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Mutualism's Support for the Exploitation of Labor and State Coercion

June 23, 2006

Tags Other Schools of ThoughtPrivate Property

Mutualism claims to oppose the exploitation of labor, i.e., the theft of any part of its product. But when it comes to labor that has been mixed with land, it turns a blind eye and comes out foursquare on the side of the exploiter.

Thus, to elaborate on the case I presented in my last post, "Mutualism: A Philosophy for Thieves," let us imagine that our legitimate land owner—legitimate even by Carson's standards—has spent several years clearing or draining his land, pulling out stumps, removing rocks and boulders, digging a well, building a barn and a house, and putting up fences to keep in his livestock. It is this land that he agrees to rent to a tenant, or, what is not too different, sell on a thirty-year mortgage, which he himself will carry, on the understanding that every year for thirty years he will receive a payment of interest and principal.

The tenant or mortgagee signs a contractual agreement promising to pay rent, or interest and principal, and takes possession of the property. Being a secret mutualist, however, he thereupon proclaims that the property is now his, on the basis of the mutualist doctrine that, in Carson's words, "occupancy and use is the only legitimate standard for establishing ownership of land."

This is a clear theft not only of the land, but also of the product of labor. A worker has toiled for years and is now arbitrarily deprived of the benefit of his labor, and this in the name of the protection of the rights of workers!

Mutualists cannot help but be uncomfortable with cases of this kind. And because of this, they don't mention them. Instead, they assert that land is unique, because it is not the product of labor. But in all cases of this kind, which are so common as actually to be the norm, major features of the land clearly are the product of labor.

After he has been robbed, mutualists tell the worker to be content with getting the thief's moveable property, but not "his" real estate. Well, farmhouses, barns, wells, and the improvements in the ground itself that are products of labor, are not moveable. And yet they are just as much the product of labor as any manufactured product. And the worker who created them has the only legitimate claim to them in these circumstances.

The mutualist fraudster who has violated his contract is clearly a vicious exploiter of labor. And Mutualism is on his side.

Mutualists pretend that there will be communities in which such behavior is accepted and routine, and chide opponents for their lack of knowledge of anthropology for not understanding this. They do not care to admit that the only thing which can enforce such a practice is the threat of physical force against those who would put an end to it, i.e., for all practical purposes, the existence of some form of tyrannical state. Yes, mutualists are "anarchists" who turn out to be statists!

It is possible to see why this must be so by starting with a condition in which there is no government. In this state of affairs, our exploited worker-victim easily proves to his neighbors that a "lying, thieving mutualist" has stolen his land and deprived him of the benefit of years of work. If his neighbors have neither been lobotomized nor castrated, they will probably contemplate lynching this "mutualist." In any case, they proceed with our victim to his land and are ready forcibly to evict the "mutualist." What will stop them from doing so and thus putting an end to any practice of Mutualism's depraved concept of "property rights"?

The only thing that will stop them is the threat or actuality of greater force exerted by mutualists, i.e., by a mutualist armed gang. If the mutualist gang has its way, it constitutes a de facto mutualist state, which must continue in existence indefinitely in order to uphold the mutualist concept of "property rights."

Mutualism thus ends in nothing more than a state dedicated to the violation of property rights.

And, of course, it is worth pointing out that there is nothing genuinely "mutual" about "Mutualism." It is a system designed to protect thieves, who gain at the expense of victims, who lose. Mutuality of gains requires the enforcement of voluntary contracts. It requires that the tenant or mortgagee pay the landowner or mortgagor what he has promised to pay. He gains, and only by honoring his contract can the other party gain too. Abiding by contractual agreements can legitimately be called "mutualism." In contrast, the doctrine of "Mutualism" is a self-desecration.


This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that mention of the author's web site www.capitalism.net is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved. George Reisman is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.

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