Sunday, June 10, 2012

Social property and Political property

Another essay reposted from

Mutualists are at an awkward place: they’ve labelled themselves as anti-propertarians  and pro-propertarians at the same time. Proudhon’s “Property is Theft” is certainly quoted way more than “What is Property?” is read, let alone Proudhon’s later work. It becomes especially confusing if you read Tucker and Clarence Lee Swarts defense of individual property, which brings to mind a gun-pointing neck-beard waving the Gadsden flag (jokes, jokes…).

Mutualist property is usually summed up as “occupancy and use”. It is true that it is this PRINCIPLE on which we base legitimate ownership, but that principle is generally only applied when there’s a conflict in who has the right of ownership. That is the way mutualist have always framed it, as a response to the feudalism of capitalist “private property”. It generally never discussed in traditional mutualism whether person A could legitimately go to your house and steal person B’s food while B is away. I find this concern rather silly. Local agreements would be made by all involved to ensure that people don’t step on each-others toes. It’s the only way, since property in dead material is a social construct, not an objective law.

In a broader analysis, mutualist promote not just some vague occupancy and use basis of property, they promote what I’d like to call Social property against Political property. Political property is the property that can only be realized and enforced through a state mechanism. Political property can exist and be maintained only through state force. Kevin Carson does a brilliant job at showing us how instrumental the State has been in creating, enforcing and maintaining what is now known has “capitalist” private property in his illusion-shattering essay The Iron Fist Behind The Invisible Hand. It is clear to mutualists that capitalist property as a product of a free economy is a destructive myth, an insulting fable. The dominance of private ownership over capital, and territorial property (effectively feudalism), can only be viewed as one class using the state to expropriate labor-time and rent from the other. State socialist property is also included under this, even though it’s instituted for different reasons: to attack capitalist property. But as we have seen, it is a ridiculous attempt, since capitalist property is a product of the state itself.

Social property in contrast to Political property can best be described as Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea put it in The Illuminatus Trilogy:

The test is to ask, of any title of ownership you are asked to accept or which you ask others to accept, “Would this be honored in a free society of rationalists, or does it require the armed might of a State to force people to honor it?” If it be the former,… [it] represents liberty; if it be the latter… [it] represents theft.
Social property is precisely what would be honored by all in a free society, and it is what we want society to center around. A way to interact with each-other without stepping on each-others toes. Without state enforced privilege distorting principles of ownership, we would expect this form of property to become the norm of society: it may be individual, collective or common, but never feudal, territorial and usurping. 
The differences are clear: social property is evolves from the continued interaction of free individuals in a community through realizing how we can best structure society in a mutual way. Political property is the opposite: it cares not for people, it only cares for the will of the person holding the gun. It doesn’t evolve; it hinders evolution, and keeps people down. Social property, then, is our goal. Political property remains our enemy. 

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