State & Corporate Property After The Anarcho-Capitalist Revolution

According to anarcho-capitalists, property derived from coercion is illegitimate. For example, if a thief steals a phone from someone, the thief’s ownership claim of the phone is illegitimate and the phone ought to be returned to it’s legitimate owner. Now imagine that the thief steals money from their victim and uses said money to buy a phone. In this case while it is true that they voluntarily purchased the phone, the money they used to buy the phone is derived from coercion, and therefore their ownership claim of the phone is illegitimate. It seems that the phone ought to be owned by the victim since it was their money that was used to purchase it. Now imagine a further scenario in which the thief steals from multiple people and uses the money he stole from these people to buy a phone. In this scenario the thief does not know how much of each victims money was used to buy the phone, only that the phone was bought with the money of the victims. In this case it seems that the phone ought to be owned by all the victims because they all have an equal claim to own the phone.

Let us now apply these considerations to state property. According to anarcho-capitalists state property is derived from either direct coercion, such as one state conquering another state, or indirect coercion, such as a state purchasing medicine from a company but doing so with money derived from taxation and therefore theft.  Some anarcho-capitalists argue that what is now state property ought to become un-owned property that can be homesteaded by individuals because we do not know who has the strongest claim to own what was state property. But this is inconsistent with the thief example, the fact that we did not know who had the strongest claim to own the phone did not make us conclude that the phone ought to be un-owned and be free to be homesteaded by any individual who comes across it. Rather we concluded that it ought to be owned in common since each victim had an equally strong claim to own the phone. This seems to also be the case with state property, therefore, state property ought to be owned in common by the victims of state coercion.

An anarcho-capitalist might respond by claiming that in the thief scenario we knew who the victims were but we do not know with respect to state violence e.g. we do not know which particular citizen’s taxes were used to pay for what. While this is true it does not refute my conclusion, since we do know, generally speaking, which collection of people are the victims of taxation. It is obviously the citizens of a particular state. Therefore, American citizens ought to own in common the property of the American government or French citizens ought to own in common the property of the French government. Anarcho-Capitalist principles of justice therefore entail social ownership of state property.

Moreover, states are not the only entities to own property because of state violence. Corporations receive massive amounts of state subsidies, as in stolen money, and maintain their monopolies via being state created legal entities which are granted privileges in the form of state regulation. The property of corporations therefore rest on state violence. Given that this is the case, surely corporate property also ought to be owned in common by those who are victims of the relevant state’s violence. Anarcho-capitalist principles of justice therefore perhaps entail social ownership of corporate property.


8 thoughts on “State & Corporate Property After The Anarcho-Capitalist Revolution

  1. Yes, anarcho-capitalists do believe in collective property rights on occasion. It’s not at all inconsistent with their philosophy that people own the fruits of their labour. If the products of the labour are not individuated. It follows completely that people everyone has full use rights of the product. Even the wikipedia article on anarcho-capitalism makes this abundantly clear:
    Consider a village near a lake. It is common for the villagers to walk down to the lake to go fishing. In the early days of the community it’s hard to get to the lake because of all the bushes and fallen branches in the way. But over time the way is cleared and a path forms – not through any coordinated efforts, but simply as a result of all the individuals walking by that way day after day. The cleared path is the product of labor –not any individual’s labor, but all of them together. If one villager decided to take advantage of the now-created path by setting up a gate and charging tolls, he would be violating the collective property right that the villagers together have earned.[35]

    You’ve set up imaginary an-cap responses to facilitate a strawman of their philosophy.

    • I didn’t say it was inconsistent with their philosophy nor did I say it was inconsistent with anarcho-capitalism for things to be owned in common. All I said was that with respect to corporate and state property it entails communal ownership, a position most anarcho-capitalists do not take. Rather they think state property should become un-owned and homesteaded by individuals and that corporate property ought to remain but that corporations will have to now compete in a truly free market.

  2. >Rather “they” think state property should become un-owned and homesteaded by individuals and that corporate property ought to remain but that corporations will have to now compete in a truly free market.

    What anarcho-capitalists are you speaking of? All an-caps wouldn’t believe this, so you’re tarring them all with the same brush.

    I don’t see how this is a criticism of anarcho-capitalism, but just a criticism of *some* anarcho-capitalists understanding of their own philosophy.

  3. This is absolutely brilliant. Thank you for sharing this; that totally does make sense. I haven’t talked at that sort of length with AnCaps to hear what the fate of State property is in an AnCap transition. That’s a very important inconsistency to point out indeed, and I’m curious to hear how/if that is accounted for.

  4. I think it is a valid argument anarchopac makes, and i would hope an-caps do not consider wal-mart’s property claims as worthy of of respect and defense. thank you for sharing.

  5. Yes, good questions. I suppose the outcomes would also pivot on the process of emancipation from statism. One might assume that the ‘threshold’ of anarchism wouldn’t come suddenly one day but would be a gradual peaceful process of insubordination and non-consent to the state (as is happening already amongst groups like the freeman and bitcoin movements). Therefore it’s foreseeable that the state and those corporations that rely on state regulation / violence would slowly shrink due to disenfranchisement. Naturally then they would sell off their possessions to stay afloat, which could be purchased by trusts / syndicates who would manage the land according to their investors (which could number into the millions of local people, all voting with their wallets). Eventually the original state would vanish or choose to become competitive like all others.
    In this scenario, though I largely agree with your assertions, it’s hard to see where such methodical measures of previous ownership could be worked. I feel it’s likely to be a case of theoretically drawing a line under the corruption that existed previously and starting anew.
    That’s not to say that local judiciaries couldn’t seize upon situations where it is clear that the shrinking state has historically stolen property from a living individual in upholding it’s ideological viewpoint (non payment of taxes / fines for example), but this would be on an adhoc basis and would also require the court to have proven dominion over the aforementioned property already, so really my initial model of transition still applies.

    My main concern with actually executing the paths of logic you’ve illustrated here is that it would require a single central body (akin to government) to actually meter out the ‘fairness’ implied. In words it would be no different to an invading king sharing the spoils of war with his soldiers, which doesn’t reflect anarchist dissent and it’s slow dissolving of hierarchy in my opinion.

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