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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6766/a-critique-of-kevin-carsons-contract-feudalism/

A Critique of Kevin Carson’s Contract Feudalism

June 21, 2007 by

Paul Marks’s A Critique of a Critique: An Examination of Kevin Carson’s Contract Feudalism, published in the Libertarian Alliance’s Economic Notes No. 108, is, to my mind, a brilliant, solid, and interesting analysis of Kevin Carson’s Contract Feudalism: A Critique of Employer Power over Employees.

{ 80 comments }

rtr July 1, 2007 at 6:18 am

Blah. lack of epistemology. A “plateau” of EITHER/OR. Good for U, and your C – minus reply grade. Yeah, that does help, from a ‘tool’ perspective. Hehe, “Menger” who? “F”. Doctor. Dr. Doc. I guess I don’t blame you you for wishing. Do you realize what this means?

Yeah, (lol), Menger >>>> rtr, epistemological revolution, a diamond can be more valuable than a glass of water, ****how?**** If oinly you too could have been born later looking back upon “D.U*.M.B.” Does that help? /slap

rtr July 1, 2007 at 6:25 am

P.M.Lawrence: “They also get narrow minded in supposing that market imperfections can only ever arise from government intervention”

Demonstrate the first instance otherwise, MORON.

P.M.Lawrence July 1, 2007 at 6:51 am

Yancey Ward, you ask “what is preventing them [voluntary communes of mutualists] from extinguishing the order of today?”

Simple. It’s not a level playing field, fair deck, or whatever other mixed metaphor you care to use. Now, before you dismiss this as a load of sour grapes – metaphors coming thick and fast now – take a look at some real cases all around. For instance, Lloyd’s syndicates are going corporate to obtain the legal protections offered and the financial leverage from larger pools of capital, building societies are demutualising to realise liquid value, and so on. But this is no more real value adding than any other tapping into subsidies and externalities, like people cashing out the equity in their homes as prices rise – there is no matching production that flows from it, merely a distorting effect at the expense of others. You can – and should – go and check this out for yourself, both to satisfy yourself in person and to stop me from going all Old Father William on you (I think that may be why BeeGee gave up on you).

Or you can look at historical cases and see how and why colonialists never could get enough locals to work for them – until the colonialists had constrained the locals. That does not require clumsy overt force the way the Portuguese ran Angola. Rather, you can do what the British did with hut taxes, poll taxes and land allocation, or the Dutch with “printing money” (actually debasing coinage) as part of acquiring economic levers and access to revenue streams for their “Culture System” (the French were somewhere in that spectrum, too, with “peaceful penetration”).

You see, as Phillip of Macedon observed, he took over Greece with “fraud before force, but force at the last”. Overt force is not the sole alternative to a true free choice. If you fall into the trap of thinking it is, you end up embracing your chains and internalising your prison guards, rather like the process described in the lizard theory of democracy.

By the way, if you infer that I have in mind that people consume more than they need, you are reading too much into what is going on here. Rather, people are deprived of doing things in other ways, just as Microsoft actively works to make it impossible to function without its products. Why, just this afternoon I had to use a library computer for a job application because the job search service only works with Microsoft browsing, and on top of that the employer systems refused to accept any applications except in Microsoft Word format. I’m not getting any more, just running to stay in the same place – unless you define Microsoft products as “more” simply because everybody is heading that way and paying more. But to do that is a circular definition, and embracing the chains to boot.

In sum, the difficulty you face is of the same sort as in your last query – a result of building in faulty assumptions, like someone taught to believe in a flat earth who is “forced” to believe that the earth’s surface must be infinite because he cannot imagine what stops the oceans falling off the edges. The problem is that he hasn’t thought it through, hasn’t realised that he is building up evidence against the whole flat earth idea that he was taught to believe in in the first place.

To turn your own words back on you, who is “forc[ing you] to conclude that mutualists are really proposing that people live a more primitive type of existence in which capital structures are much less and, as a result, the surfeit of goods and services is much less”? The mutualist approach allows people to use much less, if they so choose – until recently I used a DOS based browser – but does not compel them to do so (equating “can” with “must” is a hidden tyranny), since – unlike certain ultra-rigid forms of anarchism – it does countenance organisation, although only mutually convenient forms without hidden constraints like assists to joint stock limited liability corporations and such. In many cases, the ability to do things in other ways is not apparent since we are so used to the only examples being the current ways; that is called learned helplessness, and part of a cure is to see that other ways have been followed in other times and places. I’m not talking huge activities as now, but rather smaller things that we would still not be able to imagine done that way – unless we looked at history, as Meir Kohn did for us.

P.S., does anybody know why this rtr – who is not posting in a civilised way – thinks I have to provide a non-government externality, when I pointed out that the Mises lot assert that only governments cause externalities? I don’t have to prove that there are any to show that Mises types think there aren’t any. This rtr him or herself just proved that there are some people narrow minded enough to think that governments are the only possible culprit. It’s the people who don’t want to keep an open mind on the point who have something to prove. I shall not confuse rtr with any facts.

rtr July 1, 2007 at 7:46 am

P.M.Lawrence: “there is no matching production that flows from it, merely a distorting effect at the expense of others.”

