Posts Tagged ‘Philosophy’
Saturday, November 7th, 2009
In my discussions with anarcho-socialists and others who question the idea of property ownership I’ve been thinking quite a bit about property, what it is, where it comes from and how to prove it. I am somewhat disappointed by the typical libertarian and even anarcho-capitalist explanations because I feel that they don’t do well enough to address certain concerns.
The typical reasoning goes like this. Ownership is defined as exclusive control and since “I control my body” proven by the fact I’m writing this I own myself. Therefore by extension I own the products of my actions or labor. Yet at the same time it seems that some libertarians, voluntaryists or anarcho-capitalists consider property to be a mere concept, something not derived from reality, but rather just a nice idea that is successful at creating harmony between people, so long as property is actually respected (unlike with the state).
So there are four problems I see here:
1. If ownership is solely defined as “exclusive control” and property as “that which is exclusively controlled” then if someone steals something he becomes the owner since at that point he’s the only one who controls it (exclusive control). This completely removes the possibility of theft occurring.
2. “I control my body” and subsequent “I own my body” and even “I own me” doesn’t satisfy anarcho-socialists because in a statement “I own me”, “I” and “me” refer to the same thing yet they tend to insist that property must be external to its owner. I think we have to do better than what we typically do (from my experience) to resolve this.
3. Why exactly does self ownership extend to ownership of things other than self? What is the logic behind that? Also, what happens if we stop being human-centric about this and look for evidence of property outside of the human sphere? This is important if such evidence exists because it provides a significant additional proof for property beyond the disputed “I own me” reasoning.
4. How can you at the same time say that self-ownership arises from a physical objective fact that you control your body and then go about speaking of property as if it doesn’t have roots in the physical and objective world and is rather just an abstract, but useful concept that we can dismiss once we have abundance and infinite resources?? Do infinite resources suddenly change the fact you control your body?
My responses to these issues, albeit they are to some extent a work in progress, follow.
PROBLEM 1. If ownership is solely defined as “exclusive control” and property as “that which is exclusively controlled” then if someone steals something he becomes the owner since at that point he’s the only one who controls it (exclusive control). This completely removes the possibility of theft occurring.
Apparently defining ownership as “exclusive control” makes violation of property, that is theft, impossible. Regardless whether you take by trade or just steal something, ownership is just transfered, as physical control over an object is transfered. I don’t think any supporter of property ownership actually means it like this so this definition fails to communicate the actual meaning properly.
The most simple alternative definition would be “the right to exclusive control”. However, I’m becoming quite vary of references to rights, something I’ve realized in a discussion I had yesterday with another anarchist (socialist type). To illustrate consider the moral of non-coercion which basically says that “to coerce is wrong”. On this basis we typically describe “not coercing” as right, yet it isn’t right, but rather just the absence of “wrong”, an unmodified natural state. In that sense “right” doesn’t even exist. Whenever it is thus invoked it actually involves a positive entitlement or a positive obligation. If we’re speaking of negative moral statements (“you should not coerce” or “coercion is wrong”), rights don’t exist.
Thus defining ownership as “right to exclusive control” seems faulty because it implies a positive obligation where none exists. All we’re then left with is a negative moral statement, but we don’t quite know what it is yet because we haven’t yet defined ownership. We have a scaffolding of a statement, which is basically “do not act as if you own what you do not own”, but we haven’t yet defined what “own” is.
So I would take another approach. Let’s define ownership by including every condition necessary for it to be in effect. We will then know exactly which conditions need to be met before we can proclaim someone an owner and before we can classify any particular action as a violation of someone’s ownership, or theft.
The definition I thus propose is the following:
“Ownership is exclusive control of object B by object A where object A caused the object B’s current form and position or existence in time and space”.
This definition of ownership rests not only on exclusive control, but on causality and a principle of priority which I will explain below. Therefore exclusive control is no longer the only thing necessary for something to be owned, but rather we also need there to be the closest causal relationship between an owner and the object’s current form and position or existence in time and space. In other words, you only own what you caused into existence as such by your own actions (or labor).
Problems with this definition?
There is one thing about this definition which may seem problematic at first. It’s the fact that action and reaction is a continuous process to which we know of no beginning (except the big bang perhaps) and no end. It could thus be said that a thief who moves a thing from your garage to his own garage now owns this thing by virtue of causing it to exist at a different point in time and space and if he modified it, in a different form as well.
Principle of Priority
The antidote to this problem however is implicit in the very definition of ownership put forward above and it is what I might call a “principle of priority”. In simplistic terms it is about asking the question: who owned it first? If someone already owns something then it is only that someone who can cease that ownership before another can take over. Overriding that would be theft as I explain below.
