Re: Property rights

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Thu Apr 17 2008 - 09:07:19 MDT

Mark writes

> I can't prove it formally, yet -- but have you ever noticed
> that the very concept of private property, beyond the
> bounds of need, is probably the biggest contributor to
> evil in the world?

I doubt very much that you can back this up historically.

> Why should anyone *own* various parts of the moon?
> If you aren't using it, why should you be able to hog it
> and insist that others pay you for the right to use it?

An entity had to pay for the ownership in one way or
another, e.g., laying claim to new territory by exploring
it. Other entities who wish to develop (i.e. use in a more
advanced or profitable manner) may then bid up its

This, incidentally, provides incentive for some entity to
take the first steps of exploration, or doing whatever
minimal work that is needed to make a valid claim.

Private property has so far worked best because some
entity's whole attention is focused on the value of that
property and how it can be most profitably used. See
"Knowledge and Decisions" by Thomas Sowell to back
up my claims about price-signals and how they affect
not only property, but everything in a well-functioning

> Just because we've always done things like this in the
> past doesn't make it right for the future.

That's true. But the history of brilliant human beings devising
schemes that omit private property and free market
mechanisms is, as you know, sordid. But these same
brilliant human beings are now thinking about laying down
quite general laws that would apply to everyone and everything
via Ruling AIs. This is in defiance of the necessity of local,
focused, specialized knowledge.

> Ownership makes a lot of sense in conditions of scarcity
> but I strongly doubt that it is rational in conditions of plenty

You may be right. But we don't know. We should start with
what works and go from there.

> -- and in intermediate conditions, like those of today,
> I think that the concept of private property (and the
> necessity that everyone *must* work) is actually getting
> in the way of moving towards a condition of plenty
> (and fairness and happiness).

There have been many socialist utopian dreamers before
you, Mark. I would urge empirical investigation prior to
excessive theoretical rumination about a "better system".


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