One of the war cries of the anarchist Jean-Pierre Proudhon is his famous dictum "Property is theft!"

In a nutshell and very simplified it goes something like this: There was an initial state when there was the world and there was mankind and the entire world was available to be used by every human. THEN property arose and individuals took parts of that property unto themselves and claimed it as their own. In other words, they stole it from the rest of mankind.

For a lengthier discussion, go here

Then, come back and explain how property is not theft, or else explain why you agree.

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"All Property is Theft" is self-contradictory.

The mere concept of "theft" depends on the concept of "property."  Something can't be stolen unless it belongs to someone else and the thief took it from them.  \Yet here the concept of "theft" is being used to deny the concept of property, cutting itself off at the knees.

I might ask in reply: Does not the world belong to all men if it belongs to any man at all? How is it established in a just way that one man's share may be more than another's?

He produced a value.  The other man didn't, for whatever reason.

You're basing everything on the notion that 1) everything out there was "communally owned" originally, and that 2) later on it ended up--somehow--individually owned in differing shares and 3) that process must necessarily have been unfair somehow.  That's three distinct assumptions and the only one I agree with is #2.

The resources of nature are of no value whatsoever until someone finds a reason to value them.  A value implies a valuer.  (It should be noted that leaving something untouched and pristine can of itself be a value to those who enjoy such things; I am not arguing against conservationism here.)  Colorful blue rocks were of only ornamental value until someone discovered that if you heat them up, this stuff called copper would come out of it.  Going back further, certain rocks were of no use whatsoever until someone discovered you could knapp them to make arrowheads and other tools.  I doubt anyone thought of the world as being the common heritage of all mankind back then; at most they thought of one piece of it as being a certain tribe's turf, and they felt free to conquer another tribe's turf if they thought they could get away with it.  But even there, it was hunting and gathering rights they were after until they learned how to use the other junk that was lying around.  As mostly-hairless apes, we have to expend effort to produce or procure everything that is of value to us, we're not plants that can just drink in the sunlight and automatically be fed.

Vs. number three, I am going to ask you to justify your assumption that the uneven division of "stuff" today must necessarily be unjust.  I maintain that some people produce more value and hence can gain more in trade than others; Dr. Bob's example of the bamboo aqueduct to me seems a perfectly good thought experiment in this.  You complain that Dr. Bob's aqueduct builder appropriated resources that belonged to everyone.  No, rather, he took something that "everyone" regarded as totally worthless and found out how it could be useful. I imagine peoples' reaction wouldn't have been,. "hey, he's taking our bamboo" but rather "what the fuck does he think he's doing?  What a waste of time!  Hope the wife and kids don't starve since he's not out there hunting and gathering instead of fiddling around with that shit!"  He turned something worthless into something worthwhile, and he deserves to be rewarded for it.

None of this is to say that some property isn't indeed stolen, that monarch is most certainly descended from a thief operating under color of government.  But for it to have been stolen it has to have been worth stealing, someone must have produced a value, and that person was entitled to it.  The monarch's current possession of it sure as hell isn't an argument against property ownership as such, it's an argument against allowing the state to forcibly expropriate things.

Regarding paragraph 3, imagine someone in the original state before ownership. You're telling me he doesn't appreciate (value) that the river supplies water and fish, that the field yields edible leaves and tubers, that he can catch and eat the available game? Don't make me laugh!

Regarding paragraph 4, if the people regarded water as worthless, then why did they daily trek to get some? And let's imagine for a moment that I grant people can create value through their sweat in inventiveness. By what right do they get to claim the benefits for themselves rather than their community.

<em>Regarding paragraph 4, if the people regarded water as worthless, then why did they daily trek to get some?</em>

Clearly not all of the water was worthless, but clearly the large majority of it was worth so little in comparison to other things that they let it flow downstream.  In economic terms, its opportunity cost was higher than its marginal value.  By diverting some of that, and storing it, he increased its value.  Actually he decreased its cost.  It only cost them ten minutes labor to get it instead of an hour.

<em>By what right do they get to claim the benefits for themselves rather than their community.</em>

Because if he had not done the work, that value would not exist. He created the value, it is his by right.

Even if the village implicitly shares and shares alike the product of group enterprises (e.g., all the men going off to hunt a mastodon split the meat), and it isn't set up so that the "chief" gets the lion's share no matter what (which would break all actual precedent), by what right does the village get to claim the excess product of his other work they didn't help him with? Remember, they're getting fifty minutes a day of extra time even if they don't simply confiscate the "primitive village water works co." and redistribute it to the people, in return he wants the remaining ten minutes he's saving them.  If they do confiscate it, they get those ten minutes as well.  And the work he now did, and the cost he paid in not feeding himself and his family as well as he could have with the time he spent building the aqueduct, is lost to him entirely.  In fact, it could be considered stolen, rather than simply lost because the risk didn't pan out--a risk he was willing to take.

If they nevertheless assert such a claim and make it stick, why should he do a damn thing other than the bare minimum in the future?

The western world ended up the most scientifically and materially advanced part of the world.  It's also the part of the world where some governments began to recognize the right of people to keep the product of their own labor, minus some known-in-advance percentage for taxation, without fear that some lord would come along and just confiscate it for whatever reason.  In other words, its where property rights of "commoners" was first recognized.  This is not a coincidence.

One could say that the other people didn't impound the water because they never thought anyone would claim more than he could use himself.

I think a lot of marxists would question whether the wealth of Bill Gates or the Koch Brothers or the Walton Family represents their caloric or intellectual output in any measured way, but rather results from some cutthroat business practices.


Intuitively this makes no sense. Apes fight over food sources and they even fight over meaningless objects. Most mammals are posessive of at least a few artefacts to some degree. The idea that "property arose" by modern humans once they went "civilised" is rather moronic.

You're dodging Proudhon's real question which is what is just about people claiming more than their share. For example, in Proudon's time it might have been a king claiming a land. Today, it might be a capitalist "owning" the means of production.

No. Certain mammals are well known to hoard and take the majority of the resources their group or micro-eco-enviroment has and leave the scraps for the rest. Some insect colonies are known to virtually posess vast tracts of land making them totally inaccesible to any other insects. Especially in the Canidae family, there can be remarkably greedy individuals (per resources) that make life very difficult for everyone else, while in the Felidae family alpha males are known to dominate nearly the entire female population (as though they are his property) and murder any young that belong to another male.

It seems no coincidence that these two families have produced the cat and the dog and that we have co-evolved somewhat together. We share the traits of disparity and domination.

But then something curious happens. Somehow (regardless of how its justified), individuals are permitted to appropriate pieces of the world privately.

The french love to make their claims and not back them up (especially modern French philosophers) but 19th century ones as well. Huh? All of a sudden man started "owning" things and keeping it for themselves? What a remarkable event. When was it?

The institutions that make up laissez-faire capitalism, the institution of private property especially, are imposed involuntarily on populations whether they want them or not.

No...a rather extreme ideology of property is gradually accepted or even encouraged by the culture as a whole. The only examples I can think of where there have been heavy radical changes were when Europeans came into contact with tribal groups (or earlier when Middle Eastern and Chinese civilizations did the same). And even then, the myth that tribal people of the land had no concept of property is absurd. They simply had a different approach to property but it was still property and some had more access to it and far more privelages than others. Even the Inuits (eskimos), considered one of the most selfless cultures showed many personal artifacts and they went to war with one another over land and there certainly was a chief in many tribes who had more than one woman.

Nordic Welfare state as necesary for utilitarian-libertarianism?

What happened to property is theft? What he is explaining is basically a mixed system (welfare for undeveloped sectors and uncompetitive sectors and deregulation for competitive and developed sectors). That's pretty much all of Europe. Scandanavia is simply better at it.

It looks like the post you are replying to might have disappeared.

I'll add my 2 cents for what it's worth:

I think his idea of property being theft is utterly ridiculous.

For several reasons.

For lack of time I'll give one tiny example.

It is not uncommon for some species to "stake out" land/property. Example? I was just watching a documentary about animals and they were discussing babboons. It turns out our close primate relatives "own" certain territories and will hurt others within their species if invaded. They also treat their females as property (I hope we eventually evolve completely away from that notion)...

There is something evolutionary about primates having certain boundaries and territories to operate within. 

So basically, from a biological perspective, his ideas are just bunk.

From a pragmatic perspective also, it's just ridiculous.

You haven't addressed the matter of by what right use becomes ownership.

Also, while some creatures are territorial, perhaps most, some are not. You pretty much admit this. 

Primate share some traits and not others. Some are fiercely territorial, at least one species, orangutans, are relatively nonviolent and not territorial at all. Chimps are very territorial with one tribe sometimes raiding another tribe and engaging in open and lethal warfare, if that tribe gets too close or if they want to expand their territory into the neighboring territory. An individual chimp blundering into a neighboring tribe's territory will almost always be mobbed and murdered if he can't get away. Despite their family resemblance to chimps, bonobos are far more peaceful, and not nearly as territorial. 


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