Every French grammar school student used to learn the story of the vase of Soissons, a beautiful object robbed from a church by the franks in war against the Gauls. The chief Clovis wanted to return it, by way of giving pleasure to a Christian woman who had won his fancy, but the soldier who had taken it (or had been awarded it in the division of the booty) refused. It was his by right and he broke it in front of Clovis to make his point. In effect, he told his chief, what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine. The next theme the troops were drawn up in array, Clovis stopped before the vase-breaker and asked him what was wrong with his sandal; and when the man bent down to look, Clovis shattered his skull with a battle-ax. In effect, what’s yours is yours, but you are mine.
The wealth and poverty of nations
David S. Landes
This article will contain extensive references to other peoples works and stories, enjoy.
A recent posting, specifically the Heidelberg tun got me thinking on the subject of property rights. I used to believe they didn’t exist. In simple terms I believed that since man is mortal and thus the possibility of possessing something forever was impossible that property rights were ephemeral. I don’t think that anymore.
I don’t have much, a few changes of clothes, some jewelry, gems, bullion a few guns and a rented roof over my head. I would like more of all of the above, but not too much. I don’t think I am a very greedy person. The only “unreasonable” items I really want are a rack of auto loading rifles, a few fine double guns, a few acres in the south of France and a Lamborghini.
I don’t know anyone who has any of these things, if I did I admit I would probably be a bit jealous of them. I know I have no right to their property no matter how much complicated legalese I can summon. Or perhaps I could go back to being a militant socialist and shriek at them, “from each according to their ability to each according to their need. So fork over the .577 Nitro Express Lex Luthor!”
The moral of the tale of the tun is that is that if you attempt to obtain something through coercive force as opposed to fair and free trade those forced to part with their possessions will substitute something of lesser value. Or they will spike the item, making it of limited or no use to anyone. In a pitifully small handful of circumstances they will fight, and sometimes they win! Under natural law one has the right to do this, however governments all over the world throughout history have denigrated these property owners as being anti-revolutionary, anti-Christian, cruel, greedy, decadent, elitist, snobby, plutocratic, bourgeois, Kulak, fascist, capitalist PIG DOGS!!
[If you have more derogatory terms for people who didn’t want their property stolen by their government please comment. I know I missed a few.]
Perhaps they were, perhaps these assembled millions all deserved death or imprisonment. But they were also well within their rights to deny their property to a thief. Wether the thief does so under the color of “law” or is just some random thug who came round your home and demand your money or other property. I particularly recall a story from a gun magazine of a bodybuilder in Los Angeles who became a drug dealer and in time started a protection racket. Business was good for him until he showed up on the front porch of a single mother with no money to pay him off. She leveled a 30-30 lever action rifle right between his eyes at point blank range. In front of numerous witnesses he laughed and boldly stated, “I’m not afraid of that little gun, I’m…”
He didn’t get to finish that sentence. Life is short, it can be a lot shorter if you are violent.
Now a thief is going to figure out many of these defensive tactics pretty quick. They will take countermeasures, ratcheting up their violence and cunning. But their efficacy will be limited. So why do they keep stealing? Why do they refuse to acknowledge the property rights of others. When failing to do so could result in the forfeiture of your own property, freedom or even their life.
Once they reach the point of diminishing returns the motive is no longer greed. It very likely started out that way, but what keeps it going is the lust for power! About a year ago I heard a fascinating observation about some of the smaller New Jersey mafia operations. That, as reflected on the Sopranos. It’s quite a bit of work to keep an organized crime racket running and sometimes the spoils of these activities are rather thin, sometimes vanishingly small.
What mattered to them, why they keep doing this when they could. In theory, make as much or more money and not risk being shot, wrapped in chains and dropped in the Atlantic, or prosecuted, by going legit. Was that their gains were ill gotten. That what they had was taken from others. Those aforementioned drunken German noblemen must have known that their giant barrel was full of piss and vinegar. But they had taken it, with their might from the humble farmers. The loss of a soldier was a detriment to Clovis, but he felt as though he gained more in reputation and power by killing him to prove a rather stupid point.
Those who refuse to accept the nonaggression principle and property rights. Who will not operate according to a principle which can be easily explained to a five year old have a bad case of libido domanandi. The lust for power is a dangerous thing, not just to the victims, but also to perpetrators.
The last thing I would like to say to hammer my point home is a scene in the probability broach where a doctor from the libertarian dimension. After having watched atomic bomb testing footage asks. “But why would they do it, for money?”
“They don’t care about money. It’s a sickness. They want power, over the lives of billions.”