Free Markets, Free People


Cuba allows people to exercise property rights again

You’re probably looking at the title and if you’re familiar with the story wondering why I announced it like that.

The story, if you’re not familiar with it, was reported today by AP in a story entitled “Cuba legalizes sale, purchase of private property”.

After the description of what Cuba will now allow, you run across this within the story:

"This is a very big step forward. With this action the state is granting property rights that didn’t exist before," said Philip J. Peters, a Cuba analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia.

Have you picked yourself up off the floor yet?   That’s the most ridiculous statement you’re likely to see in some time (which is a bit surprising coming from someone at the Lexington Institute).

Let’s make something perfectly clear – property rights existed prior to and during the communist regime’s takeover.  What the communists did was prevent the exercise of the right through the use of force.  That’s entirely different than what Peters contends.  In fact, the AP title comes closer to the truth than Peters.  The communist regime had simply made the exercise of the right “illegal” and had used force to prevent the people of Cuba from exercising that right.   The right didn’t go away, just the ability to exercise it.

Now, surprise surprise, the communist regime has all but admitted it was a foolish thing to do and has again made the right “legal”.  Or said another way, they will no longer use the force of the state to prevent people from exercising their inherent right to property.

Oh, and as a bonus for the income equality crowd?  If you want income equality, Cuba is your place.  Everyone makes about the same there.  Check it out.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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27 Responses to Cuba allows people to exercise property rights again

  • A historian friend of mine once told me it was a sign of middling wealth during the Dark Ages to own a chair.
    In law school, my Property instructor was a very Lefty Medieval historian…who I had to kind of like.  He approached the whole idea of “property” as “a bundle of rights”.  Which, if you follow the historical development of our notions of property, is not irrational.
    As against your baronial landlord, you had no rights to property at points in time.  If he wanted it, it was his by right of arms.
    In the lexicon of “natural rights”, I agree that one’s production should be theirs.  But I do see the development of property rights as an historical evolution in civil law to be valid, too.

    • It has always been valid, it is the force that has been used to prevent its exercise that’s been the problem. You either have to decide that the inherent right to property is an individual right or you have to then consider it a privilege that you believe is rightfully granted or taken away by other people who have power over you (by force). An inherent right is universal. A privilege depends on other people allowing you to do something. I know which makes more logical sense to me when considering what man requires to live as man and an individual.

      • Was I unclear?
        I agree with the Natural Rights version…while understanding that is the EXCEPTIONAL view in history.  I see that a lot of people shed a lot of blood to bring our concept of property out of the norms of the past.
        I am quite ready to shed my own blood to retain what has been so hard won.

  • Following the AP link I see this headline:
     

    New law will let Cubans buy and sell real estate

    With respect to real estate (and what I’m really thinking of specifically is land) I don’t buy the existence of an inherent right.  The right to land was established by some combination of force and government.  If I’m off base I welcome the correction.

    • If you go GLOBAL in your thinking, you get where I suggest I am in my post.
      Your self is yours.  Your time, talent, skill, etc. belong-a-u.  Hence, the things that derive from them belong to you as against all others.
      A lot of our legal framework is designed to give that effect in a civil society.

    • With respect to real estate (and what I’m really thinking of specifically is land) I don’t buy the existence of an inherent right.  The right to land was established by some combination of force and government.  If I’m off base I welcome the correction.

      Your error is the presumption that government or (aggressive) force are necessary.  Since government always means the use of aggressive force, ultimately, I’ll simply include government as a proper subset of aggressive force.  If a group of people landed on an uninhabited island, they could work out a division of land without resorting to aggressive force.  They could hold a peaceful meeting and draw numbers from a hat or hold an auction to work out which are the prime pieces of land and which are less desirable.
      And, while I assert that the right to justly acquired property is an inherent right, I do acknowledge that establishing original ownership of land, in particular, is a very sticky problem.
      At some point in the prehistoric past, some small group came upon a parcel of land that no human being had ever been near.  They built a shelter and used the land for the purpose of survival.  Did that establish ownership?  Being nomadic before agriculture, humans didn’t build fences and their shelters were temporary, so when they were gone for months from a given parcel, was it wrong for a different group to “trespass”?  And, once humans adopted agriculture, did plowing a patch of land establish ownership, or did the band of hunters who had camped out in the given field each Spring still have any right to use it?
      Also, since most places on Earth have been conquered numerous times through war or threats, can a deed to a given plot be valid, since at some point in the past it was stolen?
      But does all that complexity mean that one can never own land?  I don’t think so.  But it does mean that a title to a given plot is more easily open to counter-claims than ownership of a car, for example.

