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Public Property Question

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Phantombantam Posted: Fri, Oct 5 2007 2:18 PM
First, you must know that I subscribe to the property theory laid out in "The Ethics of Liberty" by Murray Rothbard. Once someone mixes their labor with material from nature, they own it, and may do what they want with it (provided it does not infringe on others' property rights). My question is simple. If you define property as I did above, who owns the air we breathe? Surely, if 5 people build a house, 4 of them can restrict one of the owners from burning down the house. Just the same, can't we restrict the rights of one man from polluting the air if a consensus is reached? The same goes for water. Sure, you should be able to dump as much oil as you'd like in your contained swimming pool, but what about off a dock you own in a lake? Or, do I have the right to dump toxic chemicals on my land, if the runoff will end up in a drinking source?
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Without meaning to sound supersilious, these are not new questions - they have been addressed by libertarian authors (incl. Rothbard.) So those would be good areas to look into should you desire further guidance. Anyway, pollution directly harms you and in some cases your property. Nevermind the air - it damages you directly. There also runs the argument that we have easement rights to breathe, but this is a somewhat separate matter. I definitely agree with you on water.

 

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Thanks. I knew the questions must have been asked before.I know it sounded trite, but I was just trying to be specific as possible. The reason I asked, though, is it seems most libertarians are very opposed to anyone who suggests an entity does not have the right to pump toxins into the air. Many libertarians advocate "free market" solutions to environmental issues, but do not acknowledge that pollution violates the property rights of others. Also, could you tell me where Rothbard wrote about the subject?
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To my knowledge he reckons with the issue in For A New Liberty and in his seminal article Law, Property rights and air pollution (http://www.mises.org/rothbard/lawproperty.pdf). Austrians have dealt elsewhere with the topic of ownership over water etc., but I am not sure which specific articles, so if anyone else could answer that they could point you to sources. 

 Any libertarians who advocated such a thing BTW do not deserve to be called libertarians. The only argument for a firm to be allowed to pollute in spite of its victims' consent is when it was there first and establishes a sort of "right" to pollute in a limited area. Then, if you go knowingly build a house next to it, you deserve what you get.

 

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Phantombantam:
First, you must know that I subscribe to the property theory laid out in "The Ethics of Liberty" by Murray Rothbard. Once someone mixes their labor with material from nature, they own it, and may do what they want with it (provided it does not infringe on others' property rights).
 

But exclusive use in an inelastic scarcity market where all land is legally owned does infringe on the self-ownership property rights of those being excluded. How can it logically not? 

Phantombantam:
If you define property as I did above, who owns the air we breathe?

This is the problem with assuming the air is "unowned" prior to mixing labor which is a development from the neo-classical revolution in economics where they purposely conflated "land" (meaning land, water, air, etc) for "capital".

Locke said that everything that pre-exists human labor is owned in common as an individual equal access right. So exclusive use beyond his "proviso" requires an obligation to those you exclude. Otherwise you end up with externalities not being able to be incorporated into the pricing mechanism. This violates the absolute right of self-ownership of those you subject costs to as third parties to a transaction. 

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Grant replied on Sat, Oct 6 2007 3:46 PM

WmBGreene:
Locke said that everything that pre-exists human labor is owned in common as an individual equal access right. So exclusive use beyond his "proviso" requires an obligation to those you exclude. Otherwise you end up with externalities not being able to be incorporated into the pricing mechanism. This violates the absolute right of self-ownership of those you subject costs to as third parties to a transaction.

Not if appropriation is allowed properly, it doesn't. If land is appropriated by those who use it, the ability to exclude those who don't use it is no externality. The appropriation done depends on the labor used. You cannot, for example, claim ownership of a lake's fish because you swim in the lake. The lake can be fished without interfering with swimming, so a person who has homesteaded travel over the surface of a lake does not have property rights to the fish inside the lake. Similarly, a farmer who homesteads land does not own the air above his property, nor the earth beneath it (beyond what is necessary for his crops to grow).

I'll agree that absolute "first-use" property rights can be hard to define in many situations, but they aren't with most uses of land (e.g., farming, building, etc).

