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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5194/mutualism-a-philosophy-for-thieves/

Mutualism: A Philosophy for Thieves

June 18, 2006 by

The collapse of socialism-communism has not only given rise to the remarkable growth of environmentalism, as a replacement outlet for hostility to capitalism, but also to some growth, vastly less considerable of course, in the remnants of the old anarchist movement, which now sometimes calls itself “libertarian” or “left-libertarian.” A leading strand of this remnant goes under the name “Mutualism.” And its philosophy has recently been set forth in a book by one Kevin Carson, called Studies in Mutualist Political Economy (Fayettville, Arkansas: Self-published, 2004), which I reviewed in the current issue of The Journal of Libertarian Studies. The opening portion of my review appears in my blog posting of June 10 on this site.

The purpose of this posting is to expand on the following paragraph of that portion of my review:

Thus, for example, if I, a legitimate owner of a piece of property, legitimate even by Carson’s standards, decide to rent it out to a tenant who agrees to pay the rent, the property, according to Carson, becomes that of the tenant, and my attempt to collect the mutually-agreed-upon rent is regarded as a violent invasion of his [the tenant's] “absolute right of property.” In effect, Carson considers as government intervention the government’s upholding the rights of a landlord against a thief. He believes he has the right to prohibit me and the tenant from entering into an enforceable contract respecting the payment of rent and that such action is somehow not a violation of our freedom of contract and not government intervention.

In support of my claims, I now quote Mr. Carson:

For mutualists, occupancy and use is the only legitimate standard for establishing ownership of land, regardless of how many times it has changed hands. An existing owner may transfer ownership by sale or gift; but the new owner may establish legitimate title to the land only by his own occupancy and use. A change in occupancy will amount to a change in ownership. Absentee landlord rent, and exclusion of homesteaders from vacant land by an absentee landlord, are both considered illegitimate by mutualists. The actual occupant is considered the owner of a tract of land, and any attempt to collect rent by a self-styled landlord is regarded as a violent invasion of the possessor’s absolute right of property. (p. 200.)

Careless readers of this passage from Carson may assume that all that he is talking about is the case in which a later owner chooses not to occupy or use the property to which he has obtained title. Such a case is certainly possible, but it is not the case that needs to be considered first. The case that needs to be considered first is that of land which passes from the possession of someone whom Carson acknowledges as a legitimate owner, that is, precisely the kind of person of whom he says, “An existing owner may transfer ownership by sale or gift” to someone else, and then this someone else does, indeed, occupy and use the land.

The problem is that, according to Carson, this new party’s mere occupancy and use of the land extinguishes any possible property right in the land on the part of the previous possessor, whom Carson acknowledged as legitimate.

For suppose the first owner and the prospective second owner mutually agree on a rental of the land. According to Carson, once the second owner takes possession of the land and begins using it, he is now the legitimate owner. “A change in occupancy will amount to a change in ownership,” he has just said. If the first owner, who no longer occupies or uses the land, collects rent on it, he is a landowner who is absent from the land on which he collects rent. He is thus, necessarily, an “absentee landlord.” And Carson has also just said: “Absentee landlord rent, and exclusion of homesteaders [i.e., presumably the second occupant-user] from vacant land by an absentee landlord, are both considered illegitimate by mutualists. The actual occupant is considered the owner of a tract of land, and any attempt to collect rent by a self-styled landlord is regarded as a violent invasion of the possessor’s absolute right of property.”

Here there is a mutually and voluntarily agreed upon rental contract, but after taking possession, the new occupant decides that he is the owner of the land and will not pay any “absentee landlord rent,” which Carson believes it is his absolute right to decide. Has he not obtained another’s legitimate property and is now refusing to pay for it? And, having taken it, and both refusing to pay for it and refusing to give it back, is he thus not stealing that property?

Would he have been able to obtain the use and occupancy of the land if it had been known or suspected that this is how he would behave, once having obtained it? Obviously, he would not have been able to, and the assurance of his not behaving in this way is a written and signed enforceable rental contract. In that contract it is agreed that in the event of failure to pay the rent, the use and possession of the property reverts to the first user/possessor, who is recognized as the property’s owner despite his absence from the property. The contract also provides that in the event of non-payment of the rent, the owner has the right to dispossess the tenant by force if necessary.

Carson denies the landowner’s rights in a case of this kind and regards the landowner’s act of dispossession as “a violent invasion of the possessor’s absolute right of property.” He considers the support given the landlord by the courts and the police in enforcing the contract to be “government intervention.”

Because of these facts, I concluded in my review of his book, as I said near the beginning of this posting, that “Carson considers as government intervention the government’s upholding the rights of a landlord against a thief. He believes he has the right to prohibit me and the tenant from entering into an enforceable contract respecting the payment of rent and that such action is somehow not a violation of our freedom of contract and not government intervention.”

It should be realized that Carson’s hostility to private property rights is not limited to the case of land. He makes clear that it also includes houses and apartments. He advocates the seizure of vacant homes and apartments by homeless squatters. Thus, he declares:

If every vacant or abandoned housing unit in a city is occupied by the homeless, they will at least have shelter in the short term until they are forcibly removed. . . . In the meantime, the squatters’ movement performs a major educative and propaganda service, develops political consciousness among urban residents, draws public attention and sympathy against the predatory character of landlordism, and—most importantly—keeps the state and landlords perpetually on the defensive. (pp 377-378.)

On the basis of this and all of the foregoing, I say that Carson’s “Mutualism” is a philosophy for thieves. As I wrote in my full-length review in the JLS:

The logic of Carson’s position extends to legitimizing auto theft: An individual rents a car from Hertz or Avis. He is the user/occupant. Hertz or Avis is the absentee owner demanding rent. It extends to the theft of clothing that is not being worn at the moment by its—absentee—owner. It extends to all property, for once in the possession of the thief, the thief as user/possessor becomes the legitimate owner, according to Carson’s conception of things.

Carson simply does not understand that ownership is not the mere possession and use of property but rather the moral and legal right to determine the possession and use of property.

Ironically, his failure to grasp this last principle totally undercuts his condemnation of the massive seizures of land that have occurred throughout history and which are the ostensible reason for his condemnation and hatred of “landlordism.” To the extent that such seizures were the result of a population of outsiders that not only seized the land of the previous occupants but also proceeded to work it, Carson has no basis of opposition, because his principle is that use determines ownership, and they are now the users. His principle of use determining ownership leaves no basis for opposing any theft, so long as the thief uses what he has stolen.

What Carson is actually opposed to is not violent appropriation of land —indeed, as we have seen, that is precisely what he advocates whenever he thinks it is “just.” What he is actually opposed to is merely the case in which the thief does not use what he has stolen—the leading example being when the thief settles down to become a landlord collecting rent on land that others use.

But, of course, Carson is equally opposed to someone who is not a thief also not using his own property. Non-use is alleged justification for legitimate property being seized, and, as I’ve shown, not just land but also homes and apartments, and by implication, automobiles, clothing, and everything else that is not being used by its owner.

I cannot help but suspect that what Carson is actually opposed to is not at all force, fraud, or actual injustice in the history of mankind but the existence of large inequalities of wealth and income, whatever their basis. The idle wealth of the rich is what he has in mind for seizure and subsequent use by the poor, who would allegedly be its rightful owners by virtue of the mere fact of their use of what they had stolen.

Hopefully, in the future, I will be able to address further the problems connected with violent seizures of land in the past and explain why they are irrelevant to the present and do not justify programs of redistributionist “land reform.” For those who may be interested, I have already written on this subject in my book Capitalism, on pp. 317-322.

For now what it is essential to understand is that Carson’s “Mutualism” is a philosophy that urges theft.

This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that mention of the author’s web site www.capitalism.net is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved. George Reisman is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.

{ 117 comments }

Yancey Ward June 20, 2006 at 3:19 pm

Ralph,

I guess this credit system is another example of the gift economy that Robin Cox was pitching here last week. You guys really, really need a primer on human nature.

Paul Edwards June 20, 2006 at 3:26 pm

Quasibill,

“You’re going to have to do a little more work on anthropology and history to support your arguments…

“Just as one easily accessible example – go rent “The Gods Must Be Crazy” … Here is a tribe that exists with extensive commons, in the absence of a coercive state.”

LOL! That’s good. OK, I am weak in anthropology, I admit, so I am glad that this movie can help me in this area because I have watched it more than once.

