Tag Archives: property

Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize Winning Essay

Sean Gabb

I, writing from the National Liberal Club in London, where the Libertarian Alliance and Libertarian International are holding our 2008 conference.

This is going well.

This evening, at the dinner, I will announce the winner of the Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize. I can tell you all now that the winner is Keith Preston. His essay was, in my opinion, the best. Here it is:

Keith Preston is the founder and director of American Revolutionary Vanguard, a U.S.-based tendency committed to advancing the principles of anti-statism, personal liberty, cooperative individualist economics, and the sovereignty and self-determination of communities and nations. He is a graduate student in history, an independent business owner and entrepreneur, and advocate of a new radicalism that reaches beyond the archaic left/right model of the political spectrum. See the ARV website at http://www.attackthesystem.com

Free Enterprise: The Antidote to Corporate Plutocracy

A political libertarian, broadly defined, is someone who wishes to dramatically

reduce the role of the state in human social life so as to maximize individual freedom of

thought, action and association. The natural corollary to libertarian anti-statism is the

defense of the free market in economic affairs. Many libertarians and not a few

conservatives, at least in the Anglo nations, claim to be staunch proponents of free

enterprise. Yet this defense is often rather selective, and timid, to say the least.

Libertarians and free-market conservatives will voice opposition to state-owned enterprises, the social welfare and public health services, state-funded and operated educational institutions, or regulatory bureaus and agencies, such as those governing labor relations, relations between racial, ethnic, and gender groups, or those regulating

the use of the environment. Curiously absent among many libertarian, conservative, or free-market critiques of interventions by the state into society are the myriad of ways in which government acts to assist, protect, and, indeed, impose outright, an economic order maintained for the benefit of politically connected plutocratic elites. Of course, recognition of this fact has led some on the Left to make much sport of libertarians, whom they often refer to, less than affectionately, as “Republicans who take drugs”,

or “Tories who are soft on buggery”, and other such clichés.

Some advocates of free enterprise will respond to such charges by indignantly proclaiming their opposition to state efforts to “bail out” bankrupt corporations or subsidies to corporate entities for the ostensible purpose of research and development. Yet such defenses will often underestimate the degree to which the state serves to create market distortions for the sake of upholding a corporation-dominated economic order. Such distortions result from a plethora of interventions including not only bailouts and subsidies but also the fictitious legal infrastructure of corporate “personhood”, limited liability laws, government contracts, loans, guarantees, purchases of goods, price controls, regulatory privilege, grants of monopolies, protectionist tariffs and trade policies, bankruptcy laws, military intervention to gain access to international markets and protect foreign investments, regulating or prohibiting organized labor activity, eminent domain, discriminatory taxation, ignoring corporate crimes and countless other

forms of state-imposed favors and privileges.1

Perhaps the efficacious gift to the present corporate order by the state has been

what Kevin Carson calls “the subsidy of history,” a reference to the process by which the

indigenous inhabitants and possessors of property in land were originally expropriated

during the course of the construction of traditional feudal societies and the subsequent

transformation of feudalism into what is now called “capitalism”, or the corporatist-

plutocratic societies that we have today. Contrary to the myths to which some subscribe,

including many libertarians, the evolution of capitalism out of the old feudal order was

not one where liberty triumphed over privilege, but one where privilege asserted itself in

newer and more sophisticated forms. As Carson explains:

There were two ways Parliament could have abolished feudalism

and reformed property. It might have treated the customary possessive

rights of the peasantry as genuine title to property in the modern sense,

and then abolished their rents. But what it actually did, instead, was to

treat the artificial “property rights” of the landed aristocracy, in feudal

legal theory, as real property rights in the modern sense; the landed

classes were given full legal title, and the peasants were transformed

into tenants at will with no customary restriction on the rents that could be charged…

In European colonies where a large native peasantry already lived,

states sometimes granted quasi-feudal titles to landed elites to collect

rent from those already living on and cultivating the land; a good example

is latifundismo, which prevails in Latin America to the present day.

Another example is British East Africa. The most fertile 20 percent of

Kenya was stolen by the colonial authorities, and the native peasantry

evicted, so the land could be used for cash-crop farming by white settlers

(using the labor of the evicted peasantry, of course, to work their own

former land). As for those who remained on their own land, they were “encouraged” to enter the wage-labor market by a stiff poll tax that had

to be paid in cash. Multiply these examples by a hundred and you get a

bare hint of the sheer scale of robbery over the past 500 years.

…Factory owners were not innocent in all of this. Mises claimed that the

capital investments on which the factory system was built came largely

from hard-working and thrifty workmen who saved their own earnings

as investment capital. In fact, however, they were junior partners of the

landed elites, with much of their investment capital coming either from

the Whig landed oligarchy or from the overseas fruits of mercantilism,

slavery and colonialism.

