Posts Tagged: Property


"Why does one have to choose between these two particular values? The sit-iners are not engaged in any aggressively violent actions, so they aren’t violating libertarian principle. As far as private property rights go, there isn’t any violent destruction of property involved. Social inclusion can be fought for through non-violent social activism. The practicality of which was shown by the Civil Rights Movement. In other words: these values are not mutually exclusive. They both serve as supports for genuine freedom."


An individualist anarchist analysis and defense of rights to public property — not property that belongs to government, but property that belongs to the public — you and me and our neighbors.

Libertarians often assume that a free society will be one in which all (or nearly all) property is private…. To most people, ‘public property’ means ‘government property.’ As an anarchist, I do not advocate government property of any sort. But this is not the only kind of public property. Throughout history, legal doctrine has recognized, alongside property owned by the the public as organized into a state and represented by government officials, an additional category of property owned by the unorganized public. This was property that the public at large was deemed to have a right of access to, but without any presumption that government would be involved in the matter at all. It is public property in this sense that I am defending….

It is true that private property provides a protected sphere of free decision-making – for the property’s owners. But what is the
position of those who are not property owners? A system of exclusively private property certainly does not guarantee them ‘a place to stand.’ Far from providing a sphere of independence, a society in which all property is private thus renders the propertyless completely dependent on those who own property…. It is true that users of public property face a somewhat greater risk from their fellow users than users of private property do. By the same token, however, public property allows more freedom. That is why the best option is a society that makes room for both public and private property. Those who place a high value on security, and are willing to put up with burdensome restrictions in order to get it, will be free to patronize private property, while those who seek self-expression, are averse to restrictions, and are willing to put up with more risk from others will likewise be free to patronize public property….

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A lost classic recovered from the pages of Liberty, this essay – never before collected in pamphlet form since its original serialization – is one of the most ambitious attempts to define the Individualist theory of property, and to provide both an Anarchistic defense of private property and market competition, and an attack on the regime of structural violence and legal privilege that sustains capitalism and subjugates the working class.

Modern industry and the accompanying economic conditions have arisen under the régime of status, — that is, under arbitrary conditions in which equal liberty had no place and law-made privileges held unbounded sway,—it is only to be expected that an equally arbitrary and unjust system of property should prevail. On one side a dependent industrial class of wage-workers and on the other a privileged class of wealth-monopolizers each becoming more and more distinct from the other as capitalism advances, has resulted in a grouping and consolidation of wealth which grows apace by attracting all property, no matter by whom produced, into the hands of the privileged, and hence property becomes a social power, an economic force destructive of rights, a fertile source of injustice, a means of enslaving the dispossessed. Under this system equal liberty cannot obtain… .

Can the millionaire capitalist, the labor-robbing idler who lives on interest, the rich thugs of today and their army of parasites, be taken as the outcome of private property? Surely not. They are the direct result of restrictions and privileges, of legal and governmental origin, — causes that render impossible the growth and diffusion of individual property among the mass of wealth-producers. Inequalities in possession exist not so much because of inequalities in the power of individuals to acquire wealth under free conditions, but because political, social, and economic arrangements have always tended to create artificial inequality, to foster and increase whatever natural inequality did exist … .

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From the Markets Not Capitalism audiobook read by C4SS fellow Stephanie Murphy.


From the Markets Not Capitalism audiobook read by C4SS fellow Stephanie Murphy.


Is Property Theft?

… Anarchy is not a system. It isn’t even an -ism, although anarchism is a word we sometimes use. It is an attitude of respect for other people, and a rejection of master-slave relationships (with no exception for government officials). What grows from an atmosphere of mutual respect is unpredictable, differs from place to place, and changes over time. I believe that private property has proven its value, but that it isn’t sustainable without a suspicion of all concentrations of wealth and power, even voluntary. As much as I think anarcho-communists are dead wrong about the need to abolish rent and wages, I think they are dead right about the need to be suspicious of all imbalances of authority and to openly condemn those who take advantage of such imbalances.


A Tale of Three Provisos

… Proudhon and Locke are both fascinating figures, and their writings on property reward serious and repeated attention, but they present radically different problems. Proudhon’s treatment of the subject sprawls across his complete works, while the heart of Locke’s treatment has an almost poetic compression. As a result, it has been easier to use Locke to talk about Proudhon than vice versa—but there certainly are places where, in properly dialectical fashion, the attempt to bring Proudhon into dialogue with Locke has raised interesting questions about the principles of more conventional property theory. …


Many market theorists take property titles as axiomatic and then develop coercive apparatuses to enforce them — justifying such coercion by appealing to notions like implicit consent and/or the justness of contracts that sell off part of one’s agency in the future. This rightfully bugs the crap out of many anarcho-communists. Left market theorists in turn tend to write off these apprehensions as a contention over differing ideal systems of property — ie differences over what constitutes abandonment and the general viability of collective property.

But this, as I’ve argued time and time again, is a profoundly limited understanding of the criticisms being lobbed against them. …

When anarcho-communists talk of societies without the concept of property they often mean a social system where decisions over how to use any specific object or resource are never limited to a discrete body of select individuals but are rather discussions open to anyone and everyone with a stake, desire or idea to contribute.

An adequate, non-simplist, mutualist theory of what is proper to individual human beings, seeking to do justice to the range of things we denominate by the word “property,” will have to account for the nearly unbridgeable separateness that we experience in consciousness, as well as the inextricable interconnection which is our material reality. It will have to, in essence, respond to Max Stirner and Pierre Leroux (or any number of other advocates of a roughly ecological universal circulus.) The “gift economy of property” proposal seeks to base a form of “self-ownership” on two generalized “gifts:”
  1. A conscious ceding of all that we might claim of our own in others; and
  2. An affirmation of the right to err in the process of learning to manage one’s own.

On this basis, “self-ownership” would actually be an elegantly appropriate phrase, highlighting the ways in which the notion brings together two aspects of property, the “I am…” and the “I own…,” without being able to simply merge them. And it would indeed be “property,” according to the definitions used by Proudhon, combining the elements of “use” and (socially limited) “abuse.” 

There might be ethical arguments for denying one another one or both of these “gifts,” but I suspect there are very few that would meet any very rigorous standard of mutuality.