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This question was asked to me by a non-Objectivist:

Why is property a right while the freedom to use things that you encounter is not? What is meant is, doesn't it kind of sucks that people can't run though a field and lay in the grass, because that field may be owned? Property rights, at its core, is a huge denial of freedoms. Granted, there are a lot of benefits of the idea of property, which could outweigh this denial of freedom.

But shouldn't we remember all the downsides of denying this freedom, and continually verify to ourselves that this is a good thing and that there is no way to improve it?

If we forget this and simply say, "property is a right" then aren't we deceiving ourselves into thinking we've created some perfect system, and preventing ourselves from making good decisions in the future?

asked May 18 '11 at 18:50

JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

JK Gregg ♦

Tetracide - nice name :-) There are a lot of mixed, contradictory and packaged premises in your question. '..benefits "to" the idea of property'.. - what are those benefits and why are they benefits? '..property..is a huge denial of freedom..' - how do you define 'freedom'? Is freedom the right to use someone's property as you wish? Or is freedom the right to keep the spoils of your labour? Remember, property does not begin and end with fields. Is there a diff between land, food, shelter, tools, body, cars, pc's and intellectual properties? Where does this right to freedom come from?

(May 18 '11 at 19:18) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

I believe the individual who asked me this question defines "freedoms" as all that which a human may do. For example, the freedom to kill someone, to jump up and down, to dance, etc.

He views the right to property as a denial of freedom. In a way, he is correct in that rights imply obligations onto others. My right to my life implies everyone else may not take my life. Same goes for property. However, he wonders if accepting property rights as a sacrosanct right without much thought, are we not allowing the denial of freedom without justification?

(May 18 '11 at 19:24) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

Had you tried to answer my specific questions, you would have conquered this already. You do not have a right to life. You have a right to KEEP your life. The difference is important. A right on one side does imply an obligation on the other. Had you a right to life, someone else would then have been obligated to give it to you. Logically, if one has a right to a field, another is obligated to provide that field. One is not free if forced upon by another. If I use his version of 'freedom' to enslave him, how is he free? I don't think he thought that one through.

(May 19 '11 at 02:48) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

Your friend needs to use reason in order to survive. If he doesn't, he then has 3 choices - to mooch of of those who do, to forcefully take from those who do, or to die. Recognize that SOMEONE'S reason must engage for him to survive. Now, if thinking is the means by which he survives, can thinking alone put a meal on his table, a roof over his head? No. He must ACT on those thoughts. When he acts and acquires those materials valuable to his survival, should another wretch those materials from him, he still won't survive. HIS REASON WOULD THEN BE WORTHLESS.

(May 19 '11 at 02:54) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

This is why property rights and individual rights are one and the same. One means nothing without the other. If he cannot keep the fruit of his labour, he may as well stop thinking. Therefore, if your friend has a right to life - survival - he automatically has a right to property. He just doesn't know it yet.

(May 19 '11 at 03:00) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

Ya know what else kind of sucks? That people keep running through my grass and ruining the sod and letting their dogs poop all over it without cleaning it up.

Someone spent time, money, and effort to maintain that grass and now you think you can use it just because it is there?

(May 19 '11 at 18:44) Marnee Dearman ♦ Marnee%20Dearman's gravatar image
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The best place to start would be to read Ayn Rand's essay Man's Rights. In essence, she says that individual rights form the ground rules for making it in man's best interest to live with other men. Without such ground rules, a man wouldn't be able to benefit from living with other people as he would constantly be under threat of violence to himself, and the material possessions he needs for survival.

As your friend defines it, "freedom" is not a value, and in fact would be an outright menace. It would not be to my best interest for others to be permitted to walk off with my property, or to murder me on the street. This is exactly the false notion of "freedom" which the principle of individual rights rejects. For a definition of freedom which is compatible with individual rights, you can read more in the entry on freedom in the Ayn Rand Lexicon.

answered May 19 '11 at 12:25

Andrew%20Miner's gravatar image

Andrew Miner ♦

edited May 19 '11 at 12:26

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Asked: May 18 '11 at 18:50

Seen: 1,344 times

Last updated: May 19 '11 at 18:44