For starters, they accept private property do they not? Tell me this: do they believe in self ownership? Did they believe anyone can hit anyone else if they want? If I recall they were libertarians on this count as people had the right not to be hit on the head with a bottle. Secondly, did they own their clothes and the tent? Do you think they would see an invader as justified in taking their clothes and their tent and dousing their fire at night for fun? Do you think they feel they had a right to the food that they collected or if someone took it would it not be theft? I think they believe in property.

But further, if there arose conflict over the scarce resource of animal meat, or land or roots, do you think they would lay down and die, or would they feel justified in defending their means of sustenance. If the former, they will indeed eventually lay down and die. If the latter, they have an implicit belief in property. Their problem is they may not have a sufficiently elaborated theory of property to avoid either extinction or conflict. Property is inherent and necessary in a sustainable culture that wishes to avoid conflict. It is not just my opinion, it is a fact.

“Observe the main character, and how he is not impressed with modern life. You, clearly, disagree with his assessment, but there you go – you two have subjective value assessments. Of course, as a Rand-roid, you’ll claim yours are objectively superior to his, but that’s not Austrian. It’s Rand-roid.”

quasibill, You’re killing me here. You’re not going to believe this, but I’ve never read Rand; ever; at all. But I’ll take the accusation as intended, LOL. I am not saying I disagree with this tribe’s lifestyle exactly. What I’m saying is they already do and must accept the concept of property; they just don’t apply it in the extensive manner necessary to allow them to survive in the long run, or avoid conflict. They have no objective link to the animals that they hunt, so there can be conflict over their use. If another tribe hunts the animals they hunt, they can expect conflict because there is no objective link to those resources and an owner. It’s not a question of a superior life-style. It’s an objective fact that resources are scarce and there can be conflict over them. It is simply only the institution of private property that allows this conflict to be avoided.

“Then, when you’re ready to learn a little more, read “governing the Commons” and read about the many diverse, complicated systems that arose historically to deal with commons problems. Some examples in the book could be classified as coercive or state-like, but in the end, they are only as much so as an An-Cap condominium community.”

When I’m ready to learn a little more? LOL. You’re knocking me out with all this assistance. You say some examples in the book could be classified as “coercive or state-like”? I’m sure they could and that many of us would. You say you consider an an-cap condominium community as coercive and state-like? I do believe you would.

Let me skip back to the chase. None of the means you or anyone else will propose will allow for conflict avoidance if they RULE OUT ownership in private property. Private property is necessary for voluntary, conflict free action. You can agree to pool property communally, but at the base of this, there must be an acknowledgement of a right to private property.

“But, hey, you love that grinding poverty caused by socialist coercion, because these people were merely dupes, not smart enough to recognize that you have all the answers and disapprove of their arrangements, and instead needed the benifence of private property forced upon their ignorant lives, right?”

I don’t think you could misconstrue my position more if you actually made it your objective to do so. Private property is the necessary corollary to liberty. Do you think private property is something that can be coercively inflicted on people? LOL. Free people already believe in private property. Your coke bottle wielding community recognized the need for private property long before the arrival of that bottle. But certainly, they got a taste of what happens when people contest over an “unowned” valuable and scarce resource. They get conflict. If they avoided this conflict over the bottle by destroying the bottle, conflict must only re-emerge in food, or land or other things eventually. They could have avoided the conflict over the coke bottle, by the way, by assigning ownership of it to the finder. What a drag, huh? But still I liked the movie.

“Just because people don’t share your Rand-roid values does not make them dupes or thieves. And accusing them of being such (or me of being statist) shows more about the consistency of your professed belief in subjective value than anything else.”

Well, I guess I’m arguably too harsh, and I’m sorry about that. But it’s what I believe. The position that private property can be abolished and all can still be well and conflict can still be avoided is simply foolish. I don’t believe that is merely opinion, I think it has been shown to be a fact. But in any event, quasibill, relax; I get carried away. Have you never let your contempt for someone’s position show through?

RalphBorsodi June 20, 2006 at 4:30 pm

Yancey-

Mutualist are individualist anarchists and thus believe in markets and money without the benefit of government granted privilege whereas anarcho-communists are collectivist anarchists and therefore don’t believe in either markets or exchange (aka gift economy).

quincunx June 20, 2006 at 5:11 pm

Ralph, et al. in the mutualist camp

Except that markets are meaningless without stable property rights. In mutalism-land I will not need to save and invest to buy your property – I will just wait till you go to work, or on vacation, or I can just claim your dirty attic/basement.

“Credit is part of the social commons and the economic interest charged is not privatized.”

This is another thing that bugs me about mutualists. They are money cranks. They recognize that land is scarce (otherwise who cares how property is appropriated?), but don’t extend that principle to everything else. The mutualists are 0% interest rate fetishists.

How can credit be social commons if there exists private property for use? The only way is to not have private property for use in the first place. Which boils down to plain out theft even with property for use. Which is what Yancey, Edwards, & Reisman contend is the actual result of applying mutualist philosophy.

I am simply amazed that people can fall for this mumbo-jumbo, and believe that people will voluntarily engage in trade on a fuzzy notion of property rights amidst hyperinflation.

I’m sure mutualist philosphers have not heard of Gresham’s Law, since they persist in thinking that people will voluntarily continue using debased currency.

“Mutualism is based on the principle of reciprocity.”

Yeah, indeed. You steal my stuff, I steal your stuff, or I go after another to steal from. The stuff I steal is devalued by another group of thieves printing up certificates of stolen deposit.

@quasibill

“Commons existed in the absence of coercive governments (and in fact, were often seized and “privatized” by coercive governments”

For more information on an AnCap view of the Commons, read: http://mises.org/journals/jls/19_2/19_2_1.pdf

I don’t agree with everything in this paper, but It’s quite sound.

Kevin Carson June 20, 2006 at 7:34 pm

My responses, for anyone interested, can be found here:

There He Goes Again!

Kevin Carson June 20, 2006 at 11:06 pm

quincunx,

Re the “money crankery” and “hyperinflation” issues:

I didn’t address this in my post, because I wanted to concentrate on Reisman’s criticisms and the comments that subsequently developed them.

But you might want to READ what I actually wrote in my rejoinder to Rothbard on that subject before you go any further in characterizing a doctrine you don’t really know anything about.

Person June 20, 2006 at 11:43 pm

But you might want to READ what I actually wrote in my rejoinder to Rothbard on that subject before you go any further in characterizing a doctrine you don’t really know anything about.

Kevin_Carson, considering that until last week, you didn’t even realize that one’s home would be worthless collateral under your own desired property rules (and thus wouldn’t do much for your interest rates), I’d be careful about lecturing someone about critiquing a doctrine from ignorance. And I don’t want to be unfair to you: if you can show me some time before June ’06 where you recognized that a home is worthless collateral in mutualism, or gave a “failed business” exception to the use-occupancy rule, I’ll be glad to admit my error.

And of course, even if there had been some mutualist society, where people did recognize such an exception, and a reasonable number of people (say, 10%) saw their businesses[1] fail and result in eviction, … why do I get this strange feeling you would characterize their eviction as unjust and some form of “state intervention”, despite such a rigid adherence to mutualism? Or worse, what if they had pledged their future labor as collateral (i.e., a practice you fully endorse and would believe would help drive interest rates down significantly) and then their business failed, effectively making them slaves to a bank. You would have nothing negative to say about such an eventuality, right?

[1]I’m of course, referring here to businesses such as manufacturing Playstation 2′s by hand from home using your own hand tools, which is obviously only more efficient in a factory today because of state intervention. Okay, maybe not. But just maybe.

Jacob June 21, 2006 at 12:07 am

I do not intend to speak for every ‘left’ anarchist, but I think most ‘left’ anarchists and some ‘right’ anarchists would base ownership claims on similar standards.

Basically, use need not be continuous, but it should be clear. Once one person has clear use, other people should restrict use to either (1) noninterfering use (any use of abandoned goods/land is noninterfering use), (2) negotiated agreements (e.g. sales), (3) common sense (e.g. borrowing a hose to stop a fire), and (4) reciprocity.

Further, if people trust someone’s word, they will risk small unenforcible agreements, but if they distrust someone’s word, they will not. Finally, if the tuxedo rental, tux rental, etc. is a fee for service, people will give it more respect than if it is a tax on some tenants.

Kevin Carson June 21, 2006 at 12:37 am

Person,

Since I nowhere wrote that homes would be “worthless collateral,” in June 2006 or at any other time, my criticism of your reading skills still stands. My comments in my blog post were intended to show how a home *could* serve as collateral consistently with occupancy and use tenure.

