Protecting Community Rights over Traditional Knowledge.

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Although the funders of the International Institute for Environment and Development clearly are of the higher echelons of the established society they promote community rights over, essentially, intellectual property rights (a distracting debate around traditional knowledge being protected by private property rights based systems – obviously utter nonsense) in order to “protect” indigenous ways of being and living; which is a good thing – since there are other ways to live than the liberal-conservative order of things.

This page gives a good introduction that concludes:

We are therefore focusing our research and policy work on the concept of ‘Collective Bio-Cultural Heritage’. This concept, initially developed by ANDES, Peru, recognises the interlinked nature of traditional knowledge, biodiversity, landscapes, culture and customary laws.”

Private property rights cannot save communities – community rights (with added self-determination and autonomy) can (hopefully) save communities, it can’t be that difficult to see, init?!?

Parque de la Papa

 

The foto shows a gathering above 4000m for a ritual (Febr. 07) to solidify the bonds between the communities in the Parque de la Papa, Pisaq, Cusco, Peru – an amazing place and project where theory and practive of public policy making, autonomy and self-legislation come together. They have 1016 species of potatoes growing there!

7 thoughts on “Protecting Community Rights over Traditional Knowledge.

    antisocialist said:
    Friday, September 21, 2007 at 15:33 (689)

    Greetings and salutations,

    Your statement above — “Private property cannot save communities” — deserves some special mention, if for no other reason than that it implies a hell of a lot, which most people don’t see until it’s too late. It also implies an entire political system that history has resoundingly discredited: collectivism.

    It is no coincidence that in The Communist Manifesto the first thing Marx and Engels say must be “abolished” is private property.

    But what is property?

    Technically speaking, “property is the right of use and disposal.”

    Also technically speaking, there is no such thing as “community rights”: a community, a group, a country, a collective — these are only aggregates of individuals. It is for this reason that the individual is the only proper standard of measurement for rights. To place so-called “collective rights” or “community rights” above the rights of the individual is to subordinate some individuals to the collective. This is also called coercive rule — i.e. slavery.

    Each human being is individuated and sovereign.

    Each human being, therefore, is rightful owner of self.

    To say that each human being has the right to his or her own life but not to his or her own property is worse than a perverion of the term rights: it’s a negation of the very principle. In order to live, humans require property. Property is the right of use and disposal. To deny private property is tantamount to saying “You have the right to your own person, but not to the things necessary to sustain that person.”

    In the final analysis, the things that I own and the things that I, through my own effort produce, do not by right belond to you or anyone else. What I own is rightfully mine, and what you own is rightfully yours. Anything less means that someone — perhaps you — can, with impunity, steal.

    As Nobel Prize winner Ludwig von Mises wrote:

    What is “property” and how does property come into existence?

    “(P)rivate property…can be traced back to a point where somebody either appropriated ownerless goods or land or violently expropriated a predecessor whose title had been based on appropriation. To law and legality no other origin can be ascribed. It would be contradictory or nonsensical to assume a ‘legitimate’ beginning. The factual state of affairs became a legitimate one by its acknowledgment by other people. Lawfulness consists in the general acceptance of the rule that no further arbitrary appropriations or violent expropriations shall be tolerated. For the sake of peace, security, and progress, it is agreed that in the future every change of property shall be the outcome of voluntary exchange by the parties directly concerned.

    This, of course, involves the recognition of the appropriations and expropriations effected in the past. It means a declaration that the present state of distribution, although arbitrarily established, must be respected as a legal one. There is no alternative. To attempt to establish a fair order through the expropriation of all owners and an entirely new distribution would have resulted in endless wars.

    Within the framework of a market society the fact that legal formalism can trace back every title either to arbitrary appropriation or to violent expropriation has lost its significance. Ownership in the market society is no longer linked up with the remote origin of private property. Those events in a far-distant past, hidden in the darkness of primitive mankind’s history, are no longer of any concern for present life
    (Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government).

    The antisocialist simply wants you to know that you may not rightfully take from anyone what is not rightfully yours. No one may. That’s called plunder. For a more comprehensive discussion of this issue, please see the short article linked below, written by political philospher George Reisman: http://www.capitalism.net/articles/Environmentalism%20Refuted.htm

    Thank you very much for your time.

    colono responded:
    Saturday, September 22, 2007 at 08:57 (414)

    Helplessly misguided!

    antisocialist said:
    Saturday, September 22, 2007 at 19:07 (838)

    Me or you?

    Helplessly or hopelessly?

    Because my life is my own, and therefore so is my property?

