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The Passive Capitalist
Property and its Lack of a Relationship with Force
12/13/2004

I'll make this quick. In fact, if I really enjoy making this quick I'll make it the first installment of my I'll-make-this-quick series.

In the course of human events, such as online political debating, one occasionally encounters the leftist claim that property is tantamount to force. I have encountered this on several occasions. What always annoyed me about the claim was that social sharing of property can just as easily be tantamount to force, and indeed in any instance where capitalism necessitates force, socialism requires it equally.

The argument from the leftist goes like this: force is the great evil, on this much we can agree. Whatever your opinion on defensive force, force is what we as protagonist-philosophers wish to avoid in human interaction. But people cannot have property without forceably restricting its use by others. Therefore, (sticky) property is not possible without force, therefore property is force.

Never let a leftist say any of this to you again. A society can feature property rights as one of its perks without ever initiating force against a human being; in fact, whether a society is collectivist or individualist is completely independent of how passive or aggressive it might be.

Consider: The butcher and the baker live in a small village. Everyone in town is a strict pacifist, even the thieves. One day, the butcher puts down his Noam Chomsky Reader and decides to go get himself some free bread. So he walks over to the baker's shop, grabs a few loaves off the shelf, and goes back home.

The candlestick maker witnesses the whole thing and tells the baker all about it. Now, these people may be pacifists, but they are capitalists just as much. So the baker and the candlestick maker tell everyone in town and make their way over to the butcher's house. Throwing open the door, they find the butcher sitting in his chair reading Das Kapital. They promptly grab all the loaves they can get ahold of, and take them right back to the baker's shop.

The butcher may try to stop them, but as a pacifist his options are limited. What's he going to do, smack someone? Pull out a sword? He can't lift a finger to his fellow brother. The townspeople have successfully defended claims of property without employing force as their means.

What makes this interpretation interesting is that it divorces the Non-Aggression Principle from the holding of property, something leftists have been trying to do for a while. To them I'd like to say: you're welcome.


Dr. State was raised by wild dogs in rural Alabama and spent a number of years in captivity. He wasn't discovered until his third year of employment as a seeing eye dog in Montgomery. The only possessions found on him were a chewing bone and, conveniently enough, his birth certificate crumpled in his clenched left hand. After a months-long statewide location effort, the Doctor was finally reunited with his birth parents, who had reported their dog Mifune, his adopted mother, missing over 20 years ago. All his articles are plagiarized from outside sources.

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