Anarcho-Communists for Private Property

Okay, maybe not quite. But read this and this. (The first article, of course, confuses natural-rights Lockeanism with legal positivism. But then, this is a debate in which nearly all the parties are confused about something.)

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109 Responses to Anarcho-Communists for Private Property

  1. MBH May 15, 2009 at 12:50 am #

    My god.

    So, John Lennon didn’t want to say “imagine no possessions.” He meant to say “imagine no private property.”

    • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 12:54 am #

      It wouldn’t fit the rhythm as well.

      • MBH May 15, 2009 at 1:09 am #

        Is your libertarianism different from Chomsky’s?

        • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 2:12 am #

          Yes.

        • MBH May 15, 2009 at 3:20 am #

          So the end is essentially the same. But his means are some kind of gradualism–one that ignores his own insights into the cause of inequality: the monopoly state. But he thinks gradualism is necessary because business power–regardless of its use of the state to ground its power–doesn’t need the state to maintain its power. So statelessness, for Chomsky, is not enough to level power evenly.

          I guess what I’m still not clear on is whether you see equality in authority as an event or a process. And if you see it as a process, is it necessarily a single movement–the decrease of state power?

        • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 10:45 am #

          So the end is essentially the same. But his means are some kind of gradualism

          I think it goes beyond that. Chomsky’s distrust of freed markets suggests he would fight against the end I’m working for as well.

          Plus trying to increase state power in the short term is worse than mere “gradualism.”

          I guess what I’m still not clear on is whether you see equality in authority as an event or a process.

          I’m not sure what that means in this context. I see it as a moral fact.

        • MBH May 15, 2009 at 12:05 pm #

          I don’t think Chomsky distrusts freed markets, he seems to distrust the process of freeing markets. He fears that business power would fill the vacuum left as the state monopoly withers. But, if no power filled the vacuum, I think he would be cool with it. So I see the argument as hinging on whether or not business power would fill the vacuum as the state monopoly withers. You might argue there would be no vacuum in the first place?

          *Equality in authority as moral fact.* I like that.

        • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 5:25 pm #

          I don’t think Chomsky distrusts freed markets, he seems to distrust the process of freeing markets.

          I think the natural way to read what he says here is that market anarchism, however implemented, would lead to the triumph of business power. So I do think it’s freed markets, not just the process of freeing them, that he distrusts.

          I agree that if he were to believe that freed markets wouldn’t give rise to plutocracy, he might well not oppose free markets.

          I see the argument as hinging on whether or not business power would fill the vacuum as the state monopoly withers

          Well, it would depend on what’s making it wither. If the existing government vanished overnight, we’d soon get a new one, and quite possibly a nastier one, because there will be a government as long as people think they have to have one.

          If, instead, govt. withers as a result of people withdrawing consent and building alternative, consensual institutions, then yeah, in that case I think there’s no power vacuum, or anyway a much smaller one.

        • MBH May 15, 2009 at 9:59 pm #

          In a freed market, would you see usership supplanting ownership?

        • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

          Who’s that addressed to — me? If so, then no. Though I wouldn’t kick too much if it did — it would certainly be better than what we’ve got.

        • MBH May 15, 2009 at 11:14 pm #

          Yeah it was addressed to you. I just keep getting the sense that the distance between you and Chomsky is more superficial than anything. I mean, it looks like you’re willing to say more about the structure of statelessness than he is. He seems to want to pass over the structure in silence. But that makes it odd that he’s willing to rule out market anarchy–especially since it’s formless too!

        • Ray Mangum May 16, 2009 at 10:33 pm #

          The “power-vacuum” argument, regardless of whether Chomsky believes that, sounds a lot like the same rationale for not withdrawing form Iraq.

        • Ray Mangum May 16, 2009 at 10:34 pm #

          The “power-vacuum” argument, regardless of whether Chomsky believes that, sounds a lot like the same rationale for not withdrawing from Iraq.

        • MBH May 16, 2009 at 11:22 pm #

          Ray, I understand that my concern looks like a cop-out. I also agree that the arguments for not leaving Iraq are mostly feigned fear. But, I think that business power could maintain itself without the state. Just as it’s true for government, so it’s true business: the power structure depends on consent. If the public’s mind can be molded by a monopoly state, why couldn’t it be molded several corporations working in concert with one another–offering the appearance of choice?

          To me, that’s as nasty as a monopoly state. I don’t know where Chomsky gets the idea that it would be so much worse. I just don’t think it would be any better.

          My focus is on raised awareness. Because only with collective awareness, can consent be drawn to something positive and something long-lasting.

  2. dennis May 15, 2009 at 1:09 am #

    I always thought that just meant that stories like the one portrayed in “The Exorcist” wouldn’t happen in Lennon’s ideal world. You learn something new every day.

    • MBH May 15, 2009 at 1:10 am #

      HAHAHAHAHAH!!!

    • martin May 15, 2009 at 4:38 am #

      LOL

  3. db0 May 15, 2009 at 1:44 am #

    There’s no confusion about Lockeanism, particularly because it’s a load of bull and secondly because it’s not generally used now as a argument for PP.

  4. db0 May 15, 2009 at 2:47 am #

    Why so?

    Because it is logically inconsistent. Because whenever I enclose any amound of land, it will by default, reduce the average left for everyone else.

    Secondly because it doesn’t follow from the premise. Just because one mixes labour to commons, does not mean that the commons should become private, it could simply lead to the opposite.

    Really? Last I checked it’s the most common non-utilitarian argument for private property there is.

    And I’ve heard very few who try to use ideological arguments for it. But that may be just my experience.

    • Jeremy May 15, 2009 at 7:46 am #

      I’m confused as to how reducing the “average left for everyone else” makes Lockeanism logically inconsistent. Could you explain?

      Also, what’s an “ideological argument”?

      • Richard Garner May 15, 2009 at 7:59 am #

        I think the isse of reducing the average left for everybody else is to do with Locke’s proviso that people leave “enough and as good” for others. The problem this proviso raises is discussed by Schmidtz here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/4100977/schmidtz-The-Institution-of-Property

      • db0 May 15, 2009 at 8:10 am #

        makes Lockeanism logically inconsistent. Could you explain?

        As it is based on the idea that one is legitimate in enclosing on a common as long as it leaves “enough and as good” then proving that it doesn’t (because on average, there’s less left for everyone else) proves its inconsistency.

        Also, what’s an “ideological argument”?

        A non-utilitarian argument

        • Jeremy May 15, 2009 at 8:36 am #

          I agree that the proviso is problematic (as it assumes some sort of ‘original’ obligation (an obligation that exists prior to action) to all others in the world – I question the source of such an obligation).

          But what about ‘Lockeans’ who reject the proviso? Do you see any inconsistency to this position?

        • db0 May 15, 2009 at 8:40 am #

          What is their excuse for the enclosure of the commons then?

        • Jeremy May 15, 2009 at 8:54 am #

          Their “excuse” for “enclosure of the commons”? I would use the terms “justification” for “appropriation of some of the world’s resources.”

          I would say it is merely that one who homesteads has thereby gained a claim to that property which is greater than anyone else’s claim. If I take unused land, till it, plant it, etc., my claim to that land has become greater than yours or his or hers.

          Obviously a mere assertion would not do. Also, dumping tomato juice on the land would also be insufficient.

        • db0 May 15, 2009 at 9:01 am #

          If I take unused land, till it, plant it, etc., my claim to that land has become greater than yours or his or hers.

          That is certainly true, but that is also compatible with possession. This claim that you have is a claim of use, so you can claim to own the land while you’re using it, and you get a claim to the fruits of your labour (the vegetables for example) which you can then exchange.

          However, to make the jump from this, to a permanent claim is what I would like you to justify. Why would your claim, based on use, trounce everyone elses similar right to claim it when you stop using it yourself?

        • Richard Garner May 15, 2009 at 9:09 am #

          db0, what “excuse” do you mean? I can find “right”-libertarians, Lockeans no less, opposing the enclosures. For example, here: http://praxeology.net/SEK3-AQ-3.htm.

        • Jeremy May 15, 2009 at 9:22 am #

          db0,

          It all comes down to our system of prioritizing claims to the earth’s resources. Some may say that a claim is only greater than others’ claims when a resource is being used; some say that the claim is to the resource remains greater even during a period of non-use. I think this is what is meant when it is said that the difference between mutualism and Lockeanism is one of degree and not of kind. Both positions must justify their claim prioritization schemes.

          I would say that a claim to homesteaded land (or any other resource) remains the greater than any other person’s claim until abandoment. In other words, one can be using something without possessing it. I guess that makes me a Lockean of some sort.

          Just as you say that I cannot take your bike while you are not using it, I would say that one cannot take land that I have previously appropriated just because I am not in possession of it at the time. My claim to the land is still greater than yours.

          Like you say, there are no “hard and fast rules” and the fuzzy edges of any claim prioritization system would have to be defined by the community. Hence, I would say that our discussion is a discussion on where those lines should be drawn – our differences are one of degree and not of kind.

