Am you a “royal” libertarian? Or anarcho-capitalist?

This was a new one on me.

I’ve been “acccused” of being a “royal libertarian” by “libertarians” who want a tax on anybody using a piece of land for agriculture (or any other use presumably). This is for believing in land ownership. But where is the royal in land ownership without any government at all?

Classical liberals also who hold the key to abolishing taxation, by suggesting that the community (not the state) charge a user fee to landholders based on the value of the land.

So a “community”, but “not the state” charge a user fee to landholders? That right there not only blows out the idea that this is “real” libertarianism, but it also creates an imperative for aggression. But instead of calling the aggressor the “state”, they call it the “community” and pretend that this removes the coercion factor.

Because somebody has to enforce the “community” decisions, and worse, somebody has to make those decisions, and for the decisions to be binding on everyone in the “community” there will BE a state by any other name. And that “community” will have to be defined by borders of jurisdiction. That’s a United Nations world government trick. They’re not forming a world government, they’re just “doing proper governance”. Like a corporation. Right.

It’s starting to sound like the argument for copyright. Defenders of copyright claim that Stephen Kinsella’s idea is a “communist” idea, as if he wanted a dictatorship to enforce a limitation on copyright, when it is the copyright defenders who have to have a dictators’ technocracy dream to decide the rules and enforce them.

Maybe this is where the idea came from for the national government of Honduras charging “only” a real estate tax of five percent and no other taxes, for the areas that will become their Zonas Especiales de Desarrollo y Empleo (ZEDE –Special Development and Employment Zones).

There are some good arguments here but let’s look at them more closely. You’re watching me think “out loud in print” here.

The first mistake is in the first paragraph. By saying the land is not the ‘fruits of one’s labor”, they claim that no one can claim ownership. Presumably they will expand later on the argument to say the crops one grows on land is the fruit of the labor but not the land the crops grow on.

Of course the author knows full well that Rothbard and Walter Block blast away at the idea that any king has the right to dictate land ownership rights.

Then they go on to list the abuses of royal grants of land titles to pretend this is what us real libertarians advocate when we recognize that land can be “homesteaded”. The European kings had no “right” to grant land titles to American land.

Okay now this:

According to royal libertarians, land becomes private property when one mixes one’s labor with it. And mixing what is yours with what is not yours in order to own the whole thing is considered great sport. But the notion is filled with problems. How much labor does it take to claim land, and how much land can one claim for that labor? And for how long can one make that claim?

This is disingenuous. Say somebody bottles water from a stream and sells it. How can anybody assert that the water is still not his? On the earth today, every single vehicle that runs on gasoline or other oil-based fuel, or even coal, mixes oxygen with it for input to thrust the vehicle forward. To claim that the end product (movement from here to there) is not something one can claim for sale is itself “tortured rationalization”.

Now for a quote they include a quote from Thomas Jefferson to try to tie private land ownership to something statist (I know, right? Go figure..)

Here’s the quote:

A right of property in movable things is admitted before the establishment of government. A separate property in lands not till after that establishment…. He who plants a field keeps possession of it till he has gathered the produce, after which one has as good a right as another to occupy it. Government must be established and laws provided, before lands can be separately appropriated and their owner protected in his possession. Till then the property is in the body of the nation.

Duh. I don’t know how quoting statist Thomas Jefferson proves the claim that a “community fee” for the use of land is a libertarian principle and nobody can own land. Sounds like an invitation for a royal state tax to me. By any other name. I guess they missed all the Austrian literature about “the commons”, so-called.

In Honduras, the socialists have pushed their followers to grab land from a big landowner and claim it for their own. They call this “land reform”. Except in one of these coordinated land grabs, they took over land that had crops growing on it that belonged to one of the patriarchs in one of the richest landowning families there.

BUT –and such is the way of such things– it was of course right before harvest time. The “occupiers” did the harvesting and sold the produce.

That, my friend, is NOT libertarianism. It is Communism. Dictatorship.

Look at this, trying an ad hominem by Pavlov association tricks to link anarcho-capitalist land ownership to state (I know right? Go figure..) The next paragraph comes straight from the article linked above;

It is a royal libertarian notion, and not a classical liberal ideal, to treat land as state property, for if land did not rightfully belong to the state, how could the state have granted it to favored citizens?

Then they continue with something I don’t think I’ve seen in classical libertarian writings:

Classical liberals also who hold the key to abolishing taxation, by suggesting that the community (not the state) charge a user fee to landholders based on the value of the land.

In any case, allowing any camel’s nose version of a state, is not compatible with the N.A.P. And whatever you call it, whatever word you use, it would have to be some kind of “state” to have powers to enforce such rules. And you would have to have such powers. Myself, I DO NOT CONSENT.

It brings in the idea that land can only be common property, but they need a “user fee” regime to let you deny the land to everyone else. Oh what a mess. Who decides the people who will collect this “user fee” on behalf of the “community”. Who will redistribute this collected wealth?

Then they quote Thomas Paine, who went to France later on to fight for the French Revolution. Who would want Robespierre to decide about this “user fee” tax? Did you say “Not a tax”? Oh right, sorry, I forgot. Social security is not a tax.

And then lo and behold, they quote Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill as advocating taxation of land. But the quotes only repeat themselves, saying the same thing with famous people that said it. And how can they use Jefferson as a libertarian favorite when they use a quote where he advocated a “progressive” taxation regime that exempted the smallest landowners. Of course we all know what happens when government grabs the argument.

