Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

The Right to Property

Posted by Jerry on February 28, 2008

There’s an interesting discussion on the free market and individual property rights raging on Daylight Atheism. Tim (from Evanescent) had alerted me to the discussion. The post is a review of Michael Shermer‘s recent book “The Mind of the Market.” Most of the commentors there are mixed-economy cultists and Socialists.

I have posted two comments there so far. I encourage other Objectivists to do the same; I believe that blogs play a pivotal role in the dissemination of ideas at the grassroots level; it is how I explored Objectivism (by discovering Diana Hsieh’s blog very early on, among others), I know of several people who have been introduced to Ayn Rand and have even become Objectivists through reading my blog, and I believe it may be how many people (particularly the young) investigate and learn new ideas these days.

Below is one of the comments I left on Daylight Atheism, on the nature of the right to own property. I tried to make my comment as simply stated as possible so that readers who are utterly unfamiliar with the Objectivist theory of rights can grasp the premises easily:

The right to own property is the right that makes all other rights *practicable*, that is, possible to be practiced in reality.

The above principle is the political parallel of the metaphysical fact that humans are integrated entities of mind and body: there is no dichotomy or dualism between the two.

Since only individuals can think, the thoughts are undeniably and inextricably an individual’s *own*. The practical manifestation or implementation of his thoughts, therefore, are also his own–they are borne out of his actions motivated by his reasoning abilities.

However, while a man can never be denied of his thoughts, man can indeed be denied of the products or manifestation of his thoughts by the use of force or fraud from other individuals. This raises the necessity of establishing a moral principle among men that will objectively protect one man’s ownership (each man’s ownership) to the product of his thoughts, namely, the right to own property. This is the basis of the right to property, in brief.

The right to property is the moral principle that protects man’s ownership to the products of his thoughts (like, the right to own the book I wrote). To deny this right to the product of one’s thought is the political parallel of metaphysical dualism–to divorce man’s body from his mind, to invent a soul (religion), to invent a collective Borg (Socialism/Communism), to condemn man to brute physical existence (dictatorship, Statism), to divorce man’s faculty of reason from its practical uses and applications (Idealism).

To live, man must use his mind in dealing with reality. He must therefore be permitted to act freely on the directions given by his mind, his reasoning faculty, in order to tackle the task of survival. This includes being left free to create, fabricate, invent, or procure by means of free trade property that he believes might help him in achieving his goal. He may end up acting irrationally or erroneously; but he must be free to do this as well. He is however not free to initiate force or act fraudulently, because this undercuts the very basis of the freedom upon which he himself seeks to act.

4 Responses to “The Right to Property”

  1. Chezet said

    Very interesting and helpful post.
    I add your blog in my Google Reader!😉

  2. mousomer said

    Socialism has many manifestations. Most modern forms of it have very little to do with “collective borgs”, but more to do with collective action and collective property.
    I live in a small, remote village. Driving to work is an expensive nuisance. We make it easier for ourselves by carpooling. Some larger villages have truly public pools of cars, paid collectively, and used by whoever needs them at that particular moment. For the people in the car pool, this saves quite a lot of money, as well as considerable time and effort. Of course, it all works as long as no one is taking advantage of the rest. Still, it works.
    Now, what is more rational? To take part in a carpool (and save lots of money, sweat and tears), or to use a private car? Many people choose the public carpool not because they are indoctrinated to do so, but because *it is more efficient*.
    You might say that this example of collective action and collective property is not at all “collective” because it is voluntary, and because it suits the interests of the individuals to take part in that collective action. But, thing is, a collective is no more than an aggregate of individuals, working for a COMMON good. That’s socialism.

  3. Ergo said

    Mousomer,

    If you think that socialism is “no more than an aggregate of individuals, working for a COMMON good”, then unfortunately, your idea of socialism is naively benign. Socialism is a political system that *of force* institutes the policy of nationalized ownership and collective action toward collective goals without the choice or assent of the individuals involved.

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