Saturday, January 26, 2019

On Progressives and Libertarians, and Why "Property is Impossible"

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. The Blending of the Public and Private Sectors
3. Responsibly Reducing Businesses' Burdens
4. “Property is Impossible” (-P.J. Proudhon)
5. Boycotts and Discrimination


1. Introduction

     I am glad to see progressive Democrats increasingly consider radical and even libertarian ideas, as well as systems like socialism and democratic socialism, in the last several years.
     While I may not always agree with them, I welcome the representation of these views, because that representation widens the range of acceptable debate, which is necessary to create a safe environment for free speech to flourish, and for people to become aware of many different ways of living.
     I am glad to see that more Democrats are getting fed up with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Her refusal to consider impeaching George W. Bush, and then Donald Trump, have made her someone I could never support. Her refusal to impeach Bush in 2006 is probably what made me stop supporting the Democratic Party. I had supported for Kerry in 2004, but also admired Nader more at the time, but I wasn't eligible to vote, so that's beside the point.
     I appreciate that more and more progressive and left-leaning media sources are calling attention to the neoliberal establishment of the Democratic Party's support of crony capitalism. I especially admire Jimmy Dore, a Chicago-born, L.A.-based comedian turned political commentator and podcaster, who has been putting out progressive content with a lot of potential crossover appeal to libertarians. Dore has admitted on his show to admiring Senator Rand Paul's foreign policy, but not so much his domestic policy.

     I wrote the following article as an email to Mr. Dore about what progressives and libertarians have in common, but also about what they both get wrong about private property. Namely, how private property is protected, what happens when property owners invite the state to help protect their property, and whether most “private property” in America today is truly as private as people think it is.
     Another goal of this piece was to explain how to criticize right-libertarians (that is, staunchly pro- private property libertarians; or propertarians), but also what to criticize them about, and what arguments they are right about. I intend this advice as a way to potentially moderate right-libertarians, and encourage them to consider aligning, even if only temporarily, with radical progressives and socialists, in order to create a united front against the fascists in charge.
     This piece also contains advice about how radical progressives can successfully caution other progressives about the risks associated with having the federal government – or any government – have too much power; to be too large in size and scope, that it interferes with the economy, and with people's personal lives (especially in regard to property, enterprise, and income).

     The above has been a summary of my introduction to that email.
     What follows – in Sections #2 through #5 of this article – is the main body of the email, which concerns itself with libertarian and progressive views on property, as well as my own views, which are guided by the principles of radical libertarianism, market-anarchism, and mutualist-anarchism.
I have expanded on some points, where necessary to further clarify my points,

2. The Blending of the Public and Private Sectors

     I think Libertarians are correct to point out (although they don't do it nearly often enough) that the billionaires and large corporations that are lobbying for favorable legislation, got all of their privileges and protections from the government in the first place. Amazon and Facebook, for example, both have CIA contracts. It might even be fair to argue, also, that high taxes
drive the desire for high profits (to offset the cost of taxes).
     However, that doesn't mean the government is the source of all things evil about the business world. After all, our government was bought-out by private business interests a whole century ago; the same interests that promote wars, and whose propaganda is taught in "public" schools. We don't have a government that's subservient to the people; they're subservient to "private" banks.
     But remember, a bank – or any company, for that matter – isn't really "private" unless it receives zero taxpayer subsidies, zero government assistance of any kind. No patents, no trade subsidies, no tariffs or professional licensing regulation that hurts competitors, no discounts on public utilities, no police protection of physical property, no bank account insurance, no L.L.C. status to confer legal and financial protections, zero. Glass-Steagall is OK, but why bring back Glass-Steagall, when we could simply stop insuring deposits at taxpayer expense altogether?
     For that matter, if "public" schools are supposed to be truly public, then they should obviously stop teaching propaganda that was written by for-profit private companies.
     "Public sector vs. private sector" is all we talk about these days. Few people ever mention non-profits (and the "non-profit third sector", or "voluntary sector"), or cooperatives, or club goods, or "the commons" as economic sectors, or forms of ownership, unto themselves. That's why I think all the focus is on the "public" government (which masquerades as, and steals from, the commons) or the "private" corporations (which receive public assistance, but pretend to care about privacy, personal ownership, and individual rights).