Unfortunately, states did not support the federal government to its satisfaction from the beginning (being strapped from the war). Rather than working things out patiently, Hamilton introduced power-centralizing measures into the new Constitution. One was the other kind of indirect taxation, the mosquito-bite kind that you don’t see happening. Royal libertarians trumpet this covert taxation as a virtue over direct real estate taxation, even when it means that “free trade” is being taxed.

Maybe he’s right about “royals”, but he’s not right about “true libertarians”. You can distinguish a “true libertarian” by his use of the non-aggression principle to justify his arguments. Substituting one tax, direct or indirect, for another is not in that reference book.

The next paragraph shows me that the author knows little about how anarcho-capitalist libertarians think, and how little they really know about what they’re talking about.

He also contradicts his own argument because he advocates private ownership for anything that moves. Pick some blackberries that grew wild in unowned land and they’re your blackberries. But cultivate them, oh no… Land not yours. Pay somebody else (“the community”!) for the use of the land.

In their search for excuses to deny any common right to land, royal libertarians are fond of citing Garrett Hardin’s work, “Tragedy of the Commons.” Or at least they cite the title, which is all most royal libertarians are familiar with. Hardin is himself an advocate of land value taxation, and has criticized misinterpretations of his work with the lament that “The title of my 1968 paper should have been `The Tragedy of the Unmanaged Commons.'” [Emphasis Hardin’s]

Very funny. So what if Hardin wrongly advocated taxation after showing the ‘tragedy of the commons”. Not for nothing he wants to change the title. He wants to set up a technocracy to determine who pays how much in taxes. Who will decide what the deciders pay in taxes? Jesus Christ illustrated the answer to his apostles:

Matthew 17:24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?

25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.

That’s what happens when you set up any “user fee” collection structure. They’re people. They are automatically by definition the same as what a state is. You cannot pretend that land taxation is not done through a mechanism that works exactly what we call a state. You cannot pretend that nobody owns land and in the next breath say that some “community” has a “right” to extort a “use fee” for the use of it, or pretend that it is a robbery from the “community” if they use that land without paying the “community” a “use fee” for it (or, as they openly admit in this piece a TAX).

But are the heroes of Atlas Shrugged real capitalists? The inventor John Galt is, and perhaps Hank Rearden of Rearden Metals is, too, although one wonders where he got his ore and fuel. But Taggart Railways enjoys extremely valuable right-of-way privileges from the state. (Once land is parceled out, it is virtually impossible to build a railroad without either land value tax or eminent domain.)

Then there is Francisco D’Anconia, who owned the world’s richest copper deposits, and who took delight in blowing up his mines and driving the price of copper through the roof_something that would not work nearly as well for a capitalist as for a resource monopolist, as there is no way competitors can make copper ore that doesn’t already exist, and, buried or not, D’Anconia’s copper ore still belonged to him.

The economics of Galt’s Gulch

Most revealing of all is the Randian utopia, Galt’s Gulch, which was financed entirely from, yes, land rents. Midas Mulligan owned the whole place, and was, in essence, the government. All the common services, from Galt’s magic energy machine to Hank Rearden’s village railroad, to their defense system (some sort of jammer that made the valley invisible to passing planes) were financed from ground rents collected by Mulligan from the landholders. Although politically Galt’s Gulch was a monarchy, economically it was a Georgist Single-Tax community, with all community services paid for from the rent of land.

Well well. It was Mulligan’s own property, but for the purpose of arguing against Ayn Rand, this writer converts him magically into a “government”! But Mulligan has put it to use, he evidently did not abandon it beforehand. Any “model” in fiction or out is not going to be logically perfect.

For the record I have different quibbles with Ayn Rand’s novel and the portrayal of some of these as “good guy” characters. Certainly it is a chalk-on-blackboard screech violation of logic to try to paint homage to the Biblical God as some version of a state. (I do agree, though that Christianity has been the majority holder of responsibility for charity as virtue today, historically –that charge I happily and enthusiastically agree with– though not with any state’s largesse which is theft).

He next tackles the problem of who collects the “community” rents for land use, who decides what, and who gets the collection. Talk about tortured logic!

Of course that part takes a long piece to parse out and it’s arbitrary no matter what. And then separating land value from improvements on it, and then what do they do with the value that goes up only because it’s surrounded by construction, or this or that.

Then, confound it all, they pretend that a community corporation that owns all the land is somehow a contradiction to the idea that land ownership should not be taxed at all:

There are, in fact, proprietary communities operating on the single tax model. Arden, Delaware, with a population of 4900, has had no local taxes since 1900. The Arden Corporation collects a fair market rent on each land parcel, which is reappraised annually. (They actually collect only about a fourth of the rent to which they are entitled.) From that they not only pay for all the municipal services, but rebate all property taxes levied by the county and school district.

There are excellent reasons for libertarians to prefer the land trust route over the political route. Private communities can be built on explicit contracts (leases) with the citizens, can have internal democratic processes that are vastly superior to electoral democracy, can be far more flexible and free of state intervention, and can be downright profitable (even with trust investors pocketing a mere fraction of the rent). Most of all, dealing with investors is far more pleasant and self-affirming than dealing with politicians.

Of course no doubt the city government decreed this corporation into existence, which would make it illegitimate under the NAP, but it is an example that helps to show one solution in an anarcho-capitalist society can work. Under a land ownership corporation where members agree to join their land to it in return for whatever services, and so on, but all membership is voluntary and/or contractual and so on.


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