Property rights are just an enabler?

As I wrote in the comments thread of my post on transposing anti-IP arguments to property rights as a whole, I received many essays (I’m talking multi-pages) on exactly why each of my points are wrong, in elaborate detail and verbose prose. Out of all these essays, there’s one main point that seems to repeat over and over, which I can reformulate as the following:

“Property enables exploitation, but it is not innately exploitation. Attacking property for the abuses some people make of it is like attacking McDonalds for making people fat.”

But what abuses are we talking about? People like to criticize this or that corporation for setting prices too high, for firing too many people, and other sundry complaints of this nature. But the capacity to set a price for sale regardless of actual worth, and the capacity of the owner to exclude current users at will, are both part of the concept of property itself. So how can they be abuses?

Either you accept the just nature of the prices and firings, or you reject capitalism; there’s not really any middle ground here. “Real capitalism” cannot exist without property rights. I am often accused of not addressing “real capitalism,” but whether we’re talking about “real capitalism,” “corporatism,” “cronyism,” or any other such label, we’re talking about something which has as its fundamental premise the tyranny of property. How can this be honestly denied?

All the economic depravations of our society- the excessive richess and poverty, the useless jobs, the destruction of property, the widespread fraud- are part and parcel of this concept of property. They are merely the expression of the attributes of property over time.

What is the potential of exploitation if not the degree of control which one individual can have over another’s livelihood, affecting it at will? And what system implements this control more than that of property? As individuals, we are renters, borrowers, workers, citizens; we constantly are forced to depend on others’ good will, when their will is only fixed on profits and benefits. Our entire economic life is therefore made available for others to exploit through the concept of property.

4 thoughts on “Property rights are just an enabler?

  1. Shawn P. Wilbur February 25, 2010 at 04:18

    Would the abolition of property make us more or less dependent on others’ good will? If distinctions between “mine” and “thine” were simply off the table, certain kinds of abuses would obviously be off the table, but would people necessarily be any less “fixed on profits and benefits”?

  2. Francois Tremblay February 25, 2010 at 04:23

    Well, that was the question I sought to answer.

  3. Shawn P. Wilbur February 25, 2010 at 15:53

    It seems rather like the question you leave hanging at the beginning of the last paragraph. If it is true that “all the economic depravations of our society…are part and parcel of this concept of property,” then why are you still not a communist? Perhaps because the lack of property doesn’t make us any less dependent, and doesn’t guarantee any change in our basic fixations? You seem hostile to the traditional mutualist solutions: reciprocity as the guiding norm, counterpoise or synthesis of communism and property, and the progressive development of the concept of property itself. I’m still trying to work out where that leaves you, in terms of positive options.

  4. Francois Tremblay February 25, 2010 at 16:42

    Well, that’s what this blog is about, isn’t it.

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