Category Archives: cost the limit of price

Occupancy-and-use: Response to Kevin Carson’s Rejoinder

[This post originally appeared at the Center for a Stateless Society, as part of an exchange on occupancy-and-use property.]

At base, Kevin and I disagree about the possibility of, as I put it, “a truly anarchic space, outside the legal order and beyond the realm of permissions and prohibitions.” That’s a serious disagreement, since it amounts, for me, to a disagreement about the possibility of anarchy. If I was, as Kevin suggests, implicitly acknowledging any “set of rules” governing property, it would amount to a complete failure of my project. The point of giving familiar, more-or-less legal names to the steps in the extrication I described was simply to mark the rationales for a series of “gifts.” My working assumptions are that Proudhon’s objections to existing property conventions have really not been answered, and that perhaps they are actually unanswerable in legal terms. My project has not been to describe potential property rights, but merely to describe property as a quality of individual being in such a way that its individuality and its exclusivity might be dealt with separately and the potential conflict between them acknowledged. The point is not to reconstruct some “right of self-ownership,” but to suggest that if one wishes to enjoy the freedoms we have come to associate with that so-called right, we could achieve that end by considering our own property and the property of the other in a particular way — a manner involving a certain sort of extrication, or, to bring things back into the familiar language of property, a cession or gift. These are not proposed rules, but simply “transactions,” to use the vocabulary of Proudhon’s work in the 1850s.

Turning to the specific responses, I’m a little surprised to find myself presented at once as proposing a presumably unrealistic world without rules and as defending principles to be somehow enforced. To be clear, the paragraph that Carson treats first has two simple points: 1) use the right tool for the job, and 2) the right tool will almost always be dependent on a variety of local factors. My point about the cost principle was primarily that it, among the various principles regularly discussed by mutualists, is easier to discuss without reference to a wide variety of local factors. I think that is correct, and that it is useful to make the distinction between approaches that are heavily dependent on local factors and those that are not — principally because it is in the need to adapt to local factors that I find my own opening to the sort of property-pluralism Kevin is pursuing. While I have very little faith, for example, in land-value taxation as a general solution to land-tenure problems, because of the difficulties of quantifying land value in a complex economy, I think that it remains a very useful tool in our kit when the conditions are right for its application. And as the representative in this conversation of a certain kind of neo-Proudhonian position, I certainly shouldn’t rule out the possibility that a position which seems uncertain or even unjust in principle might well be, in practice, the right tool to defend liberty and justice under certain conditions. That, after all, is the heart of Proudhon’s “New Theory,” and the means by which he finally found a place for property as a tool for liberty in his mature work.

Anyway, it appears that by introducing the cost principle into the discussion I simply added new confusions, as Warren’s proposal appears to me in very different terms that those Kevin uses to describe it. I certainly don’t see Warren’s approach as working against economic principles, nor do I have any sense that Warren ever intended to “impose” anything. And I am a little baffled that Kevin would quote Engels on “labor-based pricing systems” in this context. After all, one of the most puzzling legacies of Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy is the association that has formed, incorrectly, between Proudhon’s economic proposals and “labor money.” I am not now, nor have I ever been, a proponent of “labor money.” I consider multiple currencies and multiple forms of currency as the most likely solution to most communities’ needs with regard to circulating media, and I suppose any of the various sorts of “labor notes” might sometimes find a place in the mix, but, despite their denomination in “hours,” Warren’s notes were at the very least a very unusual form of “labor money,” and probably should be considered separately (just as Proudhon’s and Greene’s mortgage-money fall outside the category.) The cost principle was not, after all, a labor principle, and certainly did not “eliminat[e] [the] informational function of price.” It involved the combination of subjective valuation and a different pricing strategy than we generally find in the capitalist economy, but one that nevertheless allowed for plenty of fluctuation and for all of the play of supply and demand. Honestly, I picked Warren’s principle as an example because it seemed to me about as far from the intrusions of Parecon, while still being anti-capitalist, as anything I could imagine. In wrestling with the specific account of exploitation in Proudhon’s writings, I have become increasingly interested in the possibility of addressing shared needs with the fruits of that collective force presently appropriated by capitalism and the state. But Parecon is certainly very far from my ideal — and one of my aims in exploring that sort of collective compensation is the possibility it seems to open of freeing the market in other areas of the economy.

