My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

Property or People

with 24 comments

     Are people property?  It would seem that the answer to that was determined in the United States during and just after the Civil War.  The United States determined that nobody could own another person as property.

     If a person is property at all, and that is a big if, then she or he is the property only of himself or herself.  How could it be otherwise?  I would suggest that one aspect of our survival instinct is that our life and person are in our hands to do with as we wish.  The fact that I have a will seems to entitle me naturally to use it.  The fact that I can reason suggests that I have the capability to determine what is best for me, which implies that I have the right to do so.

     I have worked for two organizations whose leaders liked to tell the employees that our people are our greatest resource.  Huh?  I always found that insulting.  It is dehumanizing.  A piece of paper or an electric current is a resource; I am not.  In that sentence who are the people and who are the our?  It seems to mean that the lowly workers (“our people”)  are tools to be used by the elite employers.  The possessive pronoun could imply that the workers are owned by the leaders.  At the very least, it is an insensitive and insulting thing to say.  Especially when one of the two organizations calls everyone, from the president on down, a member of the organization.

     People are sovereign over their lives and persons.  In terms of personhood, we are all, with very few exceptions, equal.  Those people who are incapacitated are still fully human–fully persons–in my book, and the help that they require is actually needed to preserve their sovereignty as persons, not to undermine it.

     My view on this matter influences my view on other issues.  For example, both abortion and taxation are related to it. 

     Induced abortion treats the fetus as the property of the woman–to do with as she wishes.  Hardly anyone would argue that a woman can do anything she pleases with her child after it is born, because we recognize the right to life and the right to safety of the baby.  However a few moments and a few inches before it is born, that same baby is vulnerable to a mother’s “right” to dispose of it, according to current law in the United States.

     Taxation for the purpose of redistributing income treats people as property.  I’m not referring to taxes used to pay for services agreed upon by the people, such as police protection and bridges.  I’m referring to the taking of wealth from one person and giving it to another person.  Only if we operate under the assumption that a person, and his wealth, are the property of the collective (the people who want the money), can we justify such an act.  Unders such an assumption, you are not your own and the assets that you have acquired are not your own.  They belong to the state and can be confiscated by the state as it chooses and give way by the state as it chooses.

     This post is about fundamental principles.  No matter how much you think the wealthy should be taxed, you are basically saying that what other people have belongs to you, and that you have the right to take it from them and use it as you please.  I object.

     What’s yours is yours, and what’s mine is mine.  I’ll be glad to share what I have, and I hope that you are, too.  However, I will never concede that you have the right to take what is mine or that I have the right to take what is yours.  I am a person, I am not your property. 

     Neither are you my property.


Written by ambrosianideas

August 7, 2010 at 3:25 am

24 Responses

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  1. […] 2010 · Leave a Comment      At my other blog I have posted my thoughts on the topic of people as property.  Would you please check it […]

  2. interesting and nicely stated post. I am in agreement with your thinking.

    Now what I see as the problem is that likely you won’t get discussion on the redistribution of wealth. If they follow the central tenet that we each deserve to control what we have accumulated for ourselves without government taking it then they destroy the ability to argue for thhe continued repressive taxation to use for the “greater good” – which of course they define.

    At leas that seems to be what happens in those types of discussions.


    August 8, 2010 at 4:33 pm

  3. Actually, capitalism encourages wage-slavery whereby one class is able to get the benefits of the work from another, justified by the claim that “they could work elsewhere.” But just because a market values labor at a certain level doesn’t make it just, and doesn’t mean that one group is using its control of production to benefit and exploit another group. So really, capitalism unrestrained by efforts to make sure everyone has true equal opportunity, with certain minimum standards, is to treat humans as slaves. Regulated effective market capitalism with some redistribution based on democratic processes is a way to avoid treating people as property.

    Scott Erb

    August 9, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    • And from your point of view could you tell me where it ends? When do you stand up and point to the receiver of that redistribution and say, “you have all you’re entitled to, you get not one dime more?”


