Talk:Property is theft!

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Property vs. real estate property[edit]

What is not immediately clear when reading this article is that the term "property" is used here to mean real estate, or land, property, and not (I believe) any other kind of property (like stocks, a business, a car, or an apple or pencil for that matter). I suggest that this be made clear from the outset.

--Serge 01:31, 30 August 2005 (UTC)

This is how Marx used "property." Proudhon (at least in What is Property?) considered the legal concept of property as it existed in France as derived from Roman law. This is very specifically stated in chapter 2. —Jemmytc 17:36, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
Marx as well as Stirner were Germans, in german language there was until then no sharp difference between the term "Eigentum" and the term "Besitz" - both terms were understood as equally - they both simply misunderstood the terms while they both thought just in conservative authoritarian prussian state definitions of the nineteenth century I suppose - therefore their argument was incomplete - in the french original Proudhon said: "La possession est légale - propriété est illégale" in the german translation it would be "Der Besitz ist rechtlich, Eigentum ist widerrechtlich" the standard german citizen don't really know that there is a clear defined difference between possession and property, visit Germany and you will realize it for yourself. Stirner is known for his work "The Ego and His Own" which is translated in german:"Der Einzige und sein Eigentum", which translates literally as "The Unique One and His Property" - However, if you read it you will notice that Stirner meant possession and not just property. - it's just a matter of language problems - nothing more, nothing less Mesomorphos (talk) 06:12, 18 October 2014 (UTC)

Justification for inclusion of libertarian socialism in links section[edit]

Proudhon believed in the control of the means of production by the workers themselves, and as a believer in the labour theory of value opposed profit-making enterprises. He believed that society should be organised as a federation of workers assemblies. True, he believed that goods should be exchanged in a market, but this market would have little in common with the capitalist idea of the free market (for example, goods were to be exchanged at "cost value", not whatever price would create the greatest profit). Workers self-management and the idea of a society organised as a federation of workers' organisations is of course key to most conceptions of libertarian socialism. No-one would suggest that Proudhon was a libertarian socialist exactly, but it seems perfectly reasonable to include a link to libertarian socialism. I haven't restored the link to communism, but a case certainly could be made. Proudhon had a significant influence on Marx's early writings. Cadr 00:38, 3 September 2005 (UTC)

Request for clarification[edit]

Is the sentence, "The former is considered illegitimate property, the latter legitimate property.", which occurs somewhere around the middle of the longest paragraph, mistyped? --Denihilonihil 13:54, 2 October 2005 (UTC)

No, it's right. Property is theft if it's that which isn't the result of labor. Property is freedom when it the product of labor. If you protect unused land from others, you're stealing that land. If you protect your cornfield from others, it's freedom. For Proudhon, legitimate property can only come about through labor. RJII 19:18, 2 October 2005 (UTC)

Absurd notion[edit]

There has to be some kind of documented response to this absurd premise:

He proposed that "the laborer retains, even after he has received his wages, a natural right of property in the thing which he has produced."

So when someone provides the capital to buy the equipment to run a diamond mine and pay wages to the miners, when a miner finds a diamond, the miner retains "a natural right of property in the diamond which he has produced"? And when that miner takes his rough diamond to a cutter, whom he pays a wage to cut the diamond, the cutter owns the resulting cut diamonds he produces? And when the cutter pays a jeweler to mount one of the cut diamonds in a gold ring, the resulting diamond ring produced by the jeweler belongs to the jeweler? In a system that worked according to this principle, why would anyone be motivated to do anything except steal? --Serge 21:57, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

So the diamond miner is supposed to be more motivated when he doesn't get the diamond? Hmmmm. —Jemmytc 17:38, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
Serge's comment does not indicate that. Your rebuttal doesn't address the issue he raises which is that if it is the case that "the laborer retains, even after he has received his wages, a natural right of property in the thing which he has produced" then it is the case that multiple individuals could own the same property simultaneously. But more importantly he is suggesting that a rebuttal to the concept probably exists and should be provided for the article to be balanced. (talk) 19:36, 16 May 2008 (UTC)
Perhaps Proudhon was referring to a right more akin to copyright than to physical possession.--Cwiddofer (talk) 03:48, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

Contradictory quotes[edit]

These two quotes are completely contradictory:

He proposed that "the laborer retains, even after he has received his wages, a natural right of property in the thing which he has produced."
"Property [is] a triumph of Liberty. For it is born of Liberty ... Property is the only power that can act as a counterweight to the State, because it shows no reverence for princes, rebels against society and is, in short, anarchist."

Further explanation/clarification is needed. --Serge 22:10, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Well, Proudhon's philosophy of property was developed in a number of works and it is contradictory since he changed his views. -- Vision Thing -- 08:47, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

He did not coined the slogan[edit]

"Property is theft !" is a slogan which is coined much sooner than Proudhon's book. It is first used by Brissot. Direct quote from Marx : "But as Proudhon entangled the whole of these economic relations in the general legal concept of “property,” “la propriété,” he could not get beyond the answer which, in a similar work published before 1789, Brissot had already given in the same words: “La propriété’ c’est le vol.”

According to Robert Graham, "The claim that Proudhon took this phrase from the Girondin, J.P. Brissot de Warville, repeated by Marx after his break with Proudhon, has been decisively refuted by Robert L. Hoffman in his study, Revolutionary Justice: The Social and Political Theory of P.J. Proudhon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972), pp. 46-48." Anyway, I added mention of Brissot. —Jemmytc 17:45, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
This is an old Christian saying, commonly attributed to St. Basil the Great. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:45, 15 November 2011 (UTC)

Criticism Section[edit]

This section has been removed, but I'll leave the discussion. Myself, I would think that in order to be notable any criticism would have to come from, or represent, political thought of the same stature (within the history of political philosophy) as Proudhon's; e.g., Marx, Bentham, Burke, Jefferson. I know, at least, that Marx criticized Proudhon extensively; but I do not know the content of this criticism very well. —Jemmytc 18:50, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

I removed the following:

This is based on a misunderstanding of Proudhon's argument. Proudhon differentiated between "ownership" and "property". According to his terminology, a person has "ownership" of something if they use it on a daily basis. For example, a student owns his pencil. A thing is the "property" of a person if they own it on paper, and derive profit from someone else using it. If the student had borrowed the pencil from his school for a fee, it would be the "property" of his school.

There is no misunderstanding involved. It is a fallacy as it sits. He may have been doing a play on words for rhetorical effect but the words still have meaning. If the student stole the pencil from the school he would be using it, but that could not convey rightful ownership. Steve 21:52, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

I appreciate the attempt at a compromise, but it doesn't matter that someone (and I'm not sure it was Proudhon) used the word "property" or "ownership" as a valid right and the other as "theft" - the word theft isn't a valid word unless the words "property" and "ownership" are valid. That is the nature of a stolen concept. Steve 03:39, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

There are several reasons why that paragraph is wrong:

  • The criticism section is for criticism of the articles main points - It should not be turned into a series of arguments against arguments
  • I kept the body of your argument's statement - a good faith compromise.
  • Saying the criticism is a 'misunderstanding' is your interpretation which if entered would be origonal research.
  • Material must have a source - a source was supplied for the criticism and without a source for any 'counter-criticism,' it would be personal POV.

