It is a pretty good collection of 48 essays by historic and currently active anarchists or how they sometimes call themselves left libertarians. The main thrust of these essays is pretty much expressed by the header – these people are fully in support of free markets and fully against capitalism as a system of society’s organization where individuals with capital (capitalists) are in dominant positions.
The ideal society for these people is a society where all transactions are voluntary and therefore the state does not exists. As Libertarians they are in support of property rights and market exchange, but as the Left they are against property rights when these property rights are obtained in unfair way. They believe that property rights should come from mixing one’s labor with nature. However not one of essays provide any reasonable or even unreasonable way to fix the currently existing property rights which by all known accounts obtained mainly unfairly.
Being the Rights (not right) Libertarian, that is person who believes that everybody should have equal, unalienable, and marketable rights to natural resources, I do not see any sense whatsoever in trying to define fairness or unfairness of current wealth and property distribution. I believe that it is just not possible to identify who owns something fairly and who unfairly because just about every piece of, for example, land changed hands many times in history and many times before history and a vast majority of these changes where violent. Therefore in my opinion it is useless to try redistributing property in any “fair” way because it is just impossible. We’d better come up with ideas of how to change property use in such a way that it would be acceptable for everybody so people would be satisfied with pursuing their happiness without demanding violent property redistribution.
Outside of key philosophical differences, it is a very interesting collection from point of few of obtaining a new knowledge. Some of essays are very educational at least for me. For instance I did not know that all progressive movement of the end of XIX century and beginning of XX century was powered not that much by intellectuals, but rather by big business. The history of railroads with multiple failures to organize a stabile cartel, cut throat competition in prices when small start up companies continually undermining big companies with eventual government intervention on behalf of “stability” changed my mind on some details of the process of government growth in the United States.
Similarly I found myself missing on a valid point in civil rights fight of 50s and 60s. As many libertarians I do not like government telling business owner who he can or cannot serve so I see demand for restaurant owner to serve people he does not want to serve as violation of property rights. Personally, being Jewish, I have no problem with restaurant owner who would not serve Jews. I would be happy to take my money to another restaurant. By the way being born in Soviet Union were being Jewish meant to be a second class citizen, I was perfectly satisfied with taking myself out and moving to America where I am much happier and I think everybody in America should be much happier at least based on amounts of money I pay in taxes. However the important point that I was missing is that a racist business owner on South in 50s and 60s was artificially isolated from competition by non-racist business owner. This government intervention annuls his right as business owner to deny service. Thinking about it, in actuality this entire civil rights struggle was not for civil rights of individuals, but rather for dominance between state and federal organizations violent and non-violent controlled correspondingly southern and northern establishments (governments state vs. federal, State National Guard vs. Federal Army, KKK vs. Black Panthers, White citizen councils vs. Civil Rights organizations).
The federals won and racial discrimination continues this time in form of affirmative actions and multiple other forms. Much better way would be instead of directing efforts to suppression of racist business owners and forcing them to behave like they are not racists would be promoting and defending non-racist business owners who would happily accept money and provided services to everybody. This would require a much less level of confrontation and violence – just override zoning codes and licensing requirements. Somehow I am pretty sure that as soon as black and decent white population would start taking their money and labor away from racists business owners to non-racists business owners one of two things would happen – either racist business owners stop being racists or they would stop being business owners.
Overall this is a very interesting collection of thoughts and ideas and it clearly demonstrates that anarchism is still alive and kicking.