Kevin Carson replies to Paul Marks

Further Thoughts about “Contract Feudalism”: A Response to Paul Marks
Kevin Carson

Economic Notes No. 109

ISSN 0267-7164                   ISBN 9781856377560

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Landsdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL.

© 2008: Libertarian Alliance; Kevin Carson.

Kevin Carson lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  He works as a hospital orderly and operates a lawn-mowing service.  He belongs to the Voluntary Cooperation Movement (a mutualist affinity group), and the Industrial Workers of the World.  He also maintains the Mutualist.Org website and recently published the book Studies in Mutualist Political Economy.

The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee,
Advisory Council or subscribers.


The Response of Paul Marks

The Libertarian Alliance was kind enough, in 2006, to publish my pamphlet Contract Feudalism: A Critique of Employer Power over Employees.1  Since then, Paul Marks, a Conservative councillor on Kettering Borough Council, has taken the trouble to reply to it with a pamphlet of his own: A Critique of a Critique: An Examination of Kevin Carson’s �Contract Feudalism’.2

As grateful as I am for the attention, I hesitate to undertake a response.  Mr Marks’ effort has been lionized in the libertarian blogosphere.  For example, Stephan Kinsella of Mises Blog calls it “a brilliant, solid, and interesting analysis” of my pamphlet,3 and Perry De Havilland of Samizdata praises Mr Marks for being “in splendid and splenic form.”4  One of the commenters at Samizdata dismisses me as a “yapping Pomeranian” in comparison to Mr Marks’ “English mastiff.”  Nevertheless, even though I take my life into my own hands in confronting this formidable mastiff, I feel I owe him some sort of response as a matter of courtesy.

Contract Feudalism Restated

Toward the beginning of his critique (I say toward the beginning because it’s the first substantive comment following a rambling dissertation on assorted topics like the semiotics of the Voluntary Cooperation Movement emblem), he asks just what “contract feudalism” is supposed to mean (followed by another rambling tangent on the historical meaning of the term “feudalism”.)  Contract feudalism,” put simply, refers to the persistence of superior-subordinate relations reminiscent in substance to those under previous regimes of status, but under the guise of a de jure regime of contract.  Lysander Spooner put it pretty well in Natural Law::

“In process of time, the robber, or slaveholding, class – who had seized all the lands, and held all the means of creating wealth – began to discover that the easiest mode of managing their slaves, and making them profitable, was not for each slaveholder to hold his specified number of slaves, as he had done before, and as he would hold so many cattle, but to give them so much liberty as would throw upon themselves (the slaves) the responsibility of their own subsistence, and yet compel them to sell their labor to the land-holding class – their former owners – for just what the latter might choose to give them. Of course, these liberated slaves, as some have erroneously called them, having no lands, or other property, and no means of obtaining an independent subsistence, had no alternative – to save themselves from starvation – but to sell their labor to the landholders, in exchange only for the coarsest necessaries of life; not always for so much even as that.

These liberated slaves, as they were called, were now scarcely less slaves than they were before.  Their means of subsistence were perhaps even more precarious than when each had his own owner, who had an interest to preserve his life.  They were liable, at the caprice or interest of the landholders, to be thrown out of home, employment, and the opportunity of even earning a subsistence by their labor”.5

Although Spooner’s primary focus was on agricultural wage labor, rather than the industrial and service kinds that predominate in our economy, the basic principle of labor’s dependency when it has been separated from the means of production and subsistence is essentially the same.  A worker who is utterly dependent on employment, in a market where those in search of employment outnumber the available openings, is dependent on the whims of an employer for his food and shelter.  The greater his dependence, the greater the degree of his subjection to his employer’s whims, both on and off the job.

At one point in his critique, Mr Marks sums up my article in these words (p. 4):

“Some employers even demand that their employees do not express opinions that they do not like – otherwise they fire you and you have to go and work for less money”.  Err yes, and Mr Carson’s point is?”

My point, the central theme of my original pamphlet, was to examine the reasons that employers are in a position to make such demands in the first place.  My point was that the state intervenes in the market to make the means of production artificially scarce and expensive compared to labor, so that workers are competing for jobs rather than the reverse, and employers rather than workers have the primary weight in setting the conditions of the employment relationship.

Mr Marks goes on, in the following passage, to betray even further his almost total incomprehension of what he has chosen to “critique” (p. 4):


“…[Life] sucks….  It even “sucks” for Prince Charles and other people of great inherited wealth–they still age… and go through all the pain and humiliation that this means.  And if they live long enough they get to see all their closest friends (as well as their parents and other relatives–sometimes even their own children) die� 

As for people who are born without wealth and can think of no way of making a lot of money, their lives tend to be even worse than the lives of people who are neither born with a lot of money or who think of way [sic] of earning a lot.”

Calling it “irrelevant” begs the precise point at issue.  But this is hardly cause for surprise, since Mr Marks shows an almost total unawareness, anywhere in his “critique,” of the actual points made in the paper he is critiquing.  His reference to “irrelevance” is in fact quite ironic, given that most of his own paper is completely irrelevant to any of the points made in mine.

On the latter point, the utter irrelevance of his “critique” to any actual arguments in my pamphlet, he spends almost an entire colum – in a pamphlet of three two-column pages–analyzing the hidden meaning of the Voluntary Cooperation Movement’s logo.  He devotes an even larger number of column inches to an amateur diagnosis of the temperamental or psychiatric causes behind my views – most of them, apparently, boiling down to a feeling on my part that “life sucks,” or a Gnostic predilection for assuming that, behind any unpleasant state of affairs, there lurks an injustice.  My alleged response to all the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, to the impossibility of our both eating and having our cake, is the spoiled child’s lament that “life isn’t fair,” that therefore “it must be someone’s fault” – and my solution is to “plot against the owners of the means of production.”

So what is the central point of my original article?  Let’s go back to Mr Marks’ concession in the quote above, that even if life sucks for everybody (p. 4):

“As for people who are born without wealth and can think of no way of making a lot of money, their lives tend to be even worse than the lives of people who are neither born with a lot of money or who think of way of earning a lot.”

The point of my original article was precisely why this state of affairs is relevant – which relevance Mr Marks simply denies, with almost nothing in the way of substantive argument to support his bare assertion. 

Whether the fact of being born without wealth, or the scarcity of means of making money, is “relevant” (although Mr Marks uses the term without an object, I assume he means “relevant to questions of justice”), depends on the cause of that state of affairs.  Most of my original article was taken up, not with mere assertions that life sucks worse for the non-wealthy, but with substantive arguments as to how most people came to be born with little wealth, and why they face limited opportunities for obtaining it, and the injustice of the process by which their lives were thereby caused to “suck.”  I’m amazed that Mr Marks would take it upon himself to write a “critique” of an article whose central arguments he made such manifestly little effort to understand.

Libertarianism and Scarcity

The reason that things “suck” (as Mr Marks puts it) for the average person even more than for the wealthy, I argued, is that the state intervenes in the economy on behalf of the owners of land and capital, to make land and capital artificially scarce and thereby to enable their owners to charge artificial scarcity rents for access to them.  I did not simply assert this, but devoted some space to detailed arguments in support of my thesis.

Mr Marks’ entire response to this argument, on the other hand, amounts to little more than a simple gainsaying, coupled with a straw man characterization of my position (p. 2):

“Neither land nor capital are [sic] “artificially scarce” – they are just scarce (period).  There are billions of people and only a certain amount of land and machinery�  .[T]he idea that land and capital are only scarce [emphasis mine] compared to the billions of people on Earth because of either wicked governments or wicked employers (or both) is false.”