    Because your life, and therefore your property belong to you by right?

    Or because my life and my property belong to you and others by compulsion?

    colono responded:
    Sunday, September 23, 2007 at 05:00 (250)

    Your life is not your own – it is a consequence of the symbiosis, unless you’re a robot, of an egg, given by a woman, and a fertilising sperm cell, given by a man.

    You could not have survived without others – to clean, feed and generally take care of you. You cannot breathe without the breath of th trees, you cannot feed without plants and animals, which, by extension, cannot live without a healthy environment. All human are embedded in a much wider system than their own little body.

    You cannot have language without others – and even if, you could not use it unless there were someone to listen to it. Humans are clearly social animals – even David Hume, the Godfather of the “circumstances of justice”, one of the corner stones in private property thinking and conservative political thought, built his arguments on that presupposition.

    The anti-socialist says: “It also implies an entire political system that history has resoundingly discredited: collectivism.”

    Discredited is a well chosen term: never been anything else than “discredited”, that is put down with the power of the gun and the smear of Murdoch et al. and other vultures who came before. From the very hot Cold War in Africa, even Italy, to numerous incidents in Latin America “resoundingly discredited” means: violently destroyed by a small class of politically powerful people with military-industrial interests at “heart”.

    I feel sorry for simple minded people who “thinks” that private property in itself is enough to structure a society and to build communities. Of course, if you do not believe in society or community, then you can make do with a bloody survival of the fittest scenario of savages. That is where we’re heading – just look at Washington crack houses or malformed Iraqi children.

    The simplicity of your argumentation: “if my life does not belong to me, it belongs to you and others by compulsion”, just goes to show that little thinking is done – it is plain rhetoric. What makes you think that it is either/or? That sort of “thinking” is a result of the Cold War strategy of each side presenting themselves as the only alternative – in that sense capitalists and soviets were in cahoots to destroy all other alternatives, such as anarchism – and they worked well together to destroy people organising under that banner during the Spanish Revolution.

    However, for people with a sense of community – who like their fellow human beings and who know that the particular conception of private property rights that we live under is far from enough to socially organise common ground – there is a bit more to life than being a self-interested rational agent. By all means, go and live with your self-interested rational agent competitive friends on some island somewhere and be uncooperative with one another – but stop destroying projects to create and build communities on mutual aid. Leave us alone.

    To believe in private property as the sole means with which to organise the world is an evolutionary dead end – the result of a dulled imagination.

    However, this is not to say that private property has no place in a society – but it is a limited place and makes no sense without common ground in which to exercise the individuality afforded by private property. If there is no collectivity to circumscribe the individual, there can be no individual – individual from what?

    It is useful, also, to note that *if* private property is essential – then it must be essential for everyone, unless we want to have a division of the species – the have and the have-nots – and that is, in essence, an anti-capitalist argument, for there is no shortage of accounts showing that the capitalist system relies upon the poor and marginalised – those with no private property – to stand reserve for (aspire to, even) the labour force.

    In other words, when discussing private property rights with an open mind you realise that (a) it is far from enough in itself, and (b) if it is essential, then all should have it; but that is impossible within a capitalist system that relies upon some not having it.

    So the logical extension of one trajectory private property argumentation is really anti-capitalist.

    colono responded:
    Sunday, September 23, 2007 at 11:17 (512)

    The Anti-Socialist writes:

    “But what is property? – Technically speaking, “property is the right of use and disposal.””

    But that is incorrect. What the Anti-Socialist is describing is a particular form of property (rights), namely “private property rights” to use and dispose of a given thing. A typical, often committed error that denies the entire history of modern, analytical jurisprudence, from Hobbes to Marx and Rawls.

    However, it is a narrow definition even of private property.

    Honoré (1961; pp. 113-128) carefully develops a “full” liberal concept of ownership into eleven necessary conditions: the owner of an object X has: (i) the right to possess X; (ii) the right to use X; (iii) the right to manage X – to determine who can use X and how it is to be is used; (iv) the right to the income, to the benefits of allowing others to use X; (v) the right to the capital value of X – the right to alienate X through sale in the market; (vi) the right to security (from other individuals), to immunity from the appropriation of X (by the state); (vii) the power of transmissibility; (viii) the lack of a term on the possession of these rights; (ix) a duty not to use X in ways liable to cause harm; (x) the liability to execution – losing X for repayment of a debt; and (xi) the rights for the return of rights to the holder when the rights of others in X have lapsed.

