Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Left vs. property rights.

John Nichols wrote about how the Sister Cities organizations of the 1980's, which originally arose to help people suffering from a civil war at the time, are still active:
An example of how the U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities Network's solidarity model works will be seen Friday at the annual shareholders meeting of Au Martinique Silver Inc., a Canadian-registered mining exploration firm that is promoting development of a gold mine in the Salvadoran department roughly equivalent to a state of Chalatenango. The mining scheme has stirred broad opposition in Chalatenango, where farmers fear that waste from the mining operation will pollute local rivers and water supplies with arsenic and cyanide.

So in the conflict between the mining company and the peasant farmers, it is easy to imagine some entity called "The Left" being on the side of the farmers. The farmers don't want their farms polluted-- their "passive" property rights harmed. There is plenty of anectdotal evidence of mining pollution to prove the farmers concerns valid. The mining company wants to use its property as it wishes, their "active" property rights preserved. Of course, in such a competition, reason would favor the passive right-- just as I have a passive right to enjoy my car's windshield more than you have an active right to do what you wish with your hammer.

But somehow I believe that in the fights between The Left and The Right, the values of capitalism and free markets and liberty and property rights get conflated with corporation's uncharitable use of active property rights-- say hammers. I say capitalism and free markets aren't bad things, it's just that too many apologists for man's-inhumanity-to-man try to tie these good things to their bloody campaigns.

I heard a talk by Arundhati Roy on the radio about dams in India. Her take was that companies were getting big bucks to build dams which would put hundreds of thousands of folks out of home and field. It sounds like such a horribly statist enterprise-- the seizing (destroying) of hundreds of thousands of homes so that a government may enrich one particular business interest. But can't you imagine somewhere along the line the argument gets altered into one of unwashed peasants versus the businesses trying to bring something positive to the country? You know, kind of like was argued in El Salvador in the 1980's?

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