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HELP! I'm debating a socialist on property rights!

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chuckduck764 Posted: Thu, Nov 8 2012 5:42 PM

I am debating a communist friend of mine on property rights. I explained to him in very general terms the libertarian theory of property rights. I basically said that each individual inherently owns himself, his faculties, and his actions. Therefore, each individual has a right acquire property previously unowned and voluntarily exchange property with others.

My friend gave a completely improbable (but still possible, as far as I can tell) scenario. He said that assume that one family, over several generations, has acquired a massive amount of wealth. Then, that family goes about purchasing every single piece of "land" available in the private market. The family does this by offering land sellers money that is above equilibrium price, thus bidding land prices well above market equilibrium. In a way, the family serves as a monopolistic consumer in the land sector. Because of the family's massive amount of wealth, they are able to sustain this continued practice of buying high priced homes. And since they have so much wealth, they can provide low-cost rental housing to individuals, making renting seem more economical then owning a home. This encourages people to rent from this wealthy family rather than buy a home/land or hold on to their current home/land. Thus, people will sell their houses and land to the family and, instead, rent from them. He says that eventually, this one family will own most of the land on the earth and will be renting housing out to most of the world's inhabitants. Now I know this is highly implausible, but my friend still asserts that it is possible. He than says that the wealthy family could simply tell individuals, once their rental contracts expire, "get off my property!". Well the only way to get off the family's property would be to leave earth and, essentially, die in outer space. My friend than suggests, "Is this really a good theory if the end consequence could be such a negative result?" He also says that since individuals have a right to self-ownership (which my friend agrees with, oddly enough), but they also have other property rights (under libertarian theory), than how could this family "force" individuals to leave the earth? Because doing so would, undoubtedly, "rob" them of their lives (their property). In other words, in order to uphold the property rights of the wealthy family, the property rights of self-ownership of the individuals would have to be sacrificed, thus providing an inconsistency in the theory of libertarian private property. Can anyone help me refute this?


Lastly, my friend's alternative theory of property is that people have a right to self ownership, but no one has a right to more than they "need". Every individual who has "more" also has an obligation to give his/her property to someone who has "less", since the person who has more has excess goods but the person who has less has unfulfilled "needs". Can anyone help me refute this too? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Haha. More than they need? What does that mean?
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You can read two posts I wrote on property rights recently here and here.

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Hey! Thankfully, his last argument is extremely easy to destroy (if, indeed, those are his words):

Every individual who has "more" also has an obligation to give his/her property to someone who has "less"

Henry Hazlitt does the job in Man vs. the Welfare State. See this:

Poverty for All

It is certain that high income tax rates discourage and
reduce the earning of income, and therefore the total
production of wealth, to some extent. Suppose, for illustration, we begin with the extreme proposal that we
equalize everybody's income by taxing away all income
in excess of the average in order to pay it over to those
with incomes below the average. (The guaranteedincome proposal isn't too far away from that!)
Let us say that the present per capita average yearly
income in the United States is about $3,000. Then everybody who was getting less than that (and would get
just that whether he worked or not) would, of course, as
with the guaranteed-income proposal, not need to work
productively at all. And no one who was earning more
than $3,000 would find it worth while to continue to
earn the excess, because it would be seized from him in
any case. More, it would soon occur to him that it wasn't
worthwhile earning even the $3,000, for it would be
given to him in any case; and his income would be the
same, whether he worked or not. So if everybody acted
under an income equalization program merely in the
way that seemed most rational in his own interest considered in isolation, none of us would work and all of us
would starve. We might each get $3,000 cash (if some-Income Without Work 83
one could be found to continue to run the printing
machines just for the fun of it), but there would be
nothing to buy with it.
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