Spencer MacCallum interviewed by Wayne John Sturgeon

1)      Please could you introduce your self and how you became interested in themes concerning libertarian concepts of land ownership etc?
I ’m a social anthropologist now 81 years old (born 1931). As an undergraduate at Princeton I studied art history and wrote on Northwest Coast Indian art. This took me out to the University of Washington for my master ’s work in order to be nearer to the Northwest Coast. But I’d become interested in my grandfather , Spencer Heath’s , thinking on human social organization . T hat , together with the fact that Northwest Coast Indian peoples were traditionally a stateless society , led to my Master ’s paper on the shopping mall, seen in its internal organization as a community of landlord and merchant tenants — which, interestingly, closely parallels the organization of a Northwest Coast Indian community . This led to a published book, The Art of Community. The path of
how I became interested in voluntaryist themes (I try to avoid the label “libertarian” because it has a political connotation ) is described in detail in Walter  Block’s I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians (Ludwig von Mises Institute 2010) , available online at http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig4/maccallum1.html.
2)      What is heathian anarchism?
Heath was never an anarchist, which is a negative term signifying nothing but the absence of rulership. He was interested in how society works, how it self- organize s . He defined society not as simply a population, but as th e portion of a population reciprocally engaged  in voluntary exchange. The boundaries of society are thus permeable and, as soci ety evol ves , expanding to include a greater and greater fraction of the population , the excluded fraction consisting of p olitical and other violent and criminal elements . These are beyond the pale, literally outlaw, outside the customary law of society , c ustomary law tend ing to approximate the natural law s that govern social phenomena like everything else in nature and which ought never be confused with legislated rules.
3)      Could you explain the basic idea as presented in Spencer Heath ’ s book Citadel, Market and Altar?
The title symbolizes three aspects of society. First, there must be a protected place . Given a safe place , there can develop voluntary exchange. Th e market meets the current needs of society , maintain ing it at a given level . In addition, it creates opportunity and means for non-necessitous pursuits , which is  the field of inspiration , symbolized by the altar. H ere society advances to higher levels through the development of pure sciences, philosophy, and the arts. Citadel, Market and Altar explains , as no one has undertaken to do before, the functional role of private property in land as the fundamental social institution . It makes possible the protected place upon which the market depends. As it s potential to provide not only protection but all manner of public community services contractually in the market comes to be understood, it will become one of the m ost profitable of market enterprise s , freeing mankind to creative pursuits in infinite scope and variety .
4)      What are the main differences in your mind between the Heathian vision and the Henry George model of society?
George’s great , intuitive insight was to see ground rent as the natural fund for public services. But in applying this insight, he mistakenly looked to political means . He would remove all taxes on land use, which is good, and place it entirely on ground rent — the “S i ngle Tax.” Heath saw that protecting land users from taxation would make land use of every kind so profitable that the value of land would rise dramatically. Realizing this, the land-owning interest would become not the opponent but the main proponent of the Single-Tax. Property owners would lead the movement to untax all land uses and out of the ir increased revenues would begin to oversee and gradually take over voluntarily the funding and provision of all community services. By thus bringing public services out of politics and into the market , government as we know it would be outgrown . See my paper , “The Enterprise of Community” ( Journal of Libertarian Studies 17:4 , Fall 2003 ) , revised by the author 2008 .
5)      How is this different from the various schools of anarcho-capitalism?
Anarcho-capitalists fail to see the provision of public community services as a potential field for entrepreneurial enterprise. Again see my above-mentioned paper, “The Enterprise of Community.”
6)      You have developed some of these themes in your own written works, The Art of Community and as a contributer to The Voluntary City , etc. Could you tell us something about these publications?
