“No man touches Red Sonja! Death to the Man-Spider!”
- Red Sonja (Earth-616)
I will try to avoid that fate!
I will address several comments from Sonja Cramer, beginning May 16, 2016 at 1:01 PM.
In general Sonja’s main point appears to be that no one owns anything and libertarian theorists must develop a proper theory of property ownership else all other concerns are a waste of energy. While it is possible that this observation is so completely profound that it is beyond my understanding, for now I find this an unnecessary and pointless exercise and will explain why further on.
Rather than the dubious claim that the "taxpayers" are the owners…
I will assume that you are referring to my statements regarding what is known as government-owned (but actually government-controlled) property – the peaks of the Rockies, the western deserts, etc. I must assume this as it is the only context in which I have referred to anything in this vein.
I am writing of the legal theory of the case consistent with the NAP, and I argue that in theory the taxpayers are the legal owners. What do you suggest? The government certainly controls such lands, but one cannot assume that control means ownership. A thief controls the stolen goods – it doesn’t make him the owner. The owners is still the owner – he no longer has control of his property, nothing more.
We could suggest that no one owns such lands; this is Block’s position as best as I understand it, although on a different basis than yours. The best I can make of your position is that no one owns anything – even if I grant it true for today it says nothing about libertarian-based legal theory.
There is no justifiable property ownership in the current paradigm of masters and slaves. Tradition, and customs, and homesteading do not cut it.
Are we talking theory or practice…?
In practice, all you are doing is adding more weight to my view – in the world of state control, open borders is no more “libertarian” than any other option.
In theory, there is often value in discussing and exploring theory. But not on the question you raise (to be kind, let’s just say I certainly don’t see it). “Property” will be defined socially; to think otherwise is a utopian notion.
My question to you – say a libertarian theorist comes up with the perfect theory to justify property ownership: what good would it do in this (or any other) paradigm?
More generally, libertarian theorists such as Walter Block and Murray Rothbard have not provided a framework for justifiable property ownership. This deficiency should be priority one for "libertarian theorists."
I find zero value in this exercise; you obviously see otherwise and I would welcome further explanation. My view is that this will be defined by different communities in different ways – even in different otherwise likeminded libertarian communities; it has been true for all of human history and will be true for as long as humans have a future – they have no reason to listen to Block’s apparently yet-to-be-developed theories. If other groups are satisfied with their own framework, what do you care? Why do you want to define it for them?
The non-aggression principle is beautiful in its simplicity. Why try to burden it with things that it can never carry. It will not be able to define “property” or “aggression” for everyone everywhere at every time. Despite this, the theory remains valid – even priceless.
Do you think the ruler is going to pay attention to what you have to say, other than to suppress it?
Have I ever suggested that he would? My paradigm is simple – there will be decentralization, and libertarianism in theory is decentralization in practice.
But I will turn this question to you: do you think by flushing out a definition of property that the ruler will listen to you? Or Walter?
Do you expect him to embrace what you are saying and give up a little of his power...try on a little "limited government" for size? How's that working out for you?
Point to one place where I have advocated for limited government.
You correctly point out (or at least hint) that the notion of "mixing" labor with property justifies ownership is nonsense.
I don’t say it is nonsense, in fact I find it a rational concept. I just say it need not be the only way. I also say that the “how much” labor-mixing cannot be answered by libertarian theory, and it is a waste of time to try to nail this down. Different communities will figure out what makes sense to them and figure out how to enforce their decisions.
What constitutes justifiable property ownership? I keep coming back to that question, and where I seem to disagree with you is in that I don't think that just anything will do.
Go tell someone in the highlands of Southeast Asia that you have the definition for them. How far will that get you? As long as they agree amongst themselves, that is their business and not the business of a libertarian theorist.
If there are other people around who decide you are not going to own something, and there are enough of them and only one of you, then you are not going to be able to defend your property---even your life.
What is your point? Do you think that if I spend the next 20 years developing a theory of property that this will change? Somehow my theory will stop all theft? Ultimately, you have to be able to defend your property if you want to keep it. It is always true and has always been true, everywhere.
In any case, I disagree with your "folks around here" generally agree... Folks in Germany generally agree to the title/ruling class management of property.
Why do you take my comment out of context? I refer to your original statement, which I was addressing:
Upon what principles can a community (in some geographic location) of likeminded voluntarists….
“Likeminded voluntarists.” This is the context.
I refer to my comment to Sonja in the previous thread, the one that resulted in this post:
I will consider your comments in the next days; I will reply thereafter, if I believe I can add value by doing so or otherwise move the discussion forward.
I don’t know if I added any value or moved the discussion forward. The more I have considered Sonja’s comments the more I have concluded that there was nothing worth addressing beyond the comments I made in the discussion thread.
But I already did the work, so there you have it.
