I've been thinking about this for months, and I still can't see how propertarians have a solution, though they certainly still have a problem. That they advocate economic rightism seems openly inconsistent, which is the basis for Carson's observations about "vulgar libertarianism." Shawn, you're by far the best-read of all of us and you know Kevin. Is there any kind of solution to this in the propertarian literature at all?
The way I see it, Austro-propertarians usually have to refer to moral ideas because they don't have very good economic ones, but even their moral framework is baseless and ultimately incompatible with liberty because of the problem of NAP-violating primitive accumulation. Let's just consider the U.S. What are the foundations of modern distribution of wealth and property? Genocide and dispossession of the indigenous population, enslavement of another population, reduction to those populations to labor market serfdom and poverty (portions of the Navajo reservation resemble third-world countries, for example), confinement of certain regional populations to subordination, etc. And even after the legal foundations of those forms of oppression were eliminated, their consequences remained.
The doctrine of authoritarian economic power informally existing even after its formal abolition is noted by Rothbard in The Ethics of Liberty
, when he discusses the fact that slaves remain wage slaves in the labor market if they are not compensated for their losses.
We have indicated above that there was only one possible moral solution for the slave question: immediate and unconditional abolition, with no compensation to the slavemasters. Indeed, any compensation should have been the other way—to repay the oppressed slaves for their lifetime of slavery. A vital part of such necessary compensation would have been to grant the plantation lands not to the slavemaster, who scarcely had valid title to any property, but to the slaves themselves, whose labor, on our 'homesteading' principle, was mixed with the soil to develop the plantations. In short, at the very least, elementary libertarian justice required not only the immediate freeing of the slaves, but also the immediate turning over to the slaves, again without compensation to the masters, of the plantation lands on which they had worked and sweated. As it was, the victorious North made the same mistake—though 'mistake' is far too charitable a word for an act that preserved the essence of an unjust and oppressive social system—as had Czar Alexander when he freed the Russian serfs in 1861: the bodies of the oppressed were freed, but the property which they had worked and eminently deserved to own, remained in the hands of their former oppressors. With the economic power thus remaining in their hands, the former lords soon found themselves virtual masters once more of what were now free tenants or farm laborers. The serfs and the slaves had tasted freedom, but had been cruelly deprived of its fruits.
He had the right axiom, but didn't know how to apply it (he only looked to aggression created to non-capitalist action when he discussed specific cases).
But in reality, the lines of acquisition are blurred; effectively all habitable land and usable resources were gained through aggression at some point. Effectively all existing property was either directly gained through aggression at some time in the past or created by some other resource or capital good that was itself gained through aggression, and so on and so forth. Doesn’t this demand massive redistribution of wealth and property to “rectify” matters? It seems obvious that it invalidates complaints about progressive taxation being “theft from the productive,” since existing property distribution is inherited from feudalism, mercantilism, slavery, aggressive dispossession of indigenous populations, a long history of state interventionism, etc.
The workmen desire to get as much, the master to give as little as possible...It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms. -Adam Smith