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Murray Rothbard on Noam Chomsky and "Anarcho-Syndicalism"

Last week I discussed a recent interview by Noam Chomsky, where I pointed out some of his confusing views on libertarianism and anarchy. The view Chomsky holds has been around for quite some time, and it’s been referred to as “anarcho-syndicalism”, left-libertarianism, or libertarian socialism. Essentially, this view is theoretically against government and for free association, and yet is against the theory of private property that later libertarians or “anarcho-capitalists” such as Murray Rothbard would hold as vital to a free and prosperous society.

This view seems paradoxical to me, as if property is not privately held, then surely the only other alternative is some sort of central governing authority. While the “anarcho-syndicalist” claims to support free association, for a society to be run in the manner which they seek – which involves collective ownership of the means of production- a coercive, central authority would be necessary. This philosophy seems to essentially be communism under another name, and holds fear of some mythical “private power” over the very real, very destructive power of the State.

Murray Rothbard offered his own critique of the “anarcho-syndicalist” philosophy over four decades before Chomsky’s interview twisted my brain in knots. In fact, Rothbard believed this “syndicalism” idea was even more destructive than straight up socialism! From a 1971 article in the Libertarian Forum:

Of the three major proposals for running an advanced industrial society — socialism, syndicalism, and free-market capitalism — syndicalism is the most blatantly unworkable and most rapidly disastrous. For in such a society, there must be some rational mechanism for allocating resources efficiently, for seeing to it that the proper amounts of labor, land, and capital equipment are employed in those areas and in those ways most efficient for satisfying the wants and desires of the mass of consumers. Free-market capitalism not only provides the most smoothly efficient way; it is also the only method that relies solely on voluntary inducements.

This gets to the heart of the economic problem with anarcho-syndicalism. Without private property rights a free market is not able to properly function. Sans price signals resulting from profit and loss, and how does the “anarcho-syndicalist” believe that resources would be allocated? Without a market, the only other answer is a central authority. As a central authority operates outside of profit and loss signals, the best it can do is make guesses as to how resources should be doled out to the “community”.

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like communism is a utopian fantasy. When implemented it will always fail.