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Jon Southall

Owning Land?

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Hi Critical Thinker,

 

Thanks for your post. Jono is another account of mine to avoid any confusion. I disagree with your reasoning. You state:

 

"The aluminum was not a wage. A wage is something you're paid by another person in a trade for your labor"

 

I defined in an earlier post that there are three factors of production - land, labour and capital. The return to land is economic rent, the return to labour is wages and the return to capital is interest.

 

If I collect water from a lake, the water is my wages. If I pick fruit from the forest, or kill a deer, the fruit or the deer are my wages. In a more advanced society, if I carry out process improvement for my employer my wages (the process improvements which I have created) are exchanged for money, so that my employer gets to benefit from my work and I get to benefit from their money (which in turn represents the value of their own production).

 

Aluminium is a wage. Someone has to work to get aluminium, and the aluminium is what they get for their work unless they then trade it. Money has no meaning without the production of material values behind it.

 

From Francisco's 'Money Speech':

 

"Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them"

 

Could you also explain what you mean when you say land is a 'potential value'?

 

If you wish to focus on the sand taken from the land instead of the glass, I am happy to explore that. When someone who intends to make a glass takes sand from the land, the sand is his wage for the exertion expended in getting it and becomes his property. He then through a process of production transforms his wage - the sand - into capital - the glass which is also his property. At what point does the land become his property? If there is such a point, as I think you are asserting, what is your reasoning?

 

This is my thinking.

 

It is possible to argue that an individual gains a right to occupy land exclusively through productive use of it. Only the individuals involved in the productive use of land have a right to occupy it and that occupation right, if observed, would grant them non-interference from other men. When they cease using the land productively and leave the area, they lose their right to exclusive occupation. 

 

Economic rent - the return to land - is paid for out of the production that intelligent labour and capital makes possible. Economic rent is redistributive - basically it is no different from welfare payments, accept it is paid to landowners rather than the poor. I think that the productive should keep the full product of their work and deal with others via the Trader Principle - not via force.  It is land ownership which allows the charging of economic rent, which diminishes what producers create so that landowners can get paid 'welfare' (unearned income/economic rent). The charging of economic rent can cause income inequalities which includes causing poverty even amongst intelligent and productive men.

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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).

Is this a reply from Jon Southall? If so, why do you have two accounts and why would you reply to me using a different name? Very confusing.

As you parenthetically acknowledge, your usage of "ultimately" above is pretty loose. There is one ultimate source of property: the mind (or intelligence as you say).

Be that as it may, the point of my post was to suggest that your usage of the term "land" is just as loose. "Land" meaning: natural, pristine, untouched land; is different from real estate, or worked land, so please be clear to which you are referring. "Land" is a natural resource like bauxite is.

Are you arguing that natural resources cannot be owned or that real estate cannot be owned?

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Marc,

Apologies for the two accounts issue. Previously I had an account (Jono) which I have not used for a long time. I used my laptop to respond to you (prior to that I was using my mobile) - it had remembered my log in details as Jono without my noticing it.

To get back to the matter at hand, you are not quite right that the mind is the source of property. For instance, say we both think of a concept but you make it reality; I would not rationally claim a property right to what you have thought of and created independently, even though we had the same idea.

In order to own property one must create or earn and not just think. To earn means to trade. To create material values involves the use of land, labour and capital as factors of production. Without land, labour and capital are impotent.

Land is used in the sense that it is all materials and opportunities which exist in nature.

I will answer your question later about land ownership - but for now I will ask a question:

In your view, why does Rand argue that a property right is not a right to an object, but to a right to action with regards to that object?

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Could you also explain what you mean when you say land is a 'potential value'?

 

Sure. Land, like everything, does not have intrinsic value. It exists as a potential until it is actualized.

 

Let's be very clear on this, are you asserting that land in the United States is not a value?

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Reading this may be of assistance to followers of this discussion:

http://www.henrygeorge.org/pchp2.htm

 

Since you have linked to this page I decided to have a look. I had suspected that there was a deeper issue associated with your want to deny property rights in land and I think I have found it. From the henrygeorge website cited above:

 

Henry George’s brand of land reform, on the other hand, establishes equal land rights for all. It gives people the freedom to take as much 0r as little land as they can productively use — provided the obligation to society is paid. Thus, it enables the economy to progress under free conditions.

