Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One Reason I Don't Fit In With My Radical Friends


Because on this rare occasion I agree with Hollywood.

17 comments:

Mike B said...

What, are you talking intellectual property or property in general? I'm interested in where you're coming from with your libertarian capitalist streak.

Acumensch said...

Certainly - we call it anarcho-agorism, new libertarianism, left-libertarianism, or what have you. It's what happens when you take the idea that individuals have rights seriously, as Robert Nozick said.

I think the NL manifesto is a good primer:

http://agorism.info/NewLibertarianManifesto.pdf

Mike B said...

But I take individual rights seriously and I'm no libertarian capitalist. Why those rights in particular?

I'm familiar with libertarian ideology. (In fact I was a teenage libertarian myself once.)

I don't get the idea that the state is the source of all coercion and that private property and the market is somehow free of coercion. The more private property someone has is exactly what enables them to coerce others in a capitalist society. Isn't it the state that protects 'private property'? Is this an assertion of some kind of natural right? On what basis?

I support the right to a home of one's own and personal property with privacy from the state. Not over the means of production or in unequal wealth. But I don't see such rights coming from nature or out of the sky - they depend on a social context.

Acumensch said...

Capitalism has a different meaning depending on who you ask. If you ask me, the market is the sum of all free human interaction.

You pointed out that the state protects private property. Advocates of the state can always point to a scenario where the state does something similar to what would happen when individuals freely engage in activity. Liberalism is built upon the assumption of the arbitrariness of the state, however. Locke's critique of Hobbes is essentially that individuals were free in the state of nature, and the move to setup a state was to ensure the individual rights that existed naturally. They don't come out of the sky - it is essentially a labor theory of ownership. Land property originally came about through squats, and we're all inheritors of squatted land. Further ownership is either the result of voluntary interaction or coercion.

If you support wealth distribution then somewhere in that chain of interaction you support coercive state intervention, and I would say it's your burden to prove why individual rights need to be superseded.

If I earn a lot of money because people are paying me for a particular service etc., why should the state say those people cannot allocate to me whatever they please, so long as I am not coercing them?

Mike B said...

Right. I think we disagree on the value of Locke.

First, it's ambiguous whether you can hold Locke as taking a labour theory of property rights, because he includes in a person's property that which is made by their servants' labour! And clearly most of modern property, at market valuation, is of that kind.

Second, the 'state of nature' is bullshit. Obviously it doesn't refer to any actual historical society. It's just an analytical construct, with no more inherent status that 'the divine right of kings'. The rise of Locke's concept of property to popularity is a result of its convenience to a rising bourgeoisie. C. B. MacPherson is a good read on Locke in historical context.

Land property did not first arrive due to 'squats'. In Europe the feudal system of land tenure developed over centuries from the breakdown of the Roman Empire's land system and the peasants were a mix of fallen landowners and risen slaves, all mixed together with barbarian migration. In your country and mine, Europeans invaded indigenous territory and the parcelling of land intimately involved states.

Nowhere is or has been the property system independent of the state, whatever form it has taken. Support for the present distribution of wealth also inescapably involves support for state 'intervention' - and I use the term 'intervention' with unease, because the state and capital are inextricably tied together.

As for your last question - what people are able to pay you depends on their own endowment of money. The outcome of market exchange depends on who has what to exchange to begin with, and therefore on the existing property relations, which, as I explained, partly involves the state.

Acumensch said...

First, it's ambiguous whether you can hold Locke as taking a labour theory of property rights, because he includes in a person's property that which is made by their servants' labour! And clearly most of modern property, at market valuation, is of that kind.

Depends on whether the servant is engaging in voluntary services or not.

Second, the 'state of nature' is bullshit. Obviously it doesn't refer to any actual historical society. It's just an analytical construct, with no more inherent status that 'the divine right of kings'. The rise of Locke's concept of property to popularity is a result of its convenience to a rising bourgeoisie. C. B. MacPherson is a good read on Locke in historical context.

You're too literal. I don't think it's a historical argument. What thought experiment is?

Land property did not first arrive due to 'squats'. In Europe the feudal system of land tenure developed over centuries from the breakdown of the Roman Empire's land system and the peasants were a mix of fallen landowners and risen slaves, all mixed together with barbarian migration. In your country and mine, Europeans invaded indigenous territory and the parcelling of land intimately involved states.