[Yawn.} And so is sleeping. Mark it zero. But, really, is that an M.A. degree B.S. conclusion? I’m impressed, at least at the long replies pretending to ignore ME. Allow the label ‘stoic’ upon your scholarship.

Meh, too long, eenie-meeanie-miny-pick a sentence.

P.M.Lawrence: “Or you can look at historical cases and see how and why colonialists never could get enough locals to work for them – until the colonialists had constrained the locals.”

That’s why I can never get enough /Praise, for the repetitive /slap definition of trade. Philosophical axioms that hold throughout history! It’s almost funny to watch them make fewls of themselves otherwise.

P.M.Lawrence: “Rather, you can do what the British did with hut taxes, poll taxes and land allocation, or the Dutch with “printing money” (actually debasing coinage)”

A distinctly British stinky pile of B.S. …

P.M.Lawrence: “You see, as Phillip of Macedon observed,”

B1tch, please.

P.M.Lawrence: “Overt force is not the sole alternative to a true free choice.”

Uh-huh? What is it $19.95 plus shipping and previous handling of a female that may have caught your present fancy? EITHER/OR b1tch.

P.M.Lawrence: “Rather, people are deprived of doing things in other ways, just as Microsoft actively works to make it impossible to function without its products.”

Rather than U suk? In fact you know less than nothing. If you even knew that you you knew nothing, that would be smething. But you don’t.

P.M.Lawrence: “In sum, the difficulty you face is of the same sort as in your last query – a result of building in faulty assumptions, like someone taught to believe in a flat earth who is “forced” to believe that the earth’s surface must be infinite because he cannot imagine what stops the oceans falling off the edges.”

In sum, welcome home, young “H”olmes! What crap school of thought forces you to add?

P.M.Lawrence: “The mutualist approach”

Mmmm-hmmm?

P.M.Lawrence: “:In many cases, the ability to do things in other ways is not apparent since we are so used to the only examples being the current ways;”

STFU coppycat wannabee.

P.M.Lawrence: “P.S., does anybody know why this rtr – who is not posting in a civilised way – thinks I have to provide a non-government externality, when I pointed out that the Mises lot assert that only governments cause externalities?”

Nope. /Dunno why. Positive or negative? “This rtr”. b1tch please. I’m aiming for my picture along with the greatest on the Austrian School poster. Some personZ are just slower than otherZ. I mop the epistemological floor with punk wannabees like yerself. Define “civilized” in a way that does not correspond to free trade. Insight. Me. Yeah, I almost fell for the “does anybody know why …”

P.M.Lawrence: “This rtr him or herself just proved that there are some people narrow minded enough to think that governments are the only possible culprit”

Even on the second rate Rothbardian article cutZ, I point out that which is received is subjectively valued *more* than than that which is given away in voluntary free trade exchange, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, dumba$$. That’s why they invent awardZ for the advancement of Knowledge.

P.M.Lawrence: “It’s the people who don’t want to keep an open mind on the point who have something to prove. I shall not confuse rtr with any facts.”

Well that’s a two-step, acknowledging the epistemological definitionZ of various wordZ. Since when did any single instance *EVER* of free trtade occur that did not *by definition* increase subjective material wealth for both parties to the exchange occur? Yeah, that’s rtr > S0kr8ts sh1t.
That kinda caliber. But b1tch please, allow yourself to be humiliated in the cause of the sake of knowledge, something you weren’t aware that existed until now.

TLWP Sam July 1, 2007 at 9:02 am

Roflmafo! You definitely are fun to read rtr! :P

rtr July 1, 2007 at 9:21 am

^^ What’s ever more more fun to contemplate, is the massive epistemological approach to economics my “blasphemy” has engendered. Some day, we’ll do the article on how Copernicus was so “quickly” accepted. I don’t got time for “generational” upbraiding. Yee-haw!

Yancey Ward July 1, 2007 at 12:02 pm

P.M. Lawrence,

Thanks again for the time you have taken to reply to me.

I guess we are just at an impasse. I still have no answer to the question of why it would never happen that two people would agree to enter a contract in which one works with the accumulated capital of the other for a fee, even if all the barriers to mutualism were lifted and removed.

Yancey Ward July 1, 2007 at 12:04 pm

And, I would just ignore rtr. I have yet to really understand any comment he has written.

But maybe I just don’t function on that high a level of intellect.

rtr July 1, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Well, if it’s a definite maybe of a level, maybe it exists? Never mind that’s where all the latest economic advances have emerged …

Lot’s of 200 proof-0logy posters in the wings … efficiency of epistemology … I still got 70 some N.P. demonstrations between #twenty something and #ninety something …

N/M that your strategy of “just ignoring rtr” is str8 outta the antithesis playbook of truth.