In terms of the alternate account of property I have proposed, Proudhon can only be blamed for the inspiration, although I like to think that I have remained fairly faithful to that inspiration in the elaboration. Kevin’s identification of a “functional egoism” in the work is a good call, with precisely the sort of caveats he makes. Some of the more useful additions to my own theoretical toolkit over the last few years have been ideas drawn from the work of Max Stirner and James L. Walker, often in conversation with Wolfi Landstreicher, who is currently finishing up a new translation of Stirner’s The Unique and its Property. Stirner often makes a fine foil for Proudhon, and both of them address some of the most difficult aspects of anarchy.

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The Impact of the Cost Principle (and Archive Upgrades, VII)

It’s been sort of a hard week to stay on task, with constant new developments in the Occupy movement and multiple live streams to follow. I’ve also been approached, out of the blue, to collaborate on a Charles Fourier translation that sounds like enough fun to shuffle some things to make room for it in my workflow. As it happens, more of a focus on Fourier will undoubtedly help with projects like Dejacque’s Humanisphere and Proudhon’s Creation of Order, so I’m grateful for the distraction.

And work on the archive is still moving right along. I’m at about 525 COinS-equipped entries, and I’m seeing that a lot of articles from The Radical Review and Liberty are already transcribed, which will speed things up as I turn most of my attention to the Tucker archive project. New additions are not a top priority at the moment, but they always seem to turn up if I do any research at all—and I’m always doing at least some research. If nothing else, completing citations has me searching archives constantly, and, as I’ve mentioned before, sometime even failed searches bring new successes.

Late last night, for example, I ran across an interesting news article from The Kansas Herald of Freedom, which describes an early trades-education experiment, which resembles Josiah Warren’s school at Spring Hill, Ohio. There’s probably good reason for that, as the article declares one of the goals of the school to be “to make cost the limit of price.” It has become gradually more and more obvious to me that, if individualist anarchism never had a “mass” impact, it certainly did have a hard-to-measure impact on a wide range of small experiments. Here’s one of them:

Henry Hiatt and others, living in the vicinity of Bloomington, have made a beginning for a Manual Labor School. It is intended to introduce a new principle: that is, to make cost the limit of price,—to arrange so that indigent young men, as well as the wealthy, can obtain a liberal education; that teachers, as well as pupils, shall labor a part of each day for their health and daily bread; that after buildings are erected and the land brought under cultivation, enough shall be produced on the domain to supply the current demands of both pupils and teachers.  
On the old system of education, multitudes of young men are unable to attend the schools and colleges, principally on account of the expense of boarding. While the tuition is not over from twenty to fifty dollars per year, boarding amounts to five times that sum. The Manual Labor School meets this contingency. The expense of boarding can be met every day by three hours’ labor, and as much time as usual devoted to study. Cheap tenements can be erected also in the vicinity, where those living near by can board themselves, bringing their provisions from home.  
For further particulars, address Henry Hiatt, Bloomington, K. T.  
“Education,” The Kansas Herald of Freedom 2, no. 31 (February 28, 1857): 1. 

