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Private property rights in natural resources

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Saurabh
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Don't Troll me

Zip,

Let us agree on the rules of the game, before we continue further on the debate. I can think of three basic rules:

1) The intention for debate is not to prove a point, but to reach a logical conslusion - through mutual intellectual challenge.

2) The only arbiter is logic

3) There needs to be best intellectual effort from both sides to understand each other's position

I am not at all implying that anyone is violating any of these rules. I just want to say is that at this point, you need to judge if I am violating any of these rules. If yes (e.g. if you think I am no being intellectualy honest), then you must not deal with me. Your code of morality will imply that. Right?

I will follow the same rule too. And I am continuing this debate becuase I do sense seriousness, honesty and lot of effort in yours and others' responses.

Now, I agree that I introduced the concept of Zero price. But I am not implying that Land should come at zero price. I re-state my point: 'There is some money that needs to be paid for the use of land just because of the fact that demand (at zero price) for land exceeds its supply'. Let me know if you want me to elaborate more.

This is a perfect example. If I own the land I am the only person involved. No one else has any say in what I do with my land or the money I generate off of it. That is part and parcel of what it means to have property rights.

I agree with the conditional statement. But the debate is about the condition (If I own the land...). Right?

This is part of your problem you separate fundamental issues from practical issues thereby creating contradictions. Contradictions do not exist.

Do not reply that landlords historically got their land in other non-freemarket ways, often through the use of force. That is a completely different discussion...

Zip and softwarenerd,

Thanks for the above remarks, as I realize the mistake I was making. From now on, I will only focus on the Fundamental issue, and not on what is practically happening. I rephrase my assertion as follows:

Pvt property in Land leads to a contradiction of human rights, even when applied in a free market.

To debate the above assertion, I will refrain from using practical examples, as these examples are not neccesarily a result of free market.

Hope you guys agree with this approach.

That is a loaded description of a landlord. In fact, if we assume a free-market, the landlord is the person who identifies something of value, and takes whatever steps are required to appropriate it and make it ready for use by the so-called "productive people". If those productive people were smarter, they would be landlords.

So, you make two points here:

1) In a free market, there would be no one in my category of Landlords (let us call them parasite-landlords)

2) In a free market, if productive people were smarter, they would be landlords (productive-landlords).

Now, before I give you my reaction on point 1, would you want to tell me how do you think this would not happen in free market?

On 2, again please tell me how do you see this happening in a free market. My position here is that market for land is Oligopsonistic, so productive people will have to pay a very high price for that land. This will prevent lot of such people from becoming landlords.

Edited by Saurabh
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So, you make two points here:

1) In a free market, there would be no one in my category of Landlords (let us call them parasite-landlords)

2) In a free market, if productive people were smarter, they would be landlords (productive-landlords).

Now, before I give you my reaction on point 1, would you want to tell me how do you think this would not happen in free market?

I do not think my way of categorizing "parasitic landlord" vs. "productive landlord" would be the same as yours. I would not use the terms at all, but if I did then a company that claimed some land because they believed it had oil would be productive, while a sheik who stole it from them would be parasitic. Production is not about concretes alone: it is about thoughts. In fact, in today's economy thinking is the largest part of any value chain. Edited by softwareNerd
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Now, I agree that I introduced the concept of Zero price. But I am not implying that Land should come at zero price. I re-state my point: 'There is some money that needs to be paid for the use of land just because of the fact that demand (at zero price) for land exceeds its supply'. Let me know if you want me to elaborate more.

Let me restate my point. No. The fact is that there is no need to pay for the use of land. When a person buys the land he can do as he pleases with it.

I agree with the conditional statement. But the debate is about the condition (If I own the land...). Right?

So it is the right to property that you disagree with. Do you believe that men should have the right to own land? Yes or no?

I'm trying to get you to state your definitive position. Remember there is no half way, Objectivists view property rights as one of the three inviolate individual rights along with Life and Liberty, You can not give a "yes, but" answer because any equivocation is a revokation of property rights.)

Zip and softwarenerd,

Thanks for the above remarks, as I realize the mistake I was making. From now on, I will only focus on the Fundamental issue, and not on what is practically happening. I rephrase my assertion as follows:

Pvt property in Land leads to a contradiction of human rights, even when applied in a free market.

To debate the above assertion, I will refrain from using practical examples, as these examples are not neccesarily a result of free market.

