The Propertarian Double Standard

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From a reddit discussion I ended up discovering a post from Kevin Carson who expresses amazingly well the reason why I keep getting annoyed when discussing with propertarians of various forms. It’s the implicit double standard that is implied every time I’m accused of wanting to steal stuff, of having no respect for the capitalist’s “labour”, of being authoritarian. I’ll let Carson put it best.

Here’s an opposing case for you: Imagine I’m renting a house under a Lockean property system, and get permission to plant a garden on it. I invest a lot of effort in composting and green manuring, and even spend money on granite dust, greensand, rock phosphate and the like to improve the soil. When I get done with it, what was hardpan clay has been transformed into rich, black, friable soil. And when I cease renting, I lose the value of all the improvements I made. That’s the sort of thing that happens all the time under Lockeanism. But I suspect that Reisman would say that I made the improvements with my eyes open, and am entitled to no sympathy because I knew what the rules were. I certainly doubt that he’s shedding any tears over the invested labor that the South Central Farmers are in danger of losing.

The difference is, when it happens under the system he’s defending, it’s just life; when it happens under the system he’s demonizing, it’s an outrage.

And this here above is exactly the thing you get to hear all the goddamn time!

The wage-worker not keeping the full value of his labour or his labour not being enough to ensure his subsistence? That’s just life. A wannabe-capitalist not being able to extract a profit from his workers? Outrage!

A tenant-farmer’s labour not being enough to homestead the land he’s working on because a landlord has already a claim to it? That’s just life. Someone not being able to claim ownership on more land than he can possibly use himself? Outrage!

Capitalists requiring a special class of wealthy judges to interpret the “libertarian law” and a private defense complex to enforce them? That’s not a state, just life. Workers banding together and using means such as peer pressure and ostracism to enforce that nobody exploits and dominates anyone else? Outrage! Statism!

I could go on and on but you get the idea. It would be funny if it wasn’t depressing to have to argue against this so often.

This whole thing starts from the classic error of the propertarians taking their chosen system of ownership as given and a “natural law”. Once you start by assuming that Private Property is an objective rule set then it’s not difficult to jump to the conclusion that act that violates those rights is an outrage. The fact that it is not a violation when the whole system has been rejected simply does not cross one’s mind. It reminds me of some Liberal lawyers arguing that a violation of copyrights was wrong because it’s the law and not being able to grasp that we challenged the validity of the law in the first place.

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