(Anderson 2005) Against natural property rights

Anderson, Elizabeth. How not to complain against taxes (II): against natural property rights. Left2Right. 2005 Jan 20. Available from: http://left2right.typepad.com/main/2005/01/why_i_reject_na.html. Accessed 2012 Dec 7. Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6CjUGqyvT.

Having earlier argued, in “How not to complain about taxes (1)”, that theories of natural property rights cannot support libertarian opposition to taxes, Anderson here attacks natural property rights as incompatible with historically existing capitalism. A theory of natural property rights would allow claims of private ownership that (1) arise independently of the action of the state; (2) are subject to essentially unrestricted voluntary transfer by contract, gift, or inheritance; and (3) can only be defended and enforced, not overridden or extended, by the state. Against any such theory, Anderson argues, first, that capital is not a form of natural property and can only be brought into existence by state action that overrides natural property rights; and, second, that restrictions on freedom of contract are required to prevent any regime of private property rights from degenerating into feudalism. Anderson cites several features of the capitalist property regime that are incompatible with natural property rights: corporate limited liability, limited-term intellectual property, the legal rule against perpetuities, anti-commons rules, rules against exploitation of minority shareholders, and bankruptcy provisions. Even when the state appears to endorse preexisting natural property arrangements, it does so selectively and own its own terms. Anderson introduces the concept of “contract feudalism”, arguing that without restrictions on freedom of contract, differences in bargaining power will inevitably reduce some persons to a state of vassalage. Anderson denies that the problem with historically existing feudalism was lack of consent; serfs did consent to their subjection, even if it was for lack of a viable alternative. Instead, the problem was that subjection of one person to the arbitrary will of another is intrinsically immoral no matter how that state of affairs is arrived at.



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