The mo st valuable of my writings are probably four. “The En t erprise of Community ,” already referred to, looks at the changing incentives of land owners with the rise of extensive specialization of labor and describes the possibly enormous social significance of this. A companion paper to this is “ A Short Perspective on Land and Social Evolution ” (The Voluntaryist, Whole Number 139, 4 th Quarter 2008 ).   Another paper that I think important for giving an evolutionary perspec t ive is “ The Quickening of Social Evolution: Negotiating the Last Rapids, Perhaps ” (The Independent Review II:2 , Fall 1997 ), revised by the author 2012 . A fourth paper , a short monograph, is “ Planned Communities w ithout Politics : Finding a Market Solution to the Social and Economic Problems of Common-Interest Development. ” The second and fourth of these papers are unpublished, and the other two have been revised since publication ; so I would suggest that anyone interested in any of these email me at sm@look.net , and I’ll send the revised copies.
7)      What is the “The Independant Institute” as I understand you are a research fellow there?
The Independent Institute is a conservative/libertarian think tank based in Oakland, California. For me to try to describe it fairly would take far too much time in this interview, but information about it is readily available from its website, www.independent.com, and Wikipedia.
8)      I understand that Spencer Heath became a close friend and associate of the alternative monetary theorist (and inspirer of the LETS concept of community credit) , E.C Riegel . Could you explain something of Riegel ’ s basic ideas and your relationship to his legacy?
I did not know that Riegel had inspired the LETS concept of community credit. I met E.C. Riegel through my grandfather , Spencer Heath, in the last year of Riegel’s life, while I was still an undergraduate at Princeton. My grandfather considered him a genius for his understanding the nature and functioning of money . Like my grandfather, Riegel was a n unknown theorist. Neither one being an academic , the y had  no students to preserve or build on their ideas. I intuited somehow, after Riegel died, that I should keep track of happened to his papers , and indeed, ten years later, they were in the point of being dumpstered. I bought them . Now they were safe, and another ten years went by before I looked into them. When I did, I became so excited by their lucidity that over the next few years I edited and privately published two books from them, The New Approach to Freedom and Escape from Inflation: The Monetary Alternative. The two are complementary, the first being philosophical about freedom with references to money, and the other being technical about the workings of a nonpolitical exchange system, with references to freedom philosophy. I wrote a fairly concise, informal su m mary of Riegel’s ideas  in an article entitled “Separating Money and State: A Primer on E.C. Riegel.” Like most of my articles, it’s available on request at sm@look.net.
9)      Is it true that Riegel was influenced to some extent by Proudhonist Mutualism?
I am not aware of any such influence.
10)  Are there any working (or historical examples of) Heathian styled enclaves, retreats or intentional communities in the world today?
All classes of multi-tenant income properties are examples of more or less specialized comm u nities of this sort. My book, The Art of Community, was the first to recognize these as a class and sketch their history , and to suggest that they may portend asignificant turn in social evolution.
11)  What are your current projects and where can one find out more about these various ideas?
Currently I am compiling and digitizing the Spencer Heath Archive, consisting of more than2,000 items ranging from a few lines to complete essays . One of my more interesting efforts was a collaboration with the late Michael van Notten , a legal scholar who married into the Samaron Clan of northern Somalia and lived t he last twelve years of his life with his adoptive kinsmen, taking full advantage of  the opportunity to study Somali c ustomary l aw and politics. He gathered the ethnographic data for a pioneering study o f  the ir customary law but died before the book was was complete. In his will, he asked that I complete it for publication, which I did. In the book he set out how a freeport community might be established in stateless Somalia such that its law would be compatible with the customary law of the surrounding clans and also suit the needs of international commerce. This is the most complete charter for a Heathian community that has yet been undertaken. Progress was well under way for   a freeport development on land that would be leased from the Samaron Clan when Van Notten died. The book is titled, The Law of the Somalis : A Stable Foundation for Social and Economic Development in the Horn of Africa , published by the Red Sea Press in 20 05 .   It’s available online at http://home.arcor.de/danneskjoeld/F/E/T/LawSomalis.html .
I’ve summarized the Somali legal system in “The Somali Way: Authentic Rule of Law Without the State, ”  available  at  http://mises.org/daily/2701/The-Rule-of-Law-without-the-State.