  • The only rights you truly have are the ones you can enforce.  Any rights you should have are ultimately meaningless because there’s no equivalent of the Church’s ‘Holy Spirit’ or other form of ‘Cosmic Justice’ to come and enforce them for you.

    • You’re arguing the difference between principle and reality though.  The principle still stands, there are certain inherent rights you possess and there are things that, even if you have the force to claim they are your right, are still not your inherent right.   You may have the force to allow you to punch me in the nose every day, but that doesn’t mean there’s an inherent right for you to do so just because you can enforce it.

       

      • Follow this vapid argument to its logical conclusion.  What these people are asserting is that Anne Frank had no right to live and that stuffing her in a concentration camp, making her a slave, and causing her to die diseased, emaciated, and severely psychologically traumatized was not wrong.  After all, Anne Frank couldn’t enforce her rights, so (by the disgusting “might makes right” rationale) those in power could do whatever they wanted to her and her family.
        So “jpm100″ is essentially arguing that there must be someone to act in defense or to retaliate in an act of justice, or right and wrong are just imaginary things, akin to made up religious notions.
        Except that decent, rational people need no ultimate reward or punishment to inform their consciences about how they want to be treated, and likewise how they should treat other decent, rational people.  When one realizes there is no afterlife, thus no heaven or hell, or when the government collapses are there are effectively no laws, the civilized man doesn’t take to raping and pillaging.  He simply continues to respect his neighbors’ rights, knowing that those rights do not come from imaginary supernatural deities or from fancy pieces of paper.
        The rights are a consequence of our nature as rational beings.

        • Yah, human experience has SUCH a great trail of models to back up what happens when you annihilate God.
          Communists and Nazis WERE “rational” people; “scientific”, in fact.  Their ideology wasn’t just supposed to be “decent”, but benevolent.
          Really, I worry about you…

          • The Nazis weren’t atheists.  They were mostly Christians and some of them dabbled in “the occult”.
            Communists attacked organized religion as a threat to their political power.  Organized religion had, for centuries, attained varying degrees of political power through psychological control of its members (beyond the actual murders, imprisonment, torturing, dispossession, etc. which were carried out when they had the power to do so).  Conform to the rules of the church or you risk going to hell.  Follow their edicts and you can go to heaven.  How could a totalitarian government break such devotion?  Ban the church itself.
            Communist atrocities were not a result of a lack of faith in the supernatural, but due to the adoption of a collectivist ideology which denied individual rights and provided ruthless, power-hungry leaders to justify subjecting unfavorable groups to purges “for the good of the motherland”.
            Really, what was the difference between a blue cap and a church functionary who dragged you off to the Inquisition or witch trial?
            If atheism leads people to being murderous bastards, then why are there so many peaceful atheists?  And, if faith in deities inhibits people from being murderous bastards, explain the endless wars, atrocities, acts of cruelty, and oppression carried out in the name of gawd.  You can’t promise an atheist dozens of virgins in paradise to blow himself up.  Also, there have been plenty of people who attained political power or influence by wearing the mantle of a believer, who never had any faith in anything supernatural.
            I had a brief exchange with Penn Jillette on twitter about whether a person who is not an atheist could be truly moral.  His argument is that when one does “good” for the sake of reward or to avoid punishment, it isn’t actually a moral decision.  I disagreed on the details, but I think he’s essentially correct.  If the only reason you don’t steal is because you fear hell, then you haven’t made a moral choice to not steal.  You’ve behaved like a dog which fears the master if he jumps up to take the meat from the table.  The dog doesn’t even have the option of going to confession and getting “absolution”, either.
            I still say that a person who has faith can make a moral decision to respect the rights of others in addition to (or even in spite of) religious rules.  Penn says “bulls**t” but I think he’s wrong.