 

 

Henry George proposes to "abolish all taxation save that upon land values." [...]

 

Can we call you a Georgist? If so, then our perspectives and philosophies are quite at odds. You believe that we have an "obligation to society" and that forcible taxation is moral and should be legal.

 

Objectivists are individualists. We believe that every individual is an end in themselves and that they have a moral right to the fruits of their labor, and that no one, most particularly the government, has a right to use force against us. 

 

We also don't believe in intrinsic value. "Land" has no value until someone designates it a purpose and performs work on it. Apparently, and correct me if I'm wrong, Georgists want to collect on the value created by someone else for the "good" of society. This is wrong, in the view of Objectivists.

 

Not that you have any obligation to answer, and not that the answer should prevent anyone from having a discussion with you, I am just curious: what is your purpose here? My purpose is discuss the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Will you always be arguing against Ayn Rand from a Georgist perspective? If so, can you identify other fundamental views of hers with which you disagree? Property rights are quite fundamental in a political context but there are other principles of ethics, epistemology and metaphysics which are even more fundamental -- I have mentioned a few above.

I will go ahead and answer your other post but I'm afraid we will be constantly at loggerheads with regard to this issue if there are even more fundamental disagreements. 

 

In order to own property one must create or earn and not just think.

But we were talking about the "ultimate" source of property and wealth. Man's basic means of survival is reason. Labor, capital, production, and most certainly creation do not exist without reason. Labor is a necessary condition for production but not a sufficient one. Thinking is labor also, in fact it is the most important part of labor, not one's muscles.

 

Without land, labour and capital are impotent.

This is strictly not true. One can labor and create capital morally without owning land. Without reason -- land, labor and capital are impotent.

 

Land is used in the sense that it is all materials and opportunities which exist in nature.

Shall I call this the argument from nature? I thought I had disposed of it with my first post but let me be more explicit. Your original post contained what I thought looked like a syllogistic argument:

 

All property and all wealth is man-made.

Land is not man-made.

What is the origin of a Land ownership claim?

to wit:

- All property and all wealth is man-made.

- Land is not man-made.

- Therefore Land cannot be property

 

Which I believe contains an equivocation between "land" and "real estate" and to illustrate the point I countered with aluminum atoms are not man-made and yet they can be owned. Thus the argument from nature (or the not man-made) is defeated.

 

Furthermore, "opportunities" do not exist in nature apart from man's mind. Though I suppose if you don't like this formulation, then we could say that a specific opportunity does not exist apart from the mind that thought of it.

 

In your view, why does Rand argue that a property right is not a right to an object, but to a right to action with regards to that object?

There are many answers to this question depending on context or the level of fundamentality you seek.

Metaphysically, all life is sustained by action, though I suppose this isn't very satisfying since it doesn't deal with man specifically.

Epistemologically, "rights" are one concept and all rights pertain only to action.

Ethically, if man wants to live, he must take certain actions in order to sustain his life.

Politically, rights are moral sanctions to take those actions, and a proper government is created in order to protect those actions from the interference of others. In regard to property, those actions are the right to keep, use and dispose of your property as you see fit.

If someone had a right to a thing and wasn't willing to put in the work needed to gain it, then someone else would have to provide it for them.

What would Georgists say? That everyone has a right to "land" (a thing)? Or is it just that everyone has a right to demand "rent" (a thing, money or tax) from those that are putting land to productive use?

 

Edited by Marc K.

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Hi Marc,

 

I appreciate you taking the time to respond. 

 

I am not a Georgist; I said in an earlier post I accept George has identified a problem, but that I disagreed with his remedy for reasons I will not go into now. If you were to read Progress and Poverty, you will probably be surprised to see a considerable overlap between George's approach and Rand's - they are very consistent I would say, until George discusses his remedy the Land Value Tax. Very few Objectivists who I have discussed this with have actually read Progress and Poverty from start to finish and this shows in the quality of the understanding they demonstrate.

