Private Property vs. 'Your Stuff'

Column by Paul Bonneau.

Exclusive to STR

I don’t know what it is about the word “property.” Every time I think about it, the thought seems to include such state baggage as titles, and places to record those titles like county courthouses, and arguments in court over who owns it, and state regulations on transferring it, and even taxes! The latest big fuss over “intellectual property” does nothing to change this impression; rather, it is reinforced.
 
Is property such a great deal after all? What, really, is it?
 
The Wikipedia article contains lots of descriptions and theories about it, many of them conflicting. Apparently, people have many different ideas about it; that is, its meaning is not a settled thing. (No, I have not read the direct sources outside of a few like Bastiat, nor do I have much incentive to do so. I’m glad to have such resources as the Internet and Wikipedia to condense this information; but any pointers to good references will be appreciated.)
 
One point that sounded pretty solid was this notion of Bastiat’s: In a radical departure from traditional property theory, he defines property not as a physical object, but rather as a relationship between people with respect to an object. Clearly if there are no other people but yourself, then the whole idea of property becomes pointless.
 
Still though, with all these theories over what it is, it’s strange there is not more actual conflict over it. There must be some overriding consideration that is not mentioned within these theories. Here’s my guess at what that is: Property is the stuff you can prevent others from taking from you.
 
What do these various property theories say about a mugging? If someone sticks a gun in your face and takes your wallet, is the money in it still your property? How about when he uses it to pay for a prostitute; is it still your money then? How about when she uses it to pay the rent; is it still your money then? How about when her landlord uses it to buy flowers for his wife; still your money then?
 
It seems to me that if someone has grabbed your stuff, it becomes silly to think of it as your property anymore. It’s no longer your stuff. It’s gone.
 
Yeah, in theory it can be recovered. In fact, that is one of the benefits a state advertises that it can do for you. Strangely though, for the state to be able to recover your property, you must surrender more property to the state, to keep it available to do so. Anyone see something wrong with this picture?
 
What with eminent domain, civil forfeiture, taxes on everything and regulatory takings, it doesn’t take great perspicacity to detect that the state is the biggest thief in the world, a “cure” far worse than the original disease.
 
A more realistic view of recovery is that if you catch the thief and take the stuff he took from you, it really was his property for the period he had it, and you are just grabbing it back again. But recovery is pretty theoretical, after all. It doesn’t happen much.
 
Getting back to my homegrown theory, let’s see how it operates in the natural (no government) world. Two scenarios:
 
1) You have a garden. A little girl comes along and picks a flower. You get your rifle out and put her in the crosshairs.
 
2) You have a small plot of land and a cow that you have fed and raised. You intend to use it for meat to feed your family; without it, they will starve. One night, someone comes and tries to lead it away, but you catch him at it. You get your rifle out and put him in the crosshairs.
 
Are these two cases identical? All the fancy theories (to my knowledge, which of course is limited) seem to treat them so. But what happens in the natural world, the world without government?
 
If you pull the trigger in scenario 2, most people would say “good riddance” and be happy there is one less thief to steal their stuff. You’d be popular.
 
If you pull the trigger in scenario 1, most people would consider you a monster. You’d be a pariah in the community and no one would deal with you--if they didn’t actually come over and string you up from the nearest tree over it.
 
In both cases you are simply protecting property; but something inside tells you to shoot in one case, and not in the other case. That something has to do with your relationship with your fellow human beings. You care what they think, even if that care is connected to self-preservation.
 
Despite all the statist fuss around the concept of property, and all the fancy theories, I think it is pretty simple. If you can keep people from taking it from you, it is your property. That may take the form of personal defensive violence against thieves, or it may be that you simply take care to live where people don’t much steal, or where there are voluntary organizations such as vigilance committees that help you keep your stuff. And that’s all it is, your stuff. You may have inherited it, or worked to get it, or traded for it--doesn’t matter. All that matters is whether you can keep others from stealing it from you--and this is leavened by the fact that whatever course you take, your actions still have to seem reasonable to the others you live among.
 
This “theory,” by the way, is something that avoids the extremes of the other theories. At least some communists and others like them think there is no property at all. It would be unpleasant to live in a society where you can’t even count on your own toothbrush. On the other hand, some theories have no problem at all with a single individual owning vast amounts of wealth or land while his neighbors starve. Sounds like a great recipe for revolution.
 
I think in the natural world, people will own some plot of land, jointly or individually, and be able to produce from it. The larger that plot is, or the less often the owner is there to keep his eye on things, the more likely he will have a hard time keeping his hands on all of it, as squatters will move in, and neighbors won’t bother to help you evict them. Aspenization will probably be a lot more rare.
 
I’m also a bit doubtful of the libertarian dogma that goes like this: “It’s not great wealth that is wrong, but the use of government by some wealthy to protect their businesses from competition, or other such aggressive actions, that are wrong.” This would seem to imply that in a natural world, there will be examples of great wealth that are not supported by government.
 
But this seems to beg the question, how really does government form? Is it just a group of bandits that moves into a community and takes over? Or instead, is it created by an association of wealthy who then hire agents to protect that wealth, and who later notice that everybody else is getting a “free ride” in this protection and therefore ought to be taxed to pay for it? I think it very likely that it is great wealth that creates government (just think of the founding of the Federal Reserve as an example). No, in a natural society, people may accumulate a fair amount of wealth; but it will be self-limiting, because great wealth attracts thieves and squatters to harvest it, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing if it stops the creation of a state. How much wealth does a person need, anyway? Great wealth also carries great costs in retaining it, and we need to avoid the tendency to socialize those costs. The time to stop the state is in the very first hints of aggression, and it should be stopped “with extreme prejudice.”
 
What about intellectual property in the natural world? There will be some, as people naturally seek to control that which they create, and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just that without a state, it will be hard to keep others from stealing from you; and once it is stolen, it is simply no longer your property. Perhaps some technical or contractual arrangements will be available to prevent this outcome, but that is about it. Again, we will have moderation, not the extremes we see now.
 
