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29 June 2012 @ 10:20 am
I think I just realized something  
So I follow Joe Bethancourt on Facebook, because I like his music and am willing to overlook his politics. And he posts lots of things about, "What part of my property do you think you have the right to steal?" in response to the Affordable Care Act.

I haven't been able to formulate an answer.

I think I've figured it out. From my perspective, he's asking the wrong question, and that's why I can't answer it.

The question *I* ask is, "We live in a society that conveys many advantages. How can we most fairly distribute those advantages while not constraining personal incentive and creativity?"

I have no problem with people who invent really cool things, or provide really cool services, being fabulously wealthy. I have no problem with the idea that a job requiring 25 years of training pays more than a job that doesn't require that kind of investment.

I do have a problem with a society and culture that treats people who do the day-to-day work of maintaining the infrastructure (by which I mean both public infrastructure like road builders and forest rangers and police and teachers and firefighters, and private infrastructure like custodians and secretaries and house builders and factory workers) -- or who are unable to work because of disability, or who are able to work but cannot find a job because the economy is broken -- as disposable and worthless.
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on June 30th, 2012 12:31 am (UTC)
Speaking entirely theoretically:

I've spent a fair bit of time thinking about this. The conclusion I've come to is that "property, outside of personal estate, is a legal right, not an unalienable right."

The question that he's asking, "What part of my property do you think you have the right to steal?" makes a number of assumptions about the nature of property, the most basic of which is that "property" and the control of property, is, itself, a right which is abrogated by taxation.

As far as I can tell, this is basically the idea that Libertarians have: all forms of property are inalienable rights.

Communism, in its purest form, believes the opposite: there is no such thing as a right to property.

Both of these extremes feel wrong to me.

Looking into the nature of "property" over history, there are actually several categories. Starting in the 19th century, we develop the idea of "intellectual property," for instance. While patents existed prior to that, they were seen as simply a legal structure which granted legal rights, not inalienable, human rights. The concept of "you stole my idea" wasn't as developed or formulated as it later became.

Then we've got "real estate". In many times and places in human history, the idea of "owning land" could really be seen more as "licensing land." Within a lot of the American Indian tribes around New England, you didn't purchase land, per se -- you licensed the right to use land in specific ways -- travel rights, hunting rights, farming rights, settlement rights. The existing settled tribes could sublease and license the use of the land, but you didn't, exactly, BUY it.

English common law, honestly, has had concepts that are similar: rights-of-way, entailments, and so forth.

Then your third category of property is "personal estate", or "movables" -- stuff that you can carry away.

And in different legal systems, each of these are treated in different manners. Some people count them as more similar, some as more different. Can you sell a lease, for instance? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

And so it's not clear to what extent "property" is an actual, genuine "right", and to what extent it's a concept that we, as a society, create because it's useful.

The SECOND issue is that there is a notion that your taxes are a fee that you pay to live within a society. I feel that, if you don't want to pay that fee, you don't have to live in the society.

As it turns out, "The United States" owns all the property, jointly, within the boundaries of "The United States", and living within those borders is a privilege reserved for those people who want to pay the ongoing fees to do so, which fees are assigned in a manner determined by the society as a whole.

You don't like it, you're free to live elsewhere. That's one of the fundamental differences between a free society and a society of subjects/serfs -- we have the right to go other places if we don't like the current one.

There exist lots of societies in this world which ask for a lower fee to be part of them. And lots of societies that ask for higher fees.

As it turns out, all the societies which ask for lower fees are hellholes of one sort or another, but that's not the point. Well, okay, it IS the point, I guess. But still, Benthacourt is free to join one of those societies if he doesn't like the fee structure which we set up in THIS society.
Kats: Saguarowildrider on June 30th, 2012 01:05 am (UTC)
That is a remarkable response. *applause*
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on June 30th, 2012 01:09 am (UTC)
Like I said, I've thought about it a lot. I have a gut sense of what is probably right and wrong, and I know that "gut senses" often lead one astray. So I have to tease out WHY I think what I think, and see if it makes sense or not.

And I know people who disagree with me on a lot of issues, and I know that they are as smart and as fair and decent as I am, so that means that we must be looking at different first conditions, so I try to pull apart what I'm thinking until I get to the bits which are different from the other people.