About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Property, If You Can Keep It

Inscribed at the top of this page are the keys to a prosperous and satisfying society of cooperating individuals: Property, Freedom, Peace. But, to paraphrase the Bible, the greatest of these is Property.

Freedom and peace are effete, obscure and puny concepts absent the notion of property. In Human Action, Ludwig von Mises writes:
"There is no kind of freedom and liberty other than the kind which the market economy brings about. In a totalitarian hegemonic society the only freedom that is left to the individual, because it cannot be denied to him, is the freedom to commit suicide."
Of course, Mises understood that the essence of the "market economy" is property, i.e., the things which an individual rightfully and properly owns and controls. Property is not a natural right or a gift from God. Property is a consequence of human cooperative action in society, a derivative of mutual action's prime directive: Thou shalt not steal.

The concept of "theft" -- and its implied corollary, "property" -- does not occur to individuals acting alone in a jungle. All that a solitary man sees and discovers in the jungle is available to him for the taking, available for use as means to attain his chosen ends. He need not concern himself with the claims of others.

The concepts of theft and property can only occur to a human individual after he discovers another human individual like himself exists, and then only after both individuals conceive of the possibility of mutual, cooperative action.

Cooperative action is impossible without a mutual agreement to proscribe theft as taboo behavior. Individuals cooperate in order to attain goals they cannot satisfactorily attain by means of acting alone. But what is the point of cooperative action if the fruit of cooperative action remains uneaten? No rational individual cooperates knowing the purpose of his cooperative action cannot be attained. Therefore, when rational human beings cooperate, they agree, as a condition of their cooperative action, that they will not steal from one another the fruits of their cooperative effort. Thus, the ideas of ownership and private property are inferred and respected by all.

Cooperative action, properly understood, is necessarily mutual and voluntary. When human beings are forced by a strongman to work together, they do not work to attain their own ends. If they did, force and coercion would not be necessary. People forced to work together by a strongman work to attain the ends desired by the strongman. In such a circumstance, cooperative action does not exist except as a sideshow in which the oppressed cooperate with the strongman in vain and pathetic attempts to survive. In such a society, property does not exist for the coerced individuals. All property is owned and controlled by the strongman. As Mises points out, in such a society the only freedom that exists is the freedom to commit suicide, and even that petty liberty may require a struggle to win.

In Liberalism Mises wrote:
"Private property creates for the individual a sphere in which he is free of the state. It sets limits to the operation of the authoritarian will. It allows other forces to arise side by side with and in opposition to political power. It thus becomes the basis of all those activities that are free from violent interference on the part of the state. It is the soil in which the seeds of freedom are nurtured and in which the autonomy of the individual and ultimately all intellectual and material progress are rooted."
The United States of America was founded upon the principle of private property for all individuals. Prior to its founding the "sphere" of freedom surrounding ordinary individuals like you and me was tiny indeed. The King and his aristocratic favorites, including the Church, owned and controlled virtually all property. Common people only owned and controlled the rags on their back and what meager living quarters, animals and grain the nobility allowed them to have. And when the King demanded more property with which to pursue his ends, such as power, glory and a foreign conquest, he claimed as his own property even the meager holdings of the rabble.

The American Revolution changed all that. Americans, as part of their fundamental and mutual social compact, recognized the right of each individual to mutually and voluntarily cooperate with other individuals. Americans recognized that individual's right to own and control the product of their cooperative action no matter how voluminous or extensive that product may be. Americans recognized that a firm and unlimited right to property was an individual's only defense against state tyranny. Our founders greatest mistake was to assume this truth rather than spell it out in the founding documents of our society, our famed democratic republic.

The history of America since its founding has been a slow and steady whittling away of the individual's right to own and control property. And, as strongmen in the federal government whittled away this right, individual Americans became slowly and steadily less free.

Oh, we Americans make a show of our vaunted freedom of speech, our freedom of religion, our freedom of passage and all the rest. But of what significance are these freedoms if we cannot own and control property?

Our parasitic overlords in Washington, in state capitals and in county seats throughout this nation have levied confiscatory taxes on our land, our wages, our businesses, our profits, our investments, our homes, our purchases, even our drinks and our entertainment. Taxes levied on individuals in this country have risen from virtually zero at the time of this nation's founding to an aggregate confiscatory rate now of 50-60% on everything we produce as the result of our cooperative efforts.

And what property we have, that the parasitic state cannot tax away or has not yet taxed away, the parasitic state rules and regulates with every manner of legal restriction imaginable. Our food, our clothes, our shelter, our automobiles, our work things, our play things -- everything we produce and own for our own satisfaction is subject to some bureaucrat's watchful eye and sharp tongue, a tongue that is quick to command us, to order us, to tell us what we must do or what we must not do with what we (supposedly) own.

The truth is we do not own and control property anymore. We lease it from the state and, as a result, we are minions of the state and the politicians and bureaucrats who run the state. These parasites seize our property and redistribute it to their friends and sycophants, their followers, hangers on and court jesters. They are at the same time worse and more better off than King George of centuries ago. And we are no better off than the King's rabble.

Ladies and gentlemen, we Americans, we ordinary and common individual citizens, no longer have property and, as a result, we are no longer free. We are forced to lick the boots of our masters and grovel before them. But we do have the freedom to gripe about our plight, don't we? We do have the freedom to vote for the parasites who suck the lifeblood of property from our lives, don't we? We do have the freedom to pray to God in our own way and to petition Him to stop the plundering parasites, don't we? We have the freedom to marry who and whatever we want, to fornicate with whom and with whatever we want, and act and say whatever vile things we want in public, don't we?

Yes, we have truly become a mighty and free people. The Founders of this nation would be truly proud!

In 2008 we Americans elected a President and a Congress bent on destroying the very idea of private property in this country. Our Maximum Leader brags about it. He says we'd all be better off if we let him spread our wealth around.

Oh the next day he will deny it. He and his representatives will spin the proper tune. They will say they are staunch defenders of property for all, even the poorest among us, but their actions soon betray their words. The very means they use to defend their principle of fairness -- a fair amount of property for all -- eviscerates the meaning and spirit of the idea of property.

In their foreign adventures our parasitic commanders preach that they must destroy a village in order to save it, so in our own nation our President and his lackeys preach that they must destroy property in order to save it and make it flourish. What absolute bunk!

These parasites worship the principle of robbing Peter to pay Paul! They tell us with a straight face that putting such a principle into practice will preserve property rights for all and rededicate our people to the noble principles upon which our country was founded. What a crock!

Do you believe it?

Do you believe that giving up your right to own and control the means of production will make you freer? Happier? More prosperous?

Do you believe that concentrating ownership and control of all your property, either by rule or by title, in the hands of a small elite thousands of miles away will make you more satisfied with your miserable lot?

Maybe it will if you have no property to start with. Maybe robbing Peter to pay Paul makes sense to you if your name is Paul. Maybe robbing the rich to give to the poor satisfies you so long as the parasites in Washington consider you poor and your neighbor rich.

Can't you see by now that in order for we individual Americans to be content and satisfied we must voluntarily and mutually cooperate with each other? Can't you understand that in order to cooperate we must own and control property? Can't you agree that in order to mutually and voluntarily cooperate, we must outlaw theft rather than attempt to prosper by means of it?

A society cannot long survive being ruled by an elite faction of erudite strongmen and ruthless thieves.

What chance do we have if all of us embrace thuggery and become thieves ourselves?

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