Frank Chodorov's Love Affair With Anarchism


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Frank Chodorov's Love Affair With Anarchism

By Milton Batiste          November 9, 2002

Frank Chodorov (1887-1966) became an icon of the struggling conservative movement in the 1950s. You could spot him at right-wing cocktail parties, but he was at heart a radical. Writing to protest the labeling of himself as a conservative in National Review, Chodorov once threatened to reward anyone calling him by that name with a punch in the nose. He favoured the term "individualist". This highly esteemed man of letters actually flirted with anarchism, for a while.

For almost three decades Chodorov guided individuals devoted to freedom. He wrote hundreds of articles and edited three magazines. He did so without hope of remuneration or even wide recognition. Some of his best essays appeared in analysis, a four-page monthly broadsheet. Chodorov published it himself from a dingy loft in lower Manhattan. It never had more than 4,000 subscribers. It was not commercially successful.

The object of analysis was to shape the development of the postwar right by "helping the libertarian Remnant to attain self-consciousness and intellectual coherence". The libertarian nestor Albert Jay Nock considered it "by far the best contribution to our minor litterature of public affairs."

Instead of trying to teach individualism, Chodorov attempted to find individualists. He found several, among them
Murray N. Rothbard, Edmund A. Opitz and James J. Martin. Or rather -- they found him. As Rothbard testified:

"I shall never forget the profound thrill -- a thrill of intellectual liberation -- that ran through me when I first encountered the name of Frank Chodorov, months before we were to meet in person. As a young graduate student in economics, I had always believed in the free market, and had become increasingly libertarian over the years, but this sentiment was as nothing to the headline that burst forth in the title of a pamphlet that I chanced upon at the university bookstore: Taxation is Robbery, by Frank Chodorov."

Frank Chodorov was opposed to government intervention at home and abroad. He questioned the very idea of taxation. There was, from Chodorov's point of view, no reason to believe that giving money and power to the state would benefit society.

Inspired by the writings of, among others, Henry George,
Franz Oppenheimer and Albert Jay Nock he made a distinction between the economic and the political. The state, from this point of view, is the embodiment of the political and it uses force to accomplish its ends. People and civilizations, on the other hand, prosper through free and voluntary interactions. "Society is an economic, not a political phenomenon", Chodorov observed. "The marketplace makes society."
As a young man, Frank Chodorov experienced "a violent love affair with anarchism." He later

"I don't know whether I took to Kropotkin and Proudhon because they furnished me with arguments with which to refute the socialists on the campus or because they wrote much about individualism, which seems to be ingrained in my make-up."

This love affair ended when Chodorov looked into the economic doctrines of the various schools of anarchism then extant. All of them took a dim view of the institution of private property. This was, of course, unacceptable:

"If a man cannot enjoy the fruits of his labor, without let or hindrance, he is enslaved to the one who appropriates his property; a slave has no property rights. Besides, I reasoned, the abolition of private property could be accomplished only by the intervention of an all-powerfull State, which the anarchists were so bent on destroying. This incongruity curbed my short lived passion for anarchism."

There was another reason to reject this creed:

"Bakunin especially disturbed me. His urgency to 'do something about it' with bombs did not sit well with me ... The bombthrower might achieve some change in the government by his tactics, but could he contain the temptation to throw bombs? Could he not use them to acquire and exercise power on his own account?"

Chodorov found this prospect abhorrent:

"At an early age I developed a distaste toward 'doing something about it' -- that is, toward organizational and forceful reorienting of society into an image of my own making."

Chodorov's ideas are very much alive. Not only that. There exists today an anarchist movement with plenty of room for true individualists in the Chodorovian tradition. This movement is growing. You can see it in action at sites like Strike the Root ,, and . Labels are not important, but there are many: individualist anarchism, anarcho-capitalism, property rights anarchism, free-market anarchism, agorism, radical libertarianism, paleo-libertarianism. All of them are used by people who want to abolish the state and its wars, and keep the institutional machinery of freedom -- private property rights.

Anarchy and property go together in the visions of modern libertarians. For individualists today, the love affair with Kropotkin need not come to and end. What about Bakunin, then? Still out of the question, I'm afraid.