Concise, directed, complete. Eviscerated. Well done.ReplyDelete
"We could suggest that no one owns such lands; this is Block’s position as best as I understand it"ReplyDelete
We can suggest that but we shouldn't. What Block does is somewhat similar to what it appears Sonja is doing. Block uses Lockean homesteading as the basis for private property, as the justification. In Block's world property is justified property. He believes homesteading is a just principle, Sonja does not (honestly I am inclined to agree with Sonja on this).
However, in reality, property is what those who hold power say it is. I have never been to Alaska (maybe the Alaskan with the radio show can comment on this point)but I have seen a TV show about a family that lives in the wilderness and they were one of the last families to be granted a permit by the state to do so, even though there is plenty of space. This is a very large geographical landmass of Alaskan wilderness with few to no people in parts, that is owned by the State.
What we have here is two conflicting definitions of ownership and property. One is justified ownership (using some kind of rationalist approach) and the other is simply control. Albeit the concept of control begs the question further because part of being able to control a property includes other people respecting that it is yours (one reason why Israel will always have problems with their neighbors).
I am of the view that a universal justification of property ownership is a phantom. It would require a universal acceptance of the principles you used to justify it. It is not enough to say that these principles are eternal, based in nature, logical, or whatever. Someone else could easily say that you are an infidel and deserve nothing. There is no such thing as natural rights and there is no such thing as a natural right to property no matter how eloquent men like Block can be.
"I don’t say it is nonsense, in fact I find it a rational concept. I just say it need not be the only way. I also say that the “how much” labor-mixing cannot be answered by libertarian theory, and it is a waste of time to try to nail this down. Different communities will figure out what makes sense to them and figure out how to enforce their decisions."ReplyDelete
One of the most pervasive straw-man arguments against the Austrian viewpoint is the so-called "rational man". I think it would help people to view it as "rationale man". Just because man has definite ideas he uses in order to formulate ends and to conceive means does not mean that a) he has chosen ends that will satisfy him b) that he has chosen means to attain those ends; or even c) that his definite ideas were accurate representations of the forces of the universe.
A great mystery underlies the existence of humans. The various interpretations, the axioms, presumptions and starting points, reflect beliefs about the great mystery. Cultures that raise respect for property rights and individual freedom have unequivocally raised their standard of living to cultures that did not. The economic laws that are derived from "action" apply to all human actions; but, they do not deign to value the ends at which humans strive. For some, a greater material comfort and for others a greater spiritual connection are the ends by which they choose their means. A culture plays a large part in a person's ultimate judgments of value and of their understanding of the great mystery that most take for granted.
It is certainly a waste of time to argue about what natural rights are and what is private property. We know for certain that respect for these things elevate the standard of living for those involved (by creating capital) and we know that force in the marketplace tends to reduce standards of living (by destroying capital).
The known laws of economics and the slippery slope understanding of human nature and institutions of power seem to elucidate a pretty fair road map for achieving the various boundaries by which all kinds of people and their ideas about the great mystery can get along, prosper and thrive.
No response from Sonja?ReplyDelete
It looks like you collected 2 scalps in one day BM. You are a total beast.
I apologize for being slow to respond, but I think the claims of evisceration and scalping are a bit overblown.ReplyDelete
I think UnhappyConservative has some good points to address, as does alaska3636. First, let me attempt to answer mosquito's specific questions and attempt to indicate that there is, indeed, value in what I'm saying. Due to the word limit, it may take several comments (apologies).
Yes, mosquito, you have my main point correct. No one owns any property in the contexts under consideration, and your discussion of various topics under the assumption of ownership are a waste of time. That is exactly my point.
I would offer a sleight correction: It is not necessarily "libertarian theorists" who must offer a reasonable, workable definition, but someone needs to do it. (In fact, I think I can mostly do it.) Of course, a first step would be in some consensus that the provision of such a principle is worthwhile. Obviously, we don't have that. You are not thinking about it, and have no intention to do so. Fine. Let me try to show you why that is an error.
You are further correct about the context of your assertion concerning "taxpayer-owned" land. However, your terminology of "government-controlled" is perhaps a little misleading. It would be a great step forward if each of us could understand there is only individual action. There is no such thing as government. Let me leave that aside for the moment, however, and get to your first question.
"What do you suggest?
"The government certainly controls such lands (sic), but one cannot assume that control means ownership. A thief controls the stolen goods – it doesn’t make him the owner. The owners is still the owner – he no longer has control of his property, nothing more.
"We could suggest that no one owns such lands;...
I suggest several things. Indeed, I suggest that no one owns anything today. To be more precise, I suggest that there is no justifiable ownership. Justifiable ownership has been eliminated. I further suggest that "libertarian legal theory," if it is to have any value, must start with a basis for justifiable property ownership. And this is a main point. Thus, in precisely the context you describe, there is a problem. You want to talk about legalities of ownership, but you haven't got a working definition of ownership. Apparently you don't see that as a problem. But it is a problem.
