The late Murray Bookchin famously claimed that the gap between social anarchism and lifestyle anarchism was unbridgeable. Over at IAS, John Clark has an excellent essay challenging Bookchins thesis. Particularly noteworthy is the following passage:
The idea that there is an unbridgeable chasm between two viewpoints that share certain common presuppositions and goals, and whose practices are in some ways interrelated, is a bit suspect from the outset. It is particularly problematic when proposed by a thinker like Bookchin, who claims to hold a dialectical perspective. Whereas nondialectical thought merely opposes one reality to another in an abstract manner, or else places them inertly beside one another, a dialectical analysis examines the ways in which various realities presuppose one another, constitute one another, challenge the identity of one another, and push one another to the limits of their development. Accordingly, one important quality of such an analysis is that it helps those with divergent viewpoints see the ways in which their positions are not mutually exclusive but can instead be mutually realized in a further development of each.
I find this quotation useful in thinking not just about the specific opposition that Bookchin put forward but likewise about a number of other divides in our movement. When social anarchists tell us that anarcho-capitalists arent really anarchists, or when right-libertarians tell us that mutualists arent really libertarians, it might be worth replying with this quotation or something like it.
What is “social anarchism” and “lifestyle anarchism”?
It hard to say. As I remember, Bookchin uses the term ‘lifestyle anarchism’ to refer to three different authors (L. Susan Brown, Hakim Bey, and John Zerzan), who all have fairly distinct views.
My best guess is that Bookchin regards ‘social anarchism’ to be connected to social movements, and ‘lifestyle anarchism’ not to be. Why choosing whether or not to participate in a social movement doesn’t count as a ‘lifestyle choice’ is beyond me…
The term “lifestyle anarchism” is pejorative, but the distinction Bookchin was making was between those who are bookish, identify as left-wing and follow traditional forms of activism and resistance (ie campus anarcho-syndicalists or anarcho-communists), versus those who are more subcultural, refuse to identify with the left, and spend most of their energy building internal community and cultural elements like biking, veganism, squats, social centres as well as insurrectionary modes of resistance (ie Teh Punx).
Strictly speaking (outside the definitions Bookchin was using) “Social Anarchism” is widely considered to be the overarching umbrella term for those Anarchists (and schools of anarchist thought) in the culturally contiguous global activist movement that bear a clear and direct decendance from the Anarchist movement circa Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, Errico Malatest, etc. So viewpoints as wide as Anarcho-Syndicalists, Anarcho-Primitivists, Mutualists, etc. The rule of thumb is anything you’re likely to run across in an anarchist community center or infoshop. The vast, vast numerical majority of self-proclaimed anarchists. Pretty much everything except for Anarcho-Capitalism, some mutualists, individualists and christian anarchists who aren’t involved or connected to the movement, and National anarchism (which isn’t anarchist). These days Social Anarchism is used as the umbrella of anarchisms contra Market Anarchism (because few if any of the Social Anarchists beyond the loud anarcho-syndicalist fringe would identify themselves with the terms Left or Socialist).
Social Anarchism describes the actually existing Anarchist MOVEMENT (although that’s not to say that Market Anarchists don’t have a discourse or history, it’s just of a ridiculously different degree).
I certainly agree that the term “Social Anarchism,” as usually used, is broader in meaning than the way Bookchin uses it.
Counting anarcho-capitalists is tricky, since for most of them “anarchist” is not their primary term of self-identification.
True, but even at the most ridiculously expansive, mostly fellow-traveler estimations of Ancaps — lets count say 1/3 of the US Libertarian Party’s usual presidential votes — I think that’s still obviously far, far less than similarly expansive estimations of Social Anarchist ranks.
Social Anarchists have the capacity to spend the entirety of their everyday lives completely immersed within their own ranks. Shops, cafes, bookstores, infoshops, libraries, shared homes and neighborhoods, community centers, free skools community gardens, potlucks, sports leagues… all within most major cities. Millions of thickly developed sub-tendencies and alliances. All their friendships, lovers, work relations, strangers, etc.
…Outside of the internet Ancaps have some academic institutes on paper and — reportedly — a hot-dog stand.
Social Anarchists are always surprised when they finally learn about the (‘alleged’ and unproven, in their perspective) existence of Ancaps.
Ancaps on the other hand, while they may be unaware as to anything regarding the nature of the Social Anarchist movement, have always been fundamentally aware from the start that something with a socially real-component (wrongly-labeled anarchism, they assert) exists, out there, somewhere. Vandarchists!!
Hence I think it’s pretty clear that — whatever the legitimacy of the various ideas at hand — one is quite clearly sufficiently large and interconnected to count as a “movement” and the other is far from.
“Hence I think it’s pretty clear that — whatever the legitimacy of the various ideas at hand — one is quite clearly sufficiently large and interconnected to count as a “movement” and the other is far from.”
Do you ever realistically see that happening?
Just in the last years or so, I’ve seen things so from non-existent forum fringe to at least a semi-legit and developing subculture with a little meatspace presence. A lot of this I suspect has to do with LP failure and Ron Paul burnout, coupled with the popularization of Agorism.
Relative to the social anarchist movement, that’s a small jump. Relative to Ancaps as they were before, it’s the beginning of something that just wasn’t there at all before, or hasn’t existed since the late 60’s/early 70’s.
