Why should I respect your property rights? - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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Classical liberalism. The individual before the state, non-interventionist, free-market based society.
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#14353500
I have a pretty fundamental question about libertarian conception of property rights, and as such, this is mostly directed at libertarians and an-caps. Let's remove government entirely from this equation and pretend we live in an ancap society. Put simply, I understand why I should respect people's personal property, that is- the land they personally live on, their shelter, their tools, etc. Even if you have a factory which you personally oversaw the construction of and manage, I can consider that personal property. But when we get any more distant than that, why should I respect your property rights? Why should I respect your claim to land that you have never stepped foot on, especially if it isn't being used? Why should I respect your stake in a corporation which you have never worked for, don't even fully understand, and bought from a mutual fund? Why should I respect your contracts with people who have no power over me whatsoever? Why should I respect Donald Trump's real estate empire and not, for instance, move into one of his vacant apartments in Trump Tower which he has never even stepped foot in? If there was no government enforcing contracts and private property, and I had no property of my own, I see no logical reason why I should not just claim it as my own personal property.
#14353538
Why do I think I even have a claim to unused land I have never stepped foot on? This does not sound like a valid property claim and Libertarians do not support invalid property claims.

What is the difference between a thing that I have in my possession that I could use for personal consumption/use but equally you could use for production? Are you saying that:
1. I am not allowed to consume/use such an item?
and
2. That I cannot rent it out to you for a fee?

NB: Edited for clarity
Last edited by Voluntarism on 16 Jan 2014 05:52, edited 1 time in total.
#14353545
Property rights are more fuzzy and dependent on good social relations the further they are removed from use and occupancy I would say.

Ancaps usually treat what you might call "absentee private property" as being more of a solid extension of the self-ownership principle than it deserves to be.
#14353563
So we are not talking at cross purposes, can either of you please provide a solid example of what you mean by someone's claim to property rights over unused natural resources? We may actually agree on the same thing but people are confusing what is possible under the property claims that are currently made by states with what ancaps believe are actually valid property claims.
#14353854
In an uncap society, property rights are never arbitrary. They can always be traced back to either:
1. A homesteading event, i.e. an incorporation of previously-unused natural resources into a peaceful project in a manner that reasonably requires exclusive access and control
2. A voluntary transfer (whether one-sided, i.e. gift, or as part of a trade) of title from one legitimate owner to another.

The reason you should respect property rights (when defined as above) is that as a descent person, you don't believe in using force against other (peaceful) people or their ongoing projects.

You also realise that the stability and prosperity of society depends on such respect.

Finally, effective, if decentralised institutions will make sure you do, or pay for your aggression.
#14353947
And why does the first person to stumble onto a piece of property deserve to become its soverign dictator (aka. owner)? What if joe shmofinds a piece of land that has rare earth minerals under it and doesn't want to let anyone mine them? A reasonable society would probably force him to get out of the way or be mowed down to get at the minerals. Even a socierty with no government would be happy to trample on some loser's property rights if it benefits the bottom line.
#14353995
Brother of Karl wrote:And why does the first person to stumble onto a piece of property deserve to become its soverign dictator (aka. owner)?

Okay stop right there. Such a person does not have a valid property claim under Libertarian views on property rights. You are misunderstanding what is currently possible under current property rights legislation in some countries (or what you imagine is possible) and what the Libertarian view is. A valid property claim does not entail standing on a mountain and saying "all that I can see is mine".

Also can you please try to respond to my earlier questions as I feel they are important in responding to your opening post? I'll rephrase them slightly for you:

If I have in my possession an item that I could use for personal consumption/use (including putting the thing in a cupboard for 5 years) but equally you could use for production:
1. Am I allowed to have such an item if I want to put it into a cupboard or do I need to give it to the person who wants to use it now?
and
2. Can I rent it out to you for a fee?
#14354027
BoK wrote:Why should I respect your stake in a corporation which you have never worked for, don't even fully understand, and bought from a mutual fund?