In addition, factory employers depended on harsh authoritarian measures

by the government to keep labor under control and reduce its bargaining

power. In England the Laws of Settlement acted as a sort of internal passport system, preventing workers from traveling outside the parish of their birth

without government permission. Thus workers were prevented from “voting

with their feet” in search of better-paying jobs. You might think this would

have worked to the disadvantage of employers in under populated areas, like Manchester and other areas of the industrial north. But never fear: the state

came to the employers’ rescue. Because workers were forbidden to migrate

on their own in search of better pay, employers were freed from the necessity

of offering high enough wages to attract free agents; instead, they were able

to “hire” workers auctioned off by the parish Poor Law authorities on terms

set by collusion between the authorities and employers.2

The Central American nation of El Salvador provides an excellent case study in

how “actually existing capitalism” came about. The indigenous people of El Salvador,

known as the Pipil Indians, were conquered in the early sixteenth century by the Spanish

conquistadors. It was not until 1821 that El Salvador claimed its independence from

Spain and subsequently became an independent nation in 1839. The system of land

ownership in Salvadoran society was communal in nature as late as the end of the

eighteenth century with ownership rights relegated to individual towns and Pipil villages.

The primary agricultural products produced by the peasants were cattle, indigo, corn,

beans and coffee. The Pipil were essentially practicing a type of collective self-


As the international market for coffee expanded, some of the wealthier and more

powerful merchants and landowners began pressuring the Salvadoran government to

intervene into the economic structures of the nation in such a way as to make the

accumulation of personal wealth more rapid through the establishment of larger, private

plantations with a more greatly regimented labor force. Consequently, the government

began to destroy the traditional system of property rights held by the towns and villages

in order to establish individual plantations owned by those from the privileged classes

who already possessed the means of acquiring credit. This change was implemented in

several steps. In 1846, landowners with more than 5,000 coffee bushes were granted

immunity from paying export duties for seven years and from paying taxes for a ten year

period. Plantations owned by the Salvadoran government were also transferred to

politically connected private individuals. In 1881, the communal land rights the Pipil had

possessed for centuries were rescinded, making self-sufficiency for the Indians

impossible. The government subsequently refused to grant even subsistence plots to the

Pipil as the Salvadoran state was now fully under the control of the large plantation

owners. This escalating economic repression was met with resistance and five separate

peasant rebellions occurred during the late nineteenth century. By the middle part of the

twentieth century, El Salvador’s coffee plantations, called fincas, were producing ninety-

five percent of the country’s export product and were controlled by a tiny oligarchy of

landowning families.3

The phrase “means of acquiring credit” from the previous paragraph is a

particularly significant one as the purpose of state control over banking and the issuance

of money serves to narrowly constrict the supply of available credit which in turn renders

entrepreneurship inaccessible to the majority of the population at large. Indeed, Murray

Rothbard argued that bankers as a class “are inherently inclined towards statism”4 as they

are typically involved with unsound practices, such as fractional reserve credit, that

subsequently lead to calls for assistance from the state, or derive much of their business

from direct involvement with the state, for instance, through the underwriting of

government bonds. Therefore, the banking class becomes the financial arm of the state

not only by specifically underwriting the activities of the state, such as war, plunder and

repression, but also by serving to create and maintain a plutocracy of businessmen,

manufacturers, politically-connected elites and others able to obtain access to the

narrowly constricted supply of credit within the context of the market distortions

generated by the state’s money monopoly.5

The process by which “capitalism” as it is actually practiced in the modern

countries developed-by means of a partnership between the forces of state and capital,

rather than through a genuine free market-has already been very briefly described. There

remains the question of how this relationship has subsequently been maintained over the

past two centuries. Gabriel Kolko’s landmark study of the historic relationship between

state and capital traced the development of this symbiosis from the “railroad government

complex” of mid-nineteenth century America through the supposed “reforms” of the so-

called Progressive Era to the cartelization of labor, industry and government by means of

Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.6 At each stage of this development of American state-

capitalism, members of “the capitalist class”-bankers, industrialists, manufacturers,

businessmen-adamantly pushed for and were directly involved in the creation of a state-

managed economy whose effect would be to shield themselves from smaller, less

politically connected competitors, co-opt labor unions and generate a source of

monopolistic protection and cost-free revenue from the state. Similar if not identical

parallels can be found in the development of state-capitalism in the other modern


Indeed, parallels can also be drawn between the structures of contemporary state-

capitalism and historic feudalism. Since the High Middle Ages government has been

transformed from its earlier identification with a specific person or persons into a

corporate entity with a life and identity of its own beyond that of its individual members.8

Out of this process of transformation from personal government to corporate government,

the evolution of a system of state-capitalist privilege that has supplanted feudal privilege,

the ever greater interaction and co-dependency between the plutocratic elite and the

minions of the state, and the wider integration of organized labor, political interests

groups generated by mass democracy and unprecedented expansion of the public sector

has emerged a politico-economic order that might be referred to as the “new

manorialism”. These “new manors” are the multitude of bureaucratic entities that

maintain an institutional identity of their own, though their individual personnel may

change with time, and who exist first and foremost for the sake of their own self-

preservation, irrespective of the original purposes for which they were ostensibly

established. The “new manors” may include institutional entities that function as de jour

arms of the state, such as regulatory bureaus, police and other “law enforcement”

agencies, state-run social service departments or educational facilities, or they may

include de facto arms of the state, such as the banking and corporate entities whose

position of privilege, indeed, whose very existence, is dependent upon state intervention.9

Out of this domestic state-capitalist order there has emerged an overarching

international order rooted in the pre-eminence of the American state-capitalist class and

its junior partners from a number of the other developed nations. Hans Hermann Hoppe

describes this arrangement:

Moreover, from a global perspective, mankind has come closer than

ever before to the establishment of a world government. Even before

the destruction of the Soviet Empire, the United States had attained

hegemonical status over Western Europe…and the Pacific Rim countries…

as indicated by the presence of American troops and military bases…

by the role of the American dollar as the ultimate international reserve

currency and of the U.S. Federal Reserve System as the “lender” or

“liquidity provider” of last resort for the entire Western banking system,

and by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the

World Bank and the…World Trade Organization. In addition, under

American hegemony the political integration of Western Europe has steadily advanced. With the recent establishment of a European Central Bank and a European Currency (EURO), the European Community is near completion.

At the same time, with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

a significant step toward the political integration of the American continent

has been taken. In the absence of the Soviet Empire and its military threat,

the United States has emerged as the world’s sole and undisputed military superpower and its “top cop.”10

Such is what “big business” has wrought. Such an international imperial order is about as

far removed from the libertarian principles of small government and free enterprise as

anything could possibly be. Thus far in this discussion, the surface has only been

scratched concerning the deformation of the natural market process from what it might

otherwise have been because of state intervention and the corresponding system of

corporate plutocratic rule. No mention has been made of the monopoly privilege inherent

in patent laws and the legal concept of “intellectual property.” The role of transportation

subsidies in the centralization of wealth and the destruction of smaller competitors to “big

business” has not been discussed. Indeed, a credible case can be made that without direct or indirect subsidies to those transportation systems such as air, water or long distance land travel that are necessary for the cultivation and maintenance of markets over large geographical entities, the kind of domination of present day retail and commercial food markets exercised by such gargantuan entities as Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Tesco and others would likely be impossible. 11 No challenge has been made to conventional

views regarding legitimacy of land titles as opposed to contending views, such as those

rooted in usufructuary or geoist principles.12 There has been no discussion, as there easily

could be, of the role of the state in the creation of the underclass of contemporary

societies and the related social pathologies, a situation whose roots go far deeper than the

mere “culture of dependency” bemoaned by conventional conservatives and some

libertarians.13 The role of the state in the dispossession of the indigenous agricultural

population in the period of early capitalist development in the West and in the

contemporary Third World has been mentioned, but such dispossessions continue to

occur even in modern societies.14

The implications of these insights for libertarian strategy are rather profound

indeed. If libertarianism is to be identified in the public mind and among lay people as an

apology for the corporation-dominated status quo, and if libertarians proceed as if

“conservative” apologists for big business were their natural friends, and insist that a libertarian world would be one ruled by the likes of Boeing, Halliburton, ‘Tesco, Microsoft, or Dupont, then libertarianism will never be anything more than an appendage to the ideological superstructure modern intellectual classes use to legitimize plutocratic rule.15 However, if libertarianism asserts itself as a new radicalism, the polar opposite of plutocrat-friendly “conservatism”, and more radical than anything offered by the increasing moribund and archaic Left, then libertarianism may well indeed inspire new generations of militants to take aim at the statist status quo. Libertarianism may become the guiding system of thought for radicals and reformers everywhere as liberalism was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and as socialism was for subsequent generations.16

As for the question of what an economy devoid of statist, corporatist and

plutocratic rule would actually look like, it can be expected that removal of state-imposed

barriers to obtainment of credit, entrepreneurship and economic self-sufficiency (as

opposed to dependency on state and corporate bureaucracies for employment, insurance

and social services) will be one where Colin Ward’s ideal of a “self-employed” society is

largely realized.17 No longer will the average man be dependent on Chase Manhattan, Home Depot, General Motors, ‘Tesco or Texaco for his livelihood or his sustenance. Instead, he will have finally acquired the means of existing economically as a self-sufficient dignified individual in a community of peers where privilege is the result of merit and equal liberty is the unchallengeable prerogative of all.

Early in the twentieth century there were a variety of movements championing the independent small producer and the cooperative management of large enterprises including anarcho-syndicalism from the extreme Left and distributism from the reactionary Catholic Right.18 These tendencies still exist on the outer fringes of political and economic thought. One need not agree with every bit of analysis or every proposal advanced by these schools of thinking to recognize their visionary libertarian aspects. Numerous economic arrangements currently exist that offer glimpses into what post-statist, post-plutocratic institutions of production might be.

