no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Conisdering the Distribution of Property

February 20th, 2007

A big hurdle, intellectually, is what to do about the distribution of property as it currently is. Any astute reader will point out that the very distribution of a great deal of the property upon which our society is erected, basically rests upon an initial conquest, theft, or murder – very un-libertarian principles. How can we remain intellectually consistent when the very distribution we’re trying to defend rests historically upon the principles we’re rallying against?

Admittedly, my response is less-than-satisfactory. At some point in history (Last week? Last year? A hundred years ago?) the crimes of the past cease being relevant at present, as it becomes increasingly difficult to correctly identify the legitimate interests to a property, and there is nothing we can do objectively to rectify the centuries of compound wrongs committed on both sides of the equation – even the have nots are the beneficiaries of prior injustices to some extent.

All property has clouded title, if we look back far enough, and consider “right of conquest” an illegitimate usurpation of property rights. And unless we can positively identify the parties on both sides – the usurpers and the sufferers, we can’t really do anything about it. All we know is that everything was stolen from somebody, by someone else, at some point in history – we do not know what we need to know: precisely what was stolen, by whom, and from whom, and who are the recipients of such properties as opposed to those who would be the natural heirs in the absence of the historical thefts.

Mere absence of legitimate title to a property does not create ex nihilo a legitimate claim in favor of someone else. The person claiming the property must demonstrate a legitimate interest to that property preceding your acquisition. In short, a proper claim must identify the party from whom the property was taken, and positively identify the property in question as being that same property – not merely one of like kind or substance. If my car had been stolen last week, and I know that you are in possession of a car that was stolen from somebody, somewhere, your theft does not give me any legitimate claim to that particular car. I would be just as wrong as you are, if I were to steal the car from you – despite the fact that it’s not really yours. Nor does the car belong to all of us. It belongs to someone. Clearly, it should be taken from you – but what to do with it thereafter is the missing link that I can’t seem to find.

In order to try and maintain some degree of logical consistency, we could aim to completely equalize everyone’s interest in all property. All property would be divided evenly among all claimants, and distributed accordingly. This is just a shade short of full-blown communism – because we’re not talking about permanent, collective ownership of property. We’re talking about a momentary collective ownership, immediately thereafter divided evenly among all men and held forever after absolutely and privately.

But this only achieves a fleeting moment of equal distribution of property, for reasons I will discuss further, another time. Suffice it to say that, the only way to achieve equalization of property distribution is full-blown communism. Nobody gets anything, and we’re all equal in our misery.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics