Leonid

Government ownership

55 posts in this topic

A rejection of the premise of public ownership is very well established in Objectivism.

Ownership means the right to determine the use and disposal of material goods, and such a right is reserved only to individuals, not to the groups. Collective ownership therefore is a stolen concept.

"Since “public property” is a collectivist fiction, since the public as a whole can neither use nor dispose of its “property,” that “property” will always be taken over by some political “elite,” by a small clique which will then rule the public—a public of literal, dispossessed proletarians." Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 128

Yet, the State in order to fulfill its legitimate function has "to determine the use and disposal of material goods." It runs military forces, police and courts, owns property which costs trillions of dollars and employs millions of people. The question is: if this is not a public ownership, what it is? Another question: how this ownership could be reconciled with Ayn Rand's premise that the State should be divorced from economics as it divorced from Church and for the same reason? Surely, government's intervention on such a scale would deeply affect economics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Collective ownership can be in the form of a share holding by a collection of individuals where a share is individually owned. However, I think you are referring to ownership of government property that has no individual title to it.

Government needs property to function, but that property is not for economic use, but mutual 'defence'. If land, buildings and machinery is leased to the government, then actual property owned would be insignificant. The government would be subject to the law of the land as trustee, and not run by "cliques". Buildings could be donated, and so could other property. If a group of citizens buys the local cop a gun, the gun is held in trust by the cop and not owned by him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

`I don't think that government operates on the basis of lease, especially when it uses consumable products-food, ammunition, petrol, medical supplies etc...Besides, government is the biggest single employer and dispenses money on salaries in large quantities. This is a pure economic use, because this money is returning back to the market. The analogy with a share holding is also not accurate-a share holder is a owner because he can sell his share anytime and dispose his money in anyway he wishes. This is not the case with the government property. But even if I accept your idea that government leases its property, it doesn't change anything. The owner cannot terminate the lease or even to define its conditions. Only government, that is- apolitical elite can decide how to use or dispose of its property, not a public as a whole. It seems, that government ownership cannot be justified by the principles of Objectivism. Remember Ayn Rand definition: "Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned." (CUI, mine highlights)

In a true capitalist society therefore government will have to contract out ownership and all its economic activities.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yet, the State in order to fulfill its legitimate function has "to determine the use and disposal of material goods." It runs military forces, police and courts, owns property which costs trillions of dollars and employs millions of people. The question is: if this is not a public ownership, what it is?

The state, like the Ayn Rand Institute, is a non-profit organization. The state, like A.R.I., has employees and owns property. Both, in a proper society, would be voluntarily supported and would have a contractual obligation with their financial supporters to use the money in accordance with their stated goals, bylaws, constitutions, and/or laws. If they do not, they can be sued.

The property that A.R.I. uses is privately owned by the non-profit entity: A.R.I. The property that the government uses is also privately owned -- by the government.

Another question: how this ownership could be reconciled with Ayn Rand's premise that the State should be divorced from economics as it divorced from Church and for the same reason? Surely, government's intervention on such a scale would deeply affect economics.

That is not what Ayn Rand said or meant. The separation of church and state in the first amendment forbids the government from supporting, forbidding, or regulating the practice of religion. It does not stop government officials from being religious. Likewise, a proper government would be forbidden from supporting, forbidding, or regulating businesses, but that would not prevent the government from engaging in production and trade of goods and services necessary to protect individual rights.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The property that A.R.I. uses is privately owned by the non-profit entity: A.R.I. The property that the government uses is also privately owned -- by the government.

Dangerous thinking. The government is Our Dog (We the People) and We are allowed to kick it and tie a can on its tail.

In a Republic the government is res publica --- Latin for Public Thing. Accountable to the people who have to put up with it.

That last thing we need is a -private- government. That would make it unaccountable to anything but itself.

ruveyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yet, the State in order to fulfill its legitimate function has "to determine the use and disposal of material goods." It runs military forces, police and courts, owns property which costs trillions of dollars and employs millions of people. The question is: if this is not a public ownership, what it is?

If government were restricted to its proper functions, and if the dollar were not as inflated as it is now, it would not be trillions of dollars and also not millions of people. And, as Betsy said, it would not be collective ownership by "the People," but private ownership by the government. "Collective ownership" is a lie that an honest government would have no need to engage in. It would not say, "we the People own this factory and use it for the benefit for us the People," when in fact the factory is being used for the (ill-conceived) benefit of government functionaries. It would just say, truthfully: "We the government own this police vehicle and use it for fulfilling our mission of enforcing individual rights."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yet, the State in order to fulfill its legitimate function has "to determine the use and disposal of material goods." It runs military forces, police and courts, owns property which costs trillions of dollars and employs millions of people. The question is: if this is not a public ownership, what it is?

If government were restricted to its proper functions, and if the dollar were not as inflated as it is now, it would not be trillions of dollars and also not millions of people. And, as Betsy said, it would not be collective ownership by "the People," but private ownership by the government. "Collective ownership" is a lie that an honest government would have no need to engage in. It would not say, "we the People own this factory and use it for the benefit for us the People," when in fact the factory is being used for the (ill-conceived) benefit of government functionaries. It would just say, truthfully: "We the government own this police vehicle and use it for fulfilling our mission of enforcing individual rights."

The government is NOT a person either actual or legal. Therefore it cannot own anything. It can manage, operate and regulate things owned by others but the government itself cannot be an owner.

ruveyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The government is NOT a person either actual or legal. Therefore it cannot own anything. It can manage, operate and regulate things owned by others but the government itself cannot be an owner.

A government is not a person, but neither is any association that owns property in the name of a group of people. A partnership, a corporation, a charity, a homeowners' association, a political party, a club, or a government can own property as an association. Where's the problem?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The government is NOT a person either actual or legal. Therefore it cannot own anything. It can manage, operate and regulate things owned by others but the government itself cannot be an owner.

A government is not a person, but neither is any association that owns property in the name of a group of people. A partnership, a corporation, a charity, a homeowners' association, a political party, a club, or a government can own property as an association. Where's the problem?

What is the document that says the United States government -owns- the armed forces. We know the government operates and manages the. Ownership is a relation between a person and a thing. What is the person here?

I never saw a corporate charter that attributes legal personhood to the government the way a charter attributes legal personhood to a corporation.

I am of the opinion that the citizens of the United States of America are the joint owners of the government and all of its assets.

To answer your question: my problem is with the legal designation of -owner- that you attribute to government. I simply do not buy it.

ruveyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The government is NOT a person either actual or legal. Therefore it cannot own anything. It can manage, operate and regulate things owned by others but the government itself cannot be an owner.

A government is not a person, but neither is any association that owns property in the name of a group of people. A partnership, a corporation, a charity, a homeowners' association, a political party, a club, or a government can own property as an association. Where's the problem?

What is the document that says the United States government -owns- the armed forces. We know the government operates and manages the. Ownership is a relation between a person and a thing. What is the person here?

I never saw a corporate charter that attributes legal personhood to the government the way a charter attributes legal personhood to a corporation.

I am of the opinion that the citizens of the United States of America are the joint owners of the government and all of its assets.

To answer your question: my problem is with the legal designation of -owner- that you attribute to government. I simply do not buy it.

ruveyn

"Ownership is a relation between a person and a thing." It is also a relationship among a group of people who have agreed to handle their ownership in a certain way. You may own Microsoft if you own 100 shares, but you have no control over the actions of the company. Yet as a shareholder, you don't own the corporate headquarters. Who is the person that owns Microsoft? No one person, yet it's all the shareholders.

One does not need to give personhood to either Microsoft or the government in order for ownership to be established outside of the individual person that you restrict your definition to.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are few things which need to be clarified. First of all-Betsy's analogy of government with a non-profit organization. The profit per se has nothing to do with the question of ownership. I repeat, in Objectivism ownership defined as "the right to determine the use and disposal of material goods". A non-profit organization like ARI is a voluntary association, but ownership by the Ayn Rand estate which receives royalties and donations. This is not collective or public property. The government as such is not a trustee or custodian of people's money. The only thing people delegate to government is the right to self-defense, not a right to use or dispose material goods. Therefore in an Objectivist society the government cannot own anything. The government should be divorced from the economy because the only legitimate government function is the use of retaliatory force and economic activity is based on the use of the free mind-hence the analogy with the church or religion, whose concern are people's minds, shouldn't be allowed to use force. Moreover, in Objectivism the government has no rights whatsoever, only obligations and so it cannot have any rights to ownership.