One of these is the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, a collection of worker-

owned and operated industries originating from the Basque region of Spain. Having been

in existence since 1941, the Mondragon cooperatives initially established a “peoples’

bank” of the kind originally suggested by the godfather of classical anarchism, Pierre

Joseph Proudhon,19 for the development of still more enterprises, which now total more

than 150 in number, including the private University of Mondragon. Its supermarket

division is the third largest retail outlet in Spain and the largest Spanish-owned food store

chain. Each individual cooperative has a workers’ council of its own, and the entire

cooperative federation is governed by a congress of workers from the different

enterprises. 20

Still another quite interesting example is the Brazilian company Semco SA. While

privately owned as a family business, Semco practices a form of radical industrial democracy. Under the leadership of Ricardo Semler, who inherited the company from his

father, Semco maintains a management structure where workers manage themselves and

set their own production goals and budgets with remuneration based on productivity,

efficiency and cost effectiveness. Workers receive twenty-five percent of the profits from

their division. Middle management has essentially been eliminated. Workers have the

right of veto over company expenditures. Job duties are frequently rotated and even the

CEO position is shared by six persons, including owner Semler, who serve six month

terms in the chief executive position. The company now has over 3,000 employees,

annual revenue of over $200 million and a growth rate of forty percent each year.21

An economy organized on the basis of worker-owned and operated industries,

peoples’ banks, mutuals, consumer cooperatives, anarcho-syndicalist labor unions,

individual and family enterprises, small farms and crafts workers associations engaged in

local production for local use, voluntary charitable institutions, land trusts, or voluntary

collectives, communes and kibbutzim may seem farfetched to some, but no more so and

probably less so than a modern industrial, high-tech economy where the merchant class is

the ruling class and the working class is a frequently affluent middle class would have

seemed to residents of the feudal societies of pre-modern times. If the expansion of the

market economy, specialization, the division of labor, industrialization and technological

advancements can bring about the achievements of modern societies in eradicating

disease, starvation, infant mortality and early death, one can only wonder what a genuine

free enterprise system might achieve, and would have already achieved were it not for the

scourge of statism and the corresponding plutocracy.

1 Kevin A. Carson, The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand: Corporate-Capitalism As a State-Guaranteed System of Privilege (Red Lion Press, 2001-Revised January 2002).

2 Kevin A. Carson, “The Subsidy of History”, The Freeman, Vol. 58, No. 5, June 2008.

3 Raymond Bonner, Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador. (New York: Times Books, 1984), pp. 19- 23.

4 Murray N. Rothbard, “Wall Street, Banks and American Foreign Policy”, World Market Perspective, 1984.

5 Rothbard, Ibid.; Kevin A. Carson, “Tucker’s Big Four: The Money Monopoly”, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Chapter Five: Section B. Archived at http:// mutualist.org/id73.html . Accessed September 10, 2008; Hans Hermann Hoppe, “Banking, Nation-States and International Politics: A Sociological Reconstruction of the Present Economic Order” The Economics and Ethics of Private Property (Boston/Dordrecht/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1993), pp. 61-92; Benjamin R. Tucker, “Part II: Money and Interest”, Instead Of A Book, By A Man Too Busy To Write One, 1897. Archived at http://fair-use.org/benjamin-tucker/instead-of-a-book/.

Accessed on September 10, 2008.

6 Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism, MacMillan, 1963.

7 Terry Arthur, “Free Enterprise: Left or Right? Neither!”, Libertarian Alliance, 1984.

8 Martin Van Creveld, The Rise and Decline of the State (Cambridge University Press, 1999).

9 James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution: What Is Happening in the World (Greenwood Press Reprint, 1972, originally published in 1940). This classic conservative work argues that modern societies are neither “capitalist” nor “socialist” in the way these terms were historically understood. Instead, a new kind of politico-economic order has emerged in modern times where political and economic rule is conducted by a “managerial class” of bureaucrats presiding over mass organizations-governments and their bureaus and agencies, corporations and financial institutions, armies, political parties, unions, universities, media, foundations and the like. Membership in the upper strata of these entities is often rotational in that many of the same individuals shift about from the various sectors of the managerial class, for instance, from elected positions in government to corporate boards of directors to key positions in the media or elite foundations to appointed positions in the bureaucracy.

10 Hans Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed. (New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers, 2001), pp. 108-109.

11 Kevin A. Carson, “Transportation Subsidies”, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Chapter Five, Section E. Archived at http://mutualist.org/id76.html Accessed on September 10, 2008.

