Re: Property Rights

Michael S. Lorrey (
Sat, 22 May 1999 14:18:59 -0400

David Musick wrote:

> Now I understand what Mike Lorrey is so upset about. I believe that the
> concept of "Property Rights" is a fictional concept, more of a social
> convention than something that exists whether we like it or not. Mike
> Lorrey believes that Property Rights exist whether we like it or not because
> of Natural Law. Because our difference of opinion, he considers me "evil"
> and seeks to demonize my opinions and get me to stop discussing them on this
> list as quickly as possible. Sounds like a good basis for a rational
> discussion...
> Related Philosophical Discusion:
> As far as I can tell, all my concepts about the world are "fictional", in
> the sense that I made them up as a convenient way of organizing my
> experiences. I believe all concepts are essentially fictional for the same
> reason. We just made them up.

First off, I can blow out of the water his claim that 'all concepts are essentially fictional'. There are many concepts describing the behavior of the universe. The universe and its behavior is not fictional.

Concepts that are not 'fictional' but based on accurate observation of the real world:

- The Big Bang
- Evolution
- Newtons Laws
- Relativity
- Quantum Mechanics
- All Mathematics
- Chemical and Atomic Physics

That we attach made up words to describe these real phenomena is irrelevant because the phenomena exist externally to our ability to label and observe them.

The primary source of Natural Law for humankind is the process of Natural Selection we call Evolution. Those behaviors or cultural constructs which optimize the survival of the species and the happiness of the average individual ( a key component of the individual's ability to survive and reproduce ) are behaviors and cultural constructs which are what is known as Natural Law. While the more classical, pre-scientific concepts of Natural Law merely ascribed the source to be The Creator, because anything that was good and aided the survival and happiness of mankind was 'obviously' ordained by 'God', our increased knowledge of the universe allows us to better understand the source of those behaviors and cultural contsructs which are most beneficial to the happiness and survival of the species.

Property Rights are a part of Natural Law because of the observed optimum happiness and survivability the concept lends to individuals, families, and large groups of people. It limits conflicts by communicating clearly what belongs to who, as conflict is the result of confusion or incomplete information about some issue that two or more parties have a property related interest in. It ensures that an individual, family or group of individuals can rely on the resources that the Property Rights define for their survival, and the ownership the Rights denote on the posessor of the property instills a sense of responsibility and stewardship in the owner for the property, such that the property is more likely to be cared for and maintained for maximum benefit and productivity.

Natural Law as a group of concepts that recognise rights originating in the individual have been recognised for thousands of years. We see such recognition in the words of Aristotle, in Confucius, in Isis and Osiris, and in Quetzalcoatl. That such concepts can evolve in civilizations so geographically and temporally separated indicates that the concepts are an obvious, natural consequence of evolved human behavior. Contrary to the claims of socialists everywhere, I will state that there never has been and never will be a society that does not recognise Property Rights in some form.

Additionally, by looking at the survivability/stability/ and longevity of societies, we can infer that Property Rights originate most naturally in the individual. The Soviet State, for example, that recognised no property rights outside ones personal clothing, implements or tools, etc. lasted a mere 70 years, while european civilization, both in europe, the New World, and in Australia/NZ, have exhibited the greatedest survivability, vitality, and general and individual happiness and well being in history. The Chinese experiment with communism lasted a mere 35-40 years, and has now become a mercantilist totalitarian society, providing the people the illusion of rights (including property rights) so long as it suits the ruling regieme. The US, where property rights can be safely stated to be the most individualized and protected of any nation, has acheived a level of prosperity and advancement unmatched. Other smaller nations which have acheived similar levels of advancement also have h ighly developed codes protecting property rights.

While the above statement may seem gingoistic to some, lets look further back in history. The Roman Republic, for example, was at the time the most organized and at the same time the most libertarian society around. The concepts of Natural Law as elucidated by Aristotle and other Greeks were worshipped by the Romans. Because of this, Rome was able to acheive a level of greatness unmatched to that point in history. As soon as the Republic was abdicated and the Empire instituted, however, the seeds of the end of the Roman civlization were sown.

Given all of this, I feel I can safely conclude that Property Rights are an abstraction of Natural Selection that benefits the evolution of the human race far more than the lack of such rights. If Mr. Musick is to continue to claim that Property Rights are 'fictional concepts' he must prove that evolution and the physical laws that make evolution possible are fictional concepts.

Michael Lorrey