The Private Landed Property Delusion

YoungLiberal

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On another thread I was asked to give some of the arguments for collective ownership of the land of our Nation. It was too far off topic in that thread, so I decided to open a new thread here.

Marx writes in his Memorandum for Robert Applegarth, December 3 1869:

"While not intending to discuss here all the argument put forward by the advocates of private property in land — jurists, philosophers, and political economists — we shall only state firstly that they disguise the original fact of conquest under the cloak of "natural right". If conquest constitutes a natural right on the part of the few, the many have only to gather sufficient strength in order to acquire the natural right of reconquering what has been taken from them."


In these few words, Marx completely demolishes any question of their being any "natural right" to landed property. Clearly if the few have the "natural right" to expropriate land by force, so do the many.
It's far too late to get into this in any particular detail, but what strikes me about this passage is that it is based on a false premise. Natural rights need not be justified on the basis of conquest. What of the Lockean man who has gained the land on the basis of his labour?
 


YoungLiberal

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As I mentioned above, private landed property, as a reality, is fading all the time. What we have now is a landed class thats kept as a kind of museum exhibition, by the input of massive hand outs. I doubt if this can last very much longer, one way or another.
I don't see how that addresses anything I said?
 

Cael

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It's far too late to get into this in any particular detail, but what strikes me about this passage is that it is based on a false premise. Natural rights need not be justified on the basis of conquest. What of the Lockean man who has gained the land on the basis of his labour?
The Lockean man doesnt gain his land on the basis of his labour, but on the basis of being the first to claim that land. That this was completely impossible in Locke's time is gotten past by imagining that native peoples are not real human beings, so dont count.
 

Cael

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I don't see how that addresses anything I said?
Well, there is obviously no social need for a system of land ownership that leaves some of the most fertile land in the world, i.e. in Ireland, unable to provide an income for 4% of the population, and leaves the landowners of Ireland in a state of being permanent social welfare recipients.
 

YoungLiberal

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The Lockean man doesnt gain his land on the basis of his labour, but on the basis of being the first to claim that land.
But that's not what Locke was getting at. Getting to the land first isn't sufficent to establish the right, one must till it. It wouldn't be sufficent to arrive on the shores of a new island, for example, and merely claim the entire, say 140sq miles merely because you say it first; one would have to work the land in question.

Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a "property" in his own "person." This nobody has any right to but himself. The "labour" of his body and the "work" of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property
There, quite clearly we've a natural rights theory not based on conquest.
 

Cael

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But that's not what Locke was getting at. Getting to the land first isn't sufficent to establish the right, one must till it. It wouldn't be sufficent to arrive on the shores of a new island, for example, and merely claim the entire, say 140sq miles merely because you say it first; one would have to work the land in question.



There, quite clearly we've a natural rights theory not based on conquest.
If you read Locke's argument, you will see that he puts a lot of stress on the claim that the man found the land to be unused and unclaimed by anyone else. Thats the ground on which he builds his claim to ownership. That ground must be established before the man turns the first sod. If it werent, then anybody could establish a claim to any piece of land, simple by turning a sod on it.
 

YoungLiberal

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Well, there is obviously no social need for a system of land ownership that leaves some of the most fertile land in the world, i.e. in Ireland, unable to provide an income for 4% of the population, and leaves the landowners of Ireland in a state of being permanent social welfare recipients.
Fine, if you say so. However, that does not change the fact that based on the previous posters criteria of independence, in the autonomous sense, and privacy, large parts of the world are successful, in that their systems of land ownership provide the majority of their populace with the means, that is private property, although not neccessarily landed property, to acquire these goals.
 

YoungLiberal

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If you read Locke's argument, you will see that he puts a lot of stress on the claim that the man found the land to be unused and unclaimed by anyone else. Thats the ground on which he builds his claim to ownership. That ground must be established before the man turns the first sod. If it werent, then anybody could establish a claim to any piece of land, simple by turning a sod on it.
What do you mean the ground must be 'established'?
 

Cael

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Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a "property" in his own "person." This nobody has any right to but himself. The "labour" of his body and the "work" of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property
Lets break this down, into its two parts:

a) Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a "property" in his own "person." This nobody has any right to but himself. The "labour" of his body and the "work" of his hands, we may say, are properly his.

b) Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.

Even if we take a) to be true, and Locke has not established that it is true, then b) does not follow from a). It is, in fact an entirely seperate claim. He claims that ones labour is one's own private property, and then jumps to the bizarr claim that anything that comes in contact with ones labour automatically becomes ones private property. If that were the case, then every burgler who lifts a lamp "naturally" becomes the owner of that lamp, or every poacher who lifts a salmon from a river "naturally" becomes the owner of that salmon.
 

Cael

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What do you mean the ground must be 'established'?
It must be established, according to Locke, that nobody else is using that land or making a claim to it.
 

Cael

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Fine, if you say so. However, that does not change the fact that based on the previous posters criteria of independence, in the autonomous sense, and privacy, large parts of the world are successful, in that their systems of land ownership provide the majority of their populace with the means, that is private property, although not neccessarily landed property, to acquire these goals.
You have to seperate property in the means of production from property in the means of consumption. I agree that we all need our bits and bobs about us if we are to feel safe and secure - if even only Molloy's sucking stones - but we have no need of ownership in the means of production. As I say, if we did, then the vast majority of the human race would have no possibility of ever feeling safe and secure.
 

