Property and prosperity

If I walk into a computer store and pick up a laptop, without paying for it, someone will try to stop me before I leave. If I ignore them, they will call on additional force. This interaction will continue to escalate until sufficient force is brought to bear, and I am stopped.

However, If I walk into the same computer store, put down two thousand dollars, and then walk out, nothing will happen. In this case, the computer is publically viewed as my “property”, and no one will stop me. In addition, if someone else tries to take that computer from me, I can bring the same forces to bear to stop them.

These “forces” are continually applied until the problem is solved. At first it may be the store clerk, then rented security, then the police, and ultimately the national guard if I choose to encamp myself with a group of followers. The same forces will work for me in reverse, if someone tries to steal my property.

So in a sense, property has nothing to do with the object I purchase. Instead, capital, of which property is just a physical part, is a contract between the powers of our nation and myself. By carrying two thousand dollars to the computer store, I am “renting” our national might to prevent the computer store from ripping me off, or anyone else from stopping me during this legal transaction.

Then even as I sit here in my house, none of this is mine. Merely, there is understanding between me, the people around me, and our government, that the necessary forces will be brought to bear if anyone violates the property lines that have been drawn. Looked at it this way, it is a rather precarious arrangement, continually dependent on mutual assurance and belief.

This arrangement is also directly related to the strength of our nation, and its willingness to pursue vindication after acts of wrong-doing. With a very strong government, no act of violation will go unseen, and the notion of property is both fiercely defended and defined. With a weak government, who hasn’t the resources or focus to pursue every instance, it requires social goodwill to maintain any notion of property at all.

In our country, the government is strong and the corporations are strong. The corporations, in their pursuit for continued existence, want the ideal of property very well guarded, and so they willingly help the government to be stronger. Government, in its turn, recognizes the benefit of this mutual relationship, and responds by helping create an environment where corporations can thrive.

When it comes to property, and protecting my personal and emotional investments in society, this is a good thing. The stronger the companies and government are, the less likely it is that anyone will trespass on my property – that is, any property which falls under the protection arrangement I paid for. If the definition of property becomes more strict (as it does sometimes when laws change), I may find that my ownership has grown stronger, but smaller in scope.

Yet going back to the idea that ownership is really “renting the forces of government”, I find that this is the basis of my relationship with our government. Government exists to promote the social welfare, which means creating a place where everyone can pursue their own ends in harmony. It restricts liberty wherever such liberty would cause a loss of freedom to others.

Nor is government a heaven-sent entity that existed before me, will exist after me, and nothing can be done about it. Our government was created by people very much like myself, who saw a need for establishing standards of agreement, and ensuring they would not be violated. Property is one of these standards, as it gives people a wide berth to act and consume resources, without forever concerning themselves with threats from outside.

However, our culture has progressed (or digressed) since that time to a state of extreme materialism. Our society seeks to promote material welfare to the exclusion of all else. The is epitomized in companies, whose growth and development depends on material acquisition. For them, the “bottom line” is the only defining reality, and everything else is subservient to this end. Such may not be the case for me personally, or for others, but it will always be for them as they are currently constructed.

A company’s bottom line is determined by their customers, the increase of whose desire is their main reason for growth. Thus, at some point, I ceased to be a human being to them. I became only a customer, a demographic; and whatever they can do to increase my thirst and need for their product or service, is in their best interest.

To this end, the media and its machinery have begun to perceive me as an economic unit, rather than a person. This goes far to justify many of the practices we see today. Take sexual attraction, for example. It is a natural and powerful agent for motivating people. Companies see the compelling nature of this agent, and have exploited it to make me a more eager and regularly spending consumer. Gone is the thought that perhaps I do not want my life dominated by sexual impulses; absent is the concept that perhaps I don’t want their product, or that advertisers should leave me alone. I am but a unit of currency in their forecasts, and both media and government (who is intimately linked to the corporations) have begun to believe this.

What we need to change is not the existence or role of our corporations and governments. They are strong, and serve us in some ways, such as guarding property, very well. What is lacking is the human element, and the pursuit of a higher ideal than property and materiality. In such a world, spamming could have no place, because spamming assumes a fundamental disinterest in the one being sold to. What we need is a realignment of our excellent structures toward a higher social ideal, rather than a mere restructuring.

This is something I believe communities are indeed perfect for. By collaborating together to achieve a sense of who we are, and what we want to achieve as a civilization, we can en masse influence our government, and use this influence to chastise the corporations, who have become like economic tyrants. But this cannot happen constructively without a common, positive vision for the future. Anarchy is not the solution, for along with the evils we see today, it would dissolve many of the goods that have come from the structures that currently prevail.

The situation we are living with now is not unlike that of a rich man with no aim in life. Which course will he choose, but the one most readily apparent? And if those arise who are indifferent to his view, they are swept aside by the force of his resources. Isn’t this what is happening now? Some of us cherish freedom, and see potential for the human mind to grow along paths undreamt of. We can achieve far more than the mere economic security we’ve established so far. But our powerful organizations, which we have each and all created by our effort and cooperation, are defining their own goals now, leaving us by the wayside, causing us to wonder at all of the lawsuits, patent abuses, advertising methodologies, etc. By failing to understand and express our own vision for the future, we have left these behemoths to pursue their own, most facile course.

The solution, as I see it, is not merely the creation of communities as an antithesis to government and big business. They should be a place for us to converse openly, freely, on the topic of our common future. Once this is done, and we realize the necessity for change, and the requirement for plans to help us accomplish this goal, our aspirations can make their way through government to the powers that be, and as a collective whole we will begin our ascent to a new level of social well-being.

In short, what we have now is good, it is only misdirected; and this lack of direction has encouraged the discord we see around us, as if a room of powerful robots had been left without a plan. Let us come together, and by so doing scatter these forces of confusion, for only such a union can bring about the evolution we need, rather than mere revolutions, whose historical short-sightedness have only continued the problem under different guises and using different names.