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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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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Friday, September 22, 2006

Weekly Link Digest, Part II

1. The liberal establishment's embarrassing itself, falling all over each other to denounce Hugo Chavez's "anti-American rhetoric." If he criticized baseball or jazz, I must have mentioned it. As far as I could tell, all he criticized was that beady-eyed little turd, Dumb W. Ass. Charlie Rangel and CNN's Curmudgeonly Populist (TM) Frank Cafferty both repeated, in almost identical terms, that only Americans were entitled to an opinion on George Bush, and that it crossed some kind of line for Hugo Chavez to come here and insult "our" government and "our" leaders. I wonder if Rangel and Cafferty think only Germans were entitled to an opinion on Hitler?

Nancy Pelosi, showing just how marginal the differences are within the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, referred to Chavez as a "simple thug." Chavez has certainly earned that epithet at times. But when has the U.S. foreign policy establishment ever objected to thuggishness per se? Foreign leaders only get targeted as "thugs" in the official propaganda mill when they stop taking orders from Washington. I suspect the real objection to Chavez is that he isn't taking orders from the native landed oligarchy and the American oil companies, like the thugs Otto Reich and Roger Noriega tried to replace him with.

2. Progressive Review's Sam Smith brilliantly captures the sense of entitlement of our global masters, aka the purveyors of "market democracy":

If you deconstruct the language of those who Bush would have us believe form the axis of evil, one finds not so much megalomania as insecurity, hurt feelings, and bitterness over their global inferiority....

At the core, the language and behavior of a Bush or Blair is based on notions of purportedly deserved power and how the less powerful are supposed to behave towards their betters.

Anyone who doubts this should consider Thomas Barnett's discussion of "connectivity," and the white man's burden of imposing it on the world. Interestingly, his map of the "unconnected" world coincides almost exactly with Emmanuel Goldstein's description of the equatorial quadrangle that Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia fought over.

3. Via Progressive Review. Ahmadinejab at the CFR.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's habit of answering every question about Iranian policy with a question about American policy was clearly wearing on some of the members....

And as he left, it was with a jab to his hosts. "At the beginning of the session, you said you were an independent group," he said. "But almost everything that I was asked came from a government position."

4. Atrios, of all people, bashes technocratic centrist liberalism. He starts with this godawful quote from Brad DeLong, who apparently has ikons of J.K. Galbraith and Bob McNamara in his home prayer chapel:

I am, as I said above, a reality-based center-left technocrat. I am pragmatically interested in government policies that work: that are good for America and for the world. My natural home is in the bipartisan center, arguing with center-right reality-based technocrats about whether it is center-left or center-right policies that have the best odds of moving us toward goals that we all share--world peace, world prosperity, equality of opportunity, safety nets, long and happy lifespans, rapid scientific and technological progress, and personal safety. The aim of governance, I think, is to achieve a rough consensus among the reality-based technocrats and then to frame the issues in a way that attracts the ideologues on one (or, ideally, both) wings in order to create an effective governing coalition.

Here's Atrios's take on the issue:

This, in a nutshell, is the worldview of the Sensible Liberal. It's the belief that there are Sensible Policies concocted by Wise Men (and women), preferably ones with advanced degrees, which are Right and True and Good. Wise Men may disagree a bit about the means, and we should throw a few conferences to hash these differences out. Politics and ideologues who do not share the ideology of the Wise Men, who of course are not really tainted by ideology, get in the way of enacting policies which are Sensible.

It's a dangerously wrong view of the world.

My own reaction, when seeing the "centrist reality-based technocrats" on the talking head shows, is to wonder why there's never a crazed gunman around when you really need him. There's some good in the libertarians and decentralists of the right- and left-wing fringes. I sympathize with both the home-schoolers and gun-rights people, and the people involved in LETS systems and organic farming. But the corporate suits dominating the center establishments of both parties are nothing but the spawn of Satan.

5. Matt Taibbi is similarly unkind to the Democratic establishment:

The unspoken subtext of this increasingly bitter debate between the Democratic Party establishment and the supporters of people like Ned Lamont and Hillary Clinton's antiwar challenger, Jonathan Tasini, is a referendum ordinary people have unexpectedly decided to hold on the kingmaker's role of the holy trinity of the American political establishment -- big business, the major political parties and the commercial media....

It's been an essentially oligarchic system of government, where all the important decision-makers have been institutions, with any attempts by ordinary people to circumvent the system coldly repressed.

