Anarchism, Capitalism and Human Rights: A Discussion

There’s a lively little discussion going on in the comments for this post. Here’s a little sample:

Faithkills says:

Property is a right, like life, and liberty because we can all have them without negating anyone else’s right to those things. Negative rights can coexist. Positive rights cannot. So yes property is theft.. the way you define it. Property is merely the negation of theft, properly defined. Similarly your definition of liberty is actually slavery for others since you define liberty as material needs.

These things are also natural rights, because they are the natural result of evolution. Negating them is negating nature and evolution. This is also a very popular collectivist theme, the anti-evolutionary ubermench who is perfect and thus perfectly inhuman, in all things.

I reply:

I have to object to the obvious fallacy that “we can all” have property “without negating anyone else’s right” to it. A piece of owned property, if it does nothing else, negates everyone else’s right to that property. That is the nature of property ownership, isn’t it? And that makes it radically different from our universal relationship with life, for example, which, if we’re alive, we all clearly have pretty much equally. As for liberty, one man’s idea of freedom is another’s slavery.

You know that this idea of property rights came not from people who have little to no property, which is most people in the world by far, but from the small class of people who already own a lot of property or want to acquire more. It’s their assertion that owning their property exclusively is their natural right as a human being. It would be anyone’s right, they say, if they were lucky or clever enough to get it like they were. You have an equal right, they’d say, to that shitty piece of property no one wants over by that mosquito infested swamp, so go enjoy your right and leave me to mine!


Of course property rights can be retained by everyone. The problem is that you define property to mean the opposite of property. My property rights don’t conflict with yours any more than my right to liberty conflict with yours, and in just the same way. My right to liberty is the right to _my_ liberty, as your right to liberty is the right to _your_ liberty. You don’t have a right to _my_ liberty any more than you have a right to _my_ property. You conflate property with ‘things’. To you there’s a thing, and you have equal right to it as the guy who created it, or created something they traded for it.

Certainly we cannot share the right (well for sake of argument we’ll neglect the obvious) to own a single _thing_. But as certainly we can all share the right not to be stolen from, which is all property rights assert. Now you may want to get into the minutia of initial claim problem, and I recognize the particular problems of real estate (though we would still probably disagree) and IP (which we would probably agree) but your argument as stated, is invalid. Property rights (no matter how initially established) are harmonious with all having property rights.

My reply:

Property rights equals the right not to be stolen from? That’s all it is? That still amounts to gross inequality of rights. Don’t think of it in terms of class, if you don’t want to, but imagine a child–a single individual, if you will–born into extreme poverty (it happens to some individuals) and compare that person’s ability over time to live and be free compared to that of a child born into extreme wealth. Tell each of those individuals, when they reach the age of reason, they have a human right not to have their things stolen and see how each one would welcome that news. “No one can steal a single one of your ponies, Hortense. Johnny, those rags you’re wearing are yours and no one else’s. And, kids, we’re not talking about things here. We’re talking about principles! Isn’t that fantastic!? Isn’t nature wonderful?!”

So maybe you think rights are not and should not be equal for each person, as nature shits out different lives unequally and, optimally, we let nature take its course without arbitrary interference. Then what actual good are “rights?” Aren’t they just a mark of privilege for those that have them and envy for those that don’t. In this life, this real world that is neither “A”C nor anarchist, much of what people consider their property is actually owned by banks or finance companies. I presume in “A”C you’d still have those types of entities, correct? So will you also have repossession and foreclosures? Or in this optopia, will the owners suddenly develop tolerance and patience for late payments out of respect for people’s right, maybe, to believe in the illusion of property? I’m just curious.

As I say, this is just a taste of the discussion. There’s more at each link above. Please feel free to join it or let me know what you think in the comments on this post.

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