Hopes for a Coalition

I previously republished essays by Abel Tomlinson and Hogeye Bill discussing different forms of libertarianism, but I neglected to discuss the ideas in depth myself. Since I have undertaken the task of running the present website, and of attempting to help grow a libertarian community here in the Ozarks, I thought it would help if I explain my own position, and what direction I want to take the site.

From the title of the present post, and my claim during our live forum on anarchism that I am “agnostic” between the views of Abel and Bill, readers may guess, correctly, that I want to try to persuade self-identified libertarians of different persuasions to work together, at least as much as we can.

I want to work towards a coalition in part because libertarians of any variety seem to make up a tiny minority of people in Northwest Arkansas and the surrounding area, and I doubt whether genuine change towards a libertarian society of any kind can occur without such a coalition.

My task is made more difficult by the fact that many people, on all sides, seem to believe their own values to be incompatible with those of the others, and to have little desire to attempt a coalition as a result. However, given that people with vastly different views were able to participate in our live forum at the Fayetteville library, and to have a civil discussion, it seems that persuading people to help form a coalition and to work together on various projects is not completely outside the realm of possibility.

It is, admittedly, a long-term project. In the rest of the present post, I do only two things. First, I try to outline the essential differences between critics and defenders of “private property.” I concentrate on attempting to understand the criticisms of property put forth by social anarchists, primarily because I believe most members of the Ozark Voluntaryist facebook group lean towards lockean property norms and away from commons in their own preferred system, and that they already understand how lockean norms are basically supposed to work, at least in theory. Second, I brainstorm some potential ways to try and persuade members of different sides to work together, leaving the work of pursuing the different ideas for the future.

Property and Equity:

Social anarchists argue that all people have a “right” to labor and sustain their own lives, and to make use of the natural resources of the earth in this pursuit. While this “right” doesn’t mean anyone can force others to work for them, or to live by taking what others have produced, it does mean each individual has a “right” to have as much opportunity to live as others do. Social anarchists believe people have a claim to the means of living, but do not believe anyone has a “right” to reduce other people to means to further their own life.

Thus, social anarchists distinguish between “personal property” and “private property.” If a person holds title to some resource, (or “claims ownership” over the resource,) and the same person makes use of the resources themselves to further their own life, then they treat the resource as “personal property”. If one person holds title to some resource but doesn’t use it, while another uses it but holds no title to it, then the title-holder treats the resource as their “private property.” If the title holder only allows the user to use the resource on condition that the user surrenders some portion of what they produce with the resource to the title-holder, then social anarchists call the share of the produce which the user surrenders to the title-holder “usury”.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the first person to explicitly call themselves an anarchist, makes basically the same distinction with regard to land in his book What is Property? He uses other terms, “usufruct,” or “possession,” rather than “personal property,” and “property” rather than “private property,” but the idea is essentially the same.

Not only does occupation lead to equality, it prevents property. For, since every man, from the fact of his existence, has the right of occupation, and, in order to live, must have material for cultivation on which he may labor; and since, on the other hand, the number of occupants varies continually with the births and deaths, — it follows that the quantity of material which each laborer may claim varies with the number of occupants; consequently, that occupation is always subordinate to population. Finally, that, inasmuch as possession, in right, can never remain fixed, it is impossible, in fact, that it can ever become property.

Every occupant is, then, necessarily a possessor or usufructuary, — a function which excludes proprietorship. Now, this is the right of the usufructuary: he is responsible for the thing entrusted to him; he must use it in conformity with general utility, with a view to its preservation and development; he has no power to transform it, to diminish it, or to change its nature; he cannot so divide the usufruct that another shall perform the labor while he receives the product. In a word, the usufructuary is under the supervision of society, submitted to the condition of labor and the law of equality.

Thus is annihilated the Roman definition of property — the right of use and abuse — an immorality born of violence, the most monstrous pretension that the civil laws ever sanctioned. Man receives his usufruct from the hands of society, which alone is the permanent possessor. The individual passes away, society is deathless.

What a profound disgust fills my soul while discussing such simple truths! Do we doubt these things to-day? Will it be necessary to again take arms for their triumph? And can force, in default of reason, alone introduce them into our laws?

All have an equal right of occupancy.

The amount occupied being measured, not by the will, but by the variable conditions of space and number, property cannot exist.

(Emphasis mine.)

Social anarchists condone “personal property”, but object to “private property” and to “usury.” They argue that a “private property” owner acts like a guard running a toll gate on a road. When the guard charges a fee for passage, they don’t produce anything themselves. Instead, they merely stand in another’s way, preventing others from using resources to produce or live.

Because social anarchists believe people have a “right” to have the opportunity to live, they say that the guard violates the rights of those trying to travel along the road. Since the travelers are “entitled” to pass by uninhibited, the guard “steals” from them by preventing them from passing unless they pay a fee.

Similarly, an absentee landlord “steals” from tenants who live on and/or cultivate or work land which the landlord solely holds title to. The landlord does nothing in exchange for rent other than refraining from ejecting the tenant from the land they hold title to, but social anarchists regard the landlord as having no “right” to make this threat, and thus no right to charge “usury” in the form of rent on land.