I have no idea where you're getting all this. I say private property is a good thing, and suddenly you make me out to be an imperialist. I don't advocate a feudal system of property rights. Legitimate property ownership was gained historically through squats. What is that "indigenous territory" you're talking about. Who owned that and why? Perhaps they squatted it? This is what I'm referring to. Any property that is going to be acquired after that must be the result of voluntary human interaction.

Nowhere is or has been the property system independent of the state, whatever form it has taken. Support for the present distribution of wealth also inescapably involves support for state 'intervention' - and I use the term 'intervention' with unease, because the state and capital are inextricably tied together.

If the owners of a building leave it, and no own is entitled to it by contract, and I squat it, I would say that is a legitimate form of property acquisition that does not require a state. Are you saying that property ownership without a state is inconceivable or just that you don't think it's possible? This squatting business has happened in the past and still happens quite frequently. The fact that you may not recognize this as a formal "system" of property rights does not mean that there isn't a justification for it.

As for your last question - what people are able to pay you depends on their own endowment of money. The outcome of market exchange depends on who has what to exchange to begin with, and therefore on the existing property relations, which, as I explained, partly involves the state.

That makes no sense. You can always offer someone something else in return for a service or a product. If you can't, then that reflects the price of that transaction. Why is this inconceivable to you without state intervention? States and capital are not inextricably linked - I see no warrant for that argument at all. States acquire capital through coercion.

Acumensch said...

But I take individual rights seriously and I'm no libertarian capitalist.

You think individuals have the right to freely engage in interaction with other individuals with the highly suspect clause that an arbitrary entity can override them wherever social benefits are possible. That's not taking the idea that individuals have rights seriously. It's more like taking that idea with your tongue in cheek.

Mike B said...

Depends on whether the servant is engaging in voluntary services or not.

Depends on your definition of 'voluntary' since a person without property has to engage in services to live.

You're too literal. I don't think it's a historical argument. What thought experiment is?

But that's exactly what I said. If the 'state of nature' is such a construct then it's as arbitrary as 'the divine right of kings'. 'Pre-social individuality' is as fictional as 'divine'. I think Locke's argument took off because it was convenient in justifying a certain historical development. (Remember that Locke's influence was mainly posthumous.) If you think it has some eternal validity you need to argue why that 'thought experiment' and not another.

I have no idea where you're getting all this. I say private property is a good thing, and suddenly you make me out to be an imperialist. I don't advocate a feudal system of property rights. Legitimate property ownership was gained historically through squats. What is that "indigenous territory" you're talking about. Who owned that and why? Perhaps they squatted it? This is what I'm referring to. Any property that is going to be acquired after that must be the result of voluntary human interaction.

My point was that 'legitimate property ownership' was not 'gained historically through squats'. Most European peasants lived on a lord's land - there was never any 'voluntary human' transaction. Legal capitalist land title was usually a ratification of pre-existing political title (of landlords) or parcelled out by the state (in the colonies). Or is this another 'thought experiment'? If so, again you need to give a reason why 'squats' and not 'all land was in the state of nature collectively occupied'.

If the owners of a building leave it, and no own is entitled to it by contract, and I squat it, I would say that is a legitimate form of property acquisition that does not require a state. Are you saying that property ownership without a state is inconceivable or just that you don't think it's possible? This squatting business has happened in the past and still happens quite frequently. The fact that you may not recognize this as a formal "system" of property rights does not mean that there isn't a justification for it.

But you talk as if the concepts 'contract', 'owners' and even 'building' can exist logically prior to society or the state. As if 'individuals' exist somehow independently of their social environment and as if contract law is an eternal law of nature. It's theoretically possible (though utopian) for human society to be organised with contract law but without a state. But it's just as theoretically possible for human society to be organised without capitalist property rights or a state. What makes the first more 'natural' than the second?

In real life these days squatting generally conflicts with property rights. Do you side with the squatter or the building owner?

That makes no sense. You can always offer someone something else in return for a service or a product. If you can't, then that reflects the price of that transaction. Why is this inconceivable to you without state intervention? States and capital are not inextricably linked - I see no warrant for that argument at all. States acquire capital through coercion.

But the amount different people can offer depends on their income and wealth. Unequal wealth means some people are freer than others. The reason it depends on state intervention is pretty simple - if it wasn't for the state, those with less might just take their fair share or more. Also, capitalism has always relied on state management of money and labour power.

