Flutterby™! : On real estate

Next unread comment / Catchup all unread comments User Account Info | Logout | XML/Pilot/etc versions | Long version (with comments) | Weblog archives | Site Map | | Browse Topics

On real estate

2012-11-06 14:58:16.013018+00 by Dan Lyke 1 comments

JC, whom I know because his path leads him through Petaluma regularly, has been musing on his blog and other places about real estate ownership as violence. Since he doesn't have comments on his blog, I'll put 'em here.

Continued in the comments...

[ related topics: Weblogs Real Estate ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2012-11-06 14:58:29.004703+00 by: Dan Lyke

In philosophy, there's this concept of "negative" and "positive" liberties. "Negative" liberties are the obvious ones, life, liberty, etc., the ones that you'd have in the absence of society. "Positive liberties" are the ones that other people have to be around to support: food, housing, health care, that sort of thing. It's conceivable that you could have a society entirely voluntarily composed, but in practice, positive liberties necessitate coercing people into sharing resources.

For the record, I hate these terms because I think they water down the notion of "liberty" and positively load the meaning of the one that requires violence.

Ownership of created objects, materials and ideas is a "negative" liberty: You can always choose to not share those things with others, and you still own them. Ownership of limited resources, however, means you're depriving someone else of them.

In order to live in an entirely foraging society, one in which one can have all of the negative rights and the ability to make thir own living off the land, you need a population density somewhere lower than one person every square mile or two. Any population density higher than that, and people must cooperate, start to work towards established agriculture, find ways to bring higher yields from the land than simple hunter-gatherer behaviors support.

As the population density rises, negative rights require enforcement: You need some mechanism for violence to keep others from infringing on the rights that you formerly carried simply by dint of lack of other people around.

Thus: Having children to a population density higher than one or two humans per square mile or so act of violence. Which means that somewhere, probably on the order of fifty thousand years ago, humans passed that threshold where negative rights were no longer something one could intrinsically take, but were something that needed collaboration from other humans to maintain.

And, yes, at this point it became necessary to defend land from other human tribes who also wanted to reproduce at a greater rate than the land could support by foraging.

Gregory Clark's A Farewell To Alms[Wiki] makes a great case that as the population densities rise over the ability of the land to support a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, standards of living generally fall, and that although established agriculture allows a plot of land to support more people, it does so at the cost of an 8-10 hour work day vs a 2-3 hour work day.

At least until the Industrial Revolution, when figuring out how to exploit stored energy reserves allowed humans to break (for now) the basic Malthusian trap.

This realization was part of my eventual disillusionment with Objectivism: I am descended from a long line of people who were violent enough to claim land ownership, to reproduce at a rate that necessitates the violence which positive liberties require.

When we acknolwedge that property ownership, claiming a set of limited resources as our own, is an inherently violent act, it brings a lot of philosophy into focus. Society is inherently violent. I was stuck in a philosophy that held non-violence as an end-goal, and had trouble reconciling that with the inherently violent world around me.

The thing about law and the various other cultural myths we buy into is that they allow that violence, and removal of negative liberties, to be translated into positive liberties, and when faced with the choice between foraging and the benefits of cooperative agriculture, most people will choose the one that gives their genes the greatest chance of continued propagation.

When I acknowledged that, I was no longer worried about creating a non-violent culture, or a fair or just culture, I became concerned with how I could create a society that I enjoyed living in and that rewarded me within the scope of my lifetime.