Page:Rise and Fall of Society.djvu/96

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

Government and Property

Government does not have much to do in a simple economy; that is because there is not enough produced to arouse cupidity. Internal squabbles are relatively few and unimportant, and the poverty of the tribe is reasonable assurance that no one will attack it. Trouble begins when accumulations appear. It is then that Government is called upon to assume a major role in Society, a role that would not be difficult to perform if reason were to provide it with a clear-cut, moral definition of property. For that we must look to the behavior of the individual: why does he put such weight on ownership, and what does his claim rest upon? More specifically, on what grounds does he expect Government to guarantee his claim to property?

And the individual replies with an axiom: he has a right to live. Whether he has or not is neither provable nor disputable: all reasoning on the subject leads to the dead-end of all causality, "the nature of things." By this hypothesis, the individual has a right to life simply because he craves it. Who can dispute that point without throwing doubt on his own right to existence?

The right to life, or the right to oneself, must mean the exclusive title to all the faculties which are identifiable with that thing called "me": body, mind, appetites, aspirations, all the factors of personality. This peculiar bundle of flesh and soul is "mine," first, because it came into existence when "I" was born, an act of God, and will pass out of existence when "I" die; secondly, there is no way of transferring title to that personality to anyone who is not "me." That is the important point, that neither science nor politics is capable of devising a way of transforming "I" into "he" or "we." Oneself is oneself throughout life.

Now, title to life is not merely metaphysical; its reality is

72