Doolittle’s Reciprocism

by Hogeye Bill


bill-99002c-sm2

Jan 17, 2020

Curt Doolittle is trying to hijack the word “propertarianism.” That’s okay; one cannot own a word. To avoid confusion, I will use the term “Reciprocism” for Doolittle’s philosophy. Libertarians define propertarianism as:

propertarianism [libertarian] - support for sticky (neo-Lockean private) property. That is, property defined as the disposition and use of a scarce rivalrous resource.

Doolittle’s collectivist oriented political definition[1] is:

propertarianism [reciprocist] - support for demonstrated property. That is, property defined as anything which people tend to show a willingness to defend.

libertarian_porcupine

The most obvious difference in these definitions is the scope of property, that is, the range of things that can be considered property. Libertarian property is very narrow in scope. It only includes uses of real concrete resources, and then only if they are scarce, or more precisely, rivalrous. Rivalrous means that if one person is using it, others are inhibited from using it. A dead tree physical book with the title “Huckleberry Finn” is a rivalrous resource; the string of letters and symbols comprising the novel are not. Thousands of people can download a pdf and read Huck Finn at the same time, without adversely affecting the other readers. Thus, libertarian theory rejects intellectual property.[2]

swan

The Doolittle notion of demonstrated property (aka property-in-toto) is more general. It includes sticky property, but also includes individual and group interests, values, sentiments, and beliefs. Since group interests are held to have property status, we can reasonably call this a collectivist notion.

This brings up an important distinction. Doolittle actually offers us two theories: a General Demonstrated Property Theory and a specific application of that one could call a Constitution of Nationalist Reciprocism.

General Demonstrated Property Theory

The general theory is a good model for considering all types of property systems, from the sticky propertarianism of anarcho-capitalists to the statist socialism of classical Marxists. It is broad enough to cover both libertarian and statist political ideologies and property norms. For example, if the only demonstrated property that a given society would defend is sticky private property, then that anarcho-capitalist choice can be accounted for by the General Demonstrated Property Theory (GDPT.) But as one can see, statist socialism and fascism can also be framed using this model. All particular property systems fall into the “demonstrated property” model, so long as there is some community that holds those norms.

General Theory

AnarchoDollar-icon
Libertarian
Capitalism
swan
Nationalist Reciprocism
statist-socialism-symbol
Statist Socialism
fascism-symbol Corporatism
(Fascism)

Strict Scarcity Property

Yes
private
property

No
demonstrated property

No
nationalized property

No
cartelized
property

Types of Common Property

partnerships, firms

partnerships, firms

social trust
average IQ

safety
culture
nat’l greatness
national virtue

partnerships, firms

solidarity
capital goods

safety
culture

partnerships, firms

patriotism
technocracy

safety
culture
nat’l greatness
national virtue

Regulation of Transactions

Low
aggression/fraud prohibited only

High
strict rules of reciprocity limits out-group interaction

High
strict rules of collective property limits out-group interaction

High
strict rules, regulation, and licensing limit out-group interaction

Primary
Social Value

non-aggression

maximize trust

social equality

national greatness

The GDPT is compatible with communism since such a society believes that they have an interest in the means of production, and that private property imposes a cost on this demo-property. Biblical and Sharia law are also covered, for people who believe that, e.g. stoning adulterers and homosexuals is a demo-property. Fascism is explained; national greatness and “our culture” is a demonstrated property for some societies. Of course, a libertarian society too could be described as reciprocist - a society where only "sticky" private property is considered demonstrated property.

Constitution of Nationalist Reciprocism

The particular application of demo-property being promoted by Doolittle and podcaster John Mark is a Constitution of Nationalist Reciprocism (CNR). The major collective value (demonstrated property) which Doolittle wants to maximize is social trust. This is very different from the individualist position of libertarians, who believe that non-aggression is more important.

The primary social value for libertarians is non-aggression;
the primary social value for reciprocists is maximizing social trust.

This is not to say that reciprocists do not value non-aggression, or that libertarians do not value social trust. They do. Libertarians contend that a peaceful society will, as a consequence, have a high level of social trust. Reciprocists contend that high levels of social trust result in more peaceful societies. But make no mistake, the vastly different primary values lead to vastly different social and political models. For example, libertarianism is compatible with a minimal State and even anarchism, but not with political authoritarianism. Conversely, reciprocism is compatible with a strong active State and even totalitarianism, but not with anarchism or even minarchist libertarianism.