Presumably someone who has the wealth to buy a business has done something useful with some other means and has bought the stake with that wealth. If you don't think this is just, you're basically saying that a guy is unable to sell the factory or shop he developed which seems odd. The purchase passes the rights on to the purchaser.

also mutual funds as far as i know don't really sell real property or businesses like this

Although, this is more interesting:

BoK wrote:If there was no government enforcing contracts and private property, and I had no property of my own, I see no logical reason why I should not just claim it as my own personal property.


To be honest, I see no logical reason why any property, public, communal, or private ought to be respected. Out of pure logic anyway.

Appeals to decency are appeals to whatever biases people have to begin with.

And in reality, any political system only functions because you can actually convince people to abide by it, which doesn't come down to philosophical questions but just the raw, basic question of, "Can I get these other people to agree?" And that's kind of why pragmatic, utilitarian philosophies work, because they cohere better with how reality actually works out.
#14354082
Eran wrote:The reason you should respect property rights (when defined as above) is that as a descent person, you don't believe in using force against other (peaceful) people or their ongoing projects.

Empirically false. I am a decent person, BoK is probably a decent person (by common societal standards of what we call decency), and we both believe in using this "force" against peaceful people to coerce them into following certain policies. You want to redefine "decent" to suit your ideological agenda and use it for an argument by equivocation. "You are evil if you disagree" is not much of an argument.

Also, it's a circular argument. BoK was asking for a reason, and you're basically saying "let's assume that you already believe...".

Eran wrote:You also realise that the stability and prosperity of society depends on such respect.

False. I don't, BoK doesn't. I think the opposite: that an anarchy is a much more unstable state than having a strong government.

Even if we did think that, we're not aiming for the abstract prosperity of society in general, but we are very biased towards the prosperity of ourselves and our friends, just like everybody else.

Eran wrote:Finally, effective, if decentralised institutions will make sure you do, or pay for your aggression.

Empirically false. Decentralized fighters lose against united armies. That's why the world is dominated by the US Army with a national command hierarchy rather than "decentralized institutions". There are good game-theoretical reasons for this outcome.

Wishful thinking over and over again. Useless for actually doing any politics.
#14354092
Dagoth Ur wrote:Centralized, motivated, armies cannot be beaten by voluntary home-owner associations.

Perhaps. But motivated and armed citizens protecting their homes can be a formidable force. Probably enough to dissuade you from attempting to take their property.

All revolutions pit unorganised citizens against well-organised governments and their armies. Some fail, many succeed.


Brother of Karl wrote:And why does the first person to stumble onto a piece of property deserve to become its soverign dictator (aka. owner)? What if joe shmofinds a piece of land that has rare earth minerals under it and doesn't want to let anyone mine them? A reasonable society would probably force him to get out of the way or be mowed down to get at the minerals. Even a socierty with no government would be happy to trample on some loser's property rights if it benefits the bottom line.

In practice, lucky and lucrative finds are rare and inconsequential. Most wealth requires a lot of hard work, risk-taking and time. During the California Gold-Rush, for example, there may have been a handful of early miners who struck it rich easy. But most had to work hard for the gold they found, and the ones who supplied the miners did best of all.

A reasonable society wouldn't have mechanisms whereby force may be used merely to "benefit the bottom line" because once such mechanisms are in place, there is no way of preventing them from being abused by people in power.

A reasonable society recognises the huge value of secure property rights in encouraging people to invest, explore, create and produce, thereby making society much wealthier than through expropriating the occasional wealthy person and thereby killing the goose that lays golden eggs.

The Immortal Goon wrote:No, see everyone will agree that this is mean, so long as we build a society where everyone is encouraged to get as much money and as many resources as possible.

How doesn't this make sense?

If what you want is physical possessions produced by others, the only way to get them in a reasonable society is by producing something that those others want, and exchanging what you want for what you produced.

However, if you don't need or value physical possessions as much, you are welcome to work less, produce less, and spend your time as you like to.

Doesn't that make sense?

lucky wrote:I am a decent person, BoK is probably a decent person (by common societal standards of what we call decency), and we both believe in using this "force" against peaceful people to coerce them into following certain policies. You want to redefine "decent" to suit your ideological agenda and use it for an argument by equivocation.

Most descent people (not libertarians)., and under most circumstances, do not believe people have the right to initiate force against others. Our society has a huge blind spot when it comes to governments. But in everyday life, we usually frown upon such aggression.

