Re: Property
Tue, 15 Dec 1998 10:06:32 -0700

Samael asks: "If everyone has access to something, it 'belongs' to all of them, yes?"

No! "Access" is not what defines property; property means right of _control_. I can own something but still grant access to everyone. The converse doesn't hold under the usual definition of property.

>Maybe I'm stretching the word belongs a little bit there, but I presume
>can see what I'm trying to say.

Yes you are, and not just a little bit; and no, I can't quite see what you're trying to say. Maybe I'm a little obtuse this morning, I've only had three cups of coffee. :-)

But let me take a seem to be implying, by turns, that a) nobody owns anything, or b) everybody owns everything. Of course, holding both of these propositions at different times makes your position incoherent. But let's address each by itself and see if either of them stands up to reason.

I think (b) is easily disposed of as either involving a self-contradiction or reducing to meaninglessness. To belabor the point, how could it be that everyone in the world has exclusive title to control any specific thing, let alone everything? Even if we relax the tension by omitting the condition of exclusivity, we have everyone potentially vying for control all the time. If we retain exclusivity, the problem is worse. Somebody has to make the decisions. Somehow things have to get allocated in some reasonable manner. How? In practice (if any society were foolhardy enough to try to practice it) it's pretty clear that the situation would immediately resolve itself into some system of entitlement, no matter what they (or you) chose to call it. State "ownership" is not equivalent to common ownership, since it implicit assumes the property "rights" of the power structure.

So we're down to (a). Obviously this is the original "state of nature". But how can it be maintained and permit anyone even to survive? If you, for instance, pick and eat an unowned fruit, you're immediately "guilty" of appropriating the fruit and making it your property (control can't get much more exclusive than digestion). So it's a tort just to live, if you're correct in forbidding property. Obviously this is untenable.

We're left (by elimination) with the necessity of property (title to exclusive control). Now we can argue about how property is legitimately acquired, but we can't consistently reject the idea of property itself.