The Headroom Between Mutualism and Anarcho-capitalism

I find it inaccurate to use either the terms "anarcho-capitalism" or "mutualism" to describe my own viewpoint. Being a pluralist as well as a person with a fairly complex and subtle heirarchy of preferances that may situationally change, I don't accept either of the two as a singular system that everyone is expected to be a part of. In some ways it could be said that I feel somewhere in between the two.

In the sense that I endorse it, I define private property in an ethical sense as the natural product of labor and voluntary exchange or gift. Anything being called "private property" beyond this I see as a fraud. I do not accept "private property" in a purely legalistic sense, as in whatever the state happens to call "private", thus I draw clear distinction between the status quo of property titles and property rights or a legitimate claim to property. Neither do I necessarily accept "private property" if the term is used to refer to any property that happens to be exclusively controlled, as stolen property and state property can be and is exclusively controlled.

I think that there is a lot of stupid semantics over private property and that those who claim to oppose private property most often actually support some limited or particular form of it but they call it by some other name such as "personal property" or "possessions". I think that in particular situations there can be some kind of private commons or private property that has a policy that effectively makes it "public" in a meaningful sense (see Roderick Long for an exposition on this concept).

I interpret Proudhon subtley. On one hand, I think that it is a misconception to interpret "property is theft" as an absolute statement either pro or con (indeed, taken at face value such a statement is logically incoherant, since the concept of theft relies on the concept of legitimate ownership in order to make any sense), as it has two corrolaries: "property is impossible" and "property is liberty". Each statement refers to a particular context. Socialists who grab onto "property is theft" as an absolute statement against private property are misreading Proudhon, as it refers more to property in the context of an arbitrary legal privilege that can be traced back to thefts than anything else, and they are ignoring the contexts in which Proudhon quite blatantly endorses private property as the only meaningful counterweight to the state.

This position is, in theory, consistant with both mutualism and what's called "anarcho-capitalism", hence making mutualism and "anarcho-capitalism" not as far off as some may like to think. In terms of the labor theory of property (as opposed to value), the two are in total agreement and only disagree in terms of terminology. Wherein they meaningfully differ is in the accessement of what the outcome of freedom of association with respect to property allocation would tend to be. I honestly find myself somewhere in the middle of the two accessments.

On one hand, I do not see anarcho-capitalism as a uniform model, I do not think that a free market would be dominated by a small number of centralized and vertically integrated incorporated firms, I see a possible role for voluntary labor unions as a simple form of collective bargaining, I see the possibility of more individual propietorship and the expansion of enterprenuership, and I see some co-ops as a possibility. On the other hand, I don't see mutualism as a uniform model either, I think that some of the mutualist questioning of the division of labor is misguided or silly and I reject the labor theory of value.

Overall, I do think that the natural of an outcome of a free market would result in an increase in prosperity across the board that could be construed as somewhat egalitarian (in comparison to the status quo at least). Of course, I don't think that it would lead to absolute equality of wealth or ownership in any absolute or consistant sense (nor would I find such a scenario desirable at all), but I do think that workers and consumers would be greatly benefited and in some ways labor would gain much more bargaining power relative to capital. I do not think that wealth being concentrated in the hands of a small few while the majority of people are just above the substinance level is the natural outcome of a free economy, nor do I find such a scenario desirable.

In short, I don't take a doctrinaire approach to either of these ideologies. I value them both enough to synthesize attributes of both of them into my worldview.

Published Sun, Aug 24 2008 5:53 AM by Brainpolice

Comments

# Cork said on 24 August, 2008 11:22 PM

Why I'm not a Mutualist (despite being a "fan" of it) :

corktageous.blogspot.com/.../why-i-am-not-mutualist.html

I reject it for some of the same reasons you put into your post--I'm not convinced it could work as a universal model, especially in our modern industrialized economy.

It's flawed, but not nearly as insane as anarcho-communism and other absurdities.  

Tucker's periodical Liberty had very nice things to say about Gustave Molinari, and called him an anarchist (not that you'll hear any left-anarchist mention that inconvenient fact).

# Jeremy said on 25 August, 2008 06:26 AM

You've hit the nail on the head: mutualism and anarcho-capitalism *predict* different outcomes, but they don't *prescribe* difference outcomes (I made the same point <a href="blog.6thdensity.net, so it's good to see others arriving at this insight).  Many, if not most, of the squabbles between schools of anarchism come down to this.  If we're truly anarchists, what we care about is how people peacefully coexist, not realizing one kind of property or one kind of institution.  Those are just means to the end: voluntary society.

# Chris Cook said on 25 August, 2008 05:11 PM

We are accustomed to think of Property as an Object.  

But as Jeremy Bentham pointed out , this is not in fact the case:

“It is to be observed, that in common speech, in the phrase 'the object of a Man's Property', the words 'the object of' are commonly left out; and by an ellipsis, which, violent as it is, is now become more familiar than the phrase at length, they have made that part of it which consists of the words 'a Man's Property' perform the office of the whole.”

In other words, “Property” is in fact the relationship between Subject ("Owner") and Object (land, knowledge, whatever) which consists of the bundle of rights of “ownership” and “use” of productive assets.

I believe that it is possible to encapsulate this relationship using partnership-based protocols (eg US LLC and UK LLP agreements) instead of the conventional, and conflicting claims over productive assets of the legal constructs of "Equity" ( ie the Joint Stock Limited Liability "Corporation" ) on the one hand, and secured  "Debt" (eg mortgage loans) on the other.

Using "unitisation" within partnership farmeworks I believe that it is possible to "unitise" production in new ways, and to create a simple but radical new enterprise model to which the term "Mutualism" could well be applied.

# no third solution » Blog Archive » August Carnival of Market Anarchy said on 28 August, 2008 08:37 PM

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# Mike said on 29 August, 2008 05:39 AM

I heart this post. I also heart Jeremy's comment about prediction versus prescription. The intellectual tradition via which I arrived at anarchism is most usually associated with the "Right". There are also many who arrive at the position from the "Left". In terms of sheer volume, what I am learning about political philosophy today comes almost entirely from the "Left", and I find tremendous value there. That said, there's still plenty of blindness on the anarchist Right ("Wal-Mart is virtuous!") as well as on the anarchist Left (labor theory of value, etc.) that ought to be dispelled. Reading things like what you've written here reinforces my belief that there is a principled center we ought all to work toward. And I heart that.

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