Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Wolf DeVoon - Laissez Faire Law

Property
Laissez faire law
Property
Three Mile Island
Mars Shall Thunder
Personal Liberty
Private law

Laissez Faire City Times, Vol 3, No 42, October 25, 1999


Property
by Wolf DeVoon

In the beginning there was land and water and sky. We lived as nomads and foragers, gathering fruit and seeds where it was possible, taking fish from the rivers and game from the forest. On the great plains and parched deserts, we lived in tribes and hunted in packs, sharing whatever could be seized from the ownerless commons. This is no paean to "the noble savage" or an approval of Rousseau's theory of general consent. It is simply a statement of fact, that our ancient roots were tribal. In a logical and irresistible way, collectivism became our first (perhaps the only) political model. Until Grotius defined an alternative during the Renaissance, the tribe was an indivisible social whole--a nation, or state, or culture--and all deeds to property were conferred by a tribal sovereign, whose voice was supposed to embody and speak for everyone.

Anticipating Ayn Rand by two hundred years, Enlightenment pioneers John Locke and Thomas Paine trumpeted the notion of individual rights (the consent of the governed). I have enormous respect for 17th- and 18th-century theories of natural equity, because our contemporary notions of ownership could not have appeared without the inspiration of Voltaire and Jefferson. It was a spiritual achievement of undeniable merit, to mentally isolate "private property" from the claims of the tribe or king as head of state. The Declaration of Independence of 1776 created no substitute government. It merely refuted the property claims of George III. In the history of the world, there was no finer, wiser act of simple courage than the Founding Fathers' campaign to free mankind from collective servitude. Abe Lincoln and Susan B. Anthony made it real, freeing all in the name of equality. And so, the unfolding, restless American Experiment became an unprecedented model of justice that was rightly remembered as the Shot Heard Round The World.

Today, in every village and overcrowded city, from Russia to South Africa, people who were once ruled by totalitarian tribalism and autocratic warlords are now eagerly embracing the genteel American carrot of individual rights and private property.

Next Stop: Tyranny

They would do better to ape a train wreck, in my opinion. I specifically dispute the fantasy creed of libertarian consequentialists (and their liberal antecedents) who assert that U.S. freedom and prosperity are on auto-pilot. The 19th century was America's last hurrah -- and a poor one, at that, in terms of liberty and property. The Civil War sacrificed the lives of a million Americans, ripped the U.S. Constitution to shreds, and set us against one another in a frozen paradigm of class war, rich against poor.

I don't want to waste a lot of time on history. The decline of liberty in the United States began with Republican land grants to the Big Four railroad tycoons. It degenerated into the Interstate Commerce Act and anti-trust laws, regulation of employers, food inspection, exemption of trade unions from the criminal law, imposition of income taxes, and the creation of a Frankenstein fiat moneychanger called the Federal Reserve -- all within two generations, immediately prior to (and resulting in) the Great Depression.

Contrary to textbook U.S. history, the crucial factor that saved us during World War I and II was geography. Americans were neither heroic nor blessed by advanced technology. Our industrial potential had been hobbled with senseless regulation, taxes, trade unions, and macroeconomic mismanagement. We were only marginally stronger than Germany at the commencement of World War II-- and, hence, no one in the United States believed that we could fight and win a global conflict, without England at our back and France in the vanguard. Both of these allies were crushed in 1941. The only thing that kept the United States from suffering a similar fate was distance -- the great oceans of the Atlantic and the Pacific -- which gave Franklin Roosevelt ample time to expropriate every factory and to enslave every American worker for the purpose of warfare. It was the wholesale sacrifice of U.S. private property and civil liberty that made us a military-industrial imperial power, able to project mechanized force across the great oceans. Our opponents were stretched thin, unable to counterattack on American soil. And so, at the end of World War II, only one industrialized nation remained intact and unharmed. Geography and extinguishing liberty transformed the U.S. into a "superpower."

It is therefore stupid for anyone to wish for an American outcome, or to attempt to implement an American-style legal system of "democratic government" and "private enterprise" -- no matter how dire the social conditions may be in other jurisdictions. One cannot obtain superpower privileges by undertaking Boy Scout legal oaths or grassroots political campaigns. We certainly didn't.