The purpose of property rights is to allow purposeful action by the property owners, which always requires some exclusivity over the environment. Any rights granted beyond what is necissary for this aren't desirable, I'll grant you that. Its not easy to establish property rights over some things, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do a good job of it.

WmBGreene:
But exclusive use in an inelastic scarcity market where all land is legally owned does infringe on the self-ownership property rights of those being excluded. How can it logically not?

You are talking about a positive right, which requires someone else to give up a negative right. Who should give up one of their rights to property? The government? The "people"? Those would be externalities. The parents of a child are the ones who have an obligation to provide this positive right to newly-created humans. They have created a person who is utterly unable to fend for themselves, and by doing so assume responsibility for that person. An article on Mises.org explained this pretty well, by likening having a child to pushing someone into a lake. The pusher has an obligation to save the drowning victim before his environment kills him.

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Grant:
Not if appropriation is allowed properly, it doesn't.
 

How much labor is required? Does Neil Armstrong only own the footprints on the moon or the whole moon?

Grant:
If land is appropriated by those who use it, the ability to exclude those who don't use it is no externality.

The externality is that costs are forced upon those being excluded in the form of higher land prices for them to occupy.

Grant:
You are talking about a positive right, which requires someone else to give up a negative right
 

A positive right is requiring a good from someone else that is the result of their labor. Land pre-exists human labor and it's occupancy while one is alive is not voluntary and can't be separated. 

Grant:
The parents of a child are the ones who have an obligation to provide this positive right to newly-created humans. They have created a person who is utterly unable to fend for themselves, and by doing so assume responsibility for that person.

When exactly does one have the absolute right to self-ownership then? 

 

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Grant replied on Sun, Oct 7 2007 7:52 AM

WmBGreene:
How much labor is required? Does Neil Armstrong only own the footprints on the moon or the whole moon?

I'd say NASA and the American people (who financed his whole journey, albiet through illegitimate means) own his footprints. Certainly not the whole moon.

WmBGreene:
The externality is that costs are forced upon those being excluded in the form of higher land prices for them to occupy.

Purchasing land does not reduce the supply of land, unless the purchased land is somehow rendered unusable (which would be a huge opportunity cost to the owner). Besides, the change in subjective valuations based on previous sales of a good are not externalities. They are only “external” to investors, and investing is inherently risky.

The expected appreciation of land value is already included in its price, along with the market's time preference (i.e., interest rate). If a future buyer wishes more security, he can purchase a futures contract. Futures contracts can negate any “external” effects of the movement of market prices, and they of course come at a cost (security is not free).

WmBGreene:
A positive right is requiring a good from someone else that is the result of their labor. Land pre-exists human labor and it's occupancy while one is alive is not voluntary and can't be separated.

All natural resources, indeed, the entire universe, preexist humans. Food, water, air and land cannot separated from human existence. To whom does it fall on to provide these things? True, food can be produced in larger quantities and so its supply is not fixed, but land can also be improved (multi-story buildings, etc) in order to provide larger quantities of living space.

The appropriation of land to someone is forceful and a positive right when that land is already owned, because owned land implies labor has been spent on it; the appropriation is of someone else's labor. If the land is unowned then it is not, because unowned land implies it is not the product of someone's labor, and so no labor is exploited. But then people are already free to appropriate unowned land under libertarianism.

WmBGreene:
When exactly does one have the absolute right to self-ownership then?

I don't think there is any clear-cut answer to that. But self-ownership isn't at all incompatible with positive rights given by parents.

The only rational answer for the requirements of land, food, water and air are that the people responsible for the creation of a person (e.g., the parents) are responsible for providing the person with the necessary conditions for life. Otherwise, they may as well have placed a helpless person in a situation which will surely kill him. If a man and a woman toss a child into a lake and it drowns, they cannot truthfully say "its not our fault, the environment did it!".

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Grant:
I'd say NASA and the American people (who financed his whole journey, albiet through illegitimate means) own his footprints. Certainly not the whole moon.
 

