Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are Property Rights Human Rights?

Yes, answers David Marotta at Forbes, in an accessible article on the source and viability of property rights. I would answer the same. An excerpt:
Property rights depend on the principle that you own yourself. If you own yourself, then you own the fruit of your labor.
Labor, like hunting for meat or planting crops, was eventually traded through currency. Money earned through labor was used to purchase land, goods or the labor of others. Ownership comes from exchanging your labor for your desired value: crops for money, money for hunted meat. 
To talk about fairness in ownership or equality in property doesn’t work. All financial inequality comes from ownership. The medieval hunter owns a spear and meat while the farmer owns a field and crops or even one farmer owns corn while another owns peas. There is no equality. Even if we were to redistribute the outcome of their labor, inequality would still exist. How can the effort of hunting and the effort of planting be compared, let alone the effort of all the other ways to labor? The only place equality between types of labor can be found is in the market, in the exchange. For how much money earned through planting will the farmer buy the hunter’s meat?
Today, government control has replaced common consent. And this control is capriciously influenced by a political process that turns on a slim 51% majority. Libertarians are correct that much common good could be accomplished by voluntary association without the heavy hand of corruptible politicians.
Most of the infringement on property rights stems from the belief that something is so morally right that we must impose this behavior on others. We must force them to value what we value. Down that path lies theocracy.
Sounds something like an average Joe's modern-day Murray Rothbard, doesn't it? Rothbard wrote:
The human right of every man to his own life implies the right to find and transform resources: to produce that which sustains and advances life. That product is a man’s property. That is why prop­erty rights are foremost among human rights and why any loss of one endangers the others. For ex­ample, how can the human right of freedom of the press be pre­served if the government owns all the newsprint and has the power to decide who may use it and how much? The human right of a free press depends on the human right of private property in newsprint and in the other es­sentials for newspaper production. In short, there is no conflict of rights here because property rights are themselves human rights. What is more, human rights are also property rights! There are several aspects of this important truth. In the first place, each individual, according to our understanding of the natural order of things, is the owner of himself, the ruler of his own person. Pres­ervation of this self-ownership is essential for the proper develop­ment and well-being of man. The human rights of the person are, in effect, a recognition of each man’s inalienable property right over his own being; and from this property right stems his right to the material goods that he has produced. A man’s right to per­sonal freedom, then, is his prop­erty right in himself.