An Oligarchy of Power Brokers

The United States of America is no longer a free country. It is an oligarchy of power brokers, most of whom are engaged in the manipulation of less-powerful nations. The average American housewife is a willing player in this conspiracy, consuming far more than she produces. Her electrical appliances, new cars, designer linens, and Disney playthings could not exist without Chinese factories and Honduran sweatshops. I am not opposed to free trade. However, the U.S. is no longer engaged in commerce, despite the flood of freight to and from Mexico and Korea. If you study the numbers, it's clear that America produces less than she consumes. Our "trade" consists of importing the agricultural and industrial output of other nations and, in exchange, exporting paper IOUs.

The world tolerates this arrangement for two reasons. The U.S. dollar is a global reserve currency, backed by military power. More importantly, the world is frightened of conflict. People will agree to anything, however unjust -- provided that the Pax Americana remains undisturbed. For the past fifty years, it was unimportant that U.S. bankers and brokers arrogated to themselves a welter of luxuries (homes, cars, medical care) denied to the bulk of humanity. Most people believed that so-called "capitalist profits" were deservedly earned by American science and industrial output -- acquired by virtue of U.S. ingenuity and sweat. The world could only admire or envy our success, our self-confident privilege of discretionary consumption, and our light-hearted Hollywood fantasies.

In reality, it was war booty, all of it. Our munitions factories drew the world's best and brightest, infusing American industry with the brainpower of twenty nations. It is surprisingly cheap to buy a man's soul. Offer him a clean house, the chance to do white-collar work or tinker with a cyclotron, and he will work gladly for a monarch. Franklin Roosevelt was a gracious, amusing king. Dinners at the White House were a riot, with Harpo Marx frequently an official court jester presiding over the punch bowl. Nothing much has changed since then. The Clintons are no less gregarious; their Hollywood pals are no less gay -- and our terms of engagement remain the same. Work for the Pentagon, live in luxury.

This arrangement is not exceptional in world history. Imperial Rome consumed more than it produced, as did colonial Spain and England. Might makes wealth. Even the hapless Soviets fared well at the expense of their subject peoples in Asia and Eastern Europe (until Moscow outspent the surplus garnered by forcible expropriation from 300 million industrial slaves).

America shares the ultimate destiny of all imperial states -- bankruptcy. At the moment, we're still riding high, because the world understands that the end of Pax Americana means global chaos and destitution. How else to explain such a fantastic nonsense, that the United States is a "consumer of last resort," giving nothing in trade except our willingness to eat? The world will agree to anything, pay any tribute we require -- so long as the senators and centurions of New Rome parade on CNN with benevolent apathy, and our legions patrol the oceans of oil that keep the wheels of a transnational corporate empire turning. America has fashioned an exquisite extortion racket, happily paying a percentage to every tinpot dictator and two-bit "entrepreneur" on earth, from Singapore to Sweden, Jakarta to Jeddah, Tokyo to Tel Aviv -- doling the spoils of economic rape.

New Rome on the Potomac

It is undeniable that some live in luxury, while many do not. Few enjoy actual "liberty" (freedom to travel), while most are indentured beyond hope of ever escaping a crowded, disease-ridden slum in Brazil or Bangladesh. I appreciate Julian L. Simon's thesis that the world is evolving secularly toward luxury and happiness -- dramatically so, since World War II, with the introduction of modern medicines and global communication. I am also mindful of Rand-s thesis that what the Have Nots have not is freedom. Neither of these assertions negate the abiding claims of justice. "Property" is a corporate term today. If you are a willing laborer for the Public Servant ruling class, you get a piece of the action-- a very small piece if you are a peasant; a much larger piece if you clean toilets for Goldman Sachs. But all must serve New Rome on the Potomac, or starve.

I am not unconscious of my own collaboration with the colonels and minions of American hegemony. It was my good fortune to be born in the United States. I enjoy the privilege of accidental membership in a class of "educated," pampered Baby Boomers. Despite my opposition to the U.S. Government, no doubt my passport will be honored at any embassy or port of entry. I can enter the United States (and most other countries) whenever I please. As a stepchild of Andrew Carnegie and Walt Disney, my skillfulness as an initiate of industrial procedure and Mouse Club entertainment can always be applied to some easy task and I will not starve so long as I can stomach the infamy of prostitution. Americans survive, when others perish. Americans chuckle at Regis Philbin, while others rot in decrepitude. Americans want for naught, while the world labors.

It is this fundamental wrong that must be redressed -- and soon -- if the world is to be reborn in the light of precise reasoning, when the Great Satan of corporate America collapses, as all tyranny must.

First Principles of Value

"Take the power to set you free. Kick down the door and throw away the key. Give up your needs, your poison seeds. Find yourself elected to a different kind of greed. I believe in love alone might do these things for you. I believe in the power of creation, I believe in the good vibration. I believe in love alone, yeah yeah. But won't somebody tell me what we're coming to? It might take forever 'til we watch those dreams come true. All the money in the world won't buy you peace of mind. You can have it all, but you still won't be satisfied. Money can't buy it, baby. Sex can't buy it, oooh my baby. Drugs can't buy it, little baby. You can't buy it."

-- Annie Lennox ("Money Can't Buy It")

Where I come from, money talks and bullshit walks. To define and understand economic justice, we need to ask what is money? Objectivists already know the canon of laissez faire political correctness -- that money is a spiritual token of honesty and industry, the root of all good. See Atlas Shrugged.

I do not fault anyone for wishing to be prosperous, hoping to shelter and feed their loved ones, their children and neighbors, to provide for their old age and its predictable infirmity later in life. We are alike in many ways. Goodness is palpable and real. The enjoyment of life is universally appealing to all sentient creatures, including dogs. Nor am I confused about the localized utilitarian benefits of mixed-economy capitalism. U.S. standard poodles eat better than women and children in the Third World and isolated parts of the Old.

Instead of discussing how many IPOs can dance on the head of a post-industrial feeding machine, I wish to examine a slightly less arcane subject. Before we can exchange tokens of ownership (money), we need to agree upon a principle of ownership. In previous writing, I suggested that the only thing a person owns outright is his or her liberty. If mankind are truly free, in a de facto sense, then no property claim can be absolute or legally negate the liberty of others. The most we can do is to possess and defend "property" by force. Indeed, this is descriptive of the world, ancient and modern. Might makes wealth. The strongest and brightest typically succeed in smothering all other claims to property and privilege, when they choose to wage economic war.

Readers who are familiar with "The 51 Percent Solution" (http://zolatimes.com/V3.15/51solution.html) will understand that I am not primarily motivated by power-lust. Undoubtedly, I enjoy privileges, made richly extravagant since Queenie and I moved to Laissez Faire City -- but we own nothing except our capacity for action. Perhaps I own my clothing, in a de facto sense, because the global supply of T-shirts is such that few will wage war for possession of faded, pre-owned junk, size M. I seldom worry about the security of my reading glasses, because my prescription is personal and probably useless to others, and my passport is safe for similar reasons. How many people would wish to impersonate Wolf DeVoon?

The concept of owning nothing has a respectable pedigree. In addition to Epicurus and Buddha, it was implicitly endorsed by Thomas Jefferson, who argued that "The world belongs in usufruct [for their use] to the living..." He did not say that we legally owned or were capable of owning anything, but rather that the world was ours to use, to control and dispose of, without obligation to patriarchs or forebears. To hell with Grandpa. I have a right to live my own life, to wield such power as I possess to rearrange the environmental furniture. My son enjoys precisely the same right--to reject whatever I do, and to remake the world in his image, not mine. This is the right of revolution.

So, the problem of property is opaque. John Locke's theory is especially weak, arguing that ownership can be purchased by mixing our labor with the land. On that principle, any peasant could walk up the driveway, dig a hole in my garden and claim it as his property. Adam Smith would probably agree. He believed that "toil and trouble" justified market prices, rents, etc. Small wonder that the world enthusiastically embraced the rabid thievery fomented by Karl Marx, since classical gurus did so little to illuminate the meaning of property.

I quoted Annie Lennox at the top of this section, because I agree with her that money (power) can't buy happiness. You can covet diamonds and jet skis--but not a pile of love. You can snort an ounce of cocaine, yet never imbibe the joy of forgiveness and grace--a deep, natural satisfaction at peace with yourself in the world. Money can't buy it. Perhaps this is why Francisco D'Anconia found it easy to sacrifice the world's oldest and largest fortune. It meant less than honor, and far less than justice. Nor was his love a marketable commodity. Near or distant, those whom we love cannot be owned by our admiration or passionate sexual desire. Approximately all we can do is to love, without bargaining.

To me, this is a vital clue. Money is fungible. If you give Israel $10 billion for a housing project, in reality you are giving them $10 billion for weapons, because they were spared a budget line-item called "housing." But love is not fungible or exchangeable. My loving you gives you no love of your own. It must be generated in your own heart, by yourself, and for yourself. If you discover a value in the world, something or someone worthy of love, the recipient of your love will never be anyone other than you. Paraphrasing Ayn Rand, I swear by my love and my hunger for it, that I will never love for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to love for mine. It is a legitimate permutation of Galt's oath. We live badly without love, and die for want of spiritual food. But there can be no love transfusion, no bequest of passion or happiness--regardless of our futile whim that a vacant soul might be filled by a neighbor's joy. As Jim Morrison once shouted: You cannot petition the Lord with prayer. Love is a do-it-yourself improvement project that requires a lifetime of learning and practice.

The Game of Monopoly

For the moment, let's consider that the world is a zero-sum game (ignoring the fact that someday science will secularly lower the price of a hamburger). Five people sit down to play a friendly game of Monopoly. You choose the racecar, and my token is the Scottie Dog. All five players announce their intention to be good sports and play fair. Since you know how to add and subtract, you are elected Banker by acclamation, and we roll the dice to see who goes first.

At first, dice rolls seem to control the game, giving some players desirable property and others a nasty tax penalty, strictly as a matter of Chance. But then the game enters its "civilized" phase, when all property has been deeded and players begin to bargain for control of Color Groups. Possession of a complete Color Group gives you the right to build houses and hotels, levying rent upon other players who (by dice roll) land on your property. It is invariably the case that someone else owns Tennessee Avenue, frustrating your possession of New York Avenue and St. James Avenue -- the two other parcels in a strategically desirable Color Group. You offer to trade two railroads for Tennessee Avenue, which seems equitable to your opponent, because that will give him a monopoly of all four railroads and increase his revenue, as well as yours. Half an hour later, you've forced a less-successful player into bankruptcy, and property is piling up on your side of the table. Life is good, right?

Not for everyone. I've sort of putzed along, half-heartedly, declining to buy much or trade anything. All I own is Vermont Avenue. I have $2 left and announce with a yawn that I'm going to my office to write, because Monopoly was boring when we played it as kids, and it's still boring. Now you have two opponents left. You fight them tooth and nail for three hours and end up the winner. Four people have been defeated, leaving you with all the paper money and property in the Monopoly universe. Well done. Now what? You gloat. Everyone concedes that you're a genius. Now what? You begin to lecture the losers on how to play. Everyone nods in polite agreement. Yes, yes, you're quite right. Thus and such were tactical errors that could've been avoided and might have prolonged the game for another ten minutes. Now what?

Dissatisfied with one victory, you enthusiastically challenge your opponents to another contest of mental skill (including me, because I stupidly returned to the kitchen to pour myself another cup of coffee). We haul out a Risk board and two hundred little wooden cubes, each representing an army. For the next six hours, five people struggle for world conquest. You win. Now what?