You missed the point. Exactly how much labor is required? A little or a lot? If I walk the perimter of a 10,000 acre, do I own the whole 10,00 acres? Or does it require a fence?

Grant:
Purchasing land does not reduce the supply of land
 

It reduces the freely inhabitable lands - no?

Grant:
All natural resources, indeed, the entire universe, preexist humans. Food, water, air and land cannot separated from human existence. To whom does it fall on to provide these things?
 

I can not exist without occupying land. I can not continue to exist without air (a few minutes), water ( a few days), food ( a few weeks).

Air and water are freely provided and some food is too.

Grant:
land can also be improved (multi-story buildings, etc) in order to provide larger quantities of living space.
 

Improved land is called capital.

Grant:
The appropriation of land to someone is forceful and a positive right when that land is already owned, because owned land implies labor has been spent on it; the appropriation is of someone else's labor.

Land is not produced via human labor - it pre-exists human labor. When labor is applied to land it creates capital. The exclusive use of land (a specific location) in a scarcity market forces costs upon those you excluded which violates their absolute right of self-ownership. 

Grant:
unowned land implies it is not the product of someone's labor

No land is the product of human labor. Labor upon land creates capital.

Grant:
But self-ownership isn't at all incompatible with positive rights given by parents.
 

If it involves gifting of access to land then it can't be because a right of self-ownership doesn't have to be purcahsed or gifted - we are born with the right.

Grant:
The only rational answer for the requirements of land, food, water and air are that the people responsible for the creation of a person (e.g., the parents) are responsible for providing the person with the necessary conditions for life.
 

Yes, but again exactly when does the person reach majority and then get to exercise their absolute right of self-ownership that doesn't have to be gifted or purcahsed? 

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Grant replied on Sun, Oct 7 2007 8:42 PM

WmBGreene:
You missed the point. Exactly how much labor is required? A little or a lot? If I walk the perimter of a 10,000 acre, do I own the whole 10,00 acres? Or does it require a fence?

Thats a rather complicated question, which I think is outside the scope of the issue. Armstrong's footprint is more of a historical monument, so I don't thinkjust walking around an area would normally count as ownership. Obviously the means of appropriation of unowned resources aren't going to be universally agreed upon. There will be, and always have been, conflicts over them. We can hope all parties involved share a common ethic, but we can't count on it.

WmBGreene:
It reduces the freely inhabitable lands - no?

It reduces the land that can be appriated by homesteading, though markets allow land to be traded so that labor can be turned into property ownership or rent. The cost of homesteading a farm or buying a farm (all things included, travel costs, etc) should be even in a functioning market. So no, I don't think it does.

WmBGreene:
I can not exist without occupying land. I can not continue to exist without air (a few minutes), water ( a few days), food ( a few weeks).

The survival time matters. Otherwise I could just say "well, you can always occupy volume in outer space, or the center of the sun, have a nice day". For our purposes, the volume of the universe is infinite. What matters is the amount of it that people can actually live on.

WmBGreene:
Air and water are freely provided and some food is too.

Improved land is called capital.

 No land is the product of human labor. Labor upon land creates capital.

Whatever you want to call it, space which a human can occupy and own can be created. No, we can't create more of the Earth's surface, but who cares? The vast majority of it is unused anyways. We can create inhabitable land in places which hundreds of years ago were deadly.

WmBGreene:
If it involves gifting of access to land then it can't be because a right of self-ownership doesn't have to be purcahsed or gifted - we are born with the right.

I wouldn't say that. Parents clearly own their children in many ways, and violate any notion of absolute self-ownership (ever see a child try to keep from getting a flu shot?) relatively often.

WmBGreene:
Yes, but again exactly when does the person reach majority and then get to exercise their absolute right of self-ownership that doesn't have to be gifted or purcahsed?

I have no idea. But the general rule in today's society is that while the kid lives under his parent's roof, he obeys their rules. This has seemed to work well for the past few thousand years, and is consistent with libertarian ethics and common sense, so what exactly is the problem? Its the parent's job to make the sure kid grows up to be a genuine human being, with self-ownership and all.