 

I love Objectivism. I query the land issue because it seems that George's reasoning is sound and at odds with Objectivist reasoning. If I check the premises, I find weaknesses in the Objectivist position; so I want to explore Objectivist reasoning further. Perhaps I haven't understood it. Perhaps Objectivists needs to revisit their position on this topic and explore the implications of that. Hence the value of this discussion from my perspective, and hopefully from the perspective of other posters here too.

 

You wrote:

 

"You believe that we have an "obligation to society" and that forcible taxation is moral and should be legal." This demonstrates to me that you have not understood the context. Would I be right if I presumed you have not read Progress and Poverty

 

The Georgist position is that landowners have an obligation to pass any economic rent on to those who gave rise to it. They consider those who have collected economic rents to have done so by force - the force exists because either producers pay it or they are forced to move to another location - if one exists. Therefore the use of force (via a Land Value Tax) in repatriating that wealth, to those who produced it, is considered no less moral than a policeman using force to liberate stolen property and returning it to its rightful owner. Georgists are actually against all other kinds of taxation for the same reasons that Objectivists are. 

 

"Objectivists are individualists. We believe that every individual is an end in themselves and that they have a moral right to the fruits of their labor, and that no one, most particularly the government, has a right to use force against us. "

 

I agree with that.

 

"We also don't believe in intrinsic value. "Land" has no value until someone designates it a purpose and performs work on it. Apparently, and correct me if I'm wrong, Georgists want to collect on the value created by someone else for the "good" of society. This is wrong, in the view of Objectivists."

 

I don't believe in intrinsic value either. 

 

I will correct you - Georgists do not want to collect on the value created by someone else for the "good" of society. What you are drawing a parallel to are altruists, and the reasoning behind the Georgist position is not altruistic. The Georgist position is actually arguing against the force-backed rights of landowners to take material values away from producers, for nothing more than giving them permission to produce in that location. Who wants to live by permission?

 

You state "we believe that every individual is an end in themselves and that they have a moral right to the fruits of their labor, and that no one, most particularly the government, has a right to use force against us" You cannot have your cake and eat it. If you truly believe this, as I do, then how can you support a practice which involves making producers pay landowners to be granted by those landowners permission to produce? Do you only have a moral right to the fruits of your labour if you pay someone for it?

 

 

As I wrote earlier, I love Objectivism. I am not here to reject Objectivism, Ayn Rand or argue from an -ist position. Rand voiced her support of the homesteading principle as the basis for land ownership rights. To a degree I agree with this. However I see shortcomings too.

 

- Under the Objectivist position, a Government must act as a custodian of the land - this is to quickly establish objective means by which use of the land can be established by individuals concerned, but it is silent on land disputes between governments. How does one resolve those disputes?

 

- Ignoring this issue, say you accept the Government can be a custodian, the principle is then if you are using the land productively, you are granted a title to it. Rand says a period of five years or so should be sufficient but this is uncharacteristically arbitrary. Why five years and not ten? Why not only for the period in which it is used productively? Why does working for five years grant someone a claim to unearned income via economic rents in perpetuity?

 

These are issues I find difficult with the Objectivist position on land. As an Objectivist, frankly this concerns me.

 

"

Without land, labour and capital are impotent.

This is strictly not true. One can labor and create capital morally without owning land. Without reason -- land, labor and capital are impotent."

 

You have changed my statement, your reasoning does not hold when you consider what I wrote originally. I wrote "without land" - I did not mention ownership. Without land, you are like an astronaut who has by accident found himself floating in space. Without help, you will perish quickly no matter how much you think or move your limbs around. Having access to land (as defined earlier) is essential for life. 

 

You write further:

 

"Which I believe contains an equivocation between "land" and "real estate" and to illustrate the point I countered with aluminum atoms are not man-made and yet they can be owned. Thus the argument from nature (or the not man-made) is defeated."

 

Aluminium atoms are not man-made. If I produce aluminium for use in production, then my exertion is the basis for my claim to have a right to gain, keep, use or dispose of the aluminium I produced (the aluminium being my wage). I was the cause of earning that aluminium by means of my exertion. It is not a right to the object I have- the aluminium atoms (which cannot be owned), but a right to action with regards to the aluminium atoms. This is consistent with Rand's and George's definitions. Can you see now why I asked why Rand specifically stated a right is a right to action with regards to the object, and not to the object. How could you own the aluminium atoms - they are not man-made - they are Land. 

