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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Six Basic Rights or Why Property is not an Absolute Right

Why property is not an absolute right.

The wealthy love the right to property. To them it ought to be unlimited so they can take property away from their debtors or the people they employ to dig their holes and garden their gardens -- and make them once again slaves and serfs. Property rights cannot be absolute. None of us live on this earth forever. Real Estate property if finite, and possession of property is a monopoly right that if treated as an absolute right tends to infringe on the acquisition property rights of others.

Right to Home and livelihood IS inalienable

Individual rights start where individual needs become legitimate and stop when they infringe on others [oppression] (and vice versa). Thus, justly, Jefferson talked about the right to "pursue happiness" not property rights. The reason that property rights cannot be absolute is that property must be acquired, land property is both necessary to everyone and finite. Thus property is a privilege necessary to other rights, but not an absolute right in and of themselves. Thus the right to real property is a privilege that can stem from other rights but cannot be absolute. But there are rights that the property privilege reflects and why property should be a limited right. And Franklin Roosevelt expressed these rights in his four freedoms and six new rights speeches. The argument for those freedoms in terms of natural rights, is what I'm concerned with here.

FDR's Speech
The Six Basic Rights Are:
A Job
An Adequate wage and decent living (living wage)
A decent home
Medical care
Economic Protection during sickness, accident, old age, or unemployment
A good education

No question but people should have these rights. And I'll explain some of the reasons why.

Ideas are like Pandora's box.

Ideas are like Pandora's box. Once the box is opened they can't be recalled. Humans have certain inalienable rights; black, brown, round headed, long headed, fat headed or pointy headed; and one can tell they are inalienable by the suffering engendered when they are infringed. An inalienable right can't be removed without causing massive suffering. When ordinary people are dispossessed by thoughtless landlords, government officials, or the viciousness of our capital system; their lives are imperiled and they suffer awful deprivation and pain. The right isn't "property" per-se, but property in the form of a "home" -- a place with the properties of shelter, warmth, and security. The inalienable right is home. The right to a home is inalienable, because denying that right is alienating. It is self evident that families shouldn't be forced to die in the snow or flood.

Demonstrating inalienability by demonstrating alienation

It is always easier for a politician or visionary to articulate principles than it is to apply them. Often times, since politicians emerge from the natural aristocracy (as we raise them up to represent us or rule us depending on OUR maturity) -- they tend to be frightened when the implications of their own words come back to them. That was certainly true with the authors of the Declaration of Independence. For Jefferson and Adams liberty was a great principle when it was their own. When the French started believing it applied to shopkeepers and "hair dressers" folks like Adams and Edmund Burke bolted the movement. When black slaves in Haiti and parts of Virginia espousing those principles even Jefferson started having second thoughts about the idea. Our wealthy don't like the idea of the 6 Freedoms, because life is easier when they have the power to deny them. Nothing makes someone pay the rent, or put up with tyrannical employers, like the prospect of being evicted, losing access to doctors or being fired.

Thus, one can argue by deprivation that the right to a home is a right necessary to pursue and achieve happiness. Likewise with the other freedoms. People can't live without the ability to labor and feed themselves. They can't survive without medical care. And our system won't survive without universal basic education.

Affirmative Arguments

One can also argue affirmatively that these basic rights make for a stronger society, more "common weal" in our commonwealth, better representation etc... Again that frightens aristocrats and some of them will do anything to keep people down. Including denying that the six rights are in fact rights and not privileges that they should control as lords and masters. It's the logic of slavery versus the logic of liberty, but what the hey, call yourself a libertarian and say it anyway.

Further Reading

The Four Freedoms of FDR:

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear
Six Rights
Youtube speech:
Four Freedoms
First published April 17, 2014, updated

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