      August 9, 2010 at 6:26 pm

  4. My own view is that equal opportunity needs to be stressed over outcome, with education, health care, and enough money to nourish oneself and family essential minimums. I worry about a psychology of dependency if the emphasis is on outcomes, and we’ve seen that with some of the current welfare programs. Ultimately it’s a political question — as long as government is in the hands of the people, I foresee that question being answered via debate and experimentation (what works or doesn’t work, what goes too far, etc.)

    Scott Erb

    August 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    • And this is where we will not agree. That is not an answer to the question, it’s an evasion of it.

      “as long as government is in the hands of the people…” It is? Then why are the “people” being ignored so much?

      “equal opportunity needs to be stressed over outcome…” Try as you might there will never be “equal opportunity.” It’s been tried more than once and failed.

      “and enough money to nourish oneself and family essential minimums…” Okay, what are the minimums? Or are we back to “debate and experimentation?”

      The “debate and experimentation” has been on-going for about 50 years now and, apparently we are no closer to finding the solution than when it started. Political questions are never solved, just re-argued every so often.

      This is where – to me – progressives/liberals/the left will always fail. No concrete end is given, you’ll just continue to debate and experiment with how much to steal from one side to give to the other. Have you ever considered that with some clearly defined limits that are kept to you might gain more support for your system from the opposition?


      August 9, 2010 at 6:54 pm

      • There is no answer that comes from outside politics, just a lot of diverse answers reflecting different opinions. Everyone would love their particular opinion to be THE answer, but no one can do that without imposing their will on others. So the only legitimate answer is the result of the political process — though part of getting there is debating and exchanging opinions. That’s where your perspective fails — unless the people choose your answer, you have no right to impose it. To do so would be fascism.

        Scott Erb

        August 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm

  5. “unless the people choose your answer, you have no right to impose it. To do so would be fascism.”

    Which is exactly what happened with the health care overhaul – fascism. Thank you for pointing that out.

    I was liberal once upon a time. I came around when I found liberals never want to find or decide where the “end” point of a problem was going to be regardless. They’ll suck the life out of anyone to “better” some other person’s life, whether it is “fair” or not.

    I know who the thieves are and every legal way I can find to be a bit less of a victim to them I will do.


    August 9, 2010 at 7:19 pm

  6. No, health care reform was passed through a democratic process. To call that fascism is over the top hyberbolic rhetoric. All this demonization of “liberals” and categorization of people with labels is really an escape from reason and debate into emotion-driven ideology. We know from history that isn’t a good path to take. Your rhetoric is a rejection of reasoned debate, it is anti-democratic in tone. If you continue that way you’ll never convince people that your ideas are right because you’re not supporting your ideas, you’re just calling names.

    Step back and take a breath. Most liberals and conservatives both want what’s best, and have more agreements than disagreements. I don’t know of any “liberal” who fits you’re caricatured description (though to be fair, I’ve seen people on the left caricature conservatives and ‘right wingers’ in just as silly a manneer.) Let’s be grown ups and debate without demonization and emotion as the guide.

    Scott Erb

    August 9, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    • Thanks for the discussion but I am finished. You never answered the question I originally asked. You now choose to fall into a using different tired and old tactics so I am finished.


      August 9, 2010 at 8:16 pm

      • Run away, but I did answer, you lie to say I didn’t. I said I would focus on making opportunity more equal, gave areas where I thought access is important, and argued against redistribution that creates a psychology of dependency. In fact, I criticized our current system for doing that.

        Again, it’s a lie to say I didn’t answer. I can give you my position on various programs and regulations, but nobody can give one generic answer on “how far” in some quantifiable, distinct number. The question is too vague, unanswerable in that way by dint of how it was worded. So you set up a debate that you can just demonize, pontificate and then run away from. My mistake was to take it seriously and give you an honest clear answer. You obviously weren’t going to accept any answer.