First, simply to get the second part of Mr Marks’ statement out of the way, I nowhere asserted that all scarcity of land and capital is artificial.  I argued only that they were more scarce, as a result of state-enforced privilege, than they would otherwise be, and that returns on land and capital were therefore higher than their free market values.  In any case, as Franz Oppenheimer observed, most of the scarcity of arable land comes not from natural appropriation, but from political appropriation.  And the natural scarcity of capital, a good which is in elastic supply and which can be produced by applying human labor to the land, results entirely from the need for human labor for its creation; there is no fixed limit to the amount available.

But getting to his main point, that land and capital are not artificially scarce, I’m not sure Mr Marks is even aware of his sheer audacity.  In making this assertion, he flies in the face of a remarkable amount of received libertarian wisdom, from eminences as great as Mises and Rothbard.  As a contrarian myself, I take my hat off to him. 

Still, I wonder if he ever made the effort to grasp the libertarian arguments, made by Rothbard et al, that he so blithely dismisses.  Is he even aware of the logical difficulties entailed in repudiating them?  Does he deny that state enforcement of titles to land that is both vacant and unimproved reduces the amount available for homesteading?  Does he deny that the reduced availability of something relative to demand is the very definition of “scarcity,” or that the reduction of supply relative to demand leads to increased price?  Or is his argument rather with Rothbard’s moral premises themselves, rather than the logical process by which he makes deductions from them?  I.e., does he deny that property in unimproved and vacant land is an invalid grant of privilege by the state, and thereby repudiate Locke’s principle of just acquisition?

It seems unlikely, on the face of things, that Mr Marks would expressly repudiate Mises and Rothbard on these points.  After all, elsewhere in his critique he cites Human Action and Man, Economy and State as authorities.  Perhaps he just blanked out on the portions of their work that weren’t useful for his apologetic purposes.

In any case, if he does not repudiate either Rothbard’s premises or his reasoning, Mr Marks has dug himself into a deep hole.  For by Rothbard’s Lockean premises, not only the state’s own property in land, but “private” titles to vacant and unimproved land, are illegitimate.  Likewise, titles derived from state grants are illegitimate when they enable the spurious “owner” to collect rent from the rightful owner – the person who first mixed his labor with the land, his heirs and assigns.  And the artificial scarcity of land resulting from such illegitimate property titles raises the marginal price of land relative to that of labor, and forces labor to pay an artificially high share of its wages for the rent or purchase of land.

Time Preference and Capital

Likewise, in the case of capital, Mr Marks asserts that interest rates, “[i]n reality… are determined by time preference” (or, he adds, by risk premium).  In stronger terms, he characterizes as “bullshit” the argument that interest rates, absent the licensing of banks, would fall to a “very low level.”  (I can’t resist pointing out, by the way, that Mr Marks conflates time preference with abstinence and sacrifice in a way that surely has Bohm-Bawerk spinning in his grave).

Now, in the past I have specifically acknowledged the existence of time preference as a component of gross interest.6  But time preference is a dependent variable, depending on the wealth, and the economic security and independence, of the individual.  The person who owns his own home and means of livelihood free and clear, and possesses sufficient savings as a cushion against economic uncertainty or temporary unemployment, will have a time preference far less steep than that of another person who owns no property, has no savings, and will be homeless and hungry if he misses next week’s pay check and is unable to pay rent and buy groceries.  Thus, the distribution or concentration of property ownership will affect the prevailing time preference among laborers, and with it the originary rate of interest.  Any state policy that affects the distribution of property, therefore, will affect the level of time preference.  And it is my belief that in a society of widely distributed property ownership, with high rates of free and clear home ownership, and with high rates of self-employment or cooperative enterprise ownership, the steepness of the average worker’s time preference would be much, much lower.

But even aside from the steepness of time preference itself, on what grounds can Mr Marks deny that the gross interest rate includes, in addition to time preference, monopoly premiums resulting from state-enforced entry barriers in the credit industry?  Such a denial is – what’s the word? ah, yes – bullshit. 

Murray Rothbard himself pointed to exactly that kind of monopoly premium, resulting from precisely analogous entry barriers, in the life insurance industry.  By mandating levels of capitalization beyond those required by purely actuarial considerations, the state reduced the number of firms competing to supply life insurance and enabled them to charge a monopoly price for the service.  That’s exactly what Benjamin Tucker described the effect of state banking law: by mandating capitalization requirements for institutions in the business of making secured loans, over and above the collateral provided as security of individual loans, the state enabled banks to charge a monopoly rate of interest for secured loans.  That seems fairly straightforward and simple to understand – but perhaps not.

The Historical Record in Fact and Fiction

In some cases, Mr Marks displays an almost preternaturally poor level of reading comprehension.  For example, my original article (p. 4) included this quote from Albert Nock:

“The horrors of England’s industrial life in the last century furnish a standing brief for addicts of positive intervention.  Child-labour and woman-labour in the mills and mines; Coketown and Mr Bounderby; starvation wages; killing hours; vile and hazardous conditions of labour; coffin ships officered by ruffians – all these are glibly charged off by reformers and publicists to a regime of rugged individualism, unrestrained competition, and laissez-faire.  This is an absurdity on its face, for no such regime ever existed in England.  They were due to the State’s primary intervention whereby the population of England was expropriated from the land; due to the State’s removal of the land from competition with industry for labour.  Nor did the factory system and the “industrial revolution” have the least thing to do with creating those hordes of miserable beings.  When the factory system came in, those hordes were already there, expropriated, and they went into the mills for whatever Mr Grad grind and Mr Plug son of Undershot would give them, because they had no choice but to beg, steal or starve.  Their misery and degradation did not lie at the door of individualism; they lay nowhere but at the door of the State.  Adam Smith’s economics are not the economics of individualism; they are the economics of landowners and mill-owners.  Our zealots of positive intervention would do well to read the history of the Enclosures Acts and the work of the Hammonds, and see what they can make of them.”

Here’s what Mr Marks (p. 2) gets from it:

“Mr Nock does not mention any real industrialists (at least not in the quote given) there is no mention of (say) Mr Wedgewood or Mr Arkwright, instead Mr Nock mentions Mr Bounderby, Mr Gradgrind and Mr Plugson – all of whom were characters from Dickens (not real people).  I suppose this is done to generate hatred of factory owners and their “starvation wages…””

Surely anyone with a normal capacity for reading comprehension would infer that Nock intended this paragraph as a critique of Dickens.  The evils of the factory system, and of the colorfully named characters associated with it in Dickens’ fiction, were not the result of “laissez-faire,” or of “rugged individualism,” or of the political economy that Dickens so despised.  After all: where, as Nock asked, did those things even exist in England?  Even the factory owners, Nock argued, were guilty only of taking advantage of a pre-existing situation: the creation of a propertyless class of wage laborers by assorted land expropriations of early modern times.

The closest Mr Marks gets to directly addressing my arguments in a substantive way is in a brief allusion to my discussion of primitive accumulation, the process by which (among other things) “the land in England was stolen from the peasants.”  While conceding that it “may be true,” he challenges its relevance on the basis of the Norwegian example.  Nothing like Enclosures or other abrogations of traditional peasant land tenure occurred in Norway, he says, and yet wage labor came to predominate there.

I can’t speak to that specific example, not being sufficiently familiar with Norwegian history to comment on issues of land tenure in that country.  I will point out, though, that one swallow does not a summer make.  And I did not argue that land expropriation was the sole cause of the wage system’s predominance.  In denying that land expropriation alone was responsible for the wage system, Mr Marks resembles Lincoln’s Jesuit who, accused of murdering twelve men and a dog, triumphantly produced the dog in court.

In any case, even if I can’t competently address the Norwegian example, I do at least know something about the history of land tenure in Great Britain – the original seat of the Industrial Revolution from which industrialism spread to other countries (including Norway).  And in that country, the predominant sentiment of the propertied classes of the time (the “owners of the means of production”) was clearly in favor of land expropriation as a way to extract more effort from the peasantry on terms more favorable to the owning classes.