    Honoré’s introduction concludes with a remark that serves to indicate that he wishes to redress the balance in the liberal discussion of ownership. There is within the liberal ideas and concepts of property relations a variety of positions. One distinction is whether or not to include limitations. The cardinal points upon which the common liberal conception rests is three-fold: (i) the right to exclude (you cannot have it, it is mine); (ii) the power of alienation (agency in the market place) and (iii) immunity from expropriation (the state cannot take what one owns, although this, of course happens “when need be” by way of “appropriate measures”). On this perspective, there are no limitations on the owner, only limitations on the external world: the state and other individuals cannot take what is his or hers. We can call this a narrow conception of private property. Honoré wanted to present a “full” version of private ownership, which is to say a broader conception of private property that includes limitation from the perspective of the individual. He wrote (p. 113):

    “The present analysis, by emphasising that the owner is subject to characteristic prohibitions and limitations, is an attempt to redress the balance.”

    Thus Honoré attempts to reopen the debate for the social and communal reality of property relations, reflected in the original ideas and discussions, in which we can find a history of richness, ambiguities and tensions. These complexities have tended to get lost, and today a narrow conception of property prevails and with it a narrow understanding of and by the individual of what property relations are about.

    This misunderstanding of property – its limitation to a specific instance – makes the anti-socialist’s statements difficult to deal with – or even take very serious.

    Property, technically speaking, is property *relations* and can be configured in many ways – in Roman Law there were, for instance, five categories of *common* property alone – and private property rights as we know them today is but one aspect.

    The purpose of common property is to structure the social sphere – or society, or community – in such a way that there are realms for the individuals to frolick in.

    Many tribal communities have entirely different ways of organising how they live with each other – as did Europe before the capitalist classes violently imposed the “only true way”, as they seem to think of it. One needs only to read E.P Thompson’s “Customs in Common” or “The making of the English working class” to get a sense that depressing historical violence.

    Property relations, more correctly speaking, are social relations between people with regards to thing (whether tangible or intangible). Only the imagination – or the rich and powerful holding unto everything for themselves – set a limit to how they can be configured.

    antisocialist said:
    Sunday, September 23, 2007 at 18:16 (802)

    Hello colono,

    Thank you for your remarx. I will, if you’ll permit, respond once more — mostly for clarity sake.

    colono wrote: > Your life is not your own

    That actually says it all right there in the beginning. Your naked honesty is, at the very least, appreciated. But if my life is not my own, who, then, does it properly belong to? And who implements these rules? Who says? If, to any extent, my life belongs to the collective or the community or the gang, who determines the specific amounts of which parts of my life is to be apportioned out to this collective? How is it determined and decided? More to the point — and this will no doubt strike you as simplistic thinking, yet if I’m to give away my freedom to “the community” I’m afraid I must have an answer — what if someone does not want any of her life to belong to this nebulous “community”? Then what? Is she to be forced?

    colono wrote: > You could not have survived without others – to clean, feed and generally take care of you… All human [sic] are embedded in a much wider system than their own little body.

    Are you saying, then, that since life, which science and philosophy both define as “self-sustaining, self-generating action,” since it is not an entirely automatic process but rather requires effort, the term “individuation” is illusory? And so the interconnectedness of all matter, as well as the fact that as babies we are not born fully equipt for the job of survival, means that as adults we are not individuated and sovereign? Obviously, according to your reasoning here, that means that the mind is not, after all, an attribute of the individual; it means that each of our individual brains, which you don’t believe we have, are not individual but are, rather, a part of a collective brain. Yes? No? I’m afraid we must then ask you to show us where this “collective brain” resides. In what or whom? There’s also, of course, the question of our differences of thought. For example, it certainly seems to me that I’m using my own brain right now, that I’m guiding my own thoughts, weighing theories, accepting some, discarding others, all based upon data; but you tell me that in fact I’m not: this is merely an illusion. I am not using my own brain, for such a thing does not exist, we are all part of The Collective. But how is it that two people, such as you and I, since we are a part of the same collective brain, which exists somewhere, how is it that we can have such different thoughts? Also, since there’s no such thing as individual thought, were can I (but there is no “I”) where can we actually observe this collective brain and this collective thought? We’re asking sincerely. I — we — have always held that we think and act individually.

    colono wrote: > You cannot have language without others – and even if, [sic] you could not use it unless there were someone to listen to it.

