Markets Not Capitalism (Book Review #2)

From Strike the Root - by Alex R. Knight III

In November of 2011, a book was published that immediately captured my attention, not only because its central theme was market anarchist economics, but in that its very title challenged the label “capitalism” – long the sacred cow of free-marketeers, self-styled and otherwise.

I must admit that I too had partially fallen prey to the notion of capitalism as referring exclusively to laissez-faire free market activity. In fact, prior to reading Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Structural Poverty, I had never heard the term “freed markets” – meaning an economy in which many often conflicting models of exchange in goods and services coexist, and in which laissez-faire free markets, as such, are only a part of a potential plethora of voluntary systems.

Enter this anthology, compiled and edited by Gary Chartier and Charles W. Johnson, of 48 separate essays whose authors range from the 19th Century individualist anarchists (Benjamin R. Tucker, Dyer D. Lum, Voltairine de Cleyre), to today’s advocates of libertarian anarchy -- among whom are, including the editors themselves, Roderick T. Long, Kevin A. Carson, and Brad Spangler – many of whom are active with the Center for a Stateless Society. Divided into eight different parts or chapters, the reading selections cover a range of commonplace concerns that many statists, in particular those who identify most strongly with the Left, seem to raise frequently in connection with capitalistic economic constructs.

From “Corporate Power and Labor Solidarity” (Part Four), to “Inequality and Social Safety Nets” (Part Six), to essays culminating in Part Eight, “Freed-Market Regulation: Social Activism and Spontaneous Order” – that address subjects such as racism, the environment, and community organizing from a voluntaryist perspective – the volume’s theme is to demonstrate how traditional government-based thinking and applied “solutions” in relation to such economic and societal maladies merely exacerbates existing conditions while creating a dystopia of new problems. In a nutshell, it challenges the left to rethink paradigms about government regulation. Even Alexander Cockburn, editor and publisher of the leftie news site Counterpunch, is quoted on the back cover as saying, “We on the left need a good shake to get us thinking, and these arguments for market anarchism do the job in lively and thoughtful fashion.” And indeed, “left-wing market anarchism” and even “stigmergic socialism” (as per Brad Spangler’s essay at page 85) seem to be some of the more recent descriptive monickers applied to what has been otherwise more customarily thought of as “anarcho-capitalism.”

Perhaps the definitive essay of the compilation in toto is Charles W. Johnson’s “Markets Freed from Capitalism,” in which he delineates three separate models of capitalism, at pages 64-65, divergent from laissez-faire. The first he points to are simply government monopolies or cartels, such as police, roads, or courts, in which private or alternative competition is shut out or actively suppressed. Second, Johnson points to “regressive redistribution,” in which government seizes or confiscates the assets of ordinary people, to be then turned over to bigger and more economically powerful interests. One especially egregious landmark example of this was the 2005 Kelo v. New London U.S. Supreme Court case stemming from Connecticut, where eminent domain provisions were used to hand private homes over to developers involved in non-public construction projects. Thirdly, Johnson defines “captive markets,” whereupon government coercively creates a demand or increase in demand for goods and/or services via mandates backed by penalties or other punitive measures. A prime example of this would be the coming Obamacare mandatory health insurance laws, due to kick into high gear in 2014.

Obviously, these perversions of freed market principles do not square with the purely voluntary exchange and transaction arrangements envisioned by libertarians. Yet, they are all too demonstrative of commonplace occurrences in American and other modern societies generally thought of or referred to as “capitalist.”

Moving into much deeper territory where even libertarian orthodoxy itself can find itself challenged are pieces such as Roderick T. Long’s “A Plea for Public Property” (1998), in which he envisions market mechanisms that embrace non-private interests. One idea Long advances is the idea of rotating ownership, similar to a time-share arrangement in which there is no central owner. At any event, he pens a provocative paragraph at page 162, wherein he states: “Far from providing a sphere of independence, a society in which all property is private thus renders the propertyless completely dependent on those who own property. This strikes me as a dangerous situation, given the human propensity to abuse power when power is available.” Long’s point is that an all-private property system can be just as oppressive as the “public” (government) status-quo. Hence his ultimate assertion on page 168: “But a system that allows networks of private spaces and public spaces to compete against each other offers the greatest scope for individual freedom.”

In “Scratching By: How Government Creates Poverty as We Know It” (2007), Charles Johnson returns to explain in some detail how America’s poorest and most disadvantaged are prevented by myriads of government licensing schemes, health and fire regulations, and bans on occupation of abandoned properties, from lifting themselves by their own bootstraps out of inner-city slums. In fact, he points out quite succinctly at page 384, that: “The poorer you are, the more you need access to informal and flexible alternatives, and the more you need opportunities to apply some creative hustling. When the state shuts that out, it shuts poor people into ghettoized poverty.”

Overall, Markets Not Capitalism is a landmark text in the development of market anarchist theory, in that it is the first unabashed and cohesive attempt to woo the left away from government statism and state socialist economic models. And while I can certainly recommend you procure a hard copy book version, delightfully, thanks to the efforts of Stephanie Murphy of Porc Therapy, a free downloadable and very well orchestrated audio version, in full is available here. As if that weren’t enough, a serialized YouTube version is also available here (to view further videos, click on the YouTube username ALLtowardliberty).

