This post originally appeared on the Libertarian Socialist Caucus of the Libertarian Party Facebook Page. Its author, Nathan Davis, is a member of the national Libertarian Party and the caucus’s Oklahoma LP-LSC Affinity Group. It is a response to a recent “Property Rights Resolution” that has ignited a firestorm of debate across the party. The vote’s outcome can be viewed here.
Nathan Davis writes:
While the chairman has provided quite appropriate leadership in criticizing its either clear redundancy, inappropriateness, and/or divisiveness, I would like to call attention to the particular content of the recent McCarthyist resolution by Libertarian Party officials, clearly designed to intimidate fellow members and newcomers to the libertarian party.
The authors of the resolution claim to uphold the “free market”, to respect that which is “an extension of the individual”, and to respect “agreement by all parties”, yet in no place in such resolution do we find explicit references to the established libertarian and classical liberal principle of “equality of liberty”, or as Jefferson stated “equal rights for all — special privileges for none”. Nor do we see explicit reference to the long-established “labor theory of property” that unites nearly all libertarian theory, nor respect for the rich diversity of thought contained therein.
Do not individuals have a natural right to equal liberty? Do not all individuals have natural, equal rights to the earth and to the product of their labor, regardless of statist monopoly, privilege, and authority?
Instead we find a call to uphold “lawful libertarian means”, despite the fact that existing property relationships upheld by force of law are the product of privilege and monopoly and bear almost zero resemblance to actually authentic libertarian relations by any internally consistent theory. Instead we find a conservative appeal to the authority of one size fits all, statist legal monopolies, and our non-consensual social contracts with these systems standing in by fiat. Instead we hear calls to centrally plan and mandate what interpersonal dispute resolution for what the proper beginnings and ends of the “extensions of individuals” in non bodily property must look like. And this rather than to embrace the diversity and decentralized knowledge that a truly freed market of non state, voluntarily supported, poly centric common law courts would provide when weighing the facts on the ground and considering the perspectives of all concerned parties.
In insinuating that all libertarians must support the fiat enforcement of perpetual claims to property in land throughout all time, the authors seem to insist that we must bear no regard to the Lockean, classically liberal principles of “enough, and as good as left for others” and any various theories to satisfy this requirement. Must all libertarians bear no regard for the Lockean and classically liberal principles of the “spoilage” of untended lands, their constructive abandonment, and the right of adverse possession? Must we bear no regard for new laborers and transformers of the land and their own claims regarding what they would consider direct “extensions” of themselves and their labor? Where is this claimed “agreement by all parties”? And how can we justify prioritizing lawful “purchase”, over and against actual on the ground questions of laborers, occupants and homesteaders working the land?
The authors appear even to lend support to the bribing of statist monopolies for the enforcement of preempted, fiat territorial claims on non homesteaded (i.e. vacant, unimproved) land, the non libertarian practice condemned by Murray Rothbard – a founder of the Libertarian Party, who made it clear we must oppose various forms of “land monopoly” with a call to reject not only “feudalistic” arrangements, but any legal claims to vacant, unimproved land as “land engrossment” regardless of titles, purchase, or law. Must all libertarians support the enforcement of prior fiat claims over and against the rights of would be first transformers of vacant, unimproved land? Why should unconsenting third parties support territorial claims to non homesteaded portions of the earth, and what of their own labor, or of “voluntary agreement by all parties”?
Other problems with this resolution include the confused characterization of private property in land as “capital”, even though classical liberals view the means of production as three distinct factors of land, labor, and capital – being, as a resource pre-existing humans and their labor, that there are no labor inputs to the “production” of land. And lastly, the ending summarizing paragraph, in presuming to condemn not only libertarian “socialist and communist property ownership schemes” but also any “incorrect characterizations of private property” along with any “unlawful usurpation of property”, leaves one wondering what precisely the authors stand for, beyond repeated appeals to legal authority and fearful reactionaryism.
