Friday, January 7, 2011

That Beaver is Going to Sue You: Property Rights in the Non-Human World

I feel like a real asshole when I destroy a spider web. They are fucking lovely, and they probably took an insane amount of time and work to make. Not only that, but it's the home of a living creature. But, dammit, why did you have to build in across the walkway leading to my backyard? Or between my bike and the window sill? WHY, SPIDER, WHY?

So, I ask myself, why do I feel so bad? Have I violated some natural law and feel like shit for it?

Yes, I have.

One of my main criticisms against libertarian anarchism is that there is a tendency to lose sight of our neighbors on this planet. For as much as we espouse moral codes and ethics, with the exception of our funny cat and dog motivational posters, or our photos of pets at home, we don't really talk much about the other creatures of this planet who have as much right to self ownership as we do.

Now, there's no doubt in my mind that real property rights (and not the concept as co-opted by the state, which is meant to protect the "property" of special interests, which is not property but actually theft), provide the most straight forward, consistent philosophy leading to ecological harmony in terms of the human animal and its neighbors on this planet. If individuals own themselves and the fruit of their labors, than they are more likely to take care of them. Therefore, if someone homesteads a spot and builds it up as a dwelling for themselves and their kin, collective, etc, and are left alone in absolute freedom, they will protect their spot.

As the saying goes: nobody washes a rental car. In India, where pollution is staggeringly awful, the state "owns" most of the land. Take away individual property rights, and disaster ensues.

So what about other animal communities? A beaver dam is awesome. It is a very cool feat of engineering. It is a spot that has been homesteaded, and which the beaver may fight to protect if young are present. These are the basic tenants of property rights. The beaver owns itself, the fruits of its labor, and has the right to protect it.

All life owns itself, and as such will fight to live. This is the core of self-ownership.

Do violations of life's property rights occur? Yes, all the time. Would they occur in a free society? Yes. The difference is that when the human individual has real rights to property, their actions will fundamentally be different. Therefore, poisoning the air is a violation of other creatures' right to self ownership, as is poisoning the water, and clear-cutting track after track of forest.

In short, a free society will have minimal violations of the rights to property, limited to the normal cycles of life, which are anything but utopic, but are FAR more preferable to the long term health of the animals and life systems of this planet.

So, try not to wreck the spider web or the beaver dam, because they'll fucking sue you.

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