Also, hot-dog stand?
Sure, I wasn’t intending to deny that Socks greatly outnumber Caps. (And I can’t believe I never thought of that pun before.) Indeed, they outnumber individualist anarchists of all flavours, whether ancap or mutualist or whatever.
But it’s true, I think, that both ancaps and mutualists have been growing in numbers of late; outfits like IHS and Mises (despite not being on speaking terms with each other) have been producing lots of ancaps, while Kevin has been a one-man conversion machine for mutualism.
It’s also true that the Caps form less of a movement than they might, even with their small numbers, because they’ve submerged themselves in the libertarian movement. A lot of libertarians avoid putting the anarchism up front for fear of scaring people off; they tend to treat it as a mystery you’ll be exposed to only after you’ve worked your way past the arguments against the minimum wage and blah blah blah. (Anarchism is for libertarians what becoming-your-own-God is for Mormonism, or what Xenu is for Scientologists.) I think that’s a mistake, since (for one thing) people who find the anarchism intriguing are probably going to be more worthwhile converts than those who recoil from it and just want to talk about capital gains taxes or something. Part of the point behind the Molinari Institute and the Center for a Stateless Society is to put the anarchism front and center.
Ancaps’ other mistake, of course, is to talk and act in ways that tend to confirm all the social anarchists’ prejudices against them. (Of course the social anarchists do the same thing in the other direction.) Part of the point of ALL is to correct that tendency too.
> “Anarchism is for libertarians what becoming-your-own-God is for Mormonism, or what Xenu is for Scientologists.”
That’s brilliant, that is. And props for just now inventing the Socks and Caps nomenclature we’ll be using forever more.
> “hot-dog stand”
Reportedly there’s one at Berkley with a mural of ancap theoreticians on the side. Such dubious information was reported to us at the SF Bookfair. In very much the haughty vegan-supremacist tone you’d expect.
> “Reportedly there’s one at Berkley with a mural of ancap theoreticians on the side. ”
There’s a student run “Individualist Anarchism” society at the university that includes ancaps, so that kind of makes sense. Whatever happened to that sporting goods shop you told me about?
> “Such dubious information was reported to us at the SF Bookfair. In very much the haughty vegan-supremacist tone you’d expect.”
So strange that you go there to present yourselves as general “market anarchists” and that immediately conjures up all sorts of evil connotations. Really goes to show that the whole “mutualist inclusion” party line is just a front.
Regarding more other question, though, do you ever realistically see “movement” status happening, of any improvement in that department as of late?
The sporting goods shop while it existed was just a libertarian owner with an ancap friend of mine working shifts. Unusual, but I’m sure there’s a spattering of such workplace coincidences.
> “Regarding more other question, though, do you ever realistically see “movement” status happening, of any improvement in that department as of late?”
Certainly there’s been a ton of improvement. It is after all one of the things I’ve spent a lot of time on. It’s just that rather than try to establish some separate Market Anarchist movement and culture and THEN work through the inevitable reconciliation with the Social Anarchists, I’d rather we just bypass that step as much as possible and simultaneous to our efforts at growth try to integrate the Market Anarchists into/with the Social Anarchist movement. … So projects like Invisible Molotov build the movement internally while MAs volunteering at Food Not Bombs, etc helps the integration process.
> “There’s a student run “Individualist Anarchism” society at the university that includes ancaps”
See, this? This is the kind of thing I could use more information on.
> “See, this? This is the kind of thing I could use more information on.”
There’s not a lot of information on their homepage. I can’t even tell for certain if they’re active anymore, but at least there’s contact information.
They don’t seem to have to have the best of sensibilities regarding Lib-vulgarity, but if we’ve already got our foot in the door at Berkeley then that might be worthy of some entryism. Anybody know if there’s a Bay Area ALL?
> “I’d rather we just bypass that step as much as possible and simultaneous to our efforts at growth try to integrate the Market Anarchists into/with the Social Anarchist movement”
I don’t disagree with that, but there are some other issues beyond the implications of freed-markets that we need to at least have answers to. I’m thinking primarily of aesthetic revulsions toward anything that reeks of competition, materialism, “consumerism” and “commodification”, as well as dealing with animal rights, the supposed “unsustainable growth of capitalism” and causes of imperialism (Stromberg already dealt with those last two).
This isn’t just a matter of appeasing them. A more fully developed market anarchism that really gets the interpersonal dimension down is going to have to have a philosophy of commerce. Otherwise it just looks like appeasement, or something still inferior to communism, which deals with those things more directly.
Whether we reject that those things are problems, or analyze them from a new direction, we do need to have answers. That’s one of the reasons I like Aster’s writing so much; she deals without simple pandering to established marxoid understandings.
“I think that’s a mistake, since (for one thing) people who find the anarchism intriguing are probably going to be more worthwhile converts than those who recoil from it and just want to talk about capital gains taxes or something.”
I can testify to the truth of this from my own experience. It took me a long time to identify with any political philosophy, but I eventually found myself identifying with libertarianism. When I mentioned this to a friend, he said “Are you kidding? Those guys are far right-wingers.” I certainly didn’t want to be though conservative or right-wing, and I didn’t feel I was, and I didn’t see why viewing liberty as a worthwhile goal was right wing. From the time I began reading libertarian literature and identifying as a libertarian, it was a very short trip (within a year, I believe) to anarchism. The first time I read Murray Rothbard, I basically said, “that’s it, this is for me.” And then of course Left Libertarianism appealed to me immediately as well. Earlier, during my high school days, though I did not know the literature or terminology, I probably would have identified with the New Left or perhaps even “Lifestyle Anarchism” (pejorative notwithstanding).
