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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Anarchism Without Adjectives

Via Ender's Review. Mr. Nobody asks, can't the different property rights systems all just get along?

According to his line of argument, the fact that commons are typically regulated by custom determining how much each individual is entitled to take, suggests that they are already in a sense divided among a number of owners according to a possessory notion of ownership.

This would also imply that private property, or at least possession, could be a naturally occurring mental abstraction. It would follow that it makes little difference as to if resources are communally owned, or privately partitioned. According to the original libertine philosophy, one cannot claim as ones own what one cannot actually utilize....

One problem people have with philanthropy, or the concept of collectivism is the issue of moochers. When considering both, people will point to the good-for-nothings who have no intention of working, but would still drain society’s resources. Such people can only exist within a socialist welfare state. In a libertarian (free of economic coercion as well; an individual cannot utilize an entire communities resources) society, with a relatively educated population to keep up the threat of revolt, no charity would be willing to pay for the upkeep of such people (the good-for-nothings). The Salvation Army, for example, charges a small amount of rent, and requires a certain amount of volunteer work from residents. In a collectivist society (which could easily exist within a larger libertarian society) the community would soon notice how unproductive said moochers are. In a gift economy, common personal disdain can go a long way.

Conclusion? No economic system is inherently evil. Nor is any economic system inherently oppressive. All oppression stems from acts of coercion. Acts of coercion are justified with an over inflated ego, and fueled by a disproportionate greed. Contrary to what you see on MTV, you don’t have to be an asshole all the time.


Anonymous Carltonh said...

I actually have a short essay completed that I haven't had sent anywhere online to be published yet on how every absolute property system is incompatible with any slightly different property system. Every contested property ownership could then escalate into chaos when people refuse to back down from the *absolute rightness* of their property theory, or their application of it. The only solution is to acknowledge justice, at least in part, apart from property systems. In other words peaceful anarchism requires not only respect for property relations, but allowance for binding arbitration in cases of complex property disputes, preferrably by an unbiased third party who is in no other or permanent way "above" the parties to the dispute.

June 09, 2006 2:48 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


Sounds like a great essay--I look forward to seeing it.

My own take on the issue has been that the market costs of enforcing competing property rights claims will cause things to sort themselves out more or less peacefully in a panarchy, based on majority consensus in each community. The costs of enforcing an absentee landlord's claim against an occupant in a majority Tuckerite community, or defending a squatter against attempts to collect rent in a predominantly Lockean community, will be prohibitively expensive.

So the assorted security agencies, militias, mutual defense associations, etc., will typically have exclusionary clauses against enforcing property claims against the rules of a community with a different system.

David Friedman discussed something similar regarding, say, protection agencies in the Jerry Garcia People's Commune refusing to defend a member who committed adultery with somebody's wife in the Sword of Jehovah Covenant Community.

That would likely entail, in the interests of peace and order, some sort of meta-agreement between communities of the sort you seem to be describing here.

June 09, 2006 9:01 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Actually, KC, you're getting close to one of the deeper problem areas, a worm in the bud that tends to give rise to forcible government.

This would need a whole essay to clarify things, but what happens when you have an intolerant sub-ethos to get along with? Analogous to who will guard the guards, who will tolerate the intolerant.

The catch is that any supposed solution itself imposes arbitrary constraints and gets to become what it loathes, staring too long into the abyss.

What do you do when the other people practise Thuggee, or when they are usually peacewful farmers or trade when forces are superior, but switch to raiding when that is easier, like Vikings?

I do have partial answers to these, but not soundbites. Here, I just wanted to alert you to the problem area.

That reminds me, KC, you might want to follow up a recent Reisman article and thread, that's also linked via Lew Rockwell, and which brought out your approach.

June 10, 2006 3:22 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

The 'moochers' of Mr. Nobody's article had the misfortune of not owning property, because they could then sit around and have other people do work that extracts worth from it. They would not be intrinsically more 'productive' than the heirs of wealthy estates. This realization is not lost on those of us who have issues with property rights within (or even without) the capitalist system.

There is no doubt that property of any type is a mental abstraction, as those who generally seem to have it tend to be the ones that promote it; I read a comment on a left-liberal blog along the lines of, "Either you own property... or you ARE property," which despite its pithiness strikes me as a very insightful.

I like taking my cues from the natural world (e.g., African jungle), and the way things run there is that the critters get to use whatever parcel of land they can effectively defend for any period of time. Once someone bigger/badder comes along, they move on, even if it's in the middle of a meal of another critter they had just killed. See? No assumption there of "this is mine to do with as I please," and the notion that one animal could ever demarcate an area on earth and declare it their own is thoroughly in conflict with the reality of the natural world, and therefore ultimately doomed to failure. And quite a bit arrogant, IMHO, when viewed in this light.

I know I'm boiling this down to 'might makes right', but if anarchism is supposed to bring about a more 'natural' order of things, then the notion of property seems incongruous with reality.

