Louis CK and Fans #Occupy the Entertainment Industry

Louis CK, the comedian and star of the FX comedy series Louis (which, I confess, I haven’t gotten around to actually ever seeing), just conducted an amazing, radical experiment in do-it-yourself capitalism that has paid off beautifully for him. Continue reading

Must Read: David Graeber’s “Debt: The First 5,000 Years”

I’m reading a book that is so good, so well-written, so relevant to the zeitgeist, that I can confidently recommend it to anyone who reads, though I’m just a bit more than halfway through it myself: Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber.

Before I tell you why you should go now and buy, borrow or reserve this book and get reading, I’ll call your attention to an interview Graeber gave the British magazine The White Room which gives an interesting peek into his background and main political ideas. Graeber, a well-respected anthropologist,  is becoming better known as one of the influencing thinkers behind #occupyWallStreet. A couple of sentences from the introduction of the White Room interview beautifully make a point about OWS that I less successfully try to make when people criticize its “fuzziness” and lack of demands:

…Graeber has put the spotlight on the anarchist principles of the Occupy movement, explaining that the lack of concrete demands is part of a pre-figurative politics. The protestors act as though they are ‘already living in a free society’, and thus refuse to accept the legitimacy of existing political institutions and legal order – both of which, he says, are immediately recognised in the placing of demands. Continue reading

What Is Ron Paul’s Notion of Justice?

To understand Paul’s third principle for a free society (“Justly acquired property is privately owned by individuals and voluntary groups, and this ownership cannot be arbitrarily voided by governments”), it would be helpful to understand his theory of justice.

One thing seems absolutely certain: it isn’t the same as John Rawls’ theory. In fact, without being explicit about its debt, Paul’s theory, based on what I sussed out of it in the previous two posts, bears a lot of resemblance to Robert Nozick’s anti-Rawlsian theory of justice formulated in Anarchy, State and Utopia.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read Rawls or Nozick. Does this disqualify me from commenting on the ideas I’ve read about from them? I leave that up to my readers. I’m going to plow ahead because I think it’s necessary to discuss Nozick’s idea of “distributive justice” (i.e., how “justly” resources are distributed among individuals) to understand Paul’s. Continue reading

Is Government Property Always Unjust?

I want to spend a little more time on the notion in Paul’s third principle that “justly acquired property” is “privately owned,” which implies that government (or public) property can only be unjustly acquired. I suspect the primary libertarian principle at work here is “taxation is theft,” a right-wing perversion (or theft, if you will) of Proudhon’s original libertarian socialist principle that “property is theft.”

It seems to me a bit sneaky of Paul not to put his cards flat on the table and admit that that is precisely his meaning here, if that is his meaning. Of course it would open him wide up to the charge of  supreme hypocrisy for having accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years of  “unjustly acquired” income as a representative to the Congress from his district in Texas. Continue reading

Is Private Property in America Ever Justly Acquired?

Property acquisition in the Americas begins.

Back to the critique of Ron Paul’s libertarian principles that I began with this post. We’re onto principle number 3:

3. Justly acquired property is privately owned by individuals and voluntary groups, and this ownership cannot be arbitrarily voided by governments.

–from The Ten Principles of a Free Society

[Aside: There's that word "voluntary" with groups (associations) again! ]

As I’ve shown in my previous critiques, Paul’s principles are half-baked by-products of social contract theory. They want to assert that rights precede government (which even social contract philosophers have to take on faith) and then do away with the government that those philosophers posited as a necessary evil for preserving those rights in society with other individuals. Really? Do away with the government, you might ask? Doesn’t Paul, like Jefferson, for example, just want to keep the government to a size that isn’t able to overwhelm the individual with its potentially arbitrary and despotic power? I would argue that the way these principles are phrased–and this one in particular is a very good example–Paul seeks to postulate a society that operates according to natural rights, with or without a government. He seems to believe that rights in themselves, if we would only just respect them, are sufficient for self-government.
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Fruits of One’s Labor: Possession and Property, Use and Usury

Jan C, a self-described “prioritarian” and “voluntaryist” (new terms on me, I confess) who inspired the previous post, opened another can of worms in his comments that I’d like to look into more deeply. He was responding to this assertion of mine:

“The difference between possession and private property in real anarchism, is the difference between use and usury. Real anarchists believe that what a person uses, a person possesses”

He asked:

So if you don’t use ‘your’ hammer, I can pick up and walk away with it?

I really don’t understand you people. If you’ve worked your ass of and got something for it in return (money, or goods), than you simply own it, and that means you can do with it whatever you like (either use it, trade it, give it away or destroy it). How can anybody not agree with that?

I do see that there are grey area’s. What constitutes property is not always clear-cut in every case. But I find ‘fruits of labour’ a much better rule of thumb than ‘use’. Continue reading

The “Anarcho”-Capitalist Conundrum

In the wake of September 11, 2001 and continuing through the lead-up to the Iraq War and into 2003, I was involved in an intense debate on several political Usenet groups (my involvement in political Usenet, actually, goes back to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal of 1997-1998), in which there was a clique of rabidly right wing libertarians holding forth on what they called “anarcho-capitalism.” Many believe that the only logical conclusion to right libertarianism (and to history, actually) is capitalism completely unfettered by government. In a sense, they’re right (except for the history part): If you think government is bad for business and you think business is the best way to distribute resources, then the best government is no government at all.  Of course a lot of Libertarians believe government is necessary to provide for the defense of business interests, but the anarchos would argue that if businesses need to be defended, they should do it themselves. Abolish government, they say, abolish borders, open all the world to capitalism. Let the market determine the value of everything. Continue reading