Next question: "Are we talking theory or practice?"
Answer: Both. In your theory, there is no reasonable notion of justifiable property ownership, so all statements like "the thief controls the property, but does not own it" are meaningless.
Without meaning there is no hope of practice for libertarian thought. Think about that. Do you really want there to be some practice of libertarian thought? You talk about Angela Merkel and open borders. That is not an application of libertarian thought. All your railing against the proponents of "libertarian open borders" is vacuous. Merkel is not practicing any libertarian theory. She is not any sort of libertarian.
Let me see if I haven't exceeded the word limit.
You will understand that I do not deal with every comment in your series of posts. Let’s stick to the main point:
“Yes, mosquito, you have my main point correct. No one owns any property in the contexts under consideration, and your discussion of various topics under the assumption of ownership are a waste of time. That is exactly my point.”
“It is not necessarily "libertarian theorists" who must offer a reasonable, workable definition, but someone needs to do it.”
Someone *has* done it – look around you. Despite what you believe about nobody owns property, virtually everyone around you feels otherwise.
So tomorrow, the state goes poof. Guess what? Land owners will register title somewhere; shoppers will go to the store and trade currency or digits for goodies; a driver will buy gas for his vehicle – a vehicle for which he will have some form of demonstrable title – a bill of sale from the manufacturer or dealer will suffice.
What about unoccupied land that you don’t want to call government owned or controlled? I don’t care – perhaps it will be sold with proceeds going to pay off debt. Perhaps squatters will come and sit on it. It really doesn’t matter what I think.
“(In fact, I think I can mostly do it.)”
Have at it.
I also will address one other point:
“One could also write "non-aggression" will be defined socially; to think otherwise is a utopian notion. But this would be an error. Do you agree?”
No. I have written a dozen times: property doesn’t define itself and aggression doesn’t define itself. Aggression does not need be defined everywhere for all people the same way. While there are some things easily deemed to be aggression, there are many gray areas. It is in those gray areas where societies figure out what is acceptable or not.
To try to change this would be an equal waste of time. But you can have at this as well if you like.
> Someone *has* done it – look around you.Delete
> Despite what you believe about nobody owns
> property, virtually everyone around you
> feels otherwise.
The cattle in most fields enjoy the grass they eat, like you enjoy going to the store and putting gas in your car. It doesn't matter how the cows feel. They are there for the farmer. Everything about them is for harvest. When I look around me, I see that the same is true of virtually everyone. This is the content of their/your feeling "otherwise." The state is not going to go "poof" unless we make that happen, and ignoring the problem is not helping. See further my comment in regard to Hornberger's article.
“Property” will be defined socially; to think otherwise is a utopian notion.
One could also write "non-aggression" will be defined socially; to think otherwise is a utopian notion. But this would be an error. Do you agree?
One could write: "Self-determination" will be defined socially; to think otherwise is a utopian notion. This would also be an error. We do not need a king to determine who bakes the cookies. This kind of thing goes back to Adam Smith. There are details to be worked out for sure, but there is a large number of individuals who have internalized the principle that it is better for individuals to make their own determinations about what is profitable for them to do. And a consequence is the production of more wealth (c.f., The Wealth of Nations).
These principles are not universal. There are still kingdoms where the king and his subjects haven't accepted/internalized/figured out (whatever you want to call it) that the king is not needed to determine who bakes the cookies---and it would be better if he gave his attention to other things, like doing some honest work. But to say that it's utopian to suggest the principle of self-determination and worthless to consider such a possibility is an error.
"Say a libertarian theorist comes up with the perfect theory to justify property ownership: what good would it do in this (or any other) paradigm?"ReplyDelete
I'm glad you ask. If a reasonably large number of individuals internalize the principle(s) of justifiable property ownership, then they could build a society which (1) creates sustainable wealth, (2) can defend itself from authoritarians, and (3) could have an expanding influence. All of these are quite possible (not utopian) but currently out of reach for individuals like us who have internalized many of the other requisite principles.
Note that when I say "create a society," I'm not saying control, or convert, "society" in general. I am saying nothing about creating anything universal. If you are going to throw your hands up on the basis that what I'm saying cannot "dominate" human society as we currently know it, then you are embracing a cop-out. What I'm saying is that we, as individual voluntarists, need to organize ourselves. There is nothing much preventing that, except (mostly) the absence of a broad understanding of justifiable property ownership.
"...it has been true for all of human history and will be true for as long as humans have a future..."ReplyDelete
The same could be said of hygiene---washing one's hands, to put it simply. There was a time when it was thought that disease was unrelated to hygiene. The result was that people got sick more often. When individuals figured out that one gets sick less often if he washes his hands, then individuals started washing their hands.
"If other groups are satisfied with their own framework, what do you care?"