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I am not a Georgist; I said in an earlier post I accept George has identified a problem, but that I disagreed with his remedy for reasons I will not go into now.

Can you sum-up, perhaps in one or two sentences apiece, what the problem is (as it pertains to Ayn Rand's position on private property), what his solution is, and since you disagree with his solution, what your solution is please?

 

 

I don't quite understand why are you directing us to read his book if you disagree with his solution? Perhaps it would be better to just quote the one or two or three paragraphs you think would be useful. 

 

No, I haven't read the book and, I'm sorry to say, I probably will not in the near future. I am confident that I understand the proper basis of property rights and many of its applications. I agree with Ayn Rand on the issue, and until someone brings to my attention a legitimate challenge to this understanding I will not be changing my position. What you have said so far hasn't caused me to question what I know to be true. (No disrespect intended).

 

The Georgist position is that landowners have an obligation to pass any economic rent on to those who gave rise to it. They consider those who have collected economic rents to have done so by force - the force exists because either producers pay it or they are forced to move to another location - if one exists. Therefore the use of force (via a Land Value Tax) in repatriating that wealth, to those who produced it, is considered no less moral than a policeman using force to liberate stolen property and returning it to its rightful owner. Georgists are actually against all other kinds of taxation for the same reasons that Objectivists are. 

This is too abstract to comment on, you should ground what you are talking about in a real life hypothetical. What is economic rent? And who "gave rise to it"? Let us just use the concept "rent", with which we are all familiar.

 

"They consider"??? Did someone actually use force or not? If so, that is already illegal. When living in an apartment, if you don't pay the rent you voluntarily agreed to, you are the one using force. 

This is starting to sound suspiciously similar to the libertarian argument against intellectual property: that it is the government using force against the people who actually created the wealth (those who stole the intellectual property of someone else and copied it). This, of course, is just as backwards as the above, and also conforms to the labor theory of value: that value is created, fundamentally, by the muscles.

 

 

You state "we believe that every individual is an end in themselves and that they have a moral right to the fruits of their labor, and that no one, most particularly the government, has a right to use force against us" You cannot have your cake and eat it. If you truly believe this, as I do, then how can you support a practice which involves making producers pay landowners to be granted by those landowners permission to produce? Do you only have a moral right to the fruits of your labour if you pay someone for it?

I don't approve of anyone "making" (i.e., using force against) anyone do anything. Producers only have to pay landowners if they agree voluntarily to do so. If you don't want to pay me for the use of my land, then go get your own. Of course then you'll have to do what I had to do to get land. One cannot get land by doing nothing. In a proper society, you can lay a claim by working the land and registering its extent with the government, or you can do some other kind of work and pay for a piece of property (which has already been registered), both are legitimate (and, by the way, an advantage of a division of labor economy). I don't see the problem.

 

- Under the Objectivist position, a Government must act as a custodian of the land - this is to quickly establish objective means by which use of the land can be established by individuals concerned, but it is silent on land disputes between governments. How does one resolve those disputes?

 

- Ignoring this issue, say you accept the Government can be a custodian, the principle is then if you are using the land productively, you are granted a title to it. Rand says a period of five years or so should be sufficient but this is uncharacteristically arbitrary. Why five years and not ten? Why not only for the period in which it is used productively? Why does working for five years grant someone a claim to unearned income via economic rents in perpetuity?

 

These are issues I find difficult with the Objectivist position on land. As an Objectivist, frankly this concerns me.

Well then don't worry because these are not Objectivist positions.

 

"This is strictly not true. One can labor and create capital morally without owning land. Without reason -- land, labor and capital are impotent."

 

You have changed my statement, your reasoning does not hold when you consider what I wrote originally. I wrote "without land" - I did not mention ownership. Without land, you are like an astronaut who has by accident found himself floating in space. Without help, you will perish quickly no matter how much you think or move your limbs around. Having access to land (as defined earlier) is essential for life.

Please forgive me, but I don't think I did change what you said, because I don't see how what you said can mean anything at all if it doesn't refer to "owning land" -- after all, isn't that the title of this thread, which you created?

