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So, upon reading Nozick again I ran into something I haven't seen any libertarians argue vis a vis justifications of property rights (I don't think Nozick wouldn't promote this as an argument since it's more of an end-state theory written this way rather than an entitlement theory). I realized that a plausible argument for property could go something like this:

  1. Negative liberty is the only liberty that should be promoted.
  2. Property promotes negative liberty. :. Property is justifiable as an institution.

I realize that a one could bring up problems with both point 1 and 2 (by arguing for positive liberty and by pointing out how property violates negative liberty [a la Cohen, Carter, et al]), but ignoring that, is there anything else wrong with this?

What I have trouble letting go of is that this doesn't seem to justify property de jure, i.e. this doesn't seem to grant property 'rights', but more provides a reason for why property should be a thing agents strive to get. Which then brings up the question of how they would get it? What process would make it an agent's property so they can then obtain negative liberty (and I know there's theories of property acquisition, again, ignoring those theories)? If there's no property rights, can agents, then, just take property to promote their negative liberty? Etc.

Is my claim regarding property rights legitimate? Does this fail to actually provide a justification for property rights?

  • Other than the objections, are there objections? – jobermark Aug 20 '15 at 23:34
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    I think there is a hole here. A right always creates positive liberty. It has to. If I am to have something then I am entitled to act to get it or keep it, and I will need defense of that entitlement. Protection is not free. So 'rights' are an implicitly anti-libertarian framing. Any attempt to make enforcement uniform, which is what rights are intended to motivate, will create obligations to protect the weak and limit the strong. – jobermark Aug 20 '15 at 23:39
  • Jobermark, I realize I stacked the deck against other objections. I just wanted to narrow the answers and have the argument be taken in this sense, since what I'm interested in is whether this argument would still need a theory of property acquisition. – Simon Hartman Aug 21 '15 at 3:04
  • I'm also in a similar camp as you, as it seems to me like the negative-positive division of liberty seems to be a bit of a false one, or at least that one implies the other. – Simon Hartman Aug 21 '15 at 3:07
  • Either that, or you need some framing for liberties other than 'rights', like common good, balance of judgement, etc. IMHO, rights are a paternalistic concept, presuming there is some perfect answer and we are approximating it, and that 'we' are some father/provider/God with force at our disposal. That is not necessarily the case, so the framing is biased. In particular, it is biased toward giving power to the State. – jobermark Aug 21 '15 at 12:59

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