03 May 2013

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Do we have property rights to human rights? + news

Dear Friends,

En primer lugar, gracias Encarna para un comida maravillosa el Domingo. La filosofia siguiente era
mas mejor que nunca!!

In the meantime this Sunday we are discussing: Do we have property rights to human rights?

Ruel prepared an essay for us with the link here:

Here's the link to my essay on the topic "Do we have property rights to human rights?"


And you will find my short contribution at the end of the email.

In the meantime Ben asked me a few days ago that he is looking for a Spanish teacher. Can you please
write to him directly if you can help:
Ben : Ben.Milner(AT)bg-group.com

best Lawrence

Lawrence: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao

Thursday's Open Tertulia in English
Important Notice: From December 1st, the Tertulia will take place at O'Donnells (ex-Moore's) Irish
Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

Do we have property rights to human rights?

The concept of property right brings with it the idea of conferment of some kind on privilege.
Usually that privilege is the use of something that belongs to us how we wish, even if in reality
there are social limits. These limits also include legal limits. A property right means that can use
something that belongs to us, give it away and even sell it.

But there is another feature about a property right that would make it, in my opinion, a key feature
for property rights to function. Property rights are protected by society usually through a legal
system. Civil law protects us when we come to use and dispose of our property. And criminal law when
we are deprived of our property. These two principles are well established in a civilized society.

What also matters is that my personal property right to enjoy my property seems to impose on society
the burden of protecting my rights. And like me enjoying my property, the rest of society has the
same privileges. And the system seems to work well for computers, money, and other gadgets.

One drawback of the present property rights system is that it does not investigate too much how we
acquire our properties. Sure there are rules regarding the sale of stolen goods, but beyond the
obvious, the investigation becomes cumbersome. For example, when we go to the newsagent to buy a
copy of a newspaper no investigation is carried out whether the money we use is stolen or
legitimately acquired.

It seems that the more we move away from tangible goods to moral property such as money,
intellectual property, labour services etc the more complex the rights system becomes. Nevertheless,
for any system of property rights to function it is a necessary that there should be a system to
protect our property.

Human rights are a different type of right mainly because the consensus today is that we acquire
these rights by virtue of being human. Unlike property rights, there is no automatic access to
property. Theoretically, we all have the whole package of human rights, theoretically we cannot give
them away, unlike property rights, so we can always enjoy the privileges of being a human being.
Theoretically these are protected by a legal and social system like property rights.

One of the main differences between human rights and property rights is that one needs to have
property to have these rights protected. But human rights are conferred on us by virtue of being
human and that means more than 4 billion people today. And that's a lot of property rights to
protect and guarantee, compared to property rights.

In a way, we do not have property rights to our human rights for the simple reason that human rights
cannot be traded; I cannot enter into a contract for money in exchange for not exercising my right
to free speech. Which of course makes it easy for governments to take away human rights since all it
takes is oppression. Property rights are first and foremost an economic instrument; and it seems
that the more we can ascertain the value of our property the more we can have it protected. A grab
on private property would today be more costly for governments, especially if they seek to attract
foreign investments. It might be argued, therefore, that human rights have no monitory value, and at
best they impose moral obligations on society (and by definition governments) to protect our human

Unfortunately, I would argue that we do have property rights in our human rights, at least in
principle, and therefore by implication society does have more than just a moral obligation to
protect our human rights.

The basis for arguing that we do have property rights in our human rights is the same basis for
arguing that I have a property right in my computer. Both have monetary value. It has been argued
that the failure of the communist system of the Soviet Union, demonstrates, by default that
(private) property rights do exist. This argument is also used to establish the superiority of
capitalism. However, whatever capitalism means, it does not involve the destruction of wealth.

So how can human rights be economic instruments and therefore have monetary value? This question has
been answered in part by Karl Marx by suggesting that labour is like a commodity that can be traded
on the market place for money. It is also a fact, however, that our property, whether it is an oil
field or a computer, has value because other human beings are prepared to recognise a value in it
and more importantly they are prepared to pay real money for it.

Thus if society protects our property rights, since property has value for us, then surely society
must protect our human rights since, not only because our labour has a monetary value for us
personally (a point that is conveniently forgotten by so called communists) but more importantly we
are the only source of wealth in society (a point that is conveniently forgotten by so call
capitalists). I can assure you that my pet gerbil will never pay over one thousand Euros for a
personal computer and therefore a 100 percent profit mark up! Wealth is created because human beings
value the products and services provided by labour services.

The bottom line is that what we call human right abuse, is none other than property right theft. And
the reason why our human rights have to be protected and guaranteed by society, as if they had
property rights, is because it is human beings who guarantee social wealth through the application
of labour. And failure to protect our human rights is a theft of our ability to offer our labour in
the market place.

Best Lawrence

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Do we have property rights to human rights? + news

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