Roderick, this is interesting. I would say that based on what I understand of mutualism, its view of property rights is not the same as the libertarian case. Requiring actual occupancy or use on pain of losing title is not libertarian, in my view. (I am not sure how it could be squared, except perhaps in a social situation were various groups with different views about all this find ways to live in peace among each other.)
I’d be curious to see how a libertarian could defend mutualism’s occupancy views of property. And I say this not as a “right” libertarian, but as a … modal? 🙂 one or capitalist one (?). Carson assures me he views his position as libertarian, so I’m struggling to see how or whether this can be so–how do we have to relax or stretch or better-define our key concepts so that it includes such disparate views on property?
Bu I would not say that “there is an ‘unbridgeable chasm’ between two viewpoints [libertarianism, mutualism] that share certain common presuppositions and goals, and whose practices are in some ways interrelated, is a bit suspect from the outset.”
I agree that those with “divergent viewpoints [should] see the ways in which their positions are not mutually exclusive but can instead be mutually realized in a further development of each.”
Still–I am at a loss how to square the occupancy notion of property rights with the libertarian-Lockean one.
Well, Locke himself famously allowed for restrictions (the Proviso) that Rothbardians reject, so there’s already diversity within the “Lockean” category. But as Kevin points out, Rothbardians believe a) in abandonment, and b) in the restriction of what’s been homesteaded to the relevant technological unit; so given those two facts, mutualism’s difference from Rothbard seems more a difference of degree than of kind. I think Rothbard’s end of the spectrum is more defensible, for the reasons I gave in my JLS article; but the dispute doesn’t seem deeper than other intra-libertarian disputes.
I mean, for example: libertarians likewise disagree with one another about intellectual property, abortion, anarchism, punishment, immigration, military policy, slavery contracts … Yet I suspect that (with the possible exception of military policy?) you would call both sides of those disputes libertarians (albeit not both applying libertarian principle equally consistently). Yet mutualism disqualifies? C’mon!
I’m not sure that the abandonment notion will cut it. Rothbardians may say that it is possible to abandon property, so some unspecified somebody can claim for themselves property that was once mine. But Mutualists presumably want to say that the mere fact that somebody else is using and occupying land makes it theirs, thus granting them an immunity from having to pay for it. This doesn’t seem to me to be the same as abandonment, since, normally, when I let somebody else use my land in exchange for a rent, for instance, I am not said to be abandoning that property.
“I am not said to be abandoning that property.”
But after some time (for example, 3 years) your land will be abandoned (you are not actually using and occupaying that land, renter is doing that). This is similar to Tucker position on land ownership. Why after 3 years? I don’t know, this is just my proposal. I think that DRO’s will provide some standart on this issue. In my opinion, radical standart of abandonment (use-based theory of property rights) will be very advantageous for workers.
Read more about this problem here:
Neo-lockean vs. Use-based Property Rights
(actually replying to Kregus)
Hmmm, this is of personal interest to me, as I hold title to some pasture that I do not occupy: a pair of brother’s pay my sister and I a small rent to graze some animals there.
First, while I am not occupying the land, I think I’m pretty clearly using it: I’m using it to collect the rent money that pays for my umbrella insurance (which I only really have to cover my liability on the pasture…) and one or two trips to the ice cream parlor a year. Does my use for the land somehow not count, or is it actually irrelevant to your consideration? Or would I qualify for maintaining my ownership if I made use of my rights to hunt on the land (it qualifies me for a farm exemption for a State hunting permit) at least once every three years?
Second, if I merely have to have occupied the land within the past 36 months, I would easily be able to do so. I could, for instance, make a camp upon the land (perhaps even a pleasure fair or large camp, if it helped me qualify) and thus be able to continue renting the property for over 99% of the time. It seems that for the vast majority of lease situations it would be a mere inconvenience (for both parties) to come to a similar arrangement. Or do you think that merely requiring this sort of shenanigans would be productive? I’m not entirely convinced this would not be the case; I could be sold on the notion that having a clear basis for homesteading any property the owner has not visited in three years is generally efficient.
You say, “But after some time (for example, 3 years) your land will be abandoned (you are not actually using and occupaying that land, renter is doing that).” Not only is your three years arbitrary, a fact you kind of admit, but it seems wrong to say that the fact I am not using and occupying the land means that I have abandoned my title to it. In common parlance, neither my not using or occupying the land, nor somebody else doing so is sufficient to say that I have abandoned my title to it. If I were to leave my bike outside a shop whilst I go in to buy groceries, I would not be using or occupying it, but it is still mine. If somebody else were to use it, it would still be mine.
Just to prove my point, why is my land suddenly more abandoned on the 1095th day after I rent it to its present occupants than it was on the 1094th?
I’m not sure why occupancy and use should be considered either necessary or sufficient to be an owner of land. Certainly granting full private ownership (that is all the incidents of ownership rest with a single person) to a user-occupier creates the same compossibility problems that, say, a Rothbardian model creates (more on this here http://www.publicreason.ro/pdfa/1), so I don’t see it as a solution to problems of compossibility of rights.
