kevin on communal property

Communal Property: A Libertarian Analysis (2011) by kevin carson via kindle version from anarchist library []

oh.. i guess i already read this and took notes: communal property.. oh well.. 2nd time..

notes/quotes (44 pgs):


Right-wing libertarian and Objectivist forums are full of statements that “there’s no such thing as collective property,” “all property rights are individual,” and the like. Ayn Rand argued that it was impossible for European settlers to steal the land of American Indians, because the latter had no valid property rights:

Now, I don’t care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country. And you’re a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent country and doesn’t know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not. Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights—they didn’t have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal “cultures”—they didn’t have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using. It’s wrong to attack a country that respects (or even tries to respect) individual rights. If you do, you’re an aggressor and are morally wrong. But if a “country” does not protect rights—if a group of tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief—why should you respect the “rights” that they don’t have or respect? …[Y]ou can’t claim one should respect the “rights” of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights. But let’s suppose they were all beautifully innocent savages—which they certainly were not. What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched—to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did. The racist Indians today—those who condemn America—do not respect individual rights.”

oh my


Communal ownership of land is a legitimate and plausible model for property rights in a stateless society based on free association.

Roderick Long, in particular, has argued for what he calls “public property”—as opposed to state property: “I have no interest in defending public property in the sense of property belonging to the organized public (i.e., the state). In fact, I do not think government property is public property at all; it is really the private property of an agency calling itself the government.” Common property, he says, can come about through collective homesteading:

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 centrally coordinated effort, but simply as a result of all the individuals walking that way day after day.

to me.. that’s how an undisturbed ecosystem works.. just happens.. and we can’t untwine its working ness..

in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

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.

*beyond the monastic self et al.. i’m never just me ness

**earn a living ness.. oi

Since collectives, like individuals, can mix their labor with unowned resources to make those resources more useful to their purposes, collectives, too can claim property rights by homestead.

Historically, the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests that the first appropriation of land for agriculture was almost universally by peasant villages working as a social unit.


I. Rise and Persistence of the Village Commune.

The village commune was, almost universally, the dominant property model in societies which, so far in human history, came closest to approximating the libertarian ideal of statelessness and voluntary association. At the highest point of human development before the rise of the state, the stateless villages and small market towns that existed in peace without paying tribute to imperial conquerors, the common ownership of land by the peasant commune was almost universal.

closest.. but to me.. today we have means to legit dance

Communal ownership of land was the norm in the stateless village societies of the neolithic period, from the Agricultural Revolution until the rise of the first states. The internal pattern of the village commune, wherever it was found, typically approximated the hypothetical case study of traditional tenure practices described by James Scott:

Let us imagine a community in which families have usufruct rights to parcels of cropland during the main growing season. Only certain crops, however, may be planted, and every seven years the usufruct land is distributed among resident families according to each family’s size and its number of able-bodied adults.

After the harvest of the main-season crop, all cropland reverts to common land where any family may glean, graze their fowl and livestock, and even plant quickly maturing, dry-season crops. Rights to graze fowl and livestock on pasture-land held in common by the village is extended to all local families, but the number of animals that can be grazed is restricted according to family size, especially in dry years when forage is scarce…. Everyone has the right to gather firewood for normal family needs, and the village blacksmith and baker are given larger allotments. No commercial sale from village woodlands is permitted.

Trees that have been planted and any fruit they may bear are the property of the family who planted them, no matter where they are now growing…. Land is set aside for use or leasing out by widows with children and dependents of conscripted males....

After a crop failure leading to a food shortage, many of these arrangements are readjusted. Better-off villagers are expected to assume some responsibility for poorer relatives—by sharing their land, by hiring them, or by simply feeding them. Should the shortage persist, a council composed of heads of families may inventory food supplies and begin daily rationing.

The village commune model traced its origins, in the oldest areas of civilization, back to the beginning of the agricultural revolution, when humans first began to raise crops in permanent village settlements. Before that time, the dominant social grouping was the semi-nomadic hunter-gather group. As hunter-gatherers experimented with saving a portion of the grain they’d gathered, they became increasingly tied to permanent settlements.

testart storage law et al.. and to me.. why village commune far off from what we could do today


It was not, as the modern town, a group of atomized individuals who simply happened to live in the same geographic area and had to negotiate the organization of basic public services and utilities in some manner or other. It was an organic social unit of people who saw themselves, in some sense, as related.

thurman interconnectedness lawwhen you understand interconnectedness it makes you more afraid of hating than of dying – Robert Thurman 

if legit grokked that.. to me.. would look like this:

‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows


As Maine’s reference to the administration of India suggests, the village commune continued in widespread existence even after the rise of the state, amounting internally to a stateless society with a parasitic layer of kings, priests, bureaucrats and feudal landlords superimposed on it. The village commune was “under the dominion of comparatively powerful kings” who exacted tribute and conscripted soldiers from it, “bud did not otherwise meddle with the cultivating societies.” The state’s relationship to the governed was through the village as a unit, rather than the exercise of regulatory authority over relations between individuals.

sounds like the fake ness of king/govt of madagascar.. on kings..


II. Destruction of the Peasant Commune by the State.

It was only with the rise of the modern state, toward the end of the Middle Ages, that governments began to take an interest in regulating the lives of individuals. The modern centralized state was confronted with the problem of opacity, and became preoccupied with, in James Scott’s language, an “attempt to make society legible, to arrange the population in ways that simplified the classic state functions of taxation, conscription, and prevention of rebellion.”.. Although the state has always had such concerns to a greater or lesser extent, it was only the modern state—at least since Roman times—that actually sought to touch individuals in their daily lives.

legible ness et al

Legibility is a condition of manipulation. Any substantial state intervention in society—to vaccinate a population, produce goods, mobilize labor, tax people and their property, conduct literacy campaigns, conscript soldiers, enforce sanitation standards, catch criminals, start universal schooling—requires the invention of units that are visible…. Whatever the units being manipulated, they must be organized in a manner that permits them to be identified, observed, recorded, counted, aggregated, and monitored. . t The degree of knowledge required would have to be roughly commensurate with the depth of the intervention.

oh yes.. why i resonate so w kevin

In other words, one might say that the greater the manipulation envisaged, the greater the legibility required to effect it.. t

literacy and numeracy as colonialism/control/enclosure.. as structural violence.. as spiritual violence

graeber violence/quantification law et al

It was precisely this phenomenon, which had reached full tide by the middle of the nineteenth century, that Proudhon had in mind when he declared, “To be ruled is to be kept an eye on, inspected, spied on, regulated, indoctrinated, sermonized, listed and checked off, estimated, appraised, censured, ordered about.. t

To be ruled is at every operation, transaction, movement, to be noted, registered, counted, priced, admonished, prevented, reformed, redressed, corrected.”.. t

any form of m\a\p

From another perspective, what Proudhon was deploring was in fact the great achievement of modern statecraft. How hard-won and tenuous this achievement was is worth emphasizing. Most states, to speak broadly, are “younger” than the societies that they purport to administer. States therefore confront patterns of settlement, social relations, and production, not to mention a natural environment, that have evolved largely independent of state plans. The result is typically a diversity, complexity, and unrepeatability of social forms that are relatively opaque to the state, often purposefully so….

If the state’s goals are minimal, it may not need to know much about the society…. If, however, the state is ambitious—if it wants to extract as much grain and manpower as it can, short of provoking a famine or a rebellion, if it wants to create a literate, skilled, and healthy population, if it wants everyone to speak the same language or worship the same god—then it will have to become both far more knowledgeable and far more intrusive.. t

any form of people telling other people what to do


The imperative of rendering the opaque legible results, in the specific case of property rules in land, in hostility toward communal forms of property regulated as a purely internal matter by a village according to local custom:

…open commons landholding… is less legible and taxable than closed commons landholding, which in turn is less legible than private freeholding, which is less legible than state ownership…. It is no coincidence that the more legible or appropriable form can more readily be converted into a source of rent—either as private property or as the monopoly rent of the state..t

Fee-simple “privatization,” and more recently Soviet-style “collectivization” (i.e. de facto state ownership), are both methods by which the state has destroyed the village commune and overcome the problem—from the state’s perspective—of opacity within it. In both cases the village commune, while quite legible horizontally from the perspective of its inhabitants, was opaque to the state.

