Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Non-Agression Principle: Absolute Propety Rights

I was just reading this blog over here, and I came myself thinking, once again, about the notion that we can have a civil society without any party having the right to sieze the property of another party or individual--including the government. What that means is: no taxes--none at all. There is no "public" support for things like police and military, among other things. It's straight-up anarchy, which is the way many "Libertarian Purists" like it. The market would solve all problems.

Thieves and murderers would, of course, continue to exist. What is one's recourse to coersion in such a socity? In our current one, you can call the police. If they're coming in large groups from across the border, the military is the preferred instrument. Under anarchy, the only recourse is private action: either keep up a subscription to a private security force, or get together with your fellows and take matters into your own hands... assuming you have any left (hands, or friends).

Personally, I don't think it would work. I have been working on a blog in which I attempt to demonstrate this concept, but I think that The State is an inevitability. Very simply put, it would be cheaper to pay off a group that, in echange for payment, would both protect you from thieves and murderers, and also not be such toward you (Mafia style), rather than pay a group that has to protect you from BOTH the thieves and murderers and the Mafia at the same time. The most economically advantageous system would be the one you are required to participate in--or else. In addition, this industry benefits considerably from economies of scale. Thus, were we to abolish all government today, we'd only be hitting the "reset" button. The State would regrow, as The State is embedded into the intersection of economic law and the law of force.

So Anarchism, particularly "Anarcho-Capitalism", can't really work. It's a nice idea, and people love to dream of it, but its impossible, isn't it?

Not really. I think it is entirely possible to have a social system in which propety is absolute, and in which there exists a guarantor of rights big enough to be effective, and accountable enough not to become the chief violator. Furthermore, we don't have to make any exceptions to the rules for the governing entity: it would not have the right to violate property rights AT ALL, and yet, it would have sufficient funding. All you need, is to accept two ideas:

  1. The right to property is absolute. No party has the right to violate the property of any other (not even the government).
  2. The Land is absolutely the property of the Community, and not of individuals.

Note that when I say "The Land," I am not referring to the structures built upon the land, the crops grown in carefully prepared fields, the produce of enormous investment in wells and mines, or any other form of capital improvement. These, the results of the labors of men, shall remain securely in the posession of the individuals who build them. The farmer that ploughs and sows shall reap. The miner that digs shall sell his produce. The financier who brings together enormous sums of capital to accomplish great improvements shall reap the proper rewards. The improvements will be secured for the use of those who create the improvements. However, the actual square-feet of dirt would remain, in principle, the property of the community at large.

The problem with treating Land as the absolute property of "The Community" is one of execution. The most obvious way to go about it is simply to declare that the whole Earth is now the property of a newly chartered corporation, with each and every human being equal shareholders. This corporation would rent the land out to those who are willing to pay for the right to exclude others from the use of land. This idea is nice and simple in concept, but likely hideously bureaucratic an corruptable in execution. In addition, it feels like theft, the siezing of property that previously belonged to private individuals. While many of these individuals are the lucky heirs of those who acquired and held land while it was still cheap, there are others who, in their lifetime, have sacrificed much to acquire the lot upon which they live, or where they do business.

I have written before about a way to establish such a coropration without even appearing to be stealing a thing. However, that solution has the problem, once again, of potentially being excessively bureaucratic and corruptable, particularly as it grows in size. I believe a far better solution is presented by Henry George in his book Progress and Poverty, which I am currently reading.

I would just jump to the chase on how it is done, but I think it is necessary to read what George has to say on the subject before his solution to the problem of the poverty that inevitably accompanies economic progress (the increasing divide between rich and poor, and the undeniable fact that the poorest among aboriginal peoples live far better than the poorest among our own.). Perhaps at a later date, I'll do a sort of "cliffs notes" for Progress and Poverty, for those who lack the ability to slog through the admittedly very wordy, perhaps unnecessarily wordy, writing style of Henry George. (Then again, perhaps I suffer the same deficiency.)

EDIT: Were to read but one chapter from Progress and Poverty, read this one.

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