Just to prove my point, why is my land suddenly more abandoned on the 1095th day after I rent it to its present occupants than it was on the 1094th?
But that objection applies to regular abandonment too, doesn’t it? And isn’t it a Sorites anyway?
I’m not sure that it applies to abandonment too, because I suspect that something more is required to say that a title has been abandoned than that a period of time has passed either without it being in the owner’s possession, or with it being in another person’s possession. Beyond this, I’m pretty sure that the fact that it is in the possession of some renters after a period of time is clearly not sufficient to show it has been abandoned: An owner may wish to keep the title precisely becausethe property is being rented.
I would think that either
1) The owner would have to have written down his desire to abandon the property, or
2) If the owner has vanished, a court case could be brought by the current user suggesting that since there is no current owner, he is more worthy than anyone else of being considered the owner since he’s homesteaded the property. But that’s the same argument essentially as Lockean homesteading, no?
If mutualism simply says that whomever is currently using the property, even a thief, is the current legitimate owner, that’s just legalized socialism, or legalized theft. A system like that would encourage us all to go out and steal the most valuable property in the world for ourselves, as we would then become the legitimate owners.
On the other hand, I haven’t done any reading on mutualism, so I don’t know how far it goes.
Well, there’s leaving and then there’s leaving. If there is some reasonable expectation that you will return to pick up your bike at a definite point in the near future, that surely does not amount to abandoning you bike. If you leave your bike sitting out there for a month, in rain and shine, never make any kind of arrangement about storage or maintenance with a third party, etc., then sooner or later I think any reasonable system of property rights would take that as constructive abandonment of the bike even without any express performative act on your part of saying “I abandon my bike forthwith.”
Mutualist views on real estate aren’t that different in this regard: the reason that occupancy-and-use mutualists don’t accept that, for example, leaving your house to pick up some milk or even for a long vacation would count as opening up the land for someone else to occupy and use, is because in those cases your lower-level action of leaving is part of a higher-level project which involves your returning at some more or less definite date in the not-too-distant future. The kind of leaving which would open up the property to other claimants is generally held to require a leaving that’s long-term and open-ended, among other things.
This is the second time in the last few days (here is the first) that I’ve entered a thread only to see that Stephan Kinsella has already made the point I wanted to make. Can the Apocalypse be far off?
Mutualists would be fully libertarian, as far as I know, if not for the glaring exception Kinsella mentioned.
My reasoning for this is based on a sort of reduction to arbitrariness, similar to what I sometimes use when arguing against IP. If I leave my house to get some groceries, can someone else rightfully take over my property five minutes after I’ve left? No? How long then, exactly, and why?
In fact, by induction, for the same reason I still own my property five minutes after I’ve left instead of just two minutes, I should still own my property potentially forever. And that’s the Lockean view, isn’t it?
I think Kevin Carson has admitted that there would have to be some local consensus on this for it to work. Then, (and I think this is what Roderick has said) mutualism is compatible with libertarianism when Lockean property rights are voluntarily overlaid with the “occupancy and use” rules.
And since a hill can’t become a mountain by the addition of a single grain of sand, a hill can never become a mountain no matter how many thousands of tons of sand you add. Sorites, anyone?
Why can’t a hill become a mountain by the addition of a single grain of sand?
Also, that just brings us back to my primary objection. The difference between a hill and a mountain is completely arbitrary.
My point is that if the fact that a boundary is fuzzy means there’s no boundary, you’re going to have to toss out a whole lot more than just mutualism.
But of course my position is that the mere existence of fuzzy boundaries (between vacation and abandonment; between hills and mountains; between red and orange; between people and animals; between being alive and being dead) doesn’t invalidate the distinction.
I see your point, but what I’m saying is that this boundary is not just fuzzy, but not even properly defined. Mixing labour with land can give you a fuzzy boundary, but at least there’s a starting point. The “non-use” standard doesn’t even come that far.
The “non-use” standard doesn’t even come that far
I don’t see how it’s any different.
Maybe there’s a fuzzy boundary here, too! But I guess this local consensus is needed in either case.
Anarchism and Property
> “My reasoning for this is based on a sort of reduction to arbitrariness, similar to what I sometimes use when arguing against IP. If I leave my house to get some groceries, can someone else rightfully take over my property five minutes after I’ve left? No? How long then, exactly, and why?”
I’m actually with you and Kinsella on this much, at least in recognizing a serious problem with no clearcut solution internal to existing models of ancapism or mutualism. But I would broaden it to the validity of mixing labour: At what point of causal interaction with an expanse of matter do I own it? If I build a robot to build a fleet of robots to till the entire surface of the Moon, do I own the moon? Surely this is unfair not to mention arbitrary on par with owning the entire atmosphere because I’ve blown wind in it.
You make an excellent point, and I’d love a good answer. So far, I’d say mixing labour may be somehow less arbitrary than a time limit, and also a local consensus would exist in most cases. Not a great answer, I know, so like I said I’d love a good one.
My problem with the notion that mutualists are not libertarians because of views on property is that, to my knowledge, it simply is false that one must hold a specifically non-proviso lockean concept of property to be a libertarian. Plenty of libertarians, even some of those adored on the “old right” side of things (such as Albert Jay Nock, who was a geoist), were/are not non-proviso lockeans. In fact, the rejecting of the proviso itself is a relatively *new* phenomenon for libertarians that was solidified by Rothbard.
I think they are libertarians, if, like Kevin Carson, they acknowledge that a consensus on those rules is necessary.
If there is no consensus, isn’t it just a matter of time before aggression is committed?
But if you guys are just using a broad definition of libertarian, which includes social anarchists and populist paleoconservatives (I know Roderick does this) then I don’t have any objection. I don’t really take pleasure in disqualifying people as libertarians.
In Europe the term “libertarian” usually means social anarchism or anarcho-communism. So someone like Iain McKay would call any mutualist a “libertarian”, but would prefer not to call Rothbard one. However, since Rothbard is often called a libertarian the term “right-libertarian” has gained some traction. Roderick wants to grab “left-libertarian” for himself, although I would say “left-libertarian” might more accurately refer to those commies in Europe. 🙂
“Left-libertarian” is also used to refer to Georgists and others.
Yeah, it’s not an ideal term, given its ambiguity; but it comes closer to anything else I’ve seen to capturing the idea I favour of libertarians embracing lefty concerns and leftists embracing libertarian concerns. Plus there was already a movement I broadly favoured calling itself the Movement of the Libertarian Left, out of the reconstitution of which arose the Alliance of LL.
French actually has two words for libertarian — “libertaire,” which usually means anarcho-communism, and the monstrosity “libertarien,” which means the American pro-market kind.
There was a French anarchist communist paper called La Monde Libertaire.
This is little more than semantic confusion. Yes, there are two uses for the term “left-libertarian”: one use almost exclusively refers to anarcho-communists, while another use refers to a more general or broad group of left-wing-friendly libertarians. The claim that the latter group (of which I am a part) are defacto “rightists” because they might not be anarcho-communists seems incredibly narrow and ignorant in my view.
Actually three uses, since a group of philosophers with broadly Georgist views on land have seized hold of the term and seem to be unaware that there are two prior claimants.
I think that “left-libertarianism” as you and Carson tend to use it (of course, while fully recognizing the differences between both of you) is actually a sort of synthesis-centrist position in that it sort of tries to combine the best of both the market and social anarchist paradigms. It’s “left” relative to both mainstream libertarianism and what might be called hardline anarcho-capitalism. But it doesn’t strike me as what might be called “left-sectarian” in the sense of some of the more rabid anarcho-communists that I’ve encountered (I.E. with traits of anti-propertarian/anti-market absolutism).
Yeah, well, we’re certainly not trying to be sectarian!
Abandonment and non-use differ in kind, not in quantity.
Abandonment requires a relinquishing of rights, by foregoing or by forgetting. I could not use property in thirty years, that doesn’t make it abandoned, it makes it unused.
Since non-use (particularly over a long period of time) does SUGGEST abandonment, it isn’t unreasonable to assume that property not in use may be tested by an attempted procuration. If the property in question is abandoned, truly, there will be no conflict. If it is not abandoned, there will be a conflict, and the conflict will have to be resolved in the standard way.
It’s entirely possible that groups, societies, cultures, whatever they may be will come up with some sort of standard by which these disputes are judged, and this is acceptable and even preferable because it gives a benchmark.
If I live in a place that will side unequivocally with the squatter if they take habitat after seven years of non-use, then I know I need to demonstrate ownership every seven years if I want to maintain my claim on it.
Here is where the mutualists might want to spill my blood. By my estimation, a demonstration of ownership can be as simple as simply showing that I know the property is there and I still consider it mine. I could, for example, take a picture of it and write “MINE” on the picture. That would be sufficient.
Hell, I could even pay someone else to do it. But, this requires remembering and acting on my supposed ownership, and so by reasonable standards it should suffice to demonstrate non-abandonment.
It also discourages absentee ownership, because it imposes a burden on me that’s simply not worthwhile for a property that I don’t use and from which I derive no utility.
“By my estimation, a demonstration of ownership can be as simple as simply showing that I know the property is there and I still consider it mine.”
This is illegitimate in “use and occupancy” property rights theory. You should actually use that property. It is absurd even in the context of Rothbardian property rights theory. Write “MINE” on the picture of land? *facepalm*
“Hell, I could even pay someone else to do it.”
Someone else is not you. Employee, who was doing this job (using and occupaying) – will become the owner of that property (for example, if you personally are not using that property for 3 years and more…).
“This is illegitimate in “use and occupancy” property rights theory.”
I’m pretty sure John Higgins was aware of this, and was using the example to demonstrate the difference (in his opinion) between abandonment (in the Rothbardian sense) and non-use (in the Mutualist sense).
“It is absurd even in the context of Rothbardian property rights theory. Write “MINE” on the picture of land?”
I assumed from the context that John was referring to a piece of land that had already been homesteaded, using the sign only as a signifier that the land had not been abandoned. Even non-proviso Lockean land ownership does not allow for sticking a flag in an island and claiming it as yours entirely.
Essentially, once the scope of a “use and occupancy” standard is qualified as not literally meaning “perpetual use and occupancy” (I.E. noone is claiming, to my knowledge, that as soon as I leave my home or park my car it is up for grabs), it begins to become closer to a Lockean or Rothbardian position. On the other hand, once the scope of abandonment is clarified as not being virtually non-existant (I.E. noone is claiming, to my knowledge, that people can make claims over land that either is unhomsteaded or clearly is abandoned) it begins to become closer to a mutualist take on property.
