I have noticed that on two occasions that I have made note of, you have expressed a dislike for the thoughts/ideas of Murray Rothbard; I can definitely understand how, from your position/perspective, Rothbard might seem as if decidedly coming from the "right-libertarian" perspective but if you would indulge this request, I would like to know your thoughts/response to the piece in The Libertarian Forum from both Hess and Rothbard in 1969. I would suggest, that this may be a side of Rothbard's thought that "right-libertarians" rarely emphasize: http://mises.org/journals/lf/1969/1969_06_15.aspx
I guess the question would be: "How does this side of Rothbard in contrast and/or similarity, to your own perspective?"
Where Are The Specifics?
Libertarianism is clearly the most, perhaps the only trulyradical movement in America. It grasps the problems ofsociety by the roots. It is not reformist in any sense. It isrevolutionary in every sense.
Because so many of its people, however, have come fromthe right there remains about it at least an aura or, perhaps,miasma of defensiveness, as though its interests reallycenter in, for instance, defending private property. Thetruth, of course, is that libertarianism wants to advanceprinciples of property but that it in no way wishes to defend,willy nilly, all property which now is called private.
Much of that property is stolen. Much is of dubious title.All of it is deeply intertwined with an immoral, coercivestate system which has condoned, built on, and profited fromslavery; has expanded through and exploited a brutal andaggressive imperial and colonial foreign policy, and continuesto hold the people in a roughly serf-master relationshipto political-economic power concentrations.
Libertarians are concerned, first and foremost, with thatmost valuable of properties, the life of each individual. Thatis the property most brutally and constantly abused by statesystems whether they are of the right or left. Propertyrights pertaining to material objects are seen by libertariansas stemming from and as importantly secondary to the rightto own, direct, and enjoy one's own life and those appurtenancesthereto which may be acquired without coercion.
Libertarians, in short, simply do not believe that theft isproper whether it is committed in the name of a state, aclass, a crises, a credo, or a cliche.
This is a far cry from sharing common ground with thosewho want to create a society in which super capitalists arefree to amass vast holdings and who say that that is ultimatelythe most important purpose of freedom. This is proto-heroicnonsense.
Libertarianism is a people's movement and a liberationmovement. It seeks the sort of open, non-coercive societyin which the people, the living, free, distinct people mayvoluntarily associate, dis-associate, and, as they see fit,participate in the decisions affecting their lives. Thismeans a truly free market in everything from ideas toidiosyncrasies. It means people free collectively to organizethe resources of their immediate community or individualisticallyto organize them; it means the freedom to have acommunity-based and supported judiciary where wanted,none where not, or private arbitration services where thatis seen as most desirable. The same with police. The samewith schools, hospitals, factories, farms, laboratories,parks, and pensions. Liberty means the right to shape yourown institutions. It opposes the right of those institutionsto shape you simply because of accreted power or gerontologicalstatus.
For many, however, these root principles of radicallibertarianism will remain mere abstractions, and evensuspect, until they are developed into aggressive, specificproposals.
There is scarcely anything radical about, for instance,those who say that the poor should have a larger share ofthe Federal budget. That is reactionary, asking that theinstitution of state theft be made merely more palatable bydistributing its loot to more sympathetic persons. Perhapsno one of sound mind could object more to giving Federalfunds to poor people than to spending the money on theslaughter of Vietnamese peasant fighters. But to argue suchrelative merits must end being simply reformist and notrevolutionary.
Libertarians could and should propose specific revolutionarytactics and goals which would have specific meaningto poor people and to all people; to analyze in depth and todemonstrate in example the meaning of liberty, revolutionaryliberty to them.
I, for one, earnestly beseech such thinking from mycomrades.
The proposals should take into account the revolutionarytreatment of stolen 'private' and 'public' property in libertarian,radical, and revolutionary terms; the factors whichhave oppressed people so far, and so forth. Murray Rothbardand others have done much theoretical work alongthese lines but it can never be enough for just a few toshoulder so much of the burden.
Let me propose just a few examples of the sort of specific,revolutionary and radical questions to which members ofour Movement might well address themselves.
—Land ownership and/or usage in a situation of decliningstate power. The Tijerina situation suggests one approach.There must be many others. And what about (realistically,not romantically) water and air pollution liability and prevention?
—Worker, share-owner, community roles or rights inproductive facilities in terms of libertarian analysis and asspecific proposals in a radical and revolutionary context.What, for instance, might or should happen to GeneralMotors in a liberated society?
