On the Right to Private Property and Entitlement to One's Income
11 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2004
Date Written: September 13, 2004
In this short essay I argue that the main insight of Murphy and Nagel's book, The Myth of Ownership, that people have no right to their pre-tax income, is not supported by their claim that the right to private property is not a natural right. The non-naturalness of the right to private property, I argue, is completely irrelevant to their moral argument. The plausibility of their moral conclusion derives from the thesis (which they also seem to endorse) that people do have a right to the fruits of their labor, maintaining, however, that there is no possible conception, morally speaking, of what the fruits of one's labor are, independent of a system of legal and social norms that constitute the terms of fair bargaining, pricing, etc. People can only have a right to a fair assessment of the added value of their labor, and the latter cannot make any sense independent of the entire system of norms prevailing in the relevant society. I argue that this conclusion is not affected by the nature of the right to private property.
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