6. But it's not like the Republicans are any better. Via Progressive Review, a Zogby poll finds that Republicans, in far greater numbers than Democrats, would support random roadblocks, searches of homes, purses, and vehicles (all warrantless), and warrantless domestic wiretaps and random opening of mail. Republican tolerance of such measures ranges from 50% to 66%, compared to 20-45% for Democrats. I understand that if Janet Reno were in power, and the terrorism in the news were carried out by right-wing "militias," the numbers would probably be considerably different. But still... It seems most of the Freepers who used to sport "I love my country, but fear my government" bumper stickers have not just ceased to fear the government, but have gone into full-blown fuhrer-worship. Anyone who still thinks the Republicans are the party of limited government and strict constitutionalism is an idiot.

7. Via Presto's Ramblings and Wendy McElroy, Crispin Sartwell has a great new archive of Josiah Warren material.

8. Via Economist's View. The New York Times gives us the Big Picture on factor payments:

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity - the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation's living standards - has risen steadily over the same period. As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation's gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960's. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as "the golden era of profitability."

I'd guess that housing payments are also at their highest share in a long time.

9. Fred Foldvary at least partially explains what's happened, in terms of that last "factor":

Economics too has its invisible dark matter. There are phenomena in the economy which cannot be explained by the visible spectrum of transactions. For example, from 1975 to 2005, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the USA grew by more than three percent per year, after adjusting for inflation. Yet the median family income (where half are higher and half lower) only grew at a .8 percent rate. Where to did the rest of the growth go?...

....It turns out that the dark matter that soaks up the surplus and much of the gain from economic growth is the economic rent of land.

10. Via Dave Taylor on Distributism list. Kennety J. Arrow. "Why People Go Hungry."

....most people are convinced that the basic cause of a famine is not poverty but a failure of food supply relative to the population. A localized famine is commonly thought of as resulting from a local failure of crops that is not mitigated by importing food.... Countries where hunger is widespread are frequently blamed, moreover, for allowing excessive population growth....

...[Amartya Sen] argues that famine results from the working of the economic system in allocating the ability of people to acquire goods. Famine cannot be explained by a simple relation between food supply and population....

People will starve, then, when their entitlement is not sufficient to buy the food necessary to keep them alive. The food available to them, in short, is a question of income distribution and, more fundamentally, of their ability to provide services that others in the economy are willing to pay for.

11. Via Meir Israelowitz, a Newsweek review of a new by Joseph Stiglitz.

In his new book, "Making Globalization Work," out this week, Stiglitz offers a searing critique of the conventional wisdom. While he is a proponent of free markets, he attacks the assumption that globalization is in fact operating according to Adam Smith's principles....

Stiglitz takes particular aim at the hypocrisy of rich countries professing to want to help emerging nations. He says, for example, that the Doha "Development" Round, which is now at a standstill, always had less to do with development than with rich countries' gaining access to Third World markets and protection for their companies' patents.

12. Dmytri Kleiner writes an article critical of the "creative commons" concept from a P2P standpoint, because it enables producer control of content at the expense of consumers: "WOS4: The Creative Anti-Commons and the Poverty of Networks."

13. Via Progressive Review. The FAA, on the heels of a Lexington crash caused by understaffing, wants to slash air traffic controller staffing by another ten percent:

...one [change] in particular may have safety implications, controllers and some outside experts said. That is the ending of contractual protection against being kept working on a radar screen controlling traffic for more than two hours without a break.

14. Via Progressive Review. This is not your father's E. coli. It's another Frankenstein's monster unleashed by factory farming.

E. coli is abundant in the digestive systems of healthy cattle and humans, and if your potato salad happened to be carrying the average E. coli, the acid in your gut is usually enough to kill it.

But the villain in this outbreak, E. coli O157:H7, is far scarier....

Where does this particularly virulent strain come from? It's not found in the intestinal tracts of cattle raised on their natural diet of grass, hay and other fibrous forage. No, O157 thrives in a new... biological niche: the unnaturally acidic stomachs of beef and dairy cattle fed on grain, the typical ration on most industrial farms. It's the infected manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on neighboring farms....

....When cows were switched from a grain diet to hay for only
five days, O157 declined 1,000-fold.


Blogger Bbo Wallace said...

Thomas Barnett's discussion of "connectivity,"

The man for all practical purposes is insane.