12 Among anti-state radicals, a fairly wide divergence of opinion exists concerning the manner by which property rights in land should be defined. Most “mainstream” libertarians hold to some version of Lockean property rights while more radical libertarians (mutualists, syndicalists, anarcho-communists) along with some distributists argue that property rights should be defined according to the principles of occupancy and use. Still others adhere to the view of Henry George (geoism or geolibertarianism) that land ownership should be subject to a land value tax. For a discussion of this controversy among libertarians, see Kevin A. Carson, “Tucker’s Big Four: The Land Monopoly”, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Chapter Five: Section B. Archived at http://www.mutualist.org/id66.html. Accessed on September 10, 2008. Carson summarizes the matter elsewhere: “In Chapter Five of Mutualist Political Economy, I included an extended discussion of property rights theory that relied heavily on “Hogeye Bill” Orton’s commentary from sundry message boards. According to Orton, no particular theory of property rights can be logically deduced from the axiom of self-ownership. Rather, self-ownership can interact with a variety of property rights templates to produce alternative economic orders in a stateless society. So whether rightful ownership of a piece of land is determined by Lockean, a mutualist, Georgist, or syndicalist rule is a matter of local convention. Questions of coercion can only be settled once this prior question is addressed. And since there is no a priori principle from which any particular set of rules can be deduced, we can only judge between them on consequentialist grounds: what other important values do they tend to promote or hinder?
So it’s quite conceivable that non-severable, non-marketable shares in a collectively owned enterprise might depend, not on contract among the members, but on the property rights convention of the local community. Saying that such an arrangement is “coercion” is begging the question of whether the Lockean rules for initial acquisition and transfer of property is the only self-evidently true ones.” Carson, “Socialist Definitional Free-for-All, Part I”, Archived at http://mutualist.blogspot.com/2005/12/socialist-definitional-free-for-all.html. Accessed on September 10, 2008.

13 No doubt much conservative criticism of the welfare state for creating perverse incentives for anti-social behavior, such as familial dysfunction, criminality and a hindered work ethic, are correct and insightful. Yet, many of the social pathologies associated with the “underclass” populations of American and European cities is traceable to detrimental state interventions far beyond those of conventional social welfare systems. A number of works by libertarians and non-libertarians alike have documented the process by which organic social, economic and cultural life has been destroyed among these populations by a wide range of interventions, most of which are imposed for the sake of advancing plutocratic interests. See Kevin A. Carson, “Reparations: Cui Bono?” Archived at http://mutualist.org/id9.html. Accessed on September 10, 2008; Charles Johnson, “Scratching By: How Government Creates Poverty As We Know It”, The Freeman, Vol. 57, No. 10, December 2007; Keith Preston, “The Political Economy of the War on Drugs”, (American Revolutionary Vanguard, 2001), Archived at http://attackthesystem.com/the-politicial-economy-of-the-war-on-drugs/ Accessed on September 10, 2008; Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, (Princeton University Press, 1996, 2005); Walter E. Williams, The State Against Blacks, (McGraw-Hill, 1982).

14 For an illuminating discussion of the role of state intervention in the dispossession of the indigenous rural agricultural population of America’s heartland in the 1980s and 1990s, see James Bovard, Farm Fiasco, (ICS Press, 1989) and Joel Dyer, Harvest of Rage, (Westview Press, 1997).

15 The role of the intellectual class as both a constituent group for statism and as the creators of the ideological superstructure of statism is discussed in Hans Hermann Hoppe, “Natural Elites, Intellectuals and the State”, Mises Institute, July 21, 2006. Archived at http://mises.org/story/2214. Accessed on September 11, 2008. Of course, the concept of an ideological superstructure used to legitimize a particular system of class rule is most closely associated with Marxist analysis. For an examination of the differences as well as the points of agreement between Marxists and libertarians, see Hans Hermann Hoppe, “Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis”, The Economics and Ethics of Private Property (Boston/Dordrecht/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1993), pp. 93-110.

16 Murray Rothbard considered libertarians to be the far left end of the political spectrum, with “conservatives”, i.e., proponents of an authoritarian order based on hierarchy, status, and privilege (and justified with appeals to tradition) to be on the far right, with Marxists and other socialists constituting an incoherent middle-of-the-road position. See Murray N. Rothbard, Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty, (Cato Institute, 1979). The left-wing anarchist Larry Gambone’s exhaustive examination of the thinking of the early socialists indicates that the original aim of socialism was not the state-run economies associated with socialism in contemporary political discourse, but an economy ordered on the basis of decentralized cooperative enterprises. Larry Gambone, “The Myth of Socialism as Statism”, (Porcupine Blog, May 6, 2006). Archived at http://porkupineblog.blogspot.com/2006/05/myth-of-socialism-as-statism.html. Accessed on September 11, 2008.

17 Colin Ward, “A Self-Employed Society”, Anarchy In Action, (London: Freedom Press, 1982), pp. 95-109.

18 Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, (Martin Secker and Warburg, Ltd., 1938); Hilaire Belloc, The Servile State, (The Liberty Fund, originally published in 1913); G. K. Chesterton, The Outline of Sanity, (HIS Press, 2002, originally published in 1927); Anthony Cooney, Distributism, (Third Way Movement Ltd., 1998).

19 Larry Gambone, Proudhon and Anarchism: Proudhon’s Libertarian Thought and the Anarchist Movement, (Red Lion Press, 1996).