The contemporary literature of the propertied classes’ was full of explicit commentary to that effect. 

“It would be easier, where property is well secured, to live without money than without poor; for who would do the work? … As they ought to be kept from starving, so they should receive nothing worth saving. If here and there one of the lowest class by uncommon industry, and pinching his belly, lifts himself above the condition he was brought up in, nobody ought to hinder him; …but it is the interest of all rich nations, that the greatest part of the poor should almost never be idle, and yet continually spend what they get… Those that get their living by their daily labour… have nothing to stir them up to be serviceable but their wants which it is prudence to relieve, but folly to cure… To make the society happy and people easier under the meanest circumstances, it is requisite that great numbers of them should be ignorant as well as poor..”.  [Mandeville, Fable of the Bees]


“… to lay them under the necessity of labouring all the time they can spare from rest and sleep, in order to procure the common necessities of life.”  [1739 pamphlet]

“That mankind in general, are naturally inclined to ease and indolence, we fatally experience to be true, from the conduct of our manufacturing populace, who do not labour, upon an average, above four days in a week, unless provisions happen to be very dear… I hope I have said enough to make it appear that the moderate labour of six days in a week is no slavery… But our populace have adopted a notion, that as Englishmen they enjoy a birthright privilege of being more free and independent than in any country in Europe. Now this idea, as far as it may affect the bravery of our troops, may be of some use; but the less the manufacturing poor have of it, certainly the better for themselves and for the State. The labouring people should never think themselves independent of their superiors… It is extremely dangerous to encourage mobs in a commercial state like ours, where, perhaps, seven parts out of eight of the whole, are people with little or no property. The cure will not be perfect, till our manufacturing poor are contented to labour six days for the same sum which they now earn in four days”.  [“Essay on Trade and Commerce” (1770)]

“[E]very one but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.”  [Arthur Young]

“…the use of common land by labourers operates upon the mind as a sort of independence.” [The Board of Agriculture report in Shropshire (1794)]

“[Leaving the laborer] possessed of more land than his family can cultivate in the evenings [means that] the farmer can no longer depend on him for constant work. [Commercial and Agricultural Magazine”  (1800)]

“[Among] the greatest of evils to agriculture would be to place the labourer in a state of independence”.  [Gloucestershire Survey (1807)]

According to other commentary in the Board of Agriculture reports of the time, Enclosures would force laborers “to work every day in the year,” and cause children to “be put out to labour early”; the “subordination of the lower ranks of society… would be thereby considerably secured.”7

Those are all pretty frank admissions of purpose.  In a Scooby Doo cartoon, this is about where the villain would add: “…and it would have worked, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.”  This commentary came, I stress once again, not from followers of John Ball and Wat Tyler, not from True Levelers, not from the partisans of Thomas Paine, but from the propertied and employing classes of the time who carried out and directly benefited from the Enclosures.  The propertied classes clearly believed that they were robbing the peasantry in order to make them work harder, while paying them less.

Legitimate and Illegitimate Ownership

Mr Marks also concedes, half-heartedly, that some “taxes and regulations” might act as partial barriers to self-employment (although he denies in the next breath that “it is just these taxes and regulations that lead to most people working for wages”).  But he asks, rhetorically, how employment regulations could be the fault of the employer, when such regulations are all the work of tree-hugging hippie types who “are under the delusion that there is or should be something called a �balance of power’ between the buyer and seller of a good or service, and that if there is not a contract is �unfair’.”  I wonder if Mr Marks is familiar with Adam Smith’s dictum that “[w]henever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between the masters and their workmen, its counselors are always the masters.”  Those tree-hugging hippies merely illustrate the “Baptist” side of the classical “Baptists and bootleggers” paradigm; or as Roy Childs put it, liberal intellectuals are the running dogs of big business.

Mr Marks also asserts that “action against the owners of the means of production [would] make life even more shit than it is now.”  Apparently Mr Marks is either assuming the justice of those owners’ property, or simply glossing over the whole question of justice in ownership.  As Karl Hess pointed out almost forty years ago, libertarianism does not defend property as such. 

If Mr Marks’ policy is the reflexive defense of all property titles without regard to questions of justice in acquisition, then he might just as well have made the same argument in the context of the state-owned means of production in the old USSR.  After all, wasn’t that exactly what privatization amounted to: action against the (state) owners of the means of production?  If Mr Marks means to say that a just basis for property rights is no better, in its effects, than an unjust basis, then that’s a remarkable assertion indeed.

Rothbard himself, whom Mr Marks is so fond of quoting, took in contrast something of a ruat coelum approach – “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall” – to “action against the owners of the means of production,” when those owners’ titles were illegitimate.

But in fact, in the majority of cases, I favor no action against the existing owners of capital.  I prefer simply to open up the capital markets to free and full competition, and eliminate the scarcity rents accruing to the present owners’ property.  The result will be that the portion of current profits which are a rent on artificial scarcity will evaporate; and the portion of their assets’ present value, which is the capitalized future earnings from such rents on privilege, will simply drop through the floor.  When they are thus cut off from monopoly profits and from direct infusions of cash from the government teat, and the value of their assets falls to reflect the loss of their monopoly returns, it is they who will be selling off those assets. 

Excuses, excuses�

I’m not surprised at Mr Marks’ reflexive defense of all de jure property titles, without regard to their justice.  In numerous online venues, following the publication of his “critique,” he ventured gratuitous assessments of my motives, speculating that whatever changes were made in the current state of affairs, I would still be looking for excuses to blame the wealthy for the plight of the poor.  For example, he writes in the commend thread to de Havilland’s Samizdata post,

…we… know… that Carson and co would be denouncing contract feudalism… regardless of whether there was a government subsidy for the company or not. 

And again:

If the land could be proved to have been passed down (or sold) from the first occupyers… [sic] Mr Carson and co would still find some reason to attack business enterprises over the “wage system”.

I am tempted, in similar spirit, to speculate on Mr Marks’ motivation.  I am tempted to speculate that he is constantly on the lookout for “excuses” to defend the justice of property titles held by the existing propertied classes, to defend their profits as the result of superior productivity in the competitive marketplace, and to defend their wealth as the result of past superior virtue.  I am tempted to speculate that he would “find some reason” to do so regardless of the facts of the case.  That would be a reasonable assumption, given that one of the major constituencies of the Tory Party he has been elected to represent8 is the several thousand people who own most of the land of Great Britain.  It’s tempting to suspect that he would “find some reason” to wax eloquent over the sanctity of “private property rights” even if the current landlords could be shown to have inherited the land in unbroken succession from one of William the Conqueror’s barons, and that their tenants could trace an unbroken ancestral line to the peasants who worked the land at the time of the Conquest.  I could engage in such speculation – but, as Richard Nixon would say, that would be wrong. 


(1) Kevin Carson, Contract Feudalism: A Critique of Employer Power over Employees, Economic Notes No. 105, London, Libertarian Alliance, 2006.

(2) Paul Marks, A Critique of a Critique: An Examination of Kevin Carson’s �Contract Feudalism’, Economic Notes No. 108, London, Libertarian Alliance, 2007.

(3) Stephan Kinsella, �A Critique of Kevin Carson’s Contract Feudalism’, Mises Blog, 21st June 2007, retrieved 25th February 2008, http://blog.mises.org/archives/006766.asp.

(4) Perry de Havilland, �A critique of a critique’, Samizdata, 21st June 2007, retrieved 25th February 2008, http://www.samizdata.net/blog/archives/2007/06/a_critique_of_a.html.

