Occupancy and Use: Potential Applications and Possible Shortcomings

A lengthy symposium from the Center for a Stateless Society on anarchist economics. LOL, most of these guys hate my guts but I’m pleased to see this debate about anarchist economics going on.

By Cory Massimino

Center for a Stateless Society

Introducing the November 2015 Mutual Exchange Symposium
Discourse on Occupancy and Use: Potential Applications and Possible Shortcomings

“It’s a shame there’s even a need to say this, but ‘property’ is a word that’s used by different people to mean different things,” reckons Kevin Carson in his opening salvo. Carson’s statement neatly summarizes C4SS’s November 2015 Mutual Exchange Symposium.

Mutual Exchange is C4SS’s effort to achieve mutual understanding through exchange. This month we will explore the vast intellectual landscape of meaning people apply to “property.” A highly contentious word in the history of political philosophy, especially in anarchist intellectual circles, “property” deserves extensive, robust, and honest dialogue for any worthwhile understanding. And so C4SS presents our Discourse on Occupancy and Use: Potential Applications and Possible Shortcomings, featuring our own Kevin Carson, William Gillis and Jason Lee Byas, as well as guest authors Shawn Wilbur, Fred Foldvary, William Schnack, and Robert Kirchner.

What do we mean by “property”? Do all social systems have it? What role does it play in the reigning social system? What would a property regime of “occupancy and use” look like? How would it function and be enforced? Is it philosophically sound or practically stable? How does it compare to alternative theories of property, such as Lockeanism and Neo-Lockeanism that emphasize “labor-mixing,” or Georgism, that emphasizes the special nature of land? Is there reason to think a free society would have “occupancy and use” property norms? If so, is that preferable?

C4SS will publish an essay every other day starting on November 8th by a diverse range of thinkers exploring the above questions. In the tradition of Benjamin Tucker, Josiah Warren, and Joshua K. Ingalls, C4SS Senior Fellow and Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory, Kevin Carson, begins our dialogue by defending the view that, “not only must land be occupied and put into use to be legitimately appropriated, but continued occupancy is required to maintain ownership (with obvious common-sense exceptions for traveling, letting some land periodically lie fallow, and the like),” while also maintaining a pluralist view, acknowledging the potential for decentralized creativity and alternative property regimes in a free society. Carson also acknowledges the Georgist analysis of rent, but instead of proposing a land value tax, Carson asserts “that opening up vacant land, together with eliminating subsidies to sprawl, will reduce the amount of differential rent to acceptable levels.” Carson also tries to find common ground with the Lockeans, concluding, “Lockean and mutualist property are ‘the same thing … with different parameters’ for the length of time necessary to establish abandonment.”


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