Hence my position that the two are both useful in proper context and clearly are not necessarily polar opposites.
Nailed it, Mike D.
I don’t think mere intention not to abandon constitutes decisive proof that one has not abandoned.
Suppose the immortal Galaktron came to earth a few million years ago (and anyway prior to the emergence of humans), and did some homesteadin’ and labour-mixin’: moved some continents around, altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere and so forth, and then left — without intending to abandon his property claim. Now he shows up — with a photo of the earth with “MINE” scrawled on it.
Now he comes back. Does he own the earth?
Hmmmm, interesting. So lack of intent to abandon is not sufficient to say one has not abandoned, because that would have counterintuitive implications, but the fact there has been no intent in examples like the renting case seems to intuitively imply that intent is necessary. A case of two conflicting intuitions?
I wonder, though, if your example of a world owning alien gains its intuitively objectionable nature, though, not from the fact that the alien hasn’t been back for millions of years, but from the objectionable problems of complete world ownership. If he had come and mixed his labour with a square mile of desert in a Nevadan desert (pretending Nevada existed then), and then went away and didn’t come back for millions of years, would your example be as objectionable?
But it’s worth noting that something very much akin to complete world ownership is precisely what is at stake in these definitions.
What if say, instead you replace the single Alien with a Class of People with mutually aligned interests… etc.
Well, firstly, it seems to me it would be better to have the whole world owned by many seperate owners than one single owner, and also the whole world owned collectivel by a group (that excludes me) than a single owner, since in either case there is a chance that some will dissent from opinion with others and let me use some land.
In terms of preventing compossible rights (since I would have nothing to excercise rights over in a world where I own nothing because others own everything), well the same can happen under occupancy-and-use-based ownership.
So lack of intent to abandon is not sufficient to say one has not abandoned, because that would have counterintuitive implications, but the fact there has been no intent in examples like the renting case seems to intuitively imply that intent is necessary. A case of two conflicting intuitions?
One difference in the renting case (and thus one reason I’m not a mutualist) is that there’s an agreement between landlord and tenant, which (methinks) makes the tenant’s occupancy part of the landlord’s ongoing project with regard to that land.
If he had come and mixed his labour with a square mile of desert in a Nevadan desert (pretending Nevada existed then), and then went away and didn’t come back for millions of years, would your example be as objectionable?
It might be less objectionable, since the consequentialist case against it would be weaker; but I don’t think consequences are all that matter, so I think it would still be objectionable. It’s just not reasonable to expect people to regard something as your property when you’ve been away that long.
Of course this is assuming beings with a time sense like ours. It’s an interesting question how two species should interact re issues like abandonment when, say, a minute to one is like a year to another, as in Zelazny’s story The Great Slow Kings. But we don’t have to solve that question to deal with one another.
Roderick, do not think it could potentially be begging the question to say that “the tenant’s occupancy [is] part of the landlord’s ongoing project with regard to that land”? One might look at occ/use as a theory directly concerned with defining the content of “ongoing projects”. It might even effect the valid range of what contracts can address in the way that Rothbard’s title-transfer theory took the concept of “title” as central. If you change the engine, is it the same car?
I think you picked the wrong patch of land to consider for your example.
I don’t think that the problem in the Galaktron thought-experiment has to do with whole-world-ownership. It has to do with the fact that he left for several million years and in the meantime rival claimants have come along who re-homesteaded the land that he left. So I agree with you that there wouldn’t be much objectionable in Galaktron’s reclaiming a patch of desert land that nobody else is currently using. Where there is no rivalry, there is no question of abandonment to arise.
But the isolating case is not a patch of currently desert land; it’s a patch of land currently occupied and used by new-comers while Galaktron was away. So, for example, suppose that Galaktron weren’t claiming ownership of the whole world. Suppose that he did some homesteading on an island, went away for a few million years, and came back, only to find that his old garden plot now happened to be Manhattan. Does he have the right to say, “Out, squatters!” and demand eviction or restitution? Or do those currently occupying the island get to maintain ownership, given that the land was not in use when the meddling hyoo-mons first came to it, and hadn’t been in use for millions of years?
Neverfox — Sure, and I didn’t mean my argument to be the Final Quash. My point was just that there’s a reason (whether in the end it’s decisive or not) to treat the landlord’s absence differently from the absence of the guy who just walks away.
I don’t want to sound like a cynic, but why is the minimal standard to qualify for ownership is 1sq. mile, and not 1sq. inch?*
*Perhaps even less?
Last I checked, parts of the Nevada desert that were uninhabited millions of years ago are inhabited now, so I’m not sure why you need to transfer the scene to Manhattan. Especially when you can just look out your window ….
I don’t think any claims were made by anyone about minimum size requirements for homesteading.
“If he had come and mixed his labour with a square mile of…”
I believe they were saying that a sq. mile is the given when it comes to homesteading a given land, and I was rejecting that premise. Though, if I am mistaken, which I could easily see now, then that still raises the question of: what constitutes as the minimum requirements to make a given land yours, and how much of that land would be yours; would a sq. inch be good enough for a sq. mile, et cetera?