Hope you guys agree with this approach.

What human right does property rights contradict?

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Now, I agree that I introduced the concept of Zero price. But I am not implying that Land should come at zero price. I re-state my point: 'There is some money that needs to be paid for the use of land just because of the fact that demand (at zero price) for land exceeds its supply'. Let me know if you want me to elaborate more.

As far as I understand it, you are implying that land should come at "zero" price because (to you) the fact that it doesn't seems to necessitate the redistribution of wealth in order to compensate for exactly this fact. You specifically said that such redistribution were not necessary or warranted if land was available at "zero" cost.

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As far as I understand it, you are implying that land should come at "zero" price because (to you) the fact that it doesn't seems to necessitate the redistribution of wealth in order to compensate for exactly this fact. You specifically said that such redistribution were not necessary or warranted if land was available at "zero" cost.

Randroid,

Let me clarify.

Original-state Land is supplied at zero cost (by nature). But Gold is not. It is supplied by a producer after incurring the cost of extraction, etc.

Both Land and Gold can, however, have a positive price. And this depends upon on where Demand and supply equate.

So it is the right to property that you disagree with. Do you believe that men should have the right to own land? Yes or no?

I'm trying to get you to state your definitive position. Remember there is no half way, Objectivists view property rights as one of the three inviolate individual rights along with Life and Liberty, You can not give a "yes, but" answer because any equivocation is a revokation of property rights.)

Zip,

I am not making a sweeping statement on prop rights, across different types of properties. And I am with you on your generic view on property rights - that these are inviolate human rights.

However, the statement that prop rights are inviolate human rights is not an axiom. It is derived from a basic right of a human being to his life.

Now, I am asserting that pvt property rights on a natural resource such as land, actually violate this right to life for other productive people who do not own land, and can't even bid for it by offering the scarcity rent as payment.

This is my definitive position. I realize I need to support my position thoroughly - and I will do so in my subsequent posts.

Production is not about concretes alone: it is about thoughts. In fact, in today's economy thinking is the largest part of any value chain.

Softwarenerd,

I agree with you here.

Also, I will support my claim - that in a free-market pvt prop right on land will lead to parasitic-landlords - in my subsequent posts.

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Original-state Land is supplied at zero cost (by nature).

"Supplied". You seem to think that The Great Goddess Gaia, Blessed Be, has created the Mother Earth for all Her Children to share. This is not the case. Fertile land is nothing more than some dirt lying around. Just like gold, which is some metal lying around between some rocks somewhere, it has no value until someone does something with it. I know, you think that someone must invest some human effort to get to the gold, but human effort is also necessary to get to the fertile land. If it's fertile, there's already something growing on it that one needs to get rid of before the land can be used for farming. There is no difference between gold and land as far as property rights are concerned.

Now, I am asserting that pvt property rights on a natural resource such as land, actually violate this right to life for other productive people who do not own land, and can't even bid for it by offering the scarcity rent as payment.

First, the right to life is a misnomer. It is actually the right to live. If you don't have and can't create the means to do that, that still does not give you the right to initiate force against other men. Second, you do not need to own land to live. Many millions of productive people do not own land, yet do just fine.

I realize I need to support my position thoroughly - and I will do so in my subsequent posts.

You are truly a master of suspense.

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Also, I will support my claim - that in a free-market pvt prop right on land will lead to parasitic-landlords - in my subsequent posts.
In post #500 perhaps :)

Seriously though, in a free-market, the very first person who decides the land should be put to use, and then proceeds to enable this (even if it is merely to draw a boundary, advertise its value and then rent it out) is not "parasitical" because those things are productive. If the others wanted to do what he did, nobody was stopping them. He took nothing from anyone else. There is no host for any parasite. Subsequent landlords will only own that land if they pay for it. If someone pays a market price for land, he is paying the owner without the use of force. Therefore it is not parasitical. Any value that the land has is accounted for in the price paid for it.

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Zip,

I am not making a sweeping statement on prop rights, across different types of properties. And I am with you on your generic view on property rights - that these are inviolate human rights.

No, don't mess with the wording. INDIVIDUAL rights, not "human" rights. Human rights have a completely different connotation and the term is used to create and classify a whole slew of printing press rights, like the right to a house, a job, to not be discriminated against, the list goes on and on.