You think individuals have the right to freely engage in interaction with other individuals with the highly suspect clause that an arbitrary entity can override them wherever social benefits are possible. That's not taking the idea that individuals have rights seriously. It's more like taking that idea with your tongue in cheek.

I just recognise that 'capital' and 'property rights' are historical and social institutions, like the state. They're all as arbitrary as one another from the point of view of the uncaring universe. You're arbitrarily elevating property rights.

Acumensch said...

Depends on your definition of 'voluntary' since a person without property has to engage in services to live.

There are various things you need to do in order to live. You need to labor yourself to buffet line or the wheat field in order to get sustenance, for example. I don't think people are "coerced" into feeding themselves or "coerced" into having consensual sex, and therefore I don't think they're coerced into laboring or engaging in activities which help them achieve their own ends generally. Your discussion of 'voluntary' and 'involuntary' ultimately comes down to whether a person choose to live or not to live. As long as you can engage in contracts with others, no one is without property in a system of individual rights.

But that's exactly what I said. If the 'state of nature' is such a construct then it's as arbitrary as 'the divine right of kings'. 'Pre-social individuality' is as fictional as 'divine'. I think Locke's argument took off because it was convenient in justifying a certain historical development. (Remember that Locke's influence was mainly posthumous.) If you think it has some eternal validity you need to argue why that 'thought experiment' and not another.

The thought experiment says that a person, when separated from the state, is an individual with autonomous drives who engages in free activity with others. Whatever that free activity is can be seen as natural activity, and whatever structure the collection of people choose to setup can only justify preserving the natural activity that happens between individuals in a non-coercive environment.

Now if you have alternatives to this, such as Rawls' original position or what have you, then you should try to argue your point with counter-examples.

My point was that 'legitimate property ownership' was not 'gained historically through squats'. Most European peasants lived on a lord's land - there was never any 'voluntary human' transaction. Legal capitalist land title was usually a ratification of pre-existing political title (of landlords) or parcelled out by the state (in the colonies). Or is this another 'thought experiment'? If so, again you need to give a reason why 'squats' and not 'all land was in the state of nature collectively occupied'.

It doesn't matter that you think there was never any of this natural squatting going on. That form of property acquisition is something I regard as legitimate. You're talking about the inheritance of property through feudal means, and I'm talking about something entirely different. If I may ask you, what do you think is a legitimate acquisition of property, if you say that all property is inherited ultimately through coercion? While coercion is still prevalent, I don't think you can hold ancient violators accountable for any of that.

Now, the alternative statist view, which you accept, entails a method of property acquisition that is bluntly done through coercion, without any historical analysis.

But you talk as if the concepts 'contract', 'owners' and even 'building' can exist logically prior to society or the state. As if 'individuals' exist somehow independently of their social environment and as if contract law is an eternal law of nature. It's theoretically possible (though utopian) for human society to be organised with contract law but without a state. But it's just as theoretically possible for human society to be organised without capitalist property rights or a state. What makes the first more 'natural' than the second?

So the concept of 'the individual' can only exist within a state apparatus? While there is room to point out a 'unity of opposites', it doesn't mean that the opposites are the same or in some way explicitly linked. Yes, logically a state requires individuals. Without them, no collection possible. I think this is completely obvious.

Contract law is simply an extension of individual will, and as such is a part of that natural activity I refer to. It's not "eternal" so please don't use that language.

But it's just as theoretically possible for human society to be organised without capitalist property rights or a state.

I don't argue that it's not possible. And that's why those who can consent to living in such a society can only join with other individuals who also agree that society is possible. My point is that the individual will is the thing that takes primacy over this sort of society and all others, since individuals must consent to joining it before they can make it legitimate.

In real life these days squatting generally conflicts with property rights. Do you side with the squatter or the building owner?

I side with whoever owns the property. Abandoned property is free game and I think it can be re-claimed by squatters legitimately.

But the amount different people can offer depends on their income and wealth. Unequal wealth means some people are freer than others.

No it just means some have more consumer surplus than others. Everyone is equally free to do what is naturally possible for them to do.

capitalism has always relied on state management of money and labour power.

You weren't a very developed libertarian in your teenage years. Just because "capitalism" has used state means historically does not mean it's impossible to do so without it. There is a large amount of literature on non-state regulation of money. And I'm not sure what you mean with labor power.