This isn’t any more silly than the fact that action causes a reaction. The fact that a thief moved a thing from my garage to his own and modified it doesn’t change the fact that for him to be able to do that I had to be the one to acquire it and put it in my own garage first. Thus his subsequent possession is completely dependent upon and predicated by my prior actions which is precisely what makes me into an owner.
What makes him into a thief, however, isn’t just the fact that his possession depended on my prior actions, but the fact that my action wasn’t the one that caused him to come to possession of it, such as the act of trade or giveaway. My exclusive control of an object ends where my stream of actions is terminated by the final act of disposal yet he terminated that control before me, taking advantage of the fruits of my actions or my control without acknowledging those actions and this control.
To take an example from fundamental process of the universe, the process of causality or action-reaction, it is as if a reaction happens without absorbing the energy of an effect of a prior action that caused it. It is like removing an “effect” from a domino effect while still observing the dominoes falling. Obviously, this is impossible as causality cannot function without both cause and effect. Every action essentially “pays” for the effects of prior actions the costs imposed by a prior actor in the same sense as a force that pushes in one direction pushes equally in another.
Thieves try to override that on a macro scale of human interaction by absorbing the effect without absorbing the energy costs of it. When this happens a natural imbalance occurs. The non-paid actor is diminished (which humans express as a sense of loss and injustice and frustration that comes with it) whereas the thief is enriched. But just like everything else in the universe seeks a state of equilibrium, so will the violated person seek reparations or even revenge, causing violence in a society.
Another issue that might be raised against this way of defining ownership is that it seemingly makes parents into owners of their kids because parents caused their kids into existence at some point in time and space. However to stop at that conclusion would be to fail to acknowledge the nature of an “object” that is a human being. Namely, it cannot be externally controlled exclusively and if you somehow created beings who could by some technological means (The Borg drones bred in an incubator?) they wouldn’t really be humans anymore. The nature that makes them into humans would not be developed.
Since this is obviously not the case with pretty much all babies born it is safe to assume that to the extent to which a child exercises self control it cannot be owned by its parent. Instead it is self-owned. It directs itself to its own form and position in time and space. This ties to the established ideas about sentience, sapience and self awareness as differentiators necessary to discern between external ownership of animals and external ownership of humans whereas former becomes acceptable and latter not.
More could be said about the innards of animal ownership however which would reveal more about these extents or degrees of ownership which is oppositely proportional to the objects capacity to exclusively self-control. I will just say that every object does possess some extent of self-control which factors into its nature as itself. A rock for instance exhibits enough self-control to merely sit in place and keep itself together until outside forces break it down or move it. Given the huge gap between control that humans can exercise over a rock and control that rock can exercise over itself it is clear why humans have no qualms about owning rocks and other inanimate matter yet have huge qualms about owning other humans and some qualms about owning animals.
PROBLEM 2. Statments like “I control my body” and subsequent “I own my body” and even “I own me” don’t satisfy anarcho-socialists because in a statement “I own me”, “I” and “me” refer to the same thing yet they tend to insist that property must be external to its owner. I think a defender of property ownership has to do better than what we typically do (from my experience) to resolve this.
The basic issue here is the assumption that if I AM me then I cannot own me that comes from the assumption that what is owned must be separate or external from the owner itself. From my experience defenders of property ownership don’t do a very good job at tackling this issue because most of the time they don’t even try. They generally take self-ownership as an axiom and then call everyone who denies it as crazy because they evidently use ownership of their bodies to deny it.
I do largely agree with this, however, but I don’t think stating this is enough if you really want to have an anti-property person understand property. Sometimes even seemingly self-evident “axioms” need explaining. What use is an axiom if a person fails to see it due to his pre-conceived notions. If many religions prove anything it’s that preconceived notions can make people utterly blind even to the most obvious self-evident realities.
That said, there are two questions to be asked here.
1. Does the definition of ownership require the owner to be separate from what is owned?
Let’s take a look at the definition stated previously.
“Ownership is exclusive control of object B by object A where object A caused the object B’s current form and position or existence in time and space”.
Identifiers A and B imply a separation between objects, but it is not explicitly stated. So if we would favor the explicit over implicit we could say that the requirement for separation doesn’t exist in this definition. Otherwise it would.