But that I ignore y’all, that you may ignore me, discerns nothing. But isn’t it lovely to pretend anyone will forget to check another economic theorem against the law of trade, that which is received is valued more than that which is given away in exchange. Did you understand that? How else do you come to conclusions other than ghosts tapped your finger reply? Capiche, MORON?

Ban me from posting here then …

Did you get *that*? Ante up b1tch.

scott July 1, 2007 at 3:19 pm

rtr states…Since when did any single instance *EVER* of free trtade(do you mean trade?) occur that did not *by definition* increase subjective material wealth for both parties to the exchange occur?

i dunno…say i buy a screwdiriver from a tool seller. the merchant gets cash (or whatever) and i get a screwdriver. i am not a screwdriver collector…i just cant twist bolts with my fingernails. my expectations are that the screwdriver will be useful to me. on my first twist (not enough to extract the bolt), the handle breaks and the screwdriver isnt much use to me now (until i get a new handle). isnt my subjective material wealth now reduced?

Anthony July 1, 2007 at 3:40 pm

“intermediate working notions like self-ownership on a plateau as axioms in their own right, rather than as working tests obtained as lemmas”

How on earth can you test something like self-ownership?

Rtr, I wish you made sense, I really do.

P.M.Lawrence July 1, 2007 at 10:48 pm

Yancey Ward, you ask “why it would never happen that two people would agree to enter a contract in which one works with the accumulated capital of the other for a fee, even if all the barriers to mutualism were lifted and removed”.

But that is overstating the case, reading too much into it. It’s not “never”, it’s “so rarely that that way of doing things wouldn’t be viable”.

And, you’re again asking unsuitable questions. It’s easier to answer “why” once we have “whether”. We don’t have to answer whether by simple reasoning, we only have to look at the historical record. After that, we can look at particular cases, research them, and see what commonality there is in the particular cases. Let’s look at the usual historical pattern.

First, you can’t get enough people to work hard enough, because they only want money for luxuries; they still have enough independent resources for survival and some degree of comfort (in general). Result: high leisure/non-cash activity, high cash wages, low employment, low unemployment.

Second, these independent resources start to dry up, whether through Malthusian pressure or artificial state-sponsored constraints of the sort I mentioned earlier (e.g. the Dutch compelled East Indies villages to put a proportion of their land into cash crop production, as well as setting up an industry to acquire the production). People need cash income, not as a living wage but as a top up wage. The “Iron Law of Wages” begins to drive wage levels down to that minimum and forces people into paid work. Result: low leisure/non-cash activity, low cash wages, high employment, low unemployment.

In the last stage, where we are now, independent resources have practically vanished. People have to hold out for a living wage, or resort to informal activities or living off the state and/or charity or die; these activities show up as Social Security costs in countries that have it, and as Vagrancy Costs in the others (charity isn’t enough, since government burdens have crowded it out in richer countries, and the poorer ones are, well, too poor). Market clearing wage levels do not allow for full employment. Result: low leisure/non-cash activity, high cash wages, low employment, high unemployment.

I’ve been using high and low as relative terms between these stages, and ignoring the effects of all the other economic things going on at the same time, things like booms and busts which superpose other variations on the overall pattern.

The last stage can be assisted by addressing the externalities, right up until we hit Malthusian limits. I address a lot of this at my publications page; that is a Pigovian quick fix, applying an opposite distortion to what is there now. But the undistorted pattern corresponds to the first stage.

We have lots of historical examples of this first stage. I am going to point to just one, Lord Lever’s attempt at setting up fish processing at Leverburgh. It didn’t work; too many locals just stayed away since they had crofting activities available, and they preferred them. A few generations earlier that wouldn’t have been true, because of the Highland Clearances; what Kevin Carson calls “Vulgar Libertarians” would be saying that that proved that factory work was desirable. The thing is, there were only the survivors left by Lord Lever’s time, the rest having died or emigrated greater or lesser distances.

Getting back to where we came in, since that case came up in modern times and was accessible, it got studied and we can look at the findings. If we want a broader comparison, we can compare it to what happened in, say, Prince Edward Island with the (wooden) ship-building industry, in the presence of a need to acquire cash for rents. With similar geography, ethnicity and culture, we get a good control. So there’s your answer to “why”, though it doesn’t cover 100% of people (after all, there were still some willing workers in the fish factory when it closed).

By the way, a lot of people who attempt to justify today’s globalisation by comparing outcomes are simply going by their prejudices, not the actual historical record. You might want to look at The Best of All Possible Worlds, or The Only Game in
Town?
, a critique of John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge’s encomium of globalisation in the Spectator, based on a forthcoming book of theirs.

Anthony July 2, 2007 at 7:06 am

It should be noted Carson uses the LTV, which has been thoroughly discredited and refuted.

TLWP Sam July 2, 2007 at 9:06 am

P.M. Lawrence – ‘. . . people being forced into growing cash crops . . .’.

That reminds me of the test that the piece of metal you’re holding is a magnet, namely it’ll repel a magnet you already have. Similarly, the final proof of a free market is not people having the ability to trade but rather have the ability to refuse to trade if they see fit.

