I really don’t think he’s right here you know

Richard Murphy says:
June 10 2016 at 2:19 pm
But land has no value unless the state protects the claim on it

There have been a number of historical periods when the bloke who can organise the largest bunch of thugs got to “own” the land. It had value therefore without a state to protect the claim.

A lower value most certainly but all those feudal lords were in fact rich as a result of the land they controlled.

21 thoughts on “I really don’t think he’s right here you know”

  1. If he’d have said “But land has no value unless someone is willing to use force to protect the claim on it” then he’d have been just about right, but it doesn’t have to be the state

  2. Being “just about right” would clearly be such a leap in to the unknown for Ritchie, his personal Ministry of Crap Thinking would have inserted a relevant error.

    However, he clearly believes that all good comes from the state and all goods belong to it. So the error is in hardware not in wetware.

  3. Given the fact that the humans comprising the State can change their minds at a moments notice, sometimes the value of land can be sweet Fanny Adams.

    Round here, the Home Office sought permission for change of use. Obviously, despite screwing up the application, the local council granted permission, appeal was refused and an old peoples home became a “relocation centre” for the homeless. Guess what happened to the values of the leafy suburban houses surrounding it?

    What the State giveth the State can nick.

  4. Murphy seems to think “The State” is a physical thing that exists. He probably thinks we should all worship it.

  5. The Meissen Bison

    If people are prepared to kill and risk being killed in order to possess land, then it follows that land has value.

  6. Murphy is a fat middle-aged slob. I should not need the state’s help to defend my land against him if he tried to take it even though I am more than a decade older and weigh far less. He thinks that because he needs the state’s protection everyone else does too.

  7. Shockingly, I think he’s basically right. Do we think of Saudi Arabia as a state? And how did those guys get to be in control of it? At one time, murdering or threatening to murder some other guys then paying people to defend it.

  8. Well, once a massive group of thugs with guns runs the country, only their willingness to allow you to own land allows you to own it.

    PRIOR to a sufficienctly massive group of thugs like this being in existence, anyone that can muster a group of tooled-up likeminded lads can own and hold land.

    Or “you only own what you can defend”

    When it comes to “The State”, the poison is the dose.

  9. P.S – Ritchie would contend that “The State” is not a group of thugs with guns, because we get to vote on the matter.

    We get to decide which thugs get the guns.

  10. @John Miller,

    That change of use, however, would also be the orthodox libertarian solution. A property owner (be it the state or private) can use their property as they wish, for whatever maximises their return and hang the negative externalities.

    Of course at present the playing field is not level. I guess the Home Office is going to get a great deal of respect from a local council.

  11. “That change of use, however, would also be the orthodox libertarian solution. A property owner (be it the state or private) can use their property as they wish, for whatever maximises their return and hang the negative externalities.”

    Orthodox libertarianism agrees that harm done to others should be paid for. It just disagrees that the best way to set the price is for a state bureaucrat to pick a number.

    “and an old peoples home became a “relocation centre” for the homeless. Guess what happened to the values of the leafy suburban houses surrounding it?”

    The orthodox libertarian would say that the owner gets to decide what economic use is made of the land, so if you want to control the economic use of the former old people’s home, you need to outbid the competition and buy it yourself. (Maybe the neighbours could all contribute to a pooled investment.)

    As in so many economic situations there’s a conflict of interests here – what the leafy suburbs gain the homeless lose, and vice versa – and we want the solution where the total loss of happiness is minimum. The decision about which need is greater is measured by the price the parties are willing to pay. Bid the price up enough, and the homeless relocation centre will go somewhere cheaper instead. If they outbid you, then evidently you don’t feel as strongly about it as they do.

    Externalities can go both ways. The nice old folks home spreads a positive externality to the whole neighbourhood that they all benefited from but paid not a penny for. (At least, not to the owner of the home. It does get priced into the value of their houses.)

    But positive externalities are reliant on the voluntary good will of your neighbours, they’re not a right, and they can be withdrawn at any time. Everyone knows that. So the probability of that happening would have been costed into the property prices too. (Had there been a covenant preventing such a change of use, for example, leafy suburbia would have been even more expensive.)

    I agree that the planning laws tend to be applied somewhat arbitrarily – but had the state been kept out as it should, it would have been even *easier* for the owners to sell the land to the homeless relocation folk. This seems to be more a complaint that the state failed to intervene in the market *enough* for your liking, rather than that it intervenes too much.

  12. The Murphatollah is right – up to a point. However, he confuses the state with society.

    Property is always social, at least initially, because others must recognise ownership; then, soon, the state emerges and institutionalises the rules for owning property. As it becomes more complex, the institution of property requires an arbitrator, which requires a minimal state with a monopoly on violence. But that minimal state has a habit of growing (and the history of the USA is instructive here).

    What is the state? — Broadly, there are two options:

    1. Reductionism: The state is a person or (perhaps fluid) group who claim (legitimately or not) jurisdiction (including taxation) and a monopoly of violence in a defined area. See Locke, J S Mill etc.

    2. Organic: the state is an organism but metaphysical. It exists over and above its participants and subjects. See Hegel and Rousseau.

    Our greatest living philosopher – and conservative public intellectual – Roger Scruton (now knighted in the Birthday Honours) argues for an inter-mediate position too subtle to summarise here. Please, do consult the great man’s works.

  13. Experience would tend to suggest only #1 exists
    #2 is a delusion, so presumably any intermediate position is, at best, less delusional.

  14. “. . . bloke who can organise the largest bunch of thugs . . . ”

    That is the state.

    Something that RM doesn’t realize or refuses to acknowledge but that ‘protection’ is predicated on the ability to do violence. It is the answer to the question ‘Or what?’ As in ‘Do this’, ‘Or what?’

    So if you can protect your land claim yourself why would you need another state to do it? Palestine can’t protect their land claim, its why they’re a vassal state inside Israel. Israel can – its why they still exist and still exert control of Palestine.

    So, claiming taxes are effectively user fees (ignoring that you can’t negotiate these fees or change providers without someone trying to kill you) to pay for the protection the state provides – you’d have a small point. You could make a decent case that the land has significantly *more* value due to the existence of this protection.

    But to say that the land has *no value* absent the state is to completely ignore reality. People will claim land even in opposition to the state in hopes of changing those rules (think squatters) and people seek out unincorporated areas (such as Sealand) *specifically* because its not inside a state.

  15. “Ivor
    June 11, 2016 at 5:11 pm
    We get to decide which thugs get the guns.”

    I think it would be more accurate to say that we get some minor say in who the guns are going to be pointed at this year. And next year they might be pointed at us.

  16. “But land has no value unless the state protects the claim on it”

    Is this what we have come to? An economy which needs sustained growth in the future just to stay afloat (welfare, demographics etc) and he is saying “nice private property you’ve got here. Shame if it caught fire”

  17. Bloke in North Dorset

    BiG

    “Of course at present the playing field is not level. I guess the Home Office is going to get a great deal of respect from a local council.”

    I was heavily involved in the Governments’ Mobile Infrastructure Project which involved building masts* in rural areas with no mobile coverage. If anything the local planners were overly protective of being told what to do by the man from the ministry and we really did have to jump through a lot of hoops, even where the local population was overwhelmingly in favour.

    *Pedantry – these are free standing which makes them towers, masts have guys, but common usage ….

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