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Keyword: ‘property’

Where do property “rights” come from?

September 7th, 2014 No comments

This is a discussion between a puppet and several dogs about “what’s mine,” for what reasons, and for how long — in other words, about “property rights.”

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The movie “Avatar” is an allegory for “property”, and for what is worth banding together with other people to defend

April 26th, 2014 No comments

What are YOUR thoughts on the movie “Avatar“? Is it just an enviro fantasy? Or is it an allegory for what is “property”, and what is worth banding together with other people to defend?

The struggle to protect community/common property that James Cameron addressed in Avatar is still very much underway; see this from recent news?

It differs only in degree from the role of governments and corporations in resource development and pollution in the US, Canada, Europe, Japan, China, India, etc. etc.

“They want us to give up our traditions, work in the mines, and let them pollute our land. But we will give our lives to defend the land, because the end is the same for us either way.”

Here are two libertarian takes on Avatar, and on “property rights”:

Stephan Kinsella

– Yours truly: I think we need to rethink the roots of corporatism, and to attack them.

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The Bundys, the BLM and the fruits of Govt-owned “property”

April 17th, 2014 No comments

[cross-posted from The Anti-Establishment Center Community on Facebook]

A few thoughts on the notion of Govt-owned “property”, in connection with the radical misanthropes who have been ranching in Nevada for 100+ years on “Federal land”.

I’m afraid it’s turtles all the way down, with respect to corrupt “Govt ownership,” particularly with respect to the politics and special interests relating to the Bundy Ranch and Gold Butte:

Also, please consider the corrupt mining of coal, oil, gas and hard rock minerals, our forests and offshore resources, including fisheries — from BP/Gulf to Alberta’s oil sands.

Then consider the corrupt railroad grants and payments, the creation of ‪#‎LimitedLiability‬ corporations, and the granting to them of pollution permits and use of Govt eminent domain powers.

Finally, don’t ignore all the ridiculous, expensive and environmental Federal hankypanky/”Defense” activities — including decades of open-air nuclear bomb testing — that are possible because the Govt asserted territorial claims over vast resources in which natives, Mexicans and tens of thousands of Americans had already “homesteaded” and lived in one way or another. The Feds have long been and continue to be agents for wealthy private interests to take control of land already used by others.

The destruction of the Appalachians is a long historical example of rich men using government to take land from others who were there first, and using state-made corporations to hide behind the thugs they hired:

The story continues, and hopefully the Bundy ranch dispute can be a trigger for people seeing a bigger picture.

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Are ‘enviros’ evil,or trying to protect property + reassert control over behemoths? New Zealand Navy + Petrobras vs. Maori fishermen

April 27th, 2011 No comments

A quick show of hands:

  • How many of you think that the recent protests by New Zealand “greens” and Maori fishermen against Government-licensed oil exploration activities by PetroBras is evidence of a blind envirofascist hatred of mankind?
  • How many of you cheer on the “capitalist” exploration and development of government-owned resources by big and state-entanged corporations, over the quaint claims to “fishing rights” by locals?
  • How many of you think that PetroBras and its shareholders are the real victims of these protests?
  • How many think it’s a sign of how government “ownership” of public resources leads to zero-sum politicization of decisions, and of decisions that are tilted toward activities that provide revenues to government, while shifting risks to local communities and individuals?
  • Does anybody see any parallels with BP and the Gulf?  With the crony capitalism supporting Tokyo Electric, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plants?

I posted a few tweets on this topic, which I copy below in chronological order:


NZ Navy intervention in oil protest “disgusting” – Maori MPs |     

Maori Sovereignty? “Maori feel the pollution risk to the water+fish stocks is too great”   

Maori skipper detained by Navy warship for defending ancestral fishing waters from Oil Drilling  

Maori fisherman: “We are defending tribal waters+our rights from reckless Govt policies”   

“opening up natl parks+our coastline to transnationl corps shows contempt+will face fierce+sustained local resistance”

Petrobras protest+Maritime Rules  |clear frm+ tht Gov ‘ownership’ leads to poor risk mgt+theft frm communities

“Gov has awakened some sort of taniwha.We’re all virgins at doing this.We never fight”   

“April 11: NZ Navy ships+Air Force planes begin monitoring the protest along with police”   

“after the licence was given-in what way is that consultation? It isn’t, not even close”    

Te Karere Ipurangi » Blog Archive » Oil surveys damage sea creatures organs – ECO    

MP says it is a disgrace…wrong for NZ citizen to be threatened by Defense for opposing a deal btwn gov+foreign oil co

NZ Gov happy w discretion to act unilaterally 2increase Gov revenues+to ignore locals  

In NZ as in ,locals trying to exercise community crtl treated as ‘terrorists’    

Rikirangi Gage to  “We are defending tribal waters+our rights frm reckless Gov policies”  

AUDIO:Rikirangi Gage of te Whānau-ā-Apanui vessel radios captain of  oil survey ship  


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More dialogue on "Rethinking IP": does property arise because it helps people in societies to solve problems, or because thinkers come up with "principles"?

February 24th, 2011 No comments

Further to my previous post (Rethinking “Rethinking IP”, or, if we step away from statism, will societies not find ways to protect ideas?), allow me to note here some conversations from the comment thread to Stephan Kinsella‘s Rethinking IP post.

My key point is that it is cooperating individuals in societies with shared values, mores and customs who come up with “property rights” in the form of agreed practices that they find mutually suitable, not thinkers who are coming up with “principles”, and using them to tell others how stupid they are.

Societes of cooperating individuals are the sine qua non of ALL property. Those who focus on the “principles” but ignore the need to build community are trying to grow trees at the risk of damaging the  forest.

