"Vulgar" Libertarianism and Voluntary Socialism
From what I've been able to gather, "vulgar" libertarianism is a label applied to the tendency of some libertarians, particularly with right-wing sympathies, to defend currently existing property arrangements and corporations as if they came about as a result of a free market process or as if there currently is a free market. That is, vulgar libertarians defend big buisiness in itself regaurdless of any genuine criteria for justice. A vulgar libertarian tends to conflate the difference between property rights and property classes or property titles. In "The Ethics of Liberty", Murray Rothbard made a criticism of utilitarian economists in that they have a tendency to treat currently existing property titles as legitimate without any ethical criteria for justice in property aquisition. Thus, they end up functioning as apologists for the status quo.
Most certainly, the contemporary left makes a conflation of its own between a "free market" and currently existing capitalism. The contemporary left tends to argue that we currently have a "free market", point to bad consequences, and then argue that we need more government intervention. The contemporary right, on the other hand, makes the exact same conflation but uses it for different purposes. The contemporary right tends to argue that we currently have a "free market", deny bad consequences, and defend the status quo on these grounds; at best, justifying current levels of intervention. "Vulgar" libertarians are falling into this same fallacy that the contemporary right ends up engaging in. They are using the theory of a free market to defend the consequences of a non-free market. "Capitalism", as it currently exists, is not a free market. Not a single market anarchist (or "anarcho-capitalist"), insofar as they are consistant, supports "capitalism" as it currently exists.
Libertarians should try to avoid being blind defenders of "the rich" and "the corporations" at all costs. This only feeds the left's mischaracterizations of us as heartless apologists for robber barons. The rich and corporations most certainly do not always achieve their wealth and status as a result of free market means. There is a political apparatus in place that externalizes the costs of corporations, protects them from competition, limits liability and provides a plethora of special privileges. There is a difference between being pro-buisiness as an end in itself and being pro-market. The free market, as a process, may very well be detrimental to some buisinesses, since those who cannot compete lose out. The currently existing corporate structure has skewed incentives and partially restricted competition.
When talking about "the rich" and "the poor", a question behooves us: which rich people and which poor people are we talking about? True, some people get rich by productivity. Others do not. Some get rich by using the state to restrict their competition and give them special privileges at the expense of the tax-payer. True, some people end up poor because of their own bad decisions, such as a lack of saving, excessive consumption, bad spending priorities, and so on. Other people end up poor due to bad circumstances caused by state intervention in the economy. To paint a picture in which all poor people got that way because they are uneducated, unskilled and lazy is unfair. And to paint a picture in which all rich people got that way because they are educated, talented and productive is not accurate by any stretch of the imagination.
As any libertarian who has done the slightest bit of reading on economics surely knows, there are many ways in which state intervention in the economy causes and increases poverty. Inflation devalues our money. Taxation in itself reduces our paychecks and makes us pay higher prices. Protectionism makes us pay higher prices and limits our options as consumers. Welfare, while it might artificially keep some people on their feet, ends up effectively creating stagnation and disincentivizing employment. Corporate welfare does steal from the poor to give to the rich. Minimum wage laws cause unemployment, particularly for teenagers, young adults and entry-level jobs in general. Pointing out how the state's intervention is detrimental to the cause of the poor and average worker can help clear up a lot of confusion and possibly win over some people of left-wing persuasions to libertarian causes.
Another important point to keep in mind is that, in a free market, there is nothing to stop people from voluntarily forming into types of association or organization that could be considered "socialistic". The idea of "libertarian socialism" or "voluntary socialism" initially struck me as nonsensical. While I still do not personally favor it in terms of my preferences for what I'd like to persue in a free market, it has become clear that I cannot oppose it in principle, that I must support the liberty of people to voluntarily organize into unions, co-ops and communes so long as they do not force me into it. Free association and free competition has pluralist implications in that different preferences can be persued voluntarily while peacefully co-existing. No single economic system or mode of organization can be unilaterally and monocentrically imposed.
Socialism can theoretically be compatible with libertarianism to the extent that it is voluntary. Unfortunately, the vast majority of socialists are not voluntarists. They wish to force socialism onto everyone else. Unlike anarchists, who are primarily opposed to the initiation of force and the institution of rulership, socialists are primarily opposed to capital and private ownership. But an anarchist can be a socialist if their socialism is in the context of free association and their socialist system is left to free competition. Indeed, all of the earliest anarchists were socialist types. The socialist movement arguably grew out of the anarchist movement, but went on to merge with the conservatism of the day and become an ideology that supports the state as a means to its ends. But there still are some socialists who are voluntarists.
In reality, it is impossible to actually completely abolish private property. Even in the Soviet Union, private property was still allowed to remain in place to some extent, and it also existed in the arena of black markets. All socialist systems so far have maintained some degree of private property in order to survive at all. Even the system of the socialist anarchists, if put into practise, would maintain private property, even if that private property is commonly held or stolen from its original just owners. While many socialists openly advocate the abolition of private property, the actual substance of what they advocate is no such thing. At best, it is the transferance of private property into different hands. And to the extent that it is transfered from unjust owners to just owners, this is actually perfectly fine. To the extent that it is transfered from just owners to unjust owners, to the extent that it constitutes outright expropriation from legitimate owners, it is a nightmare.
Us anarcho-capitalists (and market anarchists, a term I prefer more) are constantly being cajolled by social anarchists and accused of not really being anarchists. So we have to constantly justify that our philosophy is completely compatible with anarchism and grew out of its tradition. I personally do not like the term anarcho-capitalist because the word capitalist is like a red flag to a bull, especially to traditional anarchists who consider opposition to capitalism to be a core tenet of anarchism. We have to constantly explain that by the term "capitalist" we do not mean "capitalism" as it currently exists or any kind of system of government-buisiness patronage. We are always having to distinguish the difference between a free market and the current system, which people on the left always confuse. We should not err in justifying their claims by actually functioning as apologists for the current system and being shills for currently existing property arrangements and the corporate structure.