• Echarmion
    The question I want to ask in this thread is whether we should conceive of property in principle as a temporary right to resources which are ultimately communal or a permanent individual right.

    For the purposes of this thread, I understand property as it is understood in common language: The attachement of a "thing", which can be incorporeal, to a legal person. Property can be understood as a relation between persons concerning a thing, in which one person holds a bundle of rights over the thing. The central rights usually associated with property are the right to exclude others from use of the property and the right to all fruits gained by the "proper" use of the property (what uses are considered proper is generally subject to further regulation).

    I don't want to prejudice the question by ascribing to one specific theory of how property comes about and what it's justification is, though this will no doubt become relevant in the discussion. What I will say is that it seems likely that the current notion is historically contingent and that the evolution of the notion of property is strongly linked to the distribution of arable land in a society. It therefore seems reasonable to approach the question of property from the perspective of distribution of limited (though not in the malthusian sense) resources in a society

    Some property is essentially temporary by it's nature. This is most obvious with perishable goods like food, which you can theoretically own in perpetuity, but which will in practice degrade to be significantly less valuable more or less quickly, with no effective means to halt this process. On the other hand, some property, like financial assets, not only does not automaticall degrade, but ususally can be used as capital - that is used to generate further property. Both these cases could be understood as examples of a general rule where property used for your personal consumption (which includes not just food, but also clothes, housing etc.) is in practice temporary by virtue of being consumed, whereas capital can be and often is eternal unless some kind of intervention redistributes it.

    This causes the phenomenon, which is obseravble easily enough around the world, that large concentrations of property perpetuate and increase, while small concentrations need to be continually replaced through work. Since inheritance records are available, it has been consistently the case that the bottom 50% of the wealth distribution - the 50% of the population with the least wealth - have almost no property to pass on to their children.

    Prima facie, it seems hard to justify such a state of affairs. A common justification given for large concentrations of property is that large concentrations of property are the reward given for being an effective member of society (by supplying goods and services which are in high demand) - while incurring significant risks in terms of failure. Whether or not one finds this justification convincing in the abstract, it cannot explain why such "merit" should result in a permanent allocation of property to a person and their descendants. Any kind of contribution by any person is necessarily finite. This is the case even with the most beneficial and risky contributions. One might argue that some contributions have incalculable effects into the future. Who can say, after all, how much the invention of Penicilin was worth in the long term? But this subtly shifts the discussion from the supposed merit of the contribution to the magnitude of the effect. There was still only a finite amount of work (and risk) involved.

    So might it be preferable to consider property to be a temporary allocation of resources which are, in principle, communal, and should eventuall return into circulation - for example via taxes on wealth and inheritance?
  • MikeListeral
    in capitalism whoever has the most has given the most to others in trade

    nothing is free, everything is earned

    jef bezos has the most, because he has given the most.

    he has given the world the use of his site
  • RolandTyme
    It's easy to get bogged down in this, but basically, I think your worry is well founded. If you think that this world - with it humungous disparities - is largely justified, you basically think that the people who have most of the wealth should have been allowed to ascend to such a position, where they have the power to determine how extensive resources are used, to use their money and power illegally and immorally (as they can, mostly, get away with it), and, conversely, that most other people, who simply have to try to work and survive in this rat race, are worth very little compared to these people we are happy to enthrone as gods. It's an extremely servile attitude - mascarading as a forthright and respectful one. The billionaires and millionaires get defended to the hilt, and can do whatever they like with other people, while most people are viewed with contempt unless they "get in line".

    In a certain way, it's about caring more about the standard of living and dignity of humanity - all humanity. But in another way, if property rights conflict with this - well, so much the worse for that understanding of property rights. It's made a world which is a hell, and which so many people struggle to even live in. But no, that's not the problem - the problem is people questioning whether some clever guy who got lucky on the market should be able to own the equivalent of the wealth of several countries.

    Unfortunately, our economy, legal systems, international order and societies are currently configured in such a way as mean we can't even simply tax these people more. In order to properly protect ourselves - and by ourselves, I mean most of humanity, we need to dismantle this entire edifice.
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