But there is another thing that is more explicit in this definition and that is the statement of a causal relationship. It could be worth asking if causality itself requires two objects in a causal relationship to be separate? Can an object have a causal relationship with itself? Can an action of an object cause a reaction of that same object? To answer that question we have to define the object itself. In other words, we have to answer the second question, since the object in reference here is the “self”:
2. What is “self” or what is “me”?
There can be varying ways to define the “self”. In psychological terms the focus may be solely on the brain and its chemistry, the headquarters of who you are as a person, mentally speaking. Physically however we may need to refer to an entire body as this is the vessel which you travel in and by which you are to a large extent identified and discerned from other selves. We cannot however refer to anything that is outside of a body, that is, which refers neither to the brain nor any other part of the body nor the entire body since we simply do not have any evidence that this is where “self” resides. Indeed, such claims are in the realm of the mystical and religious.
The typical argument by property ownership advocates does however involve “control over my body” so I think it would be reasonable to take that as the definition of the “self” here. We can now return to questions asked above:
“Can an object have a causal relationship with itself? Can an action of an object cause a reaction of that same object?”
The object referred to here is the “self” and it is above defined as “the body” and a body is actually consisted of a multitude of organs which are further consisted of a multitude of cells and then finally molecules and atoms. For this body to be alive and animated many processes must be ongoing within it which essentially represent action and reaction between organs, between cells and between molecules. In other words if we define the object as a consistence of many other objects then that object can have a causal relationship with itself by means of one part of an object having a causal relationship with another to in turn make the entire object be what it naturally is.
In other words, self consistence (the state of being formed by structure of smaller parts which harmoniously interact with each other) allows self-ownership. It’s of course worth pointing out that the same is true of all objects in the macro universe we are living in. Rocks are self consistent as well and thus self-owned. Trees are self-consistent and thus self-owned. We sometimes describe certain object by what we say to be its “properties”. This is quite interesting because as we’ve established here, it indeed has properties within the very context of ownership. It owns its properties.
We may for instance describe the properties of a flower to be its shape, composition, color, smell etc. Incidentally, the causal processes within a flower allow it to have these properties. These processes and smaller parts that it’s consisted of define the flower’s “self”. The flower thus owns itself and these properties as what it caused into being, consistent with the definition of ownership expressed above.
The objection that might be put forward at this point is that if flowers own themselves, how come we can own flowers. To respond I would refer to what I’ve said when I addressed the issue of parents owning their children which is the reference to the nature of the object itself. It changes everything. A flower may be self owned, but its ownership cannot include the capacity to consciously say no to a man cutting it down. So it has exclusive self-control only to the extent to which it by its nature CAN have exclusive self-control. This is also precisely why cutting it down is not a violation of its property. Its ownership extends only as far as its capacity to control does.
As an interesting side not, if there were beings so superior to humans that they would look at us the way we look at flowers, according to this they would be right in considering us their property because our capacity to own doesn’t extend as far as theirs. However the existence of such beings is currently limited only to the realm of pure fantasy. In any case, we are evolving and just like flowers we can strive to the maximum capacity that we can muster, but no further.
PROBLEM 3. Why exactly does self ownership extend to ownership of things other than self? What is the logic behind that? Also, what happens if we stop being human-centric about this and look for evidence of property outside of the human sphere? This is important if such evidence exists because it provides a significant additional proof for property beyond the disputed “I own me” reasoning.
I think that my answer to the resolution of this problem is dispersed in my answers to the above two problems. My definition of ownership is completely agnostic to humans and simply applies to “objects”, whatever they may be. The definition rests solely on exclusive control, causality and an implied principle of priority. When either of these conditions isn’t met ownership ceases. Control itself has a built-in limitation to ownership in that it only extends as far as the object in question is capable of controlling another object or itself. Human beings are capable of controlling more than just themselves and to the extent to which this is so they can thus own objects external to themselves.
There is also no fundamental distinction between the self and other objects in terms relevant to this definition of ownership. Both involve exclusive control of objects whose existence in time/space and form is caused such as they currently are. This fits a libertarian explanation of homesteading as means of acquiring the most disputed kind of property; ownership of land. The homesteading principle involves “mixing your labor” with the land which is just another way of referring to actions which cause the land in question to change some of its properties. A simple enclosure of the land typically does the trick and the more is done with the land the stronger the ownership case for it.
PROBLEM 4. How can you at the same time say that self-ownership arises from a physical objective fact that you control your body and then go about speaking of property as if it doesn’t have roots in the physical and objective world and is rather just an abstract, but useful concept that we can dismiss once we have abundance and infinite resources?? Do infinite resources suddenly change the fact you control your body?
This problem is expressed in form of the above rhetorical questions which by themselves illustrate the contradiction and my point which is the gist of my answer to such a contradictory practice.
Ownership as defined above relies on processes which are fundamental to everything in reality. Control is a stream of actions and causality is the relationship between an action and a reaction whereas an action is a cause and a reaction is an effect. The principle of priority which I derived from it also directly derives from a chronological nature of causality as we can observe it. Denial of priority would essentially be akin to the denial of time. So all of the components of ownership as defined here are completely fundamental to the functioning of the universe as we know it.
Ownership is essentially about the relationship between the cause and the effect whereas cause owns the effect. While causality refers to cause and effect themselves and the fact that they form an ongoing process, ownership refers to the very relationship between that which causes and that which is caused. To fully understand ownership would be to fully understand how a particular effect relates to any act within the causality chain it is a part of and to which extent can that act be credited for it.
It’s not too difficult to see how this applies to humans. We are after all a part of the same universe, the same ocean of causality chains. We have our specific natures which gives us specific capacities and therefore specific potentials to cause and therefore control and therefore own. To fully understand ownership as it pertains to humans is to understand how exactly does the effect (a particular piece of property) relate to all of the acts in the action-reaction chain that was necessary to put that object in the form it is, at the time it is in and in the place that it is at. Who was the first cause? Did he or she act to dispose of it? Who was the next controller? Did he act to dispose of it or was it stolen against his will? Etc. etc.
Infinite resources or infinite amount of desired objects never changes the fact that ownership exists any more than it changes the fact that the process of cause and effect continues. It merely changes the amount of value assign to the exclusive control of any given object and the likelihood that a dispute over its ownership will arise. Just because prosperity removes the distinction between haves and have nots doesn’t mean that what made them prosperous to begin with ceased to exist – the capacity to act in order to cause what is needed or desired, control the resulting effect and trade it in for effects caused by others – the free market of caused properties.
Sunday, September 13th, 2009
Would you believe me if I said that even the most staunch rationalists, like me, are sometimes tempted to jump off a bridge of empiricism and logic and into the abyss of nihilism and post modernism. Consider the benefits. As a rationalists you have to acknowledge that there will always be at least 1% possibility that everything you know is wrong meaning that you’ll never reach 100%, yet at the same time you will always unabashedly strive to reach 100% and you know that 100% true truth exists because your senses give you the evidence of objective reality.
You also know that any of the conclusions you make, or rather milestones, could be a part of that 1%. In other words while there is at least 1% probability that you’re wrong, 100% of what you think you know is a candidate for what you’re wrong about.
Now consider post modernism. As a post modernist you give up this fight, you throw in the towel and just “admit” to yourself: “Meh, nothing is certain. Frak this constant struggle. Even the theory that objective reality exists is a candidate for this 1% probability of being wrong. Everything is, including the thinking that the probability of being wrong is only so low. What if the probability is 50%? I might as well pretend truth doesn’t exist and live from moment to moment. I know I wont change the world this way because I really don’t have a “one true way”, but at least I’ll live a life of adventure. Believe in nothing and nobody, throw yourself against the momentarily perceived reality and see what you get. Enjoy the exhilarating experience of a free fall to nowhere! Weee!”
Yep you are hearing these hypothetical words uttered by a rationalist, a guy who believes even morality can be determined empirically and logically and who believes that the non-coercion principle passes the test and remains a fundamental moral premise, a guy who despises post modernists and hates contradictions. How in the world is someone like me capable of uttering the above words without acting? Because of all contradictions the ones I hate the most are the ones I don’t yet know about! And it drives me nuts sometimes. Nuts, like all you post modernist frauds.
But there is something so devious and evil about this. I can smell it like the bad breath of a hypothetical devil lurking in the shadow waiting to reap your soul. If I let go, if I throw myself into the abyss of nihilism and post modernist thought. Me, the rationalist, me the despiser of nihilism. What hope is there for anybody else? If everyone gives up like this, if everyone throws themselves off this bridge, if everyone gives up on truth and begins accepting contradictions – we’ll contradict ourselves – we will destroy ourselves. Self contradiction is self destruction. That much would be certain. Because a sentient species which cannot resist the temptation of this nihilist abyss is the species whose days are numbered.
Nihilism is an ideological suicide. Suicide follows.
Wednesday, April 8th, 2009
Philosophy can literally be defined as the “love of wisdom” since this is how it translates. Philo means love and sophia means wisdom. The word “wisdom” tends to conjure images of old bearded man confidently, calmly and benevolently spouting important sounding statements about “deep” questions. At least that’s my experience. I think it is generally viewed as a positive trait worth acquiring, eventually, given that it is so often expected to be something reserved for the old.
