Anarcho-Capitalism and many right libertarians find the basis for their philosophy in propertarian absolutism. I choose the two words ‘propertarian absolutism’ intentionally. To claim that because I oppose property absolutely would be inaccurate under many definitions of the term property. I wrote previously about the dual meanings of the terms property and gave a few examples of the problems with certain forms of property.
The first issue with the propertarian view is that of misunderstanding a stance against property held by others. I often hear arguments which claim that to oppose what the propertarian views as property will lead to mass theft, contamination of water supply and many other terrible outcomes. A reaction I often get is that if I am not all for every definition of property defined by their terms then I oppose all they define as property, which is an inaccurate conclusion based on a preconceived bias. Some have claimed that my opposition to their definition and absolutism of property rights means that I wish for someone to pee in my water supply. The responses are more accusations that rely on this black and white idea that if one does not support absolute sanctity of property rights then they are in support of invasion, state, force or worse. This is simply an error if inductive reasoning. Absolutism in general can easily fall into the trap of inductive reasoning. To say there are no absolutes is an absolute within itself, so I will simply say that absolutes are rare.
Property rights is often seen as so sacrosanct that they can be used to trump any form of freedom. This is the absolutism found within in the philosophy. It is not all who hold to these market ideas, but a select few. Property and liberty are redefined by this absolute capitalist rule philosophy. In the philosophy liberty is defined as property, they are perceived as synonyms.
Another specific argument by one who used property as an absolute jumped to many false conclusions regarding an opposition to property as an absolute:
You don’t see anything odd, immoral, or illogical about the idea that someone who mixes their labor with an unowned thing does not have a higher degree of right to it as any stranger who comes along?
So one who has spent years cultivating, living on/off of, building, repairing, plowing, et cetera land has no more right to it as random strangers who come along and do none of this? Really?
Here we are conflating many different aspects of ownership, use and possession with the term property. Everything under the sun is grouped together as ‘property’ ignoring the current reality of property in a claim that liberty is property. Proudhon said, Property is liberty, but on the reverse side just as property is theft. This is not to say that liberty is property. To realize this is vital. To fuse a traditional state property with ownership, use rights or possessions is essential to the propertarian philosophy and argument. Without this tactic the argument falls apart. A refusal to acknowledge any difference is part of the strength.
Property is liberty but liberty is not property in the same sense to say that Bob is a man yet not all men are Bob. It is one aspect in a certain context. In the historical context of property to which Proudhon wrote ‘Property is theft’ he was writing in reaction to the reality of the exploitation of power granted through property over others. Property allows a certain liberty of the proprietor over the property.
To realize what is being opposed as property is vital This is a direct opposition to property which stems from the concept of property originally found under roman law which is property that is defined by a state. This is a form of state granted ‘property’. There is often an attempt by the propertarian or the capitalist to perpetuate this form of state property outside of the confines of a state. This is maintaining the power of the state as one abolishes the state. It simply is a shift of state power from what is termed the state to a corporate power that is justified by the illusion of liberty found in the misconception that liberty is property.
By simply stating that ‘Property is Theft’ we realize that something is indeed owned, possessed or someone has right of use or occupancy, for without some sort of ownership which the properiterian would label property how could we have theft? As stated in the beginning, the problem we find is when the properterian conflates property under an oppressive state system with ownership, right of use or occupancy etc…
Property which is derived solely from the right of first use can lead to tyranny. It can lead to the accumulation of land which one claims absolute dominion over. It has been the historical place of the state to enforce such claims to property or the buying and selling of land and the absolute dominion over said land. To claim that property rights will not lead to a capitalist tyranny is a denial of what occurred in history. To maintain this power the state or an alternative with the same function of the state must be put in place.
To confuse ones house, bed, toothbrush, farm the product of ones labor or means of production with the acquiring of thousands of acres of land by a sole individual is a misrepresentation of possession, ownership, occupancy and property. A system of capitalist rulers is still not a system of no rulers. Anarchism translates most literally to ‘no rulers’. One comment to the previous post yesterday put it nicely:
Perhaps if we were to live in a free society, property ownership could work. One could only own as much as they could produce off that land. This of course, will stop a man from owning 5000 acres. Because without wage slavery, he could not produce off this land by himself.
Holding to property as an absolute gives all power to the property owner. It is only liberty to a select few and gives power of some over others. It is something that is ambiguous. The ambiguities are often overlooked by the propertarian. When is property abandoned and available to be homesteaded? Land itself is not the product of labor. One can have ownership of the product of their labor. One can have the right of occupancy or use of land for production.
One seeks a definitive to define where the lines are and that is not a black and white answer. It is something that will vary in society. It requires acknowledgment of society. As we form federations, syndicates, communities and many other diverse stateless solutions to structure society we will see that the definitions of property will continue to vary. Each may define property and possession differently. Litigation, arbitration and dispute resolution will occur when conflicts arise. The way for some may not be the way for all.
Using property as a catch-all requires all to submit to the defined concept of property by one group. This can not be done without a rule of this group. Property is not absolute. It is ambiguous.