    Strictly speaking, that’s untrue. Even that wildly famous linguistic scholar, whom you almost certainly admire for his politics, put it this way: “It’s been said that the primary purpose of language is to communicate. But this is not true. The primary purpose of language is to establish order in the conceptual mind: before one can communicate, one must first have something to communicate.” But the process of learning that language must ultimately be performed by the individual. No? Yes?

    colono wrote: > Humans are clearly social animals – even David Hume, the Godfather of the “circumstances of justice”, one of the corner stones [sic] in private property thinking and conservative political thought, built his arguments on that presupposition.

    Actually, David Hume is more the father of modern skepticism, and for this reason is cited by the left far more than he’s cited by the right. Many would argue, and I am among them, that Hobbes, Locke, Smith, Spencer, even the French physiocrats — they are all far more important to the concpetion of individual rights, and therefore private property, than David Hume. Even so, Hume, et al, referred to humans specifically as “the contractual animal” — meaning: we deal with one another by agreement.

    colono wrote: > Discredited is a well chosen [sic] term

    Thank you. Here is a link which will show you more precisely the way in which collectivism has been discredited, to the tune of over one hundred million (and counting) dead, all because, as you say, our lives properly belong to others. I — or, rather, we — encourage that everyone look through this link and try to learn from it; it is very important — if, that is, you care about each and every single human life as I — or, rather, we — do: http://www.muzeumkomunismu.cz/

    colono wrote: > I feel sorry for simple minded [sic] people

    Presumably you’re refering to us. But you need not pity us, my friend. Honestly. It is, however, always a sure sign that the discussion is going straight to hell when the ad hominems begin flying. Here’s a little more:

    colono wrote: > simple minded people who “thinks” [sic] that private property in itself is enough to structure a society and to build communities

    Well, let’s look at history. When, in your opinion, has humankind flourished most? Egypt under slave labor? The Chinese Dynasties with their long and undistinguished history of autocratic rule? The Mayans and their routine, commonplace sacrifice of individual life? Ancient Greece when individual rights were finally, at least to some extent, glimpsed? The Romans, which in the beginning also (partially) recognized the rights of each? The Dark Ages when humans were enslaved to the masses? The Middle Ages (same)? The Rennaisance, when the individual was again brought to the forefront? The Scottish Enlightenment when individual rights were first formally codified? The Enlightenment when rights came into their own? When? We’re asking in all sincerity.

    colono wrote: > Of course, if you do not believe in society or community

    “Communities, by definition, are composed of individuals. There is no community, no group, no collective, no society apart from the individual members. To say, therefore, that ‘the community’ has rights but not the individuals who make up that community is identical to saying that some individuals have rightful ownership over others. This is also called slavery” (Ulpian). Individuation, colono, which you reject, means that every single person is a sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a reasoning, conceptual being. “The right to life is the source of all rights — and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since humans must sustain their lives ultimately by an independent act of will — for no man can think for another, just as no man can breath for another, or digest another’s food — the person who has no right to the product of his effort (i.e property) has not the right to the means necessary to sustain his life. The human who produces while others — the community, the collective, the proletariat, the superior race, et cetera — dispose of the things he produces is called a slave…. Bear in mind that the right to private property is a right to action, like all others; it is not fundamentally the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a person will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values” (Man’s Rights, VOS p. 125).

    colono wrote: > you can make do with a bloody survival of the fittest scenario of savages. That is where we’re heading – just look at Washington crack houses or malformed Iraqi children.

    You certainly make a hell of a leap; still, the inalienable right to life, which we all possess, even if you don’t recognize it, is not dog-eat-dog, as you suggest. The fact that you assume it does mean this tells us how little you understand the concept of rights. How do you yourself define “rights”? You needn’t tell us, just in your own mind. Rights are moral-political principles which define and sanction freedom of action in a societal context. The right to your own life, which you say none of us possess, means that you are absolutely free to purue your own values so long as you do not infringe upon the (equal) rights of others in so doing. It is in this sense that rights are compossible. If you’re ever in doubt, there is a foolproof method for determining rights: you rights stop where another’s begin. Of course if you don’t believe that there is any such thing as personal sovereignty and individuation, that, indeed, these are only a false terms, as you’ve said, without any referent in reality, you will reject the above method. But you must then show us how this great illusion of individuation comes about, and more important, you must show us — actualy show us — where our collective brain, which thinks for all of us since there is no individual to do it, where it resides. You must also explain how we all, none of whom think for ourselves, have different thoughts, then.

    colono wrote: > The simplicity of your argumentation

    The raven chides his own blackness.

    colono wrote: > What makes you think that it is either/or?