(5) Lysander Spooner, Natural Law, 1892, retrieved 25th February 2008, http://jim.com/spooner.htm

(6) Kevin Carson, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Booksurge, 2007, chapter 3.

(7) Carson, ibid., ch, 4.

(8) �Councillor Paul Marks’, Kettering Borough Council website, 2008, retrieved 8th March 2008,





  1. If you only read one libertarian intellectual book this year, read Kevin Carson’s “Studies in Mutualist Political Economy.” Kevin rekindles that sense of excitement concerning the power of ideas that we had when the world was young.

    Tony Hollick

  2. I agree. It is the most significant book our side has produced this decade. And I regard Kevin as on “our side”. Whatever he may think about our mainstream economics, he is very much a libertarian.

  3. Good paper.

    My only worry as blogeditor, is the presence of a 5,000-word screed in full, topping the blog for a day or so, and blocking easy scroll-access for lazy-people (most readers) to lower-down posts (…and no, I’m NOT being vain here!)

    Do any bloggeeks out there in the commentariat know how we can on wordpress, do the “…read more” thingy like they do on other ones? I’ve wandered round the controls but I can’t find anything. DD

  4. On the blog that I occasionally post to, there appears to be a box marked ‘optional extract’ – is that the first part that would appear perhaps? Otherwise I can’t help because I use Typepad where this is dead easy.

    Try a test post – you can always delete it afterwards.

  5. Apropos Kevin’s paper:

    From Freedom, Vol 1 No 1

    To understand the Governmental application of laissez-faire learn the two following rules of thumb.

    1. When the proprietors molest the proletariat, laissez-faire.

    2. When the proletariat resist the proprietors, interfere to help, the proprietors.

    There are no exceptions to these rules.

  6. I have debated with Mr Carson before in other places – but I should reply to what he has said here.

    It is not true that taxes and regulations and private land ownership are the only reasons that some people work for wages. For example, Charles Wicksteed (the man who created the park a few hundred yards from where I type this) believed that private landownership should be done away with (I hold him to have been wrong on this, but there we go), and he was also generally hostile to taxes and regulations – but even he did not believe that if all his ideas were put into practice no one would work for wages for other people.

    It is not true that large scale private landownership (i.e. estates worked, at least in part, by paid labour) is a bad thing. Large farms have not always been produced by government action – and even where they have been, such estates would break up over time if they were inefficient way of doing things.

    It is not true that either individual employers or corporate enterprises (religious or secular) automatically exploit employers by paying them wages. This is not true because the labour theory of value is false.

    It is not true that the concept of limited liability is a creation of government – this is to confuse limited liability statutes with the concept of limited liability itself (such associations go back thousands of years).

    If people choose to trade with an enterprise (again religious or secular) that has shareholders who do not (unlike “Lloyds Names”) pledge all their wealth to the enterprise that is the choice of those who choose to do business with such an enterprise.

    There is nothing unlibertarian in this – as long as people know in advance what they are dealing with. This is what the letters Ltd (in Britain) and Inc (in the United States) were for – they are a warning that if the business goes bust creditors get only the assets of the enterprise, not the remaining assets of shareholders.

    If Mr Carson wishes to run either a one man business (with no paid employees) or take part in a workers cooperative that is up to him. Such enterprises have to compete for customers with other enterprises – sometimes they do well, sometimes they do not.

    However, people who employ others are in no way acting in an antilibertarian way.

    As for the argument that they depend on government to protect their ill gained property.

    This is an argument in two parts – both of which are false.

    The property is not ill gained even if the land was stolen X centuries ago.

    First of all because Mr Carson would not hold a different position where the land was not stolen (as in the case of Iceland), and secondly because to say “the land you bought was stolen X centuries ago” is to say nothing of moral or economic note. The present owner did not steal it, and if the land was divided up with equal shares for each person in the world it would soon become just as unequally owned as it is now.

    Some people are good in business and some people are not. And some people are lucky and some people are not.

    On Nock – yes I know he was making a land nationalization (or whatever) point.

    This Henry George type stuff is odd. H. G. noticed that as more people came into area the price of land tended to go up and poor people tended not to be able buy land anymore . For some reason he held that this meant that land should be taken away from private owners – whereas a correct conclusion would have been “life sucks”. Some people got to an area when there was land available – and they (and their children) sometimes benefited from that. And some people did not arrive till much later – oh dear, how sad, never mind.

    I am poor and I have always been so.

    Perhaps if government spending and taxes were lower and regulations were less I would not be poor (I am certain that my father would not have been so).

    But many people (perhaps including me) would still be poor.

    And attacking either large scale private land ownership or large scale business enterprises (that emply people for wages) is just going to make most people POORER NOT LESS POOR.

    On Mr Carson’s pointing out my errors of spelling, punctuation and other such:

    No doubt you are quite correct Sir.

  7. Oh yes there is also the argument that government protects large scale enterprises (that employ people for wages) and that government protects large scale landed estates.

    And if someone attacked me to get the shirt off my back (old, worn out, shirt that it is) a policeman would, I hope, come to my aid.

    So what?

    Government taxes the rich as well as it taxes the poor – in fact most government revenue (especially Federal government revenue in the United States) is paid by the rich.

    Perhaps the rich would do better without government – or perhaps they would not.

    In Northamptonshire there was nothing much like police till the 1830s, in other counties the 1850’s (when Parliament made police forces compulsory).

    I envy many rich people their wealth, but I do not pretend (to myself or others) that my envy is somehow a moral thing – because their large landed estates or large scale enterprises (with many employees who work for wages) are somehow not rightfully theirs.

  8. I can not remember whether Mr Carson is one of the “expand credit and we will be able to…..” or “interest free……” people or not.

    So I will not write against these fallicies – as Mr Carson may not believe in them.

  9. Lastly – as I am old and tired.

    In case anyone raises the “it is not take the land it is take the rentable value” line.

    Influenced by some of the writings David Ricardo (via James and J.S. Mill) I believe. And even leading Herbert Spencer up the ally of error (to some extent) for a time.

    One can trace it back, via John Locke, right to Samual Pufendorf’s (and, no doubt, others) misinterpretation of the first book of the Bible . The idea being that God gave the Earth to humanity AS A GROUP s0 that any private ownership has to be “justified” with Lockian provisos and other such.

    To cut long story short.

    No rent is not imoral.

    And taking rentable value will make people more poor, not less poor.

  10. To Paul Marks,

    Paul, I am wondering, if you could have worked for employer A, but the government shut employer A down because he didn’t have a license, so you had only employer B left to work for, would your contract with B be as morally binding as it would have been had A been free to compete for your labour? Would it be a “voluntary” contract, even though the coercive action of a government had limited your choices? If not, then why suppose it was binding on you?

  11. Richard Garner.

    I have never denied that taxes and regulations make the condition of people worse.

    Although YES if you are (for example) working as clerk for a lawyer and you say “but if the government allowed anyone to practice law I could try for clients myself” that does NOT justify you in stealing from the guy.

    I agree there should not be lawyer licensing (and no Capital Gains Tax on individual share ownership and no…….), but that does not mean that contracts signed in this nasty world are invalid. Declaring them invalid will just make things worse – not better.

    Of course, AND THIS IS MY BASIC POINT, Mr Carson is just playing games anyway.

    Even if every tax and regulation you are pointing at was done away with he would still hold that working for wages was “contract feudalism” (or whatever).

    It is a confidence trick – under the cover of flowery writing (the style that Sean Gabb and co love) there is the same old Marxism.

    It was known as “sugar coated shit”. The sugar coating is a lot of talk about freedom, liberty and other such – but the shit is still at the core. So it is unwise to eat it – unless one wishes to be a “shit eater”.

  12. Paul Marks,

    You write,

    “Although YES if you are (for example) working as clerk for a lawyer and you say “but if the government allowed anyone to practice law I could try for clients myself” that does NOT justify you in stealing from the guy.”