Reciprocism requires a strong State since, to maximize social trust, the State must use its authority to:

  1. Remedy free riding, and
  2. Enforce positive rights and “mandate universal moral behavior.”

It is clear that Doolittle has a very authoritarian State in mind - one that rounds up and kidnaps people without government papers, for example. After all, by reciprocist logic, if foreigners harm “our” demonstrated property - our network of trust - then they are vandals or thieves. The reciprocist State may treat them as such. That is the reciprocist case for closed borders.

Remedying free-riding is a crucial issue where libertarians and reciprocists profoundly disagree.[3] Free-riding, objectively, means nothing more than receiving gifts. Economists call such gifts “positive externalities.” Some examples are: the pleasant smell of flowers from a neighbor’s garden, radio broadcast waves, and a safe neighborhood. In libertarian theory, no one owns these things. They are what Bastiat called “the gratuitous domain.” If someone benefits from a good that was “broadcast,” then that is nice for the free-loader, according to libertarians. There is nothing more to say. Reciprocists want to force the person who smelled the flowers, or listened to the radio broadcast, to pay. Regulating and controlling all the many and varied positive externalities is practically impossible. To libertarians, it would be criminally unjust, since it necessitates aggression.

To libertarians, free-riding is permitted. If you broadcast your service, then don’t expect the government to help you get paid.
To reciprocists, free-riding is fined.

In the second part of the plan, the CNR would gives the State the power to judge truth, and to prosecute anyone the ruling elites claim is lying. Furthermore, the State judges all transactions on whether they satisfy exacting but subjective criteria.

One can also state the principle of non-imposition as the requirement that all transactions have the following properties:

- Curt Doolittle

So Reciprocism gives us a very subjective collectivist notion of property as ‘whatever people are willing to defend,’ and then gives us a list of subjective criteria that every transaction must satisfy, and then has the temerity to say:

The principle of non-imposition in combination with demonstrated property allows a polity to construct law in a way that eliminates the need of discretionary interpretation, that means it provides decidability for all questions of law and contract. - Curt Doolittle

Needless to say, Doolittle’s grandiose claim is entirely wrong. I would expect a deluge of frivolous lawsuits, with people suing each other for imagined breeches of demo-property rights. The State would have to ignore most accusations, and would inevitably selectively enforce only those cases that were in the interests of the ruling elites. This would be oligarchy through court overload.

The political program of the Constitution of Nationalist Reciprocism is to put all government decision-making power into the hands of the Supreme Court. That’s it! Give all power to the supreme court and let them decide what truth is.

It is amazing that self-labeled conservatives would fall for this, but John Mark, the voice of the “grass roots right,” believes that CNR will save western civilization from the hoards of ignorant inferiors and prevent government redistributionism. Conservatives who buy into this are very short-sighted, swallowing the naïve assumption that the Supreme Court will always be conservative, and (contrary to history) can never be bought off. They assume that demo-property will be interpreted by the rulers in ways they like, rather than in ways that e.g. democratic socialists like.

The fundamental flaw in the reciprocism is that it enables and promotes a very dangerous notion of property: that property is totally subjective and anything - any wish or whim or desire or interest - can be property. People can feel an interest in and fight for virtually anything - and they have. Demonstrated property is an anti-concept - a concept that tries to destroy its own premise. Demo-property seems to be an Orwellian attempt to obliterate the concept of property in its strict scarcity sense.

The main danger of the Constitution of Nationalist Reciprocism is that it defines property so generally that tyranny by kritarchy is not only allowed, but virtually guaranteed.


Notes

  1. It should be noted that Doolittle has a aspirational definition, too:
    propertarianism [gen] - a theory which attempts to combine science (rational empiricism) with social ethics. It purports to solve the is-ought problem by making language more precise.
    This definition is not relevant to this economic and political discussion.
  2. See Against Intellectual Property by Stephan Kinsella
  3. Doolittle's critique of libertarianism: Reforming Rothbard: The Rothbardian Fallacies
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