Okay, I agreed that Benjamin Tucker inconsistently supported a part of capitalism when he agreed with private ownership over the means of production and wage labor. I also explained that you have to consider Tucker’s inconsistent comments within their proper historical context. He was envisioning a society predominately made up of self-employed peasants/artisans. Even I am all for the individual ownership of the means of production when there is no employee-employer relationship. Does that make me a supporter of capitalist private property? No, it does not. Benjamin Tucker’s points of contact with capitalist property rights are still not strong enough to make him a supporter of capitalist property rights, which is what I understand you to be erroneously claiming. My problem is that these few points of contact with capitalism apparently lead you to believe that An Anarchist FAQ and libertarian socialists in general are wrong to say that Benjamin Tucker did not support capitalist private property rights. If he were a full supporter of capitalist property rights, which requires more than individual ownership over the means of production and wage labor, it would have made him an anarcho-capitalist and not the individualist anarchist that he actually was. Claiming Benjamin Tucker as a supporter of capitalist private property flies in the face of everything he stood for. I don’t believe you are doing so, but I have had too much experience with anarcho-capitalists trying to claim people like Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner as one of their own to let such revisionism go unchallenged. When I point out that these people were involved in things like the labor movement and called themselves socialists, I have had many anarcho-capitalists go completely ballistic on me.
Clearly Tucker was not a proponent of unlimited private ownership over land. That is just one of the few things that shows Tucker is pitted squarely against capitalist private property. I just don’t know how you can claim someone supports capitalist private property when they are denying the legitimacy of accumulating an unlimited amount of land—considered one of the most important forms of capitalist private property. Sure you can point out Tucker’s inconsistent support of wage labor and individual ownership over the means of production, but such points aren’t enough to show support for capitalist property rights—especially when the intent is to “deprive capital of its reward.” I am pretty sure Tucker would revolt at a few individuals having monopoly control over the means of production since he wanted capital to be reachable by all through mutualist interest-free banking. He is simply going about the destruction of usury in an incomplete way by denying that workers should own their workplaces in accord with his own principle of occupancy and use. Tucker’s comment that he wants to “deprive capital of its reward” displays his true intent against capitalist private property even while he inconsistently supported individual ownership over the means of production and wage labor. Capital receiving a reward is the whole point of capitalism. Without it, there is no capitalism. In the absence of interest, rent, and profit there simply is no capitalism. That is what Benjamin Tucker wanted even though he approached the eradication of usury inconsistently. If you could get rid of interest, rent, and profit while still retaining private ownership over the means of production and wage labor, then the situation still couldn’t accurately be described as capitalism.
Benjamin Tucker refers to there being a “wage” when he says he envisions a world where “there will be nothing but labor with which to buy labor…not to abolish wages but to make every man dependent upon wages and to secure to every man his whole wages is the aim of Anarchistic Socialism.” He is obviously referring here to all forms of compensation for labor as receiving a “wage” because what he says necessarily covers things like self-employment. When we refer to wage labor we are typically talking about capital hiring labor. So it seems inaccurate to call it a “wage” when only labor hires labor. Tucker makes it clear that he doesn’t want capital hiring labor, so there is no meaningful sense in which one can claim he is in favor of capitalist property rights and all it entails. For Benjamin Tucker, as long as you don’t have capital receiving its reward, any resulting employee-employer relationship would not entail the hierarchical dominant-submissive dynamic. The existence of wage labor and individual ownership over the means of production would become moot points if it were really possible to “deprive capital of its reward” at the same time they exist. I think Benjamin Tucker’s ideas would go a long way towards accomplishing the intended disappearance of usury, but I believe doing so also requires the eradication of wage labor through co-operative ownership over the means of production.
Yes, I understand that with the abolishment of the money, land, tariff, and patent/copyright monopolies Tucker thinks that wages will raise to the value of the worker’s “full product.” I suppose I have been somewhat unclear. Note that I sometimes don’t make it obvious that I am explaining what I believe or trying to explain what I understand Tucker to believe. I did not mean to imply that Tucker was against wage labor in the sense of an employee-employer relationship with my observation that he talks about getting rid of the distinction between “wage-payers” and “wage-takers” and then confusingly refers to the arising non-hierarchical relationship as “wage” labor. I have agreed that he was inconsistent about these points from the start. In reality, if you get rid of such a distinction by removing capital from the equation, everyone is essentially self-employed, and it is unfortunate that Benjamin Tucker was never able to see that. Everyone would be self-employed or potentially self-employed thanks to “occupancy and use” property rights and being able to readily receive the capital necessary to start a business through utilization of a mutualist bank.
