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  1. #1
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    Mind Trapped by: Property rights, discussion of

    Recently I read two book, "The Homestead Steel Strike" and "The Pullman strike". Both are in regards to strikes that occurred in 1892 and 1894.

    Brief history. - Pullman strikes-
    The Pullman strikes were set off when a railroad car maker, created a modern(for the time) community for his workers to live in and a conflict arose between wages and rent. The conflict was set up basically by a single person being greatly responsible for an all encompassing part of his employees lives. They choose to work for him, rent from him, and buy at his stores. He created an integrated workplace where all their needs could be met. All was well, until the market pushed their wages down but he did not lower rents. It was escalated by the workers unions going on strike across the nation. Some notable escalations were the federal troops being deployed into a state where they were not invited by the Gov. The military Firing on civilians, most notably a young boy walking along the tacks.

    Brief history - Homestead steel strike-
    This instances had much more IMO to do with a power struggle between the idea of unions and ownership,though market pressures on wages was a bid deal. A steel mill was purchased by Andrew Carnegie, in order to keep it competitive in a hard market, he(or rather his representative) shut it down to update the mill, which meant fewer skilled workers needed, and fewer workers over all. The conflict here again is set up by a single person having an all encompassing influence on his workers. Here a single mill supported a town with 3000 families, and everyone either worked for the mill, or serviced it's workers. When negotiations fell through, the workers took possession of the mill and used force to prevent management from taking possession of it themselves. In this case 300+ armed security workers were fired upon by some 1000+ workers as they tried to land on barges, there were many injuries and death involved.



    ---------------------- Thoughts these book brought up..
    Now these are of course too brief of a summary of those events, but I believe the central issue in them was the amount of influence a single property owner was able to wield. So it brought a few thoughts to mind.
    1) Can property ownership by a single person become an inherent threat to others, so that them excising their basic rights causes great harm to others, as as to justify intervention?
    2) Should we try to limit that harm by limiting individual property rights?
    3) Are the issues created and conflict inescapable, and thus reason for us to do nothing?
    ----------------------

    *To the first question, suppose a man rose to wealth and prestige with such great persuasion that he convinced the whole world to sell all land to him. Thus there would be a single land owner over all. Now this may be rejected as an impossible extreme. However it serves to show that at some point individual property ownership would represent a danger to others. In this case, by denying access the world should be barren of all life. How simple a thing is access? How basic a principle of ownership?
    What about in more realistic examples? Does it apply to say, a person owning millions of acres of farm land? Or maybe to companies that could literally starve the nation? How about instances where a community is largely employed by a single employer? What about a person or company that simply employs a large amount of people?

    -What is the threat to others? I would say that the threat is the ability to destroy their lives. I mean, in the most base sense the instances of the Pullman strike, and the Homestead steel example the people were not acting out for no reason at all. Their lives had been unquestionably adversely effected.

    *To the second question, it seems that "the man who owns the world" example, is no use because we shouldn't act on things that are actually unlikely. However the instances of large scale employment, single employer for a community etc would seem to be more realistic. I am not certain about the answer to this question or where the line should be drawn, certainly before world wide ownership, and certainly not at a local shop keeper.

    *To the third question, For the most part we would say that there should be nothing illegal about the effects or the action taken especially on a very small scale. These effects are inherent, if I fire you from my two man team of candle makers, you will experience hardship you could starve, you could lose your house etc, it is not reasonable to say that I am the one who did that too you, rather it is just the harsh reality of life. There is no defense for an individual to use his loss of job to justify shooting an owner(or their rep) for trying to take possession of their property, or to otherwise prevent them from taking possession. So the question is, does that change by adding more people or multiplying the effect? The man who owns the world example seems to suggest that at some point it would.


    Your thoughts.
    What is your guiding principle, where is the line and why there?

    DISCUSS!!
    I apologize to anyone waiting on a response from me. I am experiencing a time warp, suddenly their are not enough hours in a day. As soon as I find a replacement part to my flux capacitor regulator, time should resume it's normal flow.

  2. #2
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    Re: Mind Trapped by: Property rights, discussion of

    Quote Originally Posted by MindTrap028 View Post
    To the first question, suppose a man rose to wealth and prestige with such great persuasion that he convinced the whole world to sell all land to him. Thus there would be a single land owner over all. Now this may be rejected as an impossible extreme. However it serves to show that at some point individual property ownership would represent a danger to others. In this case, by denying access the world should be barren of all life. How simple a thing is access? How basic a principle of ownership?
    The rules of commerce as practiced in this country routinely deny prospective buyers the right to purchase a certain item or piece of land. One example is anti-monopoly laws where certain purchases are not allowed if it would create a monopoly.

    So of course we CAN deny this hypothetical person the ability to legally purchase a certain piece of land, especially if we have a very good reason to do so (and your scenario certainly provides an excellent reason to deny this person the ability to purchase certain things).

    So wherever the line may be drawn, there certainly is a line and it falls squarely on the side of someone not being able to own everything he wants. In fact, if a person did own everything, it would basically be a dictatorship. If this man can deny you food, then he can kill you by starvation which means he has such control over your life, you are basically his slave (assuming he even lets you live).

    And while I won't get into such detail to point out exactly where the line should be, property ownership is tied to an economic system and therefore the principles of ownership should be dependent of the economic system's goals. I would say that a primary goal of an economic shystem should be to promote the well-being of the citizens of the society as much as possible. Since it's reasonable to hold the allowing citizens to own property is in line with this goal, the general legal right to own property should be granted. And in the case where a certain citizen owning a certain piece of property does more harm than good and therefore counteracts the society goal of general well-being, that particular purchase should be denied (anti-monopoly laws is an example of such a restriction).

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