        • db0 May 15, 2009 at 9:25 am #

          If you renounce the lockean proviso, then I guess that you fall back to simply legal claims to private property, as I said in my original post.

          If you justify “homesteading”, then you’re simply enclosing by another name.

        • Jeremy May 15, 2009 at 9:27 am #

          Could you expand on this point. What do you mean by “simply legal claims to private property”?

          What do you mean by “enclosure”? Is enclosure different than homesteading?

        • db0 May 15, 2009 at 9:31 am #

          @Jeremy, my take on property automatically forbids acts such as wage slavery and rent. One cannot be said to be “using” a factory when they do not work it. Once cannot be said to “use” a house someone else lives in.

          Does you concept allows for this kind of use? If so, then we are fundamentally incompatible. If not, then you are right, that it’s a matter of degree.

        • Jeremy May 15, 2009 at 9:53 am #

          What if a person builds a factory, co-ordinates the production process and then hires workers to produce the product? I would say that this builder has a claim to the product of her efforts, as she built the factory, took on the risk, and co-ordinated the whole thing.

          Do you say that she is not entitled to any returns on her investment? If not, why not?

          BTW, I’m still interested in what you mean by “simply legal claims to private property” and “enclosure.”

        • db0 May 15, 2009 at 10:19 am #

          @Jeremy, you’re still no saying somethnig I am not. Of course that (theoretical) person has the right for a return of his investment of labour, I made the same note for land cultivation as well.

          However the way he can get his investment back is a multitude. If we assume that our society still uses money, he can simply sell it to the workers. If they do not have enough money, he can allow smaller payments (which the workers will then pay from the proceeds).

          To try and rent out or hire workers for the factory is to assume that the efforts he made are worth an infinite amount of returns, as no matter how much, and how long the workers work, they will never get to own the factory. This is an absurd proposition.

          So in an egalitarian society, only option 1 of course would be acceptable, as it would be the only thing considered a fair trade. The second option, or wage slavery or rent would not be possible if it were not for the societal situation which passively coerce people to accept them.

          BTW, I’m still interested in what you mean by “simply legal claims to private property” and “enclosure.”

          When I say a simple legal claim I mean a claim to PP that is based on simply the law (and the state) accepting that this person has this claim.

          As for homesteading. AFAIK, it’s not much different than enclosure, when it leads to PP rather than possession. Enclosure simply took homesteading one step further and claimed (based on the Lockeo proviso and other such nonsense) than common land was really “unowned”.

        • Richard Garner May 15, 2009 at 10:57 am #

          To try and rent out or hire workers for the factory is to assume that the efforts he made are worth an infinite amount of returns, as no matter how much, and how long the workers work, they will never get to own the factory. This is an absurd proposition.

          So in an egalitarian society, only option 1 of course would be acceptable, as it would be the only thing considered a fair trade. The second option, or wage slavery or rent would not be possible if it were not for the societal situation which passively coerce people to accept them.

          This is where you have a clash with libertarians: The question is “acceptable to whom?” or “fair to whom”? If one person is thinks it is worth paying a small amount, regularly, for an indefinite period, in order to use somebody else’s factory, then what is wrong with enforcing that agreement? And if the owner of the factory finds anything less unacceptable he clearly shouldn’t be forced to turn the factory over. Why should anybody else’s views on what is acceptable of fair have any bearing at all?

          Put simply, if the owner is unwilling to turn the factory over, then it would be stealing from him to force him to. If he is only willing if the new occupants pay a rent, then preventing that a) prevents the occupants from bettering themselves in a way that doesn’t violate rights, of b) allows them to steal from him.

        • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 11:32 am #

          A non-utilitarian argument

          You equate “ideological” with “utilitarian”?!? How come?

          And I’ve heard very few who try to use ideological arguments for it.

          Well, the two best-known libertarian philosophical defenses of private property are Nozick’s and Rothbard’s, no? Neither is utilitarian.

          What is their excuse for the enclosure of the commons then?

          If you mean the historical process by which commonly owned land was enclosed, most Lockeans oppose it.

          If you mean simply homesteading unownedland — land that no one has thus far used or laboured on — then calling it a “commons,” implying that it is already owned, albeit in common, seems tendentious. (Locke himself thought it was commonly owned because God had given it to humankind in common; but most Lockeans nowadays don’t rest their theory on theological premises.)

          In order to become owned (whether by an individual or as a commons), natural resources have to be used at some point.

          What is your “excuse” for maintaining exclusive control over your feet when you’re not using them (e.g. when you’re asleep)? What if someone else wants to use them then? (Of course you could argue that there’s a sense in which you’re using your feet even when you’re asleep. But in that sense the landowner who reserves some of his land for future use is doing likewise. That’s why the difference between possession and Lockean property seems like one of degree, not kind.)

          If you renounce the lockean proviso, then I guess that you fall back to simply legal claims to private property, as I said in my original post.

          I don’t see how that follows. Lockeans do not base their claims on positive law, and radical Lockeans (like Rothbard) regard the existing legal structure of property as systematically unjust.

          However, to make the jump from this, to a permanent claim is what I would like you to justify. Why would your claim, based on use, trounce everyone elses similar right to claim it when you stop using it yourself?

          I’m not sure what you mean by “permanent.” Most Lockeans think that if you just walk away from your property, after a sufficient length of time you can be regarded as having abandoned it. Again, a difference in degree, not kind — a disagreement as to what constitutes abandonment.

          wage slavery or rent would not be possible if it were not for the societal situation which passively coerce people to accept them.

          Under a Lockean theory, wage labour and rent would both be permissible. But it’s also true that under a genuinely Lockean system, the factors that render wage labour and rent oppressive in our society by making other options enormously difficult would be removed. In a freed market where the government no longer systematically biases things in favour of landlords and employers via economic privilege, workers’ cooperatives and self-employment would be more readily available options, and land that is tied up privately by legal fiat rather than actual homesteading (which in this country means most of the land west of the Mississippi) would become available for homesteading — plus the numerous laws that work to impoverish people and keep them dependent and resource-poor would be gone. In a freed market, then, people would pay rent or work for wages only if they found it convenient, not because it was their only option.

        • db0 May 15, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

          You equate “ideological” with “utilitarian”?!? How come?

          You misread. I said that an ideological argument is a non-utilitarian argument.

        • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 1:35 pm #

          You misread. I said that an ideological argument is a non-utilitarian argument.

          I didn’t misread, I mistyped.

          My question was: why do you equate “ideological” with “non-utilitarian”? That seems very strange.

        • db0 May 15, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

          Sorry, I would reply more but I’m a bit burnt out after arguing extensively with Richard on the original article. I’ll call it a day for today 😉

        • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

          Careful — if you walk away from your role in the argument and leave it overnight, someone else may homestead it! 🙂

        • db0 May 16, 2009 at 5:38 pm #

          Well, then, just as Kevin and I and others here have been saying, the dispute boils down to this:

          Unfortunately not, because under possession wage slavery and rent would be impossible. Since it’s use that defines ownership, it would be impossible for one to, say, live in a house but not own it.

        • Jimmy0d May 19, 2009 at 6:16 pm #

          @Roderick

          “What is your “excuse” for maintaining exclusive control over your feet when you’re not using them (e.g. when you’re asleep)?”

          My heart is pumping my blood into my feet and I’m also probably kickign around my covers. In other words, that’s a horrible example which bears no resemblance to a factory owner (who, by the way, does not build a factory, they hire others to build a factory).

          Labor slavery would still exist because you have no choice but to work for someone else (or produce for someone else) or starve.

          What other Lockean options to rent would there be in new york city? The ability to homestead (in theory, though really how much non claimed land do you think will be left after the initial homesteading burst) does not alleviate the problems with rent or the fact that one is forced to pay rent.

    • Richard Garner May 15, 2009 at 7:54 am #

      Because it is logically inconsistent.

      This is just an assertion. You have not showed anything yet.

      Because whenever I enclose any amound of land, it will by default, reduce the average left for everyone else.

      This is about Locke’s proviso, an aspect that people like Rothbard, and perhaps Roderick, leave out. But even then, this problem you raise has already been raised by plenty of other people, especially Robert Nozick. The solution is that it depends on how you interpret the proviso. There is suggestion in Locke that the issue is about whether appropriation worsens the position of those left, in talking about whether it is justified. In that case, then, it may be case that the fact that every appropriation leaves less for others does not breach the proviso, since it doesn’t necessarily make them worse off (indeed, some libertarians, like David Schmidtz, have argued that we could be morally [i]obliged[/i] to appropriate resources, that leaving things in common, susceptible to the tragedy of the commons, etc. worsens people).

      Secondly because it doesn’t follow from the premise. Just because one mixes labour to commons, does not mean that the commons should become private, it could simply lead to the opposite.

      Is this again out of Nozick, his tomato juice spilling example? Edward Feser said some interesting things about that. For instance, does intent matter: If part of my drink evaporates into the air, I don’t get to own the air by mixing something of mine with it, but maybe lack of intent explains that partly? Or maybe the fact that I effected little change to the air – perhaps there has to be a significant mixing: It seems intuitively correct that if I blow on a piece of wood I don’t get to own it, and yet it I wittle the wood into a toy animal, the intuition seems to change, so maybe the extent of the mixing is important.