I’ ve corrected a few typos and added emphasis:


Stephan Kinsella February 16, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I don’t ignore the fact that ideas are valuable. This is incorrect. On your blog you say

Stephan Kinsella has another post up at the Mises Daily on “Rethinking IP”; while I share Stephan’s mission of ending state-sponsored IP – which has morphed into gross corporate-statist corruption, oppression and profound waste – as usual Stephan’s aggressive approach has generated as much heat as light in the comments section.

Rather than reaching a shared understanding of how damaging IP has become (there are real frightening aspects to the current situation) and putting heads together as to whether private alternatives are acceptable or likely or already exist, we have proponents and opponents of IP largely arguing past each other; one seems to assume that if there IS a “principled” basis for IP, then a state role must be accepted, while the other seems to assume that if there is NO “principled” basis for IP, then all IP is theft, so that those who produce useful or appreciated ideas, technologies, music, art and literature will go unrewarded.

How sad that even libertarians forget the role of private efforts and of communities in protecting valued resources and productivity!

I disagree that I “forget” this. And I disagree that we have to be consequentialists without principle. If we have a reason to oppose IP on principle, there is nothing wrong wtih communicating and explaning this.


TokyoTom February 16, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Stephan, you’ve acknowledged ideas are valuable, so then why you do this weird thing of assuming away the question of whether a free society would protect ideas – and ignoring the growing array of non-statist alternatives (since even state-created and -enforced IP is leaky)?

Widely agreed libertarian principles of no state coercion does not translate into a principle that free individuals, organizations and societies can’t evolve ways to afford protection for ideas – nor is such an effort needed to fight the IP/corporate-statism that concerns us all.


Peter Surda February 16, 2011 at 9:46 am

Tokyo Tom,

Stephan, in your eagerness to find a strong “principled” basis to reject IP, you ignore the fact that, like physical substances/resources that we find valuable and worth protecting (which protection our society acknowledges as appropriate via the term “property”), many ideas are valuable, take time to develop and may be worth defending.

In general, I can actually agree with this. If someone said that in his opinion, IP is more valuable than physical property, and therefore takes precedence, that would destroy my most important objection!

However, doing this requires admitting that you are a utilitarian. I guess a typical IP proponent has a big problem with this, so he prefers not to do it.


TokyoTom February 16, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Peter, isn’t it clear that is the IDEAS men have about how to use resources that makes them valuable?

While we must have food, water and shelter to survive, in an advanced economy all ‘property’ is a manifestation of an idea and the intellectual component is the primary value. The sand that goes into fiber optics and computer chips is dirt cheap.

Ideas are clearly as important as physical property — the question is simply whether those who want to protect either are justified in using the state to do so.

Afraid I don’t follow you on utilitarianism ….



Peter Surda February 17, 2011 at 2:33 am

Tokyo Tom,

my argument is that immaterial goods are an interpretation of the material goods, rather than a separate phenomenon. If I was wrong, it would be possible to show an immaterial good which does not contain a material good, or how to interact with an immaterial good without using the material world, or how to act without changing the physical world.

I don’t object to the claim that ideas have values. However, if we assigned property rights to them, we would need to sacrifice a proportional amount of physical property right. If you, in general, accept the concept of physical property rights (which all of IP proponents I debated so far do), then your only defence of IP can be that the rights you are gaining are more important than those that you are losing (= utilitarianism).


TokyoTom February 17, 2011 at 9:31 am

Peter, I’m afraid we may have different understandings of what ‘property’ is; my rather pragmatic concept is here:

Seems to me that humans and the societies they live in have rather flexible views of what is ‘property’, and it is easy to understand the choices in a [personal] utilitarian light; that is, resources that are given protection are those that are relatively more important and relatively more easily protected [by the people involved]. What can be easily defended personally (and by relatives or employees) may be ‘personal’ property, while other property that requires cooperation may be community property or property in which individuals have limited personal rights and corresponding responsibilities, but in all cases people carry a shared sense of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ — that is, a shared sense of what is ‘property’, whom it belongs to and what that means in terms of rights and obligations.

Intellectual property and physical property are not very different in these regards in our own society, and both would be likely to arise and exist in one form or another even without a state. In cases of both physical property and IP, what is considered property will be based on the relative values placed on those who control such resources and those who wish to be able to make use of them – that is, on the purely utilitarian considerations of the people involved. If those generating ideas wish to control their use by others and others find such ideas valuable, then they will come to mutually agreeable terms of use – such as a contract as to whether a book may be duplicated or shared, or the terms under which manufacturing know-how will be made available. No express social ‘utilitarian’ agreements are needed, though general/widely-accepted norms may of course arise.

Is this something that makes sense to you?

FWIW, my own view is that largely it is the material goods that are an interpretation of the immaterial ones (viz., people’s values and ideas) rather than the other way around.



Peter Surda February 17, 2011 at 10:05 am

Tokyo Tom,

I am afraid that you still do not address my objection. The objection is indifferent to the exact definition of property. It merely points out that no matter what your assumptions are, if they are contradictory with respect to each other, your position is wrong. Even if you change the assumptions, as long as they continue to contradict each other, you remain in error.

I’m sorry but I don’t have the time to read your whole article, so I’ll just make a summary based on what I think it says. Please correct me with I’m wrong. You are saying that as society evolves, people create rules of conduct and some of them are mandated by the use of force. Because there is a demand for “IP”, it is possible that people will include “IP” in these rules.

