After a few crazy days, the Black Cat is back on track in Bath, UK. We are finally having a rest from moving on again and again. It is possible that the building we are occupying will last us a couple of months. Our hopes are high. We are in the Porter Butt, one of the few alternative pubs in town, which closed down some six months ago due to a London Road Partnership policy, if I have heard correctly. We are looking into the past of the building.
I have already mentioned the ways in which local governments interfere with people’s lives. In Oxford, a farmer cannot build a house, nor can he erect a wind turbine, because the Council will not have it. One would be wrong to focus on the national level in terms of tyranny. The local Council is every bit as invading as the national government. The owner this time is a private corporation, and the ethics of the occupation are therefore not so clear as when it is oligarchical-‘public’ property– or oligarchical-‘private’ property for that matter.
Nevertheless, it must be said that even in this case, occupation and property rights are compatible: the property is empty and abandoned. It is presumed that the owner has no current use for it, and him or his representatives not turning up in days confirms this. Whatever use he can have, in the future, it does not contradict the occupation.
That is, it does not contradict it, unless you are a property rights fellow like Stephan Kinsella. The man has written a pamphlet against intellectual property, and I quite enjoyed it. What I do not enjoy, is the depiction of his own version of libertarianism, as the only true one. I made some comments on a few blogs, the essence of which is, that “libertarian-ity” cannot depend on the content of the rules you would select for yourself. It is mechanical in my view: if the community you form is a free community where everyone can join and leave at will, and the rules are set by consensus, then it is a libertarian community. Kinsella will argue in favor of a free market capitalist society; this is a mistake I’ve denounced on the LeftLibertarian2 list.
Something else I find interesting : a lot of anarchist doctrine is written by people who live under a state, and that means a context of ideological enemies vying for power. That also means a context of people envisioning a policy over a given territorial area. I heard this from anarcho-communists – a world without private property! And here on this thread, the same mistake: a peaceful cooperative society! An entire world, a whole society. No way this is going to happen. You need to demonize those who would not have it. Say, they’re not really libertarians, or they’re not really anarchists. But there’s principles behind those two words, and they can only be respected or betrayed, with all due respect to thickness.
Kinsella has been going at it again recently, once again after a post by Sheldon Richman arguing against state capitalism, and I had an occasion to post a few comments. Others posts were subsequently submitted, the latest of which was on the Polycentric Order blog, and I’m proud to say that it very closely states what I’ve been saying elsewhere, which means I’m not so crazy after all.
The substance of libertarianism, at a sort of meta-level, is more general than the substance of capitalism. Stephan Kinsella and his ilk will have none of this: he equates the substance of capitalism and libertarianism as constituting one and the same thing. But, once again, this is just begging the question. Why is libertarian capitalism the same thing as libertarianism in general? This seems somewhat analogous to claiming that a particular normative position is the same thing as a general meta-ethical position (such as moral realism). I don’t claim that libertarian capitalism isn’t libertarian, I would say that it’s a form of libertarianism that I think gets it wrong. The same standard is not reciprocated, however: if I don’t accept a particular form of libertarianism, I’m suddenly put outside of the general category of libertarianism.
All anarchists are faced with the following problem in their condemnations of their philosophical siblings: if a non-statist group must inevitably end up as a state due to its ‘flawed’ rules, then anarchy is impossible. Under anarchy, such a group must be free to select its own rules, else it would not be anarchy at all.
Kinsella and others like him have a view of ‘libertarian-ity’ that depends on the content of the rules adopted. This is self-defeating: if one rule is adopted and maintained freely, then it is done in accordance with libertarian principles, yet if it’s the one rule that Kinsella disapproves of, it is unlibertarian no matter how it came about. How is this ‘logic’ ‘superior’ ?