Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Origin of Property and State

The political left, including the anarcho-socialists, are very confused about the nature and origin of both property and the state as an institution. According to many left-wing anarchists, property is entirely a state created thing that wouldn't exist without it. While the standard socialist position is usually collective ownership of property, the anarcho-socialists may tend more towards the idea of abolition of all property, which is quite an absurd notion.

The individualist anarchists differ with the anarcho-socialists in that they aknowledge the fundamental principle of voluntary exchange of property and the application of labor to bring original ownership into being. However, many individualist anarchists tend to take a somewhat Georgist view on land ownership, and may also claim that profit and interest wouldn't exist without the state. This stems from a fundamental misunderstanding about economics. While the individualist anarchists were much more laizzes-faire than the collectivist and communist anarchists, they still lacked certain economic insights.

In a sense, the arguements of both the socialist anarchists and some individualist anarchists throw the statists a great big bone. That is, it provides the very framework for those who favor the state to turn around and claim that we need a state because without it, property ownership and all that it entails would not exist. Both the left-anarchists and statists are accepting the same flawed premise, namely, the idea that the state is where all property comes from sociologically and historically. The premise is economically and historically inaccurate.

While it is true that the state would not exist without property (which should be obvious, as the material resources that make it up constitute property), it is not true that property would not exist without the state. Any material resource or object that is in use by an individual is by definition property. To own something is by defacto to control it. Of course, this means that it is impossible to actually get rid of property altogether. At any given points in time, someone is quite likely in control of some sort of property.

You are your own property to begin with (self-ownership). Without self-ownership, it is impossible to act in the first place. Existance itself makes it so that inherently we live in a world made up of material. In order to live in the world, individual people are made up of this matter and must interact with matter that is external to them. Without using one's self-ownership to obtain property over things external to you, such as a home, and food, and clothing, you simply die. This is simply an evolutionary, economic and sociological fact.

Breaking this down more into the fundamentals: (1) first, you have the existance of the material world (2) secondly, you have the existance of individual human beings within this material world that possess conciousness and freedom of willpower (3) consequentially, you have self-control, and therefore "personal property" (4) consequentially, you have people exercising this self-control in conjunction with material resources that are external to them, from which derives "external property" (5) consequentially, you have people transforming this external property in a manner that increases output and persues new ends, and hence you have "capital" and "technology".

Property is the natural result of people applying their self-ownership to previously unused resources through labor and homesteading, people exchanging goods and services that they already have obtained ownership of, and people making improvements upon the methods of production in the process. Both labor and capital engage in the transformation of resources into something new. A "market" is nothing but the cumulative result of all of the production and exchange between individuals. A "market" of some sort is inevitable as a consequence of human action and the necessary requirements for survival itself. A world without property and with no "market" at all is a world without human beings.

Profit is not synonamous with theft, it is not the consequence of simply taking a chunk of a worker's labor. Profit is a consequence of time preferance. Profit is the result of a sucessful allocation of resources, in conjunction with supply and demand in an uncertain atmosphere. A voluntary employment contract is an agreement of exchange between an employer and employee. The employee gets paid a certain sum of money, in exchange for their production for a given period of time. The worker presumably would prefer recieving money in the present to keeping whatever it is that they produced (why would a worker in a factory that makes wood products want to keep all of the wood products they made? They are made to be sold, and the worker works for the money, not the wood products).

Profit does not come into play until long after this. The worker is paid long before the product may be sold, and the profit results from the proper appeasing of demand. A worker may be paid and the product they produce may never be sold, but the worker still gets to keep that money while the buisiness owner loses out by taking losses for not having enough sales. If a buisiness over-supplies or under-supplies something, they may take considerable losses. Profit is not a gaurantee for a buisiness. A buisiness cannot profit by simply jacking its prices up into the sky, for it would be diminishing the amount of possible buyers.

This being established, it is true that there is an alternate method of obtaining property that differs from this. This is the method of theft, extortion and fraud. Franz P. Oppenheimer expressed this by separating the means towards property and wealth into the economic means (production and exchange) and the political means (expropriation and coercive usury). The method of parasitism represents a violation of the property rights of the original producer (and yes, workers count as producers), homesteader or capitalist. It is important to note that the predatory means of obtaining property requires no real production or any improvement upon the methods of production. This is the method of both private crime and the state.

In order for states to form, property that was previously aquired voluntarily had to be expropriated. The state did not invent property, as property pre-exists the state. The state feeds on property for its survival, like a leech. A state may very well start out as the equivolent of a small private gang; it becomes a state when such a gang obtains a coercive territorial monopoly. States do not form because of the methods of the market (I.E. peaceful exchange and production), they form because of a disruption of the methods of the market. They require land theft, systematic extortion and syndicate-baiting.

Now it is true that states, once they have expropriated property, always dole them out to special interests. But this is not a condemnation of property itself, it's a condemnation of the state. It is the state that has corrupted and abused property. All that it doles out, wether it be to banking elites and rich buisinessmen or the poor, sick and elderly, is stolen property. A state redistributes property away from original ownership and towards either its own members or to special interest groups that it colludes with. Thus, the state also corrupts people within the marketplace by buying them out and presenting an unproductive means towards property that they would not possess without the state's help.

Since a state confiscates and redistributes property by its nature as an institution, the only "market" that could be said to remain is a crippled and abused one at best. On the other hand, since there is no realistic way to stop all people from producing and exchanging property, people find ways to chug the economy along in spite of the barriers that the state may put in their way. This is the only thing that keeps the human race alive: the degree to which people engage in the economic means to wealth despite the existance of the state. It is frankly quite amazing how the American economy continues to produce despite all of the destructive regulations and redistribution that the state imposes on it.

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