Perhaps most relevant to the spirit of this book overall, in that it seeks to bridge philosophical gaps that may have up to this juncture seemed unbreachable, is the closing paragraph (at page 240) of Roy A. Childs, Jr.’s essay, “Big Business and the Rise of American Statism,” which first appeared in two parts in the February and March 1971 issues of Reason magazine: “Libertarians themselves should take heart. Our hope lies, as strange as it may seem, not with any remnants from an illusory ‘golden age’ of individualism, which never existed, but with tomorrow. Our day has not come and gone. It has never existed at all. It is our task to see that it will exist in the future. The choice and the battle are ours.”

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Comments

Roderick Long is a part of the Mises Institute, a limited government free market capitalism think tank. I'm sorry but Anarchy and Capitalism are mutually exclusive. Even if he seems to be advocating some "market" anarchism that is non-capitalistic (?), he's part of the capitalist mindset with the Mises Institute.

The fact that Reason magazine is also sited shows the way that capitalists try to dabble their limited government capitalism that usually appeals to Christian Businessmen to some confused far left types.

I blame Chomsky for this bullshit. As long as that millionaire college professor fucker is listed as an anarchist, any Joe Schmo Capitalist fuckhead can slime his stinky ass bullshit called "market anarchism" and call it "anti-capitalist"

Something fuckin' stinks here...flush chomsky and these capitalists down the toilet.

At least Chomsky says he favors worker and community control. He was directly inspired by the revolution in Spain in 1936. He's the most prominent and respected anarchist in the world today, and has probably pointed more people toward anarchism than anyone else alive. But, no, that's not good enough for some of you, just because he's insufficiently puritanical about it. I doubt anyone lives up to the standard. Have a job? Pay rent? Guess you're not an anarchist!

"insufficiently puritanical" ?

Were not talking about whether Chomsky dumpter dives or listens to the "right" music or some lifestyle stuff ? He advocates people to vote and on top of that to vote for Obama if you live in a swing state.

No one is being puritanical when they call out his bullshit.

"Oh man, I heard Chomsky loves Nickelback and Justin Bieber. He's never heard of Leftover Crack, man !!! He's a sellout, a phony anarchist !!!"

So what ?!?!

Chomsky made some great points. Obama has a much better job than his predecessor and the Green Party is a great vehicle for social change, but, if need be, I'll vote Democrat like Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Angela Davis, or any right-thinking radical would...

Sorry if I'm not as "Pure" as your holier-than-thou Anarchism. Some of us want to have a country when its time for our grandchildren to be around, like Chomsky is probably thinking.

look there is no point in arguing here about it. we all make compromises but no one who is an anarchist want "a country" to still be around for thier grandchildren.

"no one who is an anarchist want "a country" to still be around for thier(Sic) grandchildren."

Puritanical Purist

its not puritanical there is difference between compromises that are made out of necessity or pragmatism and believing in them.

You speak of a Futuristic sort of society, of course?

> or any right-thinking radical would...

You mean left-thinking radical would

Maybe if there was actually an organized campaign to get people to strategically boycott elections, instead of the quasi-moralistic "at least I'm not part of it" shit we're doing now.

Well I advocate that you vote for Vermin Supreme!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4d_FvgQ1csE

VOTE!

HE GAVE A KIDNEY TO HIS MOM! COULD OBAMA DO THAT?

Count one for Vermin from this guy!

personally i tend to reject all commericalism. not just capitalist commercialism. i think even Proudhom will not sympathize with these people

I'll consent to a free market ONLY so long as the money being used are giant stone wheels which must by rolled to the hut of the seller after a purchase has been made, by the buyer themselves. Make them at least break a sweat to make a purchase and then maybe it will mean something.

fuck these people. Fuck these people so fucking hard

This book and this type of thinking is heavily promoted on the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) website. If you look at who likes C4SS on their facebook, etc., you'll notice mostly right-winger, conservative, capitalist types.

I wonder why ?

It's hard to find friends when potential allies hate you. Left-libertarians are extending the olive branch. Our biggest mistakes involve getting caught up in conflation.

"Left-conflationism is the error of treating the evils of existing corporatist capitalism as though they constituted an objection to a freed market.
Right-conflationism is the error of treating the virtues of a freed market as though they constituted a justification of the evils of existing corporatist capitalism. "

http://aaeblog.com/2010/12/26/how-to-do-things-with-words/

Take into account that many left-libertarians *were* right-libertarians at some point in time, but their views matured. So it is less than surprising to see that many right-libertarians work with left-libertarians since *they put their differences aside and work together on common ground*. Left-libertarians are beginning to achieve this with other social anarchists. Left-libertarians wouldn't cringe if you threw a brick through a Starbucks window so much as they would if you threw that brick through some *poor* guy's car window instead.

"In a nutshell, it challenges the left to rethink paradigms about government regulation. "

Well done, anarchists.

You mean that it is part of the big fight between some people and other over the amount of regulations there are from a government in regard to economic activity. The first regulation being private property.