Rather than any desire for careful introspection or dialectical dialogue and analysis between diverse libertarian theoretical views committed to the goals of equal liberty, this is all explicitly a slight against libertarian advocates of the internally consistent, labor theory of property known as usufruct or “occupancy and use”, and probably more intentionally as a slight against, as stated, anything sounding “socialist” or “communist”, despite the fact that the “free market” ideology of individualist anarchism – modern American libertarianism’s own claim to the classical libertarian tradition and for what Rothbard stated “nothing is more needed today than a revival and development of the largely forgotten legacy” – was itself considered a “socialist” ideology by adherents.
But what precisely is included in the condemnation of “incorrect characterizations of private property”? Does this document not also throw classical liberals of various stripes under the bus including: non proviso Lockeans, proviso Lockeans, geolibertarians, and a wide variety of, yes, usufruct advocates such as mutualist, who in large numbers in the party alongside geolibertarians see their particular property theory advocacy as a commitment to the spirit of the Lockean proviso and the law of equal liberty? Must we be opposed to Lockeanism in holding an understanding of the earth as held by all in common (understood by some as a form of “social ownership”)?
What of Thomas Paine and of Thomas Jefferson, in whose names the Libertarian Party bestows awards, and their claims that:
- “Men did not make the earth, and though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it” (Paine), or
- “A right of property in movable things is admitted before the establishment of government. A separate property in lands not till after that establishment… He who plants a field keeps possession of it till he has gathered the produce, after which one has as good a right as another to occupy it“, and “whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on.” (Jefferson)?
What of statements by J.S. Mill or Herbert Spencer:
- “The essential principle of property being to assure to all persons what they have produced by their labor and accumulated by their abstinence, this principle cannot apply to what is not the product of labor, the raw material of the earth.”, “When land is not intended to be cultivated, no good reason can in general be given for its private property at all.” “When the sacredness of property is talked of, it should always be remembered that any such sacredness does not belong in the same degree to landed property. No man made the land.” (Mill)?
- “The right of each man to use of the earth, limited only by the like rights of his fellow-men, is immediately deducible from the law of equal freedom. We see that the maintenance of this right necessarily forbids private property in land. On examination, all existing titles to such property turn out to be invalid.” “You have turned over the soil to a few inches in depth with a spade or a plough; you have scattered over this prepared surface a few seeds; and you have gathered the fruits which the sun, rain, and air helped the soil to produce. Just tell me, if you please, by what magic have these acts made you sole owner of that vast mass of matter, having for its base the surface of your estate, and for its apex the centre of the globe? … You say truly, when you say that ‘whilst they were unreclaimed these lands belonged to all men.’ And it is my duty to tell you that they belong to all men still; and that your ‘improvements’ as you call them, cannot vitiate the claim of all men. You may plough and harrow, and sow and reap ; you may turn over the soil as often as you like; but all your manipulations will fail to make that soil yours, which was not yours to begin with… This extra worth which your labour has imparted to it is fairly yours… but admitting this, is quite a different thing from recognising your right to the land itself.” (Spencer)?
Is this resolution not just an affront to radicals and the whole of classical libertarianism, the latter of which was itself birthed as a call of support for the equal liberty of laborers against the presence of statist monopoly, but also an affront to classical liberalism itself?
What one is inclined to suspect is that the strong need to declare opposition to more libertarians of various stripes committed to seeking the principles of equal liberty joining the party is more likely an opposition to the fundamental principle of equal liberty itself. And given recent widespread apologism for the welcoming of racists, bigots, xenophobes, and nationalists into the party, who have little to no interest in the equal liberty of all, and the sudden need to prioritize the condemnation of more egalitarian minded libertarians such a hunch would make sense.
Yet the ideologies of “liberty for me and not for thee” are destined to fail, while those of us committed to making this world a place of maximal and equal liberty for all are destined to succeed, for we recognize our mutual liberty and well-being are bound up together.
Source for Quotes: http://earthfreedom.net/lvt-advocates