segunda-feira, 11 de outubro de 2004

The Ethics and Economics of Private Property

O artigo mais recente de Hans-Hermann Hoppe (e uma oportunidade para os seus críticos):

"(...)First, private property is more productive...Secondly, private property prevents conflict and promotes peace...Further, private property has existed always and everywhere, whereas nowhere have communist utopias sprung up spontaneously. Finally, private property promotes the virtues of benevolence and generosity. It allows one to be so with friends in need.

Roman law, from the Twelve Tables to the Theodosian Code and the Justinian Corpus, recognized the right of private property as near absolute. Property stemmed from unchallenged possession, prior usage established easements, a property owner could do with his property as he saw fit, and freedom of contract was acknowledged. As well, Roman law distinguished importantly between ‘national’ (Roman) law – ius civile – and ‘international’ law – ius gentium.

The Christian contribution to this classic tradition – embodied in St. Thomas Aquinas and the late Spanish Scholastics as well as Protestants Hugo Grotius and John Locke – is twofold. Both Greece and Rome were slave-holding civilizations. Aristotle, characteristically, considered slavery a natural institution. In contrast, Western – Christian – civilization, not withstanding some exceptions, has been essentially a society of free men. Correspondingly, for Aquinas as for Locke, every person had a proprietary right over himself (self-ownership). Moreover, Aristotle, and classic civilization generally, were disdainful of labor, trade, and moneymaking. In contrast, in accordance with the Old Testament, the Church extolled the virtues of labor and work. Correspondingly, for Aquinas as for Locke, it was by work, use, and cultivation of previously unused land that property first came into existence.

This classic theory of private property, based on self-ownership, original appropriation (homesteading), and contract (title transfer), continued to find prominent proponents, such as J. B. Say. However, from the height of its influence in the eighteenth century until quite recently, with the advance of the Rothbardian movement, the classic theory had slipped into oblivion.

For two centuries, economics and ethics (political philosophy) had diverged from their common origin in natural law doctrine into seemingly unrelated intellectual endeavors. Economics was a value-free "positive" science. It asked "what means are appropriate to bring about a given (assumed) end?" Ethics was a "normative" science (if it was a science at all). It asked "what ends (and what use of means) is one justified to choose?" As a result of this separation, the concept of property increasingly disappeared from both disciplines. For economists, property sounded too normative; for political philosophers property smacked of mundane economics.

In contrast, Rothbard noted, such elementary economic terms as direct and indirect exchange, markets and market prices as well as aggression, crime, tort, and fraud cannot be defined or understood without a theory of property. Nor is it possible to establish the familiar economic theorems relating to these phenomena without the implied notion of property and property rights. A definition and theory of property must precede the definition and establishment of all other economic terms and theorems.

Rothbard's unique contribution, from the early 1960s until his death in 1995, was the rediscovery of property and property rights as the common foundation of both economics and political philosophy, and the systematic reconstruction and conceptual integration of modern, marginalist economics and natural-law political philosophy into a unified moral science: libertarianism. "

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