STIGMERGY: The C4SS Blog
Let’s Talk About Private Property And Extracting Rent From Others

Jiminykrix recently commented on my last post about how we left-libertarian market anarchists aren’t socially liberal capitalists. He had a point to make about private property that’s worth mentioning. The inspiration for his commentary on it was my defining capitalism as the separation of labor from ownership rather than markets or private property per se. This is admittedly a work in progress definition I tentatively endorse. That doesn’t mean his commentary is not worth further exploration. Let’s dive in!

He writes in reference to my defining of capitalism:

Pretty good, but.. to my mind, private property is a danger in itself because it creates disparities in economic power that could provide opportunities to demand rent, creating a feedback loop between power and wealth and power, allowing the private property owner to recreate capitalist-like structures.

Legitimate points, Jiminykrix. A way of approaching this particular analysis is to invoke the tried and true left-anarchist distinction between possession and property. If my memory serves me correctly, this demarcation pertains to what one personally uses as opposed to what one owns absentee under capitalist norms of legal ownership. A reliance on possession in the form of occupation and use would go a long ways towards remedying the problems raised by the commentator above.

Without absentee control or ownership, a massive disparity in wealth and power wouldn’t exist because they couldn’t exercise external control over you and extract rent. It was perhaps careless of me not to use the term, private possession, as opposed to private property. Lockean property rights wouldn’t of necessity lead to the conditions described above either. If there were widespread ownership due to more egalitarian freed market forces, the recreation of capitalist structures would be difficult to impossible. The difficulty would leave only a small minority of ardent seekers to push for it. Not exactly a powerful political, economic, and cultural force.

His final commentary relevant to this post is below:

It could be that the understanding of “ownership” in play in this definition is intended to be sufficiently strong to ward off this possibility, but I think it’s worth bearing in mind that legal ownership of something isn’t the only way someone ever extracts rent from someone else.

E.g., in politics under bourgeois democracy, if my fortune allows me to merely *threaten* to fund the opponent of a political candidate, I have power over politics even without spending money. It seems unlikely to me that someone with a hoard of gold (or bitcoin?) in, say, a mutualist society wouldn’t be able to extract rent from someone, somewhere.

The definition used was not intended to be strong enough to ward off this possibility, but it certainly is worth understanding in that manner. Not sure how a person extracts rent from someone else without legal ownership of something, so the commentator is kindly asked to provide further examples or explain the one given beter. The example provided is not understandable as one to me.

The author is correct to note that hoarding wealth in a mutualist society most likely wouldn’t allow one to extract rent. This is possibly due to the lack of absentee control over others, and what they actually use, but you happen to legally own under capitalism. Let’s work to put an end to said exploitation.

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