Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ownership and state sovereignty

Here's an interesting exercise for you libertarian types. A chap called Charlie Tan has posted an interesting challenge over at a 'Compulsion Touters on Campus' post on The Philosophy of Liberty, in which he makes the argument that property rights are not absolute, and nor can they be absolute, and that, therefore,
[the world in which we live] turns out to be a very Libertarian one after all, not because each citizen should be free to do what they want, but because the state is free to set the rules that its sovereign or sovereign representatives decide is best.
Sounds like a recipe for statism to me.

Now, answering such a challenge properly is time-consuming, but should be bread and butter to an intelligent libertarian. Which intelligent libertarian reading this would like to engage Charlie's argument?

You can do so right here in the comments section of Not PC, at the 'ACT on Campus' blog where Charlie's responses were posted, or even on your own blog -- in the last two cases you might like to let me know if you do respond so I can link to the best responses here.

Get to work. (You may or may not find useful this post and the subsequent responses on the so-called 'problem of initial acquisition,' and this one on the roots of property and libertarianism, although reading them back now I'm not sure if they're as clear as I thought they were back when I first posted them a couple of years ago.)

LINKS: The philosophy of liberty - ACT on Campus
The ‘problem’ of initial acquisition - Peter Cresswell (June, 2005)
The Roots of Property and Libertarianism, or, Why libertarians don’t own their own bodies - Peter Cresswell (June, 2005)

RELATED: Libertarianism, Property Rights

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13 Comments:

Blogger libertyscott said...

The state is free to set the rules - when you have the monopoly of institutionalised legitimised violence - you can always do what you wish.

If individuals cannot act as they wish with their bodies and property, limited by respecting the same in others, it is not a libertarian world.

Government is an institution of violence, which can only be legitimate when it is acting in defence of those it represents. That defence is against outside attack or by citizens who attack fellow citizens.

1/30/2007 07:23:00 am  
Anonymous Caskman said...

"If individuals cannot act as they wish with their bodies and property, limited by respecting the same in others, it is not a libertarian world."

Sure, but isn't that the point that CT is making? That we should respect the property rights of the true 'owner' and abide by whatever rules they set? And additionally that the property owner has the right to defend their property against agression/tresspass by those breaking the rules? Whatever your feelings on govt may be, in the context of Tans argument the owner is legitimately setting and enforcing the rules under which we gain access to their property.

So I don't think the non-agression/property right axioms are in doubt here. The important point here (imo) is to discredit his claim that the state is the rightful owner of all property. The state may make that claim but unless that claim is legitimate then the supposed protection of the owner's (monarch's) property afforded by govt degenerates into the *initiation* of aggression that libertarians generally claim.

I find it highly dubious that any monarch, and it's agent of 'govt', could claim to have legitimately negotiated the ownership of the land from previously recognised rightful owners. To fail to do so renders their current ownership claim equally illegitimate.

1/30/2007 10:28:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

You didn't notice an element of concept-stealing going on?

Using the concept of ownership to rule out the concept of ownership?

1/30/2007 11:57:00 am  
Anonymous Kane Bunce said...

I have decided to write a reply essay. If any wants to read it it should be ready by the end of the week.

Scott, I concur.

Caskman, your argument is as flawed as CT's. But given the experience of your comments on my now closed blog I am not surprised. In fact I expected as much.

Government is not a rightful owner. They are an owner only by initiation of force. My essay will clarify this and other points made. DS's replies were a good start but he needed to say more and my essay will do just that.

I am reading her The Art of Non-Fiction (and Atlas Shrugged) so I am sure I will be able to do a good job of that. (Note: I also just finished Philosophy: Who Needs It (answer: everyone), but this isn't directly useful to my own writing beyond the usual help that reading gives writers, i.e., help with grammar and spelling).

Furthermore, those aren't axioms. The axioms (irreducible primaries) are (in order): Existence, Consciousness, and Identity). non-aggression and property rights are not axioms as they are not irreducible. They can be reduced to the our nature (identity) and existence.

You didn't notice an element of concept-stealing going on?

Using the concept of ownership to rule out the concept of ownership?


I noticed that. That is going to be much the point of my essay.

1/30/2007 12:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Caskman said...