No, homesteaded land could be bigger or smaller than a square mile. I just randomly chose a square mile in order to have a unit of land considerably smaller than that Roderick chose in order to check whether our intuitions about alie-multi-million-year-abandonmentwere the same in that case as they did when the alien owned the entire planet.
Galaktron provides a wonderful thought experiment, but it’s flawed.
First of all, how do we know he EVER had a claim to the land and isn’t just trying to basically “[stick] a flag in it?”
Second of all, no system of property rights can possibly avoid this. What we have, basically, is a dispute over property rights.
Now, I disagree with the mutualists, but I know they’re not stupid. It would take some major stupid to say “well if society were to be ordered along these lines then all disputes would magically go away forever!”
There would still be disputes over ownership. The difference between the two schools of thought are purely within the realm of how to adjudicate those disputes.
If we were to go all the way to the capitalist extreme, any person who could make a reasonable claim to having had prior ownership would be favored by society, every time.
If we were to go to the anti-capitalist extreme, then the only question that matters is “Were you using it at that exact moment?”
Between the two, it’s no secret that I favor the former by far, but they’re both flawed.
It is not unlikely that a society would come up with its own period of time after which it sees a property as abandoned, regardless of the intent of the owner. Mutualists propose this, and I am AGREEING with it in my prior diatribe!
The only difference is, I do not subscribe to the “use/occupancy” theory of property rights. It’s absurd. If you subscribe to that theory, then you do raise the caricatured question “So I can take your car when you get out?”
Any system of rights based on the employment of property raises that question, and also neglects the essential right of the owner to NOT use property! If it’s my property, my ability to use it must correspond to a respective ability to NOT use it.
I subscribe to a Rothbardian system of property rights because it’s the only system I’ve found that is non-arbitrary.
I am also using the accurate definition of abandonment, not some concocted one.
Property is not abandoned simply by being unused, no matter how long the stretch of time. Abandonment is fundamentally different from non-use. A reaffirming of ownership is sufficient to show non-abandonment.
Hence my proposed analogy of the property unused for seven years. There is a metaphorical question raised by society, “Is this property abandoned?” and if there’s no response, the answer defaults to “Yes.” I can understand and respect that position.
However, if there IS a response, the answer is unequivocally “NO.” I don’t care if all they’re doing is taking a picture of it and saying that this proves that they still consider it their property – by the DEFINITION OF THE WORDS I’M USING, that makes it non-abandoned. Anyone who will dispute this is either using different definitions, or just wants an excuse to see their practical ends met (no absentee ownership) without regard to PRINCIPLES (property rights).
These two paragraphs seem to me oddly juxtaposed. If it’s not unlikey for a society to solve the problem in a way that approximates intuitions about justice and peace of mind, then why the about-face to cries of absurdity?
But it seems that Lockean property might have its own absurdities if you want to play on the margins. For example, I think most proponents of occ/use think it is absurd that property can be held out of use forever simply on a finders keepers basis, with no strong indications that it is part of an ongoing project. Or that it’s absurd to call not using something a project, though I can imagine objections to this on economic grounds (resource allocation etc.)
It doesn’t follow from your right not to use the property that your right to the property remains once you exercise that right, just as your right to exchange property doesn’t mean that you continue to have the property right once the exchange takes place; or that your right to abandon property leaves your property right in place once you abandon it. I’m referring to non-use here in terms of the conventional threshold that you choose, by way of your right, to exceed. I’m not referring to the occasional non-use that falls within whatever reasonable approximation of justice is in place; in that sense, your right of non-use is not neglected at all.
Is it? I also wonder if you aren’t confusing arbitrary with emergent. Just because we can’t decide on something a priori doesn’t make it necessarily illegitimate or less preferable.
Doh! The blockquotes went haywire but my responses are in there somewhere.
One additional point:
You claim that all that is needed to establish abandonment in your preferred system is to ask the question and wait for a response. Well, how long do you wait for a response? How much effort do you exert tracking down the owner? What if one isn’t immediately forthcoming and people go ahead and establish new rights to the property and then later the old owner returns to claim it? Does the answer to that question rely on how long the new owners had been there and how established there use was? If so, how long and how established?
Whatever the answers, they are all likely to be arbitrary by your standard, no?
I’m not sure that the Tuckerite position on land ownership is essential to the definition of mutualism. I consider Lysander Spooner a mutualist, and he and Tucker famously disagreed on the land question.
Kevin Carson and I had some back-and-forth about landownership on the original LL list many years ago. I pointed out that if you took the “occupancy and use” criterion literally, it would make crop rotation impossible; he agreed that to work, his system of ownership would actually have to allow for some non-occupancy. I in turn agreed that the Lockean/Rothbardian framework can’t work without some sort of legal recognition of abandonment, adverse possession, etc. I came away from the discussion persuaded that the differences between Kevin and me — and, more broadly, between any reasonable mutualist and any reasonable Lockean — on land ownership were really more a matter of degree than of kind. Certainly not enough to exclude him from the universe of libertarians. (Then again, I wouldn’t exclude Tucker either.)
I think mutual banking, and labour-for-labour are more likely to be essential features of mutualism.
Spooner wasn’t precisely a labour-for-labour guy either, though he accepted some aspects of it. I think his banking system does count as mutual banking, though. Most of these categories are determined more by family resemblances than by necessary and sufficient conditions.
