Why are property "rights" and ownership never emphasized enough in your analysis?

Your economic analysis as well as that of Karl Marx emphasize labor, jobs, and income inequality. While this analysis is indeed correct, it leaves out a more fundamental issue. The issue of property “rights” and how they are determined. While we can all concur that life, liberty, clean air, clean water are basic rights for all of us. I don’t think property is a “right” of anyone, but rather a “claim” to said property by said individuals or organizations. The society collectively then looks at the validity of the claim, and if so determines that the claim is morally and ethically just and valid, “honors” the property “claim”, but is never a “right”, and in most cases the property “claim”’s validity should not be permanent but for a reasonable span of time. By property I mean in the broadest general meaning, not just land and real estate. Indeed we must include anything tangible or intangible (intellectual) that without man made boundaries would by nature be the common domain for all of society. Much of the private property claims today are of questionable validity and are in fact theft. Just some of the many examples: Non-consensual taking of property by force such as the land that native peoples have occupied for millennia, and property (money) taken by forced labor. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) essentially gave away huge sections of the broadcast “rights” of the electromagnetic spectrum to special interests in 1996. The patent office grants monopolies to individuals and organizations without the collective consent of the population. In fact I posit that much of the problem of health care costs can be solved by re-examining the laws regarding intellectual property claims, the scope of the claims, the ethical and moral validity of the claims, and examined whether or not society should side step the free market to protect special interest profits. The worker coops are a good solution where the labor owns the company. If we can show that many of the property “claims” of the capitalist class are in fact unjust, invalid, and expired then the morally just and valid claims of the coops would naturally take hold. Without the society in general honoring the property claims of the capital class, the wealth and income inequality dilemma would be a self-solving problem

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Ways of social criticism change just as do ways of defending social systems. There was a time - and there likely will be again - when the focus of capitalism's major critics was property and how capitalism required and was based on very particular notions of private property (notions deemed unnecessary and unjust). One of Marx's early teachers, Proudhon, was famous for the remark "property is theft." Marx's own work included major attacks on capitalist private property; Engels offered a profound property-critical history in the pamphlet "The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State." Later work aimed to explain how and why particular property definitions and rules were foundational to capitalism and that took a critical focus from property to the system, the organization of production (its class structure and dynamic). My work emerges out of that later stage, bit I am open to hearing argument as to why a return in some way to property-criticism make sense now as a way forward theoretically and politicially.

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  • Richard Wolff
    responded with submitted 2017-04-30 13:25:37 -0400
  • Ed Kideys
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-04-28 12:42:18 -0400