Mutualism: The Modern Anarchist Ideology That Became Popular In America
Most people imagine anarchism as chaos and an ideology where people just burn down the government without considering the consequences. But what if I told you one of the earliest anarchist ideologies actually had an idea for how to run a proper free society without needing a lot of control from the state? Mutualism was made as an ideology by P.J. Proudhon: an anarchist and libertarian socialist. In fact, P.J. is considered the first modern anarchist since he was the first person to call himself an 'anarchist' in his book What is Property?
What is mutualism? Well, it is the first form of anarchism and is considered one of the earliest forms of libertarian socialism, pre-dating Marxism and modern communism. In mutualism, private banks are replaced with credit unions and mutual-credit banks that allow the average person to have a say over what their financial institutions do. Also, mutualism allows people to own property, but only if the property is personally used or occupied by the owner. So instead of someone holding a property title until they decide to give or sell it or large companies being able to buy a bunch of property to create artificial scarcity, there would be a limit to how much property could be owned and said property would have to be put to use at some point in time instead of simply being held so the rest of the community is unable to use it.
While it was created by a French man, many American anarchists endorsed mutualism. American individualist anarchist Benjamin R. Tucker was a strong supporter of mutualism and libertarian socialism. Minister William Batchelder Greene was an American Christian anarchist who supported mutualism in his book Mutual Banking. Even though mutualism is considered a form of libertarian socialism, some people who consider themselves anarcho-capitalists like Susan Love Brown have endorsed mutualism since it respects property rights while providing a framework to prevent corporate overreach. Basically, libertarians and anarchists alike have seen mutualism as an ideal system for creating a decent free society without needing a controlling state.