The State, Means of Production, and Means of Immigration

by Keith Preston

Perhaps the principal source of divsion between anarcho-capitalists and socialist-anarchists in the classical tradition relates to the question of who should control what the Marxists call the “means of production.” Anarcho-capitalists envision a system of absolute private property rights rooted in the homesteading principle and defined along Lockean lines. Anarcho-capitalists also accept wage labor, profit, interest, landlordism, and absentee ownership.

Socialist-anarchists favor “workers control of the means of production” through systems of workers’ council, federations of industrial unions, and autonomous collectives or communes. Wage labor is rejected as exploitation and as therefore incompatible with freedom. Profit and interest are viewed with suspicion. Private property is seen as a form of unjust monopolization of material resources derived from nature.

Both sides often accuse each other of crypto-statism.

A number of branches of anarchist economic theory, such as the mutualists, geoists, and agorists, have tried carving out a happy medium between the socialist and capitalist branches of anarchism. These anarchists point out that, for instance, the institutions of big business and big banking that are the perpetrators of much present exploitation would largely be non-existent or rendered powerless and inconsequential in an authentic free market.

But is it really the case that statelessness implies any specific set of property allocation or economic or arrangements? Larry Gambone, for example, has identified a vast array of alternative economic perspectives that fall within the “socialist” paradigm but reject the state outright or allow for only a very minimal role for the state. Walter Block likewise suggests that it is a mistake to conflate libertarian free markets and private property rights with universal capitalism.  Might there not be private communities or non-state collectives that maintain the types of unconventional business arrangements and property systems that Gambone discusses? And might there not be communities that practice anti-capitalism within a framework of Lockean property and contract theory. As Block says:

But there will likely be other areas of the country, for example, the People’s Republics of Santa Monica, Ann Arbor, Cambridge, Mass, Greenwich Village in New York City, heck, the entire Big Apple for that matter, where pretty much the opposite outlook will legally prevail. That is, in these latter places, positive mention of free enterprise, capitalism, profits, etc., will be severely punished by law.

Would not these kinds divisions be solved according to localized customs, cultural patterns, and ideological preferences? Might not some provinces within Anarchistan tend towards syndicalism, others towards Georgism, others towards Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism, and still others towards Fourierism, mutualism, council communism, Kropotkinism, Chomskyite anarcho-social democracy, Hoppean anarcho-monarchism, or Bookchinite libertarian municipalism?

A similar analysis could be applied to the immigration issue. The majority of anarchists and libertarians hold to the view that nations are merely the creations of states and therefore territorial boundaries are an unjust violation of individual liberty (and perhaps racist to boot) and should be scrapped. A minority of anarchists, such as the national-anarchists, black anarchists, native anarchists, and neo-tribalists, have argued that a nation, tribe, or  ethno-culture is a historical or anthropological phenomenon that is distinct from the nation-state per se and that it is improper to conflate the two. Further, some anarchists and libertarians have suggested that mass immigration is in fact driven by states and state-allied institutions in a wide variety of ways. I have made such arguments myself in the past. See here.

But the real question is one of sovereignty. Specifically, who or what has jurisdiction over what might be called the “means of immigration.” These include highways, waterways, public streets and sidewalks, airways, airports, sea lanes, seaports, railways, airlines, coasts, borderlands, public lands, public parks, and other such forms of property or territory. In most contemporaries societies, jurisdiction over these is maintained by the state, or by corporations aligned with the state. But it is certainly easy to envision how such resources might exist without the state or state-allied institution. Any of these could be theoretically owned by private communities, non-state collectives, communes, anarcho-syndicalist workers federations, autonomous municipalities, churches, tribes, families, individuals, neighborhood associations, non-state universities, consumer organizations, and many other types of decentralized, voluntary associations or federations of such associations. Would not individuals, groups, or associations of this kind not have sovereign jurisdiction over who may or may not enter their territories or facilities? And would not the specification for right of entry vary significantly from place to place? Some might maintain a policy such as that favored by Hans Hermann Hoppe:

One would be well on the way toward a restoration of the freedom of association and exclusion as it is implied in the idea and institution of private property, and much of the social strife currently caused by forced integration would disappear, if only towns and villages could and would do what they did as a matter of course until well into the nineteenth century in Europe and the United States: to post signs regarding entrance requirements to the town, and once in town for entering specific pieces of property (no beggars or bums or homeless, but also no Moslems, Hindus, Jews, Catholics, etc.); to kick out those who do not fulfill these requirements as trespassers; and to solve the “naturalization” question somewhat along the Swiss model, where local assemblies, not the central government, determine who can and who cannot become a Swiss citizen.