The fee-simple model of private property, wherever it has existed, has almost always been a creature of the state.

In the case of common property farmland, the imposition of freehold property was clarifying not so much for the local inhabitants—the customary structure of rights had always been clear enough to them—as it was for the tax official and the land speculator. The cadastral map added documentary intelligence to state power and thus provided the basis for the synoptic view of the state and a supralocal market in land.

Freehold title and standard land measurement were to central taxation and the real-estate market what central bank currency was to the marketplace.

Replacing a society in which most ordinary people have access to the land on a customary basis, with a society in which most of those same people must rent or purchase land in order to cultivate it, has the virtue—from the perspective of the state and the ruling economic class—of forcing the peasantry into the cash economy..t

Commoditization in general, by denominating all goods and services according to a common currency, makes for what Tilly has called the “visibility [of] a commercial economy.”

In addition, forcing peasants and laborers into the cash economy means they must have a source of cash income to participate in it, which means an expansion of the wage labor market.. t

Scott’s functional explanation of individual fee simple ownership sounds remarkably like Foucault’s description of the “individualism” entailed in “panopticism.”


The dissolution of the monasteries dispossessed some 50,000 tenants, and the ensuing enclosures for pasturage through the early seventeenth century involved around half a million acres (almost a thousand square miles) and 30–40,000 tenants.

Tenants not subject to enclosure under the Tudors were instead victimized by rack-renting and arbitrary fines, which frequently resulted in their being driven off the land—“land,” in Marx’s words, to which the peasantry “had the same feudal rights as the lord himself”—when unable to pay them.

evicted ness et al.. david on finance et al..

Nevertheless the land that remained under peasant control, though much diminished in extent, persisted under the open-field system. And many of the “vagabonds” dispossessed by the Tudor expropriations found a safety net in the common lands, migrating into “such open-field villages as would allow them to squat precariously on the edge of common or waste.”


Parliament rejected two bills which would limit the entry fees for tenants in copyhold, and rein in enclosures, on the grounds that they would “destroy property.” Landlords gained absolute ownership of their estates against previous obligations to the monarchy and aristocracy, but the peasantry secured no corresponding guarantee in the royal courts of their own customary property rights against the landlord. This essentially eliminated all legal barriers to rack-renting, eviction and enclosure. Marx described the “act of usurpation” which the landed proprietors “vindicated for themselves the rights of modern private property in estates to which they had only a feudal title….”


With the Parliamentary Enclosures of the eighteenth century, in contrast, “the law itself becomes now an instrument of the theft of the people’s land….” .. t In practical terms, Parliamentary Acts of Enclosure amounted to a “parliamentary coup d’etat,” through “decrees by which the landlords grant themselves the people’s land as private property….” “From the beginning of the eighteenth century the reins are thrown to the enclosure movement, and the policy of enclosure is emancipated from all these checks and afterthoughts.”

Just as with Stolypin’s and Stalin’s policies toward the mir, and the destruction of the Indian village communes by the British Permanent Settlement, in Britain “[t]he agricultural community… was taken to pieces in the eighteenth century and reconstructed in the manner in which a dictator reconstructs a free government.…”.. t


The goal, as in the other cases, was legibility.. t—“the simplifying appetites of the landlords”—not only for purposes of central taxation, but perhaps more importantly for the ease of the landed classes in extracting a surplus from rural labor.

The landlords saw themselves as the backbone of the British way of life, and the imposition of more effective control on village society as a general benefit to the peace and order of society. Given their assumption that “order would be resolved into its original chaos, if they ceased to control the lives and destinies of their neighbours,” they concluded “that this old peasant community, with its troublesome rights, was a public encumbrance.” The customary rights of the peasantry hindered the landlord’s power to unilaterally introduce new farming techniques... t The goal of the “governing class,” in language that might just as easily have described Stalin’s motives in collectivization, was “extinguishing the old village life and all the relationships and interests attached to it, with unsparing and unhesitating hand.”

