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Saurabh

Private property rights in natural resources

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I assume that you intended to address the post to me (and not to Castle).
Oops! typo... fixed.

... I think that is a fair concern from you. But, please do not mix morality with practicality. Lets us first establish morality.
I only brought it up because you mentioned the specific example. The system of land-owning in India was a form of feudal tenure. It is true that feudal tenures would not be a moral way to set up society, given what we know about human beings today. However, neither is it moral to completely remove all existing property rights because many of them arose from feudal tenure.

How is my idea unsupported, illogical, and immoral? I provided the support right? If you disagree with my support, please provide the support for your refutation (based on deductive logic).
No, I do not see where you have provided the support for your notion that human creation is required as a starting point for a morally-justified right. It is simply false, unless one includes appropriation and usage within the meaning of "creation". Since you're excluding those, your contention is false. Human creation (used in your sense) is not required to derive rights morally, and you have not shown why it is required. Edited by softwareNerd

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No, I do not see where you have provided the support for your notion that human creation is required as a starting point for a morally-justified right...

Can you please tell me what you mean by 'Human creation'? I did not use this term in my assertion. Did you mean 'human action'?

Let me begin the debate from scratch. Below is my claim and its support.

Every man has an equal birth-right to a THING that exists in nature without any human action (e.g. uncultivated land, air, water, etc). This is because no one can claim more right that the other man for such a thing - because such a thing existed independent of any human action.

Whoever disagrees, may I request you to counter my argument (using deductive logic), and preferably (though not necessarily) in 3-4 lines.

Thanks!

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So, your statement is: Land has no value prior to human action

Exactly. If you have no use for the land, it is of no value to you. Value always presupposes an answer to the questions "to whom?" and "what for?".

My assertion: Land may have no VALUE prior to human action. But, there is always some COST (rent) that needs to be paid for its use (in today's world where land is scarce). The payment for this cost (rent) needs to go to the society, not to an individual.

Wrong. First, of course the use of property is associated with a cost, at the very least opportunity cost; but that cost is incurred only to the owner himself (see below). Second, if you wouldn't know what to do with the land if you owned it, you can't claim ownership of the land. The above principle applies. Remember, private property is basically the right to exclusive use of the land. If you have no use for the land at all, how can you claim exclusive use?

So, A must pay some rent to use the scarce resource. Since the rent arose due to scarcity, no one can claim more right on this part than others. Hence, everyone has equal right on this rent.

No. B's shortcomings are not a valid claim on A's life or property. It's not A's fault that B doesn't know what to do with a patch of land or figures it out too slowly. A does not owe any money to B because B is slow or inept. As Francisco D'Anconia said in his "money speech", money isn't made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools or by the able at the expense of the incompetent or by the ambitious at the expense of the lazy.

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Every man has an equal birth-right to a THING that exists in nature without any human action (e.g. uncultivated land, air, water, etc). This is because no one can claim more right that the other man for such a thing - because such a thing existed independent of any human action.

But what is a right? What is the source of rights?

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But what is a right? What is the source of rights?

Dear Brian,

I have already answered these two questions in my previous posts. Please let me know if you disagree, and why.

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Every man has an equal birth-right to a THING that exists in nature without any human action (e.g. uncultivated land, air, water, etc). This is because no one can claim more right that the other man for such a thing - because such a thing existed independent of any human action.
This claim is false because people may legitimately and morally claim a right to certain things upon which they have applied human action, including where that action is a certain type of appropriation. The existence of the thing prior to its appropriation and/or use by a human being has no relevance here. In other words, just because something once belonged to nobody, it does not follow that it belonged to somebody. Or, in other words, unowned things are unowned, not owned by all. Edited by softwareNerd

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Dear Brian,

I have already answered these two questions in my previous posts. Please let me know if you disagree, and why.

All I could find is that rights are a "moral/legal claim to a thing". You've just shifted the burden onto other words. What is a "claim" other than "the assertion of a right".

What is morality and how does it relate to rights? What is the source of rights? Without answers to these questions, your definition is arbitrary.

Edited by brian0918

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No. B's shortcomings are not a valid claim on A's life or property. It's not A's fault that B doesn't know what to do with a patch of land or figures it out too slowly. A does not owe any money to B because B is slow or inept. As Francisco D'Anconia said in his "money speech", money isn't made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools or by the able at the expense of the incompetent or by the ambitious at the expense of the lazy.