20 William Whyte, Making Mondragon: The Growth and Dynamics of the Worker Cooperative Complex, (ILR Press, 1991).

21 Ricardo Semler, Maverick, (Arrow Press, 1993).


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tucker/instead-of-a-book/. Accessed on September 10, 2008.

Van Creveld, Martin. The Rise and Decline of the State. Cambridge University Press,


Ward, Colin, “A Self-Employed Society”, Anarchy In Action. London: Freedom Press,


Williams, Walter E. The State Against Blacks. McGraw-Hill, 1982.

Whyte, William. Making Mondragon: The Growth and Dynamics of the Worker

Cooperative Complex. (ILR Press, 1991).

Four cheers for the devil …

David Davis

… for standing up for individual property rights. More important, even, than clean drinking water for all the world’s children, as advocated nobly and forcefully by Bjørn Lomborg (or is it Lombørg? I don’t know.)

The Devil was merely getting at Private Eye. But the strategically-underlying point he makes is seminal (this is a un-PC banned-word now.)

NOT farming in England: will we all starve freezing in the dark, or will we see sense?

David Davis

It is axiomatic that human beings, being one of the very few extant species of Great Apes, and being fairly large (about 70-120 Kg for males, and 38-54 Kg for females, (Z = 2 or less in your z-tables of variance from the mean taking into account SD) which calls into the agenda some interesting stuff about sexual dimorphism and polygamy, which might have a bearing on the positive rationality of Islam) and also (now) more or less carnivorous, would, being intelligent, want to be able to eat.

Now, however, we have in the UK an outfit called DEFRA, which I have only semi-laughingly dubbed the “Department for Ending of Farming and Rural Affairs.” I know we here in the North are all yokels here who happen to know how to type, but by “rural affairs”, I do NOT mean that the Police privately know that “Stumpy Knight”, or “Swampy” or whoever, has been shopped to them by the local doctor for fathering another child by his eldest daughter. I just mean stuff going on down in the “countryside”.

DEFRA is a huge and potentially strategic problem. When I was a boy, we were taught at school that “The UK” was (is? could be still?) the “most efficient mechanized farm in the world”. Farmers were private individuals who had, nevertheless (remember, socialism lived!)  “forced the land to give us” “up to 9 tons per acre” of crops such as wheat and potatoes. We even did maths sums about the tonnage per acre of whatever it was, to compare with the wimps in Canada and the uSA and Ausralia – sorry you guys, I know you are doing better than we are, now; we have to sustain populations of butterflies and pests, and (worse) toads and newts, in order to be allowed to farm at all.

Farms, now, “deliver the national curriculum”, if they are clever, like this one. They don’t grow any food – and certainly the one you are going to look at does not.

To me, the deliberate destruction, by metropolitan stalinists, of the most beneficent and the most productive (both of ideas and of foods) farming regime that might ever have existed in the history of Man, is a War Crime. I would restage Nuremberg, yes I would, and with ropes available for  various persons, although I am not sure that hanging by the neck is either slow enough or painful enough for the recipients. There must be other punishments, such as “Eternal Life” (I will explain how this will be executed at some other time, but you may imagine how miserable it could be for people who have nothing to drive them but Utopianism to be forced upon others.)

Report on Property and Freedom Society Conference in Bodrum

Sean Gabb

Free Life Commentary
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 173
4th July 2008

The Third Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society,
Bodrum, May 2008:
A Brief Record
by Sean Gabb

I dreamed last night of the Hotel Karia Princess in Bodrum. I do this perhaps once a week. Last night, though, the dream was unusually vivid. I was walking down the stone steps from the Migros supermarket, a bag in each hand. On my left, at the foot of the step, the taxi drivers were gossiping loud in Turkish and chain smoking. The sun beat down on me from overhead. I could smell the dust of the road and of the aromatic plants all around. Directly across the road, the Hotel shimmered vast and white.

I cannot remember going in through the revolving doors into the cool, marble interior. But as I write, I can imagine the smiles of the reception staff, and the endless loop of the Third Movement of Mozart�s Jupiter Symphony, and being called over by Paul Gottfried checking his e-mail, or Justin Raimondo, or by one of the semi-permanent German guests.

It is now two years since my first conference there with the Property and Freedom Society. I got the e-mailed invitation out of the blue from Hans-Hermann Hoppe. How he found me and why he wanted me I have never thought to ask him. But his conference was set to happen in the middle of my summer term, and I was minded at first to send a polite refusal. But I discussed it with Chris Tame as he sat in his hospital bed waiting for death.

“You�ve got to go, Sean” he had said, looking up from the list of attendees. “Whatever people say about him—and, let’s face it, all his enemies are envious windf*ck*rs who don’t like us either—Hoppe is the Big Man of the Movement. Now Rothbard is gone, he�s it.” He brushed aside my whines about teaching commitments, and sent me off to book my ticket.