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WmBGreene replied on Sun, Oct 7 2007 10:02 PM

Grant:
We can hope all parties involved share a common ethic
 

What is that? Just appropriation takes labor but we are not sure how much - it is arbitrary? Historically how much of the private ownership of land here in the US was justly aquired by mixing of labor...and how much labor would be called "just"? 

Grant:
markets allow land to be traded so that labor can be turned into property ownership or rent.

Yeah but the absolute right of self-ownership is denied. 

Grant:
Otherwise I could just say "well, you can always occupy volume in outer space, or the center of the sun, have a nice day".

Not without laboring though, no? Whereas, in my natural state via gravity, if I am alive I am occupying the dry, inhabitable, 2D surface of the earth somewhere.

Grant:
Whatever you want to call it, space which a human can occupy and own can be created.
 

Well you want to call it land, but isn't it capital if it is "created" by human labor?

Grant:
No, we can't create more of the Earth's surface, but who cares?
 

Well isn't that the point. If we by definition can't create more land, all lands are legally occupied, and we have to occupy land inorder to exist - don't we have conditions inwhich the landless have to pay someone or be gifted the right to occupy some location?

And if yes, how can we say we have an absolute right of self-ownership where a right doesn't need to be purchased or gifted? 

Grant:
I have no idea.
Grant:
Its the parent's job to make the sure kid grows up to be a genuine human being, with self-ownership and all.
Grant:
so what exactly is the problem?

The exact problem is you have no idea when a person gets to exercise the absolute right of self-ownership that doesn't require a gift of access to land from parents or the purchase of land.

 

 

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Bostwick replied on Mon, Oct 8 2007 12:47 AM

Phantombantam:
Thanks. I knew the questions must have been asked before.I know it sounded trite, but I was just trying to be specific as possible. The reason I asked, though, is it seems most libertarians are very opposed to anyone who suggests an entity does not have the right to pump toxins into the air. Many libertarians advocate "free market" solutions to environmental issues, but do not acknowledge that pollution violates the property rights of others. Also, could you tell me where Rothbard wrote about the subject?

You are overlooking something very simple. We advocate "free market" solutions because we acknowledge that pollution violates rights of others.

Only the market can protect your property from crime and taxation and only the market can protect your property from pollution. Governments never create, they only destroy!

Governments do not protect property. They ruin it. They create EPAs that let people pay the government to pollute at will.

You seem to be bringing up Global Warming. Libertarians don't buy into the government financed lies used to justify ever more government control. I personally don't believe global warming to be a problem, but even if it turns out to be, government won't "fix" it. Atleast not any better than it has "fixed" drugs, poverty, illiteracy or terrorism.

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Grant replied on Mon, Oct 8 2007 7:24 AM

WmBGreene:
What is that? Just appropriation takes labor but we are not sure how much - it is arbitrary? Historically how much of the private ownership of land here in the US was justly aquired by mixing of labor...and how much labor would be called "just"?

Its a complex issue, and people are going to disagree over it, especially when all those people want some resource for themselves.

WmBGreene:
Grant:
Otherwise I could just say "well, you can always occupy volume in outer space, or the center of the sun, have a nice day".

Not without laboring though, no? Whereas, in my natural state via gravity, if I am alive I am occupying the dry, inhabitable, 2D surface of the earth somewhere.

Grant:
Whatever you want to call it, space which a human can occupy and own can be created.

Well you want to call it land, but isn't it capital if it is "created" by human labor?

Grant:
No, we can't create more of the Earth's surface, but who cares?
 

Well isn't that the point. If we by definition can't create more land, all lands are legally occupied, and we have to occupy land inorder to exist - don't we have conditions inwhich the landless have to pay someone or be gifted the right to occupy some location?

All travel is labor. If you've got to travel 100 miles to find unowned land, thats labor. The same goes for building skyscrapers. The fact is that the amount of volume inhabitable by people is not limited over time.

WmBGreene:
The exact problem is you have no idea when a person gets to exercise the absolute right of self-ownership that doesn't require a gift of access to land from parents or the purchase of land.
 