I just recognise that 'capital' and 'property rights' are historical and social institutions, like the state. They're all as arbitrary as one another from the point of view of the uncaring universe. You're arbitrarily elevating property rights.

You need to explain why human organization ought to reflect an uncaring universe, then. If you take Nietzsche's analysis, the world is a collection of drives and wills to power. Now if contracts are simply extensions of that, then I would say my argument does reflect an uncaring universe.

Mike B said...

There are various things you need to do in order to live. You need to labor yourself to buffet line or the wheat field in order to get sustenance, for example. I don't think people are "coerced" into feeding themselves or "coerced" into having consensual sex, and therefore I don't think they're coerced into laboring or engaging in activities which help them achieve their own ends generally. Your discussion of 'voluntary' and 'involuntary' ultimately comes down to whether a person choose to live or not to live. As long as you can engage in contracts with others, no one is without property in a system of individual rights.

But my point is that free decisions have a social context. In developed capitalism there is not option for a propertyless person to work their own wheat fields. Individuals are, whether they like it or not, forced to work for somebody else.

The thought experiment says that a person, when separated from the state, is an individual with autonomous drives who engages in free activity with others. Whatever that free activity is can be seen as natural activity, and whatever structure the collection of people choose to setup can only justify preserving the natural activity that happens between individuals in a non-coercive environment.

But it's a silly thought experiment because an individual can never be separated from society. Individuals are born into society at a point in historical time, develop their personality and social concepts such as 'property rights', 'contract law' etc, from growing up in society. Abstracting the 'individual' from 'society' as if the individual is logically prior is ludicrous - certainly if you want to do it while maintaining certain arbitrarily chosen social conventions.

People don't 'choose' to set up a society. We are born into one.

Now if you have alternatives to this, such as Rawls' original position or what have you, then you should try to argue your point with counter-examples.

I think all such abstract and ahistorical political philosophies are absurd and doomed to fail except as ideological legitimations. As such they can do very well, but not because of their logical power.

It doesn't matter that you think there was never any of this natural squatting going on. That form of property acquisition is something I regard as legitimate. You're talking about the inheritance of property through feudal means, and I'm talking about something entirely different. If I may ask you, what do you think is a legitimate acquisition of property, if you say that all property is inherited ultimately through coercion? While coercion is still prevalent, I don't think you can hold ancient violators accountable for any of that.

'Legitimate acquisition of property' is a social and historical concept. What people accept as legitimate depends on their inherently social consciousness. In a capitalist society for the most part legitimation is based on the proverbial nine-tenths of the law, and defended by the state on that basis. Which is not to say that social legitimation is total - people are reflexive about social norms and have a long tradition of criticism to draw on too. Norms of intellectual property, for example, are very much in flux at the moment.

Now, the alternative statist view, which you accept, entails a method of property acquisition that is bluntly done through coercion, without any historical analysis.

I'm not a statist. The state-individual binary is peculiar to libertarians, you can't expect the rest of us to accept it. You're missing 'society'. Call me a socialist if you like.

So the concept of 'the individual' can only exist within a state apparatus? While there is room to point out a 'unity of opposites', it doesn't mean that the opposites are the same or in some way explicitly linked. Yes, logically a state requires individuals. Without them, no collection possible. I think this is completely obvious.

This shows up even clearer your binary concept of 'state' and 'individual'. Both are part of a social whole. A better version of what you're saying is that a society is a collection of individuals, and individuals are a part of society. You don't have one prior to the other, historically or logically.

Contract law is simply an extension of individual will, and as such is a part of that natural activity I refer to. It's not "eternal" so please don't use that language.

Contract law is an extension of individual will among individuals who have been socialised in a particular kind of society. It only seems to be come an apparently good metaphor for social interaction once commodity exchange becomes a central form of social reproduction.

You weren't a very developed libertarian in your teenage years. Just because "capitalism" has used state means historically does not mean it's impossible to do so without it. There is a large amount of literature on non-state regulation of money. And I'm not sure what you mean with labor power.

There is a large amount of literature on all manners of bullshit! Just because someone can make up a utopian system doesn't mean it's workable, especially if they're working under asocial assumptions about human nature. Real world capitalism has always required state management of money and credit. Private money always tends to be overextended or underextended, often in quick succession.