    The law of identity is what makes us think it. A is A. Therefore, a thing is itself and cannot act in contradiction to it’s nature. If it’s not private property, it must, perforce, be public property. Public property necessarily requires some sort of enforcement, so that it doesn’t become private. That enforcement is what is dangerous, as The Little Black Book of Communism shows. (If, by the way, any of you haven’t glanced through that sickening black book, which is a compendiation of what happens when the concept of the individual is abandoned, please check it out.)

    colono wrote: > That sort of “thinking” [sic] is a result of the Cold War strategy of each side presenting themselves as the only alternative – in that sense capitalists and soviets were in cahoots to destroy all other alternatives, such as anarchism and they worked well together to destroy people organising under that banner during the Spanish Revolution.

    This strikes us as coming dangerously close to conspiracy-style thinking, but okay. You will certainly, of course, have to provide us all with a hell of a lot more data than you actually do (i.e. none), but, apart from that, is the Spanish Revolution, on either side of it, really your idea of peaceful coexistence? Well, okay. But, really, to begin with, the United States has not been a capitalistic society for well over a hundred years, if it ever was (it came close in the early days, but statism took hold almost immediately). The United States is utterly protectionist and mercantilistic today, an embarrassing mixed bag economy. If you want to see a closer version of actual capitalism at work, look to Hong Kong fifteen or twenty years ago. Capitalism is nothing more or less than freedom of the individual applied to economics; as Adam Smith said “Humans have a natural predilection to truck, exchange, and barter.” Or as Murray Rothbard explained: “Free-market capitalism is a network of free and voluntary exchanges in which producers work, produce, and exchange their products for the products of other through prices voluntarily arrived at.,,, Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which humans may trade freely” (Capitalism versus Statism, 1972). The United States has come a long, long way from that, my friend, and I’m afraid your conspiracy-style thinking does not hold a lot of water for us. It does, however, indicate other things about you, as does your disparaging style of “argumentation” (if we may borrow from your conspicuous [over]use of quotation marks).

    colono wrote: > for people with a sense of community

    If by “community” you mean a free society in which we are each allowed to exchange freely and voluntarily, and in which it is not lawful to infringe upon the rights of another, including, obviously, the expropriation of property, then I — we, rather — do have a sense of community: because a community is only a group of individuals.

    colono wrote: > that particular conception of private property rights that we live under is far from enough to socially organise [sic] common ground

    Your data is woefully lacking, but I’ll — we’ll — tell you what: you sign that, have it notarized, and then we’ll take it under consideration.

    colono wrote: > By all means, go and live with your self-interested rational agent competitive friends on some island somewhere and be uncooperative with one another – but stop destroying projects to create and build communities on mutual aid. Leave us alone.

    Thank you for your sanction and your permission, which sanction and permission, since our lives are not, as you say, our own but rightfully belong to you and others, we do, in fact, need. Our friends, however, are not so much “competitive and uncooperative” as you say, as they are desirous of not being forced; of, rather, being allowed to trade and exchange voluntarily, which requires not only self-interest but cooperation. But if you’ll permit, rather than live on “some island,” we would much rather live in the constitutional republic that initially codified and guaranteed our natural right to life, liberty, and property. The fact that you wish us to move to an island is also exceptionally indicative, and it illustrates one of the many ways that even (so-called) anarchism is repressive; for if one doesn’t accept the tenets, one is persona non grata. This is yet another reason to reject it in favor of inalienable, absolute, and constitutionally protected individual rights, where everyone’s rights stop where another’s begin. In fact, in this sort of society, which the antisocialist advocates, you are totally free to live in whatever manner you wish, whatever group, whatever collective, commune, whatever, as long as you do not force others to live the way you yourself choose. That is the beauty of individual rights: they are, by definition, compossible, non-contradictory. The only obligation they impose upon others is of a negative kind: specifically, to abstain from violating the rights of others. Indeed, that is why the term “individual rights” is also sometimes called “negative rights,” or “natural rights.” Because by nature we each possess the right to our own life, and, by extension, our own property. So you’re at home in my — our — society; you’re free. But you must also, in turn, respect our equal freedom. Can you?

    colono wrote: > Leave us alone.

    Okay. In the sort of society I — we — espouse, you will, as stated above, be left alone. In fact, it will be constitutionally guaranteed. But, again, you must also agree to do the same for us.

    colono wrote: To believe in private property as the sole means with which to organise the world is an evolutionary dead end – the result of a dulled imagination.

    There’s more of that charming ad hominem, which is frankly beginning to look more and more like a mannerism. So you’re saying that private property is an “evolutionary dead-end”; public property, however, is not. Interesting. Who, then, determines who gets to take what from whom? And how is it implemented practically? And how are we protected from arbitrary seizures and arbitrary infringements of person? And how is this protection guaranteed? These are not just theoretical questions. The answers are paramount and critical.

    colono wrote: > However, this is not to say that private property has no place in a society

    Well, don’t back pedal now, after all that dithyramb. But private property as determined by whom, since our lives, as you say, are not our own?

    colono wrote: > If there is no collectivity to circumscribe the individual, there can be no individual – individual from what?

    It’s your preposition that’s causing confusion. “Individual,” literally speaking, means unit. The number 1 stands for “a unit.” If only one human existed on the planet, and there was no “community,” that one human would still be an individual, no? Because she is literally a unit. “The universe,” as physicist Richard Feynman said, “consists of entities, and entity implies unit.”

    colon wrote: > It is useful, also, to note that *if* private property is essential – then it must be essential for everyone,

    Yes! It is absolutely essential for everyone, becauses survival requires property. Property is the sine qua non of survival.

    colono wrote: > unless we want to have a division of the species

    Species are individuated. Indeed, that’s what the very term means.

    colono wrote: > the have and the have-nots

    No! That’s ad hoc.

    colono wrote: > – and that is, in essence, an anti-capitalist argument, for there is no shortage of accounts showing that the capitalist system relies upon the poor and marginalised – those with no private property – to stand reserve for (aspire to, even) the labour force.

    I — we — are beginning to suspect that you’re confusing the term “captialism” with mercantilism, or even feudalism. Capitalism, colonos, by it’s very definition, is the only economic system which fully recognizes individual rights; in which all exchange and all labor is voluntary and contractual. It does not, also by its very definition, advocate force of any kind. You’ll have to give us some specifics, we’re afraid, when you say that there “are not in shortage of accounts.” We suspect that your “accounts” will turn out to be some form of government involvement or mercantilism. Also, though, more crucially, you’ll have to tell us where all the wealth everyone should have by right is going to come from. Who’s going to produce it? And what happens to incentive when everything a person produces is immediatly taken and given away? And who does the actual act of that redistribution?

    colono wrote: > In other words, when discussing private property rights with an open mind you realise that (a) it is far from enough in itself, and (b) if it is essential, then all should have it; but that is impossible within a capitalist system that relies upon some not having it.

    False! And there’s the whole rub. Honestly, I — we — think that you think capitalism is the same thing as protectionism. It is not. It is just the opposite, in fact. “Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which property is privately owned. It is a plexus of free and voluntary exchanges in which products are exchanged for others through prices voluntarily arrived at. It entails the banishment of coercion and force from human interaction and makes all exchange voluntary. Capitalism is the separation of economics from the state.” That’s what capitalism is. It is the opposite of force. The evils, popularly ascribed to capitalism, by people such as yourself, were never the result of unregulated commerce, but of governmental power over commerce. “The villain was not the businessman, but the legislator, not free enterprise, but government controls” (Notes on the History of America, CUI, p. 102).

    colono wrote: > So the logical extension of one trajectory private property argumentation is really anti-capitalist.

    Hardly. Capitalism by definition means private property, and the free exchange thereof. With all due respect, you are perhaps, in the words of Shakespeare, “thinking too precisely upon the event.” You should seriously consider re-investigating your definitions and your premises here, and we don’t mean that condescendingly; but you must do so totally apart from this frozen Marxist dogma you’re throwing at us. I’m — we’re — afraid that your conception of the very word “captitalism” is woefully incorrect. Or if it’s not, then the antisocialist is no capitalist, as previously thought, because the antisocialist believes in free exchange of goods and services — i.e. private property.

    To address you second comment, colonos, you are very incorrect in saying that the definition of private property as the “right of use and disposal” is, in your words, “a typical, often committed error that denies the entire history of modern, analytical jurisprudence, from Hobbes to Marx and Rawls. ” In fact, the definition of private property as “the right of use and disposal” is entirely modern — more moderen even than Marx and Rawls, and it denies no such history of, as you say, “modern, analytical jurisprudence.” Carl Menger, Lysander Spooner, Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayeck, as well as legions of modern-day legal scholars and active judges, have all agreed to “use and disposal” as the distinguishing characteristic of private property. That exact formulation comes, in fact, from Nobel Prize winner von Mises, in his excellent book Human Action, which is as thorough a refutation of collectivism that exists. The antisocialist urges any and all readers not to be distracted by the (over) citations here, which my good correspondent throws at us in this second comment, because the issue at hand is not complicated. The issue is: does your property rightfully belong to you, or does it rightfully belong to others? When it comes to property, at any given time, in any given context, there are only these alternatives: property is either privately owned, or it publicly owned (or state) owned. In societies of size, these latter two will inevitably lead to the same thing, because to keep property “public,” there must be some kind of enforcement, so that nobody tries to make it private. That means the someone will have control over that public property. As comrade Lenin said, “Control the property, control the person.”

    colonos wrote: > This misunderstanding of property – its limitation to a specific instance – makes the anti-socialist’s statements difficult to deal with – or even take very serious.

