Demolishing property rights again: the child renter argument.

I’ve discussed extensively about Block’s Corollary, regarding the absurd consequences of the concept of property. Block’s Corollary is basically the position that the right of property logically implies the right to a degree of control over the people who are on that property. This is generally admitted in many cases, but we’ve merely taken the argument to its logical conclusion, as Block does, and proposed that under the capitalist property scheme rape is not necessarily a crime as long as it’s done under contract (as Block says, it is in fact purely voluntary).

To this, there seems to have been pretty much one response from the capitalists: “well, that’s not what property actually entails, the woman still has her rights regardless of her being on the boss’ property.” But they cannot answer why the woman’s rights have precedence over her boss’ rights. They cannot answer because there is no answer; it’s an ad hoc rationalization constructed to defend property rights. But if true, it would imply that there are “different degrees” of property, which is a contradiction, as property is by definition absolute.

Noor has constructed a new argument which similarly destroys property rights, but from a different angle.

Imagine that there is this house where a voluntary contract links a tenant and a landlord. Then a child is born from that tenant, grows up, becomes an adult, his mother dies, and now the landlord start asking for rent from the child as well. But there is no contract linking the child and the landlord, therefore no consent. So the child is faced with a situation where he must either pay a rent he never consented to, or be forced to leave against his will. And even before that, when he didn’t pay rent, he was still subject to the other rules of the contract, which he obviously never consented to either.

The capitalist has no choice but to say that the contract is necessarily valid, since he believes that all voluntary agreements are necessarily valid. But the contract implies non-consensual attacks on another person’s rights, the child. Within the capitalist property system, it must be so.

I hope the analogy here is clear. The child cannot do otherwise but be born wherever he is born, and the same is true for all of us. And yet we are told that a contract, the US Constitution, binds us to our landlords, the US government, and obliges us to pay tribute.

The “anarcho-capitalist” may reply that the US Constitution can only bind people who actually signed it. But then the same would be true for the contract with the landlord, which should only bind people who actually signed it, but it obviously binds the child also, who never signed it. In the same way, the US government, acting as illegitimately as the landlord, claiming property over the land it arbitrary delimits and calls the United States, demands that the children born on its property be its subjects, even though no consent was ever given.

The other part of the process is the idea that the child, as well as the unwilling citizen, should simply leave. This is the “love it or leave it” part of statism, and is subject to the same objections. To list these would be besides the point; I would hope that my Anarchist readers don’t need such a list anyway. The only important thing regarding the argument is that this alternative is equally non-consensual.

So it seems that from this voluntary contract can only arise non-consensual consequences. This paradox only exists because of property rights. In a possession system, the child would be recognized as the sole remaining legitimate possessor of the house after his mother’s death. The so-called land-lord would have nothing to lord over, since he could never be recognized as the actual owner of that land.

Property rights leads to absurd consequences. Nowhere is this more obvious than in how frantically capitalists try to rationalize that fact without being able to prove anything. “I don’t support rape!” they’ll exclaim. I’m sure I will get a lot of comments to this entry saying “The two examples you gave are not the same because the landlord is well within his rights to coerce the child, but I don’t approve of the government’s claims!” And yet they will never, ever be able to show how the examples are dissimilar.

Some may argue, on the other hand, that they oppose coercing children and that therefore my argument is invalid, but they will be unable to explain how property rights are compatible with their view. If my experience with Block’s Corollary is any indication, I expect their argument will be something like “the child’s (property-)ownership of his own body trumps the landlord’s (property-)ownership of his land.” Why does one kind of property-ownership trump another kind? Blank. How can the concept of property, which is absolute, admit of higher and lower forms of itself? Blank. The belief in property remains absolute circular nonsense.

In fact, the line of argumentation that I’ve discussed in this entry can very easily be made parallel to Block’s Corollary. One can imagine any contract which, being in effect, would hurt the child without his consent. For example, the tenant and the landlord may have made a contract which stipulates that the child may be starved if he is unable to pay rent. One may argue that this is an obvious attack on the child, but the difference between normal contract rules which are applied to the child without his consent, and an abnormal rule such as this one, is merely a matter of degree. In all cases the rights of the child are attacked. To accept one but reject the other is hypocrite.

15 thoughts on “Demolishing property rights again: the child renter argument.

  1. […] child renter argument, which I posted last year, provides an example of a distinction between a voluntary choice and a […]

  2. Decius January 26, 2012 at 16:11

    The landlord built, or caused to be built, the building. That gives the landlord the right to use the building as he sees fit; he sees fit to enter a fully consensual contract with the parent, trading the temporary use of the building for rent; that contract includes a provision permitting the child to use the building. On the death of the parent, that contract is terminated. The landlord proposes a similar contract with the child, who may accept or refuse it. Any rights the child had as a result of the parent renting the building terminated when the lease expired; the child has no more right to continue using the building without permission from the landlord than any other person does.

    Yes, that does lead to a potential situation where people cannot procure the use of a building for shelter within their means. Expanded, it does lead to situations where people starve because they are unable to acquire food. People do not have any inherent right to shelter or food.

    It is impossible to have a contract between the parent and the landlord which specifies that the child be starved; that contract would have to include the child as a signatory, and would have to provide some benefit to the child, to be a valid contract.

    • Francois Tremblay January 26, 2012 at 16:30

      “The landlord built, or caused to be built, the building.”
      False of the vast majority of landlords, but anyway.

      “That gives the landlord the right to use the building as he sees fit”
      Justify this “right,” please. Otherwise the discussion is pretty much over.

  3. decius January 26, 2012 at 20:12

    Fine “Obtained the right to use of the building, directly or indirectly, from the people who built the building.”