    Who mentioned stealing?

    Your example is a good one, though, and the stealing is relevant. Lets go with your example of licensing for lawyers. Assume, as is plausible, that there would be more competition for my services as a clerk in a law firm were anybody free to go into business as a lawyer, and, therefore, my wages would be greater as a result.

    That gives us premise 1 of an over all argument. Now here is premise 2: I am entitled to the full value or return my labour would fetch in a free market; if I get more than what my labour would fetch in a free market, then I am gaining from the result of coercive state intervention, and, hence, rights violations. If I get less, then others are gaining at my expense from rights violation (the interesting observation here, though, is that the gain at my expense may not be the result of a violation of my right – licensing lawyers to restrict their supply does not violate the rights of prospective clerks, since they did not have a right to be employed by a competitor, but it would result in monopsonic pricing of their labour. This may undermine premise 2, I don’t know). So, premise 2: I am entitled to what I would have got for my labour on a free market.

    These two premises together are enough to establish that the licensing arrangement deprives workers of what they are entitled to, and allows their employers to retain what the workers are entitled to. That may not involve theft, of course, because I suspect theft requires mens rea. However, if the law firm the cleark works for has been involved in lobbying for or maintaining the licensing system, that may suffice. Even so, even if it is not theft, the fact that person A is in possession of something person B is entitled to still creates a moral burden on A to return that something to B.

    The Marxism claim is just silly. Marx himself admits that much of his theory of class strugle is lifted from libertarian economist and philosophers, who had likewise condemned regulation protected employers of exploiting workers and consumers. The second difference lies in the fact that the libertarian approach to class strugle does not rely on Marx’s silly labour theory of value. The third difference is in the solution to ending such exploitation, a solution that would actually apply even if we kept Marx’s silly theory of prices (because, even if that were true, exploitation could only occur due to an absence of competition, and so enabling free competition would solve that problem). The correct solution is not Marx’s horrible state socialism, with the inevitable tyranny and inefficiency, oppression and starvation that it will result in. The solution is free markets, the strictest possible laissez faire.

    Declaring contracts invalid may well make workers worse off, but, on the other hand, how far are you willing to take that scenario? Given, the presence of monopoly or oligopoly under actual existing “capitalism,” the “well you could always find another job,” won’t always cut it, will it? An employer cosy to Alastair Darling and the nanny state bureaucrats decides he will discipline people for smoking even on their own time, of course “they could always get a new job,” but if this employer is one of only a handful of firms in a licensed, subsidised, tariff protected industry new entrance to which requires not only buying a license, but spending to meet health and safety regulations, spending on employment regulations, etc, etc. – in short, new entry is heavily restricted – “they can always work somewhere else,” seems like a bit of a con.

    Trotsky pointed out that when the state is the only employer the old observation, “those who do not work will not eat,” becomes replaced by “those who do not obey will not eat.” Well, what if, instead of “state,” it is “state protected employer”?

  13. I feel a pemphlet of my own coming on about this. In the past, libertarians tended to defend actually existing capitalism because the most likely alternative model was much worse. Capitalists also were willing to talk about the value of free markets, even if they wanted protection – the reason being that they needed an apologetic that was not naked class privilege. With the collapse of orthodox socialism, however, the capitalists have dropped even their free market rhetoric, and we can start thinking about more free market alternatives. That is why people like Kevin Carson are so important. He reminds us that libertarianism is not the same as Tesco minus the State.

  14. Dr Sean Gabb.

    A “capitalist” (if the term means anything) is the owner of capital – in the sense of a large business (strictly speaking a window cleaner with his ladder and mop and bucket is also a capitalist – but I take it you mean large scale industrial person).

    Such people have wildly different poltitical opiniions – AND ALWAYS HAVE DONE.

    There have always been (and still are) owners of large firms who have been socialists (such as Robert Owen).

    There have been owners (or managers – in the case of firms with a lot of shareholders) who have been pro protection – and those that have been anti protection.

    There have been been pro subsidy people (such as Harrison and others connected with the Union Pacific Railroad) and there have been anti subsidy people (such as J.J. Hill and the Great Northern – at exactly the same time).

    There were pro New Deal capitalists – and there were anti New Deal capitlaists (such as Du Pont).

    There are leftist mega rich people – such as Warren Buffet (and people way to the left of him)

    And there are more free market rich people – such as Steve Forbes.

    To talk of the political view of “the capitalists” as if they had one political view, or their ownership of capital created their political view is ABSURD.

  15. Richard Garner.

    Is a contract voluntary if government has reduced the possible number of people one could have done business with (via its taxes and regulations)?

    Yes it is – for that is this world. The world is a MUCH worse place because of the taxes and regulations (although it still would NOT be a perfect place without them), but undermining contracts is going to make an even worse place – not a better place.

    As for the Marxism point being silly.

    Not at all – I am not young, but I still have enough wit left to smell out an enemy under a bit of sugar coating.

    I do not claim that Kevin Carson has a deep knowledge of Marxism (most Cong know very little about it), but he is a foe of large scale private property and contracts – that is enough.

    “Classical liberal class theory”.

    It depends what you mean by that.

    If you mean “tax payers and tax eaters” it was a nice line (although it did distort the complexity of reality).

    But there was also the “free trade in land” gang – who would not accept that there already was mostly free trade in land. And, in fact, did not actually want free trade in land anyway.

    They just hated landowners and wanted a bit of scientific sounding (and pro freedom sounding) words to cover their hatred.

    In the case of Charles Wicksteed the thing backfired on him.

    Socialists took over the land nationalization movement and argued that industrial companies should also be nationalized.

    Unlike Robert Owen before him (and unlike others before him and since) Charles Wicksteed was not wildly happy with that.

    Taking someone’ s landed estate was one thing – taking Charles Wicksteed’s factory was quite another.

    Of course Kevin Carson would say that the people who worked for Charles Wicksteed were victims of “contract feudalism” because the factory was not really his or ……. (whatever).

  16. “Naked class privilege”.

    A “free market” rather than “the Capitalists”.

    And (of course) snobish sneering at Tesco’s supermarkets.

    In reality even if taxes and regulations were wildly lower there would still be large enterprises. Although there are such things as “diseconomies of scale”, “economies of scale” are also real (the “correct” size for an enterprise can only be discovered via the market – and changes over time).

    And even if the concept of limited liabilty were banned by some new statute of the state (overturning thousands of years of such enterprises – both secular and regligious) there would still be vast inequality.

    Indeed if limited liabilty (the concept – not X, Y, Z 19th century statutes) were banned, inequality would be greater than it is now.

    If would be much like the situation that Henry Ford found himself in when he decided that the regulations on corporations gave to much power both to the government and to minority shareholders (the court cases that made Henry Ford decide to do without minority shareholders would have been of great use to Conrad Black – if he had heard of them).

    Ford went for 100% ownership by one man (himself) – so that the enterprise would not be a such a corporation.

    Make corporations a very unattractive way of doing business and you will see the rise of large scale companies owed by single individuals.

    Although that might not be a bad thing in some ways.

  17. Hayek made a case for restricting businesses to a thousand employees, on the grounds that on this scale, employees increasingly lost contact with market interactions, and became consumed with the bureaucratic modus operandi.


    PS: Why is it that libertarians seldom have much money? You’d think that with all that knowledge of “free markets” they’d be streets ahead of the competition.

    Can it be, that “actually-existing capitalism” doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to?

  18. Non-Libertarians in commerce tend to be the ones who get money, because they are cool with the way the existing semi-corporate system works. They understand it because they have been taught to be collectivists while at school, and (unlike Libertarains) have not been able to unlearn that.

