The Paradoxical Case of Stefan Molyneux

Ah, Stefan Molyneux. Professed anarcho-capitalist, men’s rights activist, and purveyor of the most insane concepts in the right wing sphere. He claims forgiveness is useless, all negative societal behaviors are the result of early childhood abuse, and the family itself is a system of said abuse. As one of the internet’s most outspoken AnCaps, he really sets the standard for what a lot of people think about the philosophy. Thanks to Molyneux and people like him, many people see AnCaps as radicals so insane, even the Libertarian party rejects them. However, pointing to Molyneux as the example for how most AnCaps behave would be like showing moderate Christians this video from the Westboro Baptist Church and saying “This is what you guys believe, right?” Unfortunately for more rational libertarians, our political stance does tend to attract the crazies. As Murray Rothbard said, “marginal movements attract marginal people.”

Perhaps addressing the internet’s most insane anarcho-capitalist would be considered reaching for low-hanging fruit, but as someone devoted to the core principles of anarchism and the free market, I feel it is my duty to separate myself, and anarcho-capitalism, from someone who I believe does not actually support it. Molyneux can call himself an AnCap, but his more radical beliefs prove contrary to the individualist core of the philosophy. His conspiracy theories are just one case in a larger problem within libertarianism. Because it is a “thin” political philosophy, people tend to connect their own personal views to it, even if those personal views prove to be destructive.

Here is an excerpt from Molyneux’s treatise on the family. It is here that his least individualist beliefs rear their ugly heads. Take this quote, for example:

“You are told to repair things with your parents, but that is an impossible task—a complete waste of time that will also make you crazy. Since they hurt you when you were young, you cannot fix the relationship. To make the point with an extreme example, if you are raped by a man, you cannot cure him of his desire to rape. Maybe someone else can, but you cannot. Since your parents bullied or bribed you into blind obedience, you cannot help them become better people. Maybe someone else can. A therapist perhaps. But not you. You have no hope, since their guilt about how they treated you will always muck up any attempt at honest communication.

And really, it is impossible to forgive someone who has bullied a child. Forgiveness is for repairable events, like being distracted or breaking a vase. A bad childhood cannot be repaired or returned intact. Where restitution is impossible, forgiveness is impossible. Don’t even try.

Does this sound too radical? Do you think it extreme for me to say that almost all parents are horribly bad? Perhaps it is. However, if you look at the state of the world—the general blindness and the slow death of our liberties—the challenge you take on by disagreeing with me is this: if it’s not the parents, what is it?

Either the world is not sick, or parents are. Because, as my wife says, it all starts with the family. If you want to perform the greatest service for political liberty, all you have to do is turf all of your unsatisfying relationships. Parents, siblings, spouse, it doesn’t matter.”

Could there be anything more contradictory than a so-called individualist anarchist claiming that the power wielded by an abusive parent is so great, it is beyond the individual’s control to forgive or repair? That there are some relationships so damaged, it is better to cut them off than work to fix them, or else you will forever be a victim? Additionally, how can he reasonably blame the political beliefs of the children on the actions of the parents? A true individualist would reason that each man, regardless of his upbringing, is responsible for his own beliefs. If anything is to blame for the “slow death of our liberties,” I would claim it is the entitlement complex of the individuals asking for restrictive government policies, not the abusive nature of their parents.

Even more outrageously, Molyneux provides no defense for his claim that bad parenting is the cause of increasingly oppressive political motions. His “proof” for this is that politics are getting worse and everyone’s parents are terrible, and because these two events are happening at the same time, they must be related. A classic case of correlation not implying causation.

All the problems with how Molyneux makes his argument aside, the idea itself is unsound. He is just as misguided as anyone else who justifies morally reprehensible behavior for the sake of politics. By saying that it is politically justifiable to abandon your family, he forgets the reason why most people support political philosophies in the first place. I’m not an AnCap because it sounds edgy, or even because it would benefit me personally. I’m an AnCap because I want everyone to be free and have their best shot at success. I believe in the power of the individual. That’s why I don’t like it when people like Stefan Molyneux make political statements that are anti-human. To me, you believe in politics because of people. I think Molyneux can say whatever he wants, but he would be wrong to connect his philosophy to anarcho-capitalism. Not only does it have nothing to do with anarchism or capitalism, but his theories would actually be detrimental to a stateless society.

Many people mischaracterize anarchism as an abandonment of morality. They presume that since anarchists don’t believe in laws, they must therefore condone the violence and abuse that laws are made to prevent. These people fail to realize that just like everyone else, us anarchists believe what we do because we care very much about morality. In fact, anarchism couldn’t exist without it.

It is not an opposition to order that separates anarchists from statists. It is an opposition to a government monopoly on order. Anarchists challenge the paradigm that justice is something only the state can provide. From an outside point of view, the concept of government as a force to stop crime seems absurd. Normal, moral people don’t need lawmakers to tell them not to rape, murder, or steal, and immoral people who do these things already don’t hold themselves accountable to society or the law. Therefore, it would be irrational to claim that declaring something illegal on paper would stop those immoral people from doing it.

So what would anarchists offer in favor of a state justice system? In order to answer that question, we must look at what actually keeps people from committing crimes. As has been proven in numerous studies, a person’s family situation is the single greatest indicator as to whether or not they will go on to be a criminal. The statistics are dramatic: according to studies from the U.S. Census Bureau, children from broken homes are 5 times more likely to commit crime, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison, and according to the U.S. Justice Department, correlations between single-parent homes and juvenile delinquency have existed since the 19th century. According to this data, the best way to reduce crime would not be putting more laws on the books, but protecting family structures.

Not only is the family our most effective defense against crime, but it is also the best way to raise future generations of responsible people. Statistics show that children with married parents perform significantly better in school, and show more responsible behavior. According to psychologist Oliver James, families are essential in teaching children how to be functioning members of society. He says, “We start off as Barbarians and what makes us civilised is being loved and looked after.” and goes on to prove that children who spend large amounts of time in daycares rather than with their parents are more likely to exhibit violent behavior. YouTube political commentator Dave Cullen takes this a step further, claiming that the rise of millenial social justice warriors is due to the disintegration of the family. Parents with little time for their children feel guilty for not being there, and are more likely to compensate for this by spoiling them. As a consequence, children who learn early on to capitalize off their parents’ guilt ultimately learn to do the same in regards to government and society. This is one explanation for the millenial generation’s tendency towards socialism and emotion-based social justice politics.

To summarize, all evidence on this subject points in the opposite direction of Molyneux’s claims. By telling people to abandon their families, he advocates for the destruction of our best alternative to state-run justice, and if anything, it is a lack of family involvement, not a surplus, that turns children on to oppressive political philosophies. As someone who came from an unstable family himself, who certainly has access to the large amount of research done on the subject, Molyneux should be able to make a distinction between those families that are abusive and those that are not, but he chooses not to. He is wrong in every way he could be wrong, and has no place connecting ideas like this to anarcho-capitalism. He can’t even seem to develop his claims beyond grand assumptions about society.

So Stefan, if you’re out there, you ought to consider that maybe there’s a reason even other AnCaps are disagreeing with you these days. It probably has less to do with society and more to do with your ideas. It’s not anarchism, capitalism, or opposition to child abuse that people are opposed to. It’s your misrepresentation of all of those things.

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