Accept money and markets or remain a cult/sect...its your choice. Reject money and markets and you may as well be a Marxist moron imho.

Signed pro2rat ( My 2c)

I have seen you type the stupidest comments on here, pro2rat.

Private property can only exist due to governments, or entities which will turn into governments, despite capitalists' fantastical assertions otherwise. At no point have "anarcho"-capitalists described a stable endstate which somehow fails to become a monopolistic oligarchy, nor a revolutionary path to eliminate the government from the current state of affairs.

It's tough to say that private property can only exist due to governments. Many libertarians understand that individuals are self-owners. In other words, one has absolute rights to one's own person. I could sell one of my kidneys if I were so inclined. Who has the right do deny me that opportunity if it presents itself? Likewise, while we can imagine he state breeding humans (or other animals with the capacity for rights) in livestock fashion, normally we recognize that humans have rights themselves, regardless of how they come into existence. When we encounter a particular person, we know she has rights. It would be wrong of us to chop off her leg and take it with us in the name of liberation.

Libertarians agree with common property. They also agree that governments have no rights to anything. They can't create *actual* rights. They can pretend all they want and have kept up this charade for far too long. Where the tendencies veer is when we delve into how rights in ourselves become extended toward rights to objects. Consider garbage for a moment. Typically this is something we *abandon*. In other words, what we throw away tends to no longer be owned by anyone, unless someone picks it up. In most cases the state or some corporate shill thereof hauls this away and keeps it for themselves. Yet in that case when we abandon trash and nobody picks it up, the trash is not really owned by anyone. So let's say someone finds something in your trash that he likes and takes it with him. Are you still going to claim that it is yours and take it away from him? You abandoned your rights to the object through the act of abandonment. With that object being effectively unowned, our picker has mixed his labor with the object. Would anyone here object to the notion that the people own their labor? The picker's rights to his own labor extend to the object with which he mixed his labor. We could go into the particulars of rooting through someone's trash, but that would just be too libertarian. What is important to note is that these types of *individual* rights may be pooled as *collective* rights, including establishing worker-owned cooperatives and the like. Let's not kid ourselves. Plenty of anti-propertarians accumulate nice sums of wealth engaging in the trade of property. Libertarians vote for your services with their pocketbooks.

rights are constructs. they don't exist in the world except as something we agree to recognize--they are made up. why of all things should we agree to recognize the particular construct of property rights? and let's say you have a certain idea of what your rights should be that no one else agrees with you about. you either need a government to compel everyone else to agree to it, or you need to establish mutual consensus with other people about it (or at least defend yourself). rights don't play a useful role anywhere in that equation. they are a fiction.

"rights are constructs. they don't exist in the world except as something we agree to recognize--they are made up."

We are largely in agreement here. It's just that there are things we recognize as true regardless of what we have to say about the matter. If we agree to recognize that you would have four apples if you had two apples and I give you two more, the fact that you would have four apples isn't contingent upon our recognition of it. Likewise, the fact that you have your own person (yourself) is true regardless of whether or not we recognize it. Yet unlike the apples, you couldn't actually give yourself away if you tried.

"why of all things should we agree to recognize the particular construct of property rights?"

So let's say that someone doesn't recognize that you have yourself. Let's also say that you would prefer to decide what happens to yourself. Who wouldn't, right? This person comes to take you and use you according to his will. His will runs contrary to yours. Libertarians are the people that recognize that your will in this case should be done regarding what happens to yourself. What defines a libertarian is the commitment to such recognition. After all, that douchebag could just as easily want me instead (as we libertarians tend to be selfish fucks). At this point it would be in our interests to defend ourselves against the attacker. Let's say he attacks you and I assault him to defend you. Am I wrong for doing that?

The rights are useful in this example *since they are recognized*. If I weren't libertarian it may occur to me that pairing with the attacker and exploiting you would be appropriate state of affairs when it is clearly wrong; the same way if we were to miscalculate the sum of apples you have after I give you two.

You are mixing together the "is" and the "should be" something awful.

You want to say that there is such a thing as ownership whether or not we recognize it, and your example is that you "have yourself." If you agree that property rights are a total construct in other cases--as in, someone else can just deny that those apples are "yours" even if you have them, and their denial is just as real as your claim if not more so--then why would property rights be the best framework to understand our own selfhood? Most of us don't feel that we "have ourselves" at all--to quote the movie, the things you own own you, and that does double when OTHER people own them. And this doesn't even get into the question of whether selfhood is something discrete, that can be disconnected from the rest of the world--a very Western notion, that doesn't explain all the ways that our lives are determined by collectively produced social context (like rights frameworks and police or the lack thereof, etc.)

Really, almost all the decisions we can make in this society we make under constraints we didn't choose, such as a state insisting that other people own all the things we need, so we have to work for other people doing things we don't believe in to get access to the means of survival. Does that sound like owning yourself?

Even though we disagree, thank you for the dialogue about this. It's interesting to think about.

Here's a better way to say this: being enslaved is a real condition, not just a construct. Compared to that, both "you own yourself" and "you should be a slave" are constructs, though they can lead to different real conditions. The argument against property, basically, is that it's a construct that leads to the real conditions we already have: gross inequalities, and governments to impose them.

