Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The State: Private Property Violator Extraordinaire

There has never been a political power that voluntarily desisted from impeding the free development and operation of the institution of private ownership of the means of production.  Governments tolerate private property when they are compelled to do so, but they do not acknowledge it voluntarily in recognition of its necessity.  --Ludwig von Mises.  Liberalism:  The Classical Tradition

A state is a territorial monopolist of compulsion--an agency which may engage in continual, institutionalized property rights violations and exploitation--in the form of expropriation, taxation, and regulation--of private property owners.  --Hans-Hermann Hoppe.  Democracy:  The God that Failed

The idea of "private property" consists not only of physical property in the means of production and consumer goods but also of property in one's own body.   The idea of "self-ownership" is also an integral part of any discussion of property rights. 

We make war upon the State as the chief invader of person and property, as the cause of substantially all the crime and misery that exist, as itself the most gigantic criminal extant.  --Benjamin Tucker.  (His Periodical called) Liberty

There appear to be various "approaches" or "angles" when it comes to justifying the existence of private property.  Ludwig von Mises's arguments usually boil down to this:  without private property in the means of production, prices for these means can never form because the means of production are neither bought nor sold.  Without these prices, the means of production cannot be allocated in any rational way.  There is no way of knowing whether the resources have been utilized properly or not.  Mises usually couches his arguments in terms of rational economics; property needs to exist because without property a chaotic system will emerge and relative impoverishment will become epidemic.

There also is a "individual natural rights" view, as expressed here by Hoppe and Benjamin Tucker.  There exists a natural right, usually viewed as inalienable (meaning you can never lose it, sell it, give it up, transfer it) that says that you are the owner of your own body, and so you can do whatever you want to with your own body (as long as you do not invade other people's bodies or their alienable property).  This approach might be classified as the ethical or political philosophy approach.  The justification for this latter position is that you are the one to first occupy your own body; consequently, you have effectively "originally appropriated" your body.  (Original appropriation is viewed as an ethical way to acquire previously unowned property--and then make it your own).

For clarity, it appears as though Tucker abandoned his natural rights views later in life.  The source that I am working from is called Benjamin Tucker and His Periodical Liberty by Carl Watner.  I am drawing on the discussion of the "earlier" Tucker, who was being influenced by Lysander Spooner's views.  Watner mentions that

From the beginning of Liberty, Tucker placed emphasis on the rights of the individual and individual sovereignty.  This natural rights approach may have been influenced by Lysander Spooner..."there is but one single kind of 'legal' freedom; and that is simply the 'natural' freedom of each individual to do whatever he will with himself and his property, for his body here, and his soul hereafter, so long as he does not trespass upon the equal freedom of any other person."

Mises's economics inspired rational calculation argument is meant to persuade us that the government should not interfere with the production process.  In other words, Mises is trying to convince us that laissez-faire is the only feasible way to arrange an economic system.  One must also remember that Mises first wrote his "rational economic calculation" objection to socialism circa 1920.  At this time, we learn from the Introduction to Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market that Alfred Marshall's "partial equilibrium approach" was beginning to replace the older causal-realist approach to economic theorizing.  So maybe, Mises was trying to say to his critics:  prices do not form based on solving a math problem.  Prices do not form by trying to solve a simultaneous equation problem in a single market.  Moreover, the idea of trying to find an equilibrium price is a bit dubious because we live in a world of perpetual change.  Mises wanted to say to them:  prices actually form on a market as buyers and sellers continuously interact.  We need to look at individuals and their choices in a continually changing and dynamic environment.

The natural rights (the more political philosophy approach) is trying to convince us that the state is illegitimate. The approach begins by saying, I own my own body; you own your own body.  The state by imposing its will through coercion and compulsion on my body is engaged in a property rights violation.  I want to use my body in one way, let's say drink alcohol but the state imposes its will on my body by saying it is illegal for me to do so because I am "under age."  (I am just making up this as an example).  Therefore, we can see the state as a violator of my property rights--my right to use my body as I best see fit.

In conclusion then, we can see the state as a perpetual violator of property.  We can see the state as violator of my alienable property rights (things I can transfer to others), i.e., the state is an invader of my tangible property--my ownership in producers' goods (and even as an invader of my consumers' goods).  Moreover, because of natural rights theory, the state is also a violator of my inalienable rights (things I can not transfer to others).  It invades my inalienable right to self-ownership by invading my body and telling me what I can and cannot do with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment