Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles, part 4

Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked. Separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. Upon the foundation of private property, great civilizations are built. The more widespread is the possession of private property, the more stable and productive is a commonwealth. Economic levelling, conservatives maintain, is not economic progress. Getting and spending are not the chief aims of human existence; but a sound economic basis for the person, the family, and the commonwealth is much to be desired.

...For the institution of private property has been a powerful instrument for teaching men and women responsibility, for providing motives to integrity, for supporting general culture, for raising mankind above the level of mere drudgery, for affording leisure to think and freedom to act. To be able to retain the fruits of one’s labor; to be able to see one’s work made permanent; to be able to bequeath one’s property to one’s posterity; to be able to rise from the natural condition of grinding poverty to the security of enduring accomplishment; to have something that is really one’s own—these are advantages difficult to deny. The conservative acknowledges that the possession of property fixes certain duties upon the possessor; he accepts those moral and legal obligations cheerfully.


I can agree that I'm not too keen on a State actor taking property away for their own purposes – and especially for corporate purposes, as was decided here lately by the Supreme Court!

Nonetheless, I'm thinking that I probably don't agree all that much with Kirk on this point, either.

Philosophically, I'd have to agree with the native american saying, We do not inherit the land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. This, of course, is echoed by New Testament teachings (The earth is the Lord's and its fullness. I Corinthians) and Old Testament teachings (The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is Mine and you are but aliens and My tenants. Leviticus 25:23).

Lest I'm accused of cherry-picking verses, I will point out that this is a large theme in the Bible – from the Jubilee laws teaching that land was not to be endlessly acquired, but guaranteed that land will be passed down, so that none can go poor for long, to the early church's practice of holding all things in common. Feel free to look it up.

This is not state-ownership, but neither is it private ownership. I'd suggest ownership is the wrong paradigm altogether. It's really more of a stewardship thing. That is, we're responsible for holding and tending property for the purpose of passing it on to others in good shape. We borrow it from our children, indeed.


Son of Lilith said...

One thing that angers me about conservatives more than anything else (especially the Religious extremists) is the argument that "global warming is bunk because Jesus is coming back."

Well, Jesus may very well be coming back, but should we use that as an excuse to treat the land he is going to reclaim any way we choose? How do you think he is going to feel if he returns (in whatever shape he takes) and finds the Earth ruined? Not happy, I'd say...

Dan Trabue said...

oooh! What if he came back as Mother Earth?! Wouldn't he be pissed off then?

Son of Lilith said...

HMMM, I wonder if Mother Earth has her "friend coming to visit" once a month. If so, I definitely DO NOT want her pissed off! If us guys think being yelled at for leaving the toilet seat up is bad, just imagine what SHE can do!

Oh, and instant runoff voting...I like it!

Wasp Jerky said...

The constant movement towards private ownership of everything is really scary. Corporations are fighting to own things like DNA and drinking water. You should really watch the documentary film The Corporation sometime. But only if you're ready to be depressed for a week or so.

Dan Trabue said...

oh man! Don't get me started on private ownership of DNA!

I was in Nicaragua a couple of years ago and found out that our own ConAgra has voluntarily passed out free seeds to the poor Nica farmers.

An act of charity?


These are seeds to corn that is "patented" by ConAgra. As the farmers become dependent upon these seeds, they must pay annual fees and/or sign technology use agreements that prohibit saving patented seeds. And, if the seeds are cross-pollinated with a neighbor farm's non-ConAgra corn, then the neighbor is liable to be charged by ConAgra as well.

There is some seriously wrong shit going on in the name of private property.

Daniel Levesque said...

Excellent posting. However, I am inclined to hold property rights a sacred in America since the Constitution guarantees the right to own property. The Eminent Domain decision is a balatant violation of this clause and is grounds for Congress to impeach the members of the Supreme Court who voted for it. Yes, Congress can impeach a judge.
On the otherhand , as responsible stewards of the world God gave us (I agree with the stewardship thing in the Biblical sense) we are beholden to take good care of both our own private property as well as public property.

Son of Lilith said...

The Constitutions gaurantees private property yes, but exploitation and greed are immoral acts. Unfortunately, until exploitation become a criminally punishable offense, all we can do is appeal to the corporations decency and integrity.

And we all know where THAT leads.

Dan Trabue said...

Indeed. That is one of the problems of corporations (and yes, I realize there may be some decent corps around): That they are required [by law? I forget] to do what it takes to make a profit for their shareholders...what's the term for that?

The Scrutinator said...

mbr: ...the argument that "global warming is bunk because Jesus is coming back."

Which conservatives or religious extremists believe this? Please site a few. I know many conservatives and very devout Christians: none believe this.

If you're basing this on Bill Moyers' bunk, you're duped. Reject this shallow caricature, for your own sake (it makes you look foolish).

I'm very skeptical of the ConAgra seed situation. A corporation like ConAgra should have better things to do than send expensive lawyers to sqeeze money out of subsistance farmers. Any corporate strategy that unrewarding would put them out of business in a flash.

I like your thoughts on stewardship vs. ownership, but find them unworkable. The U.S. can't sustain us all as nomadic wanderers, as it could native Americans. Don't overly romanticize the hard lives they lived.

Perhaps you should consider buying the land because you'll make a better steward than the next guy. (And I'm glad you eschew state ownership.)

Greed and exploitation are bad things. We give a lot of attention to conscienceless corporate acts, but how representative are they of all businesses?

Ultimately I agree with Kirk. And our founding fathers generally considered the business owner a more responsible party (hence a better citizen) than the employee. I think there's something to that.

Eleutheros said...

Mr. Kirk's point not withstanding, we are NOT living in an economy that is conservative, more's the pity.

Speaking strictly about the economic basis of things, not political, the three most common forms of economy in the modern world are:

1) Socialism (or communism, economically they are the same) where the state owns the means to wealth. The idealist says that the people own it collectively, but that's just a facade for the state and it's potentates to own it.

2) Capitalism, where individuals own the means to their own wealth.

3) Fascism, where wealth is owned by individual inteties but the state regulates it so tightly that the state's ends are brought about by economic means rather than political.

Our economy is fascist. There was a time when it was largely capitalist but no longer. How many people do you know own the means to their own wealth - land, buildings, vehicles, tools, materials, resources, etc.?? Damn few! The point has been made by the apologists for fascism (although they wouldn't call themselves that) that a person who is educated and healthy owns the means to his own wealth. Sorry, no. Many a slave was well educated and healthy, many an indentured servant and serf.

The fascist point of view slowly but surely turns us from individual ownership of the means to wealth to corporate ownership. I find it fascinating that those who most vocally advocate "community" fail to see that a corporation is itself a community. Economic fascism also promotes globalism, consumerism, and the dissolusion of local economies.

While waving the false banners of capitalism and socialism what the left and right are both doing is promoting strangling regulation of commerce and bringing about economic fascism.

madcapmum said...

Just a quick answer to the Scrutinator's question - I personally know several people who deny any need to give credence to environmental issues because "Jesus is coming back soon". I talked to one just two days ago. What political clout they have as a group, I don't know, but they're out there.

Gwen Stefani said...

I'm not sure that I have a lot of intelligent information to impart to this here discussion, except that your conclusions did in fact resonate with me. That in deed it is a stewardship issue and I am quite aware that stewardship must go beyond our Western notions of responsibility. Corporately, collectively, these principles also must be considered. As Christ is both within us, and among us. I think I might read your blog more often. . . we'll see. Gracias.

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks everyone for your interesting input. I think this may be the most polite set of comments I've had in a while.

And you're most welcome to visit anytime, Gwen.

Don't really have time to put much down right now...I would say that I - like Madcap - have heard from religious folk (including my best friend growing up) the notion that the "world's gonna burn anyway, what difference does a little pollution make..."

I'm not saying that it is a dominant thought among the religious, but it is a thought.

Eleutheros - provoking comments as always. Not sure that I disagree with you, but reckon I'd have to chat further to know exactly what you're saying or not.

Scrutinator - I won't overly romanticize the hard lives of those who live without technology if you won't overly romanticize the "good lives" of those who live with it.

These comments all strike me as something that would make an interesting Sunday School class or buddies in a bar conversation.

The Scrutinator said...

dt: Scrutinator - I won't overly romanticize...if you won't...

Deal. Technology seems to make us healthier and safer (on the whole), but not happier.

mcm and dt: Sorry you have to deal with this fringe bunkum. I'd tell them that when Jesus returns, he wants to find us doing the right thing, in every respect--including environmentally. (You can tell them a conservative told you to tell them.)