Randroid,

The problem is that A has to pay the rent to C (landlord). I am nowhere saying that A needs to pay rent to B. I used the A and B example to show how rents arise in an economy (as also explained by Ricardo).

My question is how can landlord claim rent as he did nothing to earn it?

I agree with you that: It's not A's fault that B doesn't know what to do with a patch of land or figures it out too slowly. A is more intelligent or enterprising and hence can bid higher than B for use of that land. But, he will need to pay some rent to C. I am against that rent going to C(landlord).

Edited by Saurabh

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I agree with you that: It's not A's fault that B doesn't know what to do with a patch of land or figures it out too slowly. A is more intelligent or enterprising and hence can bid higher (than :dough: for use of that land. But, he (or B) will need to pay some rent to C. I am against that rent going to C(landlord).

So then you should have no problem with "C"'s making use of the land through his control of it because he apparently figured out that it was worth something before both "A" and "B". the fact that he chose not to do the actual labour required does not mean that he is not making use of the qualities of that land.

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What is morality and how does it relate to rights? What is the source of rights? Without answers to these questions, your definition is arbitrary.

Brian,

I had already defined Morality and Origin of rights (post #23). If you have read AR's definition on these 2 things, please know that my definition is also the same. Else, you may want to read Virtue of selfishness (Ch. 12).

All I could find is that rights are a "moral/legal claim to a thing". You've just shifted the burden onto other words. What is a "claim" other than "the assertion of a right".

I don't understand your point. One has to use some words to explain something right?

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So then you should have no problem with "C"'s making use of the land through his control of it because he apparently figured out that it was worth something before both "A" and "B". the fact that he chose not to do the actual labour required does not mean that he is not making use of the qualities of that land.

Zip,

I think that is a very good point. I need to think about your point and get back.

Also, I am not against C if he gets paid commensurately for adding some value to the land (e.g. by making it more fertile, etc).

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Brian,

I had already defined Morality and Origin of rights (post #23). If you have read AR's definition on these 2 things, please know that my definition is also the same. Else, you may want to read Virtue of selfishness (Ch. 12).

Your definition is most certainly not the same. Stolen concepts are not the same as their original counterparts. Stop replacing AR's definitions to mean something they weren't meant to mean. It is not rational, it's a ridiculous and pointless waste of everyone's time. Please, study logic and read about Epistemology.

If you define morality to be the code of ethics designed to help men survive as rational and independent, you cannot then deprive them of the means of their survival, by taking away their right to be independent, and putting the government in control of the only space they can exist in. It is an absurd wordplay that cannot be taken seriously for another second.

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Zip,

I think that is a very good point. I need to think about your point and get back.

Also, I am not against C if he gets paid commensurately for adding some value to the land (e.g. by making it more fertile, etc).

Zip,

I will give my response using an example.

Let us say wheat was produced from a land and sold in market for $100. $20 went to Labor as Wages. $20 went to the person who lent money (for seeds and equipment).

Now the question in what part of remaining $60 should fairly belong to the Landlord?

Let us say landlord has maintained his land overtime through proper irrigation, etc. Hence, he created and earned some value. Let us say that value is $20.

Now, we are left with $40.

Now, let us say that landlord applied his intelligence and could identify this most-productive land. Then I agree with you that he should get rewarded for his use of intelligence (but I elaborate on this in the last para). Let us say this part was $20.

Now, we are left with $20. This part has arisen without any human action of body or mind. This part has arisen due to scarcity of supply of land. This is the part that needs to the go to the society.

Now, I recognize that I have used arbitrary numbers here. But, the essence of the example is that scarcity rents are a fact of life, and should be distributed equally.

I also recognize the practical difficulty in estimating all these parts of the rent. But, that we can deal with later (and I promise I will do so), once we conclude the basic moral argument.

Now, I come back to your point on rewarding C for his intelligence in identifying the land. I feel like agreeing wiht you, but the conflict is that if I reward C by giving him $20 forever, then am I not being unfair with unborn people, who could have also identified this land like C did. I am tending towards giving C only limited-tenure rights to the $20 periodic cash flows in this case. But I still need to think more.

