Posts Tagged ‘property’

The ills of socialism, with or without the state

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I just exited a thread I titled Anarcho socialism worse than statism? started on July 27 and currently eight pages long. Before and during that time I’ve had a number of on and off discussions with people whom could probably most precisely be described as anarchists which oppose property ownership at least to some extent and in some forms. From a perspective of what I believe to be most voluntaryists and all anarcho-capitalists they’re typically dubbed anarcho-socialists.

During that time I have occasionally doubted my assessments as my understanding of their positions changed. After all they are different individuals possibly holding somewhat differing variation of the general idea. However at this point I remain generally disappointed and even frustrated with it. Here are some of the core arguments which from my understanding represent various anarcho-socialist positions, and my responses to them.

1. “Property is theft” (represented by multiple arguments leading to that conclusion).

This is a famous statement by Proudhon which according to what I’ve been explained is also commonly misinterpreted. In any case however it is the ultimate conclusion of a number of anarcho-socialist arguments. I’ll start with the one least problematic to me.

“Property stolen by means of state is theft.

According to this argument Proudhon was referring to “property” in terms of the state rather than in terms of the free market, that is, property which was essentially stolen by means of the state such as the institution of a corporation. Since the means of the state typically involve force and fraud rather than voluntary trade a lot of what is currently considered as legal property (in state’s language) is actually stolen property – thus enforcement of this property is enforcement of theft.

Any instance where the law assigns supposed “property rights” where none would be acquired by voluntary trade would be an example of that.  One example are eminent domain laws which can sometimes be used to essentially steal from one to give to the other and then proclaim it as legal property of the other.

Because of this it is rather hard to discern genuine from stolen property since the state is so deeply involved in the market. For example some argue that any and all property acquired by corporations is illegitimate because the corporation actually is not a real person, but rather just a conceptual or institutional puppet of a real person, with privileges assigned to it by the state. Thus it acts with powers that a real person otherwise wouldn’t have, powers assigned to it by the state at the expense of other market actors. Anything that a corporation could not acquire without these powers yet acquired with them is therefore considered as stolen property.

It isn’t surprising then that some would take this to the extreme and argue that all property must be stolen property quickly assuming the position that property ownership is impossible to enforce without the state, which is the second argument I’ll address. Indeed, that is the current popular belief and a claim by state actors themselves. What the state says is legal property is considered to be the legitimate property, as if it has nothing to do with individual and voluntary trade in the market itself, and everything to do with arbitrary decrees of state actors (even if elected through a democratic process).

I am inclined to agree with Proudhon if this argument is the correct interpretation of what he said, but only when it refers to property which truly was stolen by means of the state. It I however act independently of the state to produce or acquire something it is reasonable to assume my property was earned, not stolen.

“Property is theft because it cannot be enforced without the state.

As mentioned above this is what the extreme extension of the above argument leads some towards. Since the state steals and yet it is the one defining property and most people believe it, property and theft are conflated. It is then enough to observe someone’s house being taken from them by law only to be teared down and the land transfered to a corporation who is to build a mall there to put an emotional seal to this reasoning. Since the state does this in the name of property and the land is proclaimed as the property of the corporation yet the scene clearly depicts an act of theft, property and theft seem like the same thing.

In that instance the concept of property is so out of shape that it is hard to imagine how property could even exist without the state. It no longer refers to the control of that which you produced or acquired by your own efforts or through trade, but rather to a mere arbitrary entitlement by people with the guns, regardless of effort and voluntary trade.

Thus the argument that property cannot exist without state enforcement takes shape which also provides the seeds for the argument that any defense of private property is itself immoral initiation of force.

Unfortunately, this is all based on terrible fallacies. It is as if in the process of being maimed and pillaged the people lost sight of who their tyrant was and what his actions were. It’s as if they begun believing their masters lies and are now using those lies as arguments against those who would otherwise be their friends against the tyrant (typical affront between anarcho-socialists and anarcho-capitalists). It is as if they forgot what ownership used to mean, because it was just the opposite of theft.