Sorry to have disturbed your nap.

quasibill June 21, 2006 at 8:05 am

Paul,

“Tell me this: do they believe in self ownership?”

I would say yes, although they probably wouldn’t necessarily class it as such. However, and this is important to me, self-ownership does NOT immediately imply ownership of anything else. You need a philosophical value applied to self-ownership to make the next step. I have that value (my labor is mine, therefore the product of my labor, in general, should be mine). However, it IS a subjective value, not a logical deduction. It is held be a large number of people, so it seems objective, but it isn’t, really. In other words, one can believe in self-ownership and logically not believe in physical property outside of it.

“they just don’t apply it in the extensive manner necessary to allow them to survive in the long run, or avoid conflict.”

Here’s where you get onto shaky ground, due to your lack of historical and anthropological knowledge. Compare the longevity and peacefulness of this tribe to Western Civilization since Locke. If you don’t already know the answer, it’s going to make your above statement look extremely foolish.

It takes nothing more than a respect for their personal ownership of themselves to respect their claims, which, in fact, are collective in nature, and not private (none of them claim the land they use as personal property, they claim it as a collective).

“You say some examples in the book could be classified as “coercive or state-like”? I’m sure they could and that many of us would. You say you consider an an-cap condominium community as coercive and state-like? I do believe you would.”

You miss the point – these examples are only coercive to the point that people have already agreed to the terms by living there. They are not coerced into staying there. I’m not sure how you could distinguish this from an AnCap condominium that prohibited homosexual lifestyles. This, by the way, is how state-like oorganizations arise in the first place – you get a group of property owners to voluntarily agree to a group of rules that will run with the land, so that all new purchasers of the land will then be subject to the old rules…

“Do you think private property is something that can be coercively inflicted on people? LOL.”

Well, since the nomads, like many american indians, believed that the land was owned in common, at least within the tribe, and it took coercive government to break that belief and force them to settle, yes, I would say the available evidence absolutely contradicts your assertion.

Again, be careful conflating realty with personalty.

“If they avoided this conflict over the bottle by destroying the bottle, conflict must only re-emerge in food, or land or other things eventually.”

Except they have peacefully avoided such conflict for quite a bit longer than you would like to admit.

“They could have avoided the conflict over the coke bottle, by the way, by assigning ownership of it to the finder. What a drag, huh?”

Not a drag at all. I agree with your preference (despite the fact you keep trying to paint me as a statist or socialist – I actually disagree strongly with some of the basics in Carson’s systems – I just admit that, especially with respect to real property, his property rules are logically consistent, and fully capable of working in a voluntary fashion).

“But in any event, quasibill, relax; I get carried away. Have you never let your contempt for someone’s position show through?”

Me? I never get carried away! I am always perfectly in control of my emotions, *&@!
[caught red-handed, the bell ringer slinks away]

RalphBorsodi June 21, 2006 at 8:46 am

Paul,

“Tell me this: do they believe in self-ownership?”

I dare say more so than the Austrians!

Government granted privilege that allows private enclosure of the natural (land) and social commons (credit) violates the self-ownership rights of those being excluded to their wages because it rewards behavior that captures value (rent seeking) rather than creates value (wealth).

The economic term for this is “value from obligation” rather than labor inputs.

The private enclosure creates a legal and monetary obligation on those that are excluded that can only be satisfied by sacrificing their absolute right to the fruits of their labor – hence self-ownership itself.

quincunx June 21, 2006 at 10:47 am

“But you might want to READ what I actually wrote in my rejoinder to Rothbard on that subject before you go any further in characterizing a doctrine you don’t really know anything about.”

Why don’t you argue directly instead of referring to some rejoinder you can’t even link.

Maybe I don’t know everything about your silly doctrine but when I hear terms like:

Mutualist Bank, Credit belongs to the commons, down with interest, free banking (though not private),

I think: Money Cranks, Hyperinflation, Non-Voluntary.

I maybe wrong, but that is what I hear from your disciples. Maybe they don’t get it either.

“I dare say more so than the Austrians!

The private enclosure creates a legal and monetary obligation on those that are excluded that can only be satisfied by sacrificing their absolute right to the fruits of their labor – hence self-ownership itself.”

Really? Well then logically, one would have to adopt the ideal Primitivist model where the mere physical existence of a human being prevents another from occupying his space. This individual must be killed, otherwise you can’t exercise your self-ownership in standing on his spot.

RalphBorsodi June 21, 2006 at 11:57 am

quincunx,

“…where the mere physical existence of a human being prevents another from occupying his space. This individual must be killed, otherwise you can’t exercise your self-ownership in standing on his spot.”

All dominion over a specific territory in the plant and animal world is either initiated via force or maintained via force.

Your example would only be true if we were packed in like sardines on the landed surface of the earth.

quincunx June 21, 2006 at 12:10 pm

“All dominion over a specific territory in the plant and animal world is either initiated via force or maintained via force.”

And yet it is only one iota more extreme than your position.

“Your example would only be true if we were packed in like sardines on the landed surface of the earth.”

Well, in that case mutualist property for use is only necessary when we run out of Lockean non-proviso private property. We have not, aside from state appropriation. Eliminate the state, and maybe in a few thousand years the mutualist position will make slightly more sense, assuming we never get off this planet.

Kevin Carson June 21, 2006 at 12:34 pm

Quincunx,

Why do YOU express an opinion about the ideas in a piece you haven’t read, on the basis of a hostile characterization? Both Reisman’s review and my rejoinder are available in pdf format at the JLS site, which you can easily track down from here.

I’ve got writing commitments of my own, and limited time to hang out in discussion threads. So it seems kind of like spoon-feeding to repeat arguments that someone is too lazy to look up before expressing an opinion on them.

But anyway, here it goes: mutual banking is not based on currency inflation, like greenbackers and other 19th century money cranks who thought a limited supply of currency was the main evil. Mutual banking’s main point of criticism is the limited competition among banks in the supply of credit, because of market entry barriers like licensing and capitalization requirements. As I pointed out in my rejoinder to Rothbard and Reisman, Rothbard himself made EXACTLY the same criticism of the life insurance industry, which under state regulations was capitalized far beyond simple actuarial requirements. The idea is that, in the supply of ANY good or service, when you’ve got licensing and other entry barriers limiting the number of people supplying it, they can charge an artificially high price.

quincunx June 21, 2006 at 2:24 pm

“Why do YOU express an opinion about the ideas in a piece you haven’t read, on the basis of a hostile characterization? Both Reisman’s review and my rejoinder are available in pdf format at the JLS site, which you can easily track down from here.”

Actually I have read it, but for some reason thought your off-hand non-linked referral to “Rothbard’s rejoinder” was something separate you wrote in the past, something I might have missed (I typically don’t remember all subheadings in one paper – which was the case).

“I’ve got writing commitments of my own, and limited time to hang out in discussion threads. So it seems kind of like spoon-feeding to repeat arguments that someone is too lazy to look up before expressing an opinion on them.”

So I take that means you read Reisman’s Capitalism in its entirety? Did you skimp through it? Or is your response simply based on what Reisman directed at you?

Please, tell me Mr. Carson, at what point can one express an opinion? When they already agree with you?

By your rules, it seems no one EVER needs to debate anything, afterall, you can just research both sides of the argument and then decide which one is correct. Down with the internet? I suppose.

It’s funny that you can post to a thread, and then claim to be too busy to engage in argument. You want a one-way crapshoot, but it doesn’t work like that.

“But anyway, here it goes: mutual banking is not based on currency inflation, like greenbackers and other 19th century money cranks who thought a limited supply of currency was the main evil. Mutual banking’s main point of criticism is the limited competition among banks in the supply of credit, because of market entry barriers like licensing and capitalization requirements. As I pointed out in my rejoinder to Rothbard and Reisman, Rothbard himself made EXACTLY the same criticism of the life insurance industry, which under state regulations was capitalized far beyond simple actuarial requirements. The idea is that, in the supply of ANY good or service, when you’ve got licensing and other entry barriers limiting the number of people supplying it, they can charge an artificially high price.”

I totally agree with this. My questions are:

You rejoinder to Rothbard, says nothing about whether fractional reserve banking is legitimate or not, what is your opinion on this?

is it OK (in mutualist philosophy) to charge interest on money or not?

If it is OK, why is there a term ‘mutual banking’ when ‘free banking’ does the trick? Or a simple elimination of the state would just create ‘banks’.