But the extraction of a larger surplus from the agricultural labor force was also very much a conscious—and explicitly avowed—part of their motivation. The landed classes bore a powerful animus against the common lands because they rendered the rural population less dependent on wage labor, so that rural laborers were uninterested in accepting as much work from the landlords as the latter saw fit to offer.. t


A pamphleteer in 1739 argued that “the only way to make the lower orders temperate and industrious… was ‘to lay them under the necessity of labouring all the time they can spare from rest and sleep, in order to procure the common necessities of life’ .”.. t

need 1st/most: means to undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/nature so we can org around legit needs

A 1770 tract called “Essay on Trade and Commerce” warned that “[t]he labouring people should never think themselves independent of their superiors…. The cure will not be perfect, till our manufacturing poor are contented to labour six days for the same sum which they now earn in four days.”..t

earn a living ness et al

Arbuthnot, in 1773, denounced commons as “a plea for their idleness; for, some few excepted, if you offer them work, they will tell you, that they must go to look up their sheep, cut furzes, get their cow out of the pound, or perhaps, say they must take their horse to be shod, that he may carry them to a horse-race or cricket match.”

John Billingsley, in his 1795 Report on Somerset to the Board of Agriculture, wrote of the pernicious effect of the common on a peasant’s character:

In sauntering after his cattle, he acquires a habit of indolence. Quarter, half, and occasionally whole days are imperceptibly lost. Day labour becomes disgusting; the aversion increases by indulgence; and at length the sale of a half-fed calf, or hog, furnishes the means of adding intemperance to idleness.

yeah that.. let’s do/be that.. sauntering ness and yuck to day labour ness

Bishton, in his 1794 Report on Shropshire, was among the most honest in stating the goals of Enclosure. “The use of common land by labourers operates upon the mind as a sort of independence.” The result of their enclosure would be that “the labourers will work every day in the year, their children will be put out to labour early, … and that subordination of the lower ranks of society which in the present times is so much wanted, would be thereby considerably secured.”.. t

John Clark of Herefordshire wrote in 1807 that farmers in his county were “often at a loss for labourers: the inclosure of the wastes would increase the number of hands for labour, by removing the means of subsisting in idleness.”

The 1807 Gloucestershire Survey warned that “the greatest of evils to agriculture would be to place the labourer in a state of independence,” and another writer of that time wrote that “Farmers… require constant labourers—men who have no other means of support than their daily labour.…”.. t

Of course such motives were frequently expressed in the form of concern for the laborers’ own welfare, lest being able to feed oneself too easily lead to irreparable spiritual damage from idleness and dissolution..t The words of Cool Hand Luke come to mind: “You shouldn’t be so good to me, Cap’n.”


In the debates leading up to forced collectivization, its advocates (e.g. Yevgeny Preobrazhensky) explicitly promoted it as a form of “primitive socialist accumulation” directly to the primitive accumulation Marx described as a prerequisite for the industrial revolution. As large a surplus as possible was to be extracted from the countryside in order to support industrialization in the cities.

The main goal of state collectivization was to make the terra incognita of customary village property rules legible from above and enable the state to exact a maximum rate of tribute. As envisioned, it was a classic example of a state attempt to impose legibility: it involved consolidating the rural economy into gigantic, centrally controlled units with clear chains of command, proletarianizing the peasantry, and imposing Taylorist work rules on the production process. Among other things, this included a large-scale rural division of labor with each kolkhoz specializing in some monoculture crop and the individual village ceasing to be a diversified economic unit. The collective farms were envisioned as enormous assembly lines, automatically churning out state orders like one of Henry Ford’s auto factories. The collective farms’ lines of command cut across village boundaries, with either enormous kolkhozes that incorporated numerous villages, or smaller ones whose boundaries were drawn without regard to existing villages. Unlike the village soviets, which had quickly been coopted by the mir, the new “huge collectives” bypassed the traditional village social structures and were governed by “a board consisting of cadres and specialist,” with the separate sections of the kholkoz under the control of its own state-appointed manager.