Well, land has to be gifted (or traded, or coerced) from someone. If the government takes land from someone else and gives it to a newborn just because he's newly born, thats coercion and a serious externality. If the government provides "common" land for people to use, then those people are still in land under the ownership of the government, no different from private land. You can't just snap your fingers and create more land for each person who's born, and having landowners pay for their "privilege" still doesn't give the newborn some land of his own to stand on.

 Which is more logical, laying the responsibilty of protecting the negative rights of a newborn at the feet of the people who created it, or at the feet of many people with absolutely nothing to do with the kid?

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Niccolò replied on Mon, Oct 8 2007 10:18 PM

WmBGreene:

How much labor is required? Does Neil Armstrong only own the footprints on the moon or the whole moon?



Question has already been addressed. Neil Armstrong owns every milimeter of material man mixes his labour with to perpetuate his desires.

If he walks in the wild but has no real desire to claim the dirt that he transformed, then he will not object to any use of it. He has no claim to it.

 

If your next question is about, "well what happens when he just leaves it there, how do you know he didn't claim it?" You don't. But the proprietor fortunately has the burden of proof. Unless he can prove the property was his, he'll lose it. 


WmBGreene:

The externality is that costs are forced upon those being excluded in the form of higher land prices for them to occupy.



Nice red herring.


Fortunately, you have no claim to externalities or nice aesthetics. Cry about the high land prices if you like. Boo hoo hoo, I know, other people's desires are frustratwing. [:'(]

 

WmBGreene:

A positive right is requiring a good from someone else that is the result of their labor. Land pre-exists human labor and it's occupancy while one is alive is not voluntary and can't be separated.




Yes, unowned land is in fact unowned, thank you for your tautologies. 

 In any case, this is a straw man relying on the concept that man has claim to externalities. HE DOESN'T! 


Oh now you're going to cry about his "self-ownership" and "exclusion from land forever," boo hoo.

Self-ownership is a nice right, but self-ownership does not trump self-ownership. Indifferent

 

Hold on! Let me 'zplain! Because the ownership of property is just self-ownership given a few other variables (the concept of ownership is essentially an arithmatic problem) the ownership of property is the self-ownership principle. Your complaints and crys are all dependant on violating another man's self-ownership in order to make the life of another man more comfortable. This in effect negates self-ownership entirely!
 

WmBGreene:

When exactly does one have the absolute right to self-ownership then? 

 

 

He didn't say they didn't. He said that parents take responsibility for their offspring and thus perpatuate their life until they feel the child is able.

 

But now I know you're going to come up with "what if he has no parents." Well, in all likelihood, he does... being a sexually-organic being afterall... but lets assume he's abandoned. Well, give or take a few days, he'll either perish or have responsibility taken over him again.

If its practicality thats the problem, I suggest you convert from Georgism. 

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Niccolò replied on Mon, Oct 8 2007 10:19 PM

 Grant. You're going about this all wrong.

You're fighting on his ground, accepting his premises. Don't accept those premises. They aren't found in reason anyways. 

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I agree with Niccolo. As I have argued, self-ownership does not include a right to resources - just a right to attempt to appropriate them, and no more. 

 

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WmBGreene replied on Wed, Oct 10 2007 5:58 AM

Inquisitor:

I agree with Niccolo. As I have argued, self-ownership does not include a right to resources - just a right to attempt to appropriate them, and no more. 

 

It is a right to self-ownership which doesn't have to be gifted or purchased and because self can not be separated from physically occupy "land" then we have a conflict when all lands are legally owned and some do not own. 

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DBratton replied on Wed, Oct 10 2007 6:22 AM

WmBGreene:
It is a right to self-ownership which doesn't have to be gifted or purchased and because self can not be separated from physically occupy "land" then we have a conflict when all lands are legally owned and some do not own. 
 

But ownership is not required for occupancy. Only permission is required for occupancy. All land is owned now isn't it? 

 

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DBratton replied on Wed, Oct 10 2007 6:36 AM

WmBGreene:
How much labor is required? Does Neil Armstrong only own the footprints on the moon or the whole moon?
 