False. I don't, BoK doesn't. Even if we did, we're not aiming for the abstract prosperity of society in general, but we are very biased towards the prosperity of ourselves and our friends, just like everybody else.

Fair enough. But then we shouldn't stop at property rights. Why not rape and assault anybody you fancy? Why have any moral considerations whatever? Obviously, I am not talking to sociopaths who lack any moral feelings. And Brother of Karl isn't one of them. He wrote:
Put simply, I understand why I should respect people's personal property, that is- the land they personally live on, their shelter, their tools, etc.

So with the Brother, I do have something to work with, namely his own declared moral sentiments with regard to tangible personal property owned and used by individuals in ways that he can "touch" and comprehend.

Property arrangements in a complex society are, not surprisingly, complex. But they can and ought to be rooted in the same intuitive values that made the Brother make the statement above.

lucky wrote:Empirically false. Decentralized fighters lose against united armies. That's why the world is dominated by the US Army with a national command hierarchy rather than unorganized angry dudes running around.

Wishful thinking over and over again. Useless for actually doing any politics.

You are confusing the question of the Brother's personal pondering regarding respect for private property, and the question of national defence. The mighty US Government, despite spending trillions, has not managed to stop crime. When it comes to certain classes of crime, such as drug-related, it hasn't even made a dent.

In fact, most crime-fighting in the US is conducted in a highly decentralised fashion, with each state, city and county having their own police force.
#14354097
Eran wrote:Most descent people (not libertarians)., and under most circumstances, do not believe people have the right to initiate force against others. Our society has a huge blind spot when it comes to governments. But in everyday life, we usually frown upon such aggression.

I pay taxes in my everyday life and don't particularly "frown upon" them.

I would reorder your statement: most people do not believe in initiating force under most circumstances. They believe there is time and place for it. It's not a "blind spot". They deliberately evaluate desirability of certain actions depending on context, rather than doing over-broad simplistic generalizations.

Most people don't approve of performing sexual acts in most circumstances. Doesn't mean they have a "blind spot" if they approve of sex in certain contexts. In both cases, they make the distinction quite deliberately, rather than "blindly".

It's just a ridiculous semantic argument. I'd say that on the contrary, it's you who is trying to apply a rule "blindly".

Eran wrote:But then we shouldn't stop at property rights. Why not rape and assault anybody you fancy?

Excuse me, I don't particularly fancy raping or assaulting anybody. If you do, then it's up to you to evaluate your options and make the choice.
#14354103
Eran wrote:If what you want is physical possessions produced by others, the only way to get them in a reasonable society is by producing something that those others want, and exchanging what you want for what you produced.


But we were talking about land, which nobody produced. So, again, the libertarian covers his absurd fantasy land by completely ignoring the issue and talking about something else.
#14354111
The Immortal Goon wrote:But we were talking about land, which nobody produced. So, again, the libertarian covers his absurd fantasy land by completely ignoring the issue and talking about something else.

Eran has already answered this a couple of times of the past couple of days.

Eran wrote:If I find an uninhabited corner of the world, and peacefully start making a living there, I have engaged in a peaceful project...

A resource becomes my property in the relevant sense if (and only if) it has been incorporated into my peaceful projects in such a way that reasonably requires exclusive access and control. Not because of some government decree. Then (and only then) would libertarians protect that property right.

Eran wrote:In an ancap society, property rights are never arbitrary. They can always be traced back to either:
1. A homesteading event, i.e. an incorporation of previously-unused natural resources into a peaceful project in a manner that reasonably requires exclusive access and control
2. A voluntary transfer (whether one-sided, i.e. gift, or as part of a trade) of title from one legitimate owner to another.

Voluntarism wrote:The initial valid claim is a result of you mixing your labour with it. The ongoing claim to property is similar albeit with a time dimension regarding when a reasonable person can expect that an old claim has become abandoned. The legal definition of such a time dimension can of course differ between cultures (and assets).

