One of the great benefits of working at Oxford Brookes University is that, perhaps unlike more snooty institutions, we IT Guys do get to mingle with the egg-heads and boffins at lunchtimes and so on because we can only afford one staff dining room! And summer vacations are usually better for such opportunities as the academics seem to be less rushed between lectures and so on. So Friday was such an interesting occasion, and we were lunching with a particular friend from International Relations.
She can never understand, when I get talking about my political outlook, why I am not a Green (she is). And I glibly said well I'm a libertarian at heart. And I certainly believe that people should be able to make what they can and keep it, so long as it was fairly earned and not earned by coercion of others. And so off we went on a critique of various "schools" of libertarianism and anarchism. So was I an anarchist or a libertarian? Are "anarcho-capitalists" real anarchists or does their support for capitalism mean that they support inherently hierarchical and coercive social structures, especially in the sphere of economics? Are "anarcho-syndicalists" real libertarians or do their suggested post-revolutionary governance structures amount to localised tyrannies?
And what about "left libertarian" and "right libertarian" – can you be a libertarian and left leaning at all? Or is a libertarian really a right wing anarchist and an anarchist a left wing libertarian? If this is all beginning to sound like the various nomenclatures beloved of seventies marxist groups, that's what I thought too. I even found one person describing themselves as an "Anti-capitalist anti-communist individualist anarchist" which I am sure must adequately describes what he feels but is quite a mouthful you must admit!
So I got back to my desk and did a bit of digging around on the web in what was left of my lunch time. Am I closer to Murray Rothbard or to Kevin Carson? And how do either of them relate to nineteenth century anarchists/libertarians such as Benjamin Tucker? It seems I might have to decide whether I believe in the "labour theory of value" or in "marginal utility". But also, I believe, with Tucker, that the root cause of a lack of equity for the poor, and especially the working poor, is the four great monopolies maintained through state coercion: money and its creation, land, trade tariffs and patents.
And if you accept land as a factor of production I don't see how either of these other theories of value can be the whole story. I have, for a while now, described my position as "geo-libertarian". Geo-libertarians eschew, like other libertarians, state interference in economic and social aspects of life. But we add a rider, after Locke, Smith, Ricardo, Paine, Mill I & II and most obviously Henry George, that in order to set a level playing field the value of land must be distributed equitably amongst the whole community. So we believe that through Land Value Tax, or as Locke called it more accurately I believe, the Community Collection of Rent, all occupiers of economic land pay the value of that to the community which, in its purest form, simply distributes that as a dividend to all citizens but which also, if you do not want to go the whole hog an abolish the state, should set an absolute limit on the amount the state can raise and spend.
So anyway, I think I have nailed myself down. I will henceforth call myself an "anarcho-geo-libertarian-mutualist"! Are there any others out there? Maybe we can meet in an obscure public house somewhere one day and form a faction?