Re: ...and then there's slavery

Dave Long (
Mon, 09 Aug 1999 00:05:19 -0700

> Surely everyone on this list is opposed to the concept of chattel
> slavery.

That's odd. I'd believe that your property/contract world would
lead pretty easily to slavery, especially if intergenerational
effects are part of the system. Perhaps I'm not sensitive enough to
the rather fine distinction you seem to be draw between indentured
servitude and slavery. On to more fundamental things:

> We can all surely agree that the notion of "First Property" is
> sound, and that every human has the right to exercise control over their
> own body and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

This I can't agree with. If it were sound, we would expect it to be
generically recognized in human culture. I had been going to offer
the counterexample of ancient greco-roman/chinese/mid-eurasian
practice, in which the paterfamilias/head of household/The Man had
not only the right, but also the duty, to exercise control over the
remainder of the household, and to distribute the fruits of their labors.
(although there do seem to have been both custom and law in place to
ensure that familial members of the household were provided for)

However, it seems we can find much more recent examples of a lack of
individualism in property. A married friend of mine was surprised
recently to discover that it is difficult (at best) to buy real
estate in CA without it becoming community property. At least the
state does have the notion of separate property; the Married Womens'
Property Act in 1882 finally enabled British women to buy, own, and
sell property, as well as to keep their own earnings. Various of
these United States also passed womens' property acts during the last

Jumping forward a century, Kirchberg v. Feenstra demonstrates that
only a couple of decades ago, Louisiana had a statue giving husbands
the unilateral right to dispose of jointly owned community property
without their wives' consent:

So, up until a period when those of us on this list were actually
alive, there are identifiable groups of humans who had impaired
rights in enjoying the fruits of their labors.

(From whence is this right to the fruits of labors supposed to
spring? Are you going to defend the labor theory of value?)

> Thus, if you deny
> chattel slavery, you have therefore endorsed the notion of property, and
> endorsed it in a strongly individualistic way.

No, all that the denial of slavery need imply is the nonexistence of
(transferable) property rights in individual liberty. I lack a
title for my own liberty, and I doubt you have one for yours. These
observations make me believe that the existence of slavery makes
a stronger case for property than its absence, and if you bother
to read the various States' Declarations of Secession, you'll find
quite a few arguments to property, and the low moral character of
those who would attempt to deny it. (some great ways to complain
about insults to property without excess redundancy as well -- I'd
love to eloign "eloign")

1. Denying slavery says nothing about the notion of "my stuff".
2. Being able to say "my stuff" does not imply property,
where property is that which the state (or suitable
third party) will defend for you against all comers.
3. Even where property exists, there may be (often are) some
humans who cannot legally hold it.


Lewis points out that we may be able to claim we have the use and
possession of ourselves, but as we do not control disposal, any
claim to self-ownership is dubious; life tenancy or tenancy at will
would be a more accurate analogy:

C.S. Lewis, _The Screwtape Letters_, Chap. XXI
> The sense of ownership in general is always to be
> encouraged. The humans are always putting up claims
> to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in
> Hell, and we must keep them doing so. Much of the modern
> resistance to chastity comes from men's belief that they
> "own" their bodies -- those vast and perilous estates,
> pulsating with the energy that made the worlds, in which
> they find themselves without their consent and from which
> they are ejected at the pleasure of Another! It is as if
> a royal child whom his father has placed, for love's sake,
> in titular command of some great province, under the real
> rule of wise counsellors, should come to fancy he really
> owns the cities, the forests, and the corn, in the same
> way as he owns the bricks on the nursery floor.
> We produce this sense of ownership not only by pride but
> by confusion. We teach them not to notice the different
> sense of the possessive pronoun -- the finely graded
> differences that run from "my boots" through "my dog",
> "my servant", "my wife", "my father", "my master", and "my
> country", to "my God". They can be taught to reduce all
> these sense to that of "my boots", the "my" of ownership.
> Even in the nursery a child can be taught to mean by "my
> Teddy bear", *not* the old imagined recipient of affection
> to whom it stands in a special relation (for that is what
> the Enemy will teach them to mean if we are not careful),
> but "the bear I can pull to pieces if I like."