I know I’ve said at least a few times that one of my main goals for this site is to find the truth and the most ethical way for a society to be organized. And if that means that I’m wrong about something, I want to know so that I can correct it.
Over the past few days, I’ve been involved in a debate about property, taxation, and violence. I’ve realized that I was wrong with my position. I held the position that it is permissible to take an unused product from the natural environment, mix my labor with it somehow, and claim it as property since I was not actively using violence against anyone to do so.
That means that I would use violence or the threat of violence to keep it mine, i.e. protect it. But it also means that the act of taking that property from the environment in the first place meant that I was excluding others from its use without their consent. That can’t be right! I want to be a good, ethical person and you surely cannot be a good, ethical person if you’re constantly threatening violence against others.
A thought just popped into my head. So even though I haven’t gone outside in awhile and picked up a rock in the woods or something, I didn’t enter the world owning all of the property that I own now. I made trades with other people willing to exchange their property with me, but they also did not own the property the moment they entered into existence either. That means if you trace all of my possessions back far enough, they started out as rocks and sticks and dirt and water and stuff. Look at me, enjoying a home, car, computer, food, and everything else I have because some jerks a long time ago traded rocks et al after violently coercing others to prevent them access to them.
At this point, it should not surprise you that I am now naked (and really close to my keyboard because I had to take my contact lenses out). I’ve also started to think about other things. Every time I eat food, I take away the opportunity for someone else to eat that food. Once I ingest something, no one else can ever have it again. (Am I coercing myself?) I guess the same goes for drinking—and this is especially disappointing because I still have some excellent beer left in the refrigerator! But alas, even the allure of a great stout cannot steer me off my journey to ethical purity.
Eating and drinking brings up another action of mine that violently coerces other people. When I breathe, I take away the opportunity for someone else to breathe in that air I so monstrously took. Sure, I’ll exhale, but many of the oxygen molecules that I breathed in will stay in my body for some unpredictable amount of time. They won’t even leave my body as oxygen molecules anymore. So if you ever wanted that same breath of air that I took, you’re going to have to spend an absurd amount of time undoing chemical reactions and collecting all of the other particles that were part of that breath.
Okay, after a series of passing out from not breathing, starting to breathe again while I’m unconscious, regaining consciousness and realizing that I’m violently coercing people, and then holding my breath again, I realize that not breathing isn’t the most practical of endeavors, so I only hope that you can forgive me for continuing this violent coercion of claiming the air as property. I hope that when I die and stand before God, He can find the mercy to forgive me as well.
The last time I came to and lifted myself off the ground, I had another startling epiphany. My body is taking up space. I’m taking up space that someone else could be using, but my mere existence prevents them from being in the spot that I am now. Even if I found a way to never breathe, eat, and drink (not to mention convince people that it wasn’t weird that I was constantly naked), the fact that I physically exist in the world is a violent coercion against all other people. I now know the only ethical thing to do.
I’ve come to a bit of a conundrum now. I know I need to end it, but if I use the knife sitting in front of me to do it, I’d be violently coercing someone else from being able to use it.