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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

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Libertarian Property and the Dubai Ports

Brad Spangler discusses a neglected aspect of the Dubai Ports brouhaha:

In this particular case, we’re not even really talking about private property, but public property. The Dubai Ports deal, you see, involves the buyout of a foreign (British) company already operating these ports by another foreign company (owned by the UAE government). We’re talking about a change of operators, rather than owners. The purported (legal) owners on paper of each of these ports, as I understand it, are the various municipal governments they are located in. We don’t have to bother considering whether or not each company is or isn’t “private property” because what concerns people about this deal is the role of port operator at these ports. Who fulfills that role and why? Who decides it?

What we have in this case, for those with eyes to see and minds to perceive, is an example of the problems that arise from confusing “public property” with “government property”....

The city governments in those cities pretend to own those ports. In reality, the rightful owners are the residents of each of the port cities, the workers who work there and the companies who do business there — but that last only to the extent those companies are not aligned with the interests of the state, which is somewhat rare.

It is through this usurpation of the peoples property rights in those ports that the question of whether the Dubai ports deal is good or bad management of the ports has been removed from the people and placed in the hands of government, which in addition to not being ethically eligible to make such decisions is not competent to do so either.

The real solution to this problem, and future repetitions of it, is for the people to organize to assert their joint ownership of the property in question independent of any government.

Alternative arrangements might be to treat the ports as common property, or to place them in possession of joint stock companies owned by some combination of the residents, the workers, and the companies operating through them. Brad prefers the latter. I myself can see a combination of the ideas, treating the port itself as common property of the local residents, like a town square or a right of way, with the residents contracting the operation of the port to some form of stakeholder cooperative (with joint representation by the port workers' syndicate, the shipping companies, and locals).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize that Roderick Long has discussed some of these points before, but I'm curious about what a socialist/mutualist like yourself has to say.

First, public property conflicts with private property. For example, if the foot-worn road to a village is supposedly owned by "the public", then not only complete strangers but individual villagers are disallowed from homesteading parts of the road for their own purposes (say, by building a small house). But libertarianism allows individuals to homestead land by mixing their labor with it. How can I be disallowed from claiming a part of the road if all the "mixing" that was done was just people walking on it?

Second, what if a corporation wanted to homestead a port like the Dubai one? If the board of directors hires a bunch of laborers to go build a dock, lighthouse, and other facilities at that place, then would you guys consider this "aggression" and contact the nearest mutualist defense agency to "liberate" the port from its "oppressors"? Because I can imagine something very similar to the Dubai ports crisis happening but with libertarian defense agencies or corporations being the actual owners of the port instead of a government.

Finally, I would ask why a justification of public property doesn't imply a justificaiton of government property. As I understand it, one of the main justifications used for state socialism a la Soviet Russia is that "the people" are too disorganized to administer "their" property, so a central body has to do it on their behalf. If "the people" can't coherently manage a port or a road or whatever as a collective, then in practice won't it fall to monopoly governments to administer them?

March 20, 2006 12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there is still some confusion about the difference between collectively owned property and ownership in common.

people use the term "public" inter-changeably between the two.

Kevin draws sufficient difference in using the term "joint" ownership but I don't think Brad does...

collective ownership means you have to get permission from all the owners (consensus) or their delegated authority (the state via majority rule) PRIOR to use so it is a group right.

whereas ownership in common requires no such prior consent but only requires that access/use be restricted by no infringements upon the INDIVIDUAL equal access/use opportunity righst of all others...so this is an individual right.

March 20, 2006 6:30 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"As I understand it, one of the main justifications used for state socialism a la Soviet Russia is that "the people" are too disorganized to administer "their" property, so a central body has to do it on their behalf."

Which is exactly what Mutualists don't believe.

"Liberty is the mother, not the daughter of order" - Benjamin Tucker, if I recall properly.

March 21, 2006 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Ann Julie said...

Kevin Carson has written a very good blog.
In reality we all know that general public in any country never own anything. They are merely pawns in a system which is operated by politicians to grab expensive real estate and earn money by deceiving.

October 29, 2009 5:44 AM  

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