It’s sort of like using the term ‘mutual car’, and being surprised when people mistake it for something else. I don’t think there should be regulation on who can make cars, but I wouldn’t call this ‘mutual car’.

I would think the word ‘mutual’ sounds awfully close to ‘cartel’ (mutually beneficial to it’s participants & restrictive to competition) as opposed to ‘free’, therefore I wouldn’t use it, unless there something more to ‘mutual banking’ that I’m missing?

I hope you’re not too busy with your writing commitments to answer my simple questions.

Yancey Ward June 21, 2006 at 3:52 pm

Kevin Carson,

In your rejoinder to the critiques of your work you wrote that credit would be cheaper and more widely available absent state granted privilege and state created barriers to entry. I find much to agree with what you have written in this regard, and I doubt many here would disagree. However, do you really think the cost of credit would fall to zero? I can think of few human beings that would lend savings for no return.

Paul Edwards June 21, 2006 at 4:12 pm

RalphBorsodi,

PE: “Tell me this: do they believe in self-ownership?”

RB: I dare say more so than the Austrians!

Ok, that’s a yes, we can agree that far, so do they believe in ownership in the food they put their mouth? Yes, they must. They believe they have the right to the exclusive control over the resource which is food that they put in their mouth to survive. This is the justification of private property. And people who argue at all, presuppose its validity. And this is whether they are consistent enough to recognize this is the case, or not.

I think where we differ is this: i say private property, the homesteading principle, and finally, private contract, are all quite necessary concepts to institute, to allow for the pursuit of peace and the avoidance of conflict. I know it sounds like i am just saying my values are better than someone who disputes me, but i am really trying to say it is a simple fact of life which is necessarily true a-priori.

The other view is that private property is a convention, it is arbitrary, it is ok for some, not ok for those who voluntarily reject it. My response is this: those who reject private property necessarily reject the possibility of conflict avoidance. And for those who value peace, this is not a consistent option. I’m not telling you that you must value the pursuit of peace over conflict; i’m just saying that if you do value peace over conflict, which you demonstrate a preference for incidentally, when arguing, you must necessarily be an advocate of private property, homesteading and contract.

Now this is important, so if you dispute me, include this comment in your argument: what voluntary community/communal non-market arrangements that private property owners wish to participate in, at their own whim is not what I am concerned with. I am merely pointing out that an advocate of peace cannot be an advocate, ever, of the abolition of private property. It is a contradiction. So you can join a commune, give them your possessions, and give them your labor for free in exchange for their agreement to transfer back to your possession, as your property, at an agreed rate, food etc, for you to justifiably consume. You also might contract for (implicitly perhaps) the right of passage out of the commune should you or they decide the arrangement is no good. This agreement is called a contract between free private property owners. But if you value peace, you will not join or endorse a commune that rejects private property outright. The distinction may seem too subtle to matter, but it is very important.

Kevin Carson June 21, 2006 at 6:42 pm

Quincunx,

“Or is your response simply based on what Reisman directed at you?”

Yes. I have not read Reisman’s capitalism, although I intend to do so. Until I have, I have no comment on it. I comment only on his arguments that I have actually read. If I commented on stuff I hadn’t read, I’d have a lot more time to hang out on message boards.

“You rejoinder to Rothbard, says nothing about whether fractional reserve banking is legitimate or not, what is your opinion on this?”

If the bank can find customers using fractional reserve methods, fine. Competition is the way to address all such issues. I’m not for suppressing fractional reserve banking so long as it’s willingly agreed to by all parties.

“is it OK (in mutualist philosophy) to charge interest on money or not?”

It’s OK in the sense that I certainly wouldn’t suppress it. If the lender at interest can find a willing customer, more power to him. I just think that without state-enforced monopoly returns, he’d have a lot harder time finding customers.

There’s no cryptic meaning to my choice of the term “mutual banking.” That’s simply the term that was used by William Greene, one of the early writers on the subject, and I accepted it as the default terminology. But “free banking” is fine.

Yancey,

“However, do you really think the cost of credit would fall to zero? I can think of few human beings that would lend savings for no return.”

I don’t really disagree. The original idea was that the cost of *secured* loans would fall to zero, because they weren’t strictly speaking “loans” in the first place. Unsecured loans would surely carry some risk premium.

David Edwards,

I’m not “Ralph Borsodi,” but I’ll contribute my $0.02 anyway. I don’t think there’s anybody that rejects private property in principle, although some collectivist types may reject that terminonolgy. Even in a syndicalist or libertarian communist society, the means of production are in some sense the joint property of individual work collectives. And for mutualists, Lockeans and Georgists, who all believe in market systems of some sort, it goes further than that. We all believe in private property–we just have different rules for establishing who owns it at any particular times. As Nozick said, any private property system must have rules for initial acquisition, transfer, and abandonment. All three private property systems have similar rules for initial acquisition of unowned property, but differ on the other two points.

Person June 21, 2006 at 7:08 pm

Kevin_Carson:

Since I nowhere wrote that homes would be “worthless collateral,” in June 2006 or at any other time, my criticism of your reading skills still stands. My comments in my blog post were intended to show how a home *could* serve as collateral consistently with occupancy and use tenure.

Yes: your comments did establish that, if you were to fundamentally revise your property theory to say “the user and occupier is always the owner … well, unless a landlord is evicting him because he failed a business. Then it’s okay.”, then a home would not be worthless collateral. So that means you are taking the second option, and you believe that some time before June ’06, somewhere you outlined this exception to the occupancy and use standard (though it differs from that outlined in Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, which quite clearly maintains that for a landlord to evict the “real” user is an instance of the “land monopoly” and state intervention) and thereby resolved the apparent contradiction in your previous statements.

So, remind me again, where you did that?

RalphBorsodi June 21, 2006 at 7:32 pm

Paul,

“I say private property, the homesteading principle, and finally, private contract, are all quite necessary concepts to institute, to allow for the pursuit of peace and the avoidance of conflict”

“an advocate of peace cannot be an advocate, ever, of the abolition of private property. It is a contradiction”

I don’t reject private property. I reject homesteading as an act of privilege beyond Locke’s proviso because it no longer represents value creation but rather value capture.

The value being captured is the labor products (the basis of property rights) of those being excluded.

So rather than rejecting private property rights I am suggesting that I am for strengthening TRUE property rights and thus self-onwership itself. In fact far stronger than the Austrians!

Kevin Carson June 22, 2006 at 1:00 am

Person,

That “unless a landlord is evicting him” part is something else you hallucinated, I’m afraid. I specified that physically evicting an owner-occupier from the property was the one recouse *not* available in the event of default on a loan. That does not make the pledge of a house “worthless collateral” any more than the absence of debtors’ prisons and debt peonage makes a loan contract unenforceable. Seizure of moveable property and assets, and other sanctions short of eviction, *would* be options.

I addressed the question of how a house could be collateral under mutualist property rules at least as early as May 2002 in a Libertarian Alliance Forum yahoogroup discussion on mutual banking and property theory. If it’s that big a deal to you, please look it up for yourself.

Paul Edwards June 22, 2006 at 3:31 am

Carson,

“I don’t think there’s anybody that rejects private property in principle, although some collectivist types may reject that terminonolgy.”

What is important is not necessarily that we all use the same term “private property” as much as that we all agree to what the term implies.

“Even in a syndicalist or libertarian communist society, the means of production are in some sense the joint property of individual work collectives.”

Yes, in some sense, but I hope to establish here a sense that is required to allow us to avoid conflict.

“And for mutualists, Lockeans and Georgists, who all believe in market systems of some sort, it goes further than that. We all believe in private property–we just have different rules for establishing who owns it at any particular times.”

The goal of private property is to allow conflict avoidance to be possible. My contention is that only one basic set of rules can accomplish this, and it is this set of rules and only this set of rules that we should think of when we mention the terms “private property”.

“As Nozick said, any private property system must have rules for initial acquisition, transfer, and abandonment. All three private property systems have similar rules for initial acquisition of unowned property, but differ on the other two points.”

So let me re-iterate what I believe to be the fundamentally necessary framework of property rights to allow for conflict avoidance. A set of norms necessary to allow peaceful and cooperative interaction are

1. self-ownership
2. private property
3. voluntary contract between private property owners
4. homesteading principle

These concepts encompass the anarcho-capitalist system, and are the single basis of conflict-free, cooperative interaction. All other forms of anarchy such as mutualism, communalism, etc, must be derived from A-C through mutually agreed contractual and covenantal agreements, based on these four concepts.