In any case, ownership as defined by voluntaryists and anarcho-capitalists indeed has nothing to do with what the state decrees it is. It has nothing to do with arbitrary expropriation by force. It has to do with earning what you have by your own effort and being responsible for your actions. For my more specific exposition on property please see here

Thus how is it possible that the ones who are the biggest violators of property could be the only ones that can enforce it (the state)? This is a question I think every anarcho-socialist ought to honestly try to answer because it directly challenges their assumption that property requires the state.

So if property does not in fact require the state, the question that pops up is who will enforce it? The answer is relatively simple. Property owners or their agents. Today the state seemingly plays a role of an agent, but it actually is not. Since it is a coercive monopoly on the service of property protection (which is actually just a form of self defense) it does not so much provide that service as much as it forcefully imposes it. You don’t hire a state agent to protect your property. The state agent never gives you that option. Instead they take your money as supposed payment for this “service” through taxation against your will which is exactly the opposite of protecting property. It is its violation.

In fact real property protection today doesn’t really exist. If it did it would protect you from the state itself. So it’s not only that property protection does not depend on the state. It is actually supposed to remove the state altogether to function.

“Property is theft because its enforcement depends on initiation of force.”

This is just the evolution of the above and as I’ve shown it is thus based on really shallow grounds. It stems from conflating state violence in the name of protecting property with actual protection of actual property. The state’s actors often claim to do their work in the name of noble ideals such as freedom, even when they invade foreign countries and homes of innocent people. Are we supposed to then dismiss the idea of freedom because this is what they do in its name?

It’s the same thing with property. They violate property in the name of defending property. Are we supposed to dismiss true defense of property then as violation of property as well? Because that’s what this argument essentially boils down to.

However, while this argument may have evolved from the conflation of statist inversions of property with actual property it does have a life on its own, which isn’t surprising since most people who use this argument probably don’t typically make a connection between their animosity against property and their animosity towards the way state acts about it yet they need to defend their position and then try to find the best arguments to back it up.

Unfortunately even these arguments rehash the statist thinking. For instance, they provide examples of poor or homeless people taking the property of others in order to sustain themselves and the property owners purported attempts to defend from such theft as initiation of force. Such arguments attempt to use human tendency to empathize with the poor and unfortunate to trick one into reversing the defense of property into initiation of force, thus becoming consistent with the “property is theft” ethos. This reverses the roles of the poor thief and a richer property owner defending from such theft so as for the property owner to be the one who stole (by denying the poor to take) and the poor thief as the one who is stolen from.

What is easily missed here is that the fact that the property owner by virtue of his ownership may rightfully defend his property does not mean that he has to. It only means that the decisions pertaining to the way his property is to be used belongs to him.

Since it is the human tendency to empathize which this argument uses it is reasonable to assume that this argument assumes that empathy IS important and even common enough. If it wasn’t then why appeal to it in the first place? Yet if empathy is common enough for an empathy based argument to be worth using isn’t it reasonable to assume that most property owners confronted with a poor thief wouldn’t just force him out, but instead try to help and even let him use some of their property?

And as a final straw for this argument there is the fact that it sets a dangerous precedent in that it puts ownership to the subjective whims of those who claim a need that is supposedly large and immediate enough to override it. Suddenly anyone who can present his wants as severe enough needs can justify their theft. This of course can backfire at the very those whom this reversion of property is supposed to benefit: the poor.

Fundamentally, a claim that defense of property or property enforcement is *initiation* of force rather than defensive force leaves very little room for self defense, or at least makes it dependent on subjective whims as mentioned above. Unfortunately this relativization of property and thus self defense makes self-defense always a potential crime because the extent to which your self and your property extends is constantly at the whim of a society or social norms rather than a verifiable facts of your just effort and trade. That is, whether you have acquired something by honest action and trade no longer matters if someone can claim a “higher need” and still steal it from you.

I mentioned that these kinds of arguments rehash the statist thinking and here is how. Statist socialists use the same “think of the poor” kind of arguments appealing to the same human empathy to justify theft in form of taxes. The only way in which anarcho-socialist argument differs is that they outright redefine theft so as to reverse its meaning, but the outcome is the same.

This makes the anarcho-socialist position which uses this argument no better at all than the statist socialist position.

