John Minto, has written that property rights mean little to the poor. He says this because ideologically he is very keen on the state interfering with property rights in order to fit his own socialist agenda – you see he doesn’t really think you should own what you earn from non-coercive means. He wants to justify state sponsored theft without using the word, so he dismisses property rights as being “ there to benefit the wealthy and the middle class”.
The sneering nature of that comment speaks much about what he thinks about those who produce. By implication the wealthy don’t deserve wealth, presumably the fact that people have chosen to pay the wealthy what they own is irrelevant, Minto thinks that is unfair. The middle classes too, those ones who he especially despises (as they don’t ever vote for sufficiently left wing governments as they are too concerned with such disgusting activities as looking after themselves and their families so they don’t get into poverty), are not loved by Minto.
However, setting aside his own bigotry against those who have money (as if it has been dished out by a god), his own thesis that property rights are not important to the poor is complete nonsense.
He claims that because there are property rights in the US and New Zealand that it has done nothing for the poor in those countries – yet how dare he even compare poverty in the US to that of say Sudan or Bangladesh. To be poor in the likes of Sudan is to not have shelter, to not have food, to not have any access to education or healthcare of any kind. To be poor in the US typically does mean having shelter, it very rarely means starvation (and in plenty of cases quite the opposite), it does not mean lack of access to education and does not mean complete absence of healthcare.
Having property rights is fundamental to human survival – it is about owning what you produce, and keeping it. Whether it be land to live on or even farm, clothing, commodities or products to trade, it is the necessities of life. If there is no right to protect what you produce or earn, then you will be defined by poverty or at the will of a feudal lord, or dictator. Try owning land in many countries in Africa and protecting it from demands from corrupt officials or criminal gangs. The idea that property rights are not important to the poor only stands up if you believe the only way the poor should survive is from stealing from others – because, you see, Minto thinks everyone is owed a living from those who produce a living. Notice, of course, how he doesn’t live the life of a destitute to give more to others who haven’t earned it – socialists are like that - “everyone should, but me”.
He advocates “true democracy”, defined as decision making in all parts of people’s lives. Interesting choice of words of course. I don’t know what decisions Minto doesn’t think he has in his life, who forces him to live where he is, who forces him to eat what he eats, who forces him to get out of bed in the morning? What, on the surface, he advocates for is individual freedom. It isn’t democracy, unless he wants the decision making to be collective. Get it? So everyone gets to make decisions about all parts of people’s lives – so your neighbour might vote as to whether you should have a new car, or a holiday in Australia, or eat fish and chips, or buy incandescent light bulbs, or what sort of education your children get, or what newspapers should publish, or what programmes should be on TV, or whether you should cut that tree down on yOUR land, or whether you should have that heart bypass operation, or whether everyone should burn the US flag in protest for it harassing the peace loving Iranian regime.
I have a vision of what Minto sees as “true democracy”, it means once a week you and others in your community (he’ll define that as being those who live near each other) meet and discuss community issues, like what you do with the street, the park, the hospital, the school, what shops open and for what hours, what they sell, what the prices should be, whether more people should be hired by the local light engineering workshop, what times the buses should run, what newspapers should be sold at the newsagent, what movies should show in the cinema, what anti-social activities others in the community have done, what campaigns the kids at school are getting animated about. Of course under this, if you are outvoted you can’t complain – it is “true democracy”, the majority rules, so if the majority say your kids should learn Marxist economics and can only go to the local school, you can’t complain – it is democracy. If the majority say that because you are “middle class” you should allow a poor family to use one of the rooms in your house, then you can’t complain – it is democracy. If the majority say that advertising should be banned in newspapers sold locally, then… you get the picture. What happens if you campaign AGAINST the decisions of local democracy? Well, how could you? You’re a traitor at best, insane at worst – how can you go against the will of the people, the will of the majority? Why aren’t you working with your community, instead of pursuing greedy self interest?
Minto has a vision about how to achieve this when he says disturbingly “It's worth remembering that democratic rights, to the extent we have them, were never granted freely to anyone. People have only gained civil and political rights after bitter, violent struggles.”
Nevermind, there is a country that echoes Minto’s vision of virtually no property rights, and the sort of true democracy I was talking about – its capital is Pyongyang. Global Peace and Justice is the euphemism for Global Revolution and Socialism.