In the Mutualism group on Facebook, a user posted the following Proudhon quotation:

‎”Every possessor of lands, houses, furniture, machinery, tools, money, &c., who lends a thing for a price exceeding the cost of repairs (the repairs being charged to the lender, and representing products which he exchanges for other products), is guilty of swindling and extortion.” – Proudhon

The quotation was accompanied by a skeptical set of examples (following Proudhon’s list) meant to appeal to the reader’s intuition and, I presume, lead them to conclude that Proudhon was full of it and that there is nothing wrong with charging for the use of something you own. The upshot is that today’s mutualists, if they agree with Proudhon, are full of it too. Read the rest of this entry »

That’s Unpossible!

May 14, 2010

Gene Callahan confesses to a problem he sees for “ideological anarchism”:

But consider the institution of private property, which anarcho-capitalists [sic - only them?] often hold out as ‘peaceful’ and ‘voluntary,’ as opposed to the ‘violent’ and ‘coercive’ State. Well, it is true that private property is peaceful – just so long as everyone agrees to follow the same property rules, in other words, its peacefulness depends upon its voluntariness. But the latter is often absent. Many, many times, people fail to agree on just who owns what – and then private property turns violent and coercive. Let’s say you believe wild lands should be free for all to roam, while I believe I own some woods in which I employ my truffle pigs. If this difference of opinion cannot be resolved, and the issue is of some importance to each of us, one of us will wind up coercing the other to accept his point of view.

The State is either peaceful and voluntary or violent and coercive in just the same way and for just the same reasons. As long as everyone agrees to and follows the State’s rules, there is no need for violence and coercion. It is only when there are disputes over the rules, or an unwillingness to follow them, that violence ensues.

…government can exist without coercion in the exact same way and to the exact same extent that private property can exist without coercion: to the extent everyone voluntarily respects its rules.

But what if it is not possible to “voluntarily respect [the state's] rules” or for the state to “exist without coercion”? Read the rest of this entry »

Not Your Mama’s Anarchism

February 23, 2010

Gary Chartier, riffing on his riveting book, launches some potentially game-changing language over the bow of absolutist libertarianism.

Property-based anarchism without the NAP? It’s certainly not your mama’s anarchism. I think mutualists especially will find this intriguing because of the Golden Rule language but also because it does so using typically un-mutualist natural rights language. He doesn’t argue for the premises here but they do show off their ability to do some heavy lifting while remaining coherent, which is a type of evidence in itself; and, to steal a phrase from another natural lawyer, its seeming ability to “reconcile…sides of the Liberty debate is itself an extremely good reason for thinking it’s true.”

IP Freely

February 3, 2010

Geo-Mutualist Jock Coats has produced an audiobook version of Stephan Kinsella’s Against Intellectual Property.

Who Dat Say Who Dat?

January 29, 2010

Any unauthorized use of the Saints colors and other [marks] designed to create the illusion of an affiliation with the Saints is equally a violation of the Saints trademark rights because it allows a third party to ‘free ride’ by profiting from confusion of the team’s fans, who want to show support for the Saints.

NFL spokesman Dan Masonson

If ‘who dat’ is used in a manner to refer to Saints football, then the Saints own the rights.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy

The basic idea of trademark as it developed in the common law is that someone cannot use the mark of another if it is confusingly similar to the mark of that other party. Now as I noted in the linked pieces above, the primary right should be the right of the consumer, not the trademark holder, and it should be more explicitly anchored in the notion of fraud–but you can see that the idea of “confusingly similar” is more or less related to the idea of fraud: if the competitor’s mark is so similar that it will confuse the consumer, it’s arguable the competitor is defrauding the consumer. But this has nothing to do with “dilution.” It’s focused on misleading the consumer (note that a clearer focus on this, and making it clear that the consumer, not the trademark holder, is the plaintiff, would not prohibit knockoffs such as cheap Rolex watches or Louis Vuitton purses, since in these cases the consumer is not defrauded or misled at all).