 

This conversation is starting to get bizarre, it is floating, like your astronaut. So there would still be an earth and we humans would still be living on it but no one would own the land that comprises the earth. If no one owns the land, then why should anyone be paying rent to anyone? You need to see what kind of strange consequences can come from this view ... oh, you do:

 

Aluminium atoms are not man-made. If I produce aluminium for use in production, then my exertion is the basis for my claim to have a right to gain, keep, use or dispose of the aluminium I produced (the aluminium being my wage). I was the cause of earning that aluminium by means of my exertion. It is not a right to the object I have- the aluminium atoms (which cannot be owned), but a right to action with regards to the aluminium atoms. This is consistent with Rand's and George's definitions. Can you see now why I asked why Rand specifically stated a right is a right to action with regards to the object, and not to the object. How could you own the aluminium atoms - they are not man-made - they are Land.

Wow, please excuse me, but this truly one of the strangest things I've ever heard. 

 

I can own my iphone, but I cannot own the aluminum atoms of which it is comprised? So I can own my iphone and not own it at the same time????

 

Rights and ownership are two different things. Yes, I have a right to work, to earn money, but nobody owes me a job and they have not violated my rights if they don't hire me. But if I earn the money, then it is mine, I own it. Then I further have the right to trade that money for an iphone, but only if someone voluntarily sells it to me. If they do, then I own it and I own the aluminum atoms of which it is comprised. I can keep them and let them sit unused, I can use them and be productive with them, I can dispose of them by throwing the phone in the ocean, or I can trade them to someone else, and then they will own them. 

 

If land and aluminum atoms cannot be owned, then nothing can be owned. We all know what a system of no private property leads to: stagnation and death.

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Marc,

 

Economic rent is meant in a specific way. It is a technical term used by economists and differs significantly from what the layperson understands rent to be. 

 

By means of example - I currently pay rent to live in a three bed maisonette on the outskirts of London. Let's say I pay £2,000 pcm. The layperson would say I pay £2,000 in rent.

 

The economic rent is not £2,000. The £2,000 is separable into wages (to the landlord for providing services), interest (to the landlord for providing the home - the asset - his capital) and economic rent (to the landowner to buy his permission to live in that location). Let's say the wages are £250, the interest is £300 meaning the economic rent is £1,450 pcm. Georgists object to the landowner collecting this £1,450 pcm. They have no issue with the collection of the other £550 is this would be the result of a trade - the individual-as-service-provider and capital-renter has a moral entitlement to it. Georgists object to the individual-as-landowner collecting the £1,450 pcm as the only reason they can collect it, is the fact they can forcibly prevent someone from using the land unless they do pay it. It is therefore coercive and immoral.

 

Now I imagine you will claim "but a tenant voluntarily agrees to pay the economic rent, they enter into a contract!"

 

The logic behind such a claim would be utterly flawed.

 

Consider someone who is looking for land in order to produce material values, through their own effort directed by their own intelligence. Landowners demand economic rent on all of the land in the location they want to work. The more valuable the location, the more economic rent they will pay. The producer voluntarily accepts one plot of land knowing full well the value of their production will be reduced by economic rent. Does this mean that the economic rent is uncoerced? Of course it doesn't.  

 

Consider someone who is looking for work. There are four jobs on offer. The government deducts taxes from all four jobs via an income tax. The individual voluntarily accepts one of those jobs knowing full well that their earnings will be reduced by income taxes. Does this mean that the tax is uncoerced? Of course it doesn't. You could not call yourself an Objectivist if you argued otherwise. The logic is the same in both instances, but in one case you argue that the coercion is just, in the other unjust. This is a contradiction - I am drawing your attention to it. How will you resolve it?

 

Let's explore the Georgist and Objectivist arguments. I wrote before they are more similar than you think.

 

Rand reasons that "The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life".

 

George reasons "What constitutes the rightful basis of property? What allows someone to justly say, "This is mine!"? Is it not, primarily, the right of a person to one's own self? To the use of one's own powers? To enjoy the fruits of one's own labor? Each person is a definite, coherent, independent whole. Each particular pair of hands obeys a particular brain and is related to a particular body. And this alone justifies individual ownership.