September 23, 2006 7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you might give me some feedback on same things that have been simmering in my brain. If not, please delete this post.

I don't know much about libertarianism really. I've read the first half of Anarchy State and Utopia and several articles. Well anyway here are my thoughts.

Every established economic system has one major imperative: to keep people working for others. I would argue that capitalism relies on force to keep people working for others. People work because they are excluded from things they want and need. They must agree to work for others if they are to get the things they want and need. Private property systems accomplish exclusion through the use of force. People agree to work for others because of force mediated through private property.

Well that's it in a nutshell. I guess it begs the question: when is force justified or not? But force it is, and essential to the operation of capitalism.

I welcome criticisms of this viewpoint. Thanks

September 24, 2006 3:59 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

I think you're onto something in that the way property rules are set up can restrict access to the means of production. It hinges on what you mean by "private property rights." I would argue that any society will be based on some theory of property rights, and that any system of property rights is in a sense a set of "private property rights." Even in an anarcho-communist or anarcho-syndicalist property system, a work unit's possession of the means of production is defined by a body of norms that specifies who is entitled to use them, and that carries with it the right to excluded those not entitled.

So I have no problem with private property rights as such--it just depends on how they're defined.

My Tuckerite view of possessory property rights is considerably more radical than the Lockean standard, but there's a great deal of overlap between the two.

For example: virtually any form of absentee land tenure founded on state grants, where those working the land have been in possession of it time out of mind and paying tribute to a state-created landlord class, is illegitimate by strict Lockean standards. That would mean that all Third World plantations owned by latifundists or agribusiness interests should be turned over to those actually working the land.

There's also a strong overlap of agreement between Tuckerites, Georgists, radical Lockeans, and assorted communists that the enclosures and other land thefts in early modern Europe were evil, and had an exploitative effect on labor.

I completely agree with Nock that the habit, in a world of unemployed labor and vacant land, of thinking of work as something that is "given" by an employer, is one that needs to be broken.

September 24, 2006 11:12 PM  
Anonymous Reisman's Ghost said...

But Carson, if you condemn land speculators and such then you are violating their sovereign right of private property to pretty much do whatever they want. No conscientious person could tolerate such views, restricting landlords to have the same rights as everyone else!

September 25, 2006 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughts.
I would add to my original post that property is even more fundamental to the market system than I had previously suggested. To induce exchange of any kind, it is necessary to exclude the other person from access to the thing to be exchanged. Why would someone exchange something for something they could get for free?

I find the labor-entitlement very intuitively appealing. Some person puts in effort into a previously unowned object, and transforms it according to their imagination. Locke believed that mixing labor with the unowned object creates property. Nozick made some interesting objections to the Lockean labor theory. Why is the labor-mixed object now owned rather than the object-mixed labor lost? Nozick writes of someone pouring a can of campbell's tomato soup into the ocean. My view of Locke's labor theory is that it seems to go more to the value that is created in the previously unowned and unworked object. But isn't value an entirely subjective thing? What person's treasure another's trash?

I don't know if that really gets at what you were discussing. I would agree that anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism is based on property. And I would tend to agree with the presmise that property of some kind is essential for social life. Does that raise the question: is force required for social life?

September 25, 2006 5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous2 said...

I find the labor-entitlement very intuitively appealing. Some person puts in effort into a previously unowned object, and transforms it according to their imagination.

Of course most existing titles to property have little to do with labor-mixing, and neither did the titles mostly existing when Locke lived. :)

Why is the labor-mixed object now owned rather than the object-mixed labor lost?

Where the ephemeral "labor" went to is really not the point. The point is that when two people try to use the same object or resource, there needs to be some way of determining who is allowed to use it when. The rule of "I get to use the resource if I beat the sh*t out of you" is not a very good one.

And I would tend to agree with the presmise that property of some kind is essential for social life. Does that raise the question: is force required for social life?

Well in a trivial sense yes; if you want to be around people and interact with them you will have to defend yourself against people coming up to you and bashing your head in, ripping your teeth out, etc. However, the context of that type of question is usually asked when people are debating the merits of government and the state. Some people think that not only is force required for social life, but it forms an essential aspect of it via the state.

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins ... Society is in every state a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.

--Thomas Paine,
Common Sense

September 25, 2006 10:39 PM  
Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

Force is required for social life, unless you find a society of humans who never disagree. Good luck with that.