However, the statement that prop rights are inviolate human rights is not an axiom. It is derived from a basic right of a human being to his life.

I never claimed that it was an axiom, just that Objectivists view Life, Liberty and Property rights as inviolate. You want to add a "ya but..." as far as ownership of resources is concerned and that simple equivocation is a negation of what it means to have property rights. There are no "Ya But's" where rights are concerned, they either exist as a whole or do not exist.

Now, I am asserting that pvt property rights on a natural resource such as land, actually violate this right to life for other productive people who do not own land, and can't even bid for it by offering the scarcity rent as payment.

This is my definitive position. I realize I need to support my position thoroughly - and I will do so in my subsequent posts.

You should start then by explaining what exactly you see the right to life as encompassing. Be specific, be clear and be consise.

Edit to add: This is what Ayn Rand had to say about the right to life...

The right to life means that a man has the right to support his life by his own work (on any economic level, as high as his ability will carry him); it does not mean that others must provide him with the necessities of life.
Edited by Zip
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I see two different issues.

One relates to the situation where a person enters some previously unclaimed, unowned territory and puts up "DO NO ENTER - PRIVATE PROPERTY" signs every few yards over a territory of several hundred acres in area, thereby claiming ownership. He or she then builds a cabin and clears a small portion of it, and maybe occasionally goes hunting on most of the rest, or forages for mushrooms and firewood. Does this person really own this whole place? Can he or she sell it, rent it, or charge a user fee for walking on it?

The second issue is that there are hardly any patches of ground left that are previously unowned and unclaimed. What people call "'my property" is not a patch of land they personally wrestled from the wilderness. They bought it from somebody. But the purchase was only valid if the seller properly owned it. That seller probably bought it from somebody else, and so on. What some people either explicitly affirm or implicitly sense is that as you go back in time, you very often find that some violation of rights was involved in the supposed ownership of much land. This is certainly true in Europe, where the land was once improperly thought to be "owned" by barons and nobles who were basically thugs and terrorists. When Proudhon wrote that "property is theft" he was probably referring to the fact that current property ownership (in his day) was based largely on force and fraud. In the US, the issue relates more to the treatment of Native Americans, and is more complex.

Edited by Dr. Dave
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No. There is one issue. Do you believe in property rights or not. The long lost history of the land is a moot point. The fact that a person doesn't use all of the land he owns is a red herring. The only question is do you believe that a man has the right to claim ownership of land.

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"The fact that a person doesn't use all of the land he owns is a red herring. The only question is..."

These discussions are great. There is no question that an adult human being has the right to own land. Sorry if I seemed to say otherwise.

I asked "Does this person really own the land he/she claims to own?" in order to explore more deeply the nature of land ownership. I am not sure I understand it fully and would like to get others' ideas. But certainly once ownership is established, an owner is free to use as much or as little as he/she pleases.

Re. the "moot point," after how long does property theft turn into legitimate property ownership? I can't see an objective basis for any time limit. Or is that just not a worthwhile question?

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Re. the "moot point," after how long does property theft turn into legitimate property ownership? I can't see an objective basis for any time limit. Or is that just not a worthwhile question?

The point is moot because the first use of land predates the very concept of individual rights, including property rights. It also predates recorded history, so there is no way to establish who the first rightful owner of any given patch of land was. And even if that was somehow possible, any attempt to find the rightful heir of that land (the person who'd own it today if it never had been taken by force by anyone) is a completely pointless and futile exercise in "what might have been".

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Re. the "moot point," after how long does property theft turn into legitimate property ownership? I can't see an objective basis for any time limit. Or is that just not a worthwhile question?

It's a moot point as far as the principles of poperty rights go. If you have actual proof that an actual person alive today is the rightful owner of something in another man's possession, bring it. That would constitute proof of injustice (a violation of the principles of property rights) and ought to be corrected. Here's an idea of what that proof would consist of:

If you identify the victim of an act of theft, and provide proof of that act, then that victim has a right to justice. (the victim should get his land/house/jewelry/painting/'pink underpants with yellow flowers on it' back, or, if he died, the people who are his rightful and proven heirs should get it)

If any of those three requirements are absent (can't identify the victim, can't prove the crime, can't prove the victim's rightful heirs are alive today), discussing past injustice is a moot point, as far as property goes. So, if you want to discuss injustice that occurred in Europe 1000 years ago, in general, sure, it is historical fact, but there's no relevance to the principles of property ownership, only to actual instances of property, if there's proof that an injustice is being perpetrated.

