The Right to Exploit: Parasitism, Scarcity, and Basic Income

Hardcover | July 15, 2009

byGijs Van Donselaar

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In 1895 an English farmer diverted the course of a stream that was flowing through his land, thereby cutting off the supply to the water reservoir of the neighboring community. The courts established that it had been his purpose to "injure the plaintiffs by carrying off the water and to compelthem to buy him off." Regardless of what the law says, most people will feel that the farmer's intentions were morally unjust; he was trying to abuse his property rights in order to take advantage of others. Yet, as Gijs van Donselaar explains, the major traditions in the theory of economic justice, both from thelibertarian right and from the egalitarian left, have failed to appreciate the moral objection to exploitative behavior that this case displays. Those traditions entertain radically opposed views on how private property should be distributed, but they do not consider the legitimacy of constraints onthe exercise of property rights--however they are distributed. The second part of the book demonstrates how this failure clears the way for a recent egalitarian argument, gaining in popularity, for a so-called unconditional basic income. If all have an initial right to an equal share of the resources of the world, then it soon seems to follow that all have aright to an equal share of the value of the resources of the world, which could be cashed in as a labor-free income. That inference is only valid if moral behavior similar to that of the farmer is tolerated. Van Donselaar argues that, ultimately, a confusion about the nature and value of freedom of choice is responsible for the odd conception of private rights in resources that would justify exploitation.

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In 1895 an English farmer diverted the course of a stream that was flowing through his land, thereby cutting off the supply to the water reservoir of the neighboring community. The courts established that it had been his purpose to "injure the plaintiffs by carrying off the water and to compelthem to buy him off." Regardless of what t...

Gijs van Donselaar is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:208 pages, 5.51 × 8.31 × 0.91 inPublished:July 15, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195140397

ISBN - 13:9780195140392

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Table of Contents

1. Abuse of Rights, Abuse of People2. Without Me, Without You: Cooperation and Scarcity3. The Benefit of Another's Pains: Original Acquisition and Parasitic Action4. Clamshell Rent? Use, Usurpation, and Usury5. S(h)elling Labor: The Right to Work6. Against Real Unfreedom: Equality and Neutrality

Editorial Reviews

"This is a beautifully written and powerfully argued book. Van Donselaar address the property rights theories of Locke, Nozick, Dworkin, Gauthier, and Van Parijs and argues that there are no historically fixed unconstrained property rights. He argues that, although justice may requireadequately valuable access to resources, the relevant conception of value for an individual should be based on use-value rather than market-value. Appeal to the latter, he argues, would involve parasitism or exploitation. I recommend the book very highly." --Peter Vallentyne, University of Missouri-Columbia