I have no problem with this construct. But it goes too far ahead of the argument. First of all, it does not address the problem that no matter how the rules are constructed, as long as they are self-contradictory, they cannot be based on correct reasoning. It also does not address my second objection (which I mentioned elsewhere) in that it does not actually explain what IP is.

TokyoTom February 18, 2011 at 1:22 am

Peter, thanks for your further observations. I think you still misunderstand my position about how ‘property’ arises. Property has its roots in competition over resources, and in the choices we faces as to what resources we devote our limited energies in securing and defending. In human societies, this is a process reflecting both competition and cooperation. This piece by Bruce Yandle is useful in illustrating how property arises:

Now, to address your specific points:

no matter what your assumptions are, if they are contradictory with respect to each other, your position is wrong.

Okay, but what ‘assumptions’ of mine are you referring to?

You are saying that as society evolves, people create rules of conduct and some of them are mandated by the use of force. Because there is a demand for “IP”, it is possible that people will include “IP” in these rules.

A nuance: the underpinnings of property are not deliberately created rules at all, but evolved and shared viscerally felt understandings, as well as culture. It is on this foundation that some members of society may consciously build rules that the rest of scoiety may adopt – in which case, our senses of right and wrong kick in.

no matter how the rules are constructed, as long as they are self-contradictory, they cannot be based on correct reasoning.

My position is that most ‘property’ is not consciously constructed at all. There are some deliberate choices involving one or more persons, in which case they rely on the respective preferences of the people involved, not MY assumptions. But yes, some (many!) deliberately made rules can be based on incorrect reasoning – in which case the rules ultimately fail.

It … does not actually explain what IP is.

In my view, IP encompasses various ways that societies protect ideas – from simple personal private protection of them to agreed protection among company employees, to agreed protection by contracting users, to devices/techniques that restrict copying, to feelings and community morals that copying is wrong without permission, to various types of sanctions, such as being expelled from a particular community and other moral sanction.

‘IP’ does NOT require a state.

Does this help?


TokyoTom February 16, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Wildberry, I believe that ‘the real boogie man is the State, not the principles of IP’, and that Stephan’s arguments about the illegitimacy of IP are needlessly turning friends who also share a desire for freer societies into enemies.

I am confident that even if we had no states but free societies, we would have a wide variety of IP, all grounded both on a shared sense of what is right and wrong, and on the value of the information and cost of protection.

And yes, we ought to be able to discussa this civilly AND find many points of mutual agreement. We should all be allies in a community with a shared objective of creating more freedom from state-backed kleptocracy.


TokyoTom February 18, 2011 at 2:23 am

Wildberry, allow me a few thoughts on your comments above:

Mises called property a “human device”, and I have been repeating that here in support of the notion that humans agree what property is in order to facilitate the goal of cooperation, which is the very definition of society. The ways we choose, if rational, are designed to achieve goals which we seek to achieve. By “we”, I am referring to humans bound together in a society.

Except that Austrians would point out that ‘we’ don’t choose as a whole, individuals make their own choices, typically based on building blocks constructed by others but also including subconscious and cultural ones.

a “good” economic theory leads us effectively to the outcomes we desire.Therefore the operation of property rights and the economic policies employed to achieve desirable social goals should align.

I think that in the Austrian view, a ‘good’ economic theory is simply one that accurately reflects actual huiman behavior, and notes how states often frustrate problem-solving while enabling the creaming of common resources and other one-sided practices by elites.


The Austrian/libertarian view is that governments shouldn’t be consciously striving to employ any ‘economic policies’ to achieve any ‘desirable social goals”, as these are the objective of differening individuals all with differing preferences, and that the state mainly just gets in the way, enabling kleptocracy and incompetence and creating rigidities.

Identifying those areas where the operation of laws and government conflict with the preferred system of economic policies is one way (a very good way) to navigate among the myriad of legal and political issues that most who post here agree are not producing the outcomes we desire.

An Austrian/libertarian would agree only in the limited sense that ‘the preferred system of economic policies’ is to get government out of the way. People of more limited ambition like me would say that we should focus first on rolling back the most destructive and outrageous (reflecting a shared social sense that too much ‘theft’ and disruption is ‘too much’!) government interventions. Such an effort requires building a community of people who have shared purposes – even if the shared purposes may not share precisely the same ‘principles’.

Change, reform, revolution, whatever form of change one advocates, is best aimed at those specific conflicts. This ongoing debate about IP is simply a vehicle that is useful in the analysis of these conflicts.

Austrians oppose coercive state interventions that favor some while stifling others. While some want to do away with the state entirely, I believe it is more productive to focus on the most significant state interventions.

I would certainly agree with Stephan that IP is one the state’s significant and now increaasingly counterproductive interventions. In this sense, State-created IP is far more than simply ‘simply a vehicle that is useful in the analysis of these conflicts.’

I criticize SK and many of his followers about not granting a fair reading of IP laws in stating their opposition. As a result of this practice, much confusion results about what IP is, why it is tied to the same ethical principles, and in the same way, as any other legitimate agreement between cooperating humans. This in turn results in a non-productive debate, and little progress towards the obvious goal of coming together here on what and how to target desired change.

Let me disagree slightly: while we DO have an unproductive debate, Stephan and others are very right to point to ways that current state IP is extremely abusive and wasteful, and that the problem is growing. Yes, some may exaggerate.

But the REAL problem is that Stephan wrongly seems to feel that he has to attack ALL IP in order to round up opposition to STATE IP. But the two are entirely different; Austrians should not insist that, without state IP, there will be no free-market mechanisms and institutions that will arise to protect ideas. or that any such mecahisms, voluntarily agreed, would be ‘unprincipled’. Far from arguing with people’s rather visceral senses of what is right and wrong, Austrians should be directing such impulses to protect ideas into voluntary and non-statist avenues.