And here’s another listing of newly updated articles. I’ve hyperlinked a letter by Lysander Spooner that was new to me:

Joseph H. Allen, “Current Literature—The Principles of Sociology. By Herbert Spencer,” The Radical Review 1, no. 2 (August 1877): 352.
William Bailie, “Problems of Anarchism: Introduction, 1. Social and Individual Liberty,” Liberty 1, no. 19 (April 1916): 1.
Alexander Berkman, “Prisons and Crime,” Mother Earth 1, no. 6 (August 1906): 23-29.
Warren Edwin Brokaw, “The Only Unpardonable Sin,” The Pacific Monthly 15, no. 6 (June 1906): 763-767.
Warren Edwin Brokaw, “Who Should Possess the Wealth of the World?,” The North American Review214, no. 3 (September 1921): 431-432.
Steven T. Byington, “The Function of the Church,” The New Republic 27, no. 340 (June 8, 1921): 50.
Steven T. Byington, “Preventing Wires from Sinking into End-bars,” Gleanings in Bee Culture45, no. 1 (January 1917): 62-63.
William Henry Channing, “Prospectus for Volume II. of the Present,” The Present 1, no. 7-8 (January 15, 1844): 288.
I. Crane Clark, “Where is Robert Palmer?,” The Black Cat 9, no. 5 (February 1904): 19-24.
Henry Edger, “Prostitution and the International Woman’s League,” The Radical Review 1, no. 3 (November 1877): 397-418.
C. W. Ernst, “Practical Socialism in Germany,” The Radical Review 1, no. 1 (May 1877): 25-45.
W. B. G., “What Is the Minus Quantity?,” Massachusetts Teacher and Journal of Home and School Education 13, no. 9 (September 1860): 330-333.
Emma Goldman, “Preparedness, the Road to Universal Slaughter,” Mother Earth 10, no. 10 (December 1915): 331-338.
Bolton Hall, “The Fond Father,” Life 38, no. 977 (July 25, 1901): 68.
Bolton Hall, “The God of Evil,” The American Theosophist 15, no. ?? (n.d.): 712-714.
Bolton Hall, “The Good of Evil,” in International Metaphysical League, Proceedings of the 2d Annual Convention, Held at New York, N.Y., October 23-26, 1900 (Boston: International Metaphysical League, 1901).
Bolton Hall, “The Gospel Of Wealth,” Life38, no. 978 (August 1, 1901): 85.
Bolton Hall, “The Gospel Of Wealth,” The Independent 53, no. 2749 (August 8, 1901): 1869.
Bolton Hall, “The Gospel Of Wealth,” The Public 4, no. 185 (October 19, 1901): 442-443.
Bolton Hall, “Remedial Measures,” The Public 1, no. 51 (March 25, 1899): 12.
Edward Henry, “What is the Use in Building Laws? Wherein they are Useful—A Criticism,” Engineering Magazine 2, no. 2 (November 1891): 238-246.
Joshua King Ingalls, “The Grave of the Landless,” The Spirit of the Age 1, no. 8 (August 25, 1849): 113.
Joshua King Ingalls, “Profession,” Univercoelum and Spiritual Philosopher 2, no. 12 (August 19, 1848): 186.
Joshua King Ingalls, “Property and Its Rights,” The Spirit of the Age 1, no. 10 (September 8, 1849): 146-148.
Joshua King Ingalls, “Property and Its Rights,” The Journal of Progress 1, no. 11 (July 9, 1853): 1-3.
Joshua King Ingalls, “Property Rights in Debt and Contract,” The Twentieth Century 12, no. 15 (April 12, 1894): 8-9.
Joshua King Ingalls, “Protective Unions,” Univercoelum and Spiritual Philosopher4, no. 2 (June 9, 1849): 24-25.
Joshua King Ingalls, “Relation of Labor to Land,” Report of the Committee of the Senate upon the Relations between labor and Capital, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1885).
Joshua King Ingalls, “Relations, Existing and Natural, between Man and Property,” The Spirit of the Age 1, no. 16 (October 20, 1849): 243-246.