It seems hasty to dismiss social constructs as "unreal." State law and the executive's interpretation of it is one hell of a social construction, especially when they socialize to have their interpretation executed. What I mean is that *some* property is unavoidable. You can be a slave and have rights. While under the circumstance your rights are being *violated*, they are claim nonetheless. This translates into a claim to compensation against the master on top of being freed from captivity. If we are to understand our adversaries then it is important to keep in mind their own perspective: the slave owner. While being slave owner is a real condition, there is no right to owning slaves. People own themselves, therefore it is impossible for them to own each other. This is allegedly one of those self-evident things we keep hearing about. Therefore when we see a case of actual enslavement, we *know* that the slave owner is violating the rights of the slaves. Rights don't protect themselves, but they exist and are worth defending.

So an actual full-blooded Left-Rothbardian anarchist is convinced that people have the right to take essentially any property from any business which benefits from the state at the expense of the people. The fact that the same goes for the state itself is a given. To be more specific the state, by definition, is a criminal organization which could never have property rights. Keep in mind that situations where the state shells out at the interest of the people (unemployment, welfare, etc) shouldn't be touched. Since people have claim against the state, anything they can get *back* from the endless exploitation is just. Every company exploiting people using force or state power is subject to claim as the property was unjustly acquired and is not actually owned by them. Libertarian property rights tell us to leave the innocent alone and retrieve that compensation from the criminals with full gusto. Those of us wage-slaving for fascists are within their rights to liberate their "property". Hell, we don't even need the jobs! We may take it all back anyway! The focus on libertarian property rights theory is for the explicit purpose of protecting the innocent and promoting their interests in every possible way. Whether or not you are convinced that libertarian property rights make sense, what I do know is that my deviations from it have resulted in error. We act in the same capacities and do largely the same things, but we tend to use different words for our descriptions, leading more often to us talking past each other when we are relating to the same thing. What libertarianism means to me is the proletarian revolution.

--"You can be a slave and have rights." So much the worse for rights as a concept. Slaves have had some "rights" under various governments, but that just shows how malleable the "rights" framework is. I prefer a value system that isn't compatible with slavery. Or do you mean that some rights are eternal, and exist whether they are violated or not? If so, WHAT GOOD DO THEY DO US? It's better to just say "We oppose slavery! We want freedom for all!" Then, thanks to Occam's razor, you're not adding any terms to the equation that refer to things no one can agree about.

--"People own themselves, therefore it is impossible for them to own each other." Sure, in some world of Platonic concepts. In practice, slaveowners are indistinguishable from landlords, in that both "own" something that other people deny can be "owned." Again, using Occam's razor, let's toss out notions of "real" ownership, since no one can agree what it is, and it doesn't impact what happens in practice except insofar as people subscribe to one construct or another.

"Rights don't protect themselves, but they exist and are worth defending." They exist? Where do we find them? You and I have a lot in common, as you assert, but we can't even agree about what rights we do or don't have. Is there some externally existent real-world thing we can consult to settle this disagreement?

No. So I repeat: if we're choosing which construct we prefer, I prefer this one--affirming a desire to coexist based on mutual aid and autonomy, without any idea that "property" exists. Thanks to Occam's razor, we see our relations to things as a subset of our relationships with each other, not as something governed by a mythical absolute.

"Or do you mean that some rights are eternal, and exist whether they are violated or not? If so, WHAT GOOD DO THEY DO US?"

I do think that some rights exist whether or not they are violated. Perhaps we should step away for a moment from more extreme examples of rights violations so we can find a better example. Not every rights violation counts as essentially violating them all. Though the fact that some of the slaves' rights were recognized is important, as even those barbarous fucks in various governments couldn't bring themselves to violate them on that scale. Of course there are governments which have no trouble breaking that threshold, but that doesn't really negate the case for their recognition of the law. We can recognize and violate anyway.

The law that I refer to is the natural law. States can make law which mimics and follows the natural law, though not entirely as the state itself constitutes a violation of it. Even without states, people can make law that is in accordance with the natural law. Though the kicker is that those laws we make (state or otherwise) which are not in accordance with the natural law don't actually count as law.

"It's better to just say "We oppose slavery! We want freedom for all!" Then, thanks to Occam's razor, you're not adding any terms to the equation that refer to things no one can agree about."

Perhaps in many cases that is true. Libertarians say that all the time! Though for our interests collectively it seems appropriate for me to give the best detailed description I can. I understand more about slavery and freedom from studying the natural law. Those words can be said with more conviction than I ever had as a non-libertarian.

So the cat is out of the bag. The pink elephant in the room is natural law. We've reasoned our way to the point where we can effectively interact with it. My apologies, but this is going to have to suffice as the bulk of my response for the various other comments that are posted. Sometimes these comments can turn into essays! Short and sweet is preferred, but I have to break that rule right now.

