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Jon Southall

Owning Land?

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I don't appreciate being told how I should be thinking. That's aggressive.

 

You misunderstand.  It seems to me, from everything I've read above, that your largest obstacle to understanding this is not a lack of information but just bad information.  So I don't point that out to be aggressive at all; it's a totally understandable thing, anyway; I point it out in order to help you solve it.

And if it seems to you that I'm not thinking properly then please, tell me about it.  It won't be pleasant, of course, but if it should help me to think more correctly then you'll have given me an enormous benefit.

 

I see no connection to Marxism. Could you explain your thinking?

Well, as SN observed, Marx conceived of the Labor Theory of Value.  That theory states that "value" comes from using your muscles, which isn't true.  While most of our stuff requires someone to use their muscles, somewhere along the line, there are only a few ways in which "labor" will actually create "value" and any other way will be a total waste of energy.

 

Now, you've been talking about "value" as being produced by your mind and your muscles, and those words are true but I don't think you're using them to mean what they should mean (particularly because of your reaction to CT's point that nothing is fundamentally manmade).  And not only do I think that, I think it's because you're actually using those words to refer to the Labor Theory; most likely unintentionally.

 

That's why I suspect that it may help to actually drop the technical terms for the moment and try to reason about it with concrete examples.  If that's wrong then don't hesitate to tell me so.  :thumbsup:

 

You have made the same error of reasoning that CT has.

Thank you for noticing; I thought so, too (except for the 'error' part, of course).

 

No-one can interfere with your private property.

Actually, basically anyone can; the question is whether they should.

 

Most people would consider it 'selfish' to break into someone's house and steal their stuff; selfish and practical.  If you've read Atlas Shrugged then you probably know that isn't quite right, but it doesn't seem like you know exactly why.

 

If you don't already know all of that, in clear and explicit terms, then that's the first thing to address.

 

I'm not taking that last comment seriously.

That's a shame because it opens the core of this right up.

 

Would it be moral for someone to rearrange your entire house without asking you, as long as they didn't break anything?

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@ Critical Thinking, 

 

You seem intelligent.

 

Butter me up!  :wub:  heh heh heh.

 

 

 

I do not think you are giving the posts serious reflection - would that be fair to say?

 

Well, no I don't think that's fair but we're clearly talking past each other so let's figure out where the misunderstanding lies.

 

 

 

I have emphasised that capital is property; it is a sub-set of man-made wealth.

 

I believe a major part of the problem lies in how you're using the term 'man-made'. I think that this lies at the root of your mistake because you keep drawing a distinction between land and other forms of property based upon this concept, 'man-made'. Could you explain why is a glass man-made but a sowed field is not? They are both instances of raw materials that have only the potential to become values, sand for the glass and an empty field for the farm, which become values when man applies his thought and effort to them, heating the sand for the glass and sowing the field. At this point they become values secured to the creator of the value. So how you're using the term 'man-made' must be very different than I am interpreting it. What makes something man-made is not that the physical matter has been created but rather that man has shaped the raw material into a value. 

 

Others in the thread are right to mention that property rights are freedoms to act. To be clear, a property right over a piece of land is the freedom to use the land as you see fit. In your second post you said:

 

 

 

The farm is made out of materials - one owns the farm but not the land from which the materials came.

 

How do I have the right to the crops I'm growing if I do not have a right to the land I've planted the crops into? This is an arbitrary distinction you're drawing. A field of crops IS a farm. What do you mean by, a farm is made out of materials but the land is not? The land IS a raw material. It may, once farmed by man, give rise to other raw materials, like cotton, but land is as much a raw material as cotton is. Neither have value in and of themselves although both have the potential to become values when they're transformed.

 

Looking at rights as a political idea that exists to give man the ability to live his own life for his own sake, I don't understand how you could exclude land as property. What happens when I want to build a house on a strip of land? Who decides whether I can?

 

 

 

Rand asserts that all property and all forms of wealth are produced by man's mind and labour (via Galt). That is pretty clear isn't it? Either this is wrong, and some/all property and some/all forms of wealth are not produced by man's mind and labour, or it is right; we would then have to conclude that land is not property. This is just logic.

 

It's not as simple as saying 'that is just logic' when you don't have a proper understanding of what wealth and property actually are.

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Nicky, we do not disagree on a property right being a right to action (with respect to an object). If an immoral person asserted you were their property, they could use you without regard to your consent, you would presumably want to challenge their claim.

In order to show they are initiating force you must show that you are not their property. You would have to define what moral ways property can belong to a person and in consequence why his claim to own you should not be observed.

What moral ways are there to own land? It's use in production necessitates occupation for the duration of its use in producing material values. The rights in this case stem from the fact that anyone who interfered with the productive use would be initiating force against those who are creating material values. An incumbent would have to interfere with someone else's capital or wealth in order to occupy and use the land. This would clearly be wrong.

I am not interested in such cases.

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"Could you explain why is a glass man-made but a sowed field is not?"

I believe this is your misunderstanding. But let me try once more.

A sowed field and a glass are both man-made.

As per Galt - it is rooted in the law of causality.

What caused the sowed field to come into existence? Was it a natural phenomena occuring spontaneously? Was it God? Or the idea of a man who put into practice through his effort?

What caused the glass to come into existence? Was it a natural phenomena occuring spontaneously? Was it God? Or the idea of a man who then produced it?

Now let's turn to land.

What caused land to exist? Only if you subscribe to the primacy of consciousness fallacy can you claim that it was man's mind.

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Jon,

We - as Objectivist - with our concepts of property rights - cannot close our eyes to the fact that we've inherited a horrible mess of ideas of land ownership established by theocratic, oligarchic, despotic, the divine right of kings or flat-out "I killed you - now I own your land and women" philosophies.  

 

We've inherited a mess.  It is our responsibility, if we are to be taken seriously as a viable philosophy, to find an equitable way out of this mess.

Edited by New Buddha

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I agree. We have inherited a mess and our philosophy needs to address it robustly based on a reasoned approach.

Henry George who wrote Progress & Poverty put forward an intriguing case. I am still integrating his ideas. George argues that land ownership is unjust.

I have taken the time to read his work quite carefully. Like with critics of Atlas Shrugged who have not read it or have skimmed it superficially, who consequently voice misleading and ill-informed judgment on it, Progress & Poverty attracts a similar following.

Reading it myself, I think the reasoning is sufficient to demonstrate there are issues with owning land. I was surprised at how closely his definitions coincide with Rand's, and that those definitions were used coherently to argue and reach conclusions which will initially seem wrong to an Objectivist.

This is an oversimplification. George argues that the reason why poverty exists inspite of progress is not a result of capitalism, the profit motive or individualism. He argues that material wealth follows from the use of land, labour and capital directed by the human mind. He argues creators of wealth should keep the full extent of what they created, but because of land ownership this does not happen in practice.

He states the relationship as follows:

Production = land + labour + capital

The return to labour and capital is wages and interest. The return to land is economic rent.

Creation of wealth - economic rent = wages + interest.

The return to producers for applying labour and capital with their minds is depleted by economic rent claimed by the land owner.

A homesteader will charge zero economic rent to himself, he keeps all wealth he creates.

A landowner can claim unearned income from producers in the form of economic rent. This reduces the return to labour and capital - disincentivizing both despite the whole product being the property of producers. It means that those who are productive keep less of what they produce to the point of subsistence living.

This affects producers as a set of individuals as distinct from non-producers. Landowners claim the economic rent from producers by virtue of controlling the land. Not on account of producing wealth themselves. It is like forced taxation on producers.

Just like people on the left don't oppose taxes, because they support redistribution by supposedly legal means, people on the right don't oppose economic rents because they think it is the right of the landowner to redistribute production in their favour because they supposedly own the land.

But forced redistribution is exactly that, whether by government or land controllers. Or at least that is what George reasoned. It is like slavery.

I find this very intriguing. What are the thoughts here?

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Henry George... ...