Similarly for wage labor, interest on loans, intellectual property, and tariffs. With wage labor, the capitalist claims ownership over the means of production, the means of living, and refrains from kicking the workers out of the factory, (or preventing them from using the means of production,) on condition that the workers do their job for a wage rather than producing and selling their product or service to consumers themselves. The “profit” the capitalist makes merely by holding title to the resources in question qualifies as “usury” in the sense that they take a share of the product of the workers even though they only allow the workers to produce, rather than actively helping them to produce.

In Marx’s view, capitalists gained the ability to exploit workers through a difference between the price of labor and the price of the product of that labor; the capitalist could pay workers a high enough wage to sustain the worker’s ability to produce, then sell the product their workers created at a higher price than what they paid their workers. Since the workers create more value than they receive, they are exploited.

In Proudhon’s view, capitalists gained the ability to exploit through a difference between the value individuals could create on their own, and the value a group of people could create by working together. By employing a group of people but giving each individual only the “individual side” of the value they helped to produce, while keeping the surplus value, (created as a result of the individuals working together rather than apart,) for themselves, capitalists again kept more value than they truly had a hand in creating, claiming credit for creating value that was really created through association, or “collective force.”

With loans, bankers use their control of credit to extract usury through interest. With intellectual property, owners of IP prevent people from using particular ideas without their permission, extracting usury by charging prices for goods and services higher than they otherwise could. With tariffs, taxes, licensing laws, zoning laws, and so forth, governments extract usury by taking money from those producing and trading, and business owners, (by colluding with governments,) extract usury through eliminating competition, gaining better control over prices, and increasing their profits. And, of course, if chattel slavery were still widespread, the slaveowners could be said to be extracting usury from their slaves by allowing their slaves to live and make use of their physical bodies.

The basic concern is not over individual ownership vs. joint ownership, as social anarchists condone individual ownership of resources used by the same individual, e.g. clothing, a home, tools, etc., and capitalists accept joint ownership when it is a result of voluntary association, or contractual agreement. Nor is the discussion about how to handle different kinds of resources, since whether a good is “capital” or not is a question of how the good is used by human beings, not a fixed or inherent attribute of the good itself, a point made explicitly by Benjamin Tucker:

Marx, [declared] capital to be a different thing from product, and [maintained] that it belonged to society and should be seized by society and employed for the benefit of all alike. Proudhon scoffed at this distinction between capital and product. He maintained that capital and product are not different kinds of wealth, but simply alternate conditions or functions of the same wealth…

Rather, the concern is over a division between those who hold title to resources and those who produce. Social anarchists advocate abolishing “private property”, or eliminating the ability of some to control the means of production in order to keep more value for themselves than what they actually create. They believe that the result, more or less, would be that everyone would have to participate in production, and no one would be able to live as part of a ruling class, exploiting producers while producing little or nothing themselves.

“Communists” and “collectivists” imagine accomplishing this by making producers joint owners of the means of production, with something like consensus democracy giving them the ability to make decisions. Since all producers would be joint owners of the capital they used to produce, and all owners would participate directly in the work of production, the division between workers and rulers would be abolished.

“Mutualists”, (or at least some “mutualists”, like Kevin Carson in his early writing,) similarly treat natural resources like land as inalienably, jointly owned by everyone, but say that individuals can claim special title to enough land or resources to make a living, so long as they accept that they have borrowed these resources from the commons for their own use and can’t use the resources as “private” property, renting it to others.

None of these groups advocate forcing individuals to give up land they live on, cultivate, or work themselves, but they regard “usury” as illegitimate, and sometimes, (though not always,) advocate using force to prevent “usury” or “exploitation” from occurring.

Thus, for example, if two people agree to a rental contract, with one holding title to land they no longer live on or use directly, and the other holding no title to the land but living on it, then Social Anarchists treat this contract as invalid and non-binding. “Mutualists”, and some other social anarchists, may simply treat the tenant as the owner of the land as soon as they become the new occupant. In refusing to help enforce “usurious” contracts of any sort, they may oppose usury peacefully, without using “coercion” in the sense understood by “anarcho-capitalists.” Social anarchists of various sorts could also, of course, join together to create worker cooperatives, mutual aid societies, cohousing communities, and so forth, each individual consenting to abide by certain terms of membership.

Or, in other cases, social anarchists may advocate using force to either appropriate “private property,” (e.g. taking over a factory,) or to enforce other sorts of norms of resource use which “capitalists” disagree with, (e.g. defending a squatter from an angry land owner coming to forcefully evict them.) It is these actions which, by “anarcho-capitalist” standards, violate the non-aggression principle and raise objections.

Defenders of “private property” may point out that someone could produce something themselves, and then treat it as “private property” once they have created it. For example, someone could build a road before building a toll gate on that road. Building the road would count as production, so the “capitalist” argues that, by charging others a fee to use the road, the road’s “owner” is getting paid for having produced the road. The “capitalist” treats production as granting producers a “right” to use what they have produced as “private property”, keeping title to it while letting others use it for a fee. Writers like Frédéric Bastiat, in debates with Proudhon, made arguments similar to this, attempting to defend rent, interest, and profit as equitable compensation for labor.

