Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ayn Rand, Private Property, and Unfettered Government

Private Property

     Let me start by saying I am not a socialist or a communist.  I fear that both of these systems would tend to concentrate too much power in the hands of the governmen which would have to stamp out 'unapproved' capitalist ventures.  On the other hand, I am not a pure capitalist in the way that Ayn Rand is. 

    Unlike Ayn Rand I don't think private property is some 'right' that exists outside of some agreement among persons regarding what property is and how one may dispose of their property.  Our 'right' to private property has to be enforced by some entity.  That is, I need to be able to call the police or take someone to court when someone absconds with this 'property'.  Operationally, the enforcement of those rights by collective agreement(ie, by the government) is what DEFINES my right to property in the first place.  There is no other meaning to the notion of property.  Thus, it is the government itself that defines property what property is, what can be property(for example, it determines whether people can be property), what one can buy and sell, and when one MUST buy and sell(hence government can pass antidsicrimination laws etc... which Rand explicitly OPPOSED).  This includes money.  To say that the government is 'stealing' money in the form of taxes is thus in error because it is the government that enforces our ownership of money.  So I fundamentally disagree that government is theft.

     Government determines what kind of contracts are enforceable.  Why? Because government is itself the means we use to enforce them.  Thus, government can pass laws that children cannot contract out their labor.  It can also stipulate that labor contracts must include concessions for employee safety, minimum wages, and, yes, insist that employers contribute to employees' health care coverage.    

     Can all of this control go too far?  Of course it can! But Rand's position on all of this is unconscionably extreme.  The control on all of this is democracy.  The government should ultimately be accountable to the citizens so that if it goes too far in a direction it can, albeit slowly and imperfectly, be brought into accordance with the population's wishes.  That is how to control 'unfettered government'.

     I also think it is incorrect that government can do nothing right. Our government does things correctly all the time, every day.  We just take too much of it for granted. 

Unfettered Capitalism
     Unfettered capitalism has terrible effects.  This is why we had a labor movement.  This is why we have antitrust laws.  This is why we must have regulation.  Unfettered capitalsim concentrates wealth and allows that wealth to corrupt government.  Unfettered capitalism applied to health care would mean that millions of Americans would be uncoverable by any insurance, for example, the elderly.  You can adopt the position that poor elderly people should just die without medical care, but I cannot.  I think, as I said in my last post, that this is extremely unkind, but it is the consequence of Rand's position.  Recall the Republican debate when the audience started chanting 'let them die' when Blitzer asked Ron Paul a question about health care. 



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