The concept of property probably does not need a PhD in political philosophy any more than the concept of liberty does. I doubt all the fancy and convoluted theories are that helpful, or reflect reality very well. In fact, to reduce the confusion entangling the notion of property with the state, it might make sense to stop thinking of it as “your property,” and start thinking of it in more humble terms as “your stuff.”

 

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Paul Bonneau's picture
Columns on STR: 77
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Comments

John deLaubenfels's picture

Could you provide a link to "The latest big fuss over “intellectual property” ? I seem to have missed it.

KenK's picture

@John deL
I think he's referring to the proposed SOPA law.

Paul's picture

Sorry, I was not being clear. I was actually referring to the decades-long debate among libertarians about what IP is, or whether it exists (of which the SOPA thing is the latest example). I reject such silly anthropomorphic arguments as "information wants to be free". Instead I think property is the stuff in your possession and control.

Suverans2's picture

G'day Paul Bonneau,

    "If someone sticks a gun in your face and takes your wallet, is the money in it still your property?" ~ Paul Bonneau

To answer your question; the wallet and the money inside it are still "your stuff", i.e. property, they are simply not, at that moment, in your possession.

    "It seems to me that if someone has grabbed your stuff, it becomes silly to think of it as your property anymore. It’s no longer your stuff." ~ Paul Bonneau

Still confused about "natural rights", i.e. "just claims", I see. According to the above part of your quote, a "just claim" is established at the "point of a gun". That's the Law of the Jungle, Paul.

    "The Law of the Jungle" is an expression that means..."might makes right"... ~ Wikipedia

If that were true then there could be no such thing as theft or stealing.

    "Property embraces everything which is or may be the subject of ownership..."

    "The word is also commonly used to denote everything which is the subject of ownership, corporeal or incorporeal, tangible or intangible, visible or invisible, real or personal..." ~ Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, page 1216

Oh, and, Paul, if "it's no longer your stuff", there's no such thing as "recovery"; you cannot "recover" other individuals "stuff".

    "Property is the stuff you can prevent others from taking from you." ~ Paul Bonneau

It appears that you confuse "ownership" with "possession". Perhaps this will help.

    "Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.

    But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder." ~ Frédéric Bastiat

Paul's picture

Well, might actually does make right, and has done so ever since the Cambrian Explosion. We don't like that might makes right, because it is tedious to stand guard 24 hours a day over one's bicycle (or whatever), so we attempt to live in places where most people don't indulge in practices like theft and murder. But that does not mean that might no longer makes right. The natural law is still out there. The real natural law I mean, not this pollyannish version of it that you find so comforting. Property that is not in your possession or control is not your property any more. It has none of the features of your property. You cannot do what you want with it, or trade it for something else.

Suverans2's picture

It appears that you STILL confuse "ownership" with "possession". So, obviously it didn't help. ;-) Have a good day, Paul.

Paul's picture

I don't think I do confuse them. I have some money in the bank. It is not in my possession, but it is still my stuff (because I control it). Until it is confiscated, as the federal government did with a 1mdc account I once had. Then it is no longer my stuff.

Suverans, you sound a bit like those old farts who justify their receiving Socialist Security because they are "just recovering what I was forced to contribute when I was young". Of course that is silly. The money that was "contributed" was pissed away, just like all the other tax dollars that were sent to government. The same way the mugger in the article spent it on a prostitute. And no, I'm not getting confused about the fungibility of money either.

Suverans2's picture

My goodness Paul, you ARE confused. Are you plagued by old-timer's disease? ;-)

I may be the only man on STR[1] who hasn't used a Taxpayer Identification Number of any kind, had any government licenses or identification cards of any ilk, or taken any member-only benefits or privileges in about a dozen years. How about you?

p.s. You didn't have very good control of "your" money in the bank before, if your government confiscated it, so what makes you believe that you have any better control over "your" money now? lol
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[1] If there are any others here, they've never made themselves known to me, and I don't expect them to.

Darkcrusade's picture

Might makes Right???

Wow! You just made Government legitimate,and Hitler,Mao and stalin! Good Job-LOL.
No one should beef about being robbed at knife-point,gun-point or taxed through threats and coercion.

Don't leave 'your house' or 'your wife' alone as i might have need and a majority of force to procur my
want.

Man does not equal animal.
Male lions will kill cubs to mate with the lioneses;law of the jungle(not evil.).
Man my be a little unsettled by this fact.

Atleast man recognises that murdering a step-child would be an evil.I mean,until you wrote your above posting Paul.

Paul's picture

This comment is a strange one. I am describing what is, and you respond with what ought to be. Molyneux has discussed "is" and "ought" many times; might be worth a look.

"Legitimacy" is just a meme that the parasitic class takes great care to implant in the minds of the host organisms, so that the parasite can continue his looting. I did not make anything legitimate or illegitimate simply by recognizing that people often do get away with theft and murder.

I wonder how you and Suverans explain most of human history, denying that might makes right?

Oh, I get it. You are confused about the word "right", as in "right equals good". Certainly the word "right" in isolation has that connotation. However I am not using it that way. I am using "might makes right" as a complete phrase. Look up that phrase in Wikipedia. One of their meanings is this:

"The term can be used in the descriptive, rather than prescriptive way, in the same sense that people say that "History is written by the victors." Since every person labels what he/she thinks is good for himself/herself as "right," only those who are able to defeat their enemies are the ones who can push their idea of what is right into fruition."

I already addressed the murdering of children, right there in the article. What IS, is that you and I would not do it, because (if nothing else) we prefer to live in human society. What IS is that Obama can and does murder children, because he lives in a society, different from ours, that approves of it. Perhaps you need to read the article again, a bit more carefully.

As to your claim that my article suggests you can come to my house and take what you want, try it. You may find you were mistaken.

Suverans2's picture

And, still troubled by that word "right", when used as a noun, too, I see. We've covered this ground several times, Paul. Maybe this will help refresh your memory.

RIGHT, n.

5. Just claim; legal title; ownership; the legal power of exclusive possession and enjoyment
6. Just claim...
7. Just claim...
8. That which justly belongs to one.
9. Property; interest.
10. Just claim...
11. Authority...
~ Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

Suverans2's picture

It sounds like that old fart, Lysander Spooner, agrees with your assessment, Darkcrusade.

    "...if...there be in nature no such principle as justice, no such principle as honesty, no such principle as men's natural rights of person or property, then all such words as justice and injustice, honesty and dishonesty, all such words as mine and thine, all words that signify that one thing is one man's property and that another thing is another man's property, all words that are used to describe men's natural rights of person or property, all such words as are used to describe injuries and crimes, should be struck out of all human languages as having no meanings; and it should be declared, at once and forever, that the greatest force and the greatest frauds, for the time being, are the supreme and only laws for governing the relations of men with each other; and that, from henceforth, all persons and combinations of persons --- those that call themselves governments, as well as all others --- are to be left free to practice upon each other all the force, and all the fraud, of which they are capable." ~ Excerpted from The Natural Law or The Science of Justice - A Treatise on Natural Law, Natural Justice, Natural Rights, Natural Liberty, and Natural Society; Showing That All Legislation Whatsoever Is An Absurdity, a Usurpation, and a Crime, by Lysander Spooner
golefevre's picture

I'm going to have to think about your "homegrown theory" some Paul, but I think I genuinely agree with your premise. I repeatedly found myself thinking about George Carlin's famous rant about "stuff" and smiling. Well done, sir.

mhstahl's picture

Paul,

I think you make an important distinction between "possessions" and "property". I've come to think of the term "property" as an abstract legal definition, whereas "possessions", or your stuff, is the real world concrete description. This is a tricky issue, since "ownership" is an implication of "property".

For me, the key in understanding this was studying Anglo-Saxon England. This is a society in many ways very similar to viking age Iceland that David Friedman has written about, particularly prior to the year 800. Long historical treatise made short, one of the primary reforms that Alfred and assorted other kings made that unified the disparate kingdoms(then really quasi-anarchic societies that unified only for defensive purposes)was to first codify and standardize rates of restitution for violence and other harm( the system of wer, bot, and wite- with the king suddenly getting a cut), and then to essentially create the crime of theft. Theft was (is) essentially unenforceable under the customary law system(which is non-government, by the way) but most certainly IS enforceable by magistrates of the king. The concept of property, and "rights" to it is directly traceable to the efforts of kings to consolidate power.

I've studied reports of many contemporary customary law societies, and while, as in Saxon England, possessions are generally respected, it is because an attempt to take them might cause violence, rather than that they are "owned." People are generally expected to see to their possessions, and if they are taken by guile or though stealth the loss is born by the individual, and any attempt to recover possessions are made by that person.

Unfortunately, most libertarians I've come across are quite myopic on this subject and tend to place property on an absurd pedestal where it becomes sane, and even beneficial, to execute simple trespassers despite the lack of any true threat. Since, particularly in the US, most land claims can be traced to either violence of its threat(and are essentially ALL technically property of the government anyway), and that a huge proportion of wealth is based upon some level of government interlocution, it seems a strange position for people devoted to non-aggression.

Paul's picture

"...possessions are generally respected, it is because an attempt to take them might cause violence..."

Yes, this is the true basis for all property ownership, not some silly abstract "right" that takes a government to "protect". It's good to see someone gets my points here. Makes me feel my writing is not completely obtuse, heh.

"...the loss is born by the individual, and any attempt to recover possessions are made by that person. "

Yes, although there is nothing wrong with trying to get it back with the aid of others who see it in their interest to help. I imagine this might have been true in Anglo Saxon England as well.

Actually the word "property" has French roots. The Norman ruling class brought it over with them, I'm guessing. That should be a clue regarding its attachment to the state...

mhstahl's picture

Indeed, Paul, not only does the word "property" have french(actually Latin-I believe it is a Roman concept, as we understand it)roots, but so does "common law" which I often(and I once did myself)hear many in the liberty community lauding.

There is, in fact, a considerable controversy amongst historians of the pre-Conquest era over just how centralized authority was, and how organized it was-in the academic literature those who see the evidence pointing to a largely de-centralized government are known as minimalists and those favoring a more fully developed State prior to 1066 are known as maximalists. At any rate, certainly the concept of property, at least in land, was in evidence in the record far before the Conquest-the term for it was "book-land." Literally land recorded on paper. We cannot though presume that this was a spontaneous development, since the Romans had control of lower Britain for many centuries. Indeed, the long term resistance of Scotland, Wales, and to a significant extent Kent to "civilization" in the quasi-Roman sense is evidence of Roman influence in Wessex and other areas that were under their direct control.

As to Common Law, this is 100%, without historical question, a development of Norman Conquerors (Specifically, but not limited to, Duke William and William Rufus.) It is a legal system that relies on central authority as the final adjudicator, and as such presumes the supremacy of the State. Often the structure of common law reflected the old customary law principles, but the relationship was only superficial the common law was a system designed to ensure that the conquerors controlled "justice." There is no question about this, to any historian with an understanding of the era the notion that the Common Law is "natural" is like stating that the sky is green and the Sun is blue.

One of my one of these days is to write a STR column-perhaps when I do I'll elaborate. For the moment let me cite an essay by Frederick Pollock:

http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?Itemid=284&id=1167&option=com_conte...

In this document, Pollock is referring to late Saxon society-the "hundred" is a construct of positive law, not the customary law-later kings came up with this to help standardize law, and enact its enforcement(it was a crime to not chase a thief, for instance); when he refers to "the witan", the best corollary is Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings in his dealings with various kings, minus any magic. Tolkien was, after all, a professor of Anglo-Saxon. Not a perfect analogy, but good enough to get the point across. Also, forget not that Pollock was writing at the turn of the last century, when "progress" was still a God.

I think a great resource for you would be Max Gluckman's "Peace in the Feud":

http://past.oxfordjournals.org/content/8/1/1.extract

I'm sorry, I do not have a non-copyright version available free....it should be out there though(or PM me.)

Also "the Law of the Somalis" by Michael von Notten (I recently gave my copy to Kent McManigal): http://www.amazon.com/Law-Somalis-Foundation-Economic-Development/dp/156...