PC:

"You didn't notice an element of concept-stealing going on?"
Yeah you could look at it that way and I can fully understand why. However wouldn't you agree that the concept of property rights are universal, not something that applies to one group and which another group can 'steal'. In other words property rights stand regardless of who the property owner is and whether I happen to think they are a good or a bad owner. The right of that owner to do with as they please with their property should apply equally, including setting the terms under which we may have access to (or use of) the property and using necessary non-aggressive force to protect against infringements of that agreement.

So *if* the monarch is the legitimate owner should they not enjoy the same property rights and freedom of association that are the right of any property owner?

"Using the concept of ownership to rule out the concept of ownership?"
I don't see that as being the case here since nobody is saying that property rights have been ruled out. Simply that you don't currently have those property rights so it's an argument about who the rightful property owner really is.

I think that's where the argument should be if libertarians are to have a strong response that isn't seen as contradictory of our own principles - in discrediting the state's claim to be the legitimate owner of all the property based on the fact that they didn't acquire the property legitimately. Once that is achieved then the state's claimed raison d'etre for it's predations vanishes into the illegitimacy where I believe it belongs.

Kane:

"Caskman, your argument is as flawed as CT's. "
Fair enough - but you haven't said why.


"Government is not a rightful owner."
I didn't say it was. I said that *in the context of CTs original scenario*, the govt was the agency of the supposed legitimate owner of the property and therefore able to police the rules that are agreed by whatever mechanism is authorised by the property owner. Whether that owner is legitimate or not is where I think the argument must lie if we are to suggest a reasonable response as PC suggested.
I don't think the current monarch has any legitimate claim in that respect btw since, as you say, the property was acquired by force.

1/30/2007 02:11:00 pm  
Blogger MikeE said...

Kane, while I agree with 99% of what you write - you really have to try harder not to sound like a randoid from the ARI in your writing.

It becomes a struggle to read, as it tends to read like a psuedo religious text.

Theres a difference between having your own opinion and quoting Rand for all your answers.

1/30/2007 04:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Mein Rant said...

MikeE - do you use Firefox? You could try installing the BunceBlock 0.0 extension.

1/30/2007 07:03:00 pm  
Anonymous Kane Bunce said...

Fair enough - but you haven't said why.

Just like Ct you unintentionally and unknowingly used the concept of private property as a destroyer of private property by not truly understanding it.

Kane, while I agree with 99% of what you write - you really have to try harder not to sound like a randoid from the ARI in your writing.

It becomes a struggle to read, as it tends to read like a psuedo religious text.

Theres a difference between having your own opinion and quoting Rand for all your answers.


If it sounded like Rand it was unintentional. I quoted no one. I used the words I thought best suited. If they were like Rand's or an ARI member (note: I am a member of the website service) it was by chance. I quoted no one.

1/31/2007 11:50:00 am  
Anonymous Caskman said...

"Just like Ct you unintentionally and unknowingly used the concept of private property as a destroyer of private property by not truly understanding it."

That explains nothing. Try again.

1/31/2007 01:02:00 pm  
Anonymous Kane Bunce said...

Just because you don't see the explanation doesn't mean it isn't there. And, no I am not going to explain it to you further. I know from experience that when I explain things to you and you don't get it once you never will.

1/31/2007 01:41:00 pm  
Anonymous Kane Bunce said...

If you really want an explanation then go to this post.

1/31/2007 01:56:00 pm  
Anonymous Caskman said...

"Just because you don't see the explanation doesn't mean it isn't there."
The intent of explanation is to communicate meaning. Your comment failed to do that. It is irrelevant whose fault that is. I simply asked that you clarify your point which you are refusing to do.

I still do not see where I have advocated destroying property by not understanding it. I have simply stated that *if* the property owner is legitimate then we have to abide by their rules on their property, which was the context put forward by Tan. If they are not legitimate then their supposed protection of their property rights by their 'govt' is illegitimate and constitutes aggressive force which does infringe property rights of others. I have also said that I don't believe Tan's scenario is legitimate, precisely because of the initial acquisition problem.

Perhaps, given the above, you can point out where you have a problem with what I've said?

1/31/2007 04:49:00 pm  
Anonymous Kane Bunce said...

Because in the historical context the government acquired land by force. It used to belong to individuals. This is a breach of property rights and Mr Tan claims that the government has a right to set laws on the land - which is stole by force. This is destructive and immoral.

2/05/2007 11:54:00 am  

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