Social anarchists, in response, can point out that, in creating resources to be used as capital, producers often make use of other capital, created by other people. Proudhon’s idea of “collective force” can be easily expanded to the whole of the human race. If, in everything we do, we depend upon the help of others, then this raises a question of what we deserve as compensation for our own efforts, and of what those others, whom we depend upon, deserve in turn.

Both supporters and critics of “private property” seem, more or less, to argue that people “should” be able to reap the fruit of their labor, to keep what they create. Supporters argue that a “society” without “property” would reduce people to slaves. If I have no “property right” in what I create, then anyone can come along and take it for their own use, which reduces me to a slave, producing with little to show for it while others consume what I produced without producing anything themselves.

Critics argue precisely the reverse: those with property can consume what those who work for them produce without helping to produce themselves, all while the producers live with no property of their own. Even in a society that began with even distribution of ownership, but that also allowed for “usury”, a vicious circle would emerge that would lead to ever greater division of society into propertied and propertyless classes, (so the critics often argue.) Both supporters and critics regard their own preferred norms as necessary for people to live “freely,” while arguing that the opposite system takes away the freedom of those living within it, and allows others to take what they create, exploit them, and rule over them.

I think we can usefully distinguish between supporters and critics of “private property” by treating them as taking different positions regarding contracts, and regarding consent. Defenders of “private property” accept “usurious” agreements as legitimate, at least under certain conditions, while critics treat them as necessarily illegitimate, treating people as holding an inalienable right not to be exploited through usury, a right which they have no capacity to forfeit, even through explicit expression of consent. Thus, defenders of property argue that a person can gain title to resources through homesteading, creation from other resources they have a title to, and “voluntary” trade. Critics argue that every human being has an automatic claim to the resources they need to survive, a claim that only ends where the like claims of others begin.

Brainstorming Possible Common Ground:

I think the above explains the views of the different sides, at least well enough for a blog post. If I now attempted to ask the question, “Which side is correct?”, would anything come of it? Could we settle the question to the satisfaction of enough libertarians, (self-identified libertarians,) that enough of us could work together to actually create a community, or society, which we found far preferable to our present one?

I doubt this. In this essay, I treat the different sides as simply made up of people with different fundamental values, or “grounding norms.” It may be that all the different sides share “equity” as a value, loosely meaning that they all want people to “reap what they sow,” while disagreeing about just who specifically is responsible for “sowing” what, but I make no attempt to persuade either group that the other side has the “correct answer.” It will be enough if I can persuade different sides that the others may have reasonable answers, and that cooperation between people with these different views is possible, and desirable, at least on some projects.

It is easy to dismiss calls for such cooperation as disguised attempts to convert one side to the other. I ask that readers think hard before concluding that any coalition between “anti-property” and “pro-property” libertarians is undesirable.

Libertarians of any sort are a minority of the population, in pretty much every part of the globe. I doubt that, in my lifetime, we will become the majority. I don’t mind if we are unable to change the whole world; after all, a core part of libertarian philosophy is letting go of the desire to control others, to make them conform to one’s own values. But I would like to at least minimize the ability of others to control me; I’d like to live a relatively free life.

I believe I can only achieve this by working with others. Perhaps anarcho-communists would prefer the way the world is today to the way they think it would look under anarcho-capitalism. Perhaps ancaps would prefer today’s world to an anarcho-communist one.

But perhaps not. If there is any possibility that those who think of themselves as libertarians can, by cooperating, create communities that they would all rather live in when compared to the world we all live in today, I think it is a possibility worth pursuing. Bastiat and Proudhon, despite disagreeing about property and exploitation, and about the nature of true freedom, were still able to work as allies. If we want to live free, we need to do the same.

The present essay is an attempt to determine how to come up with strategies to facilitate such cooperation. In that vein, I present a list of ideas for the consideration of those reading:

1) While opponents of usury may have different grounding norms from those who accept it, the question of what sort of social conditions lead to a stratification of society into, more or less, propertied and propertyless classes is at least in part an empirical one. Assuming that the views of the different sides depend partially on their beliefs regarding this empirical question, investigating this question could potentially help us persuade one or the other side to sympathize more with their counterparts. Convincing “social anarchists” that a vicious cycle would be less likely to arise under “anarcho-capitalism” than under the present system could help slightly allay their fear of “anarcho-capitalists” successfully moving society towards their own preferences, while convincing “anarcho-capitalists” that the likelihood of a vicious cycle emerging in their system is greater than they may believe may, similarly, help draw them closer to “anarcho-socialism.”

2) How well worker ownership and management of the means of production, a network economy, or an “usurious” economy could achieve prosperity for participants is also, in part, an empirical question. Convincing either side that certain methods of organizing/coordinating behavior work better or worse than they believe, (by their own standards of “better or worse,”) could help to draw either side towards the other.

