A few years back, I had a disagreement with left-libertarian Kevin Carson who implied, I thought, that anyone who is “rich”—say, who earns more than $250k a year—earns his money illegitimately, by being part of the state’s exploiting class, and it would be just to confiscate his wealth. See, for example, our interchange in the comments thread to his C4SS post “I’ve Never Seen a Poor Person Give Anyone a Job”.
In some of his arguments (such as in this interview) he appeals to Rothbard for support. As far as I can tell, he is referring to Rothbard’s “Confiscation and the Homestead Principle,” from Libertarian Forum, vol. 1.6, June 15, 1969.1
But of course Rothbard later implicitly repudiated these views, as can be seen in his 1974 article “Justice and Property Rights,” as I’ve explained in Justice and Property Rights: Rothbard on Scarcity, Property, Contracts.
Anyway, if there was any doubt about Carson’s views, which I inferred from his previous writing as made clear in our discussion of the $250k issue, there can be little doubt now: in a recent Facebook post, leftish libertarian Nick Manley posted this from an email interchange with Carson:
“A not 100 percent converted but sympathetic radical leftist I know who respects your work and C4SS wants to know if you favor the kind of direct confiscation of state capitalist or capitalist property say Rothbard advocated in Confiscation and the Homestead principle. He seems to think you have a more Tuckerite “freed markets will solve it” attitude.”
Kevin Carson responded with:
“Oh, I’m totally in favor of confiscating it, at least if the actual occupation is carried out from below (e.g. by tenants, landless people or radical unions). No reason to wait for the market to take care of it. Given the near 100% of Fortune 500 corporations that are only in the black because of economic rents or environmental cost externalization, I’d be happy to treat all those companies as proxies for the state capitalist sector just for starters.”
For more, see:
- my post Is Macy’s Part of the State? A Critique of Left Deviationists
- See also “Appendix: Corporate America being “part of the state” and the calculation problem” to Corporate Personhood, Limited Liability, and Double Taxation
- Discussion in this Facebook thread (Nick Manley)
- Discussion in this Facebook thread (Nick Manley)
- Here Rothbard writes:
Let us now apply our libertarian theory of property to the case of property in the hands of, or derived from, the State apparatus. The libertarian sees the State as a giant gang of organized criminals, who live off the theft called “taxation” and use the proceeds to kill, enslave, and generally push people around. Therefore, any property in the hands of the State is in the hands of thieves, and should be liberated as quickly as possible. Any person or group who liberates such property, who confiscates or appropriates it from the State, is performing a virtuous act and a signal service to the cause of liberty. In the case of the State, furthermore, the victim is not readily identifiable as B, the horse-owner. All taxpayers, all draftees, all victims of the State have been mulcted. How to go about returning all this property to the taxpayers? What proportions should be used in this terrific tangle of robbery and injustice that we have all suffered at the hands of the State? Often, the most practical method of de-statizing is simply to grant the moral right of ownership on the person or group who seizes the property from the State. Of this group, the most morally deserving are the ones who are already using the property but who have no moral complicity in the State’s act of aggression. These people then become the “homesteaders” of the stolen property and hence the rightful owners.
Take, for example, the State universities. This is property built on funds stolen from the taxpayers. Since the State has not found or put into effect a way of returning ownership of this property to the taxpaying public, the proper owners of this university are the “homesteaders”, those who have already been using and therefore “mixing their labor” with the facilities. The prime consideration is to deprive the thief, in this case the State, as quickly as possible of the ownership and control of its ill-gotten gains, to return the property to the innocent, private sector. This means student and/or faculty ownership of the universities.
As between the two groups, the students have a prior claim, for the students have been paying at least some amount to support the university whereas the faculty suffer from the moral taint of living off State funds and thereby becoming to some extent a part of the State apparatus.
The same principle applies to nominally “private” property which really comes from the State as a result of zealous lobbying on behalf of the recipient. Columbia University, for example, which receives nearly two-thirds of its income from government, is only a “private” college in the most ironic sense. It deserves a similar fate of virtuous homesteading confiscation.
But if Columbia University, what of General Dynamics? What of the myriad of corporations which are integral parts of the military-industrial complex, which not only get over half or sometimes virtually all their revenue from the government but also participate in mass murder? What are their credentials to “private” property? Surely less than zero. As eager lobbyists for these contracts and subsidies, as co-founders of the garrison state, they deserve confiscation and reversion of their property to the genuine private sector as rapidly as possible. To say that their “private” property must be respected is to say that the property stolen by the horsethief and the murdered [sic] must be “respected”. [↩]