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Contradictions inherent to Homestead

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Econ Amateur Posted: Sat, Mar 17 2012 4:41 PM

Property is thought to be the back bone of Libertarianism, but it is not.   Freedom is the back bone and its respect calls for better qualifiers to "property" then the dominate (and failing) conflations and confusion.

I assert that:
1)  Freedom is a social concept.   It only has meaning in the presence of multiple people, and it only concerns actions done by people to others.
2)  Absolute freedom is being free from any interference/harm.
3)  Interference can be judged via the scientific method of control and experiment.
4)  That method with objective isolation of the moral actors provides an objective definition of 'interference'.
5)  If there are objective means for 'proper isolation of the moral actors', then there is an objective definition of absolute freedom.
6)  Using a thought experiment and the scientific method, the notion of created property is found consistent with protecting freedom, and makes no claims on others freedom.  The experiment follows:
6a)  The first experiment reveals how property in creations does not violate freedom.
    Owen, creates a tool, from non-scarce materials.  Carl wants to borrow it, but Owen prevents Carl's access.  Is Owen's prevention (the crux of property) costing Carl any liberty?   In the control case Carl exists without Owen or his claim.  Carl has no access to the tool because Owen never existed to create it.  In the experiment there is Owen's assertion of exclusion.  But there is no difference between experiment and control.  Carl has the same options in both trials.  Thus Owen and his assertion does not harm Carl.
6b)  The second experiment reveals how property protects freedom.
    Owen makes the tool, but in the control case without the notion of property Carl helps himself.  In the experiment with Owen's ownership respected even with Carl and his want, Owen still has access and proceeds without interference.  Owen's property claim protects his freedom.
Before moving on to 7) Natural property, I'd like to point out that property flows from the concept of freedom.   The logical progression of ideas is from the specific and narrow to the derivable implications.   Property is a social concept.  And so it starts out quite complex.  Having property in yourself, if you are alone in the universe doesn't mean anything.  The concept of property goes beyond the social context, it also asserts a behavior on others, namely that they refrain from causing harm through interference in the access to the 'owned' item.   So property as a concept has to rely on the notions of others, and notions of the harm they can do.   Its not a logical starting point to start with when defining freedom.  Especially when compared with the definition of freedom as "free from human caused harm".
So lets look at what  Murray Rothbard says, "the libertarian defines the concept of 'freedom' or 'liberty'. . .[as a] condition in which a person's ownership rights in his body and his legitimate material property rights are not invaded, are not aggre against. . . . Freedom and unrestricted property rights go hand in hand."    Yikes! that has a lot of attached qualifiers.  But they don't really serve any purpose.  So boil that down, and its "Freedom is respected property."  And then what is property?    That's the whole trick of this odd starting point.  To tie the whole thing down to an irrelevant event that being "first use".  And use is further defined as the impossibly vague "mixing of labor".  Property a social concept, and a claim on freedom, somehow derives from an event (homestead) that has nothing to do with either.
Why first use?  Why not second?   Just how much mixing is needed for the perpetual claim?  Something more then Indians, and less then what the first white guy did?  Why doesn't the bum wiping and mixing labor with windshields get a piece.  Does labor only mix the first time?  Why?  If I fence off a continent, do I really get the whole thing?   Is planting a flag enough?  Just what is the principle that determines enough labor is mixed?  What if it was a really heavy flag?   The air is currently unowned, can I just homestead the earths atmosphere, because I mix labor with it?  Why not?  Air and labor don't mix?
Is there a state ministry of first use?  Who funds that?  Homestead logic starts out irrelevant and just gets worse.   That's why the objectiveness of the scientific method and its delineation of harm is so important.  Its possible to secretly entrench a privileged claim on all the worlds freedom simply by asserting the relevance of an irrelevant event.  All the claims establishing privilege at some point have to assert an irrelevancy.  It can be white skin, royal lineage, 'first use', etc....  But the purpose of all the irrelevant interjections is to escape the cost for cost principle of a voluntary trade in rights, and replace it with the privileged claim.
Systems of privilege will also lack symmetry.   The golden rule, the vial of ignorance, and Locke's proviso all imply a symmetry of rights.  To get symmetry, any subjective assertions must be asserted in a symmetric way.  Meaning that all must have equal subjective say in the end.   The finding of  harm can not be done by the harmer, as that would be a non symmetric, and possibly privileged assertion.  But if the harmed is free to determine harm then all are free to determine harm as they chose.  This then meets the requirement of symmetry, for subjective assertions in a symmetric fashion.