3) Even if the different sides hold fundamentally different values, their values may still, in some cases, lead them to advocate for similar things. For example, laws that require someone to obtain government permission before becoming a florist could be opposed by both “social anarchists”, (on the grounds that such laws restrict the freedom of some in order to enable others to exploit them,) and “anarcho-capitalists”, (on the grounds that such laws violate the non-aggression principle.) If a wide range of laws enforced by governments today are opposed by multiple groups, those groups could more successfully combat such laws by working together. Finding as many such cases as possible, where different sides could share specific goals, could help coalition builders.

4) Coming up with ways members of different groups could resolve disputes “after the revolution” could help persuade members of both sides to at least tolerate the existence of the other.

5) How far self-identified libertarians and anarchists require the aid of others to achieve their aims, and how compatible or incompatible are the values of different individuals, are also, to an extent, empirical questions. Convincing people of both the need and the possibility of cooperation across boundaries could help encourage people to cooperate, (however begrudgingly, warily, or reluctantly some may do so.)

6) Analyzing the values of different groups could open up ways to use the values of one group to defend the conclusions of another, (e.g. using the knowledge problem to criticize corporate bureaucracy, or using opposition towards hierarchy to criticize “democratic” institutions.) Even finding small overlaps in different value systems could be greatly worthwhile.

I leave the task of pursuing these lines of inquiry for another day. My present aim is merely to understand the values of the different sides, and to come up with ideas for how to proceed. If readers have any input on how well they think I have understood the ideas I try to summarize, I invite you to leave a comment to let me know your thoughts.

9 thoughts on “Hopes for a Coalition

  • Jacob> “The basic concern is not over individual ownership vs. joint ownership, as social anarchists condone individual ownership of resources used by the same individual, e.g. clothing, a home, tools, etc., and capitalists accept joint ownership when it is a result of voluntary association, or contractual agreement. Nor is the discussion about how to handle different kinds of resources, since whether a good is “capital” or not is a question of how the good is used by human beings, not a fixed or inherent attribute of the good itself.”

    Right. However, I disagree with your next statement, about what you think the real issue is.

    Jacob> “Rather, the concern is over a division between those who hold title to resources and those who produce.”

    This is wrong, due to its socialist framing. The disagreement between capitalists and socialists is about production itself, and who contributes to the production process. To socialists, only laborers are productive, but to capitalists there are four factors of production: land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship. If Mr. Capitalist provides tools and machines and a place to work, then he is contributing to production. So is Mr. Entrepreneur, the guy who thought of the productive idea and arranged for it to happen. The socialist’s flat-earth labor theory of value makes them blind to 3 out of 4 factors of production.

    There is another way to characterize what socialists call private property: multi-user capital goods. The socialist property scheme “outlaws” most sets of people from owning capital goods. With capitalist sticky property, *any* set of people may own capital goods (whether multi-user or not.) Under socialism, one a single type of set of people may own multi-user capital goods – the “holy blessed” collective that is allowed to own capital goods is: current workers.

    • Hogeye> There is another way to characterize what socialists call private property: multi-user capital goods. The socialist property scheme “outlaws” most sets of people from owning capital goods. With capitalist sticky property, *any* set of people may own capital goods (whether multi-user or not.) Under socialism, one a single type of set of people may own multi-user capital goods – the “holy blessed” collective that is allowed to own capital goods is: current workers.

      This sounds about right, I think.

      Hogeye> The disagreement between capitalists and socialists is about production itself, and who contributes to the production process. To socialists, only laborers are productive, but to capitalists there are four factors of production: land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship. If Mr. Capitalist provides tools and machines and a place to work, then he is contributing to production. So is Mr. Entrepreneur, the guy who thought of the productive idea and arranged for it to happen. The socialist’s flat-earth labor theory of value makes them blind to 3 out of 4 factors of production.

      I think that, here, you take “sticky property” for granted. Part of the idea of property, I believe, is conflating people with the objects they are taken to “own.” Roderick Long makes this analogy explicitly in his critique of Kevin Carson regarding ownership of land:

      Roderick Long> “The essence of human personality is not the mass of material which composes our bodies — a bundle of stuff that in any case changes over time like Heracleitus’ river, through accretion of new particles and discharge of old ones — but our activities and projects; indeed a human being’s body itself is simply one of its owner’s ongoing projects. By transforming external objects so as to incorporate them into my ongoing projects, I make them an extension of myself, in a manner analogous to the way that food becomes part of my body through digestion. What we transform in this way becomes so related to us that no one can subject it to her purposes without thereby subjecting us to her purposes and so violating our right of self-ownership; we make something into our property by causing it to have the same relation to ourselves that the matter composing our bodies has to ourselves.”

      In other words, Long takes a person’s property to be a part of them, to be them, in the same sense as the person’s physical body.

      You, (Hogeye,) rely on the same basic idea. You list “capital” and “land” as factors of production, but conflate the capital goods themselves, e.g. the machinery in a factory, the soil, the ore in a mine, etc., with the human being you take to “own” these goods, as if the capital goods and the capitalist are one and the same. You talk about “Mr. Capitalist,” the person, contributing to production, when what you’re describing as necessary for the production process are the material objects you take “Mr. Capitalist” to be an owner of, not “Mr. Capitalist” himself.

