The Ethics of Commodity Speculation

Imagine you and 9 other people have been stranded on a tropical island. 9 of you spend your time making sure you have shelter. In the meantime, while you are all busy doing things to make sure you don’t die of exposure, one of the group is spending his time gathering all the fruit he can find. He knows that once everyone returns, since he has most of the food in the region, he will be able to demand high prices for his fruit.

How long do you think that person would survive?

Why do we see depriving others of a commodity in order to sell it back to them at a profit as acceptable behaviour? Most economists would argue this behaviour is moral and even preferable. If the group did anything other than go along with it they would be exercising some form of facism/socialism/tribalism/barbarism. But property rights presuppose property. In what sense is the fruit his property? The fruit was laid around. He just picked it first. Why does he have to pick it? Why can’t he just declare it his? In fact, if he only wants it because he can claim it as his property. If there was no such thing as property, he wouldn’t be able to speculate, and since he has no need nor desire (if he wanted fruit he wouldn’t speculating with it, he’d keep it) for the fruit he would have no reason to pick it. Perhaps in that case helping the others would be what he’d chose to spend his time doing. What if the fruit already belongs to everyone?

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