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Property Status Of Land

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Maarten
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I was having a discussion about whether or not individuals should be able to own land or not. I don't see anything inherently different about natural resources that would exempt them from being property, although one could argue that you have to actually use the land (i.e. change it from the initial "wild" state it was in) to properly own it.

The guy I was discussing this with said that to exist we need to occupy some space, and that if you cannot (because for example all land is privately owned and everyone refuses you access) you can't exercise your right to life. I think his example is quite absurd, but the correct principles should also cover situations like these. He said that if you can't actually occupy some space by right, and instead you have to trade for permission (so to speak), then your right to life (and the others) is not actually a right anymore, but is merely yours by permission.

I am not quite sure how to answer this. I pointed out that a right is a right to action, not to something specific, and that therefore you don't have a claim to some piece of land just by virtue of existing. Furthermore, because only the initiation of force constitutes a violation of rights (at least I think only this does) then refusing to allow someone on your property is not violating their rights. It doesn't matter what other people do in that scenario, that doesn't change anything fundamental here.

This leads me to the question; should all land be private property, or is it necessary to have some public property as well (to avoid this situation, or for other reasons). I hope someone can help me with any inconsistencies in my argumentation, or with something I may have missed.

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This leads me to the question; should all land be private property, or is it necessary to have some public property as well (to avoid this situation, or for other reasons). I hope someone can help me with any inconsistencies in my argumentation, or with something I may have missed.

"Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned." Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 19. (Emphasis added.)

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Yes, but this still leaves the question whether or not land can properly be property. What are the main reasons that this is so? The right to property means that you have the right to keep what you earn (or create), but how does this apply to land?

You could say that as soon as you change the land in some way it becomes yours by right (if it is previously untaken), in a first come, first serve basis. Is that the basic view of Objectivism in this matter?

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Yes, but this still leaves the question whether or not land can properly be property. What are the main reasons that this is so? The right to property means that you have the right to keep what you earn (or create), but how does this apply to land?

You could say that as soon as you change the land in some way it becomes yours by right (if it is previously untaken), in a first come, first serve basis. Is that the basic view of Objectivism in this matter?

"Any material element or resource which, in order to become of use or value to men, requires the application of human knowledge and effort, should be private property—by the right of those who apply the knowledge and effort." Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 122

Without the means to nourish himself and protect himself from the elements, man cannot live. Therefore, he who applies his knowledge and effort to natural resources, including land (tilling soil, pumping water, building dwellings), becomes the rightful owner of that resource.

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  • 1 month later...

What of land as it relates to water, air, or nearby land. I've always wondered about this. If you hold that you unequivocibly own land you buy or develop or whathaveyou then you should be able to do whatever you want with it. What if what you want is do dump nuclear waste or build a polluting factory or something similar? This would be indirectly attacking someone else so it would be pushed outside property rights into the ethics (or lackthereof) in initiating attacks. My question is how factories that pollute could be justified under objectivism? factories, cars, and other private property sully air and water and other land by virtue of a fuction of their natural processes. How can this be justified though? the air and water move and aren't private property specific (affected lands nearby more obviously don't belong to the pollutor). Now factories and cars are great and enhance life and all, but the people getting hurt by pollution can't be sacrificed for the greater good. how else can polluting industries or private machines (your car spilling exhaust into the air of the home which I own) be justified? are the eco nuts right and gov. should micromanage and combat every iota of pollution that strays beyond corporate or private borders?

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Your right mostly. A person should be able to do whatever he choose with his own property until and unless such action is an attack on the rights of others. E.g., dumping nuclear waste in the back yard is properly illegal.

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What if what you want is do dump nuclear waste or build a polluting factory or something similar? This would be indirectly attacking someone else so it would be pushed outside property rights into the ethics (or lackthereof) in initiating attacks.
In what way is it indirect? If you dump a billion pounds of benzene of 5 grams of plutonium on someone else's property, it is not an indirect attack, it is direct. If you dumpt the same stuff on your own property, it is only attacking yourself.
My question is how factories that pollute could be justified under objectivism?
Pure property rights: you can only throw your trash on your own property (unless you get permission from a pay dump).
are the eco nuts right and gov. should micromanage and combat every iota of pollution that strays beyond corporate or private borders?
No, if Odwallacorp harms me by trespassing on my body, and I can prove it, I can sure for damages. The government's job is to objectively adjudicate the case, just like with any tort.
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This leads me to the question; should all land be private property, or is it necessary to have some public property as well (to avoid this situation, or for other reasons). I hope someone can help me with any inconsistencies in my argumentation, or with something I may have missed.