3. Responsibly Reducing Businesses' Burdens
     If Libertarians want a company to be truly "private" – that is, to have a lower taxation and regulatory burden as a result of that privacy, and that lower degree of association with the government – then the company should simply give up all of those cronyist privileges. Private owners and for-profit firms must realize that a sizeable segment of the public will simply refuse to do business with minimally-regulated firms, because they believe them to be irresponsible.
     But then again, the government also needs to give companies the chance to survive without those privileges. Like by leaving them to pave their own roads leading to their properties (instead of getting the taxpayers to pay for the roads, and then getting some of those taxpayers build them as well). And by allowing businesses to develop their own alternative energy sources, or collect solar power on-site, so that they don't have to depend on the public energy grid – nor on discounts therefore, nor on discounts for internet service – in order to balance their budgets.
     Therefore, fortunately, there is a way to allow private owners and for-profit firms to take risks, without it risking harm to the public, or to non-consenting people, and without destroying the free market: Don't let the state protect property, don't let the state protect rights to profit nor to trade, and don't let the state make taxpayers responsible for insuring the deposits of any firms whatsoever!

     If a business wants to pay lower taxes, then there are already ways to do that: stop using a for-profit model that yields the kind of gains that the government would want to tax in the first place. Businesses should be given a choice between 1) giving up their profits, 2) re-investing them into their company (such that there are no profits, after all is said and done), and/or 3) operating as a non-profit or not-for-profit, or a cooperative, or a mutual firm.
     If we can eliminate all forms of privilege for businesses – and take steps to recoup our legally stolen losses from the Wall Street bailouts (and all the other bailouts over the years) and give them back to the people – then we can let individuals develop non-profit, de-politicized alternatives to politicized public institutions, through voluntary association and voluntary exchange, rather than through government direction.
     And that will bring development, and growth of businesses, in a way that helps employees and consumers, rather than simply doing whatever a corrupt government agrees with a set of corrupt businessmen they should do, while taxpayers foot the bill.

     As a Libertarian, and as an admirer of the Constitution and the ideals of a free market and voluntary exchange, I think that if government simply didn't have the power to bail companies out (and to offer them other forms of government assistance) in the first place, then we would not have nearly as many people sucking up to the cults of money and big business.
     Most importantly (at least as far as the topic of property is concerned), we would not have as many people sucking up to the existing set of enforced property claims, which embodies a massive disparity in ownership of physical wealth.
     In a stateless market system, or if the government's authority to intervene in matters of economy and property were much more strictly limited, we would have a market that is truly based on meritocracy. We are told that our current system does reward merit, but the number of people incarcerated for victimless crimes, and the number of people arrested for intellectual property theft, show that government often has nonsensical rules about what forms of economic activity are legal and respectable.

4. “Property is Impossible” (-P.J. Proudhon)

     Right-libertarians often need to be reminded that when "private" businesses expect police assistance, or favorable legislation (as in Jim Crow Laws) to help them "protect their property" – 
i.e., enforce their right to discriminate against whomever they please – they are really relying on a form of public assistance, and that fact renders the company not “private” at all. Which renders moot any claim that the companies are independent, or self-sustaining, or should be allowed to do whatever they want on "their own" property.
     Also, taking public assistance renders companies subject to the law. Most importantly, federal laws regarding keeping interstate commerce "regulated" or "regular"; that is, free from obstructions and interferences, like states protecting and favoring their own domestic products and labor over those of other states.
     Maybe if Libertarians understood that very little property is actually private, then it would become clear to them that property ownership is enforced, determined, limited, and conditioned by the approval of society. Unanimous societal approval is the only thing, besides the state, which will ever be effective when it comes to acknowledging and respecting a person's property claim.
     In a free society, even one or two people challenging the value or validity of someone's property claim, would have to be heard. Just as in a free market, each market actor has some say in influencing prices, only unanimity, or near unanimity, would guarantee the protection of property claims, without necessitating a domineering state to, well... frankly, get rid of those one or two dissenters, and scare everyone into forgetting about their disappearance.