2. Pure capitalism leads to the state.

Above I’ve addressed the idea that property ownership, which is fundamental to capitalism, requires the state. In other words it was the idea that capitalism cannot exist without the state.

This argument is a little different in that it implicitly presupposes the existence of pure capitalism without the state first and then an inevitable devolution of it to state capitalism. The way this is supposed to happen is by the greed and selfishness of the capitalists going beyond voluntary trade and into the realm of force and fraud thus establishing conglomerates which ultimately become the state. There are probably many ways to be thought of exactly how this may happen, but addressing all of them isn’t my point.

In fact I wouldn’t even argue that this cannot happen. I would argue instead that if it does happen all it means that capitalists who started perpetrating force and fraud failed to be capitalists, or rather they weren’t capitalists, and that the system that resulted wasn’t capitalism at all, but the statism that we all know and love (NOT). Essentially it is corporatism. Even minimal state overseeing a free market has the seeds of corporatism and becomes real corporatism as soon as it establishes the limited liability and “legal person” institution called the “corporation” (LLC, LTD, Inc., Gmbh etc.)

In other words it is not pure capitalism that leads to statism, but rather the lack of capitalism. This boils down to my old argument about not blaming peace for war. If we are living in peace, meaning that everybody respects everybody and there is no violence and then after some time someone comes out and starts inciting conflict and initiating violence what will we blame for this state of violence? Will it be the fact that we had peace? Of course not. We will blame the fact that this individual started using violence.

In the same sense, if we have pure capitalism it means we have individuals respecting individuals and their work (their property) and trading voluntarily and peacefully. If someone then comes out and starts cheating people and initiating force to get more business, will we blame capitalism or will we blame the person who violated the very principles of capitalism?

This is also why it is extremely unintelligent to blame recessions, including the current crisis, on capitalism and the free market. It is precisely like blaming peace for war. People cheat and steal and we blame those who propagate against cheating and stealing for it. Government bails out corporations and we blame the free market? Those kinds of things boil my mind.

Imagine a brother hitting his sister who was just playing in peace and the mother shouting at the peaceful sister because she is just playing in peace and “causing” the brother to hit her. It’s truly a WTF moment, but tell that to the millions upon millions of people out there, including Michael Moore, currently spitting at capitalism and free markets. They have no sane idea what they’re doing.

So this argument doesn’t really make sense. The only resort it has is to claim that capitalism itself is flawed which would probably come down to the arguments against property which I’ve addressed and hopefully debunked above.

3. No authority should be admitted, thus no authority derived from property ownership.

This was pointed out by my friend when he described briefly the position of mutualists he has had some discussions with. According to him they actually believe in self-ownership, but instead of as seeing it as a base of property ownership they see it as the very reason why property ownership (beyond the self) should not exist. To quote:  “I own myself and therefore others have no authority over me, and as a result, no authority over others is acceptable. From this principle, property rights MUST conflict with self-ownership.

However this position is self-contradictory and ultimately leads to the same issues pointed out with the above addressed reversal of property ownership into “theft”. If nobody should have any authority over you then the poor people taking something you believe belongs to you don’t either. Their needs, no matter how basic, do not establish their authority over your desire to keep what they’re taking.

Then it might be argued that your authority ends where their authority begins, but since this position espouses no-authority that would clearly be a contradiction. In fact a no-authority position transmutes into a no-liberty position because your liberty ends where someone’s liberty begins which inevitably implies some kind of an authority. Thus denying all authority is denying all liberty. This just doesn’t work, at least if your goal is liberty to begin with.

Thus the no authority position seems to overspill each individual’s “jurisdiction” (for lack of a better word) all over each other rather than establishing a balance. The area of overlap is the area of conflict. By saying nobody has any authority over you under any circumstances whatsoever you’re essentially taking an absolute authority position over everyone else. If everyone makes this assumption and acts on it this is essentially anarchy as chaos, that is, everyone against everyone according to their own whims.