You might enjoy Charles Goodhart's The Evolution of Central Banks. He takes liberatarian monetary ideas seriously but explains why in reality capitalist monetary systems tend to evolve a centralised uber-bank. Otherwise, any read about US monetary history from the 19th century to the early 20th gives a good illustration.

As for labour power, I mean that likewise capitalism is unable to organise its own labour force because for relatively stable growth it requires the maintenance of a pool of labour that is ready to be employed but not yet employed. Once upon a time this involved facilitating or pushing peasants off the land into the towns. These days, with no labour force outside the industrial system, it requires unemployment benefits etc. Also all kinds of labour laws etc. have evolved to manage the relation between labour and capital.

You need to explain why human organization ought to reflect an uncaring universe, then. If you take Nietzsche's analysis, the world is a collection of drives and wills to power. Now if contracts are simply extensions of that, then I would say my argument does reflect an uncaring universe.

"A collection of drives and wills to power" is just as ahistorical as your worldview. I don't think human society should reflect an uncaring universe. I just recognise that there is no valid appeal to a 'state of nature' in political philosophy.

Mike B said...

BTW I'm enjoying this debate, but I'm about to head overseas. So it might take me a while to reply from here on in.

Acumensch said...


But my point is that free decisions have a social context. In developed capitalism there is not option for a propertyless person to work their own wheat fields. Individuals are, whether they like it or not, forced to work for somebody else.


Whether they like it or not they are forced to urinate too, and nobody is particularly appalled by that. Agorism is particularly interesting because it focuses on the social aspect, and involves individuals in community projects that help to lower costs to individuals with social benefits of those in the society through consensual decision-making.

But it's a silly thought experiment because an individual can never be separated from society. Individuals are born into society at a point in historical time, develop their personality and social concepts such as 'property rights', 'contract law' etc, from growing up in society. Abstracting the 'individual' from 'society' as if the individual is logically prior is ludicrous - certainly if you want to do it while maintaining certain arbitrarily chosen social conventions.

Certainly concepts like these are socially realized. So are concepts of race and gender etc. I'm not sure what your point is. Does that mean the concept of 'rights' is fundamentally flawed? I don't understand your general point.

People don't 'choose' to set up a society. We are born into one.

I'm not going to make your leaps for you. You should explain why this attacks the notion of property rights.

I think all such abstract and ahistorical political philosophies are absurd and doomed to fail except as ideological legitimations.

Your Foucauldian historical approach is a game of picking and choosing what historical developments to focus on and which to polemicize. That's a very ideological latent approach too. If you're saying there is a non-ideological approach to this kind of theorizing I'm going to disagree.

'Legitimate acquisition of property' is a social and historical concept. What people accept as legitimate depends on their inherently social consciousness.

Why people accept any propositional attitude has a lot to do with their social consciousness. I understand your critique, but it's a genetic critique, not an analytic one. All genetic reasoning does is deconstruct, and you cannot construct anything with it. I think you're using these tools against my positive approach because you don't like the results it gives. But if one accepts the individual-rights analysis that I agree with, then you end up with the sort of property-rights that I'm advocating.

I'm not a statist. The state-individual binary is peculiar to libertarians, you can't expect the rest of us to accept it. You're missing 'society'. Call me a socialist if you like.

That's because we're flowing in and out of different modes of argumentation. In general there is either common property or individual property. If you would like to give other possibilities then I'd like to hear what they are. Agorism is a lot like a socialist system, though it works within a system of individual rights. Socialism to varying degrees does not accept the primacy of the individual and his/her basic extensions.

This shows up even clearer your binary concept of 'state' and 'individual'. Both are part of a social whole. A better version of what you're saying is that a society is a collection of individuals, and individuals are a part of society. You don't have one prior to the other, historically or logically.

Binary! What about your individual/society distinction?

Contract law is an extension of individual will among individuals who have been socialised in a particular kind of society. It only seems to be come an apparently good metaphor for social interaction once commodity exchange becomes a central form of social reproduction.

And what's wrong with exchange? That's a perfectly legitimate human activity if you ask me. Not just because I'm socialized into an exchange-based economy, but in all possible worlds where resources are scarce and labor is a primary economic input it makes sense that one can exchange various crystallizations of labor for each other.

There is a large amount of literature on all manners of bullshit! Just because someone can make up a utopian system doesn't mean it's workable, especially if they're working under asocial assumptions about human nature.

Asocial? Hardly.