This may without the scientific method in conjunction allow "the harmed" to claim harm when others fail to behave as desired resources.  But with the scientific method the "harmer" is removed in the control case, as is any potential service as a resource.  The supposed harm of the 'harmer' to act as a resource will compare equally to his absence, showing no difference.  And thus no harm.  For example the intransigent slave who gives his master nothing, is not harming the master by his disobedience, because when removing the slave the master still gets nothing.
Homestead violates symmetry because given the choice between owner/firster and renter I would take owner.  Homestead triggers all those criteria  for a privileged system.   Unnecessary complexity, irrelevant interjection, and violation of symmetry.   One can also show that hypothetically possible worlds that are consistent with homestead also result in classic tyranny.
7)   Using a thought experiments and the scientific method, the notion of found property is shown conditionally inconsistent with protecting freedom, as its enforcement makes violent claims on others freedom.  The experiments follow:
7a)  The first experiment reveals how property in natural resource (land) conditionally violates freedom.
    Owen, holds land of superior and scarce quality.  Carl wants to borrow it, but Owen prevents Carl's access.  Is Owen costing Carl any liberty?   In the control case Carl exists without Owen or his claim.  Carl has access to the to land because it exists independent of Owen.  In the experiment case there is Owen's assertion of exclusion.  The difference between control and experiment is that Carl losses access.  Thus Owen and his assertion does harm Carl.
This does not prove that natural property is 'wrong', only that it comes at a cost to absolute freedom.  (I haven't qualified "freedom" with "absolute", yet.  But since I will later apply another qualifier "equal" later, for another meaning and consequent implications, I'll introduce it now.)  Absolute freedom is the only kind yet defined.
7b)  The second experiment reveals how property in natural resource (land) is conditionally consistent with absolute freedom.
    Owen, holds land of non-scarce quality.  Carl wants to borrow it, but Owen prevents Carl's access.  Is Owen costing Carl any liberty?   In the control case Carl exists without Owen or his claim.  Carl has access to the to land because it exists independent of Owen.  In the experiment case there is Owen's assertion of exclusion, but since the land is of non-scarce quality Carl merely needs to chose the alternate available land.  There is no effective difference between experiment and control.  Carl has the same options in both trials.  Thus Owen and his assertion does not harm Carl.   People familiar to Locke's proviso may recognize this.  "while enough and as good remains for others."  This is exactly the case, but what people fail to recognize is that the "while" does not refer to any single time but to all time.   The twin experiments of 7a and 7b bear this out.   They each find a inconsistency or consistency with absolute freedom and natural property, but nowhere is time a condition.  The cases and the proviso refer to all times.
7b is not going to be necessary to make any georgist point.   Georgist respect for natural property is actually going to come from the property rights demanded by 6.  But I added it here to help people understand where they have gone wrong on the homestead assumption.   Which is they falsely extend the non-violent conditions at the time of original homestead to justify aggression across all times.  What starts out as purely defensive force, will under conditions of scarcity turn into initiated force against absolute freedom.
7c) I just made the assertion of "force of aggression", so I should back that up with logic.  Proving  "force of aggression" requires only one more experiment.
The conditions are the same as the experiment case of 7a, IE Owen, exists, and claims scarce land.   But the test is on aggression.  So in the control case Owen claims the land, but does not enforce his claim.   And in the experiment Owen also claims the land and sticks a gun in Carl's face.   In the control case Owen, who has been reading along with us, sees that from 7a, Owens assertion is an abridgment of his own absolute freedom, and so comes up with two answers.  Either he demands absolute freedom and ignores the contradictory claim as confiscatory, or he thinks up some other solution which will abridge his absolute freedom.   But in the experiment case he losses that choice due to Owens gun in the face.   He simply has his absolute freedom denied.   Absent this other notion of conditional freedom call it 'social' freedom, the denial of Carl's absolute freedom is caused by the one changing factor, initiated force.   One can get distracted talking about the effects on Owen all day, but the difference on Carl's absolute freedom comes solely from Owens violently enforced claim.
7c  Shows that 'homestead' property as it is being practiced, is a regime based on violence against absolute freedom.  However, Carl sees that his assertion to the scarce land also infringes Owen's absolute freedom.  And Carl being a thoughtful guy sees the contradiction and knows from this two things.
8)  Absolute freedom for all is impossible.
9)  Absolute freedom can not be the only guide to property and justice.


