Arkadi

private owneship of land and natural resources

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p.s.

Imagine, this house is big enough, so every member of the family has their "own" room, so they have their "privacy".

But the room is their "own" NOT in the sense of private property.

They cannot rent it, e.g.

What does having one's "own" room and "privacy" entail? Does it mean that no one else can enter the room whenever they see fit?

If there is any exclusivity -- if anyone under any circumstances has the right to possess, alter, improve, consume or dispose of any resource, while excluding others from it in any way -- then what you have is private property ownership.

J

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Jonathan--

In my view, private property ownership necessarily implies the right to sell and rent without any other person's consent. If a consent is needed, the ownership is not private but collective. There is no such right in the situation that I described. I thus fail to see how one can possibly call it "private ownership."

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p.s.

Imagine, this house is big enough, so every member of the family has their "own" room, so they have their "privacy".

But the room is their "own" NOT in the sense of private property.

They cannot rent it, e.g.

Whose name is on the deed? Every member of the family? Is there a contract specifying the terms you've described? Doesn't really matter, though, since it isn't a valid example of collective ownership. Even if there are 10 people on the deed, the house is still privately owned by those 10 people, and they're bound externally by whatever real estate laws govern home ownership. Internally, they are bound by whatever agreements they've made among themselves, hopefully in writing.

Unless, of course, we're talking about a typical family unit - parent(s) and child(ren)? In which case, it isn't likely the children have any legal ownership of the house. At most, the house is owned by the parents jointly if it is a two-parent household. Again, they are bound by whatever laws govern home ownership.

Or are you thinking of the type of collective home ownership that one might see in a communist society? I'd argue that's not really collective ownership either, though, since the government for all intents and purposes actually controls who lives where and what they are allowed to do within their homes.

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"Even if there are 10 people on the deed, the house is still privately owned by those 10 people"--
This is matter of terminology, and I'm grateful for your correction. What I meant is that it is not privately owned by any single individual. This is relevant, since AR's ethical theory, as I understand it, is all about the individual.

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Jonathan--

In my view, private property ownership necessarily implies the right to sell and rent without any other person's consent. If a consent is needed, the ownership is not private but collective. There is no such right in the situation that I described. I thus fail to see how one can possibly call it "private ownership."

Okay, so what types of property and resources can't be owned privately by individuals, and why? It seems quite arbitrary. I can privately own -- and rent, buy or sell -- rabbit meat that I've produced, or corn that I've raised, or hemp-canvas paintings that I've created, but I should not be allowed to individually own a room, or an entire house, or any land on which to put the house (or on which to grow corn or raise rabbits, or mine gold or gravel)?

Certain things can be owned, bought and sold, but certain other things can't? Based on what? Is it an issue of size or something? What's the standard? Bigger than a breadbox, or a fridge, or a car?

J

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A tentative suggestion: I can privately own (in the indicated sense) only what I produced or bought from a rightful owner.

Producing here should be taken in a broad sense: a caught rabbit is "produced" as caught.

But this does not apply to tilled land, as a tilled layer is relatively thin and inseparable from the earth beneath it.

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Is there any objectivist refutation of the following reasoning:

(1) The Earth and its resources seem to have been originally the collective property of all inhabitants of the planet. (2) There seems to be no way in which the original owner could have consented to transfer those resources (partially) into private possession. (3) A transfer of property made without a consent of its owner is stealing. (4) If something is stolen from a rightful owner and offered for sale, the one who knowingly buys it and makes his property, is a participant in the stealing.=> (5) Private possession of natural resources is stealing.

Thanks.

"All property is theft!"

"OK, from whom was it stolen then?"

"Why, from The People, of course!"

"So whom did ~they~ steal it from?"

" ... "

(And anyway who is this "The People"?)

I think your initial error is "the collective ~property~ of all inhabitants of the planet". That people have always inhabited some portions of land, is one thing - but that we must today accept that it was their "property", looks like a Stolen Concept fallacy.

Until some European thinkers developed the concept of ownership by the individual - "property" - the fruits of his mind, values, volition and efforts - most peoples had little personal ownership. What little they had subservient to and dependent upon the authority of tribe, chieftains, monarchs, etc. and liable to be dispossessed arbitrarily by those, or by invaders from the next valley, another tribe or the next country. By force in other words.