Real world capitalism has always required state management of money and credit. Private money always tends to be overextended or underextended, often in quick succession.

Why talk about real world capitalism. If that's what we're talking about capitalism also relies heavily on subsidized industries. Those are not necessary for production or functioning economic systems either. Trade does not need a state-run money supply to happen.

[Capitalism] requires the maintenance of a pool of labour that is ready to be employed but not yet employed.

What exactly does that mean? The same regulations between capital and labor can be achieved through collective bargaining - through the organization of labor.

I don't think human society should reflect an uncaring universe. I just recognise that there is no valid appeal to a 'state of nature' in political philosophy.

Your axioms come from a botched historical analysis and you don't take into account that various political projects have used the kinds of axioms I'm talking about to realize their projects. That should also play a role in your analysis. Yet you take a trial-and-error approach that separates theory from practice. Your left with a set of practices and an anti-theoretical theory about how it fits together. You don't need theory to realize political systems, but theory is how they are legitimized. Your critique that this is ideology with no logical impetus does not escape your own critique. You seem incapable of discussing them analytically.

Andrew said...

I just read the new libertarian manifesto and I must say I'm kind of disgusted. What possesses these libertarians to start taking pages from the playbook of Marxists? Setting up a teleological pathway towards "Liberty" Limiting the diversity of human experience into crass economics, or shall I say "countereconomics." Here's some gems: "The basic organizational structure of society
(above the family) is not the commune (or tribe or extended tribe or State) but the agora." As if profit is the reason for human existence, and eventually this profit motive will lead society to a rational libertarian utopia if we would only risk it.

Your recent post states that the world is really about: "Flux. Change. Motion. Uncertainty. Indeterminacy. Diffusion." And yet this manifesto's claims eschews flux, change, and inconsistency: "A New Libertarian is fundamentally consistent and one who is not fundamentally consistent is not a New Libertarian."

Liberty will never be found in the profit driven marketplace. For most of the world economics entails just as much coercion as the state. Freedom to choose whether I work in the available jobs at the available wages or I starve. Freedom to choose between brand A or brand B. Freedom to choose to toe the company line or get fired.

Private property denies freedom, flux and "rationality". If I randomly inherited this land, or "earned" it through that amazing skill of buying low and selling high, and deny anyone else the use of it, even if they need it or can put it to better use, how is that fair? Private property and state-owned property aren't the only choices. Neither the state or one individual has an indivisible right to any object.

Overthrowing the state doesn't bring about freedom. Freedom isn't a utopia, the end result of some manifesto's program. Its a constant pursuit of escape from all forms of control, economic, social and political, and my freedom is entwined in yours, so seeking only MY PROFIT or MY PROPERTY only undermine's everyone's freedom.

Acumensch said...

I just read the new libertarian manifesto and I must say I'm kind of disgusted. What possesses these libertarians to start taking pages from the playbook of Marxists?

I’d point out that Marx’s Das Kapital mostly adds interpretation to Mill’s and Ricardo’s books The Principles of Political Economy. Capital accumulation, capital growth etc. were all ideas developed by those who studied economics before Marx. What gives Marx the ability to take ideas from the playbooks of the dirty capitalists? What gives Marx the ability to take ideas from Hegel or Feuerbach either?

Setting up a teleological pathway towards "Liberty" Limiting the diversity of human experience into crass economics, or shall I say "countereconomics."

Most of the recent Marxian critics say that Marx himself reduced the narrative of human experience into “crass economics”. The fact that there is a way of looking at human societies in terms of production does not make something less worthy of study, but outsiders think of it like that, and that’s why Thomas Carlyle called economics the “dismal science” in the first place. (Carlyle also had segregationist intentions but that’s beside the point.)

Here's some gems: "The basic organizational structure of society
(above the family) is not the commune (or tribe or extended tribe or State) but the agora." As if profit is the reason for human existence, and eventually this profit motive will lead society to a rational libertarian utopia if we would only risk it.


The claim is that society is an interaction between different forces like the “nuclear” structures of families. If my neighborhood is a commune that makes bread, and we trade with another neighborhood commune that makes polyester, we’re essentially a part of a larger society that is based on the marketplace. Of course, there is an economics of the family and of the commune itself. But the overall portrait has much more obvious characteristics of the marketplace.