      And I’ve heard very few who try to use ideological arguments for it. But that may be just my experience.

      Hang around with libertarians more: You will hear lots about it.

      • db0 May 15, 2009 at 8:20 am #

        In that case, then, it may be case that the fact that every appropriation leaves less for others does not breach the proviso, since it doesn’t necessarily make them worse off

        That is only if you claim that one is justified in grabbing a resource forcefully and giving the previous owner the current exchange value. But first of all this defeats the classic marginalist defense that the value is subjective, and second, how one becomes “worse off” is not simply about the wealth he has, but also about the freedom.

        So the argument that it doesn’t necessarily make them worse off fails, because people are worse off from a libertarian perspective, as their only choice now is to sell their labour and liberty (ie become wage slaves)

        indeed, some libertarians, like David Schmidtz, have argued that we could be morally [i]obliged[/i] to appropriate resources, that leaving things in common, susceptible to the tragedy of the commons, etc. worsens people)

        Seeing as the tragedy of the commons didn’t actually affect the people using the commons, that’s an unlikely argument. In fact, the tragedy of the commons is more like a projection on the part of the right-“libertarians” than a legitimate argument.

        yet it I wittle the wood into a toy animal, the intuition seems to change, so maybe the extent of the mixing is important.

        You get to exchange it for the extra value your labour added to the wood certainly. But this breaks down when you try to use it to explain the enclosure of commons, where you try to use the same excuse to initiate a permanent ownership claim, which would grant you far greater value than your labour produced, plus remove the possibility of others doing the same.

        • Richard Garner May 15, 2009 at 8:58 am #

          That is only if you claim that one is justified in grabbing a resource forcefully and giving the previous owner the current exchange value.

          I’m not sure how one grabs the previous owner of a previously unowned resource? Could you explain that, how one finds the owner of something unowned?

          But first of all this defeats the classic marginalist defense that the value is subjective, and second, how one becomes “worse off” is not simply about the wealth he has, but also about the freedom.

          But freedom being zero sum anyway, one person’s gain in it is always another person’s loss. For me to be at liberty to do X means that I am not prevented from doing X, which entails that nobody else is free to do any action that would prevent me doing X. Simultaneously, actions, as events, occur in time and space, and so have spatio-temporal locations. I am free to do X if other are not free to act in ways that prevent me from doing X, and their actions occur in a given spatio temporal location. That means that my being free to do X entails that I exclusively control the spatio-temporal location of that action. For me to be free to do anything, then, implies that they are not free to do certain things with certain objects at certain times.

          because people are worse off from a libertarian perspective, as their only choice now is to sell their labour and liberty (ie become wage slaves)

          It is false that that is their only choice. In fact, it is by definition impossible for somebody to only have one choice: Choice implies alternatives. These people have alternatives: They can be supported by friends, family, charity, or there are less attractive alternatives.

          What is your position on those who “have no choice but to sell their” capital or starve? If the only way I could support myself was to charge people for using capital I had accumulated, would you call me a, what, “interest slave”? a “Dividend slave”? Would I be being exploited?

          Seeing as the tragedy of the commons didn’t actually affect the people using the commons, that’s an unlikely argument. In fact, the tragedy of the commons is more like a projection on the part of the right-”libertarians” than a legitimate argument.

          I have no idea to what you are referring here. Firstly, I don’t know what you mean by a “projection” – it sounds like a made up term. The tragedy of the commons is a perfectly explicable and understandable possibility, whether it occurs or not. Secondly, Schmidtz provides examples of it causing problems, and plenty of examples can be raised (traffic jams, for instance, or political lobbying for another). Thirdly, claims that it “didn’t effect the commons” are false, because it did, and that is why examples that people pretend are “commons” are actually not. For instance, pre-enclosure, land was called a commons… except that rights to use it in various ways were privately owned. It was not the case that just anybody could go hunt, or collect firewood, or fish the land.

          You get to exchange it for the extra value your labour added to the wood certainly. But this breaks down when you try to use it to explain the enclosure of commons, where you try to use the same excuse to initiate a permanent ownership claim, which would grant you far greater value than your labour produced, plus remove the possibility of others doing the same.

          Again, further explaination is needed here. Why should I care if other people are unable to exchange land I worked on and they didn’t? And how can they work on the same patch of land I work on, anyway? Can more than one object occupy the same space at the same time? I thought that was physically impossible. If somebody else is able to work that land and exchange the land for whatever price, then I am not. If I am, they are not. I don’t see how your argument makes any difference, except that I was the one who was there, using the land first, and so they interfere with me, not I with them.

          You seem to think that the value my labour produces is something objective and distinctive, but I can’t see that either claim is true.

        • db0 May 15, 2009 at 9:21 am #

          I’m not sure how one grabs the previous owner of a previously unowned resource? Could you explain that, how one finds the owner of something unowned?

          You have a commons area where, say, 10 people are working on. One of them then decides to claim the whole thing for himself and excuses it by paying the other persons the exchange price it would catch if they were working on it for the whole year. Or something similar.

          And also, resources that are unowned, can also be claimed to be commonly owned, that is, belong to everyone by the same amount. As such, you do not have any right to declare them as private property.

          For me to be free to do anything, then, implies that they are not free to do certain things with certain objects at certain times.

          This all sounds very philosophical but it didn’t counter the problem that by encolsing on the commons, people become worse off from a librtarian perspective.

          It is false that that is their only choice. In fact, it is by definition impossible for somebody to only have one choice: Choice implies alternatives. These people have alternatives: They can be supported by friends, family, charity, or there are less attractive alternatives.

          Drastically reducing the number of choices they had before you enclosed on the commons amounts to the same thing. They become worse off.

          What is your position on those who “have no choice but to sell their” capital or starve? If the only way I could support myself was to charge people for using capital I had accumulated, would you call me a, what, “interest slave”? a “Dividend slave”? Would I be being exploited?

          This is a false position. People who have capital can work it. People who have land can tile it.

          I have no idea to what you are referring here. Firstly, I don’t know what you mean by a “projection” – it sounds like a made up term.

          Here you go

          For instance, pre-enclosure, land was called a commons… except that rights to use it in various ways were privately owned. It was not the case that just anybody could go hunt, or collect firewood, or fish the land.

          When enforced by the community who used said land, this is exactly the limitation that prevented the “tragedy” from occuring. This is what the tragedy of the commons theory misses

          Again, further explaination is needed here. Why should I care if other people are unable to exchange land I worked on and they didn’t?

          Because you do not have a claim to the land itself. Only to the labour invested in the land. And this labour always goes away unless maintained so the value drops slowly to 0 unless constantly maintained by you personally. As soon as you stop doing this (obviously with a small grace period), your claim to the land is null.

          Can more than one object occupy the same space at the same time? I thought that was physically impossible.

          As weird as it sounds, many people can in fact, work the same patch of land. It’s called communal farming.

          If somebody else is able to work that land and exchange the land for whatever price, then I am not. If I am, they are not. I don’t see how your argument makes any difference, except that I was the one who was there, using the land first, and so they interfere with me, not I with them.

          The land is never exchanged. Only the labour one has invested in it. That the land itself is subject to private property claims is what you’re trying to prove here.

          So if you’ve been working on the land, you can exchange the labour you’ve invested in it which will in turn pass the possession of the land to the other party. Neither of you has any claim to the land that they will not permanently use, as such, you’re not justified in renting the land, or hiring workers to use it and give you the surplus.

        • Richard Garner May 15, 2009 at 10:33 am #

          You have a commons area where, say, 10 people are working on

          Collectively? So as a group they are working together on this land? In that case, in Lockean theory, and that of “right” libertarians, they have all apropriated it together, and the land is the collective property of that group. No member could then purchase a part or all of it for himself without the unanimous consent of the others.

          I’m not sure how what you have said resolves the issue of “grabbing” previously unowned property from its previous owner. I was being sarcastic when I asked for an explaination, a fact that should be obvious: Previously unowned property by definition, has no previous owner. The Lockean theory of appropriation is a theory about how ownership could justly come about in the first place. Grabbing something from a previous owner implies that ownership already exists.

          And also, resources that are unowned, can also be claimed to be commonly owned

          Like a can that is unopened can be called opened? This is a contradiction: Something that is unowned is unowned. It is not t simultaneously unowned and owned.

          This all sounds very philosophical but it didn’t counter the problem that by encolsing on the commons, people become worse off from a librtarian perspective.

          You’ll have to explain what you mean by “from a libertarian perspective” to me. Plainly two people cannot occupy the same space at the same time, so any time you use something, you render others unfree to use it, and so reduce their liberty. But were they at liberty to use it, you would not be, so increasing their liberty means reducing yours. Given that, liberty cannot be increased over all, but be more concentrated or dispersed. It is plain that liberty cannot be a concern, but what liberty people are entitled to can be – since a gain in liberty for you is somebody else’s loss, the question is whether you were entitled to that which you gained, or whether the loser was entitled to hers. But this means introducing a theory of rights, and libertarianism as a theory of rights, not liberty.

