Thursday, June 01, 2006

 

Tyler Cowen On "Rights"

Tyler trolls Alex over at Marginal Revolution. Here are some excerpts I would like to hear Jenna's or Travis' take on.

It's liability per se that isn't justified by libertarian standards. Under Lockean property rights theory, you own physical things, not the values of those things. It is for this reason that if you set up shop next to a competitor, you are not infringing his property rights, even if his business ends up being worth less. So let's say I steal your painting. Yes, you do deserve your painting back. It is yours. But say I steal your painting and lose it or wreck it. That should be the end of the story. You never owned the "value of that painting." You simply owned the physical painting. You are not due compensation. If you take my money as compensation for your loss, that is simply another theft.
And further...
Rights aggressors do not, in fact, lose their own rights in turn. Why should they? Evreyone in prison is there unjustly and yes that includes murderers.

Comments:
If this is an accurate rendering of Lockean rights theory it sounds like Locke was mixing political theory with ethics, particularly just war theory, which permits use of force only so far as to cause the encroachment by the perpetrator to cease.
(See the troll)
Nathan
 
I don't think he accurately depicts the libertarian viewpoint and I think the first comment helps illustrate that.
 
The quote from Locke on the troll seems to back up the statement that this is not Locke's point of view. I have not read Locke, so... My question, and the question posed to Travis and Jenna: Do you know of any contrary statement by Locke to possibly back up Tyler's perspective?
Nathan
 
Nathan,

Well I'm certain it's not Locke's point of view. And it certainly isn't the point of view of any rights-libertarians i know. That seems to be the point.

Tyler's arguments are just unpleasent consequences of taking rights arguments to their logical conclusions. His first point in particular is a pretty clever turn and I don't see why he's wrong.

Hence, I would like to hear what our two biggest natural rights defenders have to say about it. Why is Tyler getting conclusions that libertarians don't like? Where is he messing up? Why should the painting owner be compensated? Why DO people lose the rights "god gave them" when they trangress the rights of another?

Anyone else with a soft spot for rights arguments (that means you Chris and Nathan) are also welcomed to respond.
 
The best response on the troll, by Sean Lynch, clarifies that property is a negative right. It's not that I own the painting that matters so much as that you don't own the painting.

Tyler is getting bad conclusions because he is a pag... oh, nevermind.
Nathan
 
"Tyler's arguments are just unpleasent consequences of taking rights arguments to their logical conclusions."

I don't think so. I think it's a huge leap to say that we can only have the right to own physical things, which is where all this nonsense begins. If Locke said that, then I disagree with Locke, but that does not make me any less of a "natural rights" libertarian. I think we've come a long way since Locke, whether he's being accurately represented here or not.

But if you want to begin a debate about whether or not there is such a thing as non-physical property, I'd be glad to do that. I think there is.
 
Travis,

Nonsense? Jenna made the argument
a couple of months ago that a neighbor covering her property with smoke by burning his trash was not a violation of her rights. The fact that that might lower the value of her home didn't bother her. And if I was smarter, I would have seen the implication Tyler saw. This is why I am particuarly interested in what Jenna has to say.

Of course, at the time, you didn't call it non-sense. In fact, you called it a "good post" (though you apparently didn't hold the same views).

And in the same thread both of you agreed that the government is never justified in stepping on the rights of others.To me, that would seem to even include art thieves that destroy your stuff. But it apparently doesnt? This one is actually part of a group of question that i've been trying to get answered for a while (see unjust family post and comments on other threads). So far without much success.

So if you can set me straight on these issues and others I would really appreciate it. I will also repost my "what are rights" thread so you can take a stab at my other questions.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Just so my questions are clear...

1) What do you mean by having the right to the value of your property? In the case of land, do you have the "right" the it "value" before or after you make improvements (like adding a home)??

What if Disney world moves in a mile down the road, dramatically raising the market value of your land. Do you have the right to that extra value?? Or Does Disney?

What about Tyler's example? What if a more competitve restraunt moves in next your restraunt and puts you out of business?? Are your competitors violating your rights???


2) Even if we decide you do have a right to the value of your property, what gives you the right to take compensation from people that desroy it??

In Tyler's example, what about the rights of the art thief?? Does he not also have a right to HIS property?

If our rights really do derive from reason, are given from God, or delievered by magic, how can you lose them?? I remember asking this question somewhere else and I still don't see why this is so.
 
Travis,

Sorry. Typing too quickly. Here's an edited version of the previous questions. More readible.

1) What do you mean by having the right to the value of your property? In the case of land, do you have the "right" to the "value" the land had before or after you make improvements (like adding a home)?? Both? What if the land value changes in the future for things someone else did.

For example, What if Disney world moves in a mile down the road, dramatically raising the market value of your land. Do you have the right to that extra value?? Or Does Disney?

What about Tyler's example? What if a more competitve restraunt moves in next your restraunt and puts you out of business?? Are your competitors violating your rights???

2) Even if we decide you do have a right to the value of your property, what gives you the right to take compensation from people that desroy it??

In Tyler's example, what about the rights of the art thief?? Does he not also have a right to HIS property?

If our rights really do derive from reason, are given from God, or delievered by magic, how can you lose them?? I remember asking this question somewhere else and I still don't see why this is so.
 
Again, I think the alternative, violence, helps us think about some of these questions. We seek judicial arbitration as an alternative to violence. Judicial review has discovered workable resolutions to rights violations. One ancient precept stated that if property were lost or damaged accidentally the owner was due 6/5 the value of the lost or damaged property.
My point is that theory can only take us so far. At some point we have to look at what is workable, empirically, to help us discover what law should be. The best arena for this process is judicial review by impartial third parties. Each individual case is a new scientific experiment, naturally occurring, from which we can take observations to more clearly state legal principles.
The reason we don't have good answers to questions like property values is that the Common Law process was undermined by arbitrary legislated law before it could work these issues out. Ditto for issues like abortion and child labor, etc.. There should be good answers to some of these questions, like Block's arguements about abortion, but they cannot obtain convention in today's legal climate.
Nathan
 
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