Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The Labour Theory Of Property Part 1

As had been widely reported by the media last year, and as I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, the government set about releasing prisoners early so as to ease prison overcrowding. The prisoners that were released were those that had supposedly been convicted for 'minor' crimes, mostly theft-related offences. And so it came to pass that quite a few Billy Burglars and Rodney Robbers were given the delightful opportunity to steal more of your hard-earned possessions much earlier than they had expected. They could therefore continue to fund their prolific heroin and crack addictions. Or, as more often than not, to simply buy an eighth of weed for their evening's entertainment, whilst discussing how marvellous it would be if McDonald's did home deliveries.

So what's the big deal? Surely 'minor' offences such as the theft, burglary and robbery of equally 'minor' property such as mobile telephones, DVD players, laptops, LCD televisions and even cars could reasonably justify the early release of such people? Those items are just objects after all, mere material possessions that can be replaced via your home or car insurance policies. Well, it is a big deal. It is a big deal and is morally reprehensible to the victims, and The Labour Theory of Property will highlight why. Please bear with me on the following philosophy bit, it only consists of a paragraph, and has been written in the most simplest of terms that enabled me to understand it.

The Philosophy Bit. The 18th Century philosopher John Locke , (not the T.V character from 'Lost'), asked under what authority can anyone claim ownership of any part of the world if, according to the Bible, God gave the world to all mankind in common? He reasoned that as a man has ownership of his own person, they therefore have ownership over their own labour. When a person works their labour enters into the object, making the object an extension of that person, and that item their property. So how does this relate to the victims of everyday theft-related crimes that police officers deal with on a regular basis?

The Back to Reality Bit. I was extremely fortunate to be a sergeant on the Dystopian Proactive Unit prior to my promotion last year, and it has been the highlight of my career thus far. Robbery and burglary were rife. It was our job to reduce them and within months we did. It wasn't too difficult to achieve in all honesty, as it was impossible to turn a corner without coming across a Rodney (the Billy's were much more slippery characters, but long operations eventually bore the fruits of our labour). Dystopia itself is a depressing landscape of high-rise blocks - failed architectural experiments in social integration - inhabited by Diaspora who had arrived in the 'Earth's Anus' hoping to make a better life for themselves and their families. Instead, they entered into an environment where the conditions of life are miserable, characterised by human misery, poverty, violence, disease, pollution, and a level of depravation comparable to whatever Third World country they had just left.

Another day, another robbery call, another 12 year-old victim. Except this one was different. There was something about this boy's circumstances that resonated with me; that drove me to reflect on the reasons why I joined the police; and that caused me to recall the many philosophical principles, such as the one above, that reminded me why I did. In my next blog I will explain why, but in the meantime, contemplate and meditate upon what I have written thus far...
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1 comment:

  1. To hear a police Inspector speak favourably of John Locke gives me great hope for the future of the force.