The ‘Great Authors in 10 Quotes’ is an ongoing series meant to expose libertarian-leaning readership with some of the most noteworthy thinkers in the classical liberal, libertarian, and anarchist traditions. The challenge is finding material deep enough to reflect an author’s thought, while still being accessible for a brand new reader. We encourage readers to leave comments linking to other written works and videos by the author.
Gary Chartier is a defining advocate of left-libertarian market anarchism. His work synthesizes ideas from numerous classical liberal, libertarian, and anarchist traditions. An eclectic thinker, he cites both anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard and mutualist Kevin Carson among his primary influences. Chartier is a profound thinker who deserves more attention for his insights that challenge preconceived notions about the left, the right, libertarianism, and political action.
1. What they (Roderick Long, Charles Johnson, Shawn Wilbur, Brad Spangler, and William Gillis) showed me was simple. I could combine the desire for real freedom that had motivated my libertarian convictions with the desire for inclusion, widely shared prosperity, mutual support, and empowerment—the rejection of exclusion, deprivation, and subordination—that I embraced as a leftist. (Getting from there to here, 2009).
Chartier defies conventional understanding of libertarianism as being either a leftist or rightist orientation. Chartier argues that self-ownership, individual liberty, and the right of voluntary association are essential to achieving the leftist goals of assisting the oppressed and disenfranchised.
2. One thing that might initially seem to be a problem no longer seemed to be on reflection: the organization and provision of social services. I realized that state action made and kept many people poor. Eliminating a variety of state privileges would ensure, I realized, that far fewer people suffered from poverty. As I’ve tried to argue more extensively elsewhere, poverty need not be a problem in a stateless society. (Getting from there to here, 2009).
Chartier counters the mainstream standpoint that social services are only possible with a managerial state. Chartier turns the traditional argument on its head, presenting the welfare state as the primary cause of poverty and inequality. Chartier presents social welfare as a matter of statism versus liberty, rather than a matter of left and right.
3. I’m an anarchist because I believe there’s no natural right to rule. I believe people are equal in essential dignity and worth, which means, in turn, that they have equal moral standing. That makes it hard to justify giving some people— those who rule the state and those who enforce rulers’ decisions— rights that others don’t have. And I’m an anarchist because I believe the state lacks legitimacy. Some people argue that rulers deserve to have more rights than those they rule because their subjects have consented and continue to consent to their authority. But I believe they haven’t. (Conscience of an anarchist, 2011).
Chartier uses the term ‘anarchist’, where many radical libertarians might prefer the term ‘libertarian’. Chartier chose the term for a number of reasons: to avoid any baggage people might have due to preconceived ideas relating to libertarianism and to avoid using the term ‘left-libertarian’ and the pitfalls of preconceived ideas relating to left and right. Chartier titled his work in the tradition of American political conscience books begun with Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1960, ‘Conscience of a Conservative’. The title, ‘Conscience of a Libertarian’, was taken by Wayne Allen Root’s 2008 work.
4. I’m an anarchist because the state’s claim to justified authority is implausible. Contrary to what its defenders claim, that claim cannot be defended by an appeal to the supposed consent of those the State Seeks to govern. (Conscience of an Anarchist, 2011).
Chartier makes a case for anarchism grounded in the American and Anglo-Saxon concepts of individual liberty and self-determination. To Chartier, anarchism is not the rejection of Anglo-American tradition, but rather an embracing of the best elements of that tradition.
5. I’m an anarchist because I believe that the state is neither necessary nor inevitable. We don’t need the state to prevent violence and preserve order. The state is not capable of managing the economy. And, despite statist pressure, alternatives to the state have flourished— which makes it hard to see the state as unavoidable. (Conscience of an anarchist, 2011).
Chartier argues that anarchism and radical libertarianism is neither utopian nor unrealistic. Chartier presents a case for liberty that is both consequentialist and morally grounded.
6. I’m an anarchist because I believe that the state tends to consolidate the power of the wealthy and to help them exploit others. It fosters poverty by securing privileges for the wealthy and well connected. It promotes hierarchical models of business organization and the centralization of power in the workplace. It creates and encourages the persistence of monopolies and other cartels that increase the power of privileged elites at the expense of everyone else. And it sanctions and perpetuates the violence that has been and continues to be used to dispossess poor, working class, and middle class people in favor of large landowners and wealthy business leaders. (Conscience of an anarchist, 2011).
Chartier argues that contrary to mainstream sentiment, liberty is antithetical to plutocracy. He argues that liberty is necessary to solving class conflicts and social differences.
7. I’m an anarchist because states kill and conquer. Their militaries cause unbelievable destruction. And, through a combination of military force, the use of dirty tricks, and the application of economic pressure, they dominate less powerful societies. (Conscience of an anarchist, 2011).
8. I’m an anarchist because the state suppresses personal freedom and helps others to do so. One especially important way in which the state does so is the operation of the criminal law. The abuses associated with the existence of the criminal law are bad enough— but police officers regularly overstep the already liberal constraints on their behavior to engage in horrifying acts of violence. The state attacks freedom with the criminal law in all sorts of ways; I consider some examples here, including police abuse and the criminal law itself, the destructive War on Drugs, state abuse of children, and attacks on consensual sexual relationships. (Conscience of an anarchist, 2011).
Chartier demonstrates how state intrusion creates the underlying conditions for many of the grievances of both the left and right.
9. To reject aggression is to embrace a model of social interaction rooted in a peaceful, voluntary cooperation. This kind of cooperation can occur with the state; it can be fostered effectively by a variety of nonaggressive social institutions, including in particular, institutions upholding consensual legal rules, resolving disputes, and providing protection against aggression, which I’ll refer to as ‘legal regimes’. Unlike these institutions, the state is premised on the denial of human moral equality and is inimical to peaceful, voluntary cooperation (and the flourishing such cooperation facilitates) because of the state’s nonconsensual character and its inefficiency, destructiveness, rapacity, and penchant for aggression – especially in the service of elite groups. (Anarchy and legal order, 2012).
Chartier lays out foundational principles for a polycentric, private law society. In many ways, Chartier’s work is similar to Hoppe’s. Chartier advances the topic by exploring how a pluralistic libertarian society could deal with the interaction between groups with different social values.
10. The problem with the state isn’t a bad politician here or there. It’s not just the Republicans. It’s not just the Democrats. (It’s not limited to any party in any country.) The problem is the state. It creates opportunities for plunder and abuse that are enormously attractive to anyone with the potential capacity to use it to exploit others. (Conscience of an anarchist, 2009).
Sources and Further Reading
Gary Chartier’s works are difficult to find since much most of his work are published by textbook companies. Conscience of an Anarchist is available in print from the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and in e-book format from Laissez Faire Books (lfb.org). His other works are available through many larger booksellers.
Chartier, G. W. (2009, August 30). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://liberalaw.blogspot.com/2009/08/getting-from-there-to-here-political.html
Chartier, G. W. (2011). Conscience of an anarchist, the: Why it’s time to say good-bye to
the state and build a free society. (digital ed.). Baltimore, MD: Laissez Faire Books.
Chartier, G. W. (2012). Anarchy and legal order: Law and politics for a stateless society.
New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.