"Without property rights, no other rights are possible".(AR)

Go back far enough, and it's a sure bet every one of us had ancestors who were 'dispossessed' of something by some means or another. It's ridiculous, for example, that one of us should today lay a claim against Norway for losses sustained on his forebears by Viking attacks. Or try to reclaim an ancestral dwelling, on which now stands a skyscraper or a University. One can either live rationally and selfishly in the present or mystically tie one's life to land lived on by unknown forefathers of no concern to one.

The firm line of ownership had to be drawn somewhere and sometime, once individual rights were established in civilised societies.

The complicating factor is that it was very often the Crown or the State which had expropriated lands which indigenous people generally or loosely inhabited. So on a context by context basis, some conclusive reparations to descendants of certain groups may be considered by present governments, as it has been by some.

But the primary principle holds true. Property, individualism and rights are fairly recent concepts which can't be reverse-applied to peoples who didn't conceive of or practise them.

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If initially the earth did not belong to anybody but, at some point, parts of it became private property, what are the moral grounds on which one could possibly justify such a partition?

Should we say that the earth was initially "for grabs," and whoever was the first to grab any part of it became the "rightful" owner of whatever he or she grabbed?

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You "grab" it, anybody else can grab it from you. But certainly, in very early days who was there to negotiate with for ownership of some land, who's law and agreement was forever binding? One tribal chief or another, but always changing and therefore subjective, in the absence of objective property rights. So even unpopulated, taken land had to be defended personally from random attack.

Civilisation has been a process, not a single event or point. Beginning with (at least implicit recognition of) the concepts of individualism, freedom, property, negotiation and voluntary trade - came the rights and laws.

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The question, then, is whether we can validly judge that initial "grabbing" morally.

If all ethics is contextual, then we cannot; for in that context there was no morality as we understand it now.

But to be consistent, we, then, should judge even our contemporary phenomena only by our conventional contemporary moral standards.

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The question, then, is whether we can validly judge that initial "grabbing" morally.

If all ethics is contextual, then we cannot; for in that context there was no morality as we understand it now.

But to be consistent, we, then, should judge even our contemporary phenomena only by our conventional contemporary moral standards.

And which "contemporary moral standards" are you thinking of?

Self-sacrificial?

Should "we" carry guilt for the past sacrificial immorality and past injustices?

Perhaps you'd like to make amends for history, but it was what it was and can't be changed. However, there is a rational moral standard together with individual rights, which would, if practised widely, forestall past human sacrifices and self-sacrifice in future.

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No-no, I did not mean "making amends for history," nor a "self-sacrificial" morality.

What troubles me is the concept of "natural rights".

Does it have any grounds in reality?

I do not see "nature" as such giving anybody any "rights."

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Should we say that the earth was initially "for grabs," and whoever was the first to grab any part of it became the "rightful" owner of whatever he or she grabbed?

Arkadi,

That's basically correct. A more friendly manner of saying this is "staking a claim."

But it's a bit more complicated when talking about humans.

Once you stake a claim, you have to defend it from other humans. If you can't defend it, others will eventually take it from you. Don't forget, in Objectivism, man is defined as a "rational animal." Staking a claim starts way down in the genus, in the animal part. It is a habit more and more prominent in higher mammals. Think, for example, of certain mammals in the wild marking territorial boundaries with urine. (I could go on in this vein, but that starts getting outside the scope of the point.)

As we evolved a conceptual faculty, we built on that. We didn't just get a blast of revealed wisdom that property is a law of nature that governs all things like gravity.

Anyway, the concept of property also includes defense of that property. That makes the concept of property a social concern, not a metaphysical one like you are trying to do.

Here are the five branches of philosophy (with one added--human nature--that Rand did not use, but you will find it on an old ARI site page).

Metaphysics

Epistemology

Human Nature

Ethics

Politics

Aesthetics

You are treating property as a metaphysical concept (land always belongs to someone or land always belongs to a collective). Property ownership only has meaning in a society. And that puts it squarely in "Politics."

Apropos, here is the skinny on the ARI inclusion. I think the first time I discussed this was in 2006 in this post. However, when you now go to the ARI link in that post, you get a 301 redirect to a brand new page where human nature is no longer given as a branch of philosophy.

We also had a later thread on OL showing how Peikoff strongly implied it: The Sixth Branch of Philosophy.

But for the sake of completeness, here is a Wayback Machine link showing that in 2012, ARI still had the page up. If you go there, notice that the exact term "branch of philosophy" is not used, but, going from the Rand example they gave, that is what is meant.