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Re. the "moot point," after how long does property theft turn into legitimate property ownership? I can't see an objective basis for any time limit. Or is that just not a worthwhile question?

Theft can not be translated into ownership. However, there is the practical issue raised by Randroid and Jake. It's also important to note that you can not in any practical sense of the word steal something that has never been recognized as being owned.

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Theft can not be translated into ownership. However, there is the practical issue raised by Randroid and Jake. It's also important to note that you can not in any practical sense of the word steal something that has never been recognized as being owned.

I've been thinking about various ways a ownership violation can disappear, and I think difFerently about this now. Certainly, the fact that a master thief is very good at destroying evidence etc. does not make the thief a legitimate owner of what is stolen. A prosecutor has a different set of problems than a political philosopher. But what if the thief sells stolen goods and uses the proceeds to send his/her child to college? Is a piece of the college degree stolen? This makes no sense. Or what if you have a $20 bill in your wallet that actually traces back to an unsolved robbery. The robber bought a pack of cigarettes with the $20, the store owner deposited it in a bank, the bank loaded it into the ATM machine, ...

Your wallet is stolen, but the police recover it and you get your $20 back. It's not just that it is treated as if it's your legitimate property. It really is your legitimate property. The rights violation has disappeared. Thanks for helping me see this.

With land, the thing that bugs me is you can see with the plain evidence of your senses that there are societies composed of 2 ethnic groups: The ancestors of group 1 owed the land for millenia. The ancestors of the group 2 invaded and conquered. Now, years later, the members of group 1 own almost all of the decent land, and the members of group 2 own little or no land and live in abject poverty. It's completely obvious what happened. But no individual case of theft can be proven in a court of law. So we just let it go?

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With land, the thing that bugs me is you can see with the plain evidence of your senses that there are societies composed of 2 ethnic groups: The ancestors of group 1 owed the land for millenia. The ancestors of the group 2 invaded and conquered. Now, years later, the members of group 1 own almost all of the decent land, and the members of group 2 own little or no land and live in abject poverty. It's completely obvious what happened. But no individual case of theft can be proven in a court of law. So we just let it go?

It's not obvious to me what happened. It is impossible that events that happened generations ago would cause a segment of the population today to live in abject poverty. If the members of group 2 were born into a free society, and yet, the vast majority of them are living in abject poverty, there must be a reason for that beyond what you have mentioned.

So, we let what go? Crimes that happened hundreds of years ago, where some unknown dead people of race A attacked some other unknown dead people from race B? Or that, for some mysterious reason, members of group 2 have not managed to earn a living?

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With land, the thing that bugs me is you can see with the plain evidence of your senses that there are societies composed of 2 ethnic groups: The ancestors of group 1 owed the land for millenia. The ancestors of the group 2 invaded and conquered. Now, years later, the members of group 1 own almost all of the decent land, and the members of group 2 own little or no land and live in abject poverty. It's completely obvious what happened. But no individual case of theft can be proven in a court of law. So we just let it go?
If you don't, then you have to justify limiting your interpolations to just "group 1", and you have to deny the very basis for the rational concept of ownership. The presumption that the land is really and properly owned by group 1 has to be based on them gaining an unblemished title to the land, and yet we know that group 1 originally waged war against group 3 to gain control of the land.

It is philosophically totally wrong to say that group 1 -- let's say, 'The Arabs' -- ever owned the land. Land is not owned by an ethnic group, it is owned by specific individuals, and what is owned by an individual is some specific and well-defined piece of land. It is impossible to objectively verify the particular tract of ancient land and relate it to a specific owner, nor can one even objectively establish as fact the claim that the land was owned by a member of a specific ethnic group.

There are legal standards for evaluating competing claims of land ownership. Forget about racial claims to land, what about the competing claims of the Hatfields versus the McCoys? You have to look at the evidence, so maybe there are documents, or eye-witnesses to a real estate transaction. It is a legal fact that possession is nine points of the law, but of course the evidence of possession can be overcome by showing stronger evidence to the contrary. The simply fact of putatively being of one ethnic group is not the kind of objective evidence necessary to establish that the one in possession is not the rightful owner.

