Saturday, April 5, 2014

Freedom & Property

- Is freedom the right to use property as you wish, or something else?
- Like what?
- To do something worth doing, for example. The problems with freedom defined as the right to dispose of property is that it cannot be a moral principle.
- Why not?
- Moral principles are universal. What applies to you also must apply to me. But if you own everything and I nothing, and you offer me food in exchange for being your slave, I cannot reasonably accept the property right you claim. You'll need threat of force to compel my acceptance. That's the first problem.
- What's the second?
- Once property is unequally distributed, it tends to get more unequal. Wealth is used to influence the government to lower taxes, allow speculation and permit monopolies to be formed. To stop this from happening requires a very intrusive government.*
- Which limits property rights!
- Exactly.
- What's the alternative?
- To make a starting point where the right to property leaves off: equal distribution of wealth. Make this a principle which, unlike the right to property, is universal, so qualifies as an ethical principle.
- But what difference does that make, to end with an ethical principle or begin with one?
- When you end with the principle, you have built on the threat of violence a coercive state that enforces the principle by threat of violence.
- When it is possible simply to begin with the ethical principle which can potentially be universally agreed to. That's an example of what you mean, the other kind of freedom, to do something worth while.
- We choose between two conceptions of freedom, one founded on the threat of force, the other on an idea of what is a good way to live.

On Moral Principles, see Security At A Hollywood Preview
* Why lessen income inequality? Bribery of the government, speculation, and monopoly result in the poor having less money to buy things and the rich not investing in producing new things. A vicious cycle results of more unemployment, lower sales, reduced production. For the rich economic depressions of low production and consumption are intervals of profit taking. The market is cleared as small businesses fail, and foreclosed property may be cheaply acquired. With this profit taking comes a danger of social revolution. Though social disruption, like economic disruption, can also be a period of opportunity, with social repression creating market openings by making business hazardous to all those without money to buy the protection of the forces of order, when those who bribe the government consider this too risky, for the time being to be avoided, they take measures to lessen income inequality. (Further Reading: Bloomberg Reports Wall Street Speculators Buying Up Foreclosed Houses Lost In Crash They Caused)