Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Biological and Intellectual Proofs of Property Rights

All together now

Workers has been trying to solve the “property rights problem” for some time now and two recent, somewhat related, readings have brought light to the subject.

In pre-Darwinian days, 2 to 3 billion years ago, life on Earth was one sea of like-minded amoebas; genetic information was shared in common and transferred horizontally, equally, from one cell to another. Then “one evil day”, a bacteria cell became selfish and kept its genetic code to itself. This then created the evolution of different species, those species most fit kept on, those least fit died out. Eventually the common community died-out, leaving not a common, shared, gene mass but separate species, with be it good or bad but be it, mankind at the top of the pyramid (at least on Earth anyway). This tale, in nutshell, is the evolutionary proof of property. (This story paraphrased from Freeman Dyson’s “Our Biotech Future” in the latest NYRB.) .

The intellectual proof goes as follows (paraphrased from Hans-Herman Hoppe in The Economics and Ethics of Property Rights). An intellectual argument is a conjecture made by someone, this conjecture is then either refuted or not refuted through a counter-argument or empirical evidence. The very fact that “someone” makes a conjecture is proof that that someone exists as a separate identity. The very fact of that separate identity is proof in itself that that someone exists as a separate entity, a separate property. Another someone can refute the argument, but this argument cannot by definition be valid because that person, too, is a separate entity, making a separate argument, verifying the right to property (in this case, an opinion). This proof is further verified by the very existence of those making the arguments. If all property were held in common, with the attendant necessary agreement on the allocation of resources, then those making the conjectures would not exist as they would not have the right to the food that they eat. By the time a universal consensus on the disposal of foodstuffs is made by all those alive, no one would be living.

Lastly, to tie this all in with Karl Marx. According to Murray Rothbard’s Classical Economics, Marx’s ultimate vision of post-capitalism was indeed the common pre-Darwinian universal sentiency. Whether or not this is a Utopian vision is not today’s story.