For instance, private property ownership implies freely entered, non-fraudulent rental contracts are naturally allowed. However, voluntary covenantal agreements could be established which would prohibit rental contracts. These agreements would be entered into on the basis of mutually beneficial expectations that the participants, say in a neighborhood would somehow benefit by such an agreement. Say they felt renters would lower the value of the neighborhood or they happened to be a community of mutualists. From that point on, they would be bound by agreement not to rent their property to renters.

Such agreements could be entered into for any number of mutually agreeable restrictions on use of private property, including communal agreements to pool property, etc. But the important thing to understand is that the root set of norms that allow for conflict avoidance remains the A-C set. Baring any contractual or covenantal restrictions to the contrary, this implies that the original appropriator of a resource is and remains the acknowledged owner until he gives the property away, sells it, or abandons it. He inherently, assuming no agreements to the contrary, retains the right to continue to use it, to not use it, or to rent it to another via contractual agreement.

Note though, that certain covenantal agreements are highly unlikely to emerge. For instance, agreements restricting one’s use of their capital, or limiting one’s ability to profit from investments, entrepreneurial enterprises, and capitalistic pursuits. Agreements that are likely to inhibit economic advancement are unlikely, but not necessarily impossible to imagine. But the important point is that they must emerge based on contractual agreements and covenants on the basis of the A-C ethic.

The only inherent restriction on property use under A-C is it may not materially encroach on another’s private property in a coercive or fraudulent manner. All other restrictions which conform to a mutualist ideal, for instance, must be derived from contractual agreement.

Keith Preston June 22, 2006 at 5:00 am

Paul,

Do you believe that a slavery or indentured servitude contract would be enforceable according to an-cap principles? What about a contract between a white slaver and prostitute who is promised subsistence amounts of bread, water and heroin in exchange for turning tricks for perpetuity? What about a contract between two gladiators and an entertainment company to fight to the death on pay-per-view television?

If I recall correctly, J.S. Mill made an argument against the legitimacy or enforceability of these kinds of contracts rooted in something to do with “alienation of the will”. If you accept the validity of contracts of this type, fine. If not, how is your rejection of these contracts inherently different from Kevin’s approach to contracts for absentee landlordism?

Contracts themselves reflect an adherence to pre-existing sets of principles. As Kevin says, a system of property rights has to have rules determing what is legitimate property and what is not. Likewise, a system of contract enforcement has to have rules determing what is a valid contract and what is not.

If I understand Kevin’s position correctly, all he is saying is that a contract for absentee landlordism is not valid because the landlord is not renting legitimate property in the first place according to the rules of property that Kevin would favor. Let’s say Neil Armstrong was able to con some sucker into paying rent on a plot of land on the moon where the sucker hoped to build a golf course once commercial space travel became feasible. Neil could justify this by saying he was there first (“homesteading”) and mixed the moon with his labor (swinging a golf club). But if he actually tried to collect rent from the sucker, he would be laughed out of court on the grounds that the moon is not his valid property to rent given the established rules of property that courts tend to adhere to.

Peter June 22, 2006 at 6:36 am

A “slavery contract” is not valid under an-cap law. Nor is Armstrong’s claim to the entire moon (or probably any of the moon, in fact). So I’m not quite sure what you’re driving at (ha ha). [BTW, Neil Armstrong didn't swing a golf club. At least, not on the moon; I don't know whether he played earthbound golf. You're thinking of Alan Shepard.]

TGGP June 22, 2006 at 7:56 am

Here is a very good Walter Block piece against the concept of “inalienability” that justifies voluntary slavery, gladiators, and so on: http://mises.org/journals/jls/17_2/17_2_3.pdf

My problem with it is the sale of moral responsibility. I think it is really owned by everyone EXCEPT Block’s seller, and only with all of their consent can it be given away.

Person June 22, 2006 at 8:45 am

Kevin_Carson:

That “unless a landlord is evicting him” part is something else you hallucinated, I’m afraid. I specified that physically evicting an owner-occupier from the property was the one recouse *not* available in the event of default on a loan. That does not make the pledge of a house “worthless collateral” any more than the absence of debtors’ prisons and debt peonage makes a loan contract unenforceable.

You’re confusing separate issues: 1) Whether a lender would value having a home offered as collateral under mutualist property rules (and thereby revise downward the interest rate at which he would deem the loan worthwhile), and 2) Whether there exist any legal remedies in the even of default, and then, whether 3) the absence of a given legal remedy would lead to no loans ever being offered. I’m only disputing 1) here. Yes, loan contracts are enforcible without debtors’ prisons; but nevertheless, if placing someone in a debtors’ prison could not possibly happen in the society in which the loan is made, contracting that “I’ll submit to a debtor’s prison if I can’t pay” would indeed be a worthless offer, and would not secure a lower interest rate. Likewise, an unseizeable home is worthless as collateral, even if that person could still get a loan, and even if that person had other collateral. With that in mind:

Seizure of moveable property and assets, and other sanctions short of eviction, *would* be options.

True, but then why the charade? If the occupier has full veto power over his home/land’s seizure, and it’s other assets that will be seized in default, why is the home even considered in the loan contract? The bank would just ask for the other items as collateral. If on default, the borrower doesn’t want to cede those items, but is willing to give up the home, he can just sell the home and pay off the loan. But as long as the borrower can indefinitely thumb his nose at evictors, with full support of the law, yes, the home certainly is worthless as collateral.

I addressed the question of how a house could be collateral under mutualist property rules at least as early as May 2002 in a Libertarian Alliance Forum yahoogroup discussion on mutual banking and property theory.

So, your position is that the proper place to resolve critical contradictions in your philosophy is on an obscure discussion board. That says a lot. I mean, I’ll search for it, but let’s not pretend it shows your beliefs well-conceived.

Keith Preston June 22, 2006 at 9:20 am

Peter:

“A ‘slavery contract’ is not valid under an-cap law.”

Why not?

“Nor is Armstrong’s claim to the entire moon (or probably any of the moon, in fact).”

Why not?

“Neil Armstrong didn’t swing a golf club. At least, not on the moon; I don’t know whether he played earthbound golf. You’re thinking of Alan Shepard.”

I stand corrected.

TGGP:

“Here is a very good Walter Block piece against the concept of “inalienability” that justifies voluntary slavery, gladiators,”

That sounds like something Block would write, LOL!
For all I know, Block might be 100% correct if you want to take an-cap contract theory or property theory to its most extravagant extremes. I think this question is a good illustration of the principle of the “tyranny of ideology”. There are reasonable exceptions to every rule. That’s why most relatively functional legal systems have concepts like “mitigating circumstances”, degrees of culpability, provisions for bankruptucy and so on.

“My problem with it is the sale of moral responsibility. I think it is really owned by everyone EXCEPT Block’s seller, and only with all of their consent can it be given away.”

Well, if I were on an anarchist common law jury, I’d probably just nullify such a contract (like I would nullify a prosecution for firearms posession or drug selling under the present system). Someone who signed such a contract would likely be under extreme duress at the time like a parent desparate to feed their child or a prostitute really strung out on drugs. Even if there was no direct physical coercion like holding a gun to someone’s head, I don’t know that such an action could reasonable be considered entirely rooted in one’s free will, either. There’s a such thing as moderation and balancing one’s ideological interests with common decency and common sense.

Shawn P. Wilbur June 22, 2006 at 10:47 am

Paul Edwards says: “The goal of private property is to allow conflict avoidance to be possible. My contention is that only one basic set of rules can accomplish this, and it is this set of rules and only this set of rules that we should think of when we mention the terms ‘private property.’”

Paul, I won’t try to speak for Kevin, but historically the mutualist position grew out of a sense, developed by Proudhon in his memoirs on property and by William B. Greene in his early economic writings, that all of the defenses of “private property” involved some equivocation or self-contradiction. Thus, Proudhon’s “property is theft,” which means that by its own terms the defense of “private property” involves a violation of the very rights it attempts to assert. In the face of apparently insuperable difficulties in establishing a coherent set of property relations, but still faced with the need to establish “mine and thine,” Proudhon at first turns to the notion of “possession” (which most left anarchists take as their starting point), but later turns to an attempt to reconstruct “private property” as he puts it “according to its aims.” Mutualist property theory is, thereafter, an attempt to produce a just system out of voluntary agreement. (This is less the case with Tucker, who was a bit unfaithful to his influences, and seems to have fallen back on egoism and faith in market forces, where both his predecessors and more contemporary mutualists seem to take that “mutual” notion a bit more seriously.) I take it that you have more faith in the defensibility of your “private property” system on more than just pragmatic grounds.