Leftists tend to condemn property in the harshest terms, but when confronted with how to solve disputes over resources, invariably property comes back. Oh, they'll dance a two-step around the word, but whether it's "property", "possession", or "dorfing futh", the result is the same: keep your hands off my stuff.

- Josh, radical Lockean

September 25, 2006 10:41 PM  
Blogger quasibill said...

Property rights are only necessary for peaceful society. Absent property rights, there can be no peace.

To see how, consider one fundamental aspect of property: the right of possession. Even the Soviets couldn't eliminate that. When a party dignitary was given a car, he had the right of possession to that car over anyone else except his higher up. That was a property right, no matter what they called it. And if the Soviet society didn't recognize it as such, there could never have been a Soviet Union - it would have been chaos, regardless of how much force anyone had to back up their claims.

Of course, "possession" can be broken down into more fundamental rights like "use" or "exclusion", but the point is that absent some social recognition of fundamental property rights, no peaceful existence is possible.

Now, there are many possible philosophical bases to "derive" property rights from and given our imperfect knowledge, there is no objective way to say any of them are "right". However, we can view how well the systems work to avoid conflict and judge them on that basis. Note that other values are often also expressed through property right regimes, and a given person or group of persons can conclude that a sacrifice in conflict avoidance ability is worth the achievement of another goal. Examples of such groups are families and corporations, both of which engage in "common" property ownership arrangements.

September 26, 2006 6:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we can say that the right to exclude is just, then we can say that force is justified to back that exclusion. But if we cannot say that it is just, but only an unavoidable aspect of society, then must we say that force is unavoidable in society? I would argue that violence against others is avoidable; it is not a prerequisite to living in society. It is not, therefore, essential to living in society. This is not to say that violence might not be essential to prevent greater violence; that it might not be necessary to defend against violence. But it is not necessary in the first place. Or is it?

Is a certain amount of force allowable simply as a prerequisite to living in society?

September 26, 2006 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

But if we cannot say that it is just, but only an unavoidable aspect of society, then must we say that force is unavoidable in society?

It's both just and unavoidable. If you attempt to eat my food and sleep in my bed without my permission, at some point it will take violence to get you to stop. I have every right to bring that force to bear.

Is a certain amount of force allowable simply as a prerequisite to living in society?

In fact, there is a precise amount of force allowable - the force necessary to stop or rectify rights trangressions.

- Josh

September 26, 2006 9:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me throw out a hypothetical. Suppose through a series of just property distributions (of just property entitlements), that a group or even an individual is simply propertyless. There is no work and no access to unowned property. Under this situation is it just that the individual starve to death? (Note, I'm not asking would it be moral, but strictly speaking just.) In other words, if an individual is left completely propertyless, without access to a job or unowned property, not due to any rights violations, is that individual simply SOL in terms of claims of right and justice?

September 27, 2006 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

Yes. Fortunately, such a situation is impossible.

- Josh

September 27, 2006 1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous2 said...

n other words, if an individual is left completely propertyless, without access to a job or unowned property, not due to any rights violations, is that individual simply SOL in terms of claims of right and justice?

Strictly speaking the situation is impossible as you've phrased it - an individual always has his own body as his property, so to lack that he would have to be dead. However, maybe you are thinking of a scenario where private owners own all of the earth's surface? In that case a new born would literally have no place to stand. (Libertarian philosopher Herbert Spencer had this sort of worry.) There are many, many scenarios similar to this. They are typically "lifeboat" scenarios, i.e. scenarios where there is not enough of a physical resource like air or food for someone to live. There are three sensible responses to a scenario like Spencer's:

1) Technology may allow people to live in floating cities in the future, so theoretically you might be able to buy your own floating house. 70% of the Earth's surface is ocean, keep in mind.

2) If such a scenario did occur, the sheer overpopulation required would deplete the available resources and people would die en masse. Then there would be plenty of places to stand.

3) Even if we assume the first two objections don't work, that still doesn't imply the propertyless newborn is completely screwed, for remember that he still owns his body. Therefore the private land owner of the land he occupies can't simply kill him because he is "on his property"; that would in fact be a violation of property, namely the body of the victim. A simplistic picture that can sometimes be helpful is to imagine a fuzzy "sphere of authority" that surrounds people. That sphere can extend to physical objects around you, but can't engulf other people. So if I'm a little inside your sphere, that doesn't mean you can just penetrate my sphere with impunity.