          What is your position on those who “have no choice but to sell their” capital or starve? If the only way I could support myself was to charge people for using capital I had accumulated, would you call me a, what, “interest slave”? a “Dividend slave”? Would I be being exploited?

          This is a false position. People who have capital can work it. People who have land can tile it.

          This plainly false: Millions of people now live on the earnings of their invested capital who who be incapable of “working it” themselves, or gaining an equivalent income if they did. A good many of such people we call “Old Age Pensioners.” Or would you cancel their pensions and put them back to work?!

          When enforced by the community who used said land, this is exactly the limitation that prevented the “tragedy” from occuring.

          Of course it is, and this is precisely what appropriation entails: You are saying that, instead of a situation where, for instance, just anybody could go and cut some wood in a copse whenever they felt like it, a group of people should be able to restrict access to that copse and prevent anybody they haven’t given permission to from accessing and using it. I can’t see at all why you say “This is what the tragedy of the commons theory misses” when this is precisely what Schmidtz whole point was: That access to the resource should be restricted, regulated, precisely as you have said.

          Because you do not have a claim to the land itself. Only to the labour invested in the land. And this labour always goes away unless maintained so the value drops slowly to 0 unless constantly maintained by you personally. As soon as you stop doing this (obviously with a small grace period), your claim to the land is null

          What do you mean “this labour always goes away”? If I sculted a statue from some granite on my land it would last for centuries. And the value wouldn’t drop, either. Indeed, it could even increase (Star Wars toys sell for a much higher price now than they did when they were first issued). I can’t tell if you are saying that my claim is to my labour, or to the value of my labour. Firstly, I don’t have a right to the “value” of my labour, because my labour has no objective value – its value depends on how valuable people find it, and I have no right that others find it valuable to a certain extent and no less. Secondly, even if everybody else valued my labour at 0, thaking the composite “labour+natural resource” means taking my labour without my consent, whic is precisely why whether I have a claim to my labour or its value is important.

          As weird as it sounds, many people can in fact, work the same patch of land. It’s called communal farming.

          They do not literally occupy the same space at the same time. BTW, have you compared the output, under the USSR, of people’s vegatable gardens with the output of the collective farms?

          The land is never exchanged. Only the labour one has invested in it. That the land itself is subject to private property claims is what you’re trying to prove here.

          Easily done: Instead of talking about labour, lets get more general, though. I own X, nobody owns Y. I irretrievably mix my X with nobody’s Y, producing XY. You come along and try to take Y. Unfortunately, you cannot do so without taking the X, taking XY, and therefore robbing me. Your taking Y would thus constitute a violation of rights, namely my right to X. Thus I can legitimately prevent you from trying to taking the Y without my consent, since taking Y entails taking XY, which entails taking X, and I have a right to prevent you taking my X.

          Neither of you has any claim to the land that they will not permanently use,

          So, if I irretrievably mix my X with nobodies Y, producing XY, I somehow gain a time limit after which the X ceases to be mine? Nobody should be able to take the products of another person’s labour without consent… unless they wait long enough?!

        • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 11:46 am #

          That is only if you claim that one is justified in grabbing a resource forcefully and giving the previous owner the current exchange value.

          There are two different senses of “commons” at work here. One is a resource that is actually commonly owned and managed, like a tree that we all participate in tending; call this commons-1. Another is a resource that is just there, as yet unclaimed, so it’s free for anyone to use but no one can restrict anyone else’s use of it, like a tree in the wilderness that anyone can ride by and pluck fruit from; call this the commons-2. A commons-1 is owned, and cannot be appropriated individually without the consent of the owners. A commons-2 is unowned, and by most Lockean principles anyone can appropriate it.

          because people are worse off from a libertarian perspective, as their only choice now is to sell their labour and liberty (ie become wage slaves)

          But it’s not private property per se that does this, it’s state intervention in violation of Lockean rules.

          Seeing as the tragedy of the commons didn’t actually affect the people using the commons, that’s an unlikely argument. In fact, the tragedy of the commons is more like a projection on the part of the right-”libertarians” than a legitimate argument.

          I agree that the tragedy of the commons doesn’t apply to the commons-1, and that attempts to invalidate the commons-1 by appeal to the tragedy of the commons are inappropriate. But you would be wrong to think of Schmidtz as a critic of the commons-1; on the contrary, in the piece I linked to he defends it as a legitimate form of ownership. What the tragedy of the commons does apply to is the commons-2.

        • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 11:51 am #

          You have a commons area where, say, 10 people are working on. One of them then decides to claim the whole thing for himself and excuses it by paying the other persons the exchange price it would catch if they were working on it for the whole year. Or something similar.

          Yes, that’s clearly illegitimate. But that’s not what most Lockeans are defending.

          This all sounds very philosophical but it didn’t counter the problem that by encolsing on the commons, people become worse off from a librtarian perspective.

          By enclosing the commons-1, yes. By enclosing the commons-2, no.

          When enforced by the community who used said land, this is exactly the limitation that prevented the “tragedy” from occuring. This is what the tragedy of the commons theory misses

          Since people like Schmidtz who make use of the tragedy of the commons do not miss this point, but on the contrary stress this point, your argument simply does not apply to them.

        • db0 May 16, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

          Previously unowned property by definition, has no previous owner. The Lockean theory of appropriation is a theory about how ownership could justly come about in the first place.

          Any land that is unowned can be also treated as a common since there is no functional difference unless someone wants to privative it. If we have a common, then anyone can make use of it. If we have an unowned, land then anyone can make use of it.

          However someone who comes in and privatizes an unowned land, take the right for others to make use of it, when that person does not want to anymore. So while a possession right on unowned land can be accepted, a private property one can’t.

          You’ll have to explain what you mean by “from a libertarian perspective” to me.

          When a person’s choices are reduced from “tile the land yourself, sell your labour or starve” to “sell your labour or starve” then they are worse off from the perspective of how much liberty they have. They are worse off from a libertarian perspective.

          Plainly two people cannot occupy the same space at the same time, so any time you use something, you render others unfree to use it, and so reduce their liberty

          Yes, but that is a law of nature. This is nothing that can change, like gravity. So we work with it as best as we can, and the best way is through possession which recognises the fact that what people use, by natural fact, can obly be theirs. However the concept of PP creates an artificial ownership and claims that people can, in fact, occupy the same space at the same time – in a sense, as it basically assumes that something that one person uses, is the ownership of another.

          This plainly false: Millions of people now live on the earnings of their invested capital who who be incapable of “working it” themselves, or gaining an equivalent income if they did.

          Yes, well, I have no tears for those poor people who won’t be able to survive without working anymore…

          A good many of such people we call “Old Age Pensioners.” Or would you cancel their pensions and put them back to work?!

          No, but I would equalize their pension with all other pensioners in the world.

          Of course it is, and this is precisely what appropriation entails: You are saying that, instead of a situation where, for instance, just anybody could go and cut some wood in a copse whenever they felt like it, a group of people should be able to restrict access to that copse and prevent anybody they haven’t given permission to from accessing and using it.

          The person who cuts wood from the grove is “using” it. If he is the sole user of the wood, obviously there’s no point in talking about a tragedy of the commons. As long as another person wants to come to cut wood from it, then you have two people using it. It has become a common. Just like that.

          Once these two, three or hundred people realize that they are others using this woods, then they will by themselves come to a deal to prevent overcutting, as has happened naturally for ages.

          What do you mean “this labour always goes away”? If I sculted a statue from some granite on my land it would last for centuries. And the value wouldn’t drop, either.

          Oh come on. Is this what we mean by working the land? Please use realistic examples. We mean farming

          I can’t tell if you are saying that my claim is to my labour, or to the value of my labour. Firstly, I don’t have a right to the “value” of my labour, because my labour has no objective value – its value depends on how valuable people find it,

          You have a right to the value of your labour, and the objective value it has, is the amount of labour any other person would have to perform to get the same result. As such, the price will be set by you when you sell it, and undoubtedly you won’t sell it for less than the value of another item (or items) which an averagely skilled worker would make in the same amount of labour time it took you to build whatever you’re selling.

          Secondly, even if everybody else valued my labour at 0, thaking the composite “labour+natural resource” means taking my labour without my consent, whic is precisely why whether I have a claim to my labour or its value is important.

          Whatever other value your labour is irrelevant, as they have no right to the fruits of your labour unless you give it.

          I own X, nobody owns Y. I irretrievably mix my X with nobody’s Y, producing XY. You come along and try to take Y. Unfortunately, you cannot do so without taking the X, taking XY, and therefore robbing me.

          Why would I come and take XY? That is absurd. Let me give you a more adequate example. You own X, nobody owns Y. You irretrievably mix your X with nobody’s Y, producing XY. You leave it like this for 1 year and by then, X has dissolved, so now only Y exists. I come and try to use Y since it looks unowned to me. You try to prevent me on the reasoning that Y is yours since you used it in the past. This is obviously unfair.

