“There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or…ideologies…all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they possess.” C.S. Lewis
Stirner’s Egoism tries to isolate the Ego away from everything else that makes man, man. Clearly we all have our own wants and desires, but most of those desires can only be realized in society because of our interdependent nature. He has referenced a “union of egos” several times, so it seems that he does have some comprehension of the need for us to get along. I look forward to getting to that part of the book to get a better explanation of what he means. I think it is probably a “fixed idea”. That is supposed to be a joke at Stirner’s expense, in case it didn’t come across. I think it is probably bad form to blog about and criticize that which I don’t have a complete understanding about, but I guess I’m okay with having bad form.
Stirner’s thoughts on property are pretty much exactly the same as his thoughts on natural rights. Your rights are only what you give yourself, your property is only that which you can claim by might.
The Ego and His Own
In the State there is no property, i.e. no property of the individual, but only State property. Only through the State have I what I have, as I am only through it what I am.
This goes back to Stirner saying that if we let the state define what we can have as property, then the we are wards of the state, and let it grant us rights and call us criminals.
My private property is only that which the State leaves to me of its, cutting off others from it (depriving them, making it private); it is State property.
I really like this. If we are to say that the state grants us property rights, we are to say that there is no such thing as property without the state. If the state grants it, then the state can take it away. From this point of view, you don’t really own your property, the state does.
I take the Frederic Bastiat point of view:
“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”
The problem I see with the Bastiat point of view is that the state is not a voluntary organization. Most of us want laws that protect our property. We think that a worthy thing, that we have a societal agreement that we should leave one another’s property alone, and that there should be recourse if our right to our property is violated.
Our government does so much more than protect our property, and much of it is antithetical to protecting our property. For instance, many places will charge property tax if you own real property. If you don’t pay this tax, the state will take your property. This doesn’t happen often, but it is possible and it does happen. It amounts to paying rent to the state instead of owning your property. The state tells you what you can and can’t build on your property, thus again showing that it is the true owner.
If the state were a voluntary organization, one where we actually could disassociate from it, I think it could be set-up so that property owners come together to abide by rules of mutual respect for each other’s property. I have read ideas thrown around about the state being more like an insurance company, and you would pay premiums to it for the protections it provides to you. You could take your risk that you could protect your own property and decline to pay dues, but then you wouldn’t have access to the security force or the court system it would offer if you declined to pay.
What then is my property? Nothing but what is in my power! To what property am I entitled? To every property to which I — empower myself.* I give myself the right of property in taking property to myself, or giving myself the proprietor’s power, full power, empowerment.
Everything over which I have might that cannot be torn from me remains my property; well, then let might decide about property, and I will expect everything from my might!
Stirner makes the point that property comes to one through might. I think this is grounded in truth. Most of us think the first property owners became so by mixing their labor with the land, and thus claimed it for themselves. They most likely had to protect it with their might as well, being willing to use force to defend it. You can inherit property these days, but keeping it does involve using threat of force. That threat of force is the law. Laws are always backed by the threat of force. I would like to see laws become simply people coming together to abide by mutual agreements. As it is, it is like Stirner said, the state owns all and we are merely granted the privilege of using state property.
I am starting to like Stirner a little better because he seems, to me, to go where no one else will. I think he is far too verbose, and I wish he could have been pithy. I think he makes some good points. I think his lack of fear of going where others dare not tread lets him make those points.