No man should encroach on another's family or product.
This page applies the "More but not less" principle (see Appendices) to the fact of territory. As this Section of the Creed pertains to the original unspoiled world, I assume here that all concerned comply with duty; elsewhere I discuss dealing with the consequences if they deviate from it.
How should I regard other men's produce?
Territory is a fact among animals. An individual or group establishes control of a certain extent of land.
Property, that a man's body and the work of his hands belong to him, is a widespread intuition; many find excuses to set it aside, but few deny it outright. In general, only societies sunk in savagery seem to lack it altogether. This human intuition of property seems to be a refinement of that zoological fact.
Robert Nozick, in Chapter 8 of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, notes how Marxism and similar theories, claiming to explain property as a superstructure arising from a substructure of "relations of production", in fact includes, in their description of the substructure, what amounts to the notion of property. This fact illustrates how deeply embedded the principle is in our consciousness.
Such considerations encourage my kataskeuanism. This upholds producer's right, the belief that a man's produce is his property, that is, that nobody should encroach on his control of it.
Greek kataskeuazo means make, build etc.
Women and children cannot own property, for then they would be independent of men. (See elsewhere in this Creed.)
An invention is an idea not a product, and its inventor has no right to interfere in how others use his invention.
On land and historic injustice see Land.
Kataskeuanism can be stated as an acronym: WIPIM. "What I Produce Is Mine."
Rejectors of Kataskeuanism usually favour Statism, the belief in an organisation (state or government) with a right to seize other men's produce.
Statists win every election, so in practice most people favour it, but their reasons for this are unclear to me. However, I will examine them as well as I can in my replies to the various statist theories.
Many combine clear support for the state with the haziest ideas of what it is for. As if to say "I dunno what the destination is but I'm sure this is the way".
Conditional statism advocates a state only in anticipation of bad conduct by individuals, but unconditional statism advocates it regardless of that. An unconditional statist may also believe that anticipated bad conduct provides an additional basis, but this is not a third type, it just means that the two motives may act together. Many statists, including professional politicians and academics, are confused about which of these they uphold. This reflects a deeper confusion about whether they uphold ethical relativism, according to which "bad conduct" is an empty phrase. Here I am assuming that it is not empty.
Here I only address unconditional statism, that is, views that assume uniformly good conduct by all concerned. I address conditional statism in the appropriate Section. The use of force arises from bad conduct, so is not mentioned here. Enforcement is traditionally seen as an essential feature of states, so maybe the hypothetical organisations discussed here should not be called states. However, the underlying belief in an authority entitled to interfere is the same, and anyway I know of no suitable alternative word.
Statist theories can be divided into two groups depending on whether the encroachments are justified in terms of entitlement (democratism) or of consequences (political consequentialism).
(Democracy) "Producing an asset confers no ownership; all assets are owned by the public, the people as a whole. If private ownership refines territoriality, public ownership refines it more."
Pure democratist rhetoric is prominent in public political discourse, and many seem to think they believe it, but few seem to hold it very firmly. I regard it as nonsensical. See Democracy.
(Political Consequentialism) "We should override producer's rights to achieve good outcomes."
Such theories often start with sound moral intuitions, aspirations to improve society and suchlike, and it is to be expected that following such intuitions will generally aid rather than hindering our cultural task, since both are God-given. So if any of the alleged grounds for overriding producer's right seemed weighty enough I should reexamine my kataskeuan intuition.
But in fact I find none of these factors persuasive. For details see Political Consequentialism.
I conclude that political consequentialism is generally based on envy, selfishness or conservatism (fear of change), not on reasoning, and that all the alleged reasons are covers for these shyer motives.
Extreme and moderate consequentialisms. Semikataskeuanism aims to balance producer's rights against consequential considerations. Akataskeuanism is the extreme or pure form, in which a producer has no special rights at all; his opinion as to how to dispose of his product has no more weight than anyone else's. I find this form even less plausible than the moderate form because in seeking to repress the territorial instinct altogether, whether in individual or collective form, it regards man as less than beast. Many seem to espouse it in words, but I think it is rare in practice, though the matter is murky because where assets remain with their producers it is impossible to distinguish between kakaskeuan and consequential motives.
Other Alleged Alternatives
(Cultism) "Instead of a coercive authority we need a moral authority that we are all morally obliged to recognise and obey."
Statism is a form of Authoritarianism. This is another form. See Authoritarianism.
(Militarism) "Assets are not owned, and seizures are generally good because conflict stimulates progress. War is normal and healthy. Instead of restraining our territorial instinct by asserting producer's right we should liberate it by recognising conqueror's right, the right of strong individuals or nations to plunder weak ones. This approach has been espoused by many nations in many periods of history."
"The creatures see of flood and field, and those that travel on the wind!
With them no strife can last; they live in peace, and peace of mind.
For why? Because the good old rule sufficeth them, the simple plan,
That they should take, who have the power, and they should keep who can."
William Wordsworth, Rob Roy's Grave (1803). (Probably not his own view, but he expresses it memorably.)
Few now admit to militarism, but it has been popular in the past and we should be clear about why we reject it. I reject it because its naturalism regards man as mere beast. Its conqueror's right is a license for all to do as they wish, a denial of all standards, a moral relativism, and this is addressed under an earlier item of this creed.
(Anarcho-Socialism) "We just need to treat each other well."
This is addressed above under "Democratism".
Other Objections to Kataskeuanism
What about altruism?
The question here is who should control products, and the standard is non-encroachment. Another important question, but a separate one, is how they should control them, and there the generosity to which you appeal has its proper place.
"Our principle leaves every man to enjoy that peaceably, which either his own industry, or his parents have purchased to him: only he is thereby instructed to use it aright."
Robert Barclay, An Apology for the True Christian Divinity (1676), under Thesis 15.
"What about human rights?"
Human rights are addressed elsewhere so need no special treatment here. See Human Rights.
"What if a man is unknowingly walking off a cliff?"
I will try to restrain him as an emergency measure, but if he insists I will then step aside. I am not encroaching on his freedom, only touching delicately on its boundary.
But if he is incapable of acting as a man, I will try to restrain him until his guardian can be contacted or established. See earlier in this Creed under "Status".
"Christianity is about sharing possessions, not clinging to them."
Yes, sharing them voluntarily, not having them seized by force or stolen away.
"Let the thief no longer steal."
Paul of Tarsus, Epistle to the Ephesians 4:28. He did not add, "but of course if enough of you get together and take a vote, that's all right." Peter's rebuke to Ananias in Acts 5 (not for holding property back but for lying about it) also makes clear that it is for rich men to give, not for others to demand, much less to force.
Back to Main Contents.