Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On the theory of Proudhon:

One of the more notable thinkers that deny the legitimacy of 'property' is Pierre-Joseph Proudhon; Proudhon argued for a theory of justice, which would deny the legitimacy of certain kinds of private property, as Proudhon felt that it necessitated the result of material inequality (and hence, for Proudhon, an injustice).
For Proudhon, the goods that one produces with one's own labor, is properly the possession of that person but those goods/resources which are the result of corporate labor, are corporate goods and cannot be owned by particular individuals as a 'possession'.
Prouhon distinguishes between:
“Property pure and simple, the dominant and seigniorial power over a thing; or, as they term it, naked property” [for Proudhon, an illegitimate form of property] and a, “Possession. ... The tenant, the farmer, the commandité, the usufructuary, are possessors" [a legitimate form of property]; "the owner who lets and lends for use, the heir who is to come into possession on the death of a usufructuary, are proprietors." [illegitimate] "... This double definition of property -- domain and possession -- is of the highest importance; and it must be clearly understood...”147
In Proudhon's formulation of property, the farmer and artisan could 'possess' the results and production of her own labor, which she properly and legitimately owns but such a formulation would not permit the ownership of capital goods and resources (like factories), which Proudhon identifies as an illegitimate acquisition of the productive power of labor.148
Proudhon's ideas demonstrates just one of the possible demarcations between the bifurcation of the more common sense of property, into a concept of 'property'
Pierre Joseph Proudhon, “What is Property? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government” (New York NY: Humboldt Publishing Company, 1890) 43. Accessed 11-10-2011 at http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2? id=ProProp.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part= all Proudhon quotes Dranton and Toullier in this same passage: “Possession,' says Duranton, 'is a matter of fact, not of right.' Toullier: 'Property is a right, a legal power; possession is a fact.'”
"Under the law of association, transmission of wealth does not apply to the instruments of labour, so cannot become a cause of inequality... We are socialists... under universal association, ownership of the land and of the instruments of labour is social ownership... We want the mines, canals, railways handed over to democratically organised workers' associations... We want these associations to be models for agriculture, industry and trade, the pioneering core of that vast federation of companies and societies, joined together in the common bond of the democratic and social Republic." -Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. 'Oeuvres Complètes' (Lacroix edition), volume 17, pages 188-9.
which is legitimate (property as 'possession'), and one which is not (property as 'domain'). While Proudhon's bifurcation of property, is not untenable, the philosophic anchor to what is legitimate property (possession), being located in the personal expenditure of labor to produce it (labor theory of value), would be economically conducive to fairly primitive economic organizations, where self-sufficiency is of primary necessity, but Proudhon's theory would be fairly limiting to more complex economic organization, in which the specialization of labor permits exponentially greater efficiency in the satisfaction of human wants/desires.149 In as much as I do not perceive the actions of trade between persons, as illegitimate, and the complex economic organization, such as in factories, are differences in the measure of the complexity of trade between persons and not a difference in kind, I would reject the contention that, the meaning of property as the material resources, acquired through the mixture of labor with natural resources (home-steading) and through voluntary/consensual trade between persons, for private and exclusive use, is thence circumscribed or restricted. This rejection of Proudhon's theory is hardly a foregone conclusion, and it expresses more of a subjective preference of theoretical insight on
Certainly Proudhon thought that his theory allowed for complex economic organization, as he would would have the laborers of a factory, its owners; preserving the idea that one only legitimately owns, on what one labors. A thorough account of why this allocation of property right would result in sever reductions in production may be found in Ludwig von Mises' “Fallacies of Syndicalism”. Essentially, Mises identifies that in free-market scenario, the entrepreneur is forced to anticipate and respond to the market-forces of consumer demand, in order to compete and remain solvent. This control that the consumer demand has over the entrepreneur owner of a factory, Mises identifies and consumer-sovereignty. The replacement of the entrepreneur, with a federation of workers in collective ownership, would have the economic tendency to respond less to market-forces of consumer demand and more on individual apportionment of the collective ownership, tending to an unsustainable producer sovereignty (tragedy of the commons). A workers collective then, would neither have the same motivation, the same willingness to accept the risk of new market-ventures, nor the same skill, as the entrepreneur, in the anticipation and response to market-forces. Ludwig von Mises (1963) Human Action (San Francisco CA: Fox & Wilkes) 813- 14.
my own part, than a substantive refutation; Proudhon's theory of property remains tenable for anyone advocating a more or less self-sufficient life, suppling all of their needs by means of their own labor. As Ludwig von Mises has written:
It is obvious that this controversy cannot be settled by appeal to historical experience. With regard to the establishment of the facts there is no disagreement between the two groups. Their antagonism concerns the interpretation of events, and this interpretation must be guided by the theory chosen. The epistemological and logical considerations which determine the correctness or incorrectness of a theory are logically and temporally antecedent to the elucidation of the historical problem involved. The historical facts as such neither prove nor disprove any theory. They need to be interpreted in the light of theoretical insight.150
Therefore, these three initial premises, defended as modestly as they are here, if accepted, concludes that rational individuals are by their very nature, ethical entities (free-will), that have the locus of their rights intrinsic to their status as ethical beings, and that among their rights, is the ownership or domain to their own body (life) and to their property, acquired through nature (home-steading), or trade. The right, ownership or domain to use one's property (whether one's own body or external property) as one sees proper, as long as the action does not conflict with another person's rights (liberty), is the philosophic essence of Locke's theory of Natural Rights, “life, liberty and property”.
150 151
[E]very man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself. The labour of his body and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, an left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it that excludes the common right of other men.151

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