Of particular interest, to me at any rate, is focusinglibertarian analysis and ingenuity on finishing the greatunfinished business of the abolition of slavery. Simply settingslaves free, in a world still owned by their masters,obviously was an historic inequity. (Libertarians hold thatthe South should have been permitted to secede so that theslaves themselves, along with their Northern friends, couldhave built a revolutionary liberation movement, overthrownthe masters, and thus shaped the reparations of revolution.)Thoughts of reparations today are clouded by concern thatit would be taken out against innocent persons who in no waycould be connected to former oppression. There is an areawhere that could be avoided: in the use of government-'owned'lands and facilities as items of exchange in compensatingthe descendants of slaves and making it possiblefor them to participate in the communities of the land,finally, as equals and not wards.
Somewhere, I must assume, there is a libertarian who,sharing the idea, might work out a good and consistentproposal for justice in that area.
Obviously the list is endless. But the point is finite andfinely focused.
With libertarianism now developing as a Movement, itearnestly and urgently requires innovative proposals, radicaland specific goals, and a revolutionary agenda which cantranslate its great and enduring principles into timely andcommanding courses of possible and even practical action.
|"What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers arenot warned from time to time that their people preserve thespirit of resistance? Let them take arms."|
—Thomas Jefferson, 1787
|The Libertarian Forum, June 15, 1969||3|
CONFISCATION AND THE HOMESTEAD PRINCIPLE
This question has been essentially answered by theexciting developments of Tito's Yugoslavia. Beginning in1952, Yugoslavia has been de-socializing at a remarkablerate. The principle the Yugoslavs have used is the libertarian"homesteading" one: the state-owned factories to theworkers that work in them! The nationalized plants in the"public" sector have all been transferred in virtual ownershipto the specific workers who work in the particularplants, thus making them producers' coops, and movingrapidly in the direction of individual shares of virtualownership to the individual worker. What other practicableroute toward destatization could there be? The principle inthe Communist countries should be: land to the peasants andthe factories to the workers, thereby getting the propertyout of the hands of the State and into private, homesteadinghands.
The homesteading principle means that the way thatunowned property gets into private ownership is by theprinciple that this property justly belongs to the person whofinds, occupies, and transforms it by his labor. This is clearin the case of the pioneer and virgin land. But what of thecase of stolen property?
Suppose, for example, that A steals B's horse. Then Ccomes along and takes the horse from A. Can C be calleda thief? Certainly not, for we cannot call a man a criminalfor stealing goods from a thief. On the contrary, C is performinga virtuous act of confiscation, for he is deprivingthief A of the fruits of his crime of aggression, and he is atleast returning the horse to the innocent "private" sectorand out of the "criminal" sector. C has done a noble act andshould be applauded. Of course, it would be still better if hereturned the horse to B, the original victim. But even if hedoes not, the horse is far more justly in C's hands than it isin the hands of A, the thief and criminal.
Let us now apply our libertarian theory of property to thecase of property in the hands of, or derived from, the Stateapparatus. The libertarian sees the State as a giant gang oforganized criminals, who live off the theft called "taxation"and use the proceeds to kill, enslave, and generally pushpeople around. Therefore, any property in the hands of theState is in the hands of thieves, and should be liberated asquickly as possible. Any person or group who liberates suchproperty, who confiscates or appropriates it from the State,is performing a virtuous act and a signal service to thecause of liberty. In the case of the State, furthermore, thevictim is not readily identifiable as B, the horse-owner. Alltaxpayers, all draftees, all victims of the State have beenmulcted. How to go about returning all this property to thetaxpayers? What proportions should be used in this terrifictangle of robbery and injustice that we have all suffered atthe hands of the State? Often, the most practical method ofde-statizing is simply to grant the moral right of ownershipon the person or group who seizes the property from theState. Of this group, the most morally deserving are theones who are already using the property but who have nomoral complicity in the State's act of aggression. Thesepeople then become the "homesteaders" of the stolenproperty and hence the rightful owners.
Take, for example, the State universities. This is propertybuilt on funds stolen from the taxpayers. Since the State hasnot found or put into effect a way of returning ownership ofthis property to the taxpaying public, the proper owners ofthis university are the "homesteaders", those who havealready been using and therefore "mixing their labor" withthe facilities. The prime consideration is to deprive thethief, in this case the State, as quickly as possible of theownership and control of its ill-gotten gains, to return theproperty to the innocent, private sector. This means studentand/or faculty ownership of the universities.
As between the two groups, the students have a prior claim,for the students have been paying at least some amount tosupport the university whereas the faculty suffer from themoral taint of living off State funds and thereby becoming tosome extent a part of the State apparatus.
The same principle applies to nominally "private" propertywhich really comes from the State as a result of zealouslobbying on behalf of the recipient. Columbia University, forexample, which receives nearly two-thirds of its incomefrom government, is only a "private" college in the mostironic sense. It deserves a similar fate of virtuous homesteadingconfiscation.