Wikipedia says that “wisdom is an ideal that has been celebrated since antiquity as the knowledge needed to live a good life”. Who doesn’t want to lead a good life? And indeed who doesn’t want to appear wise, regardless of whether they do lead a good life?
Every now and then I think all of us ask certain questions which go beyond the mere trivialities of life (fashionable clothing, tasty foods, small talk, gossip, partying, you name it). We ask what we perceive as “big” questions like “what’s the whole point of life” or “what happens after we die” or “why is anything true or false”… We see these questions as “big”, I would presume, mostly because they are hard to answer.
Ultimately, I think most of us form some kind of a stance on these questions. Deep down we probably know that we don’t know much about them, but if someone was to ask us what we think chances are we’ll blurt out some sort of a positive answer. Sometimes what we answer will be what we perceive the social circle we’re in wants us to answer (unfortunately, in my opinion, conformism is a terrible thing), but sometimes we’ll answer honestly without paying much attention to the fact that by doing so we are actually taking a philosophical position.
So on some levels we might all be philosophers to a certain extent, to the extent to which we ask big questions, think about them and take positions. This is enough to form a basis for further growth of our understanding and our wisdom. Unfortunately the society we are living in does not tend to foster building upon that much further. Everyone seems to be obsessed with control and regulation of each other where too much independent thought, indeed independent philosophy, is not only criticized, but sometimes violently repressed.
The dangerous result of that is a void being created in individual’s understanding of the world around as (s)he continues to experience it. This void, in absence of actively practiced philosophy and pursuit of truth and wisdom is instead filled by random superstition, mythologies or just utter nihilism (no point to anything, no truth.. we may as well kill ourselves where we stand, but why do it.. at least we can get wasted every weekend or enjoy those pitiful little pleasures.. you get the picture).
But that isn’t quite the best we can do as human beings isn’t it? Can’t anyone feel that there is a potential for so much more? My hope is to help build a new age of enlightenment with those who are already on the job so that one day every human being on Earth is a philosopher whose capacity to reason matches or exceeds the greatest philosophers in history. We can do that.
And just think of the consequences. The sole reason for the existence of ANY problem or any evil that exists in the world is nothing more than a lack of knowledge. Philosophy, combined with science, is the absolute fundamental practice to achieving knowledge.
Sunday, April 5th, 2009
Excellent video for Lost Liberty Cafe.
Tuesday, March 10th, 2009
I’ve watched a Star Trek Voyager episode last night called “Think Tank” and was a little intrigued by a strange group of problem solvers that it was about. It was mostly the idea of being able to find a solution to pretty much any problem that could ever come up by just thinking through all of the variables, correlations, causalities, probabilities and other factors to come up with actual solutions. It’s about manipulating everything that can be manipulated and in a Star Trek world, it’s just about everything, albeit in this particular episodes, the issues were of tactical nature.
The think tank persona in the episode talked about expanding one’s abilities by exploring the unknown. Given the context that would more likely be “cracking” the unknown, that is, making it known. Actually, every problem is a problem for no other reason than lack of knowledge anyway.
I identified with this immediately in terms of my self improvement and self government efforts and individualist thinking. I believe an individual not only has the right to, but the ability as well, to become far more than (s)he currently is. The individual in the think tank, however, was willing to use coercion in his quests. People were nothing more than another variables in his equations, something to be manipulated, by coercion if necessary, to achieve the desired result, or “solution” to his particular problem.
And so I thought.. if I were someone who developed his thinking skills to the point at which I actually can often manipulate other people to my ends, even through coercion, wouldn’t it be tempting to try that? After all, being “caught” or retaliated against is just another factor in the equation to deal with, and can theoretically be dealt with. Of course, I have a moral principle of non-coercion, so the answer is that while I would be tempted, I would find more greatness and satisfaction in achieving my ends without the use of coercion.
But the best realization came to me today just a short while ago.. It’s not really just about a moral principle for the sake of a principle. There is something intrinsic about coercion – it is actually always an anti-thesis to your victory, to your solution. If among your manipulative strategies you include coercion (including force and fraud) you are by definition leaving enemies behind, people who WILL eventually feel hurt and naturally have a desire to retaliate against you. Therefore, by using coercion in your strategies you keep on seeding the seeds of your own doom, your own ultimate or immediate failure.
If, on the other hand, you consider coercion itself to be an inevitable problem creating tool rather than an effective solution solving tool and therefore ban it from all your strategies and success formulas, you are gonna leave behind yourself a trail of people whom not only have no grudge against you, but have also genuinely benefited from an encounter with you. They wont tell people you’re a fraudster and conspire to take you down in retaliation (like they did in the mention Voyager episode). They will recommend you. Thus would would keep planting seeds of your ultimate or immediate success.
