Monday, January 21, 2013
Property rights are core to our way of life, or so we've been told. It's a fundamental reality that we have to accept, and we are rewarded quite well for it. Of course, there have been a few times with my philosophy ramblings that people have responded with "Are you even sure property exists?" And I've always responded with "yea, duh."
Well... maybe not.
I have property. You have property. We can trade that property with each other, or with other people. It works fine for all the people and property you magically add to the system. It's completely consistent with the abstract concept of currency. Things seem to get flaky when you try to claim property though. To start, a definition of property rights.
A monopoly of access to an idea or an object.
Traditionally in the west, I believe we have solved property claiming with homesteading. You own yourself and your labour. You mix your labour with unclaimed property and suddenly you own it. So property rights become:
A monopoly of access to an idea or object because of labour involved with the harvesting, collecting, or manipulation of the object or idea.
But then the contradictions fracture. What happens when someone else also mixes their labour in, with or without your permission? What if it was a joint project? What happens when you abandon it? How long do you have to abandon it? How does it persist through death? Suddenly, our definition of property rights looks more like this:
A monopoly of access to an idea or object because of labour involved with the harvesting, collecting, or manipulation of the object or idea, within a set time frame, that you have not abandoned, and where your labour is greater than any other persons.
And suddenly we have variables: when does the time frame start, when does it end, what constitutes abandonment, and what unit are we measuring labour in? Property is no longer universal, but has variables that someone has to set. And if you set those variables to infinitely small volumes, or the authority of any other person to set those variables -- property goes *POOF*.
Don't get me wrong, I think property rights are amazingly progressive, and possibly required for modern society to sustain itself. But I think property rights are an illusion, and thus violation of them is no longer a morally-charged act. It's neither moral, nor immoral.
I think this has ramifications to ownership of self even, and pretty well everything else. Did I miss a step in here, or over-reach an assumption somewhere? And here I thought shedding Statism was a whole different world... eep.