Steve 20:35, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

I've removed the non-NPOV from the wording so that it's now a claim of contradiction and added the obvious logical rules showing why stolen concept simply doesn't logically work here. A non-neutral point of view, even with an outside source, is not appropriate. If you want to make it non-neutral by removing the references to the claim rather than as a fact (which they aren't since they are full of logical problems, which are demonstrated in the claim), then I'll simply delete it in the future. If you want to claim that a response of clarification to the non-neutral critique is not valid for not being sourced, then you fail under not being neutral. I'd rather just delete the inanity, but I'd rather give you a chance to respond to the actual reasoning for keeping your illogical contribution in the talk page or even in the actual article. Freedom of objectivist religion, I say. -- SAW

Your personal POV is rather obvious. I've reverted your nonsensical attempt to censor a valid, sourced criticism. Steve 14:15, 6 April 2007 (UTC)
Nothing was removed -- only added text that neutralized the criticism. Since the criticism is illogical, it only makes logical sense to refer to it neutrally, not as if it were a true fact. No other articles say 2+2=5 is an accepted fact. I can only expect you to understand when you take some courses or read some books on logic. -- SAW. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 16:47, 7 April 2007 (UTC).
Steve, feel free to quote somebody arguing against the distinction between possessional ownership and property using facts, but an a priori argument regarding synthetic distinctions with mutually exclusive definitions falls flat on its face. There are much more famous criticisms, like Rousseau's inevitability argument. I _thought_ Objectivists were supposed to like basic logic. In Proudhon's time, many felt that property itself wasn't linked to ownership, since paper-properties were previously limited only to royalty and the lords, much as patents continue to this day. You have to understand the language in the context that Proudhon lived and wrote in, not in the age of capitalism, where property by title is the norm. Rousseau, if you don't remember, argued that the concept of property was theft from the commons, but he also embraced the idea that theft of the commons was for the progressive benefit of humanity, whether it (property as a solution to "the tragedy of the commons" as Hardin puts it) made sense or not. -- SAW —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 00:54, 8 April 2007 (UTC).
Feel free to find a source to cite - but WP doesn't allow original research. Steve 04:56, 8 April 2007 (UTC)

"Objectivist critique"[edit]

The Branden complaint seems to center around a too-literal reading of the slogan, whereas the rest of Proudhon's argument seems to make the meaning clear. Surely there are other critiques that are more relevant to the substance of the argument. An anarchist one would be most relevant; I suggest that one be included. —vivacissamamente 12:25, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

I'm removing this. It's entirely inappropriate to have an "Objectivist" POV on this page. —Jemmytc 01:35, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
I've restored the section, which was wrongly removed. It isn't POV, but a valid critical observation that is properly referenced. --Steve (talk) 19:59, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
I have to agree, this is lame. Surely we can come up with better complaints than this. --EmbraceParadox (talk) 15:37, 8 July 2008 (UTC)
I've put your rebuttal under it's own heading of "Counter-Criticism." But maybe "Rebuttal" would make a better section title... Or maybe a subheading under "Criticism" would be better than a separate, following section? But it does make sense to give a degree of separatation. --Steve (talk) 05:17, 9 July 2008 (UTC)
The ideal degree of separation might be to separate them both from the page entirely. Maybe we could move them onto a page about this "stolen concept" business. --EmbraceParadox (talk) 15:00, 9 July 2008 (UTC)
Just because someone wrote something about the phrase doesn't mean it's appropriate in this article. This "criticism" is embarrassingly stupid -- as the quotation in the introduction of the article shows, Proudhon does not mean that property is the same thing as theft, any more than that slavery is the same thing as murder. A society in which the right of property is absolute is a society in which the vast majority of people will have no property -- thus, for the masses, property amounts to dispossession, or theft. The contradiction in the phrasing is wholly intentional, a literary effect. A more literal phrasing would be "the right of property exists only on paper" but that doesn't sound nearly as good, does it? The author of the criticism fails to understand this, and merely attacks a straw man.
But that is not the reason I removed it. Note two things: first, this is an article about a phrase; the purpose of such an article, in keeping with the fact that this is an encyclopedia, is to explain its meaning and document its locus classicus. Criticism of Proudhon's arguments belong in the article on Proudhon's work, What is Property?. Second, this particular criticism, besides its stupidity, is far from notable -- it is just a couple paragraphs from one article by some random nobody in a rather insignificant journal. Marx criticized Proudhon extensively -- he devoted a whole book to it -- that is notable. To include only this criticism, which comes centuries after the fact (in a time when the sovereign right of property is no longer taken seriously by any acting government) is completely out of proportion. But even Marx's criticism does not belong on this page: it has nothing to do with the phrase. The phrase is different from the argument. —Jemmytc 09:57, 14 July 2008 (UTC)
Please do not remove valid, relevant, sourced material.
The only "embarrassingly stupid" thing I'm aware of is the ill-mannered fashion in which you delete relevant, sourced information to suit your personal POV while engaging in ad hominum attacks.
It is in the criticism section and it is dead-on relevant, all of the blathering on about literary illusions to the contrary. Of course the 'contradiction' is wholly intentional - that does not invalidate the fact that it can also be shown to be a form of self-defeating fallacy.
You said that this is an article about a phrase - the criticism is about the phrase - because something is a phrase doesn't remove it from the realm of meaning. "The phrase is different from the argument" argues the person who bases his argument on other arguments in the same article which discusses an argument characterized by the phrase which argues for a specific view of property.
If you want to INSIST that this is just a historical location of the phrase - fine with me, we can edit out everything in the article that even hints at political POV of any kind and make it a truly dry tract with no meat or juice to it at all. Trying to have your cake and eat it too (that's just a phrase) results in POV. If you want an article that gives a solid representation of what Proudhon meant, you also have to have the fortitude to endure the proper criticism - Please note that there is NO criticism of Proudhon or his theories - just the phrase - the criticism is in scope.
I have restored what is a valid entry for this article. Unless Wikipedia has changed since I was last here, this is NOT your personal property and is NOT here to reflect your personal point of view. It is as an encyclopedia article which warrants that criticism section.--Steve (talk) 17:50, 16 July 2008 (UTC)
The article does not reflect any point of view wrt Proudhon. I didn't come here to add my point of view: I came here because I spent an afternoon reading What is Property? and wanted to clean up the article, which seemed to me to have been written by people who had not in fact read the book. The article merely explains the popular origin of the phrase and some the context in that origin. Without the criticism section, the page is high quality, and encylopedic. With the criticism section, it is an embarrassment. I don't want to get into an argument about the criticism itself -- I'm sorry I even discussed it before -- but the section is just so silly and out of place here. I don't understand why you can't see that. You're clearly putting it here because you want to have a critical "objectivist" view, but no such view is of any importance here. The very fact that it is an "objectivist critique" of Proudhon makes it inappropriate, because "objectivism" is not part of the same history of thought. Even Proudhon's views are unimportant in themselves -- the legal theory he was criticizing is no longer important, it is purely historical. Please can you just try and get some perspective? Your little religion or whatever you call it just doesn't belong on every page in an encyclopedia.
I can't believe you're going to tell me that this article is not here to reflect my personal point of view. Maybe you should read about psychological projection. I'm not trying to advance any point of view (and I haven't even made my views known): I'm trying to write high quality encyclopedia articles. Meanwhile, it's perfectly obvious what you're doing here.
In any case, you keep adding a section even though it doesn't have consensus. (And it is unlikely it will ever have consensus, because it really does not belong.) That is against WP policy. It is edit warring, and it is disruptive. Please stop. I don't want to deal with this edit war bullshit. It's demoralizing. It makes me not want to edit WP at all. Sigh. —Jemmytc 21:19, 17 July 2008 (UTC)
  • The material is sourced to an article that isn't even about property or politics at all, but is aimed at "anti-rationalists". The "property is theft" thing occupies a couple of lines, and it is just an aside. This does not count as an "objectivist critique". If someone wants to provide a counterpoint, they can find something that is more than a couple of lines in some random article somewhere. --EmbraceParadox (talk) 20:28, 16 July 2008 (UTC)
The article is about a kind of logical fallacy - it not only applies to the phrase that this article is about - but this phrase is specifically used as an example of that kind of logical error. It is NOT an aside - the fallacy discussed IS what the sourced material is about. As to "Objectivist critique" you mention, that is what someone here on this talk page put up for a heading of this talk section - it wasn't me. I don't see this as an Objectivism issue, or an Anarchy issue, or a Socialist issue - it is about a criticism of the phrase as a phrase. Please do not remove valid, relevant, sourced material - to do so is in direct violation of Wikipedia policy. --Steve (talk) 10:34, 17 July 2008 (UTC)
The phrase is only an example of the fallacy if taken literally - but that's fine in the context of the article cited, because it's just a prelminary example before getting to the main point, which is directed against a perceived trend towards relativism, anti-rationalism, and mysticism in the philosophy of its time and place. It has absolutely nothing to say about property rights or any sort of politics at all. (Have you read the article?) You can quote Wikipedia policy all you like, but even "valid, relevant, sourced material" should be given weight in proportion to its importance to the topic. Of the things that could be said as a counterpoint, this is far, far down on the list. --EmbraceParadox (talk) 13:46, 17 July 2008 (UTC)
(For reference we are talking about this article.) --EmbraceParadox (talk) 14:09, 17 July 2008 (UTC)
I understand that the referenced article is addressing a logical fallacy (yes, I've read the article) and I know it is not about property except as so far as it deals with two concepts and their relationship: Property and theft. The thrust of the article is on epistemological issues. But it is dead on target with this phrase and uses it as an example. The article is about a phrase - the criticism says this exact phase is a like a contradiction in terms - what could be more on-target, proportional, appropriate, or relevant?
I'm also aware of some good sources critical of Proudhon's property rights positions but to bring in them in makes for a major criticism section - a much larger critical section. This often stirs up a lot of partisan editing which I'd like to avoid. Also it becomes difficult to judge when the exposition of different positions critical of Proudhon should be cut off. After all this article is about a phrase. If it stays mostly about the phrase, rather than a fuller exposition of Proudhon's political positions, this criticism is adequate - it addresses the logical contradiction of the phrase - the counter states that it was not intended to be taken literally. That is a good and balanced approach.
Any article that hangs on a context as short as this phrase has to be open to criticism of the phrase's logical meaning - or open the flood-gates to a much larger scope of criticism. The only alternative to those two positions would be to strip the article down to a very tiny, dry historical accounting of what was said by whom and when - with out any fleshing out of the positions or meaning behind them. If the criticism is left in place, as it has been for quite a while until recently, it is adequate to make people think about literal versus metaphorical and more actively engage the rest of the article with an additional perspective.
Given these points I think you can see that I've thought about and addressed what is the proper weight or proportion for a critical section. And the reason I persist in mentioning the policies of Wikipedia is because people ARE violating them in deleting valid, proportional, relevant, sourced material. --Steve (talk) 18:20, 17 July 2008 (UTC)
Well, I cannot, with my Wikipedia-policy-violating eye, see the point of separating the two. It would be a very artificial division, if it were done that way - and it hasn't, because a lot of what is written in this article already is not really about the phrase proper. It would be a bit strange to allow such things in the article and then say we cannot include criticism of them because the article is "only about the phrase". So yes, I am more than happy to open the flood gates. I have already proposed a merger. --EmbraceParadox (talk) 21:02, 17 July 2008 (UTC)