" it means that the government as such has no rights except the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific purpose." (VOS)

Therefore, contrary to what Betsy claimed, the government cannot engage in production and trade of goods and services necessary to protect individual rights. If it could, it would run military factories, hospitals, learning institutions, food industry and supermarkets for its personnel, own land, buildings etc...Being a coercive power and not restricted by the rules of the free market, such a government activity would grossly distort a free economy even without regulating it directly-for example by setting non-market related prices and salaries. If capitalism is a social system in which ALL property is privately own, then government cannot legally own as much as police car or handgun, let alone hydrogen bomb.

Paul's Here definition of ownership as " is a relation between a person and a thing" doesn't explain the nature of such a relation-namely the right to use a thing by a person in according to his best judgement. It ignores the most important part of the concept of ownership-the man who makes such a decision by using his mind. Since there is no such thing as a collective mind, there is no and cannot be a collective ownership. A group of people as such cannot own anything, only individuals can. The owner of Microsoft is Bill Gates and the people who hold 51% of the shares. The rest of the shareholders are also owners-they can sell their shares any time and use the money in any way they please. If any group of people owns property together, like a corporation, association, etc...they own it individually, each of them has a share in this property and can dispose of it. This is not the case with government ownership. Nobody has a say what government should do with its property except a political elite which is de facto an owner. And this is a big problem.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
. Who is the person that owns Microsoft? No one person, yet it's all the shareholders.

One does not need to give personhood to either Microsoft or the government in order for ownership to be established outside of the individual person that you restrict your definition to.

All right, a person or several persons. In any case there is a least one person on the person side of the ownership relation. Is the United States a person, either real or a legal artificial person?

ruveyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
. Who is the person that owns Microsoft? No one person, yet it's all the shareholders.

One does not need to give personhood to either Microsoft or the government in order for ownership to be established outside of the individual person that you restrict your definition to.

All right, a person or several persons. In any case there is a least one person on the person side of the ownership relation. Is the United States a person, either real or a legal artificial person?

ruveyn

Yes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
. Who is the person that owns Microsoft? No one person, yet it's all the shareholders.

One does not need to give personhood to either Microsoft or the government in order for ownership to be established outside of the individual person that you restrict your definition to.

All right, a person or several persons. In any case there is a least one person on the person side of the ownership relation. Is the United States a person, either real or a legal artificial person?

ruveyn

"Person or several persons," or the legal relationship they establish.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
. Who is the person that owns Microsoft? No one person, yet it's all the shareholders.

One does not need to give personhood to either Microsoft or the government in order for ownership to be established outside of the individual person that you restrict your definition to.

All right, a person or several persons. In any case there is a least one person on the person side of the ownership relation. Is the United States a person, either real or a legal artificial person?

ruveyn

"Person or several persons," or the legal relationship they establish.

Ownership or property of is a binary relation. A is the owner of B. B is the property of A. In the relation A is the owner of B I say A must be a person, a set of persons (in case of joint ownership) or a legal person (an entity designated as a person by law). Now, is the United States of America qualified to be element A in the above binary relationship. A simple yes or no will suffice.

ruveyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes.

Next question: Is the United States a legal (virtual, fictitious) person? And what rights to the citizens of the nation have with respect to assets controlled and operated and managed by the United States government. To who is the United States accountable?

ruveyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are few things which need to be clarified. First of all-Betsy's analogy of government with a non-profit organization. The profit per se has nothing to do with the question of ownership.

Correct. The reason the government is a non-profit organization is that it does not have stockholders or owners, but it does have donors and contributors, employees, and property like other non-profits but unlike for-profit corporations or partnerships.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A non-profit organization like ARI is a voluntary association, but ownership by the Ayn Rand estate which receives royalties and donations.