He used to own the footprints, but now he has abandoned them. I guess you can have them.

WmBGreene:
The externality is that costs are forced upon those being excluded in the form of higher land prices for them to occupy.

Yes. But it is not an invasion of anyones's rights to cause the market price to rise through legitimate acquisition. 

 

 

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WmBGreene replied on Wed, Oct 10 2007 8:01 PM

DBratton:

But it is not an invasion of anyones's rights to cause the market price to rise through legitimate acquisition. 

 

According to Locke it is only legitimate if enough and as good is left in common for others.

It is a claim on the labor of those who are excluded because they must occupy some location somewhere. 

 

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WmBGreene replied on Wed, Oct 10 2007 8:03 PM

DBratton:
But ownership is not required for occupancy. Only permission is required for occupancy.
 

Self is required for occupancy. 

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Inquisitor replied on Wed, Oct 10 2007 10:04 PM

On the so-called Lockean proviso:

  http://www.hanshoppe.com/publications/econ-ethics-appx.pdf (p. 246)

  http://www.mises.org/rothbard/ethics/twentynine.asp

  http://www.mises.org/journals/qjae/pdf/qjae1_3_11.pdf (p. 91)

  http://www.mises.org/journals/scholar/Machan9.pdf

 

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TokyoTom replied on Fri, Oct 12 2007 6:38 AM

Phantom, I've posted here a few links on Austrian approaches to environmental issues that might interest you: 

http://mises.com/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/10/03/starve-a-cold-feed-a-fever-links-to-austrians-on-environmental-issues.aspx

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Niccolò replied on Sun, Oct 14 2007 7:02 PM

WmBGreene:

It is a right to self-ownership which doesn't have to be gifted or purchased and because self can not be separated from physically occupy "land" then we have a conflict when all lands are legally owned and some do not own. 



So your assumption is that you own everything you occupy.

Do you own the trampoline you occupy that someone else has laboured to own?

The individual, like it or not, is separate from land. He may require land to perpetuate his life but that does not mean he is not separate from it.

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Niccolò replied on Sun, Oct 14 2007 7:03 PM

WmBGreene:

According to Locke it is only legitimate if enough and as good is left in common for others.

 

 

Great... Except Locke is wrong. 

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WmBGreene replied on Sun, Oct 14 2007 9:36 PM

 

Niccolò:
So your assumption is that you own everything you occupy.

Do you own the trampoline you occupy that someone else has laboured to own?

Presumably I have been gifted it's use by the owner. 

Niccolò:
The individual, like it or not, is separate from land. He may require land to perpetuate his life but that does not mean he is not separate from it.

If land represents a specific fixed location in space for economists, then there is no where I can exist without occupying land.

 

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Niccolò replied on Mon, Oct 15 2007 12:45 AM

WmBGreene:

Presumably I have been gifted it's use by the owner.



Ah! But according to you, if all land has been developed, you are entitled to stand on his trampoline! Then taking it to a new extreme you assume that you are entitled to stand on that trampoline if you so please regardless of his ownership of it, for his "exclusive use" violates your self-ownership due to your desire to access everything and anything that anyone else claims ownership over.

Like a good anti-human, however, you offer a nifty little tax for him to keep his stuff without your implied interference.

WmBGreene:

If land represents a specific fixed location in space for economists, then there is no where I can exist without occupying land.

 

 
Then existence in reality is that which is taxed and you are contradicting yourself by claiming to be protecting existence and self-ownership you inherently violate it!

Even so, then your scarcity bullox is defeated. Space is ever expanding (big bang). 

 

Now bring up "as good as" and I will bring up, good is what you get, deal.

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Niccolò replied on Mon, Oct 15 2007 12:53 AM

WmBGreene:

DBratton:
But ownership is not required for occupancy. Only permission is required for occupancy.
 

Self is required for occupancy. 

 

Ah yes... Pay tax on your life or we exterminate you!

 

Sounds familiar, eh boys?


The Origins of Capitalism

And for more periodic bloggings by moi,

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Niccolò:
Sounds familiar, eh boys?