Winning Is the Only Thing

Maybe the way to play Monopoly is with real money, taking your opponents' bread from their mouths, and when you defeat someone at Risk, he should be shot and killed like a real soldier. Parker Brothers would sell fewer board games, but the lessons imparted to children would be much clearer. To "win" means to cripple your opponent. To "lose" is to die in disgrace. It has been so forever -- from Genghis Khan to Adolph Hitler and Lyndon Johnson. Undoubtedly, your destiny is to lose someday, when younger, smarter players take up the challenge and decimate the reigning champions. It happens in tennis, pro football, retail chains, investment banking, and (too often) marriages. You become a winner--the thrill of victory fades--trophies seem pointless-- and your trophy wife has an affair with a beach bum. It's probably happening in the Clinton household, right now. Bubba has been riding high for three decades, winning a statehouse and the presidency with dumb Good Ol' Boy Scout folksiness. Thirty years is a long time for someone to be a liar, a bag man for Tyson, and a cowardly asshole. No wonder Hillary is exploring options outside of marriage.

I feel sorry for the Clintons. After thirty years of playing hardball Monopoly, conspiring to kill people, smuggle drugs, and rob the poor, all they have to show for it is an album of family lies and bitter contempt for one another. This is no way to live, for heaven's sake. Idiots are smarter than the Clinton mob. I'm certain that no dull-witted person has ever attempted to explain away a perjury by claiming that the President of the United States was a victim of child abuse because his grandmother raised her voice. It's too stupid for the stupid.

If the first principle of property is love -- as Rand put it, the thing we say "yes" to in the presence of intimate friends and romantic partners -- then, surely, Milton Friedman's arbitrary tokens of exchange (Monopoly money) can't buy it. I am morally convinced that Annie Lennox and John Lennon were right. What's most at stake for a self-conscious being is peace of mind. Sex can't buy it. Drugs can't buy it. They can help you enjoy it, if your life is dignified, honest, and gentle. But sex and drugs raise hell when consumed by a power-mad philistine like Bill Clinton. If you chemically amplify evil, the result is swaggering evil.

Anna's Holes

Perhaps the clearest received theory of property comes from a four-year-old orphan girl named Anna--commended to your attention in the short nonfiction book Mister God, This Is Anna. I held the movie rights to this property for several years. No studio would shoot it, because Anna's life was one of the most beautiful true stories ever told. I won't attempt to explain it to you. We need only consider Anna's theory of acquisitiveness. Attention, shoppers! You are about to discover why you always feel empty, never satisfied with more new toys.

Anna's pal, Finn, wanted a motorcycle. He spoke of nothing else, dreamt about it, and was obsessed with solving the economic puzzle of how to get one. Anna explained that Finn had a "hole" in his soul, in the shape of a motorcycle -- and that most people have spiritual holes. We try (and fail) to fill ourselves up with material possessions if we are incomplete as persons.

On its face, this makes a lot of sense. I don't recall that Jesus or Abe Lincoln owned anything. Ayn Rand owned very little-- and she didn't leave much, either. Cousin Leonard had to squeak by on backlist royalties, instead of inheriting an Objectivist Graceland and "Love Me Tender." This demonstrates the financial superiority of philistines. You can always make more dough exploiting a Good Ol' Boy (like Elvis Presley or Bill Clinton) than you can by attempting to educate the world on the subject of human dignity. I know from experience. It's damn difficult to make money selling moral philosophy. If Peikoff intended to milk a deluxe cash flow, he should have understudied Alan Greenspan.

The temptation of money (possession of property) is ever present and endemic. Our friends John and Marion are stuck in Scotland because it would be too upsetting for them to sell the furniture and go forward. I fully support John and Marion's comfort, if that's what they really want in life. Ditto Steve and Suzi in California, Vincent and Janette in Holland, Doug and Annie in Colorado. Bless them all. Bless their possessions and their prospects for happiness. I hold the same good wishes for every man, woman, and child on the planet, including myself. This does not solve the problem of economic justice. Our preference for happiness cannot create anyone's happiness. And money can't buy it.