I have again restored the material thatJemmy keeps deleting. His last deletion was not mentioned here on the Talk page yet in the Edit summary of his deletion he accuses me of not explaining MY actions on the talk page. I am not the one behaving in a disruptive fashion. One can go back into the history of this article and see mentions of the logical contradiction inherent in the phrase (I saw this as far back as April 2006 which is as far as I looked). There have been many editors over the years who have written to that effect -pointing out this obvious fact. The criticism section was established and arrived at over 7 months ago under a concensus. Jeremy acts as if this page were his private property, deletes valid, relevant, proportional, sourced material which has a history of concensus. He then accuses me of being disruptional for restoring it. --Steve (talk) 08:48, 18 July 2008 (UTC)

What is Consensus? Consensus is Tyrrany! As to the previous mentions you refer to, it looks like it briefly talks about a literal contradiction. It did not talk about objectivism, stolen concepts, or quote an objectivist newletter article on epistemology. After all, it is, as you say, obvious! Nathaniel Branden wasn't the first or most important to notice it, by a long shot. As I say, Proudhon already noticed it, and embraced it! Why should objectivism come into it at all?
So, is it finally settled? Can we go for a brief mention like was there before? For reference, I assume the April 2006 version Steve is talking about is this. --EmbraceParadox (talk) 14:58, 18 July 2008 (UTC)
My mention of concensus was in reply to Jeremy's complaints. The criticism isn't about Objectivism, it discusses the phrase containing a specific kind logical fallacy. Why would anyone be so upset at this being pointed out? Agreement is dissent! Wisdom is foolishness!
So, is it finally settled? Can we assume that valid, relevant, proportional, sourced material will be respected? --Steve (talk) 16:58, 18 July 2008 (UTC)
Yes, as a matter of fact, I promise that all future removals of "valid, relevant, proportional, sourced" material will be done respectfully. :-) Cheers, --EmbraceParadox (talk) 17:38, 18 July 2008 (UTC)
Whatever differences of opinion, editorial, political, or otherwise - it is so much nicer to work with someone with a sense of humor :-) Cheers, --Steve (talk) 06:31, 19 July 2008 (UTC)

Once again Jemmy has deleted the criticism section along with the reference. In the edit summary, he accuses me of disruptive behavior and threatend to initiate Administrative actions against me. I welcome any chance to bring impartial third party expertise to this issue. I have not been disruptive. The section in question was put in the article long ago as part of a consensus. It is a valid, proportional, appropriate entry for the article and has referenced source material. The value and purpose of the section for an encyclopedia article of this kind has been made clear on this page. The constant removal is the disruption. The attacks on me are unwarranted. This is the second time in a row that Jemmy has done this without even a brief note on this discussion page. I invite anyone to look at WP:DISRUPT and see whose actions best fit Wikipedia's policy. --Steve (talk) 05:13, 23 July 2008 (UTC)

Greetings, editors. Using a large pull-quote from a figure not significant in the area is rather undue weight for such a short article, but Branden is a notable thinker, the material is reliably sourced, and I believe is of interest to our readers who might immediately dismiss the phrase as logically contradicting. I do hope we can set aside this dispute and agree on a version similar to the current one. Regards, Skomorokh 14:56, 25 July 2008 (UTC)
Karl Marx is much more notable, and the material cited now is more substantial and relevant, being entirely about Proudhon and not a few lines in an article about something else, and also timely, being written in the same period, not merely pointing out the obvious a century after the fact. So why do we need the Branden quote at all? (The "rebuttal" is also now invalid, but we'll get to that later in the unlikely event this version is not reverted.) --EmbraceParadox (talk) 17:33, 25 July 2008 (UTC)
Of course Marx is more relevant, but that does not justify removing Branden; Branden's critique is more explicit and gives the reader a better idea of Proudhon's supposedly fallacious reasoning. The notion that the phrase is formally suspect is likely to occur to readers of the article, who will want properly sourced analysis from notable figures. Regards, Skomorokh 19:03, 25 July 2008 (UTC)
Is it? I mean "theft, as a forcible violation of property, presupposes the existence of property." This is clear. Supposing a hypothetical person who did not find this clear, does explaining the logical and genetic interdependency of concepts acutally clarify anything? No, of course it doesn't, and obviously it was never supposed to. Instead, the example of "property is theft" was supposed to clarify this philosophical assertion, not the other way around! --EmbraceParadox (talk) 19:33, 25 July 2008 (UTC)
Let's follow Steve's lede and continue this discussion in the Literal Contradiction Section discussion below. Skomorokh 19:37, 25 July 2008 (UTC)

Proposed merger[edit]

Please see Talk:What Is Property?

Table of contents[edit]

Is there any way we can get rid of this? Right now, it looks absurd: the TOC follows the majority of the content. I added a section heading, "Background", after the first two paragraphs -- just to move the TOC up, where it makes more sense to be. Someone removed it. Fine by me, it was just a hack. But there has to be some way to get rid of the TOC? Anyone? —Jemmytc 21:37, 17 July 2008 (UTC)

The magic incantation is __NOTOC__ --EmbraceParadox (talk) 14:41, 18 July 2008 (UTC)

Literal contradiction section[edit]

The material from Marx fits the section well. I restored the material from Branden since it gives added authority and a kind of balance. And because it is valid, appropriate, sourced material that should not have been removed. There is no requirement that a criticism be from the same historical period, particularly when it refers to the logical soundness of the phrase. Nor is the Marx quote any more relevant - both are references to the exact same phrase. I shifted to this new Talk page section since it is now clear that the criticism is about the phrase and not "Objectivist Critique". --Steve (talk) 18:52, 25 July 2008 (UTC)

