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When there is a dispute over who should be able to control a physical resource, how should it be resolved?

–4 votes
asked Dec 15, 2013 by VoluntaryThinker (380 points)
what is the nature of the dispute, though? what kinds of claims to the resource are being made? is it a company at war with indigenous people over access to mining areas? two roommates arguing over what album to play on their shared record player? a government policing a forest to prevent illegal logging? there are lots of possibilities, and lots of ways to resolve this, and lots of ways to intervene. what would be the point of answering this question in the abstract?
I have an answer to this question that applies to all scenarios. Its quite simple and eloquent. He who has the best claim to the resource has the right to control it. The individual with the best claim is either the first user or the person that obtained the right, via contract, down the line from the first user of an unowned resource.

The indigenous people should have the right to keep the land or sell it to the company. If the roomates have agreed to jointly own the record player, then they should have also agreed who gets to decide which album goes in it; this is their prerogative. A government has no right to prevent anyone from doing anything, ever; it is an illegitimate, coercive institution with no rights of its own.

1 Answer

0 votes
Negotiation, barter, re-assessment of need, debate, begging, heartfelt commonality, sharing, violence, or the abolition of "controlling resources" as a concept.
answered Dec 16, 2013 by Rice Boy (8,690 points)
Not a single answer to the question of who. I will assume that you mean that in a negotiation, one person will end up with the right to use the item. This does not tell me who should be able to use it if negotiation fails. And what would be the argument in the negotiation? Would one person say something like, " I came accross this resource first and have employed it for a purpose so I should be able to use it and decide who, if anyone, will be able to use it after me"? Now we have one person attempting to exercise a property rule. Claiming that we could abolish controlling resources as a concept is no different than saying that individuals will stop utilizing things to achieve goals. A world where purposeful actions that require physical, external items does not exist. This is not a theory of production. Negotiation would be part of advocating for who has the claim. Barter is a simple form of exchange where the actors own the resources they exchange. Begging is a way to ask for property another owns. Sharing is an option for an owner when deciding what to do with owned property. The just owner is always the person with the best claim to a given resource. He could choose to do anything he wants with his property. But if I rip it from his possession, without permission, I am unjustly controlling something that belongs to another person.
Your entire conceptualization of this argument relies on the assumption that property can/will exist in some hypothetical anarchist reality.

What I was implying with my response is that there is no hard and fast way to determine who should be able to make use of a given resource (assuming such resources exist that can't be shared between multiple parties). Any system that determines a "true" owner through some kind of legal process would be, by its nature, arbitrary and incapable of dealing with the complexities of reality.

Using things and creating things does not presume the existence of property.
I use the word property to mean a set of rules to determine who should be able to use a physical, external resource when there is more than one person who would like to use it at the same time. The set of rules should come out of objective reality, not arbitrary statutes or laws. As such, the person with the best claim makes sense. The first person to use the item has a better claim than the second person. So, that person should be able to use the item or decide who has the right to use it after him. Enforcement is a different issue. Everybody has an answer to this question; unless they simply admit to not knowing. If two people want to use a resource at the same time, how do we, as anarchists, determine which person we should favor? Is it by who will do the most good with the item (utilitarian)? Is it by who is strongest and most able to defend it (barbarism)? If it is neither of the two I just named, then you have some opinion; namely that it is not either of those options. So, what other options are available?
The question is an unnecessary prefiguration of a world that we can't possibly imagine in this moment.

My pursuit of anarchism has nothing to do with assigning "more just" rules to the world. I don't believe there's any way to create "rights" without the foundation of a legal system. I ultimately don't believe this question is very important, and all I hope to illustrate is its lack of importance.

The person who makes use of the resource will be the person who makes use of the resource.
Okay, well put. I understand your position clearly. My position is that I would prefer a system of rules that minimizes conflict among people. I prefer less suffering and despair. I prefer more human needs to be met in a non-sacrificial manner. I would like to live in a society more like the one I imagine. I think you would prefer this society as well.

I cannot be sure that this is the best system, but I enjoy thinking about whether or not it might be. Consistency is pleasing to me and inconsistency discomforts me. If human beings somehow make it to a situation where there is no conflict without property rules and where scarcity is a thing of the past, that will be wonderful. I don't expect this will ever occur. I do believe that even with scarcity and the potential for rivalry over scarce resources, people can live in a voluntary, non-coercive way.
"My position is that I would prefer a system of rules that minimizes conflict among people. "

while the desire to minimize conflict is a nice thought on the surface, it ignores the reality that conflict is an inevitable fact of life in the real world, and the only way to minimize it meaningfully would be to reduce the needs and desires (and thoughts?) of *everyone* to some lowest common denominator. kind of like the current system of democrapitalism (particularly the education and public relations arms of it) attempts.

also, preferring a "system of rules" (regardless of the intent of the rules) does not fit well with most concepts of anarchy i could ever find meaningful.
Seconded for what funkyanarchy has said. I find it utterly undesirable to conceptualize anarchism as a "system of rules". I find the idea of minimizing conflict to be a dangerous concept, considering the nature of laws and modern forms of social control is to "minimize conflict" through pacification. I do not believe that the minimizing of conflict should be a point of priority in any anarchist practice when conflict is so necessary in this moment.
Minimizing conflict is not the only goal or consideration.  There are many needs that I dont want to sacrifice for the sake of minimizing conflict. However, all else equal, I prefer to avoid violent conflict.
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