But if Columbia University, what of General Dynamics?What of the myriad of corporations which are integral partsof the military-industrial complex, which not only get overhalf or sometimes virtually all their revenue from thegovernment but also participate in mass murder? What aretheir credentials to "private" property? Surely less thanzero. As eager lobbyists for these contracts and subsidies,as co-founders of the garrison state, they deserve confiscationand reversion of their property to the genuine privatesector as rapidly as possible. To say that their "private"property must be respected is to say that the propertystolen by the horsethief and the murdered [sic] must be"respected".
But how then do we go about destatizing the entire mass ofgovernment property, as well as the "private property" ofGeneral Dynamics? All this needs detailed thought and inquiryon the part of libertarians. One method would be to turn overownership to the homesteading workers in the particularplants; another to turn over pro-rata ownership to theindividual taxpayers. But we must face the fact that it mightprove the most practical route to first nationalize theproperty as a prelude to redistribution. Thus, how could theownership of General Dynamics be transferred to thedeserving taxpayers without first being nationalized enroute?And, further more, even if the government should decide tonationalize General Dynamics—without compensation, ofcourse—per se and not as a prelude to redistribution to thetaxpayers, this is not immoral or something to be combatted.For it would only mean that one gang of thieves—the government—wouldbe confiscating property from another previouslycooperating gang, the corporation that has lived offthe government. I do not often agree with John KennethGalbraith, but his recent suggestion to nationalize businesseswhich get more than 75% of their revenue from government,or from the military, has considerable merit. Certainly itdoes not mean aggression against private property, and,furthermore, we could expect a considerable diminution ofzeal from the military-industrial complex if much of theprofits were taken out of war and plunder. And besides, itwould make the American military machine less efficient,being governmental, and that is surely all to the good. Butwhy stop at 75%? Fifty per cent seems to be a reasonable
(Continued on page 4)
|4||The Libertarian Forum, June 15, 1969|
CONFISCATION — (Continued from page 3)
cutoff point on whether an organization is largely public orlargely private.
And there is another consideration. Dow Chemical, forexample, has been heavily criticized for making napalm forthe U.S. military machine. The percentage of its salescoming from napalm is undoubtedly small, so that on apercentage basis the company may not seem very guilty; butnapalm is and can only be an instrument of mass murder,and therefore Dow Chemical is heavily up to its neck in beingan accessory and hence a co-partner in the mass murder inVietnam. No percentage of sales, however small, can absolveits guilt.
This brings us to Karl's point about slaves. One of thetragic aspects of the emancipation of the serfs in Russia in1861 was that while the serfs gained their personal freedom,the land—their means of production and of life, their landwas retained under the ownership of their feudal masters.The land should have gone to the serfs themselves, forunder the homestead principle they had tilled the land anddeserved its title. Furthermore, the serfs were entitled to ahost of reparations from their masters for the centuries ofoppression and exploitation. The fact that the land remainedin the hands of the lords paved the way inexorably for theBolshevik Revolution, since the revolution that had freed theserfs remained unfinished.
The same is true of the abolition of slavery in the UnitedStates. The slaves gained their freedom, it is true, but theland, the plantations that they had tilled and thereforedeserved to own under the homestead principle, remained inthe hands of their former masters. Furthermore, noreparations were granted the slaves for their oppressionout of the hides of their masters. Hence the abolition ofslavery remained unfinished, and the seeds of a new revolthave remained to intensify to the present day. Hence, thegreat importance of the shift in Negro demands from greaterwelfare handouts to "reparations", reparations for the yearsof slavery and exploitation and for the failure to grant theNegroes their land, the failure to heed the Radical abolitionist'scall for "40 acres and a mule" to the former slaves. Inmany cases, moreover, the old plantations and the heirs anddescendants of the former slaves can be identified, and thereparations can become highly specific indeed.
Alan Milchman, in the days when he was a brilliant younglibertarian activist, first pointed out that libertarians hadmisled themselves by making their main dichotomy "government"vs. "private" with the former bad and the lattergood. Government, he pointed out, is after all not a mysticalentity but a group of individuals, "private" individuals if youwill, acting in the manner of an organized criminal gang.But this means that there may also be "private" criminalsas well as people directly affiliated with the government.What we libertarians object to, then, is not governmentper se but crime, what we object to is unjust or criminalproperty titles; what we are for is not "private" propertyper se but just, innocent, non-criminal private property.It is justice vs. injustice, innocence vs. criminality thatmust be our major libertarian focus.
[Further reading if you are interested: http://mises.org/daily/2099]