4. Property vs. Possession

From all that I’ve heard about the concept of possession so far I am compelled to conclude that possession actually is nothing more than a crippled, relativized and subjectivized version of property. The concept is essentially designed to give way to socialized defining and redefining of what may a person possess and keep, basically submitting the individual to some extent to the established social norms. This is because the main reasons that possession is even admitted to the individual are subjective, namely, the “basic needs” of the individual – what he needs to live.

One person may feel his basic needs to be quite different from another so one person may claim more possessions than another. If one person believes the needs of another person to be lower than that person believes himself this leads to conflict. There is no one size fits all objective model of needs. Not only do they to a large extent depend on personal evaluations, but even to the physical and mental capacities of each person which cannot as easily be evaluated by another on sight. Some people are more efficient in their consumption of life giving resources than others depending on their physical build up, skills, experience and so on. It also isn’t uncommon for people today to claim needs which a lot of other people would feel are luxuries.

Who then is the final arbiter of this? Apparently nobody and everybody which is just another way of saying “the society” in reference to popular social norms. Since it is precisely on this determination on which the difference between self-defense and initiation of violence may be determined it is clear how this could leave a lot of people with an experience of being tyrannized by the majority. This is essentially mob rule, even with less pretense than the idea of democracy.

Conclusion

I have very little respect for socialism, both with or without the state. As a voluntaryist I clearly have no respect for statism so it goes without saying that I find socialist statism unacceptable.

Anarcho-socialists tend to say that they are the “real anarchists” and that the label “anarcho-socialists” is superfluous. They also say that anarcho-capitalism is an oxymoron. This comes from their understanding of anarchy as “no-authority” rather than “no coercive rule” or their reversal of “coercive rule” through denial of property ownership in which the defense of property which would otherwise be considered self defense, becomes itself coercion.

Unfortunately this reversal tactic is what’s most disgusting about all socialism in general. Socialism as the name implies is ultimately never really about the individual, but rather about the abstract “society”, something that does not exist without individuals to begin with. Socialist positions and arguments sometimes pretend to defend the individual, yet the outcome is paving the way to socialized control. An affront to property ownership is used to cut into the individual by infecting the objective realm that underpins property ownership, causality, with subjective whims the aggregate of which is represented in form of social norms that are accepted as the “common sense” and thus “the truth” (provided this is even believed in anymore).

Anarcho-socialists however are a particularly sad case since they seem like a traumatized version of a socialist. They’ve recognized the ills of mainstream social (dis)organization yet they’re still pretty severely infected by the memes which make such social organization possible. They’ve learned to oppose the state yet they still operate on the memetical paradigm that the state itself operates on which makes them into excellent treadmill runners, going absolutely nowhere. Besides, when have ever the anti-globalist and anarchist protest resulted in any kind of real change other than to parade violent rioting as the de-facto image of “anarchism” and thus taint the perception of enlightened and intellectual anarchists with it.

Anarcho-socialism is socialized control without the state. They may passionately deny this, but the consistence of ideas they typically advocate inevitably lead to this. Why else restrict or relativize property ownership, bringing some extent of it to the whim of society?

The trouble is, the state itself to a very large extent exists precisely because the stateless socialized control is already established. It is ultimately the ideas, the memes, which run the world. State is just the ultimate reflection of prevalent social norms. If the masses didn’t believe that it is right to steal in some limited instances taxes would not exist. If the masses didn’t believe that violence is acceptable in enforcing “good ideas” a coercive monopoly on law would not exist. If the masses didn’t believe that violence is an acceptable way of solving some social problems war against citizens either in other countries or “at home” (“war on drugs”, “war on terror” etc.) wouldn’t exist. And so on.

Violence of course is the ultimate result of any “socialization” of the individual, any part of the individual. It may be renamed and redefined, but still exists.  Socialization by definition means absorption of one individual into another, which is exactly what conflict is. Metaphorically speaking, it is the collision of individuals in terms of their values. This is because a society does not really exist as any one thing in reality. Only individuals do. So sacrificing any individual for the society is in reality sacrificing one individual for another, or absorbing a part of one individual into another.

Socialism, in any form, thus inadvertently promotes conflict in the name of harmony.

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Problems and Proposed Solutions in Defining and Defending Property Ownership

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.

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