Hi Maarten,

I would recommend arguing from the perspective that a right to life is not the same as having your life provided for. So if you don't have the right to have someone give you food they had to work for, you also don't have the right to demand that someone give you land they had to work for. Since we are not an agrarian culture, it really isn't neccessarry to own land to exist....you just need a box to sleep in. If you do not own property then you have to find someone willing to let you work on theirs until you save enough duckets to buy some yourself. I see no difference between land and any other property. It all must be purchased by your efforts.

Also I would stay away from the idea that improving the land in some way makes it more yours. Property rights need to be absolute no matter what you do or don't do with your property. If I have 10 acres on the side of a hill it can't(or at least shouldn't) be taken away from me if I don't build a mine on it.

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Also I would stay away from the idea that improving the land in some way makes it more yours. Property rights need to be absolute no matter what you do or don't do with your property. If I have 10 acres on the side of a hill it can't(or at least shouldn't) be taken away from me if I don't build a mine on it.
This is an important point that many people get confused about. When a person recognises the value of land to him, and that land is not already owned by someone else, then he has the right to claim that land as his property and use it in whatever way is of value to him -- that could be this week, next year, decades later... Value is not just "immediate value", it includes long-term value. This may include selling the property 50 years later for a wad of cash, to someone who wants to be able to gaze at the moon from that vantage point and is willing to pay a million bucks for the right to do so.
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This is an important point that many people get confused about.

You're right, this is precisely the point I get confused on, because if we work from fundamentals, the right of property is derived from the right to life, which means, the right to self sustaining--self generated action. You have a right to your life, which in application means a right to the use of your mind, since for man the action of living is the action of thinking. The right to property is the right to the product of your body/mind, your work. How could someone have a right to something they had no part in creating, i.e. how can someone have a right to something other than their minds, or product of their minds?

This shouldn't be an issue in practice either. Take a desert Island situation.

There is someone stranded on a desert island, and there was no one there before him, he builds a hut, and hoardes some fruit. A second man arrives on the island and the first mans tells him:

A) In the situation involving the right to own "unworked" land": "Get off MY island!"

B) In the situation where one can own the product of their work: "Stay away from my fruit, and hut, unless you pay me. The rest of the island is yours to exploit."

Now if the second man builds his own hut and hoardes his own fruit there is no problem, both men have a right to excercise their lives, and neither is interferring with the other's rights. In the first situation, the second man is "assed out" and has to die by drowning. So we are confronted with a paradox/contradiction which means we have to check our premises. The contradiction is this. If I can obtain a right to all the naturally occuring "values" in the world, "values" subsuming all things that could possibly be made into values for man, then I could, if I choose, to not allow anybody else have those values (this would be incredibly immoral since I would have a lot to gain from trade, but still it would not be illegal) So if anybody else tried to excercise his right to life, he would have to violate my right to property. So either they must relinquish their life for my sake, or I would have to relinquish mine for theirs. There can be no instance of a right to violate rights, so this model must be thrown out.

Situation B results in no contradictions. If I build a mine on a mountain full of gold, I have a right to the mine, and all the gold I find, but not a right to the gold I have not found, or mined, or any other mines anyone might choose to build on the other side of the mountain. If I find an island befoe anyone else, I have aright to whatever I build on that island, I have a right to take all the trees, all the fruit, all the natural resources from the island, but not a right to the natural state of the island, i.e. I have a right to product of my work on the island, not a right to the island itself as it stands naturally.

It all sums up to this: I have a right to the manmade, not a right to the metaphysically given(other than my body and mind). Actually it is since I have a right to my mind and body--the only metaphysically given things that I do have a right to-- that gives me the right to anything else, to the "man"made.

Edited by IAmMetaphysical
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