Georgism has been discussed in an earlier thread

In a nutshell:

- the basic Georgian theory of non-ownership is evil

- any proposals to rectify past wrong over-estimate the present-day effect of such reforms and ignore the real-world attempts at redistribution that have invariably made matters worse

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What Georgian theory of non-ownership? You are making things up.

It sounds like an attack someone would make when 'rejecting' Objectivism. They say Objectivist are selfish meaning they want to do whatever they want and screw everyone else. It's basically propaganda.

I expect my fellow Objectivists to rise above that level of discourse.

The issue I have with Progress & Poverty is that I disagree with the remedy, but accept there is a problem.

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I have read through some of the exchange - basically David & Castle are ill-informed but argued so forcefully (not persuasively) that S gave up trying to get through to them.

This is typical in debates - a rapid polarising of opinion followed by confirmation bias - a psychological phenomenon. A reasonable mind will be on it's guard against that. A battle of wits is just aggression and no learning takes place then.

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Nicky, we do not disagree on a property right being a right to action (with respect to an object). If an immoral person asserted you were their property, they could use you without regard to your consent, you would presumably want to challenge their claim.

In order to show they are initiating force you must show that you are not their property. You would have to define what moral ways property can belong to a person and in consequence why his claim to own you should not be observed.

That's very easy to do, seeing as I have a definition of rights to work with that has the word "liberty" in it. I fail to see how that's relevant to our conversation. Land doesn't have the right to liberty, I do.

 

What moral ways are there to own land? It's use in production necessitates occupation for the duration of its use in producing material values. The rights in this case stem from the fact that anyone who interfered with the productive use would be initiating force against those who are creating material values. An incumbent would have to interfere with someone else's capital or wealth in order to occupy and use the land. This would clearly be wrong.

I am not interested in such cases.

Then what's the problem? That's what land ownership is: the right to use it in certain ways. Edited by Nicky

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Nicky,

This is the problem:

I am asking the question: what makes someone's claim to own something valid?

You are answering a different question. What is ownership?

I think all posters here agree on what ownership is.

We are not agreed on what causes one to own something. I say it is Galts Criteria. There seems to be differing views and interpretation. Philosophic justification for them has been lacking or confused.

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What Georgian theory of non-ownership? You are making things up.

Ownership does mean someone has a deed to a property and everyone call him "owner" while he is somehow deemed to have some obligation to the community for being the owner of that land. Ownership is a set of freedoms and a certain lack of encumbrances and obligations. Put some flesh on the word and you'll see what I mean.

 

Ihe issue I have with Progress & Poverty is that I disagree with the remedy, but accept there is a problem.

I see no problem worthy of action. Once again, a problem does not exist just because one imagines that it would. the starting point for thinking is reality. Look out at reality, at who owns land etc., and you will quickly see that there is no significant problem.

It's a bit like people who say that black folk in the U.S. deserve reparations and others who say they accept that there is a problem but that they don't like the solution. They fail to look at the facts of reality.

Edited by softwareNerd

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Nicky,

This is the problem:

I am asking the question: what makes someone's claim to own something valid?

You are answering a different question. What is ownership?

If you wish to know why something is moral, first you need to understand what that something is. So, all I can do is repeat: ownership is a right to action. And the right to self-sustaining action is moral because selfishness is the only rational morality.

 

I think all posters here agree on what ownership is.

If you agree that ownership is a right to action, then there is only one other part to my argument that you could possibly disagree with: that we have the right to self-sustaining action.

Do you disagree with that?

I don't think you do. I think the part you either disagree with or are failing to comprehend is that ownership is a right to action, not a right to objects.

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Snerd,

Thanks for your input. I will say now only that I disagree with your analysis.

Fair enough. I don't expect an answer to this, but I just wanted to add that academic economics typically uses a very "rationalistic" approach to argument. By this, I mean abstract but without a check that the abstractions are confirmed by reality. A journalist would take the opposite approach: empirical, but sometimes jumping to unjustified abstractions. Both are to be guarded against.