And so, just over two years ago—after a journey that involved the failed theft of my wallet at Heathrow, and a most civilised encounter with a Turkish customs official who found Chris� Swiss Army knife in my camera bag: the Heathrow machines had failed to spot that!—I found myself sat with Hans beside the Hotel swimming pool, sipping chemical cola and discussing the failed war in Iraq.

Since I wrote at some length about the first Property and Freedom Society Conference, I will avoid repeating myself. But I was back for the second—this time with Mrs Gabb. And I wrote about that one too. This year, I was back for the third—this time not just with Mrs Gabb, but also with the Baby Bear.

And it was an astonishingly good time. I will try not to say more than I already have about the Hotel, beyond that it is the sort of place you read about in novels or—always with nostalgia for what is long past—in the memoirs of people who are or soon will be dead. Bodrum can be a hectic place come June. As the temperature goes about the hundred mark, so the population rises from 30,000 Turks to around two million tourists. Within the Hotel, though, all is quiet; all is ordered; all is, without ostentation, civilised.

The Turkish State, sad to say, had this year decided to flash its European credentials by forbidding smoking in enclosed public spaces. And, to my surprise, the police were showing a certain zeal in enforcing the ban. But when you are used to lighting up outside in the high thirties and the pouring rain of London at any time of year, stepping out into the gardens for a cigarette is hardly worth a moan.

It may be the venue—though I doubt it—but I do believe the Property and Freedom Society is an indispensable part of what Americans call the paleo-libertarian movement. If you think libertarianism is defined by wanting to privatise the paving stones while mouthing politically correct platitudes, these gatherings are not for you. These conferences provide a time and a place where nothing is off limits. There are no forbidden subjects, no polite suggestions that whatever is being loudly debated over dinner by the swimming pool might be “inappropriate”. The only rule is the obvious one—that you listen to the other side before making reply.

These are conferences where social conservatives sit down with anarcho-libertarians, where Czechs and Chinese discuss where history went wrong, where English is the preferred language, but a knowledge of half a dozen other languages will frequently come in handy.

They are also conferences useful for what everyone nowadays describes blandly as networking, but what the old Marxists, with a more sinister and accurate turn of phrase, called “cadre building”. It is in Bodrum, every May, that the connections and ideas that will be the future of the libertarian movement are first to be perceived.

I will not bother summarising the actual conference speeches. This year, I made video recordings of everything, and have already uploaded it all to Google Video. Of all the sessions, though, I think most people enjoyed the debate over Ron Paul and what he means to the wider Movement outside America—particularly within Europe. Justin Raimondo and Robert Groezinger were particularly eloquent on this.

My own favourite speech was John Lott on guns.  I live in a country, where gun ownership has been made into a crime except for the police and the very rich, and where being caught with a peashooter will probably soon carry the same prison sentence as rape. I liked the relentless piling up of cases and the statistical analyses. I will use them myself the next time I go on television to talk about guns. Should I also say that, however degraded it may have become, I am part of a culture that has more respect for proven fact than for elegant hypotheses?

Hans was profound on the nature of the State. Paul Gottfried was at his venomous best about the roots in American Protestantism of political correctness. Mustafa Akyol and Peter Mentzel were interesting on Turkish and late Ottoman history. I was quite good on the nature of financial markets in the ancient world. But, as said, all the speeches are recorded, and—allowances being made for the air conditioning and the public address system—are pretty well recorded.

Let me return to the cadre building. I knew we were in for a good conference when Paul Gottfried walked into the hotel lobby, his bags carried behind him. He threw a benevolent glance at the Baby Bear and then demanded of me the aorist of χαίρω.

Εχαίρα? Εχαίρον?” I hazarded. He gave a contemptuous sniff that I really should investigate, and asked if I could help him connect to the Internet. Over dinner, he went into full flow—in two languages denouncing the Germans for their gutless historical masochism. Perhaps they were to blame for 1939: it is at least arguable. But 1914? he sneered. That was at most a no fault car crash. And some Germans are even blaming themselves for 1870!

Then there was Justin Raimondo. I first discovered his writings during the Iraq War, when large stretches of the British and American libertarian movements had come together and agreed what fine things maiming and killing and torturing were when called “assisted regime change”. It was good to find someone even more forthright in his condemnation than I was of the neo-imperialist project. I rather envied the fear and loathing I discovered he could inspire in all the right people. I greatly admired his biography of Murray Rothbard—it is a model of how to summarise and judge the life of a turbulent intellectual. Now we were together in Bodrum, there was all the time in the world for getting to know each other, and for argument and debate.

Narrating all that we covered in ten days as we puffed away in the open would take a short novel. But one recurring argument was over the coming Presidential elections in America. Justin supports Barak Obama, which is fair enough, bearing in mind the only alternatives at the time were a geriatric warmonger and a venomous old harpy. But he also believed Mr Obama could win. I accept I know little of America, but I was unable to agree. “Whatever they tell the pollsters” I kept insisting, “the American people will not vote in sufficient numbers to elect a black man as President. Our only hope of avoiding war with Iran is for the money to run out in Washington.”

