Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Property Rights Have An Ugly Past

If you ever thought slavery was un-American you probably should read this. Slavery is one of the foundation stones of the American mindset, particularly the modern mindset.

In the present capitalist mindset there's a growing entitlement that includes imagined or projected profit, and when such profit is challenged today's capitalists look on it as theft of property, even though the property or profit hadn't been possessed yet. What this does is pit workers' expectations against the expectations of people who own for a living, and we know which side has the litigious power and flexibility to shape the law. Working people are entering a hostile future that's likely to turn their jobs into an obligation and render their rights negligible.

In a justice system that prefers property rights above human rights, and owners' rights above workers’ rights, we are seeing the establishment of law that will be hard to overturn, not only precedent preferring the owning side of any argument, but the overturning of precedent that upholds the worker’s side. Law is never more conservative than when it is radical. Even during the broad prosperity following the progressive era and the New Deal, property was sacred, which meant that property “earned” previously under suspicious conditions, through slavery or theft of land from native Americans or railroad fraud or the underpaid employment of masses of immigrants, was protected by the law. If you were to look at the histories of many of the great fortunes in this country you’d probably agree that inheritance is a very efficient form of money laundering. Inheritance is the preferred means of gaining wealth in this country, preferred by the Republicans certainly, who think getting millions from daddy is holier than working for it, more deserving of tax protection anyway.

This weirdly un-American mindset that feels contempt for working people and worships the ownership class is actually very American. It comes down to us from the age of slavery, when great fortunes were made both North and South because working didn’t entitle you to anything. This is how the Republicans have had such an easy time turning the word “entitlement" into a slur. If you are entitled to anything you already own it; that’s what they say. Having to work for it negates the right you are claiming.

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