OK, now that I have tried to explain what is wrong with the way we have been doing things and why, I suppose it’s time I offer a few thoughts on how we can achieve what we want and still stay inside the limits of Natural Law. It starts with the Right to Contract.
If society decides it wants to create a right o own land, it can do so. There is nothing in Natural Law that prohibits doing this – so long as the primary boundaries are observed (maintain personal accountability for your property; can’t hurt people; can’t take the property they do have a Natural Right to; can’t give away or demand the Natural Rights of others; etc). Society does this by passing a law establishing the terms under which land can be claimed as personal property. However, there is an important point that we need to understand. Society cannot assume the seat of the Creator in this process. In other words, society cannot create a Natural Right simply by passing a law. So, essentially, what society is doing is not creating a ‘right’ to own land as personal property, but creating a legally recognized and protected right to control the use of that land. We simply make the mistake of thinking of this sort of right the same way as we think of a right to own our clothes, and this is where we go off the rails: in keeping our understandings clearly defined. The key here is to remember that this is not a Natural Right to own property. It is a civil right. We need to know the difference.
Once this right to control the use of land is established, Society also creates a duty to the land owner. So long as a private citizen does not violate the law establishing this land right, Society has a duty to treat whatever property they own as personal property – just as if it were the type of property to which a person can claim a Natural Right (i.e. moveable property created through their labor). This is the source of our confusion as mentioned above: because we treat something as something contrary to its actual nature, we tend to start thinking that our mistake actually is part of its nature. In other words, because we treat Society and the government as a single creature or entity, we tend to think of them in these terms when there is nothing ‘individual’ about there nature. The key to preventing these confusions is to actually be educated; to know and understand the differences that our modern society dismiss as ‘trivial.’ They are hardly trivial; they are the primary source of the majority of our ruin.
Now, having said all this, there are two things we need to understand and avoid:
Creating a civil right that separates ownership from personal responsibility.
This can and does include corporations. Suppose I own a car and I intentionally drive it into a store, killing three people. According to Natural law, at the very least, I should be charged with manslaughter, if not murder. However, suppose society has created a civil right to personhood for cars. Now I can claim that I am innocent: the car is guilty. What is left to the victims now but to fine the car? After all, a car cannot be put in jail, so fining the car is all the victims can do.
Personhood in artificial entities.
This illustration is not as absurd as it may appear, but it isn’t complete, either. Instead of a car, pretend it’s a company that makes cars; and instead of intentionally driving it into a store, suppose I make a deliberate decision that leads to the deaths of thirteen people. Again, no person goes to jail and when the company gets fined, the government takes the money. But more than that, since it is a company, the fine just gets added to the cost of the cars it sells, passing the cost of the company’s liability to the customers. And what if one of the people the company killed then buys one of the company’s cars? Now the company has charged the victim for the company’s crime and still no actual people have been held accountable.
Now let me ask you a question. Did you see how easily you accepted the intentional switch from talking about me driving a car (i.e. company) to talking about the company as though it actually were a person? That is what happens when we create artificial entities and start treating them as though they are people. In the full illustration, Natural Law is violated at nearly every turn, and the victims get no justice at all. No society built this way can or will survive.
But suppose I live in a society where the civil law confines land ownership to the same laws as moveable property. Now it will not matter whether I drive my car into a store or deliberately decide to do something I know will cost lives. I am personally accountable and I go to jail. Furthermore, my assets (my car or company) can be sold to pay the victims, as well as any other assets I may own. This is how property rights in land work under Natural Law.
One last thing: if you just felt yourself wanting to object to the possibility of going to jail and losing your stuff because of something you did, then you need to understand that you are on the wrong side of right on this issue. You naturally seek to avoid responsibility while clinging to your advantage. When people do that, they become an enemy to the very society that allows them to own land, or other civil creations.
You see, the problem isn’t that we can’t create a civil right to own land; it’s that people will always want to pervert the law so they can enjoy the advantages that come with such rights while avoiding any of the responsibilities that accompany them. It’s that simple.
[NOTE: my example of the car company should be familiar to those who pay attention to the news. It is what is happening with GM and their recent recall where the people responsible are ‘heading for new interests’ that have ‘nothing to do with blame’ but they will no longer be with GM. This case is exactly what happens when the principles of Natural Law are ignored for the benefit of the elite/privileged.]
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