Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Private property is the foundation

Private property is the foundation

I have been recently seeing that some anarchists are rejecting the concept of "private property". While I think this is more "communist" than "anarchist", I also know that in a free society a person can live as they want as long as they don't force their values on anyone else. I have absolutely no problem with people forming little communist enclaves if that is what they want. However, I do have a real problem with the rejection of the idea of private property, as I think it renders "freedom" meaningless.

I suspect that the desire to ignore or reject private property comes from not having "enough" of it. In that case, I should reject it, as well, but I don't. I see the position as a "sour grapes" stance summarized as: "Since I don't have all I want, and I don't think that is fair, then I don't recognize 'private property' anymore and I can take what I need to survive." I could be seriously wrong, of course.

The rejection of private property has some interesting implications. If there is no such thing as private property, then there is no such thing as theft. It would just be a transfer of material with no ethical implications at all If there is no such thing as theft, then taxation isn't wrong. How would you even know if it was "taxation" or freelance "transfer of material" anyway? In either case, it isn't "the state" that is taking the money from you, it is an individual who, in the case of "taxation" is supposedly taking it for the benefit of the state. If you don't own the money, then why would you complain as long as the money is not used to finance coercion?

We can pretend there is a state which uses no coercion, has no enforcers, wages no wars, and doesn't forbid consensual behavior, but only uses the "tax" money to finance welfare programs to make everyone happy, housed, well-fed, and healthy. Under such an imaginary non-aggressive state, even a 100% tax-rate would be fine, since you would have no claim to that money since there is no such thing as property. Under such a scenario, how could you really claim to be an anarchist?

I think to embrace anarchy, you must necessarily recognize that private property lies at the foundation. Even if it means being dissatisfied with how much, or how little, property you have right now.

The right to yell 'FIRE!' in a theater

In almost any rant calculated to justify a government violation of some natural human right (especially those mentioned in the Bill of Rights), usually specifically the right to own and to carry weapons, someone will invariably bring up the old lie that “you can’t yell ‘FIRE!’ in a theater”.

Well, yes, you can.

The tyranny-enabling statement gets it wrong on so many levels.

It is your absolute human right to do say whatever you want to say. It may not be wise, and in a free society you will be held accountable for any harm you cause by doing so, of course.

The actual statement asserts you have no right to FALSELY yell “FIRE!”, but almost everyone misses that distinction, either through ignorance or by design, and it is still wrong anyway.

Then there is the misunderstanding of where rights come from. I’ll give you a hint: they don’t come from government or any of its documents. The Bill of Rights doesn’t give us any rights at all. In fact, it doesn’t even apply to you or me at all unless we work for government. And for those to whom it does apply, its entire purpose is to stop them from violating the rights of others.

What the Bill of Rights DOES do is prohibit government from enacting “laws” that restrict (violate) certain rights (think of it as a “government shall not…” list). Since the First Amendment protects ALL speech from government regulation or control, it also protects the right to say things that can be destructive or stupid. That doesn’t mean doing so is right — it usually is not — but government can have no legitimate say in the matter. What government can do (if anything), or what a private arbitrator should do, after the fact, is hold the speaker accountable for any harm his act caused.

The best thing is that the Bill of Rights could be repealed tomorrow and it wouldn’t diminish anyone’s rights at all. It might make it slightly easier for government to get away with violating those rights by restricting liberty. Or not. We may get a chance to see.