Sunday, August 22, 2010

Birdsongs and private property

Spending so much time at home has reminded me of what I take to be a rather beautiful relationship. Jen and I have spent a fair amount of time paying more attention to birds than we usually do. Since we have so many trees and shrubs in our yard, we have lots of birds, and having breakfast on the front porch is a lovely experience, listening to all the various birdsongs and watching them fly, peck on the ground, and raise families. We've even bought a couple of books to help us identify species and just know a bit more about what we're watching.

I warrant that for most people listening to birds sing is an almost unalloyed pleasure. Even birds whose singing consists of harsh squawks are fun to listen to. There's a certain peacefulness, a sense that all's right with the world that comes with listening to birds sing. From the perspective of the birds, however, most of those cries that please us so much amount to a male saying to all other males of the species, "This is my territory. Stay away! Come too close and I'll peck your eyes out." (All right, most birds are so constituted that the real territory claimant has an advantage and hardly ever has to fight to validate his claim.)

The important thing is that a natural phenomenon most people find beautiful is in fact a celebration of and assertion of private property. "This is mine, and I will defend it. I have the right to exclude all others." I find it not at all odd that this celebration of territoriality is beautiful to most of us. Birds would nto survive if they didn't claim enough territory to have the resources to feed their families. That's the arrangement that works best for the species. Likewise, a system of recognized private property rights seems to be what works best for the human species -- perhaps not essential to survival, but certainly important to thriving and prospering as a species.

Private property. It's a beautiful thing.

No comments: