Friday, February 12, 2010
Another word on Private Property
There is, naturally, a difference between the terms "private property" and "individual property," although the former is a term we are never invited to examine.
Individual property belongs, in essence, to a person. For example, in my tiny Minneapolis apartment there is a dresser I am using as an entertainment center, a folding TV tray made of black wood - from Target - a filing cabinet from Officemax, a wobbly shelf system I picked up from a thrift store called Savers. These possessions belong to me, as an individual. Day where I invite people into my home to watch TV, they don't take the dresser when they leave. The property is recognized as mine. The man who comes to fix the internets doesn't take the router when he leaves. "Possession is 9/10s of the law," the old adage goes; truly, the courts and cops and lawyers and jury duty summons serve their purpose in keeping an ordered society that will defend your individual property from hoodlums and ne'er-do-wells. Justice, on occasion, is served.
Private property is the twisted perversion of individual property. It is the Mr. Hyde to individual property's Doctor Jekyll - making the word "property" a gentleman by day and a rampaging monster by night (or even in mere shadows). Under the twisted logic of capitalism, a corporation has as much right to a factory as I have to my dresser or television. My furniture - my personal belongings - even my car (technically belonging to the bank) - regardless of their incapacity to feed and clothe and house people, is lumped into the same ideological category as the Ford plant in nearby Saint Paul. Gigantic plants for metalworking that employ hundreds of people and that are the foundation for an entire economy of steel are considered alongside your two-bedroom-one-bath house.
And yet what is the rhetoric in society? That Marxists socialists, who call for the "re-appropriation of the wealth," want to rob you of your home and the contents of your bank account, want to melt down your SUV for a statue of Lenin, want to give your iPod to orphans in Harlem.
Let's get something straight out the gate, yall. We have bigger fish to fry than playing musical chairs with the housing market. (The capitalist-bred Recessasaurus, however, is coming for you, and we defend your right to your home.) When we talk about "abolishing private property," we mean the springs of social wealth ought to be taken into the hands of society so that all may drink from it. Everyone ought to have access to the basic needs of the human condition without worrying about the next paycheck, the overdraft fees, the bills. In a global society of plenty, we can provide more than enough to go around.
But it means the wrenching of the means of production from the hands of profit-seeking capitalists and corporations. As long as absolute wealth is the goal of our economic system, supply will never meet demand in a way that is humanitarian and fair.
Yes, not only can you keep your iPod - you can have a stake in the social direction of Apple, too.