          Let me give you another example. You mix your X with Y, but Y you claimed is too large and your X is too diluted to be useful. Then you find me and another person who have no Y anymore (since you took more than you could use) and tell us that we can use our X on your Y but we have to give you XY/5 as well. We accept as we don’t have a choice anymore. However after 5 years, We’ve given you as much X as you’ve invested in the first place. We now own Y. You disagree and claim that our X was actually your X so we still do not own Y. This is again, obviously unfair

          Nobody should be able to take the products of another person’s labour without consent… unless they wait long enough?!

          Talking about previously unowned Y? Yes, as long as the original owner is not using it.

        • Roderick May 16, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

          You leave it like this for 1 year and by then, X has dissolved, so now only Y exists.

          Well, then, just as Kevin and I and others here have been saying, the dispute boils down to this: at what rates, and under what conditions, does X dissolve? And that sure sounds like a matter of degree to me — where the extremes (it last forever vs. it expires as soon as I step away for a second) are both absurd but a number of intermediate positions are non-crazy.

        • db0 May 16, 2009 at 5:40 pm #

          Well, then, just as Kevin and I and others here have been saying, the dispute boils down to this:

          Unfortunately not, because under possession wage slavery and rent would be impossible. Since it’s use that defines ownership, it would be impossible for one to, say, live in a house but not own it.

          PS: Gah, sorry, I replied in the wrong thread above as well. Unfortunately your comments get a bit confusing once they grow long, as you need to go higher to start replying 🙁

        • Roderick May 16, 2009 at 6:42 pm #

          db0,

          Re blog format, yeah, it’s annoying. But usually my posts don’t have quite so many comments so it causes fewer problems.

          Re rent and wages — well, that’s a matter of degree too. Do you have any thoughts on Kevin’s comment here, my comments here and here, or the last paragraph of my comment here? With this flurry of comments you may have missed them.

        • Roderick May 16, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

          Oh, and this one too!

        • db0 May 17, 2009 at 4:15 am #

          I’ve made an initial reply on my site as my answer was getting quite long. Hopefully we can continue the discussion there as my comment system can handle long conversations a bit better.

          I would actually recomment it to you as well 😉

    • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 11:03 am #

      Because it is logically inconsistent. Because whenever I enclose any amound of land, it will by default, reduce the average left for everyone else.

      It sounds like you’re talking about the Lockean Proviso. I’m using the term “Lockeanism” for the entire family of Lockean theories, including those (like Rothbard’s) that don’t accept the Proviso.

      In any case, David Schmidtz has argued that, thanks to tragedy-of-the-commons considerations, appropriation actually increases the amount available to others in the long run.

      Just because one mixes labour to commons, does not mean that the commons should become private, it could simply lead to the opposite.

      Well, sure, if you shorten the argument to a slogan. I would say the point of labour-mixing is to make external objects come to have a relationship to oneself analogous to the relation that one’s own bodily constituents have to oneself, so that the ban on appropriating other people will then apply to those objects.

  5. Kregus May 15, 2009 at 5:55 am #

    One of the best videos on this topic:

    On Anarchism
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ivI8yKjgBM&feature=channel_page

    🙂

    • db0 May 15, 2009 at 6:13 am #

      It’s very much inaccurate. It’s based on the author redefining Anarchism to suit his argument

      • Brainpolice May 15, 2009 at 10:31 am #

        I did not redefine anarchism to suite my argument. I took a very broad anarchism without adjectives perspective.

        • db0 May 15, 2009 at 10:43 am #

          A very broad anarchism without adjectives would be simply a generic Libertarian Socialism. It would still not be compatible with Private property.

        • Brainpolice May 15, 2009 at 10:48 am #

          And, in order to help clear up some confusion, I provided a meta-definition of a “free market” as free competition *between economic systems* rather than as a singular economic system in and of itself. In this broader definition of a “free market”, anarcho-communism would just be one system among others inside of a voluntary pluralistic order. And it need not even necessarily be isolated from other systems – it could be voluntarily federated to some degree.

        • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 4:04 pm #

          A very broad anarchism without adjectives would be simply a generic Libertarian Socialism. It would still not be compatible with Private property.

          Kevin Carson is a mutualist, not a Lockean, but he has made the case that a) the difference between mutualists and Lockeans is in large part a matter of degree, and b) a consistent application of either mutualist or Lockean principles would radically undermine the existing system of hierarchy and privilege. I very much hope you will read Kevin’s article here. I think it has interesting points of contact with your own article, though I realise you may not agree….

        • Brainpolice May 15, 2009 at 5:03 pm #

          “A very broad anarchism without adjectives would be simply a generic Libertarian Socialism. It would still not be compatible with Private property.”

          My video didn’t say anything about private property – and my position isn’t incompatible with libertarian socialism. Furthermore, this just gets into the same old semantics over how one defines “private property”. If “private property” signifies some level of exclusivity, then even a commune is “private” in relation to what’s outside of it – I.E. short of turning the entire planet into a gigantic collective, any level of decentralization inherently is going to involve some degree of “private property” in this sense.

          If we are to make a distinction between “private property” and “possession” or “personal property”, that’s fine, but this also just becomes a semantic issue – for what you would call “possession” or “personal property” would be a form of “private property” by the definition of most market anarchists. Likewise, in principle, no market anarchist can consistenly oppose “collective property” so long as it is established on a voluntary basis (in fact, Roderick has a piece in which he justifies voluntary commons in lockean terms). Personally, I think some degree of commons is necessary and reasonable!

          If by “private property” we refer to the legal title to property granted by the state in the absence of use or property as traditionally defined by the Roman Law, as Proudhon critisized – then I am actually against “private property” myself. In fact, I’m even opposed to absentee ownership on some level (and hence my views on property are in some ways “to the left” of non-proviso lockeans). Furthermore, even from a lockean perspective, as soon as we grant a concept of abandonment, we have opened up the possibility of considering that there is such thing as a problem of absentee ownership. From that point onwards, the differences become a matter of degree rather than kind.

  6. Richard Garner May 15, 2009 at 9:53 am #

    I honestly don’t find this first essay that attractive. for instance:

    However, as this is defined socially, it’s the acceptance of society that would make act of appropriation act acceptable or not.

    In otherwords, a family of black people set off out into the wlideness to find new usable land. They come across some, clear it, build a home, plough it and start a crop. Then other households later follow, springing up around them. Unfortunately, the other housholds are all KKK members who don’t want the blacks there and want that land for themselves. Since “society” has not “accepted” the black’s appropriation of this land, the KKK can turn them off? When the family leave on a day trip, the KKK guys can move onto the land and squat, and make it theirs?

    Likewise, this claim seems false:

    As society expands and as people are born without a claim to property, this in turn becomes a leverage for exploitation and, by extension, inequality. Simply put. Someone who does not own land, must sell the only thing he can, his labour (and by extention freedom), and he must sell it at a price that is less than what he would make if he did own land. The excess result of this labour, profit, of course goes to the employer who then uses it to expand his PP. And the cycle of exploitation continues.

    It is a fact that (a) I, living here in the UK, own no land, and (b) I am considerably wealthier than many in the world who do. It is not obvious that other people’s appropriation of all available land has made me worse off than had the land remained in common, or had everybody owned their own, equal slice. On the contrary, it seems quite credible that such appropriation has left me better off, despite the fact that I own no land.

    The author argues for “possession,” which is “where any one person can only ever own as much as they personally use.” It is worth noting, of course, that compossibility issues he has raised on this thread, about an appropriation depriving others of freedom, apply here too: It is perfectly concievable that all available land be appropriated by people who own no more than they can personally use, leaving, say, somebody born into a future generation no place to stand or do anything without violating the property rights of others.

    There are all sorts of claims in the essay, like “As such, inequality would not be possible without the ability of people to accumulate. Without this incentive people in turn have no reason to exploit and emiserate their fellow humans for it would not bring them any social benefit.” This ignores the fact that wage rates depend on the accumulation of capital; societies with little accumulated capital, savings, etc, will be societies in which workers recieve very little for their pay. (This is an odd thing comparing the currect recession with development economics. Everybody knows that to eleviate third world poverty, we need to get people saving and investing in those economies, accumlating capital… and yet to boost productive when our own economies go into recession, we are told the opposite: Stop saving, go out and get spending! Nobody would say that the solution to poverty in Africa was to get people spending more!)

    The question of economies of scale clearly arises: Productivity (in some industries) may be greater when there are a few large owners of land than when there are a great many, so surely saying that nobody can own more than they can personally use themselves prevents them capturing these economies. This problem is solved, though, here:

    One would ask, how would Possession deal with items that are too big for one person to use, such as a factory? This is of course has a very easy solution: Collective ownership. Each person who works in a factory is considered to own an equal share of it and as such, any surplus value it creates. And this cannot be run in any other way other than a democratic one. For in a collection of equals, there’s no room for bosses giving orders.