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Saurabh, I'm going to briefly address the points you raised to me and then attempt to show you how the unjust debasement of property and human rights has contributed to the situation that you describe in India, based on cursory online research. Feel free to correct any point I make about the situation in India. I'm doing this because I think you may be coming at this problem backwards. Your original post presented a discussion of property rights as such, but from your last post to me it seems to me that you are specifically exploring property rights in relation to a specific context. The injustice and death in India. That is a backward approach because you're starting at a fundamentally unjust system that gives lip service to some of the rights you're exploring but in practice ignores them and labels injustice as a "right". Hopefully I'll be able to give you an inkling that the bleak hell I previously described as a world without property rights is exactly the bleak hell that modern India is for most citizens. You are trying to identify "healthy" by starting at "diseased and dying". Hopefully I'll explain what I mean well enough that you'll see what I mean.

"Economics tells us that value created by plowing land is divided into three parts: Rent, Labor wages and Interest on Capital employed. My basic premise: One can only claim ownership on what one has earned. --> Individuals can claim wages and interest, but no individual can claim the rent (only to the extent it arises due to scarcity of land). If rent arises due to use of fertilizers, irrigation, etc; then once fairly claim that part of the rent."

Fallacious because the communal mass has done nothing to "earn" the land either. A birthright, which you assert, is not earned. It is gifted by someone who did earn it. Your hierarchy is reversed. Man can't apply rent without ownership, he can't have ownership without constructive action (earning), constructive action is the province of individuals.

"You are assuming that my assertion implies use of force to allocate land. Let me clarify. In the society that I imagine, land will be common property. Now, the allocation of this land will be by free market principles - i.e. by bidding for rent. Whoever can bid the highest (since he believes he can utilize the resource most efficiently), gets allocated the land for a specified period. I am for minimalist govt. as well."

I am not assuming it, it is what is inevitable under a communal principle. A government's only mechanism of action is force. Anytime an argument is made for a government regulation or response, an appeal to force is made. One cannot say that in the organization you are proposing free market principles determine anything, because a free market requires rigorous protection of all rights and strict nonintervention in everything else. The proposed system requires government force effecting everything from contract law to personal property. Contracts for service or goods would be regulated by the government land license period. Government overriding of other property rights are assured as current licensees will have to be moved off the land with all property whether they want to or not. Nonportable improvements must either be summarily destroyed or confiscated upon expiration of the current use license and reassignment. Government control of all means of production (all means of production start at the land) is not a minimalist government, its a totalitarian one.

Communism is a complex concept which has no implication for the moral question I have raised - and I would keep it out of this debate. Feel free to challenge me.

So, can you tell me what is morally wrong with society (and hence govt.) owning land and collecting rent on it?"

First, to correct an error either in my presentation or your comprehension. State-property does not imply communism. Total state ownership of all property from a communal principle implies communism. I used that term due to the communal basis of your argument. It does have an implication in the moral question you raised, because if the principles you're asserting are true, communism in some form is the inevitable end result. I addressed the issue with society/government owning all land above. I noticed you dropped the totally of the ownership you're proposing above, probably inadvertently. The issue you presented is total government ownership of all land, not simple ownership of land.

"Land may have no VALUE prior to human action. But, there is always some COST (rent) that needs to be paid for its use (in today's world where land is scarce). The payment for this cost (rent) needs to go to the society, not to an individual.

Support: Land is scarce. Hence, if A uses land, it prevents B and others from using it. So, A must pay some rent to use the scarce resource. Since the rent arose due to scarcity, no one can claim more right on this part than others. Hence, everyone has equal right on this rent."

The fallacy of asserting renting rights for an entity that did not earn the land has been discussed above. The principle of applying rent on a valueless resource is completely incorrect as well. Rent is compensation to the owner of something for the use of his property for a period of time. A renter is compensating the owner for the loss of immediate value he can gain from his property, because it is under the delegated control of the renter. If the property is essentially valueless, what possible rent can be charged justly? If the government is the owner, not a simple defensive entity, what keeps it from setting unjust terms and forcing compliance with them? If the communal mass decides to not charge rent until improvements are made on the land based on value, but then charges rent on the value given to its property by an individual that is the same as asking a person to be a slave or serf and then charging them rent on their own work.

