Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Nature Of Private Property

"If man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to no body, why will he part with his freedom? Why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and control of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property."

John Locke (1632 - 1704)

This is an individual who's thoughts and writings about freedom and natural law had a great influence on those who founded the United States, and on one Thomas Jefferson in particular who wrote the Declaration of Independence.

To wit - if an individual is, by a state of nature, master of property earned and owned, and finds the enjoyment of that property to be unsafe or insecure, that individual would reasonably seek out those of like mind and unite with them in the interest of preservation of that property.

So, then, what is property?

The word's origin is Latin, proprietas, from proprius, meaning 'one's own, special.'

From my Oxford dictionary, the definition of property, as it applies to the law, is "the right to possession, use or disposal of something; ownership."

Does it not follow, therefore, that the Founding Fathers, so influenced by such natural law as private property, would choose and develop an economic system that encourages capitalism, free enterprise and free markets?  If a legal framework that encourages moral and voluntary exchange is not integral to the system, the government they founded could not exist!

And if these masters of the ability to possess, use or dispose of their private property feel it unsafe or insecure, or are under the threat of having it more and more completely or forcefully removed, what does Locke suggest they would reasonably do?   


Interestingly, in my previous free enterprise quote, Ayn Rand suggests that the death knell of any nation would happen when one half of a population is expected to support the other half that feels entitled to that support.

That is the very premise of her book Atlas Shrugged.  In that book those with ownership of tangible, financial or intellectual property do separate and unite.

In order for this condition to be reached, property owners have to be identified by how much they possess. 

If income level so determines their identity, or income earned from PREVIOUSLY-ACQUIRED possession, any level is baseless.  No matter one's income, someone else will consider that "rich" by comparison!  And when an overlord determines the level of income that must be treated differently, no matter the level, it can only be ARBITRARY

Why?  For certainly, CERTAINLY, that level will encompass a great number of people whose income is LESS than than is earned by the overlords, and the overlords will justify ways, and find ways, and install ways around its application to them!  Whatever the overlords can and will do to benefit themselves will be "legal."  They will protect their property with the law!  And if those same things were to be done by the rest, well, that would be considered "illegal."  They, a separate class, would be punished by the law!

The phrase "four legs good, two legs bad" applies well!

Eventually that pinpointed income level will not provide enough for redistribution to the "entitled" or "dependent" class and redistribution will have to increase as the arbitrary, taxable, income level is lowered, and lowered, and then lowered again.

So, when do those whose earned property is so threatened that they do in fact seek to associate with others of like mind?


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