    Of course, there are nonsense terms like “surplus value” here, and a myth that democracy involves nobody being the boss, when it really means the bigger gang being the boss of smaller ones, and the issue of, what if some workers want others to be the boss, and further, if I get no more pay for doing more work than others, why should I do more work? Beyond this, it could work. Some co-ops are successful, and some aren’t. Who knows. I do know it won’t get around the issue of economies of scale, though, because that is not an issue to do with who is working on a plot of land, but who owns it.

    Go back to the situation under which all land is the private property of the people who use it, and nobody owns more than they use personally (cripples own none, of course, and so starve! whilst strongmen, who can use more, own loads!). Now, I figure that I can produce ten times as much from the land if I had five times as much land as I can use and occupy, because of economies of scale. So, I need five other people to devote their land to the usage I have proposed. Clearly, I want large scale ownership of land, but I don’t see how “the land will belong to all those working it” solves that. How can saying that persuade the five people to devote their land to the usage I want it devoted to? It can’t.

    Further, there is the issue of, suppose I work, gathering the fruits of my labour, my income, the result of my toil, that none may take without my consent without exploiting me, and I decide to give them to one of these people owning no more than he can personally use himself, in exchange for him giving me his land. He is happy with this, because he prefers what I have given him, and I am happy, because I prefer having his land and mine. If he owns his land, then why should he not be able to make this agreement? If I own my labour power and its product, why can’t I make this agreement? And how will we be prevented from it, except by threats of violence against us, for the “crime” of entering into a voluntary, mutually beneficial agreement, between two consenting adults, not harming the person or property of anybody else?

    • db0 May 15, 2009 at 10:21 am #

      I would reply but I see no reason why you replied here instead of in the comments of the article itself. And since these comments are not as good for a long discussion, I will refrain.

      Feel free to repost your arguments there and I will counter them.

      • Richard Garner May 15, 2009 at 10:35 am #

        I was making an overall comment on your blogpost, rather than on specific points raised here (some aspects of your post have not been raised here, yet, after all – the economies of scale point, for instance).

        • db0 May 15, 2009 at 10:42 am #

          I know you were replying to my blogpost, which is why I asked to reply there instead 😉

        • Richard Garner May 15, 2009 at 10:47 am #

          Cool, I gave it ago, but it seems to dislike lengthy comments, so I made a mess of it. Feel free to delete my comments and I’ll give it another go.

        • db0 May 15, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

          Yeah, sorry about that. Actually splitting the comments in the main idea. Check the comment policy 😉

          Thanks for taking the time though

  7. Nick Manley May 15, 2009 at 11:09 am #

    Another intra-anarchist debate?

    ( :

    They never end.

    • Richard Garner May 15, 2009 at 11:26 am #

      Honestly, I am a big tent anarchist. Anarcho-capitalism is based on a premise that people have strong property rights in themselves, and the products of their labour, andany previously unowned natural resource they are the first to use and occupy by mixing their labour with. If people choose to work previously unowned lan communally, they gain collective ownership of it, according to this theory. Likewise, if an owner wants to start a commune, where land is own collectively, and can persuade others to go along, that too is permissable. Hell, if they want to make their property available to just anybody who happens along, then that is fine. Preventing all these things would violate property rights, the premise that anarcho-capitalism is built on.

      Likewise, anarchist communists don’t think people should be forced to join communes if they don’t want to. Since they themselves think that if you can’t access resources to support yourself unless you agree to some conditions set by others you are coerced, this necessarily means that those that don’t won’t to join will not be forced to turn their land over to the communes.

      In short, I see market relationships as the default, and alternatives as things that people opt into. No libertarian qua libertarian can object to voluntary communism as I described above. Likewise, it seems inconsistent that libertarian communists should object to a capitalist economy amongst those that don’t want voluntary communism.

  8. Anon73 May 15, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

    and a myth that democracy involves nobody being the boss, when it really means the bigger gang being the boss of smaller ones

    I think that’s the coolest comment so far in this thread.

    Since “society” has not “accepted” the black’s appropriation of this land, the KKK can turn them off? When the family leave on a day trip, the KKK guys can move onto the land and squat, and make it theirs?

    I can’t speak for others, but I would say the KKK people “can’t” in the sense of it being evil and unjust, but obviously they “can” since they have the strength to do it. Of course the example can be turned around – suppose the community is a black community and a KKK person moves in and starts trying to enslave people, appropriate land not being used at the moment, burn crosses, etc. He justifies his actions by saying that “society does not define what valid property rights are!” Suddenly the community squatting on “his” land and taking “his” slaves doesn’t seem so objectionable.

    It’s nice to imagine a perfect universe where there is no injustice or disagreement over ownership, but we don’t live in that universe. We live in one where the strong rule the weak, and in particular “societies” rule over individuals and sometimes other societies. So the question to ask is not “What is just?”, but rather “What rules of property can societies/gangs/rural farmers enforce on their members that maximizes the satisfaction of the entire community?”. I’m not saying those rules have to be utilitarian – but they ultimately have to be decided on by communities. So yeah, Anthem is not a recipe for prosperity, Lockean or otherwise. 🙁

    • martin May 16, 2009 at 7:47 am #

      Of course the example can be turned around – suppose the community is a black community and a KKK person moves in and starts trying to enslave people, appropriate land not being used at the moment, burn crosses, etc. He justifies his actions by saying that “society does not define what valid property rights are!”

      How is this turning the example around? The black family in Richard’s example don’t enslave people.

      So the question to ask is not “What is just?”, but rather “What rules of property can societies/gangs/rural farmers enforce on their members that maximizes the satisfaction of the entire community?”. I’m not saying those rules have to be utilitarian

      So what do you mean by “maximizes the satisfaction of the entire community” then?

      but they ultimately have to be decided on by communities.

      Well, yes, that’s why libertarians try to convince other people that liberarianism is just.

  9. Nick May 15, 2009 at 2:19 pm #

    My understanding is that possession follows from the universalization of labor-property, which is, after all, at the root of Lockean property.

    If labor creates property, then this is applicable to all who perform socially useful labor. Therefore, the only limitation on one’s right to collect the value of one’s labor is the equal right of others to do the same, and one cannot use one’s property claims to deny another person control of their own labor. Capital and improved land being the accumulation of past labor, when this labor has received its full product, then only those who intend to work with this capital and land can claim a share of the proceeds. This makes rents and wage labor impossible by default, which is not to say that people couldn’t agree to do such a thing, if for some reason they wanted to.

    Also, I think the ability to appropriate land [for use] depends on whether it is in use or not, which is not the same as whether it has been transformed. Resources can be in use without their users being able to prevent others from using them — they can only prevent others from appropriating them/preventing others from using them.

  10. Robert Paul May 15, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    Like many here, I’m a leftist and a libertarian. I consider many of my “intellectual ancestors” to be important but now mostly obsolete.

    Example 1: Classical liberals who still believe in the state. Obsoleted by a consistent view of liberty and Austrian economics, which implies market anarchy.

    Example 2: Social anarchists who believe in Marxist economics and focus on capitalists vs. workers, factories, democracy, labor theory of value, etc. I see this largely as a relic of the Industrial Revolution. Austrian economics has demolished Marxist economics, and I want a classless society where, to imprecisely use Marxist terminology, everyone is a capitalist. The future brings new ways of working together and creating wealth. There’s no need to focus solely on standard industrial models.

    • Brainpolice May 15, 2009 at 5:07 pm #

      Just to stick a monkey wrench into the rigid and one-dimensional dichotomies people set up, I’ve been thinking of calling myself an “austro-mutualist”.

      • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 5:15 pm #

        In similar vein — I actually think some sort of ongoing use is required for property rights to be maintained. I just have a broader view of what counts as “use” than the mutualists do (e.g. I think renting out one’s property counts as a use of it). Still, it puts me closer to mutualism than those Austrians who don’t believe in abandonment without intent.

        • Brainpolice May 15, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

          Right, that makes sense.

          The way I’ve phrased the conundrum is like this: at one extreme, we have “perpetual use”, which implies the absurdity of someone’s home being open to appropriation as soon as they leave it (of course, no mutualist actually takes such a position, to my knowledge, but such a reductio ad absurdum is a common objection raised against usufructuary property rights). To avoid this absurdity, the standard of “use” inherently has to be moderated and becomes closer to a lockean standard.

          On the other extreme, we have property claims that are completely divorced from use or “perpetual ownership in the absence of use”. This seems to lead to absurdities as well, with people laying claim to what either is (1) in fact, unowned or (2) clearly owned by others. Also, if one’s only criteria for abandonment is intent, I fail to see how this doesn’t justify feudalism. It therefore seems to me that once this is moderated, a lockean conception becomes closer to the usufrunctuary conception.

          In short: “perpetual use a the standard for ownership” effectively anihiliates property rights altogether while “perpetual ownership in the absence of use” seems to logically lead to feudalism.

        • Brainpolice May 15, 2009 at 5:28 pm #

          In fact, from a usufrunctuary perspective, the state is the greatest absentee owner of all!

        • Neverfox May 15, 2009 at 7:08 pm #

          I just saw this after my long reply. It looks the impressions your ideas left on my musings about occ/use aren’t completely unfounded. There is a reason I detected those threads in your ethics talk, I suppose.