Coercion is a value destructor. Value cannot exist without a person assigning it to something therefore all value is subjective and individual. Your interaction with a person can either have him or her have more in value (material or immaterial, things, feelings, knowledge etc.), less in value or equal as before. Coercion is always a sure way of leaving someone not only with less in value, but feeling determined to in seeking justice have YOU have less in value as well. Therefore coercion is a tool of poverty and failure generation whereas voluntary interaction void of all coercion is a wealth and success generation tool.
Coerce and you shall be coerced. Violate and you shall be violated. Give and you shall receive. Bottom line is, what you do to others you can expect others to do to you. If you want to be rich, happy and wealthy make others rich, happy and wealthy.
Sunday, March 8th, 2009
I admit it! I’m inspired to write this blog by a discourse I’m having in the comments thread of a blog entry prior to the last one where it was claimed that property is in fact coercion because the claim of ownership is used to justify defensive force should someone without your authorization take or use that which you claimed as your own. Of course, in such view the force used in defense is viewed as initiated force instead and the one who takes or uses property without supposed owner’s approval is being coerced.
I have to say this reminded me of a very recent comic that was done by Dale Everett on Anarchy In Your Head named Property as Theft. It’s meant to be funny, but as usual on AIYH to also make a point. While it’s somewhat fitting though, the property as coercion argument might not be exactly the same as the “property as theft” argument and can become quite sophisticated in that once someone establishes such a claim (s)he can then pose a few disclaimers like “despite it being coercion, it is sensible to allow some of it or else none of the things you acquire and need to use would be safe from simply disappearing because someone took them”, or similar arguments.
Of course, that’s incredibly flawed in my view, if anything then because it reflects quite imprecise thinking. The reasoning for allowing some “property as coercion” is pretty arbitrary and as such subjective. It’s very hard to pose such a disclaimer and claim it as an universal rule that everyone should follow, even if the rule was decided on by the majority of voters. In other words, if your claim is that property is coercion then the best way to stay logically consistent and avoid arbitrary reasoning is to reject all claims of property and indeed allow people to take your things as they see fit. At least if you actually believe coercion is morally reprehensible.
But let’s move on the the core of the issue, the claim itself: “property is coercion”. Let’s define both “property” and “coercion”.
The claim “property is coercion” as well as one that “property is theft” has and usually is made in defiance to the libertarian and voluntaryist belief in self-ownership and absolute property rights as necessary for one to have liberty. In fact many, including myself, would often claim that property is synonymous to liberty.
As a voluntaryist myself I define property as an object being owned. And for an object to be owned someone must make a valid claim of ownership over it. A valid claim of ownership implies a statement of the claim and actions taken to substantiate that claim such as obtaining a statement of the previous owner agreeing to the change of ownership or a proof that no previous owner was found and clearly marking of new property as owned by the new owner (so as to make it clear what exactly is owned).
The process of making something owned is seen as natural since each of the steps of the process can be substantiated by consistent logical rationale supported by empirical evidence. If a claim is never stated or in any way communicated it cannot be expected of anyone to know of it (empirically checked, one does not know what one does not perceive). A claim alone isn’t enough for the process to be complete, however, because anyone could arbitrarily claim what was already claimed, creating a logical conflict. So a claim must be substantiated.
If nobody owned it before, this has to be demonstrated by proving that nobody went through the same process of making the object in question owned, thus the object must not be marked as owned and there must not be any accessible evidence of it being claimed before (empirically checked, again one does not know what one does not perceive, if no evidence is perceived of someone owning before, no assumption of prior ownership can be made). Disputes may arise in case the evidence existed but was never available (and of course in case someone tries to take over property by falsely claiming to be a prior owner), but such disputes would require arbitration by an agreed upon third party preferably specialized for researching prior ownership or knowing someone who is specialized in it.
If the object was owned by someone before then it must be clearly demonstrated that the prior owner agreed to change ownership to the current claimant. This also empirically checks out assuming prior owner used the same process to become a valid owner and because by definition of ownership only he has the right or ability to give it to someone else, for free or for a fee. Every other observable case of property transfer usually involves either open violence or stealth action both of which circumvent consent.
Ownership is defined as exclusive and therefore absolute control over an object claimed as owned. This notion of ownership, at least from a libertarian and voluntaryist perspective comes from the concept of self-ownership which is in fact the source of all ownership.
