The Basis of Absolute Property Rights

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  1. profile image0
    Sooner28posted 5 years ago

    Libertarians either claim we have an "absolute" right to private property (if they are of the anarchist variety), or that we nearly have one (those who believe the government should only fund military, police, and courts to protect private property).  Thus, coercive taxes are a violation of this human right.

    However, they generally don't give an adequate basis for these absolute private property rights (at least in my opinion).  Most of the time, they root them in "natural law."  There are different types of this, but the one I am focusing on here isn't the divine portion (since that presupposes a belief in God).  Natural law "is to reject a subjectivism about the good, holding that what makes it true that something is good is not that it stands in some relation to desire but rather that it is somehow perfective or completing of a being, where what is perfective or completing of a being depends on that being's nature" ("The Natural Law Tradition in Ethics").  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/natural-law-ethics/

    This is what libertarians, and our founders, often (not always) use to ground the validity of absolute property rights.  However, and this objection applies to all ethical systems based on natural law, a questioner can still ask why natural law is morally binding?  Assuming we have a clear definition of property rights (taken in the commonsensical view), what is the justification for this right in the absolute, or nearly absolute, sense?  There isn't a prima facie case that a "perfected or complete human being" necessarily need absolute property rights.  In other words, there is a need of further argument to compliment this version of natural law. 

    One cannot appeal to common sentiments or common sense, for that would be begging the question in favor of absolute property rights and committing a fallacious appeal to the majority. 

    In responses, I ask that you either tell me I have mischaracterized the situation, or that you do have an adequate justification for near absolute property rights that I just haven't encountered yet.

    PLEASE do not beg the question and cite the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence, for I can simply ask: Why should I believe these documents, and then one will be forced to provide further justification.

    As a disclaimer, I am in no way saying the Constitution is necessarily wrong.  I am simply arguing that in debates, there is usually insufficient justification for an absolute, or near absolute, version of property rights, for the reasons above.

    1. Josak profile image60
      Josakposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      Quite simply there is no objective or absolute right to personal property, I don't think it even fits into natural law, many people place the idea of right in the basis of what was respected by humanity throughout our history, but the truth is throughout history property was usually communal.

      We use it because we believe it has the best results (or rather we use it within reason), we don't follow it absolutely because the result is inferior so obviously we don't consider it an absolute right and neither did the founding fathers since they approved of taxation.

      Ultimately ethics have to be pragmatic and practical, absolute private property was neither so it was discarded, or rather in truth it was never accepted. There are very few true anarchists and no one else can claim to believe in absolute private property.

  2. profile image0
    JaxsonRaineposted 5 years ago

    There is no such thing as natural law. There is no such thing as natural, objective morality.

    The closest you could get to a natural law is that the strongest make the rules. Societies agree on foundations, like the constitution, and use that as an axiomatic basis for everything else. If a society can't agree on a foundation, then generally it leads to fighting which leads to the strongest winning.

    If anyone ever claims that their morals are objectively 'natural', ask them to prove it. They won't be able to. It's impossible.

    1. profile image0
      Sooner28posted 5 years agoin reply to this

      Interesting choice.  My intuition is with you on this.

    2. peoplepower73 profile image94
      peoplepower73posted 5 years agoin reply to this

      However, the strongest is a relative term.  Survival is actually based on how well a system or organism is able to adapt to change. In my humble opinion.

    3. innersmiff profile image71
      innersmiffposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      What you are claiming then, Jaxson, is that your view on property right as it is is basically just for the giggle. There has to be some logical framework for your view - this is where my view of absolute property right comes from.

      You, as well as I, understand that housing cannot be a right seeing as it requires others to provide it. There is no consistent way to apply it, therefore it cannot be a right.

  3. innersmiff profile image71
    innersmiffposted 5 years ago

    Because any other way make absolutely no sense. To argue that we only have a little bit of property right begs the question: at what line do we draw? Any line has to be completely arbitrary. To argue that we have none at all is to argue for a primitivist society.

    I think rights are natural in that logic is natural. 1 + 1 always makes 2, even if 1 + 1 doesn't physically exist in real life. If you can claim a right with no contradictions, then society is correct to enforce it.

    1. profile image0
      Sooner28posted 5 years agoin reply to this

      I don't know why it would have to be completely arbitrary, but that's not what the point of this thread is.  The same questioning could be applied to a socialist or communist about the basis of HER beliefs.

      I just wanted to use something a lot of people can identify with.  What is the justification for ANY property right?

      1. innersmiff profile image71
        innersmiffposted 5 years agoin reply to this

        Okay, basically, if we start off with the assumption that we own ourselves, it follows that we must own what is the product of ourselves: things that could not have existed before without our labour.

        There are only two other options:
        1. Some people have right over property whereas others have not, to different degrees.
        2. Everyone owns everything/no person holds private property.

        1 is what we're living under now, and is completely arbitrary. There is no way to justify the right of some individuals holding greater right over property than others, i.e. the right to tax, spy on, murder, etc, because what makes them superior human beings to others?

        2 is completely impractical. There are two sides to property: ownership and responsibility. Number 2 would dictate that we are all equally responsible for every atom on the planet. Practicality dictates that some people with certain skills will be in the best position to take responsibility for certain things, but can each only claim 1/7 billionth of them. Society would revert to a private property system immediately.

        1. profile image0
          Sooner28posted 5 years agoin reply to this

          "Okay, basically, if we start off with the assumption that we own ourselves, it follows that we must own what is the product of ourselves: things that could not have existed before without our labour.

          Nothing existed without labor!  I agree.  Labor is the beginning of everything.  But the "owners" are not involved in the actual labor of producing anything.  I think this complicates your story a little bit.  Even if we grant in some sense that the executives of corporations are involved in "mixing their labor," the person doing the most mixing of their labor with the soil, in the Lockean sense, are the day wage laborers.  They built the machines that are used to make the goods and services, and technicians designed the machines.  I'm not sure what the executives do in this process.

          "1 is what we're living under now, and is completely arbitrary. There is no way to justify the right of some individuals holding greater right over property than others, i.e. the right to tax, spy on, murder, etc, because what makes them superior human beings to others?"

          This sounds like an argument against government, and I agree in some sense.  But in my ideal anarchist society, there is no hunger or exploitation by people who happen to be more powerful (I am the employer, and I have 200 employees applying, all who must eat, so I have the option of treating them, to a certain extent, pretty poorly.  This is even more true in third world countries).  Everyone can work together, and people can mix and match occupations, instead of staying in one.  I'd still be okay with some private property, such as a house, clothing, etc.  But the big items, like manufacturing plants, would be owned by all.  People would be free to leave this arrangement though, if they so desired, without penalty.

          I don't think communal ownership should be understood in such a literal way.  Like I mentioned above, the ownership is mostly over the "means of production."  The only way to institute this is either violence or persuasion.  Violence isn't a long-lasting way to convince anyone of anything.  So, I'd just have to present my case to the court of public opinion and hope to win.

          But all of this is null.  Because now all I must ask is: why assume we own ourselves?

          1. innersmiff profile image71
            innersmiffposted 5 years agoin reply to this

            This entrepreneur, let's call him Bob, has homesteaded the land using his own labour. Bob decides that he doesn't have the time to grow wheat so must hire people to cultivate it. People then voluntarily agree to come on to his land to do it in exchange for pay. As it is his property he can declare anything he wants on the contract. Bob is the individual who put in the labour to stead the land has sole responsibility for the land the wheat is grown on and therefore has absolute right to what happens on it. If the workers took Bob's wheat, that would be a violation of contract and therefore would be aggressing against him.

            If you consider this wrong, I would like some clarification: are the workers in this scenario entitled to the wheat even if it was explicitly stated in the contract that the wheat produced is owned by Bob? If so, they you are advocating for violence. If not, then you are advocating property rights!

            I would say to the workers that if they wanted the right to the wheat then they need to put up the resources to stead a piece of land and grow it themselves. Otherwise, there would be little incentive for entrepreneurs to go to the great effort of doing it if they'll not get any return. Result: no wheat.

            I'm not one to doubt that a commune could come together, grow some wheat and share it amongst themselves (like you would advocate, presumably) but this is still operating under a voluntary contract, and by extension, property rights.

            I'd also like to know whether you'd be allowed to keep the product of a chilli tree if you happen to plant one in your house (this is what I'm talking about when I say 'arbitrary lines').

            We own ourselves because any other state is a contradiction. "Everyone owns everyone" is a paradox, and "some people own others" is slavery, and we know the lines people draw in defence of slavery are arbitrary.

        2. Josak profile image60
          Josakposted 5 years agoin reply to this

          "Practicality dictates that some people with certain skills will be in the best position to take responsibility for certain things, but can each only claim 1/7 billionth of them. Society would revert to a private property system immediately."

          Rubbish.

          For most of human history in most of the world things were owned communally by those who lived near them, some of the greatest societies in human history grew and flourished under such a system.

          "Theft is only punished because it violates the right of property; but this right is itself nothing in origin but theft."

          Or  more simply as the original anarchist put it:
          "Property is theft."

          There is no rational argument to the idea that people who were placed or evolved onto a planet should have rights to travel on and cultivate only a small part of it. Therefore we must simply come to the conclusion that private property is not an ideal or a value but simply a system proposed by those whom it suited or appealed to (largely those whom it suited).

          1. innersmiff profile image71
            innersmiffposted 5 years agoin reply to this

            If we're talking about enforceable rights, communism, or 'no private property' is completely unenforceable. Naturally, some people will use some things more than others, therefore depriving the equal use of those things to other people. It doesn't make sense. Even in communal societies, some people have things that others are not allowed to have.

            In all societies, to various extents, people have had their own homes, beds, equipment, clothes . . . and declared right over them because only they have had a hand in sourcing the materials and creating them, and they suit their own particular capabilities, needs and wants. Trade came about on the assumption that people had their own things, and through the division of labour and trade came civilisation.

            Private property is not some arbitrary rule created by aristocrats but a natural way of living.

  4. profile image0
    James E.posted 5 years ago

    An idea crossed my mind as I read the political-philosophical dung being slung.  First, you basically request that all naysayers to your point need not comment when you write "PLEASE do not beg the question and cite the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence, for I can simply ask: Why should I believe these documents, and then one will be forced to provide further justification."

    Now, forgive me, but a debate requires a bit of background knowledge to develop a point; demanding a piece of evidence in which you, Sir, presume to be not worth citing is contradictory to the fact that you would be able to openly and fairly cite something from "The Natural Law Tradition in Ethics".  Explained in summary under 1.4 Paradigmatic and nonparadigmatic natural law theories subject header is the 2nd paradigmatic natural law that says: - it is naturally authoritative over all human beings.

    A link I found in which I am not a member in the forum could be helpful for you ( http://www.law-forums.org/absolute-prop … 71481.html ). 

    It might be required to think outside the micro-economic level to understand the greedy principle and in fairness, one that, in the right situation, pending your conference meeting skills could benefit you if your in a career field to gain such a perk, but I do believe that when the Industrial Revolution was in swing, so was this idea of who is going to internationally make this, who will assemble that, who will "rake the bottom of the money jar" in certain corners of the world when it comes to a raw resource.  Ultimately, this created a "shit-ton" of what made nations, businesses, governments, banks...etc. grow.....INFLATION!

    Ethics, law, and shear research will never answer this question for you because psychologically, throughout history, we forget if the world started with a few interpretations and perspectives of all that surrounds us and the intelligence we were beginning to understand.  Those who realize that international collective strategy approaches across a period of thousands of years now has to compete with so many perspectives and interpretations that for something to be "natural" it must be absolute or possessing unlimited power.

    The threat for the "macro-nomic" is the "micro-nomic".  Imagine these two as comic book characters.  Notice how the analogy has much to make you believe something is completely natural (immersing yourself into a comic book), Organizations over many centuries have had private board room wars between the micro-nomics vs macro-nomics.

    The reason micro-nomic's lose: macro-nomics owned it first, devloped it, harvested backroom "slimming from the top" for generations, for two and half centuries before we all became "contemporary and civilized".  Macro-nomic's strategy over the last 60yrs has adapted, global satellite, up to the second reporting can be thanked to who is winning the "War on Absolute Property Rights" .


    Our natural rights are a convoluted mess.  The very idea of "What is natural?" depending on cultural or ethical background can also differ.  Sir, you ask hundred of nations to determine the natural or absolute of anything and it will always be a lie.  With time, everything natural decays, tenure of decay internationally since World War II is clear if you look careful enough.  Big Business is still flopping on the deck like a half-lived fish...thank previous generations, with all the wisdom in the world in their corner, they may have relied more heavily on Kant and Locke rather gentlemen like Paine, Emerson (mid-1800's), and Franklin.

    The problem again with "natural" law is that nature design laws for a planet to sustain a certain capacity.  What is not natural and absolute surrounds you!  And as much as they may have set up a secret, behind the current government to follow absolute property rights to the tee or if it is something that has followed as a working and fair (for some), approach to life, is out of the hands of us individuals...that is why what should be natural is "buying" into the Corporate Autocratic Concept.

    I live my life with the theory that surround any good Poker session.  "Even when you lose, you still win as long as your one step closer to understanding."  Maybe my perspective led you somewhere to do that.  Hope that helped.

  5. profile image0
    James E.posted 5 years ago

    ...for the record I am being sarcastic about "buying in" to Corporations; have you seen the movie "Blade Runner"? tongue

  6. Karre profile image84
    Karreposted 5 years ago

    There is a lot of discussion on private property, natural law, etc., but what came to mind when I read this was the purpose it was used in the American system. Madison believed that one way to quell factions (groups that would hurt others for own personal gain) was to create a middle class. In order to create a middle class, the idea was that everyone would have the ability to own personal property. This gave them a stake in national interests and allowed for more equality and more say in the govt. The thing we really need to consider is what to do about the declining middle class...that's the scary thought.

    1. profile image0
      Sooner28posted 5 years agoin reply to this

      It only worked for a little while!

      1. Karre profile image84
        Karreposted 5 years agoin reply to this

        lol, yep. I tend to think people gave up those rights.

 
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