 

Consider a journalist trying to prove that land-ownership has caused a huge disparity in wealth that has been compounded over generations. He may start with the ten richest people in the country and demonstrate that their wealth is primarily the result of the original unfair land-ownership granted to their great-great-great grandfather. he would show that this is true of specific billionaires: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, the Koch brothers, the Walton family, Bloomberg, Zuckerberg, the Google pair. Failing here, he might focus on the more moderately rich. he might focus on the 250K + plus crowd. He might try to show that these people who work for banks, and consultancies, and live in New York apartments also own decently large land-holding (more than any modest farmer). That's the type of reality-check that can make a theory really convincing.

Edited by softwareNerd

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Nicky,

I've gone over this before but I'll try once more.

A slave owner will claim that a slave is his property. He believes he has a right to gain slaves, to keep them, to use them and dispose of them as he sees fit. This is entirely consistent with your definition of property rights being a right to action and not to a thing.

Up to this point, the answer to the question what is ownership does not tell us whether the claim of ownership is moral or based on reason.

Your self-sustaining action criteria doesn't help us either. A looter can claim theft is self-sustaining from his perspective, a person who kills sick people to reduce the demand on a medicine he needs is acting in a self-sustaining manner.

The moral criteria is and should be acting in ones rational self-interest. That means living by a morality based on logic, which is non-contradictory- the result being a harmonious value system.

Economic rent - how is it paid? It is deducted from production. Land yields nothing without labour and capital. It is labour and capital led by intelligent minds that creates material values which should in their entirety belong to those who created them. Economic rent can only be paid for via redistribution of produced material values from producers to land controllers, by force. If one refused to pay it, the land controller can forcibly prevent the producer from creating material values.

A government which taxes it's people collects unearned material values which it did not produce, by force. This is regarded as forced labour. The fact many people don't see paying taxes as forced labour doesn't change the reality of what it is.

Land controllers who collect economic rents from producers, are collecting unearned material values which they did not produce, by force. This is regarded as forced labour. The fact that many people don't see the payment of economic rents as forced labour doesn't change the reality of what it is.

If you do respond, I would like you to show why the reasoning for taxes does not apply to economic rents.

Don't tell me it's because producers benefit from paying economic rent by being allowed to occupy land. That would be no better than justifying taxation on the basis that producers benefit from paying taxes because they get government services in return.

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I want to address a point Harrison made earlier, about the labour theory of value.

I subscribe to the Objectivist reasoning that it is man's mind - his intelligence which is at the root of material values. However without actually bringing these ideas to life, they are impotent. The kind of Objectivist intelligence is a practical intelligence.

It is only through mans mind and his exertions that he can create things of value to him. Labour is the expression of mans intelligence, it is also the root of the creation of all capital.

Labour is sometimes denigrated because there is the fallacious view it is unthinking muscle work. Certainly some labouring does fall into this criteria, however it is ultimately the sole means by which the ideas of intelligent individuals are brought into being - the means by which that intelligence is applied to reality. A capitalist who utilises capital must get the capital first, it is labour that is the practical means of creating it (combined with an intelligent mind).

All Randian heros are intelligent but also practical. They are always hands on.

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Nicky,

I've gone over this before but I'll try once more.

A slave owner will claim that a slave is his property. He believes he has a right to gain slaves, to keep them, to use them and dispose of them as he sees fit. This is entirely consistent with your definition of property rights being a right to action and not to a thing.

Up to this point, the answer to the question what is ownership does not tell us whether the claim of ownership is moral or based on reason.

Your self-sustaining action criteria doesn't help us either. A looter can claim theft is self-sustaining from his perspective, a person who kills sick people to reduce the demand on a medicine he needs is acting in a self-sustaining manner.

They can claim. But anyone can claim anything. I can claim that the Moon is made of cheese, and that cheese, in large enough quantities, dictates moral laws.

Declaring that someone can claim something is not an argument. Are YOU claiming that theft or killing sick people is self sustaining action? Is that a position you're taking, should I bother arguing against it?

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Of course it isn't. I would reason that theft and murder are evil.

In trying to condemn me you are condemning yourself, as based on your criteria so far anyone can claim a right to action with regards to anything - though we are discussing property so I would prefer us to keep the focus on that. Claiming the Moon is made of cheese is a statement about what something is and not what gives us a right to action with regards to it - this was my point before about you not getting what the question is asking.

