Private Property and Independence: More of Both, Fewer Corporations

After my last two posts, you might assume I’m a leftist. I spoke favorably of labor unions as important for our freedom and basic quality of life.  I also recognize that greater economic equality will make us all freer because it makes governments more accountable to people other than corporate leaders.  That said, I have no interest in economic equality or egalitarianism in general as ends in and of themselves. Despite many views of mine that put me on the left (gay rights and racial equality, for example), I am, to paraphrase Alain de Benoist, on the right, but not of it.  I can also say I am in many ways conservative, because I want to conserve things.

To put me on the right, I advocate for private property. As much as I admire labor unions and recognize their importance in an industrial society, I believe widespread property ownership is at least as important for a free society.

American leftists tend to dismiss the long-standing American view of property as the foundation of freedom.  I can understand that, especially given our history of slavery as part of that notion.  They tend to view freedom more in terms of equality than in terms of opportunity or independence.  Again, I can understand that.  Discrimination and segregation of various sorts can limit an individual’s freedom as much as anything.

American liberals (meaning Democrats for the most part) don’t seem to say much about it one way or the other.  But they too tend to view freedom more in terms of equality than independence, though they, often being more committed to bourgeois values than leftists, assert the importance of opportunity.

American conservatives, on the other hand, tend to talk quite a bit about the importance of private property – but they’re hypocrites and liars. If they really believed in the importance of private property, then they would be critical of corporate capitalism.

I despise Marx, but he had tremendous insight into the nature of capitalism. He noted well over a century ago that capitalism, without any help from communism, was eliminating private property. Our current system of interest-banking, giant corporations, and mass farming make property ownership increasingly meaningless for most of us.

“Public” corporations in particular have nothing to do with private property.  They are “owned” by shareholders in an abstract system in which nobody owns anything in any meaningful sense.

Mortgages, business loans, and property taxes make small business and home ownership distant from real property ownership. Such loans and taxes leave us with no certainty in our claims to our property.  Moreover, few of us do anything productive with out “property.” We derive little or no independence from it.

Historically, it was the independence of means derived from property ownership that gave American men (women were legally barred from owning property) their sense of freedom. They were not dependent on others for their livelihood and the limits of their property defined the limits of government power over them.

A way toward greater economic equality is to promote widespread and meaningful property ownership, especially property ownership that promotes independence.  We could, for example, end our federal farm policies that promote and subsidize massive monofarms and, instead, use tax rates and subsidies to promote new family farms.  We could do likewise for non-agricultural businesses by changing taxation and regulations to promote family-owned businesses and trades over chain stores and franchising.

The above is, however, less efficient than globalized corporate capitalism, at least if your idea of efficiency is selling more and selling it cheaper.  But it is very efficient if what you want to produce is independence and freedom.

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