Joshua King Ingalls, “Relations, Existing and Natural, between Man and Property,” The Journal of Progress 1, no. 11 (July 9, 1853): 3.
Joshua King Ingalls, “What Is Economic Rent?,” The Twentieth Century 9, no. 26 (December 29, 1892): 6-8.
Joshua King Ingalls, “Who Will Be an Oberlin? Who Will Go to New Jersey?,” Universalist Union 8, no. 11 (January 28, 1843): 167.
Alan P. Kelly, “The Foundations of Trade,” Liberty 2, no. 24 (September 6, 1884): 4.
Peter Kropotkin, “The Fortress Prison of St. Petersburg,” The Nineteenth Century 13, no. 76 (June 1883): 928-949.
Marx Edgeworth Lazarus, “Political Liberalism,” Liberty 3, no. 18 (November 28, 1885): 5.
Marx Edgeworth Lazarus, “Rational Communism,” Liberty 4, no. 6 (July 17, 1886): 5. [review]
Marx Edgeworth Lazarus, “Relative Longevity of the Negro and Mulatto,” The Spirit of the Age 1, no. 23 (December 8, 1849): 355.
Marx Edgeworth Lazarus and Benjamin R. Tucker, “Rent: Parting Words,” Liberty 4, no. 19 (December 12, 1885): 3.
Marx Edgeworth Lazarus, “Whom to Kill?,” Liberty 3, no. 23 (February 6, 1886): 8.
Hughes Le Roux, and Benjamin R. Tucker (translator), “A Sheriff’s Sale in Paradise,” The Freethinker 10, no. 4 (February 2, 1890): 57-58.
J. William Lloyd, “Plumb-Centre,” Liberty 4, no. 4 (June 19, 1886): 1.
Dyer D. Lum, “Prognostications,” The Index 6, no. 296 (September 9, 1875): 429.
Errico Malatesta, “Pro-Government Anarchists,” Freedom 30, no. 324 (April 1916): 28.
Lewis Masquerier, “Progressive and Rotary Motion,” in American Institute of the City of New York, Transactions of the American Institute of the City of New York, for the Years 1860-61 (Albany, NY: C. Van Benthuysen, 1861): 576-578.
Lewis Masquerier, “Propagandists,” The Boston Investigator 32, no. 35 (December 31, 1862): 275.
Sidney H. Morse, “Political Evolution,” Liberty 3, no. 14 (September 12, 1885): 4.
William C. Owen, “Proudhon Condensed,” Freedom 34, no. 369 (February 1920): 11.
J. Stahl Patterson, “Current Literature—The Religious Sentiment: Its Source and Aim. A Contribution to the Science and Philosophy of Religion. By D. G. Brinton,” The Radical Review 1, no. 3 (August 1877): 364-366.
John Beverley Robinson, “Why I Oppose Building Laws.—A Rejoinder,” Engineering Magazine 2, no. 2 (November 1891): 246-251.
Lysander Spooner and Joseph Barker, “Free Soil Inconsistency,” The Liberator 24, no. 8 (February 24, 1854): 31.
Benjamin R. Tucker, “Moral Courage,” The Boston Investigator 43, no. 38 (January 14, 1874): 6.
Benjamin R. Tucker, “Proudhon and Fraternity,” Liberty 5, no. 21 (May 26, 1888): 11.
Benjamin R. Tucker, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and Edmond Lepelletier, “Proudhon as a Dramatic Author,” Liberty 10, no. 23 (March 23, 1895): 4-8.
Benjamin R. Tucker, “What We Mean,” Liberty 1, no. 19 (April 15, 1882): 2-3.
Benjamin R. Tucker, “Who Is the Somebody?,” Liberty 1, no. 1 (August 6, 1881): 3.
James L. Walker, “Proudhon’s Works a Source of Health,” Liberty 4, no. 6 (February 26, 1887): 1.
James L. Walker, “Regicides and Republicans,” Liberty 4, no. 11 (November 20, 1886): 5.
James L. Walker, “What is Justice?,” Liberty 3, no. 25 (March 6, 1886): 8.
Robert Dale Owen and Josiah Warren, “Printing in Private Families,” The Free Enquirer 2, no. 20 (March 13, 1830): 157.
John Weiss, “Preacher’s Love-Vacation,” The Radical Review 1, no. 3 (November 1877): 443-446.

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