Tucker is inconsistently saying that he can remove the coercive dynamic between employee-employer without abolishing the actual employee-employer relationship. To me that is definitely strange and confusing, but still very antithetical to capitalism and its private property rights. You accurately pointed out that in his letter to Bellamy, Tucker stated “When interest, rent and profit disappear under the influence of free money, free land, and free trade, it will make little difference whether men work for themselves, or are employed, or employ others.” All I meant to highlight here is that Tucker’s program of erasing the distinction between “wage-payers” and “wage-receivers” would effectively end the exploitation that is fundamental to the capitalist employee-employer relationship. Therefore, Tucker is obviously still coming to extremely anti-capitalist conclusions. If Tucker was correct about not needing to abolish individual ownership over the means of production and wage labor to ensure everyone receives his or her “full wage”, his program would still entail the same effect as destroying the actual employee-employer relationship. Such an occurrence would in no way be favorable towards capitalist private property.
Occupancy and use is not just for unused land, but also for scarce goods including raw materials, products, equipment, materials, buildings, structures, etc. That is what I believe, and I am fairly certain it is what Benjamin Tucker believed. In “Instead of a Book” he shows his disapproval of unlimited holdings of scarce goods when he says, “in the case of land, or of any other material the supply of which is so limited that all cannot hold it in unlimited quantities, Anarchism undertakes to protect no titles except such as are based on actual occupancy and use.” Therefore I don’t see Tucker being for a capitalist monopoly over capital goods even though he stated support for individual ownership over the means of production. For Tucker, the legitimacy of any such individual ownership over the means of production still requires it be within the reach of all by not being “so limited that all cannot hold it in unlimited quantities.” If property rights are founded upon personal occupy and use of land, then I also don’t see how it can get around entailing the occupancy and use of whatever resides upon the land—meaning abandoned buildings, means of production, etc. It seems to me that if you are for occupancy and use of land you must necessarily be for occupancy and use of capital goods.
I explained, “The important idea being that the desperate shipwrecked man’s need to occupy and use part of the island would involve another individual not being able to sustain their own life.” All I am trying to say is that you can’t legitimately deny a man access to something with which he could use to sustain his own life. If you can spare something without dying or unreasonably harming yourself, you are obligated to help the shipwrecked man. Doing otherwise is incompatible with individual liberty. You can’t be free if you are dead. It would be like watching a child drown to death in a pool of water when it was easily within your power to save the child. You can’t claim to be for individual liberty while claiming that you don’t have to help the child because you would lose something by, say, ruining your good clothes. For the maintenance of individual liberty, human life must always come before any consideration of material possessions.
For anarcho-capitalists, the homestead principle requires mixing your labor with unclaimed land and resources. If building a fence does not meet this anarcho-capitalist requirement for a legitimate private property claim, I don’t know what does. I am truly dumbfounded that you believe that no anarcho-capitalist claims that you can own land or natural resources by simply building a fence. Come on, you can’t truly expect me to believe this. I would like to know what constitutes legitimate private property for an anarcho-capitalist such as yourself then. I know I would have claimed building a fence around an oasis would constitute a legitimate property claim when I was an anarcho-capitalist. Even if the standard is that there needs to be a “transformation” of the oasis itself to claim entire ownership, just owning the fence border around the oasis is enough to effectively deny others access. This would have the same effect as claiming the entire oasis as one’s private property. For anarcho-capitalists, once the “transformative” mixing of labor occurs, continual occupancy and use is not required to retain ownership. It becomes your property indefinitely until you make the conscious decision to sell it or give it away. Therefore even if one person is unable to homestead an entire island by him or herself, the claims of many other homesteaders can be bought up by a single powerful capitalist. So it is definitely conceivable that one individual could easily meet the anarcho-capitalist standard for owning an entire island, and it is very plausible that a fence could be built around an oasis and used to “legitimately” deny desperate passersby any water in accord with anarcho-capitalist principles. The main thing here is that concentrated economic power is a severe threat to individual liberty.