    We have difficulties because we see through all that “working as a team” crap (which you have to rpetend to believe, and also have be seen to be actually not pretending to believe it.)

    We can’t work as a team, either as employees or indeed as political activists; we are scratchy unherdable cats. we can’t even agree on more than general Libertarian positions; that’s why it’s taken so long for there to be a UK Libertarian Party. You will see that I’m in favour of one, unlike the LA’s broad agnostic position here.

  19. Yes, but there are eBay and Amazon, vast market-places where it’s what you offer that counts, and which are accessible to everyone. You don’t have to be a “team-worker.” These venues are sufficiently like real free markets that knowledge of free-market principles must apply.

    I like buying myself little presents, and can spend hours scouring eBay for incredibly unlikely things. I have a beautifully-made and as-new finished 1/8 scale diecast model of Rudi Uhlenhaut’s road-going 300SLR, only one of which was built just for him on his retirement as Chief Designer from Mercedes. And you can buy in and sell through eBay worldwide.

    I was going to start a little business selling high-quality BB guns (which can’t injure people or animals), but then the police arrested me for “using a firearm in a public place” (i.e. my back garden), thoroughly trashed my apartment, held me for sixteen hours, interrogated me at 2 in the morning then let me go on bail. All the BB guns were seized, only to be returned with the triggers tied back with conspicuous “firearm made safe” labels. Great for court appearances.

    I have great lawyers, thank Heavens. I was never charged with _anything_. But that put the kibosh on that (then Obergruppenfuhrer Blair banned them altogether).

    I may have a go at something else. >:-}


    PS: I have too many memories of LA politicking to want to have ANYTHING to do with ANY political party. But good luck to those who do.

    “Britain’s at that awkward stage. It’s too late to “work through the system”, and too soon to _shoot_ the bastards.” — after Claire Wolfe

  20. Tony Hollick .

    Whilst I fully accept that F.A. Hayek was not a libertarian, he did NOT demand the restriction of the number of employees of an enterprise to one thousand or less.

    What Hayek did do was to warn that the employees of a large organization might become so obsessed with internal matters that they forgot that the firm depended on the customers. The larger the organization (so Hayek warned) the greater the danger of forgetting about the market – such a danger leading to the eventual doom of the enterprise.

    “Why are libertarians bad businessmen” (or words to that effect).

    Some libertarians are good at business and some are not good.

    But it has nothing to do with “capitalism not working as it should” (or words to that effect).

    It is simply that knowledge of economics (which a libertarian may have – although not all do) is a quite different thing from being a good businessman.

    You are making a category mistake.

    Nothing that I have typed above should be taken to mean that I do not accept that radical reduction of government spending, taxes and regulations would not improve matters in business (for nonlibertarians and libertarians).

  21. Paul:

    Well, John Blundell – writing on the IEA web site – certainly seemed to forget the customers when he stated that the only function of a Board of Managers of any business was to enrich the owners.

    Economics (especially micro- or Austrian Economics) studies the way that all aspects of an economy function. How can this not be of value to a businessman (if the studies are valid)?

    I am not making a “category mistake.” I’m not saying that theoretical knowledge is perfect. I’m just saying that it should give a head start.

    Hayek argued for the restriction (“We may have to…”). I know this, because I discussed it with him. And it’s in his writings somewhere. A Hayek detail-savant should be able to oblige with a citation.

    How can you bear to be associated with the “Conservative” Party and its horrible “WorkFare” ideas?


  22. “Britain’s at that awkward stage. It’s too late to “work through the system”, and too soon to _shoot_ the bastards.”

    I SO love that. Who is Claire Wolfe? Is she a writer of some sort? Could we get her on the blog?

    I don’t know about the latter opinion of hers – it’s never too soon in the case of today’s bastards in Westmonster. But I would stop monkeying with gun-ideas if I was you, Tony! Enough razzing and being pissed about by the rozzers is enough, eh?

    Fondest rgds, DD

  23. To Paul Marks,

    You write

    “Is a contract voluntary if government has reduced the possible number of people one could have done business with (via its taxes and regulations)?

    Yes it is – for that is this world.”

    I honestly can’t see how this follows. “It is voluntary” simply does not follow from “this is the way the world is.” There is no reason to assume that just because that is how the world is, that it is voluntary.

  24. Tony first.

    An economist might say that “a business makes money by making and selling either better quality products or lower prices products than its competitors” (although there are a few holes in these words – but I will not go into that here).

    But that does not tell anyone HOW to do that.

    Economics and business are different things.

    A person may be a good businessman and know nothing about large areas of economics (for example he may not even know that expanding the money supply does NOT promote long term prosperity – Henry Ford was sure it did just that) – and a economist may know nothing about running a business. The greatest economist in the world might be utterly incapable of running the corner shop.

    His knowledge of many important and true areas of economics will not help in running the corner ship.

    Hence your error.

  25. Tony first.

    An economist might say that “a business makes money by making and selling either better quality products or lower prices products than its competitors” (although there are a few holes in these words – but I will not go into that here).

    But that does not tell anyone HOW to do that.

    Economics and business are different things.

    A person may be a good businessman and know nothing about large areas of economics (for example he may not even know that expanding the money supply does NOT promote long term prosperity – Henry Ford was sure it did just that) – and a economist may know nothing about running a business. The greatest economist in the world might be utterly incapable of running the corner shop.

    His knowledge of many important and true areas of economics will not help in running the corner ship.

    Hence your error.

  26. Richard Garner.

    The government restricts the number of people you can do business with by, for example, licensing – which I oppose. Is your contract with Mr Smith the lawyer voluntary? Yes it is.

    Perhaps you might have got a better deal if Mr Jones (who flunked the Bar exam and did not get a license) was allowed to represent you in court (which, I am told, he would be so allowed in Arazona), but that does not make your contract with Mr Smith invalid.

    But of course Kevin Carson is not even on this page.

    As far as he is concerned, if he can prove (for example) that land was stolen (no matter how long ago) that means whoever owns the land now does not justly own it.

    And, again as far as he is concerned, if he can show that there is any tax or regulation influencing a market (and there will always be something to find – and always has been) then the owners of a manufacturing or service enterprise do not justly own that enterprise and contracts with them are not valid.

    If this the modern line of the Libertarian Alliance then the difference between the L.A. and socialist outfits is of no practical importance. As the only difference will be a lot of talk about “free markets” without any support of anything less pure – indeed of anything real on Earth.

    Saying “we will only support private ownership of land if the land can be shown never to have been stolen at any time in history” is much the same (in practice) as saying “we oppose the private ownership of land”.

    And saying “we will only support a private manufacturing or service enterprise if there is no tax or regulation influencing the market in any way” is much the same (in practice) as saying “we oppose private ownership of manufacturing and service enterprises”.

    It seems that the L.A. is evolving into just another socialist outfit – although of the commual anarchist (Black Flag) type.

    Well at least this will mean that the L.A. is more popular in the “education system” and in the media. The key to such success depending on being anti business.

    Indeed many private corporations may be quite friendly to you as well.

    Oh yes, I see the flaws in corporations and big business generally – the main one being the common habit of bowing to leftists.

    Whether this is out of true leftist priciple (as it seems to be with men like Marc Cuban) or out of fear or a desire to seem “hip” and “with it” is another question.

    Sadly rich business people who tell their critics to go jump in the lake are rare indeed.

    The L.A. used to be about reducing government spending, taxes and regulations – with either a minimal state or no state at all being the ideal.

    It did not use to be about claiming that any ownership or contract before this ideal state of affairs was achieved was invalid.

  27. Paul:

    From its earliest days, LA literature has emphasised _justly acquired_ property.

    Bastiat made a fine case for Classical Liberalism, then destroyed it by insisting that feudal landholdings must remain untouched in the hands of the feudal “owners.”