      Once these material objects have been created, e.g. once a factory has been built, all anyone must do to use the machinery to produce is to start it up and run it. The only sense, strictly speaking, in which “Mr. Capitalist” must contribute to this process is in refraining from physically dragging the people running the machines out of the factory. It is certainly true that “Mr. Capitalist” may contribute in other ways, e.g. they may have helped to create the machinery in the first place, they may help run, repair, or improve the machinery, they may help procure resources to run through the machinery to create new goods, they may help manage the production process, and they have have helped to come up with the idea of creating and running the factory. But social anarchists, I think, would generally concede that all of these things count, in some sense, as “work,” or “labor,” and so I expect them to concede that, if equity is a goal, the people performing these actions deserve compensation for their productive work.

      It is, specifically, the act of refraining from physically forcing people out of the factory, or physically preventing them from entering it in the first place, which social anarchists treat as not a legitimate contribution to the production process, as analogous to running a toll gate on a road.

      You, (Hogeye,) disagree, I believe, because you see “Mr. Capitalist” as the owner of the factory, and so you take his refraining from excluding people from using the factory, through physical violence or the threat thereof, as onerous, “laborious,” in a way that any non-owner refraining from the same action is not “laborious” for the non-owner. Employing the body analogy again, one might argue that, if a person allows another to make use of their own physical body, this is “laborious” for the person whose physical body it is in a way in which is it not “laborious” for any other person.

      I think your defense of the idea that “Mr. Capitalist” contributes to production by “providing” capital goods is based, implicitly, on this same idea. When you say “Mr. Capitalist” “contributes to the production process” when he “provides tools and machines and a place to work,” what you call “providing tools and machines and a place to work” is really just the same as his refraining from locking people out of the factory, from violently preventing them from using the resources if they try to do so, because this is what social anarchists object to.

      I believe this is the locus of disagreement. Supporters of property, such as yourself and Roderick Long, believe that it is possible for material objects like a factory to become a part of a person, connected to their ego, in a sense analogous to the person’s physical body, so that merely allowing others to use the resources counts as “work,” as “contributing to the production process.” “Socialists” believe that this is impossible, they hold that the factory is no more connected to “Mr. Capitalist” than it is to any other human being. Proudhon’s book What is Property? can be read as, basically, a series of arguments to the effect that nothing could ever create such a connection between human beings and any other material object besides their own physical body, though Proudhon focuses, in that book, on land in particular.

      I guess one could add a caveat to this argument. One might argue that socialists, if and when they treat a group of workers as collective owners of a resource, also hold the resource to be connected to the workers in this way. If so, I think this would weaken the socialists’ position, if such connections are possible in any sense, including the “soft” sense of Proudhon’s “possession,” then this raises questions about where, how, and why one draws the line between this and “capitalistic property.”

      My own view is that this connection is just a useful fiction. I like David D. Friedman’s description of property rights as “Schelling points.” I believe people can adopt a wide range of different property norms as guides for their own interaction, and that different sets of norms could help them coordinate their behavior so long as people in a community abided by the norms in question. The trick is to find a set of norms that community members will expect to benefit from, so that enough people will have an incentive to act in accordance with the norms that participants will be able to benefit from the application of the norm set.

      Based on this, I think that some sets of norms will be unstable, e.g. norms allowing for people to own others as slaves, and so I don’t expect a system implementing such norms to be nearly as beneficial to participants as others, because people would quickly stop abiding by the norms if they had the ability. I think both mutualist and lockean norms, or at least some versions of these, could work, as well as, perhaps, some version of communist norms involving control by small groups, but I don’t see any of these as inherently more correct or metaphysically real. They’re just different games for people to play. So long as one can find a community willing to play one’s preferred game, one can benefit from community involvement; which game one picks is up to each individual to figure out, based on their own values and how they think they can act in accordance with them.

  • I apologize, but I’m having a hard time identifying what the goal of the post is. You say four times that you want to persuade AnCap/AnCom to ‘work together’ — is that the goal of what you’re writing?

    If so, you never say what it is we’re going to ‘work together’ on. What did you have in mind?

    . . .

    You say your ‘present aim’ is ‘to come up with ideas for how to proceed’ but you don’t come up with any, as far as I can tell — unless you mean the numbered list near the end? (If not, what did you mean?) Also, what is it you’re trying to proceed to?

    . . .

    You say that in your post you ‘brainstorm some potential ways to try and persuade members of different sides to work together’. Are you referring to the numbered list towards the end as ‘potential ways to persuade the sides to work together’? (If not, what did you mean?)

    . . .

    You say the ‘present essay is an attempt to determine how to come up with strategies to facilitate… cooperation’. Are you referring to the numbered list towards the end as ‘strategies’ one could implement to ‘facilitate cooperation’? (If not, what did you mean?)

    If the numbered list is what you’re referencing, this is a strange list of ‘strategies’ if your goal is facilitating cooperation between the two groups in question.

    ‘Strategies’ #1, #2, #4, and #5 are saying (I think) that investigating answers to various empirical/theoretical questions will bring AnCom/Cap closer together and make them more willing to cooperate.

