Friday, March 10, 2017

Tribal Property Systems

Just musing about alternative property systems here.

Paradoxically, British minarchistic feudalism granted more property rights to the man who could pay than capitalism now does. This is because of the triumph of democracy over monarchy. Democracy is a special kind of property right that gives every adult non-felon a theoretical equal ownership of their government. Unlike corporate stock, a vote is neither fungible nor cumulable, and does not pay a dividend. It is a property arrangement that was produced by the equal weapons of the revolutionary war, (equal weapons created equal societies both in ancient Greece and the Colonial period). Since the world no longer has equal weapons it is a property arrangement that could not reoccur, that is, democracies cannot be created in the modern era without outside sponsorship.

This property right in government — the vote, is a legacy of a past technological system and the material conditions that it produced. The vote is a property right. What is owned? The state.

When you look at a western democracy and see its dysfunction what you are seeing is the inevitable friction between the democratic property system which we call the right to vote, and the capitalist property system. Democracy is non-transferable, non-cumulable, and pays no dividend. Corporate capitalism is the opposite in every way. All capitalist forms of property are transferable, cumulable, heritable, and can pay either a dividend, profit, or rent.

So democracy is akin to a communist property system running a capitalist marketplace.

And yes, there are different types of property systems. Soviet communism failed for many reasons, (1. 2. 3.) but I think the chief one was the total failure of communists to develop a practical form of equalist property. Indeed, the communists considered property as fundamentally hostile to their goals — a stupid mistake.

Every political system that works well is defined by an accompanying property system that reinforces it. Consider the property system of feudalism. It can be described using a simple relationship: service in exchange for ownership of some portion of the natural world, typically land. The whole society is defined like this from top to bottom with all relationships terminating and concentrating at the top in the personage of the king. Here are some examples;

—Barony (possession of lands in exchange for military service of you and your tenants)
—Knight-service (possession of land in exchange for service to your lord)
—Scutage (payment by a knight to exempt himself from obligatory military service)
—Fee simple title (payment of a tax in exchange for property)

Fee simple title is all that remains of the feudal system. When you pay your property taxes you are paying the fee for your title. Previously, you might pay this fee through military service to your lord. All of that was abolished in favor of money. This is stupid because the ability to make money is not universal. But the ability to wage war appears to exist in all able bodied young men.

Why did capitalism triumph? We can speculate.

Society tends to favor those property systems that accommodate human desires. Technology erodes central power by bypassing it, creating peer-to-peer relationships. Typically, power is built on some monopoly, say "land for service." Someone comes along and invents a technology that allows a person to make a living without needing land. So technology has disrupted that monopoly, routing around it.

The property relationships that prevail are the ones that fulfill human desires. However, technology does not just fulfill desires. As I have talked about repeatedly with birth control and other technologies, technology can modify human desires, trapping people in low level equilibriums, suppressing some desires while accommodating others, and creating moral decay.

So technology does not just fulfill desires but it creates the conditions that produce a range of options to choose from, and it can shape human desires by limiting the range of options available.

The purpose of this article is to create new property systems for a new political system. Never mind that these systems aren't compatible with democracy. They are not designed for democracy but the system that comes after it. Also note that just as capitalism helped destroy feudalism and create democracy, any property system may impose itself on a regime type, and force that regime to change from outside, so long as it can get its property relationships enforced somehow with hard security functions. Beyond the need for hard security functions (police enforcement), what determines the success of a new property system is (a), do people desire it more, and (b), does it alter the conditions of its environment such as to make the environment more suited to itself? That is, does it economically terraform the space it inhabits? In the same way that termites alter their environment to make it more suited to themselves, a good property system alters its economic and political environment to make it more suited to its own expansion.

It should be noted that although capitalism destroyed feudalism and helped create democracy this does not mean that capitalism and democracy are not in conflict with each other. The neocameral state is more suited to pure capitalism. It is an historical accident of monarchy that the feudal system turned into this rather than a for-profit corporation. Capitalism and democracy are misaligned with each other due to their having opposite property systems of their respective forms of corporate stock (transferable shares vs. non-transferable votes). But they are both voting systems; both the voter and share holder vote, and so they are alike enough to have lasted this long together.

So in summary, the tension between capitalism and democracy is the result of the difference between capitalism and democracies property systems.

A vote is theoretical equal ownership of government. It is;
(a) non-transferable
(b) non-cumulable
(c) pays no dividend
(d) non-heritable

Where capitalist property systems are;
(a) transferable
(b) cumulable
(c) pays profit, rent, or dividend
(d) heritable

Both are property. Both are votes. Both are commodifications of relationships.

