Saturday, October 27, 2012

Are Hotels Immoral?

I've been trying to collect my contributions to various discussion threads, where the off-the-cuff stuff seems to advance the conversation, and I'm presenting them in the form of one-sided conversations, with just enough of the contributions of others to give context. Here's a bit from Reddit, on the question of occupancy and use property norms:

Q. Are Hotels Immoral?

A. No. If someone is actively maintaining a hotel, then they are obviously occupying and using it. A large hotel is likely to be a collectively owned affair, like most large enterprises under usufructory ownership.

A. Can that somebody hire people to help him or her occupy it and maintain it?
Q. Well, not without leaving the regime of occupancy and use property. It is possible that there might be reasons to respect such an arrangement in the midst of an occupancy-and-use-based community, but at the point where it looks like there is rent-seeking and exploitation of labor going on in a mutualist community, I suspect both the labor force and the customers are likely to start looking elsewhere. Mutualists markets are most likely to manifest profits in the form of a general reduction in costs, and capitalist profits will probably stick out like a sore thumb in that context.
Contracts can solve many underlying problems, and there are plenty of other ways to establish rules for human interaction. Mutualist markets would have their particular character, and forms of profit, precisely because the rules for interaction within them are governed by norms of reciprocity, "cost the limit of price," etc., rather than the norms dominant within capitalist markets.

Most uses of natural resources or real property have a basic cycle to them. For example, it is expected that we will be out of our homes as much as we are in them. A home is, in part, a fixed place where we keep the stuff we don't want or need to carry around all day -- just as it is, in part, a place where we sleep, a potentially private space, etc. If we're talking about agriculture, then it is expected that the land we are using will lie fallow sometimes, because of seasonal cycles or crop rotation. The folks running a hotel will be there, day in and day out, while guests will come and go, and staff will maintain the hotel for themselves and the guests alike.

Q. Doesn't that seem somewhat arbitrary, especially for things that have multiple uses?

A. Not particularly, since all we need to establish is that something is being used according the natural patterns of some form of use.
These use cycles are determined by the usual demands and conditions of particular kinds of resource use.
The argument against mutualist hotels depends on an understanding of "occupancy and use" which I've never seen a mutualist advance, and which also appears very different from the ways we customarily think about these issues now.
Presumably, though, any new process will also have its logical cycles. And, of course, experimentation is something we've done before, and should have no trouble recognizing as a use.

Actually, I've already given a number of examples. Cycles for agricultural use are determined by a mix of seasonal factors and developing conventions regarding "best practices" for crop rotation, fallow periods, etc. Our mutualist hotel will have guests who come and go, primarily for short stays, and hosts who are relatively stable. Etc. If I'm experimenting with a different agricultural method, then the nature of the experiment will determine how long I put resources to that use, and how much of the time during the experiment some or all of the resources might be idle. If I'm brewing small-batch beer, each experimental cycle will tend to be considerably shorter than an agricultural cycle -- unless perhaps I'm aging a batch.
It's a simple standard, easily adaptable to a range of resources and uses.
This all started because somebody thought mutualists thought hotels were "immoral." That's just a version of the "mutualists will take your house when you nip out for a quart of milk" claim, and both seem to fall rather decisively before the fact that occupancy and use always seems to involve some pattern of absence and presence, fairly predictably tied to the particular resources and the particular uses. Now, in some cases, that means that knowing whether or not a resource is currently in use might take a little research, but we expect that with all property regimes, so that can't really be a very serious objection.
Now, the "why" of occupancy and use comes from the proudhonian critique of property theories. Nothing stronger seems to hold up to scrutiny.

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