This makes us pretty ineffective agents for change. This is one explanation for why the libertarian political movement is so ineffective, in my view.

Sadly, I think you have a point. That is why I trouble Stephan by commenting here — I expect and hope for more from this particular community of libertarians.

Not sure how long you’ve been commenting here, but you’re certainly welcome, from my point of view.


Wildberry February 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm

@TokyoTom February 18, 2011 at 2:32 am

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I have just a few comments:

“Austrians oppose coercive state interventions that favor some while stifling others. While some want to do away with the state entirely, I believe it is more productive to focus on the most significant state interventions.”

I think that ancaps and minarchists could cooperate in this regard. It seems a choice between doing nothing (i.e. even opposition to voting) because the whole government structure is going to collapse anyway, or doing something now. If we decided to do something, it seems rational to pick on the most egregious State interventions first. If we were really intelligent about it, we would identify those issues which have a low threshold to change while making a truly significant difference, or a high threshold for change that are game-changers, like real banking reform for example. If it got down to a point where we had accomplished minarchism and ancaps wanted to keep going, we could part company then. Before that point, it seems unnessary to be adversaries.

“I would certainly agree with Stephan that IP is one the state’s significant and now increasingly counterproductive interventions. In this sense, State-created IP is far more than simply ‘simply a vehicle that is useful in the analysis of these conflicts.’”

You are reading a little too much in my comment. I am saying the discussions here at are a vehicle for understanding principles upon which we may oppose harmful state interventions. Mercantile/State collusion is harmful and should be eliminated.

“Let me disagree slightly: while we DO have an unproductive debate, Stephan and others are very right to point to ways that current state IP is extremely abusive and wasteful, and that the problem is growing. Yes, some may exaggerate.”

Yes, it is always appropriate to give examples that support one’s position. However, if your examples support a position that is based on an inaccurate or unfair reading of the law, then it creates confusion among those who take SK at his word, given his expertise as an IP lawyer. It seems to me that if the examples are representative of some abuse, then that argument is not diminished by being honest about what the existing law actually is and how it operates.

As an example, it is common here to base an anti-IP argument on the premise that “ideas are free”, while as SK knows, both copyright and patent laws explicitly exclude ideas from protection. To even imply otherwise fosters confusion and undermines real understanding of the problem.

“Far from arguing with people’s rather visceral senses of what is right and wrong, Austrians should be directing such impulses to protect ideas into voluntary and non-statist avenues.”

Exactly. I really like your view about how principles of property rights arise as a result of the human need to cooperate with one another. That is why people HAVE a visceral objection to the assertion that there are no IP rights. It grates against a common-sense understanding of right and wrong. This point is articulated beautifully in a paper (and book) by Kathleen Touchstone. Are you familiar with her?

“Sadly, I think you have a point. That is why I trouble Stephan by commenting here — I expect and hope for more from this particular community of libertarians.”

Likewise, although I have noticed lately that more voices are coming to the fore in support of IP, perhaps because the are seeing that there is no reason to be intimidated by rude behavior.

“Not sure how long you’ve been commenting here, but you’re certainly welcome, from my point of view.”

About a year or so. It’s a pleasure corresponding with you. Thank you.

TokyoTom February 20, 2011 at 9:48 am

“IP is antithetical to capitalism and the free market.”

Stephan, isn’t this more than a bit of an overstatement? Is IP impossible in a free-market? Is it antithetical to capitalism to invest in protecting ideas?

“Typical of IP advocates. They are either stupid or dishonest.”

I am tempted to say something flip by mirroring you, but I’ll bite my tongue, and simply say that this is utterly unhelpful, and that I hope you fell at least a little chagrin that you damage our community and your cause in this way.

Yours in striking at the root,


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A note to Tom Woods:Mises & property (and commons & IP): Is libertarianism now "merely a veiled apologia for capital”?

July 25th, 2010 No comments

I refer to Tom Wood’s post on Mises’s Vision of the Free Society, regarding Ludwig von Mises‘s book, Liberalism.

I left the following comment (emphasis added):

TokyoTom July 21, 2010 at 4:11 am


I’ll need to take a look at this book; what can be covered in a book review is obviously limited.

However, I would note a few thoughts:

1. Even now, “to champion property is to invite the accusation that liberalism is merely a veiled apologia for capital”, as you note, and “The enemies of liberalism have branded it as the party of the special interests of the capitalists,” as Mises observed. This is the case not simply because people then as now do not understand how a market society functions, but for the very good reason that statism is running rampant, allowing the direct owners of capital and executives to cream profits while shifting risks to all of society.

This is undeniably the case with our financial sector, and also with the exploration and development of fossil fuel and mineral resources on land (and offshore) “owned” by government but leased to corporations. Further examples of the use of property by corporations in ways that benefit owners/executives but do identifiable harm to others are easily found; this is often coupled with the statism enabled by the growth of corporations, which growth was itself fuelled by the state grant of limited liability to the shareholders of corporations (limiting recovery not only by debtors but also by persons involuntarily injured by acts of corporations or their agents).

Unless Austrians are content to leave the criticisms of (and policy responses to) corporate excesses to socialists, Marxists and Keynesians – and to be dismissed as defenders of corporate statism – it may behoove us to raise our own voices more forcefully.

In this connection, I would note that Mises himself noted that property is imperfectly defined and leads to problems of external costs:

“Property rights as they are circumscribed by laws and protected by courts and the police, are the outgrowth of an age-long evolution. … The legal concepts of property do not fully take account of the social function of private property. There are certain inadequacies and incongruities which are reflected in the determination of the market phenomena. ….

