Thursday, January 3, 2013

Natural Rights Fundamentals - Property Rights 1.0

Been reading up on natural rights, primarily "classical" versus "modern[?]." The classical view appears to be that the fundamental natural right is to do what nature intended us to. Therefore, property rights cannot be absolute, but they are still a fundamental component to the fundamental right. Also, the government is not given carte blanche to control resources.

I was happily reading along with classical natural rights. Edward Feser nicely illustrated the classical view and how property rights are secondary (though needed out of convenience and to preserve motivation) to ones right and obligation to fulfill ones nature in Natural Law, Natural Rights, and Private Property on the Library of Law and Liberty website. But I hit a hitch with Feser's example of first-claimer rights in Reply to Block on Libertarianism is Unique on His example - well, the one I stopped reading at - was that under modern natural law a claimant could claim air and suffocate another. If you take any law to it's extreme, then you might find an exception. And who is to say that each person in the example wasn't improving the air by breathing it and that both had claim to it - on those terms?

I got on this issue, because of a conundrum: How can natural rights be preserved in a country like the UK, where a landed aristocracy controls such a huge portion of real property? Well, researching that conundrum actually led me to a new question: Since William the Conqueror took "possession" of all the land, then "redistributed" it to "client" Norman nobility, then can the current owners be legitimate owners? As a side note, technically (apparently) the UK monarchy owns all the land in the UK.

In another side note, there is the right to ramble. In Scotland, they appear to have put a BandAid on the problem by preserving the right to ramble - or roam, Freedom to Roam. It is fair to say that the right to roam is an "ancient tradition" in Scotland, but with the land in so few hands it's a nice pressure value. It's also fair to say that that right has been expanded in other countries. Reminds me of the social-security nets that proliferated after the failed revolutions of 1848. A panacea for those itching for freedom.

So back to my main question. How are natural rights to real property real, when so much land has been misappropriated? In the UK, the Domesday Book could give an idea of who really owns the property, but the 1000-year lag and other reasons that true owners could not be determined would make any dependence on ancient rights another misappropriation. In the UK, the question is real since, apparently, landownership is not fully know, since landownership is only recorder with transactions (How can they possibly collect property taxes? Do they have property taxes?) - or the other land audit, that wasn't very specific, in the 19th century. When does a chain of misappropriation end?

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