Stephan Kinsella, author of Against Intellectual Property.

Because it is already so anchored, there is no need for anyone – the NFL or the fans – to claim ownership¹. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephan Kinsella:

Even if private property owners were not prohibited from inviting whomever they wish onto their own property, the guest would have a hard time getting there, or leaving, without using, say, the public roads. So merely prohibiting non-citizens from using public property would be one means of establishing de facto immigration restrictions. It need not literally prohibit private property owners from having illegal immigrants on their property. It need only prevent them from using the roads or ports – which it owns.

Note: the above quotation and link is not intended as a claim that Stephan ultimately supports state immigration laws or closed border (see comments) but to compare the argument he describes in light of other considerations.

Roderick Long (mp3):

Suppose that you homestead an area like this [draws square] and then I come along and homestead an area like this [draw a larger, concentric square]. You want to leave your property now. And I say, “Sorry. Unless you have a helicopter or something, you’re not leaving; or at least you’re not leaving unless you pay me a heck of a lot” or whatever. Is that legitimate? I would say no, I don’t have the right to interfere with your coming and going and so I have to allow you some form of getting onto and off of your land. In law, this is known as an easement.

It seems to me that if you hold the latter to be the right position then it would be difficult to hold the former position without some creative juggling. Read the rest of this entry »


April 27, 2009

Mark Helprin was on NPR yesterday reminding me that I am barbaric. His new book, Digital Barbarism: A Writer’s Manifesto, argues for an extension of current copyright protection.

Included with the link above (along with the audio of the broadcast) is an excerpt from the book. It is simultaneously frustrating and hilarious. Here is a selection (but be sure to read it all). Put down your drink because the following howler is likely to make you spit from your nose: Read the rest of this entry »

Annie Rent Your Gun

April 16, 2009

I have, in the past, referred to Theodore Burczak’s article “A Critique of Kirzner’s Finders-Keepers Defense of Profit” because of its mention of David Ellerman’s labor theory of property (not to be confused with the much-maligned labor theory of value). I recently read Kirzner’s response from the same journal issue (The Review of Austrian Economics, 15:1, 2002) and I would like to address his comments. The original article had two lines of criticism but here I’m only concerned with the first line that directly refers to Ellerman’s ideas, since this has been a popular topic on my blog. My goal is not to defend Ellerman here but to demonstrate that Kirzner doesn’t appear to understand the ultimate point of the theory he is rejecting. Read the rest of this entry »

My post “Vaguely Defined Property Rights Indeed” was, at its core and in its title, a response to Peter Klein’s involvement in the “conflation debate”. Klein pointed out that cooperatives (his all-purpose stand-in for labor-managed firms) “all suffer from serious incentive, information, and governance problems, almost none of which are mentioned in the anti-corporation libertarian literature.”

Klein was referring to his 2007 article “Vaguely Defined Property Rights” where he essentially argues, using Mike Cook as a primary source, against the LMF on consequentialist grounds. There is a danger that by engaging him on this level, I may be validating the importance of efficiency over what essentially is an issue of inalienable rights, the proper imputation of responsibility and property appropriation. During the Abolition movement, it would have been unnecessary to argue about the relative efficiency of slavery for example. That said, I will carry on nevertheless.

I had the good fortune to discuss these concerns with David Ellerman, whose ideas I referenced in the previous post. Therefore, I will present here a fictional conversation in five acts between Peter (in the form of his article) and David (in excerpts from my conversation with him). Hat tip to David for allowing me publish this private correspondence and providing my readers with rare and valuable insight. Read the rest of this entry »

When you ask most capitalists what a capitalist system is, they will usually say a system of free markets and private property.

I confess to being perplexed by this. I’m certainly no expert in philology but it seems a very strange choice of root word for such a definition. It is important, I think, to remind ourselves of the real economic meaning of capital. Read the rest of this entry »


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