The purpose of this paper is to suggest a rethinking of the common-versus-private framing of the property rights issue in the Commons Movement. The underlying normative principle we will use is simply the basic juridical principle that people should be legally responsible for the (positive and negative) results of their actions, i.e., that legal or de jure responsibility should be imputed in accordance with de facto responsibility. In the context of property rights, the responsibility principle is the old idea that property should be founded on people getting the (positive or negative) fruits of their labor, which is variously called the labor or natural rights theory of property.
In this fifth and concluding part of the review of John Tomasi’s book Free Market Fairness, we look at the invisible hand mechanism of the property system (in contrast to the usual price system) which seems to be invisible to liberal scholars and social scientists since it does not give a satisfactory “account” of the current economic system based on the renting of human beings.
In this Part IV, we consider the rather fake “inalienable rights” theory of classical liberal/libertarian thought that is consistent with a civilized voluntary slavery contract, a nondemocratic pact of subjection, and a coverture marriage contract, all of which are outlawed in the advanced democracies.
In this Part III, we consider the conceptual misunderstanding of what Tomasi calls “productive property” which allows the basic capitalism-versus-socialism misframing of the debate about the so-called “capitalist” system.
In Part I of this series, we saw how Tomasi used the standard consent-versus-coercion misframing of the basic issues in his new book: Free Market Fairness. In this Part II, we consider the misframing involved in the treatment of property rights.
The continuing financial collapse of 2008, which caused trillions of dollars of damages to most everyone but the Wall Street elites, will perhaps lead to some hesitation in the reflex to evoke the Wall Street model—if not to some more fundamental rethinking of the issues. Perhaps the Occupy Wall Street movements around the world are the beginning of such a rethinking. In any case, our purpose here is such a rethinking by going back to some of the basic principles that are supposed to be exemplified in a market economy.
This post is an update of a previous post on The Charter Cities Debate and Democratic Theory. A new twist on Paul Romer’s idea of charter cities has come to my attention. It is promoted under the name of “free cities.” The home base seems to be the Free Cities Institute headquartered at the Francisco Marroquin University, a right-wing university in Guatemala.
Surely it is not too much to ask a modern liberal theory of justice that it provide a coherent account of why some contracts, e.g., self-sale contract, should be deemed invalid and why the rights such contracts would legally alienate are inalienable. In that sense, the theory of inalienable rights provides a historical litmus test for liberalism.