I agree that Marx is a great addition to the section, that this does not excuse removing the relevant reliably sourced material from Branden, a notable individual, and that being from a different historical period does not mean a source does not have anything relevant to add to the discussion (although contemporary responses ought to be treated differently). I've reworked the section to avoid undue weight and to condense things a little. Skomorokh 19:40, 25 July 2008 (UTC)
That Branden is "a notable individual" is relevant to whether there should be an article about him, not whether every idiotic statement he makes deserves a place on the corresponding WP page. His statement about Proudhon is far from notable (indeed, it is laughable). The article remains an embarrassment. The presence of this material is so artificial! The sentence on Marx has nothing to do with this phrase, and fails to communicate any of Marx's critique; moreover, Marx's critique of Proudhon has nothing to do with any "literal contradiction" in the phrase, contrary to the heading of the section under which it is placed; with the Proudhon quotations removed it is much less clear what Proudhon was talking about; the majority of the article is now padding that has been put in to make the reference to objectivism seem less unreasonable, not to make the article better. This article should not be a vehicle for a link to objectivism! —Jemmytc 06:05, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
It is completely insane (WP:AGF), completely detached from any good faith reasonable attempt to write the best encyclopedia article possible, to have an entire section in this article -- in fact, a majority of the article -- dedicated to the trivial point, that "property is theft" is a "literal contradiction" when the word "property" is interpreted wrongly.Jemmytc 06:05, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
I've added something of an explanation from a reliable source sympathetic to Proudhon, to balance out the critiques. Skomorokh 19:58, 25 July 2008 (UTC)
I removed the following sentence from the end of the section because is isn't an accurate statement of Branden's position:
The property that is theft is private property, whereas the pre-existing concept of property that allows Proudhon to use the concept of "theft" is not the same property, as in Branden's example, but people's natural inheritance.
I also believe that the preceding sentence should be reworked or dropped - it isn't clear how this changes the observation of the phrase made by Marx and Branden. But I left it there in case someone believes it can be salvaged. --Steve (talk) 20:51, 25 July 2008 (UTC)
Is it not ironic how the "objectivists" are here so incapable of objectivity with respect to the quality of encyclopedia-writing? What percentage of humans are capable of recognizing their own biases and the motivations for their behavior? "Objectivism" with its detached-from-reality theory of man as rational (and Objectivism as following directly from pure reason -- "A is A", therefore capitalism is good for you -- my god! It is like reading Descartes!) pretty much forbids from the beginning any psychological insight or self-awareness of cognitive bias on the part of its followers -- as if it weren't difficult enough already! It's so hopeless. —Jemmytc 06:05, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
I removed the "snarky" paragraph (his description) that Jemmy added. It is personal POV, unsourced, orig. research, inappropriate in the criticism section, much less as lead paragraph, and falls short of being encyclopedia-writing.
His comments on this talk page make his POV clear. He says, "The sentence on Marx has nothing to do with this phrase" - are we both speaking English? He says that the interpetation of the word "property" matters - Duh! That is what the criticism by Marx and Branden go directly to - the quaint notion that there be some common meaning attached to a symbol if it is intended to communicate. Their point is that interpetation must be within bounds and that this phrase isn't. --Steve
I've been accused of not editing in good faith and being disruptive (when I'm the one working with others for a consensus), pushing a personal pov (when I'm the one comfortable with Branden and Marx nestled side-by-side), and in general, violating many WP policies when the facts are just the opposite.
Does it seem peculiar to anyone else that he accuses me or Objectivists or Objectivism of various shortcomings in these ad hominum attacks where he uses words like "idiotic" and "insane"? Jemmy makes as if he could peer into my mind and divine my thoughts and motives. He rants about bias, and implies I'm incapable of recognizing my motives. Jemmy, maybe no one told you, but I'm a psychologist, and I make it a point not to apply the knowledge and skills I've acquired over decades in that area to "psychologizing" others, especially not in demeaning fashion you are attempting. Please look to your own characteristics - you clearly have no understanding of mine! --Steve (talk) 09:34, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
That is not actually their point -- it is certainly not Branden's point. The idea of the "stolen concept" has nothing to do with the interpretation of text: it supposes that there is a concept used (not a symbol) which is at the same time contradicted by an assertion. The idea that "property" should have a "common meaning" in the work of Proudhon is ridiculous if you have read it, because Proudhon lists dozens of different concepts of property from various authors and considers them independently; and also because in context, which you only know about if you read the text he says that, in the section where he says "property is theft" he is talking about Roman law's concept of the sovereign right of property. In some contexts, "property" can mean a physical entity (my computer is property in this sense). In Proudhon's context, "property" cannot mean this: this computer is not property, because this computer is not property law -- and Proudhon was talking about property law -- not even all property law, but one specific form, that which derives from a theory of sovereign rights. —Jemmytc 10:55, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
The criticism really is stupid when you take this into account (i.e., when you read the book), isn't it? Because the idea of the stolen concept clearly does not apply: the word "theft" does not presuppose the Roman law concept of the sovereign right of property. Indeed, the word "theft" chronologically predates the entire Roman empire!Jemmytc 10:55, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
Steve, for you to say "[you're] the one working with others for a consensus" is most absurd. You have STILL not responded to my justification for reverting, from over a week ago. You just kept on reverting for a week without responding, until I gave up. That is what you call working with others for a consensus? Why should I not revert even now? (I will.) You have shown a clear unwillingness to discuss the issue. You also did not respond to my comments about the page from tonight -- only to my comment about objectivists. Objectivists, or really any ists, should not be editing this sort of material: you are not objective. You are pushing your point of view. I am seriously trying to treat Proudhon scholarly. You are not.
With regard to psychologizing, would you agree with the statement of Bertrand Russell: "in men whose reasoning powers are good, fallacy is evidence of bias"? Consider the statement of Skomorokh: "relevant reliably sourced material from Branden, a notable individual." Is that not so obvious an error (since -- as I said -- notability is a standard for the existence of an article, not for inclusion of an author's point of view) that it indicates a bias? —Jemmytc 10:34, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
By the way, you're certainly right that the sentence from Marx references the phrase. (In truth I had barely skimmed the added content.) Still, Marx's criticism was not that the phrase contradicts itself: Marx agrees with the phrase in his previous sentence: "The upshot is at best that the bourgeois legal conceptions of “theft” apply equally well to the “honest” gains of the bourgeois himself." That is, Marx agrees, with respect to the phrase, that it is property which contradicts itself, and not Proudhon. His criticism of Proudhon for "presupposing property" is not that it is contradictory to presuppose property and call it theft, but that to presuppose property fails to take into account the historicity of property (its dependence on a specific historical form of production). —Jemmytc 11:54, 26 July 2008 (UTC)

Jemmy, do not modify my comments with bolding or by breaking them in half, or insert your comments into the middle of mine. They are my commments - don't jumble yours up in the middle of them!

You said that I "...have STILL not responded to [your] justification for reverting, from over a week ago." You accuse me of reverting for a week without responding - that is NOT true. Look at all of the comments with my signature, look at the dates! There was only one time that I did not put something in the talk page and that was because you had said nothing different in your talk page comment and I would have been repeating myself to make a comment. It is you that did not respond for three deletions in a row and on several of your discussion entries you have been down-right rude and engaged in character assasination. You said that I "...have shown a clear unwillingness to discuss the issue." That is a blatant lie - look at the items with my signature on this page in the last week - do words mean nothing to you? Do you think you can just say anything and it magically has merit no matter how far from the truth it is. Do I need to count the words of my replies, the column inches?

You say that that the stolen concept fallacy has nothing to do with text. Excuse me, but if the text is organized into words and they represent concepts, then it does. You say "it [Branden's point] supposes that there is a concept used (not a symbol)..." Jemmy, in your mental world it may seem natural to have words (symbols) that have no meaning and it may seem natural to you to then provide us a seemingly endless stream of interpretations of meanings, just after saying they don't have meaning.

You accuse one of the editors of bias because he used the word "notable" as an adjective in a context outside of the WP policy for article inclusion. There is no good faith in that kind of loose and mistaken accusation.

You are not trying to treat this article or Proudhon in a scholarly fashion - you are trying to censor valid criticism.

"Theft" does NOT pre-date "property" - it can't for the reasons already given in the criticism you are so desperate to censor. The phrase stands on its own - in an article named with the phrase - a phrase often used to attack the concept of ANY property as valid - and the criticism is valid.

You fail to grasp that Marx and Branden are pointing out a flaw that is fatal to that phrase carrying any meaning other than some sort of fuzzy poetical illusion. I have not deleted the material saying that Proudhon didn't mean for it to be taken literaly. I have let my entry be edited down in size. I have tried to work with people here and they have tried to work with me - except for you! That entry is a valid and relevant criticism. All of your origonal research rants about what you think it means or what you think others mean or why you think the criticisms don't apply are in your head or in your comments but they aren't encyclopedia material or within WP policy. Stop being disruptive. Stop pushing your irrational hatred of anything remotely related to Objectivism - it is a personal agenda. Leave valid, sourced material alone.