    Did I get that right?

    If so, well… I’m no ‘strategist’ but that seems like a weird way to bring the two sides closer together… If you’re trying to bring people together, the last thing you want to do is advocate for discussion of complicated intellectual questions. (The immediate back-and-forth between you and Hogeye is pretty good evidence of what I could have told you would have been the expected outcome, i.e., debate, not coming-togetherness.)

    How about we all go to a pub and get a pint? There’s a strategy that brings people together…

    . . .

    As for ‘Strategy’ #3, what do you have in mind? AnCaps aren’t big on voting or aggression (but then I repeat myself) — is that what you meant, or something else?

    . . .

    And try as I might, I’m just not understanding how #6 is a ‘strategy’ to facilitate cooperation? (As a suggestion of what to do with our time, it makes sense, as far as suggestions go.)

    . . .

    You say you want to talk about your direction for the site, but then it doesn’t look like you do. I’d be interested in hearing about your direction for the site?

    . . .

    You say you want to ‘help grow a libertarian community here in the Ozarks…’ Were you thinking along the lines of actually getting together for events/meetups, or are you thinking more of an online deal, or what did you have in mind in terms of community growing? I’d be interested in some real live events! Or getting that pint! (Or coffee, smoothie, juice, etc.)

    • Roth > “I apologize, but I’m having a hard time identifying what the goal of the post is. You say four times that you want to persuade AnCap/AnCom to ‘work together’ — is that the goal of what you’re writing?”

      Yes, that’s my goal, to find libertarians of all sorts, especially those living close by, and to get them to work together on activist projects, and to encourage dialogue between them. If it was hard for you to identify what the goal of the post was, the fault for that was my own.

      And yep, the numbered list at the end is my list of strategies for persuading people to work together.

      As for what sorts of projects could be worked on, my endgame would be to create organizations like those I described in one of our forum threads, and to grow such organizations to the point where members could safely engage in tax resistance and agorism, basically opting out of the mainstream, governed society as much as possible. I think of that as a long term goal, though, something that would require an enormous number of participants to really work, even though it’s a far more limited endgame than, say, successfully abolishing the U.S. government.

      In the meantime, having in person meetups is definitely something I’d like, as well as drawing more people to participate in the forum here, and publishing blog posts on current events and philosophy and so forth. I want to create a community that exists both online and in real life.

      In my defense, such as it is, it’s been a while since I’ve tried writing blog posts like this, and I do need to work on improving my writing abilities. (Writing this post was a part of attempting that.) In retrospect, splitting this post up into one discussing coalition building and another dedicated to explaining my understanding of social anarchism might have worked better. I combined the two discussions partially as an attempt to show both sides I understood them, and thus that I was worth listening to, but this could also weaken my appeal if the different sides think I’ve failed to understand their views.

      Still, the underlying theme of trying to persuade people to work together despite holding different values, rather than trying to persuade them to adopt new values, is one I expect to continue in my writing, because I believe I can not persuade people to change their underlying values. I believe I must take people as they come, and do my best to convince them to work with me despite differences.

      Perhaps, though, asking people to help with specific activist projects could be a good strategy in and of itself… And of course meeting up to chat is a good idea.

  • Got it! Thanks for the clarification.

    “…that’s my goal, to find libertarians of all sorts, especially those living close by, and to get them to work together on activist projects, and to encourage dialogue between them.”

    I’m totally on board! And I have not yet read your post on Transitional Institutions – I’ll check that out and chime in on that thread if I have anything to contribute.

    “…trying to persuade people to work together despite holding different values, rather than trying to persuade them to adopt new values, is one I expect to continue in my writing, because I believe I can not persuade people to change their underlying values.”

    Sounds great! While I think it’s ‘possible’ to persuade someone to change their ‘values’, I do think it’s nearly impossible (if not totally impossible) to get someone to change their values without a prior relationship of some kind. And the stronger the relationship, the better chance you have of persuasion. All that to say, even if changing someone’s values WAS your ultimate goal, this route is still (I think) the best one to take. A win-win setup, I’d say!

    “…asking people to help with specific activist projects could be a good strategy in and of itself… And of course meeting up to chat is a good idea.”

    While reading the post, that was kinda what was running through my mind the whole time: what do you want us to work together on? If it was to get legislation passed to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas, well, yeah, you’d have a hard time convincing an AnCap to ‘work together’ with you to get that to happen. But, to your bigger point: surely there are plenty of things AnCap/AnCom could work together on that would move the needle in the direction of a freer society, which should make both groups happier!

    We’d have to get soooooo much closer to a free/State-less society than what we have today before the AnCap/AnCom disputes would actually arise in real life (I imagine?). AnCap/AnCom could and should work together AT LEAST up to this point, right? (Then we can duke it out then if we must, although AnCaps don’t think we’ll have to!)

    “In the meantime, having in person meetups is definitely something I’d like, as well as drawing more people to participate in the forum here, and publishing blog posts on current events and philosophy and so forth. I want to create a community that exists both online and in real life.”

    Man, that sounds awesome! I have a few ideas that might line up with what you’re talking about.