At the other end of the opinion spectrum, some might take a position such as that of Charles Johnson:

Hoppean covenant communities are deliberately designed to be the worst sort of closed-minded, culturally fascist, hyperbureaucratic HOAs from hell, and even if it were much more plausible than I think it is to get them up and running in a competitive market without land monopoly, government control over public space, etc., no sane person would have any interest in participating in that kind of crap even if it were available. In Tuscaloosa, there’s this retirement community that is about 60% or 70% doddering old Klansmen from the bad old days; and this is essentially what the market for Hoppeville would look like: maybe a city block or two of the Klan Kondo Kommunity.

Definitely there are shared-values sorts of things where there might be good reason to signal that certain norms will be binding within a given space. But my guess is that these will more or less always take the form of non-enforceable social pressures, voluntary certifications etc. in non-continguous networks of people & places, not these elaborate contractually-riveted arrangements based on enforceable exclusive control over community space. (So like vegetarian restaurants, community events, etc., not like Vegetarian-Town where only delivery trucks with certified-vegetarian food moves down the privately-managed roads, where you sign a contract agreeing you’ll be thrown out of your apartment if your neighbor snitches on you for lapsing and eating a fish stick one day, etc.)

However one assesses the respective positions of Hoppe or Johnson on this question, it is clear that either perspective, and various in-between positions, could exist in Anarchistan and probably would co-exist, abeit uneasily.

11 replies »

  1. I actually think immigration is one area where the AnCaps have a serious practical issue, that is assuming AnCaps have enough clout to matter anyway.

    Basically, if you didn’t *personally appropriate* something, you don’t own it. Nobody owns the vast majority of the USA, or ANY unowned land. I just reject the ‘commons’ as a concept, although I acknowledge some sort of customary-use and the possibility of joint ownership, etc. The problem is that none of these ‘immigrationist’ schemes would be possible on anything other than an individual community level. Between any two towns there are almost always large tracts of uninhabited land. If you try to stop some random Mexican from settling there you deserve to be shot, and I don’t really have an inclination to budge on that.

    Pluralism only extends as long as people are self-inflicting their stupidities. As soon as they try to extend their crazy notions of property beyond the boundaries of their creepy community they’re just gangsters with a religion, and fuck ’em.

    So I really think the AnCaps are somewhat correct when it comes to slapping down over-eager pluralism. The fact is that a lot of these people – GeoLibs or AnarchoBorderists – are going to have real potential, if not actual, conflict with a libertarian notion of law.

    I also think that most alternative formulations of property rights and entities like ‘nations’, etc. are just mystical bullshit that deserve to be taken seriously. I can accept communes and syndicates, etc. as long as they confine themselves to their own hippy-dippy bullshit, as soon as they start trying to ‘homestead’ my corporate farm I’ll gladly invite the Pinkertons with Sharpes rifles to welcome them.

    People like Hoppe and Kinsella, or even Machan and Reisman, are correct that there is a limit to how pluralistic you can get with property rights and legal concepts. Basically anything that goes beyond individual procedural rationalism is grounds for blowing people away, I don’t give two shits how much their community of half-witted petty despots and priests agree with it. In my view civilization and industrial capitalism are worth more than most people, anyway.

  2. In the meanwhile one might find common cause with certain left-libertarians in opposing specific issues of state power and the general principle of electoral politics but I actually believe that people who are going around imposing their stupid racialist schemes and bad property systems should be militarily crushed, insofar as they fail to recognize private ownership and contract. Peace stops where your stupid ideas start to impose on my lawn.

  3. I think it’s important to recognize how central the question of private property is to social organization. There are many different customary norms for deciding what specific property has been appropriated, cultural Schelling points such as a signature, etc. That doesn’t mean that all property systems are equally valid or all compatible. The *internal* communist state is only acceptable with reference to an *general* acceptance of individual capitalist property. Once they start attacking that, i.e. chasing off the Mexican homesteader, or trying to squat on the logging company’s mountainside, there is no more question of ‘tolerance’ and either they need to back of and go back to their Spartan Hellholes or get blown up by the guns of capitalism.

