cannot engage in economizing scarce means towards the fulfillment of ends. Ends, by the way, that vary across every individual. The communal ownership of property means that each individual engages in economic action as if their supply of scarce means were infinite. Reality has shown that scarcity is in fact real which means that such behaviors lead to shortages of scarce resources.
The left anarchist is left with a problem. The abolishment of private property and the abuse of scarce means by economic actors, which leads to shortages, increases the likelihood that violence over the control of resources will occur. They are then left with putting managers, with coercive powers, in control of resources to make sure that the scarce means are “equally” dispersed among all who need them. But this means that the state has just been recreated and recreated in such a way as to probably be worse than the statist monopoly that existed prior. These managers of scarce resources will take from those that “have too much”. They will play favorites with those that they like and deny access to resources to those they dislike. It is by their very hatred of all hierarchical relationships, both coercive and free, that steers them down a path towards a coercive hierarchy of the worst kind. So this is why it is absolutely hypocritical for the left anarchist to claim that the voluntaryist or anarcho-capitalist is not “true” anarchism because it allows for voluntary hierarchies. Only the voluntaryist, who adheres to the Non-Aggression Principle, is against the true evil in human relationships, coercion and lack of consent.
The telling violent and coercive feature of left anarchism that makes it a philosophy for children is that voluntaryists have no real issue with socialism and communal living. That is not what they dislike. They dislike the idea of enforcing such a way of life on those around you through threats of violence and force. Voluntaryists are fine with respecting a commune of people that want to live these left anarchy ideas out. They only ask that the same respect be granted towards them and their property. All left anarchists I have talked to have said that this is not possible. They will take the property of those that disagree and use violence to do so. This is what makes their attempt at taking the moral high ground a laughable attempt at justifying the philosophy of murderous thieves.