Contrary to what you have said, things like co-operative roads would be operated on a pay-for-use basis, subscription, or some mixture of both. Supporting co-operatives doesn’t mean being opposed to a pay-for-use basis. Such a pay scheme is completely compatible with occupancy and use. If you use it, you pay for it, and you also own it. Under co-operative ownership, you are considered part-owner of the road if you use it, and you have a direct democratic say in the construction and maintenance of the road. The same problems you have with co-operatives being able to handle large highway construction and maintenance could be leveled against your anarcho-capitalist privatization of roads, which also lacks recourse to taxation. In a genuine free market it is very possible that the cost of building a large road network outweighs the benefits. Instead of such a large need for cars in an anarchist society, you might see the proliferation of mass transit which is easier to maintain on a pay-for-use basis. We shouldn’t always assume that anarchism’s inability to sustain big business, big roads, big industry, big military, big energy, big whatever constitutes a weakness. The bigness of our society carries with it many double bind consequences that are very likely to prove unsustainable in the long-run. The free market will send the proper signals under the given circumstances to signify what is inefficiently too small or too big. If giving up the institutions of huge size and scope we see today is the price for individual freedom and equality, those calling ourselves anarchists should be willing to pay it.
It is incredible that you defend such big business monopoly control in your supposedly “free” market. Monopoly is completely incompatible with a competitive free market. When you have a monopoly there is no longer a “serving of others” required but an even more extreme case of “serving yourself” at the expense of others. For you, the issue obviously isn’t about concentrations of power. You’re apparently all for that. Your only concern is with who has that power. You are for centralization as long as power is held by the private sector and not state-government. As long as big capitalist corporations are using their coercive concentrated power efficiently in service of profit, everything is peachy keen for individual liberty. Yeah, right. How is it that the notion that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” magically doesn’t apply to concentrations of economic power? It is truly frightening that you would be fine with one person or a few people owning the world “if they treated (you) like a god, and all of us (got) to live in mansions with free foot massages, tennis courts, etc at barely any price (which is the kind of value they would have to be providing to even get half that far).” Your faith in the benevolence of private “free” market rulers of the world is truly astounding. Is it any wonder that some anarcho-capitalists like Hans-Hermann Hoppe defend monarchy as a “lesser evil” over democracy? I guess we should go back and undo the American Revolution then—one of the few revolutions I though many right-libertarians look favorably upon. You would think democracy would be considered the more “libertarian” of the two since more people get some kind of say in decisions that affect their lives, but no! Instead you see anarcho-capitalists defending monarchy where a few individuals in a royal family get to rule over their property. In a monarchy you get to be king or queen over your own little private kingdom where you are free to treat other individuals like property—your subjects are there only for your own benefit. Yeah, that sure smells like freedom to me.
Your assumptions about what would have to occur for someone to own the entire world in accord with anarcho-capitalist principles are way off base. If what you were saying were true, then we would already observe this “being treated as kings” occurring to some extent even in our restrained capitalist market. It is simply not occurring. Capitalist corporations try to manipulate and screw over customers and their employees at every turn. To take one example, look at the rise of sweatshop labor. State-government didn’t initiate it. Capitalist corporations worked to establish it all on their own—often through the manipulation of state-governments. It is really very hard to attack state-government without attacking corporate capitalist economic power. Indeed, corporations are typically the prime movers and shakers of state-government policy. Maybe we should look at Blackwater where profit is quite vividly held above individual life and liberty. For capitalism “profit over people” is the name of the game. Do you think that privatization of the water supply in countries like Bolivia was done for the benefit of the people or for the benefit of private corporate interests? I think the resulting water price increases and resulting riots speak for themselves. Even if we inaccurately assume that a capitalist corporation would initially have to unfathomably satisfy their customers to accumulate enough to own the entire world, after having achieved world ownership, the owner(s) wouldn’t have to do squat in order to maintain their “legitimate” anarcho-capitalist property. After you own the world, you can sit back and reap the rewards of everyone else’s labor and pass the same coercive privilege on to whomever you desire. It would be “I own the world, so you have to do whatever I say. Otherwise, get off my property!” The blown up exaggerated “ownership of the world” example is just meant to bring into sharper focus the real-world examples of capitalist coercion. This reaping the rewards of others labor and not having to really satisfy anyone once you become a capitalist at the top of some private tyranny is what we are trying to point out by denying the legitimacy of interest, rent, and profit. If you really want a free market to operate on the basis of merit then you need to remove capital from the equation. Labor must be the source of the free market pricing feedback loop. Only then will you be commanding wealth through perpetually satisfying the needs of your fellow human beings while also satisfying yourself. Corporations must be directly accountable to the lives their decisions effect instead of just being responsible for delivering a profit to its shareholders. Good luck getting your private capitalist owners of the world to treat us all like kings. You might as well try getting state-government to treat us all like kings, too.