If I may, I would like to quote Roderick Long:

"Most critics of Natural Law assume that the burden of proof lies with the proponent of Natural Law — presumably because they see Natural Law as something bizarre and implausible, something one couldn't sensibly believe unless there were a knock-down argument for it. But in fact, to believe in Natural Law is simply to believe that there are moral standards that transcend the practices and customs of any given community — that there are rational grounds for condemning the Nazi regime as immoral, that it is possible to be justified in so condemning it, even if we assume that what the Nazis did was perfectly in accordance with the values of Nazi culture. When we condemn Nazism, we don't ordinarily take ourselves to be expressing a purely personal, subjective preference, like the preference for chocolate over vanilla; rather, our ordinary practices of praising and condemning seem to implicitly assume that there are objective moral standards, i.e., that there is a Natural Law to which manmade laws are answerable. " (emphasis mine) http://www.freenation.org/a/f42l1.html

This is where I think we find ourselves in a whole heap of trouble. I seem to be suggesting that there are objective moral standards. Yet whether or not I suggest that doesn't change its possibility for existence. Should I doubt that there are rational grounds for condemning the Nazi regime? So what are those rational grounds, anyway?

We should clear up what sort of rights we speak of. Dr. Long makes this distinction succinctly:

"In ordinary speech we often switch without noticing it between different senses of "rights." For example, we might say in one breath that citizens in China have no right to free speech — and then say in another breath that Chinese citizens' right to free speech is being violated. Logically, this seems to make no sense; you can't violate a right your victims don't even have. (No one would say, for example, that my right to rule North America is being violated, because nobody thinks I have such a right in the first place.) But our ordinary speech makes more sense once we realize that the term "rights" is being used in more than one sense, so that the kind of right that's being violated in China is a different sort form the kind of right the Chinese don't have.

First, we can distinguish between "rights" in the normative sense and "rights" in the descriptive sense. Normative facts are facts about what people ought to do; descriptive facts are facts about what people actually do.

In turn, we can distinguish two subvarieties of descriptive rights: legal rights and de facto rights.

This gives us a three-way distinction:
• Normative rights: the claims that ought to be respected and protected.

• Legal rights: the claims that a given legal institution officially announces it will respect and protect.

• De facto rights: the claims that actually receive respect and protection in a given society.""

He continues:

"To claim that natural rights don't protect anything is to miss the point; natural rights are supposed to receive protection, not to provide it. Likewise, the function of Natural Law is not to protect any claims, but rather to tell us which claims deserve protection. As normative concepts, natural rights provide guidance for people's conduct. Blaming natural rights for not protecting us is like blaming a cookbook for not making dinner. Cookbooks don't make dinner for us; their purpose is to teach us how to make dinner for ourselves. Likewise, Natural Law doesn't lead our lives for us; its purpose is to guide us in the living of our own lives."

It was you who asked the question what good they are if we have them despite their being violated. The nature of these rights are not of the realm of government (that is to say that they could not compel us to keep or violate them) as they are in the realm of how we should govern ourselves. It just happens that some absolutes are rational as opposed to mythical.

I appreciate that we agree on so much. It is my understanding that you employ the natural law in your own decision making, but don't refer to it as such. Those conclusions that you make which correspond with the natural law are conclusions you make nonetheless. When we boil it down right it starts to look like an incredibly petty difference in the overall scheme of things. Should we really argue about objectivity of the content of our conclusions, especially when we're reaching largely the same ones via similar (yet somewhat distinct) routes? We can, of course, but we would be speaking far more philosophically than politically at that point. My point is that we have more in common than we give each other credit for. Squabbling over the metaethics when our ethics are just fine seems like a big waste of time and something the state just loves. If we keep fighting with each other we won't have the energy to effectively fight the state. We have a lot to learn from each other. This alliance is worth looking forward to.

You say "It just happens that some absolutes are rational as opposed to mythical." Kant and some other folks have tried to prove this as well, but no one has ever succeeded. I won't quote Nietzsche, but he makes short work of Kant. You assert your claim, but you don't give any evidence to persuade me.

We can agree that gravity is a "natural law" because we both observe events in the world that we agree to call gravity. But if you think that property is a natural law and I don't think it is, there's nothing we can consult to resolve the conflict. "Ought to be" rests on your desires and personal values, not on something inherently true. Now, if we can agree about what ends we are pursuing (like "peaceful coexistence" rather than "the destruction of life on earth"), there are certainly some ways to pursue those ends that are more rational and realistic than others. But as for which ends we "ought to" pursue, that choice is entirely in our hands. I fight against Nazis because they want something different than I want, not because I am "obeying natural law."

I repeat, gravity doesn't need us--that's what makes it a law. A law that doesn't have any real-world existence other than that which humans choose to give it is a construct, not a law.

Does a justification for values have to rest on some "objective" truth to be meaningful? I oppose the Nazis because I have concluded that the wielding of oppressive power over others is not likely to lead to the things I desire to see in this world. I can make an argument that you should also oppose them, based on your interests and what you consider meaningful. The advantage of this approach, in my view, is that it grounds our politics in our hearts, making us the ones who are the arbiters of our lives, rather than basing our legitimacy on reference to some external tablet of law as in the Old Testament.

If what is right and good is something "objectively existing" outside of us, then there is a justification for sacrificing any one of us in its name--and all the worse, since there is no concrete evidence of WHAT that objectively existing moral law should be, so anyone can use it to justify anything. The idea that morality is backed by "natural law" rather than based in our personal wishes is more useful for a totalitarian project than it is suited to an approach to human interactions based on mutual respect and the collective negotiation of our relations.

In short, your construct of rights make sense with a state--where the state grants and guarantees rights--but no sense without one. You're still trying to use the same moral framework you inherited from statist society, without the state. It's forcing you to make arguments that the things you want are not your own desires but rather objectively existing laws--which puts you in company with Roman emperors, not anarchists.

If you still don't find this convincing, I challenge you: how can we know what counts as an objective moral law? For example, how can we resolve the question of whether property exists or not? I said it was a construct, you said it was part of an objectively existing natural law, and I am defying you to produce any evidence that such a thing exists beyond your imagination (and the imaginations of some others who grew up in this particular society). Show me some evidence. If you can't, I think you need another framework.

Again, I am grateful for the opportunity to think about these things with you. I don't consider this squabbling, but an important aspect of our struggle against the structures of oppressive power, and also a way to discover the forms and limits of our affinity.

I'm no fan of quoting from the canon but this Bakunin line seems relevant here:

"when the good is decreed, it becomes evil from the standpoint of human morality and liberty. Freedom, morality, and the human dignity of the individual consists precisely in this; that he does good not because he is forced to do so, but because he freely conceives it, wants it, and loves it."

" If you agree that property rights are a total construct in other cases--as in, someone else can just deny that those apples are "yours" even if you have them, and their denial is just as real as your claim if not more so--then why would property rights be the best framework to understand our own selfhood?"

I just wanted to reiterate the point that we largely agree. Though I don't believe that property rights are a *total* social construct. That and I don't believe property rights to be the best framework for understanding ourselves. That seems more like the task of self-reflection. Actual property rights merely delineate when it is just to use force, which is why libertarians harp on it so much. So when we talk about people owning themselves, we essentially mean that if an attacker were to disturb an innocent person violently or threaten to do the same, our potential victim has the right to use force to stop that violation from taking place. This shoveled shit the state & pals sling at us is pretty much everything but actual property rights.

Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to make an attempt at a sane case!

You used the word "just," which also strikes me as a construct. People will call things their property and say it is "just" to defend them, but there isn't anything objectively existing in the world that we can consult that will resolve the question of what is "just." [Believing in holy books is one solution for this problem, but since you have to choose which holy book you believe is self-evidently The Truth, it doesn't solve the problem.]

Instead, I would throw out the construct of "justice" as well as the construct of property, and say, instead, what do we *want* our relations to be? Me, I *want* to work out conflicts with others and make sure everybody has their basic needs met because I consider that to be the most fulfilling approach to social life, and I want to organize with others who see it the same way. I don't need the fiction of property or of justice to go about this. Property rights can sometimes seem to be useful for this ("don't you want people to treat each other with respect? doesn't that mean respecting their property?"), but in practice they have arbitrary and negative effects ("I know I didn't do anything with that land, but it's my property, so stay off it!").

In short, treating constructs like property and justice like they are real, eternal things that have fundamental attributes is a propaganda trick to get people to accept a social system that gives some people power over others that they would not otherwise wield. Being partisans of freedom means rejecting these forms of constructed "power over."

you make a key/pivotal point here;

“Most of us don't feel that we "have ourselves" at all--to quote the movie, the things you own own you, and that does double when OTHER people own them. And this doesn't even get into the question of whether selfhood is something discrete, that can be disconnected from the rest of the world--a very Western notion, that doesn't explain all the ways that our lives are determined by collectively produced social context (like rights frameworks and police or the lack thereof, etc.)”

the issue of dualism versus non-dualism comes into play in this discussion.

on one level we are talking about ‘behaviours concerning things’ [appropriating things as our own] and on another level, dialoguing as to whether it is realistic to allege the ‘existence of things-in-themselves’, like our human selves or like ‘property’. if a human is an ‘activity within the Activity’ [a relational feature within the continually transforming relational spatial plenum] as quantum physics suggests, then there are no ‘things-in-themselves’. the visual forms that we use the subjective idealizing powers of language to ‘subjectize’ or impute ‘absolute independent thinghood status to’, like the interior areas of a geometric figure that we call ‘a piece of land’ and treat as a ‘thing-in-itself’ that we can commoditize and trade, are fictions, useful fictions but fictions.

if we can’t really break everything into independent thing-in-themselves pieces, like language tentatively does for us, then we have to acknowledge the more realistic view of the aboriginals that ‘man belongs to the land’, ... ‘the land does not belong to man’.

