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zaterdag 2 oktober 2021

#WORLD #WORLDWIDE #BANGLADESH #ANARCHISM #News #Journal #Update - (en) Property and Freeddom - By #Bangladesh AnarchoSyndicalist Federation - #BASF

 I recently read the quote "Property is theft!" in Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's book

What is property? (1840, online English translation). After understanding where
he was going, I skipped the middle part of the book because it was too legal and
technical, although not too difficult and probably interesting. In the final
chapters Proudhon points at how a society might look like without the institution
of property (not te be confused with private possession or usage). Here,
apparantly, he coins the word anarchism. He writes: ---- "Politics is the science
of liberty. The government of man by man (under whatever name it be disguised) is
oppression. Society finds its highest perfection in the union of order with anarchy."
I thought this had quite a ring to it. It brought back memories from secondary
school where I read very superficially about Proudhon, Kropotkin and
anarchosyndicalism, mostly for the sake of having something provocative to say.
But now, after all this time and after developing my political views intensively
over the last couple of years, I was a bit amazed to find myself back at the
beginning of this circle.

Shortly after bringing Pierre-Joseph back to the Antwerp library, I read an
article about the problem of labor time duration and increasing emphasis on work
throughout history by Olivier Pintelon in Apache Magazine. Just like Yuval Noah
Harari in his book Sapiens (2011) and Rutger Bregman in Humankind (2020) it talks
from the perspective on mankind's development as a degeneration from a free and
happy life as a hunter-gatherer to an oppressive, stressful society. Historians,
archeologists, and sociologists agree more and more that in prehistoric ages our
nomadic ancestors only ?worked' for a couple of hours a day and spent the rest on
social, cultural, fun activities. The agricultural revolution seduced us with the
appeal of stability, safety, and maybe even alcohol, but created inequality by
introducing property for the first time. This is where I made the association
with Proudhon.

Later on, during the industrial revolution, ownership of grounds, machinery,
factories, and capital created even more inequality. In the meantime, man on
average spent more and more time on labor. Reaching a boom with the so called
feminist emancipation of the sixties. Now the average time of a household spent
on labor practically doubled. I'm convinced that labour time is merely the
characteristic of a system and not inherent to society or proper to an individual
who is hard working or lazy.

These days a third revolution seems on its way. In one respect, it's similar to
the industrial revolution: automatisation and robotisation of labor. Just like
the luddites opposed to the steam engines of the 19th century, some people warn
against the dissapearing of jobs because of robots and algorithms. A guaranteed
basic income still sounds like a good safeguard against poverty, even if you
don't believe, like statisticians say, that jobs will be lost. What's more
important: it gives us freedom.

This third revolution is also different, however, because it's also a
digitalisation. Not only robots are taking over tasks, but also artificial
intelligence and algorithms. These are data-driven. How does data relate to
ownership? Robots, machines, grounds are tangible property of an owner. Data,
which is basically a massive collection of information, is currently in a grey
area. Theoretically, data is owned by the individual who hands it over by
thoughtlessly clicking agree on a website. That data, however, and the meta-data
it produces is mined by algorithms, which is basically the property of nobody and
free to be used by the person using the algorithm. Free to be sold without
consent from the original individual. Some people want laws and applications to
allow individuals to have ownership of their data. As weird as it sounds, I think
it makes sense. Data is property in the sence that it says something about
someone (a quality) and that it belongs to someone. The same could be said of
intellectual property. Proudhon had no clue yet that concepts, images, and
information would one day be reduced to property in the hands of a creator,
buyer, or company. Even if you think privacy is not the real root of the problem,
I don't see the harm in protecting and taking control of our own data.

Regulations: the realisation of the Mind
In order to take back control and return to our blissful state of happiness
people have created regulations through political action: the eight hour workday,
sunday rest, payed leave, ... aimed at limiting labor time in favor of free time.
Some of these regulations are being shaken now that the gig economy is coming up.
Certainly, more extensive regulation would create more equality and increase the
quality of life for many. Also regulation of competition between individuals
should be put to a stop. As Oliver Pintelon tells us in his article, in a certain
African tribe there's the tradition of "mocking the hunter's meat". This is a
tradition aimed at preventing a succesful hunter from getting any ideas in his
head that he's better than someone else. In the 18th century, already, Immanuel
Kant pointed out this innate tension in man between a drive to collaborate and a
need be distinguished from the pack. We want to live in a society but also be an
individual. We naturally work together, but we also want to compete. I guess
either of these two drives can be reinforced by upbringing and by culture. In our
individualistic, neoliberal culture, competition (somethings disguised as
excellence) is glorified and egalitarianism despised.