I am not obliged to reply to every thing you say (some of which are barely intelligible). I have never failed to provide clear explanations of my actions and the reasons for them. I doubt that anyone else would think otherwise. --Steve (talk) 17:54, 26 July 2008 (UTC)

Branden's failure to even get "the phrase" correct has to reduce the notability of his remarks to nil. Libertatia (talk) 05:52, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

Branden's explanation is clear, correct, to the point, and notable. Do not remove sourced material. --Steve (talk) 22:31, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
You can say that as many times as you like. It doesn't change the fact that Branden did not even bother to correctly state the phrase he is "explaining." Branden criticizes a statement that Proudhon simply did not make. Branden's error, or misrepresentation, is a rather important one. Your insistence on its inclusion creates a real difficulty when it comes to keeping this entry neutral in its POV. At the moment, the entry does little beyond state the origins of the phrase. If we attempt to seriously treat the meaning and history of the phrase, then the job becomes very difficult and contentious. It would, I suppose, be possible to include Branden's use of the phrase, with acknowledgment that he got the phrase wrong, but somehow I don't think that's a fact you're willing to acknowledge. Libertatia (talk) 22:38, 11 November 2008 (UTC)

Jemmy's Statement[edit]

You have still not responded to my comments of 21:19, 17 July 2008. Yes, you have indeed posted to this talk page -- but you did not respond to me regarding the deletion of this section. You really are confused about my motives: I am not trying to remove this material because it is critical, I am trying to remove it because it is embarrassing. I would like to be proud of the page, given the (admittedly small -- although not if you count this talk page crap) effort I've put into it.

Even now, you really aren't discussing the substance of my comments. You harp on my rudeness, accuse me of "ad hominem" (which is not what you think it is), etc., all the while failing to address the fact -- which really, I understand, you cannot address -- that this material is fringe crap, rather than serious scholarly content relevant to Proudhon. Objectivism is a little cult, you know? It doesn't belong on this page. You're just like one of those 911 truth guys. Think about all the poor suckers putting serious effort into documenting the 911 attacks, and then the 911 truth patrol comes around and fucks up their page. Of course they're going to be frustrated, even rude, but in that case there's enough of them to oust the quacks. In this case it's just me.

Anyway, I really have nothing to add to the comments I've posted, which you haven't substantially addressed. The administrators here are worthless -- they say it's a content dispute. There's really no dealing with quacks is there? You just have to outnumber them. Anyway maybe you could like do a google scholar search for "property is theft" -- I did it last night -- and see how the phrase is treated in the literature. In non-fringe publications, Proudhon is not interpreted obtusely as an easy way to defend property -- not because there aren't defenders of property, but because such an argument is in bad faith and would be embarrassing to make for a person who wants to look intelligent to intelligent people.

It's kind of ironic, the connection between the way Branden deliberately misinterprets Proudhon's phrase, and this particular discourse -- the way both cases say the same thing about discourses. If you're just trying to win, you always can, simply by not truly understanding the other guy -- not to say that anybody will bother to listen to you in turn.

This particular section is not intended to create a discussion. It is my own personal communication to you. I'd prefer you not immediately try to refute it, but just read it. (While you were reading it the first time, you may have been thinking up in your head ways to refute it. If so, would you please read it again, just as a personal favor to me?) If you'd like to discuss the deletion of the section, please respond to the substance of my comment on 21:19, 17 July 2008. —Jemmytc 08:49, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

A few quick comments. You would portray yourself in a better light if you focused on addressing contributions rather than contributors; comments like "Objectivism is a little cult", "You're just like one of those 911 truth guys" are revealing that you have a strong pov on this issue. The burden of proof is on the person adding material to make it sourced, neutral and relevant; this is. If it's so easy to show in the literature that Branden is wrong, why don't you add that sourced material to the article instead of filling the talkpage with extra inches? Thirdly, admins are right in that this is a content dispute outside of their jurisdiction; but we have processes for that. If you are genuinely interested in reaching a consensus, post a comment at the fringe theories or reliable sources noticeboard. I see EmbraceParadox's thread at WP:NPOVN didn't get a response, so you might want to skip this and file an WP:RFC instead. At the moment it seems you are more interested in arguing than reaching consensus. I think the article is better with the Literal contradiction section in, but I'm not going to edit war as a gesture of good faith for us to dialogue. Sincerely, Skomorokh 09:25, 27 July 2008 (UTC)
You say: "If it's so easy to show in the literature that Branden is wrong, why don't you add that sourced material to the article." You really don't get it. It's for the same reason that the 911 articles don't refute 911 truth. The very existence of this crap makes the article into a mockery, in the same way that creationism would on the evolution page. You are quite wrong that relevance, sources, and neutrality are sufficient standards for inclusion of material in an article: the material should also not be ridiculous and out of place. I am not particularly interested in arguing, certainly not with StephenWolfer, who is apparently incapable of it. He insists he has already responded to me, because he talked with EmbraceParadox. How absurd is that? How can such a person be taken seriously, or as acting in good faith? Such a person will never change their mind in response to anything. —Jemmytc 13:07, 27 July 2008 (UTC)
Neutrality covers WP:FRINGE, which is what I think you are getting at. That we could have a discussion about, instead of your personal opinions on the merits of Objectivist philosophy or how you have been wronged by SteveWolfer, who is such a bad person because of x, y and z. Skomorokh 14:26, 27 July 2008 (UTC)
Jemmy, you said that I did not respond to issues you raised on 21:19, 17 July 2008. First, you inserted your comments out of chronological order - so don't expect to get answers immediately - which no one is required to do anyway. The points you put forth weren't all worthy of being addressed - like the personal attacks on me. I did address all of the other issues you raised in various posts before and after the date of your post. Your claim that I didn't address your comments is wrong. My explanations are there for everyone to see: made at 17:50, 16 July 2008, 10:34, 17 July 2008, 18:20, 17 July 2008, 08:48, 18 July 2008, 05:13, 23 July, etc.
You asked ME for a personal favor to YOU - that I read your univited personal attacks on me, not just once but twice! I did read them twice, because the first read made me too irritated to be able to reply clearly. What right have you to ask ME for a personal favor when your comments are larded with accusations against me? You imply I'm a quack and then have the gall to ask favors! You paint yourself as some kind of Lone Ranger and sole possessor of the truth. You slander the administrators, calling them worthless, for not agreeing with your views. You claim pure motives yet admit that it is only because you are upset that your personal contribution's POV isn't being left just the way you want it - you get upset because everyone doesn't see things your way and because your pride of authorship is your main motivation.
You say that I'm not addressing the substance of your comments. Not true. I have, again and again - but I also have a right and a duty to point out your violations of WP policy and that your personal attacks on me are wrong. On some plane of mental functioning, you don't appear to understand that words have meanings and without that no real communication is possible, just as with no meeting of the minds there can be no true contract, and you don't appear to grasp that the identification of logical fallacies is the necessary means of protecting knowledge by examining the the methods of combining conceptual meanings into asssertions and communicating them as words.
You are still acting disruptively, deleting valid, appropriate, sourced material. Your personal attacks violate WP Policy and the spirit of editing that should be present here. --Steve (talk) 09:56, 27 July 2008 (UTC)


Right, this edit war stops here. Either we come to consensus on what should be in the article, pursue dispute resolution or disengage from this article. Anyone makes a tendentious reversion, I'm going to recommend they be blocked. Skomorokh 13:05, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

Edit war[edit]

I've protected the article temporarily so that the dispute can be resolve somewhere else than in the article itself. The participants may wish to avail themselves of the dispute resolution options if they are unable to reach consensus here. — Coren (talk) 14:50, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

Thanks Coren. I've initiated a request for comment below. As someone of exotic tastes in political philosophy, I am in the unique position of being a participant in both WikiProject Objectivism (dormant) and the Anarchism taskforce. I've left comments with both asking for input here; I hope this is appropriate. Skomorokh 17:22, 28 July 2008 (UTC)

Request for comment[edit]

Should a section on the perceived literal contradiction of the phrase "property is theft!" be included in this article? See this diff for an example of such a section. Skomorokh 17:14, 28 July 2008 (UTC)

Certainly there has been significant criticism to justify a mention of that fact. I think just Marx's criticism is sufficient for now. If we had an article on the fallacy of the stolen concept, then Branden's would be useful, using less text and linked to there. — DAGwyn (talk) 00:37, 29 July 2008 (UTC)
Yup. I'd agree to that. --EmbraceParadox (talk) 02:26, 29 July 2008 (UTC)

Briefly worded, but adequate, criticisms from both Marx and Branden are justified. Branden's material is better for explaining the fallacy, and the addition of Marx shows that the criticism extends beyond politics and economics and goes to the heart of meaning itself, in this particular phrase. That IS what the criticism is about. Having both helps demonstrate that the criticism isn't knee-jerk political reaction - having an equally brief counter-criticism rounds out the article such that every reader has the full picture instead of one POV or another - with nothing censored. --Steve (talk) 06:12, 29 July 2008 (UTC)

There is no very clear case for logical contradiction in What Is Property? Probably, there is no case at all. At the very beginning of the first chapter Proudhon defined the simple property that he criticized as one of a number of at least two forms, another of which is "possession." It is also necessary to consider that "contradiction" played a very specific role in Proudhon's philosophy, which should have been clear to Marx at the time of his criticism. It would be necessary to include material from "The System of Economic Contradictions" along with any criticisms, in order to be balanced and not badly mislead readers about the issues at stake. The waters get deep fast here, in a way that Wikipedia is notoriously bad at handling. Libertatia (talk) 15:26, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

The criticism is about using a word that implies rightful possession or rightful domain and to predicate of it that, whatever kind of property it might be, it is not rightful - that is the nature of the contradiction. "Theft" derives its meaning from "property" and if Proudhon had used an adjective with property or substituted one of the forms "domain" or "possesion" the phrase might not have been rendered meaningless. --Steve (talk) 08:00, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
Whether or not the criticisms are included, the second paragraph should be modified to reflect the opposition of "domain" and "possession" as two forms of "property." Presently, the article lends itself to the contradiction criticism far more than the original text does. Libertatia (talk) 17:37, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

Yes it should be included. Presented diff is balanced and it gives to readers a better understanding of controversy behind the phrase. -- Vision Thing -- 16:35, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

  • An important additional question, and maybe the real question, is about how much airtime, if any, Nathaniel Branden should get. Even people disagree with the way Marx is presented, I don't think anyone objects to his mention. (Actually, I don't really agree with my own presentation either. My official excuse is that I thought it likely I would be reverted, though in reality I was just lazy.) --EmbraceParadox (talk) 17:34, 30 July 2008 (UTC)
Neither Branden nor Marx are being given "air time" - their criticisms of the phrase are being made available to readers of the article for the purpose of a balanced presentation. --Steve (talk) 08:29, 31 July 2008 (UTC)
Well, okay, but I mean, it really seems to boil down to: whether we should simply say "theft, as a forcible violation of property, presupposes the existence of property", or perhaps some other such thing as used to be in the article prior to the insertion of the reference to Branden; or, whether we should mention Branden's fallacy of the stolen concept, and if so, to what extent. You and Skomorokh say the fallacy is stated more clearly, gives a better explanation, and gives a broader scope of criticism. Jemmy and I say it does no such thing.
That's our dispute isn't it? Or at least, it was, before it all became buried under a giant steaming pile of who-said-what-when. I am not trying to put words in anybody's mouth here. If I have misrepresented anyone, I am sorry, please correct me. --EmbraceParadox (talk) 15:45, 31 July 2008 (UTC)
Just a quick comment; please don't attribute to me arguments I have not made. Thanks, Skomorokh 15:48, 31 July 2008 (UTC)
Okay. How about: You say Branden's quote is more explicit, gives the reader a better idea of the supposedly fallacious reasoning, and is properly sourced analysis from a notable figure. And I say it is no such thing. This is right at the end of the "Objectivist critique" section above. Is this still unfair? (I hope it's fair, for my own sake. I mean, if I can't even fairly characterise your position, then I am self-deluded in thinking I have any business writing Wikipedia. I should be banished to Usenet or something.) --EmbraceParadox (talk) 18:05, 31 July 2008 (UTC)

Doesn't it concern anyone that Branden's demonstration of the "fallacy" depends on attributing to Proudhon a somewhat different statement than he actually made? Right now the article barely treats the meaning of Proudhon's phrase, or its use in his subsequent works. There are entirely uncontroversial facts, including the two definitions of property (as including possession and as only including domain) in What is Property?, which should certainly be included if the interpretations of Marx and Branden are to be included. There is simply no question that Branden and Marx depend on interpretations of the phrase to base their arguments, and if we treat them as if they do not, they we have engaged in interpretation. The NPOV position is that Proudhon's meaning is not absolutely clear, that he defined both property and possession in either complex or multiple ways, and if we wish to add that there are those who have treated the phrase as an example of logical contradiction, readers can understand quite easily why that is so. Libertatia (talk) 18:19, 31 July 2008 (UTC)

Actually the only "interpretation" that Branden's criticism requires is that the word "property," when not modified with an adjective like "Roman law" or some other, is an assertion of a relationship between an individual (or organization or institutution) and anything that could be said to be possessed or used in a rightful fashion - that is, in a relationship that is not unethical or unlawful. The base word is free of any other connotation. The NPOV position is that valid criticism of this phrase exists which relates to the use of the language in this phrase and that criticism details why this combination of words constitues a logical fallacy - that is pertinent to the article. --Steve (talk) 02:21, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
What Branden does is to attribute a phrase to Proudhon, "all property is theft," which is not Proudhon's, and which is at odds with what Proudhon actually says in the book. It is not clear that Branden's work even qualifies as a scholarly source, under the circumstances. It's a pretty serious error, of the sort that means Branden does not have a criticism of Proudhon's argument. Instead, he has a badly-informed quibble about his language. Being NPOV does not require us to be blind to serious, obvious errors. Libertatia (talk) 03:00, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
Libertatia talks around the issue without ever addressing it, as if slippery, weasle-like references to 'scholarly' or 'under the circumstances' could really add up to anything. Branden's article and the quotes by Marx both addressed the issue of a major logical problem with the phrase. THE phrase - the one that is the article's title. It is not clear that Libertatia's badly-informed quibble about Branden should be given any weight. As he mentioned, being NPOV doesn't require us to be blind to serious, obvious errors. --Steve (talk) 07:49, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
Ahh. You got all mocking and personally insulting. Chill. This is really a matter of scholarship. You have two sources, both of which start by getting the phrase in question, "Property is theft," wrong. Not particularly scholarly. Inexcusably sloppy, actually. Now, Branden makes a fairly straightforward statement about what his fallacy consists of: not taking into account the genetic relationships between terms. Of course, Proudhon can hardly be accused of neglecting that particular relationship; he foregrounds the apparent paradox. But Branden, who quotes repeatedly from Rand in the article, doesn't get around to citing Proudhon. (I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he has actually read him, but there is no evidence in the source.) His argument, and yours, appears to be that the word "property" can only be defined in certain ways. But the word "property" is a clear example of a word being used in multiple senses, something which Proudhon is very clear on. Proudhon is making a claim about existing property conventions: it is "property" that contains contradictions, so that what is called "property," quite narrowly defined, only one of the things that might be called "property," ends up looking like a violation of its own terms. It's not an argument that Marx or Rand could love, I suppose, but it's also not the argument Branden says it is. What part of 1) getting the quote wrong, 2) not citing the relevant text, 3) paying no attention to actual argument of the work in question, 4) neglecting to even notice that "contradiction" played a different and privileged role in Proudhon's thought, and 5) using this all in an attack on "neo-mystics," makes the argument anything other than a misfire? And why hasn't anyone bothered to get Proudhon's actual statements into the article? He spent the last twenty-five years of his life commenting on the phrase. The Stewart/Edwards anthology has quite a bit of the related stuff in translation. Libertatia (talk) 08:26, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
Mocking, yes. Insulting? No. I just used your own words. But that isn't the point. The criticism is valid, and it exists and because it is logical rather than political, it spans the spectrum of thinking from Marx to Branden. You grasped the genetic nature of the fallacy, but then went on to say, "Proudhon can hardly be accused of neglecting that particular relationship..." But that is exactly what he is accused of doing in this phrase. There should be a criticism section because that is what the criticism maintains. None of your carefully numbered points, 1 through 5 change those facts. This has all been addressed again and again. --Steve (talk) 10:35, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
The "carefully numbered points" allow us to determine which accusations are worth including. After all, it is easy to accuse, but not all charges are noteworthy for an encyclopedia. Branden is notable in his field, but this particular article would hardly have got through a freshman composition class. A valid criticism should, at the very least, be a criticism of the phrase actually used, don't you think? In any event, this being Wikipedia and with you obviously adamant that this material be included, no matter how awful the scholarship is, I am inclined, as I have already said, to be flexible: mention of the Marx and Branden criticisms is harmless as long as it is clear that Proudhon had his own ideas about meaning, contradiction, and "property." You are imposing your own view of language in a very POV manner, but this seems to be a bit of a blind spot for objectivists. I noticed, in researching Branden's position, that whole discussions of its validity have gone on in those circles without any notice of the fact that he gets the most basic fact--the actual phrase in question--wrong. Go figger. Libertatia (talk) 14:15, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
BTW, the question is logical rather than political. You can't make a claim about Proposition A if you analyze Proposition B, which merely resembles it. There are potentially valid claims about the phrase alone (that it is confusing to some) and in context (that Proudhon doesn't actually deal with the phrase very clearly in What is Property?) I'm in the middle of leading a seminar on the work, and we have found plenty to criticize. But Branden pretends to be critiquing Proudhon, and fails in that, so unless we significantly expand the scope of the article, as suggested below, his inclusion is only a concession to an unbending editor. Libertatia (talk) 14:28, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
Actually, problems never arise if there is only one unbending editor. A proper article presents Proudhon's position with a short, but adequate criticism section - that's all I tried to do. I've already spoken to the other issues. You accuse me of pushing my own view of language in POV manner which, I imagine, is visible from your POV on the use of language... and perhaps as an advocate of anarchy? --Steve (talk) 15:28, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
Right, one unbending editor just their ways with things. Anyway, it's a fairly neutral POV to suggest that decisions about what goes in the article cannot require the assumption that the Rand/Branden approach to meaning is valid. It is also perfectly NPOV to observe that the phrase Branden analyzes is not Proudhon's phrase. I am indeed an advocate of "anarchy," with an interest in Proudhon, as I assume you have some personal interest in the Rand/Branden approach. But my record of including and allowing factual criticism on the pages I have edited, as well as my own criticisms of Proudhon's use of "property is theft" are a matter of public record. Libertatia (talk) 18:10, 1 August 2008 (UTC)