the earth’s biosphere keeps growing crops of billions of humans on a continuing basis. they are not growing ‘just anywhere’. we can NOT therefore justify our continuing insistence that the story that ‘a human is an independently-existing thing in itself that keeps reproducing itself’ is a physical reality [a useful 'fiction' or 'economy-of-thought', ok, but not a 'physical reality']. such a view is the view of the human as a system-in-itself, but all systems are included in a suprasystem. all activities are included within ‘the Activity’; i.e. within the continually transforming relational spatial plenum aka ‘universe’. this is not to say that humans do not ‘reproduce’, it merely says that ‘human reproduction’ is an activity that goes on within a more comprehensive suprasystem Activity, an Activity that not only inhabits the organism, but creates it [Emerson, ‘The Method of Nature’]. We are not wrong to say that ‘Katrina ravaged New Orleans’ as a kind of ‘economy of thought shorthand’, so long as we do not deny that ‘Katrina’ is an ‘activity’ within the Activity’ [system within suprasystem, relational feature within a relational flow] and that the mother-source of the ‘small ‘a’ activity’ [system dynamic] is the ‘big A Activity’ [suprasystem dynamic]. all of which goes to point out that man’s activities do not jumpstart from man as a local independently-existing individual system-thing-in-itself.

e.g. the statement ‘farmer John produces corn’ cannot be taken literally; i.e. first there was a ecosystem with a diversity of mutually supporting systems within it, including corn, and a new member, man, emerging within the interdependent ecosystem. this new system called ‘man’, by and by, began to organize his wild sister, corn, and to domesticate her. he certainly did not source the sun and the rain and the soil that is the real source of her and his ‘production’. in short, man’s activity is not an activity-in-itself, but an activity within the Activity [every system is included within a suprasystem]. to simplify our own mental modeling, sharing and discussing, we impose the abstraction of absolute space to ‘frame’ the human activity and synthetically ‘break it out’ of ‘the Activity’ and we use the subjective idealizing powers of words and grammar to re-render human activity as if it jumpstarted from the interior of the notionally independently-existing, individual human. of course, if you put a human in a canoe, give him a paddle and push the canoe into the rapids, the human will start paddling like hell, and while we like to say that ‘HE is doing the paddling’, we know from experience that the relational dynamics we are included in orchestrate and shape our individual and collective behaviours.

as Nietzsche says, we like to reduce all such activities to a ‘doer-deed’ format, synthetically, of course [Fiktionally], as in ‘lightning flashes’ or ‘Katrina ravages New Orleans. we reduce an intrinsically RELATIONAL-SPATIAL activity to notional doer-deed terms. it is economy-of-thought. it is useful so long as we don’t confuse it for physical reality. the paddling does not jumpstart from the internal processes of the paddler. every ‘paddle’ is transforming the flow that the canoer is included in. if a small canoe were running close to a large canoe, this would only be too apparent. “The dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat at the same time as the dynamics of the habitat are conditioning the dynamics of the inhabitants.’ the mom&pop business knows how this works when the big corporation comes in and starts paddling in the same town [relational flow]. it’s actions transform the relational dynamics of the community which in turn are orchestrating and shaping the dynamics of the mom&pop. one cannot understand the behaviour of a ‘local system’ when one views it as an independently-existing ‘thing-in-itself’ with its own internal process driven and directed behaviour. or, i should say, it is the habit of our Western culture to do exactly that, ... the problem is that this view in terms of ‘what things-in-themselves do’ in no way constitutes the physical reality of our experience; i.e. it ignores the reality that all systems are included in a suprasystem, they are not really ‘framed’ by absolute space and absolute time, which is what we do to impute to them ‘thing-in-itself existence’.

Standard Average European language is a game-play, that we use to reduce relational activity, notionally, to doer-deed dynamics;

“Our judgement has us conclude that every change must have an author”;–but this conclusion is already mythology: it separates that which effects from the effecting. If I say “lightning flashes,” I have posited the flash once as an activity and a second time as a subject, and thus added to the event a being that is not one with the event but is rather fixed, “is” and does not “become.”–To regard an event as an “effecting,” and this as being, that is the double error, or interpretation, of which we are guilty.” – Nietzsche, ‘Will to Power’, 531

in playing this language game which notionally converts ‘activity within the Activity’ to ‘doer-deed format’, we come up with statements such as;

“THIS PROPERTY PRODUCES about 140 bushels of corn per acre or 40 bushels of wheat per acre.”

we don’t even have to credit farmer John in this case. the farmer thus becomes a commodity subordinate to the property [if you own the property, you can hire and fire farmers/farmhands since it is the property that 'produces'. but what if the property is in Oklahoma and the dustbowl conditions come along. the reality surfaces that it was never the property and never the farmer that was the source of this ‘production’. their activities were, in physical reality, ‘activities within the Activity’ [systems within the suprasystem]. as david bohm says, ...with the causal model you can go upstream from the result as far as you want. what was the cause of Lincoln’s death; (a) a bullet that pierced his brain, (b) the gun that fired the bullet. this one branches off to the cause being the makers of the gun and the makers of gunpower and the inventors of gunpowder and guns, and another branch goes back upstream from (c) the hand that pulled the trigger, (d) the man who’s hand pulled the trigger, (e) the political theories that shaped the man’s behaviour, (f) the apparatus of sovereign state control which imposes political theories on everyone residing in the state, (g), the deal between Kings and politicians, on the one hand, and the Church, on the other, to divide up authority over the spiritual/eternal and the temporal/material, and to give authority over land, categorized as non-spiritual/non-eternal, to kings and political leaders. in other words, who says the 'result', the death of lincoln, should have an upstream causal trail that cul-de-sacs in the 'doer-of-the-deed'? the only justification for stopping there is if one believes that the 'doer' is an independently-existing thing-in-itself with its own internal process jumpstarting drive and direction.