     No homestead, and no piece of property bought from the government and registered by one of its agencies, can ever be said to be truly private, unless the government (if it exists) agrees to be neutral on property, and agrees to place the burden of protecting the claim on the claimant himself (who might try to outsource this responsibility to others, through employing security guards, mercenaries, etc.). And that outsourcing of responsibility is a negative externality, which free market supporters ought to be against.
     If right-libertarians can be made to understand these things, then there is a chance that they will stop demanding that struggling poor individuals lose their government assistance as a precondition of businesses losing theirs. I agree with Rand Paul that we should not cut one dime from the social safety net until we get rid of corporate welfare, and I think that if the Libertarian Party cannot get on board with that, then it is positioning itself to the right of the Republican Party, which I think sends a message to voters that we are unsympathetic and unelectable.
     Republicans are already trying to limit what S.N.A.P. (Food Stamps) recipients can buy – from subsidized food companies, mind you – so why elect Libertarians when they might do the very same thing? Do you want the government to coerce you into a state of dependence by stealing your money and giving it to its friends, and then deciding what you can and can't buy with the Food Stamps card they bought for you with your own stolen money? That doesn't sound like freedom to me.
     If Libertarians cannot recognize that most recipients of government assistance were pressured into accepting assistance – through having to conform to the law, and the monetary and hourly wage labor systems established through that law – then they might as well admit that they have fallen for the idea that the state can legalize its own coercion, and that coercion by businesses (including lobbying) is harmless. One simply cannot believe that and call oneself a libertarian.

5. Boycotts and Discrimination

     If a business takes assistance (like L.L.C. status, S.B.A. loans, F.D.I.C. insurance, trademarks, etc.), and stays open to customers from other states, then it should rightfully be subject to federal laws against discrimination in interstate commerce and public accommodations.
     If this idea became formally codified in law – instead of just sloppily inferred from the outcome of the Heart of Atlanta Motel v. U.S. decision – then it would become clear to Libertarians and Republicans that if a company accepts public assistance and is involved in interstate commerce, then it is undeniably in the business of "public accommodations", and therefore should not be allowed to discriminate against the public.
     Radical progressives will probably not like what I am about to suggest, because it gives so much wiggle room to the pro-property idea. But perhaps it's time to give property owners an ultimatum.
     If they want to discriminate, or reserve the full right to kick anybody off of their property that they want for any reason (and without giving a reason), then they should have to give up all of the benefits that they're getting from the government.

     No business should be free to discriminate against – or boycott (depending on how you look at it) – a customer, who is unable to discriminate against, and boycott, that business.
     Granted, no particular recipient of government assistance is specifically coerced into depending on any one particular subsidized firm, but the only firms that exist are subsidized or protected in one way or another, so welfare recipients are coerced into dependence upon one subsidized business or another.
     Moreover, businesses that sell to welfare recipients have the option to give up subsidies and monopoly privileges, and cease reaping profit, as a way to avoid submitting to so much regulation and taxation. So businesses cannot rightfully argue that they are in any way obligated to serve people who are on government assistance. And certainly not any more than the people on assistance are being obligated to serve some set of those subsidized firms (from among which they have a limited ability to choose, because of coercive state intervention in business and in property protection).
     Additionally, individuals are simply not eligible for anywhere near as many government contracts, favors, protections, subsidies, loans, titles, tax credits, and monopoly privileges as businesses are. The idea that a person considering requesting government assistance, has as much ability to oppress a business as a business does to oppress him, is ludicrous.
     Libertarians can say all they want that both the social safety net and corporate welfare need to be eliminated, and they're correct. But now is not the time to pretend that, if we were faced with a choice between abolishing the military-industrial complex or abolishing the Food Stamps program, we should simply flip a coin.
     Libertarians who are ambivalent in this manner look insane to the average voter, and to the average progressive. And they don't look too intelligent to myself as a Libertarian Party member.

Introduction Written on January 26th, 2019

Original Email Written on January 24th, 2019
Originally Published on January 26th, 2019

Originally Published Under the Title
"What Neither Radical Progressives Nor Right-Libertarians

Understand About Legal Recognition of Property Rights"

Title Changed on February 7th, 2019

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