As the editor who opened this RfC, did not participate in it, and favoured the inclusion of the disputed material, I think it's appropriate for me to close this RfC as no consensus for inclusion. Future discussions notwithstanding, the material should not be re-added. the skomorokh 09:59, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

RfC Question: Should a section on the perceived literal contradiction of the phrase "property is theft!" be included in this article? Responding in Favor: DAGwyn, EmbraceParadox, Steve, Vision Thing - Count = 4 Responding against: Liberatia, Skomorokh(?) - Count = 1 or 2 Clearly, the criticism section should be included. --Steve (talk) 22:57, 10 November 2008 (UTC)


Side comment I'm not participating in this RfC (i.e. you can go ahead and discount my opinion), but I would like to raise the issue of scope. We should decide whether this article is about the phrase "property is theft" in all its noteworthy uses and interpretations, or just about the phrase as Proudhon used and intended it. I would prefer the former; the non-Proudhonian material could be separated more forcefully than in the disputed version, i.e. instead of having a section on the "literal contradiction" of what Proudhon said ("no no no, this misunderstands Proudhon entirely"), we could have a section, late in the article, that said "The term has been noted outside the field of Proudhon scholarship by X, Y and Z in regards x, y, z". Thoughts? Skomorokh 11:00, 1 August 2008 (UTC)

The expanded approach might solve some of the problems. Perhaps John Watts, who is also supposed to have used the phrase, could be included. Libertatia (talk) 14:19, 1 August 2008 (UTC)

Can property be distinguished from theft?[edit]

Whatever your answer to the question (please, don't supply it), if the question has any meaning then the phrase "property is theft" does not contradict itself -- because it supplies an answer; viz., "no."

I really don't want to have this debate. But I think it might be best -- or anyway the only way to resolve the dispute -- if this point were made very clear to all.

I would also like to emphasize two more points:

  1. Proudhon did believe in property rights -- but not Roman law property rights as, apparently, were commonly used at the time in the philosophy of law to justify property. According to my scan of google scholar, Proudhon is commonly misunderstood as meaning that all property is theft because all property derives from theft -- i.e., that everything anyone claims to own has been stolen. In fact, although this is probably a common enough argument against property, it was not Proudhon's. Proudhon rather focused on the state of the economy as a whole: he asserted that the working class was dispossessed of its rightful property by Roman law property rights. Thus, there is a real contradiction (not in the phrase, but in the work of Proudhon as a whole) if "property is theft" is interpreted under the naive assumption that there is only one form of property. (But that would be a horrible mistake.)
  2. Marx did not criticize Proudhon for contradicting himself in the way that Branden did -- their arguments are very different. In the previous sentence to the one that is being quoted, Marx clearly states that it is "bourgeois property" that contradicts itself, rather than Proudhon. ("Bourgeois property" being what, Marx says, Proudhon should be thinking about, rather than Roman law.) Marx says that it is because Proudhon criticizes bourgeois property from within the framework of bourgeois property law, that he fails to understand what bourgeois property is (i.e., fails to conceive of it through Marx's theory of "dialectical materialism"). This is all the more clearly stated in the two preceding paragraphs. Again: Marx does not say that, because Proudhon assumes property, he contradicts himself; Marx says that, because Proudhon assumes property, he fails to understand what property is. Marx wants Proudhon to "step outside" his historical period, and see "bourgeois property" as the manifestation of the methods of production, and legal theory as mere justification for what is in fact determined by technological forces -- which he cannot do, if he assumes property and thinks within its framework. (Perhaps Marx's argument could be summed up so: "Proudhon is no Marxist!") —Jemmytc 18:16, 31 July 2008 (UTC)
There can be an a great many forms of property. Each is distinguished from the other by adjective, like "bourgeois property" or like "Roman law property" or "stolen property" or "rightful property." (Each of those I pulled from Jemmy's post above.) In each case we start with the base meaning of "property" and that is an assertion of relationship between an individual and something that can be owned or possessed and that relationship is ethical or legal in its nature. When there is no modifier, like "Roman law" we are left with that base. It is simply how the language works.
Other words derive their meaning from that base. We say there is such a thing as "stolen property" for the purpose of distinguising it from "rightful property." "Theft" is a word that is derived from that base. It refers to an act that converts rightful property into stolen property. You cannot have a meaning for "theft" without FIRST having a meaning of property that supposes the prior existence of rightful property.
If Proudhon meant "Roman law property is theft," that's fine - but that isn't what the phrase is. The phrase is "Property is theft." The reason that this is important is that language can't communicate if meanings are allowed contradict themselves in the use the same word - equivocation. Further, some kinds of changes in meaning are more harmful to communication than eqivocation (which damages an arguement or assertion). Some fallacies actually damage the word and its underlying meaning. Since "property" is, at its base, simply asserting some kind of rightful relationship, to then say that it is theft, is to say that there can be no rightful relationship between an individual and anything else.
I could say that when I am talking about property I mean everything that Jemmy owns. Then when I say "property is theft" what I really mean is that Jemmy had no rights in this area. But I would be wrong to do that - to do that correctly requires that I say "Jemmy's property is theft (i.e., stolen property)". This is the form of Branden's criticism and its importance to this article. Someone else can address Marx's criticsm. --Steve (talk) 02:09, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
You write: "There can be an a great many forms of property. Each is distinguished from the other by adjective [...] When there is no modifier, like "Roman law" we are left with that base. It is simply how the language works."
That is not in fact how language works. If you look at random statements from a book, for example, you will see that many of them mean something very different when taken out of context than when taken in context. That is why people talk about taking things out of context as if this were a bad practice, and a way to deceive.
When someone carefully specifies exactly what he means by a word -- let's say the word is X, and the specified definition is d(X) -- and then subsequently uses the word X, you cannot say "when there is no modifier, like a(X), then we are left with X." This is dishonest. What we are actually left with is, if anything, d(X). But even then, context can modify the meaning of a statement in many ways.
The way that language actually works is that there is a conception in a mind -- for example, if I want to describe a painting, I can look at the painting, and there in my mind is the image of the painting. Then I describe the painting with words, which (at least hopefully) will form a morphism to the image. Then the person reading the words can map the words to a new image in his own head. That image will not be the same as the image in my head, because he cannot see the painting: but at least (hopefully) his image in his head will resemble mine in the ways that are most important to me, so that it will also be a morphism of my image.
The words that are used for this purpose cannot necessarily be isolated as having a single definition outside of context, a definition that is universal in all contexts. That is not how language works. Rather, it is as Walter Lippman put it:
So great is the multitude of things that we cannot keep them vividly in mind. Usually, then, we name them, and let the name stand for the whole impression. But a name is porous. Old meanings slip out and new ones slip in, and the attempt to retain the full meaning of the name is almost as fatiguing as trying to recall the original impressions. Yet names are a poor currency for thought. They are too empty, too abstract, too inhuman.
If I tell a story -- let's say it's a true story, and I intend to be honest -- then my intent is to construct in your mind a picture of the story which is accurate and which highlights what I think is most important. The story is not in the words: the words are only a medium for communicating the story, for somehow transferring the story from my head to yours. The narrative of the story will impose certain constraints on the meaning of words, that will clarify or even define their usage. There is no need and it is not possible to ensure that each word is used in the same way as every other time the word is used in every other context. That is why if I get up, and you take "my" seat, then when I return I can say, "you stole my seat!" In the context the meaning is perfectly clear, even though it is not the same as the meaning of "you stole my car!" or even "you stole my girlfriend!"
This is rather a digression, because my original point stands. As you said, "We say there is such a thing as 'stolen property' for the purpose of distinguishing it from 'rightful property.'" Then is it not clear that to say "property is theft" implies that there is no such distinction? Of course this is not all that Proudhon meant in his whole book: but it is what the phrase is meant to imply. Property is theft! Property is property, theft is theft, and they are the same thing: so property is theft!
I will explain the same thing but more abstractly. Property is a relation between a person and and object; theft is also a relation between a person and an object. Let's call these P and T respectively. If we look at the extension of the relation P -- that is, the set of (person, object) pairings which satisfy the relation P, which we can call P' -- and we also look at the extension of the relation T, which we can call T', then we can ask the question: are the sets P' and T' identical? If so, then P is T. If not, then P is not T. Branden asserts that T is defined as !P (assuming the domain of T is the domain of P), therefore T' != P' (moreover, T' = ~P') while Proudhon asserts that T' = P'. Now, is it possible to accept Branden's assertion (which is arbitrary, and not totally in keeping with the uses of "property" and "theft" -- since I can steal your seat at the table, even though it is not your property; and copying is not stealing or thieving, yet it can violate your intellectual property) -- but still -- is it logically possible to accept this assertion and yet, at the same time, assert that P' = T'? Are there any values of P' and T' such that P' = T' and T = !P?
The answer is yes, there is precisely one. P' = T' and T = !P -> P' = T' = Ø. In other words, if property is theft, then there is no such thing as property, and no such thing as theft. The extension of P and the extension of T are both empty, and thus so is their domain. This situation is not logically impossible, as I have shown. And, indeed, this is what Proudhon asserts (although this does, in a way, if selective quotation is used, contradict what he says elsewhere, when he defends another form of property). Property is theft means, strictly, logically, that the distinction between property and theft is a false one. There is no contradiction in that.
Again, being abstract and general: suppose there is a distinction being made between A and B. Then someone says: A is B. Does this presuppose A, and therefore contradict itself? Or does it assert that "a is a member of A -> a is not a member of B" contradicts itself? If the distinction between two things is false, then is calling them the same thing contradicting oneself or is it contradicting the idea that there is a distinction? —Jemmytc 23:43, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
As a further example on the way in which statements constitute a morphism from thought, consider what you said about "bourgeois property" -- that "bourgeois" was a "modifier" of property, that "bourgeois property" derives from the meaning of "property." Nothing could be further from Marx's meaning: by bourgeois property he means the specific sort of "property relations" between persons which arose in a certain historical period. In other words, Marx has in mind here a type of social relation that (he says) arose at a certain point in history, a sociological phenomenon. He has given the phenomenon a name, but the meaning of the name does not derive from the constituent words. Rather, the phenomenon is something observed; the name is a way of pointing to the observed in order to construct more complex thoughts about it in the mind of the reader. —Jemmytc 00:32, 2 August 2008 (UTC)

