private property (for dummies) – (en)

Libertarians, socialists, capitalists, and other wildlife thinkers, always navigate around the concept and implications of private property, its legitimacy, its natural values and other complex theories, its abolition or its need, or the semantic differences with terms like possession or enjoyment.
I would like to put my two cents, if I may do so, from a practical and understandable perspective, away from the [undoubtedly inherent] ethical and philosophical aspects of the concept.
Once upon a time, a millennium or so, farmer Uwe had a beautiful meadow, which was so splendid that farmers everywhere admired it. Each spring his cherry trees were the first to burst into bloom and by mid-summer, the branches were heavily bent with their ripe crimson fruits. The most beautiful part of the field wrapped his dwelling, a small wooden house decorated with lots of flowers, which his wife Wulfila lovingly cultivated.
From his prairie you could have taken the path around the town of Bajchisarai and continue to Vysokohirne, and, after three hours, descry, on a bluff of the Ai-Petri mountais, over the river Uchan-su, the castle of Sublime Function, in which dwelled a dissipated king, landed from foreign lands.
It had been a few years back this stranger was one day standing by the campfire and told the other men:
— Know what? from now on I’m the king. The sun is my father, the moon is my mother and they are who manifest to me when we should throw the virgins to the volcano. It’s also expected that all bowed yourselves to my step, and so that you must provide me with half of your crops. I’ve also been invested with the divine right to fornicate with your daughters. And do not forget that, if I wish, I can concentrate with great intensity and make your heads explode.
Meanwhile the other poor devils around the campfire nodded and said to each other:
— What this guy is saying makes a lot of sense.
And so they built him a magnificent castle.
The same journey, but in the opposite direction, was the route the king’s collector used to take that part of the year.
Uwe didn’t want his head to burst, but still less to give away half of the six baskets of juicy cherries he had gathered, so he dug a deep hole in the ground behind the house and hid in it his treasure. Then he covered it with fresh grass and straws, so nobody could find it.
Arrived the collector, a pretty wild man named Violentus, and an arid argument ensued among them as soon the latter began to understand his journey would be in vain. The soldiers who accompanied him put upside down Uwe’s house, but weren’t able to find the cache, and among threats and insults they finally made their way back to the castle.
The king, albeit glutton, fervent worshiper of Bacchus, and harp enthusiast, when he wasn’t drunk nor was stupid —perhaps for that reason he had become the king of that incipient state—, so after pondering a while he instructed the collector to produce a document in which Uwe was legally recognized as the owner of all the baskets of cherries he could reap, and warning anyone thinking of stealing or claiming on his property with severe punishment in the dungeons of the castle. Some blanks were left in the document to specify the number of baskets reaped that year and for Uwe’s signature. Finally the king stamped his gold ring over the melted wax, closing the document, giving it a quasi-divine solemnity.
Uwe became fascinated with the flowered writing and the red state seal. He could not read, but after a brief explanation by the collector he realized that previously he only had his cherries. Now, however, it was more: those were his private property, duly sanctioned by the authority. No one could steal them unpunished… and his head risked exploding no more.
After filling in the gaps of the document, and affixing his blackened thumb in it, he felt really relieved and grateful for the great protection of that newly created state. He dreamily thought: “How civilization advances…”.
The collector then noted that now he had become a citizen whose private property was protected by law, he should pay the due taxes without further delay. This part didn’t improve Uwe’s in itself good mood, but considering himself a citizen whose property was protected by the selfsame king, he weighed it right to correspond that magnanimous attitude of the ruler and pay the three demanded baskets. And so he did.
When the cherries, the collector and his armed entourage had moved away, Uwe ran with the paper to tell his wife and explain what had happened. The jubilant response of Wulfila —she was a pragmatic woman, like most women at that time— was reduced to one word:
— Moron!
What is Private Property
Corollary: Private property —common or individual—, since the emergence of the concept, has been an invention of the states to ensure that economic activity of the subjects is legible, taxable, assessable and confiscatable. And is the fundamental basis for the survival of these illegitimate institutions, which at this time seem omnipresent and inescapable. In other words, private property could be defined as the gradual shrinking (sometimes sudden evaporation) of the earthly possessions of an individual or group, plus a piece of paper with elaborated seals and pompous jargon.
Private Property (for dummies) – Dugutigui

