Sunday, 15 April 2012

Against Hsu Shih-jung (徐世榮)

In yet another editorial in the Taipei Times, Hsu Shih-jung (徐世榮), who is apparently a professor in National Chengchi University’s department of land economics, continues the attempt to tend to the recent spillage of body fluid from the State-ridden intellectual old-guard. What am I talking about? The recent democratically-sanctioned theft of the Wang family's property in Taipei, of course. Here is his first sentence:
"Urban renewal has never been a zero-sum game and the same goes for the relationship between land expropriation and protecting private property rights."
Attend to the symbol fluttering on his standard there: "land expropriation". Let us be clear about what that term refers to: it is the application of force by the State to remove some item of property from the possession of its owner in the absence of consent. Laid out in its bare essentials, the thing is indistinguishable from theft. To bring the context back into focus, it differs from theft in only two respects: first, it is perpetrated by the State, rather than by some common thief on the street, and second, it is carried out under democratic sanction, whereas common theft is not.

Let us consider these two distinguishing points.

It may be said that when the State commits the act rather than a mere thief there is a moral justification in that the State is acting (or at least purports to be acting) in the public interest whereas the thief acts only in accord with his private needs through his corrupted nature. Indeed, professor Hsu himself makes this very point in only his second sentence:
"The key element is whether urban renewal furthers the public interest and meets the requirements for land expropriation."
So in the case of the Wang family, the public interest claim would be "beautifying" the city or perhaps replacing houses that were insufficiently strong to withstand a serious earthquake, and thereby eliminating a potential externality. Whichever of these two (or other) arguments is selected, the claim is fallacious on two counts. First, it involves an unnoticed contradiction: to act for, say, the "beautification" of the city may or may not be in the public interest (however, different people judge beauty according to different standards and tastes) but to act for the protection of property rights is to act in the public interest since each and every member of the public owns property of some form or another, and there can be no escape from that contradiction unless it be claimed, absurdly, that some people's perceptions of beauty are of greater "public interest" than strict respect for the universal nature of private property rights. Second, the public interest argument for violating property rights is fallacious because it necessarily degrades to circularity and thereby its' own self-contradiction: to qualify as being in the "public interest" there can be only two selection criteria, the first of which is whether something benefits everybody (e.g. the principle that everybody gets to own their own stuff), and the second is whether it merely benefits a majority - if the latter criterion is accepted, then the public interest is reduced to no more than an empty contingency: it is whatever a majority of people say it is (if a majority of people were to pronounce it in the "public interest" to tar and feather professor Hsu, then he could have no argument against them). To act in the public interest is to act in accordance only with those principles fidelious to the individual rights of all people in society, and not merely the wealthy or the politically well-connected. "Land expropriation" cannot therefore be distinguished from common theft with a "public interest" argument, because such arguments are inherently contradictory.

Assuming the acceptance of this point, return to the second part of professor Hsu's first sentence as quoted above:
"... the same goes for the relationship between land expropriation and protecting private property rights."
What he is saying is evil gibberish: that there can be a "relationship" between theft on the one hand and preventing theft on the other hand. That "relationship" ought to be recognized as the contradiction that it is. Think about it: how many types of incidents are there, other than the threat of government "expropriation", in which a family like the Wangs would require the protection of their right to private property in respect of their house - trespass and arson maybe? The point is germane and highlights the utter lunacy of what is all too often thoughtlessly accepted by the democracy fanbois in the Taipei Times and elsewhere without even realizing it: that the government is charged with defending people from itself.

As for professor Hsu: he should be out on the street first thing tommorow morning. He furthers the case for this himself with this outrageous brain-fart:
"However, over the past few days, some commentators have said that criticism and protests against the forced demolition of the Wang (王) family’s property in Taipei City’s Shilin District (士林) show that Taiwan has the world’s strongest protection of private property rights, which overrides all else. These views are not only far from the truth, they are also devoid of any intellectual inquiry based on democracy and the spirit of public debate."
Private property rights do not override "all else", that is absurd. They do not, for instance, override the right to life since it is the right to life, and the premise of self-ownership from which property rights are derived. Nor do they override each other: the property rights of one person end where they run up against the property rights of another - irrespective of which one may be wealthier or poorer. They do however override the wishes of large construction companies operating through the predatory power of the State.

And here's my kicker: if intellectual inquiry is based on "democracy", then what can that mean other than the amoral majoritarianism I pointed to earlier? The question-begging view that X is right simply because enough people say X is right. To base intellectual inquiry on that is to base the faculty of rational criticism on which a free society must depend upon none other than the age-old principle that might is right.

If the people of Taiwan allow themselves to be led by these supposed "intellectuals", then we are already under de-facto fascist rule and the entire worry over PRC annexation is little more than a farce.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment moderation is now in place, as of April 2012. Rules:

1) Be aware that your right to say what you want is circumscribed by my right of ownership here.

2) Make your comments relevant to the post to which they are attached.

3) Be careful what you presume: always be prepared to evince your point with logic and/or facts.

4) Do not transgress Blogger's rules regarding content, i.e. do not express hatred for other people on account of their ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation or nationality.

5) Remember that only the best are prepared to concede, and only the worst are prepared to smear.