A ruler may be satisfied with the current situation because he has great control and has determined a way to ignore his conscience. But not everyone is satisfied with the current situation. As a result we have the non-aggression principle, from which you correctly point out that one cannot derive a statist structure---you can't get to rulers from non-aggression. But I guess such things have no value.
"Why do you want to define it for them?"
It's not so much that I want to define anything for anyone particularly. It's just that some things make sense and others don't. Admitting a foundation for society based on aggression doesn't make sense. Proudhon felt that having property didn't make sense. It is my assertion that having property absolutely makes sense and may even be necessary---as necessary, say, as washing your hands or refraining from aggression or figuring out on your own whether or not you want to bake the cookies. But the current notions of property ownership do not make sense, they are not sustainable, and they are not leading to reasonable outcomes consistent with the other principles. It's a little like this: I can say, I believe in hygiene. And then I can say "washing your hands" means sticking your middle finger in the air with your other fingers folded down. (This is like saying property ownership is whatever people say it is.) I may be satisfied with giving the finger to washing hands, but it won't keep me from getting sick.
In short, your suggestion that I "want to define" property ownership for other people is a kind of red herring. People should want to define property ownership for themselves in a reasonable way. People who want libertarian ideas (or more properly the ideas of freedom) to have some influence in the world---who don't just want to whine about what Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, etc. are doing to destroy Western Civilization---should care.
"Have I ever suggested that he would? My paradigm is simple – there will be decentralization, and libertarianism in theory is decentralization in practice."ReplyDelete
Yes, more properly "she." Your columns suggest "open borders libertarianism" is some sort of bogeyman to be attacked. You have written yourself that this is the case because "governments" are going to make decisions on immigration. Therefore, you are obviously motivated by the idea that your attack on "open borders" is going to have some effect. It's just like Walter Block supporting Donald Trump. He obviously thinks he is going to have some "libertarian" influence. The problem is that Donald Trump is not going to listen to Walter Block, and Angela Merkel is not going to listen to the "libertarian open borders" crowd. She's not listening.
As for your paradigm---there will not be decentralization as long as the lewrockwell.com naval gazers spend all their energy supporting Trump and attacking "open borders libertarianism." It's time to get down to the serious work of organizing some viable resistance to authoritarianism. And we need to be able to get along to do that, and we need justifiably owned property to do that.
Again, there will not be any meaningful decentralization without a workable notion of property. The best you'll get is decentralization of key strokes on blog sites, as long as the rulers feel like they want to tolerate it.
Without property, your libertarianism is next to nothing in theory and nothing in practice.
"But I will turn this question to you: do you think by flushing out a definition of property that the ruler will listen to you?"ReplyDelete
My approach does not rely on any ruler listening to me. If we start to exercise justifiable property ownership, without rulers, I fully recognize that this may lead to conflict. This was essentially the case in Massachusetts in 1775. The problem was that the exercise and open resistance was premature---there were other problems too---but the fact that the resistance was repudiated with the introduction of the Constitution a few short years later conclusively proves that the resisters were, in the end, defeated. When the conflict comes, we need to be in a position to defend ourselves.
The native Americans (Indians) too were, to a large extent, exercising justifiable property rights. They were not equal to the task of defending those rights against the aggressive invasion from the East---that is from your beloved Western "civilization." I recognize that it is my responsibility in introducing/exercising justifiable property ownership to be able to defend it. As I suggested previously, I'm willing to do what is necessary to that end.
In summary answer to your question: I don't have any illusions about rulers listening to me. I don't need them. I need people who want to be free and know how to think. I need people who refuse to be rulers. I need lots of them. When there are lots of them/us, there will be decentralization and would-be rulers will be irrelevant and powerless.
Again, if you want to get rid of the rulers, you need to get property. If you want to get property, you need to know what it is.
"Point to one place where I have advocated for limited government."ReplyDelete
"Angela Merkel’s open borders policy continues to pay dividends in the destruction of open borders as a libertarian concept."
Obviously, you would like Angela Merkel to be limited in her power. You are criticizing the actions of a ruler here. You are implying that what she is doing is not good. But she is the ruler my friend. She does not care about your complaint.
That is the first line in your post. Further down one finds:
"You will recall that Merkel said all are welcome, no stopping them, no questions asked (she has since backtracked a little, mostly by hiding behind Austrians and others, but the object lesson remains). You cannot get more open than this. How is it going so far?
"Germany's government expects to spend around 93.6 billion euros by the end of 2020 on costs related to the refugee crisis…
"That doesn’t sound very libertarian.
"The report said that 25.7 billion euros ($29.07 billion) would be needed for jobless payments, rent subsidies and other benefits for recognized asylum applicants by the end of 2020.
“Now bionic, you are complaining about government subsidies
The point is not that you are complaining about government subsidies. The point is that you are complaining about government. And, since there is no such thing as government, you are really complaining about the ruler Angela Merkel.
