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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

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Knapp on the Land Question

Tom Knapp sets some right-libertarian hair on end at Free Market News:

Inside the movement, free-marketeers have conflated laissez faire with "capitalism," thanks in no small part to Ayn Rand's infatuation with the term. Outside the movement, opponents of "crony capitalism" have assumed, not without some justification (if you throw a word around without knowing its meaning, you get what you deserve), that libertarians endorse the crony capitalism which characterizes most industrialized economies today.

It wasn't always that way. As a matter of fact, it still isn't that way. Take a closer look at the libertarian mosaic and other colors begin to bleed through the chartreuse. Long ignored or denied by the "mainstream" of the libertarian movement, the colors of anti-capitalist free market ideas have been there all along. Some of these ideas may be key to reforming the Democratic Party in a libertarian direction.

One of the more vexing problems to which libertarianism addresses itself -- or, more frequently, cowers from addressing itself -- is the problem of land, whether or not it can be owned and if so, how.

This last is Tom's segue for summoning up the specter of Henry George:

Fortunately, fundamental honesty often conforms with, rather than conflicting with, political expediency. Consideration of Paine's "ground rent" idea, or some variant thereof (such as the one popularized by Henry George in the late 19th century, often called the "Single Tax"), may be the key to real tax reform which moves government away from punishing labor, creation and innovation and toward collecting legitimate fees for the use of common resources held in trust.

One comment in particular caught my eye:

Locke's idea worked ... as long as there was no scarcity of land relative to those who wished to use it, and as long as no supervening entity, such as government, claimed the authority to decide between claimants in that environment of scarcity.

That suggests one alternative to Georgism that I prefer in most cases: the mutualist occupancy-and-use system of land tenure, in which competing claims to a piece of real estate are determined according to the old maxim "possession is nine-tenths of the law."


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