I see things a little differently.
Claims about "property rights" trumping other rights, or about not legislating behavior, have always been used to justify the excesses of the free enterprise system. Ugly architecture, cheaply made clothing -- or much worse, adulterated foods and drugs, child labor-produced products, slave labor-produced products, a thousand objectionable things, all got excused because they're only "what people want".
Someone who mutilates 8 stamps to make 1 jumbo stamp is hardly as bad as all that, but they are somewhat bad. What I'd like to know is why do we feel obligated to excuse a seller who mutilates stamps because they have a "right" to do so? We don't.
The makers and sellers of this junk are responsible for what they're doing. Even in so-called free enterprise, you aren't allowed to sell a lot of things. You can't sell tobacco or alcohol to children, rotten food to anyone, clothing made by child labor, stolen or counterfeit goods. Even with some things that are not illegal, social pressure makes you stop doing it. It may not be illegal to buy rare paintings and damage them by putting them through a cheap home restoration, or to tear out classic old fixtures from historic homes, or to tear down famous private buildings – but people would scream bloody murder if you did. That's because we have standards. There are limits on what is acceptable. Why should damaging old and valuable stamps lto make a quick buck be any different?
The fact is "free" enterprise isn't as free as you might think. For over a hundred years, we've regulated it. No more child labor. No more adulterated foods. No more casual use of chemicals. Even altering stamps can get you dragged into court -- because, in reality, you're not "free" to conduct any enterprise you want. If we didn't regulate, the lowest common denominator would always win. Society enforces its moral sense on behavior every day through regulations. If you don't believe me, try making certain videos, lying about the chemicals in the food you sell, building dangerous cars, or altering the stamps you sell. Not allowed.
These mutilated stamps may not violate a law, but don't they violate eBay
's standards? As a collector, they certainly violate my sense of what's right. Are the people who do this going to win any philatelic awards for their clever use of "free enterprise" marketing, do you think? I seriously doubt it. If not, why not? I'm sure eBay
has rules about selling damaged or counterfeit goods, but I'm 99% sure it's much easier for them to argue that everyone has the right to sell whatever they want. That makes them more money, doesn't it? I wonder if that plays any role in how they operate? On the spectrum of what's okay to sell, at some point you reach the "questionable". Insisting on "free enterprise" and "you can't tell me what I can do" crashes head-on into certain kinds of free enterprise every day of the week.
So, inspired by my right to unregulated free enterprise, I've devised my own plan to profit handsomely from mutilating things:
I've bought up dozens of rare stamps, including the 1p Mauritius, the 3-skilling Sweden, some Chinese red revenues, and a few of the famous 24c upside-down airplane stamps. You'll know these as the same stamps many collectors can only dream of owning. My plan is to democratize them all -- by cutting every one of them into very small pieces and selling those small pieces to collectors at much lower prices. So, if you've always dreamed of owning these rare stamps, and who hasn't, here's your chance! Maybe your piece of a chopped-up 24c C3 will put a tiny wingtip into your album. And next month, stamp albums produced in factories by child labor -- at discount prices. After all, it's what the market wants, so don't get in the way of my freedom.
I blame whoever makes and sells these mutilated items more than the people who buy them who just may not be thinking very clearly. Should I buy a few, myself? What do you think? Do you think I could manage to assemble a second stamp from the remnants of the other eight? I could sell them to unsuspecting collectors. Under truly "free" enterprise, there are just so many opportunities out there!