It must be noted that the object in question can be anything in existence, if anything then simply because anything in existence CAN conceivably be claimed by someone. Therefore a claimant can claim ownership of other people, but can also claim ownership over his own self (his body).
However, making a valid claim of ownership as defined above, over other people, is impossible because one cannot come to possession of somebody elses body before that exact someone else, for he lives in or as that body, that individual. He already has ownership (exclusive and absolute control) over his self before anybody else and cannot help not to have this control. Every time you use your eyes, speak or think you are taking advantage of exclusive control over your self.
This is also empirical because the proof is your very existence as what you are including every act that you undertake in your living.
So all this considered, is property as defined by libertarians and voluntaryist and presented here by me, coercion?
Again, I am speaking from a libertarian and voluntaryist perspective, most of all my own perspective as a voluntaryist. I need not to speak anyhow else since the claim is made against beliefs of people like me.
I define coercion as the use of force or fraud to compel someone to behave or be in a certain way, such as do something or not do something. Force is any act undertaken with the purpose of instilling in someone fear of loss of ones self or any act done against ones self which (s)he did not agree with. Fraud is included in the definition of “coercion” because it is another method of compelling people to do or not do what they otherwise would or wouldn’t, by deliberately making claims that the claimant is fully aware are false in order to make people do something.
The core of coercion is the violation of someone’s self. If there was no self to violate in the first place the concept of coercion would have no bearing in reality. If an individual did not have self to worry about, there would be no coercion to worry about either. There would be nobody to feel fear, nobody to agree or disagree; to provide consent or protest against what is being done to him or her. But neither of that is true. As observed in the previous section, defining property, self is the core example of property and is completely irrefutable because every claim that was supposed to refute self-ownership requires self ownership to utter.
So is property coercion? Clearly, for coercion to exist property must exist, at least as your own self. While this in itself is telling with regards to the relationship between property and coercion, since the other is obviously dependent on the former, one may claim self-ownership as valid property and ownership over other things as invalid, thus saying that claiming other things as property and defending them is coercion.
But self-ownership implies exclusive and absolute control over your self, your body including your brain, eyes, ears, skin, hands, legs etc. All of these allow you to act and every act has a purpose, something you pursue. Obviously, every act is designed to bring about certain results and those specific results being caused by your acts would not exist if you did not undertake your acts in the first place. Therefore there is a direct causality between the existence of results you created (with your acts) and your self, the thing you own.
The purpose for which you did your acts were those results and this purpose is something that is obviously within you, for which you exist in the moments you acted in pursuit of those results. Bottom line is that if you existed without purpose it would be like existing without acts and if you existed without acting you would be as good as “dead in the water”, an inanimate organism – dead. Also, since as a human being you are self aware your purpose is something that you yourself choose, consciously or unconsciously, if you did not choose yet still acted, you would be like an automaton.
So if someone denies you the results of your actions (s)he is denying you the purpose for which you existed in moments at which you acted in pursuit of that purpose. They are therefore treating you as if you were an inanimate organism. If they however take the results of your actions, results which you produced because you chose so, they would deny you your will, your ability to choose for yourself and thus treating you as an automaton meant to merely produce for the sake of another.
The results spoken of can be anything. Something you created or something you obtained. The results ARE property and considering the above interdependency between your self and the results of your existence as your self, it is an extension of you. Every denial of property as can be seen above is a denial of you as a human being and every act which would take or use what you created or obtained against your will is an act of coercion because, according to the specified definition, it is every act done against your self (you and your property) which you didn’t consent to.
Finally there is the issue of not doing to another what you would not have another do to you. One can say that Joe defending his property is denying Steve who would take it against Joe’s will a result of his own acts and therefore denying Steve’s humanity. But when Steve’s act itself was denying Joe’s humanity, Steve initiated aggression and therefore was the one to be defended against. By this act alone Steve denied Joe what Steve himself had and therefore had Joe deny the same back to the extent necessary to protect his own. In other words, when the human selves come into conflict the natural resolution is towards equilibrium. This too is not an arbitrary statement as it is almost universally observable that humans will defend against an attack and protect what they deem legitimately their own.
The fact that even states, which themselves practice coercion and theft on a regular basis, could not be established without some extent of recognition towards property rights (reflecting the human need for property rights) and the fact that ever since we know of human existence on Earth we know of the concept of trade and therefore property, further validates property as a natural part of being human and coercion as in fact violation of that same property.
Why is coercion morally reprehensible?
