Nominal libertarians regularly invalidate their own claims to support the socio-economic understanding of subjective valuation when they focus simplistically on profit (in the capitalist context) as the main axiomatic goal of economic exchanges, and talk of systems of private property as pure enclaves of individuality. These two systems, which seemingly define modern libertarian thought, are taken to be foundational and static in their conceptual makeup, rather than as constituted systems which involve political and social wrangling. They become conceptually conceived as positively anti-state, which is nonsensical rubbish when looking at the historic developments of these systems. Private property is not just simply protected by the state, but also created through processes of enclosure and the purposeful privatisation of ground rent. That is not to say private property cannot exist in a stateless society, but that it cannot exist outside a social context. Similarly, profit can be something developed through generally consensual means as the product of one’s labours, but its existence as a subjective axiom means it is realisable via the state. Our modern rentier economy is a testament to this inconvenient truth.
What this really reveals is that subjective valuation is much more than a rejection of the labour theory of value. It reveals a much more complex world of different interlocking or contradictory dynamics that influence people’s decision-making processes in markets and non-market institutions. Forms of profit and private property are just a few of the axiomatic potentials of subjective valuation, and focusing on these as essential limits the truly radical capabilities that a subjective understanding of value can develop. This wider understanding of value structures doesn’t just legitimate market exchange, but a multitude of other forms of socio-economic relations such as gift exchange, decentralised planning and concepts of social provisioning. As an example, Dworkin’s thought experiment on the development of a healthcare system in the context of societal freedom suggests a move toward a collective constitution of healthcare provision that combines a community-based form of responsibility alongside the production of plans that cover these responsibilities. Decentralised planning, not markets, act as the main function of this system. In general, a picture of society is painted that involves politico-social negotiations and wranglings that show the social foundation of value structures and their development into larger forms of structuration.
When combined with wider conceptions of the knowledge and economic calculation problems, the libertarian picture becomes an extremely limited one in the whole field of subjective value structures. It also brings into question one of the main dichotomies of libertarian thought, that of coercion versus consent. In a field made so broad by subjective valuation and the construction of identities through multivarious forms of structuration, can anything really be split down to such a simplistic division. Is not the generalisable construction of systems of private property at least mildly coercive in preventing/limiting people’s full extent of choice? Are the rules and regulations that develop from private property not themselves coercive in binding particular people to particular systems (at the expense of expulsion of general social life)? It seems that many libertarians would effectively support the full scaling of private property toward a private form of centralisation, where tolls and tributes replace taxation. That may well be a possible societal scenario (as a wider understanding of subjective valuation would suggest), but that then contains the need for a Gramscian framework of consent and coercion as well as the possibility of multi-sited resistance that could support this sanctified private property.
It may be said that the systems I’m describing as coercive are voluntary because they’ve received forms of direct consent that would be unable to function without them. However this confuses consent for effective efficiency. In the generisable capitalist system of today, people could be nominally said to consent to the system because they participate in relations of consumption and wage labour. However, if alternative systems of socio-economic structuration existed, would not certain elements of the population choose those instead. Systems like private property and markets, both in their modern context and in some libertarian discourses, are tacitly hegemonic, making alternatives fully relative rather than having any options for exit. The restricted understanding of subjective valuation posited by certain libertarians would suggest this as voluntary, yet a broader conception shows a world of multiple pathways for development and resistance, resisting centralised power found in ideological and existential structures. The restricted understanding thus represents only one pathway that ignores the social foundations of economic production and exchange, and that presents a simplistic idea of voluntariness that outside its hegemonic moorings can be coercive.
The reality is that this consent-coercion dichotomy is a false one, and that instead the monopolisation of coercion, and the limitation of alternatives are better areas for libertarians to oppose when developing critiques. The full extent of subjective valuation presents one such mechanism, but libertarians need to unchain themselves from false narratives that focus on private property, profit or markets as the main axiomatic functions of systems of subjective valuation. A broader, radical comprehension means something that provides the instruments for a decentralised society of conceptual freedom, where significant coercion can be limited in reflexive forms of governance and regulation that develop from the bottom-up in a constitutive manner.