I know a woman who owns a 300-acre spread in a gorgeous redwood valley. She has a very limited understanding of personal dignity, because she's an heiress. The property she possesses isn't hers to enjoy, because the ranch was someone else's achievement, gifted to her by the accident of her birth. We cannot enjoy ourselves simply for being born. Although I possess an expertly sensual and healthy body, I seldom enjoy possession of fingers and toes (and other faculties) as an end in itself. Few are more sexually libertine or imaginative than me and Queenie -- but sex doesn't give life its meaning. Drugs can't buy it. Money can't buy it. The price of human dignity is purposeful action. That presupposes a larger universe than one's infantile playpen. Yes, you were born. Now what? If you never challenge the Unknown, you will do a lot of thumb-sucking. Winning at Monopoly doesn't change this basic proposition. With stacks of money or none, the universal question of humanity is how to redecorate your world? -- to take spiritual action, to surmount psychological obstacles, to dare oneself in life -- because no state or tribe can live an individual life for you. You can imitate the majority, swim with the tide. But that's a cop-out. Hippies understand this issue better than most, because we coined the term and can't honestly ignore or forget its political meaning. "Copping-out" means "copping a plea" -- evading one's responsibility as a moral being. It specifically connotes the disgrace of treason, collaborating with New Rome on the Potomac, instead of fighting them.

It is therefore not very surprising that hippies invested a lot of time, during the past thirty years, to explore life's possibilities beyond Gucci and K-Mart. Woodstock and other tribal experiments convinced very few hippies to spend their rest of their lives as communal beggars. The concept of "private property" did not evaporate when we took LSD and saw the splendor and oneness of the Universe. What hippies concluded, after sampling everything from tofu to tantric karma, was that A is still A. Whether you own Park Place or two shabby suitcases is less important than one's inner life. It is one's private integrity that matters -- not Zip codes and certainly not the profane rituals of "money wealth." How many hands do you really want to shake? Bill Clinton's right hand is never still, never at rest, because he has a spiritual hole about the size of Montana that plastic smiles of social approval cannot fill. Ersatz money wealth forces him to shake hundreds of hands every day, like a circus dog on public display.

I lived most of my life in poverty -- a good deal of it self-inflicted, because I kept refusing to swim with the mainstream of current affairs. Like an investment that paid off, I was recently given a luxurious home in a beautiful, exotic locale. My capacity to enjoy it is 49 years deep and as wide as the blue horizon. I have legal title to nothing and yet a fabulously rich sense of ownership. This paradox of possession must be remembered. The earth belongs in usufruct only to the living -- to men and women who have filled themselves from within and have no gaping holes, thus enabling a whole self to accept the entirety of life's potential, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, better or worse. It's all of fortune that gives life its grandeur and challenge -- not just a pile of soiled banknotes, multiplying silently in an FDIC-insured savings account or a 401-k. I could not say this or ask you to accept it as reasoned argument, without having known defeat and desperate humiliation, without struggling to rise again and earn my place in the world as an integrated entity of my own creation.

Follow The Money

The precise intellectual challenge in understanding money is to perceive that "private property" isn't truly private. As 19th-century anarchists sensibly observed, title to property cannot exist without the state. When one "buys" a chunk of real estate, you implicitly endorse the jurisdiction of terrestrial tribal government. Property transactions are almost impossible without money -- the fungible, exchangeable, uniformly divisible tokens that are circulated as the legal tender of a powerful and jealous sovereign. No doubt, the first thing you will discover in "owning" a piece of the terrestrial pie is that your homestead is subject to taxation. Pay up, and keeping paying, or forfeit your deed. Your neighbors will most likely have rights-of-way and easements that you cannot legally renege. Your children cannot oppose public health or schooling. Even the damn dog has to be licensed and forbidden to roam, or bark, or bite. Worse: the state enjoys perpetual eminent domain for the "public good." You own nothing, citizen, and the State knows your address, if they decide to raise the rent.

Smashing the state does not end the dilution of ownership. Five kilometers from my jungle home, a bright young fellow named Roosevelt owns and operates a supermarket. I spent an hour with him yesterday, explaining the rudiments of microeconomy -- demand curves, prices, allocation of overhead, etc. I did this, not as a gesture of altruism, but rather self-interest. As a customer, I am an interested stakeholder. I want Roosevelt to succeed and expand. His "ownership" of the store depends on my trade. I feel precisely the same way about Eastman and Sony -- enterprises that I support as a filmmaker. Their continued economic success is vital to the enjoyment of my life, as theirs depends on my success.