          However, as I said, if ongoing use is proposed as the standard then the voluntary transfer of said use would seem to switch the “project” hat from one person to the next unless you also have an argument for why the landlord retains something else beyond use that gives them the right to declare the current user a trespasser. In other words, if use is all there is to property then transfer of use would be all there is to exchange. Just like we can’t go back after we voluntarilty exchange title in Lockeanworld, it would seem for symmetry, we couldn’t go back on a voluntary exchange of use in Usufructworld.

        • Roderick May 15, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

          Neverfox —

          Well, even in Usufructworld (unless it’s Crazy Usufructworld) there’s going to be such a thing as letting someone else use one’s property without a title transfer thereby happening — for example, I know your car’s in the shop and I don’t need mine today so I let you borrow it for the day. Any interpretation of use/plans/projects so strict that we have to say I’ve let my car pass out of my domain of use seems over-strict, for the same reason that it seems over-strict to treat leaving one’s car overnight count as abandonment. (This is particularly true if one adopts an Aristotelean unity-of-virtue view, where the content of justice stands in reciprocal determination with the content of benevolence and prudence — which is how consequentialist considerations get to play a role. After all, there are plenty of cases where people would be willing to lend what they wouldn’t be willing to give up permanently, and preventing lending in such cases from occurring seems like a bad result.)

          So if that’s granted, then the difference between Lockeanworld and Usufructworld becomes once again a matter of degree. So what’s the best way to determine where along the continuum to draw the line? It seems reasonable to me to let the two contracting parties decide where to draw it. At any rate, the burden of proof seems to me to lie with those who want to draw it somewhere other than where the two contracting parties want it.

          Now I can see why someone might think there’s a good reason to draw the line somewhere other than what the two contractors agree on if letting them decide results in a system of land feudalism and wage slavery and all the rest. But if the economic analysis that Austrians and mutualists agree on is right, that stuff mainly results from the governmental strands rather than the free-market strands in our economy.

        • Neverfox May 15, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

          Roderick,

          Thanks for the reply. I’m inclined to agree with you about the consequentialist considerations, the matter of degree, reciprocal determination etc. Despite my interest in seeing how far the concept could be pressed in an Austro-Athenian framework,
          I’m not particularly vested in an occupancy/use win. In fact, I’d rather associate mutualism with a certain philosophical perspective than with any particular proposed system of property rights (or banking or price theory etc.).

          This is particularly true if one adopts an Aristotelean unity-of-virtue view, where the content of justice stands in reciprocal determination with the content of benevolence and prudence — which is how consequentialist considerations get to play a role.

          I wonder if this is essentially similar to a recent sentiment of Shawn Wilbur’s:

          We do a lot of stuff that is just obviously invasive, and a lot more that is simply not sufficiently human-scale to be credible in the terms of natural rights type property theory.

          Or maybe I’m reading too much into it in an attempt to integrate the ideas of different ALLies. Throw it against the wall; see if it sticks.

        • Roderick May 16, 2009 at 12:48 am #

          Throw it against the wall; see if it sticks.

          I hope you’ll get permission from the owner of the wall.

      • Robert Paul May 15, 2009 at 5:30 pm #

        Do you mean something I said, or are you referring to the incorrect assumption that Austro-libertarians must be right-wingers? I think I see what you’re getting at – “austro-mutualism” bridges the gap between the most individualist form of anarchism social anarchists already seem to accept and Austrian market anarchism (or “anarcho-capitalism”). As Roderick has pointed out, this gap is tiny, or at least not as big as social anarchists (and sometimes anarcho-capitalists) claim.

        • Brainpolice May 16, 2009 at 10:41 am #

          I agree. And yea, I wasn’t argueing against you.

    • db0 May 16, 2009 at 6:06 am #

      Austrian economics has demolished Marxist economics,

      And that’s the problem. It hasn’t. You simply take this on faith.

      Not only that, but Austrian economics is extremely flaky itself.

      • Soviet Onion May 16, 2009 at 9:55 am #

        db0: My ideology isn’t ideological, yours is!!!!

        One wonders why an anarchist would feel the need to appeal to Marxist economics anyway.

        And that’s the problem. It hasn’t. You simply take this on faith.

        Faith implies belief in something without evidence or despite contradictory evidence. Contradictory evidence which is, in Marxism’s case, provided by history (the very thing it has faith in).

        On the one hand, Marx’s theory of the crises of capitalism is little more than a melodramatic description of the business cycle – standard fare in economic analysis. Every original contribution that Marx made to our understanding of capitalism is demonstrably false: the working class does not become increasingly immiserated; the class structure does not become increasingly polarised; no society has ever evolved from feudalism through capitalism to communism; the iron law of wages is fallacious; the State does not magically wither away when capitalism is abolished (and don’t go trying to say that the USSR was really “state-capitalist”, because a socialist state was exactly what Marx had in mind, and which he believed signified the end of the capitalist stage. You can’t dispute this without disputing Marxism itself).

        None of Marxism’s historical or hypothetical predictions have ever materialized, and every subsequent development on Marxist “theory”, from Lenin to Trotsky to Gramsci on up, has been little more than a long train of after-the-fact excuse making and other mental acrobatics designed to try and patch holes in the theory and explain away these inconsistencies instead of just admitting that it was fundamentally to begin with. Even modern Marxist historians like Gabriel Kolko and William Appleman Williams took the time to point out how off base his predictions were.

        Marx will continue to be neglected by serious scholars because he was wrong, wrong, WRONG in every important respect, and the only reason people like yourself still invoke Marxism is because it provides the necessary scientific-sounding jargon to make your moral denouncements fly.

        Just out of curiosity, what do you find “extremely flaky” about Austrian economics? I certainly hope it isn’t ahistorical prediction.

      • db0 May 16, 2009 at 1:52 pm #

        *Sigh* You take all of Marx’s predictions about the future of Capitalism and claim that they were supposed to be the understanding of it.

        Even if Marx is wrong on some aspects, does not mean that everything he said is wrong, any more than Darwin.

        Marx’s empirical study of Capitalism seems to be very close to the mark.

        Austrian economics is flaky because it is based on theories which are empirically disproven and axioms which are inconsistent.

        • Roderick May 16, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

          Austrian economics is flaky because it is based on theories which are empirically disproven and axioms which are inconsistent.

          For example?

        • db0 May 17, 2009 at 4:18 am #

          Marginal Productivity – Inconsistent.
          Labour “market” which clears – Inconsistent.
          Diminishing Returns of Production – Emprically disproven
          Prices set by the customer/market – Empirically disproven

        • Soviet Onion May 17, 2009 at 8:12 am #

          Even if Marx is wrong on some aspects, does not mean that everything he said is wrong, any more than Darwin.

          You have yet to prove that instead of just stating it.

          Marx’s empirical study of Capitalism seems to be very close to the mark.

          Funny how every one of his predictions was wildly off the mark. Hence the excuse making by his latter day disciples.

          Austrian economics is flaky because it is based on theories which are empirically disproven and axioms which are inconsistent.

          You really like to say that things are “empirically disproven” a lot, yet when pressed for evidence somehow can never seem to deliver, and then just wheedle off about how hard it would be to add something to the comment section.

          Marginal Productivity – Inconsistent.
          Labour “market” which clears – Inconsistent.
          Diminishing Returns of Production – Emprically disproven
          Prices set by the customer/market – Empirically disproven

          Throwing more shit out there and failing to back it up.

        • Neverfox May 17, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

          Marginal Productivity – Inconsistent.
          Labour “market” which clears – Inconsistent.
          Diminishing Returns of Production – Emprically disproven
          Prices set by the customer/market – Empirically disproven

          I think dbo is probably referring to something like Steve Keen’s work or Robert Vienneau (also here).

    • Robert Paul May 16, 2009 at 7:01 pm #

      And that’s the problem. It hasn’t. You simply take this on faith.

      Not only that, but Austrian economics is extremely flaky itself.

      Come on, db0. I’m not accusing you of taking Marxist economics on faith. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you don’t.

      But I do claim that you are mistaken in your support of Marxist economics and your rejection of Austrian economics.

      • db0 May 17, 2009 at 4:19 am #

        Eh, can’t please everyone (Sorry but I can’t open yet another comment battle here, especially one that will be as long winded as this 🙂 )

  11. Neverfox May 15, 2009 at 7:01 pm #

    First!

    Aw, shit! 60+ comments already!?

    Roderick,

    Being a fan of your praxeological approach to ethics, it struck me that occupancy & use might actually have a stronger foundation in praxeology than non-proviso Lockean property. This is probably as good a place and time as any to share some of the ideas that I have sketched out to see if I am on to something or completely lost.

    I began by collected together a few ideas: 1) Wittgenstein’s example about what it means have a plan, 2) Rothbard’s conception of property as a praxelogical concept (i.e. to the degree that it is a means of action), 3) your concept of “ongoing projects” and few other impressions like Kinsella’s “better title”.