System of Economic Contradictions?[edit]

Vision Thing, would you check No Gods, No Masters, which I don't have here, to see whether the passage you added came from the System or from Confessions d'un révolutionnaire. Proudhon is referring to the System, and if I recall correctly the phrase "Property is liberty" appears first there (at least in the book-length texts.) Otherwise, that's a good start to clarifying. Libertatia (talk) 19:39, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

In No Gods, No Masters chapter is titled The System of Economic Contradictions, but note indeed says "Extract taken from Confessions d'un revolutionnaire". -- Vision Thing -- 19:47, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

Developing the article[edit]

It seems to me that if, we simply fleshed out the history of Proudhon's use of the term, we would include enough potential logical contradictions to satisfy those dead set on seeing them, as well as clarify Proudhon's actual positions. As it is, the article doesn't do much. Minimally, it would be good to mention the works in which the phrase was featured and then at least these instances: 1) his 1842 explanation to the court of assize, where he said he wanted to universalize property-robbery; 2) Solution of the Social Problem, where he defined theft as "non-reciprocity" and added that "communism is theft;" 3) the System of Economic Contradictions, where he lays out explicitly the economic contradictions relating to property; 4) something from Theory of Property. Most of this could be easily furnished from the "Selected Writings" anthology. Libertatia (talk) 06:28, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

Fences on private property[edit]

I'm sorry if this is mentioned in the discussion already & I didn't see it (there's so much) but I was wondering if anyone ever mentioned that with private property & all the fences the owners have to put up, like in wilderness areas, the fences prevent wild animals like deer & bears with babies from reaching food & water sources, so fences should be taken down? Stars4change (talk) 05:25, 26 February 2009 (UTC) (talk) 05:24, 26 February 2009 (UTC)

Article protected.[edit]

I've protected the article for a week, again, as things have devolved anew into edit warring. Please settle down and agree on a consensus on the talk page about the final wording (and not basic principles you can then quibble over). Further warring may lead to blocks. — Coren (talk) 23:16, 11 November 2008 (UTC)

How do we agree on "final wording" when the scope of the article is unclear, and when there is a basic question about the proper application of critical sources that needs to be answered? Libertatia (talk) 01:15, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
I would recommend calm, rational discussion here on this talk page with a mind open enough to accept suggestions that do not exactly match your original position. That seems to be the key to settling most disputes. — Coren (talk) 01:49, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
Well, having calmly laid out at least 5 reasons why the Branden criticism is neither appropriate, nor even a scholarly source, despite Branden's notability within other discourses, and having proposed a couple of compromises, I'm at a bit of a loss. I have not opposed a Criticisms section, despite the fact that both proposed criticisms seem to be partisan polemics of one sort or another. If it is Wikipedia policy that compromise is necessary even when it involves creating false impressions or advancing those sorts of polemics, simply because someone said something in print, then GIGO will have to rule. But there are very real concerns about at least 1) the accuracy of the criticism, beginning with the attribution to Proudhon of a different phrase than he actually used; 2) the scholarly nature of Branden's article, and the publication it appeared in (lack of references to Proudhon's texts, attack on "neo-mystics," etc; and 3) the lack of attention to the actual uses Proudhon made of the phrase. At base, Branden's article is not about Proudhon; it is an attack on philosophy professors who "victimize" students by taking any approach to language and logic other than the Rand/Branden one. Attending to 3) would make it clear that Proudhon does not treat ideas in the way the Branden claims, at which point it would be entirely inappropriate to include the criticism. But there needs to be some rationale for including the Branden material even as long as it will take to flesh out the article, and there doesn't seem to be any. Indeed, all the Wikipedia rules that make it difficult for us to use anarchist sources in anarchist articles ought to apply just as strongly to objectivist polemics. Libertatia (talk) 17:52, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
The admins are useless. "Talk it out, reach consensus" is all they ever say--in other words, "stop making a scene." The admins will not get involved in--or even take the time to understand--the specifics of content disputes. Apparently the WP orthodoxy does not admit the possibility of an infinite stream of bullshit which masquerades as good faith discussion as an edit-war strategy; and, anyway, it would take a lot of time and effort to verify that this is the situation with Wolfer, enough that nobody could be expected to put it in. (Think of how much work it would require on Coren's part to verify your comments in the post above and you will see how hopeless is the situation.) In any case, the only real recourse is to get SteveWolfer categorized as disruptive. How to do that? Well, maybe we'll find out. (And here I thought he'd given up! I wonder if he even read my comments to him; I wrote him a fucking essay, and then nothing...) —Jemmytc 10:13, 14 November 2008 (UTC)
Meanwhile, RFC shows no consensus to include (and I didn't even add my silly "vote"). It's StevenWolfer against the world here--on the issue of whether the material should be included--so maybe it won't be too hard. —Jemmytc 10:26, 14 November 2008 (UTC)
Coren is here to tell us "the key to resolving most disputes." The admins are living in a fantasy world where people come to agreement based on rational discussion as partners in a mutual search for truth. Reality: the key to resolving disputes is that, in the general case, disputes don't get resolved. People who are infected with a mind virus will not relent, will not listen, are not receptive to argument. When you are arguing with Ferous Cranus, the only resolution is through power. And Ferous Cranus can be found all over WP; WP policy cannot will him out of existence. —Jemmytc 12:26, 14 November 2008 (UTC)