For anyone who has got themselves convinced that "Natural Rights" somehow exist in the concrete world(i.e. minus a State to enforce them) I suggest "The Idea of Natural Rights: Studies on Natural Rights, Natural Law, and Church Law 1150 1625 " by Brian Tierney:

http://www.amazon.com/Idea-Natural-Rights-University-Religion/dp/0802848...

Suverans2's picture

No thanks, gentlemen; I think I'll stick with the "pollyannish version" of natural law, natural rights and natural liberty that these old farts put forth.

    "That men should take up arms and spend their lives and fortunes, not to maintain their rights, but to maintain they have not rights, is an entirely new species of discovery..." ~ Thomas Paine

"...if...there be in nature no such principle as justice, no such principle as honesty, no such principle as men's natural rights of person or property, then all such words as justice and injustice, honesty and dishonesty, all such words as mine and thine, all words that signify that one thing is one man's property and that another thing is another man's property, all words that are used to describe men's natural rights of person or property, all such words as are used to describe injuries and crimes, should be struck out of all human languages as having no meanings; and it should be declared, at once and forever, that the greatest force and the greatest frauds, for the time being, are the supreme and only laws for governing the relations of men with each other; and that, from henceforth, all persons and combinations of persons --- those that call themselves governments, as well as all others --- are to be left free to practice upon each other all the force, and all the fraud, of which they are capable.

Section IV

What, then, is legislation? It is an assumption by one man, or body of men, of absolute, irresponsible dominion over all other men whom they call subject to their power. It is the assumption by one man, or body of men, of a right to subject all other men to their will and their service. It is the assumption by one man, or body of men, of a right to abolish outright all the natural rights, all the natural liberty of all other men; to make all other men their slaves; to arbitrarily dictate to all other men what they may, and may not, do; what they may, and may not, have; what they may, and may not, be. It is, in short, the assumption of a right to banish the principle of human rights, the principle of justice itself, from off the earth, and set up their own personal will, pleasure, and interest in its place. All this, and nothing less, is involved in the very idea that there can be any such thing as human legislation that is obligatory upon those upon whom it is imposed." ~ Excerpted from The Natural Law or The Science of Justice - A Treatise on Natural Law, Natural Justice, Natural Rights, Natural Liberty, and Natural Society; Showing That All Legislation Whatsoever Is An Absurdity, a Usurpation, and a Crime, by Lysander Spooner
_______________________________________________________

"The laws shall be merely declaratory of natural rights and natural wrongs, and … whatever is indifferent to the laws of nature shall be left unnoticed by human legislation … and legal tyranny arises whenever there is a departure from this simple principle." ~ Elisha P. Hurlbut, nineteenth-century American natural-rights theorist
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Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place. ~ The Law by Frédéric Bastiat
_______________________________________________________

"The law of nature or natural law … is the law, the body of rights, which we deduce from the essential nature of man." ~ Francis Lieber
_______________________________________________________

"The natural law is, in essence, a profoundly “radical” ethic, for it holds the existing status quo, which might grossly violate natural law, up to the unsparing and unyielding light of reason. In the realm of politics or State action, the natural law presents man with a set of norms which may well be radically critical of existing positive law imposed by the State. At this point, we need only stress that the very existence of a natural law discoverable by reason is a potentially powerful threat to the status quo and a standing reproach to the reign of blindly traditional custom [common law/judicial decisions] or the arbitrary will of the State apparatus [statute law/positive law].
In fact, the legal principles of any society can be established in three alternate ways: ...by slavish conformity to custom [common law/judicial decisions], by arbitrary whim [statute law], or by use of man’s reason [natural law]". ~ Introduction to Natural Law by Murray M. Rothbard

Just to name a few.

mhstahl's picture

Suverans2,

You are certainly welcome to stick to whatever you wish. I would encourage you to look into the historical development of the concept of "natural law", particularly in the case of slavery-I suspect that you'll not like overmuch what you will read. When you do, read the original documents-they are mostly available-rather than the interpretations offered by those looking to build a case for a certain point of view.

Since the term has been used to define several distinct political philosophies, and has many of its roots in the justification of medieval social strata, do you really think that it is all that useful as a slogan?

But, that really is not the question at hand, rather the question Paul brings forth is the ACTUAL circumstances of people living without government, historic and contemporary. This is illustrated by your quote from Bastiat: "On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place. "

Bastiat was wrong. He could not have known that when he wrote, since anthropology (and history) was in its infancy and operated as a political treadmill rather than science. He used speculation as a justification that property is "natural" and therefore it IS proper because it WAS proper. The argument is circular, and is frivolous based upon modern knowledge of societies without(or with very limited)written law.

That does not mean Bastiat, or any of the other likewise minded writers you mentioned, was wrong in everything that he wrote, but rather that his philosophy was not grounded in an accurate concept of reality. Rather like Newton believing in Alchemy. If one today proposes that Alchemy is legitimate only because Newton-a great mind-believed it so based on knowledge of the time, is the argument sound? Of course not, and we might even be able to presume that given today's knowledge base that Newton would find Alchemy pointless.

Even so, it is wrong to pretend that there was a consensus on the matter, even, ironically, among the people you cite.

I'll leave you with this from Thomas Paine in hope that it drives you to read more thoroughly of the "old farts" you quote:

"There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity on any part of it." Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice, 1796.

Suverans2's picture

mhstahl,

I planned on sticking to whatever I wish, but thank you for your blessings.

And, I realize that you don't know me, so for the record, I have read more than those marvelous quotes I posted. I don't know if anyone else here reads all the material on this subject, which I make available via embedded links, but I most certainly do; including Thomas Paine.

Suverans2's picture

Perhaps you missed my "How about you?" question, Paul.

    I may be the only man on STR [who is a non-member of the political community], who hasn't used a Taxpayer Identification Number of any kind, had any government licenses or identification cards of any ilk, or taken any member-only benefits or privileges in about a dozen years. How about you?

And, I suspect this...

    "Suverans, you sound a bit like those old farts who justify their receiving Socialist Security because they are "just recovering what I was forced to contribute when I was young". ~ Paul Bonneau

...may be a case of "the pot calling the kettle black". My guess is that you are not a stranger to their covenant[1], that you are a "numbered" member of the political community, and that you voluntarily use that chattel number, which is why you are able to have the "benefit" of a bank account, and why your government could "confiscate" your money, but I could be wrong.
_________________________________________________________________

[1] Strangers. ...In its general legal signification the term is opposed to the word "privy". Those who are in no way parties to the covenant or transaction nor bound by it, are said to be strangers to the covenant or transaction. ~ Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition (c.1991), page 1421

And, if one is a stranger he is, "...one who, in no event resulting from the existing state of affairs, can become liable for the debt and whose property is not charged with the payment thereof and cannot be sold therefor". (Ibid.)

KenK's picture

Bonneau has a family to take care of and the opportunity costs of such ultra-orthodox political purity are likely too great. I often get that argument thrown at me as well. NB:Real life existence doesn't grant much consideration to the hairsplitting details of ideological purity contests.

Suverans2's picture

″Power rests on nothing other than people's consent to submit, and each person who refuses to submit to tyranny reduces it by one two-hundred-and-fifty-millionth, whereas each who compromises only increases it.″ ~ Vladimir Konstantinovich Bukovsky

As my friend, tzo, so eloquently put it...

    All governments must have citizens in order to exist.

...so, we (my natural law wife and I) thought we would do our "[two] two-hundred-and-fifty-millionth" worth.

We ask no one to join us, and, "[w]e ask not your counsels or your arms".

And, for the record, the only persons I "throw" it at, as you put it, are the one's who falsely accuse me of being a member and/or taking member-only benefits/privileges.

I do, however, suggest, quite frequently, that membership in the political community is at the "root" of most of the problems men and women have with the government, but it's not very popular, and is therefor almost always ignored, for obvious reasons.

p.s. I appreciate, very much, that you jumped to Paul's defense. I like many of the things Paul writes.

Chris Dates's picture

"Bonneau has a family to take care of and the opportunity costs of such ultra-orthodox political purity are likely too great."

Well, that was uncalled for.

I hardly think Paul is going to turn into a thug after writing this essay; he is not making some pragmatic argument for thuggery, because non-aggression is "just too hard". Maybe you should reread it, Kenk.

He is simply explaining what is. Here's a thought: I am walking up to you, how could you possibly know that I understand such concepts as property or ownership?

These are only ideas, and good ones, perhaps, but they are far from universal.

Suverans2,

KenK did not jump in to defend Paul, he jumped in to be rude. Other than some quotes from admittedly very smart human beings, can you show me where "natural law" is universal?

Suverans2's picture

Chris Dates,

I think so. Just ask any reasonable man, woman or child on the planet if they want to have their life, liberty or justly acquired property taken from them without their consent.

If they wouldn't, then murder (the taking of an innocent individual's life), slavery and false-imprisonment, and theft and stealing are against the natural law.

Keep in mind here that an individual has given consent via his/her actions if (s)he, either intentionally, or through gross neglect, has violated these same natural rights of others. This is called forfeiture.

FOR'FEITURE, n. 1. The act of forfeiting; the losing of some right, privilege, estate, honor, office or effects, by an offense, crime, breach of condition or other act. ~ Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

KenK's picture

@ Chris Dates,

"KenK did not jump in to defend Paul," yes, I did.

And further "he [KenK] jumped in to be rude." No, I didn't.

Clearly you're not much of a mind reader and so I suggest you quit making a fool of yourself jumping to conclusions that rely on such a talent.

Chris Dates's picture

Alright, I apologize Kenk. I must have misunderstood your comment.

Suverans2's picture

G'day Chris Dates,

That the "natural law [of the human world]" is universal is not a new concept.

4. By the term civil law is also understood the particular law of each people, opposed to natural law, or the law of nations, which are common to all. Just. Inst. l. 1, t. 1, Sec. 1, 2; Ersk. Pr. L. Scot. B. 1, t. 1, s. 4. ~ Bouvier's 1856 Law Dictionary

Taken out of context, strictly for the purpose of clarity, "...natural law...[is] common to all".

Chris Dates's picture

Hello Suverans2,

I believe in what you call the Natural Law, because I believe in The Creator. I believe in the laws of logic and of thought, I believe in the law of non-contradiction, and the law of the excluded middle. I believe in the laws of mathematics, and the laws of mass/energy. If there is a Natural Law, then it stands to reason that there is a Natural Law maker. I believe that The Creator has written the moral law on the hearts and minds of all men, and that I why I claim it is universal; it is true for all humans at all times.

What Paul is talking about is the classic is/ought situation. He is explaining what IS, not what OUGHT to be. I claim what I believe ought to be, by my belief in The Creator, but unlike many other humans who claim to believe in The Creator, I will never force the "ought" upon you. The Creator does not force me to do what I ought to do, so I would never try and usurp His wisdom, and force His creation to do what I think they ought to do. The rule of Man is hell.

Eventually you will have to beg the natural law back to the Natural Law giver. Do you believe in The Creator, Suverans2?

Suverans2's picture

And, hello to you too, Chris Dates,

Let this quote from The Age of Reason be my answer your last question.

    THE only idea man can affix to the name of God, is that of a first cause, the cause of all things. And, incomprehensibly difficult as it is for a man to conceive what a first cause is, he arrives at the belief of it, from the tenfold greater difficulty of disbelieving it.

That aside, I am of the opinion that one can 'believe' in the "natural law of the human world", as Dr. Frank Van Dun calls it, in his short treatise entitled Natural Law, without a belief in "The Creator".

    “Ius Naturale” is the law applicable to men in a state of nature. It precedes religions and kings both in time and in authority. “Ius Naturale” does not derive directly from the will of God. As Hugo Grotius pointed out in the early seventeenth century, even if there was no God, or if God was unreasonable or evil, natural law would still have moral force, and men would still spontaneously back it with physical force. ~ Excerpted from Natural Law and Natural Rights by James A. Donald

Peace and well-being to you and yours.

painkilleraz's picture

Just remember, these wonderful people with no children in the house and legs that work have no concept of life. As you said, they love their orthodox purity but cannot for a second think outside their narrow minded boxes of perfection.