Son of Lilith said...

I'm glad people are backing me up on the fringe religious right saying "screw Global Warming, the Lord's coming back!"

But I feel I must answer The Scrutinator's question.

Here's the conservatives I've encountered that say global warming is bunk because Jesus is coming back.

1. Every member of my extended family.
2. A co-worker.
3. Every pastor at my family's church.
4. An old "girl friend" (if you can call her that, long story).
5. An even older "girl friend" (I can't help it, the conservative girls love us artsy types...for a while anyway).

That's several people in total, but it's good to see that there are those who don't feel this way and that you are one of them.

Eleutheros said...


"Deal. Technology seems to make us healthier and safer (on the whole), but not happier."

Would you say so? I'd say technology has made us fat, weak, and gasping for breath. And psychotic as well, do you know that the ONLY consistently effective treatement for depression is physical work to exhaustion.

I won't go into details here because this is a bit afield of Dan's topic, but technology has cured very few ills it didn't cause in the first place.

Dan Trabue said...

Scrutinator said:
"I'm very skeptical of the ConAgra seed situation."

From a Global Exchange report:
"The Trade-Related Intellectual Property (TRIPs) agreement within the WTO establishes global and uniform protection for trademarks, copyrights and patents. Perhaps most controversial and worrisome is the fact that these protections also apply to patenting of life forms. For example, traditional, plant-derived medicines used by Indigenous populations in countries such as Brazil could be patented by a transnational corporation for profit, as long as the Indigenous peoples had not already done so. It is highly unlikely, however, that Indigenous communities would seek a patent, because plants are considered to be a shared resource, not a commodity to be exploited for profit.

CAFTA and the TRIPs agreement also undermine global access to and distribution of seeds and, therefore, the food supply. As corporations begin to patent seeds, local farmers must pay annual fees and/or sign technology use agreements that prohibit saving patented seeds and limit the use of seeds that have been used by generations. Subsistence farmers cannot afford the cost of purchasing new seeds each year, and the limiting of seed varieties makes food supplies vulnerable to plant pests and diseases."

Eleutheros - I tend to agree with you on the technology not equalling safety. Or, at best, technology has sometimes helped in the increase of our lifespan, it has had equally contributed to make the world less safe and healthy.

Why don'tcha make that your next post?

The Scrutinator said...

Technology has both helped and harmed. As you point out, it's is no substitute for personal responsibility: hence, our fat and weakness. Looking at things like life-span and infant mortality, it still seems to have a net positive effect.

Not familiar with Global Exchange, but they sure smell leftie, which only increases my suspicion. What you quoted centers around vague hypotheticals. I stand by my previous statement.

Dan Trabue said...


As stated earlier, I have been to Nicaragua and visited farmers there and that's where I received word about the "free corn" deal. First hand info, I don't know what else to tell you.

I've visited Nica, I've church friends who have visited there, Mexico, Colombia, etc, and the word we're getting from the natives is that many US policies are bad news for these countries.

As to your link to info about Global Exchange, I read the list of "charges" and found them believable. But one difference between you and I is that I think all those things listed on your link are good things for Global Exchange to be working on and therefore, makes Global Exchange more believable, not less.

The Scrutinator said...

To me it's knee-jerk anti-Americanism from the same crowd that asserted that the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro, the Viet Cong, the Khmer Rouge, the Sandinistas and FARC would be better for the people.

I need an objective cross-examination, an objective analysis.

Even hearing it first hand doesn't guard against rumor or provide perspective. The jury is still out, in my opinion.

Dan Trabue said...

It's not always knee-jerk anti-americanism. Sometimes it's legitimate criticism from people negatively affected.

Again, in my and my friends' visits to Nicaragua, I heard from them how relatively good things were in the Sandinistan days.

One little old Nicaraguan lady looked at me with sorrowful eyes and said, "I want to know...who? Who gave this Reagan the authority to come in and destroy our lives?" And I don't mind telling you, I was quite ashamed of my country's leadership.

Sometimes, there is a knee-jerk anti-communism that is illegitimate, as well. Communism does not always = totalitarianism or despotism. They were an autonomous country who voted for a Sandinistan leader and that leader was overthrown thanks to US-support and encouragement of terrorists.

