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Consider this statement:

The enforcement of property rights is an initiation of force. In the natural world, all resources are available to anyone who can get to them. Denying people access to those resources, on the basis of ownership, is undeniably coercive, as is using violence to enforce such ownership.

Some, especially on the far-left, use this line of reasoning to condemn private property. How does Objectivism respond to this claim? Specifically, what are the philosophical underpinnings of private property? Is it simply mixing one's labor with "stuff"? Is it might equals right?

This is a follow up question to another I asked a while ago but was poorly composed and lacked synthesis.

asked Jan 30 '13 at 15:47

JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

JK Gregg ♦
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edited Jan 30 '13 at 15:50

[quote]The "libertarians" . . . plagiarize Ayn Rand's principle that no man may initiate the use of physical force, and treat it as a mystically revealed, out-of-context absolute . . . .[/quote]

Harry Binswanger, “Q & A Department: Anarchism,” The Objectivist Forum, Aug. 1981, 12

I believe this quote is also applicable, though to a lesser extent, to our other thread.

(Jan 30 '13 at 16:30) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I realize that quote doesn't fully answer your question. I'm going to give someone else a chance to do that, or at least to begin to answer it. It's quite an in-depth question, as the right to property is a very basic right on which all other rights are dependent.

(Jan 30 '13 at 16:32) anthony anthony's gravatar image

The underpinning of a right to property is the right to life. The ability to own and use the products of your labor is a requirement of life. Denying someone your means of survival is not coercive, it is proper.

(Jan 30 '13 at 16:41) user890 user890's gravatar image

I like your answer, user890. Is it just that Communists and socialists don't have the proper understanding of rights which leads to this sort of thinking?

I'm trying to break down, concept-for-concept, why the statement above is false.

(Jan 31 '13 at 10:02) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

Every sentence of that statement above is false. The second sentence is probably the one which is false on the most basic level, and on which the other two sentences rest. Man does not get to property. Man creates property.

"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."

(Jan 31 '13 at 12:56) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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In terms of the "big picture" of what the quoted formulation is all about, a comment by user890 really hits the "nail" squarely on the head: "The underpinning of a right to property is the right to life. The ability to own and use the products of your labor is a requirement of life. Denying someone your means of survival is not coercive, it is proper."

The formulation quoted in the question is, indeed, a denial of the whole concept of private ownership of property of any kind. There is an excellent collection of excerpts on the topic of "Property Rights" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, reinforcing and expanding upon user890's comment. The excerpts explain the relation between property rights and the right to life, and the source of property rights as being the law of causality.

If a point-by-point analysis of the quoted formulation is really necessary, here are some additional comments on it.

  • "The enforcement of property rights is an initiation of force." This appears to be the conclusion drawn from the other two points below. In contrast, Objectivism classifies such enforcement as the use of physical force in retaliation, an act of self-defense. It is only if one obliterates the concept of ownership that the distinction between retaliation and initiation becomes confused.

  • "In the natural world, all resources are available to anyone who can get to them." That's only true until someone does get to them. Thereafter, any wild animal typically acts to protect what he has "gotten to." It's first come, first served; and latecomers have to be prepared to deal with the first arrivers. (Objectivism endorses a somewhat higher standard for original ownership of previously unowned land. Refer to CUI Chapter 10, "The Property Status of Airwaves," for additional discussion, particularly in relation to the Homestead Act of 1862 in the U.S. The question is correct in its mention of the concept of "mixing one's labor" with the land.)

  • "Denying people access to those resources, on the basis of ownership, is undeniably coercive, as is using violence to enforce such ownership." Correct. It is the use of physical force in retaliation against those who have initiated its use by attacking the rightful owner of the resources and/or attacking the owner's property. It is an act of self-defense. Again, refer to the Lexicon excerpts on "Property Rights" for further explanation of the principle of rightful ownership of values, especially material values.

answered Feb 02 '13 at 19:06

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
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Asked: Jan 30 '13 at 15:47

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Last updated: Feb 02 '13 at 19:06