Distinguished Capitalists

October 30, 2011

After initially disagreeing with me (by defending the idea that capitalism is fundamentally about “private ownership of the means of production” or POOTMOP), Stephan Kinsella conceded that for a system with “private ownership of the means of production” to count as capitalism, it must have certain features (emphasis mine):

If society adopted some kind of bizarre model with no firms, no division and specialization of labor, no significant accumulation of capital, I guess I would not call it capitalist.

Kinsella has now elaborated on that idea, fully embracing (along with Marx) the notion of “capitalistic patterns of ownership and control” as distinct from “a free market in land and the means of production,” including  “employers and employees and employment.” He sees the link as inevitable (as may, arguably, Marx and unlike me*) but at least we seem to agree that POOTMOP, by itself, is too vague to distinguish what capitalists mean by “capitalism” from what they don’t.

Glad that’s cleared up.

* I not only see it as not inevitable but unlibertarian and thus precluded conceptually by the term “free market.”

More Things, Horatio

April 22, 2010

I was asked by a few interested people to expand on my last post. There was also some discussion that took place on Facebook around Stephan Kinsella’s reply. At one point in that discussion, Stephan asked me a question that I think gets at the heart of the matter. I thought I would answer it here (with Stephan’s blessing) to kill two birds with one stone.

When we are careful to define capitalism in a non-crony, non-corporatist way, to refer to private ownership of the means of production — and you say you are STILL against it, how can this not be construed as unlibertarian? Please explain.

-Stephan Kinsella, in conversation on Facebook

The short answer is that it should be obvious from the fact that I call myself a “free market anti-capitalist” that I’m not against “private ownership of the means of production,” assuming it entails what I think it entails.  What I’m against are some of the things that you think it entails. But rather than this meaning that we have two different visions of capitalism, I’m assuming that you wouldn’t call my vision capitalism at all. Read the rest of this entry »

What some left-”libertarians” oppose is the economic order most standard libertarians favor and expect to accompany an advanced free society–whatever word you slap on it. Thus they go on about mutual aid, wildcat strikes, the workers, localism, self-sufficiency, they condemn the division of labor, mass production, factories, employment, firms, corporations, “hierarchy,” international trade, not to mention “distant” ownership, landlordism, “alienation,” industrialism, and the like. Their agenda is not required by libertarianism–most of it is not even compatible with it, I’d say, so is unlibertarian. But this is a debate we can have–it’s on substance. I think this is a large motivation for their hostility to the word “capitalism”–they mean capitalism like we do, and dislike it. I don’t mean crony capitalism–but actual libertarian-compatible laissez-faire capitalism. They want libertarians to stop saying capitalism because they want us to adopt their substantive unlibertarian, Marxian agenda. Yet they pretend it’s just for strategical or lexical concerns–which it’s not. This is yet another reason I think we should dig our heels in and not give in: they will then count it as a substantive victory for unlibertarian, leftist ideas.

-Stephan Kinsella, quoted by Juan Fernando Carpio

Stephan Kinsella is right about one thing: the reason I’m a free-market anti-capitalist is because I have substantive differences with him and other “standard libertarians.” To the extent that my friends on the libertarian-left are making linguistic and strategic arguments against the word ‘capitalism’ (and I’m not convinced that all of them are or that none of their arguments have a substantive element), I don’t have much of a dog in that fight.

But if Kinsella thinks this is a gotcha, a deep insight into our hidden agenda, then let me be clear: I mean capitalism like you do, and dislike it. As I said, there is no pretending it’s only “strategical or lexical” here.

Where I disagree with Kinsella is about who, exactly, is being “unlibertarian and Marxian.” Well, ‘Marxian’ is a bit unfair but capitalism and Marxism share in a fundamental myth that I reject, so in that sense, I’m further from Marxism than Stephan.

OK, that’s a cheap shot. But it is a debate we can and should have.  I’m not going to start it here because I’ve already talked about it elsewhere and I just wanted to use this space to make my position clear. In the meantime, calling all haters of “anarcho”-capitalism

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 »

They Only Come Out at Night

December 21, 2008

Late the other night, not long after publishing my first real post, I received a comment from the subject of my post, Stephan Kinsella, who continues his recent trend of support for the principles underlying labor self-management. Oddly, perhaps in an attempt at humor, he decided to disguise this support in a polemic tone. So in the spirit of things, I’ll play along. It’s always nice to engage with a fellow native son of Baton Rouge. And I don’t mind a little droll humor. You might even see me use some around here occasionally.

I’m not sure if it was the early hour or what, but he appeared to have not read my post very carefully since many of his responses were swinging at ghosts and a large majority of his “objections” actually serve to buttress my point. Read the rest of this entry »

Author’s note: I originally and mistakenly attributed some of Stephan Kinsella’s quotes to Peter Klein. I’ve made the necessary corrections. My apologies to Klein and Kinsella.

Anyone with even a tangential connection to the blogosphere of the libertarian left has probably caught wind of the shit-storm set off by Roderick T. Long’s Cato Unbound article, “Corporations versus the Market; or, Whip Conflation Now.”

If you have ever knocked over a hornet’s nest, kicked an anthill or tossed holy water on a coven of vampires, then you will not be surprised that the response has been fast, furious, scattered and heated. The battle lines were quickly drawn in blogs and forums. In this corner, the “Left”, concerned with the role that government plays in enabling big business privilege. And in this corner, the “Right”, who, while acknowledging the role of government in impeding the free market, don’t see any particular reason to oppose the structure of business-as-usual and additionally find it praiseworthy on many counts and the natural result of respect for property rights.

Kevin Carson has recently come to Long’s defense in what serves as a good summary of some of the back-and-forth. The first part of Carson’s analysis focuses on Peter Klein’s reaction to Long so this too is where I started my catch-up work on the debate. I did not get very deep into the comments, when I noticed something unexpected: Stephan Kinsella providing an excellent argument in support of a 100% labor-managed economy. Read the rest of this entry »

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