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.

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‘But If You Don’t Own Yourself, Then Who Does? – A Response

Self-ownership is the normative claim that a person ought to own their body as private property and in virtue of this ownership have exclusive rights of control and use over their body. One of the main replies by Anarcho-Capitalists to those who reject self-ownership is that if people do not own their body as private property, then who does? And if a person does not own themselves,  then other people can own them as property. Thus we must believe in self-ownership or believe in the legitimacy of people owning other people, as in slavery.

This argument however fails. The fact that x belongs to the set y, which is the set of things that are un-owned, does not entail that z person can legitimately claim ownership of x. It is only entailed if x belongs to the set of things that can be legitimately owned.  The set of things which can be legitimately owned merely intersects with the set of things which are un-owned, rather than being identical with it. For instance a piece of land may be un-owned and yet be capable of being legitimately owned, while the the earths atmosphere is un-owned and cannot be legitimately owned. Likewise a person’s body belongs to the set of things that cannot be legitimately owned and the set of things that are un-owned. Therefore, it is not the case that if something is not owned it necessarily can be owned and that if people do not own themselves then they can be owned by other people.

While self-ownership itself justifies slavery. Since if my body is property, and I have rights of use and control over my body, then I have the right to transfer ownership of my body via voluntary contract, just as I can do so with any given thing I own as property, such as a chair. A person therefore has the right to voluntarily transfer ownership of their body to others, and so voluntarily become owned as private property by others. A slave is a person who is owned as property by another person, therefore It is self-ownership, not it’s denial, that entails slavery.

Critique of Stefan Molyneux’s arguments for Self-Ownership & Private Property

In a question and answers video Stefan Molyneux answered the following question: “Where is the logical step between humans exhibiting ownership of themselves and self-ownership becoming a universal principle? How do property rights emerge simply from exclusive usage of our bodies?” Before we address Stefan’s response let us first understand what the question is in […]