 

As each person belongs to himself or herself, so labor belongs to the individual when put in concrete form. For this reason, what someone makes or produces belongs to that person — even against the claim of the whole world. It is that person's property, to use or enjoy, give or exchange, or even destroy. No one else can rightfully claim it. And this right to the exclusive possession and enjoyment wrongs no one else. Thus, there is a clear and indisputable title to everything produced by human exertion."

 

The two lines of reasoning seem in agreement so far. Both Rand and George argue that the individual's right to his own life is the source of all other rights. Both Rand and George argue that a person has a right to what he has produced by his own effort, led by his own mind. 

 

Rand stated "Man has to work and produce in order to support his life. He has to support his life by his own effort and by the guidance of his own mind. If he cannot dispose of the product of his effort, he cannot dispose of his effort; if he cannot dispose of his effort, he cannot dispose of his life. Without property rights, no other rights can be practiced."

 

George argued: "This right of ownership springing from labor excludes the possibility of any other right of ownership. A person is rightfully entitled to the product of his or her labor (or the labor of someone else from whom the right has been received).

 

It is production that gives the producer the right to exclusive possession and enjoyment. If so, there can be no right to exclusive possession of anything that is not the product of labor. Therefore, private property in land is wrong.

 

The right to the product of labor cannot be enjoyed without the right to free use of the opportunities offered by nature. To admit a right to property in nature is to deny the right of property as the product of labor. When non-producers can claim a portion of the wealth created by producers — as rent — then the right of producers to the fruits of their labor is denied to that extent."

 

Rand stated: "If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor."

 

She also stated:

 

"A right is the sanction of independent action. A right is that which can be exercised without anyone’s permission.

 

If you exist only because society permits you to exist—you have no right to your own life. A permission can be revoked at any time.

 

If, before undertaking some action, you must obtain the permission of society—you are not free, whether such permission is granted to you or not. Only a slave acts on permission. A permission is not a right."

 

Are these two positions as fundamentally opposed as you claim them to be? Both George and Rand argue against anyone being admitted a right to dispose of the product of producers. Neither Rand nor George thought producers needed permission to produce. Rand has identified the Government as the main culprit of coercion (via taxation) - George also identified Landowners as main culprits (via economic rent). George seems to have identified that both landowners and governments apply coercion to take away the product of producers. I am not therefore claiming Rand's reasoning was wrong but it appears she did not identify the full implications of her line of reasoning.

 

You said above the Objectivist positions I set out were not Objectivist positions. I believe you are incorrect. Can you point me to your sources of what the Objectivist position on land ownership is?

 

Finally, you wrote:

 

"Rights and ownership are two different things. Yes, I have a right to work, to earn money, but nobody owes me a job and they have not violated my rights if they don't hire me. But if I earn the money, then it is mine, I own it. Then I further have the right to trade that money for an iphone, but only if someone voluntarily sells it to me. If they do, then I own it and I own the aluminum atoms of which it is comprised. I can keep them and let them sit unused, I can use them and be productive with them, I can dispose of them by throwing the phone in the ocean, or I can trade them to someone else, and then they will own them. 

 
If land and aluminum atoms cannot be owned, then nothing can be owned. We all know what a system of no private property leads to: stagnation and death."

 
In my judgement, you have not understood what I was arguing.
 
I agree with the first paragraph above. There is no discrepancy with what I was arguing in the previous post. The final sentence (if land and aluminium...) shows you have not understood the argument. I'll explain it again.
 
Aluminium can be owned but what is a property right? It is not a right to the object - the aluminium - but a right to action. That is Rand's reasoning - which I agree with. That means you have no right to aluminium. You do have a right to gain aluminium, keep it, use it or dispose of it through the act of producing or earning it. Through becoming your wages you gain property rights to the aluminium you produced, as per my previous post. 
 
It also means you have no right to land, which includes aluminium atoms. You do have a right to gain land, keep it, use it or dispose of it through the act of producing or earning it. If that were possible. Land both pre-exists and is a pre-requisite of production so it is not possible. It is not therefore possible to own land under Rand's and George's criteria.  
 
This does not mean it is impossible to own anything. Anything made by man, can be owned as private property. 

