Sunday 25 February 2007

How to upset libertarians

Having had my share of discussions (or, rather, "discussions") with libertarians I found this article quite funny and pretty spot on. Some of the comments are also extremely funny and/or spot on. I had to add my two cents worth to them:

As has been proved above, one good way of shutting up a libertarians mouth is to ask them to explain what makes property a "right". It is just a social contract, very much like taxes are. Just as well there are people who do not believe in property (communists), what makes them more wrong than anyone who thinks property is more than just a contract? Both are (silly) belief systems.

The most common argument given is the one about land ownership: if you cultivate and improve a piece of land it gives you the right to that land. This might have worked back in the days when the West was conquered (although Indians might have a say on that) but today a lot of land and property is just owned, not cultivated. What gives people the ownership to them? A social contract, nothing more. We have agreed that someone who buys a lot owns it regardless of what he does with it (within limits, of course).

There was a case of a factory in Argentina, where the owners just basically disappeared and left the factory and workers because the factory wasn't making any money. The workers took over the factory and eventually it started to make money again. Then the owners came back and stated the factory is theirs. Is it? They clearly abandoned it, although not in the same sense as you abandon an empty bottle by throwing it into a bin.

But if that give priviledge to property it leads to rather interesting questions. If someone owns several apartments and keeps some of them empty can anyone move in and claim it theirs? If someone owns several vehicles but never uses some of them, can someone just take them? If not, why not? Again, we have just made a pact that it can't be done, nothing more, nothing less. Just as we have made a pact that part of the money you get goes to this common pool used to provide different kinds of benefits and services to all of us.

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