Acerca de Dugutigui

In the “Diula” language in Mali, the term « dugutigui » (chief of the village), literally translated, means: «owner of the village»; «dugu» means village and «tigui», owner. Probably the term is the result of the contraction of «dugu kuntigui» (literally: chief of the village).
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13 respuestas a private property (for dummies) – (en)

  1. chr1 dijo:

    I believe private property and contract law to be the moral foundations to free markets. They also line-up much more closely with more free and prosperous societies, and perhaps the rights of man (which I don’t necessarily believe can all be derived from top-down reason).

    We in America didn’t start out a monarchy claiming divine right to rule, nor with kings, nor with nobleman, but with religious pilgrims, traders, and colonists. The protection and eventual tyranny of the British crown taxing us led bunch of citizens who wanted to protect against such tyranny in the future.

    Private property is key to this.

    My two cents.

    • Dugutigui dijo:

      As said at the beginning of the post I am not entering in the ethical o philosophical considerations on private property. Also I didn’t say it was an invention of kings (the tale is just a metaphor), but of the states, whatever the kind, ancient or new, in the way they are able to tax (or confiscate) the economic activity of the subjects. What I mean is people has been enjoying possessions for the past two hundred thousand years, living in the absence of state structures, and it is the apparition of these organizations what has created the need of private property, not for the benefit of the subjects, but as the pivotal point for the survival of these states.
      To finish just point that the U.S. economy is still top dog, but the U.S. National Intelligence Council released a report last year that offers a series of prognostications about how the world might change in coming decades. One of its attention-grabbing assertions: China’s economy will surpass that of the U.S. by 2030. The socialist market economy of China is the world’s second largest economy —in fact is the world’s third largest economy— by nominal GDP and by purchasing power parity after the United States. The Property Law of the People’s Republic of China just went into effect on October 1, 2007…
      I said above, China is the world’s third largest economy, because the second one is the informal sector or informal economy (the part of an economy that is not taxed, monitored by any form of government, or included in any gross national product, unlike the formal economy).
      And this very world’s second largest economy is not taxed nor monitored, only for one reason: Private property doesn’t exist among them. This does not mean that people do not own things. They do, as possession, not as a legal private (and taxable) property.
      In any case thanks for your time commenting!

  2. chr1 dijo:

    No problem!

    But I think you’ve ventured deeply into the ethical and philosophical realms here, merely by suggesting that the State is the only bar to man’s possessing any property, and that before the existence of the State there weren’t such problems.

    It was all the rage for thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacuques Roussueau and even modern political philosophers to iimagine man in his State of Nature.

    Does God, or allegiance to a king grant rights? Are man’s rights to be found in nature and in a functional government? Are they to be found in nature alone? Are they to be found in some sort of rational superstructure of thought?

    The questions are deep, and most of these various thinkers wouldn’t exactly agree with one another at all, but their influence is deep and wide on what kind of States, governments, and laws we have.

    • Dugutigui dijo:

      If I’d want to venture deeply in philosophy (quoting for example Kierkegaard, Berdyaev, Maurin, Day, Hennacy, Wilde, Proudhon, Cavanaugh, among thousand others) I’d say: any thing on earth belongs to earth, not to a species that it’s just briefly passing. Or that a direct consequence of private property: inheritance (again being purely a creation of the state) should be abolished. Or that the elite we are helping to create by the means of private property, as soon computer, robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech scientists succeed in developing intelligent machines that can do all things better than us, will get rid of the masses, because human work will no longer be necessary and masses will be a useless burden on the system. etc… 🙂

      Before the existence of the state there were exactly the same problems … without the added problem of the state itself.