Yancey Ward June 22, 2006 at 11:05 am

Kevin Carson,

It sounds to me that the mutualists are attempting to create loans in which no one actively abstains from consuming in the present. If I may, I would like to examine in detail the loan transaction in a mutualist credit house. Any are free to add to or correct my thinking.

Let us suppose that I wish to purchase capital equipment to work for myself in an auto factory. I live in a house on a piece of land. I go to the credit clearing house and obtain 1000 monetary units and pledge the house and the capital equipment I wish to purchase as collateral for the loan that I will pay off in installments over a 10 year period as I sell the cars that are the product of my labor. I take the 1000 monetary units and buy the capital equipment. These monetary units now circulate in the economy as the capital equipment makers buy the things they require to sustain themselves. Over the next 10 years, a portion of my product is used to pay off the loan to the credit clearing house at rate of 100 monetary units/year. At the end of 10 years, the monetary units are no longer circulating and have been retired.

Now with the above outline, I see two possible scenarios: (1) the credit house is a bank in the true sense that savers deposit hard currency that they have not spent, but have earned, and that they contract to allow the bank to loan to me and this would not be inflationary, and I nor no Austrian would have a problem with this (but I don’t think the savers would loan these funds at cost, and the interest charged would not approach zero); or (2) the credit house is not really a bank in the true sense and is simply a monetary-unit creation house and the value of their units is dependent on the acceptability of the units for transaction purposes. If (2) is the case, then, as Rothbard wrote in the essay that was reprinted in the JLS edition discussing your work, people would simply opt to use the hard currencies rather than the bank notes, unless each transaction applies a discount to the bank-notes, since the bank notes are only backed, at a given time, by assets concurrently seized from defauted borrowers.

Scenario (2) certainly seems like monetary-crankism to me, and I have yet to find a mutualist that clearly indicates that scenario (1), rather than (2), is the one he has in mind.

Curt Howland June 22, 2006 at 11:56 am

Person, indeed *you* have to be careful when replying to me, because you have demonstrated a lack of ability to support your assertions when directly questioned on them.

You are correct that I “assume” my ownership of the property, subject as has been pointed out to the rent I pay to the government. You could have politely pointed that out, left it at that, and moved on.

Reading the discussion it’s clear that there is far more argument about theory, especially labels, than I have the faculties to discuss.

I’m far more practical than that. The issue of who owns the land has already been thrashed out long before I came along, and I bought property on the assumption and generally agreed upon rules that existed at the time. The rules that I bought under seem the most effective to me, and I voluntarily participated in that purchase.

I like having the “mineral rights” and “water rights”. It’s not on theory, my reason is purely practical. People here are arguing grand theory about who owned what first. My owning the mineral/water rights reduces the complexity of the problem, it turns it into a practical matter of contract instead of Grand Theory (tm, reg us pat off).

On interest and credit: If it’s unfair, then no one will enter into such a contract voluntarily. Since people do enter such contracts voluntarily, it is not the business of anyone else what the rates are (except for the purposes of competition!).

Different cultures are going to have different measures by which “private” property is recognized. Why does this seem like a surprise to folks? Whether it is right or wrong depends only upon coercion, thus the “hitting over the head with a bottle” in _The Gods Must Be Crazy_ is recognized by everyone involved, primitive and modern, as wrong. I also note that the big conflict in _TGMBC_ is not the bottle itself, but that there was only one bottle. Scarcity created a problem for a culture unaccustomed to dealing with that kind of scarcity.

In China, for example, land is not owned by private individuals. It is a commodity owned exclusively by the government, who rents it to whom it wants and takes it back at will. As such, by those rules, I would not buy property.

Vince Daliessio June 22, 2006 at 12:18 pm

AA points out a fallacious assumption about land under mutualism;

“As for your shovel, most mutualists don’t consider personal, movable possessions as equivalent to real estate in this respect. Your shovel is your shovel. Land is a special case, because it’s not a product of labor.”

Could be true, in the case of unowned, unhomesteaded land, emphatically NOT true when the land in question has been purchased for dollars earned by the purchaser. The seller has mixed his labor (passive sometimes, usually active by building a house, improving the lot, etc.)

I stipulated that under our current system, no individual really “owns” their land, since their possession is dependent upon continued payment of a property tax, properly called an economic rent.

In other words, you mutualists are arguing for basically the same system we labor under now, except the rents are currently paid to a monopolistic municipal government.

RalphBorsodi June 22, 2006 at 12:20 pm

Curt,

“I voluntarily participated in that purchase”

You can choose which landowner to purchase from but you don’t have the choice not to purchase (or be gifted) a location to occupy.

Thus, no right of self-ownership is possible.

“In China, for example, land is not owned by private individuals. It is a commodity owned exclusively by the government, who rents it to whom it wants and takes it back at will. As such, by those rules, I would not buy property.”

In Hong Kong, they have very strong property rights around long-term leasing of land and the building on the land itself but the state claims the rental value.

Would you participate in Hong Kong?

Vince Daliessio June 22, 2006 at 12:25 pm

Further, tying into what Curt Howland said, the price we now pay for land is really only the cost of “improvements” (house, streets, police services, governments, etc)- we truly never own the actual, tangible land. Sounds like we already live under a kind of mutualism – certainly not a great advertisement in its favor.

Again, except for the payment of economic rents to a central local government, how exactly does mutualism differ (other than homesteading – essentially unimportant in most cases) from the sorry system we live under now?

Paul Edwards June 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm

Keith,

“Do you believe that a slavery or indentured servitude contract would be enforceable according to an-cap principles?”

No, I don’t.

“What about a(n) [enforceable] contract between a white slaver and prostitute who is promised subsistence amounts of bread, water and heroin in exchange for turning tricks for perpetuity?”

No, I don’t.

“What about a(n) [enforceable] contract between two gladiators and an entertainment company to fight to the death on pay-per-view television?”

No.

“If I recall correctly, J.S. Mill made an argument against the legitimacy or enforceability of these kinds of contracts rooted in something to do with “alienation of the will”.”

I would argue against them on the basis that only costs uncured to the alleged victim claiming damages for the default can be recovered. So if the courts can find no damage, or the damage can be restored with payment, or by resorting to slavery as restitution, or for limited time-duration slavery as restitution, then this is the just result.

“If you accept the validity of contracts of this type, fine. If not, how is your rejection of these contracts inherently different from Kevin’s approach to contracts for absentee landlordism?”

My rejection of it is based on justification of enforcement of the contract, rather than justification of the contract itself. In general, as in the cases you cite, it is the reasonably expected damages inflicted due to default that is the issue, not that there is a contract per se. So if I contract to paint your house for $2000, and you don’t pay me, and I don’t paint your house, you are justified to sue me for any damages you could obviously be expected to incur for the breach, but assuming such a typically simple situation as not getting your house painted by me, there would be no damages and the contract is simply null. If I took your $2000, they you should be able to sue for being swindled, court costs, and either the painting of the house, or your $2000 back.

“Contracts themselves reflect an adherence to pre-existing sets of principles.”

Contracts presuppose private property ownership of two self-owners who are free to voluntarily contract without fraudulent intent between each other. There is nothing inherently fraudulent about a rental agreement.

“As Kevin says, a system of property rights has to have rules determing what is legitimate property and what is not.”

The rules are not inherently arbitrary; they must be decided with the fundamental purpose of allowing for conflict avoidance. Only the A-C norms provide for that. They can be modified according to covenantal agreements to suit a community’s taste. But at the root of all such covenants must be the A-C ethic.

“Likewise, a system of contract enforcement has to have rules determing what is a valid contract and what is not.”

Damages caused by fraud and their restitution are the criterion for contract enforcement. Enforcement is based on restitution.

“If I understand Kevin’s position correctly, all he is saying is that a contract for absentee landlordism is not valid because the landlord is not renting legitimate property in the first place according to the rules of property that Kevin would favor.”

What I’m saying is that it is necessary that a mutualist covenant must be created on top of the A-C ethical framework in order to make the mutualist rules valid. There is nothing inherent about property and contract that naturally renders rental agreements unethical. Therefore, there must be an explicit voluntary agreement between community members that renting one’s property is ruled out.