Edited by Castle

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Your definition is most certainly not the same. Stolen concepts are not the same as their original counterparts. Stop replacing AR's definitions to mean something they weren't meant to mean. It is not rational, it's a ridiculous and pointless waste of everyone's time. Please, study logic and read about Epistemology.

If you define morality to be the code of ethics designed to help men survive as rational and independent, you cannot then deprive them of the means of their survival, by taking away their right to be independent, and putting the government in control of the only space they can exist in. It is an absurd wordplay that cannot be taken seriously for another second.

Jake,

I am trying to make a honest equiry, with as less use of emotion as possible.

But, if you or anyone think my approach is wrong, please tell me how. And I will change the approach if justified.

My definition of morality is same as you pointed out. But, I do not understand how my assertion deprives men of their means of survival. Men can only survive if they have right to own products of their mental and physical effort. And am I not denying that right!

Also, you assume that I am for govt. control. Actually, I am only for societal ownership of economic rent. This implies Govt., I agree. But govt. does not HAVE to be bad. Badness is not a fundamental property of govt.

At this point, I also want to know if other also evaluate this debate the same way as Jake. If not, then please respond. If yes, then there is no point wasting everyone's time as Jake mentioned.

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Now the question in what part of remaining $60 should fairly belong to the Landlord?

That's easy: The exact amount the landlord and the tenant voluntarily agreed upon.

Let us say landlord has maintained his land overtime through proper irrigation, etc. Hence, he created and earned some value. Let us say that value is $20.

Let's not say that, because value is subjective. To you, the irrigation may be worth $20, to me maybe only $10, because I think I could have done a better job, and to someone else $30, for whatever reasons.

Now, I recognize that I have used arbitrary numbers here. But, the essence of the example is that scarcity rents are a fact of life, and should be distributed equally.

Scarcity is indeed a fact of life, but that does not mean that this fact warrants or justifies any sort of distribution by means of force. And certainly not distribution of imaginary "costs", the idea of which I have already refuted and will refute again:

Now, I come back to your point on rewarding C for his intelligence in identifying the land. I feel like agreeing wiht you, but the conflict is that if I reward C by giving him $20 forever, then am I not being unfair with unborn people, who could have also identified this land like C did.

So Thomas Edison was being unfair when he invented the light bulb, thereby depriving other people of the chance to invent it?

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Castle,

I will respond to your post in some time, as I need time to frame my response to your detailed post.

Randroid,

You have raised good objections.

That's easy: The exact amount the landlord and the tenant voluntarily agreed upon.

Voluntary agreement is not possible in all cases. Landlord commands a scarce resource and can ask for any rent. Realize that there in no fundamental perfect competition (economics term) for a limited resource like land.

Let's not say that, because value is subjective. To you, the irrigation may be worth $20, to me maybe only $10, because I think I could have done a better job, and to someone else $30, for whatever reasons.

I agree with you. But you are focusing on a side-issue. The main takeaway from my example is that there will be a scarcity rent. Do you have any objections here?

So Thomas Edison was being unfair when he invented the light bulb, thereby depriving other people of the chance to invent it?

The analogy is not appropriate. Edison should be awarded for creating value. Unborn can create and righfully own additional value (e.g. advanced bulbs) by standing on Edison's shoulders.

But, in my example, if you award the land to C, you preclude unborn D from using that limited resource.

Realize that C's identifying a productive land does not 'create' any value. Edison's bulb does.

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Saurabh,

I think you have been shown sufficiently by the others the fallacy of your assertions, but I would like to make a point.

Throughout the evolution of Mankind we have seen many different approaches to governing. No one likes to see others struggle or go hungry. No one likes to see the rich take advantage of the poor. Enter Communism, Socialism, and the like.

I don't want to draw any corrolations here, i just want to make a point. Communism, Socialism, Georgism...all may lead to less hunger or strife of some members of a given society. However, they will be able to survive solely on the fruits of the labors and ingenuity of others. No one is entitled to that.

I think your inclusion of the situation in your country and your assertion that it may be important to the debate is very telling. It simply makes no difference whatsoever. The desire to change the situation is understandable, we would all like to see the lives of those people improve. But we cannot let a difficult situation guide our search for a moral solution.

We must determine what is right and act accordingly. Consequences of said action are not to be considered in determining what is right. The ends don't justify the means. Period.