I agree – I think there is a footnote in JJMartin’s Men Against the State that mentions a letter to Stephen Pearl Andrews in which Spooner expressed disagreement over the Warren/Stephen’s cost-the-limit-of-price principle.
I didn’t mean to imply that both conditions were necessary, only sufficient: Spooner can be called a mutualist for advocating a (variant of) mutual banking without advocating labour-for-labour, whilst Warren or the co-operativists from Lyon that Proudhon took the name “mutualist” from did not advocate mutual banking.
Proudhon, of course, wrote in post-feudal Europe. Since feudalism was an act of theft, any form of libertarianism has to recognize the claims of the peasantry and small farmers, while denying the claims of the feudal landlords and their heirs. We can debate how much of that analysis applies in other cases.
The use of land requires regular, repeated labor-mixing. It seems arbitrary to say that the first labor-mixing gives perpetual title, and the subsequent steps do nothing at all.
The classical mutualists believed that ownership systems should avoid disputes and protect more basic freedoms, for everyone. Perpetual title would result in an endless mess of disputes. Occupancy and use would pose certain disputes around the limit of abandonment. It is a trade-off.
But the issue is that if occupancy and use is necessary or sufficient to be the owner of something, then when you leave your land to go to work you cease to be its owner, and were I to enter it whilst you are away, then I become its owner.
I don’t think anyone has taken that position. Periodic use and periodic labor-mixing has historically been considered occupancy and use.
Of course nobody has taken that position, but denying it seems to imply we should deny either that occupancy and use is necessary for ownership (so a person who leave’s their property to go to work may still be an owner), or that it is sufficient (so a squatter who enters during the owner’s absence does not become the owner).
Of course, I suppose somebody could plausibly suggest that even though you are absent from your land when you go to work, you are in some sense still using it.
This is a concern that understandably comes up often, but the problem is that occupancy and use folks don’t really mean absolute “perpetual occupancy and use”. While that does seem to be a reductio ad absurdum of the position, it isn’t what the position really intends.
I think of it more along the lines of the point at which the property has either deteriorated or become so disconnected from its alleged owner that ownership claims begin to become dubious. This is fundamentally qualatative, not quantative.
I’ve never understood why it was so easy for some anarchists to understand how liberty can make so many things possible in law (e.g. useful, widely-known, highly-nuanced and specific Merchant law) but can’t ever seem to work out how anarchy would keep people from taking your land when you go to the grocery store. There is every reason to believe that a mutual and voluntary working-out of successive approximations of justice would go a long way to solving these “problems” unless we assume that everyone is hell bent on a world where everyone is afraid to leave their home.
The issue is not whetherwe can prevent people taking our land when we go to the store, but whether such a prevention is just. It is wholly possible that non-state institutions can enforce unjust property titles.
> “The use of land requires regular, repeated labor-mixing.”
It seems arbitrary to distinguish between land and other forms of matter. My immediate question is just what the hell asteroids are supposed to count as.
I would think that what the asteroid is mostly made of, being an independent extraterrestrial body, would constitute as land, and the potential ice ,or whatever it may contain, would be the “natural reasource.”
So if it’s 40% rock and 60% ice, the ice is the land?
I was under the impression that an asteroid consists of mostly of rock and metal that moves around a sun.
Though, then again, isn’t land a resource?
so is what is on it
land is a space to put something on
so maybe it is not a resource
because resources are things like rock or ice
land is just a surface
like ocean is just a surface
land becomes a resource when you determine what the land is made of
so I view an asteroid as a resource
as its composition as been determined (by you as rock and ice)
whereas the simple word ‘land’ could imply it is made up of any resource
land could be rock, land could be a layer of soil or an area of land could be metal of some sort
I think we need to clarify the issue of use-and-occupancy.
No one is stating that mutualists believe in perpetual use-and-occupancy, least of all myself.
But the truth is, IF use-and-occupancy is the only criterion for determining ownership, the logical conclusion is that occupancy must be perpetual in order to maintain ownership.
So in other words, occupancy is not the only criterion sufficient for obtaining deed, and non-occupancy is not the only criterion for losing deed.
Mutualists and Lockeans both agree that mixing labor with the unowned produces a right to the resulting property. So far, so good.
We also agree that property can’t just be claimed from another person. That’s called “theft.” That means I can’t take your car when you get out and call it mine. Still on the same track, then.
In fact, we both agree about the nature of property – how it comes to be, and that the rights to owned property can NOT change hands without the consent of the owner.
What we’re trying to determine, then, is what constitutes “abandonment” and thusly a returning to a state of non-ownership.
If there is a logical and objective answer to that question, then this particular difference between the mutualists and the Lockeans is resolved.
By deriving my theory of abandonment from a strict understanding of its definition (abandonment is an act, not an accident) I’m trying to propose that answer. I also understand the objections of the mutualists and I agree that the rights conveyed by homesteading can’t be perpetual. It’s an unworkable situation. Hence my requirement for continuous re-assertion of ownership (which, basically, amounts to mixing labor with land, even if it doesn’t CHANGE the land).
Re-asserting the right of ownership to appropriately-obtained property amounts to re-homesteading. It is a mixing of labor with the property in the way of making a statement that you have not forsaken the property.