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Georgists object to the individual-as-landowner collecting the £1,450 pcm as the only reason they can collect it, is the fact they can forcibly prevent someone from using the land unless they do pay it. It is therefore coercive and immoral.

 

Do you have the right to prevent random strangers from staging a concert in your house; violently if necessary?

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The comment was irrational; a straw man argument loaded with sarcasm.

How could you seriously ask it? Of course strangers can't force their way into your home to hold a concert. Of course you would have the right to intervene if they tried if the police were unable to do so on your behalf.

That has nothing whatsoever to do with this thread. I can only presume you were acting in a facetious way.

Edited by Jon Southall

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A chunk of metal formed into a machine is capital, and can be claimed as private property (due to production), and can be and rented out to another for a fee.

 

A piece of land formed into apartment building is capital, and can be claimed as private property (due to production), and can be rented out to another for a fee.

 

The metals are limited on this earth, and so are the lands. There can be said to be an "economic rent" for both cases. The only difference at the present moment is in the size of this "economic rent" due to the difference in scarcity between metal and land.

 

This idea of yours that suggest that land (an area of the surface of earth and a limited space above that surface) is inherently different from other natural resources seems to be based on scarcity rather than principle.

 

But the truth of the matter is, all resources on this earth is limited.

 

Right now you are arguing that when all the land is claimed, all the land owners that rent out their land is extracting an unearned "economic rent" as part of their rent fee due to the scarcity of land.

 

In the future when all the metals on this Earth is mined out, would not your logic also suggest that any metal owners that rent their metals out is extracting an unearned "economic rent" due to the now scarcity of metal?

 

This logic then goes on and on: any natural resource of any kind that gets scarce would apply.

 

 

In terms of principle, there is no difference between land and all other resources; your argument so far I can see is based purely on level of scarcity.

 

Practically, the fact of the matter is, land and resources on Earth might be limited, but they are infinite in the universe.

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Hi Vect, welcome to the discussion.

A machine and an apartment building are both examples of capital.

Metals which have been obtained by a man are part of his wealth - initially as wages until forming part of his capital stock. When he later chooses to use or dispose of it, there is no economic rent involved in the exchange - no matter how scarce the metal is.

Economic rent is the return to land, which is collected by whoever controls land. Land by the way has a wider definition than the surface of the Earth in this discussion. It refers to all materials, forces and opportunities occuring in nature - including the whole universe.

Land in the context of the Earth is no more scarce today than it was thousands of years ago and will be no more scarce in thousands of years time. The location value may be higher or lower depending on productive use. We may discover a stock of precious metals and begin obtaining them for industrial use - the location value will go up. We deplete a stock of precious metals - this then reduces the value of the location to zero for those who wanted the precious metals from it. However the very existence of economic rent depends on the existence of private property in land. If someone wanted to use land which is not being used productively they would just go and use it. There would be no one to pay economic rent to. Only private property in land allows an owner to interfere with you and make you pay for his permission first.

If people are in competition for exclusive use of land, they outbid each other to gain that exclusivity for themselves. This implies there is someone who owns the land in order to trade it with those bidders. If land ownership is wrong, the person who collects the location value - the economic rent, is not entitled to it. He has no more right to the land than the people bidding for it. But he can use coercive force to ensure someone pays him - the one who pays him the most.

This is basically enslavement - as much as taxation is.

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By scarcity I mean scarcity of unclaimed land. Not the amount of land physically. And economic rent is something that arises from scarcity/exclusivity. Your argument is as I understand that this rent is unearned and immoral.

 

Which leads to another problem you have with this latest post.

 

You are having trouble with the process by how an individual can claim a land.

 

How an individual claim the right to a chunk of metal over his fellow peers, that you can see, because of the act of mining (since he put his effort into mining that chunk of metal out of the earth and his fellow men didn't, therefore he have the right to that metal over his fellow men) (also I wouldn't call that a "wage", wage is an item traded between two individuals over items they both claimed, this (mining) on the other hand is an act of claiming unclaimed item)

 

Similar situation for claiming land. There is a piece of unclaimed land (great view):

-Individual_1 arrives to this land

-Individual_1 likes the view on this land and buildings a large building

-Individual_1 claims the land the building stands on

 

You are going to argue: The building belongs to him, but not the land! The building came into existence because of Individual_1's labour, but the land has always been there! 