I understand that your supposed point is to criticize "open borders libertarians" because "open borders" is bad policy. But the whole thing is misguided. Angela Merkel is not listening to them or you.
My point is that whining about rulers gets you nowhere. Determining how to own and defend property without rulers---independent of the rulers, their actions, or their permission---can get you somewhere. But, apparently, you don't want to go there.
"Go tell someone in the highlands of Southeast Asia that you have the definition for them. How far will that get you?"ReplyDelete
If I were in the highlands of Southeast Asia, and if he can listen, then there are two of us there. We can own property between us to the extent we can defend it. If there remain just two of us, then maybe that doesn't get us very far. If others listen, and we find ourselves in a community of 5 or 10 thousand, then that could get us quite far. I don't have much confidence that 5 or 10 thousand Southeast Asian highlanders are in the intellectual position to listen to what I'm saying. At least the self-proclaimed libertarian intellectuals, if they actually wanted to realize any of the practical consequences of freedom they nominally advocate, should be able to listen. They should listen. Alas, they are too occupied with supporting Trump, attacking "open borders," and otherwise bemoaning the destruction of the last vestiges of good in Western "civilization" to actually do anything viable to secure a future for some of those good ideas.
"If there are other people around who decide you are not going to own something, and there are enough of them and only one of you, then you are not going to be able to defend your property---even your life.ReplyDelete
"What is your point? Do you think that if I spend the next 20 years developing a theory of property that this will change? Somehow my theory will stop all theft? Ultimately, you have to be able to defend your property if you want to keep it. It is always true and has always been true, everywhere.
The beginning, up there, is quoting myself (which is a little weird), but I wouldn't want to miss context---God forbid! My point is that you seem to not understand the significance of what I've written. The theory will not stop theft any more than washing hands will prevent sickness. But the theory will allow discussion of theft to make sense. It will allow prevention of theft to make sense. It will give context in which defense of property can make sense. It will allow like-minded voluntarists to get along with one another and *organize* to defend their individually, justifiably owned property.
Ultimately, you have to have some idea of what property is if you want to defend it. In a similar way, you have to know something about what microbes are if you want "washing your hands to prevent sickness" to make sense. Such a course of action will not prevent all sickness, but it will prevent much more than continuing in ignorance. Likewise, knowing what constitutes justifiably owned property will play a major role in mounting a reasonable defense of that property, and while it will not prevent all theft, it will take a deep bite out of theft, for it will illuminate what is really theft and what is just empty talk based on whatever counterproductive practices happen to prevail.
If it takes you 20 years, and you can pass the knowledge on to someone younger, then it's probably worth it. I guess that depends on your outlook on life. Was it worth it for von Leeuwenhoek to develop the microscope? There are a lot of people who now wash their hands (and get sick less) because of it.
"Why do you take my comment out of context? I refer to your original statement, which I was addressing:ReplyDelete
“Likeminded voluntarists.” This is the context.
You are correct that I interpreted your comment in a somewhat broader context. This was suggested, I think, by several of your statements like the ones above:
"...it has been true for all of human history and will be true for as long as humans have a future
"Go tell someone in the highlands of Southeast Asia that you have the definition for them. How far will that get you? As long as they agree amongst themselves, that is their business and not the business of a libertarian theorist.
In any case, if I misinterpreted the context in this regard, I apologize. The context may negate the particular example of Germany. It does not negate my point: You are not participating in a community of like-minded voluntarists who are operating under a workable definition of property and are able to defend that property---outside the framework set up for you by the rulers.
If Merkel wants to do a job of which you approve, she needs to understand property (and allow it---good luck with that). And if you want to get along with others and build a workable voluntarist society, then you need to understand property. In context, out of context, my point stands.
Too profound for you? Maybe.
Is it profound that little critters you can't see with the naked eye get on your hands and then into your mouth and make you sick? In a way it is. It has to be thought about. It has to be internalized. The consequences have to be exercised. (Wash your hands.) In a way it's profound.
In another way, it's pretty simple.
The principle of justifiable property ownership is profound in the same way as the non-aggression principle. For those who have internalized it, it's no great shakes. It's even pretty obvious. You said it yourself: You can't derive government (i.e., the crazy idea that it's legitimate for some humans to rule over others) from the non-aggression principle. Was that difficult or profound? Apparently not. You said it. For those who haven't internalized the principle, however, even thinking about it seems to be of no value. "Of course we need some people ruling over other people. If we didn't have government, then we would have chaos. We have always had government---as long as there is a future for humans it will be one where society is organized by rulers."
I think I've answered your questions. I'll stop.
"However, in reality, property is what those who hold power say it is."
May I question your allegiance to those who hold power? Do you do well to let them define your reality? Those who hold power have created wars. If you are thoughtful about the other things they have created, you may find good reason to question your allegiance. As for me, I have none.
