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Philosophy

Property and Natural Needs

In a previous post, I discussed the three reasons why ownership exists. These are the reasons why ownership exists at all. Each of them must be strong enough to support actual ownership of something at some time or other. Ownership is the right to categorical control of a thing. These three reasons are the needs of human beings as living creatures, the requirement for compensation for work and the nature of freedom. The first of these reasons – needs of human beings as living creatures means that we own certain things in the world.

The first point to be made is that these needs are natural. We are born into this world with a need for food, water, shelter, (usually) clothing and other biological needs. These needs do not vanish with age, cannot be avoided and cannot be eliminated. So anything that results from these needs is also natural in the same way that these needs are natural.

Our needs mean that we have a right to use the external world to satisfy these needs. This is a natural right because it comes directly from our natural needs. Rights can be understood in different ways. This right exists insofar as we need the thing in question and we need that particular way of obtaining it. So if there is only one source of food, then we have a right to that food. Insofar as this right exists, we should not be interfered when we exercise this right.

Finally, the right to use the external world in such a final matter entails that we own some part of the world at some time. We may not own food when it is baked, cooked or picked, but we certainly own the food when we are eating it. To suppose otherwise is to suppose that it would be morally permissible for someone else to prevent someone from eating. Since that is a natural right, that is not permissible. Therefore, the natural needs of human beings support the existence of property.

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