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News Link • Philosophy: Anarchism

American Anarchism

• by Wendy McElroy

[Talk delivered at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, November 20, 2000.]

I want to take a very basic look at one of the traditions that underlies modern libertarianism — namely, 19th-century individualist anarchism in America.

Before doing so, however, I want to define what I mean by modern libertarianism. Namely, the body of political thought that emerged from and continues to develop through the synthesis of the best theory from four schools of thought. The synthesis was accomplished when Murray Rothbard took the radical antistatism of the individualist anarchists and wed it with Austrian economics, the foreign policy of the Old Right (isolationism), and the natural-law tradition.

Of these threads that were woven together, the least appreciated or understood is individualist anarchism. And I think one reason for this "oversight" is that, at first glance, individualist anarchism doesn't seem to share a key characteristic common to the others: that is, it doesn't seem to argue for the free market.


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