I do not recognize the possibility that anything is "owned by the state." Yes, a game warden may tell me "poaching is stealing from the state," but I recognize this as simply the words of one very deceived and irrational individual. Is it possible that he will exercise power over me? Certainly. It is my responsibility to make sure that his psychopathic propensities do not cause me undue trouble. All of this, his exercise of power, his rhetoric, does not give value to the situation. It does not make the apparent constraints inviolable nor certain. These things can change. The holders of power can change. The possibility that all around me (in my immediate vicinity) reject power over others, and me in particular, exists. This is the true reality.
I'm glad you recognize we have (at least) two conflicting definitions. That is a start.
An interesting consequence of your definition is that there can be no such thing as "theft." He who controls owns. I think a reasonable definition of property allows theft. Apparently, the mosquito feels the same, though he does not even feel that property needs to be defined.
"I am of the view that a universal justification of property ownership is a phantom."
Please note that "universality" is a cop-out. I am not suggesting "universality" in the sense of "accepted by everyone." I am only interested in "accepted by those I know and trust." That may be one other individual or one-thousand. Hundreds of thousands of individuals wash their hands.
"There is no such thing as natural rights and there is no such thing as a natural right to property no matter how eloquent men like Block can be."
There is really no way someone can decide to bake cookies unless the king determines who will do it.
Seriously, this has nothing to do with eloquence. It has everything to do with consequence.
Again for Unhappy Conservative:ReplyDelete
Let me try to address a comment of yours from the last/original thread. There you wrote:
"My point, which I would actually like to get a reply to, is that property ownership is a might is right situation. What good is a rational justification?"
My assertion is that property is not always, and should never be, a might is right situation. Might is rarely right. Yes, the predominant paradigm may be properly characterized as "might is right."
Let me try to put this another way: Were I to have much greater might, I would still have a greater desire for others to own property. Such is to my advantage. Such is to the advantage of others. This dynamic is actually very common. You likely do not wish to own the tire machine which is used to mount and balance the tires on your vehicle. (If you do happen to own that machine, then you probably use it for others as well, and they *want* you to own it, at some level.) If they had the might to take it from you, they would not. It is likely not advantageous for them to do that because they do not know how to use the machine.
Yes, there are those who take by might. This does not make right. It also does not make for wealth. To a large extent, it is this recognition which has motivated the rulers to organize the title and law system of property ownership (so called). This produces more wealth for the rulers (livestock managers) and reduces conflict.
There is nothing stopping me and others from agreeing to a different basis for property ownership. A workable definition would/could help us get along with each other and be productive and peaceful. It could also play a key role in helping us to defend our property from those for whom might is right. "No," just having a definition does not provide a guarantee that someone else with more might, and the propensity to exercise that might, will not take my property. But if there are enough others who recognize and will help me defend my property, then the mighty will have more trouble. He may still be successful, but I wouldn't count on that.
Have I addressed your question?
I like your post about the "great mystery." And I definitely think there is a place for pursuit of individual ideas about the "great mystery" as you seem to suggest.
You mention "known laws of economics" etc. leading to "various boundaries." For example, you wrote:
"Cultures that raise respect for property rights and individual freedom have unequivocally raised their standard of living to cultures that did not."
On the other hand, you write
"It is certainly a waste of time to argue about what natural rights are and what is private property."
Obviously, if I said "The king should own everything and everybody and determine what everyone should do," then you would think it reasonable for us to argue. But that would be arguing about property rights. You could say it would be arguing about having respect for property rights or not, but I would say it's arguing about the definition. Many Englishmen in 1775, who definitely believed those things about their king felt that they had more respect for property rights than anyone else in the neighborhood---and to some extent they may have been right. But Sam Adams and John Hancock wanted to argue.
So, I would suggest to you that, just like your "known laws of economics" which you have internalized so well, there are "known laws of property ownership" which may require some good natured arguing. They are not part of the "great mystery." Most of all, they require some serious consideration.
Let me ask you this: If you think
"The known laws of economics and the slippery slope understanding of human nature and institutions of power seem to elucidate a pretty fair road map for achieving the various boundaries by which all kinds of people and their ideas about the great mystery can get along, prosper and thrive."
Do you see any actual applications of this "road map?" Do you see people getting along, prospering, and thriving? Do you see those things (getting along, prospering, and thriving) as on the increase?
I do not.
Finally, for Perry Mason's comment on the original thread.ReplyDelete
You are correct that I am dismissive of "homesteading" and "mixing labor" as bases for property ownership, and I may have been sloppy in mixing the two. (That would go along with being dismissive.) I may also not be so well-informed. I have read Rothbard and Hoppe, however, and I find their contributions on this topic to be greatly wanting. (This is not meant to devalue their contributions on other topics which are highly valuable.)
