Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Who Owns You?

Does a person own him or herself? The Rights of a Private Property differ with the different schools of economic thought;

· Socialism's fundamental principles are centered on a critique of this concept, stating, among other things, that the cost of defending property is higher than the returns from private property ownership, and that even when property rights encourage the property-holder to develop his property, generate wealth, etc., he will only do so for his own benefit, which may not coincide with the benefit of other people or society at large
· Libertanian Socialism generally accepts property rights, but with a short abandonment time period. In other words, a person must make (more or less) continuous use of the item or else he loses ownership rights. This is usually referred to as "possession property."
· Communism argues that only collective ownership of the means of production through a polity (though not necessarily a state) will assure the minimization of unequal or unjust outcomes and the maximization of benefits, and that therefore private property should be abolished.

Both communism and some kinds of socialism have also upheld the notion that private property is inherently illegitimate. This argument is centered mainly on the idea that the creation of private property will always benefit one class over another, giving way to domination through the use of this private property. Communists are naturally not opposed to personal property which is "Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned" (Communist Manifesto), by members of the proletariat (Source: Wikipedia).

During my microeconomics class the issue arose about the test for full private property rights. The professor asserted that the ultimate definite test for full ownership of anything is if you can see that good or your share in that good.

This brought John Locke’s quote to mind: “Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself.”

Back to my question: Does a person own him or herself?

If that is true, should a person be allowed to sell themselves or take his/her own life?

Or on a less drastic scale, should people be allowed to sell their organs to the highest bidder when they can in fact choose who to donate their organs to?

And whatever your answer is, who decides? Should the government decide? Society? Or each person?

I have conflicting thoughts on private property rights. I have my religious perspective leaning one way, societal perspective running along the religious thought although not completely similar. Then there is the economist in me, that comes up with a whole different answer.

As I am writing down my answer, conflicting reactions spring up, showing that even for me, a person who thought about this for a while, studied it even, the matter is not so clear cut. So for now my answer will have to wait!

I am curious to read other people’s thoughts and see if they vary in a place as small as Bahrain.


ammaro.com said...

in reality, it doesnt matter who owns who, because that cannot really be measured.

what matters is what system is put in place to ensure that you are allowed to own something.

for example, in bahrain, you own a house. you have a title deed. therefore you have the power to do whatever you want with this house, and if anyone breaks in, you have the power to get the authorities to remove this person.

lets say you own a camera, for example. sure, its yours, you bought it, but in a country where rules aren't enforced so strictly, it wouldnt matter that its yours if someone stronger than you can take it and get away. ownership is not something you can hold, not even something you can prove.

when a system is put in place to provide you with means of ownership, ie, a title deed, then you start getting somewhere. in some countries, however, title deeds are there, but they dont mean anything. a corrupt government can possess a house and kick a person out on the street.

imagine 10 people on a desert island; who owns what? how can you ensure ownership? brute strength?

and thats just possessions. the discussion of your own life and soul is even more difficult. that said, some countries allow people to sell their organs.

its an interesting issue, but definately one that needs a much longer discussion than this.

Evil Odd said...

You (your spirit) leases your body from nature.

Your body is controlled by your mind which is provided to you (tax-free) by God.

Your conscience, on the other hand, is an appreciating asset which depreciates at the age of 70+.

Inter-asset transactions are not to be recorded in the book of deeds.

All above assets are written off at the earliest time of demise of an individual component.

For capital gain purpose, you may treat them all as one asset.

This comment is not to be taken seriously.

Gardens of Sand said...

Ammaro, you are right, private property is of very little value unless it is well-defined and exchangeable.

What is interesting to me is the different answers to the same question when tackled from a religious or societal perspective and from a pure economic one. I believe life is sacred and belongs to God. However, does that apply to myself and/or other people as well?

What if the person was an atheist or a libertarian or both? Should I shove my notion of the sacredness of life down their throats and enforce on them laws that are religiously influenced?

I am undecided about organ sales. You can donate one but you can't profit from it. It seems hypocritical when the donor stands the most to lose, he or she has the least to gain. Every one is better off from the transaction, the doctors, nurses and of course the person in need of a transplant. So why not the donor?

Gardens of Sand said...

Evil Odd, now that's an accountant's answer! You really crack me up!