The implication is that it is not enough for a new explorer to simply claim that an entire region and all of its resources are their's now and forever by declaration, but in natural fact they can only claim the parts that they settle and actively work. As long as no other person appears in the region, then the explorer can claim whatever they want but it is so much empty verbiage and fantasy, with no foundation in natural fact. Should a newcomer appear on the scene, and begin to transform unused land elsewhere in the region, then any enforcement of the explorer's invalid claim would constitute criminal aggression against the newcomer and invasion of the latter's property rights.
:
I refer people again to the Robert LeFevre book I referenced about a week ago (and repeat the warning about it's file size being ~7.5Mb).

NB: Posts have been edited very slightly for grammar/spelling.
#14354249
The homesteading scenarios are invalid as per the the op. The second scenario Eran gives and Voluntarism's scenario represent the crux of the issue.

1. Donald Trump is not living in one of his towers. He does not work there. May the employees seize it as their own?

2. The title or deed that Eran refers to is a piece of paper. If Trump owned land where he was going to build a mansion later, but some people began homesteading on it before he had an popery unity to begin building, would the right of the homesteader working the land or Trump rightfully own the land?

3. It is admitted that the, "reasonable amount of time," is going to be completely different for each person and culture. How would this be resolved?

4. 99% of human history has not recognized private land as something one can own. If even a small amount of people refused to acknowledge private property, say natives deciding to live traditionally (nomadic with no improvements to the land) in what was Yellowstone Park (which has actually been proposed); should this happen and Trump buys a bunch of former Yellowstone in order to build More box stores, could he forcibly remove the natives? Would the sentence be death for those refusing to acknowledge the deeds and homesteading rights of Donald Trump paving over Yellowstone Park? This is, after all, the judgement the free market dictate happen when capitalism came into contact with natives without any government to mediate the first time around.
#14354286
lucky wrote:most people do not believe in initiating force under most circumstances. They believe there is time and place for it. It's not a "blind spot". They deliberately evaluate desirability of certain actions depending on context, rather than doing over-broad simplistic generalisations.

If only. Most people do not consider context except for one narrow question, namely whether the initiation of force is done by a Government agent or not. Private initiation of force is virtually never considered legitimate. Government initiation of force, on the other hand, is blessed as legitimate with virtually no regard to its wisdom, morality or consequences. There are some, societally-dependent exceptions to that rule, but in practice, almost anything goes.

So no, most people do not consider circumstances or context. They apply a very simplistic rule that legitimises Government agents but noone else.

The Immortal Goon:

Reading your comments, Goon, I feel like libertarian property right theory must be very confusing. On the one hand, libertarians talk about "property" in ways that sound very much like existing laws. That makes it natural to assume that libertarians want and expect current arrangement of property titles to remain unchanged.

That is not the case.

Donald Trump, for example, benefited greatly and over many years from a cozy relationship with various government bodies who granted him very valuable favours by way of planning permissions, eminent domain confiscations, etc.

In your second point, you ask "If Trump owned land where he was going to build a mansion later,...". How did Trump come to own the land? In today's society, the most likely answer is that he bought it at the end of a chain of transfers that started with an arbitrary grant of land title by the US government (or perhaps one of the Colonial governments). Such grants have never been just, and libertarians don't expect them to be respected.

This is particularly true if, as in your scenario, other people have (legitimately, even if technically illegally) started homesteading the land themselves. The land then should be theirs, not Trump's.

Alternatively, he could have bought the land in an already-improved state. In that case, those other people haven't "homesteaded" the land. They made changes to land that was already homesteaded previously. They had no right to do so.

In other words, a piece of land cannot be homesteaded twice (unless it was abandoned). It is either already used, improved, homesteaded and legitimately owned, or it hasn't been used, improved or homesteaded, in which case it isn't legitimately owned by anybody (yet), and is available to the first person who chooses to homestead it.
#14354295
Eran wrote:Donald Trump, for example, benefited greatly and over many years from a cozy relationship with various government bodies who granted him very valuable favours by way of planning permissions, eminent domain confiscations, etc.


This, again, has nothing to do with the idea that tomorrow everything goes to an-cap.

At the very least, you fail to address what would happen to everything Trump (or anyone else) owns should tomorrow everything go an-cap.

Eran wrote:In your second point, you ask "If Trump owned land where he was going to build a mansion later,...". How did Trump come to own the land? In today's society, the most likely answer is that he bought it at the end of a chain of transfers that started with an arbitrary grant of land title by the US government (or perhaps one of the Colonial governments). Such grants have never been just, and libertarians don't expect them to be respected.


So it would initially start as a complete free-for-all? Who would enforce two people coming to the same bit of land at the same time? What would happen if two people claimed different property that overlapped? What if you claimed property with a river and your man upstream built a dam?

Eran wrote: his is particularly true if, as in your scenario, other people have (legitimately, even if technically illegally) started homesteading the land themselves. The land then should be theirs, not Trump's.


So in twenty years into an-cap, it would still be impossible to hold land that you later hoped to build upon, say, while you were getting supplies someone could come over and take it from you? What level of homesteading matters? If children built a fort, does that make the land their own? If you chopped down a tree, do you own an acre? Five acres? Ten? What if two people were using the land for wood for their homes and someone else moved in and started to build a house? What if that was land someone nearby was using to graze upon but didn't technically modify himself? If someone mines in Alaska in the summer and rests elsewhere in the winter, is the land abandoned the day after he leaves? The week? The month? These are all disputes that happen every single day as it currently stands and will sometimes turn to violence even with a monopoly of violence only being sanctioned by the state. How would an-cap deal with these property disputes? Execution for whomever draws slowest?

Finally, I have seen nothing to address the issue of people that choose to reject the premise of owning property in the first place. Traditionally un-regulated capitalism processes their women and children through rape and converts the entire population into piles of bodies. Is this still the punishment for refusing to acknowledge the premise of private property in an-cap, or is there another solution that will be tried?
#14354361
Eran wrote:If only. Most people do not consider context except for one narrow question, namely whether the initiation of force is done by a Government agent or not.

Nonsense. It doesn't matter who collects the taxes. Anybody can easily become a government agent. Government agents change from year to year. If IRS was a private contractor, it would make no difference whatsoever, nobody would particularly care.

What matters is the context: not who does it, but how he does it. In particular, it's the rule of law that is essential, not who the agent is. The context is that tax rules are first legislated by a democratically elected congress, the money goes into public funds, taxes apply non-discriminately, are subject to judicial review, etc. The rule of law.

You are completely wrong about the cause of the distinction. For example, if a government agent came over to a random person in an evening at a bus stop and said "give me your money and your cell phone or I will stab you with this knife", people would be just as upset as if he was not a government agent. Or probably, even more upset.

In your ridiculous cartoonish picture of the world they would presumably say "Is this guy a government agent? Yep cool, no problem, that's his job".
#14354382
The Immortal Goon wrote:So it would initially start as a complete free-for-all? Who would enforce two people coming to the same bit of land at the same time? What would happen if two people claimed different property that overlapped? What if you claimed property with a river and your man upstream built a dam?

These are excellent questions that cannot be answered abstractly. In practice, countless pre-state societies found solutions to these problems.

Again, disputes will arise under any system. The key for keeping society functioning peacefully is not to avoid disputes, but rather to find peaceful means for resolving them. The libertarian answer is to apply to objective arbitrators (ideally by mutual agreement) to resolve such disputes.

The NAP isn't a magic formula that allows a computer to resolve every legal question. Rather, it is an over-arching guide to human arbitrators to base their decisions on.


In practice, btw, there is rarely a free-for-all grab. At any moment, society and the economy are near equilibrium. That means that most of the economically-viable natural resources have been claimed. As technology progresses, new resources become economically viable. That doesn't happen suddenly. Rather, they first become marginally-viable, of interest only to those willing to take the risk and invest the effort required. In early Colonial days, the American heartland was "free for all" (ignoring Native Americans for the moment). Yet you didn't see millions of people head West. Heading West was dangerous and difficult, and only a hand-full of people did so.

Today, the moon is free for all. But very few people go there - it is far too expensive and risky. One day (I hope), it will become economically viable to exploit the moon's resources. But that won't happen all at once. You won't see a scramble for the moon (even assuming the world's governments stay out).


