Property is theft – there is no private property

Property is theft – there is no private property

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The Refutation

Many who share this position are probably unaware that they are advocating for slavery and violence. That’s right. Slavery! How so you wonder? That natural problem of your own body comes into play when challenging private property rights. Who has a better claim – a right and title – to your own body besides you? Nobody. You have the best claim to your own body, and therefore you own it and have the natural right to decide how it is used. Self ownership is the fundamental basis of private property. To take the position that others do not have the best claim to their own bodies is to advocate slavery.

Anyone who suggests that they have a better claim to control the body of another is subjecting others to involuntary servitude, which is the very definition of slavery. Here is the dictionary.com definition of slavery:

Slavery, bondage, servitude refer to involuntary subjection to another or others. Slavery emphasizes the idea of complete ownership and control by a master: to be sold into slavery.

It is interesting to note that Wikipedia actually has an incorrect definition of slavery in the first sentence of the article. It says (emphasis added):

Slavery is, the strictest sense of the term, any system in which principles of property law are applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals, as a de jure form of property.

No – slavery is the ignoring of the principles of property law and perverting them by attempting to make people into the property of others. Any application of private property law (i.e ownership of others) is a violation of the principle of self ownership and goes against the very basis for private property. Therefore, it is not possible to apply the principles of private property to people. Such a statement is self contradictory, and shows a lack of understanding of what private property is. The way the Wikipedia article is worded, it’s as if the principles of property law and self ownership are in conflict. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the natural right to self ownership that creates the principles of private property and forms the basis of natural law.


Further Reading

One of my favorite essays on the basis for private property and natural law is On Democracy, De-Civilization, and the Quest for a New Counterculture by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. I have pasted the first few paragraphs below, This introduction establishes a logical and moral basis for private private in just the first few sentences. A must read for anyone confused about private property.

Let me emphasize, that I consider these elementary insights argumentatively irrefutable and hence, a priori true.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe

On Democracy, De-Civilization, and the Quest for a New Counterculture

by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Because every action requires the employment of specific physical means – a body, standing room, external objects – a conflict between different actors must arise, whenever two actors try to use the same physical means for the attainment of different purposes. The source of conflict is always and invariably the same: the scarcity or rivalrous-ness of physical means. Two actors cannot at the same time use the same physical means – the same bodies, spaces and objects – for alternative purposes. If they try to do so, they must clash. Therefore, in order to avoid conflict or resolve it if it occurs, an action-able principle and criterion of justice or law is required, i.e., a principle regulating the just, lawful or “proper” vs. the unjust, unlawful or “improper” use and control (ownership) of scarce physical means.

Logically, what is required to avoid all conflict is clear: It is only necessary that every good be always and at all times owned privately, i.e., controlled exclusively by some specified individual (or individual partnership or association), and that it be always recognizable which good is owned and by whom, and which is not or by someone else. The plans and purposes of various profit-seeking actor-entrepreneurs may then be as different as can be, and yet no conflict will arise so long as their respective actions involve only and exclusively the use of their own, private property.

Yet how can this state of affairs: the complete and unambiguously clear privatization of all goods, be practically accomplished? How can physical things become private property in the first place; and how can conflict be avoided in these initial acts of privatization?

A single – praxeo-logical – solution to this problem exists and has been essentially known to mankind since its beginnings – even if it has only been slowly and gradually elaborated and logically re-constructed. To avoid conflict from the start, it is necessary that private property be founded through acts of original appropriation. Property must be established through acts (instead of mere words, decrees or declarations), because only through actions, taking place in time and space, can an objective – inter-subjectively ascertainable – link be established between a particular person and a particular thing. And only the first appropriator of a previously un-appropriated thing can acquire this thing as his property without conflict. For, by definition, as the first appropriator he cannot have run into conflict with anyone in appropriating the good in question, as everyone else appeared on the scene only later.

This importantly implies that while every person is the exclusive owner of his own physical body as his primary means of action, no person can ever be the owner of any other person’s body. For we can use another person’s body only indirectly, i.e., in using our directly appropriated and controlled own body first. Thus, direct appropriation temporally and logically precedes indirect appropriation; and accordingly, any non-consensual use of another person’s body is an unjust mis-appropriation of something already directly appropriated by someone else.

All just (lawful) property, then, goes back directly or indirectly, through a chain of mutually beneficial – and thus conflict-free – property-title transfers, to prior and ultimately original appropriators and acts of appropriation. Mutatis mutandis, all claims to and uses made of things by a person who had neither appropriated or previously produced these things, nor acquired them through a conflict-free exchange from some previous owner, are unjust (unlawful).

Let me emphasize, that I consider these elementary insights argumentatively irrefutable and hence, a priori true. If you want to live in peace with other persons – and you demonstrate that you wish to do so by engaging in argumentation with them! -, then only one solution exists: you must have private (exclusive) property in all things scarce and suitable as means (or goods) in the pursuit of human ends (goals); and private property in such things must be founded in acts of original appropriation – the recognizable em-bordering or enclosure of scarce resources – or else in the voluntary transfer of such property from a prior to a later owner.

We can say, then, that these rules express and explicate the “natural law.” “Natural,” given the uniquely human goal of peaceful interaction; and “natural,” because these laws are “given” and merely discovered as such by man. That is, they are emphatically not laws that are made-up, contrived or decreed. In fact, all man-made (rather than discovered or found) law, i.e., all legis-lation, is not law at all, but a perversion of law: orders, commands or prescriptions that do not lead to peace, but to conflict, and hence are dysfunctional of the very purpose of laws.

Continue reading the rest of the essay here.

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