Is Voluntary Socialism (“From Each, To Each”) Compatible With Libertarianism? Yes.

Is Voluntary Socialism (“From Each, To Each”) Compatible With Libertarianism? Yes.

Dear R:

Yes. This already occurs.

All of these organizations live by the “Marxist” notion of from each according to his abilty, to each according to his need. But, they do so on a voluntary basis, so they are all in accord with libertarianism: nunnery, convent, kibbutz, commune, collective, syndicalists, cooperatives, monastery, abbey, priory, friary, religious community; family.

In all of these cases, people live by the philosophy of “from each, according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Since this is done, at least ideally, on a voluntary basis, yes, voluntary socialism of this sort is indeed compatible with libertarianism. However, socialism is also defined as “Government ownership of all the means of production.” And this version of socialism is of course not compatible with the freedom philosophy.

Bob Wenzel is a brilliant libertarian, and he and I agree on, oh, 99% of all issues in political economy. But not on that one.

Best regards,


From: R
Sent: Thursday, March 03, 2016 4:49 PM
To: Walter Block;
Subject: Re: Thoughts on the Farmer Delimma

I am excited to see your presentation on minimum wage, and meeting you will be a true honor, Dr. Block! I heard from Bob that he will not be there, unfortunately.

In your latest response to Bob, you say of Wenzel’s conception of the PPS that “…it cannot rationally be claimed that it is compatible with libertarianism, much less a paradigm case of it…I go further; this is a grotesque misunderstanding of libertarianism.” Later, you say, “…the NAP is the sine qua non of this philosophy. And, yet, Bob’s position does not allow for the centrality of the NAP. He allows it to be over-ridden by property owners.”

I would like you to consider something I heard on an episode of the Tom Woods show this morning, where Tom interviews Jason Brennon on the topic “Why Capitalism is Morally Superior to Socialism”. This interview is fascinating throughout with Brennon dissecting Gerald Cohen’s moralistic defense of socialism, but what really caught my attention was Brennon’s contention starting around 22:10, Here is an excerpt from the exchange:

Tom Woods: “…I like one of your points: that within the capitalist system, you can set up- there’s nothing stopping you from setting up voluntary, or so-called intentional communities that organize themselves according to very different values if you choose. As long as you don’t hurt anybody else, you can have a commune if that’s what you want. Or, you can have means of production that are commonly owned- you can do any of these things. Whereas, in the socialist system we can’t have our little capitalist enclave.”

Jason Brennon: “Yeah, that’s right…Gerry Cohen’s first major book, the one that really made him famous, was a critique of the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick. Nozick, at the end of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, argues that one of the reasons that libertarianism is Utopian, or the best system, is because it is actually a framework that allows lots of different kinds of voluntary communities. And, that’s important because there is no such thing as “Utopia”, per se. There’s no such thing as the one best social system for everybody. There’s so much variation among people, that your best system will be different from me, and we might want to live in very different communities. What libertarianism is, is a framework that allows these kinds of communities to coexist…”

In your view, would a society that does not prohibit people from organizing into socialist communes if they so desire be compatible with libertarianism?



7:14 pm on January 1, 2019