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this labour something annexed to it that excludes the common right of other men.
For this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can leave a right to what that is once joined to, at least when there is enough and as good left in common for others.”
One might, in reply to this, observe that as, according to the premises, “the earth and all inferior creatures are common to all men,” the consent of all men must be obtained before any article can be equitably “ removed from the common state nature hath placed it in.” It might be argued that the real question is overlooked, when it is said that, by gathering any natural product, a man“ hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby made it his property;" for the point to be debated is, whether he has any right to gather, or mix his labour with, that which, by the hypothesis, previously belonged to mankind at large. It may be quite true that the labour a man expends in catching or gathering, gives him a better right to the thing caught or gathered, than any one other man; but the question at issue is, whether by labour so expended, he has made his right to the thing caught or gathered, greater than the pre-existing rights of all other men put together.
Further difficulties are suggested by the qualification, that the claim to any article of property thus obtained, is valid only " when there is enough and as good left in common for others.” A condition like this gives birth to such a host of queries, doubts, and limitations, as practically to neutralize the general proposition entirely. It may be asked, for example-How is it to be known that enough is “left in common for others ?” Who can determine whether what remains is “as good” as what is taken? How if the remnant is less accessible? If there is not enough“ left in common for others,” how must the right of appropriation be exercised? Why, in such case, does the mixing of labour with the acquired object, cease to "exclude the common right
of other men”? Supposing enough to be attainable, but not all equally good, by what rule must each man choose ? Out of which inquisition it seems impossible to liberate the alleged right, without such mutilations as to render it, froin an ethical point of view, entirely valueless.
Thus, as already hinted, we find that the circumstances of savage life, render the principles of abstract morality inapplicable; for it is impossible, under pre-social conditions, to determine the rightness or wrongness of certain actions by comparing the amounts of freedom assumed by those concerned.
The doctrine that all men have equal rights to the use of the Earth, seems at first sight, to countenance a species of social organization, at variance with that from which the right of property has just been deduced ; * an organization, namely, in which the public, instead of letting out the land to individual members of their body, shall retain it in their own hands; cultivate it by joint-stock agency; and share the produce: in fact, what is usually termed Socialism or Communism.
Plausible though it may be, such a scheme is not capable of realization in strict conformity with the moral law. Of the two forms under which it may be presented, the one is ethically imperfect, and the other, although correct in theory, is impracticable.
Thus, if an equal portion of the earth's produce is awarded to every man, irrespective of the amount or quality of the labour he has contributed towards the obtainment of that produce, a breach of equity is committed. Our first principle requires, not that all shall have like shares of the things which minister to the gratification of the faculties, but that all shall have like freedoms to pursue those things—shall have like scope. It is one thing to give to each an opportunity of acquiring the objects he desires; it is another, and quite a different thing, to give the objects themselves, no matter whether due endeavour has or has not been made to obtain them. Nay more, it necessitates an absolute violation of the principle of equal freedom. For when we assert the entire liberty of each, bounded only by the like liberties of all, we assert that each is free to do whatever his desires dictate, within the prescribed limits—that each is free, therefore, to claim for himself all those gratifications, and sources of gratification, attainable by him within those limits—all those gratifications, and sources of gratification, which he can procure without trespassing on the spheres of action of his neighbours. If, therefore, out of many starting with like fields of activity, one obtains, by his greater strength, greater ingenuity, or greater application, more gratifications and sources of gratification than the rest, and does this without trenching upon the equal freedoms of the rest, the moral law assigns him an exclusive right to all those extra gratifications and sources of gratification; nor can the rest take them from him without claiming for themselves greater liberty of action than he claims, and thereby violating that law. Whence it follows, that an equal apportionment of the fruits of the earth among all, is not consistent with pure justice.
* Referring to an omitted part of the last chapter, the argument of which, with modifications, will now be found in Part IV of The Principles of Ethics.
If, on the other hand, each is to have allotted to him a share of produce proportionate to the degree in which he has aided production, the proposal, while it is abstractedly just, is no longer practicable. Were all men cultivators of the soil, it would perhaps be possible to form approximately true estimates of their several claims. But to ascertain the respective amounts of help given by different kinds of mental and bodily labourers, towards procuring the general stock of the necessaries of life, is an impossibility. We have no means of making such a division save that afforded by the balancing of supply and demand, and this the hypothesis excludes.
If, as M. Proudhon asserts, “all property is robbery". if no one can equitably become the exclusive possessor of any article, or, as we say, obtain a right to it--then, among other consequences, it follows that a man can have no right to the things he consumes for food. And if these are not his before eating them, how can they become his at all ? As Locke asks, “when do they begin to be his? when he digests ? or when he eats? or when he boils? or when he brings them home?” If no previous acts can make them his property, neither can any process of assimilation do it: not even absorption of them into the tissues. Wherefore, pursuing the idea, we arrive at the curious conclusion, that as the whole of his bones, muscles, skin, &c., have been thus built up from nutriment not belonging to him, a man has no property in his own flesh and blood-has no more claim to his own limbs than he has to the limbs of another; and has as good a right to his neighbour's body as to his own! Did we exist after the same fashion as those compound polyps, in which a number of individuals are based upon a living trunk common to them all, such a theory would be rational enough. But until Communism can be carried to that extent, it will be best to stand by the old doctrine.