I have recently had more than one person threaten me with "truth" in regards to my currently disabled state. Sad, that these orthodox purist idiots actually have the balls online to make comments without any position other than an untested and unrealistic philosophy. Hence my caveats and my regular and public admittance to them. :)

Good luck moving forward,

Suverans2's picture

If these "orthodox purist idiots" try to force their convictions on someone else, they are no better than statists; but name-calling does not strengthen your argument, painkilleraz, it weakens it.

I'm curious, although I understand how the truth can be a fearful thing, how does a "person threaten [you] with "truth" in regards to [your] currently disabled state"?

I know that you weren't referring to me with your above comment, since you don't know me, plus, I've already written, on this same thread, "We ask no one to join us, and, "[w]e ask not your counsels or your arms"", but I will say that you are falsely accusing some people, albeit ignorantly, when you make the blanket statement that "these orthodox purist idiots actually have the balls online to make comments without any position other than an untested and unrealistic philosophy".

I can't vouch for anyone else, painkilleraz, but the "position", that we, (my natural law wife and I), have taken, which is that of individual secessionist, is both realistic and tested, with testing still going on.

What we get tired of hearing, and reading, is, "it can't be done, no one can secede from the political association". "Can't never could!" We've already done it! And, we could care less if those individuals, and/or their master, say they don't "legally recognize" our withdrawal from membership in their political association. We've got some bad news for those folks, we don't "recognize" their "position" that we are subject to them and/or their master with or without our consent, so the lack of recognition is mutual. And, please, spare me the gun to the head rhetoric; thank you very much.

Suverans2's picture

And, it would seem that we are NOT the only ones to have gone in this direction.

Declare Your Personal Independence: I Hereby Secede

Samarami's picture

"All are dust and to dust we shall return"

I heard that somewhere. It appears to be true.

J. E. Bush, uncle and great uncle to the former grand wizards of the klan, once said, "...the only thing you can buy, sell or trade on is energy -- man's physical and his mental energy..." Everything that you think has value came out of the earth and will, in time, return to the earth.

Put differently, the only things you can buy or sell are transportation and transformation. Call it what you want: property is as good a word as any. You won't have it all that long. And neither will your children -- or their children.

So we can sit around here and fight over words and phrases and definitions and ideas all we want. But it would probably be advisable to learn to enjoy what we have today and set good examples as we travel along.

You've done just that, Paul. Thanks for the essay and the insights. Sam.

Chris Dates's picture

"So we can sit around here and fight over words and phrases and definitions and ideas all we want. But it would probably be advisable to learn to enjoy what we have today and set good examples as we travel along."

I'd say that's sound advice, Sam.

Paul's picture

Sorry, I've been out a bit.

As to Suverans' challenge, if a criminal puts a gun to my head and demands my wallet, I give it to him. I suspect Suverans would do the same; after all, "might makes right". But I congratulate him on having evaded the criminal so far.

Anyway this conversation has got off on a side track. I was only making a point about recovery. It makes no sense if you think about it, thinking in terms of recovering your stuff from a thief in exactly the same way it makes no sense for some old farts to think in terms of recovering what they "contributed" into Socialist Security. It's not your stuff any more. It belongs to whomever has it at the moment. Maybe that old saying, "possession is nine-tenths of the law," actually makes sense.

Actually the term "recovery" is misleading in that sense. What you are really doing is stealing the criminal's stuff in retaliation for stealing yours. Typically you try to steal what he stole, but that is not necessary. You could even steal some extra for the trouble he put you through. The difference between you and the thief is not your actions, which are the same, but what other people think of it. Other people disapprove of the thief taking what is yours. They approve of you getting it back from him, or some reasonable substitute, including perhaps some reasonable extra amount for your trouble. But if he took a dollar from you, and you took $1 million from him in response, they'd probably not approve of your response, and start thinking of you as the thief.

painkilleraz's picture

A perfectly reasonable article Paul and well written! Thank you!

Suverans2's picture

I'm not certain how this answered my so-called challenge, unless it is your way of saying that the "criminal", whom we shall call Big G, has put a gun to your head and FORCED you to be a TAXPAYER (a numbered member) and continues to keep a gun to your head thus FORCING you to take his benefits and privileges, (such as DRIVING LICENSE and BANK ACCOUNT), and that, in your opinion, Big G has a "just claim" to authority over you and your "stuff", because he has the "might". Is that correct?

Suverans2's picture

And, yes, Paul, I would bow to most commands while there is a gun to my head, but I do not live in perpetual fear of the gun to my head; I don't use that as my excuse for not living my life the way I desire.

Paul's picture

Well there, you see, we are not so different after all. So you can get off your high horse...

As to government having a "just claim", there you go again, bringing value judgements into it, when all I am doing is describing what IS, not what SHOULD BE. You keep ignoring what I wrote; go back to that wikipedia article "might makes right" and read it again, this time more carefully. If you can't get the point, let's just end the discussion, eh? Or have the last word if you want, but that will be all.

Suverans2's picture

"Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it." ~ Abraham Lincoln, Cooper Union Address (c.1860)

I do, sincerely, enjoy, and agree with, many things that you write, Paul. Peace.

David Calderwood's picture

Perhaps another way to put Paul's statement is, "Might makes for success (at least in the present term)."

If given the choice between surrendering my wallet to the thief and the thief killing me, I'll do the former. My value judgement would be that I was unjustly robbed, but as Paul would say, I'm still poorer (in purchasing power, if I was headed to the grocery store) by the amount stolen.

Is this not the condition most of us face? I pay my taxes because, on balance, I consider it "pro life" (MY life) to do so. I could stop participating in the political system's racket (wage income, real estate ownership that entails tax payments, etc.) but doing so would involve a phenomenal decline in my living standards. Should I develop a medical problem, unless I wish to self-diagnose and self-treat I'd still be stuck with the monopoly political system's "answer," and being poor (in that scheme) I'd be pretty much screwed if my health depended upon expensive treatment (e.g. surgery).