Being your own boss does not deny ever working in order to satisfy the needs of someone else. It means owning your industry. It means equal opportunity bargaining power based on subjectively valued labor instead of having bargaining power based on capital controlled access to the means of production. In fact, cooperation defies the usual egoism/altruism dichotomy by making it so that my fate is linked with yours. With cooperative forms of organization we sink or swim together. It is all about satisfying others while also satisfying yourself, whereas completion is a zero-sum game where one person gains at another’s expense. In competition the only way to win is to make someone else lose.
Besides Walter Block, I know that Robert Nozick also supported voluntary slavery. I have also personally known many less famous anarcho-capitalists and right-libertarians that have defended voluntary slavery. I myself defended voluntary slavery when I was an anarcho-capitalist because it was the only logical outcome of my incomplete conception of freedom. I don’t see how you can be a consistent anarcho-capitalist without supporting voluntary slavery. You can’t really own something unless you can sell it. Self-ownership is one of the cornerstones of laissez-faire capitalist ideology. Therefore, since you own yourself you can sell yourself.
Who said anything about African Americans being debt slaves to the exact same line of people from right after the Civil War? Your incredulity is misplaced. All you asked me was if African Americans are still slaves to debt. Yes, they are along with countless others. My point is that capitalism obviously doesn’t give people a fair shake. Regardless of occasionally being able to get out from under one debt collector (and typically under another), it is plain to see that socioeconomic mobility is artificially hindered by capitalist property rights, which runs counter to merit-based mobility founded upon valued labor. Furthermore, just because slaves can occasionally become slave owners doesn’t make the situation of slavery right.
I did not say that Mondragon and Publix employ zero wage labor and I have nothing against specialists/managers hired by labor instead of capital. People are naturally going to be better than others at doing certain things. I have no problem per se with specialization and division of labor. I have a problem with the systematic deskilling of labor perpetuated by capitalism to further increase dependency on a ruling capitalist class. As Pierre-Joseph Proudhon said, “In cases in which production requires great division of labour, it is necessary to form an ASSOCIATION among the workers…because without that they would remain isolated as subordinates and superiors, and there would ensue two industrial castes of masters and wage workers, which is repugnant in a free democratic society. But where the product can be obtained by the action of an individual or a family…there is no opportunity for association.” So co-operatives are not necessarily against specialization and division of labor, but are for empowering more individuals through self-management. The best way of learning is by doing. This is about providing access to the resources necessary to more fully develop towards ones full potential. It is about better developing and releasing our individuality.
For some of these co-operative companies there is usually some percentage of the business made up of worker-owners. Ideally everyone involved in a co-operative would eventually become a worker-owner. Right now I believe that to legally be considered a co-operative in some places you must have at least half of the business owned by the workers. The rules naturally vary from place to place. No matter how imperfect, these co-operatives are definitely a step in the right direction and are living proof that co-operatives work and can function on quite a large scale. Just check out the situation in Argentina for instance. Let’s also not forget that these co-operatives have to thrive within a market place biased towards capitalist business forms due to state-government intervention. Zero wage labor would occur if everyone working in the co-operative was an owner. Ideally that is what libertarian socialists would want.
