What Julia Riber Pitt, blogging at Free Disesent, is “more than a little sick and tired of are people whose beliefs are nothing but pro-capitalist labeling themselves as ‘anarchists’ only because they oppose the government/State.”
I cannot tell exactly what is meant by the word “capitalism,” since there are so many different definitions for its use. The word is almost completely useless. Does it mean the legally recognized private ownership (control) of the means of production, irrespective of how the content, implementation or enforcement of laws governing ownership came about? Is it an exchange of consensually acquired and maintained property rights? Is it a society organized in such a way that capital ownership is the predominant factor through which human beings conduct their economic affairs. Is it a series of state-managed economic policies meant to favor capital-intensive production? Or does it mean something else?
She did say that anarchists also oppose private property and the state, the latter being pretty self-explanatory. It seems that the basic contention has to do with the Lockean theory of property ownership, which she regards as a precursor to statism.
Now, I agree with her conclusion, but not because “there would be nothing left for the children of those who weren’t able to homestead.” Even with Locke’s proviso in tact that property rights acquisition was contingent on there being “enough, and as good left; and more than the yet unprovided could use,” the Lockean theory has statist attributes.
What states claim to have is ultimate decision-making authority. In any case whatsoever, the state is the final arbiter of disputes, even for those between the state and a resident within the its territory.
From my understanding of property rights, ultimate decision-making authority is an illegitimate claim. A right to a property (something that is ownable) is the right to a use of that property (for the purpose of achieving something of value), not its wholesale segregation from others. For example, I could homestead land for the purpose of growing a garden, the value I am producing. However, I would not have the decision-making authority to prevent a broadcaster from sending radio waves across my garden. Radio waves in no way inhibit the value I am seeking to produce. The same could be said of someone in an airplane taking a picture of my garden.
A property rights violation consists of an individual causing a physical change to a property in such a way that the production of the value being sought is hindered. (I exclude non-physical entities, such as concepts, from being owned since their use cannot be hindered by another’s use.)
It also does not makes sense that a property owner would have the ultimate decision-making authority when it comes to enforcing a right, as that would be begging the question. Any perceived rights violation involves a dispute over exactly who’s right it was that was violated in the first place.
As a supporter of absentee property ownership, I would not be classified as an anarchist by Pitts’ recollection of “one and a half centuries of [anarchism’s] thought and application.” She asked what sense would it make to identify as a Christian only to deny the validity of certain books of the Bible or to join a Marxist group and criticize aspects of Marx’s class theory. I am not sure about Marxists groups, but what she described takes place all the time in Christian circles, where certain texts are deemed metaphorical or de-emphasized. Really, how many Christians accept that stoning a child is an acceptable punishment for disobedient behavior?
All that the writings of Joseph-Pierre Proudhon or Peter Kropotkin can tells us is what anarchism meant when they were alive. That anarchist thought ought to be stagnantly fixed to certain premises is in direct opposition to what anarchism stands for.
On anarchism, Amy Parsons wrote,
No barriers whatever to human progression, to thought, or investigation are placed by anarchism; nothing is considered so true or so certain, that future discoveries may not prove it false; therefore, it has but one infallible, unchangeable motto, “Freedom.” Freedom to discover any truth, freedom to develop, to live naturally and fully. Other schools of thought are composed of crystallized ideas — principles that are caught and impaled between the planks of long platforms, and considered too sacred to be disturbed by a close investigation. In all other “issues” there is always a limit; some imaginary boundary line beyond which the searching mind dare not penetrate, lest some pet idea melt into a myth. But anarchism is the usher of science — the master of ceremonies to all forms of truth.
The core dispute has to do with which property norm, in the absence of the state, would be suited for decentralizing economic power. If the possession-and-use theory does, there has to be a more logical explanation than the assertion “You can’t deny this.”