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Published on March 29, 2015 By Phil Osborn In Economics

I'm suddenly deluged with a flood of posts on my FaceBook page regarding anarcho-capitalism, a term that I still apply to myself - privately.  Publically, I am more likely to use anarcho-commonist.  My own redefinition has come about from two logically entwined realizations.

First, that Auguste Comte is fundamentally correct in one major sense:
That we each individually must own up to the fact that everything we own, every thing of value to us, is largely the product of other human beings and even pre-human life forms, going back a couple billion years.  No human baby could survive on its own.  This flies in the face of the "Rugged Individualist" strain of thought that has dominated much of the libertarian movement, especially since the influence of Rand.  (A new term has been introduced recently: Aynarcho Capitalism.)  Meanwhile, this view of Comte has to be reconciled with the impact of Newton and other great intellects who individually moved human progress by significant amounts.

Second: But if everything we "own" was largely the product of the work of others, then how does this influence our claim to property titles? 

The standard model for property that is most widely accepted is supposedly derived from Locke's "mixing ones labor with the land," whose validity rests upon the following argument:

You naturally own your body and have a moral right to take the actions necessary to sustain your life.  Since you own your labor, you should own the added value consequent of your investment - the "fruits of labor."  By mixing your labor with physical things in this process, you come to possess a moral claim against someone else interfering with your use and disposal of those things.  You have created a new class of things called property, an extension of action.  Just as you are responsible for the negative consequences of your actions, so you are a rightful claimant to the positive ones.  A claim to property is a claim to a set of actions regarding some thing, a claim for your right to live, implicit in taking the actions and reaping the consequences.  In relation to others, such a right morally, legally, ethically forbids their interference with those actions and thus those things.

This is all fine and good as a moral argument for the basis and justification of property, but unfortunately there is this tiny problem called "prior claims."  In fact, every thing in the universe is subject to this.  Nothing is without prior claims, and thus, if mixing your labor is the source of property titles, then we are hopelessly deadlocked.  

I can draw a circle and some little pointy stars based on my view of the Earth's moon, submit it to whomever handles property titles and then sell shares in my projected colony, secure in my title, right?  How is this different in principle from a mining claim, with the little markers posted at the boundaries?  Why should the miner have to even use physical markers, when we have geo-positioning and reasonably comprehensive land title databases for much of the globe?  But, obviously, any of a billion or more other claimants could do the same, not to mention the possible claims by aliens going back billions of years that could encompass all the known universe.

The solution to these quandaries that I arrived at was a redefinition of property on the basis of the Commons.  If the value of anything and everything can be shown to be derived from a very long and wide chain of contributors and if there are always multiple prior claims, then, rather than starting with property as unclaimed, we are forced to the position that property is initially in the Commons.  Making property the ownership by a specific subset of the member of the Commons - restricting use and disposal to the "owners" - can only be fairly done if there is compensation to those outside the group of owners, such that they experience no loss from the privatization.

I will point to the work of Henry George  as influencing my focus on this issue.

The structure of governance that could support such a system of property titles and protection is still open to question.  ;->

See my popular prior article on property as such:  https://forums.galciv2.com/449510/page/1/

The comment system here is glitching, so I'm going to submit my response to Daiwa here:

Diawa: Please explain.  Thanks.  What is "fair" or "just?"  The privatization of anything, means that other people outside the group of "owners" have their net real or potential value in that thing reduced by their exclusion.  However, people do individually and in concert create wealth that did not exist before - not always, for sure, noting the high rate of new business failures, but enough of the time that we as a species progress. 

However, despite the implicit argument in Rand's statement to the effect that the eco-protestors should bow down before the dirtiest smokestack they can find, that "progress" trumps everything else, the fact is that without an accounting for "externalities," progress can be an illusion, shattered by reality when the bills come due to the victims, while the crooks that operated the scam, profiting on other's losses, are long gone.  Thus, one essential for a sustainable eco-economy is a social/legal mechanism for objectively accessing the costs to the rest of us of any new venture, and incorporating that cost in the title contract between the new owner and the commons.  The rest of us should actually share in the success of the venture to a reasonable degree as compensation for having our access limited by that title.

Certainly, there is the problem of killing the golden goose.   But that is a short-termer problem.  Most people are a little bit more long-term in their thinking.  They go to school for about 25% of their lives now and they raise families and buy homes, all of which require long-term thinking and considerable integrity.  People understand that wealth is created and that the creators should reap a just compensation in the market.  When you have a piece of the pie, you naturally want the pie to be as big as practical.  You want people to start new ventures, acquire property titles and make money.  If they make huge profits through serving market needs, then they should keep most of them, as other people are having to pay for the losses of start-up failures...  That's only "fair."  ;->




on Mar 29, 2015

The thing falls on one word, Phil: fairly.  There are other reasons, but that's sufficient.