I realize that last post was more about discourse and responding to attacks rather than an actual account of the legitimate differences between mutualists and anarcho-capitalists. I’ll attempt to do this here, not as a way of starting a fight, but to educate.
Theories of value:
Most mutualists subscribe to the Labor Theory of Value, and were among the first to realize their socialist conclusion. This is rather controversial in modern economics, a considerable amount of people (libertarians in particular) consider it to be some sort of pseudo-science, although there is serious debate about this. The anarcho-capitalists generally hold the work of Eugene Böhm-Bawerk to be the end of Ricardian and Marxist labor-theories, and argue that the subjective theory of value is correct. Kevin Carson in his book “Studies in The Mutualist Political Economy”, argues that Böhm-Bawerks straw-manned Ricardo and the other classical economists, and attempts to synthesize the Marxist labor theory of value with Austrian praxeology.
The support of LTV among mutualists lead them to oppose profit, interest and rent. Anarcho-capitalists do not have any problems with this. Interesting debates can be had about this, but both tend to agree that the problems are less prevalent in a free economy.
It’s fair to say that generally, Anarcho-Capitalists are Lockeans. Anarcho-Capitalists like Rothbard supported some form of IP-rights, but modern Anarcho-Capitalists usually find it illegitimate. Mutualists tend to subscribe to the Ingalls-Tucker doctrine of occupancy and use, but Lysander Spooner, for instance, supported the same kind of natural-law doctrine that is common among Rothbardians, and even supported IP. Thomas Hodgskin, to name another example, defended the private holding of land, against Herbert Spencer of all people. Other people, like Ezra Heywood, suggested that:
…there can be no truly free market while property in raw materials and monopoly of the means of exchange exist
Kevin Carson, however, subscribes to the above mentioned Tucker-Ingalls doctrine, and since he is the main source of mutualist material today, most people who call themselves mutualists subscribe to it. Roderick T Long(who doesn’t call himself capitalist but is a Rothbardian) debated him about this. But what mutualists today find interesting, is not who’s philosophically right or wrong, but the general lack of understanding of from whence capitalist property comes from, that is not limited to just anarcho-capitalists, but most people (though a few Marxists recognize this). Mutualist argue that it took enormous force and government intervention in the economy in order to create what is generally known as “capitalist property”, and that if this hadn’t occurred, the economy would have developed more along the lines of worker-self-management. This is not so much an argument against anarcho-capitalist property rights, but an argument against the “organic liberty” some claim capitalism is. Some Rothbardians have accepted this and have framed themselves “anti-capitalists” as a result.
It is clear that we sometimes hold the same ideas but express them with different semantics. Capitalism, to most anarcho-capitalists, is an economy with zero government intervention. Socialism, to most mutualists, is an economy with zero government intervention. Capitalism, to most mutualist, is systematic government intervention, destroying self-employment activity to create a class of rentier capitalists. Socialism, to most anarcho-capitalists, is systematic government intervention in the market to redistribute wealth and seize private property.
Now, can there be a right or wrong party to this? I don’t personally think so. Mutualists use a definition of capitalism and socialism that dates back to the 19th century anarchists, while anarcho-capitalists use a definition of capitalism and socialism more linked to Mises and Rand. Anarcho-capitalists definitely have a more modern and commonly accepted use of the term, while mutualists twists the definition on it’s head to illustrate that the principal function of government is to maintain capitalist rule.
Anarcho-capitalists are usually gold-bugs, even though some have been enthusiastic about Bitcoins. But according to them, the best money is specie-based. Mutualists argue instead for a form of mutual credit, which is created through an interest-free “mutual bank” (effectively a gift economy with a unit of account). Rothbard argued that this was some sort of “fiat currency”, to which Kevin Carson responded:
Greene and Tucker did not propose inflating the money supply, but rather eliminating the monopoly price of credit made possible by the state’s entry barriers: licensing of banks, and large capitalization requirements for institutions engaged in providing only secured loans.
Modern mutualists tend to be very interested in barter-economies and credit-unions and other forms of local currency.
Goals and Visions
It’s unfair to say that anarcho-capitalists want everything to be a supermarket, but the general attitude among anarcho-capitalists is one in favor of a society centered around entrepreneurs and commerce. Most of them don’t have a real vision, just as long as it’s voluntary and doesn’t infringe on private property rights. They are in favor of the means of production being held privately. Their favored way to get there seems to be either to make the government as libertarian as possible, making it easier for people to secede or revolt through “revolutionary libertarian tribunals” like Walter Block suggests, or the left-libertarian strategy of “agorism”, meaning “counter-economy”.
Mutualists however, aren’t market fetishists to the same extent. Our favored vision is best described as a communitarian one, where most goods are produced for the local economy and based on local needs by self-employed producers and worker-owned businesses. The different communities would interlock under the principles of free-federalism to effectively communicate over larger geographical area. Since Proudhon, mutualists have generally been gradualists when it comes to revolutions, but not reformists. They support syndicalist takeovers of business through general strikes, dual power strategies to create alternatives to the legal institutions, and also agree with the agorists that we need to trade outside the cash-nexus.
Hope this article was helpful, and not too antagonistic.