And if collectivization was a miserable failure in terms of total output and efficiency of production, it was for the most part a success at achieving its stated goals—even at the cost of mass starvation in the countryside—of increasing the efficiency of extraction and obtaining sufficient food to support Stalin’s urban industrialization program.. t

The great achievement, if one can call it that, of the Soviet state in the agricultural sector was to take a social and economic terrain singularly unfavorable to appropriation and control and to create institutional forms and production units far better adapted to monitoring, managing, appropriating, and controlling from above…..t Confronting a tumultuous, footloose and “headless” (acephalous) rural society which was hard to control and which had few political assets, the Bolsheviks, like the scientific foresters, set about redesigning their environment with a few simple goals in mind. They created, in place of what they had inherited, a new landscape of large, hierarchical, state-managed farms whose cropping patterns and procurement quotas were centrally mandated and whose population was, by law, immobile. The system thus devised served for nearly sixty years as a mechanism for procurement and control at a massive cost in stagnation, waste, demoralization, and ecological failure.. t

agri surplus et al

The Soviet state collectivization program amounted to a reimposition of serfdom. From the peasant perspective, during the previous Civil War, “the fledgling Bolshevik state, arriving as it often did in the form of military plunder, must have been experienced… as a reconquest of the countryside by the state—as a brand of colonization that threatened their newly won autonomy.” But after the brief lull of the New Economic Policy, the peasants experienced reconquest and plunder in earnest. The peasants commonly compared the new collective farm regime to serfdom, with the obligation to work the kolkhoz’s fields at nominal wages under the orders of a state manager as a revived form of barschina (feudal labor dues). Like their enserfed great-grandparents, the peasants were required to perform annual draft labor repairing roads. Kolkhoz officials, like the old landlords, used peasant labor for their own private purposes, and had the power—in fact if not in law—“to insult, beat, or deport” peasants for disobedience. The internal passport system effectively made it illegal, as under serfdom, for the peasant to flee the countryside. . t Naturally, the peasants saw their work for the kolkhoz—like their labor obligations to the old landlord—as something to be done as perfunctorily as possible so they could get back to working their own kitchen gardens.

In sum, Scott writes, “collectivization was at least as notable for what it destroyed as for what it built.


The initial intent of collectivization was not just to crush the resistance of well-to-do peasants and grab their land; it was also to dismantle the social unit through which that resistance was expressed: the mir. The peasant commune had typically been the vehicle for organizing land seizures during the revolution, for orchestrating land use and grazing, for managing local affairs generally, and for opposing procurements.

The kolkhoz was not… just window dressing hiding a traditional commune. Almost everything had changed. All the focal points for an autonomous public life had been eliminated. The tavern, rural fairs and markets, the church, and the local mill disappeared; in their places stood the kolkhoz office, the public meeting room, and the school.

In place of a peasant economy whose harvests, income, and profits were well-nigh indecipherable, it had created units that were ideal for simple and direct appropriation. In place of a variety of social units with their own unique histories and practices, it had created homologous units of accounting that could all be fitted into a national administrative grid..t

If anything, collectivization can be compared to Enclosure insofar as a landed peasantry working its own allotments and appropriating a significant share of its full product was transformed into a rural proletariat working the land under the supervision of a hired overseer representing an absentee owner.

Although village communes “in one stage” had been democratically governed, they tended over time to become “oligarchies”—as Maine had observed in particular of the Indian villages at the time of Settlement. The relative democracy of the village commune resulted from a comparatively higher “capacity for absorption of strangers” in earlier times, “when men were of more value than land.” The villages then, owing to “the extreme value of new labour,” were more willing to welcome and amalgamate with outsiders, admitting them to the privileges of the village brotherhood with equal rights of access to the land. But as increased population ran up against the existing extent of cultivation, land became more valuable than people, and the result was social stratification based on the more prestigious families’ control of access to land and the increasing deference required to secure access rights..t At the same time, the villages tended to become “close corporations,” welcoming outsiders only as tenants (thus creating the same problem of a two-tier workforce that has plagued modern cooperatives and kibbutzim when they’ve hired non-members as wage laborers). Of course all this resulted in a conflict of interest, in which it served the interests of the dominant families in the village to be slow and grudging in allowing the expansion of arable land into the waste.