YoungLiberal

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b) Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.

...and then jumps to the bizarr claim that anything that comes in contact with ones labour automatically becomes ones private property.
This is not Locke's claim, at all. Read it again. If the land that is laboured is removed from 'the state that Nature hate provided and left it in' then it becomes ones private property. Perhaps a fuller quotation of that passage would be helpful:


It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in
, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.
 

ocoonassa

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If the land that is laboured is removed from 'the state that Nature hate provided and left it in' then it becomes ones private property.
Says who? Sure that'd be grand if land was infinite but it's not although it might well have seemed that way when there was little over half a billion of us floating around. The land belongs to everybody it is a birthright, it should be a shared and not a private resource.

In Europe 6% of the people own nearly all of the land. That's morally wrong. They should pay a land tax, or they should get off it and return it to the State IMO.
 

Mercurial

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(I won't be around for the next couple of days but I appreciate you starting this thread in what I assume is a response to my comments to you on the other thread, so I will try to respond properly when I have the time.)
 

Mercurial

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This is not Locke's claim, at all. Read it again. If the land that is laboured is removed from 'the state that Nature hate provided and left it in' then it becomes ones private property. Perhaps a fuller quotation of that passage would be helpful:
The labour mixing metaphor is not unproblematic. I think it was Nozick (not exactly a skeptic when it comes to private property rights) who came up with the tomato soup example (if I pour my can of tomato soup into the ocean, do I lose the soup or gain an ocean?).

There's also the matter of the so-called 'Lockean proviso', whereby you must leave 'as much and as good' for everyone else. Locke was writing at a time where if you didn't have any land, you were more or less free to go out and claim some. It's more problematic now that every territory is claimed by someone or something.
 

Cael

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(I won't be around for the next couple of days but I appreciate you starting this thread in what I assume is a response to my comments to you on the other thread, so I will try to respond properly when I have the time.)
Take your time a chara.
 

Cael

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The labour mixing metaphor is not unproblematic. I think it was Nozick (not exactly a skeptic when it comes to private property rights) who came up with the tomato soup example (if I pour my can of tomato soup into the ocean, do I lose the soup or gain an ocean?).

There's also the matter of the so-called 'Lockean proviso', whereby you must leave 'as much and as good' for everyone else. Locke was writing at a time where if you didn't have any land, you were more or less free to go out and claim some. It's more problematic now that every territory is claimed by someone or something.
In reality, every territory was claimed in Locke's day also, it's just that Locke didnt seem to realise that native peoples were human too.
 

Cael

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The late economist, and former farmer, Raymond Crotty wrote in 1988:

Property in land I now percieved to be hardly less socially inequitable than property in man, or slavery, which Aristotle described as "the first, the best and most useful form of property." Indeed, some might deem property in land to be more heinously anti-social. One recalls, for example, that while a million Irish people starved to death during the 1840s so as to maintain or increase the profit from Irish land, the negro slaves of the United States of America, without any augmentation from the slave trade which by then had been stopped, were increasing in numbers by 2.5% annually. This was possibly the highest rate of population growth in the world at the time. Indubitably many starving, rack-rented Irish peasants, if given the choice, would have opted for slavery rather than to be the victims of property in Irish land.

Raymond Crotty, A Radical Response.
 

Cael

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I wrote the following in another thread some time ago:

We cannot leave the structure of farming as it is in Ireland today. We see that farmers now get 75% of their income from hand outs paid for by the landless worker. So its clear that the current structure of farming is uneconomical and can only be sustained by putting a massive burden on urban workers. Farm collectivisation has a bad name, but, in reality, this is what the EU has being trying to do for a long time, i.e. to push out the small and middle sized farmer in favour of the large ranch. The only trouble with this system is that it puts incredible and unmerited wealth in the private hands of the rancher. Larry Goodman, for example, collects a single hand out every year of half a million euro - just for owning so much land. It makes much more sense to run these large farms/ranches as state farms, with workers doing a 40 hour shift, like any other worker. As I say, all Irish farms are massively subsidised already by the taxpayer. Even if the state farms were no more profitable, or even a good bit less profitable, it would still mean a massive saving for the population in general, as land for roads, schools, homes, hospitals, etc. would already be in state hands, so no addition fee would have to be paid. This would make an enormous change to the very structure of Irish society, as increases in productivity in the workforce would no longer be converted into higher land prices - as happened over the last ten years, and during all times of prosperity over the last several hundred years. Instead of increased productivity being swallowed up by land price inflation, it could instead be put into building up a native Irish industry that would lessen our junky like dependence on the multi-nationals. Its this retardation of Irish industry that is the real cost of leaving the land in the hands of about 4% of the population.
 

Cael

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Raymond Crotty again from his book, A Radical's Response:

The essence of my thought was that the land of Ireland belongs to the people of Ireland, equally to the entire people of Ireland. Property in Irish land has been a disaster for the nation ever since its creation by the confiscation of the clans' lands under the Tudor monarchs; and continues to be so. Unless the Conquest could be undone by causing Irish land to used efficiently and once more for the benefit of all the people, the Irish economy could not prosper.
 


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