I believe I know the path that, if all trod it, would lead to Utopia. Debating the bricks in that path may be intellectually interesting, but I doubt it will lead to a mass adoption of the map.

Suverans2's picture

G'day David Calderwood,

Thanks for the kind reply. Having been individual secessionists for about twelve years now, we know, better than most, the high cost of personal responsibility, i.e. life without parens patriae. And, as I have written here twice, "We ask no one to join us...".

Generally speaking the word Utopia is associated with "perfect"; if that is the sense in which you used it, there's no such place, or condition, as Utopia.

The only thing I am trying to do here is to let people know that it is their voluntary "membership in a group" known as STATE OF ___________________, and as a consequence of that membership, membership in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, that is the "root" cause of the problems, which they most generally describe here. If that is the case, then if we wish to STRIKE THE ROOT of the problem we must withdraw, individually, from membership in those groups (secession). But, as you wrote above, this brings with it a different set of problems, mainly because we have strayed so far from the path of self-reliance. The supreme task of the AGENTS of these states is to create total dependence upon the god called STATE...and I'd have to say, they've done quite a good job of that. It is not the "gun to the head" that most of us fear, as you pointed out, it is the "gun to our wallet", (the loss of wealth), that deters most of us, it would seem.

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God," because the fear of loss is greater than the love of gain.

And, lest you think the "kingdom of God" is off in Never-Never-Land, I give you this, from the Gospel of Thomas.

That is because all they can truly 'see' are the artificial kingdoms of (created by) men.

David Calderwood's picture

Hi Suverans2, Just to clarify, I was using the word Utopia ironically, in the sense that no such place can exist on Earth, even if I were king (or fit the definition of a god). I used it in the sense that while I may think I know HOW all people should live, that knowledge is meaningful only in determining my actions, not those of others.

I am non-religious, or so I think, but it is my understanding that during the Temptation of Christ it was Satan who offered Christ all the kingdoms of Earth, as they were all his to offer. From this I find it rather ironic (love that word today) that any self-described Christians are politically active.

This informs me that the real, main religion of most humans is politics, AKA the worship of concentrations of power. Paradoxically then, all politics is of Satan...a view I believe comports with reality in all ways I observe. Politics (as I define it) equals evil.

As you know, it is not what people SAY that informs us of their real thoughts. It is what they DO that reveals what really animates them. I find it endlessly entertaining to watch people DO what directly opposes what they SAY. As a person, of course, it is also a lifelong task to try to minimize this pervasive hypocrisy to the best of my limited ability. Just doing the best I can....

Best wishes.

Suverans2's picture

Some food 4 thought.

Hi David Calderwood,

Thanks for your clarification of the word Utopia.

"...if I were king (or fit the definition of a god)."

You may find this interesting, one of Noah Webster's (c.1828) definitions for the word GOD is, "3. A prince; a ruler; a magistrate or judge...", which, perhaps, explains why Roderick wrote the following.

I used it in the sense that while I may think I know HOW all people should live, that knowledge is meaningful only in determining my actions, not those of others.
Exactly! "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." ~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

I am non-religious, or so I think, but it is my understanding that during the Temptation of Christ it was Satan who offered Christ all the kingdoms of Earth, as they were all his to offer. From this I find it rather ironic (love that word today) that any self-described Christians are politically active.
Good point. I have pointed out here, at STR, that JESUS' response to his adversary (satan) did NOT indicate that they weren't his to give, but rather a refusal to bow down to him for all that power and wealth. Most of us bow down for a helluva lot less than that, and claim we have no choice. Most Christians claim that JESUS is their KING, and that Barrack Hussein Obama is their PRESIDENT, when their BIBLE tells them unequivocally that no man can serve two masters. (Mat. 6:24)
MAG'ISTRATE, n. [L. magistratus, from magister, master; magis, major, and ster, Teutonic steora, a director; steoran, to steer; the principal director.] A public civil officer, invested with the executive government of some branch of it. In this sense, a king is the highest or first magistrate, as is the President of the United States. ~ Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

This informs me that the real, main religion of most humans is politics, AKA the worship of concentrations of power. Paradoxically then, all politics is of Satan...a view I believe comports with reality in all ways I observe. Politics (as I define it) equals evil.
The Ibriy [Hebrew] word satan equals adversary; opponent; accuser, so, yes, you are correct, it is the men and women who choose the "political means" (forcible appropriation of the labor of others) over the "economic means" (one’s own labor) who are mankind's greatest adversaries, opponents, and accusers.

As you know, it is not what people SAY that informs us of their real thoughts. It is what they DO that reveals what really animates them. I find it endlessly entertaining to watch people DO what directly opposes what they SAY.
Agreed! "What you do speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say". ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson It is my studied opinion that we give our consent to be governed by what we do; notwithstanding (in spite of) what we say.

As a person, of course, it is also a lifelong task to try to minimize this pervasive hypocrisy to the best of my limited ability. Just doing the best I can....
First, did you know, Homo vocabulum est naturae; persona juris civilis. Man (homo) is a term of nature; person (persona) of civil law. ~ Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition (c.1991), page 736
Second, that is all that any of us can do...the best of our limited ability.

Best wishes.
Best wishes to you and yours as well, and welcome.

Suverans2's picture

Thank you for the thoughtful reply, David Calderwood.

And, best wishes to you as well.

Glock27's picture

Damned you are good. I wish I could have the opportunity to chat with you. I have seen and met supposed intellectuals that are no smarter than a high school drop out. Me. I have a bachelors and a masters degree, which I am proud of, but don't meet up to the titles. I still feel like a high school drop out. Is there any possibility that we could communicate for a bit.

Paul's picture

I was digging around Wikipedia and found one apparent confirmation of my suggestion that great wealth creates governments and the state:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etruscan_civilization

"The historical Etruscans had achieved a state system of society, with remnants of the chiefdom and tribal forms.... The princely tombs were not of individuals. The inscriptional evidence shows that families were interred there over long periods, marking the growth of the aristocratic family as a fixed institution, parallel to the gens at Rome and perhaps even its model. There is no sign of such a hereditary aristocracy in the preceding Villanovan culture. The Etruscans could have used any model of the eastern Mediterranean. That the growth of this class is related to the new acquisition of wealth through trade is unquestioned."

