Tuesday, July 27, 2021

When Private Property Isn’t


My comment, at the Mises site:

[From the author of the piece]: "This does not mean that someone cannot be prevented from accessing certain venues or activities when their rightful owners set preventive sanitary rules...."

BM: Libertarians must really get past this kind of thinking. Does anyone believe that airlines, social media companies, mainstream media companies, any large company of any type is a private company in any meaningful sense? How quickly and suddenly they bow to government dictates no matter how draconian, and what punishment will befall them if they don't. Willingly or through coercion, they do the state's bidding.

The piece was about forced vaccinations.

There is much about private property that isn’t private.  At one extreme – consider it the closest to a libertarian ideal: we have property, acquired via voluntary transaction; either produced from other materials, acquired in trade, developed in code, etc.  Yet, even at this extreme, try not paying property tax on the property, or income tax on the privately earned income, etc.  The property isn’t purely private in the sense of the owner have complete control over use and disposition.

At the other extreme…libertarians and Austrian economists will use the phrase “crony capitalism.”  If this phrase is to mean anything, it has to indicate that the private property (necessary for a system of capitalism) has not been earned or acquired in a manner that fits the above definition of private property: acquired via voluntary transaction.  Instead, it has been “earned” via government connection.

Examples of this abound: perhaps the most obvious is banking, especially money center banks.  Others include military contractors, pharmaceutical companies, airlines, tech and social media companies, mainstream media, etc.  It could also include any company or industry that petitions the state for something (as opposed to petitioning the state to not do something or to stop doing something).

These crony capitalist companies do the state’s bidding.  They lobby for funds, lobby for regulations, and in exchange, they pay the piper by dancing to his tune.  They realize the consequences of just saying no.  Why do such a thing, when saying yes pays so well?  Can the property that results from such an arrangement be described as “private”?

There is a large area in between, of course.  The most unfortunate, and taken from the last sixteen months: any church or small business that did not enforce or abide by state mandates faced the potential of being crushed, and its pastor or owner faced prison.  One cannot call this property “private,” though through no transgression of the owner.

But the entities that hold property via crony-capitalism can in no way be considered holders of private property.  They are extensions of the state, really not much different than the military, department of (in)justice, the various spy agencies, etc.


Libertarians really need not make the caveat, as was done in the statement I cited at the opening of this post.  Instead, the proper caveat should be that much of what is considered private property isn’t. 

Until this is fully embraced and understood, well…we are like the dupe, falling for the con of the shell game.  Complain about government encroachment and defend the so-called private entities that are just as much a means of that encroachment as any government employee.  Yes, such libertarians may be following the right shell, but there is a second one virtually equally as dangerous to liberty.


  1. Even this is the wrong way to think about it. The question is, "is there a right, i.e., correct, culture, or not?" The second question is, "if there is, what are we going to do to uphold it?"

    That businesses should not act in such a manner and that normal, civilized people should strongly oppose such actions has nothing to do with those businesses involvement with the state or not. Are people going to allow them to behave in such a manner, regardless of them acting in accordance with the formulations of so-called "private property?"

    Libertarians say that the problem of racial prejudice for example would be solved on the market. Businesses and individuals who engage in such practices would be shunned and driven out of business or in the most egregious cases civil society. Why is this scenario any different than doing the same to businesses that behave as outlined in the mises.org article that inspired this post. Racial prejudice is deemed a culturally undesirable thing. There's nothing about the state at all involved. But with the situation in France, et al., this is not even considered, i.e., that we don't want to live in a society that even considers such abhorrent measures.

    Critics of modal libertarians are right to say, "it's more than just screeching 'it's a private company.'" If their reasoning, however, is simply that it is just the state acting under masquerade, then they are totally missing the whole point of this all.

    1. "The question is, "is there a right, i.e., correct, culture, or not?" The second question is, "if there is, what are we going to do to uphold it?""

      Do you mind answering these questions?

  2. I agree that large corporations are cronies and therefore not really private but indirect extensions of the government. Or at least they are carrying out government policy. As such they should be constrained by law from violating the Bill of Rights.

    The question is how to delineate the true private business from the crony. I think one way to do that is to consider any company or organization that lobbies, receives subsidies, receives/received investment or seed money in its founding, has ever employed a former regulator, or has ever had a former employee hired by a regulatory agency as a crony and therefore not a private business.

    There need to be other conditions to add, but those are the ones I can think of. After thinking through my list a little, that doesn't leave much left. Churches, charities, some small businesses, small farmers, a few all-private hospitals. That's it.

    That really shows just how much the federal and state governments have coopted and now control the "private" realm. I hadn't considered it was to such a vast degree as it is. Scary thoughts.

    Maybe there could be a process a business could use to change their state from crony to private if they wanted. But I doubt any want that at this point.

  3. Extensions of the state are bad actors. But so are state sword swallowers. That’s the slipperiest slope - the go along to get along gullets - & the alimentary what ails. (Ali’s elementary rope-a-dope works, but only if the mind, at least, still floats & stings...& sings.)

    Let's go back, let's go back, let's go way on way back when
    I didn't even know you, you couldn't have been too much more than ten. (just a child)
    I ain't no psychiatrist, I ain't no doctor with degrees
    It don't take too much high IQ's to see what you're doing to me

    Freedom of association got dissociated by who? Whom? Private businesses were “reclassified” – like the fda has recently, past year or so, reclassed things like insulin from “drugs” to “biologics” – to public accommodations how?

    GI Joe Citizen is who/mo•sapienceless, follows orders, is how. Aretha sings Think! Ali knows big George can’t. Density’s offset is duncity. And the Weus god’s the bluntest of instruments.

    I like the scene from Legends of the Fall. The proprietor decides. Unless he can be persuaded otherwise. Very local. Decentralized & at the personal level where life’s contact patch with the road is. And if the proprietor had decided to kill the hero, & the rest of them too, if they objected, cool; shortcutting/time preferencing skin in the game is the skinless surroundsound & fury signifying nothing now, & for a long time now:


    Speaking of MT, the above version is long lost. Was in Livingston last Fall. Murray Hotel, where Peckinpah ended, the bar, where Bourdain drank/filmed, wouldn’t serve me: no mask.