In thinking of the possibilities of social organization, we are apt to assume that greed is the strongest of human motives, and that systems of administration can be safely based only upon the idea that the fear of punishment is necessary to keep men honest — that selfish interests are always stronger than general interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

From whence springs this lust for gain, to gratify which men tread everything pure and noble under their feet; to which they sacrifice all the higher possibilities of life; which converts civility into a hollow pretense, patriotism into a sham, and religion into hypocrisy; which makes so much of civilized existence an Ishmaelitish warfare, of which the weapons are cunning and fraud?

Does it not spring from the existence of want? Carlyle somewhere says that poverty is the hell of which the modern Englishman is most afraid. And he is right.

Henry George

A few days ago, Matt Walsh made a post on religious freedom that got a lot of comment.  I found that post didn’t sit right with me, as much as I could agree with the basic idea.  Eventually I realised that my issue was that discussing this as a question of religious freedom was the wrong framing.  This isn’t about people having the right to act on their beliefs, but rather about being able to choose who they will and will not associate with.  Fortunately, Walsh himself drew this conclusion the day after.  This follow-up post is much better in terms of drawing out a basic principle, and has some very basic, but forgotten truths.  My favourite being:

Now, instead of making this an argument about “gay rights” or “religious freedom,” I think it’s time to shift the discussion towards the broader concept of property rights, freedom of association, and free speech. That conversation got bogged down by people attempting to determine whether or not the photographer, the baker, the t-shirt maker, and the florist were “homophobic” or “bigoted.” But that isn’t the question. I don’t think they are bigots, but it doesn’t matter. Bigotry is not illegal. Hatred is not illegal. Racism is not illegal. These are spiritual crimes — problems of the heart. The government is not omniscient. It cannot possibly legislate our thoughts and emotions.

We will never be free as long as it keeps trying.

Freedom of association is fundamental to any free society, but fundamental to that freedom is its corollary: the freedom of disassociation.  Without that then you do not have freedom of association, as you are forced to associate, in whatever capacity.  You can no longer meaningfully choose who to have as friends, or who you will buy from, if those choices are made for you.

When stated in these terms, the freedom of association is well understood and defended (for the most part), but strangely not so when spoken of in terms of who we buy from.  We have established a notion that only one side of a trade has the right to decide if they want to be party to a transaction or not.  Does that not strike you as odd?  Indeed, the great irony is that almost invariably those who complain about some trader claiming a right to disassociate will then call on others to exercise their right to disassociate.  On its own, that would be entirely legitimate, but when doing so as part of an effort to get government to force said trader to transact, it becomes rank hypocrisy.

…….and yet……..

….and yet it’s worth asking how such a state of affairs could come about.  How have we come to view such a one-sided application of free association as the epitome of justice?  So much so that almost no-one will dare suggest anything different, except quibbling about in which rare instances a business will be allowed to assert their own will, and then have the audacity to call this state of affairs the ‘equal protection of the law’?

Those of you who’ve read some of this blog before will know where I’m going with this.  Anti-liberty philosophies require more than just words and activism to gain the levers of power.  The main ingredient is greivance.  There has to be something that the people can no longer stand.  Something so rotten within society that they will listen to anybody who claims to have a fix, no matter how wrong they are.

Greivance is what empowers the enemies of liberty, and the socialist narrative of capitalist exploitation drives the notion that businesses should not have the right to disassociate through the greivances of workers stemming at least as far back as the Victorian Era.  There’s a reason that the lasting cultural memory of the Industrial Revolution can be summed up in the word ‘Dickens’.

But what if the narrative was wrong?  What if it wasn’t capital that was the source of inequity in British society?  What if it was something more fundamental?  So fundamental, in fact, that today is actually no different from before?

And that’s where the titular home-owner-ism comes in.  It is not capital (or even money) that is the root issue here, but land.  When land can be bought and sold in perpetuity, then those who don’t have any are at the mercy of those who do.  If you are at the mercy of landowners, then it matters on what grounds they can refuse you access.  If every coffee shop then you can always make your own coffee (or even your own coffee shop!), but if every landowner refuses to let you use their land, then you literally have nowhere to stand.

With a Land Value Tax/Citizen’s Income setup, there is always somewhere to go, even if literally everyone else refuses to have anything to do with you.  You are no longer at anyone else’s mercy.  You may not be able to be precisely where you want to be (who really can?), but you can always be, and that is where freedom lies.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still consequences to being socially shunned. It is a big deal – but anyone who has ever called for a boycott of anything for any reason has no cause to complain.  After all, what else is a boycott but social shunning?  And who doesn’t use social means to influence people’s behaviour?  Indeed, how would any society function if you couldn’t?

Honestly, though, I don’t expect hardcore professional victims to care about this.  They’re having their time in the sun, but anyone who wants true freedom needs to understand that unless everybody gets it, no-one will.  Greivance will see to that.