The standard Rothbardian economic confusion is on taking "property" or "ownership" as an economic action.  It is not.   It is the allocation of force, which as the above essay shows either destroys or protects freedom.   Homestead is identical to the state because it is an allocation of force that destroys freedom.   There is no difference between the rights taken to the state, and those that are taken by the homesteader.  So when homestead allocates, all the problems of agency, elitist allocation, and all the rest that Ludwig so thoroughly covered are inherant to homestead as well.

To allow the market to allocate, the resource must first be assigned to the market and use, and then ownership (ie the protection of force) follows from allocation.   If free choice comes first then 'property in resources' must follow.
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gocrew replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 4:59 PM

This is so confused and confusing I could not bear to get through it.

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under - Mencken

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Where is the first point that seems confusing?   I have often thougt a diagram would make this simpler, but do not have a way to post graphics that I know of.


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MaikU replied on Thu, Mar 22 2012 4:18 PM

Freedom is too vague concept. Property is more specific. That's why it is essential.


"Dude... Roderick Long is the most anarchisty anarchist that has ever anarchisted!" - Evilsceptic

(english is not my native language, sorry for grammar.)

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Clayton replied on Fri, Mar 23 2012 10:31 AM

3)  Interference can be judged via the scientific method of control and experiment.

Not quite. The scientific method and the mechanism by which social norms arise are both instances of order emerging from a process of discovery through trial-and-error (Darwinian selection). For this reason, neither property nor liberty are fundamental or ultimate. If there is an objectively ultimate aim of human social norms it would be individual satisfaction and (more indirectly) biological survival and reproduction.

Property law and the range of permission-free action (liberty/freedom) both arise from a process of discovery through trial-and-error. You can read more about my views on this subject here and here.

Clayton -
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Freedom is only made to seem complex by hucksters who want to confuse the issue.   Freedom is being left alone.  Its that simple.  And so a simple test defines it.    Where as property is of neccesity more complex.   It means to leave a thing alone.  But not all things, the thing has to be defined.  So at best the definition of property starts in complexity where freedom is already complete, that being "left alone".

There is no clear method to judge "complexity" but its obvious that if something has a set of properties and another thing has all those and more then its going to be more complex.  So its also obvious that 'property' is more complex then absolute freedom.   With absolute freedom the concept of property isn't even meaningful.

The issue is so fantastically simple its embarressing how badly Rothbard and gang have been able to manipulate things on the behalf of their privileged (statist) patrons.

"Freedom is too vague (a) concept".    Perhpas the problem is in following a silly piece of circular reasoning.  But the post has made the concept of absolute freedom very clear indeed.   So clear that it unravels itself in practice.   Clearly another assumption or judgement, creating a compromise is called for to create the workable concept which would be qualified social freedom.  If non domenation, or true competition is respected, then equality is the compromise.   Its a choice and open to discussion, but equal rights to live and create seem like a no brainer, even if arbitrary.

Misanthropes aren't going to like that word "equality", because what they want is to be unilateral, without cooperation or even coordination.  But there is no equal liberty without that.   The fantasy of Rothbard is a lie, and supported by those that profit from their aggression.   Aggression that is proven in the opening post.  And with aggression there is no free-market.

And yes property is essential to freedom.  That is proven right there in the opening post.   No circular logic, no legerdemain.


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Ohh My thats confusing.... phew~



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Yes quite.