An ordinary libertarian would probably accept some combination of 1,2, and 3. However my viewpoint is slightly different. Some of these hypothetical scenarios come about because people view a peron's relationship to his property as similar to a king's relationship to his domain: You have the absolute right to it, to do whatever you want with it, etc. I think this is incorrect. For one thing, it immediately faces silly objections that David Friedman pointed out decades ago: If you have the "absolute" right over your property, then you have the right to prohibit photons from your neighbors from entering it, and so at your whim you can prevent your neighbor from doing anything that produces light.

I think a better viewpoint is to consider property rights as use rights. In other words, your right to a resource stems from your use of it, not the reverse. Thus, only actions which interfere with your use constitute property violations. In your hypothetical example of a propertyless man, he would at least have ownership to the ground he is standing on, since in a basic sense he is using it to live. If a hypothetical landlord told him to leave because he owned the oil beneath it, that's just tough luck for the landlord. :)

I think my viewpoint explains "Gilligan's Island" property questions as well. Can Mr. Howl just throw Gilligan or the Skipper off the island and into the sea because he has the most of the island's wealth, for example? Some libertarians say yes, because they think Mr. Howl could somehow "absolutely own" the entire island. But according to my view, Mr. Howl could only gain rights to objects insofar as he used them for a purpose. Hope this helps.

September 27, 2006 1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Rightists are big into property, eh Josh? Tell that to all the people from the countries on which they supported imperialist war with the subsequent looting.

LAND, n. A part of the earth's surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living; for the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognized. It follows that if the whole area of terra firma is owned by A, B and C, there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist.
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

September 28, 2006 5:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous2 said...

for the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognized

This is an example of the distinction I made above between considering property as an "absolute", monarchial-like control over a piece of land, and considering property to be a limited right derived from the use of land or a resource. To make it concrete, I would not regard as trespass someone walking over your front lawn, but breaking and entering your house would be trespass. The former doesn't interfere with the owner's use of the front lawn, while the latter interfere's with the owner's use of the door and the house.

September 28, 2006 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

Spare me the sermon. We're talking about clarity of thought.

- Josh

September 28, 2006 2:19 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


Yes, exclusion is vital to exchange. But it's central to morality as I see it that people own their labor-product and should only part with it when persuaded to do so (i.e., through exchange). So exclusion is a positive moral good. The only alternative to exclusion from one's own labor-product is a situation in which that product may be appropriated by others without compensation--i.o.w., slavery.

As to your hypothetical, I'm not sure how you distinguish "just" from "moral." But I agree with Josh that such a situation is impossible, unless the entire surface of the earth is partitioned by political means without any legitimate appropriation. It's certainly impossible through any normal rules of just appropriation recognized by Tuckerites, Georgists, or Lockeans.

Exchange and gift follow logically from self-ownership and ownership of one's labor-product. Of course, the system of property rules in land that best promote such ownership is debatable.

But as Anon2, Josh and quasibill all say, the basic idea of property, as a power to exclude, is common to all systems. And it's necessary for the sake of peace.

Re your comment on Rightists and property, you're attacking a strawman. There are certainly plenty of people on the right who reflexively defend any legal title to land, especially those of landed oligarchs and latifundistas, and who defend enclosures and other land thefts. But nobody who's posted on this thread has any such sympathies.


I agree with your assessment that no particular theory of property rights in land can be logically derived. As I've argued elsewhere, though, it's possible to prefer one to another on consequentialist grounds, based on how well they tend to promote other values that we regard as self-evident. Most theories of land property have the primary goal of protecting labor-based property rights, given the unique problems presented by land being in virtually fixed supply.


You gave yourself away with that remark about eating your food and sleeping in your bed. I've been trying for a long time to figure out what happened to Goldilocks.

September 28, 2006 10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous2 said...

Although I must say to Josh, if you don't sleep in your bed at least once every six months or so, maybe you'll come home to find your bed missing and in its place a sign saying "Commandeered by Goldilocks via Rothbardian/Tuckerite/Mutualist homesteading rights". :)

September 29, 2006 12:26 AM  
Blogger quasibill said...


You won that argument with me a long time ago. I don't think we so much disagree on the foundation as on the application. I fear your prohibition on land rent is somewhat arbitrary, and as such, likely to lead to the "ethically challenged" gaming the system to their benefit. I'll admit that my intuition on this may be wrong, but you haven't convinced me otherwise yet.