        If that’s the best you can do, I really pity you. I answered you, and if you ask more specific questions, I can answer more specifically. You’re apparently just afraid of honest debate, and you hide behind meaningless rhetoric. I’m very unimpressed and disappointed. I thought you were better than that.

        Scott Erb

        August 9, 2010 at 8:33 pm

  7. Thanks. Appreciate the kind remarks. I’m a liar in your opinion – you’re a fool in mine.

    Good day sir.


    August 10, 2010 at 12:22 am

    • OK, if you look back and admit I attempted to answer your question, tell me what it was that you felt I should do in answering it, then I’ll apologize for calling you a liar. It feels like you just don’t want discussion, the way you demonize “liberals” and call names. It seems like you want to self-righteously fight a cause and be certain your enemies are fools, something that (whether on the left or right) real discussion almost always proves wrong. Conservatives, liberals and others (I’ve voted Republican in my state’s last two Senate races) are almost all good intentioned.

      Now, prove me wrong — prove you aren’t afraid of discussion and that we can rise above silly squabbling and reply with civility and I’ll certainly do likewise. Debate and disagreement is what make democracy work — it is why democracy survives and is over time self-correcting. Let’s be grown ups here, I’d love to say my charge against you was wrong and move to something more substantive. But that’s up to you at this point, my sense is you really don’t want real discussion. I hope I’m wrong.

      Scott Erb

      August 10, 2010 at 12:46 am

      • Really, I don’t believe that I am going to answer – but here I am.

        I speak of liberals in the generic sense in what I’ve lived and watch go on in America these past several decades. I’ve watched conservatives and what they’ve done in America (and I don’t find a lot of it good from them either).

        I wasn’t asking you for specifics – I was speaking to the LACK of what seems to be the left (in the general sense) not wanting to stand up and say “hey y’all got all you’re going to get – you have no rights to anymore, we aren’t going to demand anyone pay up more than they are now.” I don’t want “it’s a fluid stopping point, we’ll just have to see” type answer. How about the left and right get together and pick a stopping point – each side can “give” some in their views. Then once that is found start working out what the entitlements are up and to the solid end point?

        Hate the conservatives and Republicans but they have at different times stood up and legislated an end point and took the heat for being evil sobs. When will I see that out of the opposition?

        My views/beliefs are not perfect, I admit this very freely. But neither are yours.

        You want specifics you said, okay.

        1. How long is one entitled to unemployment?
        2. What is the maximum tax rate that will never be exceeded – period?
        3. Name just two federal agencies that are redundant and should be shut down permanently?
        4. How many abortions is a woman entitled to have the public pay for? I once read that the percentage was something like 25% for repeat abortions (not that I am saying those were all paid for with public funds) – I can’t remember much beyond that atm (I’d have to hunt for the data when I had time).
        5. When does the frivolous waste of money stop (like paying for a study of monkeys and cocaine use)? Not really a fair question – sorry.

        If your philosophy is sound in your opinion then start telling people the hard end points. It may cause a lot more people to come to your side when you’ve clearly defined where the end point is.

        Just one old fools thinking.


        August 10, 2010 at 1:26 am

  8. Renaissance Guy,

    Please except my apologies for any poor behavior on your blog on my part. I should not be so disrespectful when commenting on someone’s blog.

    My apologies sir if I have offended in any way.


    August 10, 2010 at 1:30 am

  9. oops: accept, not except. I’m tired and worn a bit today.


    August 10, 2010 at 1:33 am

  10. Plainlyspoken — thank you. I take back and apologize for calling you a liar. On line debates can get a bit out of hand because the other person isn’t there “in person.” I apologize as well for my other put downs.

    1. I personally would make job training/public works a replacement for unemployment in most cases, with the pay less than most jobs out there. When there are jobs lacking, as is clearly the case now, I can understand extending unemployment — I think most people now really have trouble. But overall in a full employment economy I think the limits should be six months before “workfare” starts.

    2. I’d restructure taxes. I originally supported a modified fair tax (my wife is a CPA and did some work analyzing taxes and that was her solution.). A fair tax is really a consumption tax, a progressive fair tax has slightly higher tax rates for high price luxury goods. Lately I’ve come to think we should replace the income tax with a value added tax. Each of these has progressive elements, but can eliminate the income tax as we know it.

    3. Yikes, I suspect there are many that could be consolidated or eliminated, but off the top of my head I can’t say for sure — my knowledge is limited. I do think we don’t get our money’s worth and that all agencies and spending should be re-examined.

    4. Hmmm, putting moral questions aside, abortions may be cheaper than paying for the children of people on welfare. I do think there should be limits or perhaps, given how controversial abortion is, women who can afford it should never have them paid for by the government. Those on welfare with more than two should have to pay something on a sliding scale based on ability to pay — and be given options for long term free birth control after the first child.

    5. Give the President a line item veto, stop ear marks, and a lot will end. Though sometimes studies that sound stupid have value — but there is a lot of waste, I agree.

    I’m sorry some of these are not specific — I’m giving my opinion, but could change my mind in response to strong arguments. (I’d also seriously consider ending the direct election of Senators and decentralize power to the states).

    Scott Erb

    August 10, 2010 at 2:27 am

    • Thank you for the apology. I too apologize for my remarks, it was unkind and unjust to call you a fool. I agree that online discussions can get heated and out of hand. I admit to being frustrated in part because of occurrences I dealt with today in real life – not that it should be any kind of excuse for my poor behavior.

      Just to give you perspective where I am coming from on those five questions.

      1. Yes, definitely job training/public works should be required at a reasonable point (the 6 months is a good point to start). Now in these abnormal economic uncertainties I see valid reason for some extension – but not the current almost 2 years. I’m sorry, that’s just too long.

      2. Yep, I can go for a restructured tax system. One that gives the taxpayer some control over the amount they pay beyond keeping down the amount they earn. I lived with the VAT in England when I was stationed there decades ago. I could, if we firmly set a ceiling on the VAT amount that can’t be breached, get behind that here in America I think. At least if I must pay tax let me decide by my purchasing power.

      3. Yes, I agree – I’m sure there is a lot that can be consolidated/eliminated/down-sized in government. I also think it is time we realize there are aspects of the federal government that belongs to the states. The Education Department is always one example I call upon (my personal opinion of course).

      4. Yes, moral question aside – not a way we can discuss this otherwise. I am not going to impose my personal beliefs about it on anyone. But, when it comes to public funding, I tend to think if a woman goes for a second abortion then she’s got a social/behavioral issue for AGAIN getting pregnant unexpectedly. Find a private foundation grant to pay for the next one. And mandatory education on preventing pregnancy should be a requirement too. I’m not against birth control before pregnancy occurs.

      5. I support the line item veto for the President. It works in states and I see no reason why it wouldn’t (for the most part) at the federal level.

      I would also consider ending direct election of Senators – just give me sound reasoning and let me review it. Returning power to the states would go a long way to controlling runaway federal government (and the associated political infighting) that occurs now I personally think.


      August 10, 2010 at 2:52 am

  11. I’ve been out of town and out of touch.

    Generally, I deal with insults and name calling, but I missed it all. It think it has been resolved.

    I am with Plainly Spoken when it comes to looking for the end points. I agree that if the Democratic Party along with all pogressives/liberals/leftists/whatevers would just tell people just how far they will go before they will stop, people on my side of the fence would be willing to listen and consider their views more readily. People like me assume that they want to expand the welfare system and other expensive programs infinitely, based on the gradual expansion that we have observed.

    I would not say that it has been only 50 years; I suppose that you, PS, were referring to Johnson’s War on Poverty. I would say that there have been several key points along the way to where we are now. The Civil War eroded states rights and gave the national government more sovereignty, the income tax was adopted, the trust busters came in, then FDR’s work programs. Those are just a few of the signposts along the way.

