I LOVE comments. Please leave some even if they are brief half-formed ideas
that you aren't even sure you really believe. I just love comments.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Elizabeth Warren, Locke & Rousseau on Private Property

Elizabeth Warren made a bit of splash recently by identifying the role infrastructure paid for by all of us played in facilitating commerce. Her point, as related to the topic of this post, is that for you to be able to efficiently contribute your labor to your property, and thus enhance its value, you rely on the benefits received from being a part of society. Hence, it is right that the social contract should require you to fund similar benefits for the next generation. Pretty compelling in my book. I wonder if one can take it a step further and say that the very existence of private property is a convention that springs from the social contract.

John Locke says no. Locke's essay Concerning Civil Government ("CCG") largely concerns private property because Locke sees the preservation of private property as the primary function of government. See, e.g., CCG ¶ 88 (the power of the commonwealth to punish is "for the preservation of the property of all members of society"); ¶ 120 (assuming men "enter into society with others for the securing and regulating of property"); ¶ 138 ("the preservation of property being the end of government"); cf ¶ 123 ("all being kings . . . the enjoyment of the property he has in this [natural] state is very unsafe, very insecure"). By contrast, Jean Rousseau writes more generally in The Social Contract ("TSC") that "all being born free and equal, alienate their liberty only for their own advantage." TSC Book I, Section 2, para. 3.

Locke recognizes that laws regarding private property are conventions, but if the purpose of civil government is the protection of private property, private property must predate civil government. For this, Locke turns to Natural Law. Locke describes the state of nature as "a state of liberty" but not "a state of license," because "[t]he state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it." CCG ¶ 6. Pursuant to Natural law, for any man, "[t]he 'labour' of his body ad the 'work' of his hands, we may say are properly his." ¶ 26. Thus, private property rights spring from one's labor under the precepts of Natural law. As demonstrated above, men give up certain rights, such as the right to punish, in exchange for security in the property rights they already possessed. For Rousseau,
What a man loses by the social contract is his natural liberty and an unlimited right to everything he tries to get and succeeds in getting; what he gains is civil liberty and the proprietorship of all he possesses.
TSC Book I, Section 8, para. 2. Thus, for Rousseau, proprietorship, or the right to property, doesn't exist until one enters into the social contract.

Because Locke sees private property as a product of Natural law, he sounds almost like a member of the modern TEA Party when discussing legislation that infringes on it: "Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery, they put themselves into a state of war with the people." CCG ¶ 222. I happen to agree with Rousseau. I don't think property rights exist without a government to enforce, or at least declare, them. This informs my assessment of the modern discussion because I see complaints of slavery or oppression associated with taxation not only as wrong for the reasons listed by Warren, but because they are nonsensical since without the government supported by taxes no such right to property exists.

Does society merely make it possible to utilize our property, or is society responsible for all property rights?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


Today's post is about posting.

I am an extreme extrovert. And I mean that not in the life-of-the-party sense, but in the Myers Briggs personality test sense. I really crave interaction with people. A day full of phone calls from clients and hearings and emails that require responses is roughly a thousand times more fulfilling for me than a day spent in my office researching a topic and drafting something based on the research.

In the world of blogging, my extreme extrovertism manifests itself in a strong desire to receive responses to what I write. Getting a notice that someone has left a comment on my blog is such a pick-me-up. It is like getting a handwritten envelop in the mail.

Often times to encourage comments, I will email an entry to someone and specifically ask for a response. I am a bit surprised, obviously based on my own inclinations, at how seldom people accept my invitation--plea--to comment.

So, I will ask a question, one which any reasonable person would understand is very likely to go unanswered, why don't those who read this blog more often leave comments? I'll even provide some choices:
A. The posts are too long.
B. The topics of the posts are uninteresting.
C. The poor grammar and excessive typographical errors make the blog unreadable.
D. The posts are interesting enough, but not the type to cause one to form an opinion.
E. It actually takes a significant amount of effort to crystalize thoughts such that they can be conveyed in a few sentences in a sentence.
F. Other - please specify.

[Note: I actually think the number of comments left on my blog is larger than would be expected for my readership. Other blogs with thousands of times the traffic as mine do not generate thousands of times the comments. But that only makes me more curious about the behavior that is so different from mine.]

Monday, October 03, 2011

Biblical Marriage

I suppose to this graphic, we should add psuedo Paul's language from Ephesians.
Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind--yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.
Consistent throughout the Old and New Testament is the notion that marriage is an institution of male dominance. But, you see cracks in this at the end of the passage from Ephesians. And indeed, it is quoting Genesis 2:24. I wonder if the creation myths found in Gensis were more widely repeated among the population at large. I wonder if the hiearchy that is assumed in the passage from Ephesians, and made explicit in the various laws, was more a product of the power brokers in society. It would make me happy if the notion of love-based marriage co-existed among the people at-large with the explicit rule of domination-based marriage.