Michael

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Michael--
"Property ownership only has meaning in a society. And that puts it squarely in "Politics.""--
I totally agree!
I was treating property as a metaphysical concept only as part of my thinking through the possible implications of the concept of "natural rights."
But if you agree that the latter concept is bs, we are on the same page.

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No-no, I did not mean "making amends for history," nor a "self-sacrificial" morality.

What troubles me is the concept of "natural rights".

Does it have any grounds in reality?

I do not see "nature" as such giving anybody any "rights."

Objectivism puts that instead as "the right to life" (a man's right to his own life, the fundamental right all others derive from).

I guess one could say that's pretty well grounded in reality ...

Objectively, a "right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context".

Therefore, man-made not a metaphysical given.

(Check out GH Smith's comprehensive writings on "natural rights" from the libertarian pov, in his Corner).

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How can a principle "sanction" anything?

What does "sanction" mean here?

Observation tells me that, as regards social reality, in different social contexts different rights are granted to an individual by the society.

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You are treating property as a metaphysical concept (land always belongs to someone or land always belongs to a collective). Property ownership only has meaning in a society. And that puts it squarely in "Politics."

Why can't some property be regarded as unowned, like the North Pole and South Pole are? Arkadi, John Locke famously argued that a person can acquire ownership of unowned property by "mixing one's labor with it" (link). It seems to me that politics enters when there is a dispute about ownership.

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Why can't some property be regarded as unowned...

Merlin,

I hold that on a metaphysical level, the entire earth is unowned. It merely exists.

As to a political level, I agree that some places like the poles are just fine unowned. But if a country (existing or new) suddenly claims them and can defend that claim, they will be owned.

And their defense will have the oldest foundation--moral or otherwise--in the world: "Just try to take it from me."

:)

Michael

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How can a principle "sanction" anything?

What does "sanction" mean here?

Observation tells me that, as regards social reality, in different social contexts different rights are granted to an individual by the society.

You talking to me?

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Merlin--

I know that JLocke claimed precisely what you said but I fail to see an argument that would support such claim.

I could just as well claim that a person can acquire ownership of an unowned property by urinating around it.

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Merlin--

I know that JLocke claimed precisely what you said but I fail to see an argument that would support such claim.

I could just as well claim that a person can acquire ownership of an unowned property by urinating around it.

I gave you Locke's argument. If you don't buy it, I can't force you.

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whYNOT--

Yes, that was addressed to you; my apologies for failing to indicate it.

And I would add:

In what sense does life need any "sanction" to exist (as the locution "right to live" implies)?

Plants live without any sanction, don't they?

How does human life differ in this respect.

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Merlin--

Sorry, I saw only the claim that whoever mixes one's labor with unowned property becomes its owner.

But why is this true? Where is the argument?

Also, I fail to see how your question about somebody urinating around my property is relevant.

My property is, by definition, not "unowned."

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whYNOT--

Yes, that was addressed to you; my apologies for failing to indicate it.

And I would add:

In what sense does life need any "sanction" to exist (as the locution "right to live" implies)?

Plants live without any sanction, don't they?

How does human life differ in this respect.

Arkadi,

Accurately, it is "Right to life" (not, right "to live" which it presupposes) with all that this entails about life.

A right "is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context".

So not merely a "sanction to exist", a sanction to ACT ... as he chooses, specifically amongst others in society.

This is an abstract principle, never 'conferred' or 'allowed' by society or government (or 'Nature', except as man's metaphysical nature) and it rests on the concepts of individual life, value, and that a man's mind is his only tool for survival and thriving. His subsequent actions - "self-sustaining and self-generating" - then cannot be curtailed by anyone, nor should he supply (or be supplied with) others' needs (or others' gains). The "sanction" is what he gives himself (and others), to be simple. Government's sole task should be to protect that right.

One has to be careful I think to differentiate between "a moral principle" (i.e. a principle with a moral foundation) and "a morality".

Otherwise there's resulting confusion between ethics and individual rights, I've found.

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whYNOT--
"The "sanction" is what he gives himself (and others)"--
But why cannot I act without giving myself a "sanction" to act?
As for my giving "sanction" to others, it is strictly equivalent to my following the NIOF principle.
I thus fail to see why would one possibly need, besides NIOF principle, an idea of "right" here?

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