Yes, I reject "first use." I think that is not a reasonable basis for property ownership. I like the idea of taking into account what is natural, but simply what has been practiced by humans historically is not a justification for your assertion of rationality or desirability. If you look at the history of humanity, then you find, on the contrary, there is every reason to look for some better basis.
One thing that is natural, however, is death. And I think it's fair to say that whatever notion of property ownership you adopt, it is reasonable to take the limitation of death into account. Property ownership cannot extend past the death of the owner. Now, as to "first use," why is it rational to assume the current owner has a higher right to his property than someone from a future generation? Simply because he is first? Think about it. That makes no sense.
The Roman rulers felt they had priority in ownership over the (forested) Iberian peninsula, so they destroyed the forest. Now the current inhabitants of Spain have a desert. The Roman rulers don't own the Iberian peninsula any more. But they had priority over the Spaniards and were justified in turning the forest into a desert because they were first? I assert that this is in error. The principle of first use is incorrect. A current owner has no priority over a future owner. The principle of "first use" is not rational. It is incorrect.
"For example, as you type, you presume ownership of the air you breath, your entitlement to take up the space you take up, the things you pick up off the ground, etc."
I do not make these presumptions on the basis of first use. Your example is irrelevant to the question of the basis of property ownership. I'm not saying there is no basis, I'm saying that "first use," "homesteading," "mixing labor," and the like fall short. They are not a reasonable or workable basis. Admittedly, I've mixed several objections, and I'm sure what I'm saying is difficult for you to follow because you only read Rothbard and Hoppe and do not think. These limitations do not make what I'm saying incorrect.
"It's in our very nature, from the day we are born, to grab things..."
This strikes me as a very good example of what *not* to base property ownership upon. It is our nature to lick off whatever is on our hands, to defecate all over ourselves, and myriad other destructive and unhealthy behaviors. We grab things, so this justifies property ownership? Nonsense, unless you want to live in a world of endless strife over ownership---ah, which is the one you've got. No, this kind of "human nature" is precisely the kind of thing which needs to be rejected. I think the performative contradiction is on your side rather than mine.
The sheer volume of your replies is impressive. When I suggested that you had been scalped I was only trying to add some pro-wrestling style commentary, I only posted that after some time had passed and I thought you had thrown in the towel.....but alas!
Red Sonja has launched a voluminous counter-attack against the Bionic Mosquito and his regular interlocutors, the unhappy looking frog included.
Let me go ask Jack Hunter if I can borrow his stars and bars wrestling mask, since he doesn't need it anymore, and I will return to respond to your points.
Well I was right. Jack has no use for the mask (he is too busy trying to convince the "respectable" establishment that he isn't racist) so I borrowed it for the purposes of this thread.ReplyDelete
"May I question your allegiance to those who hold power? Do you do well to let them define your reality?"
I am not just referring to those who hold power now (no I have no allegiance to them and suspect BM would prefer I don't say what I believe should be done with them) but power itself. Libertarians want power to rest in the hands of property owners. Weber's definition of the state can be applied just as easily to private property itself.
"The possibility that all around me (in my immediate vicinity) reject power over others, and me in particular, exists"
I don't believe you can have a society without power. Even if it is just the power of the parents over the child, power is an essential aspect of maintaining civilization. If someone tries to steal your stuff and you shoot them, that is an expression of power and totally consistent with libertarianism.
"An interesting consequence of your definition is that there can be no such thing as "theft." He who controls owns. I think a reasonable definition of property allows theft."
There is still a concept of theft but it does become relative. Practically speaking the control of property be it just or unjust is effectively the same thing. We could even go further, and like Proudhon, claim that "property is theft," which is functionally very similar to property titles being granted by the state. In both cases there is no basis for which an individual can justify land titles outside of an appeal to another entity (the state or community).
While I don't disagree that a reasonable definition of property allows theft the definition itself will not assure you control over the property, only power does that.
"I am only interested in "accepted by those I know and trust." That may be one other individual or one-thousand. Hundreds of thousands of individuals wash their hands."
This is a reasonable starting point for having clearly delineated property rules in a community, but the only thing that maintains these titles against out-groups is the power over a wider territory that can enforce the established rules.
So if what is important is what those in your community accept as just property aren't there many different, equally viable, schemes of property ownership? Do these schemes need to hashed out in advance or can they arise organically?
"There is really no way someone can decide to bake cookies unless the king determines who will do it."
Actually if we consider the king to be the sovereign of a given property, then yes, only baking approved by the king would be just.
"Have I addressed your question?"ReplyDelete
Yes. A solid response. I addressed that point earlier as well, namely that even if we construe ownership as control it is helped along by people recognizing the control as just.
" It could also play a key role in helping us to defend our property from those for whom might is right"
When the property is contested from outside (or from revolution within) the question of ownership does revert to might is right, and if you are on the side of defense then might really is right. Any serious threat to a peaceful social order will re-frame conflict along primal and tribal lines. Therefore, in my view, property is ultimately a question of power.