Proudhon, Spooner, Tucker, George, Claire, Rothbard, ????, Konkin

My heroes (not much of a George fan though; mostly because of the land question)!

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WmBGreene replied on Mon, Oct 15 2007 6:57 AM

Brainpolice:
Proudhon, Spooner, Tucker, George, Claire, Rothbard, ????, Konkin
 

 

Karl Hess. Goldwater speechwriter to anarcho-syndicalist, left-libertarian.

By the way, Konkin grew up in Canada and his family was a member of the Social Credit Party. 

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Suppose you build a skyscraper blocking sunlight for a farm near you. Can the farmer can sue you? Suppose you already had a skyscraper that blocks your neighbor's sunlight, and your neighbor wants to build a farm. Can your neighbor sue? Suppose an airplane flies over your farm and blocks your sunlight. Can you have the right to sue? What are the dimensions of your property? Suppose you build a skyscraper on a mountain that is tall enough to block an airplane, is tall enough to break a satellite. Suppose you dug a hole to China. Can the Chinese sue? The dimensions of your property is vague. You can sue carbon emittors, as long as you proof that carbon is reasonably violating your property rights. But almost all people are carbom emittors. People would stop buying gasoline cars then.
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Niccolò replied on Fri, Nov 16 2007 12:00 AM

"Suppose you build a skyscraper blocking sunlight for a farm near you. Can the farmer can sue you? Suppose you already had a skyscraper that blocks your neighbor's sunlight, and your neighbor wants to build a farm. Can your neighbor sue? Suppose an airplane flies over your farm and blocks your sunlight. Can you have the right to sue? What are the dimensions of your property? Suppose you build a skyscraper on a mountain that is tall enough to block an airplane, is tall enough to break a satellite. Suppose you dug a hole to China. Can the Chinese sue? The dimensions of your property is vague. You can sue carbon emittors, as long as you proof that carbon is reasonably violating your property rights. But almost all people are carbom emittors. People would stop buying gasoline cars then."

This has been addressed by Murray Rothbard here,

 http://www.mises.org/story/2120

 

The Origins of Capitalism

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Leftlibertarian.org

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Avery replied on Sat, Nov 17 2007 10:33 AM

TokyoTom:

Phantom, I've posted here a few links on Austrian approaches to environmental issues that might interest you: 

http://mises.com/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/10/03/starve-a-cold-feed-a-fever-links-to-austrians-on-environmental-issues.aspx

 

Some of these links are kind of dumb

Why has the price system seemingly failed [when it comes to unrecyclable waste]? Is his intrinsic to capitalism, one of the “market failures” that socialist economists are always rattling on about? Not at all. The failure stems not from laissez faire, but from state prohibition. Specifically, the government has nationalized, or municipalized, the industry of solid waste management.

[In case it isn't obvious, this article goes on to describe how privatized waste disposal would be cheaper, and create an economic incentive to use recyclable products, all at the same time. It uses the ridiculous fee of $5 to dispose of plastic as opposed to $0.10 for recyclable paper] 

First off, most waste management is already privatized anyway.  Secondly, since air and water are still deemed common goods, privatized waste management wouldn't solve anything; in fact, it would create an incentive to find new and more secretive places to dump stuff by providing an economic incentive. The only way privatization would fix the waste problem would be if the entire world were a Geolibertopia with restrictions on renting land, so all the waste companies were duty-bound to return their landfills to the way they found them afterwards. That would make disposing of plastic quite expensive. But as it is, this would just wreck the WM-owned land.

About a year ago, a colleague and I began an investigation of air and water quality for a sample of countries worldwide. We gathered data on income, life expectancy, and property rights enforcement for 14 countries. Our results replicated previous work that showed a systematic relationship between improved environmental quality and incomes after a certain income threshold was passed. Our new finding was that where property-rights enforcement is stronger, environmental quality is better.
Obviously once people have a certain income level they can afford to protect their property. Duh! The role of government here is to protect the property of people who don't have the time or money to defend themselves in court. Some people work for a living rather than posting on Internet forums.

 

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