I had earlier another apparent confirmation:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebla

"At that time, Ebla was a major commercial center. Its major commercial rival was Mari, with whom it fought a lengthy war estimated as lasting 80–100 years.... The form of government is not well known, but the city appears to have been ruled by a merchant aristocracy who elected a king and entrusted the city's defense to paid soldiers."

However from my impression is control of the earliest Sumerian cities were centered more around religion than commerce. Anyway I find this an interesting question. Too bad the information from those times is so incomplete.

Glock27's picture

Thanks for your work. I believe this site could use more people like you. Wish I had the cognitive intuitiveness to dig like that. I tend to dabble here and their just looking without focus. I am not a true Libertarian but a "wanter of my freedom as intended by the Constitution", a Constitution which may be flawed, but if kept constant in a simple line of definition just might be pretty damned good. Just saying, not proclaiming.

GeoffreyTransom's picture

I'm late to this one, but want to offer a couple of observations (not stirring the pot, I promise).

(1) in the 'shoot the girl stealing flowers vs shoot the cattle thief', the issue is absolutely clear: it is a question of proportionality and the degree of damage in equity. The theft of a flower does so little harm to your property that almost any response (above perhaps giving the girl a smack on the bum and a telling-off) would be excessive. OTOH, the cow is a critical piece of property, the theft of which places your entire family in a far greater degree of danger that would otherwise be the case. (Obviously if it was 1610 and the flower was a rare tulip being cultivalted to take advantage of the iTulip craze, and the little bitch took it bulb and all... well, the calculus might change).

(2) in the broader "what are rights" argument, I'm with Suverans2, so long as any reference to 'legal' is excised: a right is a just claim.

Might does not, therefore, make 'right': it might make for a **successful** claim over a piece of property, but the claim is not just and so the 'mighty' does not accrue a 'right' in the piece of property.

As to what 'rights' exist, I am a maximalist: I have the right (the 'just claim') to do whatever I want, anywhere at any time, so long as I do not infringe anyone else's rights (or compensate them if I do).

It seems to me that Mr Bonneau is of the view that if one does not have the machinery to ENFORCE rights (or the machinery to remedy breaches of rights) that the rights may be said to not exist, or at least to effectively be useless.

I disagree. Best example: a woman has a right not to be raped, whether or not she is able to resist a rapist on any specific occasion. That right may be violated, but the right itself continues to exist. (And the rape brings into existence a just claim to retaliatory violence, to whatever value the victim feels compensates her - including the right to exceed proportionality to ensure that recidivism is deterred).

Appealing to history as a guide as to the emergence of the doctrine of rights, is never going to be very useful: documentary history is sparse until the Enlightenment, and was generally written with an eye to pleasing one's sponsors (and still is - hence the Cult of Lincoln, FDR and JFK). For the bulk of human history, violations of rights have been routine - the rights themselves existed, they were just violated with impunity by whomever had the power to do so.

In my view, this was the result of a much greater degree of scarcity (by which I mean a lower level of surplus production) in pre-Industrial times: the least-cost way to acquire surplus production was through brutality or fraud (hence, the Borgia Popes). This was particularly true when metallurgy was prohibitively costly for non-State actors, meaning that the State had all the 'advanced' (i.e., metal, durable) weaponry: it is almost impossible to fight an insurgency-style war when it's "pitchforks vs the phalanx". (What about archery? Still actually pretty costly on a Bronze/Iron Age peasant's salary).

As productive surplus increased, and the real cost of metal weaponry fell to the point where the peasantry could afford metal edged weapons (and thus the balance of power tilted back towards hoi polloi) - the rapine had to decline because the cost of doing 'business' started to rise. Good examples: the Romans had all manner of trouble with the 'Sicarii' in Judea and the armed tribes of Caledonia in the 1st century AD, whereas the Spartans had no problem whatsoever with the Helots in the 5th century BC (and helots who did the agoge and got weapons rights, also became mothakes - quasi-free "almost-citizens").

And as the capacity of the economic system to produce surplus increased (thanks to technology, not the State), the ability of the peasantry to defend themselves grew - it was generally the case that the State always tried to retain an 'edge' in the balance of weaponry to the extent possible. But eventually the peasantry were more or less on a par with their overlords - by 1776 the weaponry available to the Colonials in the War of Independence was at least as good as (although rarer than) that available to the Brits.

With the ability to resist the rape by the self-styled overlord class (those who want to live by theft and fraud, but usually are too gutless to do the dierty work themselves), the slow process of forcing the parasite classes to acknowledge rights began - Magna Carta (which really stemmed from pissed-off underLords annoyed an kingly usurpations), and so on down the line. Only after Westphalia did the parasite class hit upon the ruse that THEY 'granted' rights... when in fact they had been dragged, kicking and screaming and killing, to RECOGNISE the rights that exist.

This has nothing to do with invisible Sky Wizards, male genital mutilation or any of the other primitive gibberish that some 'rights' types promulgate (trying to find new gaps into which to insert God so he doesn't disappear in a cloud of exposed nonsense). Rights exist ex nihilo, and inhere in all things that are aware of themselves. Respecting those rights voluntarily is actually the most efficient (and therefore the utility-maximising) way to go about things - it enables a Pareto-optimal solution to all economic and social problems. but a handful-of-percent of parasitic sociopaths (and their enablers) really REALLY want people not to believe that, because they would lose their palaces.

Suverans2's picture

Well, said, GeoffreyTransom.

Legal rights, ...are based on a society's customs, laws, statutes or actions by legislatures. An example of a legal right is the right to vote of citizens. Citizenship, itself, is often considered as the basis for having legal rights, and has been defined as the "right to have rights". Legal rights are sometimes called civil rights or statutory rights and are culturally and politically relative since they depend on a specific societal context to have meaning.

However...

Thomas Aquinas held that rights purported by positive law but not grounded in natural law were not properly rights at all, but only a facade or pretense of rights.