The Rights of Property

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Lewis Lapham sums up the Bush administration in the March issue of Harper's:

In every instance, and no matter what the issue immediately at hand, the bias is the same–more laws limiting the rights of individuals, fewer laws restraining the rights of property.

Lapham is right about the need for laws restraining the rights of property. Just the other day, my coffee table tried to change the channel on my TV set, and my desk chair seems to think it can roll wherever it wants. Next thing you know, the kitchen appliances will be getting uppity.

Seriously, does anyone really still talk this way? How does Lapham imagine that the right to free speech, say, could be exercised without property? By reciting articles from memory while standing on the street? And does Lapham imagine that "the rights of individuals" protected by the Fourth Amendment have nothing to do with property? How would he describe "houses, papers, and effects"? What does he make of the word property in the Fifth Amendment?

NEXT: President Xanax?

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  1. My computer’s always trying to correct my spelling and stuff. What gives it the right to do that?

    Maybe he wants to return to the days when property and people could be the same thing, and kicking your property did more than making you feel better.

  2. I’m guessing no, Madog.

  3. Umm, Commie? Not meaning to get pedantic or anything, but that has got to be the single most misquoted line from Proudhon. Proudhon also believed that property tenure in a libertarian sense–based on occupancy and cultivation–was a vital bulwark of liberty. All he opposed was the right to collect rent from absentee ownership. Proudhon was not a collectivist by any means. Anarchists who followed in the same tradition (Warren, Ingalls, Tucker) supported absolute property rights for the occupier–they just had a different set of rules for establising ownership.

    From a purely pragmatic point of view, it’s kind of hard to resist the state when there’s absolutely no place to retire for sanctuary that’s not owned by the state. If the Christians were to seek refuge in the catacombs today, they’d be met with a sign saying: “Facility No. 329 of the People’s Ministry of Interment and Disposal. For admittance please submit to retinal scan.”

  4. Property is Theft.

  5. I work at the graduate school of a public university, and sometimes I feel like everyone talks like that.

  6. Is Commie serious though?

  7. Hey, Commie! You’re right! So give us back that computer you’re reading this on (and also the food you ate today (barf), and the clothes you’re wearing, and that chair you’re sitting on) you THIEF! (You moron.)

    Kevin Carson: B-o-o-o-o-ring stuff! (Did you HAVE to subject us to it?)

  8. Hey, Commie! You’re right! So give us back that computer you’re reading this on. And also the food you ate today (barf), and the clothes you’re wearing, and that chair you’re sitting on. you THIEF! (You moron.)

    Kevin Carson: B-o-o-o-o-ring stuff! (Did you HAVE to subject us to it?)

  9. At least Commie knows how to push the Post button.

    And Mitch at the university, you hear that because people may actually be thinking there.

  10. >>>And Mitch at the university, you hear that because people may actually be thinking there.

  11. Mr. Real Anon – based on your response, I rest my case.

  12. My friend was letting me work to pay rent in his house in San Francisco when, one fine day, an Art Agnos (for Mayor) worker came by stumping by for his man. He and I talked for a while when we were joined by my friend. The discussion continued for a bit longer and finally, the Agnos supported queried “So you believe property rights take precedence over individual rights?”
    My friend and I looked at each other then simultaneously turned to the fellow and in unison replied: “Property rights are individual rights!”
    That’s when he gave up and left.

    The problem with commies is that they think property rights and individual rights are two different realms. They are not; property rights are a subset of individual rights. My first property right is ownership of my body and my life. Without property rights, ones life is forfeit to the collective which stole your rights.

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