“Let’s say Neil Armstrong was able to con some sucker into paying rent on a plot of land on the moon where the sucker hoped to build a golf course once commercial space travel became feasible. Neil could justify this by saying he was there first (“homesteading”) and mixed the moon with his labor (swinging a golf club). But if he actually tried to collect rent from the sucker, he would be laughed out of court on the grounds that the moon is not his valid property to rent given the established rules of property that courts tend to adhere to.”

The presumption is that Neil does not own the moon or the part that he is attempting to rent out, so it is a good thing that the courts do not honor his fraudulent contract. But let us presume that he does own the property he has contracted to rent out, and the courts agree that he does, and even you and I agree he owns it. In this case, unless he has a contract with his neighbors or someone who could possibly show damages from a breach of this contract that he will not rent out this property, then the only valid ethic is the A-C ethic that says: it’s your property, contract with it as you wish, and this contract shall be enforced accordingly.

Curt Howland June 22, 2006 at 1:24 pm

RalphBorsadi, “You can choose which landowner to purchase from but you don’t have the choice not to purchase (or be gifted) a location to occupy.
Thus, no right of self-ownership is possible.”

Neither did I voluntarily choose not to occupy my mother, nor my family’s house, nor the town I was born into.

This is exactly what I was trying to convey about different cultures considering property differently, and also why private property has no context where there is only one individual. Whether Robinson Caruso “owned” the island he occupied is irrelevant, it was not in contention. I like Mr. Kinsella’s use of the word “rivalrus” in another discussion, it does indeed give the idea of scarcity a context.

I own myself because I claim to. The culture I live in, through its conventions, allows that claim to be asserted successfully. Whether I own the particular plot of land I live on, or if the state does, or if another individual does, is irrelevant to anything except the ownership of that particular plot of land.

I would do business in HongKong, because I would adapt to the conditions there. I would likely not buy land, because the value of ownership is higher for me than for other people. I have also happily rented both houses and apartments, in different states and countries, none of which caused me to forfeit my self-ownership.

Paul Edwards June 22, 2006 at 1:33 pm

Hi Shawn,

“Paul, I won’t try to speak for Kevin, but historically the mutualist position grew out of a sense, developed by Proudhon in his memoirs on property and by William B. Greene in his early economic writings, that all of the defenses of “private property” involved some equivocation or self-contradiction.”

The more variations on the concept of property that diverge from the A-C concept, the more I agree with his impression.

“Thus, Proudhon’s “property is theft,” which means that by its own terms the defense of “private property” involves a violation of the very rights it attempts to assert.”

LOL. I’m a simple guy. “Up is down” and “property is theft” strike me both the same: as a false stab at being profound. If property is theft, then we should all denounce it right now. But in fact, the concept of theft being bad is derived from the concept that property is just. There is no contradiction in a correct view of property and I think this should become clear to anyone not intent in confusing the issue.

“In the face of apparently insuperable difficulties in establishing a coherent set of property relations, but still faced with the need to establish “mine and thine,” Proudhon at first turns to the notion of “possession” (which most left anarchists take as their starting point), but later turns to an attempt to reconstruct “private property” as he puts it “according to its aims.”"

It is far from insuperably difficult to establish a coherent theory of property. It is simple once one puts in the forefront of one’s mind the purpose of property: to allow for conflict avoidance. This clarifies the end, and makes the only feasible means stand out clearly.

“Mutualist property theory is, thereafter, an attempt to produce a just system out of voluntary agreement. (This is less the case with Tucker, who was a bit unfaithful to his influences, and seems to have fallen back on egoism and faith in market forces, where both his predecessors and more contemporary mutualists seem to take that “mutual” notion a bit more seriously.)”

The A-C ethic: self-ownership, acknowledgement of the homesteading principle and the institution of private property and voluntary contracts between property owners are the root set of norms that accomplish the goal of allowing for peaceful cooperation between men. Together they imply non-aggression.

All others not founded on them will encourage and foster conflict. Mutualist or communal communities can be voluntarily built based on the A-C ethic. But these communities must have the A-C ethic as their foundation. In contrast, the A-C ethic cannot be derived from other ethics because they are more restrictive and preclude certain voluntary and essentially ethical activities such as rental agreements.

“I take it that you have more faith in the defensibility of your “private property” system on more than just pragmatic grounds.”

I do. I claim that the A-C ethic and only the A-C ethic is irrefutably correct, based on praxeological reasoning. The defense of it was first provided by Hans Hoppe several years ago. I recommend giving it a read. Google Hoppe Argumentation ethics.

Kevin Carson June 22, 2006 at 2:19 pm

Person,

I’ve made all the substantive arguments about houses as collateral for mutual banking, RIGHT HERE ON THIS THREAD. There is nothing significant on this subject in my debates in the libertarian alliance forum that I haven’t already repeated here.

You’re the one who seems to place such great importance on whether or not I discussed it in the past, and how it affects your tactical position in this argument. You’ve also displayed a fondness for claiming that others who make an assertion have the burden of proof for backing it up. So if you wanna play “gotcha,” and think whether or not I discussed something before is so important, do the digging for yourself. Now you expect me to do your homework for you. I don’t think it’s that important.

I’m making the arguments here and now, and you seem more obsessed with when I first made them than you do with actually addressing their substance. Arguing with you is really *weird*. For you, apparently, anyone you argue with is supposed to make the effort to repeat everything in the context of this aging comment thread, so you don’t have the burden of looking anything up for yourself. You get to make assertions about who said what, and when, and push the work of digging up the evidence on others. At the same time, you get to make statements about what I wrote based entirely on a hostile review, without bothering to read the original material for yourself. In short a debate between you and anyone else requires effort mainly from the other person. Could it be that you’re just *lazy*?

Paul Edwards,

On property rules, I take nearly the opposite position: more than one system is possible, and so long as they’re enforced consistently, several are viable as alternate bases for a free market order. There is no one set of property rules that can be logically deduced from self-ownership.

Yancey,

The point is that a secured loan is not really a “loan” at all. The owner made the abstention from consumption in accumulating it in the first place–buying moveable goods, building a house, whatever. He’s actually monetizing his own accumulated past labor. I agree that, when there’s no collateral–when it’s a genuine loan–there will likely be some interest.

quasibill June 22, 2006 at 2:39 pm

“emphatically NOT true when the land in question has been purchased for dollars earned by the purchaser”

So, if I buy the moon from Neil Armstrong for $100.00, I have good title to the moon?

It seems you’re conflating two issues. For the mutualist, if the seller hasn’t mixed his labor with the real estate, but merely held paper title create by the state, he doesn’t own good title to sell to you. If he has mixed his labor, he has good title to sell to you.

And it seems pretty strange to claim that you have purchased better title than the seller actually possessed.

Just to be clear, I don’t agree with the rule that Carson proposes. I think that there is some usefulness involved with holding non-homesteaded land – say, like a nature lover who wants a game preserve. That’s just one of my objections. But it is foolish to claim that there is no rational basis for treating realty differently from personalty. There certainly is, which is why the common law did just that. It’s rational to argue that you don’t think they should be treated differently, too. Just not so well-supported by the historical record.

Yancey Ward June 22, 2006 at 3:21 pm

Kevin,

The funds (final consumer goods, like food, electricity etc.) to sustain the capital equipment makers has to come from someone. If I am not funding it from my savings, then it has to be funded in some way. My house, if I really wish to monetize it in the manner you describe, would have to be sold, not used as security in a loan agreement. In other words, my abstentions in the past funded the building of the house, and cannot be used to fund the building of the capital equipment of today. It would be the purchaser of my house that would be supplying the savings, and if I have not really sold my house, then whoever lends me the money is the one supplying the savings, and he is only doing under the condition that I pay him back in kind, and would almost certainly demand interest for his forbearance.

Taking your argument, I would have conclude that the mutualist bank is of the type (2) I described above, and in a free society, its notes would be worthless.

RalphBorsodi June 22, 2006 at 3:23 pm

Curt,

“Neither did I voluntarily choose not to occupy my mother, nor my family’s house, nor the town I was born into”

Your parents have a positive legal obligation to provide your sustenance for you. One of those necessities being housing which is attached to land.

Do you not recognize that because being alive means occupying 3D space (simultaneously) that it is vastly different than the necessities to continue living that are all the result of human labor (the basis of property rights)?

Where can you stand unencumbered after emancipation to excercise your right of self-ownership?

How is a town any different than a landowner?

(hint: it isn’t)

“I own myself because I claim to. The culture I live in, through its conventions, allows that claim to be asserted successfully. Whether I own the particular plot of land I live on, or if the state does, or if another individual does, is irrelevant to anything except the ownership of that particular plot of land.”