“It is true that where a considerable part of the costs incurred are external costs from the point of view of the acting individuals or firms, the economic calculation established by them is manifestly defective and their results deceptive. But this is not the outcome of alleged deficiencies inherent in the system of private ownership of the means of production. It is on the contrary a consequence of loopholes left in this system. It could be removed by a reform of the laws concerning liability for damages inflicted and by rescinding the institutional barriers preventing the full operation of private ownership.”

2. Yes, private property greatly advances social cooperation (and may even be “the central pillar of modern civilization”), but private property is never perfect – and is supported by an array of collective institutions which order people’s market interactions – and there are many important resources that are not privately owned but which are open-access resources that must be managed collectively. I am not sure to what degree Mises has addressed such common resources, but they (and the effort to develop effective institutions to manage them) can be quite important, as was recognized by the award last year of the Nobel Prize in Economics to Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson:



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Avatar resonates in China – where standing up for property rights (and against "progress") can be downright subversive

January 14th, 2010 No comments

It looks as if James Cameron`s Avatar movie –  which is seen by many in the West as predictibly shallow, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, pro-enviro and racially politically correct – has struck a home-owners` rights chord that is resonating in China, and may reinforce popular demands in China for the protection of private property rights against governments and politically well-connected developers.

These are “rebellious undertones“, claims the WSJ in January 11 editorial. This editorial, as well as coverage in WSJ`s China Real Time Report (January 8) and by Xinhua/ (January 13), are worth a look.

Here are a few excerpts (emphasis added):

WSJ in January 11 editorial

This is standard politically correct fare for a Western audience,
conveying a message of racial sensitivity and environmental awareness.
In China, however, it has more rebellious undertones.

That’s because Chinese local
governments in cahoots with developers have become infamous for
forcibly seeking to evict residents from their homes with little
compensation and often without their consent. The holdouts are known as
“nail households,” since their homes are sometimes left stranded in the
middle of busy construction sites. More often, however, they are driven
away by paid thugs. Private property is one of the most sensitive
issues in the country today, and “Avatar” has given the resisters a
shot in the arm.


WSJ`s China Real Time Report (January 8):

While the plot contains obvious allusions to colonialist
resource-grabbing, Li [Li Chengpeng, an apparently well-known blogger and sports reporter] instead sees “Avatar” as an allegory for the
exploitation of regular people by Chinese real estate companies.

In his post, titled “Avatar: An Epic Nail House Textbook,” Li draws
a comparison between the tree where the Na’vi live and the homes of
people who resist eviction—known in China as “nail houses” because of
the way they stick up out of would-be construction sites (see articles,
with video, on the subject here and here).

Like the Na’vi, China’s nail house residents are often asked to
abandon their homes for little or nothing in return. Chinese real
estate developers, like the company in the film, are typically
quasi-governmental organizations, backed by the rhetoric of progress
and armies of hired thugs that can be brought in when negotiations fall

“The developer sees the tree as an illegal building, its residents
as rabble rousers who don’t support municipal development and aren’t
willing to sacrifice for the greater good,” Li writes.

The post has been viewed more than 200,000 times and attracted
nearly 2500 comments, the vast majority supportive, since he put it up

Others have jumped on the idea, including The Beijing News, which called the film “a nail house parable,” and twenty-something literary star Han Han, who defended
the film against charges its plot is weak: “For audiences from other
places, barbaric eviction is something they simply can’t imagine–it’s
the sort of thing that could only happen in outer space and China.”

So what lessons does the film hold for people in China facing
eviction? “Communication is worthless,” Li writes. “You can only fight
fire with fire.”


Xinhua/ (January 13)

While most of the global audience are enjoying the dazzling 3-D experience of the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar, some Chinese see it from a very different angle: a successful battle against forced eviction. …

But in China, the story has aroused a
sympathetic response among many spectators, as they see in the film a
familiar social conflict — forced demolitions by real estate
developers and urban administrative inspectors.

“They are very much alike. For
instance, the conflict in the film also starts with land,” a posting by
“A Cup of Green Tea” said in an on-line forum operated by the

“When real estate developers want a
piece of land, the local residents must move away; if they decline to
leave, then real estate developers will resort to violent ways,” the
posting said.

Forced demolitions have always led to
opposition and resistance from local residents in China and have given
rise to the term “nail house” in China, in reference to a nail refusing
to be hammered down.

In southwest China’s city of
Chongqing, a couple battled for three years from 2004 to 2007 to stop
developers from razing their home. Their neighbors left one after
another, leaving their two-story brick building standing like a tower
surrounded by a 17-meter deep construction site. Their fight finally
came to an end in April 2007 with a negotiated agreement that
nevertheless saw the demolition of their house.

In June 2008, Pan Rong and her husband
stood on the roof of their house in Shanghai and threw Molotov
cocktails at the approaching bulldozer. Pan’s efforts to protect her
home failed at last when the bulldozer destroyed the walls, forcing the
couple out.

In November last year, a 47-year-old
woman, Tang Fuzhen, in the southwestern city of Chengdu, set herself on
fire to protest the forced demolition of her house and died later.

In both cases, the local governments insisted that the forced demolitions were lawful and accorded with regulations.

“I am wondering whether Cameron had secretly lived in China before coming up with such an idea of writing the story of Avatar, but with a promising ending in the film,” said renowned football reporter, Li Chengpeng, in a blog article on

“In a word, I think the film is a successful eulogy of the fight of ‘nail houses’ against forced demolitions,” he said.