I know that there is usually a trial period before employees have an option to buy into the company and become worker-owners. Even if this practice were retained in an anarchist society, the important thing is that everyone can easily become a worker-owner somewhere and everyone has access to the means necessary to sustain themselves through their own hard work. The point is that people don’t have their compensation artificially reduced by the coercive bargaining power of capitalist private property. These worker-owners make decisions on a one-person-one-vote basis, so even if you can own more stock in the co-operative you don’t receive more decision-making power. Some co-operatives use consensus decision making while others democratically elect a board of directors. Naturally what method you use can also be effected by size and the type of work involved. Your comment about “hundreds of thousands of employees hold(ing) meetings every day to decide on each and every aspect of when and how to work” reveals a profound misunderstanding of how co-operatives function and the way libertarian socialists expect them to work.
Naturally there is room for deviation, but the way I ideally desire co-operatives to run would be along the following lines: Immediately or after a trial period, every worker would have the option of buying into the business and becoming an owner. You would have a face-to-face general assembly held as often as needed at which time company policies would be laid down and/or amended. These policies then provide mandated guidelines within which a democratically elected board of directors is appointed to coordinate certain activities. The manager-delegates are rotated and are recallable by the general assembly if there is an unacceptable departure from the mandated policies.
As already noted, ideally we should be working towards a situation in which an individual has a say in decisions proportionate to the degree by which he or she is affected by them. So a hospital janitor obviously wouldn’t have a great deal of say in the decisions of a surgeon, and a flight attendant wouldn’t have much of a say in the decisions of a pilot. It all depends on who the decision affects that determines who has a say. Certainly you didn’t think we are saying that a janitor with little to no knowledge on the subject gets to influence how a surgeon performs brain surgery. Such a thing wouldn’t be in anyone’s self-interest. If need be, you can certainly have separate smaller general assembly meetings held by different company departments. Many decisions can be made spontaneously on the floor with fellow co-workers anyways.
Also, notice how co-operatives bring into alignment the self-interest of the workers and the success of the business by making everyone an owner. Consider how receiving compensation directly from “profit” provides workers an internalized incentive to reduce wasteful and inefficient activities. In a capitalist corporation an employee doesn’t care about wasting company resources because he or she knows that doing so is unlikely to make much if any difference in how much he or she receives from the capitalist boss. In capitalism wages are inversely related to profit. In a co-operative culture, worker-owners understand that hurting the bottom line of their business directly hurts themselves. There is more of an internalized incentive to monitor yourself and your co-workers in a co-operative instead of having an authoritarian capitalist boss externally threatening you to fall in line.
In some co-operatives everyone might own an equal amount, while in others that is not the case. Some co-operatives pay everyone the same, while others don’t. These things are all decided upon by the worker-owners themselves and are influenced by the particular situation at hand. It’s not even like hiring and firing decisions aren’t made in co-operatives. No one denies the necessity of such decisions. What we are worried about is where this decision-making power is coming from. The main thing is giving people equal opportunity through denying capital its reward and only rewarding labor. While Mondragon and Publix aren’t perfect examples of what libertarian socialists want in a co-operative, they do display that co-operatives are compatible with complex industrial society. Most importantly, there is plenty of freedom for these co-operatives to adapt to their respective situations.
Yes, co-operative retailers buy things and then sell them at a higher price to make a “profit.” Note that co-operatives operate in a capitalist “free” market, so that is going to impose certain constraints upon co-operatives. In a socialist free market we would expect economic pressures to cause cost to approach or become the limit of price. The “cost” of labor is considered to be the subjective cost (i.e. the amount of suffering or sacrifice involved). Profit is therefore defined as money withheld from laborers who produce products using equipment or land owned by a capitalist. Profit is therefore possible because capitalists are assumed to own the products that are made with their equipment, otherwise, they would charge the laborers rent to achieve the same effect. We are not opposed to someone taking natural resources, applying his or her labor to create a product, and then bartering or selling it for whatever can be received through subjective valuations within the free market. We aren’t opposed to “profit” in that sense—in the sense of benefiting from the provision of a good or service. Even if we call it “profit” the main thing is that it does not involve surplus value extracted from the productive labor of others by capital. Such a “profit” going directly to the workers and not to a capitalist controlling access to the means of production is acceptable. What we want is equal exchange—you should get back the same value that you produce. When we oppose profit, the coercive hierarchical relationship allowing capital to extract surplus value from the labor of others is really what we are talking about.