Edited by scottd

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Actually, I am only for societal ownership of economic rent.
David Ricardo's conception of rent, and John Mills's subsequent focus on "the problem of distribution" set classical economics back by at least a century.

However, raising all these new issues without addressing the basic moral issue simply makes this thread a tangled web. Unless you provide a moral justification as to why you refuse to acknowledge a person's right to something that he had appropriated and used, you have not addressed the core point.

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Voluntary agreement is not possible in all cases. Landlord commands a scarce resource and can ask for any rent. Realize that there in no fundamental perfect competition (economics term) for a limited resource like land.

Landlords can certainly ask for any rent. If, however, their expectations exceed what their potential tenants are willing to pay, they will lose. They still have to keep the land in good condition without any revenue or they can simply abandon it, thereby losing all previous investments. Supply & demand.

I agree with you. But you are focusing on a side-issue. The main takeaway from my example is that there will be a scarcity rent. Do you have any objections here?

Yes. You cannot charge rent for something you do not own. Scarcity is irrelevant.

But, in my example, if you award the land to C, you preclude unborn D from using that limited resource.

Just as A does not owe any money to B in our previous example, C does not owe any land to unborn generation D.

Realize that C's identifying a productive land does not 'create' any value. Edison's bulb does.

It certainly does create value: You don't have to look for suitable land yourself and you don't have to be the early bird (first to claim it), either.

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Saurabh, now I'll try to address some of the issues at hand in India that I found online as that context seems to be the one you are working within and using as a basis for your initial determination that land property rights are unjust. Feel free to correct inaccurate data I found on the Indian situation.

The biggest issue I can find that has to do with the deplorable state of India is a conglomerate problem. Namely, the Indian hereditary caste system combined with the Indian government. Everything I could find indicated that the upper castes (comprising around 10%) of the population overwhelmingly dominate any government, political, or economic institution of any sort of relevance. My understanding is that those castes inherited those positions from the British, a prior conquering invader. So the significant mechanisms of economic activity AND utilization of force are under control of a small hereditary social/religious/ethnic minority. The resources and positions were no earned or inherited in the manner described earlier as the proper foundation of property rights, they inherited them by unjust means and reserve them amongst themselves for the "deserving".......by birthright.

The Indian government is a nuclear power and is believed to maintain an arsenal of between 40-95 weapons. Submarines and other military projects are proceeding successfully, so I can only assume that defense spending is a huge component of the government's expenditures. Honestly, I looked for data but really couldn't find anything specific before I got tired of wading through the published Indian budget. It certainly isn't clearly stated. The CIA says 2.5% of GDP in 2006. Thats 2.816 trillion in period US dollars. Thats a lot of green. Using confiscated resources the Indian government has managed to become a nuclear power while at the same time power outages and brownouts are a systemic problem. This is how the government allocates "the people's" resources, and you propose giving them control of MORE? There's also a lot of coal, natural gas, and petroleum there. The political, military, and economic is so toxic noone seems to be interested in exploiting those resources to fix the problem.

The upper castes seem to virtually control the economy. 1/4 of the GDP is accounted for by about 36 elite upper caste families, presumably they control the economic apparatus involved as well. As previously discussed, possession of property and power was not allocated by objective ethical action, but unjust force. Something like 80% of jobs in emerging industries like biotechnology, services, software, etc are held by the 3 upper castes. Wealth begets wealth, even illegitimate wealth, and the upper castes are probably applying it judiciously to maintain dominance of the economy.

Single source data indicates that India is woefully under-banked. Probably due again to the toxic economic and political environment. Under-banked means the majority of people have no method of saving even a meager sum. Under-banked means investment capital is difficult to accumulate for improvements and innovations. Under-banked means less protection from theft. The castes on top don't have that problem, they probably bank internationally with institutions in locations where you can't be summarily killed and oppressed by the government for being born wrong. Countries that afford a stability and respect for human rights the upper castes are apparently unwilling to cultivate at home. In other words, less risky circumstances.

A lot of those problems likely have to do with systemic corruption and violation of human rights of all types, not legitimate control and usage of private land. Some studies indicate that 25 % of Indians paid bribe to obtain a service. 68 % believe that governmental efforts to stop the corruption as ineffective. More than 90 % consider police and political parties as the worst corrupt institutions. 90 % of Indians believe that corruption will increase within the next 3 years. “ Who invests or even attempts economic activity in such an environment? The only people that could possibly would be the connected elite. One report indicated that only 5% of development funds ended up with the intended recipients. Your government is consuming the seed stock of your economy and forcefully maintaining stagnation and unearned property allocated by status. Dalits are murdered at a furious pace, and sources indicate much of it goes unreported out of fear of force from their own government. Privacy international states that the Indian government has an abysmally low opinion of privacy rights. Fake encounter killings are a widespread problem. Meaning the government finds and executes perceived criminals and undesireables without judicial process with virtual impunity. One source indicated that this practice is partly inspired by certain Hindu texts. It is reported that 66.2% of prison inmates are pretrial. Considering the upper caste dominated judiciary is backlogged by more than a century thats a pretty bleak sentence.

The media's key positions are about 70% upper caste. Free speech and exchange of ideas? Not so much.

Despite the vicious abuses of the police and judiciary, the crime rate in India is very apparently very high. Most economic crimes and many violent crimes go unpunished, again due to systemic one sided control of the organizations responsible for policing and committing the crime.

According to the world bank, India is very antagonistic to business, even without the corruption. It takes much longer to get approval, and costs for transport are much higher. Even power costs are significantly higher, despite available resources and apparent nuclear proficiency. Tourism, which could be a major economic boon, is extremely small despite beautiful countryside and history. The government is reported to make it difficult to visit.

All of these points are not to bash India, my own country is headed right down a lot of these paths as well. Not to mention being complicit in all of the above abuses because our government props them up. My point is that private ownership of property is not India's problem. Hereditary de facto unethical control of virtually all major methods of production and force by prior violence and birthright is. If one group has unjustly attained land and position, and claims it is right because of an arbitrary birthright, justice is NOT to discard the underlying right or rewrite the arbitrary birthright to include others. The unjust birthright has to go and the individual right all people possess must be reaffirmed and protected.

India's problem is not, and has not ever been, a moral deficiency inherent to property rights, but an ethical and moral deficiency in the caste system, religions supporting such a system, the character of the system's supporters, the government that uses unjust force to maintain such a situation, and foreign governments complicit in such things by support and recognition of the Indian state as legitimate. Discard those principles as immoral and affirm the right of a person to fully own what he earns and many of the above issues will go away.

Edited by Castle

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Just a quick note on a post that crossed mine.

Realize that C's identifying a productive land does not 'create' any value.

Simple identification doesn't create value. By that I mean very simple identification such as "That land over there looks useful". But any further identification of specific utility does. Spending part of your life to walk to the land you see and think is fertile, looking at and determining the usefulness of flora, fauna, and minerals you discover, planning a use for them, and denoting what you have claimed for use DOES add value to the land as Randroid asserts. The process would be simpler in a more civilized society, one would just need to register one's claim on the property with the government charged with defending your claim from criminals.

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Friends,

Thanks for all participation in the debate so far.

May I suggest to freeze this debate for a few days? I would like some time now to reflect on all the responses and on my position, and also to read AR's essays on Rights.

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Zip,

I will give my response using an example.

Let us say wheat was produced from a land and sold in market for $100. $20 went to Labor as Wages. $20 went to the person who lent money (for seeds and equipment).

Now the question in what part of remaining $60 should fairly belong to the Landlord?

Stop. Do not proceed. "Fair" has nothing to do with it.

The only way men can interact within a market (any market) is through trade, and each man in this trader ideal tries to get the best possible value for his property/money/productive effort.

There is one stipulation, these dealings must be free of force or fraud.

Now if you have a problem with the system (in India or elsewhere) because it includes force or fraud that is a different argument completely. However, the solution is to eliminate the force of fraud not to compound it by forcing men into untenable situations or denying them the Right of property.

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The only way men can interact within a market (any market) is through trade, and each man in this trader ideal tries to get the best possible value for his property/money/productive effort.

I agree with both your assertions - as long as the market is a free market.

But my basic claim is that original-state land is not landlord's property. So, the question of his trading the property in the market does not arise. If you disagree with me, please refute my basic claim.

Landlord can, however, interact with market and trade the value he added to the land.

(I guess the source of confusion could be due to different definitions being understood for rent. I am talking about economic rent, and not the rent as it is understoood conventionally).

This is one reason, I am asking for additional time - so that I can re-frame my position using more accurate words.

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