It could be considered that people going from subsistence farming to cash crop farming for some as being a case of greater specialisation that’s supposed to increase wealth because the land is being used more efficiently. Yet those people who are being forced to do so are really being forced to give up their freedom/independence. Sure they could make more money and have a higher standard of living but they now they have no choice but to trade with others to live rather than choose to do so at their convenience.

Yancey Ward July 2, 2007 at 10:31 am

I think TWLP Sam is pretty close to the target here. You have one of two choices, you either give up the ability to survive on your own, to feed, cloth, or house yourself, or you accept an increased division of labor which is the only way to have the goods and riches we enjoy today, and become dependent on the extensive capital structure it requires. There is no third way- there is no way to have both; and the branching off point comes early in the process. The baker, the shoemaker, and the clothier lost their true individual independence when they gave up the work of providing their own food, their own clothing, and their own housing.

The mutualists appear to think there is a third way or, at the very least, that their system will really be different in some fundamental way from the present order. They seem to hold that no one should make a living by virtue of accumulating the productive capital on which to live. Now, in the United States, you do have the ability to become a capital owner, you just have to save from your income to do so- it really is that simple. I am unmoved by those who claim the system is rigged to prevent this.

P.M.Lawrence July 3, 2007 at 11:46 pm

Yancey Ward, you assert that “…There is no third way- there is no way to have both…”, but you don’t back that up. As far as I can tell, the only thing you can’t have without mammoth concentration of productive efforts on a matching scale is the set of things that don’t actually line up with individual aspirations, things like pyramid building or East German swimming teams. I am open to persuasion otherwise, but not to mere assertion. The point about mutual arrangements is precisely that they allow efforts to be concentrated when there is something to be gained at that level, but do not come about for larger but unwanted efforts. A larger real need could call forth a larger arrangement, unless I am missing something.

It also appears to me that “They seem to hold that no one should make a living by virtue of accumulating the productive capital on which to live” is confusing “ought” with “is”; did I not mention that capital could be concentrated by sale of financial instruments? Doesn’t that allow just such things, for those who want to make the effort? Doesn’t it merely fail to produce material concentrations only in the expected usual cases, in which most people can’t be bothered to put in so much work simply to avoid work? I am reminded of a cartoon sequence by Sempé in which he shows an industrialist remonstrating on the virtues of thrift with a fisherman, pointing out that if he saves enough to fund his leisure instead of going fishing, then he can go fishing. The fisherman points out that he already is fishing. Carpe diem, freely translated as “catch a carp”? (An oldie but a goody.)

You may come back and point out that the fisherman cannot spend as much time in leisure fishing unless he accumulates first. True enough, though irrelevant for someone who is comfortable with and able to pursue a mixed pattern of activities, but then we come back to your statement – also unsubstantiated – that “I am unmoved by those who claim the system is rigged to prevent this”. You shouldn’t be moved by the people, but by what they point you to; the evidence is all around us that the present system suffers from a fallacy of composition. Individual exceptions do not refute this objection. There aren’t enough winners possible under present arrangements, although some are, so the more people try, the more the goal posts shift. People can’t pursue mixed activities now, which is itself evidence of a rigged system, and they cannot save their way out of the predicament – not all of them. It’s like the old saying “we’ll never get rich taking in each others’ washing”.

Do not let me move you to believe this let me move you to go and look. A good place to start is the introductory background Keynes supplies to his “The Economic Consequences of the Peace”, in which he shows that in his time and place small ambitions were realistic for all who chose (thanks to not everybody choosing) – but it was dependent on not drawing down all the gains, and trouble was looming even before 1914. Fast forward to today, and a good place to look is at the sort of evidence Paul Craig Roberts provides in a recent Counterpunch article. Strip away his lefty value judgments and avoid bias of your own; ask if what he reports is accurate and not if he is a lefty, and follow that up by researching more widely. Likewise do not ask if the mutualist recommendations fit your current beliefs, question both your beliefs and these new (to you) propositions.

In sum, is it not your own position that rests on nothing?

Kevin Carson July 5, 2007 at 4:34 pm

I didn’t answer Mr. Marks’ comments on this thread because most of the comments were tangential to his original argument, and are in any case being addressed very well as it is. I figured my time would be better spent preparing a direct reply in pamphlet form.

But I couldn’t resist responding to Anthony’s comment that the “LTV” has been “thoroughly refuted.” Generally when someone makes a comment like that, I consider it an automatic surrender of the debate akin to Godwin’s Law.

Bohm-Bawerk himself acknowledged that the debate was not over, and that he welcomed any constructive responses labor theory defenders might come up with. But he also called for pro-LTV arguments that were not simple appeals to authority, without any attempt to elaborate a causal mechanism.

Now the irony is that I have, following a detailed and careful reading of Bohm-Bawerk’s, Mises’ and Rothbard’s critiques of the classical political economists, attempted to answer their critiques and formulate a version of the LTV that takes those critiques into account. And it is the defenders of subjective theory who resort to appeals to the authority of Bohm-Bawerk and Mises: “The LTV has been thoroughly refuted.” (“We have invented value theory,” says the Last Economist, and blinks.)

