Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Does usury toward the rich count as expropriation?

+1 vote
When I say usury I'm thinking of the 'trinity of usury' as Benjamin Tucker put it... interest, rent, and profit. If a bike shop sells bikes at a profit beyond cost to rich people or at least those with more disposable income, is that expropriation since usury is theft? What about renting a home you own to a rich person?

The problem I see is the problem of private property-- that ownership should be determined by usage, and by 'owning' without using, you're preventing its use by others who need it, especially concerning life-sustaining things like housing, and transportation.

To mix it up more, what if the bike shop sells bikes above cost to higher income people, in order to continue to offer free bikes/parts and bike lessons to those who don't have the funds?

Is it a compromise? Or is it a clever way to expropriate under their own noses with full legal backing... or is it not expropriation at all?
asked Apr 20, 2013 by formyinformation (2,440 points)
lawrence, if we each dont decide who we think is "rich", "authoritarian", etc., then who should decide?
If you don't understand what I've written above, then ask me to clarify. I don't know how to answer your non-question. You've written a statement in the form of a question; your implicit response is that each of us gets to decide who's rich or authoritarian, which removes all attempts to make any kind of concrete characterization or definition. In your short statement you have abandoned precision for free-for-all self-indulgence. That is not compelling in the least.
i did ask you to clarify, and got no response at all.
again, you seem to be alluding to a train of thought, but are not being explicit about it.
i don't understand how "theft" is inherently a moral term. (or maybe i disagree?) i think that most people agree with you that morality is not a good/valid basis for dismantling capitalism and the state. so, the trajectory for you between those statements might be a place to start?
or maybe being constrained by the original question isn't helpful, and just starting with your assessment of how people could change how goods are distributed (if we were to start today with the world as it is), would be an easier way to start...?

also, calling people names because you don't like a question they ask is pretty much antithetical to the purpose of this site.
just sayin'.
First, didn't know that calling someone smug counts as name calling.

Second, I didn't respond to what you asked because I'm not inspired enough to write out my objections to moralism as an analytic tool. Nor am I all that interested in examining how to change the ways goods are distributed. I loathe economics.

Nevertheless, my objection to using the term "theft" to describe a particular economic set up is that it presumes that there's an alternative to wages that would be less onerous. I prefer to characterize a system of wage labor as exploitation rather than theft. It may seem to be merely semantic, since "exploitation" also presumes that there's a way that exchanging labor power for goods and services can be more fair - "exploitation" being a bad thing just like "theft." Perhaps it's just a distinction of scale or intention.

But the way the original question was formulated, the idea was to find some justification to steal back something from "the rich." My initial objection had less to do with theft (which is, after all, a legal category) than with the vague category of "the rich." It is populist demagoguery to use intentionally emotive and moralist terminology with superficial analytical content.
so the quesiton still remains, do you think its important to distinguish between people or bodies who are rich and who are not, authoritarian or not, etc. It seems to me there has to be a human element to anarchist praxis, - humans who impede our lives with different means (force, money, etc.) - the targets cant merely be abstractions or conglomerations.  Would you object to people robbing a bank?  If not, what is the important difference?  If you think it is important to make these distinctions between people, bodies, etc, how does one make sense of differentiating them? Personal interpretation? Systematically? Democratically?

1 Answer

+4 votes
Based on your own suggestion of an alternative to private property--that ownership be defined by usage--expropriation would be a form of direct action where you interact with available resources in such a way: If it is unused, you use it (expropriate it).

The thorny (and arguably moralistic or authoritarian) question of who are "the rich" wouldn't have to enter into the equation.

A key factor of expropriation--and a pretty key factor in direct action and anarchist activity generally--would have to be taking and not asking. If you run a project (well, business, really) that deals in relations of exchange with people as customers or tenants or recipients of loans, you are asking them for money. They can just go elsewhere for another price, so their unused resources won't be put to use unless they decide to (not unlike charity).

Also you are talking about a project that is an intermediary for redistribution: the resources are moved from point A (higher income people) to point B (those who don't have funds) through a mediating body (the bike shop). Expropriation would have to cut out the intermediary (e.g. people taking bikes for themselves or their friends/families/____).

So no. What you describe wouldn't be expropriation, it would be a kind of business negotiation.

For the record, a fair number of businesses and non-profits do run sliding-scale income-based services similar to what you are describing. I imagine they consider it a matter of fairness or redistribution or something similar. A logic that is distinct from expropriation.

On a different note, I don't really see how could someone loan money to, or rent to, someone who is much wealthier.
answered Apr 23, 2013 by anok (19,040 points)
...