Property Rights and the Moral Basis of Ownership Study Sections

    In my previous posts, I have explained the basis of ownership and defended the definition of ownership. Although I have briefly mentioned theft and taking, I have not spent much time on those issues. Now that ownership is clearly understood, those issues are now open for reflection. The moral basis for ownership explains when taking is theft and when it is not. My theory of ownership clearly allows for weaker property rights than those in libertarianism and stronger ones than those in socialism.

    I gave three reasons for the moral basis of ownership. They were the natural needs of human beings as biological creatures, the need of human beings to be compensated for their work and the need for human beings to use their freedom. These reasons support the existence of ownership. They also support the existence of ownership in different ways. The need for food that is expressed biologically is different from the need for the baker to be compensated for his work and the need for baker to freely use his freedom by choosing what sort of goods to bake. Nonetheless, these three supports could be present together in a single act.

    It is also possible for these three supports to be pulled apart. When we travel to a new land and eat fruit from trees that no one owns, only biological needs of human beings are satisfied. When we gather something from a new land to sell, only the need for compensation exists. Finally, when we take something we already own and make something new from it, only freedom is present.

    It is only possible to build an understanding of theft on the basis of what underlies ownership itself. So if human needs are what gives rise to ownership, then protection of ownership cannot violate these same needs. So if a supposed act of theft is really an expression of the human need to eat, then that is not really an act of theft at all. Of course, this includes circumstantial elements as well. If you have other options that do not involve taking, then those other options must be exercised. This gives rise to the basic rule of when theft is theft. Theft is an act of taking that either does not satisfy a basic human need foundational to ownership itself or that cannot be done without taking.

    In order to further understand which particular circumstances include theft and which do not it is necessary to further investigate the basis of ownership itself. It is necessary that these needs be both jointly exhaustive and exclusive in order to be sure that the nature of property is well understood. This will enable us to understand the nature of theft.

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