Sunday, July 13, 2003

Property Rights

Tangling with libertarians is occasionally amusing, but usually annoying and frequently infuriating.

However, like the urge to constantly tongue a sore tooth, the urge to listen to them and occasionally argue with them is a powerful instinct of mine, for reasons that are quite beyond my ability to explain.

And so, in response to a minor side-discussion in the comments section for a D2-inspired post over at DeLong's site about whether property is a natural right (as in, something that you have unless it is taken away from you, such as life or free speech) or something granted to you by the government, I sat back and thought for a few minutes, and came up with my own tentative answer.

It seems that the entire concept of "property" cannot exist without government, because without some sort of official body that has the ability to recognize and help enforce your claim to a certain plot of land, property is nothing more than that bit of land that you are physically capable of preventing others from trespassing upon, which would render any claim to a certain piece of land dependent upon your presence within or in close proximity to that piece of land. "Ownership" of land, in that case, would be impossible; the nearest equivelent would be temporary control of a piece of land, a control that would be invalidated whenever you left that land without leaving behind someone to protect it in your absence.

I'm trying to decide how much this can be extended beyond land ownership to ownership of other things (food, tools, donkeys, etc.). As I now need to immediately run an errand, I will have to discuss that a bit later.

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