Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Two Questions on Historic Debate on Law and Property (Quora)

What is the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness? What are some examples?

The right to life is the right to be not unjustly killed.

The right to liberty is the right to be not unjustly held in captivity or servitude.

The right to the pursuit of happiness is the right to seek one’s happiness in ways that are legal.

Negative examples of what these rights not are:

The right to life is not a right not to be executed if condemned justly for first degree murder with no extenuating circumstances.

The right to liberty is not a right to not be submitted to prison if you steal or certain types of (at least) community service if you vandalise.

The right to pursuing happiness is not the right to guarantee you are in fact happy, nor is it the right to murder your rich aunt because you would be happy with the heritage.

Positive examples, not doubted by anyone:

The right to life is or includes the right of your rich aunt not to be killed by you, or, if you kill her, for you to be punished for it, including by death penalty.

The right to liberty is or includes the right of an innocent man not to be drafted into unpaid servitude under a master rather than employer.

The right of pursuit of happiness includes your right to study at university (provided you can pay for it or it is paid for and your grades are good enough for entrance) if you think a doctors degree will make your pursuit of happiness well served or your right to be apprenticed with a baker if you think a bakery is where you would like to work and be happy working.

Then there are debatable and even dubious examples.

Later comment
I think the full quote from “Declaration of Independence” says sth like “life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness”.

What happened to “property”?

I’ll give a parallel treatment.

The right to property does NOT mean a right to be given someone else’s property just because you don’t have any.

It DOES mean that once you do acquire property, it is legally protected against damage and thefth.

And it means a right to such property as gives real independence, that is why it is placed right after “liberty” and before “pursuit of happiness”.

In other words, the fact that your property is productive and people are buying goods produced from it does not mean it has to be collective property.

The fact that your property is a house and you are sleeping in it without paying rent does not mean you have to collectivise it so you can pay rent like most other people.

You have a right to property which is legitimately and legally acquired and that right does not depend on it being goods for immediate consumption. It includes very certainly the right to acquire or keep property which you can live on without paying rent or produce goods or services on without doing so for someone employing you, and it does not include the “right” to take over such property from someone having more than he needs just because you have none.

Why was “right to property” left out of the question? Is questioner a Marxist?

In 19 century Europe liberalism in the economic sphere stood for freedom of markets and free movement of goods and capital. Explain?

I will give an example which is of the less joyful kind.

1860’s was generally a triumph for liberalism in the economic sphere.

In Sweden this was implemented by abolishing two useful restrictions on sales of property.

For certain types of property you had a so called “återköpsrätt” - a right to buy back - during one year.

I think this was both so for country and for town.

For one type, then, some, for other type, others, also had a “förköpsrätt” - a legal option of being offered to buy before it was going to the general market.

For town property, that would be the colleagues, thus butchers for a butcher selling his slaughterhouse, for a baker selling his bakery, a baker. And the neighbours - or at least, only, the neighbours. [Or perhaps rather, neighbours in case of housing, colleagues in case of business property.]

For country side property, however, the “förköpsrätt” was that of your family.

Both of these rights, that of the seller and that of certain buyers, protected the seller and his community, insofar as making it either less easy to loose property by temporarily being in such a fix one has to sell or at least making sure the property goes (or might go) to people having some reason to mean well with the seller. Combined they meant a very good protection for fixed property rights.

These rights were however abolished in Sweden in two years during the 1860’s.

Obviously, other aspects of liberalism would be favourable treatment of moneylenders.

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