    Classical Liberals make a similar mistake now when they insist on all property remaining in the hands of its possessors, howsoever acquired.

    Your proposition amounts to restoring feudalism to its original foundation – wealth.

    Most of us here want an end to feudalism.

    The world is run by rich people and their political and corporatist front men at the moment; and a fine old mess they’re making of it.


  28. Tony:

    If by “feudalism” you mean serfdom then say so – but serfdom has not been a major factor in England for centuries (although there were some serf miners in Scotland as late as the 18th century).

    However, if by “feudalism” you mean “feudal institutions” – then, no, I did not have a major problem with “unreformed” Sark. Indeed I hold feudal Sark to have been closer to a free society than unfeudal Britain (actually even reformed Sark is closer to be a free society than Britain – even though it now has a tax code the size of a small book and paid government officials).

    On land and other wealth – yes violent thugs can steal such things. But IF a civil society is established both land and other wealth will tend to migrate from violent thugs to rather different people (even if, sometimes, the rather different people are the children or children’s children of the violent thugs) – this is because people who have a habit of (for example) betting all they have on the gameing table do not tend to hold on to estates.

    In England the rise of more civilized (yes I will use the word) people can be seen quite early – for example some the very writers who tell us about the crimes of William the Bastard had Norman fathers.

    And as early as 1100 Henry the First issued a charter accepting that the English had legal rights. Of course he did this (as he also married a lady of the line of Alfred the Great) as an effort to get the support of the English in his struggle with his older brothers – but good deeds often have cynical motives.

    As for Bastiat:

    Your case seems to be that because some French nobles (rather few by 1789) could trace their line back to Frankish warriors of the 5th and 6th centuries, they did not own their land.

    Of course much land was already in peasant hands by 1789 – and most of what was left was in peasant hands by the time Bastiat was writing (leaving only a small percentage of France owned by such estates), but it seems a bit odd to claim that the land does not belong to someone because it was stolen at one time. After all even the Roman and Celtic forefathers of the peasants (and they had some Frankish forefathers as well) had not always been in the geographical area we now call France.

    Perhaps your point is that land only belongs to those who work it with their own hands – in which case I do not agree with you. Both on the grounds that this idea has bad consquences economically (for example there would never have been profits with which to finance early industrial development in England, or food to feed the increasing numbers of people in the towns – in the pre industrial age extra people just died off) AND because it is a false principle.

    I do not accept some sort of Lockian labour theory of property (although I accept that this is diferent from a labour theory of value). Someone can own something without working with it – and someone can work with something without owning it. AND THERE IS NOTHING UNJUST IN THIS.

    As for the revolutionary legal principle that land should be divided among all the sons (whether the father wished to divide it or not):

    This led to French farming development being undermined (and to trade protectionism to “protect” small farmers – a movement which continues to this day). Although some peasant farmers did get round the law by late marriage (thus reducing the number of children born) or by the extreme of infanticide.

    This desperation to reduce the number of new Frenchmen growing up into the world (to protect the viability of farms) led to Germany ending up with more people than France – which proved to be serious national security problem.

    As so often government intervention (in this case the law that farms had to be divided up among sons) had unintended conseqences.

  29. Do I “insist that land and other wealth remain in present hand – however it was aquired”?


    If the present occupyer can be shown to have stolen the property then it should be restored to the owner. Although, of course, this depends on there having been an owner – “you did not pay enough for this oil field so it goes back to the state” is false on two grounds: There is no such thing as a “just price”, and the state was not (could not be) the rightful owner of such resources anyway, so the “wicked Jewish oligarchs” were in fact homesteading unowed property. By the way Boris Yelstin did try and give some enterprises to those who worked in them – but they tended to sell their shares.

    But saying “once upon a time this land [or other wealth] was stolen by someone who is long dead from someone else who is also long dead – therefore it is not yours” is absurd.

    I doubt Kevin Carson (if he owns a house) will be rushing off to try and work out what Indian tribe once lived on the land it is built on – so he can give the house to some random member of this tribe.

  30. “The world is run by rich people and their political frontmen”.

    I see so, for example, Mr Brown is a front man for various “rich people”.

    Some rich people do indeed support ever higher government welfare state spending (government spending in Britain is at least 45% of G.D.P. – and the vast majority goes on the Welfare State) and ever higher taxes and ever more regulations.

    However, other rich people do not support these things.

    And some poor people support bigger government – and some poor people oppose it.

    Why assume all rich people believe the same things?

    Why not just say “the state is the executive committee of the capitalists” or some other absurd form of words.

    For the record even in the United States (supposedly the main “capitalist country”) most billionaries support the biggest supporters of higher taxes (higher taxes on the wealthy) and more health, education and welfare entitlement programs in the United States Senate – Senator Clinton and Senator Obama.

    And in 2004 most billionaries supported Senator Kerry – also a man with a long record of supporting higher taxes on the wealthy and more welfare state spending.

    The ideology of very rich people (like the ideology of other folk) is dependent on many factors (education, media influence and so on) – of which their material interests is only one factor (assuming they even understand what the implications of a policy are – a person can be very clever in business and know nothing whatever about politics or economics).

    Of course President Bush is a wild spender as well (no-child-left-behind, the medicare extention and so on) – but he is not in their league.

    As for rich people being behind someone who (whatever his other faults) has always been tough on government spending.

    No doubt John McCain has some very rich supporters – but they seem rather inactive. And I did not notice much support from them in the 2000 or 2008 primary battles.

    The money man in 2000 on the Republican side was Bush, and in 2008 it was Mitt Romney (spending a lot of his own money and the money of rich supporters).

  31. “not in their league” concerning Bush was comparing him to the entitlement spending plans of Senators Kerry, Clinton and Obama. Although, it should be remembered, that George Walker Bush is also a wild spender and the conflict between him and Senator McCain in this area goes back quite some years.

    Kevin Carson, at the end of his recent article, asked if I would still support someone keeping their land if it could be shown that they were of the direct line of someone who came over with William the Bastard in 1066.

    Of course I would, indeed the upholding of such property rights (in spite of their origins) is the DEFINING FEATURE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION.

    Even before the Edict of Quierzy in 877 (which restated the postion) the hereditary passing on of land holdings REGARDLESS OF THE WILL OF THE RULER was what made Western civilization different from Islamic Civilization or Asiatic Despotism.

    As for the British case:

    Take the example of the 2nd Marquis of Rockingham (possibly the richest man in England in the late 18th century) – his estates were at the spearhead of farming improvment (vital both for feeding an expanding population and for the PROFITS that were invested in industry, both directly and indirectly – via banks).

    The Marquis’ name was Wentworth-Watson – but he was related to the Fitzwilliams (indeed his heir was Earl Fitzwilliam).

    Fitzwilliam is clearly a Norman name.

    If the Libertarian Alliance is against such folk as the 2nd Marquis of Rockingham and Earl Fitzwilliam then it is against not just economic development but also the whole Old Whig belief in limited government and civil liberties – freedom of speech, independent juries (and so on) that the Rockingham Whigs stood for.

    Western civilization and in particular civilization on this island was built of the foundation of the very landed estates that this doctrine of “if there was no original just aquisition then the land is not yours” opposes.

    We might as well stand with the forces around George III (although I make no statement about the King himself) who sought to undermine the property rights of such people as the Duke of Portland – because he could not prove his family had “justly aquired” the land they held (justly aquired in past centuries).

    No security for men like Duke of Portland would not have meant MORE security for the poor, it would have meant LESS security for the poor.

    Is the Libertarian Alliance a friend or a foe of what is left of Western Civilization?

  32. Paul

    Lockean property rights are not self-evident. As far as I’m concerned, the people that “own” the land that is currently state-registered to the Duke of Portland are those people who are currently mixing their labour with said land. Simple as.