    Scott, in reality, you and I do think some of the same things. Your enumerated items #1, #2, and #5 are perfectly acceptable to me.

    However, I don’t agree that voluntary employment in a free market is the same as slavery. I would say that your writing that is no different from PS (or me) saying that the health bill passage was fascism. (What is true is that employment can be like slavery, and the health bill is somewhat fascistic.)


    August 10, 2010 at 3:18 am

    • RG, yes I was hawking back only to Johnson’s War on Poverty. I agree there are aspects that trail back even farther, but I guess I find it easier to look at the “modern” era of the history line.

      Scott, if all sides don’t first come to some consensus on limits how are we ever going to expect political parties to stop this infernal bickering and get work done that benefits us all? Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, progressives, etc…none of us are going to get all we desire – but each group can get some positive work done that will be a true benefit to the nation and our society.

      The way it is now we are heading for a cliff, and if we fall off of it the future is going to get very, very ugly IMHO. It’s not something any sane person would want to go through. Did we not learn from the Civil War?


      August 10, 2010 at 4:33 pm

  12. Right now there is a kind of nexus of centralized power which diminishes (and I’d say enslaves in a way) average people. The choice of very few can create bubble economies, an economic crisis, wars over oil, and massive debt. This nexus is not “the liberals” or “the conservatives,” nor is “capitalism” or “socialism” an answer. The nexus is a combination of big money and big government, creating massive global power and wealth centers, hurting small businesses the most, and creating a smaller middle class and limits of freedom to larger groups of people. Propaganda and advertising help via a kind of emotional programing, giving people enemy images (left or right) and hiding the reality of what’s happening.

    The only solution is to decentralize power. I’d personally be fine with going back to the Articles of Confederation or breaking up the US into smaller states, with as much power closer to the local as possible. That’s far too radical to be realistic, so I don’t often push for it in such an extreme form — politics is the art of the possible, and I don’t see radical de-centralization as possible.

    Many of the problems I see due to big money and exploitation, and the powers you see due to big government and regulation would disappear if the nexus could be broken. Yet neither party will do it.

    Scott Erb

    August 10, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    • 1st Paragraph: I’m on that bus ride with you. I agree fully with your thoughts.

      2nd Paragraph: You sound more like a libertarian here than anything else. I like the idea as well. I do see the radical de-centralization happening in one way – economic collapse. I think it is possible and I believe it would be very ugly.

      3rd Paragraph: Again I agree completely with your thought.

      The nexus will not be broken by the political parties, it will have to happen by the people using a little Jeffersonian belief about watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants. The question at this point is when that will happen, not if it will (likely during my response to paragraph 3).


      August 10, 2010 at 8:05 pm

      • I don’t want blood. Revolutions rarely turn out good. Ours did but it wasn’t a revolt against “our” leaders, but rather a struggle to liberate ourselves from foreign/colonial leaders. Bloodshed and civil war turns into a destructive force. However, if oil reserves are indeed running low (meaning higher prices — perhaps significantly), if there is a chance climate change is real, and if the recession is deep and high debt causes the dollar to ultimately lose value, internal collapse into localized units is possible.

        I’m also convinced that the computer/internet information revolution will be as consequential for human social development as was the development of the printing press. The printing press ultimately destroyed Europe’s entire social and political order, bringing in something radically different. That could indeed be violent, but probably is not predictable.

        Scott Erb

        August 11, 2010 at 1:03 am

  13. Agreed, bloody violence in a government collapse/revolution is not what any of us should want (okay, maybe the far out fringe kooks want it, but not the rest of us).

    In any society there is a cliff out there to fall off. It has happened throughout the ages to all different types of governments. While for several decades I felt we were staying back away from it and need not be concerned, now (and for the prior about 10 yrs) I think we have edged dangerously close. It concerns me enough that I know we must not ignore it any further.


    August 11, 2010 at 1:10 am

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