Kropotkin, in Mutual Aid, mocked those who defended the process of enclosure and private appropriation of the communes as “a natural death… in virtue of economical laws.” It was, he wrote, “as grim a joke as to speak of the natural death of soldiers slaughtered on a battlefield.”.. t

The fact was simply this: The village communities had lived for over a thousand years; and where and when the peasants were not ruined by wars and exactions they steadily improved their methods of culture. But as the value of land was increasing, in consequence of the growth of industries, and the nobility had acquired, under the State organization, a power which it never had had under the feudal system, it took possession of the best parts of the communal lands, and did its best to destroy the communal institutions.

If there is any one lesson to be gained from all this, it is a warning against the common tendency for libertarians to conflate the private-state dichotomy with the individual/common dichotomy..t


In short, as Neeson describes it, the commons were the difference between a community of free and independent people and a collection of dependent wage laborers..t:


One consequence was that commoners who were able to live on a little were unlikely to develop expensive wants. As long as they had what they thought of as enough they had no need to spend time getting more. From this freedom came time to spend doing things other than work, as well as the ability to refuse work. This is the evidence for the accusation by critics of commons that commoners were lazy, that they spent too much timme at the market or going horseracing...t . Clearly sporting, indolence, laziness, taking time off, enjoying life, lack of ambition (all the words are loaded with values of one kind or another) [the fact that most working and middle class people today share those values is evidence of Methodism’s success in reshaping consciousness in the late 18th and early 19th century—K. C.] had their origins in other things as well as a life outside the market economy. In particular, celebration and recreation had economic functions as well as social. They established connection and obligation…. But the effect of having relatively few needs was liberating of time as well as paid labour. Having relatively few needs that the market could satisfy meant that commoners could work less…. In other words: commoners had a life as well as a living.

George Bourne, who wrote most compellingly about thrift, also argued that the life commoners got was particularly satisfying. On one level, satisfaction came from the varied nature of the work. Commoners had a variety of tasks, many calling for skill and invention, and they had a sure knowledge of their value. But there is more to it than versatility and the interest it ensures…. Bourne thought that a commoner’s sense of well-being came from a sense of ownership or possession, a sense of belonging, and an overwhelming localness. This was not the ownership of a few acres (though that is surely important too) but the possession of a landscape.

Anyone today who works at wage labor, who experiences clocking in as cutting off a piece of her life and flushing it down the toilet, as entering someone else’s place and being a poor relation in someone else’s house, of leaving her own judgment and values at the door and becoming a tool in someone else’s hand, a means to someone else’s ends rather than an end in her own right, knows exactly what Bourne meant..t The untold millions of people who punch a time-card with a sick feeling in the pits of their stomachs at the prospect of “How much shit am I going to have to eat today to keep my job?” know what a sense of belonging and ownership are mainly from their lack.


So when Chambers and Mingay refer to the loss of commons being “compensated… by an increase in the volume and regularity of employment after enclosure,” they sort of miss the point..t The commons were of value to their possessors precisely because they were trying to get shut of “volume and regularity of employment.” It was the propertied classes, as we saw above, who promoted Enclosures as a way of extracting as much “employment” from the labored classes as possible, regardless of whether the laborers themselves wanted it.


Indeed, as we saw earlier, many of the strongest advocates for Enclosure were deliberately and avowedly motivated not so much by a desire to improve the efficiency of cultivation and animal husbandry, as by a desire to improve the efficiency of extracting labor from the rural population. Advocates for enclosure were explicitly motivated, in part, by the prediction of “complete wage dependence.”..t

...many pamphleteers and most reporters to the Board of Agriculture did recommend the creation of complete wage dependence. They said that the discipline was valuable..t They argued that the sanction of real or threatened unemployment would benefit farmers presently dependent on the whims of partly self-sufficient commoners. For them… the justification for ending common right was the creation of an agricultural proletariat.


