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by Justin JeffersonEconomics.org.au senior columnist

Hayek’s reply when asked how he identified politically was as an “Old Whig”. This led one wag to say Hayek was good at economics but hopeless at marketing.

Rothbard apparently inherited this Austrian gene for bad marketing. Was there ever a name for a political movement better calculated to put people offside than “anarcho-capitalism”?

People use the word “anarchy” to mean violent chaos, not voluntary order without government. They use it even when the violent chaos is happening, not in the absence of government, but under a government failing to perform its self-declared essential functions, such as during the recent riots in Britain.

Professing to stand for “anarchy” gets us onto the wrong foot every time, right from the start. Instead of hearing that we should be free to choose, people imagine that you want to abolish government tomorrow and every service that government provides, especially security. They shrink with horror from the abyss, and regard you as a lunatic.

Also people use the term “capitalism” to mean the system of government in the USA, with its extensive and intensive government control of virtually every area of life and business that you could care to mention.

I maintain that Austrian-school libertarians are not necessarily anarcho-capitalists anyway. We don’t say there should be no leaders per se; only that there should be no coercively imposed rulers. If people want to voluntarily put themselves under a leader, as monks do with an abbot, we have nothing against it.

Similarly, if people want to consume all their capital, that is no more against our philosophy than if they invest it in further production.

All Austrian-school theory amounts only to saying that all social relations ought to be voluntary. So I think it would be more persuasive, and truer, to call our movement voluntarism, than anarcho-capitalism.

What do you think?