The interconnectedness of our humanity can be described in a thousand ways, but I prefer to follow the money. Essential to the criminal enterprise of a fascist state is the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof. Finally, in the context of "legal tender," we arrive at the practical meaning of property. An inventory has no value, if it cannot be traded for something that has physical utility (food, energy, transport). At present, world financial markets are rigged to secure the interests of the United States and puppet regimes in Europe, the Middle East and Asia -- a ruling class of pashas and pawnbrokers, who risk nothing, consume much, and share little with those who labor to produce real, tangible goods. There can be no meaningful discussion of economic justice, unless the fraudulent balance sheet of the Federal Reserve is exposed.

In my opinion, it is incumbent upon the Third Wave militia to complete the work of Jefferson and Madison, and to liberate the money supply from New Rome on the Potomac. I never did like Alan Greenspan. We chatted for five minutes by phone, shortly before he ascended to the financial throne of a bankrupt empire, in charge of laundering Federal debt in phoney trust accounts that will never pay off. The man is a cowardly, treasonous pharisee who helped make Clinton look good. Let's fire both of them. It's not their money. It's ours.

As Milton Friedman rightly taught, the strength of the 19th-century American economy was monetary competition among private banks, each of which issued it's own "currency" of tradable notes. Competitive pressure is beneficial in the financial service sector, no less so than in other markets. If it's true that money is the root of all good -- a symbol of man's productive power -- it is insane to let it remain as a tool of oppression in the hands of statists, militarists, bureaucrats and tax-subsidized "industrialists" like Bill Gates, who produce nothing. The goal of anonymous cybercash, denominated in real goods (i.e., gold), is to drain loot from the looters and repatriate money to those who produce real goods.

Toward Freedom and Justice

Men are by nature territorial. All animals and plants are. It is nothing to be ashamed of, or to disparge in others. Your desire for property is good.

Unfortunately, human desire cannot produce a loaf of bread (much less a palace with a swimming pool and a backyard gold mine). To produce a loaf of bread, you must work for it. Bread-baking becomes considerably easier if you support division of labor, commodity trading, mining, power utilities, infrastructure development, mechanized transport, and a zillion other "unrelated" economic activities that contribute to efficient exchange of brainpower. Instead of baking in a charcoal pit, for instance, it's less awkward to use a commercial oven.

The point here is that we benefit from collaboration. The hungry need all of us -- butcher, baker, and nuclear candlestickmaker -- to exchange skills, trading value for value. Of necessity, some will contribute more value than others. Ayn Rand was quoted as saying that two percent of mankind feed and clothe the rest of us. It is unverifiable, but highly plausible that she was correct. The power of science and industry is an unearned gift, bestowed by a handful of historic men and women. If you use a computer, thank Ada Lovelace -- not Microsoft.

The magnanimity of genius justifies an unequal division of property. However, it is an historical fact that people like Thomas Edison and Ayn Rand won little economic reward in comparison to their "toil and trouble." I am not able to say with certainty that lesser players in the Monopoly game of life are deserving of all the cash or property deeds piled up on their side of the table. As an anarchist, certain of de facto liberty, I tend to assume that benevolence is a hallmark of right action and that good governance inspires the loyalty of a free people who might otherwise rebel against oppression. I am not arguing for or against an aristocracy or private property, except as a natural condition, when thoughtful leadership deservedly commands the willing participation of other, less able workers. I never resent privileges bestowed upon a benefactor.

With so much wealth in the modern world, there are many who are propertied. I can't guess who earned it and who stole it from the innocent. No doubt, property will frantically change hands many times, when the Federal Reserve collapses. Perhaps the sensible thing to do is draw a line in time (when the shooting stops) and say: Enough. Your title deed exists only in the sense that your neighbors consent to that privilege. Laissez faire criminal law enjoins all players to obey two simple rules -- don't kill each other, and argue quietly.

Property disputes will no doubt appear on the docket, with Neighbor A claiming that Neighbor B wrecked a communal septic tank, or some such rot. I hope you realize that courts are not very good at settling such cases. Factual evidence is always debatable, and the parties to a suit are often emotionally exercised far beyond the real (or imagined) injury they sustained. People do things for spite, typically at the fringes of technical legality. In Virginia City, Neighbor A had a splendid view of the scenery. He verbally offended Neighbor B, who proceeded to erect his house smack dab on their common property line, totally blocking Neighbor A's view and access to sunlight. It was perfectly legal. Last night, someone told me an identical tale of "spite" that happened three thousand miles away and a century later in Nosara. Some things never change.

In both of those jurisdictions (19th-century Nevada and modern Costa Rica), there was very little recourse to law courts -- and no violent crime. When people live in practical anarchy, they seldom attack one another, because it's too damned dangerous. The Code of the Old West was backed by an armed citizenry. Law and order hardly existed, except as an attribute of common sense. This suggests that weak "due process" is better than a police state, if the goal of polity is non-violence. I would be happy to exclude most common law cases from court, unless someone suffered a grievous injury. We should encourage people to learn the meaning of common law by negotiating their own agreements and settling minor disputes in propria persona, instead of running to a lawyer every ten minutes, threatening suit. Attorneys should be few in number.

Interactions teach us about ourselves, so nothing is wasted by limiting legal enforcement of property claims. Intercourse is good. I recommend it especially with women, who have interesting and extensive notions about property. The arguments in favor of a female judiciary seem to gain weight and additional merit, no matter which way I turn.

As proof of this, I submit the case of Hynde v Limbaugh -- one of many disputes that contract law sophistry could not equitably settle. Rush Limbaugh sampled and mutilated a Pretenders track, "Back To Ohio," as his syndicated radio theme, paying a nominal royalty to a sub-licensee. Chrissie Hynde was furious that her political nemesis was using her music, and she fought desperately for seven years, using every available legal weapon to stop Limbaugh. I'm pretty sure that a female laissez faire judge (for instance, Queenie) would give Hynde instant relief and block such use of her music, on the ground of moral outrage, no matter what deal was granted to the sub-licensee. Intent matters in laissez faire law. It was never Chrissie's intent to help Rush Limbaugh.

And so, I conclude on a single point of principle with respect to property. It is not my intent to uphold private privilege to the detriment of homeless children. The right of property is contingent on responsibility -- to be a reasonable, fair player in the community, reluctant to destroy the happiness of others and eager to promote human dignity and liberty. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is to offer employment, reward your employees, and quit playing Monopoly. It's stupid and tragic to die with the most toys and the most holes.

Reversed On Appeal

At dinner tonight, I asked Queenie how she would rule in the case of Hynde v Limbaugh, to verify that my prediction was correct that a female judiciary would give great weight to "moral outrage." Hah! The only thing I verified was my inability to second-guess the opposite sex. Queenie ruled in favor of Rush Limbaugh, saying: "A deal is a deal. If Chrissie voluntarily sold her music to a sub-licensee, then she's stuck. She has to honor that agreement. The contract didn't restrict sale of her music to certain people, or prevent sales to Limbaugh, or Nazis, or skinheads, or anyone else. It doesn't make any difference that she and I are personal friends. Principles before personalities, bub."

I didn't dare ask what Queenie thought of property rights in general, because I sensed the distinct possibility that I might have to rewrite my entire essay. This demonstrates the solemn purpose of due process and appellate review. Next time I have something to say about justice, I think I'll write a detective novel. Book reviewers are easier to dazzle than a female court of appeal.

I know it's daft to dream about the law, instead of dealing with existential reality and immediate problems -- but I like to dream. Call it professional privilege. I hereby nominate Kari Freckleton, Annie Lennox, Wendy McElroy, Mary Daly, and Camille Paglia to sit (electronically) as our first laissez faire supreme court. I trust their judgment above all. If you've studied what these five women have said publicly, as I have, perhaps you will agree that justice is safe in their sober deliberations and majority decision. If you don't know what these people achieved (and stand for), I suggest you read them immediately.

The alternative is sordid and chilling -- to allow Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Dole, Diane Sawyer, Janet Reno, and Oprah Winfrey to continue to chirp in unison that everything is constitutionally peachy-keen the way it is now.

Enter supporting content here