A central theme running through all Enclosure advocacy in the eighteenth century was that “commoners were lazy.” And their very obsession with this “problem” is itself an indication of the economic significance of the commons..t


They used laziness as a term of moral disapproval. But what they meant was that commoners were not always available for farmers to employ. We might ask why were they un available?…. In fact… every commoner was lazy, whether wages were high or not. This suggests that they refused to work because they could live without wages, or regular wages. Their laziness becomes an indicator of their independence of the wage. And the degree of frustration critics felt when they saw this laziness may be a guide to how well commoners could do without it.. t

Those today who minimize the significance of Enclosure as the margin of difference between independence and wage-slavery do so in direct contradiction to the conscious and stated motives of Enclosure advocates—which we quoted at length in the section on English history in the main body of this paper—in the eighteenth century


Christopher Hill, in language much like the Hammonds’, mocked similar claims by Mingay that no coercion was involved in Enclosure.

There was no coercion, we are assured. True, when the big landowner or landowners to whom four-fifths of the land in a village belonged wanted to enclose, the wishes of the majority of small men who occupied the remaining twenty per cent. could be disregarded. True, Parliament took no interest in the details of an enclosure bill, referring them to be worked out by its promoters, who distributed the land as they thought best. But the poorest cottager was always free to oppose a Parliamentary enclosure bill. All he had to do was to learn to read, hire an expensive lawyer, spend a few weeks in London and be prepared to face the wrath of the powerful men in his village. If he left his home after enclosure, this was entirely voluntary..t: ..’

voluntary compliance et al


Critics of the “inefficiency” of the commons ignore the value of independence and self-sufficiency, the possession of sources of subsistence that could not be taken away at someone else’s whim.

When critics of commons weighed the value of common right they did so in their own terms, the terms of the market. They talked about wage labour and the efficient use of resources. But commoners lived off the shared use of land. To some extent they lived outside the market. They lived in part on the invisible earnings of grazing and gathering. Much of this was inconceivable to critics, either because they did not look or because they did not want to see. In their eyes commoners were lazy, insubordinate and poor. But when historians come to assess these assessments we have to understand that none of these conditions, except poverty, is a measure of the inadequacy of a standard of living. t.. Even poverty, in the case of commoners, may have been in the eye of the beholder: commoners did not think themselves poor.






Are We All Mutualists? (2015) by kevin carson via kindle version from anarchist library []

notes/quotes on this page because it’s short – 10 pgs- and i didn’t have very many:


Generally speaking, the principled theories of property in land all make distinctions analogous to the one Proudhon made between “property” and “possession” — although they don’t draw the line at the same place.

Thomas Hodgskin, both a classical liberal advocate of free markets and an early figure in the socialist movement, distinguished (in a book entitled, appropriately enough, The Natural and Artificial Right of Property Contrasted) between the “natural rights of property” (which resulted in one’s property in the product of one’s labor, and in land which one was cultivating) and the kinds of “artificial rights of property” which gave the owner a right to extract rents from the labor product of other people. In the case of property in land, the cultivator’s right to the land they were actually putting to use to feed themselves was a natural property right; the absentee property claims of the British landed nobility and gentry, on the other hand, was an artificial — and illegitimate — property right.


Franz Oppenheimer, another free market socialist of sorts, made a similar distinction in The State between “natural” and “political appropriation” of the land. One naturally appropriated land by putting it to one’s own direct use; one politically appropriated vacant land by enclosing it with no intention to use it oneself, and charging tribute from those who who actually put it to use. The great majority of property in land, Oppenheimer argued, had its origins on political appropriation. Albert Jay Nock, heavily influenced by Oppenheimer, used “labor-made” and “law-made property” in an almost identical sense.


I consider a system avowedly based on occupancy-and-use, in which a piece of land becomes open for homesteading after some reasonable period of vacancy, to be the most desirable because it explicitly takes occupancy-based ownership as its goal and facilitates it with a minimal amount of ajudication or other complications. Nevertheless, I believe that a principled Lockean system with even a relatively high time threshold and burden of proof for constructive abandonment, by opening up all vacant and unimproved land for immediate homesteading, would go a long way towards reducing the average rent of land and enable a significant share of the population to live free from rent altogether. The combined effect would increase the difficulty of acquiring large contiguous tracts of land, and greatly reduce the “compound interest” effect of land rent growing on itself. In so doing, even a strictly Lockean regime would make the engrossment of a majority of the land by absentee landlords much less likely than at present.