Right to Vagabond

Capitalism is normally associated with a market economy, as if that’s all that it is. But markets and trade are very old practices which existed in primitive communities, in slave, and in feudal societies. So what differentiates the capitalist market economy from these others? It is the existence of people who do not own land, and are neither slaves, nor serfs, nor vagabonds who are compelled to work, as was the case in Europe after the Black Death, and a practice carried over to the American colonies.

People who are neither slaves nor serfs are euphemistically called “free laborers.” And if these “free laborers” are not working and are homeless,  they are modern vagabonds.

Today this discrimination and unlawfulness in being a vagabond or homeless continues. 

Today, the punishment is less severe than being branded or executed – it is a fine and/or incarceration.

I experienced the working of such a law in Dade County, Miami, Florida, in the 70ies. I had traveled to Miami University in my VW camper, and parked legally on a street by the University, and went to sleep in my camper. Well, in the middle of the night I was awakened with rapping on my windows. When I came out I was confronted by a bunch of policemen telling me that it was illegal to sleep in a vehicle in Dade County. I questioned this by offering the scenarios that I could be very tired from driving or even somewhat inebriated and couldn’t drive. The answer was: “We have your license plate recorded and if you do this again, you will be arrested.” I took off to Key West where I parked on a beach and slept in my camper.

In lieu of deprivation to subsistence land, the community which does this should offer some kind of compensation. Milton Friedman suggested a negative income tax to cover at least food and shelter.

What we in the United States do have is a food stamp program, but not a universal shelter program.

I suggest that there be at least free camping rights around the country – what is called “freedom to roam” (as exists in the European Nordic countries). If this existed then Bertrand Russell’s proposal [in Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism, 1919] that each person be allotted a vagabond’s wage would be approximated.

Economic Bullshit

Government and Land Rights

Centralized Government

Decentralized Government

Free Land

Socialism

Anarchism

No Free Land

Capitalism,
Neoconservativism

Anarcho-Capitalism,
Neoliberalism,
Libertarianism

 

 

In the past, the subject of economics was called “political economy”; nowadays it is called simply “economics.”  Why the change?  Let me explain.  There are alternative economic arrangements possible as to who owns what. Specifically, we can have alternative laws about land rights.  Compare, for example, how indigenous native Americans dealt with land with the British colonial policy in America.  American natives did not have a concept of land ownership; whereas the British did.  Which system prevails is a political matter; hence “political economy.”

Since the 19th century,  the economic system which has predominated is that of capitalism.  And books with the title “Economics” are really about the workings of capitalism.  Now, what is capitalism?

Max Weber, in the 22nd chapter: “The Meaning and Presuppositions of Modern Capitalism” of General Economic History (Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 1923), translated by Frank H. Knight, 1927, lists six necessary conditions for modern or “rational” capitalism. What interests me, and on which I want to focus attention, is the 5th necessary condition, which is:

“The fifth feature is free labor. Persons must be present who are not only legally in the position, but are also economically compelled, to sell their labor on the market without restriction. It is in contradiction to the essence of capitalism, and the development of capitalism is impossible, if such a propertyless stratum is absent, a class compelled to sell its labor services to live; and it is likewise impossible if only unfree labor is at hand. Rational capitalistic calculation is possible only on the basis of free labor; only where in consequence of the existence of workers who in the formal sense voluntarily, but actually under the compulsion of the whip of hunger, offer themselves, the costs of products may be unambiguously determined by agreement in advance.”

What people is he talking about? He is talking about people who do not possess property, which really means the people who have no free access to land on which they can have a home, have a garden, have some animals: in short, on which they can subsist. They are people who have no access to free subsistence land. Since such people tend to aggregate in cities, they are called proletarians; George Orwell in 1984 calls them “proles.”

It is ironic or euphemistic to call them “free laborers.” They are free relative to the law in not being slaves or serfs. But, as Weber notes, they are compelled to work to avoid starvation. Marx, I think, is more accurate in calling them “wage-slaves.”

See my articles: “Land and Liberty”

Milton Friedman’s Hidden Anarchism in Capitalism and Freedom