ACH Study Groups
Ben & Fran Gilmore – Cofounders
7659 Gingerblossom Drive
Citrus Heights, CA 95621
May 2, 2014
This is a letter to our friends –
“4. The exclusive right of possessing, enjoying and disposing of a thing; ownership. In the beginning of the world, the Creator gave to man dominion over the earth, over the fish of the sea and the fowls of the air, and over every living thing. This is the foundation of man’s property in the earth and in all its productions. …” [Webster’s 1828 Dictionary emphasis is mine]
So, according to Webster – God turned the earth over to man. As if to say, “There, Adam. Everything you need is right there. You and your family are to take care of it, and make a living off of it. Begin by naming all the animals.”
If, as Adam’s kids, we have common ownership of the earth, then why can’t we all get along and do our job? Take for example our mountain cabin a short walk from a beautiful clear brook. That water is free to anyone with thirst. We all hold it in common.
Now, suppose I take a bucket down to the brook and fill it. Then I carry it back to the kitchen counter. The water in the bucket and the water in the brook are the same – chemically – but, there is something mixed into that bucket of water that makes it my “exclusive right of possessing, enjoying, and disposing” – my labor. No one can drink water from the bucket without also drinking my labor.
Who can deny that my labor is my property? I can “rent” my labor to someone in exchange for a pay check. Or I can go into the woods and find an apple tree. The apples are nourishing. Like the brook water, they belong to all of us in common. Must I get everyone’s permission before I use the apples to nourish myself? Not very practical! How then, do I make the apple exclusively mine so that it can nourish my body?
John Locke points out that the apple becomes my property, when I remove from the state in which nature left it. Until I do that, the apple cannot nourish my body. Now suppose I were to gather up all the apples, put them in baskets and store them in my cellar. Kind of selfish, but OK – if I eat all of them. On the other hand, if they rot in my possession, I have violated the rights of others. (I have violated commons.)
I know what I’ll do, I’ll take the apples I don’t eat to the market and exchange them for walnuts that have a longer shelf life! OK – but – What happens when the walnuts begin going bad in my cellar? I will have violated commons.
Back to market with the walnuts while they are still good. This time, I exchange the nuts for little yellow rocks (gold). They have unlimited shelf life. I can take the gold to market and exchange it for whatever I need.
That, my friend, is how wealth is created and you have finished the first lesson in Economics 101! (All built upon a bucket of water!)
There is more.
You have God-given rights to life and liberty. Just as you have God-given rights to your property, you have property in your rights!
What other property have you the “exclusive right of possessing, enjoying and disposing”? Things you cannot remove from the state in which nature left it? Something you, yourself, create from scratch. Like God created the Heavens and the earth – sort of!
How about your thoughts, your desires, your plans, – – your choices! They are your very own creations. Like the rotting apples – If your choices, produce rotten fruit, you are responsible. The consequence your choice produces is “your property”. “When you choose an action, you choose a consequence!” [Harry Conn]
Every person begins life with a conscience. It is his property. He has the “exclusive right of possessing, enjoying and disposing” of his conscience. James Madison, “Father of the Constitution” pointed out that “Conscience is the most sacred of all property.” I would add this admonition, – Guard your conscience with your life! Once you lose your conscience you’re in a world of hurt!
Lastly – Without the principle of private property and the responsibility that goes with it, the tenth Commandment makes no sense. – Don’t covet your neighbor’s community property?