  4. You can’t just treat these ‘communities’ like they have independent existence or are in some pocket dimension of their own. If they have bad property systems then you’ve just replaced the State for Somalia. Maybe it’s an improvement, but frankly they’re just going to have to accept international finance capital and landlordism to develop huge lands – including all those oil deposits you live near, if you wanted them you should have started drilling – or too bad for them. Nobody has a ‘right’ to practice GeoLibertarianism with someone else’s Geo.

  5. There are three senses in which this doesn’t bother me. One, I’m not an activist and this isn’t happening on my timetable or intent, so who cares. Two, who cares what happens to left-libertarians? Three, these Commies and Tribalists would be in a 1000x worse situation pissing off laissez-faire technophiles than they are fighting with the American government. They just wouldn’t stand a chance.

    Number 3 is probably why most left-anarchists are actually so terrified of accepting anarchic capitalism: it will bury them.

  6. Basically, my conception of pluralism and tolerance is one of having better things to worry about. Once the primary threat is no longer gigantic super-states, but stupid tribes of atavistic savages and thieves, I will have no problem railing on them as hard as I rail against the gub’ment.

    I’m not exactly a Universalist but I also don’t have any problem spitting on the crazy bullshit Lefties and Right-Os want to make into the law. A and B can have any system they like between themselves, but as soon as C is involved the only standard of judgment and arbitration I will accept is the minimal principle of individualist anarchism. If someone wants to see up a zoophilia porn studio on the outskirts of town, and your local syndicalist labor union doesn’t like it, too bad for them. I hope they get shot up the same as these pigs who do drug busts. You don’t have to like gang-bangers to think they’re in the right.

    As I said earlier, I frankly consider a fairly hardline property-and-contract system to be more valuable than most human beings. I don’t think ‘tolerance’ is worth putting up with their stupid shitty ideas. Of course one would distinguish between people holding bad ideas and people acting on them. Being a Nazi does not mean you kill Jews. But once they cross that line there really is no ‘tolerance’ possible. This is the core of how we decide who can do anything, and it has to be framed in some coherent manner that allows forward-planning and backward-evaluation. All their moralizing and hand-wavy belief in ‘owning dem tribal lands’ is a crock of shit and should be laughed off in court. And if dem and dey kin try to enforce it anyway they’re just asking to be tread salsa.

  7. Actually I think I just convinced myself that this is all mistaken and I don’t really have any stake in your kind of pluralism. Basically, as long as people are still dipshits nothing will be accomplished I really care about; as that is likely to persist beyond my life it is likely nothing will be accomplished.

    Unlike the Universalists I recognize the limited malleability of the human condition, but unlike the Traditionalists I am not resigned to formulating my values around the mass-man and his foibles. I cleave to the third path, and hope you all go to Hell.

    • I suppose the tension I have is that I often like radical *thought*, but I don’t care for the people, or their projects, or their pet values, I don’t want to improve anyone’s life but my own, I don’t feel concern over what happens to other people and I think most of them well deserve everything shitty that happens to them. I may dislike activism and religion (secular or mystical) about equally, whether it’s the NAP or God or the State. Some of them are more of a practical problem for me, but I can’t actually do anything about *any* of them – so who cares?

      Not me. I need to just stop talking to you people. Bad habits and boredom.

  8. You mentioned pan-secessionism as a way to avoid libertarianism becoming a hobby for smart people. Maybe that’s all it’s any good for. Maybe people don’t deserve libertarianism. Maybe pan-secessionism will never work because people are hooked on morality, ideology, religion (but I repeat myself). In any case, if it doesn’t make my food cheaper or my clothes warmer or my taxes lower it doesn’t seem to make much difference. The fate of imaginary future people I leave entirely to the host of scribblers. I think the whole desire to ‘be active’ and ‘get involved’ is to misunderstand how mass society differs from tribalism. Saying ‘we should reduce to tribal scale political orders’ may just be wishful thinking. Value imperialism may be necessary because most people have shitty values. I’m not proposing NeoConnism or Jacobin approaches but more like an inverted Jacobinism – so long as people are not libertarian, and are not so by basically straightforwardly logical or self-interested amoral reasons, people are just stupid pigs and deserve the boot on their neck.

    Now I’m actually done.

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