This is not true. ARI and the Estate of Ayn Rand are two distinct entities. ARI is a non-profit corporation -- like the Red Cross -- and does not have owners. The Estate is owned, essentially by Leonard Peikoff. ARI receives donations, but not royalties. The Estate gets all the royalties. The Estate owns all Ayn Rand's copyrights and personal property except for certain items the Estate has donated to ARI or allows ARI to use, such as the use of Ayn Rand's name, likeness, signature, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The government as such is not a trustee or custodian of people's money. The only thing people delegate to government is the right to self-defense, not a right to use or dispose material goods.

How can a government possibly exercise the citizens' right to self-defense on their behalf without using and disposing of material goods like police cars, guns, fighter planes, courtrooms, etc.? What would they pay the cops and soldiers with?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Therefore in an Objectivist society the government cannot own anything. The government should be divorced from the economy because the only legitimate government function is the use of retaliatory force and economic activity is based on the use of the free mind-hence the analogy with the church or religion, whose concern are people's minds, shouldn't be allowed to use force.

The government's proper function is the use of retaliatory force, and that means physical force. You don't capture a fleeing bank robber with ideas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

" it means that the government as such has no rights except the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific purpose." (VOS)

That's true.

Therefore, contrary to what Betsy claimed, the government cannot engage in production and trade of goods and services necessary to protect individual rights.

That doesn't follow and, is contrary to fact. The Constitution recognizes that a government must have everything that is "necessary and proper" to carrying out its mission to protect rights -- and that means physical goods and services.

If it could, it would run military factories

It makes or buys military equipment from factories.

, hospitals,

like M.A.S.H. units and V.A. hospitals

learning institutions,

like West Point (where Ayn Rand spoke) and Annapolis

food industry and supermarkets for its personnel

like mess tents in war zones and commissaries on military bases

own land, buildings etc...

like court houses and military bases.

Being a coercive power and not restricted by the rules of the free market, such a government activity would grossly distort a free economy even without regulating it directly-for example by setting non-market related prices and salaries.

A proper government is restricted by the rules of the free market. It has to bid for goods and services in the same free market private citizens do. It can't just seize property or engage in "setting non-market related prices and salaries."

If capitalism is a social system in which ALL property is privately own, then government cannot legally own as much as police car or handgun, let alone hydrogen bomb.

This is a re-assertion that does not address my arguments as to why government goods and services are privately owned -- and properly so -- by the non-profit entity known as the government.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That government does not literally "own" property in the sense of property rights is because of the proper nature of government, not the number of people involved in a group exercising joint ownership. Governments, unlike individuals or groups of individuals, including non-profit corporations, do not have "rights" and do not act by right. Only individuals have freedom of action under rights. Constitutional government is limited in what it can do, which it must do. Individuals and groups of individuals are in contrast limited only in what they cannot do (in a free society).

Government does not own the armed forces; the military is a function that (national) government must have and must use only for certain purposes. Government does not have the "right" to choose whether or not to defend the nation or prosecute criminals; it must do so and must not use its power for other purposes. It has no "right" to either refuse to defend the country against aggression or invade other peaceful countries. Legitimate choices involve only judgment of what is practical and possible, and how to do it in accordance with the requirements. The same applies to government "ownership", i.e., control and management, of property such as land and buildings for specific purposes. It does not have a right of use and disposal of property.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That government does not literally "own" property in the sense of property rights is because of the proper nature of government, not the number of people involved in a group exercising joint ownership. Governments, unlike individuals or groups of individuals, including non-profit corporations, do not have "rights" and do not act by right. Only individuals have freedom of action under rights. Constitutional government is limited in what it can do, which it must do. Individuals and groups of individuals are in contrast limited only in what they cannot do (in a free society).

Government does not own the armed forces; the military is a function that (national) government must have and must use only for certain purposes. Government does not have the "right" to choose whether or not to defend the nation or prosecute criminals; it must do so and must not use its power for other purposes. It has no "right" to either refuse to defend the country against aggression or invade other peaceful countries. Legitimate choices involve only judgment of what is practical and possible, and how to do it in accordance with the requirements. The same applies to government "ownership", i.e., control and management, of property such as land and buildings for specific purposes. It does not have a right of use and disposal of property.

All correct.

Governments do NOT have rights. They have Powers, and those Powers are granted by the Governed.

ruveyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.