Sunday, October 04, 2020

1889 Institute: Destroying Others’ Property Is Violence, Period


Destroying Others’ Property Is Violence, Period
by Byron Schlomach, 1889 Institute

With riots characterized at times as “mostly peaceful protests,” it’s clear many in the press do not consider property destruction to be violent. Nevertheless, a large proportion of the “peaceful” participants, in obvious acts of aggression and hostility, have vandalized and stolen property. In fact, property destruction and theft are legitimately violently defended against, not because these acts only feel threatening, but because they are actually violent acts.

It’s common to hear individuals who use or threaten force in defense of their property condemned. After all, if no one is physically harmed, or even actually threatened, how can someone damaging inanimate objects possibly be considered violence, and how can defending objects with violence possibly be justified?

Most would agree that enslaving someone, even for a short time, is an act of violence. Slavery is a right or entitlement of one person to the fruits of another’s labor without recompense. It requires threatening certain harm if the slave tries to escape or fails to obey in order to get the slave’s compliance. The slaver does not ask the slave’s permission. Few would argue that an individual threatened with slavery, even if it were to last only months, has no right to defend himself with lethal force.

Now consider the theft of a vehicle. The thief doesn’t ask permission. If it took the rightful owner six months to earn the money to purchase the vehicle, the thief stole six months of the rightful owner’s working life. Theft (or property destruction) and slavery are both one person asserting a right or entitlement to the fruits of another’s labor without recompense. This is made worse when one realizes that time out of an individual’s life can never be recovered.

Nothing changes if the owner is a corporation, or if the property is insured. All that does is camouflage the expropriation of others’ labor by dispersing that expropriation across more individuals – the corporation’s shareholders and other holders of insurance policies.

Some justify destroying property because of unjustifiable lethal force by police. Let’s face it, the threat of violence unfortunately does serve as a means to accomplish a more peaceful and orderly world, and that threat is sometimes carried out unjustly. But, we generally use the threat of violence against actual past or acting perpetrators, not on third parties who are not directly responsible for perpetrating wrong. The height of injustice and picture of evil is when a whole neighborhood is murdered in retaliation for a few people attacking an occupying army. Justifying the destruction of someone’s livelihood when they had nothing to do with maltreating George Floyd or anyone else makes the same amount of sense – i.e., none – and is just as evil.

Byron Schlomach is Director of the 1889 Institute: bschlomach@1889institute.org.

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