does the child-soldier jumpstart his own behaviour, or do the relational dynamics of community upstream-source the shaping of his behaviour? is the meaning of a factory in terms of what ‘it produces’; e.g. Cornflakes or Cadillacs, as McLuhan uses to make his point, or is the meaning of the factory in terms of how it transforms our relations with one another and the land, so that it doesn’t matter much at all whether it produces Cornflakes or Cadillacs,... as is McLuhan’s point; ‘the transforming of the relational medium is the meaning’ or, for short, ‘the medium is the message’.

you make the point;

“Most of us don't feel that we "have ourselves" at all--to quote the movie, the things you own own you, and that does double when OTHER people own them

our language games are what splits apart ‘man’ and ‘property’, ‘inhabitant’ and ‘habitat’, ‘subject and object’, presenting them as independently-existing, mutually excluding things-in-themselves. the physical reality, is that they are one thing, the continually transforming relational spatial plenum. as schroedinger says;

“What we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space. Particles are just schaumkommen (appearances). …” ... “The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down as a result of recent experience in the physical sciences, for this barrier does not exist. …”.

it’s the same non-dualist view that is coming from nietzsche, mach, poincaré, bohm, peat, and others. it says ‘man belongs to the land’ [the continually transforming relational spatial plenum], ‘the land does not belong to man’.

i realize that my comments are ‘repetitive’. but then, the mistake/fiction of treating ‘property’ as an independently-existing thing-in-itself mutually exclusive of those other notionally independently-existing things-in-themselves called humans, is ubiquitously repetitive in Western Standard Average European language based dialogue. in fact, it is an unquestioned assumption that the Western culture has infused into its ‘followers’ in raising them from infancy, which deserves being ‘deconstructed’ every time it is used as an unquestioned underpinning of some or other rational proposition, such as ‘all men are born equal [as notional independently-existing materials systems, notionally with their own internal process driven and directed behaviours’ as independent beings that are mutually exclusive of the habitat in which they live].

strangely, the continuing presence of man seems to be curiously [coincidentally?] correlated with the exceptional-nurturant-to-forms-like-man ecological habitat in which humans are found. That is, it is an extremely fortunate ‘coincidence’?! that human inhabitants emerged right in the same place as a habitat that is essential for nurturing and sustaining them by the billions. or was it the case instead, that this mutual exclusion of inhabitant and habitat arises at the time of ‘birth’ of the inhabitant, as it seems to in the case of the birth of a hurricane, when we baptise the activity-within-the-Activity [relational feature within the relational flow] with a subjectively idealizing name, ‘Katrina’ and are thenceforth allowed to speak of it as an independently-existing ‘thing-in-itself’ with its own internal process driven and directed behaviour?, ... implying that it is mutually exclusive of its habitat, and thus, that we can forget about how its habitat is outside-inwardly orchestrating and shaping its behaviour?

remarks such as yours, which question the foundational assumptions of capitalism and sovereigntism [i.e. the assumption of 'property' as a thing-in-itself that is mutually exclusive of our 'self' as a 'thing-in-its-itself', the 'dualist' assumption], need to be affirmed if we are to ‘get over the illusionary pseudo-reality’ that playing these language games puts us in, and that is where this/my comment is coming from.

It's not tough at all. Private property could not exist without government. See what I did there?

Without the state, who runs the records office? Who evicts tenants who won't pay? Who enforces contracts? How do organizations with this kind of power end up becoming de-facto states?

As for "self ownership", I want none of it. I am not a commodity and have no desire to be seen as such. The "right" to sell my labour or kidneys doesn't count for much in the absence of a "right" not to.

And yes, I know lots of people who pick up garbage. Most gleefully collectivize anything they aren't directly using amongst the wider community and will go out of their way to pick things up which they think friends might want.

"It's not tough at all. Private property could not exist without government. See what I did there?"

Well, I wouldn't expect *you* to have a hard time saying it.

"Without the state, who runs the records office? Who evicts tenants who won't pay? Who enforces contracts?"

You read like a statist here. These are like the first questions asked by people not familiar with anarchy.

"How do organizations with this kind of power end up becoming de-facto states?"

You're an anarchist, right? Anarchists do have theories for handling records, contracts, easements and the like.

"The "right" to sell my labour or kidneys doesn't count for much in the absence of a "right" not to."

You're absolutely right. That is why it is so important to associate with those who recognize that you have a right to keep your kidneys and may help you to defend it. Those you work with who would like you to keep your kidneys if you so choose probably want to choose what happens to their own kidneys as well. Though I grant that anything could happen.

"As for "self ownership", I want none of it. I am not a commodity and have no desire to be seen as such."

That's fine. Plenty of left-libertarians feel exactly the same way as you do regarding self-ownership. It's a tough sell, no doubt. The very term "ownership" conjures visions of commodities. Though it's important to keep in mind the intended meaning rather than various possible meanings. Libertarians use the term to describe the fact that one is one's own sovereign, regardless of our current state of affairs.

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