Ownership Rights

Linoge has a post talking about a person who faced charges for defending his property (the person was found not guilty thankfully). The defense of property is one of those debatable things in the gun community with many claiming it’s perfectly fine while others claim a gun is for defense of life not merely property. I think the remarks Linoge has in his post exemplify the fact that defense of property should be an acceptable thing.

This subject crashes head first into another topic of have a big interest in, economics. I find the philosophical concept of ownership rights to be very interesting as an argument can be made several ways. One of the arguments against ownership rights is the fact that all products produced have derived from natural resources that nobody can make rightful claim to. I would like to present a different argument, one that is in favor of ownership rights.

None of the ideas I’m going to present here are my own. Instead they are ideas that have been described by many libertarians and Austrian economists. The best description of these concept that I’ve found can be found in Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty.

In the United States we have many rights described in our Constitution. These rights are protections from our government and arguments can be made against their universality (for instance a right to due process only applies in as society with a state and thus can not be considered a right deriving from nature). There is one right though that can be derived purely from human reason and can be considered the one right all others derive from; the right of self-ownership. Self-ownership can be summed up as the simple fact that you own you. Even if you are a slave you still are the owner of yourself which is why you can perform such actions as attempting to escape or even kill your capture.

As you own yourself you also own your labor. Of course you can trade your labor for the products of other people’s labor but you own your labor. There is a valid argument in stating nobody can lay claim to the natural resources found on this planet as they came into being without any human action. What can also be argued is that mixing your labor with natural resources gives you a rightful claim to those resources by the fact that you own yourself and thus your labor.

By mixing your labor with natural resources you have produced something that is consumable. This applies to everything from farm goods to automobiles. By mixing your labor with natural resources you have made something new, something more useful. As this new thing is a product of your labor it is valid to claim ownership rights to it as an extension of self-ownership.

These items can then be traded to other people for products of their labor. Going up enough rungs of the trade ladder we’ll create an economy. In this economy any property owned by a person will ultimately be a product of their labor either through production or trade (which is simply a voluntary exchange of ownership rights). Voluntary trade is the basis of the free market which the United States economy is very loosely based on.

What Linoge stated in his post can be derived from the right of self-ownership. When somebody takes your property they have taken a product of your labor and thus an extension of yourself. Working a job is an agreement between employer and employee where you trade your labor in exchange for another good (usually money). When somebody steals your television they haven’t just stolen the physical device but a product of your labor and thus have taken a part of yourself. As you have a finite amount of time to live the theft of labor can be considered the theft of the hours that the labor was being performed.

Using this progression of reasoned steps a conclusion in favor of property defense can be arrived at. When defending your property you are defending yourself in the form of your labor. When a thief deprives you of your property they are also deriving you of your life in the form of time you must spend in replacing said property. Even if you have theft insurance you must still use your labor to pay for that policy which would be unnecessary if it wasn’t for criminal elements.

So it’s not unreasonable to claim people should be allowed to defend their property with the same vigilance as they may defend their life. In the grand scheme of things both situations are really the same.

2 thoughts on “Ownership Rights”

  1. Thanks for taking the time to explain that out in detail… I see it as rather self-defining, but it is important for me to remember that there are intermediate steps, and not everyone may grasp them as readily as I do.

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