So in twenty years into an-cap, it would still be impossible to hold land that you later hoped to build upon, say, while you were getting supplies someone could come over and take it from you? What level of homesteading matters? If children built a fort, does that make the land their own? If you chopped down a tree, do you own an acre? Five acres? Ten? What if two people were using the land for wood for their homes and someone else moved in and started to build a house? What if that was land someone nearby was using to graze upon but didn't technically modify himself? If someone mines in Alaska in the summer and rests elsewhere in the winter, is the land abandoned the day after he leaves? The week? The month? These are all disputes that happen every single day as it currently stands and will sometimes turn to violence even with a monopoly of violence only being sanctioned by the state. How would an-cap deal with these property disputes? Execution for whomever draws slowest?

No. An an-cap society would expect such disputes to be resolved peacefully, by an appeal to arbitrators who will be guided by the NAP and local community standards. As mentioned before, countless communities have developed mechanisms, rules and institutions to address precisely such questions.

The closest thing to a "free-for-all" rush outside government rules is the California Gold Rush. On this, Wikipedia:
Miners worked at a claim only long enough to determine its potential. If a claim was deemed as low-value—as most were—miners would abandon the site in search for a better one. In the case where a claim was abandoned or not worked upon, other miners would "claim-jump" the land. "Claim-jumping" meant that a miner began work on a previously claimed site. Disputes were sometimes handled personally and violently, and were sometimes addressed by groups of prospectors acting as arbitrators.

So rules were adopted and adjusted, and arbitrators consulted (though not invariably).

Finally, I have seen nothing to address the issue of people that choose to reject the premise of owning property in the first place. Traditionally un-regulated capitalism processes their women and children through rape and converts the entire population into piles of bodies. Is this still the punishment for refusing to acknowledge the premise of private property in an-cap, or is there another solution that will be tried?

I address the question of interaction between property-owning society and nomadic people who do not recognise ownership in land, specifically in the context of Colonial America.

Libertarians recognise the rights of nomadic people (I know of no agricultural society without the concept of private property in land) to use the land on which they dwell. The advantage of the formulation of the NAP that I am advocating is that it doesn't assume property. Rather, property becomes a derivative or conclusion of the NAP under particular circumstances, circumstances that may not apply to land under nomadic use, for example.

lucky wrote:It doesn't matter who collects the taxes. Anybody can easily become a government agent. Government agents change from year to year. If IRS was a private contractor, it would make no difference whatsoever, nobody would particularly care.

But only government has the right to levy taxes, and authorise their collection. You cannot have a group of neighbours decide to "tax" their neighbours, regardless of how worthy their use of funds is. Sure - government can delegate its authority in any number of ways, but it is only under government authority that initiation of force is ever considered legitimate.

The rule of law.

The "rule of law" merely means that government has to go through a few (and fewer and fewer) rituals before enforcing its will on the people. IT has no substantive meaning whatsoever - it is a pure formality. And, in recent years, even that formality is often done away with (NSA, Obama's Recess Appointments, No-knock drug busts, etc.)

Substantively, rule by government means the precise opposite of the rule of law. The rule of law suggests that every member in society is subject to the same, stable law. But under government, government agents (including politicians, members of the armed forces, police, regulators, etc, etc.) do not obey the same law as the rest of us. They are privileged. Further, creating law through legislation means that the law is no longer stable and predictable. Especially when the real law comes not from legislators, so much as from regulators.

For example, if a government agent came over to a random person in an evening at a bus stop and said "give me your money and your cell phone or I will stab you with this knife", people would be just as upset as if he was not a government agent. Or probably, even more upset.

Of course. So government agents are ever-so-slightly more sophisticated. But Civil Seizures amount to almost the same thing. Let me make myself clear - not everything government agents do is considered legitimate, but (almost) everything they do that passes formal legal scrutiny, regardless of how harmful, stupid, corrupt or immoral, is considered legitimate (even if not wise).

Conversely, private individuals and groups may never, under any circumstances, legitimately initiate force in our society. Never. So there is no discriminating consideration of circumstances. Rather, there is huge deference to government agents acting in accordance to certain formal rules, and (correctly) none to private people.

In your ridiculous cartoonish picture of the world they would presumably say "Is this guy a government agent? Yep cool, no problem, that's his job".

Almost. How often are police officers abusing their power? How many of them are punished? On the other hand, when people try to defend themselves against police brutality (even if they had no way of knowing that the brutality comes from a police officer), they are severely punished.

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