I'm not familiar with Weber's definition of the state. I suspect it would have something to do with grilling out.ReplyDelete
Whatever the case, you seem to confuse power (the basic existence of power) with might is right. Those are obviously two entirely different things. It is quite possible to have tremendous power, but to refrain from letting that power determine what is right or from having a desire to exercise power over another human being. This is pretty simple.
> Power is an essential aspect of
> maintaining civilization.
Ah, now there is a real target for a figure-four leg lock. You see, we have yet to see human civilization on any significant scale. We can't "maintain" it because we have yet to create it. That would be people finding a way to be civil (i.e., get along with each other). We don't have that. What we have had is some people ruling (and exercising a kind of illegitimate ownership) over others. Where do you see "civilization?" Rome? What I see is a lot of slavery. It created some sort of illusion of civil behavior among some of the rulers some of the time. (And then it fell apart.) But overall, it's nowhere in the ball park. So, you should check with Weber and his grill to see if you can find a definition of civilization among the burnt charcoal of incivility.
The question of legitimacy and illegitimacy is crucial. When I talk about people rejecting power, I'm not talking about power for defense. Quite the contrary. I'm talking about determining criteria which make more sense than the arbitrary exercise of power---might is right.
I don't always follow Weber, and I don't follow Proudhon. There is a basis for property ownership as an individual which is independent of any other entity, or at least there can be. As you correctly suggest the exercise of such justified property ownership may be practically impossible. If arbitrary power is the only thing that matters, then I suppose you are correct, and there is nothing further to consider. But some of us have a little better control of ourselves. Among us, there is hope to create some civility.
> While I don't disagree that a reasonable
> definition of property allows theft the
> definition itself will not assure you
> control over the property, only power
> does that.
Correct. I have said as much myself. I only add that power alone does not justified property ownership in a civil context produce.
> So if what is important is what thoseReplyDelete
> in your community accept as just
> property aren't there many different,
> equally viable, schemes of property
> ownership? Do these schemes need to
> hashed out in advance or can they arise
I like these questions very much. Apriori, one can imagine there are many, different, equally viable "schemes" of property ownership. In practice, however, since there appear to be none of those that are known, or at least widely known, my guess is that this is not the case. When one recognizes that human society has been widely founded on the principle of human ownership of other humans (resulting in the situation in which the dominant paradigm is one of illegitimate ownership) it is not at all surprising that most everything we know of property ownership is illegitimate. Certainly Proudhon was not an idiot just because he only saw the illegitimacy and failed to see a path (and the benefits/necessity) of legitimate property ownership. So, rather than many paths, I think we should start with one. That would be a good start. But certainly I'm willing to entertain your suggestion of many possibilities. I just don't see them at the moment.
As far as how such a scheme can arise, my guess is that it needs to be hashed out beforehand. It hasn't arisen organically, so far. On the other hand, when it is hashed out beforehand and agreed upon, then it can be considered to have arisen organically (I suppose).
This can all be compared to the principles I've mentioned above, for example the principle of self-determination. It can be said that self-determination didn't arise organically (or it can be said that it did). In any case, Adam Smith (and others) thought about it, and realized that there was no necessity for the rulers to determine the vocations of their subjects. The subjects could figure that out on their own (and the consequent result would be much better for everyone involved---at least that was the perception).
Despite O'bama's community service army and federal funding of STEM and such absurdities, we don't have a commissioned Baker for the Republic. For the most part people can bake what they want for whoever they want...though I guess you better bake a wedding cake for certain privileged classes.
So, is the non-aggression principle "organic?"
It's been great fun boys. I'm afraid I must run before my dress is ripped. I leave you with a few last comments.ReplyDelete
First for bionic mosquito: I really appreciate the opportunity to participate in your comments section. I view it as a great shortcoming of lewrockwell.com that feedback is all but eliminated. I think, sometimes, the authors there could use some feedback. (Actually, I have a draft of an article to send in, and maybe Lew will post it.)
Second, please note, as one of your readers has pointed out, Rothbard and Hoppe didn't think it was an exercise of no value to try to provide a basis for property rights. They wrote extensively on the topic. Maybe they have already provided the answer to my question, for it can't be said that the current system is really built on their ideas either. Having said that, the answer(s) they have provided are unacceptable to me, and therefore impractical for me as an individual. I also think they are incorrect and impractical in general. I think a correct answer (at least one) comes from a totally different direction. The economists made a crucial error and missed it. Hint: Mises used to speak derisively of the "farmers scratching the ground."
Finally, my dear UnhappyConservative, I was thinking about your comment
> Actually if we consider the king to be the
> sovereign of a given property, then yes, only
> baking approved by the king would be just.
You really should try some enlightenment thinking on for size. It would look good on you.