Property Rights

We've kept the discussion of individual rights somewhat abstract, not discussing particular rights. The general "freedom from interference" is enough to give us a pretty good idea of what kind of specific rights that involves. It also keeps us focused on the bigger picture that all rights are derived from the same source, man's needs. There is only one right, and that is the right to life. Everything else is just an aspect of that.

Over the course of history, it's been necessary to discuss rights in specific forms for one reason or another. Thus you have right to free speech, a right to assemble, freedom of belief, and so on. Each of these are just instances of the more general freedom from interference.

Some of the specific rights are a little less straightforward. The big example is property rights. Remember that the fundamental right is the right to life. So we have to go back to looking at what life involves. In an abstract way, we've talked about it requiring us to choose our actions and be able to pursue them. But we need to get more specific. To live, we need to produce physical wealth, such as food, clothing, housing, automobiles, etc.

Action alone does not allow us to live. It's production, and the ability to consume what we produce, that allows life. A right to life requires not only the freedom to produce wealth, but the freedom to use that produced wealth in whatever way we see fit. This is the basis of property rights. Property rights is just another form of freedom of action, but in this case it's the freedom to use the wealth we've produced.

You can see that without a right to property, our other rights would be meaningless. What's the point of freedom of action if we aren't allowed to benefit from the results of those actions? What's the point of a right to not be murdered when someone can just come along and prevent us from eating? Property rights are necessary to have any of the other rights be meaningful at all.

Property rights are violated by theft, which is a form of force. Theft obviously refers to the act of taking your property away from you. It also refers to an action that would prevent you from using your property. When a government passes a law saying you can't make modifications on your home, they are violating your property rights.

Fraud is also a type of theft. I have an article here:

Basically, it says that fraud is an exchange made under certain conditions, and the conditions end up not being satisfied. What that means is that while physically the goods may have exchanged hands, the right to the goods have not. The transfer of property rights was conditioned on the terms of the exchange that were not met by one of the parties. The result is that one side has taken the property of the other, and that's just theft. The fact that there was a lie involved is inconsequential. The real violation of rights is in keeping the property when there has not be a real transfer of ownership of the property.

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