folder Filed in Essays, Political Theory
Privatization, Socialization, and Theft
CJay Engel comment 0 Comments access_time 3 min read

Understanding the socialist, the true socialist not the social democrat left interventionist, is a prerequisite for engaging with them. Libertarians need to develop the skill of understanding opposing arguments. Scratch that. People in general need to develop this skill. A good example of this would be Bob Murphy and his remarkable understanding of the history and theory of Paul Krugman.

As libertarians, we often say that “taxation is theft” and that socialization of society relies on theft. What many libertarians don’t understand is why the Marxist socialist actually believes that capitalism is theft and that socialism is the remedy of this theft. In their minds, they aren’t advocating theft in order to achieve their ends— they are seeking to end the current possession of goods by individuals to whom these goods to not actually belong. This is the basis of the Marxian exploitation theory, which I break down (with the help of Bohm-Bawerk) here.

Today in Jacobin Magazine, there is a short post called “Privatization is Theft.”

The opening line is intriguing as it refers to the “unmitigated disaster” that is the “politics of pillage.” What is interesting, of course, is that the libertarian would also largely describe our modern political system as based on pillage. This is because the modern system is neither a free market, not a socialist (Marxist) one— it is an interventionist one. And neither libertarians not Marxists are interventionists.

Of course, the socialist considers the present system as being one of pillage due to the feature of privatization. Under their framework, the “natural” is the social, the publicly and communally owned. And therefore privatization of this natural social framework is both theft and an example of systemic pillaging.

Thus, the article mentions the idea that “[the model] seeks to monopolize the bureaucratic apparatus and transfer public goods to private hands, making claims that this will somehow bring about prosperity”

The theft and transfer of public goods to private hands is where the pillaging takes place.

Compare to the libertarian framework, which holds that man can come to own goods as an individual either by homesteading the property that he finds in nature (mixing his labor with it so that it becomes his own) or exchanging something for it. The first option requires that the property be previously unowned. However, the current system rests on the acquisition of property ownership by taking from those who previously owned title to that property. The state, as Murray Rothbard wrote, is the institution of theft writ large.

Thus, theft occurs when either the state or the “community” (most often through an entity like the state) takes possession of a good without the consent of the owner who either exchanged for the good or homesteaded it. Therefore, the pillaging, for the libertarian, takes place when goods are transferred from private hands to state hands, from private to “public” hands, OR from one set of private hands to another set of private hands. Technically, the state either considers itself publicly (democracy) or privately (monarchy, for instance) owned so the that option collapses into one of the other two.

The point is this: the socialist considers the problem to be that there is a great pillaging when goods are transferred from public ownership (the natural state of things) to private ownership (the pillaging) whereas the libertarian considers the problem to be exactly reversed.

Thus, both are opposed to a system of interventionism, but for exactly opposite reasons— the socialist because it sets us on the path to pure privatization/capitalism, the libertarian because it sets us on the path to pure socialization.