When someone asserts that the LTV was “refuted,” I generally find that they base that claim on dumbed-down, third-hand encapsulations of both the LTV and the thought of Bohm-Bawerk and Mises, and have little real notion either of what the proponents of those ideas actually said, or of what the substantive differences between them really are.

BTW, did rtr get his prose style from reading the labels on Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap?

P.M.Lawrence July 5, 2007 at 5:56 pm

Just to remind people who came in late, LTV means Labour Theory of Value, which in turn is the idea that the value of goods and services is a measure of – or caused by – the work that went into them. You can modify the simple version by acknowledging the work that went into the tools and other capital that were also employed, and applying discounting factors for Marshall’s famous “…and waiting”, a bit like adding epicycles to Ptolemaic astronomy to get better empirical results (and remember, the refined final version of Ptolemaic astronomy was more accurate than Copernicus’s early results). That still leaves scarcity value from land etc., to which the answer – right or wrong – is, without artificial constraints that should tend to zero, and the only discrepancies come from thumbs on the scale like that.

We can come at this from a couple of other directions. One is an analogy I found useful for wrapping my head around things (i.e. for illustration not proof), the way a car engine’s inlet manifold pressure is a good proxy for the power being developed, and so it can be used to help control automatic transmission gear changes. It’s not that the pressure causes power to be developed in proportion, or even that power will intrinsically cause a proportional pressure. It’s that, if the engineers have got the design right and the engine is running in a sweet spot, then the fuel is being burned at maximum efficiency, so the amount of air being supplied per unit time is a good proxy for the power because that is in turn proportional to the energy released per unit time, i.e. power.

The analogy is, if everything is running properly in an economy, then labour is being used efficiently and so value must be proportional to labour – although not all labour is of the same value in a commodity-like fashion. Even then, an extreme position is that the value of all labour tends to a mean if there is no obstruction like barriers to entry for getting into professional work like accountancy; IT worker “value” is dropping that way right now just the way clerical skills did a century ago (the claim usually is, that the barriers are for quality control; you can see whether they are or not if there is continual education and monitoring in a professional career, or only at the start). This kind of LVT analysis is saying, “of course hard work digging holes and filling them in again is valueless; the point is that the hard work in an efficient economy isn’t going into pointless things like that anyway”. This isn’t ignoring the psychological elements that go to make effective demand, it’s saying they already worked in choosing the kind of work so now we can make a measure without allowing for them – they are already factored in. And, of course, only allowing for psychological feelings in all this has to be wrong; it’s why we are so careful to say effective demand, to factor in physical constraints of the sort that Leontiev matrices bring out.

The other source of insight was very simple, looking at what happens with fiat currencies that are backed through taxes. For working purposes, the values that prevail in these economies – our economies – are hooked up to people’s work efforts via taxes. An easy way to track this is to see how tax worked in certain colonial systems, introducing cash economies to areas that had not had them before. Typically, men in the prime of life had to do a set annual amount of forced labour at a low cash wage, say on the roads, or commute (compound for) it by paying a poll tax; road workers could buy government food when they worked, but did not have to. (There was a cash wage rather than just forced labour so as to introduce the fiat cash nexus; low nominal tax levels – but linked to high work obligations – were best for the government so as to generate better terms of trade with the home country.) The immediate effect was that everybody had to work, since there wasn’t yet any cash around, but in very short order roadside villages started selling food to road workers and those men with more constructive activities had enough money to pay the tax instead of working. The labour content was determining things, even though that was only because that was the point at which the harness was fastened onto the workforce. (It gets subtler and harder to trace with hut taxes, which worked far better for governments because they were easier to police – the Byzantine Kapnikon was a wonderful example that continued under the Turks, even affecting Albanian compound living that lasted in Kosovo until modern times. A hybrid approach had hut taxes that replaced poll taxes for urban and roadside residents.)

Anyhow, LTV has pragmatic usefulness and brings out conceptual aspects concerning physical resource constraints that are missing from psychological, demand-oriented approaches. Unfortunately you have to calibrate it empirically, so it can’t be used as a foundation from which to work, not in itself anyway.

Kevin B. July 5, 2007 at 7:35 pm

scott,

There is a saying in marketing: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want quarter-inch hole.”

rtr is correct in that at the point of transaction in free trade there is a perceived increase in subjective valuation for both parties, else they wouldn’t trade.

Your purchase of the screwdriver, like the drill, was an investment, with a certain amount of risk of failure. Whether or not your investment pays off or not (malinvestment, rtr!) does not change the fact that you were once more satisfied with your purchase. You just happened to be blissfully ignorant.

It is important to keep in mind that the value of all property at every moment is subjective.

P.M.Lawrence July 5, 2007 at 8:14 pm

“It is important to keep in mind that the value of all property at every moment is subjective.”

This is either wrong or a tautology of limited scope, rather like the truism “Man is the measure of all things”.

