You will often hear leftists of the Chomsky type (the man who owns no cabins in Montana) dismiss all forms of hierarchy as non-voluntary or coercive or in some way or another deem to be unfavorable based on any number of sociological and other factors. It should be fair to address that upon the many applications “hierarchy” can have, the anti-property rights “anarchists” seem to cherry pick this matter to suit their limited world view. From an Austrian economics perspective one could view the rationale and impulses that motivates someone towards this anti-propertarian, anti-hierarchical belief and easily deduce that at best it is rooted in envy and at worst misanthropy. I think by and large though, that this is not the case. After reading Proudhon and Bakunin I was, for a short period, an anti-propertarian myself in my younger years – not because I was jealous that my employers had more things than I did or that I hated humanity – but that I felt the very act of having to show up for a job instead of being able to do whatever I wanted in some fanciful land of abundance was “not fair”. Of course, the real abundance I failed to recognize was my very own surroundings growing up an a largely economically free and prosperous society.
The trade guild is not coercing the apprentice, yet most would agree that there is a hierarchy of skill-sets involved.
At first glance one can safely presume that no man wishes to live in chains, to be enslaved or made to function in much of any capacity against his will, yet we remain in pursuit of desires that can often be fruitless. Since the pursuit of desire is motivated by dissatisfaction, idleness is not yet superabundant (regardless of the efforts of welfare advocates). Often the critique the anti-propertarians make against employment under a capitalist system is that it is “exploitative”, largely without explaining in any detail how a better alternative for a proper maintenance of civilization would realistically come about. This isn’t to say that capitalism is a perfect system, but since the methods of anti-propertarianism have been tried in large and small scenarios in many instances without any great deal of success or even real prosperity it should be fair to deduce, as is commonly the claim, that anti-propertarianism is utopian and contrary to the aims of civilization. I could suggest one do a quick Google search for “successful communes” or “successful examples of Marxism” but to be fair, these types generally don’t tend to honor the very notion of “success” in the first place or at best these types have the honesty to admit their idea of success is generally a very different one that the average person holds. Even in small scale egalitarian communes one wonders how easy it is to save for a retirement or medical emergency or heaven forbid a luxurious vacation. Without a division of labor in this system the task of cleaning the latrines (for example) becomes degraded, since after one person does a continually poor job, the motivation for the following performer is reduced etc. It would not be worth mentioning if these sorts of unfavorable outcomes were minimal. In light of the history of overall anti-propertarian experiments that we know of these unfavorable outcomes are a large part of why most of civilization knows to avoid this economic program. A similar, contrary, argument against a laissez-faire system is the condition of child labor or hazardous working conditions etc. but we see these sorts of episodes continue to be reduced as societies advance largely under a laissez-faire system. The only other option is to outlaw such practices doing little to address why they occur in the first place. The reliance on these types of claims is very telling of how the anti-propertarians seek not merely an intellectual or economic revolution, but a revolution against the very human condition of personal development, intellectual growth, advancement of skill-sets or any other form of individual progress.
It is another step altogether to imply that property ownership as we know it is a fundamentally flawed position and make no mistake that this is a view that has indeed been adopted by the more rigid “what’s mine is yours” sorts as witnessed under various anarcho-communist collectives where, taken to such extremes, they view the ideas of pair bonding as fundamentally hierarchical (typically from a patriarchal bent) and so believe in a sort of free-love perspective. One can only imagine the results of this outcome a few generations down the line had this sort of reasoning taken flight – even the Khmer Rouge attempted to decimate the established notion of family, so to pass this off as merely peripheral strikes me as quite dangerous. The larger mistake, though, is the assumption that the division of labor is fundamentally coercive and should be abandoned and I find that the anti-propertarian who seeks to disregard this on its face or downplay its overall implication is failing to be consistent in their application. Unfortunately many of these sorts seem to rely on giving themselves as many outs as possible should their consistency be called into question. The trade guild is not coercing the apprentice, yet most would agree that there is a hierarchy of skill-sets involved. The machinist is not coercing the boy who sweeps the shop floor when the boy looks to advance his skill-sets any more than the teacher does not coerce the student. Yet herein are all examples of hierarchy devoid of despotism of any sort.
ἀρχός (arkhos) Ancient Greek, Noun. 1. Ruler, leader, prince.
I’m no student of Ancient Greek but this definition strikes me as a political term far more than a socioeconomic one. Just sayin’.