Your recent post states that the world is really about: "Flux. Change. Motion. Uncertainty. Indeterminacy. Diffusion." And yet this manifesto's claims eschews flux, change, and inconsistency: "A New Libertarian is fundamentally consistent and one who is not fundamentally consistent is not a New Libertarian."

That post is about art and truth. But yes the marketplace is constantly in motion, constantly fluctuating, as social and economic inputs are always changing. The inconsistency the NLM is referring to is someone who takes ideas here and there from the analysis and uses them inconsistently. If I say an individual has a right to privacy, but then I turn around and say that in the interest of security privacy can be trumped, I’m not being consistent if I based my argument on a principle of liberty.

Liberty will never be found in the profit driven marketplace. For most of the world economics entails just as much coercion as the state.

If you want to make empirical claims, I’m sure someone has told you that “communism can’t work” and then points to the Soviet Union. If you think that’s a bad argument why do you think you can say market anarchism can’t work and point to things like protectionism, statism, fascism, neo-mercantilism, market interventionism, and paternalism? That’s not market anarchism. And how can “economics” entail coercion? Economics is the way decisions are made regarding any allocation of resources or opportunity costs. I assume you mean the counter-economics of market anarchists? “Economics” has immeasurable applications, it doesn’t just mean what I’m talking about.

Private property denies freedom, flux and "rationality". If I randomly inherited this land, or "earned" it through that amazing skill of buying low and selling high, and deny anyone else the use of it, even if they need it or can put it to better use, how is that fair?

The way you talk about fairness is extremely loaded. If you can use my computer better than I can, does that mean you should have it? Who is going to decide whether it is being put to its best use – you? And how is that “fair”?

Private property and state-owned property aren't the only choices.

When discussing things like land and capital, any alternative version of “property” you can come up with can be reduced to a version of private or state-owned property.

Neither the state or one individual has an indivisible right to any object.

If I can’t possibly have a right to an object like my own body, then one Sadistic alternative is that everyone has the right to want they want with it just as much as I do. In your non-ownership society, then, I would like to see how you respond to a situation where individuals are tortured or raped.

Overthrowing the state doesn't bring about freedom. Freedom isn't a utopia, the end result of some manifesto's program. Its a constant pursuit of escape from all forms of control, economic, social and political, and my freedom is entwined in yours, so seeking only MY PROFIT or MY PROPERTY only undermine's everyone's freedom.

That’s what market anarchism says actually. That when individuals are seemingly acting in chaotic, random ways, (making uncertain decisions based on risk and opportunity costs etc), as a whole they allocate resources in society in ways that reflect real values better than any committee or representative can, because individuals not committees or representatives make the choices that send signals to everyone else about what they prefer, what they value, and what they believe. That is the only form of consensus that is compatible with a diverse society where knowledge is decentralized and values are incommensurable.

andrew said...

I know there are similarities between Marxism and this New Libertarianism, thats what I was trying to stress as a downside of it. Subsuming all of life to economics, ignoring other social interaction puts blinders on analysis and doesn't win fans. Life is irreducible; sure you can look at the economics of every human interaction but that misses a lot of whats going on. No one wants to live like an actuary, with a calculated price for every action and life. I don't find the flux of my worth per an hour from $5.45 to $5.75 a particularly interesting change. Ironically I find a lot more value in forms of human interaction that go beyond "how much?-$100 bucks-I'll take it"

I also thought the step-by-step plan and the insistence on consistency a sad echo of the negatives of Marxist praxis. If you look at various revolutionary efforts these always seem detrimental to the effort. Being critical and militant shouldn't mean having a holier-than-thou need for consistency.

I find it amazing that so many college kids think the only "radical" alternatives are either Marx or Ayn Rand (ehh I know this NL stuff isn't straight Rand). Marxists and capitalists love to claim there's only two choices and ignore the diversity of possibilities. Its not either the State or the Market. It should be neither State nor Market. Read Stirner, read Goldman, read "The Right to be Greedy", read Vaneigem, read anthropology with all the possibilities offered by other societies: social management of the commons, gift economies. There's more options out there. Personally I think we can have better mechanisms than the iron fist of the state sending you to prison and the invisible hand of the market slapping you into poverty and starvation. Two sides of a bad coin. I think the greatest trick the powerful ever pulled was convincing people the only options are state ownership or private property. Its sad people aren't more critical and just fall for the lies of the rich and the powerful.

Acumensch said...