    . . .

    How about a live debate society?

    Here’s what I had in mind:

    Make it fun, lighthearted, even rowdy and raucous. Hold it somewhere where participants/audience can get liquored up.

    Call it “The Ozark Drinkin’ Mugless Debates” – get it? Lincoln-Dougl…

    I actually floated this idea on Facebook a while back and here’s what I learned:

    I found a fantastic (and award winning) slam poet / open-mic host who is willing to moderate. He also has a Masters (or maybe a PhD, can’t remember) in philosophy, so I figure that’s a bonus. I also had the cigar bar in Fayetteville tentatively agree to host us (if y’all can handle the smoke), although I don’t think finding a different/better/all-ages venue would be a big obstacle.

    What I’m envisioning is a laid back version of an Oxford-style debate: at the outset of the debate, the crowd votes for which side of the debate they are on, then we have a slimmed-down debate format (affirmative/negative, cross-ex, rebut, close), maybe some Q&A. Then the crowd votes again, and who ever swayed the most voters is awarded the winner. (Could do some fun/cheap/cheesy prizes?)

    For your goals, what would bring AnCaps and AnComs together better than arguing with each other?? It’s like our favorite hobby, right..?

    It could also bring in a wider crowd (like the anarchism forum seemed to do) if the topic was something a little more broad, and/or topical.

    When I say ‘crowd’, I have no illusions: when I tried to get this going in the past, if we had gone forward with our first event, I think we would have had maybe 10 people there, debaters and all. And that was just a ‘general’ debate group – may not even get that many with a more specific, anarchist-focused group.

    But, the fact that not a lot of people would show up brings me to my next point:

    We can record the debate(s) and post the videos online. Maybe even take the audio and ramp up a podcast? We could post the text of the debates (or at least the first affirmative/negative) online and let people continue the debates long after the live events. Once we’ve exhausted a debate topic, I’d love to write/read a recap or ‘flow chart’ of the topic and all its arguments.

    In addition to physically bringing Ozark anarchists together, it plays perfectly into modern ‘content marketing’ strategies, i.e., produce one effort-filled item (the debate), then get a ton of mileage out of that one effort-filled item without much additional effort (posting video on YT and on the forum would be super easy, spinning up a podcast with the audio would be a little tough to get started but super easy after it’s rolling, using the debaters’ text for forum threads is super easy, using the results of all that as blog posts, etc.)

    I ran an open mic in Fayetteville for a little over 6 years, so I have some good experience with running a little dog and pony show like this, and maybe more importantly, getting people to show up to it over and over again. Also, from my experience with the open mic, I can tell you that if this ends up being at all similar to it, it TOTALLY builds a community – the ‘regulars’ at the open mic are all still friends today and even though a lot have moved out of the area, we still keep in touch online. I think the debate group could drive the same kind of community among those you’re trying to reach.

    As for frequency, I was thinking quarterly would give debaters time to prepare, and us/me time to promote it, while still being frequent enough to keep people from totally forgetting about it in between events.

    I would advocate for using the ‘lean startup’ approach to this: for example, the first event shouldn’t be heavily promoted and instead should be run like a ‘test’, sort of a ‘soft launch’. So maybe it’s just a handful of us, we meet up and go through the motions of the event, then dissect it afterwards to help us nail down how the first ‘real’ debate should go down. Basically, work out the bugs among friendly company before ‘launching’ it to outsiders…

    So, that’s my ‘big idea’ for bringing Ozark AnComs/AnCaps together (ideologically and physically), and how it could help further your goals for a coalition AND for your site.

    Let me know what you think, and if you’d be interested in trying to set up a ‘test’ debate and see how it goes?

    . . .

    Another idea, but much simpler: what about a monthly ‘meetup’ group where we just have a drink (or three) and talk anarchism? Those types of thing tend to fall apart if there isn’t some structure or goal to it, so I’d advocate for giving it a reason/purpose, but I’m super open to what that might be. Maybe just get something on the calendar, and discuss once we get there? Again, using the ‘lean method’ – meet once, see how it goes, then ‘iterate’ on what the meetup might look like long term… (I think if you put it across Facebook, MeetUp, and EventBrite, we’ll get a few people to show up that none of us know about…)

    . . .

    Last but not least is an idea we’re almost already doing: instead of a ‘book club’, what about an ‘essay club’? Basically, a little less commitment than reading a full book…

    We take an anarchist idea, find a great/classic/representative essay that argues from an AnCap perspective and one that argues from an AnCom perspective and we all read both.

    At that point, I’m pretty open minded as to what comes next, but I could see an in-person/online discussion emanating from the readings, i.e., those who can and want to meet up could meet to discuss/debate and then post the results on the forum for those who can’t or don’t want to meet up…

    . . .

    So, again, let me know what your thoughts are on any of the above?

    After we come to an agreement on a few details, I’d be happy to take another stab at setting up the Drinkin’ Mugless debates?

    As for a MeetUp, I’d love to do a week day at like 6:30ish somewhere, just let me know when/where!

    And for the ‘essay club’, I’m probably not the best to lead that charge but would certainly be willing to give it a go…

    . . .