Feudalism was capitalism in government. You could by your job (say the job of tax collector). Hence, jobs were "titles" just like land titles. You could accumulate titles. Those titles payed rents and were heritable. You could pass of the job to your son.

One can solve this tension by making democracy more like capitalism, or by making capitalism more like democracy.

The communists did not make capitalism more like democracy. That is the mutualist route. Marxism-Leninism tried to abolish property altogether.

Moldbug sought to make democracy more like capitalism. Hence, neocameralism and patchwork. One may think of the Moldbugian position as the precise opposite of mutualism.

Property is ownership backed by violence. Ultimately what stops someone from taking your property is the police officer. Let us say that I come over to you property.  I decide to start building a tiny house on your front lawn. I get the lumber, the concrete, the wiring, and the roofing shingles. There I am with a hammer pounding away at nails building my tiny little house on your lawn. I've got concrete bolts and everything so I can connect the timbers to the foundation — which I have already laid last night while you were sleeping. I have like 5 guys with me. And we have been building so fast the house is almost complete. You wake up to find half a house already built on your front lawn.

You come out of your house in your bath robe and say; "what the fuck are you doing on my front lawn?"

To which I reply: "it's not your lawn. It's may lawn. And I'm building a nice tiny little house on it."

You look at me in dumbfounded amazement and say; "uh, uh, oh, well, I'm gonna call the police!"

So you call the cops.

Now chances are the cops are probably going to arrest me and charge me with trespassing. They will probably also charge me with vandalism since I dug up your lawn to lay the foundation of my tiny little house.

So what is the point of all this, and what is property? We need a specific definition.
Property is defined as ownership enforced by violence.
But what is ownership?

Ownership are conditions of use, where the first condition is that only a single designated person may use it. So a better definition is;
Property is a series of conditions of use where the list of conditions is enforced by the violence of the state.
What are those conditions? Well, let's list some of them.

With the exception of business charters, only a single person has designated ownership.
You may not move an object belonging to the person with designated ownership, (prohibition of theft)
You may not change the object of the person with designated ownership, (prohibition of vandalism)
You may not inhabit the land of the person with designated ownership, (prohibition of trespassing)

In the final analysis it boils down to a list of conditions of use backed by violence of the state. There may be other conditions of use not listed above.

A vote is a form of property (ownership of the state) with many conditions of use. You may not collect votes. You may not transfer votes. You may not pass votes on to your children. And a vote pays no dividend. (That last part is a mistake since a dividend would reward voters for fiscal discipline and balanced budgets).

As a side note, observe that more conditions of use actually protects the average poor person from the rapaciousness of people who are more powerful. If votes could be transferred you would get a steady accumulation of power and wealth in a few hands. Eventually you wind up back at feudalism. Capitalism may paradoxically depend on the very democracy that is hostile to it in order to prevent from turning back into feudalism. But I digress.

The point here is that property is a series of conditions for use enforced by state violence, and that this means that any new property type can be constructed by defining new conditions for use, not just the limited property types of capitalism as it currently exists. We can invent an instrument of property by inventing new conditions for use. As long as the state is willing to enforce with violence the list of conditions then we have ourselves a new form of property. The easiest way to do this is with the open-ended mechanism of the contract, which allows individuals to construct customized conditions for use, in contrast to the predetermined conditions of land, cars, estates, marriages, etc.

Tribal Conditions of Use

Property designated as tribal property may only be transferred to other members of the tribe.
Membership in the tribe may only be conferred on persons belonging to a particular race, and who agree with the values of the society.
Property is transferable, but only between men.
Property is heritable, but only be the male members.
Property may pay a dividend, rent, or profit.
Property is NOT cumulable. A lone person may not accumulate property.
Only families may accumulate property.
Family property can only be bought or sold with the permission of at least one other MALE member of the family related to the original patriarch by blood.

The result of these condition is a property institution that forces men related by blood to coordinate their economic activity with each other, withhold economic power from women, and invest in their families. It is a semi-feudal capitalist system with equalist features. Imagine a democracy where only men can vote, and where men of a family must decide how to vote collectively in order for their vote to count, (because the family votes and not the individuals within it). The men are charged with representing their family interests. They must all mark the ballot the same way for every issue/office voted upon for their vote to be counted at all. They vote collectively as a family. Now imagine that this political system is coupled with the economic system described above. It's just a thought.

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