Flutterby™! : Collectivist property rights

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

Collectivist property rights

2002-10-10 18:09:49+00 by Dan Lyke 14 comments

While we're making fun of Libertarians, Reason Magazine ran this doozy: Ronald Bailey argues against organic farmers having property rights because... well... you'll just have to read it. And if you agree with him, then you'll certainly consent to us putting a uranium mine in next to your house, because a nuclear materials processing facility would be so much more profitable than raising kids there.

[ related topics: Politics Objectivism Libertarian ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-10-10 18:19:56+00 by: Diane Reese

Ronald Bailey appears to be the author of something called, "Global Warming and Other Eco Myths". 'Nuff said.

#Comment made: 2002-10-10 18:30:33+00 by: Jerry Kindall

Interesting article raising a lot of valid points from a different perspective, and worth a read even if you don't agree with the conclusion.

#Comment made: 2002-10-10 20:21:10+00 by: crasch

I don't think that he's arguing against organic farmers having property rights. Rather, he's pointing out that it's often unclear where to best draw the property rights line, and that it may not be best to draw the line by giving organic farmers the legal right to sue those who "contaminate" their crops.

For example, should the owners of genetically engineered crops have the right to counter-sue organic farmers for letting the pollen of genetically archaic crops contaminate their fields? If not, why should organic farmers have that right?

#Comment made: 2002-10-10 20:55:34+00 by: TheSHAD0W


As to the Uranium mine -- the libertarian view is, if it ain't hurting you, then you should live with it. If they're mining Uranium and the dust is making your property radioactive, then you can sue.

Besides, if there's Uranium ore next to your house in sufficient quantity for mining, it's probably not very healthy living there, anyway. Plus I'm sure the mining company would be happy to pay you top dollar for the place so they could extend their mines under your property...

#Comment made: 2002-10-10 20:56:13+00 by: Dan Lyke

The two reasons that come immediately to mind are:

  1. The conventional farmer isn't likely to get sued for patent violations by the source of the "genetically archaic" seeds.
  2. While it's easy to trace the origins of the genetically modified seeds, in most cases (and this is where we get into broad stereotypes) those pollens are probably naturally occurring in the region in which the organic produce is grown, thus while it'd be possible to trace an increase to a given field, it's impossible to trace the occurrence of any of the pollen to a source.

Although I'm fully aware that there are Holland Tunnell sized holes one could drive through #2.

#Comment made: 2002-10-10 20:59:16+00 by: Dan Lyke

Shadow, yep, the uranium mine is fine if there's no dust blowing over on to my property. Which leads, of course, to the problem that real estate property rights involve force as soon as someone has offspring which force the population density high enough that a person can't have enough land in between them and their neighbor that each cannot see the other.

Bailey's argument is that it's fine if some entity tells you there's no problem, or if you could use its presence to make more money than you currently are with the land.

(Yes, I am in a trolling mood today...)

#Comment made: 2002-10-10 21:58:48+00 by: dexev

It's very important to understand that Bailey has a definite agenda, especially with regard to organic farming. Some of his other articles:


#Comment made: 2002-10-10 23:17:50+00 by: crasch


  1. IMHO, GMO producers shouldn't be able to sue for patent infringement. But I also think that organic farmers shouldn't be able to prevent GMO crops from being planted in the vicinity. It seems to me that it would be better to reform patent law instead--just because we have one bad law, doesn't mean that we should create another.
  2. If GMO farmers could trace the source of organic farm pollen to particular fields, would you support the right of GMO farmers to sue the organic farmers for contamination?

The problem is that the air is a difficult-to-partition commons. It's easy to prevent my car, say, from impinging upon my neighbor's property. But how, practically speaking, is a GMO farmer supposed to prevent his field from contaminating other fields? (Or vice versa). Bailey discusses some methods (terminator genes, for example) but GMO opponents don't even want the possibility of contamination.

In the past, this hasn't been as big a problem, because there was rarely any perceived damage in cross pollination. If there was, (say one farmer's field got infected with corn smut), most everyone in the community could agree that the infected crops should be burned/destroyed.

In the case of GMO's, there's sharp disagreement over the extent to which GMO's are harmful (if at all).

Also, what about naturally occuring crops? For example, suppose you have two pumpkin farmers. One grows dwarf pumpkins, the other grows giant pumpkins. Suppose dwarf pumpkin pollen fertilizers giant pumpkin plants--does the giant pumpkin farmer get to sue the dwarf pumpkin farmer?

#Comment made: 2002-10-11 00:20:51+00 by: crasch [edit history]

Sorry for the duplicates.

#Comment made: 2002-10-11 00:22:03+00 by: crasch [edit history]

#Comment made: 2002-10-11 00:37:33+00 by: crasch [edit history]

#Comment made: 2002-10-11 00:37:42+00 by: crasch [edit history]

#Comment made: 2002-10-11 15:23:26+00 by: TheSHAD0W

I'm sorry, but I disagree that property rights in a close neighborhood implicitly create a condition where the initiation of force is necessary. The presence of force, perhaps, to enforce contracts, deed restrictions, and the like; but force is NOT prohibited in a libertarian society, only initiation of force.

Libertarianism is NOT pacifism. Force in itself is not evil, when it is used in response to force or fraud.

#Comment made: 2002-10-11 15:44:30+00 by: Dan Lyke

Shadow, my point is that taken to its extreme, as soon as your property changes the photons falling on my property, you're infringing on my property rights. Thus at a certain density we lose the buffer zone and start working with compromises on property.