The Chinese central government is increasingly aware of the negative impact of and public discontent toward forced demolitions.

China passed its landmark property law in 2007, highlighting the protection of private property.

On Dec. 7 last year, five professors
from Peking University claimed in an open letter to the National
People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature, the Regulation on
Urban Housing Demolition Administration was unconstitutional and
violated the property law.

The existing demolition regulation
took effect in 2001, allowing forced demolition. The government has
finished a draft revision to the regulation.

The draft revision, with its content
still unknown, put more restrictions on the government’s administrative
power in demolition procedures, and was aimed at easing growing
tensions caused by forced demolitions, legal experts said.

“To audiences of other countries,
forced demolitions are probably beyond their imagination,” said young
writer Han Han, well known for his always controversial remarks, in one
of his blog articles on

“So I think Avatar is a great movie. I give it a full mark of 10, also taking into consideration the 3-D and IMAX,” he said. …

However, “A Cup of Green Tea” voiced a
note of warning: “I strongly advise real estate developers and urban
administrative inspectors see the movie and learn from it.”


This relatively surprising reception of the Avatar movie in China is obviously something to be welcomed by all those who favor markets and freedom – as well by evil greenies (and Japanese and others downwind/downstream) who want cleaner air and water – since it is clear that  enforceable and transferrable property rights is one of the key mechanisms by which developing societies move along the “Kuznets environmental curve” from pollution to a cleaner environment.

Let`s also hope that the Chinese also start to recognize that their consumer demand is (like that of Western consumers) fuelling Avatar-like destruction elsewhere around the world, and choose to act as responsible consumers, by insisting that indigenous rights elsewhere by protected.

Nice Post by David Henderson on "Avatar", property, corporatism & right of natives to live as they please

January 12th, 2010 No comments

David R. Henderson has a nice post up at, titled “In Defense of Avatar”, in which he takes issue with reviews of Avatar by Reihan Salam and Edward Hudgins. (My earlier comments on Stephan Kinsella`s review of Avatar are here.)

I would just note that Henderson has presumed that the Avatar natives – non-humans – have “rights” that we are obliged to respect.. I think that history tells us that, even for humans in other civilizations, “property rights” are respected only when it suits the purposes of both sides (viz., can be protected by the side claiming them, as I`ve noted on several occasions, most recently here).

A few excerpts:

I don’t think Avatar is an attack on capitalism. One could leave
the movie and have no idea, based on just the movie, about James Cameron’s
view of capitalism. And while it did have some clichés (most movies
do), I didn’t find it loaded. So what is Avatar? In fact, Avatar
is a powerful antiwar movie – and a defense of property rights. For that reason,
I found it easy to identify with those whose way of life was being destroyed
by military might. …

“But here’s the crucial question, a question that neither Salam nor Hudgins
addresses: Do savages, noble or otherwise, have rights?

If given a choice between high-tech, with all its creature comforts, and the
jungle life of Tarzan, I, like Salam and Hudgins, will take high-tech every
time. But that’s not what the movie’s about. It’s about people from a high-tech
civilization using technology to make war on people from a more primitive society
so that they can steal their stuff. That’s a very different choice. I would
choose not to kill them and take their property. What would Salam or Hudgins
choose? They don’t make their answers clear, although they show zero sympathy
for the victims of the attack. …

To the extent that it makes any statement about capitalism, Avatar
is a defense of capitalism. Capitalism is based on property rights and
voluntary exchange. The Na’vi had property rights in the crucial tree and various
other properties surrounding it. Did they own it as individuals or as community
tribal property? We can’t be sure, but probably the latter. They had refused
to sell the property to the outsiders. There was nothing the outsiders could
give them that would make it worth their while. What should we, if we are good
capitalists, conclude? That, just as in the Kelo case, the people currently
sitting on the land value it more than the outsiders. The land is already in
its highest-valued use. Hudgins and Salam could argue that that’s implausible.
Surely there would be some finite price that the Na’vi would take in return
for the Unobtainium. Maybe, maybe not. But once the Na’vi have made it clear
that they’re unwilling to exchange it, that should be the end of things, shouldn’t

Hudgins argues that James Cameron is claiming, “That’s capitalism for
you.” As noted earlier, it’s not clear that Cameron is so arguing. But
if that’s what Cameron believes, shouldn’t Hudgins’s response be, “No,
that’s corporatism for you.” …

Read through everything Hudgins has written on Kelo
and you won’t find a wisp of discussion about how low-tech or high-tech, savage
or civilized, Mrs. Dery is. And that’s because it doesn’t matter. People
in high-tech societies have rights. So do savages. It would be nice if Hudgins
showed even one tenth of the concern for the “savages” over whom
the “non-savages” of the U.S. military and CIA roll as he shows for
an old woman who lives (or used to live) in a house. …


Avatar is an eloquent defense of the right of people in other civilizations
to live as they please.

Thoughts of an envirofacist avatar on "Avatar"; or Resources, Property Rights, Corporations & Government-Enabled Theft

December 22nd, 2009 1 comment

My pal Stephan Kinsella has a remarkably enviro-friendly post (“Avatar Is Great and Libertarian”) up regarding the new movie “Avatar”; his remarks and others on the thread prompted me to leave a few comments, which I copy below (in furtherance of my nefarious and/or insanely misguided agenda .

Many thanks to Stephan for aiding and abetting this. Ive added a bit of emphasis, fixed a typo or two, and a few additional comments, in brackets.

Published: December 22, 2009 2:38 PM


Stephan, I welcome you to the dark, enviro-facist side!