How can you own yourself if someone other than you has a legal and monetary claim on your wages so you can occupy “their” location?

Vince Daliessio June 22, 2006 at 4:19 pm

Ralph asks;

“How can you own yourself if someone other than you has a legal and monetary claim on your wages so you can occupy “their” location?”

They don’t. All the particular holder of the land you occupy can do is ask you to pay rent or git on down the road. There are an almost infinite number of other holders of property who will provide you with a space in which to stand at some price. If it is mutually agreeable, you have a place. It in no instance is equal to a claim on your wages unless you sign a lease to that effect (and you would be stupid to do so).

If for some reason you are such an objectionable or hideous creature that no landholder wishes to provide you with space at any price, there are vast unowned tracts of land that are immorally claimed by various governments. plus the vast unowned oceans, lakes, and rivers.

Bottom line is, the argument is spurious, and holding land creates no claim on wages. And most rent or mortgage paid by most people is not for existence-level space, but for a space that is at some premium due to location, location, location. This premium is created by the effort (labor) of others mixed with land. You shouldn’t expect to gain this value premium for free.

Curt Howland June 22, 2006 at 4:36 pm

Your parents have a positive legal obligation to provide your sustenance for you.

I couldn’t disagree more. I also couldn’t object more, since positive legal obligations are an abomination, a source of endless abuse, and have nothing to do with freedom.

My parents took on a voluntary task, they could have unvolunteered at any time. I signed no contract.

Do you not recognize that because being alive means occupying 3D space (simultaneously) that it is vastly different than the necessities to continue living that are all the result of human labor (the basis of property rights)?

Everyone occupies a finite quantity of space, so it cancels out.

If I don’t produce, I starve. That is my decision to make regardless of the social context. Is this what you mean by “necessities…are…the result of human labor”?

How is a town any different than a landowner?

A town is an artificial entity which exists by coercion, a vampire extracting its tithe by taxation. A town as a legal entity, by definition, has no more right to its existence than a cockroach. The sooner squashed, the better.

Paul Edwards June 22, 2006 at 4:37 pm

Carson,

“There is no one set of property rules that can be logically deduced from self-ownership.”

I don’t know what can be deduced from self-ownership. But when it comes to allowing for the possibility of avoiding conflict due to scarcity of resources, there is only one deducible and justifiable set of basic ethical norms and they are the libertarian A-C norms.

Paul Edwards June 22, 2006 at 4:56 pm

Curt,

RalphBorsodi: “Your parents have a positive legal obligation to provide your sustenance for you.”

Curt: “I couldn’t disagree more. I also couldn’t object more, since positive legal obligations are an abomination, a source of endless abuse, and have nothing to do with freedom.”

Stephan Kinsella presented an idea I hadn’t thought of that appealed to me regarding positive obligations that parents might have towards their children. It goes something like this, although i may not do it justice: If you perform an act that one could reasonably expect would put someone in a position to depend on you for their survival, you have obliged yourself to help them survive.

As an example, if you bump someone off the wharf and into the water, and find they can’t swim. You are obligated to try to save their life. There is no contract, and it may have been an accident; but you bumped them off, and now they are drowning. You are obligated to try to pull them out or keep them alive. You’re not just being a nice guy.

Another example is the plane owner inviting someone for a ride on this plane. This owner has taken on the obligation to get his guest off the plane safely, not at 30,000 feet with no parachute.

Similarly, the argument goes: if you have a kid, you knew he’d be dependent on you. Your minimum obligation is to keep him cared for until you can find someone willing to take over for you. Baring that, you’ve obligated yourself to several years of caring for a child.

Curt Howland June 22, 2006 at 6:18 pm

Paul, I’m not sure I would put childbearing and “negligence” into the same category. :^)

From a moral, ethical, even practical position I agree with you. Any child I create I very much feel an “obligation” toward. However, a legal obligation? Makes abortion look like a great idea.

However, bumping someone off the wharf is negligence. An “accident”. There’s even greater obligation morally speaking for a child since it’s really really hard to create a baby without deliberately trying.

I simply object to a legal obligation, no matter how much I may poo-poo someone who abandons a child.

Paul Edwards June 22, 2006 at 6:51 pm

Curt,

“Paul, I’m not sure I would put childbearing and “negligence” into the same category. :^)”

For some, I think the former amounts pretty much to the latter. But that is another discussion altogether. :)

“From a moral, ethical, even practical position I agree with you. Any child I create I very much feel an “obligation” toward. However, a legal obligation? Makes abortion look like a great idea.”

It is actually the ethical angle from which I am approaching the question. The focal point is in the placing of a person in a position to depend on you for survival. Whether you do it through negligence, or by knowingly participating in an act that could potentially lead to this result, it doesn’t matter which, it is your act that obligates you. It is not the same as a parasite or leach attaching himself to you. It is a result of your action that creates their need for your assistance.

So I would argue your intuitive feeling of an obligation towards your children is also in accordance with the libertarian ethic.

“However, bumping someone off the wharf is negligence. An “accident”. There’s even greater obligation morally speaking for a child since it’s really really hard to create a baby without deliberately trying.”

Just so I’m clear on your view, do you think there is an ethical obligation to save the drowning man you bumped into the water? To me, if there is an ethical obligation, forceful retribution for not fulfilling it is justified.

“I simply object to a legal obligation, no matter how much I may poo-poo someone who abandons a child.”

Just to be sure I’m clear, do you dispute the ethical obligation to the child, and if so, that would mean you feel a private court should not hold you accountable to such an ethical obligation?

I once held the Rothbardian position myself not that long ago, based on the parasites can’t ethically force me to support them premise. And yet, like you, the thought of allowing a child to die seemed outrageously morally reprehensible. But I now hold the view that there can be no justification in allowing a baby to die. The parent, not the child, has put the parent in the position to be obligated to the child, and must at least take care of the child while finding someone else to care for and adopt the child.

Curt Howland June 22, 2006 at 7:02 pm

Paul, just to make absolutely clear: I feel an obligation toward those folks, be it negligence or giving in to the heat of the moment.

What I do not like is forcing my feelings on others. Just because I feel that way, does it mean I can impose my feelings on third parties, that they must live as I live?

No matter how ethically clear it may seem, I try very hard not to set any limits in stone lest they be used against me in the future (such as search and seasure, with a court order, so the government sets up a special secret court that almost never turns them down).

One of the reasons that I prefer civil to criminal courts is because every case is considered separately.

Paul Edwards June 22, 2006 at 7:42 pm

Curt,

Slow down a bit, you’re leaving me behind. Let me catch up. :)

“What I do not like is forcing my feelings on others. Just because I feel that way, does it mean I can impose my feelings on third parties, that they must live as I live?”

I think we’re not connecting. We don’t consider disallowing murder and theft to be forcing our feelings on third parties do we? What we, as peace-loving people do rather, is through logical argumentation, and proposition making attempt to come up with justifiable norms that allow peaceful cooperation and avoidance of conflict, etc etc, in a world of scarce and valuable resources. Upon enough debate, we do come up with the libertarian non-aggression axiom, and a set of rules consistent with and implied by this axiom.

From this line of thinking, we come up with, for instance that theft, murder, aggression, coercion, torture etc are all unjustified and are ruled out of court. The question we are discussing is how, if at all, does caring for a child fit into all of this. What I’m saying is, by my analysis, I think I am showing that just as theft is unjustified, so is allowing ones child to die of neglect also unjustified. I am not saying it is just immoral like an extramarital affair might be viewed and should therefore be considered illegal. I’m saying from a libertarian perspective, child neglect causing death or torture is unjustified. And I think I can come to this conclusion with help from the insight that Kinsella provided.

“No matter how ethically clear it may seem, I try very hard not to set any limits in stone lest they be used against me in the future (such as search and seasure, with a court order, so the government sets up a special secret court that almost never turns them down).”

So all I’m saying is we agree theft is unjustified and don’t mind saying so, it appears also that, so is child neglect similarly unjustified.

“One of the reasons that I prefer civil to criminal courts is because every case is considered separately.”

On this question I’m pretty ignorant.

Curt Howland June 22, 2006 at 10:57 pm

“We don’t consider disallowing murder and theft to be forcing our feelings on third parties do we?”

While I also consider these things wrong, I don’t think prior restraint is a good thing.

And if that again sounds like something completely unrelated, I will gladly blame the hour and the lack of sleep, and bid the discussion a good night.

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