Monday, September 23, 2019

The Private Property Society and Car Theft

Michael Edelstein emails:


I’m interested in your thoughts about this segment of my PPS debate with Bill D. We’re at a point where we’re both repeating ourselves:

1. BILL: Michael, You wouldn’t say that a thief who steals the car is the car’s owner merely because he happens to be in possession of it; and if you wouldn’t say that, then what differentiates the thief's possession of it from that of the owner?”

2. MRE: What I would say is X owns the car because he received it from Y, the conditions of which were stipulated in a mutually-agreed upon contract. Nothing about “rights."

You’re defining "rights" into “owner.” This is our disagreement. You believe rights are inherent in ownership, I do not.

3. BILL: Look, Michael, to say that you “own” something is simply another way of saying that you have a “right” to it — that you have a right against its being stolen or interfered with — which, in turn, is another way of saying that it is “wrong” to steal or interfere with it. That’s all it means.  What’s not to understand?!

Of course, rights don’t simply apply to ownership of property; they apply to freedom of action as well.  You have a right to act on your own judgment — to make your own choices — which simply means that other people have "no right" to interfere with it, which is simply another way of saying that it is “wrong” for others to interfere with it. There’s no reason to repudiate the concept of “a right” any more than there is to repudiate the concept of “right and wrong.”  Again, “rights” are part of morality.  They're a philosophical bridge between ethics and politics.

RW response:

Hi Michael,

You almost have the answer correct when responding to Bill but your response allows for Bill to use your argument against you, and he does.

In his question (part 1), Bill commits the error of petitio principii in that he already assumes there is some kind of "right" in his question with regard to ownership of a car. He just doesn't use the word "right" but then doubles back in his second comment (part 3) and challenges you and claims that ownership is the same thing as a right. So he had his right claim, from his own perspective, in his part 1 when he used ownership. He was begging the question.

He was able to get you this way because, in your response (part 2), you are trying to justify car ownership as some kind of general rule.

But there are NO general rules in a PPS other than, leave me alone on my property and I will leave you alone on your property. And the PPS rule is not determined because of some mystical natural rights. PPS-thinking people simply realize it is better to leave others alone on their property if they agree to leave you alone on your property.

Thus, it is entirely possible for a parking garage owner to allow car "theft" on his property, That is, he could make rules on his property such that anyone could take a car that is brought on the property by another, even if the person bringing the car to the property made the car himself, bought the car, or is renting the car.

Of course, such a parking garage owner wouldn't have much business because: Who is going to park a car where car "theft" is legal?

Of course, at the end of part 3, Bill goes way away from PPS thinking by declaring all kinds of "rights."

What he claims as "rights" may be sound rules to live by, may be moral from some perspectives but he is not determining these rights from any logical foundation. Ludwig von Mises pointed out there is no such foundation to so-called natural rights and I devote a chapter to it in Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person.

Finally, Bill is incorrect in part 3 that rights are a philosophical bridge between ethics and politics.

The PPS is simply a societal structure, any type of religion or other moral foundation, or no moral foundation, can exist on top of the PPS societal structure (though a region without any moral foundation would be very limited because it is extremely difficult to develop any complex civilization in a wild west environment). By claiming a bridge, he is trying to stick in his view of a moral foundation, "rights." He wants to stick this in the societal structure rather than above it where multiple religious views and other moral views (or no moral views) can exist. In short, he is taking the position of a central planner of morals.

What Murray Rothbard, a natural rightist, said about libertarianism is even more applicable at its core to the PPS. Libertarianism, in the words of  Rothbard,

is not and does not pretend to be a complete moral, or aesthetic theory... What a person does with his or her life is vital and important, but is simply irrelevant to libertarianism. It should not be surprising, therefore, that there are libertarians who are indeed hedonists and devotees of alternative lifestyles, and that there are also libertarians who are firm adherents of “bourgeois” conventional or religious morality. There are libertarian libertines and there are libertarians who cleave firmly to the disciplines of natural or religious law. There are other libertarians who have no moral theory at all apart from the imperative of non-violation of rights. That is because libertarianism per se has no general or personal moral theory.

1 comment:

  1. Seems like discussions about rights are mostly about semantics. I like to think of all rights as property rights.

    Bill D. writes, “Of course, rights don’t simply apply to ownership of property; they apply to freedom of action as well. You have a right to act on your own judgment — to make your own choices ...”

    I contend that those rights to freedom of action are because we have property rights in ourselves (unless one has previously voluntarily given up those rights). You own yourself. You should be free to do as you please as long as it does not violate anyone else’s property rights.