– “you have to fight for and use might to protect your rights”

I see you are starting to buy into my real-world view of property rights, that “principles” and force are just two different ways we seek to protect what we consider ours, with the first being most efficacious within a community [and recourse to the later perhaps being necessary]. As I noted on a previous thread of yours,

“The deep roots of “property” are not in principle but in simple competition, physical defense of assets valuable enough to make the effort worthwhile, and in the grudging recognition by others – more willingly offered by those who share bonds of community – that yielding to others’ claims may be more productive than challenging them. This is as true for rest of creation as it is for man. While we have developed property to a very sophisticated degree, at its core property remains very much about the Darwinian struggle to survive and prosper, violence, theft and calculations as to when challenging control over an asset is not worth the effort.”

Sounds like this struggle over resources is at the core of Avatar, along with a boatload of Western guilt over our historical theft of land and assets from indigenous peoples, whom of course have also been involved for eons in bloody battles for resources with other tribes.

Far from being simply a dead relic of the past, however, the often violent struggle to take resources from indigenous peoples continues in many places, though out of sight from most of us (not simply those who are trying hard not to see) – oil & gas, minerals, timber, ranching, soybeans, oil palms, World Bank-funded dams and roads, fisheries – you name it, a violent conflict that the natives are losing to kleptocratic governments & elites can be found.

Western corporations are often in the thick of such conflicts, but even where not, modern technology (and growing consumer markets) provide the key tools and incentives for such conflicts, in which natives may be more or less hapless. Local governments typically either “nationalize” the resource or turn a blind eye, with the result that resource exploitation frequently takes on the appearance of a tragedy of the commons.

Western liberals sometimes exacerbate these problems – not simply by seeing “greed” and capitalism as the problem, and not kleptocratic regimes (often supported by the West and by aid money) or the lack of enforceable property rights – but also by demanding misguided policies such as “biofuels” incentives, which lie behind tropical forest destruction in much of SE Asia.

Libertarians should be familiar with these problems, which are a large part of the dynamics in petroleum-cursed nations and elsewhere. Such problems are also linked generally to “aid” efforts and to other centrally-directed development schemes. Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in part for her work in showing that local communities, if their rights are respected, can generally do a good job of managing their own resources [and how government efforts frequently go astray].

I’ve commented on these issues a number of times, but here are a couple of links for those who might care to scratch the surface:

Stephan, if youve made it this far, let me remind you of our conversations about corporations [most recently here], which have very unfortunately been inescapably tainted with statism from the get-go, in ways that play out negatively both abroad and at home. Ive devoted a fair amount of time to examining the entanglement of corporations and government:

  • Our state governments were wrong to get into competition with each other to grant corporate status to investor-owned enterprises, in exchange for fees and later taxes. Corporate status freed owners from down-side risk, by limiting liability to the amount of capital contributed. This incentivized investors to encourage corporations to embark on risky activities that shifted costs to innocent third parties; the concentration of wealth in corporations (that now have unlimited lives and purposes, subject to survival in the market); the corruption of the court system that once protected third parties from damages caused by others (by replacing strict liability with balancing tests); and the ensuing battle over legislatures and courts to check corporate abuses.What happens abroad at the “Avatar” is pretty basic, but the same nonsense, with taxpayers, investors and consumers playing the role of victim, can be seen at home. Has anybody seen the jaw-droppingly appalling report that the WSJ has run on “Fixing Global Finance”, based on their “Future of Finance Initiative”, in which they cheerlead a bunch of financial firms in their efforts to abandon free markets and to structure global regulation and regulators, to be staffed by a revolving door of themselves? [I think Im being fair to see this as posing a threat to markets and freedom at least as great as what others see in the more multi-faceted climate change muddle.] Even Paul Volker was appalled, not at their willingness to create more regulation, but at their unwillingness to confront the moral hazard problems (tied to regulation of public corporations and the financial sector) that lie at the core of the financial meltdown. [Volker seems to overlooked the crucial role of government in driving and feeding the moral hazard problems.]Heres the link, for those of you who missed it:


Property rights, corporations and government-complicit theft? Hmm. [Sounds familiar. Maybe some of those who want to battle corporate excesses might not be so crazy after all, even if they neglect to understand the risks of negative consequences of seeking help from government. And maybe someday libertarians will get a little more serious about addressing the festering concatenation of corporate-linked problems that are generating so much rot at the core of our government and public company/financial company sector.]


Oh, I almost forgot to remind everyone for the need for group holiday cheer (as alternative to productive engagement on a libertarian, Austrian-based climate agenda):


Strange But True IV: NOAA proves govt CAN learn – and seeks to end tragedy of commons in fisheries by implementing "catch share" quasi-property rights!

December 21st, 2009 No comments

Fellow libertarians, O Cynical Ones, you might be surprised to note that, at least in some cases, it MAY be possible to educate thick-headed and corrupt government bureaucrats and political appointees about the reasons for policy failures, and the government MIGHT even actually decide to cean up  its act. While the task may be difficult, it is apparently NOT impossible; there is a silver lining; and persistence may pay off in greater local authority.

The case in point? Signs of hope that the US government is learning from the painful lesson of many disastrously managed fisheries, and is starting to empower fishermen to self-manage that the resources on which they rely, by setting policies that favor “catch share” programs. (I have blogged on the fisheries “tragedy of the commons” a number of times; serious problems continue.) “Free-market” enviro-libertarians have been making the case for such changes for thirty-odd years or so.

(BTW, this is exactly the point that Elinor Ostrom has been making for years, and why she was awarded the Nobel prize in economics. Further, as I have previously noted, even mainline enviro groups – those enviro-facists – have been specifically calling for “catch share” programs as a way to slow the disastrous tragedy of the ocean commons.)

Here are excerpts from a December 10 online release bu the , “NOAA Encourages Use of Catch Shares to End Overfishing, Rebuild Fisheries and Fishing Communities”: (emphasis added)

NOAA released today for public comment a draft national policy
encouraging the use of catch shares, a fishery management tool that
aims to end overfishing and rebuild and sustain fishing jobs and
fishing communities
. In doing so, NOAA recognized that catch shares are
not a panacea or one-size-fits-all solution, but are a proven way to
promote sustainable fishing when designed properly at the fishing
community level.

“We have made great progress in rebuilding many fisheries, but more
than 20 percent of our fish stocks have not been rebuilt, and even
larger proportion of our fisheries are not meeting their full economic
potential for the nation,” Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke said.
“Catch shares is a tool that can help us realize the full economic and
biological benefits of rebuilt fisheries.”

Catch share
programs, which include Limited Access Privilege programs and
individual fishing quotas, have been used in the U.S. since 1990 and
are now used in 13 different commercial fisheries. Four new programs
will begin over the next year. 
NOAA estimates that rebuilding U.S.
fish stocks would increase annual commercial dockside values by an
estimated $2.2 billion, a 54-percent increase over current dockside
values of $4.1 billion, and help support jobs in the seafood industry
and across the broader economy.

“From Florida to Alaska, catch share programs help fishing communities
provide good jobs while rebuilding and sustaining healthy fisheries and
ocean ecosystems,”
said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce
for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Although this is a
national policy, our emphasis is on local consideration and design of
catch shares that take into consideration commercial and recreational
fishing interests.”

A catch share program differs from traditional fishery management by
dividing up the total allowable catch in a fishery into shares. These
shares are typically allocated based on historical participation in the
fishery. They may be assigned to individuals, cooperatives, communities
or other entities, who would be allowed to fish up to their assigned
Catch share participants also agree to stop fishing when they
have caught as much as they are allowed.

Under traditional
management programs, fishermen compete for a total allowable catch.
This has lead to fishermen racing each other to catch as many fish as
they can before the total catch limit is reached. This results in more
boats and gear than necessary, quotas being exceeded, increasingly
shorter fishing seasons, unsafe fishing and high levels of bycatch. It
also may result in too many fish brought to market at once, reducing
their market value to fishermen and coastal communities.

“Catch shares allow fishermen to plan their businesses better and be
more selective about when and how they catch their allotment, because
they know their share of the fishery is secure,”
said Dr. Jim Balsiger,
acting administrator of NOAA’s Fisheries Service.
“They can plan their fishing schedules in response to weather, market,
and individual business conditions. Catch share programs help eliminate
the race to fish, reduce overcapacity and bycatch, enhance the safety
of fishermen and their vessels, and improve economic efficiency. They
also help ensure fishermen adhere to annual catch limits because the
value of their share is directly linked to the overall health of the
fish stock and its habitat.”

While catch shares are not
always universally embraced when they are first introduced, their
benefits have been well proven. “We fought against the program right up
until the time it passed,” said Alaska fisherman Rob Wurm, referring to
the halibut and sablefish catch share program, which began in 1995.
”But to my surprise, it really has worked well. It has created a lot of
stability, stopped the race for fish and changed the fishing
environment in ways that have made it safer and allowed us to avoid
bycatch.” …

Members of NOAA’s Catch Shares Policy Task Force, which includes
participants from each of the eight councils as well as NOAA experts,
provided significant input on the draft policy.

Among the policy’s components:

  • Development
    of a catch share program is voluntary. NOAA will not mandate the use of
    catch shares in any commercial, recreational, or subsistence fishery.
  • The
    individual fishery management councils will consult fishing communities
    to evaluate the data, effects, and enforceability of any potential
    catch share program before moving forward. In some cases, councils may
    find catch shares not to be the most appropriate management option.
  • NOAA
    will provide leadership and resources and work in partnership with
    fishery management councils, states and members of the public to help
    with the implementation of catch shares. This includes assisting
    fishing communities as they make the transition, and conducting
    regional workshops, online seminars, and other educational and outreach
  • Well
    thought-out and developed catch share programs will promote sustainable
    fishing communities by supporting good jobs, and promoting preservation
    of wharfs, processing facilities, and fuel and ice suppliers.
  • Catch
    share programs can be designed to set aside shares to allow new
    participants into the fishery, including new generations of fishermen,
    small businesses, or others.

NOAA encourages
those councils adopting catch shares to consider a royalty system to
support science, research and management as fisheries become more
profitable under the program. NOAA will also seek appropriated funds to
supplement what may be collected through cost recovery and royalties to
assist in the design, transition period and operation of catch share

Readers may note very close parallels between NOAA`s approach and the common principles for sucesssful management of open-access resources that Ostrom has identified.

Let`s hope that the US and other nations can use similar approaches to begin to manage any number of fisheries that are crashing or are under severe pressure around the world – due both to government-instigated commons problems and to races to catch fish in pelagic regions not subject to meaningful government control. We could use approaches that actually empower the fishermen, and end both government mismanagement and politicization and chaotic systems of widespread, roving and destructive “fish raiders”. The alternatives of fisheries that have crash and been placed under bans (under the CITES convention) and politicized deadlocks that we see for whales under the IWC are not very attractive.

So, we ARE making some progress.  Forgive me for suggesting that similar efforts by libertarians to play a productive role regarding energy policy might also eventually pay off?