People like to throw out ideas like gift economy and think it undermines ownership. You're trying to say there's room for a non-ownership society, I assume, but you're not saying it. You can certainly live in a place where all production is based on what they think are pure gifts, and where private property doesn't exist. But what about the anarchist who doesn't consent to the practice? How does the society accommodate that person? Well, then it seems you might have created a state institution of regulated "gift exchange". You’re going to say, no to the individualist and proclaim that person is immoral and force them to join a society of gift exchange – (force them to give gifts?)

Back to my point about the primacy of consensual politics—you can live at a perennial Burning Man festival, but outside that consensual realm what exists? Agorism is against the idea that one size fits all, that everyone consents to one governance. Private property is what makes all the other versions of it possible. You go to Burning Man, which is a private activity, where once you pass certain economic barriers you transcend conventional notions of property. But there is a sphere for that, and it exists within a broader context of ownership.

"Rich and powerful people" don't need to convince anyone that the "all property is theft" tracts are self-defeating.

If you think economic analysis simplifies too much, you should consider that you have simplified what economic analysis actually is. You reduced it to talk about prices only, and that's not all economics does. Economic analysis studies behavior, neuroscience, methodology, sociology, game theory, history. The data it uses is not limited to price.

Why do you think consistency is a bad thing - if you're not consistent then eventually you're not coherent, and being incoherent is worse than simply being wrong, because it means that you can't evaluate it at all.

andrew said...

A state institution of gift exchange? Why do you always jump to a state institution? We live in a thing called society and regardless of what capitalists think, if you rip off people or treat them like shit there will be social consequences. The idea behind a gift economy is that I give you something, now you feel the need to give something back otherwise you look like a jerk. If you don't want to take part in that, thats fine. I wouldn't be opposed to still giving gifts to an anarchocapitalist to provide for their needs, everyone should be provided for to some extent (unlike the market, where the inefficient are screwed). If you want someone to join a gift exchange then lead by example, set it up and prove it works, and is more fulfilling personally for those involved.

You say private property makes alternatives available, but not if you're too poor to afford it, in which case the institution of private property prevents you from freely acting in the world. Sure it may be necessary to purchase land to appease the state, so you don't have cops on your back all the time. But that doesn't mean you can't offer it up for free use for the public. What is even more empowering however (cause the poor can do it too) is reclaiming property through squats or land reclaimations. If it can be defended.

Now when I say I don't respect rights of ownership, I don't mean people running around willynilly stealing and raping. Once again I'd like to reiterate that there is a thing called society that goes beyond economics. If I'm in a place like El Salvador and I see one family owning most of the land, and I also see peasants and squatters struggling to live, then I say fuck his property lets help these people survive. What I wouldn't advocate is running around stealing things from modest people, or stealing things that harms their livelihood. If you think an action is just then you should be able to convince others of this, and they will back you up. If you're doing something fundamentally unjust, like raping, stealing teddy bears from kids, polluting or overusing resources (even on your own private land) then people will turn on you. You can still guarantee people can be sure of having a house and home and means of survival, but I can't guarantee you can still horde exorbant wealth at the expense of others.

Now economics looks at life and reduces it down to graphs that say supply, demand, price, quantity, and thats useful but it also misses a lot. Now some say a gift economy is just as selfish as an economy, and runs by the same means. So be it, but I would prefer a world where I recognize the value of others, and recognize that my survival and freedom is tied up in theirs, where life isn't seperated between greed in the market and altruism in charity. Economics has shown us the failures of both the market and the state-controlled economy, so lets get some innovative solutions in there that throw out the old paradigms of state control, private ownership, pure self-interest. Social relationships have just as much bearing on exchange as economics, so lets utilize those tools as well to ensure everyone is provided for and everyone's life is richer.

I don't know if you've ever been homeless, but if you have you should know that you don't have freedom in your life when your stomachs empty, you don't have a place to sleep, and you don't have the education or skills needed to work. Nowadays in the US everything is privatized, there is no commons. When you got nothing you get kicked out of the streets, sidewalks and awnings, by police and private security. You need money to buy a room or even go camping. Sure the rich are freed by privatization, but the rest of the world isn't. Everyone needs atleast a little sliver of the means of production, just enough to subsist, otherwise you're at the mercy of volatile markets and private police forces. Stealing the excesses from the rich to achieve that sliver does more to enhance freedom than protecting it with rent-a-cops.