- McSpotlight -

Property...a 'Natural Right'?

Posted by: bill on March 16, 1999 at 17:28:33:

Often the defenders of free market capitalist philosophy provide us with the following axiom:

"Every person has the right to Life, Liberty, and Property". Sometimes "Pusuit of Happiness" is added. While life, liberty, and happiness might be described as qualities naturally inherent or derived from "within", property seems to be slightly misplaced. I don't want to be too picky, I do feel it's "natural" to claim ownership to ones own person, or a toothbrush, or product of ones own labor. But is there a limit? Can one honestly lay claim to property valued in the millions?

Locke refined the concept of properety rights using the following formulations:

"The great and chief end therefore of Mens uniting into Commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the Preservation of their Property"

He bases the right to property on Scripture and seventeenth century Puritan theory.

But this [that the earth was given to mankind in common] being supposed, it seems to some a very great difficulty, how any one should ever come to have a Property in any thing..."

"As much as any one can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils; so much he may by his labour fix a Property in. Whatever is beyond this, is more than his share, and belongs to others. Nothing was made by God for Man to spoil or destroy." [my emph.]

Man may appropriate only as much as leaves "enough, and as good" for others.


Now somehow Locke, through some acrobatic reasoning, surmounts these limitations, mainly through the introduction of money (which doesn't spoil). But my question is...if it takes the introduction of money to transcend the limitations on appropriation and ownership of property, how can this extended property right be considered a "natural" right?

Just asking.

*quotes from Second Treatise on Government as found in C.B. Macpherson.

McSpotlight: Mike, this subject is best raised in the Capitalism room; I've diverted your first attempt there; this is here so you know where it's gone; any followups to this would be most suited to the Capitalism room, even if it's a bit of a bear pit right now...

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