          • P.S. As Christopher Hitchens so eloquently put it:

            [Religious belief] is a totalitarian belief. It is the wish to be a slave. It is the desire that there be an unalterable, unchallengeable, tyrannical authority who can convict you of thought crime while you are asleep, who can subject you – who must, indeed, subject you – to total surveillance around the clock every waking and sleeping minute of your life – I say, of your life – before you’re born and, even worse and where the real fun begins, after you’re dead. A celestial North Korea. Who wants this to be true? Who but a slave desires such a ghastly fate? I’ve been to North Korea. It has a dead man as its president, Kim Jong-Il is only head of the party and head of the army. He’s not head of the state. That office belongs to his deceased father, Kim Il-Sung. It’s a necrocracy, a thanatocracy. It’s one short of a trinity I might add. The son is the reincarnation of the father. It is the most revolting and utter and absolute and heartless tyranny the human species has ever evolved. But at least you can f*****g die and leave North Korea!

            Organized religion and socialism are both subsets of collectivism.  They both share the trait that your life doesn’t really belong to you, but to the deity or to the state.  Your life, your actions, are not to be admired unless they are in service of the higher power or made in altruistic sacrifice to others.
            I was once religious and many people I love and admire are religious.  But any religion of which I’m aware is ultimately in conflict with individualism and, of course, reason.  Many people in enlightened, civilized places are respectful of their rights of their neighbors and find value in self-interested accomplishment, despite what a literal interpretation of the so-called holy books might say to the contrary.

          • Ah, well…add MORE ignorance to your other attributes.
            Nothing I can do to help you.

          • Ah, well…add MORE ignorance to your other attributes.

            Of what do you imagine I am ignorant?  I was a believer.  I studied religion, even took a class in college comparing Judaism and Christianity.  I’ve had close relationships with people of various religions, as well as with non-theists.
            My beliefs evolved after exposure to information, not due to sitting in a dark basement oblivious to the arguments of the faithful.

            Nothing I can do to help you.

            What sort of help are you offering?
            When I twisted my ankle jumping into the pool at my in laws recently and was in excruciating pain, my brother in law was nice enough to get ice for me.  He also asked me if I would like for him to pray for me.  I said, “No, thank you.  I’m not religious.  But I appreciate the thought.”  He walked away, exasperated, mumbling, “I guess you don’t want any help.”
            The ice he brought me meant I was fine the next day, even able to walk around Disneyland with no problems.  If he had prayed, the result would have been the same, but he would have smugly insisted that his incantations had magically reduced the swelling in my ligaments.
            Speaking of which, I have a rock I can give to you.  It’s an anti-tiger rock.  Trust me, so long as I’ve had it, I’ve never been attacked by a tiger.
            If I offer to help you, it’s to do something tangible for your benefit.  It’s not to do a nothing and pretend that it’s something.

          • Well, I guess it depends on your view of the deity then.   If one is a subscriber to the hellfire and brimstone school then I suppose you can attribute all moral actions to nothing more than the promise of avoiding punishment.

            I must say, I find the probability of a being capable of creating the universe from DNA and subatomic particles to super novas punishing you for sneaking a peek through through Mary Margret O’Donnell’s bedroom window rather unlikely, and frankly, rather petty (then again, I’m not in charge, am I…).

            Perhaps it has less to do with punishment or reward, and more to do with learning and graduating.

          • “I had a brief exchange with Penn Jillette on twitter about whether a person who is not an atheist could be truly moral.”

            Because obviously all Christians do good only for a reward, whereas only atheists are altruistic, decent, civilized, and ‘rational’ enough to do good for its own sake.
            I have come to expect such narcissistic bushwa from atheists.

          • Because obviously all Christians do good only for a reward, whereas only atheists are altruistic, decent, civilized, and ‘rational’ enough to do good for its own sake.

            Obviously, you didn’t read what I wrote.  I disagreed with him, because I don’t think “all [religious people] do good only for a reward”.
            I think people who belong to an organized religion don’t necessarily make all of their choices strictly based upon the literal interpretation of their holy book.  I think many of them would behave morally even if they were never exposed to any religious indoctrination.  (Those who wouldn’t are would-be rapists and murderers not to be trusted.)
            But Jillette’s basic point is correct.  Morality requires choice.  An ant can’t be moral because it doesn’t have free will.  A dog that would jump up on the table and feast on the master’s dinner, but only refrains from doing so because it remembers being smacked with a newspaper hasn’t made a moral choice.  A person who only refrains from stealing or raping out of fear of damnation hasn’t made a moral choice to respect the rights of others.  He’s immoral because he would do those things if he thought he could avoid hell.  Which is one reason why confession, absolution, baptism and such “get out of jail free card” notions are so rotten.  At least they’re not selling indulgences anymore.

            I have come to expect such narcissistic bushwa from atheists.

            Sadly, I recognize that sentiment, as I had the same ignorant assessment of atheists in the past.  While there certainly are plenty of a**holes who are atheists and people who play the oneupmanship game, seeing how cleverly they can insult religious people, what you perceive as narcissism is, in my assessment, simply confidence in ideas which I understand to be more reasonable.
            If the tribesman gave me a grave warning to offer a sacrifice to appease the gods and avoid being cursed, he may consider me arrogant to disregard his warning and try to explain my hubris as a personal flaw.  But he’s assuming that the danger is real and that I ought to perceive it as such.  Sure, most Christians in civilized countries laugh at the primitive tribesman and his obviously unfounded beliefs.  But why do they consider themselves superior when they believe in divinely revealed truth about a personal god who is “capable of creating the universe from DNA and subatomic particles to super novas” but still petty and frivolous enough to call on the “chosen people” to commit genocide or worry about your innermost thoughts?

            In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed”? Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.
            — Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994, p. 50

            Standing on the other side of the apostasy fence, I find no loss of respect for other human beings, no impulse to revel in Bacchanalian frenzy.  I don’t hate religious people or think I’m better than them.  I know that I was there once and I’m sad for them when I see them wasting portions of their one and only life on things which are obviously made up.  When others start from the assumption that there is a heaven and hell and that my rejection of a given deity consigns me to perdition, and they try to psychoanalyze me based upon those assumptions, it’s rather disheartening (well, if I actually care about that person, not if they’re just a faceless participant in an internet chat).  I’m sure my stubbornness not to go along to get along is easily interpreted as arrogance, but it isn’t.
            You simply don’t understand us.

          • “Obviously, you didn’t read what I wrote.”

            You mean like
            “but I think he’s essentially correct.”?
             Speaking of narcissism, did you even consider the possibility that I was commenting on Jilette’s argument and not you? That perhaps I had actually read the following sentences?

            “You simply don’t understand us.”

            *yawn*  Yeah, right.  We ignorant non-atheists just don’t have the intulekshual stuff for all that complicated (and wordy) philosophy stuff.

          • “Obviously, you didn’t read what I wrote.”

            You mean like

            “but I think he’s essentially correct.”?

            I agree with Jillette on a given proposition, but disagree on a particular detail. You accuse me of agreeing with him on the detail. I correct you and you, once again, gloss over my explication of why I think he’s wrong on that detail? You’re engaging in petty sophistry.

            You simply don’t understand us.”

            *yawn*  Yeah, right.  We ignorant non-atheists just don’t have the intulekshual stuff for all that complicated (and wordy) philosophy stuff.

            It isn’t a matter of intelligence.  In my case, my dismal view of atheists in years past was due to ignorance and false assumptions.  When one doesn’t get why someone else holds particular beliefs or lack of beliefs, it’s only natural to look for psychological explanations, like narcissism, holding a bitter grudge against society, etc..  But you’re excluding valid motivations.
            As for Penn Jillette, I don’t see him being a narcissist.  He jokes about being “carny trash” and bends over backwards to give proper credit to others.  His entertainment has a consistent theme of enlightening others, not pretending that he and his fellow entertainers have any special powers.  He’s quite down-to-earth and spends time with fans after his shows and on Twitter.  His explanation for why he is an atheist and a libertarian belies the accusation that he’s a narcissist.