It was a shameful time.

So say the people affected by it - not because they're anti-american (they accepted me and even former contras in to their homes) but because they simply want the freedom to run their own country without our interference.

Do you honestly think differently?

Dan Trabue said...

More info on the "terminator corn" issue (where companies get locals to buy their seed which only lasts one season):

A group of Peruvian indigenous farmers have prepared an extensively researched counter to a Canadian move to revive 'terminator' seeds.

Terminator seeds work only once. For a new crop, farmers would have to go back to sellers. These seeds that do not regenerate like normal seeds would work hugely to the advantage of corporations, to the detriment of farmers...

The Swiss-based company Syngenta recently won the patent on Terminator potatoes, but under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, it cannot market these potatoes.

From the IPS (Inter Press Service) reprinted here:

The Scrutinator said...

The Sandinistas were a Cuban/Soviet puppet. I'm sure your Potemkin village tour went exactly as planned. And they were voted out of power, in an election the left eagerly anticipated being the first legitimate vote for Marxism by any population.

I don't blame you for being mired in the propaganda surrounding it. It's some of the heaviest and most pervasive out there.

Dan Trabue said...

And how do you know what village I toured and whether the people there were genuine or not?

Can't you take someone at their word? Someone who's actually been there (and I'm talking about the folk at the villages that I and my friends have visited)?

Have you been there? Have you talked to the people? Do you know anyone who has lived there? Visited?

I can't believe any real conservative or christian would be okay with the notion of one country overthrowing another. That's the stuff of the "commie" boogeymen that are so often villified by conservatives.

Yes, the Sandinistas were eventually voted out (barely) after the US pounded them via the Contras.

But the facts are:
1. Daniel Ortega helped lead an overthrowing of the (US-backed) Somoza regime, which everyone agreed was horrible - even conservatives at the time.
2. Then Ortega and the Sandinistas were elected in a legitimate vote. 3. THEN Reagan supported terrorists to overthrow this democracy! WTF!!?

Ar you saying that you support the notion that the US has the right to overthrow democratically elected gov'ts just because said gov't happened to vote Communist?

And I'll quote that woman again, I want to know...who? WHO gave Reagan the right to come and destroy our lives?

The Scrutinator said...

I disagree with the facts you present.

I don't defend Samoza. The contras were no choirboys. But preventing in Nicaragua what happened in Cuba and Cambodia saved hundreds of thousands (or millions) of lives.

Did Ronald Reagan call this woman and say, "I'm destroying your country, by the way?" Perhaps someone told her that, and she believed it. I don't doubt her sincerety. Perhaps an elderly woman supporting the contras would have said that Ortega was destroying their country? Would you write her off as a tool of the US? (After all, more than half voted against him.)

I do want to carefully consider first-hand information, but it's not gospel. I'm planning my own post to scrutinize "first-hand" knowledge.

But we've strayed off topic, so I'll let this rest.

Dan Trabue said...

I'm trying to be clear: Do you think the US ought to be able to go overthrow another country's democratically elected leader simply because that leader is a communist?

The Scrutinator said...

If I say "yes," aren't I approving of Kosovo, Rwanda, and the Confederate States of America? Even Nazi Germany only butchered a minority of its population--not enough to sway an election. (None of these examples are communist.)

I do believe that a country should be allowed to legitimately decide its own fate at the ballot box, even deciding many things I find personally offensive or distasteful. But I can't say that the will of the people is always unquestionably moral.

The legitimacy of Nicaragua's 1984 election isn't settled.

Dan Trabue said...

Scru said:
"If I say "yes," aren't I approving of Kosovo, Rwanda, and the Confederate States of America?"

This gets back to my supposition that some times outside, "bigger" interventions ought to overrule local decisions.

BUT this sort of intervention ought to be reserved for matters of serious human rights issues. In Nica, there were none, just the boogeyman of "communism".

And even in the cases you cited, the intervention ought to be to stop the violence - a police action. Not a war.

But this moves us to another conversation (war vs police-action) and I think I'll pass on that for now.

So my off-topic point in Nica is that we overthrew a democratically-elected sovreign nation and we did so against OUR OWN rules (congress forbade Reagan's support of the Contras, remember?). It was just wrong on SO many counts.

Objectively so.