Take food, for instance. It has a subjective value, in that we feel – subjectively – hungry if we do not get it. Yet equally clearly that subjective hunger is merely a mechanism that gives shape to something deeper, a physical deficiency of nourishment.

Just as the truism above means that man is the only measuring device we have available, so also is it true that the only thing that counts at the point of sale is what people subjectively feel to be true value.

Yet it is also true, at a deeper level, that there are physical constraints; someone who sincerely believed that water was better value than petrol as fuel for his car would soon be disillusioned or lose the use of his car. Either way, the pool of fuel buyers would adjust to contain only those with realistic perceptions – but still, there is an underlying reality, and it is the subjective side that adjusts. The subjective side is not the determinant of value, it is the measure of it. (The fact that needing a car is only important because of value just moves things back; we can take any point as the point at which to stop the circularity, and certainly physical reality always obtrudes – hence Leontiev’s work.)

It is best to work with subjective valuation for certain purposes, since it can be applied in nearly all cases, but that doesn’t mean that there are no underlying issues – only that they are not uniform and accessible enough to be used directly. Subjective valuation is a process rather than a thing as such, and “value” in this sense is a construct of the order of a verbal noun, a useful handle rather than an objective reality.

Anthony July 5, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Mr Carson, I will read your works before commenting any further on your posts to see what precisely you have discovered in reading their works.

Mr Lawrence, the value of a good is subjective in that it is directly linked to what specific ends an actor is pursuing. If the actor wants an item of luxury, a diamond will have infinitely higher value than water. If the same man is dying of thirst, water’s value will rise infinitely as well. Value is subjective because it is in the eyes of the beholder. Building a pyramid might well be a wondrous task, but means absolutely nothing to the person who thinks the structure is a waste of space. Its value is precisely zero. Price, on the other hand, is an aggregated measure of value.

Yancey Ward July 5, 2007 at 11:52 pm

P.M. Lawrence,

Talk about assertions! What is this “unwanted effort” that draws forth the deep capital structures of our societies? It appears that this assertion (repeated many times in this thread and in other mutualist writings) is the entire underpinning of the mutualist complaint- that we desire and work towards the things we do not need, that are not mutually beneficial. Again, nothing that I can see in the United States prevents mutualist societies from being implemented, first on a small scale, then on a larger one if they can successfully draw adherents. You simply don’t have to participate in present society if you don’t wish to. It really is that simple. The way to prove me wrong is to form such societies and have them grow through accretion. It is a cop out to claim that the deck is stacked against you by the rules of the present order. It may be that you have to start at the very bottom of affluence to free yourself, but that is not a valid complaint against the world as it is.

P.M.Lawrence July 6, 2007 at 2:03 am

Yancey Ward, you are – no doubt inadvertently – misrepresenting my position.

I made no mere assertion about unwanted effort. In fact, I pointed out a recent example in my own life, the need to submit a job application in Microsft format despite my wishing to avoid Microsoft products. By and large, my comments in this area are not assertions but observations, accompanied by an invitation to people to go and look for themselves and not take my word for it (that’s why it’s hard for me to back things up directly – some people dismiss anything like that as “assertion”).

It is a thorough misstatement to assert that “the mutualist complaint [is] that we desire and work towards the things we do not need”. It is that we are trapped and forced into taking what we do not need or want, merely to obtain what we do need or want.

As for there being nothing that you can see by way of obstacle, I fear you are right; my comments in this area are really for other people who are willing and able to go and look. None so blind, and that. Your mistake is to suppose that one can opt out. Even my own attempt at avoiding Microsoft is hard, because I cannot opt out. At a deeper level, I require paid employment, in this world as it is. The fallacy is that we can get at resources just like that, that we are not imposed on by willing compradores. The catch with being forced to go Microsoft is that BG has woven negative network externalities around those who slept through the warnings of the rest, who now suffer from the sleepers’ complicity.

That means that the way to prove you wrong – if we had the resources – would not be “to form such societies and have them grow through accretion”, it would be to form such societies and have them fail as described, from being ringbarked. But I don’t need to form anything like that, I only have to point at (say) what happened to the Mormons over the last couple of centuries, when they tried it. Now the last holdouts are down to “bleeding the beast” and being accused of needing the beast.

P.M.Lawrence July 6, 2007 at 6:31 am

Anthony, I know what you are driving at, and indeed I have come across much that before. But do you see any inconsistency between that and what I stated? It is merely that when we look harder we find that there truly are things going on for which personal standards of valuation are not enough. The only problem with what you wrote is that some people stop there, thinking nothing else is involved at any deeper level.

Roy July 25, 2007 at 10:21 pm

Hey, People! I love your site. The layout is very pretty. The colors work so well together. Everything is good!

Rich Baumann April 4, 2008 at 11:00 pm

Stephen Kinsella wrote: “I do not believe Georgism–or mutualism, if I understand it–is a type of libertarian view on land. In fact, it is just another socialist-statist view of property rights. What’s new here?”

