Objections to the requisitioning of empty properties have nothing to do with fears of state coercion. Instead, it’s about protecting the interests of the rich at all costs.
Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to requisition empty houses in Kensington in aid of those made homeless by the Grenfell tragedy has been met with somewhat of a backlash.
The Telegraph says that Corbyn’s “land grab” is the first step towards tyranny. Rupert Myers, political correspondent at GQ magazine, says that “the state shouldn’t seize private property backed by the implicit threat of violence”. According to these critics, Corbyn’s proposal would usher in a new era of state coercion, and would violate basic human rights to own property.
This view is not without justification – there are many examples from history where overbearing governments have trampled over property rights with disastrous consequences. But attacking Corbyn’s proposal on the basis that it involves state meddling with property rights is illogical. Because when it comes to property, there is no getting away from state interference.
If I walk into your house and refuse to leave, I will likely be arrested and imprisoned. That is because you have been granted property rights by the state – a set of legal rights over a defined boundary of space, most importantly the right to exclude others from that space. If I refuse to comply with these rights, then the state can deprive me of my liberty through the police and courts.
Private property is always and everywhere backed up by state compulsion and threat of violence. This is true whether the government continues with the status quo, or whether it decides to requisition properties in Kensington. Private property cannot exist without the apparatus of the state to protect and enforce it. This is the basic foundation of modern capitalist economies.