      The outstanding thinkers of the free market consider freedom from violence requires that nobody may seize the property of another by the threat of violence or means of violence … The truth is that only states are able to seize possessions by the threat of violence or means of violence … something we can see systematically everyday everywhere from the rise of the first incipient state …

      I believe that my ideas about property can be properly appreciated understanding the difference between “possession” (i.e. the right of occupation or usufruct), and “property”, and “private property” … but this could take tooooooo long to be explained… 🙂

      Thanks again.

  3. chr1 dijo:

    Thank you.

    I suppose we’ll have to disagree about this, but I just don’t see how you possess knowledge that is able predict the future like this, nor attribute injustice or the taking of property just to States alone (as if it didn’t before that…murder, theft, one kid punching another and taking his food).

    • Dugutigui dijo:

      The only thing I am for sure is unsure, but truths do not become more true by virtue of the fact that the entire world agrees with it, nor less so even if the whole world disagrees with it … I can’t predict the future, but elite is already here, with good health, and getting stronger.

      Re your last paragraph, as I said [murder, theft, one kid punching another and taking his food, etc] before the existence of the state, there were exactly the same problems. And we continue having exactly the same problems today, plus an infinite superior problem: the state itself. While murder, theft, one kid punching another and taking his food, etc., were and are sporadic and random acts, the problems state creates to its subjects are systematic, pervasive and inescapable.

  4. chr1 dijo:

    1. Well, if you want to convince me, or others, rather than just having a belief for which you have little evidence, that’s fine. I have beliefs too and I’m usually very reluctant to let them go, or often even examine them. I’m simply saying that if your goal is to persuade or convince me that your knowledge is enough to actually predict the future, then I’m not convinced, that’s all.

    My record is pretty spotty, too, when it comes to predicting the future.

    2. I’d argue that the problems of the State and of injustice are part of human nature, and just because the scale of bad leadership and control is greater, the creation of modern States is neither a net negative or a positive for that human nature.

    When I think about it, your view of human nature is pretty grim, indeed. I don’t entirely disagree, but you’re basically saying trust isn’t really warranted, and it’s much worse now that we have modern technology and large bureaucracies and states.

    I would say it’s better to hope that it’s possible to discover truth, and to gain knowledge, and to do so from others as well. In my experience, many people believe in ideas, ideologies and platforms which lead to them to grow the power of the State foolishly and arbitrarily, so that it can do real harm to themselves and others without really thinking about why.

    This is why I brought up both Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. They were trying to tackle the same problems and Locke responded to Hobbes’ claim that allegiance to the monarch and the Leviathan is in yours and my rational best interest.

    Locke said the same power of the monarch, divine rule and the State is the same power that can destroy individuals and their property.

    And here we are talking about similar things many hundreds of years later.

    • Dugutigui dijo:

      Nothing is further from my interest than to convince anyone, and I can not predict the future, neither would I desire. My ideas, the ones I believe somehow right, and the only ones that really matter to me, are beyond politics. I think it is useless to subject the world and appropriate it. Until we have triumphed over time, we will remain slaves.

      Re point 2, in another post you could read: Homo sapiens sapiens has been around for something like two hundred thousand years. Until shortly before the Common Era, the very last 1 percent of human history, the social landscape consisted of elementary, self-governing, kinship units that might, occasionally, cooperate in hunting, feasting, skirmishing, trading, and peacemaking. It did not contain anything one could call a state. In other words, living in the absence of state structures has been the standard human condition.

      And yes, you are right in this: My view of human nature is pretty grim. But in any case it’s a pleasure to talk with you, even being the same conversation among Locke and Hobbes 🙂

  5. chr1 dijo:

    1. That’s where philosophy begins. We all do it to some extent, and you’re surely free to think what you like. In fact, most of our thoughts occur out of the realm of politics and the public square.

    2. This is EXACTLY what philosophers/political philosophers and scientists and thinkers do. What is our state in nature? What are our origins? Who has the moral legitimacy to be in charge? Does this legitimacy flow from our knowledge and theories of knowledge?

    WHy do I believe what I do and how did I come upon that belief. How could I justify it if I had to?

    It’s a pleasure to talk with you, too. This can be fun as well as profound and contentious.


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