Without using any arbitrary reasoning to answer this, simply because I don’t want to be coerced. Therefore it is only those who do not wish to be coerced themselves whom can treat non-coercion as a moral principle. And that’s the only way to logically and empirically explain any sort of a moral principle. You hold something immoral because you do not want it to be done to yourself. I could call this reciprocity and claim that this is a natural law, but since even that would carry a risk of being seen as making arbitrary judgments I’ll just again turn to empirical evidence that shows pretty clearly at least that likelihood of something being done to yourself increases significantly if you do that something to others.
It is known in physics that every action has an equal and opposed reaction. If you hit a wall it will “defend” itself, or react, by putting pressure on your arms and depending on the strength of your own strike, harm it.
And that’s in a nutshell why I find coercion wrong. Of course, the issue of coercion is peculiar in that while believing in non-coercion will have me not coerce others it would also have me defend against coercion done by others some of whom may claim that my act of self-defense is in fact coercing them to act according to my own non-coercion moral. However, if they really believed in coercion as moral then they shouldn’t have any grudge against me defending myself even if they see my defense as coercion. This is why s consistently held moral of non-coercion actually cannot be forced on others.
So to recap, property is not coercion because without property coercion wouldn’t exist either. Coercion IS a violation of property. The reason is the fact that you irrefutably own yourself and therefore your life and your liberty (your actions). Property is merely an inevitable result of the two. Denial of property is a denial of purpose to life and liberty and ultimately the denial of your own self as a human being.
And all of this can be checked for logical consistency and empirical evidence. All it takes is precise thinking (observing things to their most fundamental components rather than taking a merely cursory look and accepting vague and non-exactly defined terms), intellectual honesty (try to keep cognitive biases in check) and an honest look at yourself and reality around you.
Thursday, March 5th, 2009
I happen to be subscribed to a gloomy youtube channel called EconomyCollapse and checking my latest subscriptions two things I find is the report of economy, at least in US, going from bad to worse which basically concludes that people have been more prosperous in the recession of 80s than today (and I suppose the only one left to compete with then is the Great Depression of 30s). Another video samples what is usually the second wave after the wave of economic collapses, political crisis: Mexico on the verge of civil war.
That’s how it’s always been apparently in predominantly statist societies. First there’s economic crisis and then comes, almost inevitably, a political crisis. As people believe governments (coercive monopolies) are necessary for the maintenance of stable and ordered societies they also tend to blame that same government when anything goes wrong. Most of them didn’t quite grasp the idea of being responsible for themselves so all this is no surprise. And therefore it’s no surprise that political crisis arises.
And the whole gang warfare thing which we’re perpetually living with (and usually call things like “political campaigning”, “elections” etc.) escalates to a whole new level, where the violence inherent in the whole system finally surfaces in all its bloody glory. You see, there has never been political stability because that is an oxymoron. Politics by definition involves ones coercing others to live by their values, therefore force and violence are always the core of the game. It’s just that these facts are through elaborate conceptual masking, abstractions and doublethink hidden from view.
Until it leads to the economic crisis of these proportions.
Then as they say “shit begins to hit the fan”, or in other words, the violence inherent in the system surfaces. Gang warfare you’re living with all along takes to the streets and gun fires become much more common. Rioting, civil wars, installment of oppressive regimes (in the Great Depression era, which led to WW2) or just outright collapse into unprincipled anarchy where while freedoms suddenly increase across the board, people still don’t believe in non-initiation of force as a matter of principle and so some blood shed continues (modern day Somalia) since gangs (aspiring governments that is) vie for power.
So more rioting, government collapses, civil wars, it can all happen, across americas and across europe. What will happen is just an inevitable consequence of all that has been believed and subsequently done in the past. You believe coercion is fine? Well here are the results. Are you happy? I’ll venture to guess not. Are you gonna learn something from this? I hope so. But things must become worse before they become better.
This crisis is a natural reaction of the markets to their constant harassment with coercive practices. As such it is a good development – a correction, in economists terms. However you cannot jump off a sky scraper, no matter if it reaches to the troposphere, and expect not to hit the ground at some point. Your belief that you can jump off the skyscraper and not hit the ground wont change the facts.
Your belief that justifying some coercion in the way we deal with each other (AKA politics) wont result in poverty, chaos and death. Think again. You’ve believed in it, now you shall reap the benefits.
But should you survive the consequences, you have a chance for a new start.
Ban all politics from your life. Reject all coercion and initiation of violence. Embrace voluntary interaction (free market). Think creatively rather than competitively. Believe in your abilities. Take responsibility for your own self. Don’t ask others to live for your own sake.
Then we’ll rise out of this chaos and into the better world.
But before that, brace yourself (be prepared and informed), for the consequences of past actions and beliefs must materialize. What will be will be. What will be must be.