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So the whole positive/negative rights dichotomy--never quite liked it myself--is one of the major themes present in libertarianism and Objectivism. It exists in the wider field of political science, but it's not raised much as an issue. Most people, even if they're political junkies, probably haven't heard of it. "Positive rights" are the prevailing problem libertarians and O'ists face, as you know, because it involves, as they see it, expansion of government power. Negative right: A duty imposed on others to refrain from acting. Positive right: A duty imposed on others to act. A "right to food" is a "positive right". A "right to life" is a "negative right". The "right to food" requires others act to provide someone with food...or does it? The reason I ask this is because there are certain commands in the Bible that in effect say "under certain conditions, this stuff that you think belongs to you actually belongs to the worse off". Note that I'm not endorsing this, merely pointing out what I think is a potentially serious problem. An example of stuff that might belong to the poor: the scraps from a crop harvest. In this case, this isn't necessarily a "positive right". Because these scraps would belong to the poor, it means that these scraps are their property, and therefore there is a negative right in them. I think that the implications of this are that looking at this situation in terms of negative rights versus positive rights mistakes the point. Any thoughts on this?
Original property is newly invented or newly discovered. It had no previous owner. In fact, it did not exist – or its existence was not perceived – until the original inventor created it or the original discoverer found it. How do we recognize such property? What rights does the inventor or discoverer hold? Are some or all of those those objective, absolute, or conditional? A sailor finds an uninhabited island. Can she claim the whole thing for herself? An astronaut lands on an asteroid, a moon, or a planet. Can she claim the whole thing for herself? A physicist discovers a new form of energy. Can she claim it all for herself? A radio hacker finds that 1100 KHz AM is owned by a broadcast company, can she use a chopper to parcel out nanoscopic slices of the wavelength for herself, given that her presence will never be detected and her presence will never interfere with their existing use of the wavelength? It could be argued that the 1100 KHz frequency already belongs to someone. However, the property is actually the amplitude modulated (AM) use of that frequency. In theory, frequency modulated (FM) and phase modulated broadcasts are both possible on 1100 KHz without interference. They are just not technologically useful today. This is not new. (Actually, the property status is limited in space, as well. That, too, is a different problem, caused by a misperception of the potentials in technology. One of the nice features of 550 to 176 meter wavelengths is the way the waves bounce off the ionosphere. That was discovered as a by-product, entertaining teenagers who listened to far-away stations. It could have been commercially exploited.) Thomas Edison was a telegraph hacker. He figured out how to multiplex and quadriplex messages on the same wire. Granted that the wire was someone’s property, it could, nonetheless have been leased out to different people using different blocks of time-passage on the same wire. Also, in theory, it could have evolved that the telegraph wires would have been the broadcast source for what we call radio. When a direct current circuit is closed and opened, a magnetic field is created and collapsed. That is an alternating field. That field could have been used to transmit information, as in fact, the “ether” was used by actual radio (initially called “wireless”). So, you could have paid the telegraph company its tariff for sending messages, but have no concern for the literal transmission but been sending “open” and “close” signals to create a carrier wave for transmissions of your own. Who would have owned that ether? Lasers can carry messages. It could have come that a network of lasers made of ruby crystals doped with chromium and pumped by xenon flash would have been a continental system, point to point, with relays and amplifiers every 20 miles or so. Then, someone with a YAG (yttrium aluminum garnet) laser could have a network whose beams crossed those in space but without interference because the beams are of different frequencies. Thus, no violation of property rights would have occurred. Original property brings a special challenge to the law because no previous legislation anticipated it. Ayn Rand attempted to delineate the proper role of government in her essay "Property Status of the Airwaves." Twenty years later, the Electronic Frontier Foundation was created to bring law and order to cyberspace. Rand did not stray far from the mainstream. Her essay never questioned the Federal Communications Commission - though she excoriated it in other writings - or the law that created it with power to rule by decree. The EFF has been fighting a war of attrition while bunkered within the First Amendment. The next new invention will leave them to defend an old technology without new ideas. I believe that rather than looking to legislation or administration, these problems are best settled in courts. The English system of justice works because of what American conservative complain about as "judicial activism." The other way is the Continental theory of "civil law" in which the legislature spells out the law in detail and the courts only enforce it. In other words, in the English system, the court fits the law to the case, making case law, whereas in the Continental system, the court fits the case to the law. (In American today, the courts do both. The court of original jurisdiction applies the law. Appellate courts test the law.) The English system is better at protecting individual rights because those are the implicit foundation for judging the law and for making new rulings that create precedents.
I regret very much the proliferation of legal threads (mostly my doing) that have little relevance to Objectivism. Philosophy of law was a blank page in Rand's work, said to be an elaboration of ethics. Maybe what we should be discussing is whether she articulated a coherent theory of ethics? I like the virtue of selfishness, so that's not an issue for me, and I regard "evil requires the sanction of victim" as a profound achievement. But it's fairly clear that Rand and many of her most faithful acolytes (myself included) had miserable lives. It gives me the heebie-jeebies to think of Peikoff as an example of Objectivist living.
Before my foray into this forum, property was never a topic that was on my mind's radar except only tangentially when discussing/pondering certain subjects (i.e., proprietary versus open source software, corporate republics, roads, etc.). In my mind different law dealt with different things to meet new issues (i.e., aviation, cyberspace, actual space, etc.) and property was just a mundane topic in the background that these things may or may not have touched upon. Animals were animals, money was money, taxes were taxes, construction law was construction law, and so on. It's not too hard to imagine, then, that I would have trouble with the "propertarian" mindset. I still do and I still reject most of it, but it's an intriguing approach. This thread is meant to be a follow up of my previous one on rights so I can touch base on this subject. George has previously ellicited that "property" came from "proper to" and I think this POV does well to alleviate some of the reflexive "ick" factor over the "propertarian" approach. "Property" ain't the thing but it's the title. "Ownership" is a connection rather than possession. If you own it, then it's mostly exclusive to you. It conveys exclusionary rights. (Hmm. I wonder what could be counted as "inclusionary" rights? Voting, perhaps?) So, following from the above, we can (and do) apply this to plots of land, chattel, names, inventions, literary works, and so on. But what shouldn't we apply this to? One thing that comes to mind that we shouldn't "propertize" would be natural things (by that I mean things like genomes and embryonic lineages and not, say, the trees in your backyard). It also seems like knowledge and information should remain non-proprietary (database rights are actually a thing in the case of the latter). What else? Oceans and very large lakes (think Baikal or the Great Lakes), I suppose. (That doesn't mean you can't own beachfront property!) Now, the electromagnetic spectrum is dicier. You can't hold it and nothing gets damaged if someone else uses the band that's assigned to you. If you own a frequency, then you own it in a particular area except inside other people's buildings. Much like public roads, there are bands reserved for everyone to use called open access frequencies. These things probably shouldn't be assigned in perpetuity in that there'd need to be some kind of circumstances under which they'd qualify as abandoned. I think the current setup for domain names with ICANN, IANA, and other internet governance organizations works pretty well right now. Interestingly, there is thing called quasi-property. It's like property, but different. What could this possibly apply to? As it turns out, corpses fall into this category. Makes sense, I suppose. Dead bodies aren't living people, but they enjoy something of a sacred status in most Western societies. As far as I can tell, government is not really the antithesis of property, but is rather a necessity for it. Sure, you don't need specialized organizations for small trinkets, but the existence of ICANN, the USPTO, and town registers for real estate deeds make it clear that something like them is inevitable on the big scale. How these institutions all connect together is case dependent.