    But you act as if I — we — formulated the “use and disposal” definition of private property! It’s very flattering, but we didn’t. Therefore, we can’t in good conscience take credit for it. The statements and ideas you “find difficutl to deal with — or even to take seriously” come not primarily from the antisocialist (no hyphen), but from a long and distinguished line of philosophers and thinkers extending clear back to Ancient Greece, and they are ideas which you, for one, have certainly not come even close to refuting. The Roman jurist Ulpian consider property the “right to use what one produces.” Now what precisely is so difficult about that to take seriously? Or is this just more of you ad hominem style and your sloppy polemics?

    colono wrote: > Many tribal communities have entirely different ways of organising how they live with each other.

    And many don’t. And to varying degrees of success, we might add, and failure. Have you ever heard of the Xeer in Somolia? It is an extremely old and sophisticated system of law, which explicitly advocates private property rights, and even defines property in a way that you would doubtless “find difficult to take seriously.” But, anyway, band and tribal socieities are hardly appropriate models for complex societies, which become complex based on sheer population size. Some 50,000 years ago, when homo sapiens first emerged, we did exists exclusively in bands and small tribes. A band, if you don’t know, is the smallest of societies, consisting of 5 to 75 people, all of whom are related either by birth or marriage. Tribes, the next size up, consist of hundreds of people, not all of whom are related, though everyone is known by everyone else. It is for this reason that conflicts in band and tribal life are resolved without the need of government. Indeed, it is a well established fact among anthropologists that governments do not exist in societies of this size.

    As UCLA scientist Jared Diamond explains it in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel: “Those ties of relationships binding all tribal members make police, laws, and other conflict-resolving institutions of larger societies unnecessary, since any two villagers getting into an argument will share kin, who apply pressure on them to keep it from becoming violent.” (Guns, Germs, and Steel, p. 271.)

    Homo sapiens lived for approximately 40,000 years in just such non-governmental societies.

    Around 5,500 BC, however, chiefdoms arose. Chiefdoms are one size up from tribes but still smaller than nations. These societies have populations that number in the thousands or even tens of thousands, whereas nations consist of fifty thousand people or more. It is at the stage of chiefdoms that the necessity of government begins; for when populations increase to this size, the potential for conflict and disorder increases proportionally.

    “With the rise of chiefdoms around 7,500 years ago, people had to learn, for the first time in history, how to encounter strangers regularly without attempting to kill them…. Part of the solution to that problem was for one person, the chief, to exercise a monopoly on the right to use force” (Ibid).

    That is precisely wherein resides the danger of government and authority.

    And that is precisely why the right to life and property must be protected at all costs.

    Thank you once again for your gracious ad hominems and your time.

    colono responded:
    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 11:16 (511)

    Just to clarify: we will respond to these antisocial absurdities as soon as our social and collective responsibilities permit. Meanwhile:

    Voluntary Slavery
    by Michael Perelman

    Although the widely celebrated consumer sovereignty allows people to choose whether to consume Coke or Pepsi, nobody could even dream of suggesting that workers can act as sovereign individuals within their place of employment. Ideologists mouth comforting platitudes that depict people as sovereign individuals in their role as consumers, but obviously ultimate control of the workplace firmly resides with the employer. As Frederick Winslow Taylor, the father of scientific management, proclaimed in 1911, when the giant corporations were beginning to dominate the U.S. economy, “In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first” (The Principles of Scientific Management, 1911).

    Strangely enough, although the law in Britain and the United States evolved rapidly to allow for increasing freedom in the commercial sector, until relatively recently very ancient law regulated the obligations of workers to their employers. Karen Orren described the persistence of this archaic legal structure in her book Belated Feudalism (1991). This legal framework dates all the way back to the Statute of Artificers (1563), the Statutes of Labourers (1349), and even earlier. The first of these laws was intended to reinforce employer control after the Black Death created a scarcity of workers. With fewer people available for work, laborers’ bargaining position had improved. Rather than accept their temporary disadvantage, the rich and powerful passed the Statutes of Labourers (1349), which codified earlier court decisions, seriously restricting the rights of laborers to change employers or location.

