Libertarians Misunderstand Property

From Critiques Of Libertarianism
Jump to: navigation, search

Libertarians routinely assume modern property is natural, is absolute, is costless, should extend over all, and solves all problems. None of that is true.

Modern, liberal property (the right) is a human creation: it is not natural. Simpler forms of "property" are primordial, mere temporary holdings (liberties), probably dating to combat over precambrian mates, food sources, and nest sites. The Hohfeldian point about liberties is how weak they are: anybody can interfere in them any way they want. If you have the liberty to hold something, anybody can take it away if they want. That's not a property right. When libertarians babble about animals and children understanding property, they are actually describing holdings: those same animals and children understand yielding the holding to the bigger animal or kid.

Libertarian philosophers pretend that modern property predates government, when government creates modern property rights. Nozick does this, for example.

How is property given? By restraining liberty; that is, by taking it away so far as necessary for the purpose. How is your house made yours? By debarring every one else from the liberty of entering it without your leave. Jeremy Bentham, "Anarchical Fallacies"

Enforcement is ultimately backed by the state, else it is backed by warlordism, feudalism, or anarchy.

There is no just acquisition of property. There is only legitimated acquisition of property.

No form of property is universal: it varies widely from culture to culture, and often within cultures. Water rights are different between East and West in the USA, tideline ownership varies between Eastern US states.

see "bundle of rights" in wikipedia, to see how the sphere resembles a swiss cheese. As we'd expect if there is an optimizing goal.

               "The bundle of rights theory is commonly used in US first-year
               law school property classes to explain how a property can
               simultaneously be "owned" in some sense by multiple parties.
               For example, a husband and wife can be owners (technically,
               title owners) of real property that is also encumbered by a
               mortgage and a mechanics lien. Their neighbor may have an
               easement for a utility line, and a license for entry and exit
               to a nearby plot of land. Planes have the right to fly through
               their airspace. Constitutionally, the state and federal
               governments always hold the right to condemnation, also called
               eminent domain, and the government at multiple levels retains
               various regulatory rights such as environmental regulation,
               zoning, and building codes."

water rights and tideline law show different ideas of "natural" rights

Social concepts such as property require coercion either to enforce

           adherence or to expel active opponents.

Exclusive posession is created and maintained only by violent coercion or its threat. It is this dogmatic insistance by libertarians that there is no flip side of the coin that allows them to beg the question of what kinds of property are moral in favor of their absolutist notion.

Mitchell Halberstadt Thu 23 Jan '97 (12:54 PM) My logic isn't an Orwellian "freedom is slavery" formulation; propertarianism is. It demands that all humans define themselves most fundamentally as Owners -- or ELSE! In such a world, all others are "trumped." THAT is what's "totalitarian" about the propertarian notion of "freedom." (Remember, the prime rationale for slavery in America was "property rights" -- as was the prime rationale for genocide and land theft over American Indians. The point is NOT that the "losers'" property rights were violated; they "lost" because they weren't conceiving of themselves as "owners," and were "trumped" by those who did. And -- adding ironic salt to the wound -- the force used in domination was not "coercion" by propertarian standards: it was the protection [or advancement] of property rights. [Anyone remember Lester Maddox's rationale, by the way?])

Even individual wealth is a government construct: without coercive protection, nobody would be able to accumulate much wealth, and all would be much more equal (albeit very much poorer.) In general, libertarians want to overlook government action and (their term) coercion when it supports their preferences, and condemn it for others.

Bodies are NEVER property (let alone absolute property) in any culture except in slavery.

You can’t get to libertarian absolute property through any prevailing normative theories in philosophy. The institution of property is inconsistent with voluntarism, negative liberty, the non-aggression principle, desert, and utility (it demands transfers.)