I wonder whether competition could be the basis for war. I remember Bregman wrote
about it, but I can't remember much in detail. I do remember how most soldiers in
a battle actually don't fire at the enemy unless they're drugged up or
brainwashed. It goes against the fabric of our being. So why do wars start? Ego's
of rich people? I know the Greeks had a competitive or agonistic culture because
it was famously expressed in sports and arts, like the Olympic Games. So why did
they wage war? Honour? Or wealth and colonies?

Political regulations are just combatting the symptoms of a derailed system. They
seem trivial to me in the light of mankind's evolution towards a spiritually and
politically lifeless society. For what is a society where work, however
regulated, is central, and not life itself? It reminded me of Hegel's theory of
Mind. Laws are the objectification of the individual, subjective Mind: people say
and write down what the rules of their society are. Beyond that, comes the
Absolute Mind which reflects on the Objective Mind and contemplates the Mind in
itself. Obviously, Hegel is talking about himself, the philosopher, as the
epitome of everything here, but I can see his point, however obscured by the use
of unnecessarily weird words. Philosophy contemplates the idea, God, the
universe, or - in my humanistic version - mankind itself. There the Mind becomes
free.

To put this a bit more concretely: (if I understand correctly,) in organising
society, man is not yet free. He's free when he doesn't have to think about
society anymore.

Property is theft
That brings me back to Proudhon. For him equality or property didn't matter, but
only freedom. That was for him the essence of anarchism. In a little collection
of writings, I learned that Noam Chomsky also calls freedom the highest value in
a society. He says it unites radical libertarianism and socialism.

Regardless whether we talk about material objects, money, a factory or a company,
or intangible objects such as a piece of music or our date of birth, I'm
convinced that ownership in general creates a distinction between the haves and
the have nots. It creates inequality. And ultimately it creates oppression. No
matter how much you regulate, the haves will keep finding ways to get more and
exert illegitimate authority over the have nots. Proudhon wants to do away with
property and ownership, except the ownership of the fruits of your labor. You
can't own the earth you cultivate, but you can own the fruit you harvest. I guess
that also means you can own a house, or two, or a hundred, but not the ground
it's built on. I don't quite grasp the full extent of where Proudhon wants to
take this. I read on Wikipedia for instance that he tested the idea of a popular
credit bank, but there it gets a bit too complicated for me.

People in our society are very attached to the concept of ownership. Everybody,
rich or poor, wants to own two houses, three cars, and invest their salaries in
shares and bonds. Saying ?property is illegal' will be hard to sell, although
logically and morally it makes total sense. People don't think logically and
morally. The bottom line, however, if we adjust Proudhon's conclusion slightly,
is that it's not right to make a profit from something you own, merely because
you own it. Based on that, maybe we can try to think of regulations that are more
acceptible, at least to the more radical parts of society. (Change always comes
from the margins of society to the center.) For instance, you're not allowed to
charge more rent than is necessary for the upkeep of a house or appartment.
You're not allowed to charge or receive interest on a loan or investment. You're
not allowed to charge more for a book you print, than the actual cost to print
it. I can see how it would make ownership a lot less interesting. Prices for
houses might fall, banks would basically become professional vaults. We'll still
use money to exchange goods, because we can't match all needs between people top
down. (I can offer Dutch classes in return for food, clothes, beer, and toys for
my kid, but it's impossible to find the exact right matches ánd arrange a
schedule for all these people.) And we'll steep creating stuff, because people
want stuff. Except now, the printer that prints your book will not be owned by a
multinational, but by nobody. It's use will be organised by a democratic
cooperative. If you want it to be used for something else, then you join the
cooperative and try to change it. Or something like that.

In an online article (also on Apache), Ben Caudron writes that it's useluss to
fuss about privacy as long as we don't deal with the more fundamental profit
driven capitalist system. I see his point. (Although we can also do both at the
same time.) What would happen if it becomes illegal to make a profit from data
ownership? Facebook, Google, Apple, and all the others would loose almost their
complete source of income. They could charge people to pay for the cost of
keeping the platforms up. They could even ask to use some data for advertising,
as long as they don't make a profit.

Would people still be motivated to enterprise? I think so, but not with the
motive of profit. Would the economy keep growing? Maybe not, but it's already at
it's highest point in history. I think we're at a point where we don't need to be
afraid anymore of scarcity, as long as everything is organised (really)
democratically. (Amartya Sen famously proved how the lack of democratic
insitutions such as free speach is the main cause for famines.) I'd still go for
a guaranteed basic income, albeit in the form of a negative income tax (which
guarantees a minimal income for people that drop below a certain income).

After these logical propositions will be realised, the only question remaining
will be: how do we learn to live (again)? Unlike the primitive nomad, we not only
have games, sports and cooking, but we have arts and philosophy. Plenty of stuff
to fill a life of free time.

https://bangladeshasf.com/property-and-freedom/
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