Another discussion that stays prominent in my memory is towards the end of the conference. It was late, and there just a few of us sat at a table beside the swimming pool with G�l�in Imre, the owner of the Hotel—since last year, she has been G�l�in Hoppe. After a general conversation, we focussed on happiness. Rather, we focussed on why so many people in the rich world appear to be unhappy. Most people no longer die at absurdly young ages. Most people do not bury half their children cough and sweat their way to early graves. We all have enough to eat. We have soap and water and warm clothes. We have an endless succession of shiny electronic toys to divert us. In another decade or so, what we have now will doubtless seem as inadequate as MSDOS and video cassettes now do to us. But we already live in something approximating the utopia of the early twentieth century science fiction writers.

So why so much unhappiness? Why are the streets of every Western city teeming with plainly bored and aimless sheep of every age and condition? Was it always this way? We agreed that it probably was not. Most of us were old enough to remember a time when there seemed to be more quiet contentment, even though there was much less in the material sense to be contented with.

No one thought to raise the silly old argument that wealth and happiness are and must be inversely related. I can understand that the rich have generally tried to impose, and the poor have too often taken comfort in, the belief that three meals a day and the chance of living past thirty five are to be pitied rather then envied. But I see no reason whatever for sharing the belief. Certainly, some of the people round that table were rather well off, and were not obviously unhappy. Speaking for myself, I have been moderately embarrassed in the financial sense, and moderately comfortable; and I know which state for me is more conducive to happiness.

We did briefly touch on whether mass enrichment has been accompanied by a loss of freedom and of identity. Very few people may want to do any of the things that have been banned over the past century. But everyone is in some sense aware of the immense structures of guardianship that shapes our lives. And everyone to some extent has noticed the rise of a new and utterly malevolent ruling class, that enriches and privileges itself behind a palisade of words about “equality” and “diversity” and “tolerance”.

What more interested us, however, was whether happiness in the long term is not so much about bodily pleasures and material consumption as about being able to follow some self-chosen mission. What mission each person might choose will depend on his inclinations and general abilities. For one, it might be bringing up children in a respectable family home, or building a successful business. For another, it might be collecting classifying every species of butterfly in the Falkland Islands. For someone else, it might be understanding and opposing the ambitions of our new ruling class. Whatever mission is chosen, it gives meaning to life. Anything short of catastrophic failure gives some protection against becoming just another of those depressed, apathetic sheep in the street.

Nothing novel here, of course. But it was a good conversation, in good company. And it was a conversation this part of the world must have heard many times before. The cities of Asia Minor seem to have been places where Epicurus and his philosophy were always particularly honoured.

Yes, it always for me comes back to the ancient world. Modern Turkey, the Ottoman Empire and Byzantium all have much to commend them. But I can never go to the Mediterranean without feeling the endlessly renewed thrill of realisation that it was here where the human race went through the first of its two great enlightenments; and that this particular enlightenment was wholly spontaneous. Miletus, the birthplace of scientific rationalism, is just a drive up the coast. Cos is a ferry ride away. Barely anything remains in modern Bodrum of Halicarnassus. But you can stand on the beach at sunrise, and ask if it was here that Herodotus once stood, looking out to sea and wondering what lay beyond the horizon….

There is much else I could mention about the conference and its attendant comforts—the belly dancers, the boat trips, the visit to Ephesus, and the opportunity for sitting down with intelligent Turks to discuss what it is really like to live in the most dynamic and interesting country in the whole Mediterranean. But I will not do more than mention these things. If you are really interested, contact Professor Hoppe, and try to find out for yourself.

And so, for the third time running, I commend the Bodrum conference of the Property and Freedom Society. Any libertarian or conservative who has not managed to secure an invitation at least once is very much to be pitied.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3

Video record of the Libertarian Alliance 2007 Conference; also the 2006 and 2005 events, if you can click stuff!

Here they are. You can click on the date-links to get each conference.



The Libertarian Alliance has held dozens of conferences and seminars during the past thirty years. Most of these are evidenced by nothing more than an old brochure, the occasional publication arising, and a mass of photographs in the Chris R. Tame collection.

In 2005, however, we acquired a video camera, and decided that everything from then should be carefully recorded and made available. Here are the video records of the conferences held since then.

2007 Conference of the Libertarian Alliance and Libertarian International, held in November at the National Liberal Club in London

2006 Conference of the Libertarian Alliance and Libertarian International, held in November at the National Liberal Club in London

2005 Conference of the Libertarian Alliance and Libertarian International, held in October at the National Liberal Club in London 


And no, sorry! I don’t know either, why wordpress has formatted the 2005 conference in a larger pointsize! (Faced with computer-stuff, I sometimes I feel like that semi-funny guy in the movie, the one where the unlikely comedian sits by accident in the cockpit towards the end of the film, pulls levers while wisecracking, in order to try to save the world from the evil Bureautrons, or whatever. Then sometimes he even pulls the right one.)

You know!  “I wonder what this button does??!!”

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