    Ownership of an artifact belongs initially to the creator. The current owner can assign ownership to any person who consents to the transfer, and no person can become the owner of an artifact without the consent of the existing owner. The edge cases, including abandonment, death-without-assignment, and theft do not apply in this case.

    Ownership of an artifact includes all rights directly related to that artifact, included the right to deny that use to others. I don’t see why residence in a building according to a specific consensual lease grants any rights beyond the scope of that lease. The landlord had those rights at the beginning of the lease (or the lease is meaningless), transferred them in a limited manner for a limited duration, and reclaims them at the termination of the lease. Again, this is based on the fact that the people who performed the labor of building the house permanently transferred their interest in the house to the contractor (for wages), who permanently transferred it to the developer (for money), who permanently transferred it to the owner (also for money), who then transferred it for a term to the tenant (for money). Someone who is not a party to any of these transactions claims “I was living there in a manner consistent with the tenant’s lease. Now I own the building.”

    • Francois Tremblay January 26, 2012 at 20:22

      I know what you BELIEVE. I am very well aware of the property rights dogma. I am also aware of how illogical it is. I’ve read Proudhon, you know. I’m asking you to fucking justify it, not regurgitate. Did I tell you to regurgitate? No I did not.

      • decius January 26, 2012 at 22:09

        Okay: Without property rights, there is little or no incentive to create artifacts.
        Utilitarian: That results in fewer artifacts, which is a bad thing.
        Teleological: Things which result in harm to everyone are bad.
        Deontological: Property rights are part of the rules.
        Virtue ethics: People have a right to control the fruit of their labor.

        Any other broad or even narrow ethical principles that you don’t think provide justification for an individual to exercise control? If you propose a logical system, clearly state your premises, and make sure that they are not contradictable by observation.

        • Francois Tremblay January 26, 2012 at 22:18

          “Okay: Without property rights, there is little or no incentive to create artifacts.”
          … oh, so that explains why no one ever made anything before property-friendly laws were created. How could I ever forget!

          “Utilitarian: That results in fewer artifacts, which is a bad thing.”
          Yeaaaaa…. no. There’s no reason why people would create more or less artefacts.

          “Teleological: Things which result in harm to everyone are bad.”
          Like property rights, as proven by the fact that inequality engenders harm to everyone, the rich as well as the poor?

          “Deontological: Property rights are part of the rules.”
          That’s not deontological, that’s just retarded. Seriously… you realize I’m a deontologist, right?

          “Virtue ethics: People have a right to control the fruit of their labor.”
          … how do property rights create virtuous habits in people? You didn’t even try.

          • decius January 26, 2012 at 22:35

            Laws are not rights. I’m not a prehistorian, but I suspect that the first code of laws didn’t come out of the blue, but simply recognized and provided for equal treatment of offenses against property rights. The earliest available laws (Code of Ur-Nammu) makes specific reference to and real estate rights, property rights, and even perjury. I’m not saying that laws didn’t exist prior to the earliest recorded evidence of them, but rights certainly existed before laws. Having the exclusive right to harvest from a field that one has cultivated is pretty much a requirement for specialized farmers to exist, and having people specialize in food production is a corequisite for people to specialize in anything else. Without property rights, tools could never be developed, and without the right to trade those tools, they could never be produced in large amounts.

            What are the rules you have chosen to be your ethical principles, and why?

            • Francois Tremblay January 26, 2012 at 22:37

              So you’re not going to answer the question then. All right.

              • decius January 26, 2012 at 23:05

                Which question? The virtue ethics?
                Virtuous people respect property rights. Property rights are needed before specialization develops, which includes lawmaking. That covers the utilitarian and teleological cases.
                Deontology literally takes the rule to be the basis for the morality; “God told you to” is a valid deontological argument for property rights. It’s clearly not yours, and I find it repulsive.

                Virtue ethics is subjective and relative, but ‘respect property rights ‘ is a valid virtue. It gets somewhat circular, because that’s how virtue ethics is- what the individual believes is the basis for their ethics. I find this lazy, but not repulsive.

                So, what is your justification for the ethical rules you have?

                Personally, I base an entire system on self-determination, ownership of that which is created belonging initially to the creator, binding consensual contracts, unity of right and responsibility, and moral equality. Property rights, are unfortunately, one of my premises: You own what you make. You decide what may be done with what you own.

                The major issue I am currently unable to resolve is how to allow social contracts to apply to people who were born within their physical boundaries, but do not consent to be bound by that contract. It is not physically feasible for them to not use the existing infrastructure, but use of the infrastructure is predicated on consent to the social contract responsible for creating said infrastructure: Roads are built with public funding for public benefit, and the right to use the roads is the responsibility to pay for their construction and upkeep.

                • Francois Tremblay January 26, 2012 at 23:07

                  No… the question was for you to justify property rights. You haven’t done so. You have presented a spurious pragmatic justification which is not borne our by the facts, but no actual justification.

                • decius January 26, 2012 at 23:26

                  I like it. It works. It doesn’t contradict empirical evidence. That’s the only justification needed. There is no other justification possible without asserting a purpose where none exists.

                  That’s not a valid argument against a lack of property rights, of course. Can you provide an example of a situation where a large group of people interacted without the concept of personal property? How did they handle the issue of scarcity?

                • Francois Tremblay January 26, 2012 at 23:30

                  “I like it. It works. It doesn’t contradict empirical evidence. That’s the only justification needed.”
                  Very well then, why are you even arguing with me? You are obviously the standard of all things.

  4. […] it’s hard to see how they could not support slavery outside of such a context as well. My child renter argument is a simpler but similar sort of scenario, where children are born into a system of subjection and […]

  5. […] I’ve pointed out in the case of the child renter argument and Block’s corollary, voluntaryists who uphold contracts as absolute must therefore reject […]

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