Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Addendum to "Capitalism, part 1"

I just want to add a couple of more examples of property rights and what they can mean. We can extend property rights to include things like intellectual property, treating them as a form of capital.

In past centuries, musical artists, even very successful ones, had trouble getting much out of their works. There was not such thing as intellectual property. The composer, like Mozart or Bach, would have to hold on to their works or others could use them freely. So they have to perform them in order to profit. They could have made a fortune if they had enforceable intellectual property rights to their works. Also, they might have produced a lot more of them since they would have to worry less about performing them and more about writing them. Generations have enjoyed, and even profited, from their works, but they did not.

Another area of property rights that could be extended in much of the world is in mineral rights. In the US, individuals who own property also own the mineral rights to them. So they have a great incentive in having things like oil, coal and natural gas coming out of their land. In most of the world, these rights belong to the government and so there is no incentive to use these God-given resources. They stay in the ground. We have had an oil/natural gas boom in this country in the past few years and we are almost outproducing the Saudis. Methinks this is a very good thing not to be dependent on the Middle East for our power.

God put these things in the ground so that we could use them. The Bible indicates that the land belongs to the people and not the government (though the government must, of necessity, own some land.) The solutions to some of our problems, including things like pollution, can come from the wise extensions and assignment of property rights. We need to strengthen not weaken them.

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