As for anon, I think the issue goes even deeper than the responses to his hypo so far suggest. Look, in a "life-boat" situation, or something closely analagous like anon posits, peaceful co-existence is highly unlikely, if not impossible, no matter what. The nature of the existing circumstances in those scenarios is such that peace isn't likely anyway. Luckily, we don't live in a world like that just yet, and like Josh, I believe that so long as states don't screw things up too much (or some massive natural disaster like a dino killer or the Yellowstone super volcano occurs), we never will.

Further, as noted, "just" and "moral" are subjective terms, so they obfuscate rather than clarify the question at hand. If we all agree on a moral framework, such as Catholicism, there is in fact an answer that leads to a peaceful, "just" and "moral" resolution of the lifeboat scenario. Problem is, even people who claim to be Catholic don't actually agree to follow all of the ensuing moral commands, especially in times of crisis. So it is with all other moral frameworks. And once you get one person in the scenario that subscribes to an entirely different moral framework, peaceful resolution becomes a near impossibility.

September 29, 2006 6:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am anon of the exclusion query and absurd hypo, but I am not the anon of "rightest" post. Frankly, I just don't know anymore what I truly believe. Still I think the principle of my hypo applies in to reality in less extreme fashion. Some folks are born without as much as others, and access to wealth is necessarily limited by other's wealth, henceforth, these folks are in a crappy bargaining position.

September 29, 2006 8:01 AM  
Blogger Eric H said...

the holy trinity of the American political establishment -- big business, the major political parties and the commercial media....

Or, as PJ O'Rourke put it, the three branches of American gov't are money, television, and bullshit.

September 29, 2006 8:12 AM  
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October 07, 2006 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the final analysis, market economies rely on force just as command ones do: to enforce the exclusion of property. Surely, someone will object that private property is "natural" and "just." That would be nothing more than begging the question. What is natural? what is just? Moreover, the relative force in market economy or command one is directly related to amount of acquience(sp?) of the people. E.g. the more people resist private property (or collective property) the more force is necessary to maintain order.

"Yes, exclusion is vital to exchange. But it's central to morality as I see it that people own their labor-product and should only part with it when persuaded to do so (i.e., through exchange). So exclusion is a positive moral good."

Ahh, but isn't the unstated premise here that everyone agrees that private property's exclusion is justifiable. Otherwise, couldn't one argue that exchanges are not consensual. E.g. "The only reason I work seventy hours a week is because I am otherwise denied access to food." If we do not accept the initial exclusion of food as just, then how is this exchange just?

"The only alternative to exclusion from one's own labor-product is a situation in which that product may be appropriated by others without compensation--i.o.w., slavery."

What about share and share alike? What I produce benefits you, what you produce benefits me. We still control our labor, and we can condition are labor on agreements to share our labor-products.

Now many may argue that human nature is selfish--that humans act only in self-interest. And even if we could agree that share-and-share-alike cooperation is in everyone's self-interest, people just cannot come to an agreement on an industrial-wide scale.

Perhaps, the solution is scrapping industrialism, and returning to a more direct, face-to-face, interaction. Surely 10 or 20 people could come to agreements about how they wish to use their labor, or they can go solo.

Any thoughts?

October 24, 2006 7:52 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

I believe *any* system will be based on *some* set of property rules, any of which depends to a large extent on agreement and convention. Whether a given act of force is coercion/aggression, or defensive force, depends on the prior definition of these rules. I also believe that, in a panarchy without any centralized territorial authority, a great many such property systems would coexist in separate enclaves.

October 24, 2006 11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I understand what you mean by property rules. If you mean by property rules an agreement about how to use resources, then I would agree with your statement that any system will be based on some set of property rules. But by that definition, property seems an unnecessary step in the chain of reasoning. Moreover, I think property rules are generally understood as being pre-political, and therefore prior to any agreement.

The way I see it is that property is inextricably linked to the state. To enforce a property system, you need some force, if not legitimate (I would question the legitimacy of force) then at least final force. Otherwise I can't imagine a stable property regime if competing enforcement agencies occasionally enforce property rights inconsistently. I.O.W., I can't imagine a stable property regime in anything but a territory with a monopoly on the use of force. And to me that is a state.

October 25, 2006 6:33 AM  

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