    It seems to me that, taken together, these ideas might form a praxeological conception of an occupancy & use theory. I don’t have a fully worked out argument yet but you can probably tell where I’m trying to go with this. It’s something like this:

    As you ask in your lecture, “How can I be so related to some external object that your appropriating it counts as appropriating me?”
    Answer: Like my body, they are made a tool of my ongoing projects.

    But by using the concept “ongoing” you are already dangerously close to a concept like “occupancy & use” it seems to me. From here my move is to bring up Wittgenstein’s example of “plans”. As you say in your antipsych paper:

    Whether my mental goings-on count as plans or not depends in part on whether I have a tendency to act on them.

    It occurred to me that if property is property to the degree that it pertains to ongoing projects and ongoing projects (“plans”?) depends on a tendency to act on them (use it?), then better title depends on the degree to which your actions show a tendency to use the property, not the degree that you write “MINE” on a sign (like “PLANS” on a sheet of paper). This would seem to be better grounded and more fundamental than the temporal order of homesteading claims (order is still important as I mention below). It also avoids (by acknowledging that fuzziness of boundaries doesn’t invalidate delineation) the objection about going to the grocery store and losing your property. If we can determine when plans are plans by appeal to “tendency”, the same should be possible, perhaps with the aid of consequentialist considerations, for property.

    Now the most likely objection is that it would just lead to people trying to “out-tendency” one another. But I think that strains the conception of non-aggression. An earlier established ongoing project couldn’t be out-done without aggressing on the project in progress. But if it no longer counted as “in progress”, it would seem that a piece of paper wouldn’t be enough to trump the praxeological considerations.

    Another objection is one that you have made, as I recall, about renting being an ongoing project of the rentier. However, it seems to me that it can hardly be denied that the occupancy & use of the renter isn’t also an ongoing project (and likely a more obvious tendency) of the renter precisely because it was given for use voluntarily. To claim that the rentier retains something above and beyond use that allows for expulsion or recall would seem to beg the question against the occ/use position. So at that point it would seem the stronger use or the degree to which the property is part of two competing projects comes into play.

    I fully acknowledge the consequentialist reasons we might have for renting and reciprocity is important. But purely from the level of conceptual analysis, are these considerations have any power in the debate?

    I’m hoping for some constructive criticism and I somewhat expect that I’m probably using some muddled thinking somewhere since you have undoubtedly thought more about these concepts than I have. Also, as you probably know all to well, the early goings of trying to force together concepts that weren’t made to go together originally can be a long, slow process with many dead ends. But I would love to know if I’m on to anything here.

  12. Anon73 May 15, 2009 at 11:52 pm #

    If a land owner tries to rent their land then that land becomes unowned and wide open for anybody to move in. That’s how it would be if the state didn’t exist. I wonder if that’s how things are done in Exarchia…;)

    • Roderick May 16, 2009 at 12:50 am #

      That’s how it would be if the state didn’t exist.

      Well, rent is not unknown in historically stateless societies. (That’s not an argument on behalf of rent, just a counter to your predictive claim.)

      • Anon73 May 16, 2009 at 1:15 am #

        You could say those things (profit, interest, rent) are just precursors of a state, but perhaps that’s treading dangerously close to marxism.

  13. Kevin Carson May 16, 2009 at 1:29 am #

    MBH: I think the main difference between Roderick and Chomsky on the likely outcome of a free market is that Chomsky is unable to state, in coherent terms, exactly what his view is on the subject or to make a compelling argument for it. His writing is a treasure trove of factual information on just how dependent the corporate economy is on the state for its day to day survival, and he has more than once made statements to the effect that most large corporations would die from bleeding red ink if state subsidies and protections were withdrawn. And yet he argues elsewhere that big business would grow out of control if the state weren’t around to prop it up. I’ve pointed out the contradiction to him, but he refuses to see it–and just gets increasingly annoyed as the discussion continues.

    db0: Even without the Proviso, Lockeans like Rothbard held that all titles to vacant and unimproved land should be treated as null and void. And Rothbard, even without the Proviso, took a view of feudal land titles that put him on the side of the angels in regard to most agrarian reforms in the Third World; his view of justice in land claims, for example, required that haciendas be transferred to the peasants working the land.

    I don’t think the distinction between possession and private property is entirely semantic, so long as you make clear the sense in which you are using “private property.” But your particular usage of “private property” in a sense that excludes possessory property is by no means self-evident.

    I regard “property” as simply *any* set of rules, including possessory or usufructory, to regulate who has primacy of access rights to what. If any random yahoo can’t just walk into a factory and start playing around with a stamping press, in an anarcho-communist or -syndicalist society, then the factory is the property of the workers’ collective.

    So I prefer to say that possessory and Lockean systems are alternative property systems.

    Your distinction between possession and private property overlaps considerably with similar distinctions in a lot of other property theories, including the individualists, Georgists and Lockeans. Thomas Hodgskin, who AFAIK occupied a rather fuzzy spot on the line between Lockeanism and possessory property, distinguished between natural and artificial rights of property. So did the Georgist Nock. And Rothbard, as already mentioned, arguably regarded the majority of legal titles to property under the existing system as artificial. The interesting thing is that, while they differ on rules for transfer and abandonment, ALL the systems regard occupancy and use as the only proper way to homestead previously unused land.

    And while I favor a usufructory or possessory system (although I’m becoming more and more hazy on the practical details, in the face of hypothetical hard cases presented to me), I think Rothbard’s radical Lockeanism would go a huge way toward solving the same problems that Tucker’s occupancy-and-use system was intended to remedy.

    • MBH May 16, 2009 at 2:15 am #

      Kevin, thanks for the comment! From what I can tell, Chomsky’s argument is coherent. He’s just unwilling to give an a priori vision of statelessness. But he doesn’t feel he needs to: the burden rests on the state to justify its existence. So long as *that* justification is not coherent, then anarchy (as alternative form of interaction) is preferable. How that interaction would be structured generally would be the business of trial-and-error. So, by definition, the framework is indefinable: it would always be in motion. I happen to see that as a strength in Chomsky’s argumentation.

      However, on a personal note, without Roderick’s vision, I would never have given anarchy a second thought. For me, market anarchy is like a blueprint which demonstrates that statelessness can be structured. So, even though I think the idea is a stepping stone, it’s priceless.

    • william May 17, 2009 at 8:55 am #

      > “I regard “property” as simply *any* set of rules, including possessory or usufructory, to regulate who has primacy of access rights to what.”

      In fairness however, instead of rules governing who has primacy, there can be such things as PROCESSES for deciding WHAT has primacy. That is to say there can be systems in which use is determined by a focus on the nature of the use, not the historical immediacy of the user. This, rather than ridiculous quibbles over subjective degrees between property and possession, constitutes a distinctive Anarcho-Communism, one somewhat more substantive in its claim to be propertyless.

  14. Anon73 May 17, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    I always interpreted the “posession/property” distinction as mainly being between items an individual uses (e.g. a toothbrush) and items multiple people use (e.g. a factory). Of course in practice it might be only property owned by evil exploiters that gets seized…

    In fairness however, instead of rules governing who has primacy, there can be such things as PROCESSES for deciding WHAT has primacy.

    That would be something like a “reliable procedure” right? 🙂

    • Roderick May 17, 2009 at 11:23 am #

      Yeah, I think db0’s position is closer to mutualism than that of many anarcho-communists.

      • Kregus May 18, 2009 at 8:51 am #

        I personally support “occupancy and use” for consequentialist reasons (concerns about absentee ownership, problem of the kings of “Ruritania”, the labor problem). I’m not opposed to rent, profit, or interest on normative grounds, because I reject “cost the limit of price” (prescriptive version of the labor theory of value) and support radical use-based abandonment standart instead of perpetual use as the standard for ownership. My proposal is to leave this thing for common law to decide (for example, you abandon your property after 3 or 2 years of non-use…, I think that DRO’s will provide some standarts on this issue). I could call myself austro-mutualist, or simply individualist anarchist 🙂

        A Meta-Defense of Mutualism
        http://wombatron.wordpress.com/2009/05/06/a-meta-defense-of-mutualism/

        Anarcho-communists tend to favor perpetual use as the standard for ownership or communist property rights (everything belongs to everyone). Property rights (de jure) are a logical conflict avoidance mechanism for physical (de facto) property: given the fact that a physical object can only be possesed by one person at a time, property rules establish who the rightful owner is and prevent conflict between multiple claimants trying to posses the same thing at the same time. Anarcho-communists can not resolve such conflicts, if it belongs to all. Also, anarcho-communists deny that we own products of our labor: suppose I created a car, I park my car somewhere and walk in a store, and then someone breaks into it and seizes it for themself and drives off when I’m in the store (everything belongs to everyone/perpetual use as the standard for ownership).

  15. Joel Schlosberg May 18, 2009 at 11:36 pm #

    Re the post title, I think that this counts as another example:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/12/technology/internet/12digital.html

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  1. Distinctions of Ownership | A Division by Zer0 - May 17, 2009

    […] article counter posing Private Property to Possession, both in the comments of my own blog, and on the Austro-Athenian Empire. In both cases it’s an argument mostly between me and my generally communist views and […]

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