    [Also, what happened to the text editor for commenting?? You didn’t like my block quotes, that’s what happened, isn’t it? Ha.. Have you looked at TinyMCE? We use it on a bunch of sites we build where I work – pretty versatile and easy-to-use for average Joes. Not sure if that’s an option with your current setup but thought I’d mention it!]

  • Jacob, you point out Marx’s view and Proudhon’s views of exploitation as a social phenomena pretty much independent of the State. You omitted Benjamin Tucker’s view, which is the view of many mutualists even today: Exploitation is an effect of the State, and free trade (getting rid of State imposed monopolies) will end exploitation. In other words, the way to end exploitation is to out-compete the exploiters. In free trade, the interest/profit rate tends toward zero. This is the position that makes mutualists more capitalist than socialist. They believe that free markets will cure exploitation, and want to do this by moral suasion rather than aggression (unlike most anarcho-socialists.)

    Jacob> “I think your defense of the idea that “Mr. Capitalist” contributes to production by “providing” capital goods is based, implicitly, on this same idea. When you say “Mr. Capitalist” “contributes to the production process” when he “provides tools and machines and a place to work,” what you call “providing tools and machines and a place to work” is really just the same as his refraining from locking people out of the factory…”

    No, I saying that the workers could not produce without the factory and machines. To get these, they have the possibility of getting these from someone who has them. You seem to be making the utopian socialist assumption that capital goods are like rocks – just there for the taking without scarcity. You assume the workers *already have* the capital goods. If so, if they got them legitimately, then they are taking the role of both capitalist and worker. It’s called a mutual.

    I do not buy the “property as a part of the person” argument. I do think that “mixing one’s labor” sufficiently with an unowned resource make it one’s property, but that is a justification for ownership, not an argument that it has become part of your body.

    Jacob> “I believe people can adopt a wide range of different property norms as guides for their own interaction, and that different sets of norms could help them coordinate their behavior so long as people in a community abided by the norms in question.”

    I agree. Thus, in a stateless society, the PDAs and arbitration firms will have to take into account whether a dispute is in a sticky property enclave, a mutualist enclave, or a commie enclave, and act/judge accordingly.

    I like Roth Bard’s idea about a monthly meetup. I also agree that we probably need to list some specific projects that ancaps and ansocs can work together on, if we really want to have a coalition.

  • I am agnostic about whether a coalition with libertarian socialists is a good idea. Abel Tomlinson came out for minimum productivity laws and government takeovers of capital. How could we possibly align with such a rabid statist? It makes one wonder what “libertarian” means for socialists. Anything short of Marxism?

    http://www.facebook.com/richard.s.drake/posts/10212736459867404?comment_id=10212762251952190&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R%22%7D

  • Hogeye> No, I saying that the workers could not produce without the factory and machines. To get these, they have the possibility of getting these from someone who has them. You seem to be making the utopian socialist assumption that capital goods are like rocks – just there for the taking without scarcity. You assume the workers *already have* the capital goods. If so, if they got them legitimately, then they are taking the role of both capitalist and worker. It’s called a mutual.

    Does sticky property handle scarcity better than communist or possession norms?

    Hogeye> Jacob, you point out Marx’s view and Proudhon’s views of exploitation as a social phenomena pretty much independent of the State. You omitted Benjamin Tucker’s view, which is the view of many mutualists even today: Exploitation is an effect of the State, and free trade (getting rid of State imposed monopolies) will end exploitation. In other words, the way to end exploitation is to out-compete the exploiters. In free trade, the interest/profit rate tends toward zero. This is the position that makes mutualists more capitalist than socialist. They believe that free markets will cure exploitation, and want to do this by moral suasion rather than aggression (unlike most anarcho-socialists.)

    This is the view of many c4ss style anarchists. I’m not sure how many people who identify as “mutualists” would go with this theory over Proudhon’s, but I agree that I could have written a better post had I not omitted it. There’s still disagreement about what an economy would look like without the State, but perhaps communist and capitalist anarchists could be persuaded to abolish the State first and then see what happens.

  • Jacob> “Does sticky property handle scarcity better than communist or possession norms?”

    Yes, definitely. Sticky property facilitates the division of labor and increases productivity, compared to those two. Beside incentives (for technological advance and predicting/satisfying demand), capitalism favors the accumulation of capital compared to the others. A communist workers collective cannot possibly buy a million dollar machine to create Augmented Reality glasses, for example. Anything that requires a lot of capital fails in a system that disallows equity investment. That’s why the ansoc and mutualist shops are mainly old tech book stores print shops and such – labor intensive but not capital intensive. Then again, new tech software development takes next to no capital, so its not all low tech.

    Jacob> “Perhaps communist and capitalist anarchists could be persuaded to abolish the State first and then see what happens.”

    Yes! Sometimes I think the people who do the most damage to anarchism are the sectarians – the one’s who claim ‘the other guys’ are not real anarchist, *must* have a State to support ‘their’ system, etc. I even have a meme about it: http://www.ozarkia.net/bill/anarchism/anarchismdef.html

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