Monday, May 18, 2015

Private property

This is Joseph.

One very important shift in modern thinking has been the notional of private property as an absolute and natural right, as opposed to a social convention.  I very much like David Hume's take on this issue:
Thus, “the rules of equity or justice [regarding property] depend entirely on the particular state and condition in which men are placed, and owe their origin and existence to that utility, which results to the public from their strict and regular observance” (Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, 3).
In other words, property rights arise because they are useful and are an imposed social construct by a polity.  It is a measure of how incredibly successful that the modern state has been at protecting property rights that we see property rights as an innate right.

So why do I bring this up?

Mark has been talking about how to live on extremely small amounts of money.  But it is not necessary that resources be allocated in the way that they are.  In fact, it may well be the case that the wealthiest members of society benefit the most from the conventions and constructions of society.  I don't think attacking people for being selfish is ever productive,

But I do think it might be worth considering whether a new social contract can be developed that is not anti-statist.  Perhaps, instead, we could focus on efficient and effective government.  Or am I an idealist?

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