Stephen, I think you do not understand mutualism, anarchism, or perhaps even the austrolibertarian view of property rights.

The word “property” itself derives from the word “proper”, as in who “properly” controls a thing.

In persons, proper control is self-control. This view is shared by austrolibertarians, mutualists, and all other strains of anarchism, as it is the very core principle of anarchism. Anarchy derives from the Greek words “an”, meaning “without”, and “arkhos”, meaning “rulers”; the very word anarchy implies an adherence to the principle of self-ownership.

In resources external to self, if there is no natural scarcity, there is no contention over control, and so the question of property is moot. Such things are non-property.

If there is natural scarcity in a resource external to self, contention over control arises upon the attempt to use something which is already being used. By the principle of first appropriation, proper control lies with the first user. Thus we get the homesteading of both naturally scarce resources and the “homesteading of easements” in defense of existing usage for first appropriators (see Rothbard’s writings on air pollution and property rights for details). By mixing one’s labor with something that is both naturally scarce (e.g. land) and unused, it becomes one’s property.

Austrolibertarians hold to this view. Mutualists hold to this view. Even genuine anarchosyndicalists hold to this view, though (as collectivist anarchists) they prefer to organize collectively for the homesteading and subsequent management of their own property; genuinely anarchist worker’s syndicates such as theirs are, from an austrolibertarian perspective, simply employee-owned non-profit (as per their adherence to the LTV) enterprises. Employee take-over of existing state and corporate “property” was actually defended by Rothbard himself based on austrolibertarian principles in “Confiscation and the Homestead Principle”, so in that too there lies no serious contention in views on property rights between the major strains of anarchism. The only serious deviation from free market and traditional anarchist views on property comes with so-called “anarcho”-communism, and even then if the communes are only internally communist, essentially taking on the outside form of large worker syndicates, no serious contention arises.

What about when property falls into disuse? Austrolibertarian, mutualist, and genuine anarchosyndicalist alike all recognize abandonment, as returning things from an owned state to an unowned state.

The only matters over which any major contention might arise between austrolibertarianism and the other propertarian strains of anarchism are what constitutes use and what constitutes disuse (abandonment), yet these are already matters of debate and dispute among austrolibertarians.

To accuse other propertarian anarchists of being statists for not agreeing with your views on these matters, instead of rationally defending your own views on what constitutes use and disuse, proper control and improper control, is both unfair and needlessly divisive. We don’t even have a “grand unified theory” of rational ethics to use as a common starting point, so it’s a little early to start a witchhunt to root out the heretics. We’ve got at least half a dozen different published “proofs” of rational ethics (including yours, though I’ll admit I’ve only skimmed it, not to mention my own and all the other unpublished “proofs” I’m sure are floating around) and, though I’ve only seen holes punched through some of them, I doubt any of those presently existing is THE final bulletproof argument for libertarian ethics.

Note to any mutualists or anarchosyndicalists reading this: I apologize if I got anything significantly wrong about mutualism or anarchosyndicalism in the above. Feel free to point out any errors (please, no semantics games, though). I’m an agorist myself, so I’ll admit I may be ignorant of or confused on some aspects of mutualism and anarchosyndicalism.

Inquisitor April 5, 2008 at 7:20 am

I agree with Mr Baumann,

Stephan Kinsella April 5, 2008 at 9:05 am

Rich Baumann: not a bad summary. It’s mostly compatible with what i have written–see, e.g., How We Come To Own Ourselves.

You are right that I do not have a deep understanding of mutualism or anarcho-syndicalism; they do not interest me that much. As for austro-libertarianism, I disagree with your deprecation of my understanding of that.

You wrote:

Stephen, I think you do not understand mutualism, anarchism, or perhaps even the austrolibertarian view of property rights.

If there is natural scarcity in a resource external to self, contention over control arises upon the attempt to use something which is already being used. By the principle of first appropriation, proper control lies with the first user. Thus we get the homesteading of both naturally scarce resources and the “homesteading of easements” in defense of existing usage for first appropriators (see Rothbard’s writings on air pollution and property rights for details). By mixing one’s labor with something that is both naturally scarce (e.g. land) and unused, it becomes one’s property.

Austrolibertarians hold to this view. Mutualists hold to this view.”

So far, I agree w/ most of what you say.

Even genuine anarchosyndicalists hold to this view, though (as collectivist anarchists) they prefer to organize collectively for the homesteading and subsequent management of their own property; genuinely anarchist worker’s syndicates such as theirs are, from an austrolibertarian perspective, simply employee-owned non-profit (as per their adherence to the LTV) enterprises. Employee take-over of existing state and corporate “property” was actually defended by Rothbard himself based on austrolibertarian principles in “Confiscation and the Homestead Principle”, so in that too there lies no serious contention in views on property rights between the major strains of anarchism. The only serious deviation from free market and traditional anarchist views on property comes with so-called “anarcho”-communism, and even then if the communes are only internally communist, essentially taking on the outside form of large worker syndicates, no serious contention arises.

I could go with this.

