Though I believe that Miller's view is incorrect, it addresses the key foundational points of my view on rights and deserves a response, which I will provide here.
Economist Robert Wenzel recently came to Paul’s defense by writing that the former Congressman is in the right because the use of his likeness is misleading. In the same post, he declares there are no natural rights, and therefore the internet should be governed differently.Miller provides a sound succinct summary of homesteading theory, sprinkled within a natural rights framework. But Miller's summary also provides the weakness in natural rights theory. Just how does one reach the conclusion that one "owns oneself," in some "natural" rights manner as Miller claims? I believe this contradicts reality. When we think of the word natural, what comes to mind is something that already exists in nature. Naturally curly hair, a natural blonde. The five definitions of natural as found at dictionary.com all seem to support this view:
1. existing in or formed by nature ( opposed to artificial ): a natural bridge.
2. based on the state of things in nature; constituted by nature: Growth is a natural process.
3. of or pertaining to nature or the universe: natural beauty.
4. of, pertaining to, or occupied with the study of natural science: conducting natural experiments.
5. in a state of nature; uncultivated, as land.
Thus, I must ask, how can there be a "natural" ownership of oneself, when that "ownership" may not exist in the presence of
1. A slave owner
2. A cannibal
3. A murderer
4. A dictator, who throws people in prison
We may want to control, say, our body, but it is not a given that we will be able to do so under all conditions.
Most of us would prefer to live in a society where we are not subject to the whims of slave owners, cannibals, murderers and dictators, that is, we would prefer to live in a society where designed rights provide for much freedom, but these rights are not "natural" as evidenced by the history of slavery, even in the US, and the history of brutal dictators, even in modern times, from Mao to Hitler to Stalin. Indeed, many have been born into such states never smelling freedom.
Rights are not natural. We don't get an understanding of rights, or rights themselves, automatically. They have to be thought about and debated as to how they should be designed. Then they must be discussed, promoted and sometimes fought for so that we can live in the types of societies that we desire.
It is beyond the scope of this post to discuss why I believe a free society like that promoted by Murray Rothbard (though he used a natural rights theory to get there) is most beneficial for nearly all in a society where "rights" are designed, but I do believe the best understanding of rights comes from understanding them as designed rather than natural.
That said, if one recognizes that rights are designed and not natural, the argument is pulled out from under those who claim that there is some kind of magical mixing of land and labor that always results in the best way to define property rights.
The rug can be pulled from under Miller in this manner. He writes:
With free will, ends can be found that conform to what is right. Since man owns himself and any unowned property he mixes his labor with, he has a right to do with that property what he will as long as he refrains from interfering with others.[...] It follows that the owners of RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org are indeed the rightful possessors as they, in effect, homesteaded the domain sites.
There are many problems here. First, Miller assumes natural rights. Second, he assumes that this somehow provides a justification for man mixing land and labor as the only way to justify property ownership. But I ask, why must this be so? What is it about the mixing of land and labor that MUST result in ownership? Why not the first to see land? Why not parcel new found land into separate equal size lots to all present? Surely, the "mixing of land and labor" provides an advantage to those with stamina and strength versu, say, a grandmother. Again, why shouldn't new found land be parceled out into separate lots to all present? If a grandmother does not have the strength to work land herself, she can always sell it or lease it out. What is "natural" about her losing out on gains from new found land?
I hasten to add that I am not here attempting to reject the mixing of land and labor as a possible method in a society to determine ownership, but merely to show, it is not such a cut and dried affair as natural rights theorists often tend to suggest.
Without this "homesteading" peg, though, it is much more difficult for Miller to claim that the current owner(s) of ronpaul.com and ronpaul.org are the rightful owners. Under present law, which I could see evolving in a similar fashion in a designed rights society, it is illegal to use a name in a deceptive manner, relative to domain names. I use, again, as I did in my first post, the case of a restaurant named, Abe's Steakhouse, where someone else opens a restaurant in the same town with the same name. It is very easy to see a designed rights society not allowing situations like this where a second person attempts to use the same name for his steakhouse as the first person. Since, it could very well be that the second person is simply trying to mislead and take business away from the first steakhouse owner by using the same name.
In the same manner, it is not difficult to see a designed rights society develop internet domain name rights, whereby, if someone sets up a domain name address merely to traffic off of another person's name, then the address should be awarded to the person who has the claim that people are searching for his name rather than the current owner who is simply attempting to benefit from that.
Miller goes on:
In his blog post defending Paul, Robert Weznel argues that right [sic] are not nature [sic] but are rather “designed.” He states that “You can argue about who should design rights, how they should be designed, but they are nevertheless designed rights.” Immediately, Wenzel’s proposition leaves the possibility open to full-blown totalitarianism since government can become a designer of rights.Miller misses the point of his own argument. The real problem is that governments have designed totalitarian societies! There are no "natural" rights. Rights are designed. If they are designed poorly, or not enforced, you are going to get a mess, including the possibility of you being murdered by the state, tortured by the state or imprisoned by the state.
Miller also argues that:
Perhaps more egregious is that a man such as Ron Paul is lobbying a governmental entity to do his bidding. Paul’s congressional career was highlighted by his refusal to engage in political corruption. His understanding of the cretinous disposition of the state is what made him a voice for liberty among the criminal class. Appealing to the World Intellectual Property Organization is the same kind of shameful maneuver that Paul honorably spoke out against for decades. It is a violation of the libertarian principles of peace, cooperation, and respect for property.Here, Miller is simply assuming that we are already living in a private property society, as if Dr. Paul has an option to go somewhere else to claim the web addresses. Dr. Paul may rail against the United Nations all day long, but if it is the only organization in our current world that can enforce his claim to the web addresses, then he has no other option.
It is not any different from those who believe that in a private property society that there should be no government police or government courts. If some unwanted person moved into the house of a private property society advocate, the advocate would not in any way be violating private property society ethics by using government police and government courts to evict the person, if there is at that time no private property society! Shouts from Miller of "You are using the violence of the state," notwithstanding, such a person would be simply protecting his own damn property, in the only possible way at the time. Ron Paul is doing the same thing.