John Locke, Yellowstone, and the Dogma of the Right to Private Property

Back in 2007, I wrote a four-part series of essays entitled “John Locke, Yellowstone, and the Dogma of the Right to Private Property.” In a forthcoming podcast (January 2022), Aly references my views on rights – particularly that a “right” to property is a fiction. Indeed, I would argue that ethics does not require any notion of rights whatsoever and describe in the essays that rights are the “capital of the moral universe.”  That is, as money is to a capitalist, rights are to an ethicist, and both are to be avoided on the same grounds.  This is no doubt a controversial stance, maybe even a step too far for most of my fellow anarchists; however, I think it is a discussion worth having.  It echoes the views of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who famously argued that “property is theft”; however, his essay really is an attack on all the so called liberal rights of “life, liberty, and property.”

For me, we don’t need something called a right to have value.  It does not need to be given to us by anything, and we don’t need a concept of a “natural right” to have that value, either.  While these essays don’t take the further leap against all rights that I am here, they are entailed by the argument.  What these essays do is trace why people have believed in property rights, what arguments over property rights have often come down to in contemporary society, how those beliefs trace to John Locke and to some extent all the way back to Aristotle, and where those arguments are flawed.  It is instructive to note that Locke’s theory of property rights was developed in order to justify the colonization of the Americas by European peoples.  It was rooted in racism and genocide, and we should think really hard before we admit that this idea is in any way salvageable.

So, if you are interested, you can read these essays at my blog – Jim’s Eclectic World.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *