2010-05-31

The law of biggest guns

[Please be warned that I am by no measure an expert on the topic discussed below. It mostly consists of my opinions and relies purely on my limited knowledge and my imperfect logical deductive reasoning abilities.]

In my previous entry on the topic of economic principles, one of my friends was curious to know how I could say that we actually steal from the Earth.

As FrancoisM correctly noted, the concept of theft depends on the idea of ownership.

At some point in our lives, we all start thinking in terms of ownership: "the toy is mine", "the bike is mine", "the car is mine", "the house is mine", and sometimes even "the wife is mine", as if any of these are property that can be owned, or conversely, stolen. In reality, though, we enter this world without owning anything and we leave it the same way.

So, where does this concept of ownership originate? I attribute it to the law of biggest guns. Although, I'm not necessarily talking about actual guns.


Before I explain, consider this: What actually takes place during a transaction? Is there a transfer of ownership of the product between two people? How did the original seller obtain ownership of the product?

Now, suppose we step a bit further back in history from the story about Abraham and Bartholomew in my previous entry. Go back to a time when the very first transaction was performed. I imagine it as a scrawny little man by the name of Cedric, who exchanged his pickings of fruit for some meat and other items from the local hunters in his tribe. Cedric was a gatherer. However, Cedric was the only person to know the location of the orchard of fruit trees, since the other men were always out hunting and the women were always busy feeding and raising the children.

One summer, many of the wild herds did not show up. There was very little food that the hunters could bring home. Cedric still had access to plenty of fruits, but he had a greedy mind and tried to use the opportunity to bargain for more valuable items.

It worked for a short while.

But, as you can imagine, one hunter, called Demetri, started disliking this deal and devised his own cunning plan. By following Cedric secretly one day, he discovered the location of the fruit orchard. The next day Demitri was waiting for Cedric at the orchard with his big hunting club. Cedric's only weapon was a finger-thin walking staff, which he used to chase away birds from his orchard. As soon as Cedric saw the club, he got such a big fright that he immediately darted away into the wilderness, never to be heard of again. Demitri proclaimed the orchard as his property and with five of his kinsmen prevented anyone from picking fruit without their permission. And, they used this ownership as leverage to secure more meat and other prizes for themselves.

Today, the same basic principle still applies. If you can prevent someone from entering a given piece of land or drive them out if they do, or if you can prevent someone from taking (stealing) anything inside the border, then you effectively own that piece of land. This has been true ever since life emerged on Earth. Of course, we do not defend our properties with sticks anymore.

In the modern world, by paying property tax (and other taxes), you effectively hire the government of your country to (among other things) protect your property on your behalf. This is why governments need a police force and military institutions. Of course, you are then also at the full mercy of your government and its armies, since you still do not have any defenses of your own. It is not unheard of, in some regions of the world, for governments to disown people of their property. I wonder if this might serve as an additional reason why a system of anarchy may be better.

Yet, even though your government may hold up to their promise of providing protection services, it may not be sufficiently capable of defending against any potential local or foreign invaders. In the case of local "invaders", you could of course hire the services of an armed-response security company, if you can afford it. Consider for a moment how this increases your cost of ownership. Why not just invest in big guns and your own private army?

In the end, we are all basically at the mercy of the most powerfull militaries in the world. It is merely their political good will that allows us to keep our respective properties. Of course, there are other forces that have up to now always resulted in the crumbling of even the mightiest empires. But, that is beyond the scope of this discussion, and my current, limited knowledge.

By the way: I am certainly not an advocate for the use of firearms. I am merely illuminating the true requirements of ownership. I would actually prefer that everyone just grow up so that we don't need guns anymore.

In a future entry, I shall discuss transfer of ownership through the perspective of natural physical laws. You may then see that the law of bigger guns is merely a partitioning mechanism and that there is an even deeper fundametal law that runs universally through all transactions.

[Please see my previous explanation about the reason why you don't see much English on this blog.]

1 comment:

francoism said...

Interestingly I just read the following paragraph, which touches on the same topic:

-=-=-

Okinawa is the focal point of the security treaty between the US and Japan which has balanced military power in north-east Asia since World War II.

Under the pact, Japan - which is prevented from maintaining a war-ready army by its constitution - subsidises the US military presence while the US guarantees Japan's security.