 

Right to Property is a claim to a property over your peers, over other individuals; it's not some metaphysical link between you and your property.

 

Just as claiming a chunk of metal is first-come-first-serve (whoever mined that unclaimed chunk out of this earth, or whoever flagged the piece underground), same goes with land.

 

If you are going to argue that the building can belong to Individual_1 but not the space (land) that the building occupies, how would that work? Building is a physical object that have to occupy space. If he cannot claim the land that the building occupies, does that mean another can? And what would happen to his building if another claims that land? What if the new landowner wants to remove the building?

 

Moreover, by what rationale should another individual be able to claim the land that Individual_1's building sits on? The land was unclaimed before; the act of I1 constructing a building on top of it should by all reason grant him claim over that land above his peers. If you say it does not, then what does? And by what merit should an after-come individual be able to claim that piece of land after I1 have already constructed a building on top of it?

Edited by VECT

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There are many things to say, all of which point to Georgism and Objectivism being completely incompatible, to "economic rent" being some sort of anti-concept, to you confusing government force with voluntary free trade and to your continued belief in some sort of intrinsic value to "land". I may take the time to answer more fully but first I would like an answer to the following two questions.


First is the one you promised me a reply to earlier:

Are you arguing that natural resources cannot be owned or that real estate cannot be owned?

 

Second is an explanation for your blatant self-contradiction:

Aluminium can be owned

 

the aluminium atoms (which cannot be owned)

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Marc, You say George's arguments and Objectivism are completely incompatible. I believe this to be an unfounded assertion. I have already provided evidence which contradicts your assertion. If you are going to make a claim, I would like you to substantiate it. Economic rent as an 'anti-concept'? You would benefit from studying economics. I'm confusing voluntary free trade with government force? Please point out where. I hold a believe in the intrinsic value in land? I have already stated clearly I hold no such belief. You are just attacking blindly. There is no self-contradiction but you have created the illusion of one by selectively removing the context. Aluminium atoms are not man-made and cannot be owned. Aluminium, when produced, is the producer's wage for producing. The producer by earning his wage has a right to gain, use, keep and dispose of the aluminium. When we say the aluminium is his property, that he owns the aluminium, we are refering to his exclusive rights to action, not to the object. He has no rights to aluminium because it is unowned. I repeat. He has rights to action with regards to the aluminium he has produced, because it is his wages for producing. Rand states, and I echo: "Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object." A property right is not a right to a group of aluminium atoms. It is a right to the actions and consequences of producing aluminium atoms. Do you agree with Rand or disagree? Let's keep this discussion productive. You are free to disagree with me. You can disagree with me without exploring the reasoning first if you like. What progress do you think we can make? If none, thank you for your contribution.

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Aluminium atoms are not man-made and cannot be owned. Aluminium, when produced, is the producer's wage for producing. The producer by earning his wage has a right to gain, use, keep and dispose of the aluminium. When we say the aluminium is his property, that he owns the aluminium, we are refering to his exclusive rights to action, not to the object. He has no rights to aluminium because it is unowned.

When you say that a person has "no rights to the aluminum," what do you think that entails?

If I own a piece of aluminum foil, and I consequently have the right to crumple that foil up, or turn it into an origami crane, or sell it, or melt it down and refashion it into something else, or throw it into the trash -- if it is my aluminum foil -- then what could it possibly mean to say, "however, I do not own the aluminum itself"? What do you believe that distinction serves to accomplish?

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Hi Don, I didn't write "no rights to the aluminium". I wrote "no rights to aluminium". Can you see the distinction?

Really??? You mean the only thing we've been debating for 3 pages is the word "the"??? Well, OK, this should be easy then.

So you would agree then that men have the right to own THE land that they improve and that no one can remove them from that land if they don't want to go, no matter how much more productive those others might be? And that the land owner can charge whatever rent he decides, while, of course, he can force no one to pay such rent? And, of course, since he owns the land, no one can force him to accept a rent lower than what he has decided to charge.

 

Problem solved.

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