What about when property falls into disuse? Austrolibertarian, mutualist, and genuine anarchosyndicalist alike all recognize abandonment, as returning things from an owned state to an unowned state.

The only matters over which any major contention might arise between austrolibertarianism and the other propertarian strains of anarchism are what constitutes use and what constitutes disuse (abandonment), yet these are already matters of debate and dispute among austrolibertarians.

This seems fair. Disuse is not abandonment, in my view, simply because there is a distinction between possession, and ownership. To equate disuse with abandonment is to abandon the distinction between possession and ownership, and thus to obliterate the concept of ownership itself.

To accuse other propertarian anarchists of being statists for not agreeing with your views on these matters, instead of rationally defending your own views on what constitutes use and disuse, proper control and improper control, is both unfair and needlessly divisive.

I have rationally defended it. I don’t care if it’s divisive, i only care if it’s true. I do believe that the fallacious reasoning of non-austrolibertarian anarchists (as you term it) would in fact lead to statism.

Besides, I stated that I was not completely familiar with “mutualism”; and the main thrust of my comment was an attack on Georgists and their statist, crankish “single tax.” I note you did not attempt to rehabilitate their views or defend them. Good for you.

Note to any mutualists or anarchosyndicalists reading this: I apologize if I got anything significantly wrong about mutualism or anarchosyndicalism in the above. Feel free to point out any errors (please, no semantics games, though). I’m an agorist myself, so I’ll admit I may be ignorant of or confused on some aspects of mutualism and anarchosyndicalism.

My view is that the term “agorism” it itself crankish.

Stephan Kinsella April 5, 2008 at 9:06 am

Rich Baumann: not a bad summary. It’s mostly compatible with what i have written–see, e.g., How We Come To Own Ourselves.

You are right that I do not have a deep understanding of mutualism or anarcho-syndicalism; they do not interest me that much. As for austro-libertarianism, I disagree with your deprecation of my understanding of that.

You wrote:

Stephen, I think you do not understand mutualism, anarchism, or perhaps even the austrolibertarian view of property rights.

If there is natural scarcity in a resource external to self, contention over control arises upon the attempt to use something which is already being used. By the principle of first appropriation, proper control lies with the first user. Thus we get the homesteading of both naturally scarce resources and the “homesteading of easements” in defense of existing usage for first appropriators (see Rothbard’s writings on air pollution and property rights for details). By mixing one’s labor with something that is both naturally scarce (e.g. land) and unused, it becomes one’s property.

Austrolibertarians hold to this view. Mutualists hold to this view.”

So far, I agree w/ most of what you say.

Even genuine anarchosyndicalists hold to this view, though (as collectivist anarchists) they prefer to organize collectively for the homesteading and subsequent management of their own property; genuinely anarchist worker’s syndicates such as theirs are, from an austrolibertarian perspective, simply employee-owned non-profit (as per their adherence to the LTV) enterprises. Employee take-over of existing state and corporate “property” was actually defended by Rothbard himself based on austrolibertarian principles in “Confiscation and the Homestead Principle”, so in that too there lies no serious contention in views on property rights between the major strains of anarchism. The only serious deviation from free market and traditional anarchist views on property comes with so-called “anarcho”-communism, and even then if the communes are only internally communist, essentially taking on the outside form of large worker syndicates, no serious contention arises.

I could go with this.

What about when property falls into disuse? Austrolibertarian, mutualist, and genuine anarchosyndicalist alike all recognize abandonment, as returning things from an owned state to an unowned state.

The only matters over which any major contention might arise between austrolibertarianism and the other propertarian strains of anarchism are what constitutes use and what constitutes disuse (abandonment), yet these are already matters of debate and dispute among austrolibertarians.

This seems fair. Disuse is not abandonment, in my view, simply because there is a distinction between possession, and ownership. To equate disuse with abandonment is to abandon the distinction between possession and ownership, and thus to obliterate the concept of ownership itself.

To accuse other propertarian anarchists of being statists for not agreeing with your views on these matters, instead of rationally defending your own views on what constitutes use and disuse, proper control and improper control, is both unfair and needlessly divisive.

I have rationally defended it. I don’t care if it’s divisive, i only care if it’s true. I do believe that the fallacious reasoning of non-austrolibertarian anarchists (as you term it) would in fact lead to statism.

Besides, I stated that I was not completely familiar with “mutualism”; and the main thrust of my comment was an attack on Georgists and their statist, crankish “single tax.” I note you did not attempt to rehabilitate their views or defend them. Good for you.

Note to any mutualists or anarchosyndicalists reading this: I apologize if I got anything significantly wrong about mutualism or anarchosyndicalism in the above. Feel free to point out any errors (please, no semantics games, though). I’m an agorist myself, so I’ll admit I may be ignorant of or confused on some aspects of mutualism and anarchosyndicalism.

My view is that the term “agorism” it itself crankish.

P.M.Lawrence April 8, 2008 at 5:09 am

I’ve actually presented a different approach to property here, one that takes homesteading as a special case of signalling ownership rather than a principle of property in and of itself.

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