        • So “jpm100″ is essentially arguing that there must be someone to act in defense or to retaliate in an act of justice, or right and wrong are just imaginary things, akin to made up religious notions

          >>>Oh no, right and wrong will always exist, but they’ll just be meaningless concepts without anything to back them up.

        • Awesome responses Elliot. I see far too much of so-called “libertarians”, including many on this fine blog, who would be fine with gov’t forced religion on everyone else, as long as property rights were respected. That seems to run very much against the true libertarian idea of limited gov’t, like in no level of gov’t EVER favoring, forcing, etc, a certain theocratic (GOP anyone?) party on the rest of us who just want to be left alone. 

          I especially like the responses on the Nazis. They were Christians; all you have to do is read Hitler’s writings on the subject. 

          And Carl Sagan was a hero and called it just like it is. The more science advances, the more religion is exposed as nothing, as Roddenberry put it, but outdated superstition. That’s why so many GOP types are rabidly anti-science; if it keeps advancing their little ideas of taking America back to medieval times will end.

          • “That’s why so many GOP types are rabidly anti-science;”

            By anti-science you mean those of us who would dearly like to see some actual science applied to many subjects, instead of herd following (complete with appropriate moos and lows for the herd soundeffect) consensus behaviors and reliance on the   mainstream media or the current education system for their pseudo-science and psycho babble.

            I’ll stick with my anti-science view if it means I am endowed with rights at the time of my birth (either as a consequence of  rational nature or divine influence) rather than the oh so scientific view that kindly people such as yourself through the auspices of government, have granted me those rights.

            After all, so many Democrats seems to ‘feel’ their way through life, I hardly am about to listen to them rant about how scientific they are because of their views, and how anti-scientific I am because of mine.

          • By anti-science you mean those of us who would dearly like to see some actual science applied to many subjects, instead of herd following (complete with appropriate moos and lows for the herd soundeffect) consensus behaviors and reliance on the   mainstream media or the current education system for their pseudo-science and psycho babble.

            I doubt that is at all what he meant.  He can explain himself, but for me, there’s a difference between opposing the pseudo-scientific arguments of political whores like catastrophic anthropogenic global warming alarmists and insisting that global warming as a whole is false.  Declaring that the Earth hasn’t warmed in the past century, or that human industry contributed nothing to that, is just as dishonest as predicting that the coastal cities will be inundated within decades because a guy saw some dead polar bears from an airplane, another guy thought the glaciers in the Himalayas were shrinking because of what he saw while mountain climbing, or some ditz politician felt more turbulence while flying in an airplane.
            But the more absurd anti-scientific positions taken by people, typically the “religious right” types in the GOP, concern evolution or anything else which they feel contradicts their literal reading of their holy book.
            Do you believe that the Earth is 4-5 billion years old and that living species have evolved over many hundreds of millions of years, including humans evolving from the same ancestors of modern day apes?

      • P.S. I neglected to mention that this:

        Any rights you should have are ultimately meaningless because there’s no equivalent of the Church’s ‘Holy Spirit’ or other form of ‘Cosmic Justice’ to come and enforce them for you.

        has the logical flaw of requiring knowledge of future events.  No, there will be no supernatural consequences.  But there may be a reckoning by other human beings, such as the Nuremberg Trials.  To use “jpm100′s” logic, a person in 1944 would not know of any justice meted out in 1946 or beyond.  So, in a variation of the Schrödinger’s cat paradox, shipping the Frank family off to Auschwitz would be both a violation of their rights and not a violation, since it would be possible that one could get away with no justice, or that one would eventually swing from a rope.
        So, you see, the only people who can really know right and wrong are the psychics and fakirs who can actually see into the future.  The rest of us just have to guess, I suppose.

    • Not really or there is no credible moral or legal reason to be against murder. You have a right to life. The fact that someone can violate that right and murder you doesn’t change the fact that you still have that right. In fact, it is the basis for both moral and legal retribution/action. It is a right recognized almost universally and why murder is both morally and legally wrong in most cultures.

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