What makes it a moral claim when I say this property is mine or that land is?

And you have dodged my challenge to you in the previous post. Why, I wonder?

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"The source of property rights is the law of causality. All property and all forms of wealth are produced by man’s mind and labor." Galt's Speech.

All property and all wealth is man-made.

Land is not man-made.

What is the origin of a Land ownership claim?

 

The aluminum atoms that comprise the body of an iphone were not man-made.

 

What is the origin of an aluminum ownership claim?

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Hi Marc,

 

Ultimately the aluminium was taken from the land via the use of intelligence, physical exertion and capital (that capital itself having its origin in intelligence and physical exertion).

 

The aluminium was the wage a mining business earned as a result of the exertions of individuals in extracting it from the land. At this point it became the mining company's property. The company then trades it, giving the rights to that aluminium over to Apple (in exchange for money). 

 

In taking the source material from the land, presuming no force was directed against individuals, there were no rights violated.

 

Let me know if this needs further clarification.

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Hi Marc,

 

Ultimately the aluminium was taken from the land via the use of intelligence, physical exertion and capital (that capital itself having its origin in intelligence and physical exertion).

 

The aluminium was the wage a mining business earned as a result of the exertions of individuals in extracting it from the land. At this point it became the mining company's property. The company then trades it, giving the rights to that aluminium over to Apple (in exchange for money). 

 

In taking the source material from the land, presuming no force was directed against individuals, there were no rights violated.

 

Let me know if this needs further clarification.

 

The aluminum was not a wage. A wage is something you're paid by another person in a trade for your labor. You're (are you the OP?) drawing a distinction where there isn't one.

 

The land becomes a produced value when you start to extract the aluminum. I pressed OP on this point earlier. Make sure to note that OP is using 'land' to refer to an untouched strip of the earth. He responded:

 

 

"Could you explain why is a glass man-made but a sowed field is not?"

I believe this is your misunderstanding. But let me try once more.

A sowed field and a glass are both man-made.

As per Galt - it is rooted in the law of causality.

What caused the sowed field to come into existence? Was it a natural phenomena occuring spontaneously? Was it God? Or the idea of a man who put into practice through his effort?

What caused the glass to come into existence? Was it a natural phenomena occuring spontaneously? Was it God? Or the idea of a man who then produced it?

Now let's turn to land.

What caused land to exist? Only if you subscribe to the primacy of consciousness fallacy can you claim that it was man's mind.

 

He compares the potential value, land, with the produced value, glass, and claims that there's a difference between the two. Of course there is. The correct comparison is between the land and the sand of which the glass is made, not between land and a glass.

 

This all relates to the creation of new property, which is why Locke is talking about the creation of value out of a state of nature (out of a state in which no one already owned the land). Once the land is owned, what basis is there for initiating force against the owner and expropriating its value from its owner? Or is it claimed that land isn't a value? If that's the case, I'll be glad to take any land anyone owns off of their hands for free. The OP never answered, how can man have a right to his house if he doesn't have a right to the ground his house is on? How can you have a right to a field of planted crops but not a right to the field?

 

When man discovered the existence of pools of oil below the surface of the ground, the government rightfully began to issue property rights over the discovered pools. Despite having existed prior to man, the oil became a value and this was the basis of the property right. It was only because of man's mind and the discovery of how to use the oil that the value was created and the oil became property.

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Eiuol, apologies I missed your post:

 

"It's not the land per se that you own. What you own is a right to action over an area of land. It isn't the soil itself that matters here. The production involved originates in figuring out to make use of the space. Farmland is an easy example to discuss, because to farm requires knowing how to properly prepare the area so crops can grow."

 

What do you think gives us a right to action over an area of land, and what do you think is the extent of that right?

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What do you think gives us a right to action over an area of land

 

Everything that you do, must be done somewhere.  What would it mean to have the right to do X, so long as you didn't do it anywhere in particular?

 

I do not know of any simpler terms I can say that in.

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