I was marveling at the next sentence, and wondering what would happen if all math was always assumed to be trial and error.   Pretty dumb eh?    The jest of this post here is to wave hands at a solid proof of what freedom is and pretend that it does not, can not exist.   But it does because tautological manipulations are still valid, and they do not at any time rely on trial and error.   The conditions of the free-market rely on eliminating privileged decisions which come solely by force.   So if you want to talk about the free-market and its blessings then those conditions which are tautological with that assumption are fully relevent. 

As for absolute property, that which does not infringe on absolute freedom and only protects absolute freedom, it is possible when natural form and natural substence are not scarce.   I can't tell if that example actually contridicts ""...neither property nor liberty are fundamental or ultimate.", because the sentence itself is both built on a vauge assumption (that all is trial and error) and by itself pretty darn vague.    Is ultimate property like extreme sports?

There is no need to be wishy washy on freedom.   In fact it can only get you into trouble.

I read your post right up until it was obvious that the question on concrete ehtics was going to be begged.  And I am just going to agree, if you start out with an assumption "I will content myself here with pointing out that ethics is not a science in the sense in which that word is applied to the physical sciences—to the determination of matters of objective fact, or to the establishment of scientific laws which enable us to make exact predictions. " then by gosh and by golly you can then prove the assumption later on.

Now if you want to talk about what are the speicific conditions necesary to forestall domination then that is still open to hard edged analysis, which will have no place for trial and error.

Its when things ärive"by trial and error that strong have more say then logic does.   Since privilege gathers power and uses it to obscure truth, trial and error is an espicially low yield method for enquiry.   What can happen is that a shill for the Austrian nobility can move to America and continue as a shill for American privilege.  

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Anenome replied on Sun, Mar 25 2012 11:53 PM

Let's just start with the first point. Is freedom a social concept? No. That would mean one could only be free within a society. Freedom is a natural state. You are free whether there's another person on the planet with you or not. Tyranny then is the denial of what is natural to you, meaning the denial of the freedom you already have.

I think what you mean is the recognition and protection of freedom is a political concept, meaning the fact of our being free is enshrined in law and protected as a right. That's true, but the source of freedom is not a social institution, its source is our nature as living, deciding beings.

Neither is property necessarily a social concept, for you would have property whether in a society or not. It is natural to all living things to require property for their own use simply to stay alive. The ant and the lion both drink water, meaning they take it for their own sole use, in order to stay alive. And so does humankind.

Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
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What is a negative concept?   A vacuum is a negative concept.   Freedom is a negative concept.   A vacuum is defined by what is not in it.  Freedom is defined as the absence of human caused harm.    Would freedom exist without society?  Yes but society does not generate it.    A more careful reading of the post would have made that clear.   Because saying freedom is a social concept is nothing more then saying that "vacuum" is a concept dealing with matter.  Which it most certainly is.

What is to be gained in pretending that 'freedom' has any meaning outside of the context of people interacting?  AKA the social context.

I do not mean freedom is a recognition.   That seems needlessly elaborate to impute an observer with awareness and recognition.   I speak simply of a state.   The state of absolute freedom.   Such bare and simple concepts are necessary to avoid statist guile or deception on the way to really understanding what a free-market entails.

Property is a correlary to freedom, just as shown.  And it too has no meaning outside the social context.

What you are trying to do is simply beg the question of the privileged concept of property.   You have some notion that "property" exists in society or not.    The things certainly do, but property is not things''.   Its a treatment of things.  A treatment that applies to others, in that others do not do something.   If I claimed the moon as my property, because I found it useful to look at. (1)  What would it mean to my "property rights" when others were freely looking at it too?   Is it my property because I use it as I please, or because I can keep others from using it as they please.  I say the former, and Rothbard says the latter.  The former is the free-market, the latter is distributed statist privilege.   These being cases I can eventually prove with rigour.   That is if we can avoid all the avoidable semantic quibling.   And to that end, I'l promise to never pretend that "society" is any more then a collection of individuals.   This is not a prelude to any socialist B.S.

(1) Certainly the ministry of homestead wouldn't arbitrarliy rule that such a use is insuficient!   They clearly have no grounds for such an arguement. 

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