It makes no sense to think of ownership as being some kind of secret inner property of an object, just waiting to be discovered by closely scrutinizing the object.

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No. There is one issue. Do you believe in property rights or not. The long lost history of the land is a moot point. The fact that a person doesn't use all of the land he owns is a red herring. The only question is do you believe that a man has the right to claim ownership of land.

Guys,

I am currently reading Proudhon, Locke and Spencer on the issue of property rights, and will post my detailed response later.

Just wanted to chip in right now as Zip raised again the basic question (above).

Now, I do believe in property rights. But, I also believe that a man does not have the right to claim property over land.

Because, a man can only own something that he either creates by his own effort, or exchanges (by offering in return a product of his effort to the creator).

Man's ownership over land follows none of the above two conditions.

Now, I know that you believe that land property rights can also arise just by first use or appropriation. But, I do not see any philosophical justification for that. If you grant property rights under this way, you preclude future claimants from getting a chance to compete for same land.

My propositions is to offer 'rights of usage' over land, instead of 'rights of ownership'. This way a pioneer can use the land and keep full value. But, if there arise multiple bidders for that land, then they have a fair chance of getting the usage rights - by bidding higher than the pioneer.

A more structured response will follow...

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Now, I do believe in property rights. But, I also believe that a man does not have the right to claim property over land.

Because, a man can only own something that he either creates by his own effort, or exchanges (by offering in return a product of his effort to the creator).

And yet you believe that man can own gold, which he does not create out of thin air, either. How do you reconcile this contradiction?

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And yet you believe that man can own gold, which he does not create out of thin air, either. How do you reconcile this contradiction?

Randroid,

This seems like a very good question. Before I answer, can you please elaborate on what contradiction you see here? thx!

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a man can only own something that he either creates by his own effort

You claim that since man does not create land by his own effort, he cannot own it, according to you. A man does not create gold by his own effort, either, but he can own it. Where is the difference?

Edited to fix typo.

Edited by Randroid
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You claim that since man does not create land by his own effort, he cannot own it, according to you. A man does not create gold by his own effort, either, but he can own it. Where is the difference?

Randroid,

I do not have a complete answer on this yet. Thanks for raising it.

I can, however, answer this question for Wheat instead of Gold. A productive man can own wheat since he created it by his labor and by using natural properties of land.

I could use a similar argument for Gold. But, I am still not sure of it - as Gold is finite and Wheat is not.

However, my incomplete argument for gold is this: A man can claim some part of ths gold, as he has added some value to the ore. To own the full gold, he will need to compensate someone for the remaining part.

Similarly, a man can rightfully claim the value he adds to land through his effort - but not full land - as he did not create the 'original productive powers of the soil'.

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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. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

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. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.

“Man’s Rights,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 94.

This is why your intent to deny ownership of the land used to produce is an aboration of the entire concept of property rights.

You would make every producer the indentured servant of every person who claims that he could have been the producer if he had just worked a little harder, gotten there first, or been born into the right family.

In your attempt to champion the could have, would have, should have crowd you will be doing nothing less than castrating the only people that instead of whinging about their pitiful lot actually did!

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The idea that no one has a right to fence otherwise unclaimed or unoccupied land leads to the following absurdity: In order to fence some land in order to work or dig stuff up from it, one would have to ask permission of everyone else on Earth.

What the Georgies want to do is charge for the act of fencing and working a piece of land, and treat the liberty to do so as a privilege and not a right. Thus the government becomes the surrogate for the human race whose permission must be sought before claiming a piece of land and working it.

If the Georgies were completely consistent they would also tax all windfalls and benefits of good luck as stuff acquired without effort.

The Georgist p.o.v. is very closely related to the position of Proudhom who states that property is theft. When one claims an item as property he has denied an equally good claim on the part of everyone else, hence he has stolen the property.

Think of Geogeism as the clod kickers version of primitive communism. The land ain't yours the the government will levy a tax on you for having it which has to be paid out of your labor or the product of that land which your labor has brought forth. The tax is a punishment for the "crime" of ownership othe claim of ownership.

Bob Kolker

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A productive man can own wheat since he created it by his labor and by using natural properties of land.

Even though he did not create the 'original growing powers of the wheat'?

To own the full gold, he will need to compensate someone for the remaining part.

You mean he has to buy it from someone who doesn't own it, either? Does not compute.

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