  33. Charles Pooter.

    You seem to be in favour of a conception of Lockian property rights rather than against them – hense your using the term “mixing labour with”.

    Far from being “self evident” the Lockian argument is badly flawed – as it rests on a misinterpreation of the first book of the Bible (even if it was a correct interpretation this would not matter to many people or course) holding that God gave the world to humanity IN COMMON and that, therefore, any private ownership has to be justified (hence mixing labour and the Lockian proviso).

    So your typo (I make a lot of typing mistakes myself so this is not attack upon you) that Lockian property rights are NOT self evident, is quite correct – for John Locke is a bad guide in this area. As he is in some others , I remember (in my youth) being shocked between what I assumed Locke’s position was on various matters and what I actually found his position to be – for example I assumed his “right to life” was a nonaggression principle, but it turned out to be a welfare right with, for example, ships captains who did not hand over their cargos to ports which contained starving people, being “guilty of murder”.

    But back to ownership

    Actually “mixing labour” is not relevant (if I own some trees I do not have to chop them down – or indeed do anything to them) – as someone can own land without mixing labour with it . And someone can work someplace without owning that place.

    People do not have to “justify” their ownership. Possession over several generations is as close to “just ownership” as anything can be in this world.

    Nor was the land of the Grosverors “state registered” as England did not use to have such a state register.

    Still I thank you – for you have answered my question.

    The Libertarian Alliance is clearly an enemy of what is left of Western Civilization. You are just another leftist outfit.

    Now I understand your likeing for Kevin Carson.

  34. […] Movement a mutualist affinity group, and the Industrial Workers of the World. He also maintains thttp://libertarianalliance.wordpress.com/2008/03/28/kevin-carson-replies-to-paul-marks/Condemned Killer Spared , Cooper Won Stay Of Execution For 1985 …Kevin Cooper, a convicted killer […]

  35. Before anyone points it out, I do know that the Grosvernors are not Dukes of Portland.

    My mind had gone back to the Dukes of Westminster (presently the richest private landowners in this country). However, the same point is true for both.

    I was put in mind of Kevin Carson’s attack on enclusures today – but a B.B.C. programme about them (B.B.C. Radio 4 “In Our Time”) the B.B.C. show was quite a mild attack (by B.B.C. standards) it even had some balancing material. But it did not point out that only one county in England or Wales had more than 50% of land enclosed by Act of Parliament – my home country of Northamptonshire. Although it did point out that enclusure was opposed (when it was opposed) as a violation of land use rights – not theft of land ownership.

    However, I believe that Kevin Carson (and his friends in the Libertarian Alliance) would be as hostile to private property in such counties as (for example) Sean Gabb’s home country of Kent (where the Open Field system was never of any great extent – the field system of much of such counties as Kent and Essex was old even before the Romans came) as they would be in Northamptonshire. In short it is an excuse not a reason.

    Perhaps I am mistaken – in which case they will be interested to know that the enclosure movement did not depopulate England. That, in fact, (although the B.B.C. programme did not mention this) that there were more people working in farming in England as late as 1851 then there had ever been human history.

    But I doubt that anything that I have typed or could ever type will sway the enemies of private property here.

    This dawned on me today when I came upon an article I cut out of the newspaper back in January. It was on the Wolseleys who had finally lost their house and land in Staffordshire – they had tried to open a Garden Park to attract visitors but (rightly or wrongly) the bank had pulled the plug when the project was not completed.

    The Wolseleys had been given their land by King Edgar in 975 – i.e. they were SAXON landowners.

    But it occured to me that it is not really the Norman Conquest that Kevin Carson and his friends object to – any more than it is the enclusure movement that they really object to.

    For it is easy to play the Kevin Carson game with the Wolseleys:

    Did clearing the land of wolves (what the Wolselys did for which they were given the land) really amount to “mixing their labour with it”? And was King Edgar a “rightful owner” anyway? It can all be presented as “state action” – a thousand years can be dismissed as giving no “just title”.

    And this (or some other game) can be played with any land – OR WITH ANY OTHER FORM OF PROPERTY.

    For I am not so blind as to think the hatred of corporations means that such things as the unlimited liablity Lloyds insurance syndicates will be attacked in some other way.

    For the wolf – or rather the wolfshead, there is always an excuse to be found.

    Homo homini lupus.

    The sad motto of the Wolseleys – man is as wolf to his fellow man.

    It need not be that way, and the Libertarian Alliance used to stand against those who were moved with envy towards those who were more fortunate in life.

    But those days are over – now is the time of the wolf.

  36. The above should read “For example, I am not so blind as to believe that the hatred of corporations means that such things as unlimited liability Lloyds insurance syndicates will not be attacked in some other way”.

    I apologize for this typing mistake, and for my many other typing mistakes.

  37. The Libertarian Alliance is clearly an enemy of what is left of Western Civilization.

    You should have come out and said from the beginning, Mr. Marks, that what you were defending was not justice in property titles, or libertarianism, but “western civilization”. That makes sense: it reminds me of a recent article on the roots of conservatism that defines the philosophy thusly:

    The conservative, in short, cultivates obedience to existing institutions.

    You would have saved everybody a lot of time and effort if you had, from the beginning, said that what was important to you wasn’t justice per se so much as justice given the existing, unquestioned institutions, laws, and distributions. Nobody would have bothered engaging a reflexive defense of whatever traditions, norms, and practices have been handed down from time immemorial – indeed, if one holds such a position, there is no point engaging that person at all. You can’t argue with emotional attachment to quaint, romantic ideals of the past.

    And, before you say so, yes, I’ll admit that much of what motivates my mutualist tendencies is an idealistic longing for a world that is just and peaceful and where there is a more defensible distribution of wealth. But when I talk with people who disagree with that attachment, I try to stick to facts and the principles of rational argument. I do not simply assert my value judgments over and over and over as you have done. Nobody begrudges you your opinions; but don’t expect mere opinion to sway us.

  38. I am a strong supporter of Western Civilization, the finest civilization the world has ever seen.

    People who are lucky in the lottery of Life do not _deserve_ their luck — it just happened that way.

    It’s rather like saying: “The secret of success in Life is to choose your parents carefully.”



  39. No was defending libertarianism.

    As Murry Rothbard put it “human rights are property rights”.

    If property can be taken just because Kevin Carson wants to take it, there will be no “liberty” (rightly understood) there will just be blood soaked chaos.

    And, make no mistake, this thread clearly shows that Mr Carson is NOT just interested in hitting a few corrupt companies (such as Goldman Sachs or General Electric or J.P. Morgan Chase) or a few corrupt rich individuals (such as George Soros).

    It is ALL companies and ALL rich individuals that Mr Carson wishes to destroy.

    This is obvious – so those who support Mr Carson share his guilt.

    I am still waiting for Sean Gabb to denounce the ideas of Kevin Carson – Dr Gabb has had many opportunties to come out against this wickedness and he has failed to do so.

    On the contrary Dr Gabb has done his best to push the doctrines of Kevin Carson.

    Either oppose the evil or support it openly.

    Do not push it – and then pretend “it is nothing to do with me”.

  40. As for Tony’s point.

    People do not “deserve” anything they inherit in this (rather envy driven sense of “deserve”).

    One person inherits good eye sight – and other is born blind.

    Neither did anything to “deserve” this.

    One person has parents who love them – another person has parents who are indiffent or hostile.

    One person inherits a farm or a factory – another does not.

    Justice (to each his own) has nothing to do with what a person “deserves” by some merit of good actions on their part, decided by some central “distributor”.

    Justice is NOT the collectivist concept of “social justice”.

    This is the basis of libertarianism as a political idea.

    Although it seems to have been forgotten round here.

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