    Of course, courts did not issue decrees that blatantly trumpet their decisions, beginning with the words: “By the Statutes of Labourers. . . .” Instead, they based their decisions on later courts whose verdicts flowed from these ancient laws. Only in the late 19th century, when railroad strikes began to create serious interference with commercial activity, did the Interstate Commerce Commission finally begin to apply a more modern legal theory. Over the next few decades, the legal system in the United States slowly began to break away from these ancient legal doctrines (see Orren 1991).

    During the New Deal, popular pressure forced the law to evolve in a direction more favorable to unions. Since then the law has increasingly turned against the rights of unions, often on the grounds that unions violate the rights of individual workers.

    The striking imbalance of power between individual workers and employers is so obvious that it requires no comment at all. Even our everyday language betrays the unequal distribution of power between the employer and the employed. The employers, being in a superior position, are said to “give” or “offer” work. For their part, employees should “accept” their jobs gratefully or find another suitable place of employment. In this sense, a sort of consumer sovereignty does actually operate in the workplace. There, the consumer — namely, the employer — enjoys nearly dictatorial powers over the seller — namely, the workers who sell their labor. Given the enormous stress associated with the labor market, no wonder so many people attempt to retreat into consumptionism.

    Despite the obvious imbalance between workers and employers, some economists stubbornly insist on seeing only voluntary arrangements in the workplace rather than an exercise of power. For example, two highly respected economists — one of whom was the instructor in my freshman class in economics — compared the relation between employer and employee to that between shopper and grocer. They maintained that just as shoppers can fire their grocers by patronizing a different store, employers can choose to do business with different employees. “Telling an employee to type this letter rather than to file that document is like telling my grocer to sell me this brand of tuna rather than that brand of bread” (Armen Alchian and Harold Demsetz, “Production, Information Costs, and Economic Organization,” American Economic Review 62.5, 1972, p. 778). The economists made no mention of the delicious irony that the relationship between the consumer of labor service (the employer) and the seller of labor services (the employee represented in their example as a subservient grocer) may possibly be the strongest example of consumer sovereignty — that of the employers who purchase the services of their workers.

    Other economists take this sort of fanciful thinking about voluntary arrangements in the workplace to an even more absurd level by claiming that workers preferred what were obviously coercive measures. For example, Greg Clark proposed that “factory discipline [was] successful because it coerced more effort from workers than they would freely give. . . . The empirical evidence shows that discipline succeeded mainly by increasing work effort. Workers effectively hired capitalists to make them work harder” (“Factory Discipline,” Journal of Economic History 54, March 1994, p. 128).

    Greg Clark was referring to the sort of theory earlier proposed by Clark Nardinelli, who, presumably in all seriousness, declared that during the Industrial Revolution, children in the factories would voluntarily choose to have their employers beat them. In his words: “Now if a firm in a competitive industry employed corporal punishment the supply price of child labor to that firm would increase. The child would receive compensations for the disamenity of being beaten” (“Corporal Punishment and Children’s Wages in Nineteenth Century Britain,” Explorations in Economic History 19.3, July 1982, p. 289). Does any parent seriously believe that children would actually make such a calculation — especially when their parents pocketed their earnings? Similarly, Steven Cheung maintains that riverboat pullers who towed wooden boats in pre-communist China agreed to hire monitors to whip them to restrict shirking (“The Contractual Nature of the Firm,” Journal of Law and Economics 26.1, 1983, p. 5).

    Perhaps those children defied all of our understanding of child psychology and chose to have themselves beaten to earn more money for their parents. Following that logic, we could extend our notion of voluntarism to slavery. After all, some people in impoverished nations, such as early China, Japan, and Russia, were so destitute that they sold themselves into slavery (see Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study, 1982, p. 130). Voluntary slavery exists today in some of the poorest parts of the world. Would any rational person see slavery as an indicator of freedom rather than absence of choice?

    Michael Perelman is professor of economics at California State University at Chico, and the author of fifteen books, including Steal This Idea: Intellectual Property Rights and the Corporate Confiscation of Creativity and The Perverse Economy: The Impact of Markets on People and the Environment. His forthcoming books include Railroading Economics: The Creation of the Free Market Mythology (Monthly Review Press) and Manufacturing Discontent: The Trap of Individualism in Corporate Society (Pluto Press). The above essay was adapted from Manufacturing Discontent

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