Ultimately, some powerful coercive instrument is going to have to enforce whatever claims to property people may have while being responsive to the claims from people from all sides of the property debate. Could be that Carlton's and P.M.'s recommendations might hold the solution, and I'd also be interested on seeing what else the market anarchists propose, because I defnitely feel this is the biggest obstacle to bringing about the society you all seem to propose. I don't like the idea of the late 19th century sheep wars coming back with more advanced weaponry.


(If you're in an article-reading mood, Kev, you might find this GreenMoney Journal one worthwhile)

June 10, 2006 4:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul and Kevin,

a fine line defines "moochers" apart from hard working wage slaves who just happen to be out of work due to "Fishing" layoffs, or those who simply refuse to work in a disrespectful unequal master-subject employment relationship, or creative art folk, or dreamers who haven't found their calling, or people with real physical or mental disabilities that just don't fit "officialdumb's" fascist means-testing pigeon holes.

The "moocher" is the straw man that Randroids and Miselies like to pillory in their efforts to undercut any constructive dialogue about social goods and values. This ruse surreptitiously buries the discussion of how even marginal producers' consumption demand adds to the extent of economic rents as well as extending the marketability of additional marginal production. Extra production without extra consumption reduces market value, price of marginal production units. Taking a tune from the Austrian, neolibertarians spiel about "utility," marginal produce would have zero "utility" without marginal consumers. Market value is a two way street that depends both on producers' as well as the labor saved for "consumerized" marginal producers.

What is more constructive to discuss are the misincentives of our fascistic welfare state, which sets up means-testing disincentives to work, and incentives to "climb down the ladder of success."

And taking one's "cues from the natural world," wrt rights, is more effective if one inspects the natural context of humans, not lions and zebras. Human rights are neither wholly "natural" nor wholly "conventional." they are a result of a combination of some natural, predetermined aspects of humanity as well as some volitional, conventional aspects.

The fated, predestined "nature" of humans is that our nature forces us to make one fundamental choice with respect to our neighbors. We can not avoid this choice whether we make it consciously or via implied subconsciously guided behaviour. We must choose whether to treat a neighbor, any neighbor, all neighbors as prey (in a "might makes right mode") or as an equally free trader in any or all values, physical or non-physical, including the sharing of the most basic social good, the mutual agreement of two neighbors to treat each other as mutually equally free traders/sharers instead of prey and predator, master-slave, ruler-subject, etc.

Chris Toto

June 10, 2006 4:04 PM  
Anonymous BlackBloc said...

It's funny to hear Randroids complain about moochers, when the biggest moochers around are precisely the people they tend to glorify (the capitalist class).

Isn't the whole issue of moochers a little obsolete in this post-scarcity world, anyway? The conquest of bread, i.e. the rise of automation and its continual improvement, has resulted in a world where one person can produce enough for a hundred. In this context, why is it wrong if 99 persons 'mooch off' while one person work, as long as we agree that the person who does the work should have chosen to do so voluntarily, and not through authoritarian means?

June 13, 2006 7:38 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


The problem you refer to would probably be mitigated by the dispersal of the means of armed force in the general population, and the high cost of imposing a property system against the wishes of a majority in any area. I'd hate to be in the Viking raiding party that landed in an area where most people were armed and in the habit of cooperative self-defense.


I think Mr. Nobody's moochers were actually exceeding their fair share of returns on common property, based on the implicit assumption that common property implies some equal division of access or ownership rights.

Chris Toto,

Mr. Nobody, as I understand him, viewed mooching in the context of any social system as consuming more than one's labor entitled him to, at the expense of others. That would include the privileged at least as much as members of the underclass that neocons like to jump on.


Ditto my reply to Chris. I may have been misreading some signals, but I don't think Mr. Nobody is a Randroid. Your hypothetical agreement would be fine with me, if most people really would voluntarily agree to such a thing. But I think the notions of reciprocity are pretty deeply ingrained--and from my own perspective, quite justifiably so.

Unlike Marx, I don't view the law of labor value as something to be transcended, but as a basic law of justice.

June 15, 2006 9:29 PM  
Anonymous BlackBloc said...

I come from the anarcho-communist tradition, so obviously we'll have some disagreements on that point.

I think it is self-evident that each individual's needs and abilities are unique, as well as mostly uncorrelated (except in some superficial ways, like people who do heavy duty physical work will need more calorie intake). How then is 'pay by deed' more just than 'pay by need'?

Also, if people have a vested interest in laboring for pay, then rational self-interest will certainly lead them to detest the machine, especially if they have no other skills but the skillset being automated away. How does that NOT slow down the rate of innovation, or at least lead to bitter social conflict (a la Ned Ludd) when a large portion of the populace lose their work?

Also, from an anarcha-feminist standpoint, what is to be done about housework? Do mutualists usually consider that housework should be paid (in whatever scheme they end up using, I think labor notes)? What is your opinion about the economical effects of a large underclass who is usually tasked into doing free housework for men?

June 16, 2006 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would point out that the Mennonite colonists and the Makhnovists fought a landlord-vs-squatter war in the midst of the civil war. I'm afraid I can't find much helpful literature on the subject, and can't say precisely how this started and escalated.

- "Jacob"

June 18, 2006 10:38 AM  

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